XLVI Berlin 21/II/1905
Fritz Leopold has just returned with your kind wishes and compliments, deeply impressed by your extreme kindness affability as well as by the handsome reception you gave him. How glad I am to hear from him, that you are well, calm selfcomposed and hard at work, and that dear Alix and the children are all right. It is so much easier to work at a difficult task, when one knows, that those one loves are well. I am glad I was able to meet your wishes by sending Fr. Leop. to Asia by sea!I Your Railways are hereby left unhampered! What terrible tidings have come from Moscow!1 These beasts of anarchists have perpetrated a dark and dastardly deed.- Poor Ella,2 what a fearful blow it must have been for her may God grant her strength and devotion to bear it! It is very hard for the fine old capital of Russia, that her walls should have been soiled by so foul a crime but surely she harbours no true citizen drawing a breath who can approve of it! I cannot believe that these demons have rizen from the ranks of your Moskovite subjects, they were probably foreigners from Geneva. For the great bulk of your people still place their faith in their "Väterchen" the Czar and worship his hallowed person. I have gained this conviction from my close observation of the different phases of the movement in Russia as far as I was able from the news coming directly from there and by the opinions expressed by observers, or sometimes Russians, in the European Press.
The Russian movement is, as you may well imagine, uppermost in all conversations and correspondence not only in Russia but also without. The whole European Press is flooded with articles about Russia, their opinions depending on the standpoint of the Party they belong to. In this manner a -- so to say -- European point of view has emanated, which seems fairly correct rendering of the public opinion of our Continent. Now I thought that it might perhaps be of some interest to you -- in your solitude at Tsarske -- to have an idea of this European opinion, and to hear how the events in your country are judged by what one sometimes calls the "civilized World" in general. I shall therefore in the following lines try to draw a little sketch for you of the "reflected Russian picture" as seen from outside. Of course as the People outside your country are not initiated to the details of the intricate questions at issue in Russia they often combine or infer from an effect they see -- without knowing its cause -- and therefore often a wrong combination will lead to a wrong conclusion, because their ignorance of the true facts have left a breach. The foreign spectators are often forced to "Jump to conclusions," but we must add: "Wo die Begriffe fehlen, stellt oft ein Wort zu rechter Zeit sich ein."3
Therefore I must "avant tout"4 beg your pardon for writing to you things that you will probably since long have learned from your diplomats reports and crave your kind forbearance and forgiveness if I -- as a loyal firm and devoted friend of yours am obliged to do -- also must record opinions, which may seem to you hard, ungenerous, false or even hurt your feelings. But Russia is in the act of turning over a new leaf in her history, and the development shows a tendency to prepare the beginning for a certain modernization.
Such a process, you will agree, in a mighty nation like yours is bound to command the most widespread interest in Europe, and "comme de raison" before all in the neighbouring country. The methods to be adopted, the means which are to be used, and the men who are to do the work have direct influence across your frontiers, upon the other nations. If I said that the "opinion" was a "European" one I must not omit the fact that many Russians who have passed through here in the last months, and all those living all over Europe especially in Paris and France have also contributed to lend colour to the picture; so that the facts forming the base for the "European opinion" mostly are supplied by France, who as "amie et Alliée"5 is allways the best informed about Russia. The outcome of it is this:
"On dit:" The Regime Mirski6 too suddenly allowed the Press a greater liberty than before and dropped the reins -- so tightly held by Plehwe -- too soon. Hence a sudden flood of unheard of articles and open leters addressed to the Ruler, a thing up to then thought impossible in Russia; some of them most insolent calculated to diminish the respect for the Autocratic Rule. This opportunity was seized by the Revolutionary Party to get hold of the unsuspecting workpeople, to work them up into a state of ferment and to make them demand things -- they were incapable of understanding -- in a peremptory, disrespectful manner accompanied by language and acts which came very near looking like revolution. This brought the working class I am sure against their will into direct opposition to the Government and into conflicts with the Authorities, who had to maintain law and order. As these misguided and ill informed bands, mostly composed of men taught to look at the Zar as their "Father" and to "tutoyer"7 him as such, were under the impression that they would be able to place their wishes before him by coming before his Palace, it is suggested that it might have been practical of the Zar had received a certain number of them -- drawn up in the square amid a cordon of troops -- and had addressed them from the Balcony of the Winter Palace, where he would have been accompanied by the highest Clergy and the Cross and his suite as a "Father" speaks to his children, before the Military had to act; it were perhaps not impossible that in this manner bloodshed might have quite been avoided or at least diminished.
The example of Nicolai I has been often quoted, who quelIed a very serious rebellion by personally riding into their midst his child in his arms, and brought the rebels to their knees in short time. It is thought that now, as then, the person of the Zar has still an enormous hold on the simple people, and that they still bow down to his hallowed appearance. A word from such a position and in such an "entourage" would have awed and calmed the masses and sounded far away over their heads into the farthest corner of the Realm surely defeating the agitators. These are still more or less said to be in command of the masses because such a word has not yet been spoken by the Ruler. The Agitators consequently are continuing their game on the imagination of the people in maintaining: "It is His wish, he thinks so, but you cannot hear him because of the bands of officials who manage to fence him off and keep him far away from his people." The beguiled masses follow and believe these men til it is too late, and blood must flow.
Many reforms have been begun, and new laws are being discussed in batches, but curiously enough the People generally say: "This is by Witte, that is inspired by Mouravioff, that is Pobed.8 idea." But the Zar is never named for they are unaquainted with his real thoughts! Though the Committee of Ministers or the Senate issue the Manifestoes in the Zars name yet these bodies are much to vague and mysterious to the looker on as to evoke anything like enthusiasm or interest with their acts. In an Autocratic Regime, it is argued, it must be the Ruler himself who gives out the password and the programme of action in a unmistakable official way. It seems that every body is expecting something of thlis sort by way of an act of will by the Zar personally As long as this does not happen the impression at large will continue, that the announced reforms and law paragraphs are only ministerial work meant for show and to throw sand into the peoples eyes; and men will continue to anxiously miss the firm hand on the country's helm, guided by a master mind with a clear purpose, steering for a clearly defined goal. This state of things creates a feeling of uneasiness which in its turn evolves dissatisfaction generating fault finding "a tort et a travers" on a grand scale even with the mildest man of the very best intentions and actuated by the sincerest and purest motives. In consequence the disappointed spectator -- perhaps also the subjects -- is more and more prepared to throw on the Zar's shoulders the responsibility for everything with which they are dissatisfied. In ordinary times this matters very little, and in constitutional Nations it is not as dangerous, as the Kings Ministers have to mount the breach and to defend his person. But in Russia, where the ministers are unable to shield the sacred person of the Ruler, as they are known to be his tools simply, such troubles which fill the Russians minds with unrest and uneasiness, and which lead to the saddling of the Ruler with the odium for everything disagreeable that happens, are a very serious danger for the Ruler and his dynasty, because they tend to make him unpopular. Now it is argued that the "intelligentia" and the Society in parts are allready dissatisfied, should the Zar also become "unpopular" with the masses the agitators might easily raise such a storm that it would be very uncertain, wether the Dynasty would be able to weather it.
On one point all seem to agree in Europe as by common "consensus" that the Zar personally is solely responsible for the war. The outbreak, the surprise caused by the sudden attack, the evidence of want of preparation is said to be his fault. They say that the thousands of families who have lossed their male relatives by the war or must miss them for long months lay the blood and their complaints at the steps of the Zar's throne. It is maintained that the Reservists called out to leave their homes, do it reluctantly detesting to fight in a country whose existence they did not know of, and for a cause which is unpopular to them. They are careworn when they think of their wife and children they leave behind, slowly sinking into poverty and helpless misery they lay their anguish and their cares at the door of the Zar's Palace wishing he had left them at home.
The reports from the Foreign and Russiar Correspondents with the Army show it fighting an uphill fight against a most redoubtable foe. It had to begin war under very difficult circumstances, not having had time to properly prepare for the task, under the disadvantage of inferior numbers. with which it was unable to stem the inrushing tide of mishaps and to meet the terrible onslaught of a foe known to have been preparing for this action during the last five years. For all this the Zar is thought to be responsible. Also the fearful losses of the Navy are shouldered upon him.
Now the responsibility for a war is a very serious thing for a Ruler, that I know by experience from what my late Grandfather told me. He a man personally of the mildest and most peaceful disposition and allready in old age was called upon to wage 3 wars durmg his reign! And for each of them he took the full responsibility. But he had a clear conscience and his people loyally and enthusiastically supported him; the whole nation rising like a man and resolved to win or die, victory or destruction, but fight to the end; he and his subjects felt that Providence was on their side, and that it is as good if victory was allready won. Such wars then are easy to be borne for the Ruler because his whole People share the burden with him. But the responsibility for an unpopular war is quite a different matter; when the glow of flaming patriotism is unkindled and when the nation as a whole takes no willing part in it, and suddenly sends its sons to the front because the Zar so wills it, but without making his cause their own that is a fearful and heavy load to bear; whose weight can only be lightened by the pureness of motives which give the Ruler the clearness of conscience necessary to enable him to expect his subjects to fight for him even if they are unable to discern the motive themselves
These words must seem very strange to you and I hear you ask with astonishment "The war unpopular! Impossible!" I can only answer that the amount of private correspondence received in France leaves no doubt that it is so.
The war is very unpopular with all classes in Russia the officers not excepted especially as victories have up to now been denied to the Russian arms. The impression rests with the officers of the French Army -- your Allies -- that even the confidence in Kouropatkine is beginning to give way, and as if the harmony, essential to success, between the different commanders of the Russian forces left much to be desired. If true this state of things would hamper the operations and jeopardize the chances for victory; and it is necessary that it should be remedied to and that soon, or the army and its discipline would suffer by it otherwise. The solution I own is most difficult.
It seems however that it is generally agreed to, that Kouropatkine has more talents for a Chief of the Staff under another General as leader, than to be a leader himself, as he is rather slow and lacking somewhat in the element called the "Offensive" this leader is difficult to find as the Generals, senior to Kouropatkine are mostly too old and out of the ranks since long; besides it would be doubtful wether he would assent to such a change. On the other hand his knowledge, it is said, of the country, enemy, their mode of fighting, of the feeding and carmg for the army are quite invaluable and cannot be missed from the field. The result of all this pondering is, that people begin to hint that the Zar himself might perhaps personally take over the Command in Chief, and joining his brave troops, restore their confidence, cheer them by taking his share of hardships, electrify them by his presence and preserve the services of Kouropatkine for his troops, as he would act as chief of the Staff to his "war lord." As I have shown above, there is -- one may say -- a slowly rising sort of a tide of misinterpretation, unrest and disobedience which must evidently be stemmed and calmed down; and the European Public as well as the Russian Nation is instinctively looking toward the Zar, and expecting that he will come forth and do something grandly, a great personal act; meant to show all that he is the Autocratic Ruler of his People and willing to allay their anxieties and pains as far as is in his power. This general expectation is very neatly put into words by someone who said: "I1 faut que l'Empereur fasse on grande acte pour afferrnir son pouvoir de nouveau, et sauvegarder sa dynastic qui est menacée, il faut qu'il paye de sa personne"!9 But how?! After what I wrote about the war, you are perfectly at liberty to ask another question: "Why is the war unpopular, why does it seem that I am not backed by my whole People, why do they lack enthusiasm for the fight. We were attacked and our flag insulted, and we have to fight for its honour and our prestige?!!" The Foreign observers fancy there is an answer forthcoming. It is this. In former times your forefathers before they went to war used to repair to Moscow, pray in the old churches and then assemble the Notables in the Kremlin inside, and the People outside in the courtyard and announce to them with great ceremony the necessity for the war and called upon their loyal subjects to follow them to the field battle. Such a call from the Kremlin in Moscow -- which is still the real capital of Russia -- never failed to find a response from the Russian Nationl Such an act, such a call to arms was expected by Moscow and Russia from you in the days following the 8th of February of last year, and they then were ready to answer with enthusiasm smarting under the fell blow, which had fallen on them unawares, and the Citizens of the great Capital looked eagerly forward for your coming; it is even hinted that the officials had your train got ready for starting. But the Zar came not. Moscow was left to itself; the "holy war" eagerly expected was not proclaimed, and there was no call to arms. This Moscow looked upon as a slight, and smarted under it. It has become disaffected and shows her disaffection openly, her example beeing followed all over Russia. The other day the remark was made 'I1 est temps que l'Empereur remette la main sur Moscou; avec Moscou il parviendra a remettre ltordre en Russie, sans Moscou, cela sera tres difficile.10 Well European observers think that it could be managed, that the Zar could make the expected "Grande acte" by going to Moscow and assembling the nobility and notables in his magnificent Palace speak to them; perhaps beginning with a reprimand for publishing letters and addresses sent to him, which is bad manners and must not be repeated, and then proclaim the reforms he has prepared for his People as far as he thinks fit. Not the promise of a general legislative assembly, no Constituante or Convention Nationale, but a Habeas Corpus Act and wider extension of the Conseil de l'Empire. No liberty of the assembly or of the Press, but strict orders to all censors to abstain from any chicanes henceforth. Further the Zar would let the hearers know what he has decided about the army -- in case he thinks it possible or necessary to go out himself -- to tell them and to exhort them to abstain from all internal quarrels till the enemy is routed. After this the Zar "entouré" by the Clergy with banners and cross and incense and holy Icons would go out on the balkony and read out the same speech he held before, as a Manifestoe to his assembled loyall subjects in the Court Yard below, encircled by the serried ranks of the troops "la bajonette au canon" "le sabre au poing.11 When you would tell them that you -- in case you thought it necessary --would go to share the hardships of their brothers and relatives in the field, who had to go out by your command, and to cheer them and try to lead them to victory, it is argued that the People will be deeply touched and cheer you and fall on their knees and pray for you. The Zar's popularity would be recovered and he would gain his peoples sympathy besides. All persons who take an interest in the Russian events are unanimous in their opinion that "a la longue" the Zar must not remain in perpetnum in Tsarske or Peterhof; but that it is sure that should his first appearance be made under the above mentioned conditions, the sensation and impression created in the whole world would be enormous, which would with bated breath listen to him when he addressed it, as his forefathers formerly did, from the Ramparts of the Kremlin.
This dearest Nicky is the sketch which I have drawn of the European Public opinion with respect to the events in Russia. In the beginning I have given you the reasons why I thought it my duty to write these lines. I once more crave your pardon for having taken up your precious time and in case I should sometimes have been to personal in my re port. But as your loyal friend I am a jealous watcher of your "renommée" in this world and I wish you should by it be rightly and justly judged; and that is my duty too to inform you of the opinions the world forms on your account so as to enable you to correct them by your acts if you feel so inclined. At all events "Honey soit, qui mal y pense".l2
With sincerest wishes for the welfare and future of your country and house, and best love to Alix, and the wish that God may bless and protect you all believe me dearest Nicky as allways
Your most aff-ate cousin and friend
I. Grand Duke Sergei, uncle of the Czar, Governor-General of Moscow, was assassinated at Moscow on February 17th, 1905.
2. Wife of the assassinated Grand Duke Sergei and sister of the Czarina.
3. Where understanding is lacking, a word at the right time will help.
4. First of all.
5. Friend and ally.
6. After the assassination of von Plehwe, the reactionary Rusaian Minister of the Interior, Prince Swiatopol-Mirski, a liberal, was appointed to his post.
7. To be on familiar terms with him.
8. Constantine Petrovitch Pobedonostzev, the famous Russian statesman.
9. The Emperor should perform a great act in order to affirm his power anew and safeguard his menaced dynasty, he should take a personal risk.
10. It is time that the Emperor again should put his hand on Moscow; with Moscow he will be able to restore order in Russia, without Moscow that will be very difficult.
11. With bayonets fixed and drawn sabres.
12. "Evil to him who evil thinks." The Kaiser misspelled the French word "honi."