EVERYONE who enters Russia — correspondents, delegates, H. G. Wells, and all must go to Moscow. Such is the verdict of the world. The first question asked invariably is, ‘Did you go to Moscow?’ the second, ‘Did you interview Lenin?’ Though the rôle of persona non grata in which I found mvself did not permit of seeking interviews with the great, this account would hardly be complete without some description of the Russian capital.
Our entrance into Moscow was enlivened by one of the most interesting phenomena of Soviet rule. The government forbids private persons to bring produce into the city to sell, and keeps watch on the main roads and at the stations, in order to prevent the practice from becoming too flagrant. The train ran very slowly through the outskirts. Its progress was marked by a continual round of excitement, as passenger after passenger, hurling his food-supplies on the ground or into the arms of waiting friends, jumped from the moving train. There was squealing of young pigs sewed up in burlap bags, hurling of sacks of grain, scattering of vegetables, and occasionally a mêlée of arms, legs, baskets, produce, and dust-spirals, as some unfortunate lost his or her balance after an ill-judged or premature leap. At road-crossings were several small carts, waiting to help carry off the smuggled supplies. The government must know that this practice goes on, but does not see fit to stop it.
Throughout Siberia malcontents had described Moscow as decaying and its inhabitants as living scarecrows. Their descriptions were not borne out by the facts, except as regarded the physical condition of the people themselves. The city was much cleaner than one usually supposes; the mass of the people were better dressed than in Siberia, and about the same as I remembered them from 1916; but faces on all sides were pale and drawn, from lack of nourishment — even more so than in Irkutsk.
As regards cleanliness, Moscow was not dirty with the impressions that this word, as applied to a semi-Asiatic city, calls up in the popular imagination — it was simply uncared for. There were no accumulations of refuse, deleterious to the public health, as refugees would have one believe. Where a wooden building has been torn down for fuel, or a masonry one rendered uninhabitable by bombardment, there might be some débris, which no one had taken the trouble to cart off, because it was in nobody’s way. The cost of construction or repairing in Europe generally is so great, that the damaged buildings stand like gaunt reminders of six years of war.
But if the streets in Moscow were not knee-deep in filth, as I have actually seen stated in print, there was a certain mellowing patina over everything. The grass, pushing itself up bashfully between the cobblestones of some of the less used streets, reminded one pleasantly of Philadelphia. The windows had apparently not been scrubbed since the eventful days of October, 1917. The panes, however, were still translucent, and, if necessary, one could see through them. But everyone was too busy just plain living, to spend time gazing out of windows, to say nothing of washing them.
The same condition of affairs is noticeable everywhere. White stuccoed buildings are toning down like meerschaum pipes; where plaster gets chipped off, it is not replaced; and windows, if broken, are boarded up or patched with newspaper. Only such necessities as the electric and water services are kept in as good repair as facilities permit. With a moderate supply of stucco and window-glass, but a very considerable quantity of paint, Moscow externally could soon be restored to a condition comparable with that of pre-war times.
According to hearsay, the problem of the interior of buildings is complicated by the following state of affairs. With the injection of the People’s Army and the proletariat into the dwellings of the former bourgeoisie, the teeming life of the trenches and slums has also been introduced. It is said that when a building becomes uninhabitable, through the presence of vermin, the tovarishi, or comrades, requisition another, turning the former inhabitants out into the street to shift for themselves. In justice be it said, that interiors coming under my personal observation were reasonably clean, and the rooming-houses to which we were usually assigned were better ordered in every way than like establishments under Koltchak. They had also risen considerably in the social scale. Likewise, the continued requisitioning of new quarters by the authorities probably did not arise out of the necessity of changing habitats, but was to provide better accommodations for the ever-increasing government staffs.
Whether or not the requisitioning of buildings for government purposes was detrimental to their cleanliness, certainly the presence of large numbers of soldiers or former workmen was not conducive to the general well-being of the furniture and other fixings. Among others, the house occupied by foreign correspondents had been spared the quartering of soldiers. The property of a rich German merchant, it had suffered severely during the anti-German pogroms, to which the mobs were incited shortly before the revolution. Whenever the old government felt its position precarious, it would instigate pogroms against whoever happened to be handy, in order to distract the attention of the populace from itself. One dear old Frenchman, who came out on the refugee train with us, almost lost his life in a pogrom because the infuriated mob mistook him for a German. Soldiers entered the residences of departed Germans, slashed up the furniture, threw pianos out of windows, and generally behaved as a Russian mob should.
Our residence had suffered sufficiently to render it undesirable for occupancy, but not enough to prevent the Foreign Office from taking it over later and, at slight expense, putting it in first-class order. One slept on boxspring beds between clean linen — the first I had seen since striking out into the grassy expanses of Mongolia from Kalgan, the railhead above Peking. There was electricity, with drop-lights at the head of the bed and on the desk, but so connected that only one globe could be turned on at once, since there is a law against using two lights in one room, unless it is greater than a specified size. There were two fine big bathrooms, with showers and running water out of both hot and cold faucets. Both ran cold, however, except on Wednesday, the communal bath-day.
There was also a small garden, with wandering footpaths through the trees, interspersed with statuettes and overlooked by a terrace opening off the dining-room. The first evening I spent on the terrace, inhaling the freshness of the garden as dusk deepened, and conversing with an intelligent Russian girl of the old bourgeoisie, arrayed in an evening dress of black silk. I felt as if I had been picked up and transported clear of Russia. Only my own gnawing appetite and the wan face of the girl, scarcely noticeable in the twilight, recalled me to reality. Small wonder that some foreign correspondents, not having participated in the real life of the people, came out of Russia with glowing tales.
The young lady was mildly amused at the Americans; for, although she found the board at our residence very passable (far better than the average), they were not satisfied and would bring all manner of canned goods to table with them. The custom of purchasing eggs, potatoes, and so forth, in the market, and preparing the same personally in the spacious tiled kitchen, was also in vogue among Americans.
Three times a day we met — Russians employed in higher Foreign Office positions, Koreans, Americans, an Italian, and a Czech, in the spacious wainscoted dining-room, to eat black ryebread, and drink tea from a huge silver samovar. A small allowance of sugar was doled out in each saucer; or, failing that, two hard candies, so that one might drink and suck meanwhile. Usually there was butter for breakfast, and sometimes cheese; always meat in some form (usually hashed with potatoes) for dinner, and porridge for supper. Of black bread and salt there was an unlimited supply. The Russians and Koreans would buy cucumbers, which were cheap, to eat with their salt. The rest of us, bursting into the hall after the ringing of the gong, presented the appearance of moving day, each with his butter, sugar, cans of honey, marmalade, instant coffee, cucumbers, and perhaps a cornucopia of cherries or gooseberries.
The Russians, over their inadequately sweetened tea, their black bread, and cucumbers, smiled as they thought of the crowds outside, who drew a halfpound of bread every other day, and a monthly allowance, consisting of a quarter of a pound of salt, no sugar, a little tea, perhaps a pound of meat, and a box of matches.
Later, another American took me to a restaurant in the best residential part of town. It was in the house of a rich Russian merchant of former days. The lady of the house ran the enterprise, using her own dining-room, with the table drawn out to full length, and her own china and silver. There were two cardtables, seating four each, by the windows. The lady and her daughter did the preparatory cooking and the waiting on table, though one of their former maids, who had stuck by them, helped out in the kitchen and answered the numerous rings at the front door. For four thousand rubles ($1.50) one obtained an excellent three-course dinner, daintily served, which culminated in ice-cream, chocolate éclairs, and real coffee in a big cup, with cream and sugar. I was informed that the family had connections, otherwise they could not obtain even the necessary supplies for such a menu. Sugar, butter, and eggs may be bought at a price; but real coffee and chocolate are well-nigh unattainable.
The mother and daughter — both of them distinguished looking and wellbred — were friendly and even chatty with the stream of heterogeneous unkempt humanity that passed through their doors. I was particularly impressed by the attention the daughter paid to a rough, unshaven, but apparently well-meaning individual, who sat opposite me. He had all the earmarks of a lowly commissar. It’s all in the game!
For the almost regal accommodations and the fare — likewise regal for Moscow— one paid the Soviet government the royal sum of seven hundred and fifty rubles, or about twenty-five cents, a day. In addition, maids cleaned one’s shoes at night, and mended, if you provided them with thread, — for thread is difficult to obtain, — all for a mere voluntary pittance by way of remuneration. A thousand rubles will wreath the most stolid Russian face in smiles.
In a bay-window of the dining-room, overlooking the garden, stood a table flanked by palms and covered with Communist literature, which apparently only the foreigners read, and that out of curiosity. Alongside, in the billiardroom, the commandant and his assistant whiled away the days in interminable billiard bouts; while the two guards — changed every twenty-four hours — curiously eyed the bourgeois contest. The commandant, although he had never seen a billiard table before his present assignment, had developed quite a game. He could worst all the guests, whether native or foreign. He was very obliging at all times, and instructed the soldiers on guard to enter the hour of our goings and comings in the daily report, without holding us up at the door; so we passed in and out apparently with perfect freedom.
Once outside our centre of seclusion, which smacked of another world, one soon realized that one was in Soviet Russia. Nearby was the great central market, where everything imaginable can be bought and sold, especially since the stores have been closed. Personal possessions, by the gradual sale of which the bourgeoisie live, find their way here. Lines of people, often the original owners, stand patiently waiting to sell one article, such as a garment, or piece of jewelry or bric-à-brac, from the proceeds of which they will scrape along a few weeks more. I saw one old woman whose sole stock in trade was a box of Russian, pre-war cigarettes, which might bring eight hundred rubles. Precious stones can be bought, and gold ornaments, but the demand for the latter is so great that the value of gold has become inflated. Speculators want to turn their steadily depreciating paper notes into something with stable value. Many people, on leaving Russia, buy up gold articles, only to find that they are worth less outside the country than in. The only advantage is that they are easier to conceal than the bulky Romanoff notes, the only Russian money which has any real value in foreign countries.
Alongside of a vender of gold or jewels, one can purchase hot-dogs cooked over charcoal braziers, and small rolls of bread, either wheat or rye, since the free sale of loaves of bread under a certain specified size is permitted. One can obtain almost anything in season, — butter, milk, eggs, honey, cherries, berries, potatoes, cucumbers, pickles, — all for a price comparable with that in neighboring countries after due allowance has been made for difference in exchange. Only meat was scarce, and there were no ice-cream wagons, as in Omsk and Irkutsk.
Several Chinese of the coolie class were lounging about the market. They had once belonged, no doubt, to the notorious Chinese fighting unit. One of them, noticing a mandarin coat that one of the American women had just purchased for the equivalent of six dollars (eighteen thousand rubles) from a needy bourgeois, came up and tried to make himself sociable. It seemed an excellent chance to get a novel sidelight on political events; but his Russian proved to be of a pronouncedly guarded variety, — a characteristic shared by our Chinese, — so the conversation limited itself to the usual remarks about the weather, mutual exchanges of worthy surnames, and queries as to the location of each other’s honored habitat, or the health of august relatives.
Government agents strolled about, eyeing us suspiciously. Some of them were well known by sight to local Americans, who had been shadowed by them on occasion. Apparently they were known to the venders, since a slight flurry often preceded their approach. Many of these shadowing agents are very likable, for the ordinary Russian is by nature friendly. One foreigner related that the agent assigned to him at certain times would wait patiently outside of wherever he happened to be, and when he came out, would smile goodnaturedly and fall in behind like an orderly. Personally, however, during the ten weeks trip from Kiakhta to Petrograd, I was never conscious of being shadowed, and do not believe that I was.
The position of Americans in Moscow was, however, precarious. My companion, on arriving from Omsk, was put under house-arrest in a different part of town for four days, until we were deported. Two Americans were in prison on charges of international espionage. One of these was an industrial expert, who had come to Russia hoping to be able to make some constructive suggestions. Lenin welcomed him cordially and sent him all over the country making investigations for a report. There could be only one result. The truths revealed in the report were evidently unpalatable to Lenin. Although about that time there were two distinct innovations in the Communist System, possibly due to the report, — compulsory labor in the factories, and substitution of one-man control (a government appointee) for the elective committees hitherto in vogue,—the American expert, after receiving permission to leave, had been arrested at the border and was then awaiting trial. He knew too much.
An American engineer, whom I had seen at lunch in a restaurant one day, was arrested the next. The authorities would give no explanations, though a member of the Foreign Office unofficially said that his identity was not established. The real reason is probably to seek elsewhere. As a mining expert he had been asked to write a report on the process used by his company in dealing with certain complex ores found in Russia — ores which the Russians have not been able to work themselves. He made a report, but, quite naturally, did not divulge the essential tradesecrets. As luck would have it, he did not tell the authorities all they knew already.
The atmosphere at my residence, where most of the foreign correspondents stayed, was tense enough to prevent anyone’s suffering from ennui. Before I left, the other English-speaking correspondents — four in all — had either been arrested, were then under arrest, or were soon going to be. My colleague was under house-arrest. A woman correspondent had spent ten days in jail, and had been put through the third degree by the Extraordinary Committee. She had crossed the Polish front, without permission, about five months before. The military authorities had welcomed and fêted this strange woman, who walked in from the west with a single porter and two bags. They did the honors and showed her around before sending her up to Moscow. Consequently, she had seen too much.
The representative of the London Daily Herald, an out-and-out Socialist paper, was invited by Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, the deported American anarchists, to make a tour of the provinces with them. Anarchy is the absolute opposite of Communism, so the Soviet government had sent these two great exponents of American thought off to the provinces, collecting statistics, where they could do no harm. The Communists are especially indignant over the deportations from the United States, since all those deported have been Anarchists, who are about as welcome as certain quadrupeds at garden parties. The correspondent obtained permission from the numerous essential authorities, with the exception of the military. He decided to chance it without that; but the Extraordinary Committee, apprised of his absence, had telegraphed instructions for his arrest and return.
Most interesting of all was the case of a young American Jew, who had known many of the Bolshevist leaders in New York, and was a close personal friend of Radek, the Secretary of the Third International. Through Radek, but against the advice of Americans better versed in the ways of Moscow, he obtained permission to go to the opening of the Third International at Petrograd. He went up on the special train, chatted with all the delegates, including Lenin — in fact, was one of the boys. He noticed that some of the American delegates eyed him suspiciously, but he gave the matter no further thought.
The evening following his return to Moscow, some of the rest of us were talking about the recent arrest of the American economist and the engineer, and the probable arrest of an Englishman present if he returned to his dwelling, where the agents of the Extraordinary Committee might be waiting for him. The representative of the Czecho-Slovak Red Cross, who was there to repatriate Czech war-prisoners who had not come out through Siberia, left for a minute, to telephone. He did not return. His wife, an American girl of Czech descent, becoming anxious, went to look for him. She returned horror-stricken. Armed men were guarding her husband in the telephone room and allowed no one to enter.
Consternation followed, until, about half an hour later, the house commandant came in and straightened out the tangle. The men had come to arrest the Jewish correspondent, whose room opened off the telephone room. They waited till dawn, but their guest spent the night with Radek in the Delevoi Dvor; however, he was actually arrested and put in prison the following day, though he was soon afterward released.
Though markets run at more than full blast, stores are dead. Most of them are boarded up. The few still run by the government have almost no stock, and less patronage, since only high government officials can get the necessary permission to make purchases. The bookstores, however, were fully stocked, mostly with newly printed socialistic literature; but permits are necessary, and sales did not appear to be great. Only one store presented signs of activity — a toy-shop, under private management, since toys, having no economic importance, have not been taken over by the government. The stock was good, but mostly handmade locally. There were bright-colored manikins, dolls, roughly printed games on cardboard, and pamphlets of fairy tales in the new orthography; but mostly hand-cut wooden toys. The Soviets, in their rigorous rationing of a whole nation, are especially lenient toward children.
Fruit-stands were numerous on the street corners. Gooseberries, cherries, raspberries, and currants — all grown in the neighborhood of Moscow — sold for six hundred rubles a pound, though, before I left, a week later, prices had jumped to eight hundred rubles. The startling rise of market prices in August boded ill for the coming winter.
Theoretically, newspapers were sold on the streets, but they were difficult to obtain, on account of the scarcity of paper and the low price asked — two or three rubles. All government offices and institutions subscribed regularly. Individuals could do likewise by special permission. When left-over copies appeared on the street, people would form a queue in front of the newsman. Only once during a week’s stay did I succeed in buying a paper on the street. On the other hand, copies — a Soviet paper consists of only one or two sheets — were placarded on almost every corner for the general public.
The Hermitage, a garden with restaurants and theatres, famed from Warsaw to Vladivostok, is still going, although the restaurants are closed. Three theatres — an open-air one, a review and an opera house — are running, besides an open-air concert in an extension, constructed by the present authorities, to which Communists point with evident satisfaction. The extension is very crude compared with the restful shaded walks of the original garden, but the concerts are good.
Theatre tickets are distributed to all in turn, through the trade or professional unions. Often tickets are resold. We obtained a box from a scalper outside the park gate, for two thousand rubles, or seventy cents. The opera proved to be Rigoletto, rendered in all its tinkling loveliness by an orchestra of ten pieces. To add to the enjoyableness of the occasion, two young fellows in the adjoining box kept up a running conversation with their girls. Apparently it was the first opera any of them had seen — they had not resold their allotted places. The men rocked with glee whenever the prima-donnas put on any trills, and tried to imitate them, much to the suffocated amusement of the girls. The antics and costumes of the courtiers furnished them with great cause for mirth. On the whole, they drew as much, and the same sort, of enjoyment out of Rigoletto as a Fifth Avenue audience would out of a kitchen-stairs comedy. After losing interest in the opera and our neighbors, we went off on a regular spree, which consisted in returning home to our mansion, opening up the one remaining can of corned beef, and eating a square after-theatre supper. Nothing could have pleased the Russian who arranged the opera party more.
Other operas are put on better, and the audiences are, on the whole, appreciative. When Chaliapin, the great Russian tenor, sings, it is, indeed, a gala event. The orchestra is, no doubt, always arrayed somewhat heterogeneously, in contrast to the leader in evening dress — as so many other writers have already pointed out. But the audience was not the assorted collection of rags and tatters that previous reports had led me to anticipate. The reserve of clothes is being spread out among more people and being gradually used up. People still look fairly well, but there are not so many changes of clothing at home as there were three years ago. It takes a long time completely to wear out clothes, provided one exercises due care.
Operas, theatres, and concerts are carried on by pre-war momentum. Actors and musicians have not been trained under the present régime, nor has there been any creative work of merit, beyond some crude communistic couplets on propaganda posters, and one-act farces on topics of the day. Those who are not too discouraged to write are busy turning out Socialist pamphlets. From the standpoint of literature, three years is a brief period. It is perhaps not too much to hope that the great Russian realists of the nineteenth century, who portrayed the life of the people to the bourgeoisie, may be followed by a still broader school, which will write for the masses themselves. The Soviet government is giving everybody the opportunity to learn how to read. How well the people are availing themselves of the opportunity, and the efficiency of the instruction, are matters of question.
The architectural endeavors of the Bolsheviki have been very limited, as no time or labor can be spared from the more important tasks of carrying on war and reestablishing industry. In almost all cities there arc memorial arches and pyramids of boards roughly put together and painted red. Sometimes crude portrait-medallions, in which Marx’s beard always figures, are added. To welcome the delegates to the Third International, two such pyramids had been erected in the square in front of the Metropole Hotel. Across the street toward the Great Theatre, was a huge circular flower-bed, with crossed sickle and mallet (the emblem of the proletariat) in the centre, and ‘Workers of the World, unite!’ in English around the border. The English workingmen’s delegation had been in Moscow a short time before.
However, two monuments in Moscow were more pretentious. One, a Rodin-like sitting figure of a man, at the foot of Rozhestvenski Boulevard, revealed the hand of a master-moulder, but produced a sloppy appearance, being apparently in the original clay, and resting on a crude cloth-covered wooden pedestal. Neither passers-by nor my companions could tell me the name of the gentleman so immersed in thought.
The other monument stood at the northern end of the Alexander Garden, which skirts the western wall of the Kremlin. An obelisk-shaped shaft, about thirty feet high, built of separate horizontal blocks of finished stone diminishing in size toward the top, bore the names of the great leaders of the proletarian movement, one engraved on each block. At the top stood Marx and Engels, followed by lesser lights, down through Bakunin to Liebknecht, the father of Karl. No living men were represented. The monument, although the work of a stone-cutter rather than a sculptor, made an excellent impression by its simplicity and good taste, in marked contrast to the more blatant efforts one almost grows accustomed to.
The decorative arts do not lag behind. Huge streamers, bedaubed with startling futuristic designs, usually portraying the proletariat conquering capitalism and ruling the world, hung front upper-story windows to welcome the Third International. At propaganda centres numerous colored prints on the same theme, highly imaginative but not futuristic, fasten the attention of passers-by. Capitalism and the Allies are portrayed in the most hideous forms, finally succumbing to the laboring classes — often represented by a stalwart, clean-shaven workman, mallet in hand, and with the white-paper boxshaped hat for headgear, so familiar to Americans from Puck’s political cartoons. No beautified abstraction could be further removed from the reality of a Russian workman. To be sure, all posters are not of this type. Educational ones encourage the average man to swat the fly; to discourage the louse, breeder of typhus, by habits of cleanliness; and offer pictorial suggestions as to the manifold cares of daily life.
No photographs appear in the newspapers; so pictures of current events are posted under glass in front of theatres or on busy corners. In Siberia, the same photographs which, a few months before under Koltchak, had horrified the world as Bolshevist atrocities, were now doing yeoman service depicting the ‘ White Terror ’ of Koltchak himself. Railroad accidents could account for many mutilations, and piles of typhus-stricken corpses — the dead were thrown out to await burial after the spring thaw— had lured the paid photographer in search of horrors. In Moscow, bulletin-boards depicted the ceremonies accorded the English labor delegates, and the deeds of Trotsky and his victorious army, sweeping the Poles before them.
Before the Revolution, all institutions in Russia could boast of being ‘Imperial.’ Widespreading sign-boards proclaimed the Imperial University, the Imperial Conservatory, the Imperial Riding Academy, the Imperial Turkish Baths, or what not. No one can muster time enough to make new signs, — only enough to tear down the old, — so the cornices now greet one with blank Conservatory, blankety-blank University, and the like.
On the streets, nice-appearing elderly women would accost one, begging for money or a piece of bread. A friend, who counted, claimed that he received thirty such requests from different women during a comparatively short walk. Most of them were women of the lower middle classes, who could do no useful work and so could not draw rations. Having already lived through all they could spare of their former belongings, they were rendered destitute. The whole social fabric of Moscow is topsy-turvy. Former members of the demi-monde have blossomed forth as the ‘New Bourgeoisie’; while many of the old bourgeoisie, in order to live, have become demi-mondaine. One day an old woman asked alms, in German. Taken by surprise, I questioned her. From her conversation one could see that she was intelligent and fairly educated. She had emigrated to Russia; her husband had died ; her son, conscripted, had gone to war and not returned — the same story as that of many others.
In Moscow, the real bourgeoisie, or upper and upper-middle classes, live in constant dread. Personally, I met only two such; an engineer, and the daughter of a general well known under the old régime. The engineer took me into his study, the whole side of which was piled up with cord-wood for the coming winter. He was living modestly, but comfortably, in his pre-war flat, and manifested no symptoms of the allpervading anxiety; for the government, having learned through bitter experience to value its scientific men, is employing them in good positions and giving them special rations. Only his latest assignment perturbed him. He was constructing a branch line into a nearby forest of excellent building timber, which was to be cut up for fuel to tide Moscow over the coming winter. Such wastefulness went against his engineering grain.
The general’s daughter, having lost her husband in the war, lived in two moderate-sized rooms. She held a position in a government office, which paid her three thousand rubles a month, and entitled her to rations — consisting mainly of a pound of black bread every other day. Living on her ration and salary was an impossibility. She had subsisted two years by the gradual sale of her personal belongings. All other property had been confiscated. In answer to a query, she said that anything in the room was for sale. She made the statement simply and without confusion. By dint of repetition, selling her effects to acquaintances had become second nature. As to what she would do when everything was sold, she had no idea. She hoped the present state of affairs would wear off by then, but feared lest the Bolsheviki be overthrown prematurely, and complete anarchy result. Some of her relatives and friends had been executed; many were in prison. She was just going to see one of them, who was ill; and she was visibly pleased when I gave her my last American cigarette to take to him. He had not had a real cigarette for months. She had also run out of tea. Genuine tea must be located through friends or connections, since one can no longer obtain it in the open market. She, therefore, radiated satisfaction when presented with a package of Chinese tea, purchased in Urga, but insisted on paying for it at the rate of exchange. It cost her nearly a month’s salary.
Krasnostshokov, the President of the Far Eastern Republic, who once practised law in Chicago, had come way across Siberia to attend the sessions of the Third International. I called on him in the Far Eastern Department of the Foreign Office. Dressed in a pongee suit of Chinese silk, he smiled and settled back in a revolving deskchair. For the first time in Moscow I felt at home. I happened to glance out of the open window and saw the delegates from Afghanistan and the Turkish Nationalist government at Angora driving away in their fantastic multicolored raiment. They had been to see Tchitcherin about the affairs of the Near East — affairs planned to throw all Western Asia in a ferment, to expel the white man, and break the back of the British Empire. But I dismissed these conspiracies rather lightly, for before me sat a man who, I instinctively felt, appreciated, although he might not entirely share, our modes of thought. Educated in America, he had imbibed something of the AngloSaxon spirit of compromise and the American principle of giving every man a square deal — even though he did happen to be rich.
Krasnostshokov said he had come to Moscow partly to get written guaranties from the Soviet authorities that they would respect foreign capital invested in the Far Eastern Republic. He hoped soon to come to an agreement with the Japanese over Semionov. After an agreement with Moscow, by which all previous Russian rights in the Far East had been turned over to him, he had relinquished all claims in Outer Mongolia to the Chinese, but would retain the Chinese Eastern Railroad, since joint Russo-Chinese control in Northern Manchuria would enable both to withstand better the encroachments of the Japanese. He seemed very cheerful and hopeful for the future of Eastern Siberia and American relations. His assurance seemed to give the lie to a rumor current that he was out of favor with the Communists on account of his liberal views. I wonder! The fact that Washington Vanderlip has secured from Moscow a concession composed to a large extent of land ceded to the Far Eastern Republic, and yet had never heard of Krasnostshokov, is both interesting and instructive.
The day’s work in the Foreign Office begins at five o’clock in the afternoon and continues without intermission till about five in the morning. Undersecretaries may work in the daytime if they see fit, but they must be on hand all night, for it is then that Tchitcherin works. He was pointed out to me once in the hall, as he dashed by in wild haste up the stairs. I ventured to suggest that the Poles must have administered a telling defeat, but was informed that the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs was just looking for his lead pencil. He spends much of his time running from office to office with documents and papers, for a People’s Commissar could not be so ‘bourgeois’ as to employ an office-boy.
The walks home at three in the morning were impressive. Buildings towered like spectres in semi-darkness, — the city Soviet could not waste fuel on street-lighting,—and footsteps reechoed through the empty streets. Moscow is now so well in hand that there are no regulations against being on the streets at night. But since there is no longer any excitement, there is no reason to be out. An American woman correspondent, five months in Russia, returned home alone almost every night . She seldom met anyone and had never been molested. The Moscow of 1916, with its restaurants and cabarets, has now become, at night, sepulchral, uncannily beautiful, but uninterestingly safe.