Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/10


Notes on Conversations Held in the Office of M. Pichon at the Quai d’Orsay, at 10:30 a.m., January 20, 1919


United States of America: President Wilson
Mr. Lansing
Mr. Frazier
Mr. Harrison
Col. Grant
British Empire: Mr. Lloyd George
Mr. Balfour
Lt. Col. Hankey
Mr. Norman
Major Caccia
Capt. Abraham
France: M. Clemenceau
M. Pichon
M. Dutasta
M. Berthelot
Prince de Bearn
Italy: M. Sonnino
Count Aldrovandi
Capt. Jones
Japan: Viscount Chinda
M. Matsui

Interpreter: M. Mantoux.


M. Clemenceau, who was in the chair, stated that M. Noulens, the French Ambassador to Russia, would give an account of conditions in that country. M. Clemenceau then introduced M. Noulens to those present.

M. Noulens stated that he would try to present a certain number of facts and read and submit a few short documents. He explained that he realized that the situation had changed since the victory of the Allies, and that a new policy was required. For his part, he had no selfish preoccupation to influence those present to adopt the views of his own country. He fully realized that what was now necessary was the adoption of a single policy which would be supported by all. He was satisfied that what he would say would be confirmed by others.

At the present time it may be said that famine exists everywhere in Russia, in spite of the great resources of the country. This is largely due to the policy pursued by the Bolsheviki, which has been [Page 630] one of confiscation of private property, nationalization of the banks, and persecution of private citizens, particularly those of the intellectual classes who form, if not the majority, then an important minority.

President Wilson inquired whether the Ambassador meant that all classes were opposed to the Bolsheviki.

M. Noulens replied that while it could not be stated that the majority were opposed to the Bolsheviki, it could be asserted that the best people of the country were opposed to their doctrine.

Mr. Lloyd George asked when the Ambassador had left Russia. M. Noulens answered that he had left Petrograd on February 22nd [27th?], 1918, Vologda on July 6th [25th?], 1918, had arrived in Archangel in August, and had left there about the middle of December last.

Returning to his subject, the Ambassador stated that all those belonging to the well-to-do classes and the intellectuals had been subjected to the most hideous tyranny. Not only had they been forced to pay exorbitant taxes, but their personal safety had been attacked. They had been forced to perform the most disgusting labors; their houses had been thrown open to the Bolsheviks, and even their clothes had been requisitioned. All such acts had been done pursuant to official orders and decrees of the Bolshevik Government. In this connection, and as an instance of this policy of the Bolsheviki to oppress the better classes, he stated that the officers of ships coming to Petrograd were subjected to the orders of their crews; that they had been tied to the masts and forced to navigate their ships in that condition, and had not been permitted the use of their own quarters. This they had been forced to endure as members of the bourgeois class.

M. Noulens read certain articles of the Constitution of the Soviet Government to prove that the deliberate policy of the Bolsheviki was a policy of tyranny worse than any that had ever existed.

In reply to a question of Mr. Lloyd George as to how this Constitution from which he was reading had been adopted, he explained that he was reading from the official paper of July 19th, 1918 The Isvestia. The Bolshevik Government, he said, was in fact a dictateur of the proletariat, the ruling of one class over all others. He read a certain article from this constitution granting absolute power to the laboring classes, and also a decree providing for the arming of the working classes and the formation of a Red Army, while at the same time decreeing the complete disarmament of the well-to-do class. Should the latter be found with arms in their possession, they were shot without trial.

[Page 631]

Mr. Lloyd George inquired whether M. Noulens had any information on the size of the Bolshevik Army.

M. Noulens replied that the general statement was that the army consisted of one million men. For his part, he thought this inexact and a gross exaggeration,—that even if it were exact, he would point out that a large portion of the Bolshevik Army consisted of men who had been forced to enlist in order to provide themselves with some means of livelihood, and also to secure food for their families. These men would not fight.

Mr. Lloyd George inquired whether there had not been fighting at Archangel.

M. Noulens replied that the Bolshevik Army was more a rabble than an army, and as an instance, referred to the fact that the Allied troops consisting of but 172 men1 had entered Archangel in August, and that their appearance was enough to force some five or six thousand Red Guards to withdraw from Archangel some 125 versts. The town consisting of some 100,000 inhabitants had been left in the care of a garrison of 100 men. The remaining 721 went forward to pursue the Bolsheviki, but they never reached the enemy, as the latter had destroyed the bridges, and the winter weather set in, which made it impossible to pursue them further.

M. Noulens gave as his opinion that if there had been 10,000 men available last summer it would have been easy for them to have reached Vologda. It was his opinion that if the Bolsheviki had, in fact, an army of a million men, they could have easily destroyed the 10,000 at Archangel and the 10,000 at Murmansk, but they have never even tried to attack.

Mr. Lloyd George stated that according to the figures furnished him there were 16,000 Allied troops at Archangel, and 15,425 at Murmansk; that in front of those at Archangel there were now only 5,000 Bolsheviks, and in front of those in Murmansk there were no more than 3,000 Bolsheviks. M. Noulens stated that he had obtained his figures shortly before his departure from Archangel from General Ironside.

Returning to his subject he stated that when the foreign representatives were at Vologda, the Bolsheviki had placed Lettish Guards around their residences, ostensibly to protect them. These soldiers stated that they would never fight against the Allies.

[Page 632]

M. Noulens then gave a brief history of the establishment of the Bolshevik Government. He recalled the fact that last year when the constituent assembly had elected a majority against the Bolsheviki, the latter had seized a number of representatives, shot them, and established the Soviet system by force. He read Article LXV of the Constitution of the Soviet Government of July, 1918, in which was set forth the categories of those who might not vote or be elected. The principal classes were those who might be said to live off the labor of others; those owning capital or property, tradesmen and private agents of commerce, priests, agents of the police, gendarmerie corps, and members of the House of Romanoff.

Mr. Lloyd George observed that this was purely a working class electory. He asked M. Noulens if the peasants were included in the list. M. Noulens answered that only those peasants could vote who had no one in their employ. He explained that there was a great number of peasants who were helped by two or three men, and that if this were the case they would not be permitted to vote.

As regards the attitude of the Bolsheviki towards the Press, the bourgeois Press and the greater part of the Socialist Press had been absolutely suppressed.

Could the Allies, as defenders of liberty, recognize the existence of such a regime, a regime which exists solely by terror? If it were true that it was not only the property classes but the majority who were opposed to the Bolsheviki, why did they not rise? The answer was that they were disarmed, and that the whole country was in a state of prostration. If the Bolsheviki had not deliberately adopted the policy of engaging highly paid mercenaries consisting of Lettish, Chinese and Red Guards, the majority would have overthrown them long ago.

M. Noulens spoke at some length regarding the reign of terror which had been instituted by Trotsky’s orders. He spoke of the summary executions of officers, and those of the middle classes. He stated that the fortresses were full of prisoners who were dying of starvation; that it was a regular thing for the Guards to take from ten to twelve of these poor prisoners every day and shoot them so as to make room for more. In this connection, he spoke of the assassination of the Minister of the Interior who was shot by a student. In reprisal, the Bolsheviki had taken some 500 officers at Kronstadt whom they had drowned or shot, while the student had been placed in the fortress of Peter and Paul where he was being slowly tortured.

The Ambassador read a telegram from Commander Boyard of Ekaterinburg, who had just arrived at Perm. The shops had been sacked and the town was dead. It was pitiful to see the yellow faces and the haggard eyes of the inhabitants. There was a general feeling [Page 633] of terror. The Bourgeoisie, that is to say, all who were not Bolshevik or in the employ of the Bolshevik, had only been allowed three ounces of bread per day, and all children over one year had died. On the arches of triumph erected by the Bolsheviki was written: “The man who does not work does not eat”, that is to say: “If you are not Bolshevik, then you receive no food”. Not only men but women had been shot,—there had been atrocities, drownings, the cutting off of noses and tongues, mutilations, burials alive, mock shootings, rape and pillage everywhere.

But it was not only the Russians who had been the victims. There have been many cases of harmless foreigners who had suffered, and not only members of the well-to-do classes, but workmen also. He mentioned the case of M. D’arcy, the Chairman of the French Residence of Petrograd, who had no relations with the Russians, except in connection with charitable work, who had been seized and imprisoned, and who had died of hunger and cold. Then there was also the case of Captain Cromie, the British Naval Attaché who had been killed in defense of the British Embassy, and whose body had been exposed for three days in the window of the Embassy.

But the Bolsheviki Government did not confine itself to the dissemination of its policy throughout Russia. The Bolshevik Government was an imperial[ist] government. The Bolsheviki desired to impose their regime on the whole world. The only peace that they will make is a peace with the laboring classes. For them there is one legitimate war only,—that is the war of classes, which they say must take place everywhere. They say there can be no peaceful settlement with the better classes. In a word, the foundation of their doctrine is: “No agreement with governments which do not represent the working classes”. They consider themselves the enemies of all other states. Should, therefore, the Associated Governments ever come to terms with the Bolsheviki, the Ambassador was convinced that they would use it for propaganda purposes only. They would flood the Allied countries with money, and they would use all means to overthrow the existing governments.

Mr. Lloyd George asked the Ambassador who was really in control of the Bolshevik Government. Was it Lenin or Trotsky?

M. Noulens explained that Lenin was more popular than Trotsky, but that Trotsky was the more energetic character, and had not hesitated to use force to achieve his ends.

After it was agreed to meet the following morning at 10:30, the meeting came to an end, to enable some of those present to attend the luncheon given by the French Senate to President Wilson.

  1. Somewhat different figures appear in the account of M. Noulens’ remarks given in the alternate version of the minutes of this meeting ante, p. 623.

    Concerning the numbers of troops involved in the occupation of Archangel, see also Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. ii, pp. 505 and 513.

  2. Somewhat different figures appear in the account of M. Noulens’ remarks given in the alternate version of the minutes of this meeting ante, p. 623.

    Concerning the numbers of troops involved in the occupation of Archangel, see also Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. ii, pp. 505 and 513.