By Maurice Paléologue
SEPTEMBER 19-OCTOBER 25, 1916.
The heralds of winter.---The Church of the Saviour-on-the-Waters.---The Emperor is often charged with being heartless.---The combined effort of the Allies to relieve Rumania.---Public education in Russia: the primary schools.---Ignorance of the rural masses; a contrast with the brilliant development of science, letters and art.---A political crisis in Athens; Venizelos goes to Crete.---Prince Kanin's visits to Petrograd: the reflections of a moujik.---Another Minister of the Interior: Protopopov; his relations with Rasputin.---Sturmer's treachery; the intrigues of which he is the centre.---Clandestine activities of the socialist leaders.---Successive defeats of the Rumanian army; a very grave situation.--- General Berthelot passes through Petrograd on his way to take command of the French mission in Romania.---My Japanese colleague, Viscount Motono, is appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs; a great authority on Asiatic and European problems.---The Minister of Communications, Trepov, boldly attacks Sturmer; his confidence in the Emperor.---German agents in Petrograd: dinners at the house of Manus, the financier.---Constanza captured by the Austro-Bulgarians; the Rumanians evacuate the Dobradja.
Tuesday, September 19, 1916.
Winter is already at hand. Under the livid sky a slow-falling, invisible and icy rain seems to fill the air with a snowy vapour. The light is going by four o'clock. I was finishing my drive about that hour and happened to pass the little church of the Saviour-on-the-Waters which is on the bank of the Neva, near the Arsenal. I stopped my carriage and got out to visit this poetic sanctuary which I have not entered since the war.
It is one of the very few churches in Petrograd in which the conventional and showy style of Italo-Germanic architecture has not had its fling; it is perhaps the only one in which the worshipper breathes an atmosphere of quiet meditation and an odour of mysticism. It was built in 1910 in memory of the twelve thousand sailors who died in the war against Japan, and is an exquisite copy of Muscovite art in the twelfth century, the church of Bogoliubovo, near Vladimir.
Externally it has simple, well-defined lines, with Roman arches and a graceful dome. In the warm half-darkness inside. the sole decoration of the bare walls consists of bronze plaques on which are engraved the names of all the vessels, officers and men lost at Port Arthur, Vladivostock and Tsushima. I know nothing more moving in its very simplicity than this memorial church. But one's feelings are transformed and touch on the sublime at the sight of the iconostasis. In the depths of the dark apse a figure of Christ, more than life size, hovers and glows in a golden cloud above black waves. In the majesty of the attitude, the nobility of the gestures and the infinite pity which speaks in the eyes, this figure reminds one of the finest Byzantine mosaics.
When I first visited this church, at the beginning of 1914, I did not realize all the pathetic symbolism of this sacred figure. To-day its grandeur and eloquence seemed prodigious, as if it were an interpretation of that last vision which has soothed and sanctified the dying moments of thousands upon thousands during this war.
By a natural connection of ideas I remembered what Rasputin said to the Empress one day when she was weeping on hearing of the enormous losses in a great battle: "Take heart! When a moujik dies for his Tsar and country, another lamp is immediately lit before the throne of God."
Wednesday, September 20, 1916.
Hindenburg's plan is taking shape and in course of realization on the whole of the circular Rumanian front. Along the Danube and in the Dobrudja the region of Orsova and the defiles of the Carpathians, the German, Austrian, Bulgarian and Turkish forces are exercising sustained and converging pressure, under which the Rumanians are giving way at all points.
Thursday, September 21, 1916.
I often hear the Emperor accused of heartlessness and selfishness. He is charged with having always shown himself indifferent not only to the misfortunes of his relatives, friends and most faithful servants, but even to the sorrows of his people. Several memorable incidents are quoted in which he certainly displayed astonishing indifference.
The first occasion was during the celebrations attending his coronation at Moscow on May 18, 1896. A public fête had been arranged in Khodinsky meadow, near Petrovsky park. But the police arrangements were so bad that the crowd began to heave violently. Suddenly there seemed to be a panic and a general stampede ensued; there were four thousand victims, of which two thousand died. When Nicholas II heard of the catastrophe he did not display the slightest sign of emotion and did not even cancel a ball for that evening.
Nine years later, on May 14, 1905, Admiral Rojdestvensky's fleet was utterly destroyed; with it disappeared Russia's whole future in the Far East. The Emperor was just about to play a game of tennis when the telegram announcing the disaster was handed to him. He simply said: "What a horrible catastrophe!" and without another word, asked for his racket.
It was with the same unruffled composure that he received the news of the assassination of the Minister of the Interior, Plehve, in 1904, of his uncle, the Grand Duke Sergei, in 1905, and of Stolypin, his President of the Council, in 1911.
And, quite recently, the hasty, underhand way in which he dismissed his close associate, Prince Orlov, has again revealed a stratum of callousness in him, a soul all but impervious to the generous impulses of gratitude and friendship.
After referring to all these incidents, old Princess D-----, who has known the Emperor since his childhood, concluded with the bitter remark:
"Nicholas Alexandrovitch has no heart at all."
I protested that for all that, he appears to be capable of affection towards his own family; he is certainly extremely devoted to the Empress; he adores his daughters and idolizes his son. He cannot be denied instincts of tenderness. I am inclined to think that the superhuman situation in which he is placed has gradually changed his feelings towards other men and that his indifference is also one result of his fatalism.
Friday, September 22, 1916.
Are Sturmer's political fortunes in danger? I am told that, judging by credible indications, his bitter enemy, the Minister of the Interior, Khvostov, has turned the Emperor completely against him by telling His Majesty the inner history of the Manuilov affair and making him extremely alarmed at the prospect of an imminent scandal. What is this inner history? We do not know. but it cannot be doubted that there are one or more corpses between Sturmer and the director of his secretariat.
It is even being said that the question of Sturmer's successor as President of the Council has already been settled in secret. The choice is said to have fallen on the present Minister of Communications., Alexander Feodorovitch Trepov. I could only congratulate myself on such an appointment. Trepov is as honest, intelligent and hard-working as energetic and patriotic.
I dined this evening at the Donon restaurant with Kokovtsov and Putilov. The ex-President of the Council and the millionaire banker outbid each other with lugubrious forebodings.
"We're heading for revolution."
"We're heading for anarchy."
To explain himself, he continued:
"The Russian is not a revolutionary; he's an anarchist. There's a world of difference. The revolutionary means to reconstruct; the anarchist thinks only of destroying."
Saturday, September 23, 1916.
The Allies are attacking on all the fronts with a view to taking the weight off Rumania.
In Artois and Picardy the English and French have carried an extensive series of German trenches by storm.
In the Isonzo region the Italians are intensifying their offensive east of Gorizia. In Macedonia the English are crossing the Struma whilst the French and Serbians, after occupying Florina, are hustling the Bulgarians in the direction of Monastir. In Volhynia the Russians are harassing the Austro-Germans from the Pinsk marshes to Lutzk. In Galicia they are advancing on Lemberg and south-west of Kalicz. In the Bukovina Carpathians they have captured several hostile positions north of Dorma Vatra.
Sunday, September 24, 1916.
A popular misconception, both in France and England (and I am always hearing the echo of it) is that tsarism would easily settle its domestic difficulties if it abandoned its antiquated principles and boldly entered the path of democratic reforms. It is said that all the latent energies and unsuspected virtues of the Russian people would be revealed at once. There would be a prodigious outpouring of patriotism, intelligence, moral fervour, force of character, spirit of initiative and organization, practical idealism, lofty conceptions of social, national and human duty. The western Allies should therefore put pressure on the Emperor Nicholas to make him adopt the necessary innovations. The change would also mean doubling the effective power of the Alliance.
The recent visit of the "Cadet" deputies to London and Paris has contributed not a little to the spread of these ideas. These gentlemen have even made a complaint about myself---the complaint that I am not seen enough in liberal circles, that I do not display my sympathy with them as openly as I might and do not take advantage of my friendly relations with the Emperor to convert him to Parliamentary principles.
In this diary I have on several occasions explained the attitude of reserve I have felt bound to adopt towards the liberal parties. Whatever the defects of tsarism may be, it is the tie-beam of Russia, the basis and framework of Russian society, the sole link between the heterogeneous territories and peoples which ten centuries of history have gradually gathered under the sceptre of the Romanovs. So long as the war lasts the Allies must therefore uphold it at any cost. I have frequently developed this argument.
But I go further: I am convinced that for a long time to come, one or two generations perhaps, the internal evils from which Russia is suffering will only admit of treatment which is palliative, partial and cautiously graduated. The outstanding reason is the colossal ignorance in which the mass of the Russian nation is vegetating.
It is there that the real weakness of Russia lies, and the principal source of her incapacity for political progress can be found. In this vast empire there are not more than one hundred and twenty thousand primary schools for a population of one hundred and eighty million souls. And such schools, such teachers! As a general rule the teaching is entrusted to the parish priest who is usually a poor creature, idle and despised. In his syllabus reading, writing and arithmetic take second place to prayers, the catechism, sacred history and church music. Thus the education of the nation is more or less directly in the hands of the clergy. The Holy Synod recently reminded its priests that the schools must be kept "in the closest association with the church, and in strict observance of the orthodox faith," and that the religious education of the children must be "the first concern of the masters."
The system functions in the most defective manner. In many districts the schools are poorly attended or actually empty, either because of the distances, snow and cold, or because educational material and books are lacking, or the moujiks have quarrelled with the priest and thrashed him too hard.
To the great Catherine, the empress-philosopher and friend of Voltaire and Diderot, is due the credit, as of so much else, of founding public education in Russia. Some twenty secondary schools and a hundred primary schools were established in her reign. She threw herself into this enterprise with her usual enthusiasm, though without forgetting those principles of government which still inspire her successors. One day, when the governor of Moscow was complaining of the indifference his citizens displayed towards the new institution, the tsarina replied: "Are you complaining because the Russians don't try to educate themselves? I didn't start these schools for their sake, but for the sake of Europe, where we must keep our place in public opinion. If a day comes when our peasants want to be educated, neither you nor I will remain where we are."
Monday, September 25, 1916.
Thinking over what I wrote yesterday about the general ignorance of the Russian nation, it is a pleasure by contrast to draw up a list of all the eminent men who are the glory of Russia to-day in the domain of science, thought, literature and art; for if the masses are uneducated and backward, the elite are brilliant, active, highly productive and vigorous. I know few countries which can produce so fine a contingent of great minds, unprejudiced, luminous and discerning intellects, original, fascinating and irrepressible talent.
There is fierce rivalry in all the departments of scientific work. Nowhere is experimental and practical science more worthily represented, as it is carried on by biologists such as Pavlov and Metchnikov, chemists such as Mendeleiev, physicists like Lebedev, geologists like Karpinsky and mathematicians like Liapunov, Vassiliev and Krylov; I will even venture the opinion that Pavlov and Mendeleïev are as great as Claude Bernard and Lavoisier.
The historians, archæologists and ethnographers also form a solid phalanx of erudite and sagacious investigators. I need only name Kliutchevsky, Miliukov, Platonov and Rostovtsev in the historical field; in the archæological, Vesselovsky and Kondakov; in the ethnographical, Moguilansky. Several groups of linguists have been doing excellent work for many years, displaying the same strict method and the same subtle power of analysis and intuition. Professors Chakmohtov and Zelinsky are up to the level of the best foreign masters.
Philosophy has never been highly developed in the empire of the Tsars, any more than it could develop in the Papal states in the days of temporal power: when theological dogmatism has a society in its grip philosophers necessarily feel themselves hampered. On the other hand, metaphysical speculation is seriously cultivated in intellectual circles in Petrograd and Moscow; its leading experts are Lopatin, Berdiaev and Prince Sergei Trubetzkoï, the disciple and successor of the great idealist, Vladimir Soloviev.
Imaginative literature, though still mourning the loss of Tolstoi and Dostoievsky, displays a vitality in every branch which justifies the greatest hopes. From the generous output of these last ten years one could extract some thirty works, novels or plays, which are remarkable for their chaste beauty of form, careful composition, regard for moral and pictorial truth, psychological divination, the lifelike quality of the characters, the corroding flavour of pessimism, the vivid portrayal of life, turbid or sordid, insatiable or passive, the moving obsession of mental derangement, and last but not least the clear and tragic vision of social problems. Several writers who have thus made their mark since 1905 have already disappeared; but to judge the evolution of the literary movement in Russia, an assembly of talents so varied as those of Gorky, Anreiev, Korolenko, Veressaiev, Merejovsky, Madame Hippius, Artzibachev, Kuprin, Kamensky, Sologub, Kuzmin, Ivanov, Bunin, Tchirykov, Gumilov and Brussov certainly constitutes one of the most favourable symptoms.
There is the same vitality in painting, in which realistic and national tendencies are sometimes so happily brought out under the brush of Repin, Golovin, Roerich, Somov, Maliavin, and Vrubel, not to mention the powerful portrait-painter Serov, who died four years ago. And could I omit the names of the two men responsible for the revolution in theatrical decoration, those marvellous magicians of scenic illusion, Alexander Benois and Bakst?
In music: the glorious era of Balakirev, Moussorgsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov is over. But their artistic offspring, Glazunov, Scriabin, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov and young Prokofiev, are manfully continuing the great tradition and as anxious to prolong it as to enrich and extend it. With the wealth and freedom of its inspiration, the dreamy arid enticing grace of the melodic design, its fertility of invention, the brilliance of orchestral colour and the bold pursuit of polyphonic complexities, Russian music seems to be on the very threshold of a second blooming.
Tuesday, September 26, 1916.
The situation in Athens is getting worse: the duel between the King and Venizelos has reached the critical phase.
A Russian journalist, who to my knowledge has some kind of relations with Sturmer, has just been to see me to tell me privately that "certain people at court" are not at all sorry to contemplate the possibility of a dynastic crisis in Greece, and are even cherishing hopes that the French will precipitate that crisis, "which would be so advantageous to the cause of the Allies."
1 cautiously replied that the views which inspire Briand's policy towards Greece in no way involve a dynastic crisis and that it is for King Constantine himself to carry out the splendid programme of national expansion which the Allies have put before him.
He dropped the subject.
It is quite easy to see through the designs of Sturmer and the "people at court." Obviously the disciples of Russian autocracy could not be a party to overturning a throne. But if events in Greece are bound to lead to the proclamation of a republic, would it not be better, they say, to put a swift stop to the crisis by a change of monarch? There is no lack of candidates in the Russian imperial family. And as an autocratic government could not decently undertake so dirty a job as the dethronement of a King, does not everything show that the government of the French Republic is designated for this operation?
Prince Kotohito Kanin, cousin of the Mikado, is arriving in Petrograd to-morrow; he has come to return the visit which the Grand Duke George Michailovitch recently paid to the Emperor Yoshihito.
On orders from the police, bunches of Russian and Japanese flags are being displayed in the streets.
These preparations are prompting the moujiks to curious reflections. My naval attaché, Commander Gallaud, has been telling me that when he was driving in the Champ-de-Mars to-day, his isvostchik turned round, pointed to some recruits who were drilling and asked him in a sly tone
"What are they being drilled for?"
"To fight the Germans."
"What's the good? Look at me. I was in the Manchurian campaign myself in 1905; I was wounded at Mukden. And now! Look at them hanging out flags from all the houses and raising triumphal arches on the Nevsky Prospekt in honour of this Japanese prince who is coming! In a few years it'll be the same with the Germans. We shall be welcoming them under triumphal arches. Then why have thousands and thousands of men killed if all this is bound to end like the Japanese business?"
Wednesday, September 27, 1916.
Sturmer has just spent three days with the Emperor at Mohilev.
I am told that he put his case with great skill. He has come out of the Manuilov affair as well as he could hope, pleading that if he erred it was only through innocence and too much kindness of heart. He emphasized the point that the Duma is shortly to meet, there is a ferment of revolutionary feeling and that it is more vital than ever not to weaken the government. But all his eloquence would have been wasted if the Empress had not supported him with all her stubborn energy. He has been saved.
I saw him in his room to-day; he looked pleased and. confident. I asked him about military matters first.
"Does General Alexeïev fully realize the great, the vital importance to the common cause, of the safety of Rumania?"
"I have been able to satisfy myself that General Alexeïev attaches very high importance to the operations in the Dobrudja. Four Russian divisions and one Serbian division have already crossed the Danube; another Serbian division will be sent there shortly. But that is the most that His Majesty has authorized him to do in that quarter. You know that we have to cope with enormous forces in the region of Kovel and Stanislau."
He confirmed a fact which my officers had already mentioned to me---that the Russian armies in Galicia have recently suffered excessive losses without any appreciable result. Between Pinsk and the Carpathians they are fighting twenty-nine German divisions, forty Austro-Hungarian and two Turkish; their task is made extremely difficult by their inadequate supply of heavy artillery and aeroplanes.
Then we discussed the ministerial crisis which is at hand in Athens and the nationalist movement of which Venizelos is the centre.
"I've not yet had time," said Sturmer, "to read all the telegrams that have arrived to-night but I can tell you now that the Emperor has used very stern language about King Constantine."
Thursday, September 28, 1916.
Bombshell in Greece. Venizelos and Admiral Condouriotis have secretly sailed for Crete where the insurgents have declared in favour of the Entente; nationalist demonstrators are parading the streets of Athens and thousands of officers and men are gathering at the Piræus, demanding to be sent to Salonica so that they can take service in General Sarrail's army.
I have been considering the possible consequences of these occurrences with Sturmer.
"It's in our own hands whether the situation turns to our advantage," I said, "provided we act promptly and vigorously."
"Yes, yes. Certainly."
Then he hesitatingly remarked, as if picking his words:
"What are we to do if King Constantine persists in his resistance?"
He gave me a curious look, fixing a questioning and shifty eye upon me. I pretended to be thinking. He repeated his question.
"What are we to do with King Constantine?"
If his question was not an insinuation it was certainly a bait, and was obviously connected with the pseudo- secret of the Russian journalist.
I replied in evasive terms that I was not yet sufficiently acquainted with the course of events in Athens to venture to offer any practical advice, and added:
"In any case I'd rather wait until Monsieur Briand lets me know his views; but I won't fail to tell him that in your opinion the position of King Constantine is directly involved in the present crisis."
We then turned to other topics: Prince Kanin's visit and the unfortunate development of the military operations in the Dobrudja and the Transylvanian Alps, etc.
As I was leaving I noticed on the walls of the room three engravings which were not there yesterday. The first was of the Congress of Vienna, the second of the Congress of Paris and the third of the Congress of Berlin.
"I see you like to have inspiring pictures around you, President."
"Yes, you know how passionately fond of history I am. I know nothing more instructive."
"And more deceptive."
"Come, don't be sceptical! Nobody believes enough! But you haven't noticed the most interesting thing."
"That vacant place!"
"That's the place I'm keeping for the picture of the next congress; it's to be called the Congress of Moscow, if God wills!"
He crossed himself and closed his eyes a moment, as if breathing a short prayer.
I answered quietly: "But will there be any congress? Haven't we agreed to make Germany accept our terms?"
With an ecstatic expression he developed his idea and repeated:
"How splendid it would be at Moscow! How splendid! May God grant it! May God grant it!"
He was already imagining himself Chancellor of the Empire, the successor of Nesselrode and Gortchakov, opening the general peace congress in the Kremlin. All the pettiness, stupidity and infatuation of the man were laid bare at that moment. All he can see in his heavy task, one of the heaviest ever laid on human shoulders, is an opportunity for bragging---and personal advancement.
This evening I returned, in full uniform, to the Foreign Office, where the President of the Council has given an official banquet to Prince Kanin.
Too much glare, silver and plate, food and music; too many flowers and servants! It was all dazzle and noise. I could not help thinking what a better tone there was in Sazonov's time, when official show was still in good taste.
At the head of the table sat the Grand Duke George Michailovitch; I was on Sturmer's left.
During the whole of dinner we simply talked commonplaces. But at dessert Sturmer said to me ex abrupto.
"The Congress of Moscow! Don't you think it would be a magnificent consecration of the Franco-Russian alliance? A century after the burning of our sacred city it would see Russia and France proclaiming the peace of the world!"
He complacently expatiated on this theme.
I continued: "I have no idea of the views of my government as to the seat of the next congress and should be surprised if, in the present stage of our military operations, Monsieur Briand had even turned his thoughts to so distant an eventuality. In any case, as I told you this morning, I hope there will be no congress. In my opinion it is of great importance for the Allies to agree upon all the general terms of the peace, so that we can make our enemies accept them en bloc. Part of the work has already been done; we are agreed about Constantinople, the Straits, Asia Minor, Transylvania, the Adriatic littoral, etc. The rest will be settled when a favourable opportunity presents itself. But first and foremost we must concentrate on victory. Our motto must be: Primum et ante omnia, vincere! Your health, my dear President!"
During the evening I had a talk with Prince Kanin. He told me of his long residence in France, at the school at Saumur, and then said how much he had been touched by the Emperor's cordial welcome, and what a pleasant impression his reception by the crowd had made upon him. We talked about the war and I noticed how he avoided all detailed discussion and expressed no opinion on situations and facts. Under his cold compliments I could guess his contempt for the vanquished of 1905 who have learned their lesson so badly.
Friday, September 29, 1916.
The economic situation has become much worse in the last few weeks. The increased cost of living is causing hardship all round. The price of the most elementary necessaries is three times what it was at the beginning of the war; in the case of wood and eggs it is four times, and in that of butter and soap five times. The main causes of this situation are unfortunately as fundamental as obvious---the closing of foreign markets, congestion on the railways and confusion and dishonesty in the public services.
What will it be in a few weeks time when we have to cope with the rigours of winter and the tortures of the cold, which are even more cruel than those of hunger?
Saturday, September 30, 1916.
A stubborn struggle is in progress in Galicia, between the Styr and the Zlota Lipa. The Russians, who have taken the offensive, are trying to force their way through in the region of Krasnie and Brzezany, fifty kilometres from Lemberg.
Sunday, October 1, 1916.
There has been a reception at the Japanese embassy in honour of Prince Kanin. It has been a particularly brilliant function. the guests including the Grand Duke George, the Grand Duke Sergei, the Grand Duke Cyril, etc.
I congratulated my colleague, Motono, on his success. In his shrewd, phlegmatic way he replied:
"Yes, it's gone off quite well. When I first came as ambassador to Petrograd in 1908, hardly anyone spoke to me; no one ever asked me out and the Grand Dukes affected not to see me. All that has changed. I have achieved the object I set before me: Japan and Russia are linked by the ties of real friendship."
In the throng around the buffet I spied E-----, a high official at court, who has taken a liking to me and never misses an opportunity of pouring his suspicious and extravagant nationalism into my ear. I asked him his news.
Without appearing to have heard my question, he pointed to Sturmer who was holding forth a few feet away from us. Then, with a tragic glare, E------ burst out:
"Why haven't you and your English colleague put a stop to that man's treachery before now, Ambassador?"
I calmed him down:
"It's a subject I'd like to discuss with you ... but not here. Come and lunch with me alone on Thursday."
"I'll certainly be there."
Monday, October 2, 1916.
The battle which has begun between the Styr and the Zlota Lipa is taking a favourable turn for the Russians, who have pierced the enemy's forward lines and made five thousand prisoners.
But there are indications of a formidable counterattack by the Germans in the region of Lutzk, a hundred kilometres north.
Tuesday, October 3, 1916.
Sturmer has succeeded in ruining his mortal enemy, Alexander Khvostov, the Minister of the Interior. Henceforth the Manuilov affair has no terrors for him.
The new Minister of the Interior is one of the vice-presidents of the Duma, Protopopov. Hitherto the Emperor has very seldom chosen his members from the representative chamber. But the selection of Protopopov does not herald any evolution in the direction of parliamentary government. Quite the contrary.
On the strength of his earlier opinions, Protopopov ranked as an "Octobrist," i.e. a very moderate liberal. Last June he was a member of the parliamentary delegation which visited the West; both in London and Paris he showed himself to be a fervent advocate of the war à outrance. But during a short stay in Stockholm on his way back he had a strange conversation with a German agent, Warburg, and though the affair remains somewhat obscure, there is no doubt that he spoke in favour of peace.
When he returned to Petrograd he made common cause with Sturmer and Rasputin, who immediately put him in touch with the Empress. He was soon taken into favour and at once initiated into the secret conclaves at Tsarskoïe-Selo. He was entitled to a place there on the strength of his proficiency in the occult sciences, principally spiritualism, the highest and most doubtful of them all. I also know for certain that he once had an infectious disease which has left him with nervous disorders, and that recently the preliminary symptoms of general paralysis have been observed in him. So the internal policy of the empire is in good hands!
Wednesday, October 4, 1916.
It is the Grand Duke Paul's birthday to-day, and he invited me to dinner with the Grand Duke Cyril and his wife the Grand Duchess Victoria, the Grand Duke Boris, the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, Madame Narishkin, Countess Kreutz, Dimitry Benckendorff, Savinsky and others.
Everyone looked very downcast, and indeed one would have to be blind not to see the portents of disaster which are gathering on the horizon.
The Grand Duchess spoke to me in a voice of anguish about her sister, the Queen of Rumania. I dared not reassure her, for if the Rumanians are still holding their ground in the Carpathians it is only with the greatest difficulty, and if they relax their efforts in the slightest there will be a complete disaster.
"For Heaven's sake, insist that reinforcements shall be sent there at once," she said. " From what my poor sister says---and you know how brave she is---there's not a moment to lose. If help is not sent to Rumania without delay, a catastrophe is inevitable."
I told her of my daily protests to Sturmer.
"Theoretically, he agrees to all I say and consents to everything I ask. But in practice he shelters behind General Alexeïev, who does not seem to realize the dangers of the situation. And the Emperor only looks at things through General Alexeïev's eyes."
"The Emperor is in a deplorable frame of mind."
Without further explanation, she suddenly rose and, on the excuse of getting a cigarette, rejoined the group of ladies.
I then tackled the Grand Duke Paul, the Grand Duke Boris and the Grand Duke Cyril---one by one. They have seen the Tsar recently; they move in his circle so that they are well qualified to give me news. But I was very careful not to make my questions too direct, as I knew they would evade them. I introduced the monarch's opinions incidentally and as if not attaching any importance to them; I referred casually to certain of his decisions or some remark he has made to me. They answered quite candidly.
Their replies, which they could not have concocted together, have left me in no doubt as to the Emperor's moral condition. There has been no change in what he says; he still proclaims his determination to win and his absolute confidence in victory. But despondency, apathy and resignation can be seen in his actions, appearance, attitude and all the manifestations of the inner man.
Thursday, October 5, 1916.
E-----, the high court functionary, came to lunch at the embassy. To make him quite at home I had not invited any other guests.
As long as we were at table he kept a check on himself because of the servants. When we returned to the drawing-room he tossed down two glasses of brandy, filled a third, lit a cigar and with a flaming countenance looked me full in the face and asked me bluntly.
"Ambassador, why are you and your English colleague waiting to put an end to Monsieur Sturmer's treacheries?"
"We're waiting until we have some definite grievance against him. Officially we have nothing to complain about; all his words and actions are all that they ought to be. He's always telling us: 'War to the knife! No mercy for Germany!' As regards his real views and secret manoeuvres, we have only impressions and intuitions which carry us no further than conjectures and suspicions. You would be doing us a very great service if you could produce one actual fact to support your beliefs."
"I don't know of any actual fact. But the treachery is obvious enough. Don't you see it?"
"It's not enough to see it; I must be in a position to make my Government see it, and then the Emperor. One can't embark on a serious matter like this without even a vestige of evidence."
"As we're reduced to hypotheses for the time being, would you mind telling me what form you think Sturmer's treachery takes?"
He then told me that, in themselves, Sturmer, Rasputin, Dobrovolsky, Protopopov and Co. are only of minor and secondary importance, as they are simply tools in the hands of an anonymous and small, but very powerful clique which is bent on peace, either because it is tired of the war or because it fears revolution.
"At the head of this clique," he continued, "you find---as you would expect to find---the nobility of the Baltic provinces and all the principal officials at court. Then there is the ultra-reactionary party in the Council of Empire and the Duma, our Lords of the Holy Synod, and all the high financiers and big industrials. They've got the Empress through Sturmer and Rasputin, and the Emperor through the Empress."
"No! They haven't got the Emperor yet! They'll never get him! I mean they'll never induce him to separate from his allies."
"Then they'll have him assassinated or force him to abdicate."
"Abdicate? Can you see the Emperor abdicating? In whose favour?"
"In favour of his son, with the Empress as Regent. You may be certain that that is what Sturmer, or rather those controlling him, are planning. That gang will stop at nothing to gain their ends; they re capable of anything. They'll foment strikes, riots, pogroms; they'll try to produce social distress and famine and make everyone so thoroughly wretched and despondent that the continuation of the war will become impossible. You should have seen them at work in 1905? "
I turned over in my mind all he had just said and concluded:
"I see. The first thing to do is to demolish Sturmer. I'll set about it."
Saturday, October 7, 1916.
Between the Styr and the Zlota Lipa the Russians have been held up by the network of impregnable fortifications constructed to defend Lemberg. They have also been compelled to shift their centre of gravity to the region of Lutzk, a hundred kilometres to the north, where the Germans are making a strong attack.
Since their vast offensive began, the armies of General Brussilov have captured four hundred and thirty thousand men, six hundred and fifty guns and two thousand seven hundred machine-guns.
Madame G-----, whose husband holds an important post in the Ministry of the Interior, has been Sturmer's Egeria for many years. Ambitious and addicted to intrigue, she has helped Boris Vladimirovitch all through his administrative career. Since the day when, thanks to Rasputin, she got him made President of the Council, there is no limit to her visions of greatness for him. She recently remarked to one of her friends, putting a mysterious gravity into her words as if she were telling some state secret: "You'll be seeing great things before long. In a short time our dear country will be in the true path of safety. Boris Vladimirovitch will be the First Minister of Her Majesty the Empress!"
Sunday, October 8, 1916.
Someone who keeps me well informed as to what is being said and done in advanced circles has been telling me of great activity in the social-democratic party, and particularly its extreme wing. the Bolsheviki.
The long drawn-out war, doubts about victory and the difficulties of the economic situation have given revolutionary hopes new life. Preparations are being made for the struggle which is believed to be at hand.
The leaders of the movement are the three "labour" deputies in the Duma, Tcheidze, Skobelev and Kerensky. Great influence is also being exercised from abroad, the influence of Lenin who has fled to Switzerland.
What strikes me most about the Petrograd triumvirate is the practical character of its activity. The disappointments of 1905 have borne fruit. There is no idea now of joining hands with the "Cadets," who are bourgeois and will never understand the proletariat: all illusions as to the immediate help to be expected from the rural masses have now vanished, and the revolutionaries are merely promising them the division of land. But the main thing is that the "armed revolution" is being organized. It is by the closest association between the workmen and the soldiers that the "revolutionary dictatorship" will be established: victory will be secured by the co-operation of the factory and the barracks. Kerensky is the soul of this movement.
Monday, October 9, 1916.
The new Minister of the Interior, Protopopov, is showing that his opinions and programme are ultra-reactionary. He has no fear, it is said, of facing the forces of revolution; if need be, he will provoke them and annihilate them at a blow. He feels himself the man to save tsarism and orthodox Holy Russia: he will save them. Such is the way he talks to his personal friends with inexhaustible loquacity and a self-satisfied smile. And yet it is only a few months since he was reckoned among the moderate liberals in the Duma. His friends of those days, who thought enough of him to make him vice-president of the assembly, cannot recognize him now.
His swift conversion is explained, so I am told, by his state of health. The sudden revulsions of feeling and the excitement of his imaginative faculties are the preliminary symptoms of general paralysis. A fact which is undoubted and has recently come to my knowledge is that he was brought into touch with Rasputin by his doctor, the therapeutist Badmaiev, the Mongolian quack who treats his patients with the magical remedies and mystical pharmacopoeia of the sorcerers of Tibet. I have referred previously to the alliance between the spiritualist charlatan and the staretz which was formed at the bedside of the little Tsarevitch.
As Protopopov had long been initiated into the doctrines of occultism he was predestined to become a client of Badmaiev. The latter is always engaged in some intrigue or other and he immediately realized that the vice-president of the Duma would be a very valuable recruit to the Empress's camarilla. In the course of his cabalistic operations he had no difficulty in dominating the disordered mind and shattered brain in which the early signs of megalomania were already perceptible. Before long he introduced him to Rasputin. The neurotic politician and the magician-mystic were delighted with each other. A few days later Grigori described Protopopov to the Empress as the God-sent saviour of Russia. Sturmer seconded with his customary servility and the Emperor once again gave way.
Tuesday, October 10, 1916.
The Rumanians are in retreat along the whole line. The High Command is incapable and the troops are tired and dispirited: the news is horrible.
Very fortunately, General Berthelot, who is going to take command of the French mission in Rumania, has just arrived in Petrograd. I have been very favourably impressed by him. His shrewd and roguish glance contrast with his stout and massive figure. He has a lucid and thoughtful mind and his speech is simple and to the point. But his outstanding quality is strength of will, a determination which is quiet and pleasant, but quite inflexible.
I introduced him to Sturmer and we set to work at once. Neratov and Buchannan were present at the conference. I took up the theme I have so often argued of the vital importance to Russia of the operations in the Danube region.
"In spite of the brilliant successes of General Brussilov, your offensive has not justified all our hopes. Failing some fortunate happening---which becomes less probable every day---there is likely to be a deadlock on the whole front from Riga to the Carpathians, owing to the lack of heavy artillery and aeroplanes. In these circumstances, if we let Rumania be crushed and Bucharest and Constanza fall into the enemy's hands, it is Russia which will mainly have to face the consequences, as Odessa will be threatened and the road to Constantinople will be blocked. In face of such a prospect, could not General Alexeïev spare out of all his armies the equivalent of three or four army corps to send to the help of Rumania? The offensive of the Salonica army has started well, but all its efforts will be in vain if the Rumanian army is put out of action."
General Berthelot supported this argument with facts and figures. Sir George Buchanan agreed. Sturmer acquiesced, as usual, but would not commit General Alexeïev, also as usual.
Wednesday, October 11, 1916.
My Japanese colleague, Viscount Motono, has just been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs. Of all the Japanese I have known he is certainly the most open-minded, the best informed on European politics and the most accessible to European thought and culture. With his departure I shall lose an excellent colleague, a man who is perfectly safe to deal with and one with a remarkable all-round knowledge.
After congratulating him I asked him about the direction he proposes to give the diplomacy of Japan.
"I shall try," he replied, " to apply the ideas I have so often expounded to you. In the first place I should like to make our help in the war more effective. That will he the most difficult part of my task, as public opinion with us does not realize the universal character of the problems which are now being solved on the European battlefields."
This pronouncement in no way surprised me as he has always been advocating a more active intervention in the European struggle; he has even tried to persuade his government to send Japanese army corps to France and has pleaded unceasingly for the output of Japanese arms and munitions for Russia to be increased, and the rate of supply accelerated. At every stage he has adopted the most lofty views of the alliance.
Then I asked him his intentions with regard to China. He continued:
"What can I add to what I have already told you so often? You know what I shall try to do---and also what I shall refuse to do."
I will summarize the opinions and prophecies he has often uttered in my presence on the subject of China:
(1) When the present struggle is over, the Chinese question will gradually take that place in the general policy of the Powers which was formerly taken by the Eastern question; (2) At the present moment there is not one Chinese question; there are several. The problem has not yet been stated in its full import. The succession of the Chinese Empire is not open. For a very considerable time, twenty years and perhaps more, the Powers will only be able to keep China under observation; they will have to confine themselves to applying provisional remedies to her, giving her symptomatic treatment, as the doctors say; (3) The European Powers should realize that geographical propinquity, ethnical affinities and historical memories give Japan not prerogatives, but special interests in China. On her side Japan must realize that the successful solution of the Chinese problems can only be reached in Europe. If Japanese diplomacy succeeds in taking a lofty view of its task, Japan should become the instrument of conciliation between all the rivalries and antagonisms of which China is the theatre. She must therefore renounce a policy of exclusive advantages and act as a balance, as her interests require.
What will become of this wise programme when it has to face the test of reality? Will not Motono unconsciously recover Japanese mentality when he has breathed his native air again for a short time? It is a secret of the future.
As we were separating he said:
"What about the internal situation in Russia? Aren't you alarmed at it?"
"Alarmed? At the moment, no. Anxious, yes. Judging by all the information I am getting, the liberal parties in the Duma have made up their minds not to take up any of the government's challenges and to defer their claims. The danger will not come from them; but their intentions may be controlled by events. A military defeat, a famine or palace revolution---that's what I'm particularly afraid of. If any one of those three occurrences materializes it means certain disaster."
Motono was silent. I resumed.
"Don't you think the same?"
Still he did not speak. Then his features contracted as if he were absorbed in some painful reflection, and he said:
"You've interpreted my own view so faithfully that I thought I was hearing myself speak."
Friday, October 13, 1916.
Diamandy, the Russian Minister whom Bratiano has been keeping in Bucharest the last two months, returned to Petrograd this morning after a visit to the Stavka. He has been to see me.
"The Emperor received me in the kindest possible way," he said, "and has promised to do everything he can to save Rumania. I am much less satisfied with the results of my talk with General Alexeïev who does not seem to realize how terribly serious the situation is, or else his conduct is dictated by selfish private motives or exclusive regard for his own operations. I was commissioned to ask him to despatch---at once---three army corps to the region between Dorna Vatra and the valley of the Oituz; these three corps should cross the Carpathians at Piatra and Palanka and march due west, that is towards Vasarhely and Klausenburg. The invasion of Wallachia by the southern Carpathians would thereby be stopped at once. But all General Alexeïev consents to do is to send two army corps which are to operate only in the valley of the Bistritza, in the neighbourhood of Dorna Vatra, and keeping in liaison with General Letchitsky's army. These two corps will be drawn from the Riga army so that they cannot arrive in Transylvania for fifteen or twenty days! In spite of all my pleading I have not been able to win him over to the views of the Rumanian General Staff."
He then told me with what feelings of grief he had left his country. Our long-standing friendship made it possible for him to speak quite freely. I vigorously maintained that there is nothing fatal about the military failures so far, but that unless the Rumanian people and government pull themselves together at once Rumania is lost beyond hope:
"Whatever happens, your country must take heart and your ministers recover their courage. I can promise you they're going to get a splendid tonic in the person of General Berthelot."
We then discussed the circumstances under which Rumania declared war on Austria and I asked Diamandy a question which, I must admit, has only a historical interest now:
"Why, at the last moment, did Monsieur Bratiano throw over the military agreement which Colonel Rudeanu made with the French and British High Commands at Chantilly on July 23?"
It wasn't an agreement, but simply a plan which had to be ratified by the Rumanian Government."
"If it was only a plan, why did Monsieur Bratiano, after knowing of, and impliedly approving all the work preliminary to the agreement, authorize Colonel Rudeanu to sign it? In any case, a fact which adequately proves that the French and British High Commands regarded your undertaking as definite is that the Salonica army immediately received orders to prepare to attack the Bulgarians in Macedonia, in order to facilitate the offensive of your army south of the Danube. Between ourselves, were not considerations of an exclusively political nature responsible for the sudden disavowal of the Rudeanu agreement? Were there not secret negotiations between Bucharest and Sofia at that time? Didn't Tsar Ferdinand induce Monsieur Bratiano to believe that the continued neutrality of the Bulgarians could be relied on?"
"I can only repeat that Monsieur Bratiano regarded the Rudeanu agreement simply as a plan which required ratification by the government. The main and vital negotiations were being carried on at Bucharest between General Iliesco and Colonel Tatarinov. Neither of them ever contemplated the idea of a Russo-Rumanian attack south of the Danube, as had been stipulated at Chantilly. In any case, wasn't that a very dangerous plan? In an exposed position on Bulgarian territory, the Rumanian army would have been in a very critical plight if the Germans succeeded in forcing the Carpathians and taking them in rear along the Danube. As for the secret negotiations between Bucharest and Sofia, it is true that Monsieur Radoslavoff made indirect overtures to Monsieur Bratiano, offering him the neutrality of Bulgaria. But it was easy to recognize Tsar Ferdinand's usual cunning in these overtures and the Rumanian cabinet paid hardly any attention to them. Monsieur Bratiano himself has never believed that Bulgaria would remain neutral."
"It would be ill-bred of me to dispute your argument any longer. It will be judged by history, when all the documents are available."
Saturday, October 14, 1916.
B----- has been quoting a proverb which expresses in a very picturesque form the inability of the Russians to discipline themselves voluntarily for the sake of a common effort:
"When three Germans meet they immediately form a Verein and elect a president. When two Russians meet, they immediately form three parties."
Monday, October 16, 1916.
A few days ago a curious rumour was circulating in Petrograd; it was being said in all quarters that Sturmer had at last convinced the Emperor of the necessity of ending the war, if necessary by making a separate Peace.
More than twenty people came to ask me about it. To each of them I gave the same answer:
"I don't pay the slightest attention to these silly tales. The Emperor will never betray his allies."
But I thought that the story could not have been so widely credited without the collusion of Sturmer and his gang.
To-day, on the Emperor's orders, the telegraphic agency publishes an official note which is a categorical démenti of "the rumours published by certain papers as to the possibility of a separate peace between Russia and Germany."
Tuesday, October 17, 1916.
I have been giving Motono a farewell dinner. My other guests were the President of the Council and Madame Sturmer, the Minister of Communications, Trepov, the Italian Ambassador, the Danish minister and Madame Scavenius, General Volkov, Princess Contacuzene, M. and Madame Polovtsov, Prince and Princess Obolensky, General and the Baroness Wrangel, Princess Lucien Murat, who is about to join her husband in the Caucasus, Vicomte d'Harcourt, who is going to Rumania with a French, Red Cross mission, and others. A party of twenty.
Madame Sturmer and her husband are remarkably well matched. She has the same type of intellect and the same moral qualities. I was particularly nice to her, as I wanted to get her to talk. She gave me a long panegyric on the Empress. In the flood of encomiums and servility I could recognize the wily practices by which Sturmer has captured the Empress's confidence. He has persuaded that poor, neurotic soul that she is greatly loved by the nation, contrary to her previous conviction that she was hated by all her people.
"Not a day passes," said Madame Sturmer, without the Empress receiving letters and telegrams which have, been sent her by workmen, peasants, priests, soldiers and wounded men. All these lowly people, who are the true voice of the Russian nation, assure Her Majesty of their warm affection and boundless confidence, and implore her to save Russia."
She artlessly added:
"When my husband was Minister of the Interior, he, too, received such letters, either directly or through the provincial governors. It was a great pleasure to him to take them to Her Majesty the Empress."
"That pleasure is now Monsieur Protopopov's."
"Yes, but my husband still has many opportunities of seeing for himself how greatly Her Majesty is revered and loved in the country."
Making a great show of sympathy for her worthy husband,, with his heavy burden of work, I led her on to tell me how he employed his time. And I can see that all his activities are inspired by the Empress and culminate in her.
During the evening, I questioned Trepov about the economic crisis which is raging in Russia and trying the public nerves.
"The food problem," he said, has certainly become very worrying; but the opposition parties misuse it to attack the government. I'll tell you frankly what the position is. In the first place, the crisis is far from being general; it attains serious proportions only in the towns and certain rural areas. But it is true that the public is nervous in certain cities, Moscow for example. On the other hand, there is no shortage of food, except certain products which we used to import from abroad. But the means of transport are inadequate and the method of distribution is defective. Active measures are about to be ordered. I assure you that in a very short time the situation will improve, and I hope that in a month at the outside the present discontent will have vanished."
He added in a confidential tone:
"I should like to have a quiet talk with you, Ambassador. When could you receive me?"
"I think I'll come and see you. It would be better to have our talk at your ministry."
With a glance at Sturmer he replied:
"Yes, it would be better."
We arranged to meet the day after to-morrow.
I went up to Baron Wrangel who was talking to my military attaché, Lieutenant-Colonel Lavergne, and my naval attaché, Commander Gallaud. He is aide-de-camp to the Grand Duke Michael, the Emperor's brother, and was giving them his impressions of the operations in Galicia.
"There is now a deadlock on the Russian front, from one end to the other," he said. "You must not expect any further offensive on our side. In any case we're helpless against the Germans; we shall never beat them."
Wednesday, October 18, 1916.
Calling on Madame C----- to-day, I found her absorbed in a lively discussion with three friends.
They were talking about a certain liaison, a recent liaison which seemed to have a delightful future before it, but has just been mysteriously broken off. All four of them were hard at work conjecturing the causes of the rupture. The mystery was particularly thrilling to them because the parties to the romance are no ordinary people. But they could find nothing.
But it had to end somehow. Then one of the callers, Countess 0-----, a young and pretty widow, long of limb, quiet in her movements, hard-faced and with sparkling, dark-ringed eyes, gave utterance to the following aphorism:
"We women always yield too soon. The moment the man has made us his own he hat achieved his object; he has no further interest in us; he has finished with us. But when we give ourselves, we women think that our happiness is only just beginning. And so, all our lives we pursue love because we cannot bring ourselves to believe that these beginnings have no sequel."
Thereupon she lapsed into silence, with a face that was simply a mask, and mechanically holding to her lips the pearl pendant which hung from her neck.
Thursday, October 19, 1916.
Trepov received me at two o'clock in his room at the Ministry of Communications which looks out on the Yussupov gardens.
Discussing the economic crisis, he repeated what he said to me at the embassy the day before yesterday, supporting his argument with figures. Then with that sometimes brutal candour which is one of his characteristics, he spoke of the alliance and the objects it has set before it. He added:
"We are at a critical moment. What is being decided at the present moment between the Danube and the Carpathians is the issue, or rather the length of the war. The issue of the war can---must no longer be in doubt. Quite recently I reported to the Emperor who allowed me to say exactly what I thought, and I had the satisfaction of finding that he agreed with me as to the necessity not only of saving Rumania but of attacking Bulgaria with all our might as soon as the Rumanian army has received some reinforcement and gained war experience. It is in the Balkan peninsula---not elsewhere---that we can hope to obtain a decisive result in the near future. If we don't, the war will go on indefinitely---and at what risk!'"
I congratulated him on his fearless advocacy of views I argued to Sturmer more than a month ago, and added:
"As we are talking entre nous, I will not conceal from you that I am very unfavourably impressed by the pessimistic rumours which are being spread abroad in every quarter. I feel it all the more because this propaganda is patently inspired by persons in high social or political positions."
"I suppose you are referring to those people who are clamouring for the end of the war at any price and Russia's return to the system of Teutonic alliances? First let me tell you that they are all mad. Peace without victory, complete victory, means an immediate revolution. The individuals in question would be its first victims! But there's more than that: there's the determination of the Emperor. That determination is unshakable: no amount of influence will ever make him yield. Only the other day he repeated that he would never forgive the Emperor William for his insults and double-dealing, would refuse to make peace with the Hohenzollerns and continue the war until the hegemony of Prussia is destroyed."
"Then why does he let M. Sturmer and M. Protopopov, who are notoriously contravening his intentions, remain in power?"
"Because he's weak! But he's as stubborn as he's weak. It's a curious thing, but there it is!"
"No, it's not curious at all. Psychologists will tell you that stubbornness is only a form of weakness, and so his present obstinacy does not really console me. Men who know his temperament will not defy him to his face; they'll act behind his back. One fine day they'll present him with a fait accompli and he'll give way, or, to speak more accurately, give up the fight and accept what seems inevitable."
"No, no! I believe in my Emperor. But it's more than ever necessary to have the courage to tell him the truth."
Our talk had lasted more than an hour. I rose to leave. But before reaching the door I stopped at the window a moment to gaze at the picture of the Yussupov gardens which adjoin the Minister's town residence. It was almost dark and snow was falling: it was as if night and the snow were softly descending together in slow flakes and mist.
After a perplexed silence Trepov walked up to me and then, as if he had suddenly come to a bold decision, he. rapped out:
"I shall be seeing the Emperor again in a few days' time. Have I your authority to report our conversation?"
"I not only authorize, but ask you to do so."
"Suppose he asks me to what persons you are referring?"
"You can name M. Sturmer and M. Protopopov; you may add that though officially I have no complaint to make about them, I am none the less satisfied that they are hostile to the alliance, and that they work for it against their will and are preparing to betray it."
"I'll tell him that, word for word. No doubt you realize the gravity of the matters we have been discussing. May I absolutely count on your keeping everything to yourself?"
"You have my promise."
"Good-bye. Our talk may have great results."
"It all depends on you. Good-bye."
Saturday, October 21, 1916.
Of all the secret agents kept by Germany among Russian society I doubt whether there is any more energetic, astute and untiring than the financier Manus.
A Jew by confession, he employed the usual methods to obtain permission to reside in Petrograd and in recent years has made a considerable fortune by operations on the stock exchange and speculation. The genius of his race had inspired him to throw in his lot with the most rabid defenders of the throne and the altar. It was thus that he became a servile tool of old Prince Mestchersky, the famous director of the Grajdanine and the fearless champion of orthodox absolutism. At the same time his discreet and well-placed generosity gradually won over the whole of the Rasputin gang to his cause.
Since the beginning of the war he has been conducting a campaign in favour of a speedy reconciliation between Russia and the Teutonic powers. He gets a good hearing in the financial world and has established links with most of the papers. He is in regular touch with Stockholm---which means Berlin. I strongly suspect that he is the main channel of distribution for German subsidies.
Every Wednesday he gives a dinner to Rasputin; Admiral Nilov, the aide-de-camp of the Emperor and employed in his service, is invited on principle by virtue of his superb deportment. under the influence of wine. Another indispensable guest is the ex-director of the Police department, the fearsome Bieletzky, who is now a senator; but he has preserved all his influence with the Okhrana and through Madame Virubova he is in constant touch with the Empress. Of course there are some charming ladies to grace and enliven the festivities. One of the regular guests is a ravishing Georgian, Madame E-----, a lady who is as lithe, ingratiating and coaxing as a syren. They drink all night. Rasputin gets drunk very quickly and then talks his head off. I have no doubt that a detailed description of these orgies is sent off to Berlin next morning---with appropriate comments and proofs.
Sunday, October 22, 1916.
General Bielaiev, who is going to represent the Russian High Command in Rumania, has been to say good-bye.
He tells me that in addition to the two Russian army corps which have already been sent to Moldavia and are to try and enter Transylvania by Palanka, a third corps will leave on November 7, for Wallachia, where it will operate between the Danube and the Carpathians side by side with the Rumanian army. He is commissioned to tell King Ferdinand that "the Emperor is considering the possibility of sending further reinforcements later on."
I impressed on General Bielaiev that this later reinforcement seemed to me extremely urgent:
"The character of the operations in the Balkan theatre is becoming more and more decisive every day---and in whose favour! The Dobrudja is lost. Constanza is about to fall. All the defiles of the Transylvanian Alps have been forced. Winter is approaching. The least delay is irreparable."
"I have pleaded strenuously with the Emperor and General Alexeïev for an army of three or four corps to be sent in the direction of Bucharest without delay. There it would amalgamate with the Rumanian army. We should thus have a fine mass of manoeuvre in the heart of Rumania and it would enable us not only to close the Carpathian passes but even to invade Bulgaria. The Emperor came round to my view; he realizes the necessity of gaining a great success in the Balkans here and now. But General Alexeïev will not consent to weaken the Russian front; he fears that the Germans would take advantage of it to improvise an offensive in the region of Riga."
"But it's for the Emperor to give orders. General Alexeïev is only his technical adviser and must carry out his orders!"
"Yes, but His Majesty would hesitate long before imposing his will on General Alexeïev."
I questioned General Bielaiev about the Emperor's state of mind. He was obviously uncomfortable as he replied:
"His Majesty is depressed and preoccupied. Sometimes when you are speaking to him, he seems not to be listening to you. I was not happy about him."
As we were separating, he reminded me of all the serious confidences we have exchanged since the war began and thanked me for the welcome I had always given him. His last words were:
"We have difficult times, very difficult times ahead of us."'
Tuesday, October 24, 1916.
Contrary to Trepov's anticipations, the economic situation has got worse instead of better. One of my informers, who went through the industrial quarters of Galernaia and Narvskaia yesterday, tells me that there is much distress and bad feeling. The ministers are openly accused of causing a food shortage in order to provoke riots and thus have an excuse for taking strong measures against the socialist organizations. In the factories the workmen are passing round pamphlets inciting labour to strike and demand peace. Where do these pamphlets come from? No one knows. Some say that they are distributed by German agents, others by the Okhrana. Everyone is saying, "it cannot go on like this." The bolsheviki, or extremists, are very active, organizing councils in the barracks and announcing that "the great day of the proletariat is at hand."
I put a question to my informer, who is intelligent, moderately honest and moves in liberal circles:
"Do you think there is reasonable ground for crediting Sturmer or Protopopov with the machiavellian idea of causing famine in order to provoke strikes and thus make the continuation of the war impossible?"
"Why, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, that's the whole history of Russia! Since the time of Peter the Great and his famous secret chancellery, it has always been the police which has fomented popular risings in order to have the credit. of saving the throne. If the continuation of the war means a danger to tsarism, you may be certain that M. Sturmer and M. Protopopov will have recourse to the classic methods of the Okhrana. But next time it will be different from 1905."
Wednesday, October 25, 1916.
The Austro-Bulgarians captured Constanza yesterday. We have now lost not only the right bank of the Danube---with the possibility of a subsequent offensive in the direction of the Balkan mountains---but also the Danube delta, and with it the most direct route between southern Russia and Rumania, between Odessa and Galatz. The problem of supplying the Russian and Rumanian armies will soon become insoluble.
Diamandy has been to see me; he was in despair.
"I'm simply worn out with pleading for further Russian contingents to be sent. I'm told at headquarters here that they can only refer the matter to General Alexeïev. I know what that means. When I apply to Sturmer, all he does is to raise his eyes. to the ceiling and repeat: "Cheer up! Providence is so great and good! Oh, so good!"
"It shows that M. Sturmer is not a Jansenist; M. de Saint Cyran was quite different; he used to say "God is terrible! God is terrible!"
"But what am I to do
"See the Emperor."
"Seriously, is that what you advise?"
"What else can you do, alas?"
Thursday, October 26, 1916.
The Rumanians have evacuated the whole of the Dobrudja: they have also had to leave the enemy in possession of the famous Cerna Voda bridge over the Danube, the spot at which the principal railways of Wallachia and Moldavia converge.
Volume III, Chapter Three
Table of Contents