THE REIGN OF RASPUTIN: AN EMPIRE'S COLLAPSE. BY M. V. RODZIANKO. London: Philpot, 1927.
THE LETTERS OF THE TSARITSA TO THE TSAR, 1912-1916. New York: McBride, 1923.
LA RUSSIE DES TSARS. BY MAURICE PALÉOLOGUE. 3 vols. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1921.
THIRTEEN YEARS AT THE RUSSIAN COURT. BY PIERRE GILLIARD. London: Hutchinson, 1921.
THE publication of the letters of the Tsaritsa to her husband for the first time showed in black and white Rasputin's enormous political significance. But those who took the trouble to wade through that mass of loose English were probably too overcome by the sweep of the vast tragedy to realize at first the unique importance of the letters as historical material. It is to this aspect of the subject that this article is devoted.
The Rasputin tragedy passed at the time behind closed doors, except for Rasputin's own entire indifference to public scandal. By now almost every one of the persons who could give valuable first-hand evidence on the subject has said his word. M. Gilliard, tutor to the Tsarevich, a man of great good sense and good feeling, has given a beautiful picture of the home life of the Imperial family, the accuracy of which has been confirmed both by the Provisional and the Soviet Governments. We have for what it is worth the Apologia of Madame Vyrubov, the only person who was with the family continually, and Rasputin's chosen go-between for his communications with the Empress. A slighter record is given by another friend of the Empress, Madame Lili Dehn. The Head of the Police Department, Beletsky, has told a typical story of ministerial intrigue centred round Rasputin. The French Ambassador, M. Paléologue, has issued a current record of events, evidently touched up for publication, which gives the atmosphere of grand ducal and higher society, but also connects Rasputin at point after point with political events of the most critical importance. Now we have also the important record of the President of the Third and Fourth Dumas, Mr. Michael Rodzianko, prepared in exile without many materials but preserving the details of his various conversations with the Emperor, which were evidently written down with care at the time.
Rasputin, who was under fifty at the time of his death, was born in the village of Pokrovskoe on the Tura, near Tobolsk in Siberia. Like many peasants he had no surname; Rasputin, which means "dissolute," was a nickname early given him by his fellow peasants. He suddenly went off to the Verkhne-Turski Monastery near his home, where were several members of the Khlysty, a sect who mingled sexual orgies with religious raptures and who were emphatically condemned by the Orthodox Church. On his return he became a strannik, or roving man of God, not a monk, not in orders, but one with a self-given commission from heaven, such as have often appeared in Russian history, especially at critical times. Meanwhile, he lived so scandalous a life that his village priest investigated it with care. That he habitually did much the same things as the Khlysty is conclusively proved; but that he was actually one of the sect has not been definitely established. Certainly to the end of his life he alternated freely between sinning and repenting, and professed the view that great sins made possible great repentances. He seduced a large number of women, several of whom boasted of the fact, or repented and confessed it to others. The village priest reported him to Bishop Antony of Tobolsk, who made a more thorough enquiry and found evidence which he felt bound to hand over to the civil authorities. During the enquiry Rasputin disappeared. He went to St. Petersburg, and as a great penitent secured the confidence of Bishop Theophan, head of the Petersburg Religious Academy, and Confessor to the Empress, a man whose personal sanctity has been recognized by everyone. He secured also the patronage of the Grand Duchess Militsa, daughter of King Nicholas of Montenegro, a lady with a strong taste for the sensational, and also that of her future brother-in-law, the Grand Duke Nicholas. It was these who introduced him to the Palace.
The Empress Alexandra, formerly Princess Alix of Hesse Darmstadt, was a daughter of the English Princess Alice and a favorite granddaughter of Queen Victoria, from whom she may be said to have taken all the ordinary part of her mental environment. The unusual feature in her character was her strong mysticism. Her family was scourged with the haemiphilic ailment; all the male children of her sister Princess Irene of Prussia suffered from it. It does not appear in females, but is transmitted by them to males. Its effect is that the slightest accident may set up internal bleeding, which there is no known way of arresting. Children suffering from it may die at any moment, and on almost any occasion, though if they live to the age of 13 they may in some measure overcome it; Rasputin prophesied such an issue for the Tsarevich Alexis. Much of the tragedy in the position of the Empress lay in the fact that after she had given birth to four charming and healthy daughters, her only son, the long desired heir to the throne, suffered from this scourge, and that she well knew that his disease came through herself.
In every other domestic respect the family was ideally happy. Husband and wife literally adored each other; the children were equally united with them and with each other. The Empress was the pillar of the house, their actual nurse and attendant in time of sickness. She brought them up entirely in English ideas; they had cold baths and slept on camp beds; they talked largely in English. The family as a whole, in its clean-minded life, represented a veritable oasis in the corruption which was so prevalent in higher Russian society, and we may imagine that with that world this aspect of their isolation was one of their chief offenses. They lived almost as much apart from it as if they were settlers in Canada.
The Empress's nature was singularly narrow and obstinate; Rodzianko rightly describes her as "essentially a creature of will." She had a fondness for her first "little home" at Hesse Darmstadt, but a strong antipathy for the Emperor William; indeed the Prussian monarchy found many of its bitterest critics among the smaller reigning German families. She regarded herself as essentially English, but she had frankly embraced the country of her adored husband, and more than that, she had embraced the Russian autocracy. She repeatedly speaks of herself as "anointed by God," and once as "Russia's mother." There is on record a conversation between her and Queen Victoria in which she put very strongly this difference between the English monarchy and the Russian. For her, Russia was the Russian people, above all the peasantry. Society she identified with the general corruption which she saw around her. She was always, we may be sure, entirely against the Duma and against the concession of a Russian constitution. Any such suggestion she regarded as a direct wrong to her son, and denounced in the strongest language.
When she married, three of her husband's last five ancestors had perished by assassination. Her first appearance before the Russian public was in the funeral procession of her father-in-law, and the reign from start to finish was soaked in an atmosphere of fatality. She had an antipathy to all Court ceremonies. The slightest accident filled her with apprehension. In the period when her most ardent desire was to give an heir to the throne, she met in France a charlatan soul doctor, Philippe, who was brought to Russia but expelled, despite her protection, for meddling in politics during the Japanese War. Philippe gave her a bell as a token that she was to scare away all other counsellors from her husband. She refers to this several times in her letters. Bishop Theophan, when he introduced Rasputin to the Court, appears only to have thought that he was substituting a Russian influence for a foreign.
Rasputin at first kept quiet and studied his ground. He saw the Imperial family infrequently, and his presence was sought only to comfort the nerves of the Empress and her husband, and to re-assure them as to the health of their son. M. Gilliard, who was nearly all day with his charge, saw him but once. The meetings ordinarily took place at the little house of Madame Vyrubov outside the Palace. Soon, however, Rasputin went on openly with his earlier scandalous life. Towards the end of 1911 sensational happenings attracted public attention to him. Among his former supporters had been the robust Bishop of Saratov, Hermogen, a very strong monarchist, and the Monk Heliodor, a notable and popular preacher, also very conservative. An attempt was made to push through the Synod an authorization to ordain Rasputin a priest. This was defeated in view of his well-known dissoluteness. Hermogen was one of its most vigorous opponents. Direct interference from the Court obtained at least a partial reversion of the decision of the Synod. Hermogen again was most vigorous in his protests. He and Heliodor, acting together, arranged a meeting with Rasputin which resulted in threats on both sides; Rasputin threw himself on the Bishop as if to strangle him, and when pulled off departed threatening vengeance. Hermogen was then banished to his diocese by order of the Emperor and, as he still refused to submit, both he and Heliodor were ultimately relegated to monasteries. The Emperor had acted illegally in imposing such a sentence on a bishop without trial by a church court.
This was not the end. Shortly afterwards one Novoselov, a specialist on Russian sects who lectured at the Religious Academy near Moscow, issued a pamphlet giving full details of Rasputin's seductions, which seemed to be numberless. The book was immediately suppressed, but was widely quoted by Russian newspapers beginning with "The Voice of Moscow," the organ of Guchkov. He was leader of the Duma, and for a short time its President, and he had at first hoped to play the part of tribune of the people at the palace and to carry the Emperor with him for reform. But he had been severely rebuffed, and chose this ground for attack. The papers were now forbidden to speak of Rasputin. At this time the preliminary censorship no longer existed, and such orders by the government were therefore illegal. Fines could be imposed after publication, but fines in this case the newspapers were ready to pay. Guchkov led a debate in the Duma on this infraction of the law. Rodzianko, who tried to limit and moderate the debate as much as possible, obtained an audience from the Emperor, and speaking with absolute plainness laid a number of data before him. "I entreat you," he ended, "in the name of all that is holy for you, for Russia, for the happiness of your successor, drive off from you this filthy adventurer, disperse the growing apprehensions of people loyal to the throne." "He is not here now," said the Emperor. Rodzianko took him up, "Let me tell everyone that he will not return." "No," said Nicholas, "I cannot promise you that, but I fully believe all you say. I feel your report was sincere, and I trust the Duma because I trust you." Next day he authorized Rodzianko to make a full investigation, and the plentiful material in the possession of the Synod was handed over to him. The Empress tried to get these papers back, but Rodzianko gave a stout refusal to her messenger, saying that she was as much the subject of the Emperor as himself. When he was ready with his conclusions he asked for another audience, but Nicholas put him off. He threatened to resign, and was invited to send in a report. Later he heard that it had been studied by Nicholas and the Grand Duke of Hesse, brother of the Empress, while they were together at Livadia in Crimea. The Grand Duke, as is known, in no way supported the attitude of the Empress.
For the time Rasputin disappeared. In the summer of 1912, while the Imperial family was at a hunting box in Poland, the Tsarevich fell on the gunwale of a boat; the bruise set up internal bleeding and for some weeks his life was despaired of. All the family were distracted with grief. The best doctors declared themselves impotent. The Empress then ordered a telegram to be sent to Rasputin, who replied: "This illness is not dangerous; don't let the doctors worry him." From the time of the reception of the telegram the boy rapidly recovered. There is no doubt as to these facts, which were testified to unanimously by various witnesses. Nor is there evidence of any kind for the supposition that the illness was artificially created.
Stolypin before his death in 1911 had reported in the strongest language against Rasputin. The attitude of his successor, Count Kokovtsev, was practically the same. The Empress when she met him turned her back on him, and he was curtly dismissed from the post of Premier in January, 1914. The aged Goremykin who succeeded him, and who possessed throughout the complete confidence of the Empress, summed up the question to Rodzianko in the words, "C'est une question clinique."
When war broke out, Rasputin was lying dangerously ill at Tobolsk, where one of his female victims had tried to assassinate him. He sent a telegram to Madame Vyrubov, "Let Papa (the Emperor) not plan war. It will be the end of Russia and of all of us. We shall be destroyed to the last man." The Emperor was very annoyed at this, and never was he more at one with his people than when he appeared on the balcony of the Winter Palace and the vast crowd kneeled in front of him. For the first period of the war the Empress devoted herself to hospital work, and spared herself no labor or unpleasantness in the care of the sick; on matters of administration she only ventured tentative and timid opinions.
The discovery of gross munition scandals in the early summer of 1915 roused a wave of national indignation, and seemed at first to bring Russia nearer to an effective constitution than ever before. It must be understood that the constitutional question was still unsettled. The Duma had come to stay, as even the Empress at this time admitted. In spite of a manipulated and limited franchise, it had more and more come to represent the nation. The limits on its competence, however, remained; it had once succeeded by moral pressure in removing a Minister (Timiriazev), but the Ministers were not responsible to it. As is clear from the Emperor's talks with Rodzianko, he certainly did not recognize his famous edict of October 30, 1905, which gave full legislative powers to the Duma, as the grant of a Constitution, and the Duma's rights had been whittled down since then both by limitations imposed at the outset in the fundamental laws of 1906, and also in practice ever since.
The Emperor was in entire agreement with his people as to the needs of his army. He appealed for the utmost efforts, and at Rodzianko's request he established a War Industries Committee on which the Duma was to be represented. The Alliance itself worked in the same direction, for democratic France and England desired to see as hearty as possible a coöperation of the Russian people in the prosecution of the war. The War Minister, Sukhomlinov, who had been at least criminally negligent, was dismissed; the Emperor also got rid of those of his Ministers who were at best half-hearted about the war, Nicholas Maklakov, Shcheglovitov and Sabler, and replaced them by men who had the confidence of the country. It looked as if the movement would go a good deal further. The bulk of the Duma, containing nearly all its best brains, had practically formed into one party under the name of the Progressive Bloc, and it asked for the definite adoption of the principle that the Ministry as a whole should be such as to possess the public confidence. Those of the Ministers who were of the same view, at this time a majority in the Cabinet, went even further; they wrote a letter to the Sovereign asking that the aged and obviously incompetent Prime Minister should be changed. If things had not stopped here, Russia would have done what all her Allies were doing at the same time, namely have formed a national and patriotic Coalition Ministry; but, beyond that, she would also have completed the process towards a Constitution which, though often interrupted, had been going on since the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861.
It was here that the Empress intervened, with the assistance and advice of Rasputin. She got the Emperor back to Tsarskoe Selo for several weeks and persuaded him to dismiss from the Chief Command the Grand Duke Nicholas, who was popular with the Duma and the country. This both she and Rasputin regarded as the most essential victory of all. She then obtained the prorogation of the Duma, and its President and the delegates of other public bodies who begged the Emperor to reverse this decision were met with the most chilling refusal. She then persuaded her husband that all the Ministers who had, so to speak, struck work against Premier Goremykin should be replaced as soon as possible. We thus enter the critical period which changed the war from being an instrument for producing a Russian Constitution into the principal cause of the Russian Revolution. From now till the final collapse Russia was governed by the Empress, with Rasputin as her real Prime Minister.
Two incidents in the summer and autumn sharpened the conflict between the Court and the public over the influence of Rasputin. In the summer Rasputin varied his dissolute orgies with a severe course of repentance and visited the tombs of the Patriarchs in Moscow. Presumably he overdid the repentance, for he followed it up with a visit to a notorious resort, the Yar, where he got drunk and behaved in the most scandalous way. His proceedings were recorded in detail by the police, who were present, and were reported by them to one of the most loyal servants of the Emperor, General Dzhunkovsky, at this time Commander of the Palace Guard. Dzhunkovsky presented the report without comment to the Emperor. Next day he was dismissed from all appointments, and the protest of another intimate friend of the Emperor, Prince Orlov, had the same result. The Empress flatly refused to believe such reports and persisted in regarding them as machinations of the police.
In 1915 the Emperor was starting with his son for the front when the Tsarevich was taken violently ill in the train, which thereupon returned to Tsarskoe Selo. Rasputin was summoned at once and from the time of his visit the boy recovered, as in 1912. Rasputin often played on this theme. Once he fell into fervent prayer and when he had ended declared that he had saved the Emperor from assassination. He made many happy guesses, some of which were almost uncanny. On the other hand, the Empress herself gives several instances, some of them conspicuous, of predictions which went all wrong.
Neither the Emperor nor the Empress had at this time any thought whatsoever of a separate peace; the Emperor, we know, never entertained such an idea even after abdication. Up till December 30, the date of the last of the Empress's letters, we know that she regarded victory in the war as a foregone conclusion, that her chief anxiety was that Russian influence might be overshadowed by British when the victorious peace was made, and that her main desire was that the victory of Russia should be entirely the triumph of her husband. Nicholas at times spoke tentatively of reforms, but throughout this period insisted that they could only follow after the war.
In going to the front the Emperor had ipso facto more or less abandoned the administration to his wife, who definitely describes herself as his "wall in the rear," speaks even of "wearing the trousers" in the struggle against internal enemies, recalls the time when Catherine the Great (who had much more drastically disposed of her husband) received the Ministers, and in the end is absolutely certain that she is "saving Russia." Rasputin who had on several occasions pushed suggestions as to the war, gradually became the ultimate factor in all decisions. Practically no Minister could be appointed except on his recommendation or after accepting allegiance to him.
He initiated the period of his power by making himself absolutely supreme in all Church affairs. Let me sum up his principal achievements in this domain. He dismisses an adverse Minister of Religion, Samarin, who had been the elected Marshal of the Moscow Nobility; he dismisses his successor, Volzhin, appointed at his own desire; he practically appoints a third Minister, Raiev; he commands a public prayer-giving throughout the country, insisting that the order should not pass through the Synod; he appoints as Metropolitan of Petrograd, Pitirim, a contemptible sycophant of his own; he negatives a project of the Synod to create seven Metropolitan Sees in Russia; through one of his subordinates and in violation of all rules he creates a new Saint, St. John of Tobolsk.
But there was hardly any other department of administration with which he did not interfere. He settles at various times and in various ways the administration of the food supply; he orders an absurdly simplified way of dealing with the question of rations; he confers repeatedly with the Minister of Finance, whose resignation he at first demands and then defers, and he insists on the issue of an enormous loan. He secures that the whole passenger transport of the country should be suspended for six days for the passage of food -- a measure which is made futile by the failure to collect the food supplies at the proper places for transport. He repeatedly interferes both in military appointments and in military operations; he secures the suspension of Sukhimlinov's trial; he secures the dismissal of his successor, Polivanov, who according to all military evidence, including that of Hindenburg, in his few months of office brought about a wonderful recovery of the efficiency of the Russian army; he orders an offensive; he countermands an offensive; he dictates the tactics to be followed in the Carpathians; he even demands to be informed in advance of all military operations, and to know the exact day on which they are to begin, in order that he may decide the issue by his prayers; he arranges the details of the future military entry into Constantinople. He removes the Foreign Minister, Sazonov, who in Russia was the main arch of the alliance, the trusted friend of the British and French Ambassadors. He adjourns and opposes any execution of the Emperor's promise to give autonomy to Poland. He dictates telegrams to the King of Serbia and to the King of Greece.
The following are extracts from letters of the Empress which refer to this period:
Apr. 4. "Our Friend is shocked at the style of N.N." (the Grand Duke).
6. He thought the Tsar should not have visited Galicia till after the War.
10. He is "rather disturbed about the meat stores."
May 11. He spends two hours with Bark (Minister of Finance).
Jun. 10. He says the second class of recruits should not be called in. The Empress adds, "Hearken unto Our Friend."
11. He is against the assembling of the Duma.
12. She objects to Polivanov, the new War Minister. "Is he not Our Friend's enemy? That brings bad luck." Rasputin likes Shakhovskoy (Minister of Trade). "Can influence him for good." He "begs most incessantly" for a one-day's prayer-giving to be ordered by the Tsar without the Synod. She adds "Be more autocratic, my very own sweetheart."
15. Message from Rasputin to the Tsar: "You are to pay less attention to what people say to you, not let yourself be influenced by them. They know much less than you . . ." The Empress adds: "He regrets you did not speak to him more about all you think and were intending to do."
16. "Think more of Gr. (Gregory): ask Him to intervene before God to guide you right."
17. Rasputin begs to postpone the Duma.
18. Of Samarin, Procurator of the Holy Synod: "He is an enemy of Our Friend's and that is the worst thing there can be."
24. The Premier (Goremykin) is to tell Samarin and Shcherbatov (Minister of Interior) how they are to behave to Rasputin.
Aug. 22. Rasputin, after the replacement of the Grand Duke: "The worst is over."
28. He tells the Tsar to set free criminals and send them to the front.
29. He desires more munition factories. "Khvostov (candidate for Minister of Interior) spoke justly and well about Our Friend" (Khvostov told Rodzianko he intended to discredit Rasputin by making him drunk).
Sep. 7. She sends a list of possible successors to Samarin. Guriev (one of them) "likes Our Friend."
8. She asks to put Pitirim on the Synod. "He venerates Our Friend."
15. "Comb your hair with His comb" when about to receive the Ministers.
17. She recommends General Shvedov for Procurator, "He calls Our Friend Father Gregory."
Oct. 3. Rasputin begs the Tsar to telegraph to the King of Serbia. She adds "so I enclose a paper . . . put the sense in your words." Rasputin condemns the new stamp money. She will tell Bark.
8. Rasputin says the Grand Duke cannot be successful (in the Caucasus) "for going against Him." (On Sept. 19 Rasputin sent a message "There is little sunshine in the Caucasus.")
10. "He says you must give an order that waggons with flour, butter and sugar should be allowed to pass": no other trains for 3 days. He "saw the whole thing in the night in a vision." This is done.
Nov. 1. Rasputin is "very grieved at Trepov's nomination" (as Minister of Commerce) "as He knows he is very against Him." "Our Friend was always against the war, saying the Balkans were not worth troubling to fight about."
8. "Our Friend is anxious to know . . . about your plans for Rumania." He dictates the course to be followed with Rumania and Greece, walking about and crossing himself. Gives his plans for the march into Constantinople.
10. Rasputin has recommended the dismissal of the Premier (Goremykin). Now he asks the Tsar to wait till He has seen the elder Khvostov "to form his impressions" of him as a possible successor.
12. He pushes Pitirim "as the only suitable man" for Metropolitan. He proposes Zhivakhov as Assistant Procurator of the Synod.
13. He spends 1½ hours with the Empress: tells the Tsar to wait as to the Premier "according to God." He suggests a surprise visit of the Tsar to the Duma to avert scandals (this is done later).
15. "Prompted by what He saw in the night," he bids an advance near Riga. He "says it is necessary: begs you seriously; says we can and we must."
He bids summon the Duma if there is no victory at the front. Tell the Premier to feign illness and let the Tsar make a surprise visit, though "He loathes their existence as I do for Russia." The Empress adds: "I feel sure you will agree to Gregory sooner than to the old man" (the Premier, who is her own choice).
Dec. 2. Among his instructions is one that "He cannot exactly remember, but He says that one must always do what He says."
16. "Always the first place for Gregory" (when entertained at Pitirim's).
19. She suggests Tatishchev as successor to Bark; he "knows and venerates Our Friend: hates Guchkov and those Moscow types."
22. Rasputin says "no more fogs would disturb."
31. He says, "always pay attention to the weather."
Jan. 4. She recommends Stürmer for Premier (done).
6. Rasputin "regrets you began that movement (at the front) without asking Him." She sends "a petition from Our Friend, it is a military thing."
7. Rasputin says Stürmer (his protégé) is not to change his Germn name. She sends a budget of his requests.
30. Rasputin and the Empress urge Ivanov for Minister of War vice Polivanov.
Feb. 1. Rasputin objects to Obolensky (in charge of food supplies).
5. The Tsarevich ill. He says "it will pass in two days."
Mar. 4. "Remember about (dismissing) Polivanov."
6. Rasputin on a responsible Ministry: "It would be the ruin of everything."
12. She writes imploring the dismissal of Polivanov, "Lovey, don't dawdle." She receives the Tsar's consent and adds: "Oh, the relief." She objects to Ignatiev, Minister of Education.
13. She questions the Tsar's new choice for War Minister, Shuvaiev.
14. Rasputin is for Ivanov. She adds "In that He is certainly right."
The Synod has proposed to create 7 Metropolitan Sees. "Our Friend begs you not to agree."
15. "I wish you could shut up that rotten War Industries Committee."
Apr. 1. Ivanov appointed as military adviser at headquarters. Rasputin is pleased.
25. Rasputin on the trial of Sukhomlinov: "It is a bit not well."
May 23. He "begs very much not to name Makarov Minister of Interior."
Jun. 4. He "begs not yet strongly advance in the North."
5. "Our Friend says it is good for us that Kitchener died . . . as later he might have done Russia harm."
9. Rasputin wishes the Tsar to come for two days to Petrograd. She forwards 5 first-class requests transmitted to her from him: prorogue the Duma; dismiss Obolensky; give the food supply to the Minister of Interior: don't thank the zemstvo Red Cross; the fifth request Mme. Vyrubov has forgotten. The Empress asks for a telegram, "Agree to your questions." She proposes a milder judge to try Sukhomlinov. Rasputin hopes "there will be a great victory, perhaps at Kovel," and wants Sukhomlinov then amnestied.
16. Rasputin is against the augmented tram prices. He wishes the Empress to take Mme. Vyrubov with her to headquarters (she does so).
17. He "predicts fatal results" if the 7 Metropolitan Sees are created.
18. He begs the Tsar to be "very firm with the Ministers."
25. The Empress wants Raiev as Procurator of the Synod.
Jul. 16. She protests at the nomination of Makarov (Minister of Justice: the Tsar's choice). "I must have Our Friend guaranteed against them."
July 24. Rasputin is against further advance.
Aug. 4. He objects to the liberation of the Slavonic prisoners of war (Poles, Czechs, Serbs, etc.). He "begs you to be very severe with the Generals," and to put off calling the recruits till September 1. He intervenes as to the supply of aeroplanes.
8. He warns against advance over the Carpathians.
9. He has a long talk with the Premier (Stürmer), and tells him to report to the Empress weekly.
13. The Empress recommends Raiev for Procurator and Beliayev for Minister of War (both done later).
18. Message from Rasputin: "A bad tree will fall whatever be the axe that cuts it."
Sep. 4. "Do not hurry with the Polish affair (the promised autonomy) . . . our full trust in Our Friend's wisdom endowed by God." (This advice is followed.)
6. "Our Friend would have liked to take the Rumanian troops in hand to be surer of them."
7. He says "all will be right." He "begs very earnestly to name Protopopov as Minister of Interior." She adds "He likes Our Friend at least 4 years." He wishes an announcement of the promise of the Allies as to Constantinople: "then they must keep their word after." "About Poland he begs you to wait. Do listen to Him: He has more insight than all of them."
9. "Please take Protopopov."
14. "God bless your new choice of Protopopov."
15. He says, change Obolensky.
16. He tells the Tsar not to worry if he finds he has dismissed Generals wrongly.
17. He is given the military plans so as to pray over them. He sends a "paper."
18. The Empress asks the exact date of attack for the above reason.
19. She rejects all the Premier's (Stürmer's) candidates for Chief of Police; she tells him to "hurry up and think again."
21. "Since Catherine no Empress has received the Ministers . . . Gregory is delighted." "God inspires him and to-morrow I'll write what He said."
22. He says the food supply will go right. He advises to call up the Tartars to the army. Sukhomlinov "should not die in jail . . . . Otherwise things will not be smooth."
23. Rasputin is "very satisfied with Father's orders (i.e. from the Tsar to Brusilov)."
28. Obolensky abases himself to Rasputin and begs to be Governor-General of Finland.
29. "Did you remember about mobilising the Tartars?"
Oct. 14. "Tell him (Protopopov) to go on seeing Gregory."
16. Rasputin advises to call up young men, not old.
26. He says that when asked about Polish autonomy the Tsar is to answer, "I do all for my son, will be pure before my son."
Oct. 30. She countermands, on her own authority, an order of Protopopov (on the food supply) because "Our Friend said it was absolutely necessary." Rasputin says: "Protopopov will finish off the Unions (zemstvo and town Red Cross) and by that save Russia." She describes their wish for a responsible ministry as "colossal impudence."
31. He says the Sukhomlinov trial must be "absolutely stopped." "All my trust lies in Our Friend." The profiteer Rubinstein must be "at once" released.
Nov. 3. Message from Rasputin. "Calm papa. Write that everything will be right." She asks again for Rubinstein.
7. Rasputin and Protopopov want the Premier (Stürmer) to be "rested."
9. Rasputin says Stürmer can go on.
10. The Tsar, however, has dismissed Stürmer altogether. She is shocked. "Thanks for Sukhomlinov." Rasputin wants a new Minister of Communications (Trepov is now Premier).
11. Trepov has asked for the dismissal of Protopopov. The Empress writes to save Protopopov. "He venerates Our Friend and will be blessed."
12. "It is the question of the monarchy and your prestige . . . You were alone with us two" (herself and Rasputin).
Dec. 4. Rasputin has prophesied great times coming for the Tsar and Russia. "Our Friend's dreams mean so much."
5. "He has kept you where you are." "He entreats for Makarov (Minister of Justice) to be quicker changed." "The good is coming -- the turn has begun."
8. She urges Shcheglovitov for President of the Council of State (done later). "Only have the Duma cleverly shut."
10. She begs to withdraw the case against the swindler Manuilov which is brought "to harm Our Friend." "Change Makarov." She has seen Dobrovolsky.
13. He "entreats you to be firm, to be the master, and we must give a strong country to Baby . . . I your wall am behind you . . . It is all getting calmer and better . . . Russia loves to feel the whip. . . . I am strong, but listen to me which means Our Friend."
14. "Be Peter the Great, John the Terrible, Emperor Paul, crush them all under you . . . now don't you laugh, naughty one . . . I could hang Trepov (the Premier) . . . Disperse the Duma at once. Milliukov, Guchkov, and Polivanov also to Siberia. My duty as wife and mother, and Russia's mother, blessed by Our Friend."
15. "Thanks so much for Manuilov."
16. "They touch all near me. Sweep away the dust and dirt" (the Opposition majority in the very Conservative Council of State).
17. "Our Friend has disappeared. Such utter anguish. Am calm and can't believe it." (Rasputin had been assassinated.)
While the Empress's letters wipe clean away all the scandalous charges made against her personal character, while they show that up to Rasputin's death she was a fervent Russian patriot who had no thought of a separate peace with Germany, they also prove that she and, through her, Rasputin were the prime authors of the collapse of the Empire and of Russia.
The Bolshevist leaders were far away in Switzerland or Canada,[i] and their not numerous followers were out of the picture. The leaders of the Duma, largely in answer to the pressure of Russia's Allies, were doing all that they could to postpone the explosion till after the War. Up to the intervention of the fatal pair in the late Summer of 1915, it seemed that the war itself was only bringing nearer what practically all Russia desired. Apart from the terrible depression that followed on the disillusionment of 1915, Russia was then confronted with a monstrous régime which would have seemed impossible in some small duchy in the Middle Ages. In the midst of a world-wide struggle, in a time of the closest collaboration with the best brains of Western statesmanship, the Russian Ministers were selected by an ignorant, blind and hysterical woman on the test of their subservience to an ignorant, fantastic and debauched adventurer, a test which they could only satisfy by open-eyed self-abasement or at the best by cynical passivity, and the supreme commands of the adventurer permeated every detail of government in every branch of the administration. Meanwhile, in his drunken revels he babbled publicly of his influence over the Empress, held a daily levée attended by the worst financial swindlers, and preached views both on the war and on the government of the country, which were shared only by the avowed friends of Germany, who evidently had easier access to him than any one else.
It was under the leadership of such a government that the lives of millions of peasants were thrown into the furnace of the World War.
[i] Lenin and his chief lieutenants reached Petrograd on April 16, 1917, a month after the Emperor's abdication.