File No. 861.00/407

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

No. 703

Sir: In my unnumbered despatch of March 25, copy of which was sent you by both routes, Atlantic and Pacific, I gave the local situation up to that date, which included the recognition of the new Government on March 22.1 For a week or ten days thereafter the tension continued very great, as the Council of Ministers, or Provisional Government, was trying to establish itself, but was so fearful of the consequences of a test of strength with the Workingmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies that it proceeded very cautiously. The soldiers were permitted to parade with banners and bands throughout the city and the workingmen if returning to work at all were making unreasonable demands as to wages and as to hours and in some or many instances were selecting their own foremen. There has been no contest between these two authorities up to this time and I think there is likely to be none. The Provisional Government, or Council of Ministers, has been gaining strength from day to day; they have made two visits in a body to the front and at this writing the entire situation is much better than it has been at any day since March 12 when the first regiment mutinied.

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Representatives of the workingmen’s party and of the soldiers continue in session daily at the Duma or Tauride Palace and I think meet in the Duma Hall. On Friday last, March 31/April 13, this body passed by an overwhelming majority a resolution favoring a vigorous prosecution of the war to a successful issue and either the same day or the day after adopted another resolution endorsing the Provisional Government.

As to whether the Constituent Assembly will adopt a republican form of government or a constitutional monarchy is an open question and will be greatly influenced by the course of the war between now and the convening of that assembly. A very important duty of the Council of Ministers, or the Provisional Government, is to arrange for an election of members to this Constituent Assembly. The date or location of this assembly has not been fixed. There is a strong sentiment for having it held at Moscow instead of Petrograd, and that may become a very live issue. In fact, there are many open advocates now of removing the capital from Petrograd to Moscow. A Provisional Government has now been “in the saddle” for about one month; before many weeks pass there may be rumors started to the effect that this Council of Ministers is too long delaying a calling of a Constituent Assembly and is doing so because it desires to continue itself in power. The general impression is that Rodzyanko is in favor of a constitutional monarchy and that Milyukov is also so inclined, but that Minister of Justice Kerensky, who is a Social Democrat and who has conducted himself most admirably, favors a republic.

While many of the restrictions on the Jews have been removed, it is still inadvisable that they should be very much in evidence as it is very easy to arouse an anti-Semitic movement in this country. A confidential cable just received from the Department concerning an American commission with a prominent Hebrew as a member thereof will be taken up by me to-morrow with Minister Milyukov and will perhaps be discussed with other members of the Ministry also.

This Council of Ministers is composed of able patriotic men among whom no clashes of interest or great divergence of opinion has yet been made manifest.

It has been my effort, and in such effort there has been no cessation, to impress upon all the importance of a vigorous prosecution of the war and to subordinate thereto all questions as to the rights of races or the recognition of classes. One cause, as I wrote the Department in more than one despatch, of the lukewarm attitude of the Imperial Ministry concerning the Avar was the fear of such a revolution after the success of the Allies as has already taken place. The Romanov dynasty and its supporters evidently saw a great curtailment [Page 27] of their power, if not an overthrow thereof, in the event Germany and Austria should be defeated and weakened, as there would then be no strong government left in Europe to sustain an absolute monarchy.

The Jews have undoubtedly been subjected to many injustices and unjust restrictions in Russia and all fair-minded people are pleased that most if not all of such restrictions have been removed. The prejudice against the race however has by no means been eradicated; it pervades the peasants to a wonderful extent and that prejudice will be fanned into flame by opponents of the present regimé if any reason therefor is given or can be charged with any appearance of truth.

In reply to your cable concerning a separate peace received April 1/14, I cabled the result of a conference with Milyukov.1 While I was talking with him in the Foreign Office delegations of British and French socialists were awaiting an audience and subsequently he phoned me that they had come to Russia for the purpose of advising Russian socialists to push the war vigorously and to give no thought of a separate peace as the socialists of Germany and Austria-Hungary were more devoted to their respective countries than they were to socialistic doctrines or at least were pursuing the policy of achieving a victory for the Central Empires first.

This pouch will be sent by a courier, one of the Embassy delegates who is returning to America via the Pacific; it should reach Washington not later than May 25.

I have [etc.]

David E. Francis
  1. Not printed; see telegram of Mar. 22, ante, p. 12.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. i.