File No. 861.00/1385

The Counselor of Embassy in Russia ( Wright ) to the Secretary of State 1


Pursuant to Ambassador’s orders, of which he advised the Department on March 5, I arrived here by Amur route on 24th, after excessively delayed trip of nineteen days from Vologda, with Connor and Simmang of Embassy staff, who are returning home, and Stalinski, dragoman of Embassy, as interpreter. I have signed drafts for February salaries of these three Embassy clerks. Please advise my wife, also my mother in care of Embassy, Paris, and families of staff. I have apprised Admiral Knight of the situation in Petrograd and en route and will endeavor to get in touch with railroad commission. I await the receipt of instructions from the Department as to my further movements.

From a close study and many interviews during the trip I am convinced that the Bolshevik power, which appears strongly predominant in every section of Siberia through which I have passed and which is increasing here, arises more from the inertia or inability of the better or more intelligent classes to combat it than from any tacit acquiescence therein. The effectiveness of force as typified and practised by a man with a gun is undisguisedly feared and bitterly hated. The most arbitrary confiscation of property, execution of individuals, levying of loans and searches of trains are matters of daily occurrence. The railroad officials of all grades do not even endeavor to disguise their disgust at employees’ agreements which have resulted in almost complete demoralization of railroad transportation and morale. While some of the lower grades of railroad workmen may be momentarily satisfied with shorter hours and more pay, the higher grades of employees share the disgust of their superiors. So-called troop trains, composed of freight cars filled with a disorderly rabble of demobilized soldiers proceeding home, demand, command, and obstruct the right of way over all traffic, [Page 90] while, strange as it may seem, many soldiers and sailors still in uniform and proceeding westward in similar trains bent on food speculation obtain the same preference in treatment.

Little or no direct supervision of Austrian or German prisoners was noticed and they appeared to have almost complete freedom of movement in the cities where their camps were located. I saw none armed and likewise no confirmation of any, united action by them as yet and I procured no evidence of the presence of officers from their former camps notwithstanding the fact that their numbers in Petrograd had noticeably increased prior to my departure. Austrians appeared more numerous but more dejected than Germans and inferior in health and in general appearance.

The viewpoint of a member of the executive committee of the Russian Railway Union, traveling on the same train from Petrograd in connection with railroad material from the United States, which he reports has been discharged at Dairen, may be regarded as typical. He states that although peace has been signed and ratified he believes that the Germans will nevertheless continue operations of a military character against European Russia; that an army of working-men is being formed; that the demobilization of the former army is more of a blessing than otherwise as it releases men who are tired of life in the trenches; that the bourgeoisie must work or starve or leave the country; that the proletariat will fight as never before against Germany or any other power on account of their conviction that the revolution itself hangs in the balance; and that the Russian proletariat still clings to the hope that the Russian peace formula will ultimately appeal to the German proletariat and strengthen its hands against German autocracy. His arguments as regards economics and politics are very feeble and equally typical and non-intelligent. While he declined to discuss the matter of the cancellation of our loans to Russia he clearly intimated that Russia would be willing to arrange payment for this railroad material either by direct payment with the gold which the Government is now confiscating, or by the exchange of products, or by concessions in Siberia to Americans. The last proposal, while dangerous and impracticable, is an interesting and radical departure not only on account of Siberia’s incalculable wealth and opportunities but also of its vital importance in any reorganization or assistance that we may plan to lend Russia.

I believe it fair to deduce that the present authorities are so overwhelmed with problems in Petrograd, Moscow and European Russia, that the development of Siberia would be promptly intrusted to any power which might convey, by the very sincerity of its attitude, the idea that no territorial acquisition is intended. The fear of, and animosity to, Japanese invasion of the east is uppermost, [Page 91] however, in the minds of all in Siberia but the idea of American assistance is one to which I find sympathetic consideration given in all instances. I am therefore more than ever convinced that our country enjoys what little confidence the present de facto authorities repose in any foreign power to a greater degree than any other; that commercial as well as ultimate political bonds of great strength can be formed and that inevitable German [expansion] in Siberia may thus be observed and thwarted. If, as it now appears, Russian intelligence is too supine to combat the elements which may easily become even more uncontrolled than at present, our opportunity tactfully to guide those elements may never be favorable as now.

The present party in power is long on attempted organization and sadly deficient in men of intelligence or experience. Their theories are fanatical. I am fully aware that our policy is against any intervention in Russia’s internal affairs, but my conviction is daily strengthened by observation and by the comment of intelligent persons that it is inadvisable to expect any initiative from within, at least until the country has recovered from the wave of ultra socialism which is sweeping all before it and from which situation Germany can and will derive the only advantage. Encouragement, or even the propagation by us of any germ of a responsible Siberian government, would meet with welcome from a tired people and the reconstruction and maintenance of the Trans-Siberian Railway as an apparatus conveying education, principles of law and order, agricultural assistance and all the propaganda of the manifold institutions of the United States, would prove more acceptable and more lasting than any purely military occupation; provided, however, that such undertaking be clothed with the unwavering assurance that law, order, and respect of property will be maintained by American or Allied forces if necessary.

Interruption in local telegraph service is responsible for delay in this report.

  1. Garbled text subsequently corrected by Mr. Wright.