File No. 763.72/2161

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

No. 231]

Sir: The recent German successes in Poland and in parts of Russia, which however in my opinion are merely superficial and temporary military advantages, may render the Department desirous to be informed about some phases of present interior conditions in Russia.

There are numerous underhand influences, as unpatriotic as they are powerful, at work at this time in Russia, particularly in the capital, to assist the Germans in their efforts to bring about peace under present conditions and to enable them to avoid another winter campaign, the dangers and probable results of which they seem to greatly dread. It is hard for any one who has not been in Russia for some time, and who has not had the opportunity of considerable observation, to form an adequate idea of the extent and ramifications of German influences in the Empire before the war. German interests were dominant or preponderant in all the larger undertakings in the country, financial, commercial, and industrial. Practically all the big business that was not under Government control was in the hands of Germans and much of the smaller business too. Many of the great nobles, some of whom held high Government offices, and others influential positions at Court, and all of whom moved in high Court circles and had the prestige of eminent or even exalted rank, were friendly to Germany and more or less pro-German in their feelings. Not a few were the sons of German mothers, others were married to German wives, others had passed much time in Germany, and others again had valuable investments there. It was not unnatural that they should be very favorably inclined towards Germany and it may be that they were not themselves wholly conscious of the extent to which their pro-German leanings affected their devotion to their own country and its interests.

When the war broke out the great outburst of patriotic enthusiasm ran right over or swept aside all pro-German feeling of every kind and wherever entertained, for the war had been forced upon the Government and was popular with the people, and any manifestation of friendly feeling towards the enemy would have been dangerous, as it would be now. The great business interests were taken out of German hands and the great nobles of pro-German feeling were silenced and perhaps made wholly Russian for the time under the compelling influence of the great wave of patriotic enthusiasm. Recently, and particularly since the evacuation of Warsaw and the [Page 60] withdrawal of the Russians from the fortress of Kovno, those with German leanings have become very active. Not that they avow their German sympathies, far from it, any one of them if charged with sympathizing with the enemy or wishing to assist him or to play into his hands in any way, would indignantly disclaim it; but in the meanwhile through every available underground channel and in every possible devious way they are endeavoring to promote the enemy’s effort to bring about a peace now while he is still apparently successful. There is such concert and unity of action among them as to show that they are taking their inspiration from German sources. German spies of whom there are not a few left in the country, and some in places where you would not expect to find them. Those men themselves are not spies, at least not many of them, but they would all be willing to tell in confidence to persons whom they knew to be more friendly to Germany than good Russians ought to be at this time, things that in the interests of Russia were better left untold. They are now all, with one accord, doing their utmost to weaken the resolve of the Government to prosecute the war to a successful end and to breed distrust and discontent in the army. They do not waste any of their effort or energy on the people and that for two reasons: They do not think, in the first place, that the people have much to say in the national affairs; and in the second place, they know that the war is popular among the people and they do not believe that the people generally would be at all amenable to their influences.

There is dissatisfaction in the army, or rather just indignation that those whose duty it was to make adequate provision of arms and munitions of war during the long winter months failed utterly in the performance of that patriotic and necessary duty, and the Russian armies had to take the field in the spring insufficiently supplied with arms and ammunition. The rank and file of the army practically to a man, and the people generally, are strong supporters of the war, for they recognize that German success would mean the complete subjugation of the Slav to the Teuton, and they know how brutally heavy rests the hand of the Teuton on subjugated peoples, and they are not unmindful of the lot of their fellow Slavs, the Poles in Prussian Poland. But the army and the people are both indignant that the essential needs of the army have not been properly looked after by those who had the matter in charge and delay in the performance of so plain a duty gives rise to the gravest suspicions. Some say it was treasonable, some say it was owing to a corrupt effort to make large sums in the placing of contracts, I hear, though I do not know it to be true and I am reluctant to credit it, that General Sukhomlinov, the former Minister of War, who possessed the Emperor’s full confidence, is in prison. What the precise charge is I have not heard, some say it was making money, large sums of money, on army contracts, which would be a fraud upon the Government; others say he deliberately deceived the Emperor and his colleagues in the Cabinet about conditions in the army and its supplies of arms and ammunition, which would be treason against the Empire. How much of this is true I do not know. Russia is a land of irresponsible on-dit and it takes time to find out what among the things you hear is true and what not. The General’s sister-in-law, I have reason to believe, was arrested a few weeks ago at the Hotel Astoria as a spy. I have not met any one [Page 61] lately who has seen the General’s wife for some time. She was suspected of complicity in some way with the Massoiedov affair.

The Duma has taken up the subject of the purchase of supplies for the army and has appointed a commission to investigate the matter fully. Suspicion points to persons in high places who are suspected and, they say, are charged in the secret sessions of the Duma with fraud and corruption, but not with any treasonable practices. The Emperor sympathizes fully with the effort of the Duma to expose corruption and evil doing of every sort and he will give the commission of the Duma his full support. His own position at this time is a trying one; it is not unlike President Lincoln’s during the first years of our war between the States, he hardly knows whom to trust.

Those with secret pro-German leanings make all the capital they can out of the criminal failure of the proper officials to supply the army with arms and ammunition and they supplement that with loud complaints at the inactivity of the Allied forces in the west. There is no doubt that the Germans, who know everything about conditions in this country, planned their vigorous drive through Galicia and Poland into Russia because they were fully informed that the Russian troops were insufficiently supplied with arms and ammunition. Notwithstanding all the machinations of the Germans and the underhand maneuvers of their secret sympathizers here, the firmness of the Russian Government and the solidarity of the Allies is admirably shown in an interview with Mr. Sazonov, given to the London Times correspondent in Petrograd, and published in the Novoe Vremya here to-day, August 31, in which Mr. Sazonov says the most entire confidence exists between the Allies, that Russia will never make a separate peace and will never make any peace at all until the invader is driven from every inch of Russian soil.

I enclose a translation of that interview as published here in the Novoe Vremya.1

Germany, as was reported, made some weeks ago proposals for a separate peace with Russia. The proposals were not made through the King of Denmark, as the newspapers said, but through extra-official Danish channels and through important financial media. Mr. Sazonov answered that Russia would entertain no peace proposal until they were made to all the Allies as well.

I have [etc.]

George Thomas Marye
  1. Not printed.