Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/7
Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, May 10, 1919, at 12 noon
- United States of America
- President Wilson.
- M. Clemenceau.
- British Empire
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
- M. Orlando.
- United States of America
|Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B.||}||Secretaries.|
|Prof. P. J. Mantoux.—Interpreter.|
(M. Tchaykowsky was introduced.)
Situation in Russia 1. M. Tchaykowsky said that he had spent 28 years of his life in England and 4 years in the United States of America, so that half his life had been spent in English speaking countries.
President Wilson said that the Council was very anxious to have his views as to the best policy to be pursued towards Russia. All those present were friends of Russia and anxious to help her, and would be glad of any suggestions M. Tchaykowsky might have to offer.
M. Tchaykowsky remarked that this was a large order.
President Wilson said that perhaps it would guide M. Tchaykowsky if he was to state the difficulties. The principal feature in the situation was the growing strength of Koltchak and his rapid advance westwards, which might presently enable him to get in touch with forces to the north and perhaps those to the south. He and his colleagues, however, were not entirely satisfied that the leadership of Koltchak was calculated to preserve what ought to be preserved of the new order of things in Russia. They had some fear that it would result in a policy of reaction and military power.
M. Tchaykowsky said that he had already had the pleasure of presenting assurances on this point, both from Koltchak and from Denekin. Yesterday, a further definition of his policy had been received from Denekin, who had made his suggestion at the instigation of the various Attachés. This had appeared in the newspapers. [Page 545] He then handed in the original which had been received on May 8th.
M. Clemenceau said that he had not seen this before.
Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson were in the same position.
M. Tchaykowsky said that it was a despatch from M. Neratoff1 to M. Sazonoff, dated the 5th May, 1919, and had emanated from Constantinople. (The document was then read by President Wilson.) (A copy of the original telegram is attached. (Appendix.)) On the initiative of the Allied and Associated Governments, the Commander-in-Chief (General Denekin) has communicated to the Head of the United States’ Mission, as well as to the Heads of the other Missions, the following decisions suggested by the said representatives, and he asked them to bring to the notice of their respective Governments the aims pursued by the Commander-in-Chief in South Russia in his struggle against the Soviet. His programme was as follows:—
- The suppression of Bolshevist anarchy and the restoration of order in Russia.
- The re-construction of the Russian Army and of a united Russia.
- Convocation of the Russian National Assembly, elected on universal suffrage.
- Decentralisation of administration. Local autonomy subject to a Central Government.
- Religious liberty.
- Land Reform.
- Labour legislation, protecting the labouring classes against oppression either by the Government or by capitalists.
This bore the signature of the Commander-in-Chief and had been published locally. This, continued M. Tchaykowsky, was the fullest declaration that had yet been made. He explained that M. Sazonoff was the head of General Denekin’s foreign department, but, during his absence in Paris, M. Neratoff was acting for him.
President Wilson suggested that probably the military representatives of the Allied and Associated Powers had only suggested that the programme should be communicated to Paris.
M. Tchaykowsky said that this was Denekin’s programme. Kolt-chak’s declarations were clear enough as to his aims.
President Wilson said that Koltchak’s proclamation had been in very general terms, particularly in regard to land reform. He did not obtain a distinct impression from it.
M. Tchaykowsky said that in Siberia the land question was not nearly so acute as it was in European Russia. In the first place, the population was thin and there was plenty of land. In the second place, communal management of the land was in force. Hence, the [Page 546] land question was not so vital or so epoch making there as in European Russia. In the Northern regions also, there was the land problem. All they could do at present, until a Constituent Assembly had settled the fundamental principles, was to satisfy themselves that land temporarily taken should not be returned unless the interests of the State demanded it. For example, in Archangel, there was a very important cattle breeding ground on which a considerable part of the population was dependent for its living. To deprive them of their forage and hay would be very detrimental to the public interest. In case of the appropriation of such land, the State would step in and see that the public interest did not suffer. The same applied to timber. There was an old law by which any peasant could obtain from the Government a plot of forest land for gradual cutting. In 40 years, this land became communal. Some peasants had spent a good deal of money and labour on such land and during the revolution both would be lost if the plot be seized. Here again, the State had to protect the rights of the worker who contracted with the State. The policy they pursued generally was to allow the occupied land to be kept until a Constituent Assembly finally decided the principles. The provisional government was the guardian of the common interest. It allowed renting of land but did not allow its sale, since purchase was the foundation of ownership. It was quite clear to him that Koltchak was acting on the same principle and leaving the final dispositions to a Constituent Assembly.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that two things were essential. First, the summoning of a Constituent Assembly, which should be a bona fide Assembly and not gerrymandered. The suffrage should not be twisted about to suit particular interests, as had been the case in Germany, where the suffrage had been divided into three classes. The first thing, therefore, was to see that the Assembly was on a bona fide basis, and then the land question could be safely entrusted to it. The second essential was to define the attitude of the Central Government towards the small States, such as Finland, Esthonia, Estland, Livonia, Lithuania, etc.
M. Tchaykowsky said that in regard to Mr. Lloyd George’s first point, he understood that the doubts and apprehensions that were felt arose from the fear of a military dictatorship menacing the functions of the Constituent Assembly. Once it was spread over political matters, military power might refuse to sign away its authority. There might be Mexican [sic] arguments at work. This, he understood, to be the foundation of the doubts that were felt. As for Koltchak, in a speech to the Zemstvos, he had promised to resign his position immediately there was a chance of getting a Constituent Assembly. No one could ask more of him than that. Siberia, he pointed out, was [Page 547] more democratic than other parts of Russia. There had been no class of nobles or of large landowners, although there had been a few millionaires, but they did not now exercise former authority. There was only a small middle class and the bulk of the population consisted of peasant proprietors. There was practically no reactionary class. The only reactionaries in Siberia were the military element and had only come temporarily. It was on this population that Koltchak was dependent in his government and for his military success. This was why Koltchak, although a dictator, both in a military and political sense, was constantly announcing democratic measures. This, indeed, was essential to his position. Denekin’s position was quite different. In his part of Russia, there were large numbers of landowners, from which class his military officers were largely drawn. This made General Denekin’s declaration all the more significant. In reply to President Wilson, he said that Koltchak was much stronger than Denekin, who had largely exhausted his recruiting resources and could only be strengthened from outside. Koltchak, on the other hand, was entering a populous district and region from which he would be able to draw his recruits.
Referring to Mr. Lloyd George’s second point, M. Tchaykowsky said that the question of the relations between the Central Government and the smaller States was a most delicate and unsatisfactory one in Russia. One result of the over-centralisation of Czardom and the treatment of those States by the Bolshevist population had been that all the national groupings that had sprung up had been seized by a fashion of independence. But when they looked at the question coolly and viewed their economic position, they were far from suggesting any such solution. Economically, these small States were weak and they must inevitably fall into dependence on someone else. The Lithuanians, for example, he understood, had already received large sums from the Germans. The same would apply to Esthonia and Latvia. He had had several conversations with Esthonian representatives in Paris and they admitted the truth of this. They at first said that since Germany had overrun Estonia, they must consider themselves free of any ties with Russia and start afresh. He had replied that he understood their standpoint but could not admit such a tabula rasa argument since Reval stood at the gate of the Finnish Gulf and since it had been built by Russian energy. Eventually, they had promised that, if when the day came for the final reckoning, Russia would treat them as equal to equal and not as obligatory members of the Russian State, they would be prepared to deal. They had sent a telegram in this sense to the head of their Government, but, owing to the serious situation there and the elections, the reply had been delayed. In reply to Mr. Lloyd George, he said that Esthonia [Page 548] had two representatives in Paris. He believed, also, that Lithuania had representatives. These representatives had no authority to decide questions, but could negotiate.
Mr. Lloyd George asked if Koltchak had a representative in Paris.
M. Tchaykowsky said that all four Russian delegates have been confirmed by Koltchak, but Prince Lvof had been particularly delegated from Siberia.m. Sazonoff in the similar way represented General Denekin. The constitution of Denekin’s Government at the present time was rather complicated. He himself had written several letters to members of Denekin’s Council, and had tried to persuade them to adopt the following principles:—
- To devote the energy of the Commander-in-Chief, principally to meeting the enemy;
- To organise the right system of power, the essential element of which was a clear demarcation between their military and their political functions.
The full power belonged to the Commander-in-Chief, but he ought to use all his energies for military operations, and not to interfere in policy nor to allow his subordinates to do so. The political Government, however, ought to have a military department to deal with such matters as the recruiting training and supply of the Army. He knew this well, because they had had great difficulties in Archangel region in this respect. Now, however, their system was functioning perfectly.
Mr. Lloyd George read the following quotation from a Memorandum from the Foreign Office, dated May 1st, 1919:—
“The most recent telegrams refer to the fact that over 90% of the burgher population and 80% of Russian peasants are co-operators loosely associated with the right wing of the Socialist Revolutionary party, who greatly resent the indifference to public support shown by Koltchak’s Government, and more particularly condemn the Rinov2 policy of attack on all representative institutions, which is doing the greatest harm”.
He asked who Rinov was.
M. Tchaykowsky said Rinov was not a Minister, and he did not know who he was. It was very difficult to judge of matters of this kind from a distance of thousands of miles.
Mr. Lloyd George then continued to read:—
“They are, however, represented as in no way objecting to recognition of Koltchak’s Government by us, as long as it is conditional on his taking a broader public basis.”
M. Tchaykowsky said that he was a co-operator himself, and was indeed president of several Co-operative organizations. As far as he knew, however, the above information was contrary to the facts. He had personal friends in Siberia, who were high up in the Co-operative movement, and these were supporting Koltchak actually from the head offices of the Co-operative Societies. They would not dare do this if Koltchak were unpopular, as the Co-operative Societies were democratic in their organisation.
Mr. Lloyd George again quoted from the same document:—
“Koltchak’s recent brilliant successes on his front are neutralised to a certain extent by the growing unrest in his rear.”
M. Tchaykowsky said he had a question to ask. Did this information come direct from Siberia, and, if so, what was the date of the report?
Mr. Lloyd George read the following note by Lord Curzon3 explaining the position of the memorandum from which he had quoted:—
“As on many previous occasions I circulate this note by an able writer in the Foreign Office, not as committing the Foreign Office or the Secretary of State, but as representing the views of an expert authority.”
M. Tchaykowsky said that this kind of report was often heard. Some facts took place, and were then exaggerated. For example, Koltchak himself was treated as the man who had carried out the coup d’etat. This was not correct. Others had carried out the coup d’etat, and had then forced the position of dictator on Kolchak by urging that if he would not accept it, his country would go to pieces. Koltchak had not pushed himself into it. In reply to Mr. Lloyd George, he said that Koltchak was an Admiral who had during the war commanded with distinction at Sebastopol. He did not know exactly from what class he was drawn. Most of his Ministers were former Socialists.
President Wilson asked whether the people who carried out the coup d’etat were now Koltchak’s guides and counsellors.
M. Tchaykowsky said they were, and he mentioned as an instance one of the Ministers who had been a well-known Social Revolutionary. His own position, he said, was very delicate in this matter. He stood between the two parties, and he did not want to be in the position of an arbitrator saying which was right and which was wrong. He stood only for the State, and his own position was mid-way between the parties.[Page 550]
Mr. Lloyd George said that as President Wilson had explained, the Allied and Associated Powers did not want to associate themselves in the establishment of a militarist régime in Russia. He asked if M. Tchaykowsky had any information about General Judenitch.
M. Tchaykowsky said he had been a very successful General in the Army of the Caucasus. He was a man who could be thoroughly trusted in military matters, and he was a man who was not prepared to be guided by reactionaries, of whom there were some in Finland.
Mr. Lloyd George asked whether, if General Judenitch were given the means to take Petrograd, he could be trusted to maintain the democracy there.
M. Tchaykowsky thought he could, and said that in any case he and his friends would look after that.
M. Orlando asked whether M. Tchaikowsky had considered the constitution in Russia of a Federated State comparable to the United States of America. Was this possible, he asked, in this vast country?
M. Tchaykowsky said that absolutism in Russia had proved itself impossible. It meant an absolute faith in the Head of the State, as though he were a god on earth. This had died out. No one ever spoke of it now. It was essential, however, to eradicate the most anarchic feelings in Russia, and some thought that this could only be done by having a Constitutional Monarchy.
Mr. Lloyd George asked whom they would choose for the throne.
M. Tchaykowsky said there was no candidate. It was a mere abstract proposition. He himself did not wish it. Whether this temporary event should take place or not, he was convinced that Russia would eventually become not only a Republic, but a Federated Republic. He had made a speech twelve years ago in Chicago, where he had said that in ten years Russia would become a Republic. This had come true.
(General Wilson entered at this point.)
General Wilson explained on a map the military situation.
(The following addition was kindly furnished by M. Tchaykowsky with his corrections):
In the course of this conversation M. Tchaykowsky said, in reply to Mr. Lloyd George’s question, that it was very essential for the Russian interest now that Petrograd should be taken by an anti-Bolshevik force.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that this could be done by a Finnish force.
M. Tchaykowsky said that if the appearance of Finns in Petrograd be inevitable, then Russian forces should also be there; otherwise a very delicate and complicated situation would arise seeing that the Finns are now claiming Russian territories.[Page 551]
General Wilson here produced a map on which he pointed out the line showing the present extent of the Finnish claims. It included not only the whole of Carelia but the whole Murman Coast and the Kola Peninsula, also cutting the White Sea from the Kerne Town to the Gorge of the Sea.
Other approaches to Petrograd being mentioned, M. Tchaykowsky answered some detailed questions as [to?] the number of Russian forces available among the Russian prisoners of war now in Germany and also among Russian troops in Esthonia.
Villa Majestic, Paris, May 10,
(Revised May 15, 1919).
- Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Denikin government.↩
- Maj. Gen. Ivanov-Rinov, commander of all the Russian troops in Eastern Siberia supporting the Kolchak government.↩
- British Lord President of the Council and Acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.↩
- Translation from the French supplied by the editors.↩
- Lt. Col. E. F. Riggs, Chief of the American Mission to South Russia.↩
- The text of the same declaration was received in a telegram of May 2, 1919, from Consul Jenkins at Odessa; see Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 761.↩