Volume I - CHAPTER VIII - JANUARY 1-FEBRUARY 13, 1915
Friday, January 1, 1915.
Sazonov, Buchanan and I have been amicably discussing the problems we three shall have to face in the year 1915. None of us has any illusion about the immense effort required of us by the war, an effort we have neither the opportunity nor the right to shirk as nothing less than the independence of our national life is at stake.
"The military experiences of the last few months," I said, "particularly of the last few weeks, embody a valuable lesson, I think, which we should be wrong not to turn to account."
"What lesson?" asked Sazonov.
After warning them that I was expressing a purely personal opinion I continued:
"As the German bloc is such a hard nut to crack we should endeavour to detach Austria-Hungary from the Teutonic coalition by any and every method of force or persuasion. I believe we should succeed in a very short time. The Emperor Francis Joseph is very old; we know he bitterly regrets this war and only asks to be allowed to die in peace. You have beaten his armies in Galicia again and again; the Serbs have just won a brilliant victory at Valievo;. Rumania threatens and Italy is doubtful. The Hapsburg Monarchy was in no greater peril in 1859 and 1866 yet the same Francis Joseph then accepted serious territorial sacrifices to save his crown. Quite between ourselves, my dear Minister, if the Vienna Cabinet agreed to cede Galicia to you and Bosnia-Herzegovina to Serbia would not that seem to you an adequate return for making a separate peace with Austria-Hungary?"
Sazonov pulled a face and replied drily:
"What about Bohemia? And Croatia? Would you leave them under the present system? ... It's impossible."
"As I'm speaking to you personally forgive me for saying that in this terrible hour of trial for France the Czech and Jugo-Slav problems seem to me secondary."
Sazonov peevishly shook his head:
"No. Austria-Hungary must be dismembered."
I then resumed my original arguments and developed them. I showed that the defection of Austria-Hungary would have important consequences from the strategic and moral points of view, that Russia would be the first to derive benefit from them, that it was our obvious interest and plain duty to concentrate the whole of our offensive power and destructive forces against Germany, and if the Vienna Cabinet offered us reasonable terms of peace we should commit a grave error if we rejected them a priori. If necessary we could require that a generous measure of self-government should be granted to the Czechs and Croats: that alone would be a resounding victory for Slavism ... .
Sazonov seemed moved by my persistence:
"It wants thinking about," he said.
The moment I got back to the embassy I sent a report of this conversation to Delcassé, reminding him of the unquestionable advantage to France of the preservation of a great political system in the Danube basin.
Tuesday, January 5, 1915.
The street is always an instructive sight. I often notice what a vague, preoccupied and absent-minded creature the passing moujik looks.
Here is a phenomenon one may observe at an any time, a phenomenon which sometimes thrusts itself upon one's notice even without looking for it.
Two sleighs approach from opposite directions; they are still twenty metres apart and exactly in line. As usual the drivers casually let the reins lie loosely on their horses' backs. They look about them in an inattentive, unseeing way. The vehicles are now no more than ten metres apart. The izvochtchiks merely begin to realize that they will collide if they do not change direction. They slowly fumble for the reins. But the presence of the obstacle immediately ahead has not entirely dawned upon them even then. When the horses' noses are all but touching there is a pull at the bridle and they swerve sharply to the right - unless the two sleighs are not already upside down in the snow.
Several times I have amused myself calculating the time that elapses between the moment at which it is plain that the two sleighs are in the same track and the moment at which the izvochtchiks pull the reins to avert a collision. I have found it to be from four to eight seconds by my watch. The Paris and London driver would make up his mind at the first glance and act accordingly in less than a second.
Is the inference that the moujik is slow-witted and stupid? Certainly not. But his mind is always wandering. In his brain fitful and disordered impressions chase one another continuously: they seem to have no relation to reality. His usual state of mind oscillates between reverie and mental dispersion.
Wednesday, January 6, 1915.
The Russians have just inflicted a defeat on the Turks near Sarykamish, on the Kars-Erzerum road.
This success is a particularly fine piece of work as our Ally's offensive is in a region of mountains as high as the Alps, intersected by precipices and with passes often over 2,500 metres in height. It is appalling cold at this season of the year, and there are incessant snowstorms. No roads and the whole region laid waste. The army of the Caucasus is performing prodigies of valour every day.
Thursday, January 7, 1915.
During the last nine days there has been heavy fighting on the left bank of the Vistula, in the sector between the Bzura and the Ravka. On January 2 the Germans succeeded in carrying the important Borjymov position: their front is thus no more than sixty kilometres from Warsaw.
This situation comes in for very strong comment in Moscow, if I am to credit the information given me by an English journalist who was dining in the Slaviansky Bazar only yesterday: "In all the drawing-rooms and clubs at Moscow," he said, " there is great irritation at the turn military events are taking. No one can understand this suspension of all our attacks and these continuous retreats which look as if they would never end. But it is not the Grand Duke Nicholas who gets the blame but the Emperor and still more the Empress. The most absurd stories are told about Alexandra Feodorovna; Rasputin is accused of being in German pay and the Tsaritsa is simply called the Niemka [the German woman] ... "
Several times before have I heard the Empress charged with having retained sympathies, preferences and a warm corner in her heart for Germany. The unfortunate woman in no way deserves these strictures; she knows all about them and they give her great pain.
Alexandra Feodorovna is German neither in mind nor spirit and has never been so. Of course, she is a German by birth, at any rate on the paternal side, as her father was Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and the Rhine. But she is English through her mother, Princess Alice, a daughter of Queen Victoria. In 1878, at the age of six, she lost her mother and thenceforward resided habitually at the court of England. Her bringing-up, education and mental and moral development were thus quite English. She is still English in her outward appearance, her deportment, a certain strain of inflexibility and Puritanism, the uncompromising and militant austerity of her conscience and, last but not least, in many of her personal habits. That is all that is left of her western origin.
In her inmost being she has become entirely Russian. In the first place I have no doubt of her patriotism, notwithstanding the legend I see growing up around her. Her love for Russia is deep - and true. And why should she not be devoted to her adopted country which stands for everything dear to her as woman, wife, sovereign and mother? When she ascended the throne in 1894 she knew already that she did not like Germany, and particularly Prussia. In recent years she has taken a personal dislike to the Emperor William and he it is whom she holds exclusively responsible for the war, this "wicked war which makes Christ's heart bleed every day." When she heard of the incendiarism at Louvain she cried out: "I blush to have been a German!"
But her moral naturalization has gone even further. By a curious process of mental contagion she has gradually absorbed the most ancient and characteristic elements of the Russian soul, all those obscure, emotional and visionary elements which find their highest expression in religious mysticism.
I have already referred to the morbid proclivities she inherits from her mother's side and which betray themselves in her sister Elizabeth as a kind of charitable exaltation and in her brother, the Grand Duke of Hesse, as a taste for the freakish. These hereditary tendencies, which would have been more or less checked if she had continued to live in the practical and balanced West, have found in Russia the atmosphere most favourable to their perfect development. Are not all those symptoms - moral unrest, chronic melancholy, vague sorrows, the see-saw between elation and despondency, the haunting obsession of the invisible and the life beyond, and superstitious credulity - which are outstanding features of the Empress's personality, traditional and endemic in the Russian people? Alexandra Feodorovna's submissive acceptance of Rasputin's ascendency is no less significant. She is behaving exactly like one of the old Tsaritsas of Moscow when she sees in Rasputin a Bojy tchelloviek, "a man of God," "a saint persecuted (as Christ was) by the Pharisees," or when she endows him with the gifts of prophecy, miracle-working and exorcism, or allows the success of a political step or a military operation to depend upon his blessing. She carries us back to the times of Ivan the Terrible or Michael Feodorovitch and takes her place, so to speak, in the Byzantine setting of archaic Russia.
Friday, January 8, 1915.
Towards three o'clock this afternoon, as the last relics of day were already submerging in a desolate darkness, I walked along the Kronversky Prospekt on my way to the French Hospital which is at the far end of Vassili Island.
On my left the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul thrust forth its angular bastions under a shroud of snow from which the flat roof of the state prison barely protruded. A dense, leaden mist hung heavy over the cupola of the cathedral in which are the tombs of the Romanovs and the gilded spire above it was lost in the sombre sky. Ahead of me I had glimpses of the motionless sheet of the Neva, studded with great blocks of ice, through the leafless trees of a bare and deserted park.
To heighten the sinister setting of the hour and the place the corner of a lonely avenue I passed on my right was marked by a low building with yellowing walls and barred windows, a building of secret and shameful, aspect. Two police officers came out of it together. It was the Okhrana..
This fearsome institution dates from the days of Peter the Great who created it in 1697 under the name of the Preobrajensky Prikaz. Its historical origins must be sought for much earlier on, however; they are to be found in Byzantine traditions and Tartar methods of rule. Its first Chief was Prince Romodanovsky and it immediately acquired a terrible reputation. From that time espionage, secret denunciation, torture and secret execution were the normal and regular instruments of Russian policy. From the start the Preobrajensky Prikaz applied the true principles of a State Inquisition, mystery, arbitrary action and ferocity. In the reigns of Peter II, Anna Tvanovna and Elizabeth Petrovna the institution lost something of its native vigour but the Empress Catherine II, "the friend of philosophers," lost no time in restoring its secret authority and implacable character. Alexander II kept it at that high level.
It needed the genius for despotism of Nicholas I to discover that a State service which already had so many exploits to its credit was defective and inadequate. Immediately after the Decembrist conspiracy he entirely reorganized the Okhrana, which was thenceforward known as the Third Section of His Imperial Majesty's private Chancellery. In all these reforms could be observed the influence of Prussian methods and a tendency to imitate Prussian bureaucracy and Prussian militarism. The direction of the department was entrusted to a general of German origin, Count Alexander Benckendorff.(1)
No autocrat ever had a more potent weapon of inquisition and coercion. After a few years of this regime Russia was essentially a "Police State."
In the disorganization which succeeded the Crimean War Alexander II felt the necessity of modernizing the administrative. legislation of the Empire to a certain extent. The judicial system, which offered no guarantee of justice whatever, was recast on lines more in keeping with western ideas. But the Third Section still retained its extravagant privileges. To realize its place in the State organization and its reputation in society it is enough to remember that three of its successive Directors were Count Orlov, Prince Dolgoruky and Count Shuvalov.
The assassination of Alexander II in 1881 and the spread of the Nihilist movement gave the opponents of liberal reforms the chance of their life. Throughout his life the "Most Pious" Alexander III conscientiously devoted himself to extirpating the evil germs of "modernism" and bringing Russia back to the theocratic ideal of the Muscovite Tsars. The police of course took the lead in this work of reaction. But since August, 1880, it had ceased to be attached to the Private Chancellery of His Imperial Majesty: it was under the Ministry of the Interior where it formed a special department with the corps of gendarmes.
Under the direction of General Tcherevin, a personal friend of Alexander III, it was as powerful as in the days of Nicholas 1. Shrouded in mystery, thrusting its tentacles into every part of the Empire and even abroad, outside the jurisdiction of the courts, disposing of huge funds and free of all supervision it frequently imposed its decrees on the ministers and even the Emperor himself.
The superstitious reverence of Nicholas II for the memory and opinions of his father safeguarded him from making any changes in a service animated by such matchless loyalty and so zealous for the safety of the dynasty. His ukases of May 23, 1896 and December 13, 1897 confirmed and increased the powers of the police.
Those powers were well illustrated during the revolutionary troubles of 1905 when the Okhrana fomented strikes, attempts at assassination and pogroms in all quarters, mobilized General Bogdanovitch's "Black Bands" and tried to rouse the fanaticism of the rural masses in favour of orthodox Tsarism. The debate in the Duma in June, 1906, the revelations of Prince Urussov, the proceedings which were subsequently taken against the ex-Chief of Police, Lopoukhin, the confessions or reticences of the police officers, Guerassimov and Ratchkovsky, brought to light the shocking part played by agents provocateurs like Azev, Gapon, Harting, Tchiguelsky and Mikhailov in the anarchist plots of the last few years. It was even thought that their handiwork could be traced in the assassinations of Plevhe, the Minister of the Interior, and the Grand Duke Sergius.
What is the Okhrana contemplating now? What plot is it weaving? I am told that its present Chief, General Globatchev, is not altogether deaf to reason. But in times of crisis the spirit of an institution will always prevail against the personality of its chief.
Nor can I forget that the Police Department at the Ministry of the Interior is in the hands of Bieletzky, a man entirely lacking in scruples, bold and deceitful, a tool of Rasputin and all his gang.(2)
The Police Department at the Ministry of the Interior and its annex, the Okhrana, function over the general police of the Empire, the administrative, judicial, and political police. But in addition to these two great public services there is a complicated mechanism attached to the Minister of the Court's department, the duty of which is to ensure the personal safety of Their Majesties! I cannot find any monarchical state in modern history in which the safety of the sovereigns has appeared to require such active and painstaking vigilance and such a rampart of open or secret precautions. The task is accomplished in the following way.
All the military and administrative organs employed in the protection of the sovereigns are under the orders of the Governor of the Imperial Palaces. His post is greatly coveted because it confers on its holder immense power and entitles him to approach the Tsar at any time. The present holder is General Vladimir Nicolaievitch Voyeikov, formerly Commander of the Regiment of Guard Hussars, son-in-law of Count Fredericks, Minister of the Court. His predecessor was General Diedulin who succeeded the famous General Trepov.
In the first place General Voyeikov has under his orders the Cossack Escort Regiment of four squadrons, with a total strength of 650 men. The Officer Commanding the Regiment is General Count Alexander Grabbé. These Cossacks are selected from the strongest and most active in the Empire, and are posted to observation, patrol and escort duty outside the palace. These are the men to be seen galloping at intervals of fifty metres day and night in the avenue which surrounds Tsarskoe Selo Park.
Then comes His Majesty's Regiment, four battalions with a total strength of 5,000 men; the commander of the regiment is General Ressin. Recruited with the greatest care from all the corps of the guard and remarkably smart in their plain uniforms, these picked infantry men supply the guards for the palace gate and the sentries scattered about the park. It also furnishes some thirty guards distributed about the vestibules, corridors, staircases, kitchens, domestic offices and cellars of the imperial residence.
In addition to these cavalry and infantry contingents General Voyeikov has at his disposal a special unit, His Majesty's Railway Regiment, comprising two battalions with a total strength of 1,000 men. This regiment is commanded by General Label and is in charge of the management of the imperial trains and responsible for the inspection of the permanent way when Their Majesties are travelling. This work is of the highest importance as to "blow up the Tsar's train" is one of the ideas that obsess Russian anarchists. Not so long ago one of them succeeded in concealing himself by clinging to the undercarriage of one of the coaches with a bomb in his pocket.
The protection given by these military forces is supplemented by that given by two administrative organs, appropriately equipped, the Police of the Imperial Court and His Majesty the Emperor's Personal Police.
The Police of the Imperial Court, under the direction of General of Gendarmerie Ghérardi, has a strength of 250 police officers, and duplicates to a certain extent the guards and sentries posted at the gates and in the palace buildings. It watches the entrances and exits, inspects the servants, tradesmen, workmen, gardeners, visitors, &c. It observes and records everything that goes on among the entourage of the sovereigns. It spies, eavesdrops, pries into everything and gets everywhere. In the execution of its task it never makes the slightest exception. On that point I can give personal testimony. Every time I was received by the Emperor at Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof (and on each occasion I was in full uniform, in a court carriage and with a Master of Ceremonies at my side) I had to go through the usual process. The police officer on duty at the great gates put his head inside the carriage and was handed the regulation pass by the groom. I once expressed my surprise at such strictness to Evreinov, the Director of Ceremonies. "We can't be too careful, Ambassador," he replied. "Don't forget that towards the end of Alexander II's time the Nihilists blew up the dining-room at the Winter Palace, within a few feet of the bedroom in which poor Empress Marie lay dying! ... Our revolutionaries are no less bold and ingenious now. They've tried to kill Nicholas II seven or eight times already."
His Majesty the Emperor's Personal Police has even wider functions. It is a kind of branch of the great Okhrana, but responsible solely and directly to the Governor of the Imperial Palaces. Its Commanding Officer is General of Gendarmerie Spiridovitch, who has under his orders 300 police officers who have all gone through an apprenticeship in the ranks of the judicial or political police. General Spiridovitch's main task is to see to the safety of the sovereigns when they are outside their palace. The moment the Tsar or Tsaritsa have left the Dvoretz he is responsible for their lives. It is a particularly grave responsibility as Nicholas II is a thoroughgoing fatalist, piously convinced "that he will not die before the hour decreed by God," and therefore allows only well-screened measures for his personal safety and in particular no conspicuous deployment of police officers.
To do its work thoroughly and well the Personal Police has to have an intimate knowledge of the organization, designs, schemes, plots, all the audacious, unceasing and subterranean activities of the subversive elements. For this purpose General Spiridovitch is furnished with all the information acquired by the Police Department and the Okhrana. The high importance of his duties also gives him the right to enter any of the administrative departments at any time and insist upon any inquiry he thinks fit. The Chief of the Personal Police is thus able to furnish his immediate superior, the Governor of the Imperial Palaces, with a formidable weapon for political and social espionage.
Saturday, January 9, 1915.
Delcassé has just replied to my telegram of January 1, in which I reported my conversation with Sazonov about the possibility of inducing the Vienna Cabinet to make a separate peace. He gives me strict orders not to say a word which might lead the Russian Government to think that we do not hand over Austria-Hungary to Russia in toto.
When my Councillor, Doulcet, had read the telegram through I said to him:
"You might just as well have read out the news of a military defeat: I shouldn't have been a bit more flabbergasted!"
Are the Russian people as religious as is commonly asserted? It is a question I have often turned over in my mind and my answers have been pretty indefinite. Yesterday I was reading some of Merejkovsky's suggestive pages in Religion and Revolution, and the question presented itself to my mind once more.
Merejkovsky says that somewhere about 1902 a number of Russians, who were uneasy in their highly devout minds, arranged at St. Petersburg a series of conferences in which priests sat with laymen under the chairmanship of a bishop, Monsignor Sergei, Rector of the Theological College:
"For the first time," he writes, " the Russian Church found itself face to face with the lay world, lay culture and society, not for the purpose of forcing a superficial fusion but to strive for a free and intimate communion. For the first time questions were put which had never been raised with the same searchings of conscience and real torture of mind since the ascetic separation of Christianity and the world... . The walls of the room seemed to open and reveal boundless horizons. This tiny assembly seemed as it were the threshold of an oecumenical council. Speeches were made which were more like prayers and prophecies. An atmosphere of enthusiasm was created in which everything seemed possible, even a miracle... . A tribute must be paid to the heads of the Russian clergy. They met us more than half-way with an open mind, a holy humility, a desire to understand, to help, to save the victim of error... . But the line of demarcation between the two camps was deeper than we at first thought. Between ourselves and them we discovered a great abyss which it proved impossible to bridge... . We made tunnels towards each other but we could not meet, for we were digging at different levels. For the Church to respond something more than reform would have been required.
"What was needed was a revolution: a new revelation rather than a new interpretation; not the sequel to the Second Testament but the beginning of the Third; not a return to the Christ of the first coming but an impulse towards the Christ of the second. A hopeless misunderstanding was the result.
"To us religion was worship; to these priests it was routine. The sacred words of the scriptures, in which we heard the' voices of the seven thunders, to them were just as the sentences of the catechism learned by heart. We thought of the face of Christ as of the sun shining in his splendour: they were satisfied with a dark smudge on the halo of an old ikon."
There lies the great religious drama of the Russian conscience. The nation is more sincere, or at any rate more Christian, than its Church. In the simple faith of the masses. there is more spirituality, mysticism and evangelism than in the orthodox theology and ordinances. The official Church is daily losing its hold over men's hearts by allowing itself to become the tool of autocracy and an administrative institution and police force.
Fifteen years ago Tolstoy's dramatic and famous break with canonical orthodoxy revealed the full gravity of the moral crisis with which Russia is afflicted. When the Holy Synod launched its excommunication messages of approval and admiration poured into Yasnaia Poliana. Even priests raised their voices against the terrible sentence; theological students went on strike and indignation was so general that the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg thought it necessary to send an open letter to Countess Tolstoy in which he characterized the verdict of the Holy Synod as an "act of love and charity" towards her apostate husband.
The Russian people are deeply evangelical. The Sermon on the Mount practically sums up their religion. What appeals to them most in the Christian revelation is the mystery of love which, emanating from God, has redeemed the world. The essential articles of their Credo are the words of the sermon in Galilee: Love one another... . Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you ... pray for them which despitefully use you. ... I ask not sacrifice, but love.
Hence the moujik's infinite pity for the poor, the unfortunate, the oppressed, the humbled and all to whom fate has been unkind. It is this which gives Dostoievsky's work such a ring of national truth; it seems wholly inspired by the word of Christ, "Come unto Me all ye that are heavy-laden!" Alms, good works and hospitality take an enormous place in the life of the lowly. I have travelled over the world and never found any other race so charitable.
Besides the moujik himself feeds on the sympathy he lavishes on others. His face is a study in fervour and sincerity when he murmurs the eternal response of the orthodox liturgy to the accompaniment of vigorous signs of the cross: Gospodi, pomiloui! " "Lord have mercy on me!"
Next to sympathy for the afflicted the religious sentiment which strikes me as most active in the popular conscience is the admission of sin. Here again we can see the influence of the Galilean teaching. The Russian seems haunted by the idea of sin and repentance.. With the publican of the sacred parable he is always saying: O God, have mercy upon me, poor sinner! To him Christ is primarily He who said: The Son of Man is come to save the souls in peril, and who also said: I am not come to call the just but the sinners. The moujik is never tired of listening to the Gospel of Saint Luke, which is par excellence the gospel of forgiveness. What moves him to the depths of his soul is the privilege of forgiveness and the preference bestowed by the divine Master on those who hate their sins: There is more joy in Heaven for one sinner that repenteth than for ninety and nine just men that need no repentance. He never tires of hearing the parables of the prodigal son and of the strayed sheep, the healing of the Samaritan leper and the promise of the Kingdom of God to the crucified thief.
Thus, contrary to common report, the Russian is very far from attaching importance to formal rites exclusively. Of course the form of worship, services, sacraments, blessings, ikons, relics, scapularies, candles, anthems, the practice of crossing himself and genuflexions play a great part in his devotions; his lively imagination makes him very susceptible to outward pomp. But the moving force with him - and by a long way the most potent - is implicit faith, pure Christianity without an element of metaphysics, the ever-present thought of the Saviour, a deliberate contemplation of suffering and death and vague meditation on the supernatural world beyond our ken and on the mystery by which we are surrounded.
In many respects it is this evangelical idealism which accounts for the multitude of sects in Russia. There is no doubt that the discredit into which the official church had fallen owing to its subservience to the autocracy has contributed to the development of the spirit of sect. But the multiplicity of schisms is due to a more intimate need of the Russian soul.
Innumerable indeed are the religious communities which have broken away from the orthodox church or sprung into being outside it. First comes the most ancient, as also the largest and most austere of them, the Raskol, which has some points of resemblance to our Jansenism. Then there are the Doukhobors who admit only one source of inspiration, spiritual intuition, and refuse to perform military service on the ground that they cannot shed blood; the Beglopopovtsy, abjuring priests who flee the satanical servitude of the official church; the Molokanes, "milk drinkers," who strive to live the Galilean life in its simple purity; the Stranniki, "Wanderers," who wander at their own sweet will through the steppes and the icy forests of Siberia in the hope of escaping from the kingdom of Antichrist; the Chtoundists, who preach agrarian communism "to put an end to the reign of the Pharaohs"; the Khlysty, who feel Christ born within them in their erotic ecstacies and whose most brilliant representative at the moment is Rasputin; the Skoptzy, who practise castration to escape the allurements of the flesh; the Bialoritzy, who dress in white "like the angels in Heaven" and go from village to village teaching innocence; the Pomortsy, who renounce the baptism they have received in infancy because "Antichrist reigns over the Church" and repeat the baptismal sacrament with their own hands; the Nikoudichniky, bitter enemies of the social order, who seek the true Kingdom of Christ on earth "further on, ever further on," where sin is impossible; the Douchitely, "stranglers" who cut short the tortured last hours of the dying by choking them, from motives of human pity and retrospective sympathy for the sufferer of Calvary. And how many more!
All these sects trace their origin from the same principle. They all reveal the idea of a creed founded solely on purity of heart and the brotherhood of man, the necessity of direct communication between the soul and its God, the impossibility of believing that the clergy are an indispensable mediator between the Heavenly Father and His flock, the personal inspiration which refuses to accept the chains of the Church and, lastly and mostly, the anarchy inherent in the Russian nature. The domestic activities of these communities reveal all the forms, excesses and varieties of religious emotion - the highest spirituality and the lowest materialism, the exaltation of the spirit and the mutilation of the flesh, fanaticism and belief in miracles, illuminism and divination, ecstasy and hysteria, asceticism and lust.
The faith of the Russian people being approximately as I have just described one is faced with a very vexing dilemma. How comes it that the moujik with so evangelical a spirit allows himself to be guilty of such appalling atrocities when his anger is roused? The murders, tortures, incendiarism and looting which marked the troubles of 1905 show us that he is capable of the same horrors as in the days of Pugatchev or Ivan the Terrible or any other period of his history.
It seems to me the reason is twofold. In the first place the great majority of Russians have remained primitive, that is hardly beyond the stage of instinct. They are still the slaves of their impulses. Christianity has only penetrated certain parts of their nature: it in no way reaches their reason and appeals less to their conscience than to their imagination and emotions. It must be admitted, too, that when the moujik's rage has subsided he at once recovers all his Christian gentleness and humility. He weeps over his victims and says masses for the repose of their souls. He confesses his crimes publicly, beats his bosom and sits in sackcloth and ashes. He revels in repentance and excels in the art of making it impressive.
The second reason is that the Gospels contain numerous precepts from which inferences can be drawn subversive of the modern State as we conceive it. The parable of the rich man who burns in Hell merely because he is rich, while Lazarus rests in Abraham's bosom, is a dangerous subject of meditation for the simple minds of the Russian proletariat and peasantry. In the same way when life is very hard and they feel the wretchedness of their social condition very deeply they like to think that it was Christ who said: "The first shall be last and the last first." Nor are they ignorant of the terrible words: "I am come to bring fire on the earth." Lastly, the tendency to communism which lurks deep down in every moujik finds more than one argument in its favour in the Galilean programme. Tolstoy has eloquently interpreted the Gospels "in the Russian sense," and he does not hesitate to say that private property is inconsistent with Christian doctrine, that every man has a right to the fruits of the glebe as he has to the rays of the sun and that the land should belong exclusively to those who cultivate it.
Tuesday, January 12, 1915.
In the endless succession of foggy and icy days which make up winter in Petrograd it is a depressing business to visit the Hermitage Museum.
The Italian galleries are discovered even before the last steps of the majestic staircase leading from the vestibule have been mounted. Like the unfolding of a landscape one sees the Titians, Veroneses, Tiepolos, Tintorettos, Canalettos, Guardis and Sciavones, the whole Venetian school, with here and there a few canvases of Guercino, Caravaggio and Salvator Rosa, hardly distinguishable in the gloom. From the windows in the roof descends a yellowish, dirty light which might have been filtered through some thin material. Through this wan veil all these works of the Venetian masters, all these scenes of a luxurious life with its pomp and pageantry seem to be suffering from intolerable homesickness. Tiepolo's Cleopatra and Titian's Danae fill one with pity. Dante's lines came to my mind: O settentrional vedovo sito ... "O land of the North, unhappy widow who knows not the splendours of the South! ... "
There is the same air of melancholy in the French rooms where the art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is superbly represented by Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Mignard, Lenain, Largillière, Van Loo, Lemoyne, de Tory, Watteau, Chardin, Pater, Greuze, Boucher, Lancret, Fragonard, Hubert, Robert, &c... . It is a unique collection and. several of its canvases may be reckoned among the most exquisite and radiant creations of the French genius. But in the livid atmosphere of to-day all these pictures lose their vivid colour, their freshness, brilliance, spirit and soul. The colours fade, the spell of harmonies is broken, the vibrations cease, the luminous glow is dimmed, the skies grow dark, the relief vanishes, the faces disappear. The long silent gallery seems a cemetery.
Yet there is one part of the Hermitage where it is a treat to linger even on dark days: I mean the four rooms devoted to Rembrandt.
The tawny half-light falling from the windows seems but an extension of the amber vapour in which the pictures are bathed. In the dim and golden fluid flowing through the gallery the art of the great visionary attains a phenomenal power of calling dead things to life. Each face seems to glow with a strange, profound, remote and boundless vitality. The external world ceases to exist: the very depths of the life of the spirit are reached: the insoluble mystery of the soul and human destiny is touched. After a prolonged contemplation of masterpieces such as Pallas, the Danae, Abraham and the Angels, the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Reconciliation of David and Absalom, the Fall of Aman, the Parable of the Vineyard, the Denial of St. Peter, the Descent from the Gross, the Unbelief of St. Thomas, the Jewish Bride, the Old Man of the Ghetto, &c., it is easier to understand Carlyle's great thought: "History is a grandiose drama, played on the stage of the infinite with the stars for lights and eternity as the background."
Thursday, January 14, 1915.
According to the Gregorian Calendar the year 1915 begins to-day. At two o'clock under a wan sun and pearl-grey sky which here and there cast silvery shadows on the snow the Diplomatic Corps called at Tsarskoe Selo to wish the Emperor a Happy New Year.
As usual the ceremony is marked by the full display of pageantry, luxury of setting and that inimitable exhibition of pomp and power in which the Russian court has no rival.
The carriages drew up at the foot of the steps of the immense palace which the Empress Elizabeth had built in her ambition to eclipse the court of Louis XV. We were taken into the Hall of Mirrors, a mass of gilding and glass and a blaze of light. The various missions lined up in order of seniority, each ambassador or minister having his staff behind him.
Almost at once the Emperor entered, followed by his brilliant suite. He looked very well and his face was smiling and calm.
He conversed for a few minutes with each mission.
When he reached me I offered him my congratulations, appending the words of encouragement and good cheer which General Joffre had asked me to convey to the Grand Duke Nicholas. I added that in its recent declaration to the Chambers the Government of the Republic had solemnly affirmed its determination to continue the war to the bitter end and that that determination is a guarantee of final victory. The Emperor answered:
"I have read that pronouncement of your Government and my whole heart goes with it. My own determination is no less. I shall continue this war as long as is necessary to secure a complete victory. You know I have just been visiting my army; I found it animated by splendid ardour and enthusiasm. All it asks is to be allowed to fight. It is confident of victory. Unfortunately our operations are held up by the lack of munitions. We shall have to possess ourselves in patience for a time. But it is only a temporary suspension and the Grand Duke Nicholas's general plan of campaign will in no way be changed. At the earliest possible moment my army will resume the offensive and the struggle will be continued until our enemies sue for peace. My recent journey all over Russia has shown me that I and my people are one on this point."
I thanked him for these words. After a moment's reflection he drew himself up and said in a thrilling voice which stressed each word:
"I should also tell you, Ambassador, that I am not unaware of certain attempts which have been made, even in Petrograd, to spread a notion that I am discouraged, that I see no possibility of crushing Germany and am even thinking of making peace. Those who spread such rumours are vile creatures, German agents. But all their intrigues and inventions are beneath contempt. It is my will alone that counts and you may be sure that I shall not change."
"The Government of the Republic has absolute confidence in the feelings that inspire Your Majesty and has therefore ignored the miserable intrigues to which Your Majesty is good enough to refer. It will appreciate the more highly the declarations I shall convey to it in the name of Your Majesty."
He shook my hand and continued:
"And please accept my very best wishes for yourself, my dear Ambassador."
Friday, January 15, 1915.
A bright, sunny day - such a rare delight in these interminable winters! Although it is extremely cold I went for a walk on the Islands where the northern sun was displaying all its magic over the icy expanse of the Gulf of Finland. A few clouds, shot with flame, dotted the silvery blue of the sky. The northern lights played over the horizon. The hoar frost on the trees and the dazzling carpet of snow on the ground sparkled at intervals as if diamond dust had been scattered with a lavish hand.
I reflected on what the Emperor said to me yesterday, words which once more engraved on my mind the splendid moral resolution which has been his attitude since the war began. His idea of duty is certainly as high and grand as possible because it is perpetually nourished, vitalized and illuminated by his religion. But otherwise I should say that as regards the exact science and the practical use of power he is patently not equal to his task. I hasten to add that there is no one who could cope with such a task; it is quite ultra vires, beyond human power. Does autocracy still meet the needs of the Russian character and the present stage of Russian civilization? It is a problem on which even the best minds hesitate to deliver an opinion. But what cannot be doubted is that autocracy is no longer compatible with the territorial expansion of Russia, the diversity of its races and the development of its economic resources. Compared with the present Empire of not less than 180,000,000 people spread over an area Of 22,000,000 square kilometres what was the Russia of Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine II, or even Nicholas I? A genius not less than Napoleon's would be required to govern a State which has reached such colossal dimensions, to control all the energies and cogwheels of such a huge machine and to unite and secure the smooth working of such complex elements. Whatever may be the intrinsic virtues of autocratic Tsarism it is a geographical anachronism.
Saturday, January 16, 1915.
Yesterday Madame Vyrubova was the victim of a railway accident outside Tsarskoe Selo. She was picked up with a fractured thigh, dislocated shoulder and severe contusions on the head. She was taken to the Empress's military hospital and the Tsaritsa went at once to her friend's bedside.
The injured lady was in such a state of exhaustion and shock that the surgeons considered it impossible to operate at all until she had recovered her strength. They have decided to let her rest until to-day and simply applied temporary measures of relief.
Meanwhile, on the Empress's orders Rasputin was at once sent for. He was dining with some lady friends in Petrograd. A special train brought him to Tsarskoe Selo an hour later.
When he was taken into Madame Vyrubova's room she was still quite unconscious. He surveyed her calmly just like any doctor. Then he resolutely touched the poor patient's fore-head, murmuring a short prayer after which he called out three times:
"Annushka! Annushka! Annushka!"
At the third time she was seen to open her eyes. Then, in an even more imperious tone he ordered:
"Now, wake up and rise! " She opened her eyes wide. He repeated:
With her free arm she made an effort to get up. He continued, but in a gentle voice:
"Speak to me!"
And she spoke to him in a feeble voice which grew stronger with every word.
Sunday, January 17, 1915.
Major Langlois, who is liaison officer between the French G.H.Q. and the Russian G.H.Q., has arrived from Baranovici and leaves to-morrow for Paris via Sweden.
He has left the Grand Duke Nicholas "full of enthusiasm and determined to resume the offensive the moment his army has received its munitions." The moral of the troops is good: strengths are low owing to the recent losses.
Monday, January 18, 1915.
I have been discussing the Russian peasant with Countess P - -, who spends a large part of every year on her estates, nobly doing her duty as a barina. As a matter of fact her moral inclination and a certain instinct for equity and good works make her prefer the society of the lowly.
"In the West," she told me, "no one understands our moujiks. Because a very large number of them cannot read or write they are supposed to be defective in intelligence, stupid, if not barbarous. It's a tremendous mistake! They are ignorant, that is they have no knowledge; they lack positive notions; their education is very limited, and often non-existent. But though they may be untutored their intelligence is none the less remarkable for its range, elasticity, and also its activity."
"Certainly. Their minds are always at work. The moujik does not talk much, but he is always thinking, reflecting, turning things over in his mind, and dreaming."
"What does he think and dream about?"
"Primarily, his material interests, his harvests, his cattle, the poverty which grinds him down - or threatens to do so, the price of clothes and tea, the burden of taxation and forced labour, the next agrarian reform, and so on. But thoughts of a much more lofty nature obsess him also and echo into the very depths of his soul. That is particularly true in winter, in the long evenings in the isba, and the monotonous walks in the snow. A slow and melancholy reverie then claims him entirely: he thinks of human destiny, the meaning of life, the parables in the Gospels, the duty of generosity, the redemption of sin by suffering, the ultimate triumph of justice on God's earth. You can have no idea what a passion for reflection and a feeling for poetry are often to be found in the souls of our moujiks. I should add, too, that they use their intelligence very cleverly. They are splendid in discussion: they argue with much skill and subtlety. They often give you most witty replies, and display a talent for waggish insinuations and a fine sense of irony."
Tuesday, January 19, 1915.
The Minister of justice, Stcheglovitov, leader of the Extreme Right in the Council of Empire, and the most fervent and uncompromising of the reactionaries, has just called on me to thank me for some slight service I was able to do him. We talked about the war, and I warned him it would be a very long one:
"Illusions," I said, "cannot be tolerated any longer. The real test, the nature of which is becoming clear, has hardly begun, and it will be more and more severe. We must arm ourselves with an ample supply of moral and material forces, just as a ship is equipped for a long and dangerous voyage."
"Of course we must! The trial which it has pleased Providence to inflict upon us promises to be a terrible one, and we are obviously only at the beginning. But with God's aid and the help of our good Allies, we shall come through triumphant. I have no doubt about our ultimate victory. But forgive me, Ambassador, if I lay stress on something you have just said. You think, and rightly, that we must equip ourselves with moral forces as much as with guns, rifles, and shells, as it is plain that this war has dreadful sufferings and terrible sacrifices in store for us. I shiver at the thought! But so far as Russia is concerned the problem of moral forces is comparatively simple. If the faith of the Russian people in monarchy is not troubled they will face any trial and accomplish miracles of heroism and self-effacement. Never forget that in the eyes of Russians - I mean true Russians - His Majesty the Emperor personifies not only supreme authority but religion and the Fatherland itself. Believe me, outside Tsarism there is no salvation because there would be no more Russia!"
With a warmth in which I detected the thrill of rage as well as patriotism, he added:
" The Tsar is the Anointed of the Lord, sent by God to be the supreme guardian of the Church and the all powerful ruler of the Empire.(3) In popular belief he is even the image of Christ upon earth. As he receives his power from God it is to God alone that he must account for it. The essential divinity of his authority has the second result that autocracy and nationalism are inseparable. Then, down with the fools who dare to assail these dogmas! Constitutional liberalism is a heresy as well as a stupid chimera. There is no national life except within the framework of autocracy and orthodoxy. If political reforms are necessary they must be carried out only in the spirit of autocracy and orthodoxy."
"The main point that impresses me in what Your Excellency has just said is that the essential element of the strength of Russia is a close and intimate union between the Emperor and his people. For reasons different to yours I come to the same conclusion. I shall never cease to advocate that union."
When he had gone I reflected that I had just heard an exposition of the doctrine of pure Tsarism as taught twenty years ago by the famous procurator of the Holy Synod, Pobiedonostsev, to his young pupil Nicholas II, the same doctrine which the great writer, Merejovsky, once defined in a study on the insurrectionary troubles of 1905, a masterly work in which these bold words may be found:
"In the house of the Romanovs, as in that of the Atrides, a mysterious curse descends from generation to generation. Murders and adultery, blood and mud, 'the fifth act of a tragedy played in a brothel.' -Peter I kills his son; Alexander I kills his father; Catherine II kills her husband. And beside these great and famous victims there are the mean, unknown, and unhappy abortions of the autocracy such as Ivan Antonovitch, suffocated like mice in dark corners, in the cells of the Schlusselburg. The block, the rope, and poison-these are the true emblems of Russian autocracy. God's unction on the brows of the Tsars has become the brand and curse of Cain."
Wednesday, January 20, 1915.
Yesterday Rasputin was run over on the Nevsky Prospekt by a troika going at full speed. He was picked up with a slight wound on the head.
After the accident to Madame Vyrubova five days ago, this fresh warning from Heaven is only too eloquent
The war is displeasing God more than ever!
Thursday, January 21, 1915.
The pacifist propaganda with which Germany is so busy in Petrograd is also at work in the armies at the front. At several points proclamations in Russian have been seized inciting the soldiers to stop fighting and declaring that the Emperor Nicholas, with his fatherly heart, has already been won over to the idea of peace. The Grand Duke Nicholas has thought it advisable to protest against these allusions to the Tsar. In an Army Order he has denounced this insidious scheme of the enemy as a vile crime. The Order ends thus: All faithful subjects know that in Russia everyone, from the Generalissimo to the private soldier, obeys and obeys only the sacred and august will of the Anointed of God, our deeply revered Emperor, who alone has the power to begin and end a war.
Monday, January 25, 1915.
This afternoon some shopping took me to Vassily-Ostrov, the island which is the centre of the intellectual life of Petrograd, as it is the quarter of the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Fine Arts, the School of Mines, the Naval School, the Zoological Museum, the Historical and Philological Institutes, several schools, the physical and chemical laboratories, and all the great scholastic establishments.
As the weather cleared up a little I left my car there and went for a stroll in the streets. I passed students at every step. How different they looked from the students one sees in the Latin Quarter in Paris, or the streets of Oxford and Cambridge! The faces, gestures, and voices, in fact the whole personality of French students are the personification of youth, vitality, and a happy-go-lucky enthusiasm in the work and play of life; even the eyes of those who look tired seem to sparkle with clear and frank intelligence. The outstanding characteristic of the English students, with their healthy complexion and loose limbs, is their air of determination, instinct for the practical, and cold, resolute, and well-balanced intellects. Nothing of the kind is to be seen here. In the first place, Russian students are usually a sorry spectacle with their haggard faces, drawn features, hollow cheeks, frail figures, thin arms, and pronounced stoop. These emaciated bodies in worn-out and tattered clothing are a living witness of the wretched condition of the university proletariat in Russia. Many students have no more than twenty-five roubles (60 francs) a month to live on, i.e., one-third of the bare minimum required to support a normal existence in this bleak climate. The result of this defective physiological replacement is not merely a debilitated organism; combined with the strain of an active brain and mental anxieties it involves the nervous system in a condition of permanent irritation. Hence these melancholy, or fevered, anxious, and haggard faces, these fanatical or prematurely aged looks, these features of ascetics, visionaries, and anarchists. I could not help thinking of the remark put in Crime and Punishment into judge Porphyre's mouth by Dostoievsky:
"Raskolnikov's crime is the work of a mind over-excited by theories."
The women students, of whom there is a large number, repay observation no less. I happened to notice one coming out of a café in the company of four young men: they stopped on the pavement outside to resume the argument. The tall, pretty girl with bright, hard eyes under her astrakhan cap, was laying down the law. Two more students soon came out of the traktir and joined the group around her. Here before my eyes I had perhaps one of the most original types of Russian womanhood: a missionary of the revolutionary gospel.
Russian novelists, particularly Turgeniev, have often said that the women of their country greatly excel the men in strength of character, decision, and the temper of their wills. In the matter of love-making it is almost always the woman who takes and retains the offensive, rouses and worries her partner, lays down the law and decides everything; it is the woman whose orders are accepted and whose will prevails. Russian women are just the same in a very different department of their activities - the domain of revolutionary political action.
In the far-away era of Nihilism women, and particularly young girls, immediately won a high place among the most formidable protagonists in the heroic epoch of the Narodnaia Volia. They had no rivals in their tragic work. In their first exploits they proved themselves wonderful Emmenides.
On January 24, 1878, Vera Zassulitch opened the series by firing point blank at General Trepov, the Prefect of the Saint Petersburg police. On March 13, 1881, Sophie Perovsky played an active part in the assassination of Alexander II. The following year Vera Figner fomented a military revolt at Kharkov. In 1887 Sophie Gunsburg organized an attempt on the life of Alexander III. A little later Catherine Brechkovsky embarked with Tchernov upon that untiring propaganda which familiarized the humblest of the moujiks with the mirages of the Socialist gospel. In 1897 the lovely Marie Vietrov, imprisoned in the Fortress of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and violated in her cell by a gendarmerie officer, poured the oil of her lamp over herself and was burnt to death. In 1901 Dora Brilliant joined with Guerchuny, Savinkov and Bourtzev to found the Boievaia Organizatsya, the "Fighting Organization," and on February 17, 1905, she kept watch at the Kremlin in Moscow, in order that her comrade, Kalaiev, should be undisturbed in throwing the bomb which blew the Grand Duke Sergius to pieces.
It is, of course, very difficult to find out anything about the counter-measures of the Russian police and judicial authorities in political affairs. The trials of which the public hears from time to time are always kept very quiet: they are always held in camera and the censorship only allows a short notice in the press. But I can give the names of at, any rate twenty women who have played a part in plots and attempted assassinations in the last few years: Sophie Ragozinnikov, Tatiana Leontiev, Marie Spiridonov, Seraphima Klitchoglou, Zynaida Konopliannikov, Lydia Stoure, Nathalie Klimov, Marussia Benevsky, Lydia Ezersky, Sophie Venediktov, Catherine Ismailovitch, Helene Ivanov, Anastasis Bitzenko, Marie Chkolnik, &c. The share of women in terrorist plots is thus very important and often decisive.
What is the explanation of the fascination that revolutionary action has for Russian women? They obviously find in it something which satisfies the strongest instincts of their soul and temperament - their craving for excitement, their pity for the sufferings of the lowly, their genius for devotion and sacrifice, their excessive admiration of heroic deeds, their scorn of danger, their thirst for strong emotions, their hunger for independence, their taste for mystery, adventure, and a fevered, extravagant, and rebellious existence.
Tuesday, January 26, 1915.
I lunched at the Winter Palace with the Grand Mistress of the Court, the worthy Madame Narishkin. The other guests were Prince Kurakin, Princess Juri Troubetzkoy, Prince and Princess Shakhovskoy, Count Dimitri Tolstoy, Director of the Hermitage, Count Apraxin, &c.
The only subject of conversation was the war, which was discussed in very cautious language: all were agreed that it will be a very long war, that it still has many painful shocks in store for us, but that we are obliged to continue it to victory or perish for ever.
In a tête-à-tête with Madame Narishkin I asked her what were the Emperor's views:
"He's splendid," she said. "Not the slightest sign of discouragement! Still calm, still resolute! Always ready with an encouraging word! Always the same absolute confidence in victory!"
"What about Her Majesty the Empress?"
Referring to Madame Vyrubova's recent accident, Madame Narishkin replied:
"You know that Her Majesty the Empress has had a sore trial the last few days, and as she is very susceptible to emotional influences her health has suffered. But she is just as determined as the Emperor, and only yesterday she said to me: "We did everything we could to avert this war, and we may thus be certain that God will give us victory."
B - -, who is greatly interested in the lowly and has passed a good deal of his time in the country, quoted to me to-day some expressive remarks made by a peasant he met some time ago:
"It was at the great Lavra at Kiev," he said, "one of the pilgrims' days. In front of the Sacred Door I spied an old woman who must have been at least eighty. She was bent double, a bundle of bones, and could hardly drag herself along. I gave her a few kopecks to make her talkative, and asked her: 'You look very tired, my poor friend! Where have you come from?'"
"I'm from Tabinsjk, away in the Urals."
"What a long way!"
"Yes, a very long way."
"But you came by train, I suppose?
"No, I can't afford a railway fare. I've walked."
"Walked, from the Urals to Kiev! How long has it taken you?"
"Several months. I don't know exactly."
"I suppose you had someone with you?"
No, I came alone."
"Alone!" I looked at her in amazement. She continued:
"Yes, alone ... with my soul! "
I slipped a twenty-rouble note into her hand: it was a lot of money for her; but her remark was worth far more.
Wednesday, January 27, 1915.
I have been calling on the venerable and attractive Koulomzin, Secretary of State, Member of the Council of Empire, Chevalier of the Distinguished Order of Saint Andrew; I wanted to thank him for sending me a pamphlet. He is nearly eighty, and though he has grown old in the performance of his high duties his mind is as clear as ever it was. I like talking to him, as he has a wealth of experience, good sense, and kindness of heart.
On the subject of the war he was very encouraging:
"Whatever our difficulties at the moment may be it is an obligation of honour for Russia to overcome them. She owes it to her Allies and herself to continue the struggle at any cost until the complete defeat of Germany. But our Allies must be patient! In any case the continuance of the war depends on His Majesty alone, and you know what his views are!"
Then we talked about domestic politics. I did not conceal from him that I am uneasy about the discontent observable in all quarters and in all ranks of society. He admitted that he, too, was concerned at the state of public opinion, and that reforms were indicated; but he added in a determined tone which impressed me:
"The reforms I am contemplating (it would take too long to describe them in detail) have nothing in common with those advocated by our Constitutional Democrats in the Duma, and still less - forgive plain speaking - with those so fervently recommended by certain western publicists. Russia is not a western country, and will never be. Our whole national temperament is averse to your political methods. The reforms I have in mind are inspired by the two principles which are the pillars of our present system, and must be retained at any cost - autocracy and orthodoxy. Never forget that the Emperor has received his authority from God Himself, in the sacrament of coronation, and that he is not only the head of the Russian State but the supreme guardian of the Orthodox Church, the supreme judge of the Holy Synod. The separation of civil and religious authority which seems so natural to you in France is impossible with us: it runs counter to our whole historical evolution. Tsarism and Orthodoxy are linked together by an indissoluble bond, the bond of divine right. The Tsar is no more free to renounce absolutism than to abjure the orthodox faith... . Outside autocracy and orthodoxy there is room for nought save revolution, and by revolution I mean anarchy, the total subversion of Russia. With us revolution can only be destructive and anarchist. Look what happened to Tolstoy! As the climax of his aberrations he renounces orthodoxy. He at once falls into anarchy. His break with the Church inevitably led him to deny the authority of the State."
"If I understand you rightly, political reform must be accompanied, perhaps even preceded, by ecclesiastical reform - the suppression of the Holy Synod, and the restoration of the Patriarchate, for example."
In obvious embarrassment he replied:
"You're on a difficult question, Ambassador, a question on which the best minds are unhappily divided. But much can be done along those lines ... . ..
After a few remarks by way of digression, he turned the conversation to the eternal Russian problem in which all the others are involved, the agrarian problem. There is no one more competent. to discuss this grave question, as in 1861 he took an active part in the emancipation of the serfs, and has been concerned in all the successive reforms since that date. He is said to have been one of the first to discover that the original idea was a mistake, and to admit that the moujik should have been given personal ownership, the full and unrestricted proprietorship of his plot of land. The conveyance of the land to the mir has had the result of imbuing the Russian peasant with the essentially communistic notion that the land belongs legally to those who cultivate it. The famous ordinances issued by Stolypin in 1906, and inspired by so liberal a spirit, had no more zealous advocate than Koulomzin. He concluded as follows:
"In my view, the whole future of Russia depends upon the transfer to the peasantry of as much land as possible and the establishment of peasant proprietorship among the rural masses. The effects produced by the reform of 1906 are already very substantial. If God keeps us from absurd adventures I believe that in fifteen or twenty years the system of private property will have completely ousted that of communal ownership among the peasantry."
Friday, January 29, 1915.
As I was passing Tauride Gardens this afternoon I met four soldiers on prison duty who, sword in hand, were conducting some wretched moujik, a ragged, haggard figure with a contrite and resigned expression, who could hardly drag his worn-out boots through the snow. The little procession was making for Chpalernaia Prison.
On its way a woman stopped to gaze at it, a woman of the people half concealed in a great cloak of greenish wool lined with fur. She took off her gloves, unhooked her pelisse, rummaged in her thick skirts, drew out a purse, took a small coin from it and gave it to the prisoner, simultaneously making the sign of the cross. The soldiers walked more slowly, and stood aside to let her do so.
Before my eyes I had the scene from Resurrection in which Tolstoy shows us Maslova being taken from prison to the court between two policemen and receiving alms from a moujik who approaches her and makes the sign of the cross in the same way.
Sympathy with prisoners, convicts, all who fall into the formidable clutches of the law, is inherent in the Russian people. In the eyes of the moujik a breach of the penal code is not a crime, much less a moral wrong: it is a misfortune, a piece of ill-luck, a fatality which may happen to anyone, if God so decrees.
Saturday, January 30, 1915.
In a heart-to-heart talk with Sazonov I have returned to the Polish question:
"I've no hesitation in mentioning it," I said, "as I know you're as anxious as I to see the kingdom of Poland restored - "
"Under the sceptre of the Romanovs?" he broke in abruptly.
"That's what I mean! You know my point of view. To me Poland, reconstituted in its national integrity and restored as an autonomous kingdom, is the necessary advanced guard of Slavism against Teutonism, whereas if all the political ties between Poland and Russia were severed she would inevitably fall into the orbit of Germany. Poland would thus resume her historic mission on the frontiers of Eastern Europe, the mission she performed in olden times when she fought against the Teutonic knights. At the same time it would mean a final rupture, a decree absolute of divorce between Germany and Russia."
"I agree with everything you've said and that's why our Germanophiles hate me so... . But what do I care for their hatred, as I'm advocating one of the Emperor's pet ideas?"
"I think, too, the resurrection of Poland under the sceptre of the Romanovs would be of very great advantage to the internal evolution of the Russian State. I'm not speaking as an Ally now, but rather as a friend of Russia and, to a great extent, a political theorist. What I mean is this: one of the things which has struck me most in the year I have been with you, something which is hardly noticeable at all abroad, is the importance of the non-Russian populations in the Empire. Not their numerical importance alone but rather their moral importance, their high notion of their ethnical individualism and their claim to stake out a national life distinct from that of the Russian mass. All your subject peoples - Poles, Lithuanians, Letts, Balts, Esthonians, Georgians, Armenians, Tartars and so on are suffering from your administrative centralization, particularly as your bureaucracy has a heavy hand. ... Sooner or later you'll be compelled to introduce regional autonomy. If you don't you'll have to be on your guard against separatism! From this point of view the establishment of an autonomous Poland would be a very helpful innovation."
"You're on the most ticklish and complex problem in domestic politics now. In theory I'd go a long way in the direction you suggest. But if we got down to practical solutions you'd see how difficult they are to reconcile with Tsarism. Yet to me there's no Russia without Tsarism."
Sunday, January 31, 1915.
The Official Messenger of Petrograd publishes the text of a telegram dated July 29 last, in which the Tsar Nicholas proposed to the Emperor William that the Austro-Serbian dispute should be referred to the Hague Tribunal. The document reads as follows:
I thank you for your conciliatory and friendly telegram, whereas the communications of your Ambassador to my Minister to-day have been in a very different tone. Please clear up this difference. The Austro-Serbian problem must be submitted to the Hague Conference. I trust to your wisdom and friendship.
The German Government omitted to publish this telegram in the series of messages passing directly between the two sovereigns in the critical days preceding the war.
I asked Sazonov:
"How is it that neither Buchanan nor I knew of so important a document?"
"I didn't know of it myself! The Emperor sent it on his own initiative, without consulting anyone. In his mind it was a direct and personal appeal to the confidence and friendship of the Emperor William; he would have put forward his proposal again, and through official channels, if the Kaiser's answer had been favourable. As a matter of fact the Kaiser never replied at all... . The minute of the telegram was discovered the other day when His Majesty's papers were being arranged. I got the Telegraph Service to confirm that the message had actually reached Berlin."
"It's alarming to think that our Governments knew nothing of this telegram. It would have made an immense impression on public opinion in all countries! Just remember: July 29 was the time when the Triple Entente was leaving no stone unturned to save the cause of peace."
"Yes, it's most alarming."
"And think of the Emperor William's frightful responsibility for letting the Emperor Nicholas's proposal go without a word in reply!"
"The only reply to such a proposal would have been acceptance. He did not reply because he wanted war."
"That is what History will say, for it is now clear that on July 29 the Emperor Nicholas offered to submit the Austro-Serbian dispute to international arbitration, that on the same day the Emperor Francis Joseph fired the train by ordering the bombardment of Belgrade, and the Emperor William presided at the famous Potsdam Council which decided upon a general war."
Monday, February 1, 1915.
On the left bank of the Vistula, in the region of Sochaczev, the Russians are engaged in a series of partial, short attacks which correspond closely with what the Grand Duke Nicholas has called "as active a defence as possible." In the Bukovina they are slowly retreating owing to the shortage of ammunition.
Friday, February 5, 1915.
I have just had a call from the Minister of Agriculture, Krivoshein. Of all the members of Goremykin's Cabinet he and Sazonov are the most Liberal and the most devoted to the Alliance.
The Department of Agriculture is of vital importance in Russia; it may be said that it governs all economic and social life. In the performance of his huge task Krivoshein displays qualities very rare among Russians - a clear and methodical head, a taste for precise and accurate information, a notion of leading principles and broad outlines, the spirit of enterprise, persistence, and organization. His colonizing work in Siberia, Turkestan, Ferghana, Outer Mongolia, and the Kirghiz Steppe is showing surprising results every year.
I asked him what were his impressions of G.H.Q., from which he has recently returned:
"Splendid!" he said, "splendid! The Grand Duke Nicholas is most confident and enthusiastic. The moment his artillery gets ammunition he will take the offensive again; he is as determined as ever to march on Berlin."
He then spoke to me of the declaration to be read by the Government at the reopening of the Duma next Tuesday:
"I hope this declaration will have a great effect in Germany and Austria; it is certainly not less vigorous and uncompromising than that recently made by your Government to the Chambers. I can assure you that henceforth no one will wonder whether Russia is determined to continue the war to victory or not."
Then he told me that the day before yesterday the Emperor detailed to him at great length his ideas of the broad principles of the future peace, and several times declared his intention of doing away with the German Empire: "I will not have," the Tsar said in a determined tone, " I'll never have another ambassador of the German Emperor at my court."
Taking advantage of the friendly frankness of our relations, I asked Krivoshein if he were not afraid that the conduct of operations might soon be hampered, if not actually paralysed, by internal difficulties. After a moment's hesitation he replied:
"I can rely on you, Ambassador, and I'll tell you candidly what I think. I haven't the slightest doubt about the victory of our armies, on one condition - that there's the closest co-operation between the Government and public opinion. That co-operation was perfect at the beginning of the war: I must admit, unfortunately, that it is threatened now. I spoke about it to the Emperor the day before yesterday. Unhappily this question is nothing new! The antagonism between the imperial authority and civil society is the greatest scourge of our political life. I have been watching it regretfully for a long time. A few years ago I expressed all my resentment at it in a phrase which became rather celebrated at the time. I said: The future of Russia will remain precarious so long as the Government and society continue to regard each other as two hostile camps and refer to each other as 'they' instead of using the word 'us' to designate the Russian nation. Whose fault is it? Nobody's and everybody's, as usual. You're uneasy about the abuses and anachronisms of Tsarism. You're right. But can any substantial reform be ventured upon during the war? Certainly not! For even if Tsarism has grave faults it also has some of the highest qualities, qualities for which there is no substitute. It is the potent link between all the heterogeneous elements which the work of centuries has gradually grouped around ancient Muscovy. It is Tsarism alone that constitutes our national unity. Cast away that life-giving principle and you'll see Russia at once fall apart and dissolve. To whose advantage? Certainly not that of France. One of the strongest reasons for my advocacy of Tsarism is that I believe it capable of evolution. It has been through so much evolution already! The institution of the Duma is a fact of enormous importance which has changed all our political psychology. I hold that further restriction of the imperial power is still necessary, and that the control of the Duma over the administration must be extended: I also think that there must be extensive decentralization in all our public services. But, once more, Ambassador, this can only be after the war... . For the moment, as I said to His Majesty the other day, the plain duty of Ministers is to remove the causes of the friction which has been observable for several months between the Government and public opinion; it is a sine qua non of victory.
Tuesday, February 9, 1915.
Much excitement to-day at the Tauride Palace, where the new session of the Duma has begun.
The Government pronouncement is all that Krivoshein had said: I could not ask for a tone of greater resolution. There was a thunder of applause when Goremykin said as loudly as his feeble voice would let him:
Turkey has joined our enemies; but her military forces are already shaken by our glorious Caucasian troops, and ever clearer before our eyes rises the radiant future of Russia on the shores of the sea which washes the walls of Constantinople.
This was followed by a moving speech by Sazonov, who very wisely made but a passing reference to the question of the Straits:
"The day is at hand which will see the solution of the economic and political problems now raised by the necessity of securing Russia access to the open sea."
The orators who followed him on the tribune voiced the aspirations of the nation. Evgraf Kovalevsky, the Deputy for Voronej, declared that the war must put an end to the age-old struggle between Russia and Turkey. He was cheered to the skies as he said:
"The Straits are the key of our house; they must pass into our keeping with the territories on their shores."
In the same way Miliukov, the leader of the " Cadets," roused his audience to the highest pitch of enthusiasm when he thanked Sazonov for his words:
"We are glad to know that the realization of our national task is making good progress. We can now be certain that Constantinople and the Straits will become ours at the opportune moment through diplomatic and military measures."
During a kind of interval I had a talk with the President, Rodzianko, and several deputies - Miliukov, Shingariev, Protopopov, Kovalevsky, Basil Maklakov, Prince Boris Galitzin, Tchikhatchov and others. They all brought the same impression from their provinces. All of them told me that the national conscience had been stirred to the depths, and that the Russian nation would rise as one man against a peace which was not a peace of victory and did not give Constantinople to Russia. Shingariev took me on one side and said:
"What you have been seeing and hearing, Ambassador, is the real Russia, and I'll guarantee that in her France has a loyal ally, an ally who is prepared to give her last man and her last kopeck to the cause of victory. But it is true that Russia must not be betrayed by certain secret cabals - which are becoming dangerous. You are in a better position than we ourselves, Ambassador, to see many things which we can only suspect... . You cannot be too vigilant."
Shingariev, Deputy for Petrograd, member of the "Cadet" Party, and a doctor by profession, is a distinguished and honest man; he was interpreting very accurately what all the soundest elements of the Russian public are thinking to-day.(4)
Wednesday, February 10, 1915.
When the war broke out many Russian Socialists felt that it was their duty to co-operate with the other forces in the country in resistance to German aggression. They thought, too, that the universal brotherhood of the popular masses would be strengthened on the field of battle, and that the domestic emancipation of Russia would be the fruit of victory.
None of them was more convinced of this than one of the revolutionaries who had taken refuge in Paris, Bourtzev, who made a name for himself in showing up the agents provocateurs of the Okhrana and denouncing the infamous methods of the imperial police. He was also very much impressed by the lofty tone of the proclamation to the Russian people issued by the Emperor on August 2:
In the dreadful hour of trial, let all intestine strife be forgotten, the bonds between the Tsar and his people be strengthened; and may Russia rise as one man to repel the attack of the insolent foe! A fortnight later the publication of the proclamation to the Poles fortified him in his views. Without in any way renouncing his doctrines, or his hopes, he bravely advocated to his comrades in exile the necessity of a temporary reconciliation with Tsarism. To prove his trust in the new spirit of the Imperial Government, he then returned to Russia, believing that he could be more usefully employed in his own country. He had hardly crossed the frontier before he was arrested. He was thrown into prison, and detained pending trial. At length he was tried for certain of his former writings, and without receiving any credit for his conduct since the beginning of the war he was condemned to penal servitude for life in Siberia "for the crime of high treason." He was immediately sent to Turukansk on the Jenissei, in the Polar Circle.
This morning I received from Viviani, Minister of justice, a telegram describing the deplorable effect Bourtzev's sentence has had on the Socialists of France, and asking me to do everything in my power - but with due circumspection - to obtain a pardon for Bourtzev.
Apart from the patriotic attitude displayed by Bourtzev at the beginning of the war his biography gives me no argument I can use in his favour with the imperial authorities, who utterly detest him.
Vladimir Lvovitch Bourtzev, a scion of the small landed nobility, was born at Fort Alexandrovsk in 1862. At the age of twenty he was imprisoned for his revolutionary propaganda. Released a month later he was arrested again in 1885, and this time sentenced to seven years' detention in Siberia. A year later he succeeded in escaping from the penal settlement, and took refuge in Geneva and subsequently in London.
Although English traditions as regards hospitality to political refugees are extremely liberal he soon found himself in conflict with the law through having published in his review, Narodno Voletz (The Will of the People), a series of articles exhorting the youth of Russia "to imitate the glorious assassins of Alexander II." This incitement to regicide cost him eighteen months' hard labour. On the expiration of his sentence he returned to Switzerland, where his first act was to publish a pamphlet, Down with the Tsar, which was quite enough to justify the sentence of the English judge. By way of occupying his spare time he edited a very interesting review, Byloie (The Past), devoted to the history of liberal ideas and seditious movements in Russia.
But his hatred of Tsarism, the lust of battle, his romantic taste for secret and spectacular action would not let him rest for long. In December, 1901, he joined with Guerchouny, Azev, Tchernov, Dora Brilliant and Savinkov, in starting a Fighting Organization which was to concentrate and direct all the militant energies of the Socialist Party. A plan of campaign was drawn up. Three victims of high station were selected; first, the Procurator of the Holy Synod, the fanatical theorist of autocracy, Pobiedonostsev; then General Prince Obolensky, Governor of Kharkov, and, lastly, the Minister of the Interior, Sipiaguin.
The attempt on Pobiedonostsev's life failed owing to the work of an informer. Prince Obolensky was only slightly wounded, but on April 15, 1902, Sipiaguin was shot through the heart and died instantly. Thereafter terrorist exploits multiplied apace.
At the end of 1903 the Russian Government protested to the Swiss Government against the facilities obtained by the revolutionaries on Swiss territory for the preparation of their plots. The information accompanying this protest was only too convincing. Bourtzev and his accomplices were accordingly expelled. They took refuge in Paris. Bourtzev took up his residence in a small house in the Boulevard Arago, where he professed to live a peaceful life devoted exclusively to historical research; but secretly and by degrees he transferred there the whole Fighting Organization with its archives, secret meetings, and store of explosives.
At that time I was Director of the Russian Department at the Foreign Office, and it was thus that the name and activities of Bourtzev became known to me. Rataiev, the agent of the Okhrana in Paris, was not slow to discover the mysterious meeting-place in the Boulevard Arago. On April 20, 1914, the Russian Embassy asked us to expel Bourtzev, denouncing him as one of the most dangerous revolutionaries, irreconcilable, and fanatical. The note given us by the Ambassador, Nelidov, ended thus: Bourtzev possesses a remarkable faculty for exciting the pernicious instincts of the revolutionary youth and turning them in a very short space of time into fanatics committed to crimes of violence. It was this last sentence which particularly struck me; its tone was different from that of the ordinary notes we were always receiving on the subject of Russian refugees; it described an uncommon character, and suggested an individual of marked originality. The file also enclosed a photograph, with a view to facilitating the task of our police. I saw a man who was still young, a man of frail appearance with a hollow chest and narrow shoulders. His face made a strong impression upon me - a haggard, ill-looking, ascetic face brightened, or rather lit up, by his eyes that fascinated me with their gentle ardour. I at once understood this man's influence, his power to inspire and sweep others along, the strange magnetism which made him such a wonderful creator of energy in others, and so formidable an apostle of the gospel of revolution. On the back of the photograph I read this dedication:
Never forget the great names of Jelabov, Sophie Perovskaia, Khalturin and Grinevitsky!(5) Their names are our standard. They died in the firm conviction that we shall follow in their glorious tracks.
On April 26, the Prefecture of Police notified Bourtzev of the decree of expulsion.
However, since he settled in Paris he had made friends with the leaders of French Socialism, whose admiration and sympathy he had quickly gained by all that he had gone through and the fervour of his democratic mysticism, his persuasive eloquence, and the shy and moving gentleness of his frank eyes. He implored them to save him from a fresh migration.
Those were the days of the Combes Ministry, which submitted passively to the dictation of the Socialists in order to preserve its majority with the Left. Delcassé was Minister for Foreign Affairs, but on all questions of domestic policy he differed from his colleagues and jealously confined himself to his diplomatic duties, in which he consulted no one. Hence his amazement and rage when Nelidov told him in June that Bourtzev was still at large in Paris! An urgent appeal by Jaurès to Combes had prevented the decree of expulsion from being carried into effect.
Bourtzev, of course, made good use of the unfettered liberty he enjoyed in Paris: he brought the Fighting Organization to the highest pitch of perfection. On July 28, in one of the busiest streets of Saint Petersburg, the Ismailovsky Prospekt, the Minister of the Interior, Plehve, was killed on the spot by a bomb.
Once more, and with greater insistence, the Russian Ambassador demanded the deportation of Bourtzev. Delcassé brought the matter up before the Council of Ministers, sent me several times to Police Headquarters, and spoke to Combes personally. It was in vain. The all-powerful protection of Jaurès shielded the terrorist once more, and the decree of expulsion was annulled.
These recollections of the "Bourtzev Case" did not exactly encourage me to open the negotiations Viviani has imposed upon me. To whom should I apply? How, and in what form, was the discussion to be opened? The problem was all the more ticklish, as questions of pardon appertain to the Minister of Justice's department. The present holder of that office is Stcheglovitov, the fiercest of all the reactionaries, the most jealous upholder of autocratic prerogatives, and a man who alleges that the alliance of Russia with the western democracies means the inevitable downfall of Tsarism.
In my difficulty I had a friendly talk with Sazonov. He almost jumped out of his skin at first!
"A pardon for Bourtzev! You're not thinking of that! However carefully you may put it, you'll give Stcheglovitov and all our wild men of the Extreme Right a terrific argument against the Alliance... . It's not the right moment either, indeed it isn't!"
But I reasoned with him and argued that a pardon for Bourtzev would be interpreted in all quarters as an act of national solidarity; I added that the French Socialist Ministers such as Guesde, Sembat, and Albert Thomas, who were helping most patriotically in the war, needed assistance and encouragement in their task, and that an exhibition of clemency in favour of Bourtzev would do a good deal to strengthen their position with the advanced section of their party, in which all the old prejudices against Russia were still alive. I ended up by begging Sazonov to see if he could not lay my request before the Emperor personally without sending it up through Stcheglovitov:
"It's not a legal matter, it's a diplomatic affair of the first rank, because it touches the moral relations of the two allied countries. My Government has no desire whatever to intervene in your domestic affairs; all it asks me to do is to suggest to you a step which will do the Russian cause a great deal of good in France. So I'm certain the Emperor will approve my appeal directly to himself. When the matter is brought to his notice in that way I'm quite certain what his reply will be."
"I'll look into it, and think it over... . I'll mention the matter again in a day or two."
After a few moments of gloomy silence Sazonov resumed, as if some fresh objection had struck him:
"If you knew what infamous lies Bourtzev had the audacity to publish against the Emperor and Empress, you'd realize how dangerous your request is."
"I can trust to His Majesty's great judgment."
Friday, February 12, 1915.
The repeated attacks to which the Russians have been treated in covering Warsaw on the Bzura line during the last ten days are only a feint. All indications point to the fact that the Germans have concentrated in East Prussia everything necessary for a very violent offensive, under the pressure of which the Russian line is already wavering.
Saturday, February 13, 1915.
This morning Sazonov received me with a broad smile:
"I've good news for you... . Guess!"
"What do you mean? Bourtzev's pardon?"
"Yes. I was received by the Emperor yesterday evening and put your request to him. I didn't get through without a struggle! His Majesty said: 'Does Monsieur Paléologue know all the infamous things Bourtzev has written about the Empress and myself?' But I persevered, and the Emperor is so kind and has such a lofty conception of his sovereign mission that he replied practically at once:
'All right! Tell the French Ambassador that I give him the wretch's pardon.' His Majesty could not resist the temptation to add: ' I don't seem to remember my Ambassador in Paris ever intervening to secure a pardon for any French political criminal.'"
I asked Sazonov to convey to the Emperor the expression of my deepest gratitude, and thanked him warmly personally for having pleaded my cause so effectively:
"You may be certain," I said, "that you and I have just rendered the Alliance a great service!"(6)
2. The Ohkrana is very liberally supplied with secret service funds. Its normal budget is 3,500,000 roubles annually. It receives another 400,000 roubles for press propaganda purposes. Further, its extraordinary expenditure is met out of the special credit of 10,000,000 roubles which is opened at the Ministry of Finance to cover unforeseen requirements of the imperial administration. It can only be drawn upon by express order of the Emperor himself.
3. The Tsar is not, as is often said, the head of the Church. He is only its supreme guardian. From the religious point of view his only privilege is that in the communion service he has the right to take the cup and the bread from the altar himself.
6. Bourtzev was immediately brought from Turukansk to Russia. For some months he resided at Tver under police supervision. Then he was permitted to live in Petrograd. In October, 1917, the Bolshevists threw him into prison. He was released in April, 1918, and took refuge in France.