124.611/421: Telegram

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

30. My telegram 1645, November 29, [1940,] 7 p.m.46 The Department’s No. 16, January 6, 4 p.m.,47 was not received until last night. [Page 867] No apartments have as yet been made available to the Embassy. However, subsequent to the conversation48 between the Under Secretary49 and Umansky50 in the course of which Umansky stated that two apartments would be made available in December and five more in January, the Soviet authorities informed me that two apartments would be provided within a reasonable period of time, but made it clear that no others could be expected for at least many months. As the result of daily representations to Burobin,51 culminating in representations to Lozovski52 in the course of which I pointed out to him that the Embassy’s irreducible requirements at present were three apartments, he assured me yesterday that “three apartments will be made available to the Embassy this week”.53 I believe that by reason of the insistent pressure applied both at Washington and here, three apartments will probably now be obtained by the Embassy in the immediate future. It will be possible to house the staff (none too comfortably) now assigned to this Mission as soon as three apartments are ready for occupancy without longer quartering any members in hotels. Accordingly and as I recognize the acute housing shortage in Moscow I deem it inadvisable to press the original request for nine apartments or to endeavor to hold Oumansky to his statement to the Under Secretary.

While I am disposed to regard the matter of housing as settled the Soviet authorities have thus far shown no disposition to take action on certain other matters such for example as the Soviet wives54 and the removal of discrimination against American newspaper correspondents. No replies have been received to some 300 notes addressed by the Embassy to the Foreign Office during 1940, although in some instances as many as six notes on a given subject were sent. A substantial number of these notes relate to the seizure and nationalization of American property in Soviet-occupied territories. The Soviet authorities have also failed to completely relax their restrictions on Americans proceeding to Moscow or to take action in the Roszkowski case.55

[Page 868]

I may add that while the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs has appeared to me recently to be somewhat more inclined to accede to certain of the Embassy’s minor requests in matters exclusively within its jurisdiction, questions which involve decision by the Commissariat for Internal Affairs (G. P. U.) encounter as much resistance and obstruction as in the past.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iii, p. 416.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See memorandum of December 16, 1940, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Henderson), Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iii, p. 419.
  4. Sumner Welles.
  5. Konstantin Alexandrovich Umansky, Ambassador of the Soviet Union.
  6. Central Bureau for Services to Foreigners in Moscow, an official agency.
  7. Solomon Abramovich Lozovsky, Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  8. Ambassador Steinhardt reported in telegram No. 131, January 22, 1941, that the keys to three apartments, such as they were (no elevator in operation, no hot water, with the gas main still a mile away), had been received (124.611/422).
  9. This was a problem of long standing. See the undated memorandum by Mr. Henderson, telegrams No. 1329, October 10, 1940, No. 1733, December 15, 1940, No. 1776, December 23, 1940, from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iii, pp. 331, 393, 418, and 436, respectively; also footnote 34, Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, p. 534.
  10. For correspondence on the case of Mieczyslaw Roszkowski and other American citizens arrested and detained by Soviet authorities, see pp. 926 ff.