File No. 861.00/2480

The Chargé in Sweden ( Whitehouse) to the Secretary of State


2629. Swedish Government has transmitted to me by note dated August 11 (1) a report of the American Consul General at Moscow1 sent on July 31; (2) text of the reply of Chicherin to representations made to him by the American Consul General at Moscow; (3) and (4) two reports of the same Consul General which must have been sent August 5 and 6 respectively.

At the request of our Consul General, the Swedish Consul General sent these communications to his Government to be transmitted to this Legation. Foreign Office informs me at the same time that their Consul General, Moscow, reports that on August 5 he temporarily took charge of American as well as English and Japanese interests.

Following is enclosure No. 1:2

Lenin having declared repeatedly during a speech before an official gathering of the Soviets, July 29, that a state of war exists between the Russian Republic and the Allied powers, the diplomatic representative of Great Britain and the Consuls General of France, Italy and the United States visited the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs to inquire if they should not consider this declaration by the head of the government as a declaration of war involving the rupture of de facto relations and the departure of the consuls. Chicherin replied that it need not be so understood, that there is a state of defense rather than a state of war, that the Soviet government desires to continue its relations with the Entente as it did with Germany under analogous circumstances.

While reserving consideration of this explanation, the Consuls demanded that any explanation to be acceptable must be made publicly by the head of the government himself. Moreover they consider it necessary to connect this question with that of the departure of the [Page 642] members of the former military missions which events have made necessary. After having agreed to facilitate the departure of these persons conformably to the rules of international law, the People’s Commissars now raised absolutely inadmissible objections. If satisfaction were not immediately given in the matter, the Allied representatives could not but see therein the confirmation of Lenin’s declaration that a state of war already existed. Chicherin will consult the Council of Commissars and reply within three days.

The Japanese Consul General, who has already declined to have even informal relations with the Soviet government, declares that he supports the views set forth above, and has notified the Commissariat that he intends to follow the same line of conduct as his Allied colleagues.

2. Reply of Chicherin received during the night of August 2–3:

Seeing that Citizen Lenin’s utterances about the military operations being de facto conducted by the Anglo-French against Russia, were made behind closed doors at a meeting at which your agent could be present owing to a special courtesy on our part, public explanations cannot be given about non-public utterances. As to the ex-officers of the Entente military missions, we have begun negotiations with the German authorities in order to get from them a safe passage from Petrograd to Stockholm for these officers, any possibility of a passage through Archangel being out of question at the present moment when British cruisers have already begun the bombardment of the islands covering Archangel. Our negotiations on this subject are not yet terminated.

3. Report of our Consul General, dated August 5:

Referring to reports which you have received through the Swedish Government concerning arrests of British and French citizens at Moscow, it results from a conference this afternoon between Chicherin and Karakhan, on the one side, and the Consuls General of Japan and Sweden and myself on the other side, that (1) the Soviet government gives solemn assurance that Allied persons having diplomatic or official character will not be molested; (2) that Allied military missions will not [now?] be allowed to depart as already promised for some time; (3) that civil persons arrested are hostages for lives of Soviet members in territory occupied by the Allies.

Chicherin said that these persons are only civil prisoners arrested for internment in accordance with the usages of war. He persisted in adding, however, that in view of the breach by Great Britain and France of the elementary principle of international law through an attack on Archangel without previous declaration of war, and the subsequent execution of Soviet members, no responsibility can be assumed for their future safety.

I informed Chicherin that I had no knowledge of events in the north, but could warn him that the peoples of the Allied nations are not of a character to be intimidated, that the beginning of a system of reprisals by the Soviet government could only result in the individual members of that government being in the end held personally [Page 643] responsible, and in the loss to the Bolshevik cause of whatever respect it may now have in the minds of the civilized world.

The Japanese Consul said that he had not heretofore had direct contact with the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs but was impelled by the gravity of the present situation to come personally to inform the Commissariat that the Japanese people will be deeply concerned by present developments; the Commissars are greatly mistaken if they believe that Japan can pass over such a situation with indifference. Chicherin said that the American Consulate General would be furnished the details respecting the alleged shootings in the north, and I replied that I would communicate these to the American Government.

As you are aware, I am quite without instructions in this situation and have no direct word respecting our attitude toward the operations in the north. The Soviet government insists, not without some justice, that the situation is altogether anomalous and unprecedented. Chicherin says that his government does not desire a state of war, and will take de facto measures of war only to the extent that such measures are directed against it.

While thoroughly concurring in an aggressive policy in Russia, I respectfully point to the practical complications attendant upon our present program, and earnestly request immediate and explicit instructions in the present situation.

It is to be remarked that Bolsheviks are becoming daily more desperate and no reliance is to be placed in their assurances.

4. Report of Consul General dated August 6:

De facto authorities forcibly entered Consulates General of Great Britain and France yesterday afternoon and arrested Consuls General and their staffs. Release of Consuls General and part of their staffs obtained about 3 o’clock this morning as result of untiring efforts of Swedish Consul General. Guard remains about both Consulates and will not permit nationals to approach. These acts were committed immediately following solemn assurance by Commissar of Foreign Affairs that all persons having diplomatic or consular character would be respected, see my telegram of yesterday.

In these circumstances of manifest bad faith, there was no assurance that the American Consulate General would not be violated at any moment; it was necessary to destroy codes and records. The absence of these, together with the continued unlawful conduct of the de facto authorities, now renders it materially impossible even in the absence of other considerations to continue the exercise of my functions. I am accordingly asking the Swedish Consul General this afternoon to take over protection of American interests and at the same time request facilities for the immediate departure of the American consular and diplomatic staff. Other Allied consuls doing likewise. All possible measures are being taken for the security of private American citizens, who have not so far been molested.

Departure will probably be by way of Petrograd, Stockholm. German Embassy at the instance of Swedish Consul General has already recommended to Berlin issuance of necessary safe-conducts.

[Page 644]

5. Translation of telegram from Vologda to Moscow received August 2, signed Armour, Pingaud, and Bowe:1

An assistant of Kedrov, Commissioner of the People, came to see us to-day, August 1, at 7 p.m. He was instructed to ask our consent leave Vologda and go to Moscow as he was unable to answer for our safety here. After thanking this representative for his solicitude, we referred him to the express instructions of our Ambassadors to remain for the protection of our nationals at Vologda, and the impossibility of our going to Moscow on any pretext whatever. Nevertheless to reply to the desire expressed by the Soviet power and at the same time take care of the interests with which we are charged, we have declared ourselves disposed to go away from Vologda within 3 given distance. We consequently hope that this suggestion will be taken into consideration in spite of the delay of twenty-four hours which is imposed on us, for it is dictated by our desire to remove from the People’s Commissioners the responsibilities which they seem to fear. We urgently request further instructions.

  1. Consul DeWitt C. Poole, in charge of the Consulate General at Moscow; later detailed to Archangel with rank of Counselor of Embassy.
  2. Also transmitted via the Embassy in France (No. 4682); by wireless from Moscow to Paris (File No. 861.00/2428).
  3. Second Secretary of the American Embassy, French Vice Consul, and British Vice Consul, respectively.