By Maurice Paléologue
JUNE 16-JULY 18, 1916.
The magic of solstice nights.---A lesson from the Iliad.---The Byzantine dream evaporates.---Another sketch of the Russian woman.---The Empress's relations with Rasputin: Sister Akulina.---The brilliant offensive of the Russian armies in Galicia.---The Grand Duke Nicholas Michaïlovitch and the Emperor William; the Kaiser's demonstration at Tangier in 1905.---Visit of the Russian deputies to the West.---Further successes of the Russian armies in Galicia; their offensive develops. The Allies put pressure on Bucharest,---The ministers summoned to the Stavka. The autonomy of Poland; the Emperor supports Sazonov's liberal programme.
Friday, June 16, 1916.
A few close friends to dinner.
The table was laid in the banqueting-hall, in front of the great bay window facing north, and looking out on the Neva. Dinner was ordered for .half-past nine, so that we could enjoy the amazing spectacle of the night sky of Northern Russia in solstice week.
Men the meal began it was still broad daylight. But from Okhta to the fortress the whole river bank was a blaze of fantastic colours. In the foreground the river spread the ribbon of its waters, waters of a dark metallic green into which every now and then reddish masses seemed to flow, like pools of blood. Further away, the roofs of the barracks, domes of churches and chimneys of factories stood out against a sinister background of violet, amethyst, bitumen and sulphur. The scene was constantly changing. From minute to minute. and as if under the hand of a chemist magician,---some giant Tubal Cain,---the colours rose, glowed, blazed forth in triumph, waned, melted, coalesced and dissolved into vapour. The most varied spectacles and all imaginable combinations followed each other in quick succession. It was like a kaleidoscope of the cataclysms of nature, volcanic eruptions, walls falling, the flames of furnaces, blazing meteors.
But towards eleven o'clock the sky gradually lost, its colours and the pageant faded away. From the ground to the zenith the firmament was veiled in a diaphanous vapour of silver and pearls. Here and there a luminous radiation betrayed the shivering of a star. The city slept calmly in a harmony of semi-darkness and silence.
At half-past twelve, when my guests left, a pink glow far away in the east was already heralding the dawn.
Sunday, June 18, 1916.
The Russian Bukovina army has crossed the Pruth and occupied Czernovitz; its advance guard is already on the a Sereth, in the neighbourhood of Storotzynetz.
Monday, June 19, 1916.
General Bielaïev, Chief of Staff, one of the most competent, conscientious and honourable officers in the Russian army, is to visit France shortly, to settle various questions in connection with orders for artillery and munitions. He lunched with me this morning.
.I began by congratulating him on the successes General Brussilov is still gaining in Galicia, successes which yesterday brought his troops to Czernovitz. He accepted my congratulations with that reserve which is consistent with his habitual caution and modesty.
At table he gave me a detailed account of the recent operations on the Galician front, choosing his words with the wisdom and care which have long made me rate his opinion very highly.
When we returned to the main drawing-room and lighted our cigars I asked him:
"What stage of the war have we reached, and what impressions are you carrying away with you?"
Weighing his words well, he replied:
" Emperor is as firm as ever in his determination to continue this war until our complete victory, that is, until Germany is compelled to accept our terms---all our terms. What His Majesty was good enough to tell me, when I made my last report to him, leaves me in no doubt on that point. But if our military position has greatly improved of late in Galicia, we have not yet begun to attack the German forces. Putting things in their best light, we must still anticipate a very long and severe struggle. I'm only speaking of the strategic aspect of the problem, of course; it's not for me to consider the financial, diplomatic and other aspects. It is in view of this great final effort that I am going to make arrangements in Paris by which our army, which is so well off for men, shall no longer be held up by the inadequacy of its armament.... But there is one question which is more urgent and important than all the others: the question of heavy artillery. General Alexeïev is begging me for some every day, and I haven't another gun or round to send him."
"But you've had seventy heavy guns just landed at Archangel!"
"I know; but we haven't got the railway wagons. You know what a terrible shortage we're suffering from in that respect. The whole result of the offensive which has begun so brilliantly is in danger of being paralysed by it."
"That's serious. But why hasn't your railway department a better idea of order and energy? It's months since Buchanan and I discussed the matter with M. Sazonov and sent him note after note. We can't get any result. Our military and naval attachés are also leaving no stone unturned. They get nowhere either. Isn't it tragic to think that France sets aside a considerable part of her industrial output to supply your armies, and your armies don't benefit by it, thanks to confusion and negligence? Since the port of Archangel was reopened for navigation, French ships have landed 1,500,000 rounds of ammunition, 6,000,000 grenades, 50,000 rifles, in addition to seventy heavy guns! All that stuff is lying idle on the quays! The figure of daily railway transport must be increased at any cost. Three hundred waggons a day is ridiculous. I'm assured that with a little method and energy that figure could easily be doubled."
"I'm worn out with fighting the railway department; I don't get much more of a hearing than you... . . But, as you say, it's so serious that we have no right to lose heart. Please speak to M. Sazonov again; ask him to make representations to the Council of Ministers in your name."
"I certainly will. I'll return to the charge to-morrow morning."
Thursday, June 22, 1916.
A few days ago the Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovitch was having supper with his inseparable cronies and an English officer, Major Thornhill.
As usual, the Grand Duke had emptied his champagne glass too often. When he was sufficiently excited, there was an outburst of the anglophobia he inherits from his father.
Turning to Thornhill, he cried:
"England doesn't care a straw about this war; she is letting her allies be killed. The French have been suffering massacre at Verdun for four months, and you haven't even left your trenches. We Russians would have been in Baghdad long ago if you hadn't begged us not to enter the place, to save you from admitting your inability to get there yourselves."
Thornhill replied coldly:
"That is not accurate, Monseigneur! And Your Imperial Highness is forgetting the Dardanelles."
"The Dardanelles? ... Mere bluff!"
Thornhill shot up:
"Bluff that cost us 140,000 men!"
"No! mere bluff! In any case you can be certain that the moment peace is signed with Germany we shall go to war with you!"
General uproar. The Grand Duke went out, banging the door.
Major Thornhill reported the incident to Sir George Buchanan. Without desiring to complain to the Emperor, my colleague has expressed an official wish to the Minister of the Court that a remonstrance should be sent to the Grand Duke Boris.
Nothing will come of the remonstrance. Boris Vladimirovitch will calmly continue his life of pleasure and idleness.
What has he been doing since the war began?
Nothing. He has held vague commands and inspectorships which occasionally take him to the front, but have been simply an excuse for him to vary the round of his pleasures---from Moscow to Kiev, Warsaw to Odessa, the Caucasus to the Crimea. How comes it that this prince of thirty-seven, strong and healthy, loaded with wealth and privileges, has not claimed his share in the marvellous effort of endurance, heroism and self-sacrifice the Russian nation has made without flinching for nearly two years?
As luck would have it, I was turning over the pages of the Iliad yesterday, as I often do; my eye fell on the passage in the twelfth canto which shows us Sarpedon, son of Zeus, coming from Lycia to help the Trojans, and drawing his friend Glaukos into the fight:
"Why are we so highly honoured in Lycia?" Sarpedon says to him. "Why do we have the best places at banquets? Why do we possess prosperous domains on the banks of the Xanthos? It is because we are always to be found at the head of the Lycians, where the fight rages hottest; it is because every Lycian says to himself: 'If our princes eat the largest sheep and drink the best wines, it will only make them braver and stronger when they lead us into battle.'"
Saturday, June 24, 1916.
During the last few weeks I have been observing in political circles in Petrograd a curious wave of reaction against the idea of annexing Constantinople to Russia.
It is being emphasized that the solution by annexation, far from solving the Eastern question, would only perpetuate and aggravate it, as neither Germany, France nor the Danube States would ever submit to leave the keys of the Black Sea in the claws of the Russian Eagle. The vital thing for Russia is to secure the free passage of the Straits, so that it would be enough if a neutral state, guaranteed by the Powers, were created on the two banks. It is also being said that the incorporation of the Greek Patriarchate in the Russian Church would raise problems both inextricable and highly unpalatable to the Russian conscience. And, again. from the point of view of domestic and social evolution it is thought that Russia would make a. very serious mistake in allowing the Turco-Byzantine virus to enter into her organism.
These arguments seem to me wisdom itself. But they might have been thought of sooner.
Sunday, June 25, 1916.
It is to Russia that one must come to appreciate the saying of Tocqueville that "Democracy immaterializes despotism."
In its essence democracy is not necessarily liberal without denying its root principle, it can harmonize with all forms of oppression---political, religious, social, etc. But under a democratic system despotism is intangible, because it is scattered among the institutions; it is not incarnate in any single being, and it is found everywhere and nowhere at once; it is a diffuse, invisible and asphyxiating vapour, which becomes absorbed, so to speak, in the national climate. One finds it pungent and harmful, and grumbles at it; but one does not know whom to blame. So, as a rule, one ultimately adapts one's self to the evil, and makes the best of it, as it is impossible to have a violent hatred of something one cannot see.
Under an autocratic regime, on the contrary, despotism is seen in its most solid, massive and concrete form. It is personified in a man, one man it provokes the maximum of hatred.
Monday, June 26, 1916.
A few months ago I gave in this diary an intimate portrait of the Russian woman, based on feminine evidence. I will now give the supplement of that sketch, based on masculine evidence.
I have been dining alone with B----- on the Islands. Fifty-two years of age, a bachelor, endowed with quick wits and acute senses, he served in the Regiment of Horse Guards in his early youth. Since then he has divided his time between the development of his estates, certain work of social interest, travelling, a passion for music, the cultivation of fine friendships, and last, but not least, a successful and discreet liaison, varied by many passing fancies. His conversation, natural and many-sided, amuses and educates me, for to every aspect of his dilettantism he brings strong powers of observation. I regard him as a good physiologist of the moral world, an analyst who is accurate and sceptical, but in no way disillusioned.
Having spent a good deal of his time among women, he professes that life would be intolerable without them, and that even though occasionally a few lunatics kill themselves for them, it is thanks to women alone that suicide is not rampant among men, because their function on this earth is not so much to perpetuate life as to make one forget it.
However that may be, at nine o'clock this evening we were duly seated facing one another on the bank of the Neva.
Before us. on the opposite bank, the charming Ielaghin Palace emerged from the foliage of its ancient trees. At the end of the island, willows, poplars and weeping willows bent their heads to the rushing waters. Before long the sky was shrouding itself in an intangible veil, a milky, pearl-white vapour. While the magic miracle of the "white nights," the great solstice nights, was in progress around us, I questioned B----- about the Russian woman. Quite simply, and as if casually drawing on his memory, he let fall, rather than uttered, the following remarks:
"I have only known Russian women. The women of one's own country are the only women one can know well; one cannot really mix with beings of any race save one's own.
"Russian women are sincerity itself, in the sense that they never act a part; they never want to write about their emotions. They live their lives as fully as possible, but without thinking themselves heroines in novels and without having any model in mind. Their visions are not taken from anyone else, but are their own offspring.
"Carried away by ardour and enthusiasm at the beginning of each adventure, they are soon out of breath....
"Their great misfortune is changeability.. They hardly ever know what it is that prompts their actions; they always seem to be obeying blind forces. Often enough their most serious decisions are nothing but a relief to their nerves. A trifle, a word they casually overhear, an idea they toy with, a supper, a waltz---nay, even less than that---a cloud crossing the sky, and they become totally different creatures. A woman once said to me 'I feel another woman when I put on a new dress. . . .'
"For the same reason they are highly sensitive to the influence of nature. The return of spring, or the delight of sunshine restored, or the smell of the first violets, is quite enough to make them lose their heads. The spectacle of a starry sky on the steppes makes them quite giddy. On stormy evenings they seem to be charged with electricity. . . .
"Even with the happiest among them there is always something unsatisfactory, restless and unsatisfied, something which is to come, and of which they suspect nothing. . . .
"It is in love, again, that they best come to anchor. When their hearts are not involved, they wander aimlessly like floating islands on the waters of a river. . . .
"There is nothing more entertaining than to hear them telling each other stories. They invent as they go along; you would think they were seeking their words in your eyes....
"They very quickly make up their minds to love you---and not less quickly to take back what they have given. With them eloquence is always superfluous, whether to win them or keep them.
"They have great modesty. That is why they seem to give themselves easily; they don't tolerate half-concessions. The moment their hearts consent they precipitate the crisis; they think they degrade themselves by bargaining. . . .
"Their memory is a drawer which they open and close at will. They remember or forget everything as the necessities of their interests or desires dictate....
"They have a terrible enemy, an incurable disease, ennui. What silly things it makes them do !...
"It is the absurd and the impossible which attract them most....
"They are always saying that very little satisfies them, whereas nothing satisfies them. . . .
"The unexpected is the only thing of which they never tire. . . .
"In love they have more courage, initiative and generosity than men. Their superiority is revealed even more frequently in the ordinary things of life. In difficult moments they show more conscience, energy and resiliency, a higher sense of duty and a freer and more intuitive mind. They are the soul of the family. . . .
"Their depths of affection and self-denial become sheer heroism when the man they love falls upon evil days. Their devotion to him becomes bondage and self-sacrifice; they will follow him into Siberia, exile, anywhere....
"One of their serious defects is that they cannot lie. They are not sufficiently their own mistress to keep up a lie. And this it is which often makes them seem cruel....
"As they have an extremely strong imagination, they suffer torture through jealousy....
"They never admit that they are led by their senses they always try to spiritualize their desires and deceive themselves about their ecstasies. The vocabulary of mysticism is an invaluable resource to the most passionate of them who want to justify their extravagances....
"Tolstoy was perfectly right in extolling the fine, round arms of Anna Karenina. The perfection of the women's arms is one of the characteristics of the Russian race. In all social classes, and even among the masses, you will find young women with marvellous arms, full and soft, of a silky whiteness, perfectly proportioned, supple and caressing....
"In Russia, as everywhere else, great women lovers, the predestined victims of passion, are rare. But perhaps in no other country is the fatal potion so corrosive and devastating; it ravages the whole inward being with irresistible violence, leaving nothing but a wild longing for suicide and oblivion.
"Fickle, crazy, perfidious, extravagant, egotistical, monopolistic, perverse, neurotic, tantalizing, elusive, disappointing, diabolical---all that and more you may call them; but never common, pedantic or tiresome. In a word, formidable and charming.
Tuesday, June 27, 1916.
The entry of the Russians into Kimpolung, south-west of Czernovitz, makes them master of the whole of the Bukovina, and brings them to the foot of the Carpathians.
Whilst we were following the progress of the operations on the map, Sazonov said to me:
"Now's the time for the Rumanians to come in! They would find an open road to Hermannstadt, or Temesvar---or even Buda-Pesth! But Bratiano's not the man for simple, swift decisions. You'll see how he misses one opportunity after another!"
Wednesday, June 28, 1916.
From a private and very reliable source:
"The Empress is passing through a bad phase. Too, much prayer, fasting and asceticism. Nervous excitement; insomnia. She works herself up and concentrates more and more on the notion that it is her mission to save Holy Orthodox Russia, and that the guidance, intercession and protection of Rasputin are indispensable to success. On every possible occasion she asks the staretz for advice, encouragement or a blessing."
But for all that, the relations between the Tsarina and Grishka are still kept a profound secret. No newspaper ever refers to them. People in society only mention them to their closest friends, and under their breath, as if they were talking about a humiliating mystery it is better not to probe more deeply; in any case, no one hesitates to invent innumerable fantastic details.
In principle, Rasputin seldom goes within the railings of the imperial residence. His meetings with the Empress almost always take place at Madame Vyrubova's little villa on the Sredniaïa; he sometimes stays there for hours with the two ladies, while General Spiridovitch's police mount guard and keep people away from the house.
In the ordinary way it is through Colonels Loman and Maltzev that the incessant communication between the palace and the staretz and his gang is carried on in practice.
Colonel Loman, deputy to the Commandant of the Imperial Palaces, and curator of the Tsarina's favourite church, the Feodorovsky Sobor, is the private secretary of Alexandra Feodorovna, whose complete confidence he possesses. To help him in his daily dealings with Rasputin, he has selected Maltzev, an artillery colonel, to whose charge the aerial defence of Tsarskoïe-Selo has. also been committed.
On private and secret errands the Empress always employs Sister Akulina,. a young nun attached to the military hospital. in the palace.
A few years ago this nun was living in the Convent of St. Tikhon at Okhtaï, buried in the depths of the Ural forests, not far from Ekaterinburg. A strong and healthy woman, of peasant origin, she one day displayed strange disorders, which soon grew worse and became periodical. Under the eyes of her terrified companions, she would successively go off into fits of convulsions and delirious ecstasies, followed by indescribable sensations; all the signs of demoniacal possession could be observed about her. It was during one of these attacks that she came to know Rasputin. He was then wandering about the Urals as a pilgrim, a strannik; one evening he came to ask the hospitality of Okhtaï Monastery. He was received as a heaven-sent messenger, and immediately ushered into the presence of the poor possessed one, who was struggling against the assaults and tortures of the infernal spirit.
He was left alone with her and exorcized it in a few minutes by an adjuration so forcible and compelling that the devil never dared to touch her again. After this deliverance, Sister Akulina has always been devoted heart and soul to the staretz.
Thursday, June 29, 1916.
The Russian Galicia army has now reached out to Kolomea, fifty kilometres south of the Dniester; its north-westerly sweep is becoming more marked as it advances on Stanislau.
During the month of June it has made 217,000 prisoners, including 4,500 officers; it has also captured two hundred and thirty guns and seven hundred machine-guns.
General Alexeïev has just sent a note to General Joffre pointing out the desirability at the present moment of the Salonica army taking the offensive against the Bulgars: he thinks this offensive would undoubtedly compel Rumania once and for all to throw in her lot with the Entente. The conclusions of this note seem to me very strong:
The future is unlikely to present us with a situation more calculated than the present one to guarantee the success of an operation on starting from Salonica. The Russian army has made a large breach in the Austro-German lines of defence, and the operations in Galicia have resumed the character of a war of movement. Germany and Austria are sending all their new formations to that region and weakening themselves in the Balkans. A blow at Bulgaria would secure Rumania's rear and constitute a threat to Buda-Pesth. The necessary and profitable intervention of Rumania would thus become inevitable.
The British High Command refuses to undertake an. offensive against the Bulgarians at the present moment; it considers the operation too dangerous. Briand is in London endeavouring to secure the triumph of General Alexeïev's views.
Friday, June 30, 1916.
I have been discussing the Emperor William with the Grand Duke Nicholas Michaïlovitch, who hates him with his whole soul, and never loses a chance of scoffing at him---even though his own niece, the daughter of his sister the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Mecklenburg, married the Crown Prince. He is full of stories of the buffoonery, cowardice and hypocrisy of the Kaiser. So I made him highly delighted by adding an historical specimen to his collection, an accurate and little-known account of the incidents which marked the famous visit of the Hamburg to Tangier on March 31, 1905.
The moment I spoke, the Grand Duke. interrupted:
"March 31, 1965, you say. So it was sixteen days after our disaster at Mukden! William chose the moment for his outburst well!"
"He couldn't have chosen a better. The Franco-Russian Alliance was utterly paralysed.... The imperial yacht Hamburg anchored off Tangier at half-past eight in the morning, an hour after the time arranged with the Maghzen. The programme provided that the Emperor should land at seven-thirty and then go straight to the German Legation to receive the compliments of the diplomatic corps and the homage of the German colony. The Sultan's representative was then to give him a luncheon at the Kasbah, which towers above the city. To crown the afternoon's celebrations, it had been arranged that there should be a gorgeous display by the Moroccan kaïds on Marshân Plain. The Emperor was to re-embark at five o'clock.
"Within a few cable lengths from the spot where the Hamburg cast anchor, a French cruiser, the Du Chayla, had. been stationed for several months. In accordance with the rules of maritime etiquette, the commander of that ship, Captain Débon, immediately went on board the Hamburg to present his respects to the Emperor. After a friendly welcome, the latter asked him:
"'Do you know Tangier Harbour well?'
"'Yes, Sire; I've been stationed here more than three months.'
"'I want you to tell me honestly, as one sailor to another: is there any danger in my going ashore? '
"'Oh, no, Sire; none at all! There's a slight ripple, but no swell, and the wind isn't strong.'
"The Emperor said nothing for a moment, and then, with an air of absorption, began to talk about technical naval matters; but suddenly he repeated his question:
"'You really think there's no danger in my going ashore? '
"Captain Débon was somewhat taken aback at this persistence, but replied deliberately:
"'Not the slightest, Sire;, the harbour isn't rough today.'
"'What will it be like if I have to return at five o'clock?'
"'I shouldn't like to say eight hours beforehand, Sire; but I can assure Your Majesty that at the moment I have no reason to think that the weather will get worse.'
"The Emperor thanked and dismissed him. The very definite lies he had just received ought to have convinced him that it would be better to go ashore at once, and if necessary return earlier if the sea became rough. But he lost another two and a half hours in counterorders and hesitation. He ultimately disembarked at a quarter to twelve. At the landing stage a company of Moroccan soldiers, commanded by a French officer, did the honours. In front of this unit was the celebrated Kaïd MacLean, a former English deserter, who had become our great enemy. Without waiting for the bowings and scrapings, the Emperor quickly mounted a horse to ride to the German Legation; his face was yellow and he looked very perturbed. While he was climbing the steep street which crosses the' town, a number of roughs who had joined his escort began to cheer. Bending down to Kaïd MacLean, who was walking at his horse's head, William II jerked out:
"'Do make these fellows stop! My nerves are all wrong.'
"At the Legation he delivered a pompous harangue to his colony, in which he solemnly asserted his determination to preserve the rights and interests of Germany in a free Morocco.
"When he came out again everyone noticed how much his face had changed. At the same time a strange excitement was observed in the imperial escort; officers hurried here and there; Kaïd MacLean changed the formation of his force, and sent out orderlies. Consternation was universal when it was learned that the Emperor would not attend either the luncheon in the Kasbah nor the display on the Marshân. In the midst of a melancholy silence the procession hastily descended to the port. William II embarked at once, and an hour later the Hamburg left the harbour."
Before I had even finished my story the Grand Duke Nicholas was bursting with laughter. And then, with dancing eyes and a voice of thunder, he let himself go:
"I hadn't heard the details. But they're truth itself! That's William all over.... I can just see him, the glorious Hohenzollern. What a miserable figure to cut! What a low comedian! I've always said so; he's nothing but a pompous puppet. And even more of a coward than a braggart! Obviously, he didn't like going ashore and was asking the commander of your cruiser for an excuse not to disembark. At the very moment of his grand geste he was afraid, like an actor who's too nervous to come on. And the end of the adventure, his haste to get back to his ship! What a bad joke! Can you imagine anything more grotesque and pitiful? If he hadn't been born on the steps of a throne he'd have had no rival as the clown at a fair
Saturday, July 1, 1916.
In Galicia the Russians, who have just occupied Kolomea, are pursuing, the Austro-Germans in the direction of Stanislau. In the Bukovina they are consolidating their successes.
Since June 4 General Brussilov's armies have made 217,000 prisoners.
In France a great Anglo-French offensive has opened on the Somme.
Sunday, July 2, 1916.
My latest representations on the subject of the Archangel railway have not been in vain. Sazonov tells me that, on the Emperor's orders, the number of wagons employed in the daily traffic of the line is being increased from three hundred to four hundred and fifty, and it will be five hundred before long.
Bratiano continues to tell Paris that the ill-will of Russia is the only thing which prevents him from coming to a final decision, a fact which is bringing a shower of impatient telegrams about my ears. To put an end to the equivocal game of the Rumanian Government, General Alexeïev has just had it informed that "the present moment appears to him the most favourable for the armed intervention of Rumania, and it is also the only moment at which that intervention can interest Russia."
I have been discussing it with Diamandy, who was lunching with me this morning.
"M. Bratiano's eternal hesitation seems to me a great mistake," I said. "I could well understand his not wanting war; that's a defensible policy, as wars cannot be made without risk. But as you assure me he wants war, (he says so himself), and has settled on his share of the booty beforehand and is already as compromised as any one could be in the policy of national claims, how can he fail to see that it is now or never for Rumanian intervention? The Russian offensive is in full swing the Austro-Hungarians are still stunned by their defeat the Italians have recovered, and have got their teeth in; the English and French are attacking in full strength on the Somme. What more does M. Bratiano want? Doesn't he realize that great opportunities pass quickly in time of war?"
"Personally I agree with you. But I have no doubt that M. Bratiano has very strong reasons for still postponing his final decision. Don't forget that he's staking the very existence of Rumania!"
Monday, July 3, 1916.
The Russian parliamentary representatives, who responded to the invitation of the English, French and Italian deputies, have just returned to Petrograd. They reported the results of their mission to-day to the Council of Empire and the Duma. Even allowing for official phraseology, their speeches have shown that they are immensely impressed by the military effort of their allies, particularly France.
I was present with Buchanan and Carlotti at the sittings in the Marie and Tauride palaces; we were given an enthusiastic reception.
The members of the Council of Empire and deputies of the Duma to whom I have talked privately---Gourko, Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, Shebeko, Wielopolski, Miliukov, Shingarev, etc.---have all told me the same thing, in almost identical words: "Here we have no idea what war is."
Tuesday, July 4, 1916.
I lunched at the Italian Embassy to-day. There I met the President of the Duma, Rodzianko, Count Sigismund Wielopolski, member of the Council of Empire, and the two Cadet deputies., Miliukov and Shingarev.
I have had a long talk with Miliukov about the conclusions he has brought away with him from his visit to the West:
"Our main task," he said, "is to intensify and coordinate our national effort. That is only possible by the closest association and collaboration of the Government with the country and the Duma.... Unfortunately, it is not the ruling tendency at the moment."
He has been much struck by the vital importance French public opinion attaches to the intervention of Rumania; he has none too much confidence in the value of the Rumanian army. More than once he revealed his ancient sympathies for the Bulgarians; he can forgive them anything.
As I wanted to pump him more thoroughly about the internal situation, which causes me the greatest concern, I asked him to dine with me and Shingarev three days hence.
Wielopolski then took me aside, and said to me in confidence:
"I know for certain that the Emperor will shortly summon his ministers to Mohilev, to decide finally on the question of Polish autonomy. Sturmer and most of his colleagues are more hostile to the idea than ever. But I think Sazonov has a chance of getting his own way; it is he who has definitely grasped the nettle, and he has the active support of General Alexeïev."
He added that before long he would have an indirect opportunity of putting a letter under the eyes of the Emperor, and would like to insert a recommendation from me. I replied:
"You may say from me that the proclamation of Polish autonomy would be received in France not merely as the first act of historical reparation to result from this war, but as an eminently wise step which will have a considerable effect on the future, and may facilitate in the most remarkable way the advance of the Russian armies in Poland."
The news from Galicia and the Bukovina continues to be excellent. The number of prisoners has now risen to 233,000.
In France the offensive on the Somme is involving an extremely severe struggle, but it is turning to our advantage.
Wednesday, July 5, 1916.
General Polivanov has lunched privately with me.
In spite of his dismissal he is still in close touch with General Alexeïev, who has the highest opinion of him. He is thus in a position to have a competent opinion of the strategic situation of the Russian armies. While making it clear that he was expressing purely personal views, he said:
"The offensive of our armies in the Bukovina and Galicia is only the prelude to our general offensive. Our main effort must be made against the German armies; it is only by their defeat that we shall make victory certain. Since the Battle of Verdun, Germany is no longer capable of undertaking any important offensive. But, to deal with our front alone, we must anticipate a stubborn resistance in advance of the Niemen and Bug, and then on the line of those two rivers and that of the Vistula.... Of course, I know nothing of General Alexeïev's intentions, though I presume that his plan is to make all our armies sweep north-west, pivoting on Riga. General Kuropatkin, who is not a great man for the offensive, but quite out of the ordinary for the defensive, is certainly well qualified for the task thus assigned to him. General Evert and General Brussilov, who are splendid "manoeuvrers," will do the rest. I imagine that they will be given Vilna, Brest-Litovsk and Lublin as their objectives."
"What about Cracow?"
"I don't think so. At any rate, that depends on the attitude taken up by Rumania. If we were certain that the Rumanian army would appear on the scene in the near future, our left wing would be covered, and all we should have to do would be to keep in touch with our new allies. On the other hand, it is plain that if Rumania remains neutral we shall be obliged to be much more cautious, and any general operation will be hung up. But, whatever the decision of the Rumanian Government may be, we need to know it at once. The authorities in Bucharest don't seem to know that we are in full career.
Thursday, July 6, 1916.
While the English are developing their offensive between the Somme and the Ancre, the French have advanced beyond the enemy's second line of defence, south of the Somme. In the two zones of attack the Germans have left about 13,000 prisoners.
From the Stokhod to the sources of the Pruth, i.e., on a front of three hundred kilometres, the Russians are methodically advancing. In the north, in Volhynia, they are threatening Kovel. In the south, Galicia, they are in occupation of Delatyn, which commands one of the principal gates into the Carpathians, on the line between Stanislau and Marmaros-Sziget.
There is equal activity in Armenia, where the Turks have been driven back simultaneously on the shores of the Black Sea and west of Erzerum.
Friday, July 7, 1916.
I have had the two Cadet leaders, Miliukov and Shingarev, to dinner.
I confided to them my apprehensions about the situation at home, and the plottings and schemings of which I feel Sturmer is the centre. I asked them:
"Do you believe in the possibility of grave events in the more or less near future?"
Miliukov, with the approval of Shingarev, replied as follows:
"If by grave events you mean popular risings or violence against the Duma, I can reassure you, at any rate for the present. There will always be strikes, but they will be local, and unaccompanied by violence. There would be risings only if our armies suffered a defeat; public opinion would not stand another retreat from the Dunajec. We should also have to expect serious trouble if there was a famine. From this point of view I am not without apprehension for the coming winter. . . . As regards a violent coup against the Duma, I have no doubt that Sturmer and his gang are thinking of it. But we shan't give him a chance, or even an excuse. We are determined to avoid all provocation, and to reply to our enemies with patience and prudence alone. After the war we shall see. But this line of action has one great drawback for us; it causes us to be accused of timidity by liberal circles; we run a risk of gradually getting out of touch with the masses, who will then turn to men of violence.
I congratulated my guests on such patriotic conduct; but I gather from what they say that if the danger is not yet present it is not far off.
As they are obliged to return to Pavlovsk to-night they left me at ten o'clock.
I finished my evening on the Islands.
It is one of the loveliest summer nights I have ever known in Petrograd---warm, calm and clear. But is it really night? No, because there is no darkness. Then is it day? No, because there is no light; there is nothing but the glimmer of twilight and dawn. On the pale vault of the sky, the vague shivering of stars can be distinguished here and there. At the end of Ielaghin Island, the waters of the Gulf of Finland sway under a cloud of phosphorescent silvery vapours. In an atmosphere of opal, the beeches and oaks fringing the lakes seem a magic forest, a scene of dreams and incantations.
Saturday, July 8, 1916.
On the Riga front and in the region of Lake Narotch the Russians have carried a whole series of German positions.
In the centre they are advancing on Baranovici.
In Volhynia they have crossed the Stokhod, and are approaching Kovel.
In Galicia they are extending along the Carpathians.
Since June 4 they have made about 266,000 prisoners.
Sazonov said to me again this morning:
"Now's the time for the Rumanians to come in."
In spite of this long series of successes, the Russian public lacks confidence. It would not hear of the war being ended before victory; but it believes less and less in that victory.
Sunday, July 9, 1916.
Briand realizes at last that if he wants to obtain the intervention of the Rumanian army, it is not in Petrograd, but at Bucharest, that he must take action. He has therefore been putting pressure on Bratiano; getting him with his back to the wall, so to speak.
The note he has sent to our minister, Blondel, ends thus:
All the conditions imposed by M. Bratiano have now been fulfilled. If the intervention of Rumania is to do any good, it must be immediate. A vigorous attack on the decimated and retreating Austrian armies is a task which is relatively simple for the Rumanians, and extremely useful to the Allies. That intervention would crown the demoralization of a shaken foe, and enable Russia to concentrate all her forces against Germany, giving her offensive the greatest possible momentum. Rumania would thus take her place in the coalition at the psychological moment, and legitimately entitle herself, in the eyes of all, to generous satisfaction of her national aspirations. . . . This is an historic moment. The Western Powers have not ceased to believe in M. Bratiano and the Rumanian nation. If Rumania lets slip the present opportunity, she will never have another chance of becoming a great people by the union of all her children.
I told Sazonov of these instructions, and he said
"It couldn't be better! General Alexeïev will be just as pleased as I am."
Tuesday, July 11, 1916.
The great offensive on the Somme is turning into a battle of attrition. After a painful progress of two or three kilometres, the attacking troops have been once again compelled to stop before the formidable obstacle of defences in depth.
Position warfare, with its tedious delays, is thus beginning again. From the Russian point of view it is a serious prospect, as Russian opinion is even now only too prone to think that Germany is henceforth invincible.
Wednesday, July 12, 1916.
All the ministers, Sazonov included, left yesterday morning for G.H.Q., whither the Emperor had summoned them with a view to a final decision on the question of Polish autonomy.
The Anglo-French offensive on the Somme is over already. The results have been very moderate. There has been an advance of from two to four kilometres on a front of twenty; 10,000 prisoners have been taken.
Thursday, July 13, 1916.
In Sazonov's absence, Buchanan and I went this morning to confer with the Minister's deputy, the discreet, prudent and well-informed Neratov.
We were talking about Rumania when the door suddenly opened. Sazonov entered, in travelling kit. In spite of having spent twenty-four hours travelling, he looked quite fresh and his eyes sparkled. He asked us, with a smile
"I hope I'm not de trop?"
When he was seated, he said:
"My dear Ambassadors, I'm going to give you some good news---but on one condition, that you'll swear to keep it a dead secret!"
We raised our hands to take the oath. He then said:
"The Emperor has entirely adopted my views---all my views---though I can assure you we had a pretty warm debate! It's all over now! I won all along the line. You should have seen Sturmer and Khvostov storm! But there's better still! His Majesty has given orders that a draft manifesto, proclaiming the autonomy of Poland, shall be submitted to him without delay: he's commissioned me to prepare the draft!"
His face beamed with joy and pride. We congratulated him very warmly. He went on:
"I must leave you now; this evening I'm going to Finland, where I can work while I rest. I'll be back in a week."
But I stopped him:
" Please give me some idea of the sort of autonomy the Emperor has accepted. . . . Do be kind! I've promised to keep it a secret!"
"The secret of the Holy Office, the violation of which means eternal damnation!"
"All right; I'll continue my confidences. This is the programme the Emperor has adopted:
"(1) The Government of the Kingdom of Poland will comprise a representative of the Emperor, or Viceroy, a Council of Ministers and two Chambers.
"(2) The entire administration of the kingdom will be the province of this government, with the exception of the army diplomacy, customs, common finance and railways of strategic importance, which will remain imperial concerns.
"(3) Administrative suits between the Kingdom and the Emperor will be referred to the Senate of Petrograd (which combines the functions of our Conseil d'État and Court of Appeal); a special section will be constituted for this purpose, comprising equal numbers of Russian and Polish senators.
"(4) The ultimate annexation of Austrian Poland and Prussian Poland will be provided for by some such formula as this: If God blesses the success of our arms, all Poles who become subjects of the Emperor and King shall enjoy the benefits of the arrangements hereby decreed."
Thereupon we left Sazonov closeted with Neratov, and Buchanan and I returned to our embassies.
Tuesday, July 18, 1916.
The Allied Powers have at length agreed to address a collective request to Rumania to join their Alliance without further delay.
General Alexeïev has fixed August 7 as the very last day by which the Rumanian army must take the field.
Volume II, Chapter Eleven
Table of Contents