File No. 861.00/936
The Chargé in Denmark ( Grant-Smith) to the Secretary of State 1
[Received January 11, 12.52 a.m.]
1803. The following is a statement by Major General Prince Cantacuzene relative to present conditions in Russia from where he has just arrived. He saw service at the front from the outbreak of the war, in East Prussia where he was shot through the body and was unable to return to duty for nine months, until the advent of the Bolsheviks when he resigned his command at Kiev and escaping arrest by a very narrow margin accompanied by his wife gained the Crimea. After a time they went to Petrograd where they remained until January 2. Prince Cantacuzene was permitted to leave largely owing to the state of his health duo to his wounds. He was made Brigadier General by the old régime and Major General by the Provisional Government to which he adhered to prosecute the war against the Central powers.
[1.] Political: Many consider Bolshevik government strongest since revolution. Informant’s opinion is that facts have proved [Page 333]that constructively it has no strength nor ambitions whatever. All its actions have been purely destructive and it has acted with consent of and been upheld by only lower elements of country; has encouraged all kinds disorder and satisfied all baser ambitions of populace not even succeeding in restraining looting, assassinations, highway robbery, etc.
Generally expected that Bolsheviks will shortly be submerged by still more anarchistic wave; but certain groups of the substantial classes (amongst [them] even small groups of the qualified workmen) have been so disgusted by prevailing disorder and misery that they are trying organize movement for law so far without any sign of much hope success.
Believed by nearly all thinking people there will be no separate peace. If there should Bolsheviks cannot enforce any measures except with German strength.
No prospect of stronger party’s being shortly in power for some time to come even as foreseen by most optimistic unless one established and held in place by outside power with their troops as in case of German occupation.
No leaders in opposition to present group who would seem to promise new party movement with any chance of success.
There is much talk of “counter-revolution “and it has been excuse for many arrests. Certain number of people working for reestablishment of monarchy, but not with the ex-Emperor at its head. Various candidates are mentioned, but in informant’s opinion without chance of present success. There is also much talk of fact that there figures in German program of occupation the recall of the Tsarevich Alexis, his establishment on throne with German regent. Informant does not know basis for [attribution of] this plan to Germans. In his opinion Russia will eventually return to idea of a monarchy as only way of holding together various races composing nation.
Bolshevik government supposed to be entirely in German pay. German money was found in several cases in hands of its agents and all the “directive” of movement conceded to come from Germany.
Informant had been told at first hand of several facts which would tend to show Bolshevik coup d’état was engineered by German intrigue and he has had proofs thereof in, every military administration in Kiev in connection with Ukrainian movement.
2. Economic: Food conditions in Petrograd so bad as to mean starvation for poorer classes in very short time. The very large reserves of old regime were squandered in first weeks of revolution as a measure to create popularity. Afterwards lack of confidence in “Provisional” Government prevented collection of supplies in summer and now lack of transportation and refusal of southern provinces to give up their supplies cut off Petrograd. All sorts of riots based [Page 334]on economic conditions together with epidemics are breaking out in big cities and are expected to become more acute. Conditions in south are slightly easier. Butter in Petrograd has mounted from forty kopeks to eight to twelve rubles a pound when obtainable; flour commands any price, three hundred rubles a barrel; milk and eggs nonexistent; tea in Kiev not found; coffee had by card system one-eighth pound monthly per head in Petrograd.
Food conditions daily growing more acute owing mainly distrust authorities and lack fuel for transportation.
In southern Russia grain of big proprietors has been sold for army for three years as rapidly as harvested. Peasants: have sold no grain for a year and not all their grain for year previous to that. Are supposed to have large stores hidden. In villages on the Poltava estates they admit this quite frankly.
Informant has never heard that peasants were holding grain reserves for invading enemy. They claim it is for themselves or for trading with the townsfolk to obtain manufactured goods.
At present starvation reigns in remnants of army. Heavy losses by the disorderly retreats where reserves of provisions fell into enemy’s hands, bad arrangements for transportation and looting by deserters being main reasons. Same conditions as to warm clothing for army which has been largely sold by deserters.
Informant thinks that after conclusion of separate peace Germans could obtain from Russia grain, forage, beet sugar, ammunition and artillery, clothes and Red Cross supplies. Unable to state in what quantities, but not great.
Germans would have practically no rail facilities for shipping stuffs to Germany because of lack of fuel refused by the Don Cossacks to all railroads beyond the frontiers of their province.
Germans could not obtain substantial food shipments from Russia before spring as most grain reserves are hidden by the peasants and would have to be requisitioned forcibly; perhaps in south some might be bought at very high prices.
Money very scarce. Said by bankers twelve billion should be hidden among peasant classes. Banks are now in hands of Bolsheviks and newly printed money of the Provisional Government has no value in eyes of population.
Since Bolsheviks came into power personnel of the Emission Bureau are on a strike together with Ministry of Finance, the State Bank, and refuse to recognize or work with new government. Old regime bills are being bought up by German agents at premium of 5 or 10 per cent, sent to Germany supposedly for use in Poland and Russia.
The head of one of the foreign banks in Petrograd considered that Bolsheviks’ decrees carried no weight for the future. Everyone continued [Page 335]to invest in old régime war loans. French Government this autumn considered safe to take upon itself payment of interest on old regime war loan bonds held by French subscribers (thinks also on liberty loan bonds question). Financial men informant talked with lately all considered Russia’s immense undeveloped resources as offering sufficient guarantee of easy payment of all debts to foreign governments though economic order must be established first and each Bolshevik measure retards that time. Financial and industrial men seem to consider the present administration a temporary although very acute disadvantage and both Russian and foreign bankers in Petrograd were expecting for days the “occupation” of the banks by Bolsheviks with apparent exception of the big American bank. The extreme anxiety for haste with which the Bolsheviks try to push the execution of each measure they take would seem to indicate that they themselves feel they are in power temporarily. Their manner of enforcing is with threats or sudden appearance of groups of Red Guards. Never do they show any organization of government or administrative machinery and in no case has any plan of theirs been made for beyond the 4th of January (old style) [1st?] which is a curious coincidence, as that marks the [date] of conclusion of armistice.
Clothing very expensive, about ten times old prices, boots and shoes practically nonexistent and all boot shops closed. Food and clothing for poorer classes not obtainable without great difficulty. Luxuries at enormous prices found more easily.
3. Military: Army for fighting purposes nonexistent; officers not permitted to resign; are still with their groups but have had all epaulets removed and been degraded to rank with soldiers. All pensions suppressed even to wounded or maimed and those with St. George’s [Cross]. Condition of officers and their families near starvation, no hope of help forthcoming from any quarter. No one at front or back [can] imagine for moment that army could make a stand against an invading force.
- Sent via the Embassy in Great Britain.↩