File No. 861.00/1213
The Consul General at Moscow ( Summers) to the Ambassador in Russia ( Francis)1
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the letter of the Embassy of the 28th ultimo, communicating instructions of the Department of State to report to the Embassy in regard to certain political conditions in this consular jurisdiction.
Prefacing its answers to the questions of the Department, this office finds it necessary to stress one or two considerations. In Russia feelings outweigh facts, and the present fluidity of feeling makes institutional stability problematical. The social unrest fostered by the Maximalists, and the instincts and appetites to which they appealed, are not confined to one section. These forces are felt in every part of the country with greater or less intensity, dependent on the level of prosperity and contentment and on exposure to the general currents of the world’s thought. The level of prosperity is higher in the Ukraine, among the Cossacks and in Siberia than in central and northern Russia, and the intellectual level is lower. Having more and better lands, these regions will resist any plan to throw all lands into one melting pot. The land question is at the [Page 339]root of the demand for autonomy, though not the sole basis. On the other hand the Maximalists are able to appeal with greater or less success to the social unrest existing in the Ukraine, among the Cossacks and in the Siberian cities. Partial community of ideas largely explains why so few of the civil battles announced by the newspapers amount to more than, “I came, I looked, I went away.” At the time when the press had heavy artillery playing at Bakhmach, a junction on the road to Kiev, and a bloody hand-to-hand conflict in progress, an American business man passed through Bakhmach by train. He said the Ukrainians and the Maximalists gathered and each side removed a rail from the track, not fifty miles, as announced by the newspapers. Within twenty minutes they had decided there was to be no fight, laid the rails again and dispersed. The incident is typical. In general it may be said that tea is brewed hotter than it is drunk in Russia. It is the land of false reports, false alarms, false starts. Every calculation has to be discounted. It is only the unexpected that happens. The undersigned believes that much can be done by the Allies to stay the decadence of Russia, to hasten its recuperation, and to counteract German and Austrian influence, but exaggerated expectations should not be entertained. If it be expected that the Ukraine will maintain on the southwest and Rumanian front an army able to hold the Central powers in check, that expectation will be undeceived [sic]. What may be hoped for is the relative success of checking the withdrawal of hostile forces to other fronts and of making an organized offensive against the southwest as difficult and as expensive as possible, to say nothing of the limitation of trading with Germany, whether legal or illicit. If it be expected that the Ukraine and the Cossacks will be able to reduce the center and the north of Russia by military force, this expectation will be undeceived [sic], as far as the early future is concerned. The Cossacks are too weak for such an effort, and the Ukrainians are carrying water on both shoulders. The Kiev government is threatened with a Maximalist Ukraine movement that has been started at Kharkov. This has made the Kiev Ukrainians more complaisant in the matter of food supplies. The Ukrainians are now promising not only to permit, but to stimulate and to compel shipment of grain northward, against currency, the demand for gold having been forgotten.
But even moderate success of the efforts of the Entente Allies to check anarchy, help lay foundations for an orderly future and hinder the enslavement of Russia by Germany would justify great exertions. In making the world safe for democracy, they may righteously and judiciously also try to make democracy in Russia safe for the world; and generous solicitude for helpless small peoples by [Page 340]no means precludes due consideration of the menace of anarchy in a helpless large one. The recuperation and integrity of Russia may well become objects second only to the winning of the war itself.
There is too little discretion in Russia to permit the solicitation of the opinions of Russians upon the questions submitted by the Department. Already it is a daily commonplace of Maximalist newspaper discussion that American capitalists are supporting General Kaledin with money and supplies. Such opinions of worth as may be gathered incidentally will be communicated to the Embassy and the Department.
An attempt will be made to answer the questions of the Department with respect to central Russia, the Ukraine, the Southeastern (Cossack) federation, Siberia to Irkutsk, White Russia and Central Asia.
Central Russia will here be taken to include the Moscow consular district in European Russia, with the addition of Kostroma, but without Chernigov.
Q. (a) What is structure of local government, its authority, executive power, capacity to maintain order?
In Moscow there is a Council of Workingmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, elected by the garrison and by industrial workers in direct elections, by groups of fifty, roughly speaking. Being too unwieldy for daily action, the council has delegated many of its functions to its Executive Committee. The latter elects such commissars or higher administrative and executive officers, of varying importance, as are considered necessary. The Executive Committee controls the garrison through the commander of the Moscow military circuit, embracing the western half of the territory of central Russia. There is an appointive executive board for the management of the banks. There are commissars for practically every form of executive and administrative function, from police to tramway management. The distinctions between local and central government have been effaced, as also between Zemstvo and central government. Local commissars have been placed in charge of the Zemstvo Federation, whose activity has been reduced almost to nothing.
The rights and duties of councils have been defined in an “instruction” published in the Maximalist newspaper, the Pravda of Petrograd, and republished in the Russkiya Vedomosti of this city on the 6th instant. It is therein declared that local councils are fully competent to deal independently with all local questions, but that they should constantly be guided by the decrees and resolutions of the central council and of the more important municipal, provincial and district councils. Their jurisdiction is declared to embrace all administrative, [Page 341]financial, economic and cultural questions. They have the moral obligation to enforce the decrees and decisions of the central government and other higher authority, and the right to take independent action, to make requisitions and proclaim confiscations, to close opposition newspapers, make arrests, dissolve public and social organizations; and they receive funds from the Public Treasury.
This “instruction” indicates but does not circumscribe the activities of the local councils. It makes no mention of the administration of justice, which has been entrusted to revolutionary tribunals, or which, in the absence of such tribunals in most Russian cities, does not exist at all. It says nothing of accounting for public funds, which, though primitive, is not altogether neglected.
In addition there is in Moscow a system of ward assemblies, with a central council, to which certain very minor administrative tasks have been entrusted. They are the superiors of the house committees. It is possible that in time the ward assemblies and their central council may develop into regular municipal government, in place of the organization broken up by the Maximalists, but the ward assemblies are now thoroughly Maximalist. In time of stress the garrison committees and the separate council of soldiers’ deputies share power with the organization above described. Ordinarily the soldiers interest themselves mainly in their internal affairs.
The Moscow council enjoys more credit than the Petrograd local council, being second in influence and power to the All-Russian Council. It is often more radical than the central council, and it appears to be better supported by the local workingmen, owing doubtless to the greater firmness of the industrial organization of this district.
Maintenance of order is discouraged by the Petrograd Maximalist leaders, who issue praise to the local councils displaying most zeal in requisitioning, confiscating, harassing the recalcitrant. In practice the relations of the population to the Maximalist authorities are better than might have been expected. The Maximalist commissars and other functionaries are overworked and are disposed to look for the easiest way out of any difficulty. Those who approach them courteously usually meet with more amiable and fairer treatment than they expected. The Russian character is fundamentally good-natured. Profoundly resentful of the refusal of the middle classes to recognize their regime, the Maximalist functionaries are easily flattered by approaches from their social superiors.
Police functions are entrusted in Moscow to militiamen and Red Guards, selected from the factories and works, and paid both regular factory wages and a bonus of 25 to 60 rubles per day. There is [Page 342]much jealousy of the Red Guards among the garrison soldiers. Militiamen stand fixed posts by day and traffic is regulated and daring broad-daylight crimes are now rare. The streets are poorly lighted, militiamen, roundsmen and lied Guard special detachments are rarely seen at night. That there is not more crime than is noted must be attributed to the deeper traits of Russian character, the results of former discipline, and the house committees. There is no police detective work. Persons caught in round-ups of lodging-house districts are practically never identified with their crimes.
Q. (b) Has it manifested or proclaimed tendency to separate or autonomous organization?
The territory of central Russia, as above circumscribed, has been defined largely by the process of eliminating districts with autonomy programs. But it includes the Mohammedan population of Kazan, Ufa, Orenburg and, to a less extent, other Volga communities, which have had meetings at Kazan and Ufa to claim some form of local self-government for the Mohammedans of Russia, numbering about 25,000,000. As will be seen later, the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks are in good relations with the Southeastern (Cossack) federation, and are expected to join it when assured of a practicable direct contact with this federation. Lastly, it may be remarked that Mogilev, like Vitebsk, Vilna, and Minsk, and parts of Smolensk, have a considerable White Russian population, and there is a movement for White Russian autonomy or local self-government, with its center at Minsk. At Minsk, Mogilev and Vitebsk, and in the provinces of the same name, as in Volhynia, the military element is considerably more prominent in the Maximalist organizations than in regions farther from the front. Volhynia has a large Ukrainian population, but up to the present has not been prominent in the Ukraine movement. Having here briefly indicated the distinguishing features of governments formerly attached to the consular districts of Warsaw and Riga, it will not be necessary to revert to them under a separate heading.
There is a movement to hold a Great Russian Congress at Moscow in February to counteract excessive demands for autonomy and to plan for the proper representation of Great Russia in the future federal republic.
Q. (c) Describe attitude of population of cities as compared with country population.
The organization at Moscow is copied with approximate fidelity wherever the Maximalists are in control. Their influence is strongest in the industrial cities, towns and villages clustered around Moscow in the western half of the region of central Russia. It is weaker in the trading centers to the east, with their closer relations to the agricultural population. The peasants are in the main faithful to the [Page 343]Social Revolutionaries, their mentors for two decades. The peasant land committees have listened to S. R. advice, or to none, being guided mainly by their appetites. Just now the Maximalists are trying to seize the land committees, with problematical success. The peasants are in opposition, owing to the anarchy in trade, the scarcity and high prices of commodities.
There is a council in every considerable city and town, and, nominally at least, there are district as well as provincial councils. So far cantonal councils are either nonexistent, being replaced by the land committees, or of little importance. The peasants are little restrained by any authority. Their constables are removable, often punished physically, by mobs in disagreement with their action on any matter.
Q. (d) What is influence of Bolsheviki?
In practice opposition socialist parties have been reduced to secession from the councils, or to protest. In practice they sometimes exert a moderating influence.
Q. (e) What are leading factors both political and individual in local situation?
The industrial workers and the soldiers of the garrison are the sources of the power of the Maximalists. The intellectual and propertied classes have been reduced to passive resistance or apathy. Muralov, the commander of the military circuit, seems to be more of a personality than any other local Maximalist leader. He has made sincere efforts to restore some semblance of order among the troops.
Q. (f) What are conditions of railway transportation and supply, including food?
Moscow, its industrial region and the country as a whole are always on the verge of a railway breakdown, fuel and food famine. In practice the General Railway Union continues to move trains, irregularly, slowly, fewer in number, and subject to increased hazards of theft and violence. Locomotives move their loads with difficulty. Food supply commissioners meet with constant difficulties in procuring grain from the peasants, who have it in abundance in south Russia, and in the southern half of central Russia. During the four days of the Russian Christmas holidays only two cars of grain or flour were registered as arriving. The daily bread allowance has been reduced to three and one-half ounces per person, and it is doubtful whether a further reduction will not be made. Individual cases of starvation have occurred in upper Volga cities. But in practice food difficulties have not yet become insurmountable. Speculators, fearing confiscation, have thrown concealed stocks on the market, many house committees and other voluntary food organizations have stocked potatoes, cabbages and other articles. There is a food organization at [Page 344]every factory, for every railway, in connection with every considerable group of workers. These procure food through the public food commissioners or by private purchase, which the Maximalist organization can not suppress. Railway passenger traffic is largely given up to speculators or agents of speculators, with all the foodstuffs they can drag into the cars. The International Harvester Company’s food organization for its Lubertsi workers, near Moscow, may be taken as typical. Its office employees throughout Russia secure and ship goods. The workers themselves control the distribution, taking care, by the way, that none of it is passed on to office employees, who as bourgeois can look out for themselves or starve. But the fact in issue is that these hundreds of workers are fed, lighted, warmed, clad, gum-shod and provided with other creature comforts. The danger of starvation, in view of the universal corruption of Maximalist, as of some former functionaries and of railway agents, may thus be discounted heavily. Moreover, the Ukrainian government has just promised to exert pressure to force a stream of grain from its abundant supplies into central and northern Russia.
Q. (g) Has full quota of representatives to Constituent Assembly been elected and sent to Petrograd? What are political affiliations of such representatives?
The elections have been completed except in a few remote districts, and in military units that have lately been dislocated. Only a fraction of the deputies elect have gone to Petrograd, on account of the expense of living there while waiting for the opening of the assembly. The Utro Rossii of Moscow, which has given most attention to the elections, states that 614 deputies have been elected in all Russia. Of these 279 are said to be Social Revolutionaries, 165 Maximalists, 32 radical Social Revolutionaries allied with Maximalists; Ukraine Socialists, 79; Constitutional Democrats, 16; Mohammedans, 19; the remainder scattering. The proportions of the several party representations vary slightly in central Russia and in the country at large, the Social Revolutionaries and Maximalists being somewhat more numerous in central Russia, other socialist groups predominating or at least competing successfully with the S. R. and Maximalists in the territories with autonomous programs. The Mohammedans are conservative liberals.
Q. (h) Number of troops in district and general condition both material and political.
The strength of the garrisons in central Russia can not be guessed even approximately. They have probably always outnumbered the troops at the several fronts, have perhaps been two or three times as numerous, in the average. The military commanders have only vague information as to the present strength of commands, as many soldiers report at barracks only at will, occupying themselves with petty [Page 345]trade. As many as 5,000 could be seen daily in front of each of the rubber-shoe depots, crowding out all civilians. Recent measures for distributing commodities through house committees and other consumers’ organizations have clone away with almost all these queues. Soldiers have since been less conspicuous in the streets, and it is supposed that many have gone to their homes. The garrison soldiery is dirty, unkempt, slouchy, unsoldierly in every respect. They are well enough fed and clothed, but need washing and brushing. They do not salute officers, but are not often insolent, except the small minority that engage in highway robbery. They have minimum military value. They do not want to fight either foreign or domestic enemies. The Moscow garrison was held in check for a week by not more than 1,500 striplings and a few officers, according to most trustworthy estimates. They are Maximalist in their political sympathies, but understand nothing except that they are promised freedom from fighting, food and idleness.
Q. (i) How does population stand in relation to army units in your district?
The middle and upper classes are hostile and contemptuous. The unorganized work people are divided, some being partisans of the Maximalists, many being critical.
Q. (j) How are troops in your district as a whole disposed toward movement of Ukraine, Kaledin and Caucasus to continue the war? Are they supporting them or opposing them?
The Maximalist troops and all but a very small number of all the troops in the Moscow district are opposed to the continuance of the war and therefore they do not sympathize with a movement anywhere else to continue the war. They are also told that the Ukrainians, Cossacks and all other non-Maximalists are counterrevolutionaries and tools of the bourgeoisie. They are easily convinced, but do not want to fight and can not be depended upon in civil war. They have no platform and no program.
All the available evidence indicates that conditions throughout central Russia, excepting the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks, are quite similar.
For purposes of this inquiry the Ukraine will be taken to embrace that part of the Odessa consular district west of the Don Territory, with the addition of Chernigov and Volhynia, subject to exceptions that will be noted.
- Throughout this region councils were organized on the general model after the spring revolution. The Ukrainians set up a rival organization at Kiev and gradually extended their influence. Their small numbers, not more than a hundred intellectuals in the [Page 346]beginning, it is stated, dictated a cautious policy until they should win adherents in the army and among the peasants. They now have a Rada or parliamentary assembly, a ministry or general secretariat, a voluntary army, control of the staff of the southwest and Rumanian fronts, now combined in one front. In Kiev crime is rife but the streets are well lighted and people flock to theaters, cafés chantants and other amusements. The councils exist in many towns of the Ukraine and there is a struggle for supremacy between them and the Ukrainians.
- The avowed policy of the Ukraine is to take the lead in creating a federal republic in Russia. There is, however, a pro-Austrian party, with partisans, it is supposed, in the ministry. There is also an open and skilful Austrian propaganda. A motive for secession from Russia would be the hope of attaching to their republic the Ukrainians of Galicia, Bukovina and Transylvania.
- The intellectual and propertied classes are bitterly hostile to Ukrainism. The industrial workers of the cities lean toward Maximalism. The ignorant peasantry are the mainstay of the movement. They understand little and care mainly for the preservation and increase of their landholdings. They are dividing estates, as peasants elsewhere in Russia are doing.
- The Maximalists have adherents in all the cities of the Ukraine. Having secured possession of Kharkov, they have extended their influence towards Kiev from every direction.
- The leading factors of the situation are the traditional cult of the Little Russian language and literature and national customs; the historical distrust of the Little Russians for Poles and Russians; the attempts of the autocracy to suppress the Little Russian nationality; the land question; the Austrian propaganda.
- The railways are operated by the General Railway Union, as elsewhere in Russia. They are in better condition than in central Russia. Provisions are abundant and prices are lower than in central Russia.
- Ukrainian socialists and the two principal Russian socialist parties, Maximalists and S[ocialist-] R[evolutionaries], divide the bulk of the Ukraine representation. Most of the deputies that went to Petrograd returned home shortly afterwards.
- There are said to be about 35,000 regularly organized Ukrainian volunteers in Kiev. Russian, that is non-Ukrainian troops, are disarmed in passage, and Ukrainian troops are hindered as far as possible from reaching the Ukraine from other fronts, and of course are disarmed. Nevertheless the concentration of Ukrainian soldiers from other fronts is going on steadily and there is likewise a steady withdrawal of other elements from the Ukraine front, so-called.
- Polish aristocratic contempt for Little Russian boors still largely colors the attitude of Kiev society to the Ukraine movement, but society in the narrower sense can now only grumble.
- The soldiers of Ukraine origin probably have more discipline and better fighting qualities than the average of the Russian armies taken as a whole. The Ukrainian volunteers cheerfully salute officers, conduct themselves in an orderly fashion and are ardent patriots, but have still to prove their military value.
The Maximalist Ukraine movement, launched at Kharkov, is gaining ground in the provinces of Kharkov and Ekaterinoslav. The Maximalists are also crowding the Ukrainians in the eastern half of Chernigov. Little is heard of the Ukrainians in Volhynia, but they have a stout party in Mogilev. Both sides are disposed to negotiate and to try to outwit one another. The Ukrainians can not be relied upon now to take a firm stand with the Cossacks against Maximalism.
Bessarabia, with strong Ukrainian and Rumanian elements, has an obscure autonomous movement.
The Black Sea coast districts are not definitely aligned with any party. The fleet is divided. The propertied elements would gladly welcome any master. Odessa vaguely dreams of an autonomous territory embracing parts of Kherson and the Tauride.
The interesting and judicious reports of Consul Jenkins at Kiev are herewith appended, along with extracts from letters from other Americans at Kiev.1
Southeastern (Cossack) Federation
The Southeastern federation embraces the Don, Kuban, Terek and Astrakhan Cossack territories and armies, and some of the mountain and steppe tribes north of the Caucasus. The present territory of the federation extends from the eastern border of Ekaterinoslav Province to the Caspian Sea, and from the Caucasus slopes to the latitude of Voronezh and Saratov; for the future it is planned to embrace the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks and various steppe tribes extending indefinitely toward southwest Siberia. There is a good understanding among all the twelve Cossack armies, who are equally interested to preserve their lands from encroachment by outsiders. Relations with the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks are bound to be of little value unless control is secured of the southern branch of the Siberian Railway running through Ufa, Samara and Orenburg-Samara, which city is separated from the Don Territory by a wide belt of hostile country. There is a plan afoot for a railway from Rostov to Orenburg, but that seems to be a project for the future. [Page 348]As a present proposition the success of the Southeastern federation seems to be dependent on foreign support and foreign control of the Siberian Railway and of connections with the Don country, which would require immense forces.
Matter pertinent to the Department’s questions will be extracted from the reports of Consul D. C. Poole, who has been detached from this office for duty at Rostoy.
- “As yet the constitution of the Southeastern federation is very informal. From each province entering in the union there are two members elected, which together form the government. There is as yet no central organ before which that government should be responsible. The members are responsible only to the provinces that elected them. The decisions of that government have as yet only moral, but not a binding authority, upon the separate units of the federation. It is still in the formative stage. …1 It has been decided to form a separate military district embracing the entire federation, with a single commander for all forces, Cossack and territorial.
- “Not separation from Russia, but reconstruction of Russia on federal lines is the aim of the federation, the S[outh] E[astern] F[ederation] serving as temporary nucleus. [”]
- (c) and (d)
- Bolshevism has adherents in Rostov and Taganrog. There is social unrest.
- There are big men in the Cossack movement and in the patriotic Russian movement centered at Novocherkassk. General Alexeev is to be commander in chief of the military district, and to direct operations beyond the Don Territory. General Kaledin is to retain command of the Cossack troops and to direct operations as long as they are defensive. President Kharlamov is described as a man of parts. Constitutional Democratic sympathy and advice are represented by such men as Milyukov, Guchkov, Rodzyanko, the latter being now somewhat in the background.
- Railways are operated with more regularity than they are north of Kharkov and Voronezh. There is ample food.
- Newspaper dispatches state that the elections for deputies have just been completed in the Don Territory. The Cossacks captured 12 of 19 places, the Constitutional Democrats 2, the S[ocialist-] R[evolutionaries] 4, the Rostov garrison electing the nineteenth.
- New army of forty-eight battalions, besides twenty-one batteries of artillery and other branches now organizing by General Alexeev, who hopes to complete his task by May 1. Details are found in Consul Poole’s telegrams Nos. 8 and 9.
- Cossacks returning from the front need rest, a mental change, having been subjected to some extent to Maximalist agitation.
Mr. Poole’s telegrams, herewith appended, should be read in extenso. 1
Contests between Maximalists and Siberian federationists have occurred in all the larger cities along the Siberian Railway. A battle raged an entire week at Irkutsk, twelve principal streets being devastated. The Maximalists seem to have had rather the better of the fighting there. The more westerly and southwesterly portions of Siberia are securely federationist. A Siberian republic, designed to bridge over the present period of anarchy and to further the formation of a general Russian federation, is in formation at Omsk. The Siberian Railway is operated with more success than the railways of northern and central Russia. Food is abundant. The people are prosperous and self-reliant. In other respects the information at hand does not warrant fine distinctions between Siberia and European Russia.
The lappings of political waters on such further shores as Turkestan, Bukhara, Khiva, and among the Bashkirs and Kirghiz, etc., all of which have been dreaming of some form of local self-government, which they call autonomy without knowing what the word means, scarcely affect the present inquiry.
I have the honor to be [etc.]
[File copy not signed]
- Enclosure in despatch of the Consul General to the Secretary of State, Jan. 18 (received Mar. 2).↩
- Not printed.↩
- Omission indicated in the original.↩
- The telegrams referred to are not
printed; their substance is contained in Consul Poole’s report, forwarded by
the Ambassador in Russia as enclosure to his despatch of Jan.
24/Feb. 6, 1918,
ii. chap. iii.↩