15. Telegram From the Embassy in Russia to the Department of State1

2388. For Creel from Sisson. “February 19th. This is in reply to your open undated cable requesting survey of general situation. My telegram number 2363, thirteenth instant,2 State Department evidently had not reached you when you sent message, as it answers some of your inquiries.

On future situation, if Germany does not take St. Petersburg, publicity work can go on with great ultimate after war advantage to America. An all Russia distribution for pamphlets is already nearly complete on large scale. An excellent pamphlet Bullard has just finished writing, “Letters to a Russian Friend”,3 now on press. News pamphlets and pamphlet editions various Wilson speeches all feeding out in increasing volume. Printing plant here that compares well with best in America relies almost solely on our work and helps enthusiastically. Red, white and blue bands appear upon Bullard’s pamphlet. Covered distribution of January eighth message in detail in previous cable. Can add that German version did get over German line at center and parts of Austrian line, the whole allotment. Speech of February eleventh4 is being translated into German and Austrian and chief effort will be to get into Austria. A soldier organization will do the work and the plan is completed. Distribution should start in a week, fortunes of war permitting.

Cable service has got its roots down and its work at both ends is beginning to please me. Compub cable brought the only copy Presi[Page 33]dent’s last speech into Russia. Newspaper presentation sufficient to obviate the necessity of bill-posting here. Distribution three hundred thousand handbills begins in the morning and Moscow will have both posters and handbills. Except for German and Austrian distribution am letting Pub as test do this message job without help from me.

General outlook therefore attractive until you put it to the test of immediate war utility in a country distracted by civil war and warred upon from without by a country which it may fight defensively, but not with any intention of helping the Allies. They are wild internationalists who not only in the beginning, but until lately, were willing to have German support for their own ends of revolution. Germany thought she could direct the storm, but the storm had such intention. No other country who gives either aid or kindness will fare better. Anything offered short of military aid will be accepted, and will not count in the balance against the intended program of agitation in the United States and among Entente nations. So on strict basis war, utility is lacking for what the Bolsheviks will do they will do anyhow; but indirectly America gains by having America all the time presented, and the President’s influence in the crucial time of future general peace-making grows largely through a continued Russian drive. I recommend that the whole news and circulation plan go ahead to the end of the war or until Russia is at actual peace.

On meetings and oratory I have probably disappointed you. How useless they would have been you can not appreciate until I tell you face to face. Would have liked to have started outspoken Government owned news paper, but man and mechanical power were both lacking. Has taken a week, for instance, to get a permit for stringing one electric wire for projecting machine. It takes me three days to get cash money from bank. In such sheer unexampled disorganization of business life it was sounder to let newspapers themselves be disseminators. Bullard will try out a cartoon poster idea later. Believe you are forwarding cartoons and posters to him now. If not, do so.

With film publicity I have preparation and no films. Neither Bernstein or Mott party have come, or can come through Finland. Have figured that I could go out week after Bernstein got here. Supposed from outset you know as well as we that for nearly a month we have been cut off from the world except by cable. Government ice breaker carried out Madam Koloutai5 and body of World Revolutionists day or so ago, but Finnish war now blocks travel. No couriers. Will come out earliest possible date.

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Germany any day can unmake most of our plans. She declared armistice ended noon today and is advancing already toward Revel and Dvinsk.6 If advance is beyond Revel we will know that Petrograd will fall in three to five days additional. We will not be here then. Government, if it survives internal shock, will go to Moscow. Embassies too. Will in that case send Bullard and group to Moscow, and if cannot get away to the North will go myself. If silence falls do not worry. We will be safe. Give my love to family. If Germans do not advance beyond Revel things may go on as usual, but I think I see the Bolsheviks going out and worse and faster peace makers coming in. Finally, we will keep going as if the future were serene. Good luck.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Decimal File 1910–1929, Box 731, 103.93/54. No classification marking. Green. Received on February 24 at 9:17 a.m. Patchin wrote on the first page of the telegram: “Paraphrase sent to Creel. File. PHP.”
  2. See footnote 6, Document 9.
  3. Reference is presumably to Letters of an American Friend. See Complete Report of the Chairman of the Committee on Public Information, p. 251.
  4. Wilson’s speech to a joint session of Congress on February 11 assessed Austro-German peace proposals made in response to his Fourteen Points address of January 8. Wilson reiterated four points: “each part of the final settlement must be based upon the essential justice of that particular case and upon such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will be permanent”; “peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game”; “every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned”; and “all well defined national aspirations shall be accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them without introducing new or perpetuating old elements of discord and antagonism that would be likely in time to break the peace of Europe and consequently of the world.” For the text of the speech, see Foreign Relations, 1918, Supplement 1, The World War, vol. I, pp. 108–113.
  5. Aleksandra Kollontai, Russian feminist and head of the Commissariat for Social Welfare.
  6. Peace negotiations (see footnote 3, Document 7) had stalled on February 10, and the Germans resumed their military attacks on Russia.