The High Commissioner at Constantinople (Bristol) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 10—7:11 a.m.5]
106. Following received from McCully [, Novorossiisk]:
[“]7. February 6, 6 p.m. Personal impressions of General Denikin are that he is earnest and sincere, deeply patriotic and a most capable officer. He is not cast down by defeat and is as resolute as ever to establish a united Russia, and places beyond every other consideration and with which he is if anything too much prepossessed, so that he fails to give proper consideration to measures of expediency in attainment of his end. He exhibited signs of depression only when referring to measures taken recently by the great powers in opening trade relations with the Soviets and in preventing from coming to his aid the Servian and Bulgarian troops who were on the point of sailing. The loss of nerve on the part of the Allied Powers he regarded as his greatest loss. He asks that United States Government use its influence toward permitting these troops to sail.
His defects are also a rigidity of principle not adapted to present conditions, a distrust of politicians which prevents him from an appreciation of the real good of which they may be capable, a failure to realize that radical political measures are now necessary, and a susceptibility to influences of a reactionary character. Reactionary is used here to mean actions and methods of thought of the old school, an incapacity to apprehend march of events and in particular a failure to realize that there has been a revolution in Russia. Reactionary so used may apply to Monarchists, Republicans or even Bolsheviks. [Garbled groups.] In reference to the reactionary a deputy in Cossack Council quoted the Russian proverb ‘the hunchback straightens out only in his grave’.
Denikin has complete loyalty of all the Cossack Atamans and of his officers and men, and even his political opponents do not question his sincerity, honesty, patriotism, and ability and without exception wish him to remain as commander in chief of all the armies.
In answer to questions, Denikin stated that territory under his effective control comprised a portion of Don, all of Kuban, and Terek, Government of Stavropol, part of Government of Astrakhan, northern portion of Daghestan, Black Sea Government, comprising east coast of Black Sea, and Novo Eossiya, comprising Odessa, Kherson, and Crimea, with adjacent regions, with a population in all of about 14 million. Approximate boundaries of Don, Kuban, [Page 578] and Terek territories are shown on map in year book of 1919. All this region is rich and productive and has not suffered at all so far [during] the war.
Denikin’s relations with Armenia are sympathetic, but with Georgia and Azerbaijan are on basis neither of peace nor war, but no commerce is permitted between them and Russia, or it is blockade as Denikin defines it. Part of Ukraine is occupied by Poles, part by Denikin, with bandits in between, and there is no government with which Denikin can deal. The hill tribes of the Caucasus are quiet and in pay of Denikin. In regard to Batum, when mention was made of British intention to leave it, Denikin said “They will never go.” I am informed that Denikin has twice requested them to go, which they declined to do. Russians think they hold it more as a part of the route to Persia than for the sake of the Baku oil.
Since January 18th there have been daily meeting at Ekaterinodar [garbled group] of the Supreme Cossack Council composed of 50 members each from Don, Kuban and Terek, with a total population of eight and one half million of which only three and one half million are Cossacks, the latter having in all 140 representatives while the remainder of population has only 10. This council unanimously agreed on necessity of fighting Bolshevism but a minority wishes to fight only within Cossack territory. The council is also unanimous in wishing Denikin to remain as commander in chief of the armies. The council however desires a more democratic government and more independence than Denikin will agree to, and also that until meeting of All Russian Constituent Assembly the council shall have the right to make laws and that ministers shall be responsible to it. Denikin to retain rights of veto on laws made, and that ministers of war, railways, and supplies shall be responsible to him only.
Newspapers are numerous and press is remarkably free. It is insistent on a government of a character that appeals to the people which says that in a civil war a representative government can win only when backed by the people.
Denikin’s special council whose reactionary political activity is believed to have caused failure of last year’s but this has been dissolved and its members assigned to other duties in the rear. General Wrangel who took part prominently in hanging of Deputy Kalabukov of the Kuban Eada, has been sent to duty in the [apparent omission].
Denikin’s propositions are all broad generalities depending for satisfactory application on personalities of officials, and although [Page 579] liberal in form open the way to continuance reactionary ideas. In case of refusal to accept his plan Denikin threatens to transfer Volunteer part of army to another front and leave Cossacks to fight alone. Conferences between Cossack Council and Denikin indicate that a compromise will be reached, the Don and Terek favoring Denikin’s plan and Kuban demanding more liberal self government and definite guarantees. If generous and satisfactory agreement could be reached the three Cossack Governments and people would be whole heartedly in the struggle. Other governments would probably join and Denikin could win. Otherwise this ghastly struggle will continue to drag along and Denikin can win only by greater weakness of his adversaries. There is at this moment a splendid opportunity for political regeneration of Denikin government and formation of nucleus anti-Bolshevik government organization.
The people want definite, simple, matter of fact declarations with guarantees such as for instance
- Each party shall have without prejudice at once all the land he can work with his own labor.
- Workmen shall have working day eight hours with the right to form unions and to strike.
- Right of habeas corpus.
- Free education.
The first of these provisions appeals directly to 80 million Russian peasants and strikes directly at basic principle of Bolshevik government of collective ownership or communism. Some such provisions should be included or there will be no incentive for all people already sick to death of war to continue fighting.
If the matter is of sufficient importance to our Government, I would suggest for its consideration that representation be made to Denikin urging him to make liberal concessions with a statement that if such concessions were made they would be regarded as sufficient grounds for United States Government seriously to consider recognition of his government as de faeto government of Russia. We can, however, [not?] ask that General Denikin make simple and matter of fact concessions unless we make simple and definite proposals to him. I would respectfully urge that at this time such representations if made should not include reference to any religious questions. McCully.”
- Telegram in four sections.↩