Memories of Russia: 1916 - 1919 by Princess Paley

Chapter XIII

Under arrest in Tsarskoe

The Sovereigns gone, I ventured into that wonderful Park at Tsarskoe which had been open to all comers since the beginning of the Revolution, save for the portion reserved for the august prisoners. As long as my Sovereigns were still there, I had not crossed the threshold, not wishing to avail myself of the liberties accorded by people to whom I was anxious to owe nothing. I made my way beneath the splendid shady trees of the Alexander Park which recalled to me my whole youth and my long-ago meetings - so sweet to remember - with the Grand Duke. . . . The Park now seemed to me sad, dismal, soul-less. It was ill-kept, and, with a climax of cynicism, they had dug graves for the victims of the Revolution in a conspicuous spot not far from the windows of the Palace. These graves, like those in Petrograd on the Champ de Mars, were adorned with revolutionary emblems and red rags. I went farther on, going along the canal towards the Imperial hot-houses, the fruits and flowers in which used to win general admiration.

It was the fine ladies of the Provisional Government who were now getting the benefit of them. On drawing near them I saw a group of seven or eight soldiers looking at the orangeries. I pretended to be looking for something in the grass so as to hear what they said.

"You see these hot-houses, comrades?" one of them, a man of Semitic type, remarked. "Well, ~icholas Romanoff, the execrated tyrant, used to burn poor people alive in order to keep the fires of these hot-houses going, and to have peaches and strawberries in January! "

In spite of the abdication, in spite of the exile, the anti-Tsarist propaganda continued. The order had gone forth to lose no opportunity of stuffing foolish heads with stupid calumnies. The idea of burning human beings to keep up the temperature in hot-houses in the most densely-wooded country in the world!

Meanwhile Kerensky was not finding himself altogether on a bed of roses in the bed of the Emperor Alexander III! Forces were beginning to group themselves against him, and at the Moscow Assembly on August 14th/27th, he encountered a redoubtable rival in the person of General Korniloff. The latter, having tried in vain to keep the Petro grad troops in order, had first taken the command of the 8th Army Corps at the front, and then that of the SouthWest, and finally had been appointed Generalissimo. He very soon realised that Kerensky was leading Russia into an abyss. Therefore at the Moscow Assembly, on August 14th/27th15th/28th, he took his stand against, the latter, and to an accompaniment of shouts of "Long live General Korniloff!" uttered by the Right and the military elements of the gathering, he delivered a speech, interrupted continually by the Left. He pointed to the danger impending, spoke of the advance of the enemy on the Riga, of the anti-militarist propaganda, and of the complete disorganisation of the army. He insisted on the need of re-establishing the authority of the officers, which had been abolished by the famous prikaze Number I. His speech was followed by long-continued applause, and Kerensky did not forgive him. Thus, when Korniloff, from Army Headquarters, asked Kerensky, through Savinkoff, to establish martial law throughout the whole of Russia, Kerensky pretended to consent, and signed a decree of military reform.

Korniloff asked for martial law on account of the Maximalist proceedings, and the taking of Riga by the Germans. The Soviets, which had become more and' more Bolshevist, and were being led by three Jews, Lieber, Dann and Gotz, learnt of this decree in good time, and forbade Kerensky to apply it. The latter, in order to break with Korniloff and to please the Soviets, did not recoil from the role of agent provocateur. He declared Korniloff and his aide-de-camp, General Loukomsky, traitors to the country, and deprived them of their rank. He spread the rumour that Korniloff was advancing on Petrograd to deaden the effect of " the victories of the Revolution" and to dissolve the Soviets. In reality it was the 3rd Cavalry Corps, commanded by General Krymoff, which was advancing, sent by Korniloff, in order to force the Government not to give in to the Soviets. Kerensky launched his appeals all over the country against the Generalissimo. Korniloff had recourse to the same methods, and issued an impressive manifesto from Mohileff. We ourselves were in sympathy with Korniloff, for this General, although a Revolutionary, was yet a patriot and wished for the safety of the country. In this mortal struggle Kerensky, with his Soviets, won, and on September 1st/14th, Korniloff and Loukomsky were led from Mohileff to Bikhoff, where they were imprisoned. If Korniloff had really marched on Petrograd with his "Wild Division" as we had hoped and believed, who knows whether the hideous Russian Revolution would not have been wrecked in this enterprise?

The whole of this Korniloff-Kerensky story had the saddest consequences for us. On August 27th/September 9th we were expecting Mme. Narischkine, nee Comtesse Toll, and her son to dinner. Towards six o'clock, wishing to speak , with one of my family in town, I noticed that the winch of the telephone turned without the slightest resistance. Thinking that the machine was out of order, I went to the telephone in the anteroom: same result! At this moment I saw coming Colonel Maschneff, who had replaced our nocturnal visitor Bolderkul as Commandant of the town of Tsarskoe. He asked to see us, the Grand Duke and me, and in a sad and nervous manner announced to us that he had received orders from the Provisional Government to place us under arrest in our house. In answer to the very natural question, "Why?" he raised his hands to heaven, shrugged his shoulders, and said:

"Why? Do they themselves know why they want anything? It is absolute chaos. Kerensky has gone absolutely mad. . Orders have been given to cut off your telephone, and a squad of soldiers are coming to-night to mount guard and occupy all the egresses from the Palace. A special Commissary will come at nine o'clock to notify to you your arrest. Be sure, Monsiegneur, that I shall do all that is in my power to give you back your freedom as soon as possible."

He left, and in the course of five minutes some unkempt, half-clad, dirty-looking Revolutionary soldiers were posted everywhere. Meanwhile the automobile had gone to the station to meet Mme. Narischkine and her son. We did not know how to send word to them not to come in, and thus spare them needless annoyance. Some moments later they arrived, and they looked horrified when we told them of our latest mortification. We advised them to go off at once, but the soldiers who had allowed them to come in would not allow them to leave.

We had to be resigned and to wait on events. As may be imagined, the dinner was not gay, though everyone made the best of things. At nine o'clock it was announced to us that a Commissary from Kerensky, named Kouzmine, accompanied by ten of his underlings, wished to speak with M. Paul Alexandrovitch Romanoff, ex-Grand Duke, H with his wife and with Prince Vladimir Paley. We went into the Grand Duke's study and the eleven with us. Then Kouzmine drew from his pocket three documents which he read in succession to each of us. In them it was said" that in view of possible troubles and of the approach of General Korniloff with a view to a Monarchist restoration," the Provisional Government had "judged it desirable to place under arrest" in his or her home-here came the name of each of us-and that the garrison of Tsarsk6e was charged with the duty of guarding us. The Grand Duke took one of the documents and looked at the signature: "Governor-General of Petrograd, Boris SAVINKOFF." Thus, this detested creature, who had had his brother murdered, was now attacking him and his family. They made us sign something-it did not matter what. We were in the power of these wretches who availed themselves of the opportunity of injuring us without any motive, without any provocation, on our part. Kouzmine announced to us that the ex-Grand Duke Michael and his wife were meeting with the same fate at Gatchina. My husband turned towards me and said out loud in French:

" What roguery it all is ! "

I put my hand gently on his arm and begged him not to make our situation worse. Then, turning towards Kouzmine, I asked him to take measures with a view to enabling Mme. Narischkine to get home without any hindrance, He replied that all those in the house were under arrest but that he would see at once to her liberation-and to that of Baron de Benckendorff, who was staying with us. Mme. Narischkine and her son were installed in rooms which had been occupied by other friends. It was necessary to lend them everything they could want for the night. At four in the morning word came that they were free. Without awaking us they got into their automobile and started for Petrograd, where they found their flat invaded by Kerensky's agents who were making a perquisition there. What a night! Mme. Narischkine will remember that visit! . ..

Next day Kouzmine returned to set free Baron de Benckendorff and his valet and the valet's family. They all set out for Petrograd after a stay of three months with us. Kouzmine questioned our little daughters, then aged thirteen and eleven, if they wished to be free in one of the wings of the Palace, but on condition of not communicating with their parents or with their brother. Both rejected this offer with indignation and asked to share our captivity.

"What little Revolutionaries!" murmured Kouzmine.

We never knew whether it was a compliment or a reproach which he addressed to them!

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