By Maurice Paléologue
MAY 4-JUNE 15, 1916.
The mission of Viviani and Albert Thomas to Petrograd; I present them to the Emperor. The questions of Poland and Rumania, and of sending Russian troops to France.---Conference at General Headquarters.---Banquet given by the Duma. The speeches: the Russians greatly moved by the magic of eloquence. Shaliapin and the Marseillaise. The French mission leaves a turmoil of excitement in its wake.---Faith in the Tsar among the masses.---General Brussilov's brilliant offensive in Volhynia and Galicia.---Russian nomadism.
Thursday, May 4, 1916.
Viviani and Albert Thomas will arrive in Petrograd tomorrow evening. Their mission, announced by the Press yesterday, has caused great excitement among all parties. In particular the name of Albert Thomas is having a great effect in working-class circles, and not less effect---in the opposite sense---among the autocratic clique.
Konovalov, a liberal deputy for Moscow and fabulously wealthy spinner, a man of broad sympathies and devoted to all humanitarian Utopias, has just been to see me in the name of the Industrial War Committee, of which he is Vice-President. He was accompanied by one of his political friends, Yukovsky, President of the Committee of Industry and Commerce.
After explaining that the President of the Industrial Committee, Gutchkov, was unable to come, as he is laid up in the Crimea, Konovalov told me that he was very anxious to get into touch with Albert Thomas as soon as possible:
"Our Central Committee, which co-ordinates the activities of all the Russian committees, comprises a hundred and twenty delegates, nominated by the Union of Towns, the Union of Zemstvos, the municipalities of Petrograd and Moscow, government departments and workmen themselves. Of the hundred and twenty members ten are workmen. I and my friends are extremely anxious that M. Albert Thomas should be present at one of our meetings; he'd certainly have some good things to tell us, and they would be repeated in all the factories."
I replied that I thought a visit from Albert Thomas to the Central Committee not only possible but desirable; that there is certainly no one better than he in making friends with both employed and employers, but that I relied on the good sense of the committee to prevent the visit degenerating into a political demonstration.
Friday, May 5, 1916.
General Sukhomlinov, formerly War Minister, was arrested this morning and taken to the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul. It is notorious that he has been grossly negligent, but I doubt whether he has been a "traitor," as is alleged, if by "treason" is meant intelligence with the enemy. I do not believe that he was an accomplice of Colonel Miassoyedov, who was hung in March, 1915. Probably he confined himself to closing his eyes to the crimes of the traitor, who was his jackal. But I am quite prepared to believe that, inspired by hatred of the Grand Duke Nicholas and by political considerations, he has secretly thwarted the plans of the High Command. To his deliberate inaction and conscious dissimulation was due the munitions crisis which was the cause of the early disasters.
Viviani, Madame Viviani and Albert Thomas arrived at the Finland station just before midnight, having travelled via Bergen, Christiania, Stockholm and Tornea.
The last twenty-two months have left an appreciable mark on Viviani, who seems graver, more dignified and reserved. On her calm, pure features Madame Viviani bears the trace of an inconsolable loss---the loss of a son of her first marriage. He was killed at the beginning of the war. Albert Thomas, whom I did not know, breathes physical and moral health, energy, intelligence and enthusiasm.
I took my visitors to the Hôtel de l'Europe, where they are being lodged by the Emperor's household. Supper was ready for them.
While they were taking their meal Viviani told me the object of their mission:
"We have come," he told me in substance (1) to ascertain the military resources of Russia and try to develop them; (2) to insist on the dispatch of 400,000 men to France by successive batches of 40,000, in accordance with the promise Doumer claims to have obtained last December; (3) to bring pressure on Sazonov to induce the Russian General Staff to be more accommodating with regard to Rumania; (4) to persuade the Imperial Government to give a firm and definite undertaking in favour of Poland."
"On the first point you will gather your own impressions. I think you won't be dissatisfied with the work done in the last few months, particularly by the Union of Zemstvos and the Industrial War Committees. As regards the dispatch of 400,000 men, General Alexeïev has always strenuously objected, alleging that the number of trained reserves at the disposal of the Russian army is totally inadequate in view of the enormous fronts, and he has convinced the Emperor; but if you persist, you may secure the dispatch of a few brigades. As regards Rumania, you will find that Sazonov and General Alexeïev fully share your views; the difficulty is not here, but at Bucharest. As for Poland, I advise you to postpone any discussion until just before you leave; you can then judge for yourselves whether that topic can be broached; I have my doubts."
Saturday, May 6, 1916.
After a private luncheon at the embassy Viviani, Albert Thomas and I left for Tsarskoïe-Selo.
Viviani wore an anxious look during the journey; he was obviously apprehensive as to what reception Nicholas II would give the demands he has come to present. Albert Thomas, on the contrary, was in the highest of spirits, and thoroughly tickled at the idea of appearing before the Emperor. "Good old Thomas!" he cried, "so at last you're going to stand face to face with His Majesty the Tsar Autocrat of all the Russias! When you reach his palace, what will surprise you most will be to find yourself there."
At Tsarskoïe-Selo two court carriages were waiting for us. I got into the first with Albert Thomas. Viviani and the Master of the Ceremonies, Tieplov, occupied the second.
After some moments' thought, Albert Thomas said in a wheedling tone:
"There are several people I should very much like to meet during my stay in Petrograd. Very discreetly, of course! But I should find myself in trouble with my party if I returned to France without seeing them. The first is Bourtzev."
"He's behaved very well during the war; he adopted a very patriotic tone towards the French and Russian comrades."
"I know. That's the very argument I used to secure his return from Siberia when the Government gave me that ticklish job last year. But I also know that he still has the idée fixe of assassinating the Emperor. . . . just remember to whom I shall be presenting you in a moment or two. Look at that fine crimson livery on the box. You'll realize that I'm not particularly attracted by your idea of meeting Bourtzev."
"So you think it impossible."
"Wait till the end of your visit. We'll talk about it again."
There was a great throng of vehicles outside the Alexander Palace. The whole imperial family had come to convey birthday greetings to the Empress and was returning to Petrograd.
We were solemnly conducted to the vast corner room on the front looking on the garden. Under a radiant sky the park spread out its glowing perspectives; the trees, now freed from their mantle of snow, seemed to stretch their delicate branches to the sun. Only a few days ago the Neva was still bringing down ice floes. To-day it is already spring.
The Emperor came in, looking fresh and smiling.
After the formal presentations and compliments there was a long silence.
When the Emperor had overcome the embarrassment into which first introductions always plunge him, he raised his hand to the front of his tunic, on which he wore but two decorations, the St. George's Cross and the French croix de guerre.
"You see, I always wear your croix de guerre, messieurs, though I'm unworthy of it."
"Unworthy!" protested Viviani.
"Yes, indeed it's the same reward given to your Verdun heroes."
Another pause. I began:
"Sire, President Viviani has come to discuss with you certain serious questions which are outside the province of your staffs and ministers. It is to your sovereign authority we wish to appeal."
Viviani then began his story: he discharged his task with that charm and warmth of language and in that seductive voice which sometimes make him so persuasive. When he drew a picture of France bled white and suffering the irreparable loss of the flower of her race, he found tones which moved the Emperor deeply. He enlarged, with a happy selection of examples, on the prodigies of heroism which have been witnessed every day at Verdun. The Emperor interrupted him:
"And to think that before the war Germany used to say that the Frenchman is incapable of being a soldier!"
To which Viviani very judiciously replied:
"The fact is, Sire, that the Frenchman is not a soldier: he's a warrior!"
And now it was Albert Thomas's turn to speak, and bring fresh arguments to the same thesis. His classical education, his desire to please, the importance of the discussion, the historic interest of the scene, all combined to give his words, and his personality too, a singular radiance.
The Emperor's ministers have not familiarized him with the magic of eloquence, and he seemed greatly affected; he promised to do "everything possible" to develop the military resources of Russia and associate her even more closely with the effort of her allies. I took note of what he said, and the audience was over.
About four o'clock we returned to Petrograd.
Monday, May 8, 1916.
Lunch at Madame Sazonov's with Viviani, Madame Viviani and Albert Thomas. The other guests comprised the President of the Council and Madame Sturmer, the Finance Minister and Madame Bark, the War Minister, the Naval Minister, etc.
Luncheon went off well. Viviani talked pleasantly, Madame Viviani cannot fail to arouse sympathy with her sad face. Albert Thomas was liked for his high spirits and quick wit.
After lunch groups were formed. We talked business.
At one moment I caught Albert Thomas in earnest conversation with Sturmer. I went up and listened:
"Your factories don't work enough," said Albert Thomas. "Their output could be ten times what it is. You ought to militarize your workmen."
"'Militarize our workmen!" protested Sturmer. "Why, we'd have the whole Duma up in arms!"
Such was the conversation in the year of grace 1916 between the chosen representatives of French socialism and Russian autocracy!
Tuesday, May 9, 1916.
Viviani and Albert Thomas, who leave for General Headquarters this afternoon, have just been to lunch at the embassy with Madame Viviani. I had not asked anyone else, as after telling them so much about Russia I wanted them to tell me a little about France, from which I have been away two years.
Everything they have told me about the French spirit is splendid, and fills me with confidence. But why so much mediocrity and littleness in the political world? It might be thought that the Palais Bourbon sometimes forgets we are at war. However cruel exile may be, I have at least gained this---that I see France only at a distance, as history will see her, and in her glorious and sublime aspect.
Wednesday, May 10, 1916.
My new American colleague, Romuald Francis, who succeeds the popular Marye, has just paid his first call on me.
After the exchange of formal commonplaces, I tried to draw my visitor into talking about the war and enlarging on the intentions of his country. But all my efforts were in vain. Francis evaded my questions, or simply returned non-committal answers, from which I concluded that the American conscience is still insensible to the great moral interests which are at grips in the world.
Thursday, May 11, 1916.
Viviani has returned from General Headquarters, while Albert Thomas has gone to visit factories in the provinces.
He is not more than partially satisfied with his tour. His reception by the Chief of the General Staff was cold, or at any rate reserved---which does not surprise me. General Alexeïev is a fierce reactionary, a rabid devotee of tradition and hierarchy, autocracy and orthodoxy. The intrusion of a civilian into military affairs---and such a civilian! A socialist! An atheist!---must naturally seem to him an abominable outrage.
By way of opening the conversation, Viviani handed him a personal letter from General Joffre and asked him to read it at once. General Alexeïev read it without a word of comment.
"General Joffre has also given me a verbal communication for Your Excellency. He hopes to be in a position to commence an operation on a large scale between July 1 and 15; he would be glad if you could take the offensive also, not before June 10, so that there will be not more than a month between the two attacks, and thus the Germans will not have time to transfer reinforcements from one front to the other."
General Alexeïev curtly replied:
"Thank you; I'll take up the matter with General Joffre through General Jilinsky."(1)
This was immediately followed by a conference, over which the Emperor presided. Viviani made an eloquent appeal for the dispatch of 400,000 Russians to France, by monthly batches of 40,000. General Alexeïev gradually became less uncompromising, though the discussion was none the less prolonged and thorny. Ultimately the Emperor asserted his will. The following decision was reached: in addition to the brigade already sent to France, and the brigade due to leave for Salonica on June 15, five brigades, each 10,000 strong, will be sent to France between August 14 and December 15.
I congratulated Viviani on this result, which certainly has its value. But we are still far from the 400,000 men which Doumer made us hope for.
Friday, May 12, 1916.
General Janin, who is taking the place of General de Laguiche at the head of our military mission, has just arrived in Russia.
I received him at luncheon this morning. With his simple, jovial nature and open, supple and subtle mind he will be liked by the Russians.
Saturday, May 13, 1916.
From a Warsaw friend, who has fled to Kiev, I have received a letter full of criticism, suspicion, reproach, excommunication and anathema of all the Poles who are working, with varying degrees of skill, for the restoration of Poland. No one is spared by his impulsive and turbulent patriotism. Alas! Will the Poles ever learn the necessity of discipline in the common cause?
The whole history of Poland, both before and since the partitions, would furnish argument for a study on The Effects of Individualism in Politics.
Sunday, May 14, 1916.
At the Marie Theatre this evening Karsavina took the part of the nymph, Sylvia, in Delibes' ballet. She revealed herself as the ideal of pagan purity, at once passionate and chaste; she exhaled a kind of heroic and youthful joy, a wild and holy ecstasy.
But this mythological evocation was only partially to the taste of the mass of spectators. The Russian spirit has nothing in common with the Hellas of antiquity: it is only through Byzantium that it joins hands with Greece.
So I was not surprised to observe how the public woke up again at the opening of the first scene of the following ballet, Le Nénuphar, a work of fantastic romanticism in which Karsavina appears in the form of a mermaid, a perverse and bewitching roussalka, with an insatiable craving for blood and passion.
Monday, May 15, 1916.
This afternoon I received the French colony of Petrograd at the embassy for the purpose of introducing Viviani and Albert Thomas.
Full livery, buffet, speeches, introductions, orchestra, and an enormous crowd which would not go away. Before the war, functions of this sort seemed to me a loathsome duty. But now, when exile is so cruel, it makes one's heart leap to be among French people.
Tuesday, May 16, 1916.
The Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna has asked Viviani and Albert Thomas to lunch; Madame Viviani is not well and asked to be excused.
In order to put Viviani on her right and Albert Thomas on her left the Grand Duchess asked me to sit opposite her.. The other guests were Princess Vladimir Orlov, Princess Sergei Bielosselsky, Countess Shuvalov, Dimitry Benckendorff and the personal staff.
It was a very lively luncheon party and compliments flew in all quarters.
Her Imperial Highness seemed in the highest spirits. In spite of, or because of, her teutonic origin she never loses a chance of demonstrating her affection for France. That alone would explain to-day's invitation. But there is something more: for a long time the Grand Duchess has been cherishing the secret hope of seeing one of her sons, Boris or Andrew, mount the throne. The result is that she is always on the watch to snatch opportunities of appearing in public, opportunities which the Empress neglects.
From this point of view it is not immaterial for the general public to know that she alone, of all the imperial family, has received the emissaries of the French Government at her table.
This evening the Imperial Duma and the Municipal Council of Petrograd have given a banquet in honour of Viviani and Albert Thomas.
The President of the Duma, Rodzianko, is responsible for this demonstration. That alone has been enough to make the Emperor's ministers suspicious, particularly as support was forthcoming from all sides, and it has become almost a political event. There were not less than four hundred guests! All parties, even the Extreme Right, but particularly the Left, were represented. None of the ministers dared be absent, and my Japanese, English and Italian colleagues were also present.
The question of speeches was not settled without some difficulty. At first the ministers thought they ought not to speak in a gathering of a private character. I had to let Sazonov know that if no member of the Imperial Government would consent to speak I should advise Viviani not to attend the banquet. The matter was ultimately arranged, and it was agreed that Sazonov should propose a toast in the name of the Government.
As we entered the banqueting hall we were given a very enthusiastic reception. Rodzianko presided at the top table; I was on his right, Viviani on his left. On my right I had the President of the Council, Sturmer, who had Albert Thomas on his right.
The ceremony was very long as the menu was interminable and the service very slow. Thus, with speeches to follow, I was in for at least two hours' contact with the President of the Duma and the President of the Council.
Of Rodzianko I had little to learn. Everything about him---his great stature and fine bearing, his piercing eye and deep, warm voice, his bustling energies and even his tactlessness in word and action---reveal his candour, honesty and courage. For a long time we have been on terms of close friendship. He is tireless in preaching the good cause.
Of Sturmer, on the other hand, I have much to learn. I do not know whether he will die "in the odour of sanctity," as the mystics say; but I know he exhales an intolerable "odour of insincerity." Under his superficial kindness of heart and affected courtesy you can see that he is a base and treacherous schemer. His sharp and sickly gaze, searching yet furtive, is the very image of hypocrisy, an ambitious and cunning hypocrisy. But he is not without culture; he has a taste for history, particularly the anecdotal and picturesque side of history. Every time some function brings us together I always question him about the past history of Russia, and his conversation never wearies. And in any case, in the exceptional and pre-eminent position in which circumstances have placed him, he is a character worth studying.
This evening we talked about Alexander I and his mysterious death, and Nicholas I and his moral death struggle during the Crimean War. This brought me to emphasize the fact that it has always been to the interest of Russia and France to have an understanding or an alliance; I reminded him that as early as 1856 my brilliant predecessor, Morny, conceived the idea of an alliance, and if only his advice had been taken we should not be where we are to-day. Sturmer broke in:
"The Duc de Morny! That's the kind of man I should have liked! I believe I've read everything published about him. Oh, yes! It seems to me he had all the qualities of a man called upon to govern---love of country, energy, audacity."
"He had two more, perhaps even more valuable, a sense of reality and the right style in action."
"Of course those two qualities are very necessary. But for one who rules, the first essential is to know how to take responsibility and handle events. Do you see our popular Prefect of Police, Prince Alexander Nicolaïevitch Obolensky, over there? He's an excellent servant of the Emperor and I like him very much. But there's one thing I cannot forgive him. He was Governor of Riazan in 1910, when Tolstoy came to the little station of Astapovo to die there so strangely. Do you remember how the family mounted guard round the dying man to prevent any priest from approaching him? (2) If I had been in Obolensky's place I should not have hesitated: I should have had the family removed by my gendarmes and sent in a priest by force. Obolensky argues that he had no instructions, that Tolstoy's children were unfortunately within their rights, and so on. But could there be any question of rights, and were any instructions needed when it was a matter of recovering Tolstoy's soul for our holy Church?"
What would Viviani and Albert Thomas think if they had heard that?
The moment for the toasts arrived. Rodzianko's speech was patriotic, banal and pompous; mine was purely formal, and Sazonov's colourless and affected.
In the interval the company sang the Russian national anthem. Then Shaliapin, that great genius, sang the Marseillaise; into his singing he put such diction, breadth of style, lyrical power and passion that a breath of revolutionary fervour, the breath of Danton, seemed to sweep over the assembly. It was then that I realized what an inflammable body the Russian public is.
It was in this atmosphere of excitement that Viviani rose to speak. As a great parliamentary orator he immediately felt that his audience was simply asking to be moved. His thrilling voice, his broad and varied gestures, his look of mingled pathos and tenderness, his periods with their prolonged and potent rhythms, astounded the assembly. When he cried: "No separate peace! A common cause! That is the pact of honour which binds us. We will go together to the bitter end, until that day dawns when affronted Right shall be avenged. . . . We owe it to our dead, or they will have died in vain. We owe it to the generations to come, etc..." he was hardly allowed to finish his period, and the room rocked with the applause. Shaliapin, his face inspired and his eyes full of tears, had gradually, come up to the top table. There were fresh calls for the Marseillaise; he mounted the dais once again and for the second time the sublime anthem brought the audience to its feet.
The Emperor's ministers glanced uneasily at one another; it was as if they were saying: "But where is all this taking us to? ... What's going to happen?"
To wind up the evening, the leader of the Cadet party in the Duma, Basil Alexeïevitch Maklakov, rose to his feet. In excellent. French, and with staccato articulation and dramatic gestures, he reminded us that he had been a pacifist; he added that he was still an impenitent pacifist, a fact which did not prevent him from being heart and soul in the war: "For this war will be the suicide of war; when peace comes we will make a map of Europe which will make war futile for ever. His peroration was an invocation to France, "to France, whose voice the world needs to hear; France, which proclaimed in the eighteenth century those immortal principles which are the symbols of the pacifist idea; the France of the future, which is to establish that eternal peace already known as the French peace! . . ."
The enthusiasm of the assembly knew no bounds. The faces of the ministers were gloomier than ever. As I looked at them I realized that the visit of any French statesman to Russia is per se an act of democratic propaganda.
During the whole of Maklakov's speech Albert Thomas could hardly contain himself. His eyes flashed fire. Every moment I expected to see him rise in his place and launch out into an oratorical improvisation.
However, Rodzianko said a few closing words. We went out to the accompaniment of cheers.
For several minutes Viviani, Albert Thomas and I exchanged impressions of the evening in the vestibule. Apropos of Maklakov's speech I said:
"A fine speech, and it will have a great effect in Russia. But what an illusion to think that the next peace will be a peace for ever. Personally I think that the world is entering upon an era of violence, and that we are now sowing the germ of fresh wars."
After a moment's reflection Albert Thomas replied:
"Yea, after this war, ten years of wars ... ten years of wars!
Wednesday, May 17, 1916.
This morning Viviani and Albert Thomas paid their farewell visits to Sazonov. I did not go with them so that their discussion should seem to have no official character; they particularly wished to talk about Rumania and Poland.
On the subject of Rumania Sazonov protested that he was extremely anxious for her adherence to our cause.
"But I can't regard her as a serious factor," he added, "so long as M. Bratiano refuses to negotiate a military convention with us."
As for Poland, Sazonov insisted in the strongest possible terms on the danger to the Alliance of any intervention, even a discreet intervention, by the French Government in the Polish question.
Thus the results of Viviani's mission may be reduced to the sending of 50,000 men to France, or rather a promise to that effect.
But the influence of Albert Thomas has been genuinely effective. His prodigious energy and practical common sense have galvanized the industrial departments of the war---for how long? He has been very skilfully seconded in his task by one of his assistants, the great public-works contractor, Loucheur, one of the men who have contributed most to the industrial revival of France.
At one o'clock Viviani and Albert Thomas came to luncheon at the embassy, with the Grand Duke Nicholas Michaïlovitch and my Japanese, English and Italian colleagues.
Nicholas Michaïlovitch, "Nicholas-Egalité," ever curious about advanced ideas and new men, had said to me:
" I'm tremendously anxious to make the acquaintance of Albert Thomas."
The acquaintance seemed to please him thoroughly, as he overwhelmed him with attentions.
At seven p.m. the whole mission left for France, by the Archangel route.
Thursday, May 18, 1916.
This evening Don Quixote was given at the Narodny Dom. On hearing Shaliapin, I revived my splendid impressions of two months ago: I imagine that Cervantes himself would have been delighted with an interpretation which gives his hidalgo a character so individual and broad, comical yet touching, a caricature and yet human. The genius of the great master of irony has never been so easily realized.
The public was not less interesting than on the last occasion; I could see the same indulgent smiles, the same current of liking for the personality of the adventurous knight, for the figure of the hero who is gentle, generous. charitable, patient, resigned, no less intelligent than crazy, as lucid as absurd, ready to swallow any wild story, a prey to every enchantment, and utterly lost when faced with reality.
Friday, May 19, 1,916.
With ruthless determination, General Alexeïev is pressing on his preparations for the great offensive he proposes for the early days of June. The main action will develop in Galicia, on the Strypa and the Pruth, and between Tarnopol and Czernowitz; General Brussilov will be in command of the operation. I am assured that the moral of the troops has been revived by the return of fine weather, and is excellent.
This evening I gave a dinner party, the guests being my Spanish colleague, the Conde di Cartagena, Princess Orlov, Princess Sergei Bielosselsky, Princess Cantacuzene, Count Joseph Potocki, Count Sigismund Wielopolski, Count Kutusov, Lady Muriel Paget, Lady Sybil Grey, etc.
Princess Bielosselsky and Princess Cantacuzene have recently received letters from their husbands, who are fighting in Armenia and the Bukovina respectively; on the strength of these letters they have told me that the men are in excellent spirit. I had the same report from Lady Muriel and Lady Sybil, who have just been inspecting their hospitals in Volhynia.
Saturday, May 20, 1916.
In all the imperial palaces, government offices, clubs, theatres and public buildings, majestic portraits of the emperors are to be seen hanging on the walls. Nothing is more monotonous, dull and commonplace than this official ikonography.
Yet, notwithstanding the artificial and set character of the species, the original physiognomy of the sitters is usually brought out well.
Thus Alexander I, with his elegant figure, swelling chest and the air of a beau and a paladin, takes an obvious delight in knowing that people are looking at him.
Nicholas I, stiff, haughty and despotic, seems to be spying round to see if anyone has the audacity to look at him.
Alexander II, more natural, but not less impressed by his office and conscious of his power, condescends to allow folk to look at him provided that they lower their eyes at once.
Alexander III, heavy. calm, straightforward and bourgeois, does not care whether he is looked at or not.
And Nicholas II, simple and timid, seems to be begging the public not to look at him.
Sunday, May 21, 1916.
The unspeakable Manuilov, Sturmer's chef de cabinet and the fit instrument of his low designs, has just been to see me to say that he has had my wishes met on a trivial police matter. In earnest tones, which struck me greatly---as he does not always lie---he described the situation at home in very dark colours; he particularly emphasized the spread of revolutionary feeling in the army.
I countered with the very favourable reports recently given me of the moral of the troops.
"That's only true of the fighting troops," he replied.
"The army behind the line is rotten. In the first place, the men are idle, or at any rate haven't enough to do. You know the winter's a bad time for military training. In addition, this year we've had to cut down and simplify the training once again, because we haven't enough rifles, machine-guns and guns, and perhaps even more because we're short of officers. Besides, the men have very bad quarters in the barracks. They're packed like sardines, absolutely anyhow. The Preobrajensky barracks have room for 1,200 men, and 4,000 are quartered there. You can see them from here in their rooms; no air, no light, and stuffy with smoke. They make speeches from supper until morning. You mustn't forget that they include men of all races of the empire, all nationalities, religions and sects, even Jews! I can tell you it's a wonderful forcing house for revolutionary ideas. Our anarchists were not the last to find it out!"
"What does M. Sturmer think of it all?"
"All M. Sturmer asks is to be left alone. I'll promise Your Excellency he'll do very well."
Monday, May 22, 1916.
In all quarters the mission of Viviani and Albert Thomas has left a stir of emotion in its wake.
On this point, Joseph de Maistre, who was one of the most sagacious observers of the French Revolution, has made a remark the truth of which I am realizing to-day: "In the temperament, and particularly the language, of the French, there is a certain proselytizing force which defies imagination. The whole nation is simply one vast propaganda."
Tuesday, May 23, 1916.
In the Trentino, between the Adige and the Brenta, a violent offensive of the Austrians has compelled the Italians to abandon their lines. There is intense agitation in Italy, where the public already sees the Friuli army forced to retreat to avoid being cut off from Lombardy by an enemy dash on Vicenza and Padua.
In the Verdun region furious fighting has flamed up anew. After a superb attack the French troops have carried the old fort of Douaumont.
Wednesday, May 24, 1916.
In 1839 Nicholas I said to the Marquis de Custine: "I can understand a republic; it's a well-defined and genuine form of government, or at any rate can be. And, of course, I understand absolute monarchy, as I'm the head of a state with that system. But what I cannot understand is representative monarchy; it's a government of lies, fraud and corruption, and rather than adopt it I'd withdraw, into China."
Nicholas II has the same views as his ancestor.
Friday, May 26, 1916.
Summary of my day's work:
This morning P----- brought me somewhat alarming reports of revolutionary propaganda in factories and barracks.
At five o'clock Countess N-----, who does not belong to the Empress's clique, but is on terms of closest friendship with Madame Vyrubova, told me how Rasputin explained to the Tsaritsa the other day that "a man of God" should be unquestionably obeyed; he then confided to her that since his last Easter communion he felt he could fight his enemies with renewed vigour, and that he considered himself more than ever the heaven-sent champion of the imperial family and Holy Russia; Alexandra Feodorovna then fell at his feet imploring his blessing with tears of ecstasy in her eyes.
At the club this evening I casually overheard the remark: "If the Duma is not suppressed we are lost!" followed by a long rigmarole proving the necessity of an immediate return of tsarism to the pure traditions of Muscovite orthodoxy.
By way of conclusion I will repeat the prophecy made by Madame de Tencin, about 1740, on the subject of the French monarchy: "Unless God himself intervenes, it is physically impossible for the State not to collapse."
But I think that it will not be forty years, or even forty months, before the Russian State collapses.
Saturday, May 27, 1916.
King Victor Emmanuel has telegraphed to the Emperor to beg him to do all that he can to advance the date of the general offensive of the Russian armies, with a view to relieving the Italian front.
My colleague, Carlotti, is leaving no stone unturned to secure the same result.
Monday, May 29, 1916.
Belief in the Tsar and his justice and goodness is still strong among the moujiks, a fact which explains the personal success Nicholas II is certain of achieving whenever he goes among peasants, soldiers and workmen.
On the other hand, the public is more than ever convinced that the bureaucrats, the tchinovniks, are frustrating or paralysing all the monarch's good intentions. We are always hearing these two proverbs:
The Tsar is good; his servants are wicked.
The Emperor says yes but his little dog barks "no."
Tuesday, May 30, 1916.
Countess N-----, Madame Vyrubova's friend, mysteriously asked me to have tea with her to-day. After swearing me to secrecy she said:
"I believe Sazonov is going to be dismissed; I wanted to let you know at once. Their Majesties strongly disapprove of him. Sturmer is secretly carrying on a very active campaign against him."
"But what has he done wrong?"
"He's blamed for his liberal ideas and his concessions to the Duma. He's also accused---you've promised not to say a word!---of being too much under your influence and that of Buchanan.... You know that, unfortunately, the Empress hates Sazonov; she can never forgive him for his attitude towards Rasputin, whom he regards as Antichrist. Rasputin in turn says that Sazonov is branded by the devil."
"But Sazonov is extremely religious! And what does the Emperor say?"
"At the moment he is entirely under the Empress's thumb."
"I suppose you've heard all this from Madame Vyrubova?"
"Yes, from Annie. . . But, for goodness' sake, don't say a word to anyone!"
Wednesday, May 31, 1916.
Since Sturmer has been in power Rasputin's authority has greatly increased. The peasant magician is becoming more and more the political adventurer and swindler. A gang of Jewish financiers and shady speculators, such as Rubinstein, Manus, etc., have thrown in their lot with him and reward him generously. On their suggestion, he sends notes to government departments, banks and all influential people. I have seen several of these notes, in a dreadful scrawl and couched in coarsely imperious terms. No one has ever dared to refuse his demands. Appointments, promotions, postponements, favours, dispensations, subsidies---everything has been granted him.
In the more important matters he sends his note direct to the Tsaritsa:
"Here! Get that done for me!"
She gives the order at once, never suspecting that she is working for Manus and Rubinstein, who are well known to be working for Germany.
Thursday, June 1, 1916.
When I called on Sazonov this morning I was struck by his appearance; he looked ill, had hollow eyes and a downcast air. He complains of great nervous exhaustion, which deprives him of sleep and appetite; he talks of taking a rest "for several weeks" in Finland.
Since the war began I have many a time seen him tired and suffering from headaches and insomnia. To some extent it is everybody's lot. In such a climate no man can carry so heavy, unending and pressing a burden of work and cares without paying for it. But this time, however great my affection for him, it is not his health which worries me most; it is his secret anxieties which have reduced him to this state, and I know all about them through the confidential communication I received the day before yesterday.
Friday, June 2, 1916.
The attitude of the Greek Government has become impossible; the fact of its collusion with the Bulgarian Government is obvious. The personal complicity of King Constantine cannot be doubted.
I have had a long talk with Sazonov on this subject, and he has empowered me to telegraph to Paris that he approves here and now of any measures France and England may think necessary to take against Greece.
Between the Adige and the Brenta the Italians are beginning to recover. The Austrian offensive has been almost held up.
Sunday, June 4, 1916.
To meet the wishes of King Victor Emmanuel, the Emperor has given orders to hasten the offensive which has been in preparation in Volhynia and Galicia. The operation has been opened vigorously by General Brussilov and promises well.
Tuesday, June 6, 1916.
I have been discussing the moujiks with Princess O-----, who is president of a society for popularizing the Kustarni vechtchy, those articles and utensils of wood, leather, horn, iron and fabrics in which the artistic feeling of the Russian peasants, and their highly original and ingenious taste for decoration, are so well revealed.
She was thus led to deplore the far-reaching changes produced by the extension of the great mechanical industries during the last fifteen years on the mind and morals of the rural classes:
"These sugar refineries, distilleries, cotton mills, forges and factories, and the works innumerable you can now see in country districts, have given our moujiks habits, needs and ideas for which their past had left them quite unprepared. The process of initiation has been too rapid for their primitive brains. The acquisition, or bait, of high industrial wages has demoralized whole regions. Don't forget that outside the towns money was rare until a few years ago. In many villages business was always done by barter; a man would exchange oats for a coat or some vodka; a horse or cart would be paid for by so many days' work.... To-day all that has been changed. Most of our peasants have lost their simple, natural qualities, though they still remain too backward to adapt themselves morally to their new life. They are all at sea, bewildered, fuddled. If God does not spare us a revolution after the war, there will be great trouble in the country districts."
Thursday, June 8, 1916.
General Brussilov's offensive is continuing brilliantly; it is actually beginning to assume the pace of victory.
In a few days the Austro-German front has been broken on a front of one hundred and fifty kilometres. The Russians have captured 40,000 men, eighty guns and one hundred and fifty machine-guns.
On the Italian front east of the Trentino the fighting is continuing, but the Austrian advance has been stopped.
Friday, June 9, 1916.
Since the ancient days of Muscovy the Russians have never been so thoroughly Russian as they are now.
Before the war their natural craze for wandering carried them westwards periodically. Once or twice a year their worldlings swarmed in Paris, London, Biarritz, Cannes, Rome, Venice, Baden, Gastein, Carlsbad, Saint-Moritz.
Those less well off, the crowd of "intellectuals," lawyers, professors, savants, doctors, artists, engineers, etc., took courses of study, cures or holiday tours in Germany, Sweden, Norway or Switzerland. In a word the majority of society---whether the brilliant or thinking, working or idle, social world---established regular and frequently prolonged contact with European civilization. It was in this fashion that thousands and thousands of Russians secured their supplies of clothes and ties, jewels and perfumes, furniture and cars, books and works of art. Unconsciously, they also brought away with them more modern ideas, a more practical spirit and a more positive, orderly and rational view of life in general. They were certainly particularly likely to do so, owing to that power of assimilation which the Slavs possess in such high degree, a power which the great "Westerner," Herzen, called "moral receptivity."
But during the last twenty-two months the war has raised an insurmountable barrier, a Chinese wall, between Russia and Europe. For nearly two years the Russians have been confined to their own country and compelled to live on themselves. The tonic and soothing medicine they used to seek in the West is lacking, and just at the moment they need it most. It is a fact of common observation that neurasthenic subjects with a tendency to melancholy need distraction, and that travelling is particularly good for them because it stimulates their energies, engages their attention and revives their mental faculties.
So I am not surprised that in persons who once seemed to me perfectly healthy I am always seeing symptoms of weariness, melancholia, nervous debility, mental disorders, incoherence, an unhealthy credulity, strange obsessions and a superstitious and demoralizing pessimism.
Saturday, June 10, 1916.
Can the intrigue against Sazonov have failed? Does he feel his position restored? Whatever the reason, he looks much brighter and complains less of being tired, though he still says he badly needs a rest.
Sunday, June 11, 1916.
The financier G-----, who has large industrial interests in Warsaw and the Lodz district, has just made a very trenchant remark to me:
"The problem of Poland means more than one surprise in store for those who have to negotiate the peace. It's the habit to look at this problem from the national point of view only, in the light of the catastrophes of the past and the heroic and romantic legend. But when the hour for practical decisions arrives, you will see two factors of vital importance stand out in the very foreground, the factor of socialism and the Jewish factor. In the last thirty years the Polish social-democracy has expanded enormously, and you can measure the expansion by the rising figure of the working-class population. Don't forget that a town like Lodz, which had barely 25,000 inhabitants in 1850 and 100,000 in 1880, has 460,000 to-day! The manufacturing districts of Sosnowice, Tomaszov, Dombova, Lublin, Kielce, Radom, Zgierz, are developing with the same extraordinary rapidity. The proletariat is very strongly organized in those regions, and everywhere revealing immense vitality. It has not the slightest interest in the historic visions of the great Polish patriots. In the approaching resurrection of Poland it sees nothing but an opportunity of realizing its economic and social programme. You may be certain that it will speak with a strong, loud voice. . . . Nor will the Jews fail to play a great part. They share the views of the Polish social-democracy, but they also have a special and exclusively, Jewish organization; they will act as a Jewish proletariat. In addition, they are highly intelligent and very bold and fanatical. All the Polish ghettos are hotbeds of anarchy."
Tuesday, June 13, 1916.
I am reading a life of Nietsche, and I see that, having developed a great admiration for the laws of Manu, his poet's and artist's enthusiasm made him record the following excellent precept of the first Aryan legislator
Let the names of women be easy to pronounce---sweet, simple, pleasant and appropriate; let them terminate in long vowels, and resemble words of benediction.
The Russians have followed this precept instinctively. No race has given the names of its women more musical and caressing sounds: Olga, Vera, Daria, Marina, Sonia, Kyra, Ludmilla, Tatiana, Wanda, Moïna, Tamara, Xenia, Raïssa, Nadevja, Sietlana, Prascovia, Dina....
Thursday, June 15, 1916.
The Russians are engaged in a ceaseless advance on Tarnopol and Czernovitz; they have crossed the Strypa and the Dniester. The number of their prisoners has now reached 153,000.
1. Representative of the Russian High Command at French G.H.Q.
2. I can give a few particulars of the strange end of Tolstoy.
At the age of eighty-two he suddenly left Yasnaïa Poliana in the evening of November, 1910, accompanied by Doctor Makovitsky; his daughter Alexandra, whom Tchertkov calls his "closest collaborator," was in the secret. Next day he reached Optina monastery; he spent the night there, writing a long article on the pains of death. In the evening of the 12th he went to the convent of Chamordino, where his sister Marie was a nun; he dined with her and told her of his wish to end his life at Optina, performing the lowliest of tasks, but on condition that he was never required to enter the church. That evening he was surprised by a visit from his daughter Alexandra. No doubt she warned him that his move was known and the officials were on his track; they immediately left for Kozelsk, with the idea of going to the southern provinces. On their way Tolstoy fell ill at Astapovo station, and had to take to his bed there as he was stricken with congestion of the lungs. He was put up at the stationmaster's house.
His condition suddenly grew worse and doctors from Moscow were called in for consultation; the family gathered round him.
In the evening of November 18, the Abbot of Optina, Father Karsonofi, alighted at Astopovo station and demanded admission to the dying man's presence: he declared that the Holy Synod had charged him to receive Tolstoy back into the orthodox Church. The doctors and the family refused the requested interview on the pretext of the invalid's condition. It was true that Tolstoy's strength was failing rapidly, though he was still perfectly conscious. On the 19th he had two heart attacks, the second of which all but carried him off.
Tolstoy died peacefully at 6 a.m. on November 20. He had time to make known his last wishes---a funeral without rites, wreaths or flowers. Two days later the body was taken to Yasnaïa Poliana, where the interment took place with great simplicity.
Volume II, Chapter Ten
Table of Contents