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Russians: Reds, Whites, and Pinks

"Whither then are you speeding, Russia of mine?" asked Gogol in 1841. I quote him and shall endeavor to give some of the very contradictory answers that are given me here today.

Paris, January 6, 1919

The Russian groups are sweeping down upon me in ever-increasing numbers. I give them a loose rein, and after they have delivered themselves of what they have to say, more or less exhausted they retire. I remain silent. I am at the receiving end, but when I have to say something I confine my words to the President s Russian message of 1917. Then it had an excellent reception, but today it would seem to have lost its savor.

In his clarion call Mr. Wilson said: "The day has come to conquer or submit; if the forces of autocracy can divide us, we shall be overcome; if we stand together, victory is certain and also the liberties which only victory can secure. Then we could afford to be generous, but now we cannot afford to be weak or omit a single guarantee of justice and security. We are fighting for no selfish object but for the liberation of peoples everywhere from the aggression of autocratic forces."

It has been well said that the voice of Wilson was the voice of freedom, but it should be admitted that he spoke a language which more than 99 per cent of the Russian people at that time did not understand. His objective was splendidly stated, but in the same manifesto, as though at last seeing the obstacles in his path (among them the mountains of ignorance which would have to be surmounted), he added: "Practical questions can only be settled by practical means; phrases will not right wrongs; remedies must be found as well as statements of principles that have a pleasing sound." Well, I keep that manifesto on my desk in Russian, in French, and in a number of other languages. It is our avenue of approach to the Russian problem, also our point of departure when and if we give it up.

Of course the present, the new rulers of Russia are ruling by the only methods they have any knowledge of, those of the tyrant and the autocrat, and this is perhaps, as many think, the only ideology that the liberated but still benighted serfs can understand. In his talk with the Colonel several days ago, Iswolsky, long ambassador for the Tsar in Paris and twice minister of Foreign Affairs, amazed the Colonel, and he is not easily surprised, by stating:

"From 1906 on we were working toward democracy, the grave need of which the disasters in the war with Japan disclosed. With this purpose, my august master summoned the First Duma; its members were incompetent, the outcome was disgraceful, and he `discharged' it. He then convened the Second Duma; if possible, it was still more incompetent and disgraceful in its behavior, and he dispersed it. The Tsar was still with infinite patience seeking another and perhaps a better way to share his burdens with the people when the hoodlums got the upper hand and well, you know what happened."

I am afraid there are many who share Iswolsky s depressing thoughts and carry them out to what they consider their logical conclusion. Better to have had no revolution at all than the anarchy with which the Russian people are now confronted and also their neighbors.

Here I shall make as plain as I can how our negotiations with the Soviets got under way and also the circumstances under which they bogged down. Hopefully, President Wilson fired the opening salute on March 11, 1918, with this cable to the Soviet Congress recently assembled. It reads:

May I not take advantage of the meeting of the Congress of the Soviets to express the sincere sympathy which the people of the United States feel for the Russian people at this moment when the German power has been thrust in to interrupt and turn back the whole struggle for freedom, and substitute the wishes of Germany for the purpose of the people of Russia?

The whole heart of the people of the United States is with the people of Russia in the attempt to free themselves forever from autocratic government and become the masters of their own life.

Four days later (March 15, 1918) the following reply was received from Moscow:

The Russian Socialistic Federative Republic of Soviets takes advantage of President Wilson's communication to express to all peoples perishing and suffering from the horrors of imperialistic war its warm sympathy and firm belief that the happy time is not far distant when the laboring masses of all countries will throw off the yoke of Capitalism and will establish a socialistic state of society which alone is capable of securing just and lasting peace, as well as the culture and well-being of all laboring people.

In his confidential file, there is a note in the Colonel s handwriting. "That is a tough one to answer! I think formal correspondence had best be discontinued." And as a matter of fact it was. Some weeks later Mr. Francis, our envoy in Moscow, wrote: "I am informed that Zinoviev, the Soviet Foreign Minister, boasted that 'with these words we slapped President Wilson in the face.'"

February undated, 1919

When Kerensky called today, I took this opportunity of relating to him an episode of my war days in Russia. It proved far from comforting and added to his burden of doubt and anxiety which, despite his brave words, is evidently very heavy. [Kerensky, former prime minister of the short-lived Provisional government (July-November, 1917), was one of the many fugitive "Pinks" in Paris representing Russian liberalism.]

In November, 1915, I traveled through Russia on my way back to my post in the Philippines. The English, for war purposes, had bought up all the trans-Pacific liners, and so I was compelled to proceed to the Far East by an unusual route, through war-stricken Europe. Certainly this was the only way that would bring me to Manila before my leave expired. I crossed the Atlantic on a Danish steamer, the Frederick VIII, and after landing in Copenhagen I went by rail to Stockholm and from there by the so-called Lapland Express around the Gulf, via Tornea and Haparanda to St. Petersburg, since this was at the time the only rail route across Europe that had not been interrupted.

Peter s improvised city, his "window" on Europe, presented a tragic spectacle. It was bitter cold and the streets were crowded with hundreds and thousands of half-frozen peasants who, fleeing from their homes in the border provinces, were seeking what shelter they could find from the advancing German armies. I stayed as always at the little Hotel de France, awaiting the departure of the Trans-Siberian Express which, owing to lack of fuel, now only ran once a week. This hotel had been the rendezvous of all the correspondents during the first revolution (1905 - 1906), and there I had foregathered with them. They were widely scattered now. Of all the familiar faces, only that of the trusty Beringer of Reuter s was in evidence.

For the first day I wandered about, depressed by the sad spectacle which the once gay capital presented. In the great square by the Winter Palace, thousands of thinly clad peasants were being put through the manual of arms; but in lieu of rifles, which were not available, they were being drilled with sticks. I lunched at the Hotel d`Europe, where the war profiteers, still in fine fettle, were eating and drinking copiously. At a prominent table sat General Rennenkampf, responsible for the loss of two battles and the captivity of thousands of Russians now in the prison camps of East Prussia. He was on trial for incompetence and with having had treasonable relations with the German General Staff; but as an evidence of the weakness of the government, the trial or the inquiry hung fire and the general drank champagne. The Great White Tsar? Was he living or dead? With certainty no one knew. If alive, he was leading a hermit s existence in Tsarskoe Selo while the walls of his once mighty empire tumbled about him.

That evening I dined in the almost deserted salle of the Hotel de France. At an adjacent table, also alone, sat Prince Lvoff, whom I had come to know quite intimately during the revolutionary movement of 1905. He was at that time the leading spirit in the Zemstvo organization which, in spite of the open opposition of the imperial bureaucrats, made some headway in securing popular participation in local and provincial government. I had described his work in my cabled letters to the New York Times (sent via Germany of course) and had hailed his work as perhaps the only healthy and hopeful sign visible on the somber horizon.

The Prince recognized me, although he did not place me after all these intervening years until I made myself known to him. Then with the coffee, at his request, I moved over to his table. He seemed greatly interested in my proposed journey across Siberia and then, growing thoughtful, he asked me to his apartment where, as he said, it would be safer to discuss the present situation than in a public place where "walls have ears."

Once in his apartment Lvoff admitted frankly that the imperial regime was headed for disaster; that the prevailing misery was more than flesh and blood could stand. He went on to say: "The more intelligent of the bureaucrats have read the handwriting on the wall and are conceding to my organization some power and a little authority. Many of our leaders have been placed with the war industries, and in many provincial governments our Zemstvo organizations have been given an opportunity to work. It is difficult to get this or any other news out of the country, but it is most desirable that our friends in Western Europe, and above all in America, should be advised of our hopes and our expectations. They must be advised of this trend in our affairs so that they may not be surprised by developments that cannot be much longer delayed. I have a letter to Charles Crane in America, always our good friend and always so helpful to the liberal movement in Russia, but it would be unwise to entrust it to the mail. I wonder if you would be so kind as to take the letter to Peking and mail it there, or better still, once there open it and cable the contents to Mr. Crane?"

I assured the Prince I would be pleased to do him this favor and then we parted for the night, and for good, as we thought, because he was leaving for Mohileff in the morning and my train left for the Urals a few hours later.

Back in my room I did a little packing and was preparing for bed, when suddenly (late in the day, I must admit) it occurred to me that I had let myself in for an act that was quite reprehensible under the circumstances. I now remembered that I was traveling under the safeguard of a diplomatic passport, and that it would be most improper for me to aid in the transmission of a letter which the government whose favor I enjoyed would have intercepted had they known of its existence. I hastened back to Lvoff, and my call, it was long after midnight, evidently startled him. I explained my dilemma and he was greatly distressed. Sadly he said: "I had regarded you as a messenger from heaven. The service I asked of you would be valuable to our cause, but I understand your scruples and respect them."

As I handed back the letter and saw his disappointment, suddenly a way of escape occurred to me. "I suppose it is a quibble, a mere quibble," I admitted, "..ur still quibbles so often ease the pangs of conscience. If you should care to read the letter to me and then destroy it, I could on my arrival in China cable Crane that I had chanced to meet you and give him your message."

"Splendid," assented Lvoff, and he opened the letter and read it aloud twice. It was short and easy to commit to memory. It ran:

We are making great progress. We have now at least three hundred thousand men in the Zemstvo organization and there are many more in minor government jobs who are acquiring valuable experience and above all confidence in their ability to meet the emergency that will shortly arise. Ar the proper moment we shall take hold and the transition will be orderly. Your fear of anarchy is natural but unfounded. We shall not push matters but shall be ready to take the rudder when the discredited helmsmen jump or are thrown overboard.

When I reached this point in my story, Kerensky interrupted me with what was almost a wail. "Ah, what a mistake! What a tragic mistake that delay. Our Liberals lost hope. They concluded that our leaders were talkers, not doers. And the criminals? They indeed were doers. They saw their chance and pitched in. No man's life was safe, and the Zemstvos and the other liberal organizations were swept away in a maelstrom of anarchy." Then rallying, Kerensky added: "It is heartening to see that once again the outlook is bright but, had not Lvoff waited so long, while the powers of darkness grew bold, thousands of lives would have been saved and Russia would not sit there as she does today, the Niobe of the nations, mourning for her children. But after darkness and death, the dawn is coming. It is unmistakable - . ." and a prey to emotions which I, in part, at least, had aroused, the poor fellow ran out of my room.

I cabled Lvoff s message to Mr. Crane from Peking but did not see him again until he appeared at the Peace Conference four years later. Then he simply said, "Lvoff was an excellent man, but a poor timer. And as a prophet..."

January 4, 1919

Prince Lvoff, president of the deposed and fugitive Kerensky government and the founder of the Zemstvos, came in this morning. He brought no encouraging news, only complaints, and that was not news. He stated that the promised arms and ammunition [for use against the Reds] were only reaching the Omsk government with great delay or not at all. I had to tell him this was not surprising as so much of it fell into the hands of the Bolsheviki even when we placed it at points represented as being safely in the possession of his forces. The old man has aged twenty years since I saw him last in Petrograd, and yet but a scant four years have elapsed. These years of Sturm und Drang count as double time, I suppose, for all who are closely involved.

Not so Boris Savinkov, however; he looks ten years younger than he did during our clandestine meetings in the Tartar Market of Moscow, now some twelve or thirteen years ago. Then he was a terrorist to be shot on sight. Now he claims to be still Minister of War, although the Bolsheviki have expelled him. Now he twirls a cane and wears a gardenia in his buttonhole. He could pass for a boulevardier of the latest vintage, but he says he is returning to Russia very shortly, where, he asserts, the Bolsheviki are at the end of their tether.

[Savinkov, a born revolutionary, is credited with having organized the assassination of Grand Duke Sergius in 1905. As Minister of War in the short-lived Kerensky regime, he fought the Bolsheviks in Russia, Poland, and then in Paris. Apparently believing all this was forgiven, he did return to Russia in 1924, was promptly arrested, and, while being questioned by the secret police at their headquarters, either leaped or was pushed to his death from a window.]

January 14, 1919

I have taken a night off and I spent it with Savinkov. Ar night he is fearless and will go anywhere, but, like the bats and the owls, with the coming of the sun he disappears. He explains that many men are seeking to kill him. In restaurants and cafés he invariably sits with his back to the wall and facing the entrance. And the Browning he always carries is near at hand. He told me this evening the story of Aseff, the spy, and if you want to know a revolutionist, this one was certainly quite a contrast to my good friends of the earlier days, Stepniak and Prince Kropotkin.

"He was not a bloodthirsty man," maintained Savinkov. "Out of pure malice he would not kill a fly. He assassinated Plehve, Minister of the Interior, to get a much needed bonus from the Revolution, and he safeguarded the Tsar to secure a reward from the police. He had

to live, and as he lived on a large scale he had to have money, quite a lot of money. No, I don't think you met him in our hide-away in the Tartar Market in 1906, where you met so many of the `comrades.' You were lucky, as most of the men assembled there he later brought to the gallows.

"I think, however, you must have met Stalin; he is from the Caucasus and at birth was handicapped by a name as long as the Volga. So they called him Stalin and hard as steel he is, but true? Certainly not true as steel, I would not say so. Many of the new comrades fear him, and not without reason. Now he has left us and he is working against the only people who can save Russia; but I admit, he is a man of infinite resource, tiens, let me tell you about that. You have heard of the looting of the Tiflis Bank. It happened while you were in Moscow. That was a great coup and it came at an opportune moment for us. There wasn't a sound kopek or even a counterfeit note in our treasury. Stalin heard that a million rubles were coming from Moscow for the monthly pay-off and he determined to intercept it. He contrived the whole business, but physically he decided he did not want to rake an active part in it; he was the executive of the affair.

"One of the guards of the treasure wagon was in his pay, and at a signal from Stalin, who stood on the sidewalk, he ran a knife in the heart of the driver. Just at that moment, most unfortunately, a file of gardevois (transport police) came around the corner and took in the situation. And so did Stalin. You would think a thing like that would rattle a man, but not one of Stalin s caliber. He grabbed one of his own men and, as the treasure wagon was driven away by his other confederate, he shouted, `Comrades, I have him!' And indeed he had. Speechless with amazement, the fellow was delivered to the police. When he recovered his rattled wits, the victim, his fellow conspirator, charged Stalin with being the ringleader; but the police paid no attention to his protestations, and when he began to bore them, they stood him up against a wall and filled him full of lead. Yes, Comrade Stalin is a quick thinker, a man of infinite resource.[5]

"Well, I have almost forgotten to tell you they got away with the wagon and the booty was distributed where it was needed. With the small notes, that was not difficult; but there were also big notes, five-thousand- ruble notes, and that was not easy; so they passed them along to Comrade Litvinoff, who had traveled abroad, who could speak languages, who knew his way about and could eat soup without making too much noise. But they caught him the first time he tried to change a note in Paris. You see the Bank of Russia had advised the French authorities of the numbers; and it was now that Lirvinoff made his debut in diplomacy. He explained that the democratic groups in Russia had sent him to pay at least part interest on the loans that in happier days the French people had made to the Russians, and that the note he had been caught trying to change was but to meet his paltry living expenses while on this noble mission. They sent him to prison for six months, but he was pardoned out in a few weeks by a radical minister of the interior, who was convinced, or pretended to be, that he was the only Russian who had ever attempted to pay interest on the Russian loan! Keep an eye on him, and on Stalin. They will go far if they do not have their throats cut."

Then Savinkov resumed his revelations as to Aseff, so long his idol.

"If I were not held here by a still more important duty, I would go after Aseff because I was hoodwinked by him and because many of my comrades were delivered by him to the hangman, partly, at least, as a result of my sponsorship. The man was an artist in his line, which was double-dealing. I can think of no one in history to compare with him. It is now clear that he betrayed all of us to the police. You probably met at our hideaway Gershuni, an artist in terror if there ever was one. He had the power of influencing people to an extraordinary degree. Some thought he was an adept in black magic perhaps it was only hypnotism. He was sold out by Aseff in our first attempt to murder Plehve. He, our chief, yielding to our insistence, retired to Vilna, there to await the news of our success. But the coup failed, and many were gathered in and died to whom Aseff had given the kiss of death.

"At this time, our master plotter fell under the suspicion of some of the comrades, most unjustly, I thought. Indeed, I threatened to withdraw from the organization unless he was given a clean bill of health. Under this suspicion Aseff decided that Plehve must die. This was necessary if he were to retain the confidence of both his employers. I also think the Ochrana [the Tsar's secret police] had been short-sighted and stingy; they had not given him a bonus at all commensurate with his betrayal of all those involved in the first attempt.

"You should not think that I am the only one of the comrades who was fascinated by Aseff, the master spy. No, there were many of them, although perhaps I am the only one alive today. Gershuni, that apostle of the Terror, the young man with the ikon face, worshipped the very ground he walked on. While still a student, Gershuni had been sent to Siberia for revolutionary activities, but he soon made his escape. He was smuggled out of the prison yard in a barrel of sauerkraut and he made his way to America via Vladivostok. In grateful memory of the vehicle of escape he assumed and ever after bore the name of Kapusta, or `Mr. Cabbage.' Once back in our circle he volunteered for most dangerous duty in connection with the second and successful attempt to kill Plehve, the hated Minister of the Interior. In taking his leave of us he asked for one favor and it was, of course, granted.

`If I fail, and in that case I shall nor return,' he said, `I ask that you restore Aseff to your full confidence and make him your leader. He is the master mind of the revolutionary movement and we shall not succeed until he is given full powers.'

"As a general practice Aseff would turn suspicion from himself to others, and it was at his suggestion that Gershuni and I killed Comrade Tataroff in Warsaw. Yes, we killed him, although it was Gershuni who wielded the dagger. No, I have no remorse. True, he was not guilty of the crimes with which Aseff, to shield himself, charged him, but he was an informer and should have been put our of the way.

"After the first and the second attempts to kill Plehve had failed, doubtless through the information which Aseff furnished the police, many more of our group became suspicious. Aseff recognized that his complete rehabilitation required that he must at last pull off a big coup. He went about among us saying, 'Plehve must die. His responsibility for the Kichenew pogrom makes him our outstanding enemy. His execution will please the Jews throughout the world and from them will come the sinews of war we are in such great need of.

"Aseff was nor a Jew," explained Savinkov, "but as an abandoned child he was adopted into a Jewish family and he had a grateful remembrance of their kindness."

Some weeks later Savinkov came in to see me again. He seemed depressed and so, unwisely, I asked him if he had news of the great spy. "Yes," he answered, "bad news. He has escaped me. He is dead. His last coup was to escape my dagger." Then, at some length, which I shall condense, he gave me the last chapter of this strange history.

"We have now learned what happened to him. When he saw that even my faith in him was wavering, by night he fled from Paris, taking with him all our funds. With a stout lady of his choice he sailed for months through the isles of Greece. Then he established himself in Berlin as a stockbroker under the name of Alexander Neumeyer. He was quite successful and was doing very well until the war came. His money was in Russian bonds; at first their sale was forbidden and then they became valueless. With the stout lady he opened a corset business and was again doing well when the German police gathered him in. They said they were holding him because he was an anarchist, but after some months they offered to let him our but merely for the purpose of transferring him to a Russian concentration camp. Aseff knew what fate would overtake him there, so he prevailed on the Germans to keep him in prison. When all Germans began to starve, they turned him loose and starvation and gallstones ended his career in the spring of 1918. The scoundrel has escaped my dagger. The great cheat; he has even cheated the gallows!"

February 4 1919

Today, for perhaps the hundredth rime in this catastrophic year, I witnessed an incident which reminded me of how quickly the pomp of power passes, how near to the highest place in the capitol yawns the abyss by the Tarpeian Rock. I saw Count Cassini, so long ambassador extraordinary of Holy Russia, running through the sleet and rain on the Place de la Madeleine to catch a bus to take him to the modest suburban retreat, or refuge, with which the French government has provided him.

I grant you that thousands of other people were doing the very same thing at this crowded hour, but the difference is that they have done it every day of their lives; they are inured to it. But Cassini! When I saw him first (1896), he was lording it over all China. He was practically Viceroy of the Far East. When he moved through the streets of Peking, sotnias of Cossacks dashed ahead and cleared the way for the little man with the monocle who for four years, with the dreaded power of Russia behind him, dominated four hundred million Chinese and made them do his bidding.

"I want a railway to run across China from the Amoor to the sea."

"Excellency, we shall be delighted."

"But," he explained, "unfortunately, there are many, so many Hunhuzes in that territory, outlaws who respect neither Russian nor Chinese culture, I shall have to have guards, perhaps a little army, in that zone to protect our rails."

"Undoubtedly, Excellency, it shall be as you say.

As these pictures passed before me, the little man, now almost blind and evidently quite lame, was climbing onto the tail board of the bus and the conductress was giving him a piece of her mind and a push with her stout arm. She did not want him to clutter up the platform, and it was there he wanted to smoke a cigarette; the two purposes clashed, and I hung back. Perhaps I was a fair-weather friend, but I did not want the great man of former days to know that I witnessed his hour of humiliation. And help him I could not. The French government was doling our to him, as to the other great ones now in exile from Unholy Russia, a meager monthly stipend which at least keeps the wolf from the door. Of course all these advances are being entered on the Grand Livre of the Russian debt in the hope, a forlorn one I think, that Russia will pay up when, as the expression is, "things once again become normal."

February 10, 1919

I have neglected serious Russian affairs hitherto, as far as my diary is concerned at least, and yet the fact is they have been with us from the start of the Conference and I was immersed in their affairs even before the talk fest began. President Wilson never said a truer word than when he announced his belief that the treatment of Russia presented the acid test to the peacemakers. Up to the present the result of the acid test has been negative and the outlook for the future is far from reassuring.

At the first meeting (January 16), when the Russian problem was broached, Lloyd George threw a bombshell by announcing that while he was helping Kolchak [leader of the White Russian Armies in Siberia who was captured and shot in 1920] with money and munitions, he was convinced that the Admiral was a monarchist. According to some accounts he called him a Tsarist. Many plans were then proposed, and according to the announcement of my cheerful Colonel, the four powers present divided into six groups. But at least three definite and distinct plans were immediately advanced to deal with the spreading "plague spot."

The first plan was military intervention, sponsored by Winston Churchill, the dispatch of an army of one hundred thousand men to Moscow, not of course "with hostile intent or imperialistic purpose," merely to open a political kindergarten in which the "Ruskies" might be taught the difficult task of governing themselves. Second, the cordon sanitaire, to make it impossible for the crazy moujiks to infect Europe with their weird but most infectious malady. The third plan, sponsored by the British, was to summon the leaders of all the Russian fractions and factions to Paris in the hope of bringing them into agreement among themselves and, if possible, to concerted action with the Allies.

Many thought well of this third plan; at least it committed no one to a line of policy and it would postpone decision and action, but M. Clemenceau smashed it with: "I cannot permit the Soviet agents to enter France, much less come to Paris, where we have already so many Bolsheviki of varied nationalities."

Disappointed but not discouraged, the President after this setback decided to go it alone, at least temporarily. He sent out invitations to all the Russian groups to assemble at Prinkipo, the pleasant summer resort on the Bosphorus, for the purpose of having a "good talk." He hoped it would lead to disarmament and the holding of a "free and fair" election. The plan did not prosper. Unfortunately, almost before it was sent out (the invitation, I mean) Miliukoff, the leader of the Cadet party, the most progressive and responsible in Russia, who like most of his adherents is living in exile, issued a statement deploring the call and declining it for himself and his adherents.

This action was immediately followed by refusals from the so-called governments of Omsk, Ekaterindor, Archangel, and the Crimea. The Soviets now joined in the chorus and made the rejection of the project unanimous, or nearly so. [They accepted, indeed, but with reservations and limitations on the scope of the Conference that robbed the meeting of any chance of a successful issue.]

It is true that the Baltic republics, Esthonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, were willing to put in an appearance, but they wanted transportation and assurances of protection from enemies on sea and land. As the President saw no advantage in a rump congress, he let the matter slide and turned to other equally thorny problems. I regaled the Colonel with a Homeric sentence of Bismarck to me in Friedrichsruh thirty years ago. "Diese verdamte Russen geben uns viel zu shaffen." ("These damned Russians give us a lot of trouble.")

"And it is true today and will be true tomorrow, I fear," said the Colonel.

April 20, 1919

I have been canny, perhaps even "ca' canny," to use Lloyd George s favorite expression, in my relations with the Russians. The fact is that with the exception of Prince Lvow, in whom I have full confidence that dates back to and was tested by our close relations during the first revolution (1906), I frankly distrust them all. When they came to the Crillon, and they came from the beginning in droves (now they are fighting among themselves and come singly), I would introduce them to House and when he requested it to the other commissioners with the simple statement, "This is M. Kerensky, of whom you have heard," or "This is M. Boris Savinkov, his former minister of war."

It was a wise precaution and I congratulate myself upon my unusual reserve. I do not know what has happened, but I can see that the President is far from pleased with the Russians and if, as reported, Uncle Sam's money bags were ever open to them they are closed now.

Yesterday the President, Lloyd George, and House were in a huddle as I brought the Colonel an important telegram. Lloyd George was telling the President about how Russia might yet be saved and the President was smiling sourly. Lloyd George said he could get plenty of volunteers for a Russian expedition, British and others and, with fifty thousand men, Moscow, "that den of vipers," could be cleaned out in a jiffy - "But," he added, "America must provide the funds." The President refused point-blank and then added: "Every time we have given your Russians a subsidy they have backed away from their objective. I have no further patience with them."

From this and other incidents I gather that Kolchak has not only lost ground in Russia but also in the favor of the Big Four. He has, it is true, agreed verbally, at least, to order a constituent assembly when and if he reaches Moscow, but the formal promise has never reached here in official form and there are in his council undoubtedly many men long and closely associated with the imperial regime.

May 5, 1919

Yesterday Kerensky, prime minister of the short-lived liberal Provisional government (July - November, 1917), came in, this time bubbling over with optimism. The Colonel let him bubble for about ten minutes and then turned him over to me.

"This news is so important," said the Colonel, "that I shall ask you to draw up a formal memo to be distributed to our delegation and to others."

Well, this is what Kerensky said: "The Bolsheviki are at the end of their rope. Their complete overthrow is more a matter of weeks than of months. Admiral Kolchak is sweeping the country, but I fear that success is mounting to his head like strong wine. I fear that the excited admiral will inaugurate a regime as repressive and as sanguinary as did the Bolshe. The danger is clear, and none too soon I must point out that the true interests of Russia, and of the civilized world, demand that Kolchak be curbed. Control must be transferred to a truly democratic government based upon and recruited from all the parties that have remained true to the principles of the March Revolution (1917), excluding definitely the Bolshe at one extreme and the reactionary monarchists at the other."

Kerensky then began to see red and declared that the British and the French, or at least their agents, were constantly aiding the reactionary elements who surround Kolchak. "The Associated governments cannot hope to save Russia from continuing anarchy unless they agree on a common policy such as we drew up when preparing for the conference at Prinkipo. In that way we would achieve a democratic coalition and stand foursquare against the extremists of all parties. And I must add that owing to the fact that it has no commitments in power politics, the United States alone is in a position to launch such a policy."

Longuer, left-wing editor, and also Cachin, leader of French radicals, are furious at what they consider the attitude of the Allies toward Russia which they say shows open hostility to the People's government. I protest that we are really doing nothing but watching and waiting, and I admit I think this is the wise course to pursue. Whereupon, yesterday Longuet flounced out of my office with the ultimatum, which I shall not pass on to those more immediately concerned, that "unless the Big Four abandon their criminal design to destroy the Russian Peoples government there will be revolution in France and anarchy in England." Cachin's parting words were: "I am a disillusioned man. If the peace that is being handed out by the Four had been what the President promised the people, there would have been no need for all these vexatious reservations and obscure supplementary guarantees."

I throw no stones, but to my diary I admit that the "acid test" has been too much for us. We are leaving the Russian problem unsettled and certainly unsolved just about as it was dumped on our doorstep months ago. But the problem is not worse than it was then and the people most directly concerned are tackling it more power, and above all, more common sense to them. It can at least be said that during the long months of "delay and dawdle," as it is called here, we have learned to appreciate the difficulties of the situation and if we do go in later we might act intelligently. In the meantime the strange dark people about whom we hear so much and know so little have a chance to save Mother Russia in their own way. I sincerely hope they will rise to the urgent occasion and that the era of famines and mass murders, of incredible filth and indescribable squalor under the Tsars, of which I saw so much, will never be revived.

November 30, 1919

On November 9, in his speech at the Guild Hall, Lloyd George formally abandoned the Russians. "I do not regret the aid we have given," he announced, "but we cannot continue our intervention in a civil war which seems interminable." Clemenceau said this was a capitulation to the Soviets and he sent an angry letter to House, then back in America. "If this step was in any way permissible," he wrote, "he should have given advance notice to his Allies. The little Welsh-man is a deserter in the face of the enemy."

With the President incommunicado I do not think that House will answer this letter, at least not in definite terms. The Russian problem remains now as it was in the beginning, the "acid test," and the desired solvent seems to defy all research. House commented: "The conference of ambassadors seems to have succeeded the Supreme War Council, and whether they know it or not they would seem to be in full charge. I do not envy them their task."


February 24, 1919

Several days ago a petit mot came from Iswolsky, whom I had known fairly well in other days when he was the ambassador and again when he directed the foreign affairs of Holy Russia. Today he is a refugee from the Reds and when I called I found him lodged at the Meurice in an attic room, one of the class to which the valets of important visitors were generally assigned. He is recovering from a sharp attack of influenza which has left with him a hacking cough.

Fortunately for me he did not choose to talk about the New Russia. He merely said:

"I am a man without a country. Today Russia is a vacuum, and what I might say about the actual situation would be pure guessing."

He did, however, lift another corner of the veil that has so long shrouded the Secret Treaties. In fact, he revealed another angle of the Sykes-Picot agreement, which even in its simplest form, the only one we are allowed to know, is giving the Conference so many headaches.[6]

"It is quite forgotten that Russia was a party to that arrangement as much as France and Britain. Yes, in those days," he interjected bitterly, "Russia was a great power and had to be consulted.

"In the first six months of the war we had overrun Galicia; we had rescued Serbia from the Austrians; our war objectives had been achieved and many at home thought why should we not reach a separate peace with the Central Powers unless something further is offered us, another bait?

"And Italy? She was not faring very well; she wanted something more than had been promised by the Treaty of London, which drew her into the war. In these circumstances, in May, 1916, the Sykes-Picot agreement was concluded, arranging an almost complete partition of Turkey in Asia as well as in Europe. France was to take at least the coastal strip of Syria and southeastern Anatolia. Britain was to get southern Mesopotamia and also the ports of Akka and Haifa on the Mediterranean; we were to get most of Turkish Armenia.

"Of course, these arrangements were concealed from the Arabs and from the Italians, to whom conflicting promises had been made previously, but there was a leak somewhere, and the Italians screamed to the high heavens; to placate them, the British, Italian, and French prime ministers met at St. Jean de Maurienne (April, 1917) and the cards were reshuffled. Italy had to be given more to keep her in the war. This was before Caporetto, you see, and we had not begun to appreciate how heavy was the handicap of her assistance. Italy had to be appeased, she wanted 'more' and she demanded and was given, on paper, southwestern Anatolia with the towns of Adalia, Konia, and Smyrna. Practically the whole coast of Asia Minor was in this way earmarked for Italy. But there was a flaw in the arrangement, not through inadvertence, I fear. Britain and France signed the agreement, but as this belated consolation prize for Italy infringed on the Russian sphere at the Dardanelles, it was stipulated that only after the consent of Russia had been secured would the arrangement become effective, and that consent was never given.

"The promised booty was very tempting, but the Italians, doubtless wisely, hesitated to go in alone and take it. And now it would seem that Clemenceau and Lloyd George, and perhaps even Wilson, are urging the Greeks to go ahead and take what was promised to Italy. How confusing it all is, and how shameful. The men of the Soviets are, of course, absolutely without scruples, but at least they refuse to be bound by any of these secret partition treaties."

When I reported to House Iswolsky s revelations, he lifted his hands to heaven and said:

"Perhaps on the day of final judgment we shall learn all the details of the secret treaties, but I greatly fear not before. Sykes-Picot agreement! Well, it was not only the king in Hedjaz who was hoodwinked."

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