Stavka. 22 October, 1914
Have arrived safely. In the morning inspected two hospitals in Minsk; found them in splendid order. It is not cold, foggy...
Stavka. 23 October, 1914
Tender thanks for news. The weather is milder than at home. There is no snow. Petia is here. He has become much quieter since having been under heavy fire in Galicia. He and Kostia's boys have meals with me. Hearty greetings.
In the train. 18 November, 1914
MY BELOVED SUNNY AND DARLING WIFY,
We have finished breakfast and I have read your sweet, tender letter with moist eyes. This time I succeeded in keeping myself in hand at the moment of parting, but it Was a hard struggle.
The weather is dismal; it is pouring with rain; there is very little snow left. When we moved off, I visited the gentlemen [of the suite] and looked in at each coupé. This morning I found among the papers of the Minister of War the paper relating to Rennenkampf and signed it. He will have to leave his Army. I do not know who Nic. has in view for his place.
What joy and consolation it would be if we could make the whole of this journey together I My love, I miss you terribly - more than I can express in words. Every day a courier will leave the town with papers. I shall try to write very often, as, to my amazement, I have come to the conclusion that I can write while the train is in motion.
My hanging trapeze has proved very practical and useful. I swung on it many times and climbed up it before meals. It is really an excellent thing for the train, it stirs up the blood and the whole organism.
I like the pretty frame which you have given me. It lies in front of me on the table for safety, because a sudden jerk might break the lovely stone.
All the miniatures are good, with the exception of Marie. I am sure that everyone will appreciate their merit. What a joy and consolation it is to know that you are well and are working so much for the wounded! As our Friend says, it is by God's grace that in such a time you can work so hard and endure so much. Believe me, my beloved, do not fear, have more confidence in yourself when you are left alone, and all will go smoothly and prosperously.
May God bless you, my beloved Wify! I kiss you and the children lovingly. Sleep well and try to think that you are not lonely.
NOTES: RENNENKAMPF: General P. Rennenkampf, commanding the 1st Army, whose failure to advance after the victory of Gumbinnen was partly responsible for the disaster of Tannenberg. He had greatly distinguished himself in the Japanese War, after which he became a Corps Commander, and was later appointed to the Governorship of the Vilna Military District. In 1915 he deserted his army, was accused of treachery and dismissed from the service. Killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. OUR FRIEND: Gregory Rasputin. We are not yet in a position to judge correctly the true character or to measure the full power of this mysterious man. There can be no doubt, however, that his influence in Imperial and political circles was immense, though his motives in gaining and in using that influence are still obscure. We shall have occasion. later, to note his interference in matters military and political, and to observe the Tsar's attitude towards his strange adviser. Such a figure at the Russian Court was by no means a novelty, and he was but the successor of John of Kronstadt and the magician Phillippe.
Stavka. 19 November, 1914.
Have arrived in good time; thanks for letter and telegram. The weather is as it was yesterday, without frost. Kyrill and Dmitry are at present here. Embrace you and the children.
NOTES: DMITRY: the Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovitch, son of the Grand Duke Paul. He was the Tsar's cousin, an elegant and perhaps decadent young man, who wrote verses, and who assisted at the murder of Rasputin in December 1916.
Stavka. 19 November, 1914,
MY PRECIOUS WIFY,
Sincerest thanks for your sweet letter (the second), received to-day after dinner. I arrived exactly at 12.30. N. met me at the big station behind the wood. He looks well and calm, though he has lived through terrible moments, more correctly days, when the Germans were penetrating deeper and deeper.
The only great and serious difficulty for our troops is that we have again an insufficiency of munitions. In consequence of this, our troops have to observe economy and discretion during action, which means that the brunt of the fighting falls upon the infantry; owing to that, the losses at once become colossal. Some of the Corps of the Line have become divisions; the brigades have shrunk into regiments, and so forth.
Reinforcements are coming in well, but half of them have no rifles, as the troops are losing masses. There is nobody to collect them on the battlefields.
Apparently the Germans are drawing the Austrians up to the north; several Austrian corps are fighting on our soil, as if they have come up from Thom.
And all of these troops are commanded by Prussian generals. It is said that the Austrian prisoners abuse their allies for that. Petiusha. is here again and is feeling well. I also saw Kyrill, Dmitry and Yoanchik, who has asked me to appoint our Olga president of the committee for the building of the large cathedral, if he should be killed.
Four foreign generals dined with me. I had a talk with them in the evening. They have travelled not a little round the places where there is heavy fighting at present - Soukhachev, Seradz, Lodz, etc. Today we had no detailed reports from the front.
My beloved Sunny, I love you with an undying love; as you see, I could call it "un puits d'amour" and this after twenty years. God bless you, my darling! May He guard you and the children. I kiss you all tenderly.
NOTES: In this letter the Tsar speaks of the shortage of munitions after little over three months of war. It is now commonly known that the shortage was largely due to the incompetence, if not to the criminal neglect, of the Minister of War, Soukhomlinov, of whom we shall speak in a later note. The Russian army, at the beginning of the war, was deplorably equipped for service. General Alexeiev said that the shortage of rifles reached an acute phase in September 1914. According to E. H. Wilcox, the correspondent of the Daily Telegraph at Petrograd, reinforcements sent to Galicia were " absolutely unarmed." Soldiers were not only trained with sticks instead of rifles, but were actually sent into the trenches with them. At one time 40,000 troops were waiting at Tarnopol without weapons. Robert Wilton, The Times correspondent, says: "Proportionately speaking, the Russian Army was not so well prepared for war in 1914 as it had been in 1904. Eleven artillery brigades on mobilisation were found to be without guns." And Gourko states that in 1914 his Division " possessed neither light nor heavy motor transport."
YOANCHIK: Prince loan Constantinovitch.
Dorogobuzh. 20 Nowember, 1914.
Thanks for telegram. In Smolensk I thought of our stay in 1912. Visited four hospitals there. All are in excellent order. It is warm, still. In thought I am with you..
Toula. 21 November, 1914.
Warmest thanks for both sweet letters. I advise you, if you are well, to go to K(ovno) and V[ilna]. This morning after church I visited a munition facto y - very interestingten thousand workers. Now I am going to hospitals, there are about 40. 1 have no time to write here. I kiss and embrace all ardently.
Kharkov. 23 November, 1914
Sincerest thanks for dear letters. I hope that yesterday's papers have arrived. Have seen numbers of hospitals, but had no time to see the son of Count Keller. The reception was so touching. I am leaving at four o'clock for Ekaterinodar.
Stanichnaia. 24 November, 1914.
Have spent three happy hours at Ekaterinodar. Thanks for telegram. I remember about Olga. Embrace you all closely.
In the train. 25 November, 1914.
MY BELOVED, DARLING SUNNY,
It seems to me as though it is ages since we parted! - Two days ago I received your letter from Kharkov, with our group taken in Dvinsk. To-day is my first free day.
We are passing through picturesque country which is new to me, with beautiful high mountains on one side and steppes on the other. Since yesterday it has been much warmer, and to-day the weather is lovely. I sat for a long time at the open door of the carriage and breathed in the warm fresh air with delight. At each station the platforms are crowded with people, especially children; there are thousands of them, and they are charming with their tiny papakha [fur caps) on their heads.
Naturally, the receptions in every town were touchingly cordial. But yesterday I experienced other and still better impressions in Ekaterinodar, the capital of the Kouban province - it was as pleasant as on board ship, thanks to crowds of old friends and the familiar faces of the Cossacks, which I remember from childhood, in the Convoy. Of course I drove in my car with the Ataman (Hetman), General Babysch, and inspected several excellent hospitals, containing wounded from the Caucasian Army. Some of the poor fellows have frostbitten legs. The train is jolting terribly, so you must excuse my writing.
After the hospitals I looked in for a minute at the Kouban Girls' Institute and at a large orphanage dating from the last war, all of them Cossack girls, real military discipline. They look well and unconstrained; here and there a pretty face. N. P. and I were very pleased with what we saw.
I have just finished lunch. It is quite hot in the train.
We are running along by the Caspian Sea; it rests the eye to look at the blue distance; it reminded me of our Black Sea and wafted me into melancholy. Not far off are mountains, beautifully lit up by the sun. It is a pitywhy are we not together? On the whole, travelling about here means being infinitely further removed from the war than being in Kovno or Grodno. N. P. and I were very glad that you went there and saw our friends. I shall send this letter by courier from Derbent. Of course it was Peter the Great who took this little old place in 1724 - I cannot remember where the keys are kept. I know that they must be in one of the palace churches, because I have seen them, but I am not sure precisely in which.
Tell Olga that I thought of her a great deal yesterday in the Kouban province. This country of the Cossacks is magnificent and rich; a large number of orchards. They are beginning to be wealthy, and above all - they have an inconceivably high number of small infants. All future subjects. This all fills me with joy and faith in God's mercy; I must look forward in peace and confidence to what lies in store for Russia.
This second telegram from our Friend was handed to me at a small station where I got out for a walk. I find it highly comforting.
By the way, I have forgotten to explain to you why my programme was slightly changed. When I was at the Stavka, the old Count Vorontzov asked me by telegram whether I would care to visit both of the Cossack provinces and both chief towns; as we had a little spare time on our journey, Voeikov quickly arranged this matter, and has thus given me an opportunity for seeing some more useful and important places [bases ?] - Ekaterinodar, and on our journey back to the north, Vladikavkaz - of the Tersky Army. During my passing visits to Toula, Orel, Koursk and Kharkov I was too busy and bewildered to be able to write to you or even to telegraph - you must have noticed it, whereas to-day we are all enjoying a real rest; the gentlemen are as much tired as I am. But I repeat again: all our impressions are delightful. What the country is achieving and will go on achieving till the end of the war is wonderful and immense. Part of this achievement I saw with my own eyes, and even Feodorov, from a purely medical point of view, was astounded.
But I must finish now, my love. I kiss you and the dear children warmly and tenderly. I am longing for you so much, so much in need of you I God bless and keep you!
Always your hubby
NOTES: The Tsar was never so happy, during the war, as he was on these tours of inspection. He had no knowledge of the terrors of war, and his army was usually presented to him on the parade ground. Such tours, moreover, provided an escape from the "beastly papers and the dull routine of the Stavka."
Ataman or Hetman, the title of a Cossack commander. "Palace churches" - the churches which stood within the Imperial precincts. VORONTZOV: General Count Vorontzov-Dashkov, Lord Lieutenant of the Caucasus and a member of the Council of State.
The letter was written in the train between Petrovsk and Baku.
Tiflis. 26 November, 1914
Have arrived safely; the reception was wonderful. The old Count is not very well. I shall visit some hospitals to-day. I am sorry that you are not here. Close embrace for you and Ella.
ELLA: the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, widow of the Tsar's uncle, the Grand Duke Sergey (assassinated in 1905), and the elder sister of the Tsaritsa. She was a beautiful and remarkable woman, who, after the death of her husband, became the Mother Superior of a convent in Moscow. Her tragic life was tragically ended on the 17th July, 1918 - on the day following the murder of the Imperial Family - at Alapaievsk in the Oural Province, where she was killed by the Bolsheviks.
Tiflis. 27 November, 1914.
Thank you heartily for dear letter with the enclosed letters from Marie and Alexey. The Count and Countess are very touched with your greetings. There was a grand reception in the morning - saw two young officers of the Nijni-Novgorod Regiment, both wounded. Thank you for your congratulations. I have seen above a thousand wounded in two days. Please distribute medals to seriously wounded men in my name. Am tired, but very pleased and satisfied with what I have seen and heard. Embrace you and the children closely.
Tiflis. 28 November, 1914.
Hearty thanks for letter about your delightful journey to Vilna and Kovno. I have been visiting educational institutions all day long. The Countess took me round your sklad here in the house. Saw not less than 200 ladies and women at work - I was much embarrassed. I went to tea with the nobility; masses of pretty faces - felt shy. Everything has made an excellent impression on me. All of them are very desirous of seeing you and the children some time.
Fond kisses for all the six of you.
NOTES: Sklad: a depot for Red Cross supplies. The Tsaritsa was devoted to hospital work, in which she took an active and practical part.
Tiflis. 29 November, 1914.
Sincere thanks for dear letter, also to Olga and Alexey for their letters. Ideally warm weather. After a grand reception of deputations this morning I visited the Girls' Diocesan School and after that the Military College. I have received crowds of people. After lunch walked here in a charming garden; am now going into the town to tea. I am leaving for Kars in the evening.
Kars. 30 November, 1914.
Have arrived this morning. Real winter, but luckily not cold, 4 degrees. Went to Mass in a very ancient church, which is now the garrison church. Saw heaps of troops, very few wounded. Drove in a car round the fortress; very interesting, but a thick fog was hiding the distance. I kiss all many times tenderly.