Things are getting worse. The revolutioneers does not want to let the Emperor go, fearing intrigues, betrayal and the divulgement of state secrets. The Germans are making unimaginable efforts to break through our frontlines. If they succeed, the way to Petersburg will lie open for them.
Submarines and airplanes spoil the whole poetry of war; I read today the history of the Anglo-Durch wars - what charm was then the war at sea. See more
The enemy fleets held out for days before one another, before entering combat, lasting 2-3 days with breaks for rest and damage correction. It was good then. And now: it is necessary to shoot something invisible, the same invisible submarine which with the first oversight will blow up the ship, and often itself, without seeing and knowing the results - it is a flying muck that is impossible to hit. There is nothing for the soul.
Dear Vladimir Ilyich and Nadezhda Konstantinovna!
It's only been a week that I'm in the maelstrom of new Russia. The brilliance and power of feeling is such that I won’t even try to convey it. So for now I’ll limit myself to short, concise impressions. See more
The people are intoxicated by a total great act. I say people, because it’s not the working class at the forefront, but an amorphous, variegated mass in soldier's overcoats. The soldiers currently dictate the mood. The soldier creates a peculiar atmosphere where the grandeur of democratic freedoms and the awakening of the consciousness of civil equal rights intermingles with a complete misunderstanding of the complexity of the moment in which we’re experiencing.
Amid the feverish helter-skelter and the desire to build something new and different from before, is a tone of celebration that already rings too loud, as if the task is done. Not only is the fact that the internal enemy is far from defeated and lurks about taken lightly, but, undoubtedly, our side, and especially the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies lacks the determination and political instinct to continue what has started and consolidate authority for democracy. "We are already the authority"—this is the self-gratifying mistaken mood of the majority in the Soviet. And the Guchkov government, of course, uses this intoxication with the achieved success, and, in particular, hypocritically leans towards the will and the decisions of the Soviet, but, of course, mainly and most importantly, keeps its hand on the “reins” when it comes to the war.
One should not turn a blind eye to the difficulties and dangers of the situation. Newborn freedom faces great, perhaps even grave trials. But I look cheerfully into the future. I believe in the vitality and wisdom of our great people, who proved their greatness in a powerful impulse of freedom that overthrew the old regime.
A fortnight after the revolution I went to St. Petersburg to see the members of the new Provisional Government. Prince Lvoff, the Prime Minister, was my intimate friend. With most of the others I had been in close contact for the past two years. Men like Shingareff, a St. Petersburg doctor, Kokoshkin, the great Moscow expert on international law, and Manuiloff, the rector of Moscow University, were men of the highest integrity and ability. See more
To the English Liberal Cabinet of 1906 they would have been an addition of strength and an ornament of distinction. They were too gentle to deal with the turbulent elements in the Soviets, which had made the revolution and which now virtually controlled the Duma.
Before catching my train, I dined with Chelnokoff, who had been appointed Commissar for Moscow. He gave me a forecast of what I might expect to find. His own position was becoming unbearable. He confessed that he had no chance of surviving the new elections, which now of course had been prescribed on a basis of universal suffrage for every municipality and every Zemstvo in Russia. Lvoff's reign, he said, would be no longer than his own.
The most phlegmatic of men, he spoke without anger or prejudice. I felt that he was right. Already "a free and unfettered democracy" had no use for the Liberal leaders whose cry for years had been "trust the people."I found Prince Lvoff at the Taurid Palace amid a scene of indescribable confusion. He had been presiding at a Cabinet meeting. Secretaries kept rushing into his room with papers to sign, decisions to be taken. He would start to talk to me, and then the telephone would ring. In the corridor outside, deputations from the front, from the villages, from goodness knows where, were waiting to see him. And in this restless, bustling turmoil there was not one man or woman who seemed capable of protecting the Prime Minister or relieving the burden on his shoulders. Every one seemed to be playing a game of general post to escape from responsibility. I longed for a Miss Stevenson to send the whole pack of delegations about their business and to put some order into this warren of chaos.
Our conversation was conducted in snatches.
Finally he gave it up. "You see how it is," he said. "We are doing our best, but there is so much to do. Come and see me tonight at my flat at twelve o'clock."
He ran his hand through his grey beard and looked at me with a flickering smile. He looked tired and wan, and his eyes, small at all times, had almost vanished behind his eyelids. In two weeks he had aged ten years. A man of great charm, he would have made an excellent chairman of the London County Council. He was an ideal President of the Zemstvo Unions, but he was not the stuff of which revolutionary Prime Ministers are made. And yet I doubt if at this period any member of his class could have "held down" his post. Nature brooks no interference with her processes, and the time for dictators had not yet come or had already passed.
I went to see Lvoff at his flat – a modest two-roomed affair where he had remained ever since the night he had arrived from Moscow to take over the reins of the Government. He was still in the same suit. The carpet bag, in which he had packed his clothes for the night, still stood in the hall. My heart went out to him. He seemed so forlorn and alone. As always, he spoke in his rather jerky little monotones. He was a shy man and, although he bore an aristocratic name, more like a country doctor than an aristocrat. To those who knew him slightly he gave an impression of cunning –due actually to his timidity. To those whom he trusted he was open and without restraint. He made no concealment of his fears and anxieties. Russia would come through, but ... Russia would carry on with the war, but ... His whole conversation was a confession of the weakness of his own position.
When I went to see my other Moscow friends in the government, I found the same helplessness, the same apprehensions. There was only one man in the Cabinet who had any power. That was the nominee of the Soviets – Kerensky, the Minister of Justice. The revolution had destroyed my old Liberal friends. Now I had to seek new gods.
According to what I learned this morning from the Foreign Minister, His Majesty has not yet been approached about it by the Government, as they want first of all to get rid of left-wing opposition to the proposal.
Polivanoff, who is Assistant Minister for War, has arrived. I met him at the staff mess at lunch. He came straight up to me and shook hands most cordially, addressing me as ‘my oldest friend among the Allies’, as I knew him when he was Minister for War. He was in great spirits, said: ‘All is going well, and I like a busy time like this, it suits me. Difficulties and excitement are splendid’. See more
I hope he will not have more than he bargains for; it looks to me as if they had ‘bitten off more than they can chew’.
A committee consisting of thirty officers, mostly generals, was appointed under the presidency of General Polivanov, and sat for five hours on alternate nights to draw up regulations for the “ new discipline." It worked through the Duma Military Commission to ascertain the minimum concessions that the Sovyet would accept. The officer members had to neglect important war duties in order to attend. In fact, the war had gone into the background everywhere. The operations staffs of the armies were more occupied with the “ new discipline ” than with the enemy. See more
The French Military Attache and I attended by invitation one meeting of General Polivanov’s Committee on March 26th to reply to questions regarding our army discipline. After four hours’ talk it was decided, first, as a concession to mutinous opinion, that promotions in and to the rank of N.G.O., while nominated by the command in each company, squadron or battery, should be made subject to the veto of the men; secondly,that the officers of the Petrograd garrison should be allowed to wear mufti to protect them from continual insult.
Alexander Nicolaïevitch Benois, the painter and historian of art and a friend of whom I see quite a good deal, has given me an unexpected call.
Descended from a French family which settled in Russia somewhere about 1820, he is the most cultivated man whom I know here. and one of the most distinguished. See more
I have spent many a delightful hour in his. Vassili-Ostrov studio, talking with him de omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis. Even from a political point of view, his conversation has often been valuable to me, as he is on terms of close friendship not only with the élite of the artists, men of letters and university professors but also with the chief leaders of the liberal opposition and the "Cadet" party. Many a time have I obtained from him interesting information about those circles the entrée to which was formerly very difficult,. and in fact almost closed to me. His personal opinions, which are always judicious and far-sighted, are all the more valuable in my eyes because he is eminently representative of that active and well-informed class of professors, savants, doctors, artists, men of letters and publicists which is styled the intelligentzia.
He came to see me about three o'clock, just as I was preparing to go out.
He looked grave and sat down with a weary sigh:
"Forgive me if I inconvenience you, but yesterday evening some of my friends and I were indulging in such gloomy reflections that I couldn't help coming to tell you about them."
Then he gave me a vivid and, alas, only too accurate picture of the effects of anarchy on the people, the prevailing apathy of the governing classes and the loss of discipline in the army. He ended with the observation:
"However painful such an admission must be to me, I feel I'm only doing my duty in coming to tell you that the war cannot go on. Peace must be made at the earliest possible moment. Of course, I realize that the honour of Russia is involved in her alliances, and you know me well enough to allow that I appreciate the full meaning of that aspect. But necessity is the law of history. No one is compelled to do the impossible!"
My answer was as follows:
"This is a very serious statement you are making. In disproving it I will adopt a strictly practical point of view---as any impartial and disinterested third party might do---and leave out of account the moral judgment France would have the right to pass on Russia. In the first place, you should know that, whatever. may happen, France and England will carry on the war to complete victory. Defection on the part of Russia would probably prolong the struggle, but would not change the result. However rapid the dissolution of your army might be, Germany would not dare to strip your front at once; she would also require a substantial force to secure further pledges on your territory. The twenty or thirty divisions she might be in a position to withdraw from the eastern front to reinforce her western front would not be sufficient to save her from defeat. Secondly, you may be quite sure that the moment Russia betrays her allies, they will repudiate her. Germany will thus have full license to seek compensation at your expense for the sacrifices imposed on her elsewhere. I certainly do not imagine that you are founding any hopes on the magnanimity of William II. . . . You will therefore lose-as a minimum---Courland, Lithuania, Poland, Galicia and Bessarabia, to say nothing of your prestige in the East and your designs on Constantinople. And don't forget that France and England have in hand some tremendous "pledges" for bargaining purposes with Germany: the mastery of the seas, the German colonies, Mesopotamia and Salonica. Your allies also have the power of the purse which is about to be doubled, if not tripled by the help of the United States. We shall thus be in a position to continue the war for as long as is necessary. So, whatever the difficulties that face you at the moment, summon up all your energy and think of nothing but the war. What is at stake is not only the honour of Russia but her prosperity, her greatness and possibly her national existence itself."
"There's no reply to you, alas! Yet we simply cannot continue the war! Honestly, we simply cannot!"
And with those words he left me, the tears standing in his eyes. I have met with the same pessimism on all sides during the last few days.