125.977/10–1345: Telegram

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

3537. Following message has been received from Vladivostok:2

191, October 5, 11 a.m. It is my belief that advent of peace brings need for redefinition of status of Consulate General at Vlad. As is well known to Embassy and Dept, present status does not give to Consular Office and its personnel adequate scope for their functioning and activities. Local Soviet authorities maintain with respect to official matters an attitude technically as correct as that reputedly met by Embassy in Moscow and they can’t well be charged with direct obstruction of official American functions.3 This said, it must be noted that [Page 1169] present delimitation of Vlad Consular district and further delimitation of legitimate function[s] of Consular Office in mind of Soviet police authorities to narrow area suggested by ingrained suspicion of intellectual curiosity and “foreign influence” result inevitably in such cramping of normal American consular processes that value of this office cannot possibly even nearly equal that for instance of Soviet Consulate General San Francisco.

Care of Soviet authorities to maintain superficially outward relations naturally makes difficult such portrayal of case that its actuality can[not] be fully appreciated, but citation of certain specific factors will suggest that reality. I was informed orally by previous Dip Agent4 that Americans might not proceed in any manner past 19 [kilometers] limit consular district without specific permits for such travel. Difficulty of obtaining such permits will be appreciated. This particular restriction which is applied only to foreigners is in notable contrast with comparative freedom of travel by car or train enjoyed over substantially larger area by American personnel stationed at Moscow. Further, Consular personnel have been unable obtain for their use summer cottage in generally unrestricted Dacha district. Finally, in town and out, on foot or in car, Consular personnel are persistently dogged by NKVD5 agents whose purpose cannot well be to keep such personnel away from military installations, inasmuch as such installations are always presumably adequately guarded against Soviets and foreigners alike. One natural result of NKVD surveillance, which is also maintained continuously over Consular residential premises, is to cut down to barest minimum contacts of personnel with Soviet population. A small number of Soviet officials and wives do accept formal invitations for social functions at residence of Consul[ate] General. For Soviets to contend, however, as did former Dip Agent, that Americans residing Vlad are free to have social contacts with whom they will is meaningless verbal jugglery in light of dominating circumstance that individual members of Soviet population on their part, far from being free to maintain contacts with Americans, from all outward indications are rightfully fearful of retribution of NKVD if they attempt to develop such contacts. (Example offering support [to] this observation [is] seen in recent developments respecting social contacts of American Khabarovsk weather [Page 1170] group.6 That group began such contacts only to see Soviet acquaintances disappear or become “sick” or “busy” and [or] inaccessible.) General result is that Consular personnel is kept effectively outside social pale, and contacts are limited, in main, to those [few] with [high] local officials with a chosen few who act as NKVD agents at same time they give Soviet officials ground for argument that Americans are not denied social contacts and with Soviets met casually under various circumstances with little likelihood of a second meeting. Such isolation of Americans, of course, hampers severely their representative functions vis-à-vis Soviet population in general and cripples their efforts to contribute to development [of] friendly relations and mutual understanding between [the] two nations. Such official matters as are handled by Consulate General are neither extensive nor numerous enough to give personnel adequate foothold for use in surmounting existing social barriers.

Typical of evident desire of local Soviet authorities to reduce to minimum any regular American participation in local affairs was failure to notify this office upon arrival September 29 at nearby field of American Army plane which is presumed to have brought Soviet Ambassador Malik7 here from Japan. Roullard8 was told on 3rd of plane’s arrival by Red Navy liaison who said that he would have contacted so that American representative could have met plane but Roullard had unfortunately left for Khabarovsk that day. Roullard observed that this pertinent letter had directed that any matters concerning him in his absence should be taken up with Consular [Consul] General and asked why liaison had not contacted me instead. Liaison’s reply was “not convenient”. Local Dip Agent9 undoubtedly knew of visit but evidently felt no need to inform me appropriately.

Minor improvement noted in recent months bears no substantial promise that situation will undergo by natural process major favorable change in visible future. [I] submit that Consulate General in present status lacks that range for its functioning appertaining properly to American representative organ here. Reference to similar unenviable position occupied presently by Chinese and previously by Jap Consul[ate] General can’t obscure that fact. If acceptance such position by American side was justifiable by reference to wartime exigencies which have co-existed with this office since its establishment, it can hardly be supported in same way under normal peacetime [Page 1171] conditions. Current acceptance of situation would indubitably make it doubly difficult to effect improvement later when reference to precedent would have its force. [I] would therefore express my earnest convictions that matter calls for present remedial measures. Respectfully request Embassy’s consideration of subject and at its discretion appropriate discussion of matter with Dept. I feel that matter can be resolved only by reference to highest Soviet levels on basis of American representations, which patently threaten loss to Soviet side in event non-compliance. With reasonable American request directed toward obtaining for official American personnel at Vlad (1) substantially increased freedom of movement and freedom from surveillance and (2) liberal social access to various strata of local Soviet population in measures at least bringing us up to Moscow level in those respects. I believe achievement those ends would contribute notably to raising prestige and authority this office to higher level in eyes of general population and local officialdom alike. Should ends be unattained, value this office would in all probability remain narrowly limited as at present, which possible contingency ought, I feel, to be clearly recognized in connection [with] comparative assessment American Consular functions in USSR and Soviet Consular functions in US[A]. Clubb.

  1. Oliver Edmund Clubb was Consul General at Vladivostok. Telegram corrected on basis of original in Vladivostok post files.
  2. In a memorandum of a conversation on August 23, 1945, with the Diplomatic Agent, Dmitry Mikhailovich Ryzhkov, the American Vice Consul in charge at Vladivostok, David Henry, recorded these views:

    “We concluded in a general discussion about the ‘strangeness of Vladivostok’ and the ‘difficulties’ of doing business here. Mr. Ryzhkov was apparently feeling quite unhappy about the hardship of his position, caught between my demands and the recalcitrance of the local powers, and developed his complaints against Vladivostok at some length, although always in cautious language. He sounded almost pathetic at moments. I encouraged him as much as possible to expound on this theme, expressed my sympathy and let him know that I appreciated his difficulties, and made it clear that I am not content with the restrictions on my own position here.…

    “I am personally convinced of Mr. Ryzhkov’s sincerity and of the fact that he is trying to do his best to satisfy my requests but is prevented from doing so by the lack of prestige of his position here, by the inefficiency of local Soviet interdepartmental contact, and by the unapproachability of the Army.”

  3. Semen Petrovich Dyukarev, the representative of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union at Vladivostok, who left on July 2, 1945.
  4. People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  5. U.S. Navy Weather Central of Khabarovsk. The U.S.S. Starr arrived at Vladivostok on the evening of December 27, 1945, for the purpose of evacuating the personnel of this station after it had been closed.
  6. Yakov Alexandrovich Malik, Ambassador of the Soviet Union in Japan until August 9–10 when the formal declaration of war by the Soviet Union on Japan was announced.
  7. Comdr. George D. Roullard, Assistant Naval Attaché at Vladivostok.
  8. Dmitry Mikhailovich Ryzhkov was the representative of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs in Vladivostok from July 2, 1945.