File No. 861.00/1803
The Consul at Kiev (Jenkins) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 17.]
Sir: I have the honor to report as follows with reference to the evacuation of Kiev.
Owing to the approach of Austrian and German forces, the consulates of all the Allied powers in Kiev were closed on February 24, and the French, British, and American consular representatives left that evening for Moscow. The French and British military missions left Kiev two days earlier, also coming to Moscow. These missions included General Tabouis and Mr. Bagge, who had been appointed commissioners by the French and British Governments, respectively, to the former Ukrainian government.
It is difficult to say how large the enemy forces were which were advancing on Kiev from several directions on the date the consular representatives left, but they were believed to be considerably larger than anything the Bolsheviks had to oppose them. Information coming into Kiev was very unsatisfactory, but there was no doubt but that some of these forces had approached to within fifty or sixty miles of the city, and scouting parties were even nearer, some within twenty-five or thirty miles. It was estimated, on good authority, that Kiev would be occupied the first week in March.
The political situation with relation to Kiev and the Ukraine is very much involved. It will be remembered that the Rada government, just a few hours before it was driven out of Kiev by the Bolsheviks, had declared the complete independence of the Ukrainian republic and had followed that declaration with an announcement that peace terms had been signed between the Ukrainian government and the Central powers.
The Rada government succeeded in escaping from the Bolsheviks and went over into territory occupied by Austrian troops. From that point it is presumed the Rada got into touch with Austria and Germany and completed its plan for a “friendly” invasion of Ukraine territory with the object of suppressing the Bolsheviks and establishing order in the country. Such a plan had long been hinted at in Kiev.
So far as could be learned before the consular representatives left Kiev, the enemy forces entering the Ukraine were all preceded or accompanied by Ukrainian troops. These troops assured the people as they came along that the Austrians and Germans were not coming as enemies but as friends of the Ukrainian people and that they [Page 673] should all remain at home where there would be nothing to fear. As has been hinted at in these reports before, it has now become evident that the moving spirits in the Ukraine Rada were pro-Austrian, including Vinnichenko, the former president of the Council of Ministers, and Hruchevski, the president of the Rada. In returning to Kiev with the support of Austrian and German military forces, these leaders are simply carrying out their original plan.
The Rada government has tried to impress the people with the idea that the Ukraine would be entirely independent. This is generally believed to be impossible, however, for the Ukraine is in no position to govern itself. It is exceedingly doubtful if the people, as a whole, were in favor of complete independence. What they really seemed to want was a confederation with Russia. The aims of the Central powers seem to be to control the Ukraine by military force and ultimately make the state a dependent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In its peace agreement with the Central powers, the Rada government agreed to allow them to have large supplies of grain, fats, etc., and at the same time the Central powers bound themselves to supply the Ukraine with certain manufactured goods, including farming implements, agricultural machinery, hardware, etc. There was no provision in the terms, as published, giving the Central powers the right to police the Ukraine, but it was thought at the time that a secret arrangement to that effect had been made. There is now no doubt but that it has been done.
When the Bolshevik forces took possession of Kiev on February 8, there were all sorts of rumors about the position of the Bolshevik authorities with regard to the French and British missions. There were also rumors that the Belgians, who had armored cars at Kiev, had taken part in the fighting on the side of the Ukrainians. This later proved to be false. It was difficult to learn just what passed between the Bolshevik leaders and the missions mentioned, but I am inclined to believe they were pleasant enough on the surface. The Allied missions certainly took no part in the fighting. It is hardly necessary to say this, in view of the fact that it had been known for some time before the Rada fell that it was about to conclude a separate peace with the Central powers entirely against the interests and wishes of the Allies. In this connection it is interesting to note that at a conference the Consular Corps had with the Bolshevik commandant of Kiev on the day following the capture of the city, the commandant asked the British Vice Consul if Mr. Bagge, the British commissioner, intended to remain in Kiev, and whether it was true that the British had recognized the Rada government. The commandant said that although they wished to remain friendly [Page 674] with Great Britain that was a question he would have to know. The Vice Consul explained that Mr. Bagge was already conferring with the Bolshevik commander in chief, but that so far as he knew Great Britain had not recognized the Ukraine; that Mr. Bagge had been appointed unofficially to look after British interests.
When the commandant was introduced to the American Consul he said something about all the anarchists coming from America to Russia and that perhaps the anarchists would end by putting the Bolsheviks out. He said this in a sort of laughing manner. It is impossible to say whether he intended it to convey any hidden meaning or not. It was probably a mere pleasantry.
With regard to the benefits the Central powers will derive from their occupation of the Ukraine, it must be admitted that this is the richest agricultural district in Russia. It is a large territory, including several governments, and there are enormous supplies of grain and sugar. These supplies are partly assembled at various points and partly in the hands of the peasants. Most of the sugar is assembled at the factories and refineries. There is an arsenal at Kiev which will benefit the invaders and one large factory which has been engaged in the manufacture of ammunition. There are no other factories of importance, except those for the making and refining of sugar. There is no coal in the Ukraine and the wood supply is limited. Coal will have to be brought in from Germany unless the Central powers succeed in reaching as far as the Donets Basin, the Russian coal fields.
In order to profit by the rich grain supplies in the Ukraine, it will be necessary for the Central powers to bring about some order in the country and arrange for transport. Difficulties will be met with in doing this, but it can undoubtedly be accomplished in the course of a month or two. The next step will be to reorganize agriculture with a view to inducing the peasants to till their lands for the coming year. This will be more difficult, it is thought, because the peasants will probably be hostile to the Germans and Austrians. Besides, they are imbued with the idea of distributing the lands of the great proprietors and if the Germans decline to allow this there will be disorders and discontent. A large part of the sugar and wheat lands are owned by these great proprietors, especially the sugar estates, though they have been seized by the peasants upon promises of the Rada government that all land should be given to them.
In leaving Kiev, the American Consul burned all archives of any importance and turned over American interests to the Spanish Consul. All Americans who wished to leave were assisted in getting away.[Page 675]
Owing to the interruption of the telegraph and the danger of transmitting matter through the post, even by special messenger, the American Consul was unable to make a detailed report of the fighting in Kiev, which began January 29 and ended February 8. He sent messengers through, who called at the Consulate General and gave such verbal accounts as they were able.
The people of Kiev were stunned after the battle was over. They seemed dazed by the bombardment and the terrible events they witnessed during the closing hours of the battle. It is estimated that there were 6,000 casualties, of whom between 2,000 and 3,000 were killed, but these figures may be too low.
Before they left the city the Ukrainians, whose forces were composed principally of so-called free Cossacks and volunteers, executed many soldiers who had deserted to the Bolsheviks and were later captured. For the first two days of Bolshevik occupation there were hundreds of executions, or more properly speaking, murders. It is estimated that 300 or 400 officers were shot down on the streets or taken to a park near the former residence of the governor, where they were killed. Many well-dressed civilians were also reported to have been shot down, but this is not confirmed. The Bolshevik troops were embittered against the officers found in Kiev, because they believed they had all assisted the Ukrainians, and at first seem to have made little effort to find out whether the officers had actually taken part in the fighting or not. They were simply shot or clubbed with rifle butts. Later, however, as order began to be established, this promiscuous shooting practically ceased, though whenever officers who carried Ukrainian papers were found, they were shot.
Dozens of officers came to the Consul, disguised as common soldiers or peasants, and begged to be assisted to leave for America. People of means ceased to appear on the streets in good clothing. Furs were discarded to a great extent and many well-bred women appeared in peasant headdress instead of hats. There were robberies and looting of shops. In fairness to the Bolsheviks it must be said that much of the looting was done before the Ukrainians left the city. As the excitement wore off and the Bolshevik authorities began to get their troops back under control, vigorous efforts were made to reestablish order. The shooting of officers ceased, unless it could be shown that they had had some connection with the former government, and many robbers were summarily executed.
It is impossible to give any reliable estimate of the damage done to property in the city. Many houses were practically destroyed by shell fire, and several were burned. The house in which the American Consul lived was struck by a shell which passed through three rooms. The British Vice Consul’s house was also damaged by [Page 676] shell fire. It is reported that toward the last the Bolsheviks poured shells into the city from five different directions. Their guns were undoubtedly served by experienced artillerymen. Damage was greatest around the arsenal, at the railway station, and in the center of the city, known as the “old town.” At the latter point the Ukrainians had a battery. Damage from shell fire, however, was general through the city.
Food became very scarce as the fighting continued and there was also much suffering when the water supply was cut off for two days. This shortage of food and water forced many people to go into the streets in search of supplies, even while the shelling was going on. Many casualties resulted from this. Among the killed and wounded were hundreds of women and children. After the fighting the food situation gradually improved, but there was still a serious shortage up to the time the Consul left the city. The authorities were trying to force prices down, with the result that the peasants were bringing in little or nothing.
I have [etc.]