Thursday, January 29, 2015


A Doomed Democracy

For a fleeting moment long, long ago, Russians enjoyed more civil liberties than Americans did. But the man in charge was exiled and ended up on the Farm. What went wrong?
Hoover Archives

By Bernard Butcher
Stanford Alumni Magazine | Jan/Feb 2001
It's just after lunch on an early November day in 1965. Fifteen seniors file into a stuffy, windowless classroom in the basement of History Corner for their weekly seminar on the Russian Revolution.
The students pull their desks into a semicircle. Someone cracks a joke about the failing eyesight of their octogenarian professor. But Martin Turner, '66, reminds them how the crack of the instructor's bone-handled walking-stick on his desk rudely aroused him from his afternoon slumbers the week before. "The old man can't see too well," Turner says, "but he knows what's going on."

Then, right on time, the professor enters: a slightly stooped, immaculately attired gentleman with thick glasses and white hair cropped into a crew cut. He is none other than Alexander Feodorovich Kerensky, the man forced into exile by Lenin and the Bolsheviks 48 years earlier. For a brief eight months in Russian history--after the fall of the Romanov czars and before Lenin ushered in 74 years of Communist rule--Kerensky was the central figure in a doomed effort to bring democracy to Russia.
How did this small, dynamic Russian, who at age 36 reached the pinnacle of power in his home country, find his way to a musty basement classroom half a world away and half a century later? Looking back, should we consider him -- and the provisional government in which he played such a prominent part -- merely a footnote to history? Or was there a chance that this frail old man could, in his prime, have led Russia toward a constitutional democracy? Was perhaps the most pivotal development of the 20th century, Russia's long experiment with totalitarian communism, really inevitable?

Alexander Kerensky had escaped from Russia in 1918, fully anticipating a quick downfall of the Bolsheviks, followed by his own return. Instead, he spent the rest of his life in exile, mostly in Paris and New York, where he wrote several memoirs and interpretations of the revolutionary period. As time went on, he grew more and more frustrated at the lack of primary source documents outside of Russia that could help him add scholarly detail. In the summer of 1955, Kerensky made a two-week trip to Stanford to check out the collection at the Hoover Institution. Finding a bonanza of documentation, he stayed on for two months.

Kerensky's summer visit started a deep, 11-year association with Stanford. He and historian Robert P. Browder, '42, ma '47, compiled, translated, annotated and published key documents in the Hoover Archives related to Russia's short-lived democratic experiment. In the fall of 1965, Kerensky published his own expanded memoirs, Russia and History's Turning Point (Duell, Sloan and Pearce), giving inscribed copies to each of his seminar students. "That was pretty special," recalls Kerry Holbrook Smith, '66. "I bet we all still have that book on our shelves today."

The old man had become a unique fixture on campus, giving guest lectures, joining panel discussions and teaching his own seminars. Walking-stick in hand, Kerensky could often be seen on his daily constitutionals along Palm Drive or out Sand Hill Road. He moved aggressively, using the stick only to avoid running into things his failing eyesight missed. "Although Kerensky could be stiff and standoffish at times," says political science professor emeritus Jan Triska, "he developed a great circle of academic friends, loved a good party and mixed well, especially with the ladies."

Who was this man who stood in the eye of the hurricane that was Russia in 1917? Kerensky was a moderate socialist whose passionate, lifelong goal was to see a Western-syle constitutional democracy in Russia. He tried valiantly, but ultimately failed, to straddle the ever-widening gulf between the relative conservatives, who felt the Revolution to be complete with the simple elimination of the monarchy, and the radical leftists pushing for much more extreme social and economic transformations.

Historian Browder had a chance to study Kerensky's performance up close during the years they worked together on the Hoover project, and he offers a convincing thesis. According to Browder, the characteristics of the man that were considered weaknesses as the Bolsheviks gained strength in the summer and fall of 1917--his brashness, his oratorical flourishes, his ideological flexibility--were the very sources of his popularity and accomplishment in the spring of that year, when the monarchy was overthrown and the provisional government established. "The Kerensky of March," he says, "has been overshadowed by the Kerensky of November. The facts testify clearly to his perceptiveness, political acumen and particularly to his unique inspirational contribution to the success of the March Revolution."

Alexander Kerensky was born in 1881 in a sleepy town on the mid-Volga River called Simbirsk--the birthplace 11 years earlier of one Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. Ironically, Kerensky's father, then the equivalent of a high school principal, reportedly wrote a quite positive college recommendation for his son's future adversary. In 1889, the family moved to the frontier of the Russian empire--the dusty town of Tashkent, in Central Asia--where the father became superintendent of schools. Family photos show the Islamic milieu in which Alexander grew up, with Russian officials in their starched white uniforms surrounded by dark-skinned schoolchildren and their turbaned fathers.

Kerensky's radical antipathy to the absolute rule of the Romanovs was nurtured during his university days in St. Petersburg. He was an intellectual interested in all aspects of Russian history, culture and literature in addition to politics. By the spring of 1904, he had graduated with a law degree, married the daughter of a Russian general and begun to prosecute high-profile cases designed to embarrass the monarchy. When, two years later, Czar Nicholas II finally allowed the election of a parliament, an elated Kerensky thought the country was finally on the road to democracy.

As the czar dissolved one parliament after another, however, Kerensky grew disillusioned. An exceptional orator, he successfully ran for the Fourth State Duma, or lower house, in 1912 as a Labor Party representative. Kerensky used this platform to criticize the government, conduct inquiries into officials' abuses and disseminate revolutionary propaganda. He later joined the peasant-based Socialist Revolutionary Party and tried, from his minority position, to radicalize the Duma and prepare it for a revolutionary role.

But World War I derailed any evolutionary progression toward a constitutional democracy. Russia entered the conflict at its outset in 1914, holding down a vast Eastern Front against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. The war ground on for three years, diverting huge amounts of manpower, causing serious food and fiber shortages and generating charges of gross mismanagement against the czar and his bureaucracy.

Strikes and army desertions had become commonplace by the winter of 1917, but no one--from the czar at army headquarters to Lenin in Swiss exile--was prepared for the events of March 8 through 12 in Petersburg. That the 300-year Romanov reign would simply evaporate overnight was as unthinkable then as the dissolution of the Soviet Union would be 74 years later. Street protests against food shortages, usually suppressed by the police and military, took a dramatic turn in March when the Petersburg garrison soldiers began to refuse orders and joined the crowd marching toward the Duma chambers in the Tauride Palace. According to Browder, Kerensky's finest hour came with his decisive actions during the chaotic events that followed.

As the tideof revolution turned on March 12, Kerensky was one of the few who truly recognized the significance of the moment. Other members of the Duma were milling about the palace, torn by their oath of allegiance to the czar, who had ordered the legislature to dissolve. As the crowd approached the palace, Kerensky shouted to his colleagues: "May I tell them that the State Duma is with them, that it assumes all responsibility, that it will stand at the head of the movement?" Getting an ambivalent response, he rushed outside and addressed the rebellious troops. "Citizen soldiers," he cried, "on you falls the great honor of guarding the State Duma. . . . I declare you to be the First Revolutionary Guard!" He had committed the Duma to the Revolution, despite itself.

Later that day, students and soldiers began rounding up members of the old regime and bringing them to the palace. The Duma president recognized an old friend among them, the czar's ex-minister of justice, and calmly invited him into his office for a chat. At this point, Kerensky seized control of the situation, arresting the ex-minister in the name of the Revolution. Kerensky's proclivity toward dramatic gestures and his take-charge style--which would later work against his ability to compromise--were exactly what this chaotic situation required. As Browder comments, by averting violent retaliation he had "established the precedent that the Revolution would not corrupt its goals by murder and emphasized that the Duma had dissolved its ties with the old regime."

Yet even after the surprise abdication of the czar three days later, the full Duma failed to reconvene. Instead, an informal group of party leaders--mostly center and center-right, but with a few socialists like Kerensky--met to select a provisional government as an interim step to a full constituent assembly, or constitutional convention. But the parties of the left, always underrepresented in the Duma, were quick to exploit the shaky legitimacy of the new government. They immediately summoned delegates from all the local factories and military units to a separate room in the Tauride Palace. There they formed the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. A soviet can be thought of as a loose combination of a giant labor union and a New England town meeting. It was the establishment of these popular forums in Russia's major cities that created the critical post-czarist problem of dual power centers.

By exerting authority without accepting responsibility, the soviets helped to foment anarchy. The Petrograd Soviet quickly became an unwieldy shouting match, with some 3,000 members all wanting their say. But soon true power devolved to an executive committee, and Kerensky was elected one of its two vice chairmen. The committee voted to remain completely separate from the new provisional government, but the Duma leaders wanted to reach out to the Soviet by naming Kerensky minister of justice. In the early morning of March 14, near exhaustion, he went home to consider his personal dilemma. Should he cast his lot with his leftist Soviet colleagues or with the more establishment provisional government, or should he try to do both?

That evening, his decision made, Kerensky climbed onto a table at a mass meeting of the full Soviet and launched into another of his impassioned orations. "Comrades!" he declared. "Allow me to return to the provisional government and declare to it that I am entering its ranks with your agreement, as your representative." In the end, he convinced the full membership to overrule its leadership. "When I jumped down from the table," Kerensky recalled in his memoirs, "I was lifted on the shoulders of the delegates and carried to the very door of the Provisional Government. I was triumphant."

Students in Kerensky's Stanford seminars recall his screening of the Sergei Eisenstein silent film classic October: Ten Days That Shook the World, made at Stalin's behest in 1927 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bolshevik takeover. As the class watched the movie, Kerensky "became very agitated," says John Zerzan, '65. "It was as if he were living these events again that very day."

Zerzan remembers Kerensky becoming particularly exasperated at the point where the actor playing him--a remarkable look-alike--comes across as a vacillating incompetent driven only by ego and the lust for power. Dressed in a well-tailored quasi-military uniform, replete with leather gloves and riding crop, he is shown in the ornate Winter Palace--the camera panning from him to the image of a peacock and then to a statue of Napoleon that sits on his desk.

Indeed, the young Kerensky did exhibit some of the characteristics of a demagogue. He moved the government into the Winter Palace, using the dining room for cabinet meetings and allowing himself to be photographed at the huge desk used by the czars. He traveled in one of the czar's trains and slept in the bed of Alexander III, not with his wife but with a mistress. The woman was Lilya B., the wife of an army officer and a cousin of Kerensky's wife, Olga. Kerensky had met her the year before, in Helsinki, while recovering from a kidney operation. His 13-year marriage was effectively over.

There is no doubt that Kerensky enjoyed the trappings of power. But in a sense, the Revolution really was his revolution--he had seized the moment, channeled the energy of the masses, and now he was the only figure straddling the two power centers. In fact, because of the vote in the Soviet, he was arguably the only member of the provisional government with a genuine electoral mandate.

As minister of justice, Kerensky immediately instituted universal suffrage and unheard-of freedoms of speech, assembly, press and religion. He would argue later that Russia was, for a few months, the freest country in the world. But individual liberties meant little to a people suffering the privations of World War I--massive fatalities at the front, hyperinflation, transport breakdowns, empty shelves in the stores and insufficient fuel to heat their homes.

The first major shake-up of the provisional government came in April with a debate over war policy. Despite the public's distaste for the war, Kerensky and his government colleagues were supreme nationalists, under pressure from the Allies to honor Russian commitments and loath to envision a break-up of their empire at the hands of the Germans. Kerensky now became minister of war, charged with, in the words of British diplomat Bruce Lockhart, "the hopeless task of trying to drive back into the trenches a nation that had already finished with the war." Against the odds, he plunged into the job with typical gusto--donning a semiofficial military uniform and fervently addressing groups of soldiers from the back of his touring car.

A major offensive against the Germans and Austrians in July proved disastrous. Army desertions increased, and troop morale plummeted. Kerensky had played for time and lost. In the eyes of the Russian people, the provisional government had failed both on the battlefield and in its efforts to negotiate peace.

Kerensky later maintained that there was one principal force responsible for the rise of the Bolsheviks from their status as a minor splinter group--namely, a master plot by the Germans. The exiled Lenin firmly opposed the "imperialist and capitalist" war; and once in power, he would likely make a separate peace, allowing Germany to transfer all its troops to the Western Front. In early April, Lenin returned to Petersburg through enemy territory in a sealed railway car provided by the Germans. Winston Churchill noted with awe that the Germans had let loose that "most grisly of all weapons. They had transported Lenin like a plague bacillus into Russia."

As war-weariness deepened into July, Lenin's call for a unilateral separate peace with Germany began to attract more attention, and the Bolsheviks tried to stage a coup. The provisional government's president, Prince Lvov, resigned, handing the top job over to Kerensky. "There was nothing left for me to do," said Lvov. "To save the situation, it was necessary to dissolve the soviets and fire at the people. I could not do it. But Kerensky can."

However, Kerensky always felt that his government was threatened not only by Lenin but even more by right-wing forces within the military. Indeed, Kerensky maintained to the end that his government could have survived if not for a rightist plot to establish a military dictatorship. "I felt it important," he wrote later, "to ascribe the main reason for the defeat of Russian democracy to this attack from the right instead of to the foolish myth that we were 'soft' and blind to the Bolshevik danger."

In early August, Kerensky appointed General Kornilov, who had achieved some success in the otherwise disastrous July offensive, as commander in chief of the army. Tensions soon developed between the two as Kornilov pushed to dissolve the soviets and give the military a direct role in the provisional government. According to Kerensky's oft-repeated version of events, Kornilov--spurred on by the Allies--then ordered his troops to march on Petersburg in support of a right-wing coup that would turn him into the Napoleon of the Russian Revolution.

Contrary to this interpretation, historian Semion Lyandres, now writing a book about the period, points out that Kornilov was a devoted Russian patriot and clearly not a monarchist. Lyandres, MA '89, PhD '92, and others think that the Kornilov "rebellion" was largely fostered by miscommunication on both sides. In any event, Kerensky had to make a difficult choice. He could either go along with the Kornilov program--possibly alienating the soviets and losing his own position at the head of the government -- or turn against his own chief of staff. He chose the latter--labeling Kornilov a traitor, activating the left by passing out arms to the street demonstrators, repulsing the troops who advanced on Petersburg, and arresting the general.

Although Kerensky achieved his short-term objectives in foiling Kornilov, the endgame now played out rather swiftly. Lenin's laser eye spotted this as a golden opportunity to portray the government as both weak and bourgeois. The Bolsheviks--the only true "defenders of the Revolution"--soon gained control of the Petersburg and Moscow soviets. With an All-Russian Congress of Soviets scheduled for November 7, Lenin urged his comrades to initiate an armed uprising just before its opening session.

Bolshevik units occupied key bridges and checkpoints throughout Petersburg. The naval vessel Aurora steamed up the Neva and fired a few thunderous blank rounds at the Winter Palace, where government ministers were promptly arrested around their dining-room meeting table. The convening Congress of Soviets, whose more moderate members had walked out, then duly ratified the results of this coup--Russia's 74-year Communist Party dynasty had begun.

Had Kerensky been with the other ministers in the Winter Palace that evening, there is no chance he would have lived to enjoy his sunny walks on the Stanford campus. The story of his escape from the clutches of the Bolsheviks is straight out of a Graham Greene novel. Earlier in the day on November 7, Kerensky had commandeered a friend's Renault plus a flag-waving American embassy car to escort him to the front in search of loyal reinforcements. By chance, his first, and unsuccessful, approach was to the 3rd Army Cavalry Corps, previously commanded by Kornilov.

By the morning of November 14, Kerensky found himself at Gatchina Palace, a short distance outside of Petersburg, at the head of a small and unenthusiastic band of Cossack soldiers. In fact, Bolshevik troops had infiltrated the Cossacks, offering them safe passage home in return for Kerensky's head.
Kerensky and his aide resolved on suicide rather than capture. But at the very last moment, fate intervened in the form of a brave group of loyalists from Kerensky's political party organization. Just before the Bolsheviks were to enter Kerensky's quarters, a young soldier named Belenky, together with a sailor, burst in. Immediately, Kerensky donned the ill-fitting sailor's uniform, and he and Belenky calmly walked past the sentries and milling soldiers and out the palace gates. They hailed a cab and made it to a waiting car at the Chinese Gate to Gatchina village.

From Gatchina, Kerensky was transferred to a sledge, which carried him over snowy fields to a farmhouse in the woods where he could safely hide. The host family gave him a small icon to wear around his neck, and it turned out to be the only possession he was able to take into exile. By December, he had grown a beard and mustache and felt that he could now leave and travel more openly.

His plan was to move from place to place, reaching Petersburg by the opening of the long-anticipated constituent assembly on January 5. He hoped to make a dramatic, surprise appearance at whatever personal risk, to rally the anti-Bolshevik cause. Once in Petersburg, however, party comrades dissuaded him from this grand gesture. They were convinced his presence would be the death knell for the moderate cause at the assembly. All this turned out to be academic anyway, as Lenin shut down the entire convention after less than one day of debate.

After further travels incognito between Petersburg, Helsinki and Moscow, Kerensky soon determined to escape from Russia, ostensibly to meet with Allied leaders and encourage action against the Bolsheviks. Again, his party friends did not fail him. In May 1918, they approached a British embassy official and convinced him to issue a British visa on a fake Serbian passport. Kerensky, dressed in an army uniform, then joined a detachment of Serbian soldiers on a 10-day rail journey to the Arctic port of Murmansk. From there, he boarded a French warship, transferred to a British trawler and landed at the Scottish port of Thurso in mid-June. His wife and children and his mistress would find ways, after suffering many hardships, to escape to London and Paris, respectively, over the next three years.

So what are we to make of the 36-year-old Alexander Kerensky during his short but intense appearance in the historical spotlight? A man dedicated to his country and to democratic principles--certainly. A courageous, energetic man with great oratorical skills, willing to assume command in a time of crisis--most assuredly. An ambitious man of outsized ego, comfortable with political infighting but lacking the vision to tackle the root causes of popular discontent--quite possibly.
But what about Kerensky's contention that Russia was ready for democracy in 1917--that it could have happened but for the treachery of a Kornilov and the villainy of a Lenin compounded by Allies pushing to the right and Germans pulling to the left? This is, of course, the tougher question. It seems that it would have taken a miracle for Russia to have gone from a near-absolute monarchy to a functioning democracy given the circumstances. The country faced at once a disastrous war, massive economic hardships, and a multitude of warring political factions fighting it out within two diametrically opposed power centers.

Kerensky tried to bridge this political chasm, but it was too wide. The eventual Bolshevik outcome was certainly not foreordained, depending as it did on the unique personalities of Lenin and Trotsky. It's still hard to believe, in fact, that the world's first experiment with a "worker state" occured in a country that was 98 percent agricultural. But, in the dire atmosphere of 1917, some form of extremism--either of the right or of the left--seemed a more likely outcome than Kerensky's democratic center.

Forty-eight years later at Stanford, such speculation and theorizing became the subject of the term-paper assignment for Kerensky's seminar on the Revolution. "Think about it for a moment," says Tom Cox, '66. "It was as if there had been a senior seminar on Watergate taught by Richard Nixon in which the main assignment was to write a paper on the role of Nixon in Watergate!" Worse still, to compensate for Kerensky's bad eyesight, students knew they would have to read their papers aloud and defend them alone with the professor in his small apartment.

Cox worked hard on his paper and may or may not have come to some of the same conclusions mentioned above--he's forgotten now. But he clearly remembers nervously trudging up to Kerensky's modest upper-floor campus quarters in Kingscote Gardens, where the old man, eyes half closed, listened attentively, nodding occasionally as Cox read his meager musings about a fascinating place and time, but one quite difficult for a non-Russian to fully comprehend. "I was thankful at the end," he recalls, "when Kerensky asked me only a few short questions and let me go. He was a pretty imposing character, and I was glad to get out of there with a B."

Anything But a Bolshevik
In his book Namedropping, writer Richard Elman tells about the summer of 1955 when he was living in a Palo Alto rooming house run by a niece of Herbert Hoover, one Mrs. Maryk. Elman recalls the heavy-set Mrs. Maryk panting up the stairs one day in a dither. "It's just too terrible," she declared. "It isn't bad enough that I've had weight lifters and Arabs . . . and . . . homosexuals. . . . Now they want me to take in this Bolshevik. Mr. Elman, what shall I do?"

Elman asked her how she knew he was a Communist. "Because," she gasped, "he was the president of Russia. They told me so." Elman then commented that there hadn't been a Russian president that he knew of since Alexander Kerensky. "Yes, that's the man, Kerensky," she said. "O, what shall I do?"
After Elman explained that if it really was Kerensky, he was anything but a Bolshevik, Mrs. Maryk grew calm. "He must be quite old by now," she said. "I just hope he doesn't like to stare through keyholes like that Turkish agronomist they sent me two years ago."

October 1917 | Petrograd

"The job (ten ofus now) was to set up some semblance of Hut work with the Russian forces at thefront and we were whole-heartedly abetted by the Kerensky government. Passes on the railroad were freely granted and all our mail and supplies and what-not were given military transport. We were made officers in the Russian army and the last state papers that Kerensky signed, so I later found, were our commissions! Luckily, I never got mine in my pocket, nor on my shoulders that of a 'Polkovnik'—or colonel. After Karensky fled from Petrograd in October, and continuing for many months, the most unhealthy thing in that part of the world was to be a Russian officer! They were the mark of suspicion and attack on all hands. I have gone places in a flannel shirt and my overalls where no officer could go because I was an American 'Tovarish.'"
--from "Tovarishi: Jesse Halsey Russia Memoir"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Short Account of Bolshevism in Russia Issued from HMS Borodina | July 1919

The start of the Bolshevik Regime - The reign of terror in Russia commenced with the overthrow of Kerensky's Government by Lenin and Trotsky in November 1917. The former came from Switzerland in a closed car through Germany and was elected President. Trotsky, whose real name is Bronstein, and others were almost without exception Jews, to whom Russia meant nothing.
German Support - To carry out their propaganda, the "Bolos" needed a large sum of money. This was readily supplied by Germany, to whose advantage it was to see Russia disorganised, as she would then become an easy prey for the exploitation of her vast resources.
One of the promises made by the Bolos was the immediate conclusion of peace. The result was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, by which Russia was deprived of Finland, the Ukraine, all Western and Southern Russian, and by which she had to pay £300,000,000 in gold.
By that time the Russian Army was completely disorganised, which the Germans took advantage of by pushing their line forward to between Narva on the Baltic and Rostoff on the Sea of Azov, and this after the Treaty had been signed.
Great indignation as been felt amongst the true Russians at the signing of the Treaty, and so the Bolo set about the extermination of all educated people in Russia and did it very thoroughly. Wholesale arrests were ordered, thousands of innocent people were thrown into prison and many executed. Officers of the Former Army were proclaimed Outlaws and were to be shot at sight, thereby making murder 'lawful'. Uritzky, a Commisar in Petrograd, appointed by the Central Executive Committee which had fled to Moscow, made himself especially obnoxious and was shot by an officer. As a reprisal, the Bolos arrested 5,000 officers and whilst conveying them in barges to Kronstadt, blew the barges up in the Bay of Petrograd, most of the officers perishing.
Britishers were suspected of aiding the counter-revolutionary party and many were thrown into prison. On 31 August 1918, Captain F.C. Cromie D.S.O., R.N., our Naval Attache, was brutally murdered, and his body mutilated. The British Embassy which he had tried to defend was entered and ransacked and the Staff arrested. The Allies threatened reprisals and the British subjects were eventually released.
Lenin and Trotsky, fearing for their safety, surrounded themselves with Chinese and Lettish Guards, but one day a girl succeeded in firing three shots at Lenin and seriously wounded him. Again thousands of innocent people were shot as a reprisal.
Appeal of help - About this time the Russians appealed to the Entente Powers for help against the Bolshevik Terror.
In the North, with the aid of British, French, and Americans, communications were kept open and food and clothing were supplied to the starving Russians. Archangel was occupied by an Allied Force on 2nd August 1918, and the Bolos were driven out of the surrounding districts, thus enabling the population to pursue a safe and peaceful existence such as they had not known for many months.
A volunteer Army, mainly consisting of ex-officers, was started by Generals Alexeiff and Korniloff in the South. Their strength at first was only 2,500 men all told, but after successful fighting, many fresh men gathered round them and now the Army, which since the death of both Alexeiff and Korniloff, is under command of General Denikin, numbers now about 300,000 men and is well equipped with guns, ammunition, aeroplanes and tanks which have been supplied by Great Britain. The Volunteer Army has already cleared a large part of South Russian of the Bolos and is continuing to advance rapidly.
In the Ukraine, two armies, at first acting independently, met with considerable success, and having now joined hands, are pressing the Bolos hard. They are nearing Keiff, the last Bolo stronghold in the Ukraine.
From the West, the Poles have cleared the Bolos out of their country and are not working in conjunction with the Esthonians and Russians under General Udenitch. He is now within a few miles of Petrograd, where a severe battle is raging, the Bolo desperately defending the capital, which although it has long ceased to be the site of the Central Executive Committee which has moved to Moscow, is still regarded by the Bolos as a most important city, whose loss would be a great blow to their cause.
All the Commanders of the anti-Bolo armies have recognised Admiral Kolchak as their supreme Commander-in-Chief, who with his Siberian Army from the East is assisting to strangle the Bolos. He is now at Perm.
Situation in 'Soviet' Russia - The situation in Soviet Russia is becoming more and more desperate. The people realise that all the promises with which they have been lured by the Bolos are nothing but empty words. The Bolos confiscated all private estates and crown lands but no system was devised for the division of the land among the peasants, the result being plunder, destruction and indiscriminate land-grabbing, leading to an unequal distribution of land and further conflict between individual villages and peasants.
The workmen got control over the factories but were unable to manage them, owing chiefly to lack of experience and desire on the part of the workmen themselves to work conscientiously, and also to lack of raw material, due to the breakdown of the transport. In spite of large sums of money paid by the Bolo Government in their promissory notes as wages, the factories closed down one after another, thereby throwing the work men aside without any means of support.
The stock of manufactured goods being exhausted, there was nothing left to give the peasants in exchange for their produce, as the latter refused to accept the paper money which had become valueless. Therefore punitive expeditions were organised to extort corn from the peasants, which led to the extension of the Civil War to the rural districts, whereas up then the bloodshed had been almost entirely confined to the Cities where the bourgeoisie had been mercilessly hunted down. Several risings of peasants occurred but were suppressed with unheard of cruelty; whole districts were laid waste and the inhabitants shot regardless of sex and age.
In every town and village, the Central Executive Committee possessed its agent, whose duty it was to report anyone suspected of anti-bolshevik feelings and any such people were immediately arrested and thrown into prison which they seldom left alive, being either shot after a mock trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal or literally starved to death. One member of the Committee, appointed to report on the condition of the prisons, was himself arrested for daring to give a truthful account of the shocking state in which the prisoners existed.
Results. - By means of such terror, the Bolos have been able to keep the whole country subservient to their means. For the male population there is but one thing left - to enlist in the Red Army where they get sufficient food to exist. They are forced to fight for fear of being shot if they refuse to obey. Detachments of Chinese and Letts are kept for this purpose as Punitive Units and Executioners.
Food is very scarce, especially in the towns where the people are starving. As a result of bad feeding, epidemics have broken out; in Petrograd in the early summer there 2000 cases of cholera daily, the great proportion of which were deaths. 
The Bolos have done away with all law and substituted numerous decrees, one of which did away with the Church. Many of the churches were turned into cinemas and music-halls; the priests were persecuted and many murdered. Another decree did away with the marriage ceremony, which now became a simple thing. A man had only to hand a paper to a Commissar stating he wanted a particular woman as his wife, the paper was stamped and the ceremony was complete. The same paper had only to be torn up by the Commissar for the marriage to be annulled.
In certain areas the women were nationalised and any man could take any girl between 18 and 35 as his wife and leave her as soon as he wished. Any woman who refused was shot. Children were to be taken away from their parents and brought up by the state.
Present state of affairs. - The brutal and lawless method of the Bolos have been carried too far and have turned the bulk of the country against them. The men in his armies have been largely mobilised at the point of a pistol, and are peace-loving people who would rejoice at regaining their freedom to carry out their ordinary work as they did before the war.
The Bolo leaders fully realize their precarious position but still cling to their task hoping that a universal revolution will still plunge the world into a state of anarchy and chaos, such as they have done with Russia.
But their hopes are doomed with the steady pressure of all the anti-bolshevik forces by which they are surrounded, and by the desire of the Russian people to overthrow the terrible 'Bolo' rule
21 JULY 1919

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Privilege means obligation to any honest soul."

One's Debts Should be Admitted
Minister Asserts in Sermon on Thanksgiving | Little Payments Now and Then Show Man is Honest, Rev. Jesse Halsey Says

Acknowledgement of debt to the past formed the basis of Dr. Jesse Halsey’s Thanksgiving sermon at the Seventh Presbyterian Church yesterday morning.

Describing the sacrifices with which modern privileges have been bought and comparing life in the United States with life as he saw it in Russia during the Bolshevik uprising, he said:

‘With this in mind—our comforts and their destitution—with this in mind, I ask you and myself—‘Am I a Bolshevik? Will I destroy the wells of the past, or seek to maintain and to build better?’

Using the text, “Wells digged which thou diggest not,” Dr. Halsey said:

“Ancient civilizations developed along the water courses. The Pilgrims chose Plymouth because of its brook. Isaac and Abraham and Jacob built wells. Water is indispensable.”

“We daily use the wells of the fathers. They wrought: we enjoy. Lightly we accept the blessings of home and country, forgetting the awful cost.

Examples Are Given
“Think, then, of some ‘well diggers’ in whose debt you have come within the last few hours. A telegram here is the result of Morse’s experimentation and privation. He had the greatest difficulty in persuading Congress to appropriate money to build the first line of telegraphic communication. Today we use his well, forgetting his labor.

“The shade of Alexander Graham Bell stands by every time you use the telephone. Into your breakfast room this morning came Cyrus McCormick when you made the toast. He with a thousand others who have perfected agricultural machinery and technique are your creditors. Your radio suggests Henry’s experiments, Pupin, Marconi, a thousand more. All this at your disposal for a few dollars—so simplified that a boy of 10 can make a receiving set.

“A railway journey—James Watt is there to see you off. His bubbling teakettle was 12 years becoming a steam engine and then only by starvation and deprivation. Ten thousand men on guard at switch and throttle and keyboard, making your journey safe. Pioneers, blazing trails, fighting savages made your journey possible. The Fair of the Iron Horse staged by the Baltimore and Ohio last month was a marvelous moving picture of the development of transportation. It only emphasizes our debt to the past—to inventors and engineers and investors. Your automobile—the tires alone speak of Goodyear and 12 starving years of experimentation and delayed success. Turn where you will, you only multiply your feeling of obligation.

Newspaper Given as Example
This morning’s paper—10 cents? Back of it, Cadmus, the Phoenician, or whoever it was that invented letters; Gutenberg and moveable types; Hoe and his presses. News gathers at the ends of the earth; syndicated material from the wits and poets and philosophers of every land. All for 10 cents—plus toil and blood and tears. For in Russia, for example, you couldn’t have your newspaper, uncensored. Free speech lies written here between the lines. Runnymede and Magna Carta, a thousand places, ten thousand martyrs—all yours in a newspaper for 10 cents, or two.

“Political rights are yours. Why? Because of Independence Hall and Bunker Hill, and Valley Forge. Track their feet across the blood-stained snow that bitter winter 150 years ago, and then cast your ballot as you handle a sacred thing. A woman in a certain precinct refused a ballot the other day because it was soiled. The clean one she received in its place was marked with blood, the blood of heroes and patriots. Every ballot cast in America is like that, it represents sacrifice. How lightly we use it.

“Your doctor is the most wanted and most needed member of society—at times. He comes armed to fight dread disease, equipped to give you the best science has to give. With the hospital equipment at his disposal he gives you the best that human skill can offer. What did it cost? Well, very much more than your contribution to Christ Hospital or some other. You may have given a large sum, but you’re still in debt! Listen to a bit of the story. Harvey was hounded when he told of his discovery of the circulation of the blood. Lord Lister was laughed at for a decade while he developed antiseptic and aseptic surgery. Sixty years ago Pasteur and Koch were derided while, with painstaking skill and superhuman thoroughness, they perfected the germ theory of disease and produced anti-toxins. On the basis of averages it would be a simple thing to say how many of us are here today because of the introduction of diphtheria anti-toxin alone.

“Think of Martyrs”
“And religion—wells Thou digest not.” Think of the martyrs of religious persecution, the fires of Smithfield, John Bunyan a dozen years in jail for conscience sake. Think of the makers of the first American Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim Fathers—and Mothers. Driven from home, to Holland, a leaky boat on the squally autumnal Atlantic, rockbound shore, deadly pestilence, bleak winter—all for conscience sake. Thanksgiving came out of that. Down on your knees, people, before the altars of your God, grateful for the wells of life given us by our forefathers

I speak to you with the lurid background of revolution in my mind. Ten years ago I was in Russia. All that interminable winter we saw destruction rampant. Wells destroyed, the best fruits of civilization wasted. And with this in mind—our comforts and their destitution—with this in mind I ask you and myself—‘Am I a Bolshevik?’ Will I destroy the wells of the past or seek to maintain and to build better?

“Privilege means obligation to any honest soul. There are many slackers. Taking all the past offers and saying no thanks in word or deed.

“Welldiggers are still needed. There are arid areas in business. Last night I received a booklet—“What the Central Trust Company Can Do for You.” This bank, or any other, is a Temple of Faith; it can promise and guarantee certain things because of the same costly well-digging process that has been going on through the centuries. Business must extend the areas of service and goodwill if ever it lives up to the obligations imposed by the past.

“Next time you open your Bible (today I hope) think of John Wycliffe and of William Tyndale, burned at the stake that you might read in your own tongue the wonderful works of God. Next time some civic duty presents itself remember Saratoga and Lexington. And before the campaign closes tomorrow night send something to Christ Hospital*—you can’t pay your debt in full; make a payment on your account. For you are a debtor to science, you’ve been drinking at a well you never digged.

“In Labrador, where I once lived, when a fisherman gets in debt to a trade, no matter how large the debt, if every year he makes a payment on the debt, even small payment, he is considered an honest man. This is called ‘acknowledging the debt.’ I’d like to acknowledge my debt to the past, today at this Thanksgiving season; I can’t pay it in full, even if I were rich as Croesus, but I can and do acknowledge the debt and with grateful heart will seek to pay a little.”

*(Helen Augusta—b. Feb. 8, 1914 at Bethesda Hospital, Cin.; Wilmun Haynes, b. Sept. 30, 1920, at Christ Hospital, Cin.) 

With thanks to: The Jesse Halsey Manuscript Collection. Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

Eva Palmer-Sikelianos

With thanks to: The Jesse Halsey Manuscript Collection. Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

Judge Samuel W. Smith

1930 Jesse Halsey Scrapbook

With thanks to: The Jesse Halsey Manuscript Collection. Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

Christmas 1916

The Messenger | Seventh Presbyterian

Christmas 1918

The Messenger | 22 Dec 1918
The minister wishes to convey his Christmas greetings to the members of the congregation. May this Christmas bring you joy. We have been thankful for victory, now with the Christmas song in our ears we think of the blessings of peace on earth and long for the reestablishment of good-will. No dream of prophet or seer ever excelled the ambition of statesmen today to establish a lasting peace and a League of Nations. One’s imagination fails to measure the possibilities of development that lie bound up with that dream—war no longer possible.

America has taken a leading part in making peace possible, her President is the leader of the other nations as they seek to realize their dreams. Let us support him as he endeavors to promote the Christian ideal in international relations.

In my interest in world politics I haven’t forgotten my parish nor you, my friends. I am grateful for the opportunity you have given me of having a part in war activity, and now with enthusiasm I look forward to this winter as one that shall mean much in the development of our church.

The Star of Bethlehem is the Star of human hope and glory. The Christian ideal has not failed; it is the only untried, program that remains, and men and nations are turning toward it and preparing to follow its rays.

In Memoriam | John R. Hubbard | 22 Dec 1918
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!

The wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!

Historic Scene in Russia: The Rev. Jesse Halsey, D.D. (Eye-witness.)

by Jesse Halsey, United States Y.M.C.A. Representative in Russia (1917-1918)
A picture worthy of Rembrandt! A little room, log-built and rough, and humidly hot from a well-stoked sheet-iron stove of modest proportions. Smoke as of dense fog, partly the fault of the stove and partly the inmates, for the district soviet is in session.

But this is not the only contrast the room affords, for, I repeat, the Soviet of Mouman District, North Russia, is in session. Here at the table’s head, in full light, is Urieff; there in the shadow is Grokatoff; both Bolsheviks: one straightforward and open, the other careful, diplomatic, and almost crafty. Urieff, constantly puffing at his inseparable and immense calabash, says little, keeps order, and puts the question.

Grokatoff is “foreign commissar” and Trotsky’s personal representative. He, too, speaks seldom, but notes everything and daily sends his minute report to Moscow. It is his task to prevent the entrance through this port of all “counter-revolutionists” and undesirable foreigners of the bourgeois and capitalistic classes.

Senkavitch, the vice-president, is a Pole. He is labor delegate and head of the Red Guard. I can hear his cheery half-broken “Hello, John!” as he pulled me and my baggage on the crowded weekly freight at a little junction point one bitter midnight last winter. For seven years he had worked as a lithographer in Buffalo, and he said it sounded good to hear English. Always quick to speak his mind and as quick to act, he became less popular with his constituents as the days wore on; and when he tried to stop looting at a fire in the British barracks, his “soldiers” turned and would have lynched him but for the timely arrival of marines from the American cruiser, who sent him aboard the admiral’s flagship for safety.

Contrast Senkavitch, unkempt and uncombed (as he was in his ante-sergeant days) with the trim Zvginseff, who sits opposite. He has been a general, commanding one of the Czar’s crack regiments and for “certain reasons” advanced one of the grand dukes to a prominent position which developed into a place of real danger in battle, so that the grand duke lost his life—and the general his position. (Since then Zvginseff has been a democrat.) It is interesting to see him and the Pole together. One, the polished gentleman with French, English, and Russian at his tongue’s end; the other a rough workingman unable to speak even Russian with grammatical correctness, each admiring the other and complementing the other—the old Monarchist and the new Anarchist, each a real patriot, and learning to work together—this augurs well for the future of Russia.

In the background always, moving quietly to obtain some papers from the adjoining room or motioning to the president as he calls attention to some forgotten detail, never conspicuous but always quietly dominating, is Vesallago, “business manager and secretary.” He was a naval captain, and one night his flotilla of destroyers crept out of their Black Sea base and raided a Turkish port. Partially successful, he undertook to repeat his exploit the following night. The crew mutinied, but he drove them to their task. When returning to port, after accomplishing their objective, his sailors drove him off the ship. His admiral, who supported him, was also dismissed by the sailors. This was in the early days of the revolution, and both men luckily escaped with their lives. A few months later officers were not “dismissed” in this gentle fashion, and soon after Vesallago had come to the north and held a place as chief of staff to Admiral Katlinksy, two shots were fired in the halflight of the Arctic day, and the admiral fell dead at his office door. Vesallago succeeded to the admiral’s place, without his rank, and during the days of open anarchy that followed his position was very precarious. Threats and attempts on his life were repeated, and at last, one night in July, two hand-grenades were thrown into his room, wrecking the building but miraculously sparing the man. Allying himself with no party, blamed by his fellow officers for his “Bolshevik sympathies” and feared by the Bolsheviks as a spy and counter-revolutionist, facing death constantly, he has placed his fine executive ability at the disposal of his country without pay and without thanks.

But to return to our meeting, now enter the Allied representatives. First, the senior Allied officer, Rear Admiral ------[Thomas Kemp], R. N., C. M. G., etc., retired before the war, but now rejoicing to be back in active service. His kindly blue eyes, close-cropped grizzled beard, his almost shabby uniform and half-concealed decorations (this out of courtesy to the Russian officers who had lost  all insignia of rank and uniform)—these you would note. His slow, deliberate, almost labored Russian, as he makes clear his points, one by one—this you would appreciate if you are a novice in the language, as am I. The admiral’s secretary is there. Sometimes he supplies a Russian word of finer-shaded meaning, but whether he spoke or not, the amount of gold on his uniform would remind you of his presence. The French captain knows no Russian but is accompanied by the consul, who is an accomplished linguist and popular with everyone because of his engaging manners. In the corner, as far aspossible from the blasting heat of the stove, is the American representative, aY. M.C. A. man (selected for the very obvious reason that he is the onlyAmerican in the district), in a flannel shirt, which has powers to disabuse theRussian “tavarish” of the capitalistic tendencies of the American democracy.

Many things are discussed. Many questions are asked. “Will the British send fishing gear for the Russians?” “Yes,” from the admiral. “Nets and trawls?” “Yes.” “Will the Americans send flour?” “Yes.” “And sugar? And shoes?” “When may these be expected?” “When will the American cruiser arrive?” “Can America send some railway construction  engineers?” and machinists?” “Will the Allies furnish food for the Finnish contingent, who wish to enlist?” “What can be done to make the food distribution more equitable?” “Could the American representative undertake to market the season’s catch of fur?” “Does he know the prevailing price for white fox?” “What is the likelihood of the Kola bridge withstanding the next ice jam?” “How long will it take to replace it?” “How can we convince the natives that the wireless men on the hill are not prospecting for gold?” . . . One question after another, on and on; some trivial, some weighty with international possibilities, but all answered to allay Russian suspicion of the imperialistic ambitions of the Allies, to show our interest and gain their friendship.

One scene more. Just as adjournment is proposed, Senkavitch is called out, and soon returns, accompanied by half a dozen breathless men who have come in by reindeer to report the aggression of the Finnish and German forces on an important harbor some hundred miles to the west. What can they do? The general and Senkavitch turn to the admiral: Will he send a cruiser? A moment’s thought, a sharp, “Yes,” and his secretary is on his way down the hill to signal off the orders. A brief but carefully worded agreement is drawn up and signed. The Allies agree to help the Russians against the Germans and the Finns; they refuse to interfere in internal affairs or lend aid to any political party; they have no designs on Russian territory. Two hours later, H. M. S.“-------,” with full complement of marines and a hundred Red Guards, steams out of the harbor. “Intervention” in Russia has begun.

from "Russian Sideshow: America’s Undeclared War" by Robert L. Willett, 2003, Potomac Books 
In an action which completely frustrated the Soviets in the capital, the Murmansk Soviet signed an accord with the Allies, British, French, and even American. This agreement pledged the Allies to defend Murmansk and recognize the Murmansk Regional Soviet as the acknowledged government of the area. Captain Bierer of the Olympia signed on behalf of the American government, even though he had no authority to do so. It is interesting to note that this document was executed several days before Wilson’s Aide Memoire, which authorized intervention in Russia. The Murmansk agreement was completely unauthorized by the U.S. government, yet it was finally approved in October 1918. While it was a stroke of luck for the Allies to have the tie-in with a Russian government, even an out-of-favor one, the Allies pledged to protect those individuals who had faced the wrath of their own people by separating themselves from the Central Soviet.

Miss Hattie's House