Telegram. Vitebsk. 23 August. 1913.
Thank you heartily for your dear letter, the children too. I slept well; am feeling strong and resolute. I hope that you are calm, and not very tired. I shall telegraph to-night, when all is over. I bless you and love you infinitely.
NOTES: This telegram, sent after two months' residence at Tsarskoe Selo, was dispatched when the Tsar was on his way to supersede the Grand Duke Nicholas and to take over the Supreme Command. He was undoubtedly led to this fateful decision by the insistence of the Tsaritsa and of Rasputin. The military and internal situations were now critical. Falkenhayn, in his report to the Commander-in-Chief this month, said: "That the enemy has already been decisively defeated cannot be doubted by anybody who visualizes the fact that the Russians have lost in three months about three quarters of a million men in prisoners alone, endless material. Galicia, the kingdom of Poland and the Duchy of Courland." The Tsar's step was opposed by his Ministers. Sazonov says that "The Tsar's sudden decision to remove the Grand Duke Nicholas from the Supreme Command and to take his place at the head of the Army caused a great outburst of public anxiety." Even Goremykin was in opposition. A letter of respectful protest was sent to the Tsar, signed by the Procurator of the Synod (the newly-appointed Sarnarin) and by the majority of the Ministers. "We venture once more to tell you," they said, "that to the best of our judgment your decision threatens with serious consequences Russia, your dynasty and your person." As to the effect of this change on the army, Sir Alfred Knox says: "Misgiving... was almost universal... It was felt that the new appointment would produce a crop of intrigues." Ludendorff was grimly satisfied at the removal of the "strong personality" of the Grand Duke, whom he regarded, and rightly, as a formidable opponent. Sir J. Hanbury-Williams says that there had been rumours of this change as far back as July. It would seem that the Tsar was fated, on the rare occasions on which he made a critical decision, to assert himself in a manner disastrous to his own prestige and to the interests of his country. By thus absenting himself from the capital, he virtually abandoned the control of appointments to the Tsaritsa, who, in her turn, was directly influenced, if not actually governed in her choice, by Rasputin.
Telegram. Stavka. 23 August, 1915.
Thanks for news. The meeting has passed off wonderfully well and simply. He is leaving the day after to-morrow, but the change over has taken place to-day already. Now all is done. I kiss you and the children tenderly.
NOTES: The Stavka had been moved, a short time previously, to Mogilev, about 180 miles to the north-east of Baranovitchi, in consequence of the steady forward movement of the enemy. It now became known as the Tsarskaya Stavka or Tsar's Headquarters. Mogilev was a town of some importance on the banks of the Dnieper, and the capital of the province of the same name.
Telegram. Stavka. 24 August, 1915.
Hearty thanks for news. Yesterday I signed the papers of the military appointments. I have begun my work with Alexeiev, who thanks you for the ikon. The town is well situated by the river. I had a drive in the car and a walk. The weather is beautiful. I am content and calm. I kiss you, the children, "all," tenderly.
Stavka. 25 August, 1915.
MY OWN BELOVED, DARLING SUNNY,
Thank God it is all over, and here I am with this new heavy responsibility on my shoulders! But God's will be fulfilled! feel so calm - a sort of feeling after the Holy Communion!
The whole morning of that memorable day. Aug. 23, while coming here, I prayed much and read your first letter over and over again. The nearer the moment of our meeting, the greater the peace that reigned in my heart.
N. came in with a kind, brave smile, and asked simply when I would order him to go. I answered in the same manner that he could remain for two days; then we discussed the questions connected with military operations, some of the generals and so forth, and that was all.
The following day at lunch and dinner be was very talkative and in a very good mood, such as we have not seen him in for many months. Pet. too; but the expression on his adjutant's face was of the gloomiest - it was quite amusing.
I must do justice to my gentlemen, beginning with old Fr. - they behaved well, and I did not hear one discordant note, not one word at which one could cavil.
Naturally, while N. is here I have requested him to be present both mornings at the report. Alexeiev makes them so well. He was touched by the little ikon and the blessing which you sent through me. N. repeated to me that he was going from here quite calmly, knowing that I had such help in Alexeiev. We spoke a good deal about the Caucasus. He is fond of it, and is interested in the people and in the beautiful country, but he begs not to be left there for long after the end of the war. He has immediately put on a beautiful old Circassian sword [shashka] - a present which Shervashidze gave him several years ago - and will wear it all the time. He intends to stay in Pershin for twelve days, and then go straight to Tiflis and meet the old Count V. at Rostov-on-Don. The whole collection of black women will join him at Kiev at his place, and they will all go together!
A new clean page begins, and only God Almighty knows what will be written on it!
I have signed my first prikaz [order] and have added a few words with a rather shaky hand!
We have only just finished our evening meal, after which I had a long conversation with Laguiche, and later with Gen. Williams.
Both Georgie and the King of the Belgians have replied to my telegrams, in which I informed them of our changes here-and so promptly!
I am so glad that you have spoken to old Gor. and have consoled him. Please tell him, next time, from me, that as soon as the Council of State and the Dunia finish their work they must be adjourned, no matter whether I shall be back by that time or shall still be here!
Why not see Kroupensky? - he is a trustworthy man, and might perhaps tell you something worth while.
Think, my Wify, will you not come to the assistance of Your hubby now that he is absent? What a pity that you have not been fulfilling this duty for a long time [long ago] or at least during the war!
I know of no more pleasant feeling than to be proud of you, as I have been all these past months, when you urged me on with untiring importunity, exhorting me to be firm and to stick to my own opinions.
We had only just finished playing dominoes when I received through Alexeiev a telegram from Ivanov, who reports that to-day our 11th Army (Shcherbatchev's) in Galicia attacked two German divisions (the 3rd Guard and the 48th Infantry) with the result that they have captured over 150 officers and 7000 men, 30 guns and many poulemeti [machine guns].
And this happened immediately after our troops learnt that I have taken upon myself the Supreme Command. This is truly God's blessing, and such a swift one!
Now I must finish; it is already late, and I must go to bed.
God bless you, my beloved treasure, my Ray of Sunshine!
Tenderly and again tenderly do I kiss you and the dear children.
Give her my warm greetings.
Always your old hubby
NOTES: The second paragraph of this notable letter shows that the Tsar felt keenly the strain of his approaching meeting with the Grand Duke.
Alexeiev was now Chief of Staff, and the future conduct of the Russian campaign was actually in his hands.
"The whole collection of black women" - possibly a reference to the two Montenegrin Princesses, Anastasia and Melitza, married respectively to the Grand Duke Nicholas and the Grand Duke Peter.
SHERVASHIDZE: Prince G. D. Shervashidze, Chief Steward of the Household of the Dowager Empress. Count V.: Vorontzov-Dashkov, already referred to. LAGUICHE: General Laguiche, the French attached at the Stavka. WILLIAMS: General Sir John Hanbury-Williams, the British attaché. Georgie: King George V. KROUPENSKY: P. N. Kroupensky, Lord Chamberlain, Councillor of State.
The Russian counter-offensive on the Sereth at Tarnopol and Trembovla was successful for a few days. 8000 prisoners were taken.
Telegram. Stavka. 26 August, 1915.
My warmest thanks for letter No. 332. Last night I received a telegram from Ivanov about the glorious success of our army in Galicia, where two German divisions have lost over 150 officers and 7000 men prisoners, and 30 guns, taken by us. This happened immediately after the declaration of my appointment. Praise be to God for such a consolation! Fond kisses.
Telegram. Stavka. 27 August, 1915.
Hearty thanks for letter and greetings. In view of the dampness of the wood, where the train was standing, I have taken up residence in the Governor's house. The Staff is also here, next to me, which is still more convenient. Everyone is pleased with this move. Cool, rainy weather. I hope that all are well. Fond kisses.
Mogiliev. 27 August, 1915.
MY OWN DARLING, PRECIOUS SUNNY,
My heartfelt thanks for your 2 sweet letters. How long it takes for them to reach me! The trains move very irregularly, owing to the tremendous work on the lines. From a military point of view, this is one of our greatest difficulties.
The troops, the war materials, the supplies go in one direction, and the evacuation - and especially these unhappy begentzi [refugees] - in the opposite!
It is quite impossible to restrain these poor people from their homes in face of the attacking enemy, as nobody wishes to be left in the hands of the Germans or Austrians. Those who cannot find room in the trains walk or travel by road, and, as the cold weather is coming, this pilgrimage is beginning to be terribly distressing; the children suffer very acutely, and many of them, unfortunately, die on the way.
All local authorities and the members of various committees work hard and do all in their power - I know that; but they confess frankly that they cannot do everything. It is frightful to think how many unforeseen sufferings the war has brought with it, not counting the usual calamities which always follow in its wake!
And yet it must finish some time!!!
I cannot tell you how pleased I am with Gen. Alexeiev. What a conscientious, clever and modest man he is - and what a worker!
His reports are of quite a different sort from the ones I received before. He works alone, but has two little Generals - Poustovoitenko and Borissov - who have been with him for many years, and who help him in details and in questions of secondary importance.
But I am afraid that I am boring you with this dry subject. Thanks for sending me N.'s letter - I believe that he is sincere and wrote what he thinks. In any case it is very interesting, as it shows that sometimes he has an opinion of his own, independent of what those around him think.
I am very glad of Vol. Troub.'s exploits; this man has undoubtibly earned the Cross of St. George, which I hope he will soon receive.
I see Mitia Dehn every day now. He looks quite well, walks fairly decently, but has nothing to do, and is desperately bored after ten years of active life on the Black Sea. He wants to get some work near us. And the old man suggested: could be not be put in charge of our garage instead of that fat Orlov? What do you think of it? I think it is a very good idea.
The little wood in which our train stood was very snug, but owing to the rains it became damp there, even in the carriages; therefore I decided that it would be better and simpler to move into the town, in order to be nearer my Staff and to live in a house. The building is old, but quite convenient, with a little garden and a delightful view over the Dnieper and the distant country-positively Kiev in miniature.
N. was in the habit of inviting foreigners to lunch, and I mean to continue this custom. There are only 20 of us at the table in a spacious dining-room.
The last two mornings, since my coming to the town, I received, before the reports, the dvorianstvo (nobility] and the higher ranks of the administration. Now the official part of my residence here is finished (the official ceremonies in connection with my coming into residence here are over). I drove twice in the car to the other side of the river - a charming, attractive piece of wooded country with excellent roads. Dmitry's bad temper has entirely vanished - I am thinking of the mood he was in that day at Tsarskoe. He is now doing orderly officer, taking turns with N. P. and Dm. Sherem. He asked me to send you his greetings - he has become his old self again.
I have been fasting for the last three days and shall try to go to church before Sunday. Good-bye, my precious Wify, my Ray of Sunshine. I kiss you and the dear children fondly. God bless you!
Always your old hubby
I have just received your sweet letter NO. 334. Thousands of thanks! I am glad that you are calm.
NOTES: The terrible sufferings of the refugees are described by John Pollock in the Fortnightly Review of September 1916.
POUSTOVOITENKO: General M. S. Poustovoitenko, the Quartermaster-General. BoRissov: General V. E. Borissov. adviser on military operations. VOL. TROUB.: Vladimir Troubetzkoy. MITIA DEHN: a naval officer, the husband of Madame Lily Dehn, one of the Tsaritsa's favorite ladies-in-waiting. He served on the Imperial yacht "Standart." The words "in charge of our garage" are literally transcribed, but the meaning is obscure. Prince Vladimir Orlov was head of the Tsar's Military Chancery. Dm. SHEREM.: Count Dmitry Sheremetiev, one of the A.D.C.'s on duty.
Telegram. Stavka. 28 August, 1915.
God bless you, my own darling; I am very glad that you will again receive the Sacrament. I am now going to church; to-morrow again. This morning I saw our magnificent Cossacks from Pavlovsk; they are going there. I told the commander to present himself to you. Quiet, sunny weather. I embrace all tenderly.
Telegram. Stavka. 29 August, 1915.
In prayers and thoughts I am with you, darling, and all of you. I am glad that you had this consolation. I kiss you affectionately.
NOTES: "This consolation" - public confession.
Telegram. Stavka. 30 August, 1915.
Heartfelt thanks for two dear letters, which I received yesterday evening. I saw the old man; we spoke of many things, but I postponed the final decision till my return. To-day, to my great joy, Keller suddenly appeared, looking well. He is returning to the front. I gave him your greetings. Delightful weather...
Telegram. Stavka. 31 August, 1915.
I have received all your letters; hearty thanks. I have been very busy for the past few days, so could not write. I thank the girls for their letters. The weather is lovely. it would be better for us if it rained more. I kiss all of you fondly.
Mogiliev. 31 August. 1915.
MY PRECIOUS, DARLING WIFY,
How grateful I am to you for your dear letters I In my loneliness they are my only consolation, and I look forward to them with impatience, but I never know when they will arrive.
During the time of fasting I went to church daily - either in the morning or in the evening-and was, moreover, occupied with Alexeiev, so that I had little time left for writing letters, and I have, naturally, neglected my usual papers.
Here I go out once only after dinner, although there is a very small garden here, adjoining the Governor's house, bathed in sunshine and prettily laid out.
What do the children say to my living in the Governor's house? He is an excellent, clever and energetic man. His surname is ugly - Pilz; that is why there are so many mushrooms round here I We eat them every day, and the foreigners are beginning to like them, especially the Japanese General.
Sandro spent two days here. He appeared with the Report, and then we had a long and interesting talk. He is very pleased with the change; he told me the same thing that Nicolai M. wrote to you, and was amazed at my enduring this false position for so long.
He has now gone to Smolensk. Yesterday Kyrill arrived here. I was very glad to see the charming Keller, who came quite unexpectedly, and departed the same evening for his Cavalry Corps. Unfortunately I could not speak to him for long, as old Goremykin arrived the same morning: it was a Sunday. I received the old man after lunch - but, at any rate, I talked to Keller across the table, and everybody listened to the interesting things he spoke of.
He asked me to convey to you his deepest respects and gratitude. I am glad that Alexeiev has a high opinion of him too. I can see that you think Mogilev too far removed from home. If you remember, I thought so too before my coming here; but now I think it is the most suitable place. It is situated in the centre behind the whole of our front, to one side of the main movement of the troops, and so on. From Tsarskoe Selo it is no further than Vilna, and when the railways begin to work normally again it will not seem far at all.
Now a few words about the military situation. It looks threatening in the direction of Dvinsk and Vilna, grave in the Centre towards Baranovitchi, and good in the South (Gen. Ivanov), where our successes continue. The gravity lies in the terribly weak condition of our regiments, which consist of less than a quarter of their normal strength; it is impossible to reinforce them in less than a month's time, as the recruits will not be ready, and, moreover, there are very few rifles. And the battles continue, and with them the Iosses.
In spite of this, great efforts are being made to bring up all available reserves from other parts to Dvinsk, to push back the enemy at that place. But again, we cannot rely upon our worn-out railway lines, as in former times. This concentration will only be accomplished towards the 10th or the 12th of September, if, God forbid I the enemy does not appear on the scene there before.
For this reason I cannot decide to come home before the dates indicated. I beg you, my love, do not communicate these details to anyone; I have written them only for you.
Just at this moment, Katov has brought me your dear letter NO. 339, together with another letter for N. P. Be quite calm and sure of me, my darling Sunny. My will is now strong and my brain sounder than before my departure. Yesterday we had a good and conclusive talk with Gor.; you will probably see him on Thursday, when the Duma will be adjourned. He will be able to repeat our conversation - but I have quite forgotten to mention Khvostov. It is better to leave these questions over till my return.
Your charming flowers, which you gave me in the train, are still standing on my table before me they have only faded a little. That is touching, is it not?
I shall finish this letter to-morrow. Good-night, my love, my little bird!
It is a divine day. All the morning, from 10-30 to 12.30, I sat in the Staff Quarters by an open window, as usual, and worked with my Gen. Alexeiev and, to start with, Gen. Potstovoitenko.
Yesterday we made a delightful excursion, crossed the Dnieper on a ferry with our cars, and returned by a different route.
The country and the views are really magnificent, and have a calming effect upon the soul. May God bless you, my beloved, and the children! Warmly and tenderly I kiss you and them. Ania too.
Always your old hubby
NOTES: Pilz is the German word for mushroom.
SANDRO: the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, husband of the Tsar's elder sister, Ksenia. NiCOLAI M.: the Grand Duke Nicolai Mikhailovitch, a keen student of history and a writer on historical matters. KATOV: a valet. KHVOSTOV: A. A. Khvostov, the Minister of justice, successor to the reactionary Shcheglovitov.