File No. 763.72/1662

The Ambassador in Russia ( Marye ) to the Secretary of State

No. 89]

Sir: Referring to the Department’s telegrams 127 and 186, dated December 30, 1914, and February 1, 1915, respectively, and to the Embassy’s telegram No. 19 of January 14, 1915, I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of a note received from the Russian Foreign Office stating the grounds on which the Russian Government declines to liberate certain German subjects arrested by the Russian troops in Persia, and now held as prisoners of war at Astrakhan.

I have [etc.]

For the Ambassador:
Charles S. Wilson

Secretary of Embassy
[Page 992]

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy

No. 919/d. III]

note verbale

With a note verbale, dated January 20 last, the Embassy of the United States of America transmitted to the Imperial Government the request of the German Government to liberate certain German subjects, arrested by Russian troops in Persia, and at present held as prisoners of war in Astrakhan. This request of the German Government was based on the fact that, according to its opinion, the said German subjects were seized on neutral territory, and consequently their arrest is a violation of international law.

In reply the Imperial Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the honor to inform the Embassy that the Russian Government can in no case regard the demands of the German Government as justified. In the war between Russia and Turkey, Persia, it is true, observes neutrality. This neutrality, however, was violated not by Russia, but by Turkish troops, acting jointly with Germany, the latter taking an active part in the Russo-Turkish campaign, her officers having entered the ranks of the Turkish Army. Under these circumstances Russia was obliged, in order to defend herself against the attack, but not on her own initiative, to transfer hostilities to a part of the Persian territory, and to regard that territory as a zone of war in which she has every right to apply to the subjects of powers at war with her, all such measures which in accordance with the customs of war, are applied to the subjects of an enemy. In view of the above, the Imperial Government considers that Germany, who has violated the neutrality of Persia, has no right to base her demands on this neutrality.

At the same [time] the Ministry desires to point out the fact that in the present war Germany does not refrain from using forcible measures in regard to subjects of her enemies in neutral countries. From the diplomatic negotiations, published by the French Government (the French Yellow Book No. 156, supplement) it may be seen, for instance, that the German authorities considered themselves justified in arresting even the French diplomatic representative in the neutral country Luxemburg.

In view of the above, the Russian Government does not find it possible to release the German subjects taken prisoners by Russian troops on Persian territory, which resolution the Imperial Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the honor to communicate to the American Embassy.