Letter and Enclosures
from the American Consulate in Moscow
to the U.S. Secretary of State,
March 20, 1917

(available in microfilm: "State Department Records Relating to Internal Affairs of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1910-20,"
National Archives Microfilm Publication M316, roll 9, frames 121-219.)

Scanned and edited by David Traill.
Proofreading and additions by Jonathan Perry (March 2001) and smv (2013).


No. 1019 American Consulate General,
Moscow, Russia, March 20th, 1917.
Subject. The political and and economical situation in Moscow.

The Honorable
The Secretary of State,
Washington, D. C.

For the information, and as of interest to the Department in following the great revolution now in progress in Russia, there are enclosed herewith the originals and translations of the Moscow papers giving a full description of the matter. This same information has been sent the Embassy together with full accounts of the situation.

It will be oberved that the papers are allowed only to publish news favoring the revolutionary party.

There is further enclosed a memorandum on the situation prepared by Mr. David B. Maggowan, the Vice Consul at this post. It is of interest as showing the other phase of the situation.

At the present writing the street cars are all running, and life has assumed its normal course. There is an undercurrent of unrest however, and the shortage of food supplies tends to augment the discontent. Long bread lines stretching for blocks may be seen on every street
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awaiting often to be told that there is none left. The daily allowance is one funt or nine tenths of a pound. To obtain this one must stand in the bread line for two or three hours, and often longer. The supply of flour is short and the revolution of the past few days has diminished even this. It is known that the Jews have cornered large quantities and are holding it for higher prices.

Prices of all articles of necessity are rapidly rising. It is difficult to give a table showing same as the figures given out are purely fictitious, each shop charging what they can get. Flour, for instance cannot be bought at all. There is none for sale in the city. Meat is practically unobtainable, and then only three days in the week. Milk, eggs, flour, bread, and meat will soon be sold only by card.

The city is thronged with refugees and houses are unobtainable even at exorbitant prices.

As the Consulate General is furnishing the Embassy daily with full information in regard to the political situation it is presumed that, through this source, the Department is kept thoroughly advised of the situation.

I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
[signature illegible]
American Consul in Charge.

Newspaper translations.
Memorandum Mr. Macgowan.

[Note: Stamps on the document include the Index Bureau, Dept. of State, dated Apr. 30, 1917; Consular Bureau, Dept. of State, dated May 5, 1917; another by the Secretary of State, dated May 5, 1917]


MEMORANDUM. [by D. B. Macgowan]

Moscow, Russia, March 19, 1917.

The coup d'etat, a stage of the uncompleted revolution, executed by revolutionary workingmen and soldiers, too recently recruited to have acquired discipline or to have lost touch with their late companions in field and factory, has whetted already keen appetities for land,social reorganization and autonomy or independence. The Imperial Duma, declared dissolved, it would seem, in lighthearted confidence that the bread riots could be ended with machine guns, if the Duma were safely out of the way, neither initiated the crisis nor is certain to guide its further development. Discipline was shaken, perhaps irreparably, when soldiers disarmed their officers. In the absence of popular interest in the war, the zeal of the revolutionists and to a certain extent of the liberals also having depended always on the uses they expected to make of the difficulties created by the war in the reshaping of home affairs, it is to be feared that troops at the front will slip away from their commands and return to take part in the carnival of liberty, which to most of them means seizing the large estates for themselves. The workingmen are demanding an immediate Constituent Assembly and there is a tendency not to return to factory and barrack, nor to yield newly acquired weapons, until the political and social reorganization are assured. There is imminent danger of a debacle. Thus, Thursday night a former Deputy of the Imperial Duma returned from Petrograd to Moscow. The train,
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including the first class car in which the Deputy had reserved a compartment, was seized by soldiers under arms. He demanded what they were doing in the first class car. The soldiers answered they were going to their native villages to see their relatives. He asked if they had leave of absence and was told "No." They were going "just so". Asked when they would return to their regiments, they said the war might be over before they had to return. Soldiers are represented in the powerful Councils of Workingmen's Delegates; they retain their rifles and they are to have votes. If the soldiers at the front should seize trains and return, as happened after the Russo-Japanese war, there is reason to fear that the excesses then committed will be a foretaste of worse to come. In these circumstances the Anglo-French offensive, vigorously and successfully pushed to the conviction of the wavering Russian troops that the war can be fought to an end so that there will be no need to abandon it in order to share in the "expropriation" of the land, is the main hope for Russia, as respects not only the hopeful prosecution of the war , but as respects the peaceful evolution of political and social order . Already about ten days have been lost for preparation of munitions ,and it is to be feared that, even if they return to work, the munitions workers will have little heart for the business. Thus, with minds distracted more than even by domestic events, handicapped and disorganized as never before, it can hardly be expected that a blow delivered now or in the near future by the Germans would meet with effective resistance, unless
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the Western Powers should create an effective diversion.

Federalism on a basis of nationalities, preached a generation ago by General Dragomiroff, has revived instantly. Sanguine representatives of border nationalities have carved out in their minds not less then seven autonomous or independent states: Poland,Ukraine or Little Russia, Finland, Lithuania with Baltic Provinces, Caucasus, Armenia and Siberia.

Monarchical sentiment is still strong in spite of the isolation of the reigning family, deserted before the end even by Grand Dukes, which facilitated the dethronement of the Emperor. When for the first time church services were read without mention of the emperor or the dynasty there was weeping in many churches. Reaction, violent as the revolutionary blow was violent, is sure to come and it will enlist powerful property interests. Indications thus point to a protracted class struggle.


[excerpt, frame 191, page 10]


Moscow, March 16, 1917

From the Russkiya Viedomosti


Yesterday a special detachment appeared at the nunnery where the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, the sister of the Empress and the widow of the Grand Duke Sergius, is living in retirement, and suggested that she should remove to the Kremlin Palace. She was met at the entrance of the church and requested that the leaders of the detachment would deposit their arms outside the church and enter there for a conference. There she told them that she did not wish to leave the nunnery for any purpose. Later when two well known citizens went to the nunnery for the same purpose, she gave the same firm answer:

"Twelve years ago I left the Kremlin and I do not wish to return there."

She was left at the nunnery under a special guard.

[excerpt, frames 202-203, pages 4-5]


Moscow, Mar. 17, 1917

Moscow Events

From the Russkiya Viedomosti


Yesterday, about 10 o'clock in the evening, shots were fired on the Great Nikitskaya street. It was found that several persons had begun firing from the roof of the Union Theater at passing soldiers, including men in automobiles. It is reported that there were wounded. Militiamen were soon at the scene and a detachment of soldiers was called. There was cross firing. All those who had begun the shooting were arrested. They proved to be disguised policemen. The incident elicited a panic in the neighborhood.


Yesterday, in the premises of the War Committee of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (the sister of the Empress and the widow of the Grand Duke Sergius), situated in the Palace of the General Governor, a search was made by order o [sic] Colonel A.E. Gruzinoff. All the employees of the committee were at their posts while the search was being made. This committee is engaged principally in supporting the wives of reserve soldiers. Its work is likely to go on uninterrupted.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth is not in Moscow but at the Mary and Martha nunnery. Militiamen, soldiers and students went there in an automobile and
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asked to see the Grand Duchess. She received them and talked with them for a long time. She was told that she was under arrest and was invited to remove to the Nicholas Palace. The Grand Duchess refused to go, reminding the visitors that she is a nun.

From the nunnery the Committee was asked by telephone who had ordered the arrest,and it was found that neither Mayor Chelnokoff nor N.M. Kishkin had given the order for the arrest. Col. Gruzinoff has detailed a guard of cadets to guard the nunnery against future intrusion. Nobody but representatives of the Staff of the Moscow Military Circuit is allowed to approach the Grand Duchess. Yesterday N.I. Guchkoff visited her on business connected with her committee,the conversation taking place in the presence of representatives of the military authorities.

When informed of the abdication of Nicholas II the Grand Duchess said, "It is the will of God."

General Mrozovsky, former commander of the forcers of the Moscow Military Circuit, has declared his submission to the new Government. He remains for the time under guard.

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Hanover College Department of History