Today, in Brest-Litovsk, I met with Russian and German officials to discuss the conditions of the armistice. A festival for the reds on a green island.
From our headquarters in Pugachyovo, we observed the development of the talks, a historic occasion in every sense. Black Russian eagles wearing crowns on the red gates of the palace; Ludendorff; Tolstoy as the inspiration for anarchists; Russian commissars, officially recognized by two emperors; the whole, almost fairytale-like meeting framed by the wide, slow-flowing river between its green banks - what scope for the imagination!
In Omsk, a new Siberian government has formed under the leadership of Potanin that does not recognize the authority of the Russian state.
This morning, Colonel of the General Staff Kusonsky arrived (from Headquarters) and reported to General KornilovCommander in Chief of the Petrograd command - from 18 March 1917, “In four hours Krylenko will enter Mogilyov, which will be surrendered without a fight. General Dukhonin has ordered you to report that all prisoners must immediately leave Bykhov.”
You were wonderful... and I came away feeling very full of love. Don't give another thought to the things I said in the night.
I just went to submit my ballot. Despite the holiday, the first day of elections, and the relatively late hour-- 11:00 AM-- there was no queue whatsoever. All is calm.
There are a number of people who are telling us about Russia and advising us as to what the outcome will be and what we ought to do. I have seen several and a number have written me their views. See more
The conclusions and opinions are almost as many as the advisers, and their advice to our policy is about as harmonious. I have yet to find one, who, pinned down to the application of his theory, is able to furnish a plan that is practical except one who frankly asserts that the best thing to do is to let things alone as far as it is possible to do so.
With this latter policy I am in entire accord. The Russian situation is to me an unanswered and unanswerable riddle. None of our observers, and some are well trained, has been to find a way out or to advise a course of action leading to satisfactory results.
When the Root Mission returned, they were all, with the exception of Charles R. Crane, who knew Russia better than the others, most optimistic as to the power of the Kerensky Government to restore order and to keep the Russian armies in the field. But not long after their return Kerensky was overthrown and the Bolsheviks seized the government at Petrograd. Thus their recommendations predicated on the success of the Provisional Government could not be adopted, or, if they had been, would have been useless. Yet the Root Mission was composed of very able men who were doubtless as capable of judging the situation and giving advice as any this government could have sent out.
I confess that I do not feel warranted in hazarding even a guess to what the outcome will be. This makes the adopting of an active policy most difficult.
Historically the Russian situation is unprecedented. It is wholly novel. It seems to me that the controlling forces are idealism and ignorance supported by weapons. The especial characteristics of the idealists who are masters in Petrograd are lack of any sentiment of nationality and a determination, frankly avowed, to overthrow all existing governments in every country. The Bolsheviki are anarchists rather than Socialists, though they would undoubtedly repudiate such a charge.
I cannot see how this element which is hostile to the very idea of nationality can claim that they are the government of a nation or expect to be recognized as such. They are avowedly opposed to every government on earth; they openly propose to excite revolutions in all countries against existing governments; they are as hostile to democracy as they are to autocracy. If we should recognize them in Russia, we would encourage them and their followers in other lands. That would be a serious error. Both France and Great Britain seem to be tempted. If they decide to deal with them I believe it will be a mistake. The correct policy for a government which believes in political institutions as they now exist and based on nationality and private property is to leave these dangerous idealists alone and have no direct dealings with them. To recognize them would give them an exalted idea of their own power, make them more insolent and impossible, and win their contempt, not their friendship.
It is true that the Teutonic Powers are recognizing them. They may profit temporarily by this policy, but it is my belief that they may suffer in the end. Of course these governments are tempted by the possibility of obtaining supplies to arrange peace with these people, or rather by disorganizing the Russian armies and causing confusion in the Russian provinces make peace unavoidable. The result would be that German and Austria could remove their military forces for use elsewhere and Russia’s resources would be at their mercy. They will probably succeed in these objects, but they may have to pay a heavy price in the end. The truth lies in the future.
It was my belief that the Bolsheviki pursuing their doctrine of breaking down political power, would go to pieces. Thus far my belief has not been justified. Their cry of ‘Peace and Land’ is popular with the ignorant Russians who have suffered grievously in the past. And yet I cannot see how unorganized and undirected physical power such as now dominates affairs in Petrograd can continue. It has in itself every element of destruction. Up to the present, however, the logic of events has failed.
As to Lenin and Trotsky I am in doubt. They may be acting entirely in German’s interest, but I cannot make that belief harmonize with some things which they have done. In fact they may be honest in purpose and utterly dishonest in methods. For national and personal honor, for truth and for the individual rights of life, liberty and property they seem to have no regard. How can anyone deal with such people? They are wanting in international virtue. International obligation and comity mean nothing to them. The one thing they are striving to bring about is the ‘Social Revolution’, which will sweep away national boundaries, racial distinctions and modern political, religious and social institutions, and make the ignorant and incapable mass of humanity dominant in the earth. They indeed plan to destroy civilization by mob violence.
As far as one can judge from the ever-changing and confused conditions, the Bolshevik program is to make way with the military and political authority in Russia and to incite similar destruction in other countries. This will undoubtedly first result in the division of Russia into separate states, some favorable and some hostile to the Bolshevik idea. A general disorganization of trade, industry and transportation will follow with discontent and disorder everywhere. People will become hungry and demand food. They will become desperate and rob and kill, aided by the criminal element. With weakened military and political power the Bolsheviki will be unable to suppress these outrages.
It seems to me that Russia is about to be the stage on which will be acted one of the most terrible tragedies of all history. Civil war seems certain. The cities will be the prey of mobs, thieves and murderers. Factions will struggle for mastery. Russia will fairly swim in blood, a prey to lawlessness and violence. And then to add to these horrors will come the ruthless Germans to take from this struggling mass of humanity their lands and property and to force them to obey.
I believe that the Russian ‘Terror’ will far surpass in brutality and destruction of life and property the Terror of the French Revolution. The latter at least possessed the semblance of government and made pretense of legality. Russia possesses neither. There is no authority, no law. It is a seething caldron of anarchy and violence. I can convince of no more frightful calamity for a people that that which seems to fall upon Russia.
The only possible remedy would be for a strong commanding personality to arise who would be able to gather a disciplined military force sufficiently strong to restore order and maintain a government. As yet no leader has shown enough strength to organize the Cossacks into an effective army. They may succeed, but no one knows how much the Cossacks returning from the front are inoculated with Bolshevism. Many are very hopeful, but I cannot say that I am overconfident. However, they are at present the only hope that has appeared. I am opposed to giving these leaders any open support, as their enterprise seems to me too uncertain and the whole situation too chaotic to put faith in any one group or faction.
‘Do nothing’ should be our policy until the black period of terrorism comes to an end and the rising tide of blood has run its course. It cannot last forever, but Russia will sink low before better days come.
I saw Marushevski to-day. He told me that he had gone to the Smolni at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Trotski threatened him with the “ Trubelskoe Bastion ” (that is, with imprisonment in the Fortress of Peter and Paul) if he did not at once detail General Staff officers to take part in the negotiations for a separate armistice. See more
Feeling ran high, and the little man had said finally : ‘‘I will talk to Podvoiski. I do not want to have anything more to do with you ! ” He said that Trotski made “ the very worst impression ” on him.
Podvoiski over-persuaded him, and he sent, as I had recommended, officers to take part in the negotiations as technical experts, and, as such, to safeguard as far as might be possible the interests of Russia and of her Allies. Colonels Shishkin and Stanislavski have gone.
At 8:30 we went to Mass and the raod was very slippery. The morning was sunny and then it got cloudy. During the day I carried firewood into the shed. In the evening as always we played bezik.