361.1121 Sviridoff, George/21

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Davies) to the Secretary of State

No. 1270

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction No. 353 of March 29, 1938 (File No. 361.1121 Sviridoff, George/17[18],43 directing that the Embassy make further efforts to obtain from the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs information concerning the welfare and whereabouts of Mr. George Sviridoff, an American citizen, who is stated to be imprisoned in the Soviet Union.

The Embassy’s despatch No. 1045 of March 19, 1938,43 stating that the Embassy was at that time without information requested of the above-mentioned Commissariat, crossed the Department’s instruction under acknowledgment.

On April 29 Mr. Henderson called on Mr. Weinberg of the Commissariat and mentioned inter alia the Embassy’s desire to obtain the information requested by the Department. In Mr. Henderson’s memorandum of his conversation, he states,

“Mr. Weinberg replied that it would appear that Mr. Sviridoff is also a Soviet citizen and that so long as he is in the Soviet Union, the Soviet authorities must consider him as being a Soviet citizen only. The People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, he stated, is as a rule unable to obtain information from the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs regarding the fate or whereabouts of Soviet citizens who have been arrested. Although he felt that it would be practically useless for him to endeavor to obtain information regarding Mr. Sviridoff in case he is considered to be a Soviet citizen, he would nevertheless take up the matter with the competent authorities and would inform me regarding their reply”.

Mr. Weinberg’s statement confirms previous statements of other members of the Commissariat to members of the staff of the Embassy to the effect that the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs’ failure to furnish information on the whereabouts of arrested Soviet nationals (even though these persons may also be American citizens through dual nationality) is not because it does not desire to cooperate with the Embassy, but because the Commissariat itself is unable to elicit the desired information on such persons from the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. This factor is of great interest in that it gives an indication of the impotence of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs [Page 720]in some phases of foreign relations, as well as an indication of the extent to which the Commissariat for Internal Affairs may effectively control some phases of foreign relations.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
A. I. Ward

Chief of Consular Section

[For despatch No. 1342, June 6, 1938, from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, wherein Ambassador Davies described the subjects still awaiting settlement at the end of his term in the Soviet Union, see page 559. Among the unresolved problems were the protection of American citizens in the Soviet Union, and the Hrinkevich and Rubens cases.]

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