2: Russians: Reds, Whites, and Pinks
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"Whither then are you speeding, Russia of mine?" asked Gogol in 1841. I
quote him and shall endeavor to give some of the very contradictory answers that are given
me here today.
Paris, January 6, 1919
The Russian groups are sweeping down upon me in ever-increasing numbers. I give them a
loose rein, and after they have delivered themselves of what they have to say, more or
less exhausted they retire. I remain silent. I am at the receiving end, but when I have to
say something I confine my words to the President s Russian message of 1917. Then it had
an excellent reception, but today it would seem to have lost its savor.
In his clarion call Mr. Wilson said: "The day has come to conquer or submit; if
the forces of autocracy can divide us, we shall be overcome; if we stand together, victory
is certain and also the liberties which only victory can secure. Then we could afford to
be generous, but now we cannot afford to be weak or omit a single guarantee of justice and
security. We are fighting for no selfish object but for the liberation of peoples
everywhere from the aggression of autocratic forces."
It has been well said that the voice of Wilson was the voice of freedom, but it should
be admitted that he spoke a language which more than 99 per cent of the Russian people at
that time did not understand. His objective was splendidly stated, but in the same
manifesto, as though at last seeing the obstacles in his path (among them the mountains of
ignorance which would have to be surmounted), he added: "Practical questions can only
be settled by practical means; phrases will not right wrongs; remedies must be found as
well as statements of principles that have a pleasing sound." Well, I keep that
manifesto on my desk in Russian, in French, and in a number of other languages. It is our
avenue of approach to the Russian problem, also our point of departure when and if we give
Of course the present, the new rulers of Russia are ruling by the only methods they
have any knowledge of, those of the tyrant and the autocrat, and this is perhaps, as many
think, the only ideology that the liberated but still benighted serfs can understand. In
his talk with the Colonel several days ago, Iswolsky, long ambassador for the Tsar in
Paris and twice minister of Foreign Affairs, amazed the Colonel, and he is not easily
surprised, by stating:
"From 1906 on we were working toward democracy, the grave need of which the
disasters in the war with Japan disclosed. With this purpose, my august master summoned
the First Duma; its members were incompetent, the outcome was disgraceful, and he
'discharged' it. He then convened the Second Duma; if possible, it was still more
incompetent and disgraceful in its behavior, and he dispersed it. The Tsar was still with
infinite patience seeking another and perhaps a better way to share his burdens with the
people when the hoodlums got the upper hand and well, you know what happened."
I am afraid there are many who share Iswolsky s depressing thoughts and carry them out
to what they consider their logical conclusion. Better to have had no revolution at all
than the anarchy with which the Russian people are now confronted and also their
Here I shall make as plain as I can how our negotiations with the Soviets got under way
and also the circumstances under which they bogged down. Hopefully, President Wilson fired
the opening salute on March 11, 1918, with this cable to the Soviet Congress recently
assembled. It reads:
May I not take advantage of the meeting of the Congress of the Soviets to express
the sincere sympathy which the people of the United States feel for the Russian people at
this moment when the German power has been thrust in to interrupt and turn back the whole
struggle for freedom, and substitute the wishes of Germany for the purpose of the people
The whole heart of the people of the United States is with the people of Russia in
the attempt to free themselves forever from autocratic government and become the masters
of their own life.
Four days later (March 15, 1918) the following reply was received from Moscow:
The Russian Socialistic Federative Republic of Soviets takes advantage of President
Wilson's communication to express to all peoples perishing and suffering from the horrors
of imperialistic war its warm sympathy and firm belief that the happy time is not far
distant when the laboring masses of all countries will throw off the yoke of Capitalism
and will establish a socialistic state of society which alone is capable of securing just
and lasting peace, as well as the culture and well-being of all laboring people.
In his confidential file, there is a note in the Colonel s handwriting. "That is a
tough one to answer! I think formal correspondence had best be discontinued." And as
a matter of fact it was. Some weeks later Mr. Francis, our envoy in Moscow, wrote: "I
am informed that Zinoviev, the Soviet Foreign Minister, boasted that 'with these words we
slapped President Wilson in the face.'"
February undated, 1919
When Kerensky called today, I took this opportunity of relating to him an episode of my
war days in Russia. It proved far from comforting and added to his burden of doubt and
anxiety which, despite his brave words, is evidently very heavy. [Kerensky, former prime
minister of the short-lived Provisional government (July-November, 1917), was one of the
many fugitive "Pinks" in Paris representing Russian liberalism.]
In November, 1915, I traveled through Russia on my way back to my post in the
Philippines. The English, for war purposes, had bought up all the trans-Pacific liners,
and so I was compelled to proceed to the Far East by an unusual route, through
war-stricken Europe. Certainly this was the only way that would bring me to Manila before
my leave expired. I crossed the Atlantic on a Danish steamer, the Frederick VIII,
and after landing in Copenhagen I went by rail to Stockholm and from there by the
so-called Lapland Express around the Gulf, via Tornea and Haparanda to St. Petersburg,
since this was at the time the only rail route across Europe that had not been
Peter s improvised city, his "window" on Europe, presented a tragic
spectacle. It was bitter cold and the streets were crowded with hundreds and thousands of
half-frozen peasants who, fleeing from their homes in the border provinces, were seeking
what shelter they could find from the advancing German armies. I stayed as always at the
little Hotel de France, awaiting the departure of the Trans-Siberian Express which, owing
to lack of fuel, now only ran once a week. This hotel had been the rendezvous of all the
correspondents during the first revolution (1905 - 1906), and there I had foregathered
with them. They were widely scattered now. Of all the familiar faces, only that of the
trusty Beringer of Reuter s was in evidence.
For the first day I wandered about, depressed by the sad spectacle which the once gay
capital presented. In the great square by the Winter Palace, thousands of thinly clad
peasants were being put through the manual of arms; but in lieu of rifles, which were not
available, they were being drilled with sticks. I lunched at the Hotel d'Europe, where the
war profiteers, still in fine fettle, were eating and drinking copiously. At a prominent
table sat General Rennenkampf, responsible for the loss of two battles and the captivity
of thousands of Russians now in the prison camps of East Prussia. He was on trial for
incompetence and with having had treasonable relations with the German General Staff; but
as an evidence of the weakness of the government, the trial or the inquiry hung fire and
the general drank champagne. The Great White Tsar? Was he living or dead? With certainty
no one knew. If alive, he was leading a hermit s existence in Tsarskoe Selo while the
walls of his once mighty empire tumbled about him.
That evening I dined in the almost deserted salle of the Hotel de France. At
an adjacent table, also alone, sat Prince Lvoff, whom I had come to know quite intimately
during the revolutionary movement of 1905. He was at that time the leading spirit in the
Zemstvo organization which, in spite of the open opposition of the imperial bureaucrats,
made some headway in securing popular participation in local and provincial government. I
had described his work in my cabled letters to the New York Times (sent via
Germany of course) and had hailed his work as perhaps the only healthy and hopeful sign
visible on the somber horizon.
The Prince recognized me, although he did not place me after all these intervening
years until I made myself known to him. Then with the coffee, at his request, I moved over
to his table. He seemed greatly interested in my proposed journey across Siberia and then,
growing thoughtful, he asked me to his apartment where, as he said, it would be safer to
discuss the present situation than in a public place where "walls have ears."
Once in his apartment Lvoff admitted frankly that the imperial regime was headed for
disaster; that the prevailing misery was more than flesh and blood could stand. He went on
to say: "The more intelligent of the bureaucrats have read the handwriting on the
wall and are conceding to my organization some power and a little authority. Many of our
leaders have been placed with the war industries, and in many provincial governments our
Zemstvo organizations have been given an opportunity to work. It is difficult to get this
or any other news out of the country, but it is most desirable that our friends in Western
Europe, and above all in America, should be advised of our hopes and our expectations.
They must be advised of this trend in our affairs so that they may not be surprised by
developments that cannot be much longer delayed. I have a letter to Charles Crane in
America, always our good friend and always so helpful to the liberal movement in Russia,
but it would be unwise to entrust it to the mail. I wonder if you would be so kind as to
take the letter to Peking and mail it there, or better still, once there open it and cable
the contents to Mr. Crane?"
I assured the Prince I would be pleased to do him this favor and then we parted for the
night, and for good, as we thought, because he was leaving for Mohileff in the morning and
my train left for the Urals a few hours later.
Back in my room I did a little packing and was preparing for bed, when suddenly (late
in the day, I must admit) it occurred to me that I had let myself in for an act that was
quite reprehensible under the circumstances. I now remembered that I was traveling under
the safeguard of a diplomatic passport, and that it would be most improper for me to aid
in the transmission of a letter which the government whose favor I enjoyed would have
intercepted had they known of its existence. I hastened back to Lvoff, and my call, it was
long after midnight, evidently startled him. I explained my dilemma and he was greatly
distressed. Sadly he said: "I had regarded you as a messenger from heaven. The
service I asked of you would be valuable to our cause, but I understand your scruples and
As I handed back the letter and saw his disappointment, suddenly a way of escape
occurred to me. "I suppose it is a quibble, a mere quibble," I admitted,
"..ur still quibbles so often ease the pangs of conscience. If you should care to
read the letter to me and then destroy it, I could on my arrival in China cable Crane that
I had chanced to meet you and give him your message."
"Splendid," assented Lvoff, and he opened the letter and read it aloud twice.
It was short and easy to commit to memory. It ran:
We are making great progress. We have now at least three hundred thousand men in
the Zemstvo organization and there are many more in minor government jobs who are
acquiring valuable experience and above all confidence in their ability to meet the
emergency that will shortly arise. Ar the proper moment we shall take hold and the
transition will be orderly. Your fear of anarchy is natural but unfounded. We shall not
push matters but shall be ready to take the rudder when the discredited helmsmen jump or
are thrown overboard.
When I reached this point in my story, Kerensky interrupted me with what was almost a
wail. "Ah, what a mistake! What a tragic mistake that delay. Our Liberals lost hope.
They concluded that our leaders were talkers, not doers. And the criminals? They indeed
were doers. They saw their chance and pitched in. No man's life was safe, and the Zemstvos
and the other liberal organizations were swept away in a maelstrom of anarchy." Then
rallying, Kerensky added: "It is heartening to see that once again the outlook is
bright but, had not Lvoff waited so long, while the powers of darkness grew bold,
thousands of lives would have been saved and Russia would not sit there as she does today,
the Niobe of the nations, mourning for her children. But after darkness and death, the
dawn is coming. It is unmistakable - . ." and a prey to emotions which I, in part, at
least, had aroused, the poor fellow ran out of my room.
I cabled Lvoff s message to Mr. Crane from Peking but did not see him again until he
appeared at the Peace Conference four years later. Then he simply said, "Lvoff was an
excellent man, but a poor timer. And as a prophet..."
January 4, 1919
Prince Lvoff, president of the deposed and fugitive Kerensky government and the founder
of the Zemstvos, came in this morning. He brought no encouraging news, only complaints,
and that was not news. He stated that the promised arms and ammunition [for use against
the Reds] were only reaching the Omsk government with great delay or not at all. I had to
tell him this was not surprising as so much of it fell into the hands of the Bolsheviki
even when we placed it at points represented as being safely in the possession of his
forces. The old man has aged twenty years since I saw him last in Petrograd, and yet but a
scant four years have elapsed. These years of Sturm und Drang count as double
time, I suppose, for all who are closely involved.
Not so Boris Savinkov, however; he looks ten years younger than he did during our
clandestine meetings in the Tartar Market of Moscow, now some twelve or thirteen years
ago. Then he was a terrorist to be shot on sight. Now he claims to be still Minister of
War, although the Bolsheviki have expelled him. Now he twirls a cane and wears a gardenia
in his buttonhole. He could pass for a boulevardier of the latest vintage, but he says he
is returning to Russia very shortly, where, he asserts, the Bolsheviki are at the end of
[Savinkov, a born revolutionary, is credited with having organized the assassination of
Grand Duke Sergius in 1905. As Minister of War in the short-lived Kerensky regime, he
fought the Bolsheviks in Russia, Poland, and then in Paris. Apparently believing all this
was forgiven, he did return to Russia in 1924, was promptly arrested, and, while being
questioned by the secret police at their headquarters, either leaped or was pushed to his
death from a window.]
January 14, 1919
I have taken a night off and I spent it with Savinkov. Ar night he is fearless and will
go anywhere, but, like the bats and the owls, with the coming of the sun he disappears. He
explains that many men are seeking to kill him. In restaurants and cafés he invariably
sits with his back to the wall and facing the entrance. And the Browning he always carries
is near at hand. He told me this evening the story of Aseff, the spy, and if you want to
know a revolutionist, this one was certainly quite a contrast to my good friends of the
earlier days, Stepniak and Prince Kropotkin.
"He was not a bloodthirsty man," maintained Savinkov. "Out of pure
malice he would not kill a fly. He assassinated Plehve, Minister of the Interior, to get a
much needed bonus from the Revolution, and he safeguarded the Tsar to secure a reward from
the police. He had
to live, and as he lived on a large scale he had to have money, quite a lot of money.
No, I don't think you met him in our hide-away in the Tartar Market in 1906, where you met
so many of the 'comrades.' You were lucky, as most of the men assembled there he later
brought to the gallows.
"I think, however, you must have met Stalin; he is from the Caucasus and at birth
was handicapped by a name as long as the Volga. So they called him Stalin and hard as
steel he is, but true? Certainly not true as steel, I would not say so. Many of the new
comrades fear him, and not without reason. Now he has left us and he is working against
the only people who can save Russia; but I admit, he is a man of infinite resource, tiens,
let me tell you about that. You have heard of the looting of the Tiflis Bank. It happened
while you were in Moscow. That was a great coup and it came at an opportune moment for us.
There wasn't a sound kopek or even a counterfeit note in our treasury. Stalin heard that a
million rubles were coming from Moscow for the monthly pay-off and he determined to
intercept it. He contrived the whole business, but physically he decided he did not want
to rake an active part in it; he was the executive of the affair.
"One of the guards of the treasure wagon was in his pay, and at a signal from
Stalin, who stood on the sidewalk, he ran a knife in the heart of the driver. Just at that
moment, most unfortunately, a file of gardevois (transport police) came around
the corner and took in the situation. And so did Stalin. You would think a thing like that
would rattle a man, but not one of Stalin s caliber. He grabbed one of his own men and, as
the treasure wagon was driven away by his other confederate, he shouted, 'Comrades, I have
him!' And indeed he had. Speechless with amazement, the fellow was delivered to the
police. When he recovered his rattled wits, the victim, his fellow conspirator, charged
Stalin with being the ringleader; but the police paid no attention to his protestations,
and when he began to bore them, they stood him up against a wall and filled him full of
lead. Yes, Comrade Stalin is a quick thinker, a man of infinite resource.(1)
"Well, I have almost forgotten to tell you they got away with the wagon and the
booty was distributed where it was needed. With the small notes, that was not difficult;
but there were also big notes, five-thousand- ruble notes, and that was not easy; so they
passed them along to Comrade Litvinoff, who had traveled abroad, who could speak
languages, who knew his way about and could eat soup without making too much noise. But
they caught him the first time he tried to change a note in Paris. You see the Bank of
Russia had advised the French authorities of the numbers; and it was now that Lirvinoff
made his debut in diplomacy. He explained that the democratic groups in Russia had sent
him to pay at least part interest on the loans that in happier days the French people had
made to the Russians, and that the note he had been caught trying to change was but to
meet his paltry living expenses while on this noble mission. They sent him to prison for
six months, but he was pardoned out in a few weeks by a radical minister of the interior,
who was convinced, or pretended to be, that he was the only Russian who had ever attempted
to pay interest on the Russian loan! Keep an eye on him, and on Stalin. They will go far
if they do not have their throats cut."
Then Savinkov resumed his revelations as to Aseff, so long his idol.
"If I were not held here by a still more important duty, I would go after Aseff
because I was hoodwinked by him and because many of my comrades were delivered by him to
the hangman, partly, at least, as a result of my sponsorship. The man was an artist in his
line, which was double-dealing. I can think of no one in history to compare with him. It
is now clear that he betrayed all of us to the police. You probably met at our hideaway
Gershuni, an artist in terror if there ever was one. He had the power of influencing
people to an extraordinary degree. Some thought he was an adept in black magic perhaps it
was only hypnotism. He was sold out by Aseff in our first attempt to murder Plehve. He,
our chief, yielding to our insistence, retired to Vilna, there to await the news of our
success. But the coup failed, and many were gathered in and died to whom Aseff had given
the kiss of death.
"At this time, our master plotter fell under the suspicion of some of the
comrades, most unjustly, I thought. Indeed, I threatened to withdraw from the organization
unless he was given a clean bill of health. Under this suspicion Aseff decided that Plehve
must die. This was necessary if he were to retain the confidence of both his employers. I
also think the Ochrana [the Tsar's secret police] had been short-sighted and stingy; they
had not given him a bonus at all commensurate with his betrayal of all those involved in
the first attempt.
"You should not think that I am the only one of the comrades who was fascinated by
Aseff, the master spy. No, there were many of them, although perhaps I am the only one
alive today. Gershuni, that apostle of the Terror, the young man with the ikon face,
worshipped the very ground he walked on. While still a student, Gershuni had been sent to
Siberia for revolutionary activities, but he soon made his escape. He was smuggled out of
the prison yard in a barrel of sauerkraut and he made his way to America via Vladivostok.
In grateful memory of the vehicle of escape he assumed and ever after bore the name of
Kapusta, or 'Mr. Cabbage.' Once back in our circle he volunteered for most dangerous duty
in connection with the second and successful attempt to kill Plehve, the hated Minister of
the Interior. In taking his leave of us he asked for one favor and it was, of course,
'If I fail, and in that case I shall nor return,' he said, 'I ask that you restore
Aseff to your full confidence and make him your leader. He is the master mind of the
revolutionary movement and we shall not succeed until he is given full powers.'
"As a general practice Aseff would turn suspicion from himself to others, and it
was at his suggestion that Gershuni and I killed Comrade Tataroff in Warsaw. Yes, we
killed him, although it was Gershuni who wielded the dagger. No, I have no remorse. True,
he was not guilty of the crimes with which Aseff, to shield himself, charged him, but he
was an informer and should have been put our of the way.
"After the first and the second attempts to kill Plehve had failed, doubtless
through the information which Aseff furnished the police, many more of our group became
suspicious. Aseff recognized that his complete rehabilitation required that he must at
last pull off a big coup. He went about among us saying, 'Plehve must die. His
responsibility for the Kichenew pogrom makes him our outstanding enemy. His execution will
please the Jews throughout the world and from them will come the sinews of war we are in
such great need of.
"Aseff was nor a Jew," explained Savinkov, "but as an abandoned child he
was adopted into a Jewish family and he had a grateful remembrance of their
Some weeks later Savinkov came in to see me again. He seemed depressed and so,
unwisely, I asked him if he had news of the great spy. "Yes," he answered,
"bad news. He has escaped me. He is dead. His last coup was to escape my
dagger." Then, at some length, which I shall condense, he gave me the last chapter of
this strange history.
"We have now learned what happened to him. When he saw that even my faith in him
was wavering, by night he fled from Paris, taking with him all our funds. With a stout
lady of his choice he sailed for months through the isles of Greece. Then he established
himself in Berlin as a stockbroker under the name of Alexander Neumeyer. He was quite
successful and was doing very well until the war came. His money was in Russian bonds; at
first their sale was forbidden and then they became valueless. With the stout lady he
opened a corset business and was again doing well when the German police gathered him in.
They said they were holding him because he was an anarchist, but after some months they
offered to let him our but merely for the purpose of transferring him to a Russian
concentration camp. Aseff knew what fate would overtake him there, so he prevailed on the
Germans to keep him in prison. When all Germans began to starve, they turned him loose and
starvation and gallstones ended his career in the spring of 1918. The scoundrel has
escaped my dagger. The great cheat; he has even cheated the gallows!"
February 4 1919
Today, for perhaps the hundredth rime in this catastrophic year, I witnessed an
incident which reminded me of how quickly the pomp of power passes, how near to the
highest place in the capitol yawns the abyss by the Tarpeian Rock. I saw Count Cassini, so
long ambassador extraordinary of Holy Russia, running through the sleet and rain on the
Place de la Madeleine to catch a bus to take him to the modest suburban retreat, or
refuge, with which the French government has provided him.
I grant you that thousands of other people were doing the very same thing at this
crowded hour, but the difference is that they have done it every day of their lives; they
are inured to it. But Cassini! When I saw him first (1896), he was lording it over all
China. He was practically Viceroy of the Far East. When he moved through the streets of
Peking, sotnias of Cossacks dashed ahead and cleared the way for the little man with the
monocle who for four years, with the dreaded power of Russia behind him, dominated four
hundred million Chinese and made them do his bidding.
"I want a railway to run across China from the Amoor to the sea."
"Excellency, we shall be delighted."
"But," he explained, "unfortunately, there are many, so many Hunhuzes in
that territory, outlaws who respect neither Russian nor Chinese culture, I shall have to
have guards, perhaps a little army, in that zone to protect our rails."
"Undoubtedly, Excellency, it shall be as you say.
As these pictures passed before me, the little man, now almost blind and evidently
quite lame, was climbing onto the tail board of the bus and the conductress was giving him
a piece of her mind and a push with her stout arm. She did not want him to clutter up the
platform, and it was there he wanted to smoke a cigarette; the two purposes clashed, and I
hung back. Perhaps I was a fair-weather friend, but I did not want the great man of former
days to know that I witnessed his hour of humiliation. And help him I could not. The
French government was doling our to him, as to the other great ones now in exile from
Unholy Russia, a meager monthly stipend which at least keeps the wolf from the door. Of
course all these advances are being entered on the Grand Livre of the Russian debt in the
hope, a forlorn one I think, that Russia will pay up when, as the expression is,
"things once again become normal."
February 10, 1919
I have neglected serious Russian affairs hitherto, as far as my diary is concerned at
least, and yet the fact is they have been with us from the start of the Conference and I
was immersed in their affairs even before the talk fest began. President Wilson never said
a truer word than when he announced his belief that the treatment of Russia presented the
acid test to the peacemakers. Up to the present the result of the acid test has been
negative and the outlook for the future is far from reassuring.
At the first meeting (January 16), when the Russian problem was broached, Lloyd George
threw a bombshell by announcing that while he was helping Kolchak [leader of the White
Russian Armies in Siberia who was captured and shot in 1920] with money and munitions, he
was convinced that the Admiral was a monarchist. According to some accounts he called him
a Tsarist. Many plans were then proposed, and according to the announcement of my cheerful
Colonel, the four powers present divided into six groups. But at least three definite and
distinct plans were immediately advanced to deal with the spreading "plague
The first plan was military intervention, sponsored by Winston Churchill, the dispatch
of an army of one hundred thousand men to Moscow, not of course "with hostile intent
or imperialistic purpose," merely to open a political kindergarten in which the
"Ruskies" might be taught the difficult task of governing themselves. Second,
the cordon sanitaire, to make it impossible for the crazy moujiks to infect
Europe with their weird but most infectious malady. The third plan, sponsored by the
British, was to summon the leaders of all the Russian fractions and factions to Paris in
the hope of bringing them into agreement among themselves and, if possible, to concerted
action with the Allies.
Many thought well of this third plan; at least it committed no one to a line of policy
and it would postpone decision and action, but M. Clemenceau smashed it with: "I
cannot permit the Soviet agents to enter France, much less come to Paris, where we have
already so many Bolsheviki of varied nationalities."
Disappointed but not discouraged, the President after this setback decided to go it
alone, at least temporarily. He sent out invitations to all the Russian groups to assemble
at Prinkipo, the pleasant summer resort on the Bosphorus, for the purpose of having a
"good talk." He hoped it would lead to disarmament and the holding of a
"free and fair" election. The plan did not prosper. Unfortunately, almost before
it was sent out (the invitation, I mean) Miliukoff, the leader of the Cadet party, the
most progressive and responsible in Russia, who like most of his adherents is living in
exile, issued a statement deploring the call and declining it for himself and his
This action was immediately followed by refusals from the so-called governments of
Omsk, Ekaterindor, Archangel, and the Crimea. The Soviets now joined in the chorus and
made the rejection of the project unanimous, or nearly so. [They accepted, indeed, but
with reservations and limitations on the scope of the Conference that robbed the meeting
of any chance of a successful issue.]
It is true that the Baltic republics, Esthonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, were willing to
put in an appearance, but they wanted transportation and assurances of protection from
enemies on sea and land. As the President saw no advantage in a rump congress, he let the
matter slide and turned to other equally thorny problems. I regaled the Colonel with a
Homeric sentence of Bismarck to me in Friedrichsruh thirty years ago. "Diese verdamte
Russen geben uns viel zu shaffen." ("These damned Russians give us a lot of
"And it is true today and will be true tomorrow, I fear," said the Colonel.
April 20, 1919
I have been canny, perhaps even "ca' canny," to use Lloyd George s favorite
expression, in my relations with the Russians. The fact is that with the exception of
Prince Lvow, in whom I have full confidence that dates back to and was tested by our close
relations during the first revolution (1906), I frankly distrust them all. When they came
to the Crillon, and they came from the beginning in droves (now they are fighting among
themselves and come singly), I would introduce them to House and when he requested it to
the other commissioners with the simple statement, "This is M. Kerensky, of whom you
have heard," or "This is M. Boris Savinkov, his former minister of war."
It was a wise precaution and I congratulate myself upon my unusual reserve. I do not
know what has happened, but I can see that the President is far from pleased with the
Russians and if, as reported, Uncle Sam's money bags were ever open to them they are
Yesterday the President, Lloyd George, and House were in a huddle as I brought the
Colonel an important telegram. Lloyd George was telling the President about how Russia
might yet be saved and the President was smiling sourly. Lloyd George said he could get
plenty of volunteers for a Russian expedition, British and others and, with fifty thousand
men, Moscow, "that den of vipers," could be cleaned out in a jiffy -
"But," he added, "America must provide the funds." The President
refused point-blank and then added: "Every time we have given your Russians a subsidy
they have backed away from their objective. I have no further patience with them."
From this and other incidents I gather that Kolchak has not only lost ground in Russia
but also in the favor of the Big Four. He has, it is true, agreed verbally, at least, to
order a constituent assembly when and if he reaches Moscow, but the formal promise has
never reached here in official form and there are in his council undoubtedly many men long
and closely associated with the imperial regime.
May 5, 1919
Yesterday Kerensky, prime minister of the short-lived liberal Provisional government
(July - November, 1917), came in, this time bubbling over with optimism. The Colonel let
him bubble for about ten minutes and then turned him over to me.
"This news is so important," said the Colonel, "that I shall ask you to
draw up a formal memo to be distributed to our delegation and to others."
Well, this is what Kerensky said: "The Bolsheviki are at the end of their rope.
Their complete overthrow is more a matter of weeks than of months. Admiral Kolchak is
sweeping the country, but I fear that success is mounting to his head like strong wine. I
fear that the excited admiral will inaugurate a regime as repressive and as sanguinary as
did the Bolshe. The danger is clear, and none too soon I must point out that the true
interests of Russia, and of the civilized world, demand that Kolchak be curbed. Control
must be transferred to a truly democratic government based upon and recruited from all the
parties that have remained true to the principles of the March Revolution (1917),
excluding definitely the Bolshe at one extreme and the reactionary monarchists at the
Kerensky then began to see red and declared that the British and the French, or at
least their agents, were constantly aiding the reactionary elements who surround Kolchak.
"The Associated governments cannot hope to save Russia from continuing anarchy unless
they agree on a common policy such as we drew up when preparing for the conference at
Prinkipo. In that way we would achieve a democratic coalition and stand foursquare against
the extremists of all parties. And I must add that owing to the fact that it has no
commitments in power politics, the United States alone is in a position to launch such a
Longuer, left-wing editor, and also Cachin, leader of French radicals, are furious at
what they consider the attitude of the Allies toward Russia which they say shows open
hostility to the People's government. I protest that we are really doing nothing but
watching and waiting, and I admit I think this is the wise course to pursue. Whereupon,
yesterday Longuet flounced out of my office with the ultimatum, which I shall not pass on
to those more immediately concerned, that "unless the Big Four abandon their criminal
design to destroy the Russian Peoples government there will be revolution in France and
anarchy in England." Cachin's parting words were: "I am a disillusioned man. If
the peace that is being handed out by the Four had been what the President promised the
people, there would have been no need for all these vexatious reservations and obscure
I throw no stones, but to my diary I admit that the "acid test" has been too
much for us. We are leaving the Russian problem unsettled and certainly unsolved just
about as it was dumped on our doorstep months ago. But the problem is not worse than it
was then and the people most directly concerned are tackling it more power, and above all,
more common sense to them. It can at least be said that during the long months of
"delay and dawdle," as it is called here, we have learned to appreciate the
difficulties of the situation and if we do go in later we might act intelligently. In the
meantime the strange dark people about whom we hear so much and know so little have a
chance to save Mother Russia in their own way. I sincerely hope they will rise to the
urgent occasion and that the era of famines and mass murders, of incredible filth and
indescribable squalor under the Tsars, of which I saw so much, will never be revived.
November 30, 1919
On November 9, in his speech at the Guild Hall, Lloyd George formally abandoned the
Russians. "I do not regret the aid we have given," he announced, "but we
cannot continue our intervention in a civil war which seems interminable." Clemenceau
said this was a capitulation to the Soviets and he sent an angry letter to House, then
back in America. "If this step was in any way permissible," he wrote, "he
should have given advance notice to his Allies. The little Welsh-man is a deserter in the
face of the enemy."
With the President incommunicado I do not think that House will answer this letter, at
least not in definite terms. The Russian problem remains now as it was in the beginning,
the "acid test," and the desired solvent seems to defy all research. House
commented: "The conference of ambassadors seems to have succeeded the Supreme War
Council, and whether they know it or not they would seem to be in full charge. I do not
envy them their task."
February 24, 1919
Several days ago a petit mot came from Iswolsky, whom I had known fairly well
in other days when he was the ambassador and again when he directed the foreign affairs of
Holy Russia. Today he is a refugee from the Reds and when I called I found him lodged at
the Meurice in an attic room, one of the class to which the valets of important visitors
were generally assigned. He is recovering from a sharp attack of influenza which has left
with him a hacking cough.
Fortunately for me he did not choose to talk about the New Russia. He merely said:
"I am a man without a country. Today Russia is a vacuum, and what I might say
about the actual situation would be pure guessing."
He did, however, lift another corner of the veil that has so long shrouded the Secret
Treaties. In fact, he revealed another angle of the Sykes-Picot agreement, which even in
its simplest form, the only one we are allowed to know, is giving the Conference so many
"It is quite forgotten that Russia was a party to that arrangement as much as
France and Britain. Yes, in those days," he interjected bitterly, "Russia was a
great power and had to be consulted.
"In the first six months of the war we had overrun Galicia; we had rescued Serbia
from the Austrians; our war objectives had been achieved and many at home thought why
should we not reach a separate peace with the Central Powers unless something further is
offered us, another bait?
"And Italy? She was not faring very well; she wanted something more than had been
promised by the Treaty of London, which drew her into the war. In these circumstances, in
May, 1916, the Sykes-Picot agreement was concluded, arranging an almost complete partition
of Turkey in Asia as well as in Europe. France was to take at least the coastal strip of
Syria and southeastern Anatolia. Britain was to get southern Mesopotamia and also the
ports of Akka and Haifa on the Mediterranean; we were to get most of Turkish Armenia.
"Of course, these arrangements were concealed from the Arabs and from the
Italians, to whom conflicting promises had been made previously, but there was a leak
somewhere, and the Italians screamed to the high heavens; to placate them, the British,
Italian, and French prime ministers met at St. Jean de Maurienne (April, 1917) and the
cards were reshuffled. Italy had to be given more to keep her in the war. This was before
Caporetto, you see, and we had not begun to appreciate how heavy was the handicap of her
assistance. Italy had to be appeased, she wanted 'more' and she demanded and was given, on
paper, southwestern Anatolia with the towns of Adalia, Konia, and Smyrna. Practically the
whole coast of Asia Minor was in this way earmarked for Italy. But there was a flaw in the
arrangement, not through inadvertence, I fear. Britain and France signed the agreement,
but as this belated consolation prize for Italy infringed on the Russian sphere at the
Dardanelles, it was stipulated that only after the consent of Russia had been secured
would the arrangement become effective, and that consent was never given.
"The promised booty was very tempting, but the Italians, doubtless wisely,
hesitated to go in alone and take it. And now it would seem that Clemenceau and Lloyd
George, and perhaps even Wilson, are urging the Greeks to go ahead and take what was
promised to Italy. How confusing it all is, and how shameful. The men of the Soviets are,
of course, absolutely without scruples, but at least they refuse to be bound by any of
these secret partition treaties."
When I reported to House Iswolsky s revelations, he lifted his hands to heaven and
"Perhaps on the day of final judgment we shall learn all the details of the secret
treaties, but I greatly fear not before. Sykes-Picot agreement! Well, it was not only the
king in Hedjaz who was hoodwinked."
1. It is only fair to say that Savinkov hated Stalin as the Devil
hates Holy Water.
2. See the next chapter on the Arabi.
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