File No. 861.00/11422

The Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. “Olympia” ( Bierer ) to the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters ( Sims )

There is forwarded herewith enclosure A. Referring to I of enclosure A, Nasarenus therein mentioned is the same individual as Natsaremus previously mentioned in my weekly reports. Enclosure A was adopted by the District Council on 30 June and Moscow notified the same day. At a public meeting in Murmansk, which was attended by General Poole, Admiral Kemp, R.N., French Captain Petit, [Page 490] and myself, the assent to the declaration, enclosure A, was called for by the president of the Murmansk District Council and the populace, probably 2,000 or more, practically to a man, raised their hands in token of approval.
The District Soviet, Murmansk District Council, Murmansk Regional Council, and Murman Region Council are the same thing, and are the council of administration or government of the Murman region. The Murman or Murmansk region includes the former Alexandrovsk and Kern districts of the Archangel Government, that is, the Murman coast, including the towns of Pechenga, Alexandrovsk, Murmansk, Kandalaksha, Kem, and Soroka. The administration of this region is directly under the District Council. The Council is composed of representatives from various committees, such as Railroad Workmen’s Committee, Sailors’ Committee, Military Committee, District Committee, etc. The number of committees is apparently unlimited, any special group of people who are numerous enough or powerful enough being allowed representation. The various committees choose representatives and these representatives combine and form the Council and elect their own officers to exercise powers of administration, tenure of office being entirely dependent upon the wishes of the majority.
The present head of the District Council is a man by the name of Yuriev. He is a native Russian, but he has been in this vicinity for only a few months, having appeared some time subsequent to the revolution. For some time, according to his own accounts and from other reports believed to be reliable, he lived in the United States working at various trades in various parts of the country. He does not speak very much English but seems to understand pretty near everything that is said in English. He seems very desirous of assisting in the relief of the country from its present chaotic condition and is a sincere worker to that end. He seems pro-Ally inclined and is pronouncedly pro-American. Another influential member of the District Council is a man by the name of Vesselago, formerly a captain in the Russian Navy. He is a member of the executive council of the District Council, acts in the capacity of a sort of business manager, and occupies in general a position of power. He is very able. While rather noncommittal he seems to favor the Allies. The military command of the district is under the charge of Zvigentsov, formerly an officer of the Russian Army and said to have been of the Imperial Guards. He was second in command of the whole Archangel district of northern Russia, acting under an appointment from the national Soviet at Moscow. He appears pro-Ally inclined. These three men, Yuriev, Vesselago, and Zvigentsov, form a sort of triumvirate as regards district and local affairs and seem to work together [Page 491] to marked degree. The head of the railway committee is Promortsev. He is a good listener, evidently does not understand English, and apparently seems purely concerned with workmen’s interests, wages, etc.
The Sailors’ Committee is known as the Centramur, organized by and composed chiefly of men of the old Russian Navy. They have representation in the District Council but tend more or less to independent exercise of power. They control in general the Russian vessels here, both naval and merchant. Officers are elected by popular vote amongst themselves. A few of the present officers were officers under the Imperial Government, but the majority are selected more on account of popularity than ability. The Centramur exerts a certain power by virtue of being in possession of the Russian men-of-war and certain arms and ammunition; also on account of the fact that at the time of the revolution the sailors succeeded in obtaining possession of considerable funds. With these funds on hand they have been able to get along with little work and by virtue of their numbers, estimated about 800 in all, and possession of arms and ammunition have wielded a sort of power through fear alone. With the presence of Allied men-of-war they are merely a factor of tolerance. At the same time, among the sailors are a number of officers of the ex-Russian navy who are excellent men and who seem to be earnest endeavorers to work for the good and upbuilding of Russia. The head of the Sailors’ Committee, that is, president of the Centramur, is Laudanski and he seems to be an excellent man and especially well liked by the officers and sailors.
The situation is, of course, unsettled, whether or not more than it has been remains to be seen. Nasarenus or Natsaremus has not appeared.
On 4 July at Kem three Russians were killed by the British forces at Kem. It had been decided to disarm the Russians there, as at least some of those who had arms there did not seem to be friendly and some coming into Kem were supposed to be advance guards of Mr. Natsaremus. The three men who were killed resisted being disarmed. …
There is forwarded herewith enclosure B. This temporary agreement was gotten up and signed yesterday1 due to the desire on the part of the Murmansk Region Council to be able to inform the Murmansk region in regard to the presence, objectives, and help of the Allies here, together with their cooperation with the Murmansk Regional Council. It is in writing a statement of the policy, operations, [Page 492] and intent of the Allied command represented at present by the senior Allied officers, British General Poole and Admiral Kemp, R.N. As finally drawn up in its present form, I saw no objections to signing it but on the contrary thought it desirable to sign it as all parties felt, in view of the present situation, that it was desirable. The Murmansk District Council especially persisted, in view of the present situation, in having something in writing in order to inform in particular the people of the district.
This agreement was drawn up in English. The Russian translation is a translation made from the English by the Murman District Council.
B. B. Bierer
[Enclosure A]

Resolution Adopted by the Murmansk District Council, June 30, 1918

Gentlemen, Representatives of the Nations and the Governments of the United States of America, Great Britain, and France:

The Murmansk District Council considers that the respite given to Russia by the Brest treaty is finished. The arrogant German imperialists have already occupied a good half of European Russia and have divided her into small, feeble groups incapable of resistance. In each of these groups there has been restored, in different forms, the old autocratic system which had been overthrown by the Russian revolution.

The German advance into Russia continues and we can not see where it will stop. In particular, the Germans and their servants, the White Guard of Finland, are attempting to occupy the Murmansk district, the last outlet from Russia to the open sea and the last route of communication with the Allies free from German control.

Russia, in the present state of her disorganized industries, means of transport, and food supply, can not recover herself and organize a serious defense against the Germans. In particular, she is unable to defend the Murmansk district against the attacks of the Germans and Finns. We are not able to provide for our district the necessary food and consolidate our economic affairs.

The help which Russia and, in particular, the Murmansk district so greatly desire can come only from your Governments, representatives of the United States of America, Great Britain, and France. That is why the protest against the presence of your military forces here, which the central government has ordered us to transmit, is, to our firm conviction, an act of suicide and disaster for Russia, and especially for the Murmansk district.

The Murmansk District Council, in the firm conviction of its duty to Russia and to the population of the territory, whose confidence it enjoys, considering all these things, has decided:

The orders of Lenin, Trotsky, and Nasarenus to protest against the presence of the Allies here and drive them out are not to be obeyed.
The Allies must remain here and assist the highest local Russian power, the Murmansk District Council, to defend the country against the Germans and Finns, to organize a Russian Army, and improve our economic condition.
The highest power of this territory is the Murmansk District Council, in the hands of which must remain all the initiative, the Allies assisting it, but not interfering in internal affairs.
To give to the relations between the District Council and the Allies a more definite and precise character, the Presidium of the District Council, together with two members of the Central Committee of the Fleet and two members of the Central Railway Committee, are authorized to begin immediate negotiations for working out a concrete written agreement, determining on the basis of the second and third paragraphs mentioned above the mutual rights and obligations of the Murmansk District Council and the Allies.
The District Council must take all measures for an early liquidation of the conflict between it and the central government and must endeavor to find some way of working again together.
In agreeing to the above points of the resolution, we are guided by a sense of duty to retain this territory inviolate for Russia, in the name of which, as one nation, we are acting.

[Enclosure B]

Temporary Agreement owing to Exceptional Circumstances between the Representatives in Murmansk of Great Britain, United States of America, and France, and the Presidium of the Murmansk Region Council 1

Article 1

Subject on the part of the Allies to approval by their respective governments, this agreement has been made between the Representatives of Great Britain, United States of America and France on one side, and the Murmansk Region Council on the other, with the object of united action on the part of the Signatories for the defence of the Murmansk Region against the powers of the German coalition. Both signatories agree to the fullest mutual co-operation for this end.

Nota: The Murmansk Region includes the former Alexandrovsk and Kem districts of the Archangel Government.

Article 2

The superior command of the Allied and Russian military forces in the Murmansk Region shall be organised on the same plan as actually exists on all other Allied fronts.

Article 3

All separate units of the Murmansk Region armed forces, already existing, or which are going to be formed, are to be under the direct command of the Russian military authorities, appointed by the Murmansk District Council.

Nota: It is most desirable that the Russians should form a purely Russian army; however, to further the ends in view, voluntary enlistment by the Allies of such Russians as may desire to join their forces is to be permitted. In principle however such forces should not be formed into separate Russian units but should as far as circumstances permit be formed into units composed of an equal number of companies of Allies and Russians.

Article 4

The representatives of Great Britain, United States of America and France are to give to the Russian military command the necessary assistance in equipment, supplies, transporting and instructing the Russian military forces which are to be formed.

Article 5

All the authority in the internal government of the region belongs to the Murmansk Region Council.

[Page 494]

Article 6

The representatives of Great Britain, United States of America and France, and agents do not interfere in the internal affairs of the Region, and for this reason:

In all cases necessitating application to the local population the representatives of Great Britain, United States of America and France, and their agents address themselves to the respective Russian authorities, but not directly to the population, except in the frontal region, where all orders of the Allied military command, arising out of the conditions of war, must be immediately executed by all.
The regulations for entering and leaving the Murmansk region are defined by the Murmansk Region Council, who at the same time take into consideration the practically existing state of war in the region and the necessity of energetic measures being taken against spies.
Scale of wages and productiveness of labour are to be fixed by the Murmansk Region Council.

Article 7

Owing to the impossibility at the present time to obtain the necessary food stuffs from Russia, the representatives of Great Britain, United States of America and France bind themselves as far as possible to supply the Murmansk Region Council with foodstuffs for the whole population of the region, including workmen who have already come from other parts with their families on the basis equivalent in nourishment to the scale used in the Allied military forces at Murmansk.

Article 8

The distribution of the foodstuffs among the population is to be carried out by the competent Russian authorities.

Article 9

The representatives of Great Britain, United States of America and France bind themselves to supply as far as possible textile goods and other necessities of life.

Article 10

The representatives of Great Britain, United States of America and France bind themselves as far as possible to supply the Murmansk Region Council with the necessary materials, goods and technical appliances for carrying out the building programme, in accordance with mutual agreement to be arrived at, taking into consideration in the first place the needs of war time, in the second place the needs for development by way of the Murmansk Railway of international trade, and in the third place the local fishing industry.

Article 11

All sums expended by the Governments of Great Britain, United States of America and France in accordance with this agreement are to be placed to the debit of the general account of the government debt of Russia to the respective Powers, but a separate account for the Murmansk Region is to be kept of such sums.

[Page 495]

Article 12

The representatives realise that it will be necessary for the governments of Great Britain, United States of America and France to accord the Murman Region Council the necessary financial assistance, the amount, form and conditions of which will be decided by further agreement.

Article 13

This agreement comes into force from the moment of confirmation by the Murman Region Council and remains in force subject to Art. No. 1 until such time as normal conditions between the central Russian Government and the Murman Region Council, as also with the governments of Great Britain, United States of America and France, are established.

Article 14

On the signature of this agreement the representatives of Great Britain, United States of America, and France in the name of their respective governments, do again confirm the absence on their part of any intention of taking possession of the Murmansk Region in its entirety or part thereof. The Presidium of the Murmansk Region Council on behalf of the Council declares before the people of Russia and the governments of Great Britain, United States of America and France that the sole reason of concluding this Agreement is to save the Murmansk Region in its integrity for the great Undivided Russia.1

[Presidium of the Murmansk Region Council:


Vice President


Director of Affairs

British Representative:
F. C. Poole
, Major General,
Commanding Allied Forces in North Russia
French Representative:
, Capitaine de Vaisseau,
Commanding “Amiral Aube”
Representative of United States of America:
B. B. Bierer
, Captain,
U.S. Navy, Commanding U.S.S. “Olympia.”
  1. The letter of transmittal, which was returned to the Navy Department, has not been found in its files. See the reply of the Secretary of State, Oct. 14, 1918, post, p. 556.
  2. The Russian translation printed and widely circulated in Murmansk at the time is dated July 6, which date is confirmed by the U. S. Military Attaché then in Murmansk.
  3. Approved by the Council, July 7.
  4. The signatures and date are reconstructed from this copy (British, French, and American signatures only) and from the Russian translation described in footnote 1, p. 491.