File No. 861.00/515

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


1738. Yesterday witnessed active preparations by Provisional Government for defense of Petrograd and reports that Kornilov’s forces were advancing on the city. Minister for Foreign Affairs told me 10th that he was sincerely unable to state with confidence which side would win. On hearing compromise effected I telephoned Minister for Foreign Affairs who said no truth in the report but that Provisional Government gaining strength hourly. At 1 o’clock British Ambassador telephoned me replying to my inquiry that action of the Allied representatives should be in afternoon papers. At 9.30 p.m. I received autographic note from British Ambassador stating Minister for Foreign Affairs objected to “mediation” in resolution of Allied ministers because it placed Kornilov on a par with Government but Minister for Foreign Affairs would make statement in morning press stating position of Allied representatives and their efforts toward “clearing the situation.” Statement of Minister for Foreign Affairs in the morning papers to-day unsatisfactory to me and bulletin of [Workmen-] Soldiers on the same subject was decidedly objectionable as I am informed stated Allied representatives thought “Kornilov’s victory would mean disruption of the alliance and defeat of Allies.” Met British, Italian, and French Ambassador Foreign Office 12.30 to-day when French Ambassador presented statement [Page 189] for Minister for Foreign Affairs to give to the press. My three colleagues approved but I requested time for consideration and suggested that British Ambassador reconvene Allied representatives to which he agreed for 2.30 p.m. I went to British Embassy time fixed, meeting only British, French, and Italian Ambassadors, British Ambassador not having invited any others, and told them statement approved by them at Foreign Office unsatisfactory to myself and insisted upon action of Allied representatives being given to press. That was finally agreed to with “mediation “omitted and British Ambassador now at Foreign Office having agreed to tell Minister for Foreign Affairs that Allied Ambassadors will give aforesaid statement to press if Minister for Foreign Affairs declines to do so.

Alexeev accepted appointment as commander in chief from Kerensky, having declined same Monday.1 Minister for Foreign Affairs says that Kornilov asked Kerenslsy 3.30 a.m. to-day to whom he should surrender. Alexeev accepted appointment 8.30 a.m. to-day and was long-distance telephoning with Kornilov when Minister for Foreign Affairs told me this. Minister for Foreign Affairs says resigned Sunday and will insist upon acceptance thereof unless army discipline restored immediately. Kornilov’s failure strengthens Provisional Government and if army discipline not immediately restored then Russian participation in war futile if continued. Minister for Foreign Affairs says military men will be appointed Ministers War and Marine; claims that admirals of Black Sea and Baltic Fleets loyal to Government; also commanders of the western front, Rumanian front, and Caucasian front together with commanders of Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and all other military districts. Kornilov and commanders southwest front with their chiefs of staff and chairman ways of communication at front are disloyal.

My objection to being misrepresented was on principle, in addition to aversion for having credit for assisting in establishing situation which may possibly result disastrously to Russia’s continuance in war. Condition not hopeles but would be much stronger if compromise had been effected and contending elements united for vigorous action.

Military attaché, naval attaché, express confidence in Alexeev but both greatly disappointed at Kornilov failure.

  1. For the appointment of a commander in chief, see also the telegram from the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 13, post, p. 193.