811.111 Kalinin, Catherine

The Secretary of State to President Harding

My Dear Mr. President: Some time ago a request was presented to this Department by the American Committee for the Relief of Russian Children, asking that Madame Kalinin, the wife of the President of the so-called Soviet Government in Russia, should be admitted to this country for the purpose of a tour in the interest of Russian relief work. As you know, this Department does not control the actual admission of persons to the United States, but the granting of visas comes within its jurisdiction. Upon a consideration of the situation then existing and in view of letters from prominent persons supporting the request above mentioned, I decided to authorize the granting of a visa to Madame Kalinin on the condition that she should give an oral assurance to refrain from political utterances and activities of any sort while in this country and to confine herself to relief work. The American consuls at Riga and Reval, where she was expected to apply for a visa, were instructed accordingly.

Since this decision was taken much light has been thrown upon the real situation in Soviet Russia by the trial and condemnation of Archbishop Zepliak, Vicar General Butchkavitch and other Roman Catholic ecclesiastics. Sentences of death were passed upon the two prelates named and the principal governments of the world immediately interceded in their behalf in the name of humanity. These protests were repudiated by the Soviet authorities with the utmost insolence and the Vicar General was executed. The matter has been widely reported in the press. The conscience of the civilized world has been shocked. Particularly in the United States there has been evidence of the utmost public indignation. This Department has received many communications on the subject.

It is evident that the matter has become linked in the public mind with the admission to the United States of Madame Kalinin, and the Department is daily in receipt of strong protests from individuals and organizations in all parts of the country. It is asserted, though I am not in a position to say that it is a fact, that it was Madame Kalinin’s husband who signed the death warrant of the Vicar General. In any case, it is plain that Madame Kalinin’s presence in the United States at this time will be the occasion of strong public feeling.

The original decision to grant her a visa, though well founded at the time, I believe, has now come to be of doubtful wisdom. The Department has not been advised that Madame Kalinin has left Russia; [Page 819] there is no report of a visa having actually been granted. As it would be necessary to instruct the Consuls in question to suspend action, I desire to ask you to let me know as soon as you conveniently can your judgment of the matter. A number of persons, including Senator Shipstead, Representative Newton, Mr. Lewis Gannett of the Nation, and Mr. Paxton Hibben, have been informed that a visa would be granted to Madame Kalinin for a temporary visit to this country upon the condition stated above. A reversal of that decision now would operate in effect as a protest against the action of the Soviet authorities in connection with the condemnation of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastics. This might be wholesome action in accord with preponderant American opinion.

I hope you will let me have an expression of your view.

Faithfully yours,

Charles E. Hughes