File No. 861.00/2727

The Consul at Archangel (Cole) to the Secretary of State

No. 31

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Allied Embassies which had arrived from Vologda set sail from this port on Monday, the 29th of July, and that the days immediately following their departure were extremely quiet except for a noticeable feverish activity in the various Bolshevik headquarters.

The White Sea military district staff had already completely evacuated to Vologda and the control of the city and region had passed from the hands of the Civil Provincial Executive Committee [Page 510] to the Council of Defense of the region consisting of the commander, Colonel Potapov, a prominent member of the Provincial Executive Committee, his military political commissar, and one other. This body was busy perfecting plans for the defense of the city and for its destruction in case evacuation should become necessary.

At 4 o’clock on the morning of August 1 all Allied consuls in Archangel received a note from the Council of Defense which read as follows:

The Council of Defense of the Archangel region informs you herewith that after bombarding the city of Onega, British troops have occupied it. The Council of Defense requests a prompt reply giving your interpretation of this act and stating whether or not you consider it to be the opening of hostilities against the Russian Federated Republic of Soviets or as a misunderstanding. Measures have been taken to resist the landing.

The French Consul and myself replied evasively and I expressed my surprise at the receipt of the letter inasmuch as the American consular service is a civil and not a military institution and that my government was not called into question by the alleged act. I concluded by saying that the United States had never and did not now have any intention of warring with Russia and furthermore I could not consider the possibility of war between America and Russia.

Incidentally, the Acting Belgian Consul, who is a Russian subject, was unable to reply since he had fled from the city.

During the entire forenoon of this day the city was calm, the only sign of anything unusual being the small number of persons on the streets. All the ferries crossing the river were crowded, although the evacuation proper did not begin until late in the afternoon, at which time an Allied aeroplane flew over the city and the news came out that the Allied naval forces by the valuable aid of aircraft had captured the batteries which are situated on an island in the mouth of the river entrance to the harbor of Archangel.

From then on, the Bolsheviks hurried their evacuation which reached its height at 10 in the evening and was completed by midnight.

I remained in the Consulate during the greater part of the day and in the afternoon and evening did not leave the office until arrested. About two hours previous to the arrest, which took place at 11 in the evening, a secret message was received warning us that all Allied Consuls were to be arrested in a few minutes. Consul Pierce and myself thereupon placed the codes beside an open stove with a bottle of kerosene and a constantly burning candle in preparation [Page 511] for immediate destruction in case of necessity and gave directions that any one demanding entrance should be detained in conversation at the door.

After waiting about an hour and a half in expectation of immediate arrest, members of the Young Men’s Christian Association called and announced that there were but few soldiers on the street all hastening to the river front there to embark on any available craft. This led us to believe that the news of our intended arrest was a false rumor and Consul Pierce left the Consulate to reconnoiter with the intention of returning in a half hour to report on the progress of the evacuation.

He had scarcely left the office when some officers from the commander’s staff wearing Caucasian uniforms arrived in an automobile to make the arrest. The codes were hastily burned and after packing some necessary clothes together I was escorted to a modern mansion in the center of the city where I found the British Consul and Vice Consul, the French Consul, and a number of French and British officers. We were given to understand that we were imprisoned by the commander’s staff, which while pretending to be Bolshevik, was proceeding in the interests of the Allies. During the night the Caucasians brought in the commander himself and a safe containing 4,500,000 rubles belonging to the Bolshevik staff. We were released at 11 o’clock of the following morning by N. V. Chaikovski, who is at the present time at the head of the local government.

It is now apparent that the Caucasians were adventurers pure and simple, acting, after the evacuation commenced, solely to obtain the above-mentioned sum of money and that the consuls were arrested in order to guarantee the persons of the adventurers, to be held as hostages or likely to assure and prove loyalty to whichever party might obtain permanent control.

Consul Pierce returned to the Consulate shortly after my arrest and not knowing the exact nature of the arrest remained on the streets until 6 in the morning, when, after learning the details, he reentered the Consulate and awaited my return.

Later in the day of August the 2d, at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the American Consular Corps went down the river in a tugboat to meet the incoming Allied military and naval officials which were greeted by the Russians along the shore with cheers, blowing of whistles, and the waving of handkerchiefs.

The landing of the Allied officials was received by an armed guard of counter-revolutionists and a procession was made through the streets filled with cheering people to the new government headquarters where expressions of good will on both sides and short speeches were made to the people.

[Page 512]

Consul Pierce and myself desire to mention Y. M. C. A. secretaries Hofstra and Craig and a courier from the Consulate General in Moscow … for the excellent manner in which they stood by and the courage they showed during the above-mentioned critical period.

I have [etc.]

Felix Cole