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Title: Siberia To-Day
Author: Moore, Frederick F. (Frederick Ferdinand)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SIBERIA TO-DAY

[Illustration]



  SIBERIA TO-DAY


  BY

  FREDERICK F. MOORE

  LATE CAPTAIN, INTELLIGENCE DIVISION, GENERAL STAFF
  A. E. F. SIBERIA
  AUTHOR OF “THE DEVIL’S ADMIRAL”


  [Illustration]

  ILLUSTRATED


  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
  NEW YORK      LONDON
  1919



  COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY
  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

  Copyright, 1919, by
  THE INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE COMPANY

  Copyright, 1919, by
  LESLIE’S WEEKLY


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



PREFACE


The attitude of mind with which a writer approaches his subject is
the core of his book. My purpose in recording my observations and
impressions while serving in Siberia is to tell such citizens of the
United States as may be interested some of the things they may want to
know about the Siberians.

This is not a “war book,” nor an account of thrilling deeds, nor a
history of our expedition in Siberia, but a book in which I have
attempted to bring to the public a realization of the difficulties
under which our officers and men performed, and perform, their duties
in that land. These difficulties are partly inherent in the Siberians
themselves, partly the result of the chaos following the Russian
revolution and Bolshevism, and partly the result of a lack of policy
for Siberia on our part.

The people of the United States undoubtedly feel sympathy for all
Russia, and desire to aid it in some way; President Wilson, we all
know, burdened with the world war’s problems, seeks a solution of the
Russian situation which will give the people of Russia the fullest
possible means of attaining national liberty.

Officers of high rank in Siberia, and correspondents, came more
closely in touch with exalted personages than did I, who traveled
practically alone and mixed mostly with the peasants. Had I been with
military and civil commissions, traveling in private cars, I might
now have an entirely different viewpoint on the Siberian problem. I
know Siberia as a land of peasants, rather than as a place where I met
governmental chiefs and heard the discussion of international policies.

I do not claim to hold the secret of just what would, or will, bring
Siberia an ideal state of affairs in government. I deal only with what
came under my personal observation, and draw my own conclusions, with
the hope that from my impressions there may be gathered some hint of
a better understanding of some of the problems which confront our
government.

I have no apology to make for an excessive use of the first person
singular, for it was my intention as I wrote that the reader should
travel with me and see through my eyes the things he would like to see.
It is not necessary, of course, to agree with my conclusions, which
have no political or other bias, no animus toward those who have been
responsible for the conduct of the war or who have directed the affairs
of the nation in a time of stress. Where strong feeling on the Siberian
situation is displayed, it springs from nothing else but a desire to
see our nation acquit itself well in the eyes of Asia and the world.

I am but a volunteer reporter, attempting, as I write a report, to
inject editorial opinion. I spent several years in the Far East in our
regular army and as a correspondent, in the period when our arms were
making history on a small scale in the Philippines and China, so my
viewpoint on Asia was not gained wholly during my stay in Siberia. And
I believe it is time that we get a better understanding of Asia, and
seek to have Asia understand us.

I am indebted to Captain Donald Thompson, the noted Kansan
war-photographer, for the illustrations in this book.

                                                     FREDERICK F. MOORE.

  NEW YORK.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                            PAGE

       I. EXILED TO SIBERIA                             1

      II. THE SECRET “GETAWAY”                          5

     III. JAPAN TO VLADIVOSTOK                         16

      IV. TOWARD KHABAROVSK                            27

       V. BOLSHEVISTS AND BATHS                        37

      VI. HETMAN OF THE USSURI                         48

     VII. FROM KHABAROVSK TO USHUMUN                   64

    VIII. ON THE BACK TRAIL                            82

      IX. A RED SWEATER AND THE GENERAL                93

       X. OVER THE AMUR RIVER ON HORSEBACK            104

      XI. THE MACHINE THAT SQUEAKED                   114

     XII. AN ARMY IMPRESARIO                          121

    XIII. AWAY TO TRANS-BAIKAL                        130

     XIV. THE CITY OF CONVICTS                        150

      XV. ATAMAN SEMENOFF                             158

     XVI. FAMINE IN CHITA                             165

    XVII. NEW YEAR WITH THE JAPANESE                  172

   XVIII. DIPLOMACY AND--MICE                         186

     XIX. NEW FRIENDS, PRISONS, AND OTHER THINGS      196

      XX. THE SOBRANIA                                206

     XXI. POLITICS AND PRINKIPO                       227

    XXII. FAREWELL TO CHITA                           237

   XXIII. CHITA TO VLADIVOSTOK                        247

    XXIV. THE PEASANTS                                258

     XXV. FRENZIED FINANCE                            280

    XXVI. LEAVES FROM MY NOTE BOOK                    293

   XXVII. THE JOKER IN BOLSHEVISM                     305

  XXVIII. THE UNITED STATES IN ASIA                   316



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                  FACING
                                                                    PAGE

  Siberian Types--When They Smile Less and Think More
      They Will Find Freedom                              _Frontispiece_

  The American Army Mules Arrive in Vladivostok for Duty              24

  Street Service in Vladivostok with Bay in Distance                  24

  An American Doughboy Helping Make Siberia “Safe for Democracy”      48

  Night View of Vladivostok Harbor from Hill of City                  48

  Russian Soldiers Clearing the Track After a Wreck on the
      Trans-Siberian                                                 100

  Japanese Officers Talking with an American Officer                 100

  Ataman Semenoff, Chief of the Trans-Baikal Cossacks                158

  Mongol and Tartar Descendants of Conquering Hordes with 1919
      Model “Cars”                                                   158

  Siberians Celebrating the Signing of the Armistice                 200

  Room in House at Ekaterinburg where Czar and His Family are
      Reputed to Have Been Executed                                  200

  An Example of Carving on a Typical Siberian House                  230

  Typical Russian Church in Cities of Siberia                        230

  Some American Railroad Men of the “Russian Railway Service”        250

  Washing Clothes in Sixty-below-zero Weather                        250



SIBERIA TO-DAY



I

EXILED TO SIBERIA


“Let me see your palm!”

A smiling major thus accosted me in the offices of the Military
Intelligence Division of the General Staff of the army in Washington
the latter part of July, 1918.

The weather was hot as Billy-be Hanged--hotter than I had ever known it
in the Philippines, or so it seemed. It was hotter than the roadstead
of Singapore, hotter than the mud-baked streets of Suez City, hotter
than Malacca Strait.

In former times of tropical soldiering, I had seen commanding generals
working in their undershirts. But a new discipline pervaded our new
army, and we were imitating the Prussian system, and doing our best to
look and work as secretly as possible in uniform coats with high stiff
collars. We realized that the more uncomfortable we might feel, the
quicker the war would be won in France.

I gave my limp and perspiring hand to the smiling major. I suspected
that his pleasantry meant that I had been selected to pay for the
dinner that night of our own particular little group of plotters
against the Imperial German Government and its agents in the United
States.

“You are going to take a long journey,” said the major, as he examined
the corns on my fingers, which were the result of soldiering with a
pencil. For having been a cavalryman, the powers that be in Washington
had given me a flat-top desk covered with a blue sheet of blotting
paper, and a swivel chair as a buffer for my spurs. What I wanted to do
was to cross sabers with the Death Head Hussars, and maybe get a thrust
at the Crown Prince himself. But when I looked at that blue blotter
every morning, I realized what a terrible war it was, after all--for
old cavalrymen.

My smiling major sobered suddenly.

“You are going to take a long journey,” he said.

I caught a serious glint in his eyes, and holding my breath for an
instant before I dared speak, I asked as casually as I could: “Will it
be a sea trip?”

Another serious examination of the lines in my palm.

“Yes.”

“Do you,” I asked, “see in the delicate hand you hold any indication
that I am to be thrown among rude and rough soldiers, where a man
may swear with a gentle forbearance without being overheard by a
stenographer who chews gum?”

“I do,” said the amateur seer, more serious than ever.

“Glory be!” I breathed. “I have been in your beautiful city just eight
days, and the chef at the hotel cooks well, but he does not know how
to growl, not being an army cook. Also, this blue blotter is making me
color blind. Have I been ordered to where bombs are bursting in air?”

“You have. There are a lot of bums in the direction you are going.
Plans have been made to establish a new front against Germany in
Russia. I suggest that you make your will and go out and buy some fur
mittens. Your orders are to report to Vladivostok, for duty in Siberia.”

I sat down and turned the electric fan in such a way that I got its
full effect in my face, and tried to shiver. Siberia! How many times
had that word been heard with feelings of terror by Russians doomed
to exile! Fancy my impressions in mid-summer in Washington, on being
told that I was going to Siberia! Cold, ice, snow, steppes, wolves,
whiskers, prisons, Cossacks, wild horses, ski’s and ovitches! All these
things passed in review before my mind’s eye against a background of
heat waves rising out of F Street, where the coolest thing in sight was
a traffic policeman near the Treasury Building, standing on melting
asphalt under a white umbrella which displayed an advertisement of a
nearby soda fountain.

I reached for my blue desk-blotter, tore it in bits, and hurled the
pieces into the waste basket.

The smiling major wandered away to the nether regions, where they
wrote orders which sent American soldiers into exile in Siberia, as
calmly as they wrote orders which insisted that all officers keep their
blouses buttoned to their chins in tropical Washington.



II

THE SECRET “GETAWAY”


Crossing the continent in our special car, we began to study Russian,
to scan maps of the Russian Empire, to talk of strategy, and to go on
learning how to be as secret as possible. This last was accomplished by
crowding fifteen officers into one of the drawing-rooms, and holding
in this sweat box, what the young officer who had taken upon his
shoulders the weight of the Russian campaign, called “conferences.”
These conferences did no particular harm, and so far as I could see, no
particular good, unless it was to make us yearn for cold weather and
more congenial surroundings for our corns.

I am going to call this young officer Smith, not because I have any
animosity toward the well-known Smith family, but because it is handy.
We also called him “the oldest living boy scout in the world.” And
he provided much amusement for us, as he pinned the big map of the
expansive Russian Empire on the wall of the drawing-room, and discussed
the railroad tunnels around Lake Baikal, and showed us how we could get
round the flank of the Bolshevist army at Samara.

We were all aware of the fact that General Graves was going to have
a lot of labor taken off his mind (real, hard-thinking labor), and as
Smith spoke of thousands of versts as readily as if his mother had kept
a boarding house for versts, we realized that before long we would have
plenty of elbow room. (Incidentally, Smith never left Vladivostok, and
his wide study of Russian geography was of no use to him except for
conversational purposes.)

We began to suspect that this intense interest in the campaign, before
we reached Siberia, was, in addition to being help for the Chief of
Staff of the Siberian Expedition, making a decided impression on
the son of General Graves, a young major who had seen and done good
fighting in France and wore the Croix de Guerre, and now was being
sent to Siberia. He attended one conference in that hot drawing-room,
and then, undoubtedly feeling that we were safe in the hands of Smith,
spent the remainder of his free time in the observation car, which
indicated to us all that he was gifted with an extraordinary amount of
good sense.

Smith on his own responsibility organized a little general staff,
and with a typewriter, wrote orders about various trifles, covering
what the officers and field clerks should do in Chicago, and what
they should not do, assigning an officer to the duty of looking after
baggage with the serious mien suitable to ordering a battalion to go
over the top at zero hour, setting forth with maddening exactitude the
minute at which the field clerks would go to the depot quartermasters
in Chicago to buy uniform caps.

Before reaching San Francisco, Smith wired for the Intelligence Officer
in San Francisco to arrange for a hotel, for taxicabs to take us to
the hotel, circulated “memoranda” among us as to whether or not we
were willing to pay for the taxis he had ordered, and asking us with
paternal care, to signify the officers with whom we intended to share
rooms. Some wag suggested discreetly that we should arrange by wire
for a supply of lollypops, and that we each specify the color desired.
Smith turned a baleful eye in the direction of the wag.

We found that General Graves had sailed ahead of our arrival. He
evidently had not been aware of the value of Smith’s counsel. We faced
a wait of three weeks for the transport. We went to our rooms in the
Fairmont, and in the morning Smith marched us down to the paymaster’s
and handed us out blanks and set up a table in the corridor of
headquarters of the Western Division, from which he superintended the
signing of our names to our vouchers. Back at the hotel again, he got
the office of the depot quartermaster on the telephone, and for three
weeks he worried the life out of a patient major. (This major sailed
with us, but for some reason or other, was assigned to the transport
_Logan_, while we were assigned to the _Sheridan_. Likewise by some
peculiar whim of Fate, Major Graves also sailed in the _Logan_, though
he confided to some of us that he was sorry not to be with us.)

Smith resumed his conferences. His field clerk would call all our rooms
on the telephone and summon us to secret meetings in Smith’s room. The
bellboys were much impressed by these gatherings. They knew we were
Intelligence Officers, and they felt we were up to something which was
dark and mysterious. If they had listened at our locked door they might
have heard Smith advising us to get smoked goggles, or asking us for
the sizes of our shoes, and whether we preferred our canvas Alaskan
coats lined with yellow or blue felt.

In spite of the burden of these details, Smith managed to find a
professor in a nearby college who had lived in Japan several years and
talked Japanese fluently. Smith felt that this man would be of value
to the expedition, as we were to serve with General Otani’s Japanese
divisions.

But the professor had his family in Berkeley, his position in the
college, and was also serving in an advisory capacity for the local
Board of Trade in Japanese commercial matters. He could not afford to
leave home unless assured a good salary.

Smith, we understood, had said that if the professor would go, he
would be given the rank of major, and instead of being classed as an
interpreter, would have the title of “advisor” or something of that
sort, to the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia.

But in the short time before our departure, Smith asked Washington
to authorize the engaging of the professor as a field clerk, when
Smith had brought the urgency of the matter to the attention of a
public-spirited citizen of San Francisco, who put to the professor’s
credit in a local bank some two thousand dollars to insure him an
adequate income in addition to the pay as field clerk. So the professor
went with us.

As the sailing date approached, and we had finished buying clothing and
equipment suitable for a polar expedition, Smith became more secretive
than ever. The night of the first of September he called a last
conference, in which he issued envelopes containing tags for our heavy
baggage.

“Gentlemen,” he announced, looking at us over his glasses in his
room, strewn with Red Cross gifts for us, “the name of our transport
is the _Sheridan_. In these envelopes are the tags, with the name of
the ship. The envelopes serve to conceal the name of the transport,
and will not be removed from the tags till the baggage is inside the
enclosure of the transport dock. You will not disclose to any person
the name of the transport. And I have ordered taxicabs to be at the
hotel at nine in the morning. All officers will appear on the hotel
veranda at that hour, with their hand baggage, and ready to get into
the taxicabs. The drivers have been told that they are to take us to
the ferry building, but at the last minute I will tell them that we are
to go to the transport dock. I have assigned the officers in pairs to
each cab, and as I call the number of the cab, the officers assigned
to it, will enter it, and then wait for the order to move out. Is that
satisfactory?”

Trying to keep our faces straight, we decided we were suited. Then
the wag in the party asked if we were to keep secret from the hotel
management the fact that we were departing.

“Most certainly,” said Smith, swallowing bait, line and sinker.

“Then I suggest,” said the wag, “that we do not pay our hotel bills.
That would be the proper procedure, to keep it all dark and secret.”

“Don’t be absurd,” said Smith. “Of course we will pay our bills in the
morning at the last minute.”

“I think,” said the wag, “that after all, the clerk looks like a loyal
American citizen, and can be trusted. And as the _Sheridan_ is at the
dock, in plain sight of the hotel and such of San Francisco as cares to
go and look at it, we will have to take the chance that the day after
it sails, it will not be missed--or folks will think it has gone up to
Mare Island Navy Yard to be painted or something. That, however, is one
of the hazards of war--we must risk the deductions of the local amateur
sleuths and spies of the Kaiser.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Smith, and handed him the sealed envelopes for
baggage, with the tag-string sticking out a slit in the end.

In the morning the porter took out my bedding-roll and lockers, and
moved my grip to the hotel veranda. He looked at the envelopes, seeking
the destination of the baggage, but I coldly informed him that an army
truck would take them from the baggage entrance of the hotel, and he
need not worry. He felt relieved.

I went to the desk and asked for my bill. A prosperous citizen asked
the clerk when the next trans-Pacific ship sailed.

“I’m not sure,” said the clerk. “There is some ship sailing to-day,
because there are a lot of officers here going to Siberia. That’s their
baggage out on the porch. But probably they are going in the transport
_Sheridan_ or _Logan_--I understand they sail to-day.”

The clerk did not know it, but I felt like shooting him. At least
something should be done about it. We had done our best to be secret,
and here he was telling a perfect stranger with a diamond in his tie
and wearing most suspicious spats, the fact that this was the regular
sailing date for transports from San Francisco, and that we were going
to Siberia. But I paid my bill, and gave a bellboy a quarter just to
show there were no hard feelings.

Outside on the veranda I found the officers standing about with their
luggage, the center of an interested group of civilians, and drawn up
in a semi-circle, a fleet of taxis. Smith was nervously waiting my
coming. Immediately he began calling out numbers, and taxis turned
in and stopped, and by pairs, the officers took their places in the
vehicles.

Smith then went to the leading driver, and whispered something to him,
got into the leading cab, and shut the door.

“Follow me to the transport dock, fellers,” bawled the leading driver
to the others, and secretly, a dozen taxis with officers and field
clerks, wheeled out in column. We hoped that the civilians we passed in
California Street and Van Ness Avenue toward Fort Mason, en route to
the transport dock, would not notice us.

The transports _Dix_, _Sheridan_ and _Logan_ were at the piers,
the latter with naval guns mounted forward, the _Sheridan_ with
field-pieces lashed on the forecastle-head, and machine-guns on the
after bridge. Blue Peters, the signal-flags which announce that
a vessel sails that day, hung limply from the fore-trucks of the
_Sheridan_ and _Logan_. The troops to go with us marched in from
nearby military posts all day, and swarms of relatives, friends
and sightseers, gathered on the hills near Fort Mason to watch the
transports.

It was all a matter of regular routine to the dock-workers. The
Pacific transports had been sailing on their regular schedule to the
Philippines, Honolulu and Guam during the war, and looked no different
in their gray paint than they had in the old days of the Philippine
campaigns, except that the red, white and blue bands were missing from
their funnels.

Smith cautioned us not to leave the dock, and not to send any messages
outside, such as telegrams or letters. All day our little party
stood round in the sheds and waited, except when they went to the
dock-workers’ mess nearby for lunch. I had occasion to go aboard the
_Sheridan_, and finding the room to which I had been assigned, put a
deck-chair by the door, on the side away from the dock, and spent the
afternoon reading, while Smith kept the others herded together on the
dock.

On five o’clock in the evening of September 2, 1918, the _Sheridan_
cast off her lines and we pulled out into the bay, to anchor, with the
_Logan_. At eight o’clock, under cover of darkness, the _Sheridan_
got under way and began moving toward the Golden Gate. I made out
the _Logan_ astern, without side-lights, but a single light at her
mast-head to mark her position.

We moved out at low speed secretly. As we came abreast of Fort Scott,
we made out red and white lights ahead, drawing in toward our bows. We
had been careful to burn no lights in our cabins, and refrained from
smoking on deck. We were willing to do everything to prevent being
torpedoed, and we realized that if we were to sneak away in the night,
we must take every precaution against being discovered. This was war,
you know.

The lights we had seen approaching drew nearer, until they were close
under our port bow. Somebody said it was a destroyer which was to
convoy us. We now heard the propeller of the strange craft threshing
the water as she stopped her way, and then a raucous voice bawled at
us: “What ship is that?”

Silence from our bridge.

Once more, in tones that could be heard from Lime Point to City Hall,
came the challenge out of the dark: “What ship is that?” And the
swaying red light below took on a baleful gleam.

“We’ll have to answer the blasted fool,” somebody growled on the
bridge, and a cross voice replied: “The _Sheridan_.”

“What?”

“The transport _Sheridan_,” came an exasperated bawl from our bridge.

“All right. Proceed to sea,” was the answer, and once more the
propellers threshed and passed astern, seeking out the _Logan_. We now
knew the boat to be a harbor patrol, guarding the entrance to the bay.
We appreciated its protection, and extreme care for two transports
trying to get away from San Francisco filled with troops. We wondered
if that happened to be the way the Germans sneaked out of their ports.

Presently we heard the _Logan_ challenged, as we had been, and the
reply from her bridge.

There were still more thrilling things in store for us. We saw the
beam of a searchlight from Fort Scott playing across the Golden Gate.
We expected that when we came within its range, it would lift and
let us pass. Instead, its beam was turned full upon us, and stayed
on us, lighting up the whole vessel till it looked like a floating
hotel drifting out to sea. It must have been a wonderful sight from
the hills of San Francisco. We went into the smoking-room, where the
steward had hung bath towels over the ports to conceal all lights,
and lit cigarettes with due precautions against showing the flash
of the match. We had to go somewhere to get out of the glare of that
searchlight.

Soon we felt the heave of the Pacific under us, the engines
settled down to their work to twist behind the miles between us
and Vladivostok, and we were off to the war, feeling as if we had
stolen somebody’s chickens. We had gotten away about as secretly as a
three-ring circus.



III

JAPAN TO VLADIVOSTOK


Our transports put in at Hakodate for coal. From San Francisco,
something had been wrong with the _Logan’s_ engines. What it was,
she would neither tell by wireless, nor signal by wig-wag. We heard
everything from a story that German spies had tangled fish-nets in her
propeller, to a yarn that bearings for her engines had been forgotten
on the dock. But the result was, that the _Logan_, which had been
armed especially to protect us, lolled behind, at times dropping below
the horizon, and we slopped around in the Pacific with steerage way,
waiting for her to catch up. This continued day after day, and we
burned deeply into our coal supply.

For some reason, we could not get enough coal in Hakodate, and after a
couple of days, pulled out for Otaru, Japan, where we stopped another
two days, and went ashore again. When we had exhausted the sights of
the small city, some of us went on to Sapporo by train, and saw that
provincial capital.

While we were ashore, a typhoon came up, and the _Logan_ dragged
her anchors, and came near to piling up on the breakwater. Several
Japanese coaling the transports from barges, were drowned.

On our return from Sapporo we found the roofs of Otaru rather
dislocated, a high wind still blowing, and no chance to get back
to ship that night. So some of us slept in the native hotel of the
town, and enjoyed the novelty of sitting on the floor for a Japanese
breakfast, while cross crows in a garden cawed at us and the gold fish
swam in the pretty pool of the court. The rickshawmen gleaned fortunes
from nearly a thousand soldiers on holiday with plenty of money to
spend.

That morning was rainy, and the streets were deep with mud. Coming
down to pay my hotel bill, I found a tall, lanky Kentuckian in an
argument with the proprietor, who, of course, spoke no English. The
lieutenant in command of the military police, a man who spoke several
languages, was doing his best to straighten out the difficulty, while
the Kentuckian, in his gray woolen socks, held up a pair of muddy shoes
which he regarded with contempt, the while displaying a marvellously
wicked vocabulary.

I lingered to see what it was all about. The Kentuckian modified his
language in my presence, which I rather deplored, for it was chilly
in that entrance and his remarks raised the temperature. On entering
a Japanese house or hotel, one must remove shoes and put on slippers.
Some fifteen or twenty shore-bound soldiers had remained at the hotel.
When they came down in the morning, they found their heavy marching
shoes stiff from the mud of the previous day, and shrunken. The result
was that the first applicants for shoes in the morning preferred the
larger sizes, and took such as fit them, regardless of who happened to
own them.

The Kentuckian appeared to be the last one down, and all that was left
for him in the way of footwear was one pair of wet shoes, size six.
When I came to look at his feet, I understood his predicament--he wore
at least size eleven. I got into a corner and had a discreet laugh. For
years before I had been in Japan with troops when I was not a captain,
and had some appreciation of the pranks of the enlisted men.

“What you ought to do,” I said, keeping as straight a face as possible,
“is to get a pair of Japanese _geta_, and walk to the ship in
them--they will keep you out of the mud.”

He looked at the wooden footwear I pointed out, with cleats under
the soles four inches high, and snorted, feeling that he could take
liberties with an officer who seemed so neighborly.

“I ain’t hankerin’ none to walk on them damned stilts, capting,” he
said, and I gave up all ideas of having any amusement from seeing him
navigate through the mud with his big toes thrust through the straps of
the wooden sandals. Secretly, I hoped he would attempt it, and lose the
sandals in the mud.

“Then take a rickshaw,” I suggested. “If you’re out of money, I’ll pay
for it.”

“Couldn’t git me to ride in none of them baby carriages,” he said, and
holding out the pair of infantile shoes to the Japanese proprietor,
demanded wrathfully that his own shoes be produced.

“No got, no got,” wailed a clerk, distractedly. The lieutenant of
military police once more plunged into a discourse that sounded as
if it might be Japanese. The audience listened respectfully, but
disclaimed all responsibility for what the soldiers had done. They had
not been able to prevent the other soldiers from taking the shoes that
had been selected from the collection that morning.

The Kentuckian disgustedly threw the shoes into a corner and started
out. I hailed him and suggested that he take the shoes with him and
exchange them aboard the transport. He assented doubtfully, and to the
amusement of the Japanese population, they saw a tall American soldier
walking down the muddy streets in his stockinged feet, carrying his
shoes in his hands, and making an oration. They were sure the American
was mad--Americans have such queer ways!

From Otaru we sailed for Vladivostok, crossing the Sea of Japan. It was
foggy weather, and we proceeded leisurely. The _Brooklyn_, lying in
Vladivostok harbor, got us by wireless, and the military staff demanded
information as to why we were so slow. They seemed in great pother and
we felt that we must be desperately needed.

This call for speed puzzled us, for the wireless flashed news to us
that the Bolshevist front had been pushed back, and was now five
thousand miles from the coast--at the Volga River. This news was
disappointing for an expedition which was properly keyed up for
immediate action, and was dreaming of landing under shell-fire or some
other dramatic phase of real war. And the medal-hounds cursed their
luck!

Our first sight of Vladivostok as we sailed up through the Golden Horn,
was of a peaceful city nestling among craggy hills, but bloated beyond
its natural size by acres of sheeted piles of war-stores. This great
fringe of covered stores resembled mushrooms which had come up in the
night around the city.

Bluejackets aboard the _Brooklyn_ hailed us with loving derision as
the _Sheridan_ felt her way to the dock; they joked us about our
machine-guns lashed to our after-bridge, and suggested that we check
our shooting-irons “at the door” in order to avoid trouble.

Our impressions of the people we saw on the docks were favorable.
Friendly-looking Russians in boots and whiskers, right out of our old
school geographies, and wearing the same belted blouses we had seen in
melodramas about exiles to Siberia, gathered to watch us disembark.
And Cossacks in sheepskin caps as big as garbage cans, smiled at us
good-naturedly.

Immediately the gang-plank was down, one of the commanding general’s
aides hustled aboard, and we were sure that now the fateful news was
to be told us--we must prepare for action immediately, probably get
ready to go those five thousand versts to the Volga River to which the
“front” had backed up. He proved to be a merry chap, with a Harvard
accent, a fine sense of humor, and a swagger stick.

“Where have you been all this time?” he demanded, as he shook hands
with Major Samuel I. Johnson, of Hawaii, born in Russia, the officer
commanding troops aboard the transports. We crowded around, expecting
to hear a history-making remark, once our delay was explained.

Major Johnson suggested that perhaps the delay might be better
explained when the _Logan_ docked. “What’s up?” he asked, keen for the
reason of the fretting of headquarters.

“Nothing’s up,” laughed the aide. “But we’re all gasping for our mail.
We thought you’d never get here.”

“Any fighting?” asked a particularly war-like officer.

The aide laughed merrily and then informed us of the Intelligence
Division that the busiest time we would have each day would be when we
made our morning toilet. Smith, self-appointed assistant to the General
Staff, almost collapsed at this news.

“What’s the price of ham and eggs?” shouted a practical-minded doughboy
from a porthole to a soldier on the dock.

“How long will it take us to get into the fighting?” persisted one of
our belligerent officers.

“What’s the words for ‘How much’ in this Rooshan language?” called a
serious-minded machine-gun corporal to a sergeant ashore.

“‘Skulky stoy,’” replied the sergeant, and then betraying his disgust
and disillusionment, added: “Aw, you won’t see no war here--only thing
you’ll fight is the grub. Them skirmishes up at Nikolsk is all over.
The Bolsheviki are clear to the Ekaterinburg front, and still runnin’.
And the only kind of fool money they got here is postage stamps with
pictures on ’em of the Rooshan Cee-zar.”

“I thought the Rooshans was off that feller for life,” said the
corporal.

“Don’t you think that because they put the crusher on him, they don’t
want him. They don’t know their elbers from breakfast without a boss.
How you expect anybody who says ‘da-da-da’ for ‘yes’ to have any sense?”

Who says an army is not supposed to think? Our army does--our doughboys
in Siberia could have given pointers to statesmen at home. It is a good
thing to bear in mind.

Somebody asked where we were to be quartered, and we learned that we
had better remain aboard the transport till quarters could be arranged.
Of course, the officers with troops went to the nearby stations
with their commands, some being sent to the Suchan Mines, some to
Khabarovsk, where were the headquarters of the Twenty-seventh Infantry,
and others distributed to units stationed along the railroad. But
fifteen officers and fifteen field clerks of the Intelligence Division
had no more homes than so many jack-rabbits.

The Chief Intelligence Officer came down to the transport and
interviewed us, and gave us a chance to size him up. He had been in
the country several months, had seen much of the fighting of the
Cossack chiefs against the Bolshevists up the line of the railroad,
and had a good grasp of the situation. But under our policy of
“non-interference,” there was little use for grasping anything--the
chief job was to keep hands off all Siberian affairs.

That afternoon I rode up to headquarters, passing through the muddy
streets swarming with pigs, till the Svetlanskaya, Vladivostok’s main
street, was reached. Then our automobile whizzed up hill and down
dale over this Broadway of Asia, passing soldiers of many nations en
route--French, Czechs, Russians, little black Annammites from the
French possessions, Italians, Canadians, British, Japanese, Cossacks
from the Don, the Urals, the Ussuri, the trans-Baikal, and bluejackets
from Japanese, French, British and American warships in the bay.

The city of Vladivostok itself presented a spectacle that would
have brought joy to anybody who yearned for a job as a professional
philanthropist. For “The Mistress of the East” had jumped her
population from the normal, which was forty thousand, to about one
hundred and eighty thousand. Refugee barracks on the edge of the city
were filled with people from the interior. Trains came jammed to the
last shelf against the ceiling, and poured battalions of travellers
into the Trans-Siberian station, where they settled down to sleep in
the corridors regardless of the throngs marching over them. They looked
like rag-bags come to life--these hungry, dirty, tattered people from
the hinterland, a human caravan in a panic. They smelled like a circus
menagerie.

Among them were many typhus victims. Beside these sick camped the
well--with little complaint--and set up housekeeping on any available
floor space. Some who had perhaps an aristocratic taste for privacy, or
who found the air of the waiting-room a trifle spicy, filtered out to
other habitations. There were, of course, no vacant rooms at the hotels
or elsewhere.

Money could not always buy shelter and rarely seclusion, since the
average sleeping chamber accommodated all the way from five to a dozen
persons. Even billiard tables commanded a good price as places of
repose. And shows lasted till dawn, so that people who slept in the
daytime could be amused while sitting up all night. Thus, when one-half
of the population got up in the morning, it met the other half going to
bed.

Judging by conditions in Vladivostok, it was obvious that a terrible
state of affairs existed in the hinterland. The refugees, clamoring for
food, said so. Statistics of food-prices, gleaned from the refugees as
well as from the inland press, proved a state of famine.

[Illustration: THE AMERICAN ARMY MULES ARRIVE IN VLADIVOSTOK FOR DUTY]

[Illustration: STREET SCENE IN VLADIVOSTOK WITH BAY IN THE DISTANCE]

The Svetlanskaya is along a bench of the hills over the city,
and affords a fine view of the harbor. Our headquarters were in a
store-building close to the bay, across from the department store of
Kunst and Albers, the chief mercantile organization of Siberia, with
chain stores in the principal cities. The building our _stab_, or
staff, occupied, was a brick structure of two stories and basement,
and resembled a library building. It had been used as offices and
store-rooms by Kunst and Albers.

When I reported, I was told that I could register at the base,
from which I had come. Back at the base they told me to register
at headquarters, so I never did register, but went back aboard the
transport.

That night I received orders to proceed to all stations, under verbal
orders of the commanding general, and in connection with certain
intelligence work, to call the attention of the troops to the Third
Liberty Loan. A Russian-speaking orderly from our own army, with an
unpronounceable name, was assigned to me. I called him Brown. I was
told that I must have my baggage aboard a troop-train leaving the base
at eight o’clock that night for Khabarovsk, but that I could board the
train at ten o’clock at the city station of the trans-Siberian.

Having no quarters, I put all my possessions, consisting of
bedding-roll and two lockers, into a box-car of the train with the
aid of field clerks and German war-prisoners. We got it out of the
transport and aboard the train at the last minute--or what I thought
was the last minute. I was later to learn that there is no necessity
for hurry in Siberia.

But the train did not come out of the yards to the depot. Not that
anything was wrong; it was simply that the engine failed to appear. All
through the frozen night, a couple of locomotives wheezed up and down
and whistled signals. Russian railroad men blew horns interminably,
and there was every evidence of laudable activity. The American major
who was to have charge of the train delivered a line of profanity with
all the fervor and efficiency of the old regular army. But the Russian
station officials--lay down on benches and went to sleep!

It was five o’clock in the morning before that troop-train of box-cars
rattled up to the station, and another hour of horn-blowing and
whistling before we were finally under way. Then we blew out the
guttering candles and lay down on a shelf in a dirty car.



IV

TOWARD KHABAROVSK


When morning dawned, we found ourselves rolling along at about ten
miles an hour over a plain, with wooded hills in the distance. The
fields were brown and sere, for it was then the first week in October,
and the air was feeling the first chill of winter.

About nine o’clock we reached Nikolsk-Ussuri, where the railroad
splits, one track, the Chinese Eastern, going across Manchuria to the
Siberian border, and the other, the one we were to follow, proceeding
to the north through the Maritime Provinces as far as Khabarovsk, where
it crosses the Amur River north of that city, and then runs to the
northwest well inside the Siberian border, with a branch line running
down to Blagoveschench. The main line then goes to Kerak, and crossing
the Shilka River, joins up with the Chinese Eastern over Manchuria,
at Karimska, a few versts to the southeast of Chita, capital of the
province of Trans-Baikal.

At Nikolsk, as it is commonly called, I had my first experience with
a station restaurant. There was a Japanese troop-train in the yards,
also a train with Chinese troops. Our six hundred odd soldiers had
their own kitchen-cars and messed while the train stopped. After their
night on shelves built into the box-cars, they were glad for a chance
to stretch their legs and exchange pleasantries with their friends in
other cars.

The station restaurant was thronged. My orderly went with me, and we
pushed our way through crowds of refugees, Cossacks, Japanese officers
and all the motley crew assembled there and clamoring for food. We
managed to get some cabbage soup, which we had to defend against the
flies, for no one ever kills or traps a fly in Siberia.

The city itself is a couple of versts from the station, for when the
railroad was built it appears that the engineers took every precaution
against getting too close to cities; they simply laid out their lines
for the right of way, and if the city happened to be near, well and
good; if not, the city would have to come to the railroad.

It was here that I realized for the first time how vague and unlimited
is the Russian word _Sichass_, which means anything from presently
to some time in the dim future. I desired to visit the city, to look
over the German war-prisoner camp, to investigate the train full of
Bolshevist prisoners, including men, women and children. But our
Russian conductor, drinking tea in the station, warned us that our
train would move “_Sichass_”, so I went back to my car and waited, not
daring to get far away.

We were there for several hours. Russians came and looked at us, and
we looked at them. They regarded us with friendly eye, but scowled and
muttered when they encountered a Japanese soldier. It was apparent that
the wounds of the Russo-Japanese war are not fully healed, and in the
face of the hatred which meets the Japanese at every turn in Siberia,
the little soldiers from Nippon display a splendid discipline. We heard
that this discipline is limited to places where their conduct is under
observation.

Every minute, during the time our train lay in the yards, it appeared
that departure was imminent. A bell at the station tolled once, and the
conductor and engineer blew horns at each other. Presently the engine
whistled.

In half an hour or so, two bells tolled from the station, which caused
the conductor and engineer to break out their tooting again. This done,
they finally decided to load the engine tender with wood, and leaving
the job to a pair of Chinese coolies, went away to the station to have
another round of tea. In another half hour, they were back, three
bells toll, the conductor unfolds carefully a green flag and waves it,
rolls it up, and pulls a big bottle of snuff from his boot-leg. Having
regaled himself, and sneezed solemnly, he blows his horn again, the
engine toots, and after a while, the train moves reluctantly.

Our train stopped on the plains to have ashes drawn from the fire-box.
The train crew made tea and lunched. When there was no more tea to
drink, and no more gossip to talk, we moved along again.

We stopped eight hours at one station. After two hours waiting, we
attempted to ascertain the cause of the delay. It appeared that the
engineer had some friends in that town, and had gone away to drink tea.
How soon might we be expected to proceed? “Sichass.”

At first this sort of thing is a joke to the stranger in Siberia, in
time it becomes an exasperation, but finally you learn to submit and
become a Russian, and take no count of the passage of time. Their
utter abhorrence for anything approaching a definite statement is most
puzzling.

For instance, if they know the exact time a train is supposed to arrive
or depart, they refrain from telling the traveler. Some say this is a
natural characteristic of the people. I ascribe it to fear of being
blamed if there is a delay caused by circumstances over which they have
no control.

Under the old régime, if a station-master or a conductor, stated that
something was going to happen at a certain time, and it did not happen,
they might be whipped or otherwise mistreated by superiors for telling
a lie. So they transfer the worry of delay to the traveler, and keep
their own skirts clear of trouble.

There is another fact which must be considered, and that is, that to
men in prison, time means little. Next week, or next month or next
year, will do as well to perform some duty. Siberia was a great prison,
and this disregard of time must be in the blood. Ordinarily the
Russian is most affable and hospitable, once he knows you for a friend,
but to a stranger, his attitude is most impersonal and careless.

As the train stopped from one to fifteen hours at every station, I
was able to spend considerable time in the various depots. Their
restaurants were thronged with “famine-stricken” peasants, weighing
some three hundred pounds gross each, enthusiastically discussing
freedom--the while they sprayed themselves with cabbage soup. Hunger! I
never want to look upon such hunger again! More: Never again do I want
to hear it. (Who would guess that goulash is a high explosive?)

Eat! I will back the Russians as eaters against any other race of
eaters in the world. The way an average Siberian can mistreat roasted
partridges, hunks of defenseless beef, and loaves of pneumatic rye
bread is painful to recall. Their cruelty lies chiefly in the fact that
they insist upon talking while they eat. The Siberian is the champion
three-ring talker of the universe. He talks politics so well that he
can prove himself a liar--then start all over again, which explains why
he has to call for outside help in order to settle anything. And if the
outsider asks him to stop talking and do something, it makes him mad.

Why work when one can talk? Work is for slaves. Only the Chinese and
the women work, (Apparently these are not free). Talk is the chief
product of Russian activity along the trans-Siberian. When combined
with gastronomics it is thrilling.

The Allied officers in Siberia were misled as to the character of
Siberians who appeared to be mere louts, dressed out of the rag-bag. In
particular, the Americans in Siberia were inclined to judge the people
with whom they came in contact by the standards of dress in the United
States. But the Siberian who looks like an animated scare-crow may be
playing international poker. And he is willing to let us laugh at him
if he can fool us.

These days in Siberia, it is a mistake to think that because a man has
on old clothes he is poor or not educated, or unskilful in intrigue.
For--he may be dressed badly in order to protect himself from the
Bolshevists; or he may himself be a Bolshevist, and his apparent
beggary makes him appear harmless.

I found that a surprisingly large number of Siberians (drosky-drivers,
station-restaurant attendants, brakemen and many others who might be
easily mistaken for _moujiks_) can speak good English--but will carry
on long conversations through an interpreter! One man who had used
these tactics, later on leaned down in a station to stroke a cat,
saying, “Hello, kitty, where did you come from?” Such men invariably
wanted information as to how many American troops had landed at
Vladivostok, and what we were planning to do.

We were terribly handicapped by having to depend upon interpreters;
I had one Russian-American soldier-interpreter who carried on a
conversation of some twenty minutes with a Russian from whom I sought
information and when I asked what was being said was told that the
Russian “wasn’t saying anything which was worth while.”

But he didn’t know that standing with me listening to the conversation
was a British officer who spoke Russian perfectly who then informed me
that my soldier and the Russian had discussed the United States and the
American expedition in Russia in the most uncomplimentary terms.

Later on my soldier admitted that he agreed with the Russian in a
diatribe against the United States, but that he had done so for the
purpose of drawing the other fellow out and getting his ideas. He
excused his telling me that the conversation had been of a nature that
could not interest me because he did not think I was interested in
knowing that this particular Russian regarded the United States as a
nation of capitalists, and as such the enemy of all Russians. And all
the time these Russians continued to smile and bow and assure us of
their friendship and their appreciation of what the United States was
trying to do to reunite Russia and build it up as a democratic nation.

In fact, the Allies in Siberia have been surrounded by an army without
uniforms or other visible military equipment, without any apparent
machinery of organization. This army has the ability to vanish
without being missed, to reassemble when and where it chooses, to set
up a front if it so desires, or, if it sees fit, to dissolve again,
concealing itself once more under the wings of the very host which is
seeking to overcome it. To a very large extent it is an army of passive
resistance.

This vanishing army entered the cities occupied by the Allies, and, in
the guise of refugees, or “loyal” Russians, received food, clothing
and shelter. Under the protection of the Allied guns, it spent the
period of bitter cold weather in comfort, perfecting its plans for the
on-coming Spring, carrying on its propaganda of hostility against the
Interventionists, and mingling with the troops which had come half way
round the world to render it harmless.

The Bolshevists are operating with a strategy of organized disorder.

Their vanishing army acquires weapons by various methods. A truck-load
of Kolchak’s machine-guns at Omsk disappeared while in transit from one
barracks to another, and the men who were making the transfer dropped
from sight.

Some of our own officers and soldiers know how the Bolsheviki added to
their own supply of pistols. It has been estimated that ten per cent.
of the American officers traveling with orderlies had their automatics
either taken by stealth or snatched from the holsters in crowded
railroad stations.

One of these officers expostulated with a thief. “Here!” he shouted.
“That’s my gun!” “Well, you’re wrong,” was the reply in good English;
“it’s mine, and you’d better not start any trouble here.” It seemed
good advice.

One story going the rounds is to the effect that an American officer of
high rank, while pushing his way through a jam of people in a station,
followed by his orderly, was startled by a cry from the latter. His
pistol was gone!

“Gone!” said the officer, crossly. “You ought to know better than to
lose your gun! Where did you wear it?”

Meekly the orderly indicated the position of his holster on his right
hip.

“But you shouldn’t wear it so far back,” growled the exasperated
officer. “Keep it well to the front like mine. Look! Here!” And he
slapped his own holster, worn well to the front on his belt. Then the
red of chagrin spread over his face. “Lord!” he cried. “Mine’s gone,
too!”

Another American officer, traveling in the compartment of a car,
had as a traveling companion a youthful officer ostensibly from a
Cossack regiment. He was a most ingratiating young man, and admired
the Americans for their willing aid to Russia. Our officer’s belt and
pistol were hanging on a hook. As the train approached a station, the
Cossack rose, called attention to some aspect of the landscape outside,
and shaking hands with his fellow traveler, went his way. The pistol
also went his way.

It was about this time that I began to ask myself, Where is the real
front? Now I was suspicious of the delays in restaurants, the blocking
of trains, the roundabout droskys, the street-cars that broke down,
the misinformation which sent us astray, the balking telephones. It
appeared like a perfect system of sabotage--covert warfare.



V

BOLSHEVISTS AND BATHS


The slow progress of our train gave me many opportunities to talk with
Siberians who had been to the United States. Compared to the natives
who had never left home, they were highly intelligent, but much of
their mental agility put them in the class of people described by
Artemas Ward as “folks who know a lot that ain’t so.”

All those who had been to the United States with whom I talked, said
the United States was “No good--a capitalistic country.”

I frankly asked them why they thought so. They had worked in the steel
mills, the packing-houses and in the factories, and instead of becoming
“Americanized”, as we at home so proudly boast about our immigrants,
they had apparently lived, worked and talked with groups of their own
countrymen, and outside of picking up enough English to get along with,
had become no more American than if they had remained in the heart of
Siberia.

They had all the patter of the agitators against the “capitalistic
classes”, for which they can hardly be blamed, for from the time they
landed on our shores till they left, they were exploited in various
ways, every advantage being taken of their ignorance and helplessness
in a strange country.

And when they came to explain why they thought the United States to be
no good, invariably they backed their original statement with tales
of hard labor for poor pay, and then informed me that the newspapers
of the United States admitted that we had no democracy, that we were
a nation of “wage slaves,” and that revolution was coming soon in my
country.

One of these men had pamphlets issued by a strike-leader in Lawrence,
urging violence against the mill-owners; clippings from a Chicago
paper which told of deplorable conditions in the districts inhabited
by steel-workers of Pittsburgh and outlining a plan for improvement.
But in reading the clipping, the Siberian overlooked entirely the fact
that bad conditions were described for the purpose of guarding against
reproducing them, and to take some action to correct the evils. He read
with understanding only those paragraphs which stated that conditions
were deplorable, and were soon to be eradicated.

And this paper, fighting editorially against exploitation, he
described as part of our “capitalistic press.” He interpreted its
printed protests as mutterings before a coming revolution. The editor,
undoubtedly striving to aid and uplift the working men, perhaps never
dreamed that what he printed would be used as propaganda to prove his
paper part of a “capitalistic press.”

Another clipping from a radical sheet printed in the middle west,
described the mounted constabulary of Pennsylvania, as “Cossacks,
organized and supported by capitalists, to cut down the workers.”
This man did not know that this state police force is maintained and
supported by the state--he read the caption literally and believed that
it was a private punitive force in the hire of the mill-owners. He also
believed they were Cossacks!

Freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, are two of our greatest
liberties. But when Russians who have been to the United States,
can return to Siberia and tell the population that we are worse
than Russia, and that we are going to have a revolution, and read
to the people sensational statements and half-baked and distorted
information, at the same time that we are in that country trying to
prove our friendship for them and asserting that the United States is
a free country, something is wrong. That is the state of affairs which
confronted us from the first in Siberia.

I do not maintain that our systems are perfect. I have much sympathy
for the “working classes,” having begun life as a boy in a factory,
served in the ranks of the army and before the mast in ships.

“Ah!” said a Siberian to my interpreter, waving his hand in the
direction of vacant ground near a small river, “If the Americans would
only build a factory here for us, and make jobs.”

“But you are opposed to capitalism,” I said.

“Yes,” he nodded. “We are fighting it.”

“If an American built a factory here, it would take money-capital.”

“Oh, yes,” he said.

“The Russians have burned a lot of factories.”

“Yes.”

“If a factory were built here would you burn it?”

“Maybe we would.”

“Then how can you expect a man with money, which is capital, to come
here and build a factory, if it is likely it would be burned?”

He pondered this. “We might only take it away from him,” he decided.

“But Americans do not go round building factories if they are going to
be burned, or taken away by the workers.”

“Why not,” he asked. “All Americans are rich. They ought to build
factories for the poor people, to give them work. You do it in America.”

“But a factory to keep running, must make a profit.”

“We do not believe in profits,” he said, his face lighting up at the
happy thought that he had met my arguments.

“I do not believe you need worry much about them,” I retorted, and left
him scratching his head.

As we proceeded north, stopping occasionally at vast wood-piles to
replenish our engine, we crossed limitless plains.

I had a paper from home. It contained an editorial on the menace of
famine in Siberia. I read it. Then I looked out of the window--and
tears came to my eyes. Famine! There it was! From horizon to horizon,
on either side of the train, stretched vast plains dotted with shocks
of wheat--unthreshed wheat.

The sight of that wheat made me shudder. It reminded me of the fact
that the people at home, bless their Christmas-tree souls, were
conserving wheat, and sending some to the starving proletariat of
Siberia to cure them of Bolshevism. What the various governments
struggling with the problem did not realize was that the Siberians were
also conserving wheat! For the shocks I saw were not a one-year crop.
On those plains were stacked up the crops of two years!

Some wheat had been threshed. Now and then, near stations, I saw it
piled up in sacks--acres of sacks, ten high. The top sacks, as a
rule, were rotten, having been there for months. “_Nitchyvo!_ The
Americanskys have come, and all will be well.” The drosky-drivers
fed their horses freely from the piled grain. The field mice had
established their winter homes in the piles, thus realizing some of the
benefits of Bolshevism.

Why, you ask, was this wheat not moved? The station sidings were indeed
full of freight cars. But refugees were living in those cars. In other
cars Allied troops were quartered. Troops being moved required cars.
Allied commissions travelling up and down for political or military
reasons used any remaining engines. Naturally the wheat could not be
moved!

Our train reached Khabarovsk about two o’clock in the morning, and we
remained in the cars till mess. Then the troops were turned out in
full kit, and carrying their bulky barrack-bags stuffed with all their
belongings, we began the march to the Russian barracks some three miles
distant.

It was a warm and sunny morning. The roofs of the city became visible
as we tramped up toward the high ground, covered with the brick
barracks built by the Russian army, and beyond the town shone the wide
reaches of the Amur River. The city had been captured from Bolshevist
forces but a month before, and the Twenty-seventh Infantry, under
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Morrow had hastened to get into action
with the Japanese, but arrived too late. The Bolshevist forces resisted
up to a certain point, and then melted away. They became peasants
working in the fields--and the Japanese asked these peasants where the
Bolshevists were!

So although Khabarovsk was accustomed to a large Russian garrison
in normal times, and had already become accustomed to the American
doughboy, our column attracted considerable attention. And I was sorry
that transportation had not been arranged for the men’s heavy bags,
which they packed on their shoulders in addition to their regular
marching kits, for six hundred men bent under baggage, struggling up
the hilly roads, do not present an inspiring spectacle.

We Americans in foreign parts do not seem to care anything for the
psychology of the land in which we are operating; we are intensely
practical, and entirely too sure that the American way of doing things
is the best way, and take no account of the effect we may create upon
foreign peoples--overlooking the fact that first impressions are most
vital.

Now Asia is a land in which the bearing of burdens marks one of the
lowest caste. The Siberian is Asiatic in his viewpoint, being so
closely in touch with China and Manchuria. And, as in China, to be
seen carrying heavy burdens when there is no necessity for it, means
that a man’s standing is ruined; no matter how smartly he may dress,
or how decently he may comport himself, or what he may do to show his
superiority after he has been seen at what is considered debasing toil,
the Asiatic never forgets that this foreigner has been a bearer of
burdens. He carries forever that impression in the back of his head, on
occasion dares to be insolent, and judges by that standard all people
of that race.

And to go into Siberia, with an army, claiming to be a democracy in
which all men are free and equal, yet with men who are “conscripts”
in the sense understood by Asia, and then display those “conscripts”
doing the work of pack-animals, is most confusing to the Siberian,
the Cossack, the Chinese, and Japanese. They cannot understand our
assertion that all are equal, or that many men of the United States
have willingly responded to a “draft,” and are willingly submitting
themselves to the orders of their officers in order to maintain
freedom and equality. We say one thing, and demonstrate another. I once
tried to explain this phenomenon of all serving the common cause, some
in the ranks and some as officers, to a keen Chinese servant who had
been in Hong Kong and knew English well. When I had finished, he looked
at me, and reaching for the skillet to fry some eggs, remarked, sagely:
“You talk lie.”

If the regimental band had been at the station that morning in
Khabarovsk, and the heavy baggage left to be hauled by wagons, and
the men had marched to the barracks under arms with swinging strides
and heads up, it would have been worth several million dollars to the
United States in Asia--and worth much to the men themselves. It would
have raised our troops in the estimation of Japanese and Russians.
Instead, our column toiled along, resting every few hundred yards, and
resuming the march with a series of painful grunts and muttered curses.

As we climbed the last hill, a flock of geese swung in ahead of us, and
marching in splendid style, led us to the entrance to the post. There
the column remained in the road for an hour, while the regimental band
came and played in honor of a party of Japanese statesmen who happened
at that time to be calling on the commandant, Colonel Styer, and making
an inspection of the city. This, of course, was a necessary and proper
honor to pay the guests, and accounted in part for the fact that we
had to arrive without music; but as the visitors were not long in the
post, our departure from the station might have been deferred till the
music was available. After eight days in crowded box-cars, that band
was most inspiring when we did hear it, and the weary doughboys were
soon chaffing merrily, glad to have found their new home.

In discussing these matters, I wish it understood that I am not
criticizing any individual, but the people of the United States so
eager to make a good showing abroad and to convince foreign peoples of
our good motives and our army so careful not to offend, seem to need
something in the way of a code to follow so as to learn to put the best
foot forward when away from home.

The British, having had so much more experience with Asiatics, have
learned the value of good impressions, and by observing what we may
consider trifles, have held and administered the affairs of many lands
in the East more by these trifles than by actual force of arms.

I know that our attitude has been in the Philippines, Cuba and
elsewhere, “In time these people will learn that we mean all right.”
In time they do. But we send an army into foreign countries in much
the same manner as a man might attend a first formal dinner in boots,
a fishing coat, and a woolen shirt, and on entering the dining-room,
trip over a rug when preparing to bow to the hostess. In time, he might
establish the fact that he was a man of some breeding. Most people,
both for their own comfort, and the comfort of hosts, would prefer to
display their breeding first, for some of the guests might leave before
the uncouth one had a chance to prove that he was not a boor.

Once the details of turning over the reinforcements were accomplished,
with the major who had commanded the train, I took a drosky, and sought
the best bath-house in the city. How that vehicle ever held together
was a mystery to both of us. The roads were both rutty and full of
yielding mud, and as we galloped toward town, first one of us and then
the other was in danger of being hurled out to the black pigs along the
streets.

The cost of a “bolshoi” or grand bath, was two rubles each, and being
provided with soap and towels, we were escorted to a room containing an
old sofa and a dressing table weak in the legs. The attendant brought
us a small tub of water, for what purpose I have not the slightest
idea, as the room adjoining contained a bath-tub of Russian dimensions,
a shower big enough for an elephant, and all the pipes full of blazing
hot water. The Siberian does not bathe himself--he parboils himself.

The temperature of both rooms was exceedingly hot and humid, so that
in a few minutes all our clothing was moist and clammy; and to make
matters worse, the ambitious attendant came in and hurled buckets of
water over the big marble slab, which was heated by pipes, filling both
rooms with a stifling steam. I opened the windows promptly, to his
great horror, and drove him away as gently as possible with the one
Russian word I had to fit the occasion--“Scurrai,” and he scurried.

When I had laid my clothing out on the ancient sofa, I realized that
the place had not been swept or dusted for a decade. I made a mental
picture of the limitless number of people who had divested themselves
of their garments in that very spot. It was not such as had gone on
their way, clean and rosy, which worried me, but what they had left
behind, to inhabit temporarily the crevices of the sofa. So I hastened
my bathing under the shower, and dressed as rapidly as possible, after
discreet shakings of all my wearing apparel.

The clerk below regarded me with surprise when I went down. He thought
I had not bathed at all, but had come back to make some complaint. He
did not realize that I had hurried to avoid complaints in the future,
when he might not be present to get the benefit of my vocabulary. I am
sure he thought me most tentative about my bath, and not a particularly
clean man.

It takes the ordinary Siberian about an hour to get himself properly
tender. For some strange reason, known only to the inscrutable American
mind, I had failed to cook myself a full two rubles worth, and had
surrendered my room to a Chinese who did not appear to be a regular
client, judging from his lack of grooming.

The major had been as precipitate as myself, having been duly
influenced by my active imagination. Once more we risked our lives in
the drosky.



VI

HETMAN OF THE USSURI


Khabarovsk is a city of probably sixty thousand population, and
picturesquely situated in a sweeping bend of the Amur River, its
streets being laid on a bench of land overlooking the river. The
barracks occupied by the American and Japanese forces are on still
higher ground arranged on a plateau, with the dull reds and browns of
the city roofs shining below.

It is a provincial capital, the most important north of Vladivostok,
and the chief center of the Ussuri Cossacks. The first thing to catch
the eye on the morning we marched up to the post, was a yellow flag
flying from a pole across a gully from the American headquarters, with
a black and fanciful lower-case y upon its field. Y in Russian has the
sound of our double o, and so was the initial letter in Russian for
Ussuri, thus the flag marked a Cossack garrison quartered inside the
stockade beyond.

[Illustration: AN AMERICAN DOUGHBOY HELPING MAKE SIBERIA “SAFE FOR
DEMOCRACY”]

[Illustration: NIGHT VIEW OF VLADIVOSTOK HARBOR FROM HILL OF THE CITY]

Yellow is a favorite color with the Cossacks. Their officers wear
Prussian blue riding breeches, with wide yellow stripes, similar to the
breeches worn by our own cavalry officers before the khaki days.
Their tunics were well-cut, but almost any color seemed to serve, as
long as heavy gold cloth shoulder straps with elaborate embroidery on
them, could be procured.

Boots and spurs, and the characteristic high busby of white or black
lamb-skin with the wool on, completed the costume. These bonnets are
not always circular, but are flattened out, and then worn with the flat
sides front and back, and tilted to the rear, giving a rakish effect.
The cloth tops set into the wool are frequently of gorgeous colors,
some being bright purple, some gold, some red, so viewed from behind,
the Cossack is a colorful personage. Viewed from the front, on a
charging horse, and with lance or saber point first, they generally get
the road to themselves.

The men of the ranks looked to me more Mongol than Slav, and resemble
somewhat the American Indian, having high cheek bones, black straight
hair worn rather long, broad but low brows, but their faces lack
the acquilinity of our aborigines. Most of them struck me as being
stolid, stoical persons, rather sure of their positions as belonging
to the warrior class, and while according to our standards, inclined
to swagger a trifle when among the lower classes, quiet enough unless
interfered with. Among the Siberian peasants they had the bearing and
demeanor of masters of the situation, and contrasted with the peasant,
I would prefer that the latter have more self-assertion in a dignified
way, rather than the inevitable skulking manner which they take on
when they come in contact with persons whom they recognize as superiors.

Khabarovsk was filled with the men of the local Cossack hetman,
Kalmikoff, known to our forces as Ataman Kalmikoff, a title which
appears to be derived from the Turkish, just as the name “Cossack”
is the Turkish _kazak_, or robber. The accent falls upon the last
syllable, and the Russian spelling follows the Turkish, so that “y k”
worn on the sleeve of a soldier marked him as an Ussuri Cossack.

I was living in the quarters of Lieutenant-Colonel Morrow, as his
guest, with the regimental adjutant of the Twenty-seventh Infantry,
and a young regimental supply officer. Colonel Morrow had commanded
the column which hastened to reinforce the Japanese division in the
action south of Khabarovsk, but the Bolshevists dissolved after a
desultory fight, and the infantry, fresh from the Philippines, did
not get into the battle. At that time Colonel Styer, commander of
the Twenty-seventh, was in Vladivostok in command of the expedition,
General Graves and his staff not having arrived.

Colonel Styer was now in command of the American forces at
Khabarovsk, and I found him all that is meant by the term “an officer
and a gentleman.” I can say the same of all the officers of the
Twenty-seventh that I had the pleasure of meeting. And Colonel Morrow,
in whose house and company I spent my pleasantest days in Siberia, I
found to be a hard-fisted soldier of the old school, who knows his
business and expects everybody in his command to know it likewise, or
give the reason why. He knows the American soldier down to the ground,
and is the type of officer the enlisted man delights in--an officer who
realizes their difficulties on campaign, talks to them as a father, and
never allows any doubt to arise as to who is boss.

On Sunday morning, October 6, 1918, Colonel Styer kindly sent word to
me that Ataman Kalmikoff was to conduct a ceremony incident to the
organization of a new regiment of Cossacks, and inviting me to attend
with the staff.

An orderly brought a horse for me at the appointed time for departure,
and as I mounted, I felt the thrill that can only come to a man who,
after a lapse of thirteen years, again finds himself in an American
army saddle and an American army horse between his knees.

We rode down through the gullys and over the decrepit bridges, into the
town, and dismounted in front of the big Russian church on a cliff over
the Amur. Here we found a long line of Cossacks on their horses, drawn
up in single rank across the street from the church, facing the little
square. There was a great throng of Siberians, keeping at a respectful
distance from the raised lances shining above the heads of the shaggy
ponies.

Here we were introduced to many Russian officers in the service of
Kalmikoff, nearly all of them wearing orders of the Czar’s régime, and
some of them wearing orders gained on the Manchurian plains not so
long ago, in action against the army of Kuroki.

General Oi, the local Japanese commander, and his staff arrived, and
he and his officers were all introduced to us. Among those there that
day was a lone British officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Roberts. I am not
sure that this dignified and canny British observer did not see more,
and understand more, of what was going on, than all the rest of us
Anglo-Saxons. This statement is not made in derogation of the abilities
of American officers as observers, nor as a compliment intimating a
superior craft in international affairs on the part of the British
officer, but occurs to me as due to the lack of anything approaching a
“policy” regarding Siberian affairs on the part of our administration.

Not knowing what we were expected to do beyond avoiding as far as
possible any action which might be interpreted as “interference,” our
interests did not extend beyond the dramatic effect of what we were
there to witness. To us, it was merely a show, possibly with something
of an historical interest, as it had been said that by presenting the
colors to this regiment of Cossacks, Kalmikoff was acting as a sort of
godfather at the “birth of the new Siberian army.”

But the British, with India so close to Russia, and an age-old
suspicion of “the man who walks like a bear” in the backs of their
heads, watch Russian affairs with deadly earnestness, for to lose
India might be the first break in the chain of the British Empire.
So to Colonel Roberts, a gaunt and elderly officer typical of the men
who have built the best traditions of Britain in far-flung empires,
this was more than a mere entertainment of a day. At least I got that
impression, as I observed him--politely punctilious, yet with roving
eyes which saw, and weighed, every trifling incident.

I felt that our attitude was the vaudevillian one of “I don’t care.”
No doubt, if one of us had written a detailed report of what happened
that day, and had dared to draw conclusions, and had sent this report
to, say, our own General Staff, it might have been filed. But if we
are going to deal with international problems, we must begin to regard
foreign affairs seriously, and leave to the cartoonist his humorous
conceptions of foreign peoples. We are somewhat inclined to regard
humorously the deadly earnestness of the British in dealing with queer
peoples, but the British know that queer peoples are sometimes the most
dangerous. We persist in using them for comic opera material, and then
wonder why we cannot analyze promptly, and take proper and decisive
action to meet a crisis.

As we stood there in the morning sun, with the wide river below, there
was a sudden stir, and the lances of the Cossacks became more rigid as
the troops came to attention.

From round the corner, we heard the clatter of galloping hoofs, and
suddenly, Kalmikoff swooped into view, mounted on a superb black horse.

Rising in his stirrups, with saber upraised, he cried in Russian,
as he passed at full gallop, a hail which was interpreted to me as:
“Ussuri Cossacks! Your commander comes!”

And from the line of horsemen, came the reply, yelled in unison, “We
are glad to greet you,” and the lances, with their pennons, shot upward.

Kalmikoff whirled back, dismounted, and strode into the church. A band
blared the new Russian anthem. From the church now came a column of
acolytes in white robes, some bearing crucifixes before them, some
swinging censors, all led by mitered priests, who were intoning chants.

The band became silent, an altar was set up in the square before the
assembled troops, and a Russian mass was said. Kalmikoff and his staff
stood at one side with bared and bowed heads, and on the opposite side,
General Oi, and his staff at attention. In line with the Japanese,
were Colonel Styer and his staff. But General Oi, as fitting for the
ranking officer, stood a trifle to the front, in such position that he
was almost directly in front of me, and as he bared his head, I was
conscious of his shaven poll gleaming between me and the altar. He is
a short, stocky, sturdy-looking man, with round, shaven face, of most
martial bearing, and bears himself with quiet dignity.

Thrust up behind the altar was the gorgeously colored and embroidered
standard of the new regiment. The priest, in chanting the mass,
at times removed his mitre, and his long black hair fell over his
shoulders, equalled only in length by his heavy beard. The choir
nearby sang the responses, and their voices were most sweet.

I watched Kalmikoff. A young man, said to have been born in 1884, he is
scarcely more than five feet tall, slight of build, with bluish eyes,
and a small mustache. He wore a saber, and a small pistol slipped into
the loop of a strap hanging from his belt, rather than a holster--a
pistol so small as to suggest a derringer. His aspect was proud and
military, but he did not make the figure one would expect to see head
of several provinces of Cossacks. However, he is reputed to be very
brave, a good commander, and a dashing leader of irregular horse, such
as the Cossacks are. I heard that in the charge, if any of his men
attempted to ride ahead of him, he promptly cut them down with his
saber.

He had made himself a Major General, it was said, and we understood
that he was civil and military governor of the Ussuri district. His
claim to the title of Ataman I never understood fully; some said he was
hereditary chief of all the Cossacks of that section, and some said
he had been elected to that position by the Cossacks, while others
maintained that he had set himself up as the local prince, with no more
to back his authority than a small band of partizans who were organized
into a military staff, chiefly engaged at that time in executing
everybody who opposed his rule.

Already, reports were coming down to our headquarters that protests
were being made by the civilians of Khabarovsk, that many people were
being executed by Kalmikoff’s orders without trial, and that the
victims were merely such personal enemies, or such persons as might
question Kalmikoff’s authority.

But our position of “non-interference” with Russian affairs, made
it difficult for our staff to either advise Colonel Styer, or for
Colonel Styer to take any action other than to make official inquiry
of Kalmikoff as to the executions. Not that I infer Colonel Styer or
our staff found it difficult to obey orders, but Kalmikoff happened
to be one of the “Russian people,” and how could an American officer
interfere with Kalmikoff’s executions without interfering with a
Russian?

And at that time, Kalmikoff’s exploits in fighting the Bolshevist
forces were uppermost in the minds of some of our officers, and it
appeared that what Kalmikoff did at that time was considered by some
subordinate officers to be indicative of his abilities as a ruler. I
heard one young officer say while I was in Khabarovsk the first time:
“The Ataman is a smart fellow. He sits at his desk in headquarters, and
when a couple of prisoners are brought in, he looks at them with those
snapping little eyes of his, and waving his hand, says: ‘take ’em out
and shoot ’em.’”

That, to some minds, may be proof that a general or a ruler is great;
but I could not see that government by firing squads by Kalmikoff is
any better than government by firing squads under the Czar. It all
depends pretty much upon who is going to be shot, and what the person
is to be shot for.

If it happened to be a man of the city who privately expressed an
opinion that Kalmikoff had no business executing peaceful citizens, who
was to be shot for expressing that opinion, the procedure as I see it,
is in line with Villa and similar bandits who keep in the public eye by
having the power and machinery for wholesale human butchery.

The fact that a man may be brave, dashing, and wear a picturesque hat,
has nothing to do with a judgment of his abilities or his morality.
Government by machine-gun may be necessary in certain cases, but it
means that the ruler who has to resort to such tactics has oppressed
the people, or has not made proper use of the printing-press--in other
words, has not educated the people over whom he rules, in the proper
ideas.

I consider Kalmikoff a young upstart, not at all concerned with what
happened to Russia, but attempting to take power to himself in a
crisis, and then aping the worst elements of the old régime. And I
believe that his interests were largely material, and in such form
that the gains financially might easily be taken out of the country.
Because he had fought the Bolshevists, in no sense assured me that
he was at all what he posed as being--a Russian patriot, working for
the rehabilitation of a great and united Russia. I may not have been
alone in this measure of the man, among the American officers, and in
speaking only for myself, I do not wish to imply that I was the only
one to so gauge his character.

To return to the ceremonies, when the mass in the square was over, the
priest blessed the colors of the new regiment, and threw upon them holy
water. Then he presented them to Kalmikoff, who half knelt to receive
them, with a blessing. Standing, and thrusting up the flag, he made a
speech to his troops, in which he said, among other things, that they
were always to guard it with their lives, as true Russians.

The color-bearer rode forward and took it from the Ataman’s hands, and
then the lances were hoisted, and the Cossacks cheered both flag and
Ataman.

After receiving the congratulations of the officers assembled,
Kalmikoff invited us to review his men with him, and we mounted and
rode down the street to the position from which we were to review the
force.

As we rode along, we observed three Russians on the sidewalk with their
hands bound behind their backs, being hustled along by Cossacks, and we
heard whispers that they were to be shot. But we discreetly pretended
not to see these prisoners, and wheeled in our horses to let the new
regiment pass.

The Cossacks approached in column of fours, their new flag in the lead,
and Kalmikoff took the salutes of the commanders. The men of the First
Ussuri Regiment, as it was called, were a motley lot but undoubtedly
were good cavalry of the irregular type. Their uniforms were a queer
mixture of stuffs, and at times, it was hard to realize as some squads
passed, that this was really an army. It looked more like a gathering
of the clans from the hills and plains, and most of them needed a
haircut, as well as a shave. But they looked proud and determined, and
able to over-awe any mob of civilians that might gather to riot, or to
do good work charging or raiding an enemy of neater and more soldierly
appearance. Their arms showed good care, but their long-haired Siberian
ponies probably never had felt a brush. Altogether, it looked like an
army that had been sleeping in its clothes for weeks, instead of a
regiment turned out in a capital city to get official baptism.

In passing, I wish to state that a few months later, these very troops
mutinied against the severity of Kalmikoff, and seeking protection
from Colonel Styer, were disarmed. I heard that the Japanese commander
demanded the arms, claiming them as property of the Imperial Japanese
Government. So the lack of discipline so apparent on the day of the
“new Russian army’s” birth, rebounded upon the commander, and indicates
that on that day he held his power by a very thin thread.

After the review we went to what was apparently a hotel, judging from
the sign, but which was reputed to be Kalmikoff’s private residence. He
had probably borrowed it, after the style of Cossack chiefs usurping
power. We lunched there, while the band played in an adjoining room. At
the head of the table sat Lieutenant General Oi, at his right, Colonel
Styer. Kalmikoff’s officers, in the seating of the guests, happened to
put me beside Kalmikoff’s chair, half way down the table from General
Oi, the seats between General Oi and Kalmikoff being occupied by a
Japanese colonel, and a Japanese staff captain.

As it turned out, the lunch was in the nature of a compliment to
General Oi, and in due time Kalmikoff made a speech in Russian, in
which he thanked General Oi for the aid the Japanese forces had
rendered him, making it possible to establish this regiment just
formed. Kalmikoff spoke no English. After each sentence, an interpreter
gave the translation in Japanese, another interpreter gave us the
English of it.

General Oi responded likewise through an interpreter, and as he spoke,
gazed steadily at the opposite wall, waiting patiently for his staff
officers to render his remarks into Russian and English. We understood
that he wished the new Russian army success, and pledged the help of
his forces in making it a success.

There were considerable international politics being let loose in that
room. In effect, the Japanese were backing Kalmikoff, and when we came
to protest against Kalmikoff’s actions, we were really protesting what
appeared to be actions advised by the Japanese; at least, it is safe
to draw the conclusion that, owing General Oi what he asserted he did,
Kalmikoff was not running counter to General Oi’s wishes. And I have
heard it said that whenever Colonel Styer asked Kalmikoff to explain
the reasons for executions, Kalmikoff went directly to General Oi’s
headquarters before making his reply to Colonel Styer.

I do not bring these matters in as a criticism of the Japanese. I
cite heresay and such facts as I know, to show that the Japanese were
stronger politically in their situation in that part of Siberia,
than we were. It may be safely assumed that General Oi was acting
according to instructions, and from that I deduce that the Japanese
government had a policy of upholding all forces avowedly and surely
anti-Bolshevists. It may have been the correct policy. At least,
Kalmikoff knew that he could depend upon the Japanese to back him up
in putting down the Bolshevists. He had no such assurance from our
government.

It is human nature to lean to the side which declares itself, and
the Japanese made no secret of the fact that they were backing
Kalmikoff with arms and money, and standing in the background while he
consolidated his power. This means that the Japanese were really in
control of things in the Ussuri, and for wanting to hold that control,
I do not blame them, considering that they had large military forces in
the country, and were there as enemies to the Bolshevists.

The Japanese took sides. This meant that at least one side knew them as
friends. In our case, the anti-Bolshevist forces of the Russians, then
chiefly the Cossack forces, were confused by our attitude of grouping
all Russian factions and classes together, with what appeared to be
a distinct leaning to the Bolshevist side. The result was that real
anti-Bolshevists suspected our motives and were most cautious in taking
us into their confidence. But the Japanese had the full confidence of
the anti-Bolshevist leaders, and to have the confidence of either side
in such times, gives a decided advantage in getting a grasp of the
situation.

I have no means of knowing the motives of the Japanese in giving
financial and military assistance to the various Cossack chiefs. I have
no particular reason for assuming that their motives were anything but
what they claimed them to be--to put down Bolshevism. I do doubt that
the Japanese motives were wholly to assist Russia in rehabilitating
itself as a great and powerful empire; I do doubt that the Japanese
Imperial government, sought or seeks to see Russia a united and
powerful republic. Russia has been a source of worry to Japan for many
years, and the many barracks built in Siberia since the Russo-Japanese
war, have not had a tendency to remove that worry. For if the war had
not broken in 1914, or if it had ended without smashing the régime of
the Czar, Japan would have felt the weight once more of the Bear’s paw.

The bigger cities of Siberia are cities which have grown up round
new brick barracks. There are literally miles of these barracks all
through Siberia along the railroad. These quarters could not have been
necessary for an army of the size contemplated by this construction,
merely to keep order in Siberia.

It is plain enough that Russia contemplated revenge for the Manchurian
fiasco. The Czar undoubtedly intended to throw a vast army into
Siberia, move it against Japan, throw another army into Siberia behind
in reserve, and keep hammering Japan till the island Empire was
destroyed or rendered harmless in a military and naval way. He was
waiting for a new fleet capable of coping with Nippon’s navy. And Japan
knew it. I have doubts that she wishes to see that menace once more
in her back yard, and under the present system of competition between
nations for territory, I do not blame her for wishing to protect
herself. Her methods are another matter.



VII

FROM KHABAROVSK TO USHUMUN


A glance at the map shows that a wedge of Manchuria runs up into
Siberia. Khabarovsk is at the northern point. The Amur, flowing in
a general westerly direction, bending southerly along the northern
boundary of the Manchurian province of Tsitsihar, and then turning to
the north sharply as it comes in contact with the province of Kirin,
runs up the westerly side of the wedge, and from Khabarovsk flows
almost due north, where it empties into Amur Gulf, near the Siberian
port of Nikolaievsk, opposite the northern end of Saghalien Island.

The Amur branch of the trans-Siberian railroad crosses the Amur River
a little to the north of Khabarovsk, and almost parallels the river,
but at a considerable distance to the north of it, crossing many
tributaries of the Amur flowing from the north. The red line marking
the railroad, superimposed on a standard wall map, shows no railroad
stations till Kerak, some fifteen hundred versts west of Khabarovsk.
And the sectional Intelligence map which I had, was little better, for
the spelling of the towns was so radically different, that except for
the larger places of simple spelling, I gave up using it except to
orient myself by identifying the various small rivers.

Where the name of the town was transformed into English by our Russian
map-makers, and then the station-sign in Russian betrayed no special
affinity for the Anglicized version, I found many towns which were
apparently astray. Like the navigator who having made a landfall was
told that the port he was approaching was Karaka, said: “Impossible!
Karaka is two hundred miles to the south of here on my chart!” when
my interpreter told me that we were arriving in Poperoffka, I looked
at my map and said: “Impossible! Unless the Bolshevists have brought
Poperoffka here and tied it till they want it.”

There was a company of the Twenty-seventh at Ushumun, our farthest
north. I had a limited time in which to reach this company, and with
one train a day running, on uncertain schedule, I must needs leave
Khabarovsk to complete my itinerary in time.

But there was talk at Khabarovsk that this company would draw down
the line, though the time of its departure was uncertain, and its
destination unknown. At headquarters of the Twenty-seventh I could get
no definite information, a fact which puzzled me, until I learned that
the movement was to be directed by the Japanese commander, General
Otani, and that Colonel Styer, in command of the regiment, was waiting
for orders as to the movement.

I decided to proceed in accordance with my orders, and from detachments
of our troops seek news of the force supposed to be at Ushumun, and
either catch it, or go to where it was.

So with my interpreter, I embarked on a passenger train, late at
night. We got a “coupé” or compartment, fitted with berths for four
persons. It was a so-called “sanitary car” of the second class, and
clean and comfortable. The car appeared to be empty except for us, till
morning, when we found a Japanese captain and his orderly in the next
compartment.

At Nikolsk, on the way to Khabarovsk, and at Vladivostok, there were
American officers in the stations, members of the so-called Russian
Railway Service, known at home as the Stevens Commission. All were
expert railroad men, and telegraph operators, and their presence in
stations made travel simple enough. But after leaving Khabarovsk, I
found the stations in charge of the regular Russian staffs, and a
Japanese staff, the latter with their own telegraphic service. I had
been under the impression that every station had officers of our corps,
and as I found them missing over the Amur branch, I was puzzled, in
addition to being hampered for news and a means of keeping in touch
with my own headquarters. At that time this corps was serving only on
the Chinese Eastern line, but I did not know it.

An instance of my helplessness may be shown by the fact that the
conductor of the train told my interpreter that our car was going
through to Ushumun, and that we did not need to make any change at
Botchkereva, the junction point for the branch running south to
Blagoveschensk. We arrived at Botchkereva about daylight, and I hustled
out to the station, leaving my bedding and baggage in the car, as we
had been informed that we would have a stop of an hour to wait for a
train coming from the south.

I had so far received no information concerning the expected movement
of the force at Ushumun. I now resolved to telegraph in Russian to
Major Miller, the commander, to learn of his plans. We translated
into Russian this message: “Please advise if you will be at Ushumun
to-morrow, as I am on my way to see you.”

My interpreter and the Russian telegraph operator now engaged in a long
debate, and as I was about to inquire into the reasons for it, the
interpreter turned to me in consternation and told me that we must get
our baggage out of the car as promptly as possible.

We fled down the tracks, and while the car was already moving out,
dumped through the window without waiting to roll it, my bedding,
grips, and supplies of sugar and tea and other groceries, along with
the interpreter’s blankets and kit.

While we were thus distributing our property along the railroad,
the interpreter told me that the car was going on the train to
Blagoveschensk. He also said that he had learned of this sudden shift
of the car by overhearing the Japanese commandant’s interpreter at
the station order the Russian station-master to so switch the car,
because the Japanese captain in it desired to go to Blagoveschensk. If
that order had not been overheard, our kits, so vitally necessary to
us, would have been whisked away, locked in the compartment. And our
conductor had assured us, by all the saints in the Russian calendar,
that the car was bound for Ushumun!

While we jettisoned our property from the car-window, the Japanese
captain and his orderly looked on in mild surprise, probably sure that
we were wholly mad. In a sense we were. I refrain from including our
comprehensive and utterly complete remarks on all things pertaining to
the Russians, from the time of the first Michael Romanoff up to the
present and into the future.

Having rolled up a fine supply of particularly sharp cinders into my
bedding-roll, and placed it on the station platform, a Chinese took
a liking to it, and I discovered him making off with it. I doubt if
he understood English, but he did get the drift of my remarks, for he
dropped the roll.

Once more my interpreter resumed the debate with the Russian operator,
and the latter decided to send my message. We had a wait of ten hours
for the next train, and I expected to hear from Major Miller in time to
know whether to proceed aboard that train for Ushumun.

The station waiting-room, crowded with poor people either waiting
for trains, or simply killing time and talking politics, was a most
filthy place. According to our standards, they were in dire poverty,
but men, women and children were most contented and good-natured, and
carried on their primitive housekeeping on the floor, and the mothers
performed most intimate services for their children in full view of the
assemblage with a carelessness for the senses of their neighbors which
appalled me.

Yet no one seemed to mind. Barbaric-looking Mongols, in fur boots
and garments smelling of fish and raw fur, came and sprawled at the
long table, and demanded tea and cabbage soup, which they disposed of
like wild animals come to the kill; great hulking Russian peasants,
their heads and faces half-hidden in jungles of long, matted hair, sat
crouched on primitive stools, and ate the kernels of sunflower seeds by
the hour, throwing a handful of the seeds into their mouths, chewing
meditatively, and then ejecting the seeds in a wide semi-circle before
them on the floor.

From the window I could see the rude troikas of the farmers drive up,
with three horses abreast. They sat in their seats, while their women
disembarked from the rude carts, crawling out of the loose straw upon
which they had ridden, to unload bottles of milk, cabbage, and potatoes.

While their lords stomped about the station, drinking vodka in secret
places, from which they emerged wiping their mouths with the backs
of their hands, the women set up the farm products on boxes near the
station, and the market was open.

The mothers in the station crowds sought the milk eagerly. Such milk,
and in such bottles! The latter had evidently never seen water, but
were grimy with old and sticky milk down their sides. The wads of
paper and rudely whittled stoppers used as corks were loose, and milk
oozed up through them, to become a feeding place for millions of flies.

In some cases the milk appeared to be sold by the drink, a few kopecks
giving a man or woman the privilege of drinking from the bottle, while
the seller of the milk carefully watched the throat of the buyer and
counted the swallows. And I observed that the last swallow taken,
consisted of all the cheeks of the buyer would hold.

I saw a bottle snatched from a man, who was attempting to get more than
his money’s worth. Everybody laughed, including the bottle-snatcher,
and just to show that he was honest, and willing to pay for his little
joke, the man threw a few extra postage-stamp kopecks to the woman, and
went on his way, his shoulders heaving with mirth over his fun.

Those long hours of waiting at Botchkereva will always stick in my
memory as a period in my life when I was reduced to peasantry in
Siberia. It was cold and drear enough to make the sugarless tea from
the steaming samovar taste like nectar; I acquired a taste for greasy
cabbage soup which revealed formless chunks of meat concealed in its
foliage.

I shared with a giant Tartar my packet of Moscow biscuits, and
marvelled at the amount of nourishment he could still pick from his
teeth after he had finished his meal.

Lest I should build up the idea that travel de luxe is all that I know,
I wish to establish the fact that I know the forecastles of fishing
boats, have lived below in cattle ships, and know intimately the
foremast life of tramp steamers. I have lived among savages under most
primitive conditions, and know something of the hardships of campaign.
I spent eighty days ’tween-decks in a transport from New York to the
Philippines by way of Suez in the days when a soldier was a hard-bitted
being and knew nothing of Y. M. C. A. or Salvation Army aid. Three
times I have made the circuit of the globe, bent on seeing and admiring
and fighting, and have always felt more or less at home wherever my
campaign hat happened to hang.

But in the Maritime Provinces of Siberia I got the impression of being
on a new planet. This place seemed to me farther from civilization than
any place I had ever been, despite the fact that a railroad passed the
door of the station. The peasant of Siberia can create and endure the
vilest conditions of life I have ever witnessed.

It is said that there are queer tribes to the north, on the Siberian
littoral, who are more hidden from the world than the natives of
Central Africa or the Eskimos of the Arctic--the blacks of Africa and
the denizens of the regions near the poles have seen explorers and
traders, but civilization has never penetrated portions of the mainland
in behind Kamchatka. This territory would no doubt prove to be a rich
field to the ethnologist.

I knew that the green minarets of a church not far from the station
marked the position of the town, and I induced my orderly to take a
walk. We scouted for a bath-house, and found one. It was a primitive
structure of logs, floored with rotten adze-hewn planks which were full
of splinters, mouldy and dangerously slippery. A girl of about twelve,
clad in dirty rags, conducted us into the place. It looked as if it had
been deserted for years.

A rude fireplace, built of rocks, held the stubs of charred logs.
Above, was a sort of stone oven also made of rocks, but not mortared,
so that there were interstices through which a hand could be thrust.
It was into this oven-like place that water was thrown, once the rocks
were glowing from the fire, and thus the steam was generated for the
typical bath.

Merely out of curiosity to see what would happen, I gave the girl
a ruble and asked her to prepare the fire and bring water. Kissing
the dirty slip of paper money, she went out. In half an hour she had
provided one bucket of water and one stick of wood. In time she had a
sickly fire going. I judged that in about six hours she would have the
rocks of the oven warm enough to turn water into steam.

We went wandering about the town, which consisted of probably a
couple of hundred crude buildings, not counting the inevitable yellow
buildings near the station, provided for railroad employees. The place
seemed almost deserted, except for shivering Chinese at their open-air
counters in little kiosks at some of the street-corners. They were
huddled in these little huts, and were not at all eager to sell their
cigarettes and other goods--they most reluctantly took their hands out
of their ample sleeves, which they used as muffs. I believe they were
engaged chiefly in selling vodka.

But for all the deserted-village aspect, the place must have been well
inhabited. Under the ornately carved eaves of the buildings (which
indicate long and boresome evenings spent in whittling) there were
hanging long and deep fringes of brown salmon, which had been split
and hung up to dry. These drying fish fill the village landscapes of
Siberia in the Fall months.

The human being who craves beauty in his surroundings, even in the
midst of desolation, is to be commended. Yet when the barbarian carves
the house where he keeps his idol, or draws intricate designs on his
canoe, or tattoos his body, we say that by these things he betrays his
barbarism.

The Siberian can build a squat log house, and with strips of wood cut
into the most delicate filigree work, make the ungainly structure
dazzle your eyes in a manner only to be rivalled by a silicate
Christmas card.

At home we still have houses which appear to be the products of the
jig-saw, and look more like wedding cakes than places of residence. And
all the time in Siberian villages I was being reminded of Yonkers and
other suburban cities.

So I refrain from saying that the ornate eaves and window-trimming of
Siberian homes prove the Siberians to be barbarians. It might be better
to say that they outdo some of our own inhabitants when it comes to
being decoratively-minded.

Barbarism? We are all barbaric still, but we use different methods of
revealing it, and such things as are familiar to us, we assert go to
prove our civilization. It is always the other fellow who is barbaric
when the psychologist goes hunting for stigmata. If, for instance,
I had found no decorations on Siberian homes, I might have berated
Siberians for neglecting to beautify their surroundings. Those fretted
eaves are symbolical of the fact that the Siberian peasant will aspire
against all odds to better things, though he may be crushed to earth
generation after generation.

Yet if the time and energy represented by these exterior decorations
could have been expended on their brains, the Siberians might have
saved themselves from many of their past, present and future woes. Or
if instead of satisfying the visual yearning for beauty, the people
protected their other senses from the terrible and menacing smells
which go with their lack of sanitation, they might well do without
filigree work on their buildings. For if cleanliness be next to
godliness, the Siberian has a long and hard road to travel before he
approaches the divinity.

Late in the afternoon we heard a train puffing laboriously up the line,
and hastened back to the station. There was no reply to my telegram to
Major Miller. One of two things must be done--go on, or give up. The
telegraph operator informed me that there was no answer from Ushumun.
The Japanese captain in charge of the station came to tell me that if
I were seeking Major Miller, that officer was still at Ushumun, as his
Japanese operators had so informed him not an hour before.

The train arrived, and unloaded another throng of unkempt natives.
Those in the station clambered aboard, fighting for places in the
fourth-class cars, already over-crowded in spite of the human freight
which had disembarked.

The usual scramble for hot water for tea-kettles took place; men bought
double handfuls of red salmon-eggs, big as peas, and giving off an
odour similar to a glue factory. Caviare? No, they have never heard of
caviare. Eekrah, they call this vile mess.

The milk market did a lively business, while the engine loaded wood,
in the leisurely manner with which all such work is done. The train
crew abandoned the train, and made an onslaught on the cabbage soup
and tea--and talk! such a flood of talk they produced with the Russian
staff of the station!

With my baggage stowed in a crowded fourth-class car, holding some
forty persons each determined to keep inviolate the few inches of
seating space already pre-empted, I got into the open air again, and
attracted by the clamor of the railroad men in the station, I got my
interpreter to translate some of the conversation, which, by the vigor
shown by the talkers, must indicate something afoot which would stand
out in Russian history. Perhaps a new revolution, or the Czar had come
back to the throne.

This was the burden of their excited discussion:

The engine is bad.

When will these accursed Japanese go away?

The weather is good.

I am very thirsty.

I have a lazy Chinese for a helper.

Ivan, who worked at Nikolsk, is sick.

Do you remember when Peter fell in the river?

The tea is good.

I will see my wife when I go back to First River.

My mother’s mother had a boil ten years ago--she cured it with ashes.

What time is it? Never mind, what does it matter?

My brother’s cow has a calf.

And the world shuddering about what would happen to the Russian people,
groping amid the ruins of a shattered nation! Massacres in Petrograd
and Moscow, in Samara and Perm, Vladivostok in control of Allied
troops, wreck and ruin, refugees and desolation, unlimited numbers of
factions quarreling to see who would pick the bones of the country,
intrigue, murder and sudden death stalking through city and town, the
very railroad on which they worked ready to lie down and die in its
tracks, their wages six months overdue, and no telling what would
happen to-morrow to themselves or their families--these people calmly
discussed the birth of a relative’s calf!

And I, with several thousand other American citizens, had cast aside
all the things we held dear, to come half way round the world and fight
to save Russia! The American people poured men and money, to help these
people, and for a long time will be paying the bills. But the Russian
worried only about the temperature of his tea, and wondered why we
should worry at all about him or his affairs. And the railroad men in
Siberia represent the best type of working men, far above the simple
peasant in mental advancement.

With a similar state of affairs at home, can we imagine the crew of one
of our passenger trains finding nothing to discuss but trivial personal
affairs? Yet we persisted in considering the Russian people on a par
with our own in seeking enlightened government and an orderly condition
of life, once they had rid themselves of the oppressing Czar and his
bureaucrats.

In due time, our train moved out. The car windows were sealed tightly
against any outside air. The three decks of sleeping shelves were
filled with men, women and children, so completely that from floor to
ceiling there was a solid block of humanity. I managed to secure a
shelf for my blankets, by watching those who prepared to detrain at
stations ahead, and taking the space before the new passengers got in.

The narrow aisle was so piled with cases and bags of merchandise and
personal effects, that it was almost impossible to get in or out of
the car. And there were battles royal at every station, as one mob
tried to get out while the other mob fought its way inside. There were
many Chinese, peddling with packs, carrying salt, tea, sugar and such
necessities, and selling them at exorbitant prices. Instead of sugar,
there was also a cheap, highly-colored candy, used to sweeten tea--and
give it most outlandish flavors.

These speculating Chinese were most rude and insolent to the Siberians.
I saw a pair of them drive a woman and her two children from a seat,
and leave them standing, in order to get the seat for themselves. A
young Cossack officer hove them out bodily, but they ran after the
train and rescued their baggage. They who had been so overbearing with
a helpless woman, gave a fine exhibition of cringing when they in turn
found themselves in the presence of a strong and ruthless personality.

The provodnik distributed candles as darkness came on, and we rattled
along through the night at about ten miles an hour, slowing down
discreetly to cross temporary bridges, which had been built where the
Bolshevists, as they fled before the Allies, had blown out the original
structures.

The candles increased the richness of our air-mixture, and as they
burned low and guttered smoking tallow over bare feet of sleepers,
the odor of the salmon-roe, cached in tin cans about the car, almost
lost its lusty pervasiveness. I awoke at about midnight, and though
the candles were still glimmering faintly and producing a nut-flavored
smoke, the salmon-roe still held its own, and asserted its presence
unmistakably.

The cause of my waking was a burly Chinese, who mistaking me for a
peasant as I lay on my shelf rolled in my blankets, took the liberty
of heaving several of his heavy boxes in upon me, in an attempt to
discourage me from occupying so much space. My reading of Darwin made
me realize that it was a case of the survival of the fittest. I felt
particularly fit, and when that Chinese had eliminated himself from
the car, along with his baggage, I went back to sleep. I forgot in the
meantime the necessity for maintaining cordial international relations
with China, and made it a purely personal matter.

Incidentally, it must be the boldest spirits among the Chinese who
dared travel in that part of Siberia with anything of value. I was
awakened later that night by a great to-do in the car, when Cossacks
at a station went through the train and looked all the passengers
over, including baggage. They took two Chinese out of the car, with
some bulky bundles. The bundles proved to be full of packets of
paper rubles. The Cossacks debated among themselves as to whether so
much wealth was not in itself evidence of criminality, and favored
confiscating the money. How much was given up, I do not know, but once
more the Chinese came back, settled themselves for sleep upon their
shelf and we rolled merrily on.

Toward morning I was awakened once more by a big peasant who stepped
upon my face, in order to climb to the top of the car. I watched him
mount upward, till he was in reach of a ventilator, and I came to the
conclusion that I had misjudged peasants when it came to desiring fresh
air--it was obvious that this man desired to tamper with the ventilator
in the ceiling so that it would provide a better opening to let out our
bad odors.

But instead, before my horrified eyes, he closed it! And not satisfied
with its natural tightness, he stuffed into it a Russian newspaper in
which had been wrapped salmon-eggs! I roused myself, dressed, and went
out on the car-platform in the crisp, cool air where I waited for the
sun to rise over the bleak hills.

Before long, we came to a small yellow depot, with this signboard
upon it, as near as I can reproduce with Roman letters: “YXXYMYH”--it
was Ooshoomoon, or Ushumun, the y’s distributed through its system
providing the oo sounds in Russian.

Not an American soldier in sight. We learned from the telegraph
operator that Major Miller and his force had left the evening before
in a troop-train, and had passed us during the night, going in the
direction from which we came.

As for my telegram to Major Miller, the operators had never heard of
it. I suppose the operator at Botchkereva had pocketed my rubles, and
let it go at that. Anyhow, that is the most brilliant procedure I can
ascribe to him. He was either a fool or a knave. With the people then
operating the trans-Siberian railroad, the theory that they mask their
knavery under stupidity has proven true with me, in the long run.
By appearing stupid, and so making fools of the smart Americanskys,
they prove their superiority to us, according to their Asiatic style
of reasoning. They would rather pocket our money than to show to us
something in the nature of human intelligence.

But my missing Major Miller was not vital, except in so far as I was
concerned with the element of time. We got our baggage out of the car,
and faced the prospect of spending the night and most of the next day
in the primitive little station, waiting for the single train running
daily, which would take us back toward Khabarovsk.



VIII

ON THE BACK TRAIL


The train which had brought us to Ushumun pulled out to the east,
leaving me sitting on my bedding-roll smoking a cigarette in the frosty
morning, while my interpreter went to the station restaurant to ask if
they had any eggs, and if they had, would they please fry them “sunny
side up.”

Physically and mentally, inside and out, I was flat. My love for
Siberia and the Siberians was at its lowest ebb--I would have sold
the whole country to the Cossacks at a bargain price, if I had owned
it that morning. I yearned for the trenches--any place, where if a
man displayed a copious vocabulary, its full depth of feeling and
expression might be appreciated.

A Japanese civilian, in a bluish sort of suit, which reminded me of
chauffeurs in New York who buy cast-off livery to wear as a uniform,
drew near, and, so to speak, wagged his tail. (Later I learned that
his outward aspect was similar to that of Japanese officers on secret
service).

He spoke fairly good English, but managed to maintain an abject
and apologetic manner. He informed me that he had been a barber in
Vladivostok, the purpose of which remark I could not fathom--either
he was attracted by the glamor of a two-day beard of reddish hue which
I wore, or he mentioned Vladivostok to account for his having learned
English. His progress in the language must have been rapid if he
learned English there from the American troops, for up to about a month
before, one might have as well gone to Timbuctu to acquire our language.

He squatted on his heels before me, and asked for a match. He being
the most amiable object on the landscape, I did not resent his
presence, but gave him the match, and he lit a limp cigarette with
great solemnity. I could fairly hear him think of how to attack me as a
problem and wring from me the most possible information.

Finally, after considerable discussion of the most commonplace weather,
he got down to business. I must say that if he revealed the teachings
of the Japanese military secret service, that organization is far
behind the times. It was counter-espionage at its worst.

He wanted to know first where I was going. I told him that I intended
to stay permanently in those parts, which put him in something
resembling a panic. He recovered in time to ask me what part of town I
intended to reside in. As I could see no town, I told him I intended to
live in the railway station. He nearly fell off his heels, so overcome
was he--for which I do not blame him, considering the station.

He assured me dismally that there was a Japanese officer, and several
Japanese soldiers, already living in the station, and that there was
not room left for so much as a flea’s brother-in-law. I told him that
my orders were to live in that section, and I intended to do so if I
had to sleep on the counter where the samovar stood in the daytime.

Now orders to a Japanese soldier, are not merely orders as we
understand them--they are sacred revelations emanating from the most
holy place in Japan and the heavens above. He understood that I was
going to live in that station, even if I had to pitch out a whole
Japanese division. He almost wept over the prospect, but borrowing
one of my cigarettes, which I had most carelessly exposed, he got off
his heels, and departed sadly to that part of the station where the
Japanese officer in charge cooked his rice.

Presently the “barber” was back, now with a Japanese captain, who
approached me as if I were a divinity. I let him approach close before
I “saw” him, and then leaped to my feet and came to a most dramatic
salute. He beamed upon me, and after we had got done bowing and
scraping, the barber announced proudly that the Japanese officer had
come to pay his respect to the American officer. I acknowledged his
kindness with a bow that near broke my car-stiffened back.

The barber, who refrained now from sitting on his heels, and betrayed a
most suspicious desire to look military, said that he would be glad to
interpret for us, and said that the Japanese captain was most sad over
my fate--I must have the steel of Samurai in my backbone to face so
calmly an existence which would undoubtedly wreck my constitution, if
it did not result in my death. I replied that I was a soldier, and was
tempted to say that so far as I could observe, the Japanese captain was
bearing up most wonderfully under a similar mode of life. But one must
be extremely careful in joking with Japanese.

But I knew that in order to save my face when I took the first train
bound south, I had better not carry my simulation of a desire for
permanent residence, too far. So I became disconsolate, as they went on
to tell of the discomforts awaiting me.

The Japanese captain took me to the little shed adjoining the station,
where he lived. He had improvised a shelf a few inches from the dirt
floor, and with a fire in a bucket, called it home. He gave me saki, in
a thimble-like glass, and some raw fish. And he smiled and smiled as I
said I could never endure such quarters. No doubt he has made a report,
in which he cites the fact that American officers will not willingly
endure privations on campaign. Thus do the nations get false ideas
about one another.

I expressed a desire to get out of Ushumun as quickly as possible. The
Japanese captain beamed. He informed me that a Japanese troop-train
was coming down the line, and would pass through there in a couple of
hours. If I desired to travel away on it, he could probably arrange
with the train commander for transportation. Which he did.

So when a train with a Japanese battery of artillery arrived, I saw
my friend in serious consultation with the train commander, and I was
invited to the fourth-class coach on the rear, filled with officers and
soldiers, and given a section, the soldiers being put out in box-cars
with the horses and other men.

I do not care to analyze the motives which led the Japanese captain to
hurry me out of Ushumun. It was obvious that he desired me far away.
And my expressed intention of staying there, only increased his worry.
If I had told him I intended leaving by the next train, no doubt I
would have spent that day and the next night in discomfort in Ushumun
station. But it is not in me to look a gift-horse in the mouth.

The section in the car assigned to me and my soldier-interpreter
provided wooden shelves for six persons, the upper ones so arranged
that they could be folded up out of the way. I begged the train
commander to put four of the six non-commissioned officers who had been
ousted for my benefit, back in their quarters, but he replied through
his interpreter, and with profound bows, that the entire section
was mine. And the hospitality accorded me in that car will never be
forgotten. On that trip I came nearer to being royal than I ever expect
to be again.

Knowing something of the administration of a battery of light
artillery, I was most interested in seeing how horses and men were
cared for by the Japanese. They attended to their duties as if work
were sacred rites. They messed their men, fed and watered their horses,
not merely well, but as if the fate of the Japanese Empire depended
upon the utmost efficiency of every cog in that particular machine.

The simplicity of their messing arrangements for the men, in comparison
with our own army in trains, is remarkable. We have to provide
kitchen-cars, fitted up with field ranges, meat, bread, potatoes,
canned tomatoes, coffee, and provide buckets of hot water for washing
mess-kits. It is like a primitive travelling hotel, and our men go
to the car to have their meals dealt out by the cooks. And on the
trans-Siberian line, the road-bed was so rough, and the cars so light
and the wheels so flattened by bad usage, it was frequently impossible
to boil water over our stoves while under way. This necessitated stops
en route to prepare meals and serve them, and once a train has lost its
right of way by stopping in a siding, it may mean hours before the line
ahead is clear of regular traffic, so that the troop-train may go on.

The mess-kit of the Japanese soldier is a metal container, about the
size and shape of a case for large field-glasses. The top clamps on so
that it is water-tight. A handful of dry rice, a little water, a fire
by the track, and the mess-kits are thrown into the blaze.

In a short time, the soldier’s meal is ready, and after he has eaten
as much as he wants, the remainder is kept hot by closing the lid.
I have seen Japanese prepare their meals during a ten-minute stop by
such methods. And each soldier, on the march, can carry enough dry,
light rice, to last him several days. His columns are not hampered by
the slow progress of heavy ration-wagons, his food is not in danger of
being cut off by enemy, his service of supply presents no problem. The
swift movements of the Japanese armies during the Russo-Japanese war
were due to the simplicity of their transport.

On this trip I came to a full realization of the hatred held for the
Japanese by the Siberian populace. It is hatred remaining as a result
of the Russo-Japanese war; it is a hatred engendered by fear of the
Japanese, and their ambitions regarding the future of Siberia; it is
a hatred deeply-embedded in the hearts of the Russians, and of such
intensity that the two races cannot hope ever to mingle with any amity.

I found it embarrassing, too; to stop in a station, and be recognized
as an “Americansky” and receive the smiles and open admiration of the
people, while my hosts were covertly, and sometimes openly, sneered at,
and disrespectful and insulting remarks about “monkey-faces” came out
of groups of peasants, made it apparent to my hosts that I was much
in favor with the people, and that the Japanese were regarded as if
they were rattle-snakes. It must have hurt the sensitive pride of the
Japanese, but I must give them credit for good discipline, and splendid
self-control, in the face of such treatment.

Had I not been present, it is likely that the Russians would have been
more cautious; as it was, my presence only subjected the Japanese to
insults which they might not have had to endure in the presence of a
witness. But they went on about their business, as if their superiority
to the Siberians was something which was beyond question--and perhaps
their attitude held something of a “biding my time,” for a suitable
revenge.

Standing outside the car one afternoon, beside the Japanese troop-train
commander, I saw a Japanese soldier coming toward the train with two
large buckets, a Siberian peasant following him closely, and calling
out in protest. The soldier, aware of the fact that he was under the
eyes of his commander, made no reply, but came on. Presently, as the
Siberian came close enough to recognize me as an American, he darted
up behind the soldier, and pulled from one of the buckets, a head of
cabbage. The train commander looked on, but made no comment, though it
was obvious that the Japanese soldier was stealing the cabbage. Under
similar circumstances, an American soldier would have been reprimanded
on the spot.

The Siberian put the cabbage on the ground, and emboldened by the
passive attitude of the Japanese, once more ran in pursuit, and
extracted from the other bucket, another cabbage. Having emptied the
buckets of the forager, he departed with his cabbages. I wondered if he
would have been allowed to regain his property if I had not been with
the Japanese.

In this connection, peasants always came to my interpreter with
complaints against the Japanese. But our orders were to give no heed
to such complaints--in fact, not to listen to them. There were tales
of murder, robbery, outrage, of isolated districts in which Japanese
soldiers drove the people from their homes, and took the dwellings as
quarters, confiscating all money and property in possession of the
people. I can only cite the fact that these stories were told; the
truth of them is a matter I am not competent to discuss.

Early in the morning we were back in Botchkereva, and stopped there
while the horses were fed and watered. I went to the station restaurant
for tea. There I found a young lieutenant of the Twenty-seventh
Infantry, who had left Khabarovsk two days later than I did, in an
effort to find Major Miller’s force.

His name was D----, and he was shivering from the cold, for it was not
time to begin the sale of tea and food, though the girls were sleepily
washing the floors, and firing up the samovars. A throng of refugees
were standing about, patiently waiting for the hour to arrive when they
might get something hot.

My interpreter and I were thoroughly chilled, but no amount of money
would induce the slatternly girls to give us even hot water from the
samovars--it lacked a half an hour before they would begin to serve
anything. I looked at the men, women and children huddled together
in corners, some of them shivering so violently that their teeth
chattered, and poor, under-nourished and illy-clad children crying from
cold. Why the attendants must observe such regular hours, under such
conditions, I could not understand, and never will. It may be that it
was a demonstration of the “rosy conditions of Soviet Russia,” which an
American referred to recently in a speech at Madison Square Garden, New
York, at which the beauties of the Bolshevist régime were extolled. But
I wish to call attention to the fact that those who did the extolling
of the Bolshevist régime were not enjoying that régime in Russia--they
were enduring the hardships of the “capitalistic United States.”

The solution of the mystery as to why shivering and hungry people in
that station could not buy tea from bubbling samovars till the clock
struck a certain hour, probably lies in the fact that the attendants
were “free,” and members of a Soviet. When it comes to autocracy, the
peasant of Russia can outdo all autocrats. And curiously enough, they
are most cruel to their own kind. If a pair of Cossack officers had
come into that station, and demanded tea forthwith, I believe they
would have had it, regardless of the time. The fact that the samovars
were steaming would have been reason enough for serving the tea.

More out of curiosity than necessity, I made every plea to get tea; my
train would go on shortly; I would give fifty rubles for three glasses
of tea; I was ill; I must have tea then, or go without it all day.
None of these arguments got the tea.

So having a supply of dry tea of my own, my interpreter took the cups
from our canteens, and putting them over the little fires of the
Japanese soldiers alongside the track, brewed our own warming beverage
for breakfast, and invited D---- to join us.

Once he had driven the chills from his body, he told me that he had sat
up in the station all night, only pretending to nap, because he had a
suitcase full of rubles to pay off the men of Major Miller’s force and
was afraid it might be stolen. And in order to divert suspicion from
the suitcase, he had thrown it carelessly in a nearby corner, as if it
did not matter what became of it, though he kept a wary eye upon it.

He said it was likely that the train to take him back to Khabarovsk
might not arrive till that night. I immediately asked the commander of
the train if I might take D---- with me, and he gladly assented. So
when the train moved out, D---- shared a lower shelf with me.



IX

A RED SWEATER AND THE GENERAL


It happened that I wanted to get off at a little station, called Bira.
And I understood that the Japanese troop-train would stop there to
feed and water, making a sufficient stop for me to visit the company
of American soldiers quartered in box-cars on a siding. But we whisked
through Bira at an early hour, and we were well down the line toward
Khabarovsk, before I learned of the change of plans of the train
commander.

But I planned to leave the train the next morning, and double back,
visiting our detachments on the way. Besides, I wished to locate a
certain English-speaking Russian, who wore a red sweater and made it
his business to work or loaf wherever we had soldiers and to mingle
with them to strike up acquaintances. This man had worked several years
in the United States, and he was busy at his special propaganda among
our troops.

It was not so much his work and spying which I wished to investigate,
but I was interested in his methods, and I wished to determine if
possible who was supplying him with money and who was directing his
efforts. He was not merely a man who professed a dislike for the
United States, but he evidently belonged to a coterie which was well
instructed as to how to build up an enmity between the Russians and the
Americans.

I had talked with this man twice, or rather he had sought me out and
tested my knowledge on what the United States intended to do in Russia.
I had discussed matters with him as if he were what he pretended to
be--an uneducated working man. As a matter of fact he had been a lawyer
in Michigan, making a poor living among Russian and other immigrants,
and none too ethical in his ways of making money.

Such detachment commanders as I had talked with on the way up, when
asked as to suspicious characters, all declared that they had noticed
no persons who appeared to be worthy of attention--and all told me of
Red Sweater. The usual story about him was about this:

“There is a man in a red sweater who worked here on the track a few
days, with the section hands. He talks English. He hung around our men,
generally showing up at mess-time, and asking for some American food.
He has ‘joshed’ the men about being in this country, but they don’t pay
any attention to him. He finally went away, and we haven’t seen him for
a couple of weeks. But he doesn’t amount to anything--just kind of a
poor simpleton, who thinks he knows it all because he can talk a little
English.”

That sounded reasonable enough the first time I heard it. The next
time I heard it, I began to take notice, and a day or so later, Red
Sweater attached himself to my train in the capacity of a provodnik, a
man who keeps up the fires, pretends to sweep the car, and gives out
the candles.

Red Sweater worked first on my interpreter, and then felt his way along
with me in English. At that time, I was confident that our expedition
would take such action as was necessary for the good of Russia, and
in time proceed to establish a new Russian front against Germany in
association with all the available forces of our Allies. Of course,
this was some time before the armistice, or early in October. But I
professed to be entirely out of sympathy with any American action in
Russia. That attitude was far more likely to bring to my attention such
Russians, or enemy agents, as secretly opposed us, than an attitude
of desiring aggressive action by my country. And in their eagerness
to find an American who upheld their contention, Bolshevist agents
and others, walked into the little trap and revealed their lines
of propaganda. It is remarkable how the person who appears to be a
malcontent, attracts the professional agitators--they seem overjoyed
at the prospect of making a convert, or in having their reasoning and
actions justified by others not in their circle.

And Red Sweater was dangerous, not because of the falsity of the things
he said, but on account of the truths he uttered, and his subtlety
in perverting truth to fit his ideas and theories. It was probably
such chaps, working among our troops in Archangel, which caused the
reported “mutiny” in our forces there--just “kind of a poor simpleton,”
saying silly things, and not worthy of attention.

Red Sweater was clever in his ways. He made no statements on his own
responsibility, but always quoted the “Russian people.” As I listened
to his arguments, I was led to believe that he must have held a
plebecite which included every inhabitant of Siberia and European
Russia, and to him alone, had been revealed the desires and intentions
of two hundred million inhabitants.

“The Russian people do not trust the United States,” he said glibly,
after he was assured that I was “safe.” “You are a capitalistic nation,
and they know it. You say you are friends of the Russian people but the
Russian people ask: ‘Why are you fighting Russian people near Archangel
if you are our friends?’

“You are not fighting the Russian people here. They ask why not? And
their answer is: ‘The capitalists of the United States do not fight us
here, because they wish to steal our trans-Siberian railroad.’

“The Russian people say they have freed themselves of capitalists. The
United States say they are free people--but the capitalists of the
United States have conscripted the ‘free’ working men of the United
States, and compelled them to come here to Russia to fight the free
Russian working men. That is what the Russian people say. You think you
are serving your country by being here. The Russian people say you are
serving your capitalists, to again enslave the Russian working men.
The Russian people say they have a right to run their own country in
their own way, but the capitalists of the United States send an army of
conscripts over here to prevent the Russian people from keeping their
freedom. If the working men of the United States were satisfied with
their country, would they want a Russian army to go over there, and
tell them how to run it? But the Russian people know that the people
of the United States did not send this conscript army over here--the
capitalists did that. And for that reason the Russian people do not
want to fight you--they do not want you to fight them. Japan and
England do not want a republic here--they want to put the Czar back.
Both those countries have thrones, and their rulers do not want to see
new republics. And the reason they want to see the Czar back here,
is that they can make secret treaties with the Czar, but they could
not make secret treaties if we had a government of the people. The
Russian people say the American capitalists sent an army here to help
Japan and England put the Czar back on his throne. If he is put back
on the throne, and partly by your help, are you sure that the Czar,
the Emperor of Japan, and the King of England, will not combine, and
some day send their armies to force the people of the United States
into having an Emperor? The Russian people say to you: ‘Comrades, we
understand. You, too, must overthrow your capitalists, as we have done,
and control your own country for the benefit of the working men.’ The
Russian people say you are not free yet--no man is free, if he can be
conscripted for the benefit of capitalists, and sent to the other side
of the world to fight the working men of another country.”

And some officers thought Red Sweater did not “amount to anything.”
This was because they had no way of knowing that his itinerary included
every station where American troops might be found, and because he was
clever enough to look like a poor tramp, and wise enough to act the
fool when the occasion demanded that he conceal his purposes.

He deserted my train after he had traveled far enough to plant his
insidious propaganda in my mind. The next time I saw him, he did his
best to get me to ask the Japanese troop-train commander to let him
ride with us. I did no such thing, whereupon he concealed himself
between the cars, and I was now interested to see at what point he
would leave us. This was one of the reasons I was willing enough to
pass through Bira.

The night following our passage through Bira, I got to sleep about ten
o’clock. At a quarter to eleven I woke with a start, for no apparent
reason. D---- was sleeping soundly beside me, and my interpreter was
snoring on an upper shelf. The train was toiling up hills slowly, and
then dashing down the other side recklessly, or so it seemed to me.
Many bridges had been blown out by the Bolshevists, and small rivers
and gullies were crossed by the railroad over temporary trackage, laid
on amazing grades, and poorly ballasted, for the purpose of making
detours around the wrecked bridges.

I felt the train making painful progress up a slope. The engine puffed
laboriously. We reached the crest of the hill, and suddenly began to go
down at a rapidly increasing rate, and at the same time I missed the
noise of the engine, some thirty or forty cars ahead. Our car was the
last on the train.

There was a terrific crash, far ahead, and then every moveable thing
on our car started for the front end. My interpreter was hurled off
his shelf amid all the cooking utensils and food in the car, D---- was
slammed up against the side of the section, and I skidded on my elbows
out on the floor, barely avoiding taking an iron support which held the
shelf above me, off with my head.

The car swung round sidewise and lurched downward, and amid the sound
of rending timbers, appeared to be headed for a river below. I was sure
we had gone through a blown-out bridge.

But the derailed car settled over gently on its side, and came to rest.
We got out as quickly as possible, not sure that the wrecked train
was safe from attack by Bolshevists. Under a cold, clear sky, we saw
that the train had been shattered in the center, the wreck occurring
on a sharp down grade between the banks of a cut. Several of the small
and light box-cars, containing horses and Japanese soldiers, had been
smashed, but the damage was not great, due to the fact that the shock
had been absorbed by the cars bulging upward into an inverted V. The
Japanese were busily engaged in getting out horses, and in checking up
their men, to ascertain if any had been killed. There were a few minor
injuries.

It was too cold to linger outside long in my pajamas, and I went back
to the car, and finding our electric flashlights, sorted ourselves
out and went back to sleep. In the morning we learned just what had
happened.

The train had broken open in the middle at the crest of the hill.
The engine, with the forward half, had run down into the valley over
temporary trackage. Then the engineer discovered what had happened.
The tail end of his train was just gaining headway over the crest, and
coming down with increasing speed. So, in order to go back and get
it, he reversed his engine and came back at top speed, meeting us in
the cut when we had acquired good speed from the descending grade. It
was a splendid example of how not to recapture the runaway half of a
troop-train.

[Illustration: RUSSIAN SOLDIERS CLEARING THE TRACK AFTER A WRECK ON THE
TRANS-SIBERIAN]

[Illustration: JAPANESE OFFICERS TALKING WITH AN AMERICAN OFFICER]

That is an impartial description of what happened. But there was every
reason to believe that the engineer, working with a confederate aboard
the train, knew the train would be split at the proper place to allow
the engine to get away, and then come back with the most disastrous
results. And I believe that Red Sweater split the train, for when a
wrecking train came the next morning to clear the tracks, the engine
of our train and such cars as would travel, going ahead to the next
station to allow the wreckers to get in at the smashed cars, Red
Sweater rode away with the first load of battered cars pulled out.

During that day, and the best part of that night, the Russian wrecking
crew worked and talked and drank tea, on a job that would have taken an
American wrecking crew, two hours. Before a pair of broken trucks could
be ditched, there must be a discussion which suggested the Duma in
action against the Czar. But the Japanese, stoical and silent, were not
fooled--they recognized as fine a piece of sabotage as had ever been
produced.

When we resumed our journey, we three were nearly famished for want of
food. We had brewed tea, and consumed a string-load of pretzels, and
as the Japanese had not noticed that we were short of supplies, we had
refrained from asking for any of their food.

Train schedules were so upset, that I figured I might as well go on to
Khabarovsk, and get the next train out again to Bira. In the meantime
I might pick up the trail of Red Sweater among the railway detachments
strung along the line.

So we made a long stop at a station called Poperoffka, some fifteen
versts from Khabarovsk. There was a platoon of Americans there,
commanded by a lieutenant, quartered in box-cars. D----, my interpreter
and myself lost no time in getting to the kitchen-car, where we bought
canned tomatoes, potatoes, bread and coffee, and bribed the cook to
prepare a meal.

There we learned that the Commanding General had passed through,
bound north in a private car, with a private engine. And just as I
had attacked a mess-kit full of corned beef, my first square meal in
a week, soldiers came to inform the lieutenant in command, that the
Commanding General was returning, and that he was leaving his private
car with his staff.

General Graves was making a tour of inspection. He visited our
kitchen-car, with a dozen or more officers. He was puzzled because
he had just visited a station where the commanding officer had not
heard of my presence in that part of the country. He was very wroth
because he had found some commanding officers away from their commands
on hunting excursions, and as it turned out, one of these officers
had talked to me on the up trip, and later left in command one of his
subalterns who had recently joined from Vladivostok, and naturally
could not know I was prowling about in that part of Siberia.

I preferred to leave General Graves puzzled as to ignorance at that
place about me, for if I had made too full an explanation, the officer
concerned, already in the bad graces of his Commanding General,
might have been disciplined. And General Graves, travelling in a
special train with right of way over everything, appeared to have no
appreciation of the difficulty of travel on intermittent passenger
trains. And some members of the personal staff, accustomed to travel
in such special trains, persisted in regarding the trans-Siberian
line as if it were part of, say, the New York Central system. Being a
Commanding General has its disadvantages under such circumstances.

General Graves suggested that I go back to Bira. As I had lost
considerable sleep and worn out several time-tables figuring out how
I could go back to Bira, I was in hearty accord with the General’s
wishes on the subject. And I eventually carried them out. And certain
officers, fully aware of what had happened, told the General some time
later that trains on the trans-Siberian line could not be trusted to
make the time between different points which the time-tables promised.

And up to the time I left Siberia, those in the know generally greeted
me at mess, with: “Go back to Bira,” which always gave us a good
laugh--at my expense.

And by going back to Bira, I lost the trail of Red Sweater, for the
last sight I had of him, was from that kitchen-car at Popperoffka. He
was evidently trailing General Graves’s special train.



X

OVER THE AMUR RIVER ON HORSEBACK


When I left Bira for Khabarovsk, I was without an interpreter, for my
soldier had gone on to Khabarovsk from Popperoffka, ill. The train was
so crowded that there was no room for me in any of the cars, and all I
could do was load my heavy bedding-roll and grip on between the cars,
and then stand outside with it.

The trip took all day, and till two the next morning. The weather was
too cold for comfort, despite my heavy sheepskin coat. But a provodnik
insisted that I share his compartment.

Except for a little Russian, our conversation was limited, but all
through the day and night we entertained each other, exchanging English
and Russian lessons. He claimed to be a Pole from Warsaw, spoke German,
Polish and Russian, and his eagerness to learn English was pathetic.
He asserted that his one ambition was to get to America, and said he
had almost enough rubles to pay his passage, although it developed that
he did not know the price of a ticket from Vladivostok to Japan, and
thence to San Francisco. He probably had more than enough money to pay
his passage, for the lowly provodnik absorbs much money and smuggles
many commodities, from sugar to opium. And many provodniks are German
or Bolshevist agents--they make an admirable system for “underground”
lines of communication.

The fact that I had to watch my baggage kept me from getting meals from
the stations along the line. But the provodnik filled his tea-kettle
with hot water, we brewed tea, and he came in with a monstrous loaf of
bread and big consignment of reddish salmon-roe. I never intended to
eat the latter stuff, for I had no gas-mask, but when my hospitable
provodnik plastered an inch of the stuff on a slice of bread and handed
it to me, I ate the eekrah to get the bread. I enjoyed it quite as much
as the baked sheep’s eyes once served me by an Arab in the desert.

We reached Khabarovsk at two in the morning, our passenger train
coming into the yards in such fashion that some six freight trains
were between us and the station, which is generally the case. As the
freights were being shifted about continuously, it was impossible to
attempt to go under them with my baggage, and when, after an hour’s
wait, I got a porter, it appeared that we would spend the remainder
of the night running round the tracks of the yard. For having gone a
quarter of a mile to get round a line of freight cars on one track,
another train on the next track would come rolling down between us and
the station. It was nearly daylight when we got out of that moving
labyrinth.

And the single drosky-driver at the station, knowing that he had a
monopoly on my business, for all the others had departed with incoming
passengers, demanded sixty rubles to take me to the American post.

Without argument, I piled my baggage in, clambered aboard, and then
paid him his proper twenty rubles at the end of the journey. He did
not demur--such methods proved to him that I was a personage not to be
trifled with. Had I given him thirty, he would have chased me all night
to get the other thirty, for to display weakness by over-payment puts
one down as a person who can be brow-beaten and robbed. Generosity in
Siberia stamps the stranger as a fool. And as a matter of fact, I paid
him double rate, for the Imperial rubles I gave him were worth about
twice the local paper money.

There was still a detachment beyond the Amur River, about twenty versts
away, which I had not visited. Colonel Styer gladly provided me with
a horse, and a mounted orderly to ride to this station, saving me
the two days necessary to make the trip by trains. And the Chaplain
of the Twenty-seventh, a hard-riding and hard-praying Southerner
representative of our best type of army chaplains, said that he would
go with me.

The trip was arranged while I was dining as the guest of Colonel Styer
and Chaplain W----.

Once more I was in quarters with Lieutenant-Colonel Morrow, the
regimental captain-adjutant, S----, and a second lieutenant, W----,
who had been commissioned from the ranks after several years in the
regular army. The building was large and roomy, having formerly been
the residence of a Russian officer and his family while a regiment of
Siberian Rifles had been stationed in Khabarovsk in the old days. We
used their silver and furniture, their rich table covers, candelabra
and samovars.

The walls of the house are four feet thick, with hollow spaces between
connected with the flues of the many great stoves, in such way that
the smoke and heat from the fires circulate between the walls before
escaping from the chimneys. Fifty and sixty degrees below zero are said
to be usual winter temperature there.

A stove in Siberia is not a stove at all, to use a Hibernism, but a
sort of tile temple built into the wall, reaching from the floor to
the ceiling. The front of this structure merges with the surface of
the wall, and the tiles being of various colors and designs, they add
to the interior decorations. And it is startling to come in of a cool
evening and touch a wall hot enough to suggest frying eggs upon it. My
memories of that house are permeated by a kindly old Russian _moujik_,
with long reddish beard, long hair, wrinkled and blinking eyes.
Whenever one had occasion to pass him, he abased himself--he was a most
pathetic demonstration of the Russian style of turning service into
servitude. He seemed to spend all the day and night stuffing wood into
the fireboxes.

An old soldier who had been with Colonel Morrow had charge of the
servants; a soldier cook prepared the meals, and the house work was
done by the blond _moujik_, a Russian woman and her daughter. It was a
happy place--what the veteran regular calls “old army stuff,” meaning
that everybody begins by assuming that the other fellow is a gentleman,
knows his business, and attends to it without attempting to look, talk
or stand in imitation of von Hindenburg. These latter traits afflict
some persons new to the uniform of an officer, because many young men
gained commissioned ranks without going through the “shavetail” period
of their training. This term comes from the old style of shaving the
tail of a mule new to the army, which serves as sort of a warning
signal to such as may have dealings with him, that the mule has not
acquired proper discipline and a regard for the feelings of others.

And no matter how high a cadet may stand in his class at West Point,
when he comes to the army, he is a “shavetail officer,” for about a
year, and admits that he has a lot to learn about army ways. This is
one of the reasons why the old regular officers, and the officer fresh
from civil life, have not always gotten on well together in the new
army.

I do not always side with the regular. The regular army had a splendid
opportunity to send back to civil life several thousands of temporary
officers with friendly feelings for the regulars, and an appreciation
of the professional training of the regular. Instead, in too many
cases, the regular officers went out of their ways to point the fact
that the new officer was only an amateur at the game of soldiering. The
new officers, with a few exceptions, never pretended to be anything
else. They wanted to learn, but they resented being humiliated while
learning.

As it happened, the regular army of England was forced to enjoy a
monopoly of the fighting in the early days of the war, with the result
that the regular officers were almost entirely wiped out.

But one foolish amateur in an American expedition generally resulted in
all his fellows being judged by his inefficiency and his foolishness.
The regular army would not wish to be judged by its worst types. And
I refer to these things here to point the fact that if our regular
officers had shown the same spirit toward the strangers that Colonel
Styer and the officers of the Twenty-seventh United States Infantry
showed to the temporary officers of the Siberian Expedition, the
regular army would hold the respectful deference of those men who have
quit the officer’s uniform for civilian garb.

Before we could cross the Amur to visit the detachment near Khabarovsk,
it was necessary for me to have a pass for the big railroad bridge
over the river, issued by the headquarters of General Oi. S----, the
adjutant, arranged it for me through the Japanese liaison officer.

We rode down through Khabarovsk, and out on a road which would take us
to the bridge. A guide at headquarters said there was a passage over
the bridge for horses and foot-passengers, but he did not go with us.

When we came to the bridge, we found that the “passage for horses”
consisted of nothing more than loose planks laid lengthwise between the
rails. And outside the rails, between the steel girders, were great
openings big enough to let a horse go through, in case he shied from
between the rails. And if we met a train, we would have to turn our
horses and come back.

This bridge over the Amur is nearly a mile long, and consists of
twenty-two spans supported by great stone piers built up from the river
bed. It may be less than half a mile from the surface of the river,
but it appeared to be that far above the water as I looked it over in
contemplation of riding a horse across it. I had crossed it twice by
train, but late at night, when I had not appreciated its grandeur, so
to speak.

There is a story that the Bolshevists planned to blow it out, but that
one Bolshevist leader had objected, and threatened to shoot his comrade
with the explosives, if the bridge were destroyed, saying it belonged
to Russia, and so much wealth could not be destroyed with his assent.
That Bolshevist must have been something of a patriot, for he saved the
bridge.

The Japanese guards examined my pass. I consulted with W----. The
horses seemed steady enough, and I decided to attempt the crossing.
So starting off at a slow trot, I led the way. My horse shuddered and
snorted at first, but I did not allow him to stop and think it over.

By the time we had crossed the first span, the others were trailing
behind. And everything went well, till I came to planks which were
underlaid with sheets of corrugated iron. These made a tremendous
racket under the impact of the blows of the horse’s feet on the loose
planks, and he began to prance and refused to go on. I dismounted,
and without looking back at him, led him across the bad stretch. He
followed meekly, and once we were clear of the sheets, I mounted again,
and went on at the slow trot. So we went over and back again without
mishap, and found it not to be so foolhardy a crossing as it had
appeared to be at first glance.

My orderly was now out of hospital, and I arranged to leave for
Vladivostok. The train would leave at one o’clock in the afternoon. At
ten, I sent the orderly-interpreter to the station, to get two tickets
and book accommodations for us. At eleven we were at the station, in
order to assure ourselves of a seat, for the train came in a couple
of hours before it departed, and seats belong to those who get them,
regardless of seat-tickets or anything else, under that system of
“equality” which the Siberian has acquired.

All my effects were dumped from an army wagon, in a blinding snow
storm. The Cossack commandant assured us that our seats would be
preserved for us. The train came in, and unloaded its passengers, and
immediately there was a wild scramble on the part of peasants and
Chinese, fighting their way into the cars. The commandant was with
my interpreter, finding our places, so I waited an hour, having an
abiding faith at that time in the polite assurances of Cossack officers.

The interpreter came back looking disconsolate. He said the Cossack had
given up in disgust--there was no room in the train for us. And the
engine tooting for an early start, with my baggage rapidly becoming a
snow drift!

I went to the station and found the Cossack officer. I displayed my
tickets, and cited the fact that I had taken every precaution for
transportation, and had taken him at his word that he would be glad to
reserve seats for us. I demanded that he make good his promises.

He displayed a most laudable energy, and going aboard a car, opened the
door of a compartment despite the protests of four Russian men inside.
He waxed eloquent over the fact that an American officer and soldier
must travel on that train. They displayed pistols, but finally gave
way, and the six of us sat down in the compartment. My baggage was
checked, and away we rolled.

It developed later that the reluctance of the four men inside to admit
anybody was due to the fact that they were carrying large sums of
railroad money to Vladivostok. And they explained to the interpreter
that they had showed the pistols for the benefit of the crowds in the
passageway of the car, and were willing enough that we should share the
compartment with them, for if we had not, they might have had trouble
with the exasperated travelers outside, who were compelled to stand
up all that day and most of the night, to get to Vladivostok. As it
turned out, we lived in that compartment as if in a besieged fortress.
At every station, new passengers demanded admittance, and fought for
some time to be admitted, claiming that there was room to sit on the
two upper berths.

But the Russians drove them away with pistols, and by asserting that
the compartment belonged to “the Americanskys.” And Russian women with
children, scowled at me through the narrow aperture of the chained door
which ventilated the compartment, losing no opportunity by looks or
remarks, to express their opinions of people who came to Siberia and
prevented honest people from riding in comfort in their own trains.

We got into Vladivostok about four o’clock the next morning, and hiring
three Chinese carriers, I got my baggage to headquarters, and set up my
cot in the Intelligence Office.

During my absence, there had been a merry rumpus.



XI

THE MACHINE THAT SQUEAKED


I found Headquarters in Vladivostok seething with secret turmoil.
It seems that the Staff resented the fact that fifteen Intelligence
officers had been sent by the War Department for duty in Siberia. At
least the Intelligence officers got that impression, and they claimed
that everything was being done to discredit them, and upset the general
plan of studying the Siberian situation in detail if for no other
purpose than to watch the Intelligence machine work.

Although we did not know it, there had been some minor troubles before
we arrived. By the time the _Sheridan_ brought us, there had been one
reorganization of the Siberian military policy, which was brought
about by the arrival of General Graves, who put into play methods of
procedure reflecting the administration policy of “non-interference.”
This meant putting a stop to everything which called for any activity
with the forces in Siberia, crushed any ambition held by officers
of the Twenty-seventh and Thirty-first regiments of infantry for a
campaign, and resolved the whole situation into a matter of marking
time in quarters.

This is not a criticism of General Graves. What he might prefer to do,
compared with what his orders were, is the difference between a good
soldier obeying his orders and a commander carrying out the orders of
his superiors. I believe that all concerned obeyed their orders, and no
higher compliment can be paid to soldiers. If their orders are not in
accordance with their personal desires, all the more credit to them for
obeying. So in discussing the situation as I found it in Vladivostok, I
wish to make it plain that I realized the difficulties under which the
Headquarters Staff labored. Its prime business was to obey orders, not
to be popular with anybody, in or out of the expedition.

When the two regiments of infantry, tucked away in the Philippines and
apparently marooned from the war, got orders to leave for Siberia,
there was great joy. For the regular officers it meant activity and
service stripes, and probably medals, and a campaign in their records,
and experience and a chance for distinction. And many of these
officers, due to age, or the lottery of the service which sends some
officers to the front and immures others to a tropical cloister, had
given up all hopes of having a hand in the war. Suddenly a new front
was devised for them, and they were rushed off to make history.

Colonel Styer was in command at Vladivostok, and at that time there
was every reason to believe that there would be lively times. The two
regiments prepared themselves accordingly, and were ready for swift
and decisive action when they landed. With the quiet efficiency of the
regular, they overlooked nothing in order to be ready for whatever
developed.

This little machine was running on a high gear, when General Graves
arrived. He drew the fires and stopped the engine. Presently two more
transports arrived, with reinforcing troops, and our Intelligence
party, direct from Washington. Our officers had presumably been
selected for Siberian service because they were experts in their
various lines, and necessarily being enthusiasts for their own line of
endeavor, showed great interest in the situation.

They laid down a barrage of questions on the staff, ranging from
where they were to sleep, to data on the available coal supply from
the Golden Horn to the Urals. They had been cooped in a hotel and a
transport for some two months since leaving Washington, some of them
had never been away from the United States, and they brought an element
of romping boyishness to the sedate, quiet and somewhat bored staff.
Some of them, though captains, had never been near an army, and their
civilian enthusiasms jarred headquarters.

Having quelled one epidemic of enthusiasm, the staff rather crossly
and tactlessly set about stamping out this fresh access of desire for
picturesque action. The staff, it was said, assumed the attitude that
it was competent to run the Siberian expedition without the aid of a
“lot of theorists and amateurs from civil life.”

The younger officers on duty, fresh from West Point and feeling much
exalted at finding themselves wearing insignia of rank which in the
old army sometimes took twenty years to attain, reflected the attitude
of the elders, and two hostile camps developed in a single building.
And this was the war I walked into, all unknowingly, when I came back
from Khabarovsk.

I found myself “one of that Intelligence bunch,” and no matter how
politely I asked for some action of a routine nature in order to carry
out my own orders, I found that the wheels did not turn for me. Of
course, there was not a flat refusal, but there was what might be
called “mental sabotage”--my requests were forgotten till I had to
resort to plain language to get what I needed.

And the Intelligence party, I was informed, had been summoned and told
to “keep quiet, to betray no initiative, not to criticise, and to
keep busy doing nothing.” And in order to nullify as far as possible
all attempts of the individuals of the party to accomplish anything
in their own lines of endeavor, the “chart” of the organization was
dismantled, and each officer put at some duty with which he was
unfamiliar. For instance an expert on ciphers was sent far into
the interior, and an expert on maps was put in charge of several
translators, though he had a most limited knowledge of Russian. And
the Chief of Intelligence found himself with some fifteen officers
who had been shipped half way round the world at government expense,
and drawing an average of two hundred dollars a month in pay, buzzing
indignantly about his ears, and doing little but making his life a
burden.

Most of these officers were quartered in a warehouse some five miles
from headquarters, and an irregular launch taking them back and forth
across the bay for meals, with the consequence that most of the time
was spent traveling or waiting on the pier for the launch.

And when the launch was taken off the run, an automobile was provided,
which held five persons, to transport a dozen officers and as many
field clerks, in a single trip, from and to quarters. About the time
the Intelligence detachment took ship for home, a truck was provided.
But in order to avoid the loss of time in going back and forth, many
of the officers had hired at their own expense, rooms in crowded
Vladivostok.

There is something on the other side of the shield. This obvious
attempt to humiliate the Intelligence detachment, probably grew out of
the reports which reached headquarters with us. The officer who had
been bedeviled by Smith in San Francisco, came in the transport _Logan_.

He had apparently judged the whole party by Smith, and had given us
a bad repute. However that may be, the Professor engaged by Smith as
“advisor,” as told in a previous chapter, got anything but a pleasant
reception when he came to report his status.

As related to me, General Graves was most indignant when he learned how
and why the Professor had been thrust upon the expedition. He was told
that his services were not required, and he was paid off at the rate
allowed a field clerk. He refused to acknowledge the money received
as payment in full, and charged poor Smith with having misrepresented
his authority, asserted that he had been damaged by quitting his
positions in San Francisco as undoubtedly he had been, and took the
return transport threatening suit against Smith and a claim against the
government.

There is every reason to believe that this incident established the
“Intelligence bunch” as a group of high-handed incompetents. The Staff
to my mind, had every reason for withholding from the members of the
party that measure of confidence and respect which an Intelligence
Department must have before it can operate with any efficiency.

A Commanding General and his staff in a situation such as confronted
them in Siberia, has something else to do beside test individually a
lot of officers who from previous acts by one or two of them appeared
to give every evidence of having no judgment. It is safer to assume
that they are all Smiths, and put them at such simple tasks as insure
that they will not do something disastrous. It is also cheaper to pay
them to do nothing.

In time, most of the officers were sent away to inland cities, where
they remained as observers, till they signified their desire for
discharge after the armistice in accordance with the terms of their
commissions. And in justice to the majority of these officers, I wish
to assert that they were highly efficient in their various vocations,
and that most of them had distinguished themselves in civil life. One
had been minister for the United States to foreign countries and was
schooled as a diplomat; others were professors of history and could
tell the various life-careers of big and small nations; some were
ethnologists, and could give the pedigree of any nondescript person
found in the motley throngs all over Siberia; many had previously been
in Russia several years, spoke the language well, and found themselves
in familiar surroundings. With a few exceptions, they did the duties
of glorified office boys, while attached to an expedition which
needed above all things, an alert and efficient system of Military
Intelligence. They did their best under disheartening conditions.



XII

AN ARMY IMPRESARIO


For a week or two after my return to Vladivostok, I familiarized myself
with the Intelligence organization at Headquarters. So far as I could
see, we had no authority over anybody who happened to be suspected of
enemy activity, or actually guilty of some act against the American or
Russian laws.

When we found a man who had come in under a fraudulent passport, and
had in our files data which proved him to be a Bolshevist agent, or
sympathizer, we could take no action, other than hold his American
passport. Then we notified the Czech commandant, and he was arrested
after passing from our custody.

So we exercised no military or police authority over anybody but our
own nationals, or such Russians or other foreigners as fraudulently
claimed American citizenship and attempted to travel as such.

In order to watch the incoming ships, all the Allies sent passport
officers aboard them, and each officer conducted the examination of his
own nationals. There was a line of Russian steamers, running between
Tsuruga, Japan, and Vladivostok, known as the Russian Volunteer
Fleet; and a similar line owned by the Japanese. These little steamers
served as ferry-boats, gathering in Japan all travelers bound for
Vladivostok who arrived in ports of the Far East in liners--this was
the funnel through which passed the stream of civilians who came first
to Shanghai, Nagasaki, Yokohama and other ports.

And before these steamers docked, they were boarded by a Japanese, a
Czech, a Russian, a British, an American and a French officer, and the
polyglot lot examined before they were allowed to land. I attended some
of these examinations, provided with a list of suspicious characters,
and with the various interpreters in action, the smoking-room put to
shame anything that must have been heard at the Tower of Babel.

But so far as we were concerned, it was all a silly farce. Technically,
we had no right to examine anybody. I once asked an Allied officer the
basis for his authority, whereupon he told me that the city was under
martial law, and controlled by an Allied Council which delegated the
powers of examination to all the Allies. But this was promptly denied
by another Allied officer.

In fact, it appeared that we Americans, in an effort to avoid
interference, claimed no rights of control over anybody on Russian
soil, making it necessary for us in order to question suspected
enemies, to resort to autocratic methods. That is, we disclaimed all
intentions of interfering and asserted no authority, except this plan
of going through the motions of authority, which was a taking of power
which might have been granted had we asked for it.

For my part, I prefer an autocracy working in the open, to a power
which denies it is autocratic and then proceeds to act autocratically
without any warrant. Such methods puzzled the decent Russians, and they
began to doubt the things which we wanted them to believe, and which it
was essential that they believe if we were to have the confidence of
the Russian people.

A few days after I had raised the question of the rights of the
American officers in passport control, we relinquished by order the
rights we had been exercising. When Russian or other officials held
men or women as suspicious, who professed to be American citizens,
they brought them to American headquarters, where the examination took
place. And if the facts cited by them were refuted by our information,
we could do nothing but advise the Czechs of the case, and let the
latter act without any suggestions from us, thus, like, Pilate, washing
our hands of the whole affair.

A Czech officer, upon being asked what he would do with a certain
suspect, said casually, “I don’t know--maybe we shoot him.” And maybe
they did. No doubt we had to “save our face,” and if the Czechs
were willing to serve us as jailers or executioners, that took a
disagreeable job off our hands.

I am not, mind, asserting that the Czechs dealt out injustice, or that
we should have executed anybody or everybody arrested. I object to
heads in our government who lack decision as to what should be done,
and resort to chicane in attending to disagreeable tasks. I object to
an expedition being sent into a country, the hands of the commander
apparently tied, and yet demanding that certain results be attained in
a left-handed manner so that the responsibility may be shifted to other
shoulders. This country is altruistic and generous toward all other
nations in trouble, and we should demand from our representatives who
attend to our business, the kind of leadership we are entitled to, and
the clear demonstration before such foreign peoples as we come into
contact with officially, of our honest motives.

From toying with various parts of the Intelligence machine, I turned
my attention to distributing fifty cases of books which had been sent
to the troops by the American Library Association. Our men, living in
the stone-floored Russian barracks, which were cold and damp and dirty,
found these books most welcome. It was a most dreary environment for
young and active men, most of them too far from the city to get any
entertainment from it, and when its novelty was worn off, they found
even Vladivostok dull and disheartening.

The Chief of Staff suggested that a vaudeville show be organized out
of the forces, and I was put in charge of it. Some fifteen men who had
vaudeville experience were detailed from various companies. And to
provide something with “local color,” the Chief of Staff suggested that
we might hire a trio of Cossack dancers appearing at a local cabaret
known as the “Aquarium.” This show began at midnight. The Chief of
Staff, Donald Thompson, the war-photographer, Mrs. Thompson and myself,
attended a performance. We sat in a gallery box, and drank coffee from
nickel coffee-machines to keep us awake. It was a cheap and tawdry
show, and the floor below was filled with a throng of people sitting at
little tables and drinking and eating. The Cossack trio--two brothers
and a young woman--gave an interesting exhibition of Cossack dancing,
interspersed with dialogue in Russian, which delighted the doughboys
present.

In a couple of days we put on a show of our own at the Aquarium,
which General Graves, and many officers from all the Allied commands,
attended as his guests. We had gymnasts, black-face comedians, vocal
and stringed quartettes, and a regular vaudeville program of some
dozen acts, including the Cossacks, with the regimental band of the
Thirty-first Infantry.

It was a “hit,” probably due to the fact that I interfered not at all,
but told the performers to “go ahead and get your acts ready, tell
me what you will have, and we’ll write a program.” When you want the
American doughboy to do something outside his regular line of duty, let
him alone and he’ll come home--he needs no Bo Peep.

The Cossacks were to provide two acts, one that they supposed to be a
refined American cake-walk, done in conventional evening-dress, and the
other their dance, in native costume. Of course, they took more pride
in their American act than in the dance, which we wished to place in
the program so that it would be the “star” attraction.

It was suggested to them that they be third on the bill with the
cake-walk, to give them time to rest and get into costume for the more
strenuous effort next to the finale. They agreed, perfectly satisfied,
and so they were billed.

I remained back stage. To my horror, when the act preceding the
cake-walk was in progress, and the Cossacks were called from the
dressing-room somewhere in the cellar, they appeared in their
outlandish Cossack costume and makeup. For this act they required
stage-sets and improvised lighting, which of course were not ready at
that time.

I told my interpreter to ask them to change as quickly as possible, as
they must have misunderstood the agreement about how their acts were
placed on the program. But they averred that they had simply changed
their minds, and intended to do the Cossack dance first, because the
regular Aquarium show followed ours, and they would have to do their
exhausting dance twice almost in succession if they appeared on our
bill last.

I was willing enough to announce the change, and let it go at that, but
although I surrendered to their wishes, they persisted in continuing a
loud and long Russian conversation behind the curtain in competition
with the monologuist who was amusing the audience. Then, when it was
all settled that they would appear immediately in the dance, they
changed their minds again, and went below to change costumes at the
moment they should have gone on.

Luckily the monologuist got several encores, and being known to many of
the soldiers out front, they demanded certain of his stories, and he
pieced his act out long enough to conceal the wait for the Cossacks.

This example of mental instability I found to be typical of most
Siberians--they will spend hours settling a problem, and having
threshed out all the details, and arrived at a logical conclusion,
somebody remarks: “Maybe we are wrong after all,” and away they go
again on the argument, from the beginning, getting themselves more
enmeshed in doubts than ever, and finally have to quit in exhaustion
without reaching any decision.

Before we could start touring with our show, the Cossacks had to go to
Nikolsk-Ussuri to fill an engagement at that place. And our troupe had
to get costumes and rehearse, cars must be provided for winter travel,
and we had to work out songs with the members of the band.

When the Chief of Staff engaged the Cossack trio, it was at the rate
of four thousand rubles a month and all expenses, food and quarters.
At that time, with the current rate of rubles, which was ten rubles
for the dollar, the salary stood us four hundred dollars. But having
in mind the dollar basis, the deal was made in rubles. When I went to
Nikolsk to advise the Cossacks that we were ready for them, rubles had
gone to six for a dollar, so were more valuable--and of course, the
Cossacks wanted their pay in rubles.

They reached Vladivostok late at night, and with the city over-crowded,
they had difficulty in getting quarters. They were temporarily sent
to a Russian house across the bay, and then a fourth-class car was
arranged for them on the siding at the Base. The weather was getting
very cold, the car was unsatisfactory to them, they objected to being
halted by our sentries when they came to the car late at night, and
despite two stoves kept going by a German war prisoner, they said they
nearly froze to death.

I began to understand some of the troubles of impresarios with foreign
“artists.” They objected to rehearsing with our band at nine o’clock in
the morning, the only time the band had available time, because they
were accustomed to getting their breakfasts at eleven--they talked the
most violent Russian at me at all times possible, regardless of whether
my interpreter was present or not. I was sorry for them.

At this stage of affairs, I got sudden orders to proceed to Chita,
two thousand versts away, and take station as the American officer on
Intelligence duty. There were no American troops there, and it was
reported that the American officer of Philippine Scouts whom I was
to relieve, had been threatened with assassination. My “circus” was
turned over to another officer, and with my interpreter, First Class
Private Werkstein, I went aboard a Red Cross train bound for the front,
to take station at Chita, Trans-Baikal, where Ataman Semenoff had his
headquarters with his Cossack and Mongol army.



XIII

AWAY TO TRANS-BAIKAL


Our Red Cross Train left Vladivostok just before midnight, December
11, 1918. It consisted chiefly of box-cars full of medical supplies
and clothing bound for Omsk; there was an International sleeping car
for some twenty Red Cross nurses, Russian women doctors, American
missionaries from Japan serving as refugee workers, dentists and
physicians. Some of the men had just arrived in Siberia from Manila,
and some of the women from Japan, and knew little of travel on a
Siberian train. There were two men sent out by our War Trade Board to
investigate the supply of raw materials and the wants of the people for
manufactured goods. The sleeping car compartments for four persons, had
to accommodate six.

The train had been combined with a Czech train, carrying supplies
for the Czech army at the front, and two fourth-class cars were
provided for Czech soldiers. There was also a fourth-class car full
of wounded and sick Czech soldiers, most of the latter suffering from
tuberculosis, to be left at Buchedo, a station far up the line where
there was a hospital.

An American Infantry captain bound for Harbin to take command of a
company there, serving as guard for the consulate, shared quarters with
me in one of the fourth-class cars, with the Czech soldiers, and my
interpreter, Werkstein, was with me.

There was a dining-car improvised out of a small and springless
ordinary box-car, by building a range into one end, cutting a door in
the other, and building a table down the center. Along the sides were
piled our food supplies, our bread hanging in sacks from the roof, and
under the table our feet rested on frozen cabbages, potatoes, and beef.

The cook got off now and then, and having, with mere money, wheedled
the “starving populace” into parting with fat pheasants, threw the
dead and frozen birds into the cook-car with brutal disregard of the
needs of the natives. And as a further example of dire necessity, of
food shortage, I observed at one place some peasants (not pheasants)
so close to starvation, that they had nothing with which to grease the
wheels of their wagons but best Siberian butter! We heard about this
time by cable that the Congress of the United States would be asked
to appropriate a hundred million dollars for the purchase of food,
which food was to be sent to wheatless and meatless Europe in order to
prevent the spread of Bolshevism--that same Bolshevism which had swept
Siberia “as the result of a lack of food.”

Chang, a wily Chinese, bossed the “China boys” who did the cooking and
waited on the table. And a place at the table generally meant being
frozen, or roasted, according to whether one sat at the end away from
a red-hot stove near the door, or near the stove. And it seemed that
the engineer picked out the roughest part of the road-bed to show his
best speed, when we were at meals.

A doctor once asked me to pass the cheese. At the same instant, we hit
a curve, and a whole round of cheese from the top of the pile of stores
behind him over his head, toppled over, sailed over him and alighted on
his coffee.

As we got into Manchuria, the temperature dropped to about forty
degrees below zero. The door of the diner, from which emerged the warm
air, was draped in great icicles, and when the door was opened, we were
met by a rush of steam--the warm air meeting the cold.

The women nurses, having modern ideas of ventilation, left the windows
of their compartments slightly open one night. In the morning the
heating-pipes in that car were useless, for it was a hot-water system,
and the provodnik had allowed the fires in the heater to go down during
the night. The sleeping car, for the rest of the trip, might have
served well as a cold-storage car.

With two stoves going continually in our fourth-class car, even though
they burned Manchurian coal and gave off a yellow smoke, most of
which escaped into the car, kept us comfortable. We were warm, if not
sanitary. And when the weather got to sixty below, I gave up all ideas
of hoping for fresh air while sleeping.

And during the day, at every stop, we three Americans got out for air,
risking having our feet frozen in the process. The Czechs did not seem
to mind--they went on with their cooking, and stoked the fires all the
harder to warm the air we had cooled by opening the doors to go out.

Everything that was metal inside, became covered with heavy
frost--pistols, iron braces, nail-heads, bolts. And to touch any of the
iron work with bare hands, getting on or off the car, meant leaving a
palm sticking to the iron.

At the same time that the water-bucket on the floor under my bunk was
freezing solid, when I stood up to dress my head was in smothering heat
gathered at the top of the car. And the passing landscape was obscured
by tropical foliage, etched in frost, on the double windows.

In such a climate, I can well understand that the Russian peasant cares
little who rules in Petrograd, for his mind is concerned only with
having food, shelter and warmth. Such cold probably accounts for much
of the mental stupefaction of the Siberians, and explains why the Czars
held their power so long.

When Siberia was chosen as a place of exile, to cure people of
thinking, the person who selected that frozen land for prisons
doubtless knew what terrible cold will do to the human brain. It
killed many exiles, but it acted as a preservative of their ideas, and
they bided their time, waiting for a chance to get freedom, so that
they might go on a spree of destruction. It will take more than a few
months of education to turn such people from their age-old lessons in
oppression, cruelty and annihilation.

There was a merry wag among the Czechs. He had lost two front teeth,
he was poorly clad, but he relished his soup, enjoyed his sleep, and
was always smiling and chattering gaily. One cold night, when we were
out of coal, he dug from his boxes a gorgeous robe, blue outside and
embellished with red decorations of barbaric design. It was lined with
long, white Angora-goat wool. As he wrapped himself in it, he looked
like some Mongolian prince, preparing for a royal audience.

This garment roused my curiosity. He said it was from the Khirgiz
tribes. I asked its price, and Werkstein interpreted this:

“A man’s life.”

“Whose life?” I asked.

“The man who had it.”

“Who had it?”

“A Bolshevist.”

“Why did it cost him his life?”

“Because I killed him and took it.” The wag smiled a gentle smile.

“He got that rifle, and that pistol he has, from the same man,” said
Werkstein. And the wag rolled up and went to sleep, evidently not at
all concerned about the ghost of the Bolshevist who had owned the robe.

“He was in an Austrian regiment,” continued Werkstein, giving me
some of the merry one’s history. “He deserted with his regiment to
the Russians, for the Czechs did not want to serve the Germans. In
reprisal, the little business he had at home was confiscated, his wife
became crazy when his two children were taken away, and he does not
know what became of any of them. He is waiting now to get back to that
Austrian village, and he swears he will kill till he is killed when
he gets there. He does not care what happens to him--he will get his
revenge.”

And without doubt the wag will.

In about a week we arrived in Harbin, and stopped there some three
days. The city appeared very dull by day, but at night the restaurants
and theatres were crowded with gay throngs.

I found a young officer on duty there, who had shared my stateroom
on the transport, and we dined at the Hotel Moderne. The prices were
extremely high, but the food excellent. The restaurant was full of
Russian officers, and wealthy civilians, for Harbin is really the
center of high life for the Siberians, it being in Manchuria and
somewhat safer than other cities.

Here gather all the intriguers of all factions, here are hatched the
plots and counter plots of the monarchists and anti-monarchists, the
Bolshevists and anti-Bolshevists of Siberia.

The man who seeks power and wishes to draw to him his adherents, goes
first to Harbin to perfect his plans, and the man who has lost power,
goes there to escape the fury of the populace and lay his plans for
regaining his old position. It is quite likely that among the crowd at
the opera that night, there were former Grand Dukes waiting till the
time is ripe for a _coup d’etat_; if the former Czar is still alive, he
is probably hidden away in Harbin, and if a Romanoff ever returns to
the throne, Harbin will probably harbor the heads of the plot for the
restoration.

Among the Russians I met there, was a nephew of Tolstoy, wearing the
uniform of a lieutenant. But officers of higher rank appear to prefer
civilian attire. And when introduced to them, I found that the ranks
mentioned with their names, were pronounced in low tones. And it is not
at all uncommon to be introduced to somebody with the name given in a
conversational tone, and later to have whispered to you, the real name
and title of the new acquaintance.

Judging from some of the acts of the cabaret near the Moderne, Harbin
is not wholly a royalist center. A singer, in the rags and chains of a
Siberian convict, sang in dismal notes the story of his sufferings, and
“died” on the stage. He had to respond to a dozen encores.

But I suspected some of the excessive applause to come from persons who
were of the old nobility, if not of imperial blood. Living incognito in
Harbin, it might not be safe for a Grand Duke to hiss such an act, and
in such a case, a man may save himself from assassination by bursting
his white gloves in sympathy for a stage exile.

We took on food supplies at Harbin, and the Czechs loaded their cars
with cigarettes and wine for a Christmas celebration at the front.

They had one car nearly full of cases of wine, and worried lest it
might freeze. They consulted me about it, but not knowing the amount
of alcohol it contained, I refused to give an opinion as to what might
happen to it in such frigid weather. So they set up a stove in the car,
and took turns keeping the fire going, day and night.

The hardships of a Siberian winter, with famine stalking about, can
only be realized when you face the problem of keeping a whole car-load
of wine from freezing in sixty-below temperature. The soldiers who were
not on duty sitting up with the wine, spent the nights in my car, where
I was trying to sleep. They talked about the danger to the wine--talked
in ear-torturing Czecho-Slovak. They also rambled around with candles
that leaked wax upon the countenances of their sleeping Allies. Rest
was not for those Czechs (nor for anyone else), and their faithfulness
and fortitude in preserving that wine is a thing to stick in the
memory. They ought to be decorated. A certain irritable Red Cross agent
came near doing it.

We passed many hospital trains coming from the front, filled with sick
and wounded Russians and Czechs. And it was on this trip that I saw the
awful refugee trains, with box-cars full of men, women and children
suffering from typhus and other diseases.

And it was said that one of these trains, having come thousands
of miles carrying dying and dead huddled together in straw, were
turned back at a certain station by the Russians, because they feared
contagion. And from these cars were taken many dead, frozen and lying
among the sick. And from the crevices of the floors of the cars, and
from the interstices under the doors, hung great red icicles!

I observed many educated Russians look at such scenes with little
sympathy. At least, their attitude was that the people had brought such
sufferings upon themselves by overthrowing the throne of the Emperor.

While waiting for the “second table” in the diner, I had occasion to
discuss the country with a young Russian woman, bound for Perm to seek
her father and mother, from whom she had not heard in a year and a
half. There had been much fighting there with the Bolshevists, and she
was unaware of the fate of her parents.

“My father superintended the building of this section of the railroad,”
she said. “I lived with him on his private car as the line was built
through this part of the country, so I know every mile well. Little I
dreamed then that my great country would be ruined as it is now. Court
life was so fine--the fine clothes, the nobility, the great dinners,
and the imperial dances--it is too bad that all such things are gone.
Maybe they will come back.”

“But the people suffered under that régime,” I said.

She looked at me with surprised eyes.

“Suffered! They were never so happy, and they will never be so
happy again. They do not know what they want. I went into a refugee
barrack last month outside Vladivostok, and found there an old woman
who had been one of our servants for years. She was afraid to speak
to me--afraid that I would be marked as one of the aristocracy, and
probably suffer for it. But I talked with her--and how she wished that
she were back in our happy home. She knows she was better off with us
in the old days, than she can ever hope to be again. She would have
lived a few more years in peace and comfort as our servant, and wanted
nothing. Now she will probably have to live and die as a beggar. The
poor people suffer more by this than the wealthy do--even if a few rich
people are killed, and their property taken. My Russia was all right,
as it was. And if I don’t find my father and mother, I am going to
South America.”

As an individual attitude, the expressions of this young woman might
not be regarded of much value, or at all typical of the well educated
Russian. Yet I found her ideas to be general with all the better
class Russians I met--that Russia under the old régime was an ideal
country, and that the peasant and servant classes were as happy as
they wished to be, and better off than they would be if they lived
under a democratic form of government which gave them all a hand in the
government.

It is an attitude similar to that held in the South regarding our negro
slaves--they were better off as slaves, than they could be if free. It
is a feudal frame of mind, in which it is granted that there are two
classes of people in the country, those who know all and have all, and
those who are inherently inferior in brain quality and so require to be
held in leash, giving their labor in exchange for such kindnesses as
the over-lord wishes to dispense to them.

This mental attitude toward an inferior class, held by the upper class
of Russia, accounts for the American failure, generally speaking, to
understand Russia and the Russians. We persist in thinking of all
Russians as the same, with the exception that some are better educated
than the others, when as a matter of fact there are two different
peoples in Russia. One is a class which expects as a matter of course
to have all the best things which the country provides, and the
government is merely a system upon which hangs a social code, and which
gives out orders, titles of nobility, and administrative positions
which provide incomes.

In a way, the feudal attitude in old Russia was the proper one,
provided the ideal feudal system was carried out; that is, if the
over-lords all used their power to lift up such of their menials as
gave evidence of being possessed of some mental ability.

But the feudal system as it operated, granted no mental ability to any
underling, or “low-born” person, and worked with no other object than
to keep the low-born submerged, and lift to power and position even
worthless members of the upper class.

The son of the noble who could not pass his examinations, graduated
from the university and despite profligacy and licentiousness, rose to
power in the government.

The commoner, though displaying great brilliance, found himself unable
to pass in his examinations year after year if he ever entered the
university at all, and had to give up in despair. But in the arts,
genius succeeded, and produced authors and painters--and the result was
that all writers of great natural ability became revolutionists.

Through them we got our sympathy for the peasants, and as these writers
understood that the lower classes were victimized and exploited by
the system, they presented to us all Russians as people of great
ideals--they extolled the virtues of the exploited and minimized their
faults and limitations. At the same time, they depicted with great
power all the cruelties of the ruling classes.

Thus the Russian peasant reasoned that he had no faults, that if he had
the power he could produce an ideal government, and that because the
ruling classes ruled badly, all that was needed to run the nation was a
kind and generous heart. Thus also the Bolshevist leaders found it easy
to take the Empire into their hands. The upper class of Russia made
Bolshevism possible by keeping the lower class ignorant. And ignorance
is the greatest menace to any nation--the spark in a powder magazine.

As we went eastward, I studied the people, keeping in mind the attitude
of the young woman who felt that Russia was ruined because all the good
things she had known were gone, and because the peasants were worse
off than ever.

And I found that the peasants did not consider themselves any the worse
for having destroyed the old régime; at least, they seemed willing to
endure the hardships they had imposed upon themselves, in the hope that
in due time things would be better.

But my feeling was that they will never live to see things bettered, no
matter how long they may live. There may be less disorder of a kind,
but I doubt if these people will ever escape being exploited till
they have acquired a leaven of education. But to educate them in the
sense by which we define education, means to change their whole mental
attitude toward themselves, their country, and life in general.

To the Russian of the lower class, who has been inarticulate for
generations, there are no degrees of education. He does not realize
that among a thousand persons who have, say, graduated from a
university in the same class, all members of which have taken the same
courses of study, there is any variation of intellect, and difference
in ability, any deeper sense of meanings of things in one individual
than in another. Why should there be? he asks. Are they not all
educated? He thinks of education, as a certain moment in which the
student becomes aware of all knowledge, and acquires all wisdom. And to
the primitive minds of these people, “education” means the ability to
read, write, and figure.

At one station where we changed train crews, a big fellow, with a
gigantic wooly cap, came into our car and sat by the stove. His
assistants paid him much deference. He began to talk with the Czechs,
and once set going, went on like a great phonograph. The Czechs finally
ignored him, and he began to question Werkstein, my interpreter.
Werkstein had difficulty in concealing his amusement at some of the
things the big fellow said, and I got into the conversation.

“This chap is educated,” said Werkstein. “That is why the provodnik and
the brakeman sit here and listen to him talk--they feel that they are
learning something. They almost worship him because he can tell them
things he has read in books.”

“What books has he read?” I asked. “Gorky, Puskin, Tolstoy?”

The conductor threw up his hands in a delirium of joy as he heard me
pronounce the names of the Russian novelists. Now he could show his
fellows that he could talk to the American on common ground.

But when I asked him to name some of the works of these writers that
he had read, he pushed back his cap and scratched his head with a
ponderous paw. He could not remember the titles--but he had read all
their works. But he was utterly ignorant of anything Tolstoy or Gorky
had written--he merely recognized the titles when they were mentioned.

He changed the subject by asserting that we Americans wanted all
Russians to agree on a government, when we Americans could not agree on
our own. I agreed that there were some differences of opinion as to
government in our country, but that in general we agreed fairly well.

“Then why do you have so many presidents?” he asked in triumph.

“We try to have but one,” I said.

“You have more than fifteen now,” he replied, and dug his elbow into
the ribs of a brakeman sitting behind him, to indicate that he had made
a point which I could not refute.

“Who are they?” I asked.

“I cannot remember their names,” he asserted, but holding up a hand,
he began to count on his fingers: “You have presidents in Brazil,
Argentine, Chile, Mexico, ----.” The Czechs interrupted him with roars
of laughter, and Werkstein explained to me. But he insisted that he was
right.

He switched to a map of his own country, a lithograph advertising
American harvesting machinery, and showing by red spots the size of a
dime, the location in Russian cities of their agencies. Naturally, the
spot over Petrograd was as large as the spots on the smaller cities in
the grain districts of Siberia, but he proudly asserted that all these
spots represented cities the size of Petrograd. No, he had never been
to Petrograd, but was it not as big as Harbin?

India, he said, was somewhere near Japan. He had read of Venice,
and its streets of water, but Venice was not in Italy. How could it
be in Italy? Venice was somewhere in Europe, and Italy was not in
Europe--the book he had read about Venice had stated that Venice was
not in Italy, and he stuck by the book.

This man was educated to his fellows. “If this man should go to a small
Russian town, and read from a newspaper for the people of that town, he
could become mayor,” said Werkstein. “He is so ignorant that he thinks
he knows a lot.” Which is not an uncommon delusion, even out of Siberia.

He was also in sympathy with the Bolshevists, having as his only
argument in their favor, the fact that they were “good people.” Now
this man, being a conductor, had a considerable influence over such
peasants as he met, for as a railroad man he travelled much, and as
an “educated man,” had read much. Many gave heed to what he said. And
compared to thousands of Siberians that I encountered, his intellect
was amazingly powerful.

Yet at home I found people who felt that the peasants of Siberia
know what they are doing, and are actuated by a desire to create a
democratic government, and that in a short time they will, and operate
it. But Siberia will fall a prey to some autocrat, who will rule it
by the sword, independently of Petrograd. Such a vast and such a rich
territory, peopled with human beings in the darkness of the Middle
Ages, can have no other fate.

Our progress was delayed for various reasons, the chief one being the
fact that wrecks occurred ahead of us with startling frequency. As a
matter of fact, Bolshevists, or Bolshevist sympathizers, or railroad
men in Bolshevist pay, were causing the wrecks. It was all a system
of sabotage, and being done to hamper the Allies in every way from
opposing the Bolshevists who were fighting.

And as we came into the yards of Manchuria Station, or Mandchuli, at
about daylight one morning, switches were thrown in such a way that
our train, laden with medical supplies for Russian wounded and sick,
and with one car full of women nurses, was derailed, and put on three
tracks. The immunity which we might have claimed from being wrecked,
was lost because we had combined with a Czech military train.

Our Czech commandant took a squad of soldiers to the station, and
demanded the man who had derailed us. But the station-master asserted
that the culprit had disappeared. So no vengeance was taken.

It was forty below zero that morning. The shaggy camels that passed
us, appeared to wear great white coats, for every hair on their bodies
stood out straight, covered with frost. So we had breakfast in the
station restaurant, and waited through the day for the railroad men to
get us back on the rails.

I found the American officer on Intelligence duty at that station,
living in a Russian home, and we went and lunched with the Railroad
Engineers of the Stevens contingent. One of them was an excellent
cook, and we had a splendid meal, the prize of the household being a
large jar of gooseberry jam. The house was fairly good, but despite
its massive proportions, cold as Greenland. And in the time I spent
in Siberia, I never found a house or a hotel that was comfortably
warm, even when I was clad in the heaviest clothing, except the house
occupied by Colonel Morrow in Khabarovsk.

We arrived in Chita, Trans-Baikal, thirteen days after leaving
Vladivostok. As I looked out that morning, over a drear landscape
partly concealed by frozen fog, I had in mind the thousands of exiles
who had marched overland to Chita, for the city in the old days had
been a distributing point for convict labor destined for the mines to
the north.

It was fifty degrees below that morning. I saw a low, white plain, shut
in on three sides by hills, studded with huts. The huts were marked by
white pillars of steam rising straight into the sky--warm air escaping
from the chimneys. The station door was shrouded with ice, and whenever
it opened there was a burst of white steam outward, but upon entering
there was no steam inside--only a warm, odoriferous air. Great icicles
over the door, some of them a foot through, are characteristic of
public buildings in that country during the cold weather.

We learned that we had passed through the city station of Chita, and
had come three versts beyond to “Pervia Chita,” or First Chita, that
being the name of the first station built as the building of the road
progressed toward Vladivostok.

Werkstein got a man with a pony and a cart, and we loaded our baggage.
Then, trailing along after it, walking in order not to freeze our
feet, we skirted the railroad, and came to a railroad bridge over a
gully, which was to lead us to Chita proper.

But just as our wagon approached the bridge, a Russian ran out of a
hut, and let down bars, blowing a horn loudly meanwhile. Our pony had
to stop, and we had to wait.

We spent the time walking to and fro in an effort to keep warm.
Werkstein said there was a train coming, and the bridge guard could
not let us cross after he had been warned. And the time between when
the guard closed the bridge, and the freight train crossed and we
were allowed to pass, was forty-five minutes. At both ends of the
bridge long lines of traffic had been held up, and men and horses
obviously suffered greatly from cold. But _Nitchyvo_! The people are
too good-natured to protest. What does it matter? Nothing, except that
I have observed in lands where people are noted for their good nature,
those people bow their necks under the yoke of a foreign conqueror.

There is a system of philosophy used as a thesis for happy books in the
United States, somewhat akin to New Thought, which can see no evil in
any thing or any person. The heroes and heroines of such books being
depicted as living in happy American homes, insist that everybody
should be happy and can be happy, merely by seeking happiness. But
while these youngsters are being happy, father is making money, and
somebody does a deal of work that the machinery of government, and the
machinery of modern life, may be kept going. And such books sell by
the millions to American people. Happiness should not be the result of
wearing mental blinders. For the curse of Russia was not the Czar, but
the peasants _Nitchyvo_--“no matter.”



XIV

THE CITY OF CONVICTS


My first impressions of Chita were good. It had an excellent though
dirty station, and the buildings were substantial, most of those in the
business district being of stone or brick. There were two big Russian
churches, a synagogue, and a Mohammedan mosque, two local newspapers
being published intermittently, banks which did not at that time boast
of their assets, trade-schools, high schools, and a school conducted
by the clergy but which was temporarily closed, its building having
been commandeered by Ataman Semenoff, the chief of the Trans-Baikal
Cossacks, for an officers’ school. The population was between fifty and
sixty thousand. There were two fairly good hotels, the better one held
by Semenoff as quarters for his officers and their families.

The streets were wide and laid in straight lines. And oddly enough,
in a country which we assume to be buried in snow during the winter,
to walk the streets meant to sink ankle-deep in dust. All the snow I
saw in Chita was a mantle of fine particles on ground which was not
disturbed by traffic. It was too cold to snow.

We found the officer I was to relieve in the Hotel Dayooria. The room
was dark, because the single window was an inch thick with frost. But
there was an electric drop-light. On the window-sill were tea, sugar,
bread and a mess-kit. The scant furniture was dangerous to use, for the
Bolshevists had gone through the hotel and wrecked it.

I was offered a room for myself and interpreter which was bare of
furniture, the walls stripped clean of paper, the window repaired
poorly, at the rate of twenty-five rubles per occupant, or at the then
rate of exchange, about five dollars a day for both.

The halls were filthy dirty, and the odors nauseating. The toilet on
the main floor had plumbing, but not water, and it had been in use
for several months. There was no light in it, and its ventilation was
attended to by the door which opened into the dirty hall. The place
made its presence known throughout the building, and neither proprietor
nor Russian guests felt that there was anything out of the ordinary in
their surroundings.

To travel over the country and find such conditions everywhere,
regarded by the native population as normal, and then to hear of
epidemics which were being fought by the Red Cross doctors, and
thousands of dollars in medical supplies and medicines being shipped
into the country as gifts from the American people, made me wonder if
it would not be better to first use a knout on those responsible for
insanitary conditions beyond description or belief.

There was a great clamor about the danger of typhus, and our medical
men, military and civilian, were much concerned about its spread. There
were slips of paper distributed, printed in Russian, telling what to
do when afflicted with typhus. It was described as a disease caused
by body vermin, and urging personal cleanliness. I have seen many
Siberians read that warning, while they casually scratched themselves.
Generally speaking, the people regard lice as things which create a
slight discomfort, but are not worthy of much attention--about on a par
with flies.

One thing the Siberian does thoroughly--he takes a funeral seriously.
He turns it into a dramatic pageant, and no detail is overlooked. But
he will not turn his hand over to take any precaution against disease,
or the conditions that create it. I asked several Siberians, merely
to get their attitudes, if it would not be well to improve sanitary
conditions. “You will all be sick and die,” I said to one man.

“We may be sick, but we will not die,” he said. “What if we are sick?
The Americanskys are sending medicines to cure us.”

Probably if we demanded good sanitary conditions before we would supply
medical goods, we would be interfering with the people. But if we were
going to contribute medicines to a locality at home which allowed
breeding spots for disease all over the locality, I am willing to wager
that we would demand an improvement of the sanitation, and see that it
was accomplished, even if we had to use some kind of force.

One of my first duties was to call upon Lieutenant General Oba,
commanding the Japanese division, with headquarters at Chita. The
Japanese staff occupied a four-story department store which covered an
entire block. This building had been swept clean of its contents by
looting Bolshevists.

It happened that the Chief of Intelligence in our forces, had been in
Chita several days, and was preparing to return to Vladivostok. He went
with me to Oba’s headquarters, and we took with us a Y. M. C. A. man
who had been a missionary in Japan and who spoke Japanese well.

In the hall there was a wooden dial on a table, with a wooden arrow.
In sectors of the circle, were written Japanese and Russian sentences,
arranged so that when you read the Russian sentence which applied to
the officer you wished to call upon, and turned the arrow to that
sector, it also pointed to a translation in Japanese. Then the guard on
duty learned from this automatic interpreter, your business, and sent
your card in to the proper officer.

We were conducted to a room where we removed our heavy coats and furs,
and presently we were ushered into the presence of Oba. He is a small
man, of dignified but unassuming manners, and most amiable. I liked him
extremely. If I remember correctly, his foreign training was French,
and I missed the Germanic bluntness and the striving for dignity which
so many Japanese officers have as the result of acquiring or copying
German military manners.

Most Japanese officers who attain high rank are in addition to
being accomplished soldiers, astute diplomats. At least that is the
impression they give me. It may be that what I ascribe to astuteness,
is in reality an avoidance of discussing many of the things which
other foreign officers will discuss together with more or less
frankness. Silence is often mistaken for great wisdom. It may be wise
to be silent--if one wishes to appear wise. In a newspaper experience
covering nearly a quarter of a century, I have sometimes found many men
supposed to be oracles, merely to be clams. Once they could be induced
to talk, their limitations were apparent.

I would say that Oba has all the French love of conversation, and in
addition is most frank. There was no reason why he should plunge into a
discussion of Japan in Siberia, and there was no reason why he should
be more than formally polite. Yet every time I had occasion to call
on Oba, he made me feel thoroughly at home, and such occasions proved
to be in the nature of a pleasure rather than an official ordeal. His
abilities as a soldier I do not doubt, but I believe he would serve
Japan well as a diplomat.

Technically, it was proper to call first upon Ataman Semenoff, but
at that time he was confined to his bed suffering from the wounds
inflicted by a bomb thrown at him in a theatre of Chita. So we called
upon his chief of staff, General Verego. There was much intrigue in
Semenoff’s little army of some five thousand, and Verego lost his power
in time, and went away to Harbin.

We also called upon the head of the civil government, or who would
have been the head of the civil government of the province had there
been any civil government--a Mr. Tashkin, who at one time was a member
of the Duma. He proved to be a typical Russian statesman, including
whiskers and glasses. His keen eyes impressed me as being able to see
and understand many things, and I felt that he was only biding his time
till certain military autocracies could be pushed into the background.
He is the type of man upon which Russia will have to depend for
statesmanship, when it gives up government by the sword.

Oba, Semenoff, Tashkin--to me, those three symbolized the situation
in Siberia. Oba, to a certain extent, with the power of the Japanese
Empire behind him, stood behind Semenoff; Semenoff was at outs with
Kolchak, who in Omsk proclaimed himself the Supreme Ruler of Russia;
Semenoff had fought the Bolshevists with his little army while Kolchak
remained inactive in Harbin; Kolchak, the way cleared by Semenoff’s
army, jumped ahead of Semenoff to Omsk and became the chief of all
Russia in theory; Semenoff, ambitious to set himself up as a local
prince if not ambitious to be the dictator of all Russia, resented
being called upon to subordinate himself to Kolchak and have his wings
clipped.

Kalmikoff, being a Cossack, stood with Semenoff so far as he dared,
he in turn backed by Oi, the Japanese commander at Khabarovsk. The
United States stood aloof, merely pleading that all parties come to
agreement. Tashkin remained quiet in the background, holding the thin
thread of his civil power.

Semenoff was charged by Kolchak with treason, and blocking the railroad
and cutting the wires near Chita. Semenoff denied the charges, and
some of his own supply trains were held up near Harbin by General
Horvat, head of the Chinese Eastern section of the Trans-Siberian.
Horvat is said to have taken that action to aid Kolchak in forcing
Semenoff to put his army and himself under the orders of Kolchak. In
the meantime, while these forces should have combined and been whipping
the Bolshevists, the latter were gaining strength and cutting Russia’s
throat.

My chief dined with a Russian family the night he left and expected
his train to arrive about ten o’clock. His interpreter went to the
station and learned that the train would be in about seven. So we sent
hasty word to the colonel, and he left the dinner and hastened to the
station. We pried our way into the usual crowd of refugees and sat on
the colonel’s baggage in the evil-smelling restaurant.

Seven o’clock came, but no train. Inquiry resulted in the information
that it would be there “Sichass,” or presently. The train came at two
the next morning. It was stuffed to suffocation, as usual. The station
commandant fought his way into a second-class car, found a compartment
with accommodations for four persons which held eight, and routed them
all out. The passage in the car was so jammed with people that we had
difficulty in getting in, and had to pass the baggage over the heads of
the crowd. And the eight who had been evicted, together with their food
and cooking utensils, stood around and cursed the commandant.

In order to reach the train, we had to first climb over ice-covered
freight cars, which stood between the passenger train and platform.
The night was dark, the tracks were coated with ice, and everything
was slippery. But we managed to transfer all the colonel’s belongings,
and left him with a guttering candle in his compartment. A Chinese
colonel and his interpreter were put in with him, and the train pulled
out for Vladivostok. Werkstein and I went back to our hotel, and to
bed. We represented the United States in Chita. The next morning two of
Semenoff’s officers were found assassinated in the streets--their backs
had been blown out in the frozen fog of the night before.



XV

ATAMAN SEMENOFF


It will be remembered by the reader that the officer whom I relieved at
Chita, feared assassination. I have no reason to believe that he did
not have good grounds for his fears. Naturally, I assumed that I was
taking over his dangers, when I took his post. And despite the presence
of Semenoff’s army, and his armored train in the railroad yards, there
was a feeling of uneasiness in the city. Sentries were posted in the
centers of the streets, and kept their little fires burning every
night. There were rumors every day that the Bolshevists in the city
were about to rise and slay, or that Bolshevist bands were going to
swoop down upon us from some other city, and complete the destruction
they had begun before Semenoff drove them away.

[Illustration: ATAMAN SEMENOFF, CHIEF OF THE TRANS-BAIKAL COSSACKS]

[Illustration: MONGOL AND TARTAR DESCENDANTS OF CONQUERING HORDES WITH
1919 MODEL “CARS”]

And the fact that the man who threw the bomb at Semenoff in the
theatre was a private in one of the Ataman’s infantry regiments, kept
the officers on the alert. The bomb-thrower, who said his name was
Bernbaum, was reported to have confessed coming from Irkutsk where he
had drawn the number which delegated to him the killing of the Ataman.
He asserted that he had been instructed by the “Maximalists” or
Bolshevists, to go to Chita and join Semenoff’s army, and wait his
chance to kill. His bomb killed a woman in the Ataman’s box, and
wounded several men, the Ataman suffering several wounds from bits of
the bomb.

There were stories of mutinies among Semenoff’s troops, and there were
whisperings that all of Semenoff’s officers were not loyal. Most of his
men were mercenaries anyhow, and the bulk of his forces was made up of
Mongols, Buriats, some Russians who were truly anti-Bolshevist, and
many who had wisely attached themselves to an organization which gave
food, clothing and shelter in exchange for carrying a rifle and doing
guard duty.

When the bomb was thrown from the gallery, one of Semenoff’s officers
jumped up and cried: “I will have everybody in the gallery shot, if you
will give the order, Ataman!”

“No, no, we must not do that!” replied the stricken Ataman. But there
were many arrests, and shortly afterward there were several executions.
Later, the actual bomb-thrower was arrested while escaping toward
Blagoveschensk. I never learned his fate, but heard that he had given
several names to the Ataman’s officers, and that the men mentioned were
not far from Chita. I suspect that on one of the nights I was being
banqueted, there was a shooting party.

I had sent word to the staff that when the Ataman had recovered, I
wished to pay a formal call. We had not recognized Semenoff as an
official governmental head, yet we did make calls on him, just as we
talked with anybody who could give us an inkling as to what was going
on. Instructions were in general to meet everybody on a friendly basis,
but to take no sides.

One evening I got word that the Ataman would see me. I set out for his
residence with a Russian civilian agent, who had come from Manila with
the expedition. His name was Nicholas Romanoff, a name which amused
many of the Cossack officers.

But Mr. Romanoff knew the Ataman intimately, and Mr. Romanoff kindly
suggested to me the things I should say to the Ataman, just as no doubt
he suggested to the Ataman what the Ataman should say to me. This state
of affairs indicates to some extent the ease and ability of American
officers getting an absolute American viewpoint on Russian affairs, and
the Russian and Cossack officers being able to understand fully the
American attitude.

I considered it about as satisfactory a proceeding, for Russian and
American interests, as getting a kiss through a plate-glass window.
I imagine that the interpreters got satisfaction, for they were
automatically turned into diplomats, and controlled both sides. And the
power granted them, made it possible for them to reflect the point of
view from which they might acquire for themselves the most prestige.
But in the case of Mr. Romanoff, there was every evidence that he
displayed discretion and tact. He was the personal interpreter of the
Chief of Intelligence, who had brought him to Siberia from Manila. And
Mr. Romanoff had known Siberia well before he had changed it as a place
of residence, for the Philippines.

At that season of the year we lost the sun about four thirty in the
afternoon, and it was getting quite dark as we approached the Ataman’s
residence. We were halted by the sentry, and on explaining our mission,
were admitted to the hall. Here we were met by officers of the Ataman’s
personal staff, and after the usual bowing, and heel-clicking, left our
furs, and were ushered into a large drawing-room. The room was richly
and tastefully furnished. The high-posted walls were hung with splendid
tapestries, and the floor beautifully carpeted.

There were a few pieces of black furniture, which appeared to be of the
ornately-carven Chinese variety. The whole effect was more oriental
than Cossack, though of course the real Cossack is probably more
oriental than anything else. And, in fact, I had heard that Semenoff
was more of a Mongolian than a Cossack, being according to report, a
Prince of Van. The only place of which I know named Van is in European
Turkey, though there may be a Van in Mongolia.

The Ataman entered, on crutches. I saw a stockily-built man, of
medium height, wearing Prussian blue trousers rather small at the
bottoms of the legs, suggestive of being habitually worn with boots.
He had on slippers. His face was heavily-jowled, very dark, his chin
chubbily-protuberant in the Rubens style. He wore heavy drooping black
mustaches, his black eyes keen and somewhat suspicious, his hair
suggestive of scantness on top, and a Napoleonic lock down over his
low, broad forehead.

His photographs were always made so as to bring out his Napoleonic
points, which I had heard he prided himself upon. He was credited with
carrying a book in his pocket which told how Napoleon acted in every
situation which required a decision, and that when he had to decide
anything, he first consulted the book. Evidently my visit brought up no
point which required a Napoleonic decision--at least, I did not see him
consult the book while I was there.

I was bowed to a chair, and the Ataman let himself down gently on a
couch. He seemed a trifle worried, but he may have been oppressed by
pain. He had only recently induced the banks of Chita to loan him
several million rubles to pay off his army--and a local banker had
called on me that day. After we had talked a little, and I had told the
Ataman that I had heard of his ability as an organizer and leader of
armies, and of his prowess in battle, he appeared relieved, and pulled
the lock on his forehead down a bit more.

The lady who presided over his Chita household came in. The slight view
I took of her as I rose and bowed, leaves me no recollections. Even
had I desired to be courteous to a woman in her position, discretion
counselled as little notice as possible.

I had heard that more than one Russian officer with an admiring eye for
“wives” of other officers, had been picked up dead in the streets. A
sharp look from the Ataman, and the hostess did not linger. I remember
that she did not have on the pearl necklace for which the Ataman was
said to have paid several hundred thousand rubles in Harbin, at a time
when he was short of money for his troops. His domestic régime was
reputed to cost him as much for upkeep as his army. Perhaps, after all,
I was not introduced to the lady who got the pearls.

I had a cigar, and we talked of safe trifles. I was there some twenty
minutes. And as we passed through the line of sentries about the
Ataman’s palace-like mansion, into the cold crisp air, I saw on the
plain below, thousands of lights burning in rude log huts. It was all
so typical of Asia--few palaces and many huts. One man, with an army at
his back, “borrowing” from the banks to cast pearl before swine. What
better conditions to breed Bolshevism? But the same conditions exist
among the leaders of the Bolshevists, who merely play the mobs against
the military exploiters of the people, to get control of the banks and
the money, and to have wealth for spending in the same style. Thus the
ignorance of the people prevent them from escaping exploitation in some
form or another. We of the United States think that it will be settled
by waiting for the people to organize themselves, so that they may
express their will. It is a case of waiting till new generations have
been educated.

People have said to me: “There maybe disorder now in Siberia, but I
believe that the common people know what they are doing, and will do
what they want to do.”

They know what they are doing in the same style that the country yokel
at home knows what he is doing when he goes to New York and buys at
bargain prices several lots in Central Park. The difference between
what he is doing, and what he thinks he is doing, costs him dearly.
The Bolshevists the world over are in the hands of a crafty lot of
confidence men.



XVI

FAMINE IN CHITA


There had been much discussion at home in the newspapers about famine
in Siberia, and in Vladivostok this fear of famine was uppermost in the
minds of diplomats, military chiefs, and civilian relief agencies. In
fact, there was every evidence in Vladivostok that the inland cities of
Siberia were already suffering from hunger, and with a severe winter
ahead, there was much apprehension for the country people.

The refugees pouring into Vladivostok, clamoring for food, depicted a
state of starvation in the towns from which they had come. And data
on food-prices gleaned from refugees and the inland press, as well
as reports by travellers, all combined to strengthen the belief that
famine faced the whole country.

And my first meals in Chita made me suspect that there was much truth
in the reports that Mother Hubbardsky’s cupboard was bare. I went to
dinner with my chief the first evening in the city. We sought the best
restaurant and scanned its menu with care; and after considerable pains
we were able to order a meal--a modest one--at a cost of about twelve
rubles each. Our rubles had cost us a dollar for eight in Vladivostok.
So our dinner amounted to a dollar and a half each. Then we spied four
scrawny, spotted little apples pyramided on a plate on the counter. We
ordered them, ate them, and asked for our bill. The apples alone had
cost us thirty-six rubles--or a dollar and twelve cents each!

An officer has to pay for his own food. In Vladivostok at the officers’
mess, three meals a day cost a dollar and a quarter. In Chita, six
dollars a day, without apples, was the prospect ahead. My orderly was
allowed a dollar and a quarter a day for his subsistence. With that, he
could buy exactly one poor meal. The situation was rapidly losing its
humorous aspect. After all, was Vladivostok right about that famine?
Yet all along the line I had seen an abundance of food for people who
seemed to be eating all the time. Evidently there was a wrench in the
machinery somewhere. It was a case of “Who’s looney now?”

We stocked up immediately with rye bread, cheese and dried fish--all
purchased, the orderly said, from peasant women near the station.
The faithful Werkstein had brought with him a little sugar, some
tea, chocolate in bars, and a few cans of army beef. He turned my
wardrobe in the hotel room into a pantry; and with a samovar from the
kitchen, prepared my meals. It was well below freezing in the room,
and I usually wore my furs. There were forests all around the city.
But no one could be hired to cut wood. Was not everybody free? (How I
wished that our Congress would ship me a consignment of those parlor
Bolshevists who were in the United States preaching the beauties of
Bolshevism!)

One evening, some of Semenoff’s officers asked me to go to their
garrison mess. “A little Russian supper,” they explained rather
apologetically. The supper began at nine. We sat down at a tremendous
table covered with dishes, and glasses in groups. There was a startling
array of bottles. Presently a delicious soup was served. Then came
soldier-servants bearing great salvers on which were fishes the size
of young whales--decorated with fantastically carved vegetables. Next
arrived coveys of quail and partridge. Viands strange and barbaric
followed--dishes that suggested China and Arabia, others of Cossack
origin. O shade of Lucullus! O Herbert Hoover!

The Cossack band in an adjoining room played national airs. The
different kinds of glasses were emptied in as many toasts. And to my
great relief, the speeches began. I say relief, because naturally, I
thought the meal was over. Not so. Still the heaped salvers came. By
now, I had reached the point where I could only weakly pretend to eat.
My hosts watched me like hawks, insisting that I rally my appetite.
They showed irritation when I demurred faintly. They demanded that I
eat and drink to prove the unlimited friendship of the United States
for Russia. And I wondered how our diplomats had ever survived the
hospitality of such a country.

At last I saw that my only hopes lay in a limit to the Cossack
capacity. Again and again, I told myself, “They have reached
it!”--only to realize that what I had suffered was but a prelude to the
feast.

At about three in the morning, the vodka and wines having been
exhausted, champagne was served--in large, stein-like glasses. And a
British officer who had just come to observe conditions, was startled
when Irish porter showed up in stone jars. “Why!” he exclaimed, “We
don’t have this at home any more! In England it’s a fond memory. And
here they have it by the case!”

A little supper! And there was one such about every night. I had come
looking for famine: I began to fear I would die of over eating. One
could be forgiven a chuckle. The staff in Vladivostok had expressed
some remorse over having to send me away from a mess which boasted
three courses and a choice of two canned fruits for dessert!

But what about the proletariat of Chita? These officers were eating,
but were the poor starving to death in cold weather? I visited the
open-air free market in a square of the city. The peasants were selling
cabbage, dried salmon, salmon-roe, spheres of cheese, rye and white
bread in tremendous loaves, quail, partridge, pheasant, beef, pork,
sausage, frozen milk and frozen soup--precisely the things I had eaten
at the “little supper.”

The prices ran high. But--the people had plenty of Bolshevist money.
However, this money was greatly depreciated in value. Nevertheless,
the vendors at the market expected as many of my Imperial rubles for
any purchase as they asked the residents of the city, who, of course,
had local currency. So now I understood that the apple which I had
bought in the restaurant at a dollar and twelve cents (or nine Imperial
roubles), would, at nine roubles Bolshevist money, have cost a resident
of Chita, only about ten cents. What had happened to me, can best be
expressed in this wise: A man takes silver dollars to a city where
disks have been stamped “One dollar,” and where the merchants do not
care whether he gives them tin or silver--the price is the same! So
the apples were not high; the explanation is that money was plentiful
and cheap. And now I understood why Vladivostok was worrying over
interior statistics. The department heads mistook high costs reported
in Bolshevist rubles, for lack of food.

But those statistics related mainly to sugar, tea, salt, candles and
other staples, commonly regarded as necessities, but turned by the
speculators into luxuries. Most of the Siberian speculators are of the
pack-peddler variety, because freight shipments are costly, and the
goods liable to loss. One Chita shipper paid seventy-five thousand
rubles for a car in Harbin to move sugar to the Trans-Baikal. The
engineer got one thousand rubles to haul it; the conductor of the train
got one thousand rubles to insure the car’s being cut off at Chita;
and I heard that the side-track was rented to the shipper while the
car was being unloaded. He assured me that he had doubled his money
in spite of paying so much “grease.” But the railroad men, who are
opposed to “Exploitation of the masses,” thought they were making the
capitalistic speculator pay the “grease!” Those railroad men had not
been paid for six months, and some of us Allied officers worried about
it, and gave the crews credit for staunch loyalty to the Russian cause
by sticking to their jobs. Also, a large Red Cross train went up the
line and presented these poor, starving magnates who ran the trains,
with new clothing!

Captain B----, a Russian serving Semenoff, invited me to his room
in the hotel for tea. His wife brought from the wardrobe baskets of
cookies and candies. Trunks disgorged tinned fish, bar chocolate and
tinned milk. In one corner of the room was a sack of sugar; in another
were sacks of flour. Those living quarters resembled a corner in the
warehouse of a wholesale grocer. And everybody was stocked up like
that. Moreover, they all had orders with the local dealers to send them
more provisions whenever more arrived. It was a case of everybody his
own grocer. I had found the Chita stores bare. No wonder.

I never saw any famine in Siberia. In fact, the only place that I
heard it discussed was in Vladivostok. There, the flocks of refugees,
seeking free food and shelter, were responsible for the belief in it.
No doubt many of them did need aid--especially the women and children.
And in the handling of those needy, our Red Cross did gallant service.
But among the refugees were hundreds of able-bodied men who found it
pleasant to be refugees. These men were not likely to report that the
districts from which they came were plentifully supplied with food.
And as these men kept pouring in from all parts of the country, a
consolidation of their reports presented a false picture of conditions.

What I looked for in the interior of Siberia, contrasted with what
I found, was happily, if ridiculously, disappointing. But in 1920 a
similar hunt might result less humorously. To feed men stops their
work; to stop work stops production. And lack of production spells
future need. So next year,--who knows?--it may be possible to find
famine in Siberia--if meanwhile the people of that country consume
their total reserves on the strength of our promise of generous aid.
In my humble opinion, the United States should avoid, in Siberia, all
Christmas-Tree talk.



XVII

NEW YEAR WITH THE JAPANESE


New Year’s Day, 1919, began for me at fifteen minutes after midnight,
with a thunderous knocking at the glass door of my room. This was
rather disconcerting, for there had been rumors the night before that
the Bolshevists were going to rise in the city, and slay. The glass
door, with its colored paper stuck in the panes, was not ideal for
siege purposes; but it had certain advantages, in that I could shoot
through it while the Bolshevists were breaking it in.

I got out of bed without making any reply to the summons. I had opened
the tiny trap-door in the wall which served as a ventilator, and the
room was well chilled, for there was no heat in the radiators. It was
about fifty below zero outside--and about the same inside.

Turning on the electric drop-light at my desk, I put on my purple
dressing-gown, and slipped my automatic into its pocket. Then I
unlocked and threw open the door, stepping discreetly to one side, a
habit one soon acquires in a country so free and equal as Siberia.

The hall was quite dark. I made out a figure close at hand, and in
the light from my electric lamp I caught the gleam of gold shoulder
straps. A Russian officer clicked his heels, bowed, and spoke my name
in good English.

I bade him enter, supposing he was an officer sent by the Ataman. But
he had just reached Chita by special train from Omsk, and was bound for
Vladivostok. He came to tell me of a Bolshevist uprising in Omsk, some
ten days before, which had been put down. Many Bolshevist prisoners
released from the prisons by their friends outside, had been shot.

This news did not surprise me at the time. I had been told three
weeks before that the Bolshevists would rise in Omsk on that very
date, release the prisoners, and attack the Kolchak garrison. I made
an effort to recall who had foretold the uprising, and remembered a
drosky-driver who spoke English with whom I had drunk tea in a station
down the line. On the supposition that he was merely boasting for my
benefit when he claimed to be closely in touch with the Bolshevists,
I had let the story pass as idle talk, for if one attempted to report
all rumors, a dozen secretaries would be required by every officer in
the country. But now I realized that the drosky-driver was in reality
in the confidence of the Bolshevist leaders at Omsk, several thousand
versts away. He had foretold the exact date of the uprising now
reported to me.

My Russian officer’s train had encountered Bolshevists at two stations,
and from the second his train had been run back for the purpose of
reinforcing his guard. When he ran down the line again to where his
progress had been opposed, he got through without difficulty, for in
the meantime the Bolshevists had been driven away.

Having warned me of these facts, he was obliged to hasten back to his
train. With a click and a handshake he was away, and I went back to
bed, not quite sure I had not dreamed a chapter from a book with a
Prisoner of Zenda flavor.

I shivered myself to sleep, having been chilled to the bone while I
listened to the adventures of the Russian officer, and carried on, as
the British say, till Werkstein came thumping at my door at eight to
tell me that I must hurry to catch a train for a New Year’s celebration
at a station some sixty versts away, where some of Semenoff’s garrison
was to make merry. Of course, it was thirteen days before the Russian
New Year, but the Cossack never misses an excuse to celebrate anything.

I found myself with a violent headache, due to having taken cold while
sitting directly under the ventilating trap, which I had forgotten to
close while I talked with the Russian officer. Doubtless his haste to
get back to his train was induced by the terribly cold air flowing into
my room, but he had been too polite to call my attention to the open
trap. He must have thought me most inhospitable.

The prospect of going away to a celebration was not alluring as I
looked out the window and saw Chita almost completely hidden by a
frozen fog. It was nearly sixty below zero, and rapidly getting colder.

Werkstein ordered the samovar, and I had tea in bed. I do not wonder
that the Russians drink so much tea. We drank it all the time in
Chita, and my ordinary day’s tea-drinking ran as high as thirty hot
glasses. The effect was not good on my nerves, and I discovered that I
had become garrulous. Tea and much talk go together, which is why the
Russian produces conversation in great quantities.

Mr. S----, the missionary Y. M. C. A. man, came to kindly offer
his services as an interpreter in case I would go to General Oba’s
reception at his headquarters at eleven. I am afraid that Mr. S----
suspected the towel the faithful Werkstein had insisted on putting
about my head, but he was too broad-minded a gentleman to hint at his
suspicions.

The Oba reception lured me. It was but a couple of blocks away, and if
I still felt badly when I got there, could leave and return to bed.
So I got up and shaved, and dug out a white shirt. After all, a white
shirt is a wonderful thing, especially if it comes out of a package
wrapped by one’s wife on the other side of the world, and redolent of a
subtle but familiar perfume.

I also decided to discard temporarily the tremendous boots I had been
wearing, and got out my dress boots and spurs, considering them the
only fitting footwear with a white shirt and stock. Besides, a soldier
on a diplomatic mission cuts rather a sorry figure unless he can
produce the proper metallic click with his heels.

So away with Mr. S---- to General Oba’s. Japanese sentries at the
door of the former department store, wearing bands over their noses to
keep them from freezing, came to the present arms smartly. We went up
the stairs and strode down a long hall. Little staff officers, smart
as paint and most affable, took our cards, and spoke in Russian to
Mr. S---- who startled and delighted them by responding in their own
language.

A bevy of Japanese orderlies abased themselves and took our heavy
coats. The Japanese machine moves with noiseless precision, and without
any waste motions--one, our garments; two, bows and clicks; three, this
door, please.

The door opens. Oba stands just inside, smiling a welcome. Clicks,
bows, handshakes. The season’s greetings. We enter. The room is
decorated with wistaria vines and Japanese dwarf trees. At a long table
running down the center of the room, and laden with bottles and food,
Japanese and Cossack officers are standing talking in various languages
and eating and drinking.

A Buddhist priest, chaplain to Oba’s forces, wearing a conventional
frock coat, with an embroidered stole-like green and gold collar thrown
over his shoulders, addresses me in English, and tells me that he lived
seven years in Vancouver. He says I must have a potion of saki from a
lacquered saucer, presented by a Japanese soldier. The liquor is poured
from a vase-like china bottle. The Japanese custom, I am informed. As I
move down the table after drinking the saki, bowing deeply the while,
everybody clicks and bows. I meet another priest, who does not speak
English. Mr. S---- informs me that he is the head of another Buddhist
sect, and kind of an hereditary pope.

A Russian doctor, wearing mufti, but displaying a couple of orders of
the old Russian régime, tries me in German, then Italian. We get on
quite well for a time, when he breaks into English--“My son--four years
Yokohama in school--she talks very good English--one, two, three, four
years. I study English two months.” I congratulate him on his ability
in English after such a short period of study.

Japanese captains come smiling, to inform me that they do not speak
English, whereupon they proceed to do so with amazing facility. It is
the Japanese custom to deprecate their own accomplishments.

I am urged to drink a glass of vodka with a Cossack officer, and at the
same time a Japanese officer asserts that he will be overjoyed if I
will drink with him a thimble full of saki. Another Japanese comes with
a bottle of brandy and holds out a glass for me, and on the other side
of the table a Japanese holds up a bottle of French wine and informs me
joyously that it is “White Wine,” and that I must have some with him.
While this is going on a Japanese soldier, egged on by the Buddhist
priest, is pouring me a glass of Sapporo beer because I have mentioned
the fact that I was once in Sapporo, Japan. I now have a half circle of
filled glasses before me, and in order to avoid drinking them all at
once, profess great interest in a dish on the table which appears to
be filled with raw shark, the skin still on the pieces.

The Vancouver priest tells me it does not taste good, and makes a
grimace, but he says I must eat it, for it is Japanese custom. I do so,
while all my friends who have poured out liquors for me, wait patiently
for me to consume the contents of the various glasses. I have visions
of myself carried back to my hotel on a board, and wonder how diplomats
ever attain long lives.

The Russian doctor catches my eye across the table once more. He goes
around the flank in great excitement, grasps the arm with which I am
feeding myself raw shark, and informs me in stentorian tones: “My
son--four years Yokohama--she speaks very good English. I study two
months.” I swallow the shark and congratulate him.

My eye roves. It cannot evade the semi-circle of friendly eyes which
wait like wolves ready to attack, in case I do not drink from the
glasses before me. I take a sip from each glass, bowing deeply each
time I pretend to drink. I feel that while I may not be a brilliant
success as a diplomat, I have unsuspected possibilities as an acrobat.
I discovered muscles in my back which I never knew before that I
had--and they were getting tired. Everybody bows in triumph as I sip
from the last glass, and I am sure that the mixture of liquors I have
absorbed has poisoned me--if it has not, the shark will!

Once more the polyglot conversation is resumed. I eat chestnuts from
a plate, and note the orders and decorations worn by Russian and
Japanese officers--colorful insignia gained some fourteen years before
on the millet plains of Manchuria, not so far away from Chita. I think
of the legions of dead burned like cord-wood, or buried in trenches,
of Nogi and his sacrificial battalions before Port Arthur. And Nanshan
and 304 Metre Hill, and the Baltic fleet fathoms deep in the sea of
Japan--the Czar, whose stupid stubborness led to that stupid war--I
wonder if he is really dead in a well.

General Oba comes to me. He speaks appreciatively of the way in which
the United States “managed” the war with Germany. I reply through Mr.
S---- that the Allies appreciated what Japan did for them in China and
the Pacific. I am a bit taken aback at being thanked for winning the
war, but I suppose I represent the United States, and must not take the
splendid compliments too seriously.

I wish General Oba a happy New Year, and great prosperity for his
nation. My group of friends dispersed discreetly when Oba approached.
He takes me to the other end of the room to explain some of the things
he has there for the New Year festival. The knot of rice straw on the
wall with white strips of paper hanging from it, is a Shinto symbol,
and a prayer for good crops.

On the little table before it is a pyramid of fruits, shrine-like with
two larger rice cakes upon the pyramid--an offering to the gods who
make the rice grow. On them lies a strip of fishes skin, symbolical, if
my memory serves me right, of plenty. As the word for plenty and the
word for joy are nearly the same, the skin makes a pun. The Japanese
are fond of puns, and play upon words. Rampant against the pile of food
stuff is a red lobster, symbolical of agility, and on top of all, two
Japanese oranges which make another pun.

Then we went to the door letting in from the hall, and outside, where
Oba explained the pine tree, bamboo poles tied along its hole, and the
blooming plum shrub at the base of the tree. General Oba says: “This
bamboo signifies that a man’s character must be upright, the tree
signifies long life, for the pine grows to great age, and as the plum
bush blooms early, coming to flower despite the cold of early spring,
it stands for perseverance in the face of adversity.”

Japan is a land of beautiful symbols. These stands of triple symbols
are shown before every home in Japan on New Year’s Day.

We return to the guest table, and I thank Oba for his kindness in
explaining the various decorations. We have a thimble of _saki_, and
bow. He turns to speak to a Cossack officer, and the smiling little
Buddhist priest with the green stole comes to chat with me again. Once
more the Russian doctor comes to tell me of his son in Yokohama and
how well he speaks English. He drags me to a great Japanese map of
Russia on the wall and shows me how close Japan is, and then with an
all-embracing sweep of his hand, informs me that America is far away
across the Pacific. I agree.

A Japanese officer looks at the map, and comparing the size of Russia
with the little island Empire of Japan, observes whimsically that Japan
is very small. I tell him that greatness is not always measured by
size, and wonder if in an effort to be polite to Japan I have not given
Russia a left-handed compliment. But the Japanese bows and hisses,
evidently well pleased.

Cossack officers with great swinging sabers, more like scimitars than
anything else, come and shake hands with me solemnly, and rattle their
spurs. Once more the Buddhist priest takes me in tow and swears I must
drink one more drop of saki with him if the cordial relations between
Japan and the United States are to be preserved. We preserve the
cordial relations between the two countries, and the thought of myself
on a board recurs--I begin to fear that the Russian doctor across the
table, now regarding me with serious mien, is about to dash around the
table again and tell me once more about his son in Japan.

I decided that it is time to go, and spying Oba near the door, I work
my way toward him, and when he is disengaged, come to attention with
my loudest click. We bow and shake hands. I step backward four paces,
about face, and find myself in the hall. Staff officers come forward
in a rush and make a great ceremony of my coat and furs, and I go down
the hall amid a perfect orgy of bows, while the bayonets of sentries in
the long hall shoot upward at the present, to do me honor. I plunge out
into the frigid air. East and West have met, and I like General Oba
and his staff.

When I returned to my room, I got word that General Knox of the British
Indian army was in his train at the station. I went down to call. His
train had arrived from Vladivostok, and he was on his way to Omsk. I
found a group of British officers in splendid first-class coaches, and
palatial dining-car. They fairly hustled me into that dining-car, and
on came the tea and jam and cakes.

Colonels, majors, and captains wearing service stripes which proclaimed
the fact that they had been in the war a long time, sat round and
talked. I noted many of the red chevrons which marked their wearers as
members of the gallant old “Contemptibles.”

Britain never loses a chance to turn a slur into an honor, and every
officer and man who was at the front or on the way over seas to fight
for the motherland at the time that the Kaiser referred to England’s
“contemptible little army” gets the red chevron on his sleeve which
allows him to call himself a “contemptible.” Those are the little
things on which a great nation is built.

These officers were as jolly and unassuming as a lot of school boys. I
like the way in which the British can, at times, forget rank and put
behind them the things they have done. They decline to take themselves
seriously--yet they manage to make the rest of the world do so.

Other nations take themselves seriously, and have something in their
manner that suggests with more or less menace that you must have the
same attitude toward them. But the British have welded an empire out of
many queer nationalities with the simple idea that a gentleman does not
have to insist that he is a gentleman--the instant he does so he ceases
to be a gentleman.

I do not believe the British have always been right, but they have
been right often enough to win my admiration. And the best any nation
can do is to try and be right all the time. Standards of conduct for
individuals and nations are always changing, despite the assertions
of many people that “human nature cannot be changed.” Quite true, but
human nature which displays barbaric tendencies can be controlled.

At one time a man had to get drunk to be a gentleman, and he had to
fight a duel if challenged, or challenge to a duel if he suffered what
he considered insult. Human nature has not changed, but we have changed
the standards for decent human conduct. And some day there will be
no wars because human nature is willing to meet the new standards we
shall set up. In the meantime, we cannot end wars by throwing away our
own guns and allowing the other fellow to keep his. We must evolute
by education rather than by legislation, though continual legislating
internationally will advance the education by providing a free
interchange of ideas and a setting up of international ideals.

I did not have the pleasure of paying my respects in person to General
Knox, for I think he was calling on Ataman Semenoff. But I left my
card. As I walked back to my hotel in the Siberian twilight, I passed
a Siberian _moujik_ staggering drunkenly from the effects of vodka.
And as I went on after letting him have all the road to pass me, I
philosophized in an amateur way in this wise: What is the difference
between this Siberian _moujik_ and me? Why should I feel myself his
superior? Was it anything that I myself had done? No. The difference
between me and the drunken Siberian _moujik_ lay entirely in the
fact that I had been luckier than he in my ancestors. My progenitors
established, and left to me a form of government which meant
opportunity instead of oppression. I had begun life as a factory boy,
but not as the descendant of a line of ignorant serfs.

The men and women of my race who had stood for freedom ages before I
was born, were now dust in ancient graves. They had wrested from King
John of England the Great Charter of human liberties, and from German
George the Third, freedom for the American colonies. The _moujik_ had
only just begun to think of freedom, and was making rather a mess of
the job. If his ancestors had begun to fight for freedom a thousand
years before, I would not be in Siberia wondering what was to be done.
This was the real Siberian twilight--the twilight which precedes the
sunlight of full freedom, a twilight which reveals queer goblins, and
bizarre shapes burning and slaying through the night which must come
and pass before dawn.

These musings were undoubtedly due to having been entertained by the
kindly Oba, and then the startling contrast of having been made to feel
at home with the hospitable British--or maybe it was the raw shark I
had eaten which made my mind wander.



XVIII

DIPLOMACY AND--MICE


In a previous chapter I mentioned Captain B----, a Russian serving
in Semenoff’s forces, who had his room in the Hotel Select full of
food. This officer, and his wife, a frail little woman who had been
desperately ill and was still in the convalescent stage, became my
closest friends in Chita.

Every afternoon at four I was in their room for tea, and Mrs. B----,
who was an accomplished musician, played Russian operas and sang. The
piano had been borrowed from the wife of a Russian doctor living in the
hotel. Mrs. B----’s few sheets of music were all that were left to her
from a large collection, after several encounters with Bolshevists,
in which the most of her baggage had been stolen or confiscated. This
couple had spent the previous year in flights from various cities.
They had escaped from Odessa, from Ekaterinburg, from Irkutsk--from
countless places. And many times they were in deadly peril.

Captain B---- belonged to the old Russian aristocracy. He had an estate
in the Altai mountains, which had been destroyed by Bolshevists, and
gold mines. He had a villa in Japan. He had travelled round the world
many times, and knew Africa, for instance, like the palm of his hand.
He referred casually to Lake Nyanza and Victoria Falls in the same
matter-of-fact way that he mentioned his visit to Niagara Falls. He
spoke nine languages. He had been attached to the Russian Consulate in
New York for a long time. He spoke English fluently, and was a most
delightful chap. His saber-hilt had the monogram of the Czar--he was
close to the imperial family, without doubt, though he discreetly kept
off the subject of his former associations with the court life.

Mrs. B---- came originally from Bessarabia, and had lived in
Moscow. She spoke French well, and was learning English. I picked
up considerable Russian at those teas, and Mrs. B---- practiced her
English on me, her husband laughing gaily at her mistakes.

I remember one afternoon that the table cover had upon it embroidered
butterflies. And while Mrs. B---- was serving my tea, I put my
finger on one of these butterflies, and said, “Butterfly,” for the
purpose of giving her the English of it. She looked at her husband in
consternation after giving me a startled glance, and said something in
Russian. He was busy opening a can of jam, and looked up in surprise at
what she had said to him, for she was on the point of tears.

He smiled and asked me: “What was it you just said? I did not hear. My
wife did not understand.”

“I said this was a butterfly,” I replied, pointing to the embroidery.

He dropped the can of jam and roared with laughter, at the time patting
his wife’s hand.

It happened that the table cover was much the worse for wear, though of
fine linen.

Captain B---- spoke in explanation to his wife, and she too laughed,
and began to chatter merrily.

“My wife could not understand why you should mention the fact that the
table cover is very old and no good,” said Captain B----. “The Russian
word ‘butterclou’ means trashy, old and worn out--junk. And she thought
you were referring to the table cloth as no good, when you put your
finger on it and said ‘butterfly.’”

I made my apologies. And then I told of the American of our Committee
on Public Information who arrived at Harbin at two in the morning, and,
ordered the drosky-driver to take him to a hotel. The driver looked
very surprised, but he drove away with the American, and they rolled
through most of the streets of Harbin, up and down and all around for
an hour.

The American noticed that the driver peered in at shop windows, and was
in the mercantile part of the city, especially among the Chinese shops.
He demanded in exasperation why the driver could not find a hotel, but
all the poor driver could do was scratch his head and protest that he
was doing his best.

Finally, they found somebody who could translate, and discovered that
the American had not asked for a “gasteenitsah,” or hotel, but had told
the driver that he wished some mustard, the Russian word for mustard
being quite similar to the Russian word for hotel. The driver had been
trying to find a grocery store open at that early hour.

This inability to grasp the meaning of a sentence from the
circumstances despite a slight mispronunciation of the vital word in
the sentence, I found to be typical among most Russians. Every word
must be pronounced accurately, or the Russian is completely at sea for
your meaning.

For several weeks I shocked waiters and waitresses in restaurants by
asking for cakes with my tea. They regarded me with distrustful eyes,
and plainly disapproved of me. I could not understand why when I asked
for a provodnik with my tea, I never got one, but did get a frightened
look.

The explanation is that the attendants were taken aback at the
discovery that Americans are cannibals, despite all reports to the
contrary. For a provodnik is not a cake, but the man who looks after
the fires in a passenger car, and pretends to sweep the floor when you
want to sleep. Naturally, they did not serve me a provodnik--neither
did they give me a cake. I got my cake by going to the counter and
pointing it out. Yet provodnik strikes me as a far better name for cake
in Russian, than the word they use, which is proven by the fact that I
can remember provodnik now, but forget entirely the word for cake.

I found that the British were not nearly so dependent upon interpreters
as we were. They had officers who spoke Russian perfectly, some of them
being Russian-born. This expert knowledge of the language may be due in
part to the fact that England for a long time feared Russia. Some of
Kipling’s early stories of garrison life in India express this mistrust
for “the man who walks like a bear.” And, in fact, the Siberian peasant
does walk like a bear, for his shambling gait, a great body slightly
stooped, with long powerful arms at his side, he suggests Bruin
amazingly.

Captain B---- was commandant of the Hotel Select, used as quarters by
Semenoff’s officers and their families. His own room was down the hall
from mine, past the dining-room being used as an officers’ mess, with
German war-prisoners as waiters.

I returned to my room late one afternoon, and met Captain B---- going
out. I spoke to him, and he scarcely replied. He had on his sheepskin
coat and Cossack cap, and I noted at once that he was not wearing his
saber. It was the first time I had seen him without it. He looked pale.
There was another Cossack officer with him. I sensed something wrong at
once. Nicholas Romanoff, the agent referred to before, was with me, and
Captain B---- stepped aside and said something to Romanoff in Russian
in a guarded tone, and then marched down the hall with the Cossack.

Romanoff’s manner was troubled. We went into my room without saying a
word, and locked the door.

“What is up?” I demanded.

“Captain B---- has been arrested,” he said, sadly. “Arrested on order
of the Ataman, who is down the railroad toward Harbin.”

“With what is he charged?” I asked.

“He does not know.”

Now to be arrested in Chita by order of the Ataman, especially while
the Ataman is absent, at that time and under the prevailing conditions
is no joke; and to be arrested without being charged with the offense
for which the arrest is made, is dangerous; and to be one of Semenoff’s
officers and be arrested, is doubly dangerous. Being arrested in such
manner is quite likely to mean being shot within an hour. There was a
good chance that while Romanoff and I stood there looking at each other
we might hear a rifle volley.

It was no affair of mine. I could not prevent an execution. I had no
way of knowing what had been discovered against Captain B----, if
anything. It might be a private feud, it might be that Captain B----
had entirely too many Imperial rubles of big denominations in his
trunk, as I well knew. It was quite possible that somebody in power had
taken a fancy to Mrs. B---- and decided to eliminate her husband on a
trumped up charge while the Ataman was away. And the Ataman might or
might not have ordered the arrest--anything was possible in Chita.

Captain B---- was my friend. I made up my mind that not much time would
pass before I called upon the Ataman’s staff, to ask as diplomatically
as possible the reason for the arrest. Not that I expected to be told
the truth, but I did intend to apprise Semenoff’s headquarters that
I was aware of what had happened. And I did intend to imply that if
an officer was executed summarily without evidence against him which
justified such action, such summary action would be considered against
Semenoff’s sense of justice as a military administrator.

Semenoff or Semenoff’s officers might shoot Captain B---- to satisfy
some Cossack whim if they wished to, but if they did so they could not
expect to have me regard them as people at all fit to exercise control
over any people or part of Siberia, or to talk with me officially or
unofficially.

I was determined that if Captain B---- was shot I would know why, and
if disapproved, the relations existing between the United States and
Ataman Semenoff as represented by me, would be broken off immediately,
and that I would so report to my headquarters and if not upheld,
request my relief from duty at Chita.

Knowing that Romanoff was close to the Ataman and his staff officers,
I apprised Romanoff of my attitude very quickly, and told him to come
with me to Mrs. B----.

We found her in tears, and frantically dressing for the street. She
had not been out since she had recovered from a long illness, and
the weather was extremely cold. She said that her husband had been
arrested by order of a colonel who lived in the hotel across the
street, and that she was going over to talk with him and demand the
reason for the arrest.

I sent Romanoff with her, and again charged him to unofficially inform
the colonel or anybody else concerned of my great interest in the case,
and that I would expect a proper trial in case there was a legitimate
charge against Captain B----. In other words, that the United States
was watching, and that while there would be no interference, Cossack
methods would be judged by this affair.

Romanoff and Mrs. B---- were gone more than an hour, and when they
returned, Romanoff assured me that the colonel had promised to release
Captain B----, but Mrs. B---- was still worried. She was well aware of
the custom of shooting people first and making explanations afterward.
Many innocent persons suffered by this custom. When a mistake was made,
the official responsible generally shrugged his shoulders and asked if
there were not plenty more people in the world.

The reason for the arrest was reported to be that Captain B---- had
given a room in our hotel to an officer of Semenoff, when the officer
showed an order signed by the Ataman that quarters should be provided.
There was but one room in the hotel available--a room which had been
occupied by the colonel who had ordered Captain B---- arrested. This
colonel had not lived in the room for weeks, but had moved to the
hotel across the street, leaving in his room in our hotel a small grip.

It was charged that the order for quarters was an old one, and that
since it had been signed the officer had had trouble with the Ataman.
But Captain B---- did not know this, and accepted the order for
quarters for what it appeared to be on its face--still in force.

But the principal crime committed by Captain B---- was said to be
having allowed the officer out of the good graces of the Ataman,
to sleep in a room while the colonel’s bag remained in a closet.
It may have been that the bag had been opened, or it may have been
that the bag contained documents which would have caused the colonel
trouble with the Ataman. But it all appeared to me as a fine piece of
subterfuge, if the facts were as given. But one rarely gets the facts
in Siberia.

Romanoff and I remained with Mrs. B---- through the evening, waiting.
When she was not crying dolefully and wringing her hands, she was
playing for us on her piano, stopping at times to listen to footsteps
in the hall to see if they could be those of her husband, coming back.

Romanoff’s room was right across the hall, and he stepped out for a
minute, leaving the B---- door open. While he was absent, Mrs. B----
stopped playing suddenly and listened. Then she cried out in terror
and ran into the hall. I had heard nothing startling, and wondered
what had caused her perturbation. She ran in again presently, crying
“Meescha! Meescha!,” or so it sounded to me, and pointed to the corner
of her room, where a large sack stood. It was a sack of sugar, and as I
approached it, I heard a rustling.

I looked in and saw two mice and then held the top of the sack shut so
they could not escape into the room. Finally I dragged the sack out
into the hall, close to the open door of the officers’ mess-room. It
was full of dining officers, and some of them looked out in surprise
at seeing me dragging a heavy sack through the hall. I opened the sack
and let the mice escape. They ran into the dining-room, but as no one
had noticed them it did not matter. So I dragged the sack back to Mrs.
B----’s room.

About ten o’clock Captain B---- came striding down the hall. I supposed
the colonel had held him prisoner a few hours so as not to be too ready
to show any regard for my attitude. And being in Asia, the colonel had
to “save his face.”

Captain B---- wrung my hand, and I pushed him gently through the door
to his wife. I went back to my own room, wondering if I had prevented
an execution.



XIX

NEW FRIENDS, PRISONS, AND OTHER THINGS


Three British officers came to Chita to observe conditions for their
government. Lieutenant-Colonel H---- of the General Staff, Major K----
of the British Indian Army, and Captain P---- who was an expert on
railroad conditions and gave his attention to matters pertaining to the
Trans-Siberian.

This trio made my life a joy, for they were jolly chaps, keen on their
work and keen on play when it was time to play, as is the Briton
the world over. These gentlemen were much amused at first by my
“Americanism,” but in a short time they discovered that my American
idioms were provided chiefly for their entertainment and they declined
to take my exaggerated slang seriously.

And as I spent much time in foretelling what would happen in Siberia,
they dubbed me “Old Moore” after the ancient and celebrated prophet in
England who publishes the prophetic “Old Moore’s Almanac.”

And as we got franker, they asked questions in gentle criticism of
American institutions and I in turn told them what was wrong with
England and the British Empire. Colonel H---- had come through the
United States on his way to Siberia, and was puzzled by some of the
characteristics of American journalism, as well as startled by the
hospitality that had been accorded to him by new friends in New York,
and in the clubs of that city. Being a lover of tennis, a New York
tennis club had made his stay in the city a delight. He was still in
something of a daze over the way in which the courts and club-house had
been turned over to him to use as his own.

Major K---- had with him his Indian orderly, who spent most of his
time lurking in the lower hall of the hotel, waiting to pounce upon
his officer and demand if there was anything that could be done. He
had been with Major K---- about sixteen years, and fairly worshiped
him. And it was most amusing, and significant, that in a very short
time this Hindu was prattling Russian to the waiters and samovar girls.
He swore that the Russian language was borrowed from his own precious
Hindustani, indicating that all Asia is linked together far closer than
the casual observer might believe.

And I wonder if Britain’s old fear of Russia was not based on an
understanding of the fact that India and Russia might find it easier to
coalesce into one nation than India and England. India and Russia have
had much the same training in understanding and submitting to a form
of government headed by a cruel and powerful emperor. They respect the
sword and scoff at the commoner who presumes to rule too kindly.

Both countries have produced large numbers of ignorant peasants with
profligate native ruling classes. Also, both countries are filled with
diversified tribes, with climates ranging from tropical to frigid
zones, or at least with magnificent distances. Also, both countries are
very rich in natural resources, yet in those countries the human race
has allowed itself to be most enslaved. India had her great Moghuls,
Russia has had her cruel dynasties. And the masses of the peoples are
more concerned with their crops than with their capitals.

In this latter respect I have not found the Russian peasant hard to
understand. The Russian noble and land-owner presents to me a greater
problem. Here is a country in which the people love the land--they
love to sow and reap, to dig and make the land produce. In fact, they
demand little else. Yet the history of the Russian peasant is one of a
constant fight to use and possess the land, while the great land-owner
and the government, have persisted in thwarting him. This insistence
upon preventing the peasants from having the land comes from the feudal
idea that the upper class must be master of the land and master of its
servitors.

So Russia has been ruled, and the peasant controlled, by a monopoly of
land. To allow that monopoly to wane, as the upper class saw it, was
to lose the power of ruling, which under the old régime was closely
identified in Russia with taxation and what we call graft. In order to
maintain these powers, the dynasty and its parasitic satellites, kept
the people ignorant. The result was Bolshevism--war between those who
own property and those who have been prevented from owning property.
So ignorance has almost destroyed the upper class in Russia, and will
destroy more of the common people than the most cruel dynasty could
execute and kill in prisons in a thousand years of ruthless reign.

It is necessary in considering the people of Siberia to recall some
of the facts of its history. We know that the Czars and their agents
put “dangerous people” into cold storage in Siberia. And the thinker,
the idealist, the protesters against the government were classed as
criminals, and imprisoned with criminals. This, curiously enough,
established a bond of fellowship between the most vicious cut-throats
of the Empire and the highest-minded men and women it had produced.

If a man or woman has spent half a lifetime in a stone cell where
the temperature drops as low as eighty degrees below zero for merely
daring to think of government, criticise it, and demand justice for the
ignorant people, that man or woman is not going to worry about cruel
methods in retaliation if freedom ever comes. And when such a political
convict has been chained to a murderer for work, and lives in such a
cell with a murderer, these two will join hands against the common
enemy. Centuries were spent building up such hatreds. Why should we
wonder at the cruelties practiced when the prisons were opened?

I saw in Chita one of the old prisons. It was empty, with the cell
doors hanging from broken hinges--hideous doors of planks painted a
dull yellow, with small holes cut in them for passing in food, and the
edges of the holes stained black with the grime of countless dirty
hands which for unknown years had delivered food to prisoners. I got
into this prison unexpectedly one cold day while seeking another
prison--Semenoff’s military prison. And I wandered through it, and
examined it in detail.

Stone benches had served as beds--two to a cell. The remains of the
sanitary appliances, if they could be described as sanitary at all,
were most crude. I went into one of these cells and shut the door, and
sat on the stone bench. The hole in the door, six inches square, gave
scarcely any light from the corridor. I put my flashlight on the walls,
and found them scratched on every inch with names, initials, and dates.

One wall was covered with rows upon rows of scratches in the stone. At
first I thought there had been a rude attempt at interior decoration,
but the word for “years” was dimly revealed in many places. Every
scratch represented a year spent by human beings in that stone grave!
Dark, damp, terribly cold and full of vile odors though it was nearly a
year since the prison had been emptied of its human misery, this cell
in ten minutes told me more about Siberia than all the historians and
diplomats and students of Russia could have told me in a lifetime of
reading or lecturing.

[Illustration: SIBERIANS CELEBRATING THE SIGNING OF THE ARMISTICE]

[Illustration: ROOM IN HOUSE AT EKATERINBURG WHERE THE CZAR AND HIS
FAMILY ARE REPUTED TO HAVE BEEN EXECUTED]

And on one of these walls, was inscribed a date and this sentence:
“Nicolai died last night--he missed freedom by fourteen hours after
waiting twenty-two years,” and the date scrawled near it, represented
the date on which the prisons of Siberia had been opened under the
Kerensky régime.

Just imagine waiting twenty-two years in such environment for the
overthrow of the Czar, and then missing freedom by fourteen hours!
If you had, would you dare tell a former Siberian convict to be more
gentle in dealing with those who upheld the system of the old régime?
And would you be too ready to accept somebody’s word that a new
dictator who wanted to set himself up to rule Russia would not restore
the old prison system?

When Washington or London or Paris is puzzled about Russia and what
course to pursue with that country, I would like to take a group of
the diplomats to such a Siberian prison as I saw and let them spend a
single night in it with the doors locked and not quite sure how many
years it would be before somebody bade them come out into the light of
day. I believe they would appreciate better the doubts and suspicions
of the Russian people about government in the making.

I wished to make a note of what was on the wall of that cell, but it
was too cold to unbutton my coat and get out pencil and note book. I
read it over and over--I can still see it in my mind’s eye. It was
seventy-two below zero that morning, and I was willing enough to walk
out and get into my drosky and go about my business. And I thought of
Patrick Henry, George Washington, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and
a lot of people who had done something for human liberties--and mine.

Chita was the place to which the group of revolutionists known as “The
Decembrists” had been sent, back about 1840. And an old man in Chita
who had spent years as an exile, had a collection of branding irons and
other implements of torture used on convicts in a private museum. Among
other things were figurines of convicts made by convicts, complete in
every detail, even to the leg chains and the convict clothing. These
figurines, including the chains, had been moulded out of convict bread!

And in Chita I saw “Damskaya Oolitsia,” or “The Street of the
Dames.” This consisted of two rows of log houses near the railroad
tracks, which had been built by the wives of the Decembrist exiles
for habitations, these gentlewomen having followed their husbands
into exile and having been granted the right to build a street for
themselves.

These wives were not allowed to communicate with their husbands, who
were worked outside the prisons in chain-gangs. But with that feminine
ingenuity for outwitting locksmiths when there is love in the heart,
these brave women managed to talk with their husbands. The clever trick
was accomplished by hiring a carriage from the aborigine Buriats of the
locality, and driving past the chain-gangs. When close to the working
convicts, the horse was made to balk. The women, pretending to be
arguing with the driver and demanding that he make the horse go on,
shouted in French.

The Russian guards of course did not understand French, but the
convict-husbands did. Thus messages of hope were transmitted, and news
of what was going on in Petrograd and Moscow in revolutionary circles,
with probably information that pardons were being sought, was given to
the exiles.

Many of these brave and loyal women remained in Chita till their
deaths. Most of the husbands died in prison, and the widows went back
to the cities of Europe.

The new Czar came to the throne--he who was to lose it. There is a
grotto in the forests back of Chita to commemorate his visit to the
city while he was the Crown Prince. He made the journey by sledges,
for at that time there was no railroad. He might have learned a lot in
Chita about government, but the Second Nicholas was weak and stubborn
and would not heed even the advice of his greatest statesman, Count
Witte. And the prisons of Nicholas the Second brought about his ruin
and the ruin of his Empire. After all, I wonder if prisons cannot teach
lessons in freedom.

Some men are born a thousand years too late, and are a menace to our
present civilization. Some men are born a thousand years too soon,
and having ideals a cycle in advance of human progress, likewise may
become a menace to organized society. But the Russian government lagged
behind human progress--even such progress as its own people made under
governmental oppression. So the government imprisoned thieves and
murderers--what we call criminals. But it also classed as criminals,
and rightly, nihilists and assassins who used violence against the
government. But it also classed as criminals, and imprisoned them, men
and women with the greatest visions and the greatest spirits in the
Empire. Thinking became a crime.

The government’s attitude toward a Tolstoy differed in no way from its
attitude toward a crack-brained agitator, except that it dared imprison
or execute the agitator, but only dared scowl at Tolstoy.

We of the United States condemned the Czar and his government of
parasites for its enmity toward Tolstoy, not understanding that
Tolstoy was not dangerous for what he himself actually did against
the government, but for what he instigated others to do. The ideals
of a Tolstoy, carried out by assassins, may wreck not only a criminal
government, but may topple over the whole structure of civilization
throughout the world.

I believe now that the Czar’s government, for all its hideousness,
understood that its revolutionists not only threatened the imperial
system but also menaced the lives of all the people in the Empire.

Revolution may be necessary when evolution, throttled by a few who
control the destiny of a people, is not permitted to operate. The
aspirations of the Russian people were beyond their abilities to carry
out. They accomplished a successful revolution. Will they be able to
hold the good they gained by it? If not, we can only say they did not
deserve the liberty they acquired.

It was as dangerous in Russia under the old régime to be ahead of the
times as it was to be behind them--as dangerous to be an idealist as
to be a cut-throat. The people, we knew, were ahead of their system of
government, and even the ignorant peasants who blamed the government
for all their woes from bad crops to taxes, were theoretically right.
But it is worse to pursue a theory of government and not to know what
to do with it once you have it, than it is to have no idealistic
theories and face conditions as they exist.

Columbus had a theory that by sailing to the westward he would reach
India. He discovered America. If he had sailed to destruction over the
edge of the “flat” world, only his crews and the three ships of his
venture, would have been lost. It is quite another matter to embark
with a whole nation, or group of nations, into unknown seas. The nation
and all it has gained by centuries of evolution, may be lost, and the
children of a few survivors be thrown back into barbarism. That is what
the idealists of the Czar’s Empire have done, directing a vast but
ignorant population. And the people of Russia are still waiting for a
pilot who can cry “Land ho!”



XX

THE SOBRANIA


The city of Chita being in an unsettled condition as the result of
the Bolshevist troubles passed, and not knowing when more similar
troubles might occur, the people never gave up for a single night
their amusements. High schools produced amateur plays, there were
masque balls, banquets, benefits, motion pictures, and theatres.
The empire lay shattered, and foreign flags flew over their public
buildings, marking the garrisons of foreigners doing police duty for
the Siberians--they gave themselves up to making merry.

And when the Siberian goes out for an evening’s entertainment, he does
not return home till the small hours of morning. The result is that
little work or business is done the following day before noon, and
there is not much activity in business after two o’clock.

No matter what came up, I could not expect to find anyone at the
staff headquarters of Semenoff before eleven o’clock. There might be
a report at daylight that a train had been attacked by Bolshevists
twenty miles away; it could not be verified before noon. If I got a
message in cipher from Vladivostok at nine o’clock in the morning that
Russians had attacked Japanese troops near Chita, and asking me to
get the details, in fifteen minutes I could have the Japanese version
of the affair, but it would take forty-eight hours to get the Russian
statement of what had happened.

If my telegram came over the regular Russian wire, it might be
delivered to the hotel proprietor, who would call my attention to it
the following week. In the meantime, messages for the Czecho-Slovak
commandant, or a French correspondent of whom I had never heard, or
some British officer, would be brought to my room at all hours of the
night. My room was a receiving station for all telegrams which the
Russian operators did not know where to deliver--and when one came for
me, it was mis-delivered, generally.

My cipher messages were transmitted as numbers, and when Russian
operators received them, they always left out thirty or forty numerals
in the middle of the message so that when it was being deciphered, the
last half of it did not decipher at all, but when transformed into
letters looked like an alphabet that had run _amok_. I generally asked
for it to be repeated to my own signal corps operator over our private
wire, but that wire was open for us but an hour in the forenoon and an
hour in the afternoon. So if I got a defective message over the Russian
wire five minutes after my wire was closed in the morning, I had to
wait until afternoon before I could with any surety of getting the
message through tell Vladivostok to repeat. And the repeated message
would not reach me till the next morning.

I suspect that there was a system of sabotage being practiced on us.
There was every evidence that Semenoff’s officers in charge of the
commercial telegraph office had held up our cipher messages until
they had made an effort to decipher them. Or knowing that they had
done something which they did not want reported or contemplated doing
something, they held up the message as long as possible. For instance,
if Semenoff had his armored train in the station and the engines with
steam up ready to move up the line for some purpose, any message I sent
through at that time was suspected to contain the information that his
armored train was about to move in a certain direction. So the message
was not put on the wire till the movement was completed.

Yet what appeared to be sabotage, or a blockade system on information,
might well be the result of stupidity induced by late hours and too
much vodka. It was noon before the population appeared to have a lucid
interval in their existence, and having acquired a clear head again,
the chief ambition in life immediately was to become befuddled with all
possible speed.

I discovered the old “Imperial” vodka being sold on the streets, the
vendors setting up in business with an old box and a dozen bottles of
the liquor. I refer to it as Imperial because it was vodka made under
the old régime as revealed by the paper seals over the corks, and the
payment of imperial taxes, vodka having been a government monopoly. A
pint bottle could be purchased for about twelve rubles on the streets,
the same costing forty rubles in the restaurants.

It was said that there were millions of rubles worth of this vodka
in storage in Chita, which had been taken over by Semenoff, and
which aided his finances to an appreciable extent. No doubt somebody
collected a fee to allow it to be sold, and no doubt it was sold to the
dealers by the agents of Semenoff, who had acquired it by simply taking
it. Siberians using the whole of the wide street below my windows in
order to walk past, could be seen any minute of daylight.

The Russian calendar is full of holidays. One holiday in a week, ruins
the week--and the Russian for a week. He generally starts celebrating
the day before the holiday, and uses the day after the holiday to
extend the merriment. And most weeks while I was in Chita contained two
holidays.

I subscribed for the local newspapers on arrival. There were three
dailies. I got about one of each every week. Out of curiosity I made
inquiries, but there was always a good excuse--the printers had been
drunk, there had been a holiday, there was going to be a holiday, the
press was broken, or Semenoff had confiscated the whole edition and
arrested the editor. I would not care to be a publisher or journalist
in Siberia.

Whether a paper came out on a certain day or not, however, the newsboys
every night cried the “Nash Put” (Our Way), or the “Za Baikalsky”
(Trans-Baikalist) every night. The date of the paper might be three
days old. _Nitchyvo._ The buyer could not stop in the excessive cold
to hunt for a mere date, but bought his paper while going ahead at a
jog-trot. I never saw a native protest. Either he had not read the
paper of that date, or he did not care. Perhaps he could not read. A
Siberian acquires a certain social standing by being seen purchasing
a paper. Anyhow, he is probably on his way somewhere to drink vodka
and will forget all about the paper when he reaches his destination.
There was something about the Siberian buyer of newspapers which
reminded me of the young police reporter in San Francisco who wore
mauve gloves, had a gold-headed cane and carried with him everywhere a
copy of the _Atlantic Monthly_. He never read it. When he wore out one
copy carrying it, he bought another. It gave him a reputation with the
public and the staff of the newspaper for being a bright young man with
considerable erudition.

These general statements on private and public entertainment may make
it appear that amusement is, after all, rather haphazard in Siberia,
and breaks out in sporadic sprees. It would be misleading to convey
this idea. For amusement and entertainment is systematized by the
Siberian, in what they call a _sobrania_. As near as I can define it,
this institution is a sort of “circle,” or club, and the idea might
well be copied with some modifications in cities, or more especially,
small towns in the United States.

There was a first _sobrania_ and a second _sobrania_ in Chita.
I knew only the second. Probably the numerical designation came
from precedence in organization. I suspect that the first one had
degenerated somewhat in its clientele or membership or whatever they
call it, but that may be only snobbishness on my part--all the best
people went to the second _sobrania_, even including the chief of
police who was a comfortable person for the Siberians to have present
early in the morning drinking wine or vodka after the hour when the
sale of liquors was supposed to cease. At least, my friends assured me
that so long as the chief was present, they felt perfectly safe from
police interference on the score of making merry.

After midnight I felt the environment rather boring and got away unless
my departure might be construed as a reflection on the habits of my
Cossack friends who had invited me for the evening. In such cases, the
evenings last till daylight, and in Siberia in winter, daylight is
scarce.

The first night I went to the _sobrania_ I was amazed. It was a large
stone building of four stories and basement. The basement contained
billiard and coat-rooms. On the floor above was a ball-room and a
theater. The next upper floor held a splendid restaurant, decorated
by the inevitable and luxurious rubber plants. A German war-prisoner
orchestra served for balls, theater, and after-theater supper.

The plays were acted by a fairly good stock company, and it was said,
written by the wife of a local general. If the latter were true she
was an accomplished dramatist, though I doubt if the police would have
allowed her plays to run on Broadway.

It is probable that the general’s wife did write some of them, but more
likely that such as I saw she had adapted from French farces. They were
grossly nasty, to such an extent that it was evident that they had been
coarsened. Infidelity, of course, was the basis of each one, the wife
always being the fool. And one case of infidelity was not enough for a
single play--all the characters were involved in some way or another,
to the uproarious delight of the audience. And incidentally, I saw high
school children put on a play built around a button missing from the
most vital part of a man’s trousers.

No further comment needs to be made upon the public morals of the
Siberians. Yet curiously enough, in all the dancing I observed, there
was not a hint of anything approaching the suggestive. In fact, the
dances were most pretty, and most decorous. This might be explained by
the fact that the officers of Semenoff’s little army were always armed,
and are as quick with a pistol as the old-style Westerner of our own
country. Discretion in such cases is not always a matter of morals.

And while I am discussing the morals of the Siberians, I wish to say
that before sailing from San Francisco I went to a noted restaurant
for dinner, where the prominent people of the city dine. There I saw
a woman dance in a state so close to nudity that it was disgusting,
and she did not dance upon a stage, but among the tables. She was on
the program as a foreigner, a gipsy, I think. Thus as a nation we
are willing to be Orientalized. And our best people go farther in
permitting offense in dancing than do the Siberians, judging from what
I saw in that country.

After the play in the _sobrania_, the dancing begins, the seats being
taken up to make extra room. But between the acts a sort of promenade
begins, in which the whole audience goes out and walks around in
couples in the adjoining room. This promenade is characteristic of all
public gatherings, and leads one to believe that the people are most
gentle toward each other in all relations--the men link arms, and walk
together, smoking and chatting; men and women walk together and talk
animatedly; there is much bowing, and exchange of polite salutations
between friends. And this promenade once begun, continues through
all the time of dancing, so that but about half those present at any
particular time are on the dancing floor.

While I was in Chita Cossack officers were there from the Don, the
Urals, the Ussuri, the Crimea. There were handsome Georgians in flowing
capes lined with red and thrown over the shoulders to expose the inner
colorings. They wore rifle cartridges sewn into the breasts of their
tunics in regulation Cossack style, and sabers and scimitars with
jeweled hilts and scabbards of silver with exquisite filigree work.

When some of these men reached a point of exhilaration which prevented
them from remaining quiet, they improvised dances of their native
heaths as exhibitions, consisting of queer gesturings, much leaping and
clicking of heels in air, and intricate dance steps, all being done
with great skill to the accompaniment of barbaric cries in keeping
with the performance. Such exhibitions were popular and frequent, and
at times the general dancing stopped entirely in order that all hands
might enjoy the spectacle.

And while this merry-making was going on inside, Semenoff’s men outside
in the bitter cold were doing double guard to protect the building from
Bolshevist raids or uprisings. Many a night going to the _sobrania_
with British officers and Captain and Mrs. B----, we were challenged
and halted by patrols, and on our way back to the hotel our drosky was
frequently held up by a group of men about a bon-fire in the street and
not permitted to go on till we had identified ourselves.

I suspected that this excessive caution was due more to Semenoff’s
desire to impress the city with the protection he afforded, than a
necessity for vigilance. By this method Semenoff demonstrated his worth
to the bankers and merchants of the city, so that he found it easier to
“borrow” money for his military and other necessities.

But to go out every evening to theaters and dinners, knowing that
venturing forth into the cold night means to be challenged by
none-too-careful sentries (some of them more or less under the
influence of vodka and likely to shoot first and challenge afterward)
revealed some traits of the Siberian character. They will have their
amusement despite all odds; they do not worry overmuch about the
condition of their government; they curse certain foreigners for coming
in and protecting them and yet are suspicious of every native who
sets himself up as a military leader; they talk of their great love
of Russia but if they have their choice between going to a salacious
play or to a public gathering to discuss the affairs of their stricken
country, they choose the play. There they know they will enjoy
themselves and can go through the forms of excessive politeness with
their friends and even with officers belonging to the armies of Cossack
and Russian leaders who are mistrusted.

But if they all gathered to discuss the welfare of Russia they know
the meeting would probably end in a near-riot, if not open warfare. So
they find it easier to be charmingly hospitable to possible enemies,
and presently whispering behind the backs of the possible enemies about
their treason to Holy Russia.

In the meantime the reactionary forces grow stronger, the general
disorder gradually converts the people to a belief that it would be
better for a monarchy to be restored, and certain imperial personages
lurk in Harbin or other hiding places, waiting for the time when
the population will tire of revolutionary conditions and demand a
restoration of the throne.

These monarchists speak vaguely of a “proper time” in the future.
Most of them have plenty of money, and enjoy themselves waiting for
this “proper time.” The poorer peoples are steadily consuming food
surpluses, raising less each year; they are wearing out their clothes
and gradually approaching beggary while they keep up a sort of
continual celebration over their freedom, as they call it.

The monarchists can afford to bide their time. Our diplomats wait and
wait for “things to settle down.” They predict that Bolshevism will
burn itself out, when as a matter of fact the fuse is burning closer to
more destruction all the time. And Russian and Germany money is being
spent in various countries of the world for the purpose of spreading
Bolshevist ideas, in order that other countries will have troubles
of their own and be compelled to leave Russia alone. These ideas are
nothing but class hatred worked out subtly and made to appeal to people
whose reasoning powers are most primitive--or to educated “idealists”
who either have addled brains in their heads or Bolshevist money in
their pockets.

Tell me how people amuse themselves and I will tell you what they are;
tell me that they seek only amusement when their country is in ruins,
and they cannot tell me that the patriotism they prate about is genuine
patriotism. It struck me that the Siberians were more concerned with
what went down their gullets than with a decent government and a decent
future for themselves and their children.

People get the government they deserve. People are responsible for
their governments. If they assert that their rulers led them into war,
it is not the fault of their rulers, but their own, for their rulers
know them well enough to know what they could be led into. If people
whine that they are oppressed by an autocracy, they confess that there
is something lacking in themselves. If they howl against capitalism,
when all the things they have could only be produced for them by a
system of capital invested to good purpose, they lack brains; and if
they cannot devise a government which protects them from exploitation
they deserve to be exploited.

I do not believe that all capitalists combine power with justice,
any more than I believe that all working men understand the laws of
economics and would create a régime of justice if they had all power in
their hands. They mistake the machine which has been created to produce
jobs for them, as the machine by which they themselves create, when as
a matter of fact they themselves are only a part of the machine. That
they happen to be part of that machine is not the fault of the inventor
of the machine or its owner, but their own.

Of course, the necessity for labor, on their part may be due to a lack
of opportunity due to bad government, lack of education, misfortune or
the thousand and one elements of which an individual’s history may be
composed. A man running a loom might have been a scientist if he had
been educated, but he cannot turn himself into a scientist by burning
the factory in which he works.

This relation to work and play in connection with Siberia I believe to
be vital both in Siberia and in other parts of the world. And I feel it
necessary to become personal in order to make clear what I mean in a
chapter dealing primarily with Siberian love of amusement.

As a boy I worked in a woolen mill as a weaver. In order to study
while my loom was running, I fastened books to the top of the frame
and in moments when the loom did not need my attention, I would read a
page or two out of a book. By this method I often got through a book
a day in addition to producing the regular quantity of cloth. The odd
moments I gave to my books were spent by my fellow-weavers in friendly
conversation or in skylarking.

I was laughed at for trying to acquire an education. I lost caste with
young chaps of my own age for “trying to be better than a weaver.” And
right then I learned this truth: People write or talk about autocracy
of capital, or autocracy of government, or autocracy of class, but--the
greatest autocrat in the world is the ignorant person--he resents
everybody who is not as ignorant as himself, and he seeks to pull down
to his level those who would surpass him in ability, manual or mental.

I mention this because I found exactly the same attitude of mind
on the part of the “workers” in Siberia, as I found among my former
loom-mates. It was that no one works unless he wears old clothes and
appears at a certain place at a certain time to labor for a certain
period.

The Siberian has much more reason for having that attitude than the
American, for the former has been prevented from gaining an education,
or thinks he has, and has been told repeatedly that only such labor as
he understands, produces anything.

Just as many a laborer resents a white shirt, a collar and cuffs, a
well-tailored suit worn by a man who apparently does no hard work, the
laborer sometimes resents good grammar and good manners from any man
who is thrown in contact with him.

It is said that Trotsky goes about unshaven, and in an old suit
of clothes, when he wishes to speak to his adherents on terms of
familiarity. Having taught the proletariat to destroy the upper
classes, he is consistent enough outwardly to pull himself down to the
level of his dupes. This is merely the trick of the sly demagogue, who,
when he goes among working men seeking votes, puts off the frock coat
and silk hat and gets into a cap and overalls. The inference is that he
must be honest and is sincerely seeking to represent the working man
because he appears in the habiliments of labor.

This spirit of class hatred has been developed to the ultimate degree
in Siberia, and the man with a clean collar, a shave, and clean hands
must be an enemy of the proletariat, as the proletarian sees him,
simply by having those things.

I heard the provodnik of my fourth-class car refer to me insolently as
an aristocrat because he observed me trying to shave and wash my face.
Two days later, having allowed myself to become unshaven and otherwise
unkempt, he became most friendly, and instead of regarding me as an
aristocrat, began to address me as “comrade.” I had evidently won his
good regard by being dirty.

So amusement is closely identified with the condition of a people,
both in their material and spiritual welfare, as well as in the evils
of a bad government. When people insist upon having amusement which
they cannot afford, they are ripe for the tyrant, and their government
goes to pot. Prosperity has done more damage to the human race than
adversity--prosperity which is used only for an excess of amusement.

With the _sobranias_ of Chita filled to overflowing every night, with
wealthy and poor seeking to be diverted with vodka, dancing and eating
all night, and sleeping most of the day, where is it possible to begin
aiding them in the forming of a government of their own? If they are
willing to allow various self-seeking usurpers of government to set
up military establishments and gradually become local princelings
waiting for the time that their power can be sold out to some imperial
personage who wishes to restore a throne, why should we quarrel with
these princelings or about them--the Semenoffs, the Kalmikoffs and
others who are of the same stripe?

That is what the monarchists mean when they talk about the “proper
time,” to restore the monarchy--the time when the local chiefs find it
convenient to sell out, and there is a buyer handy who knows how to
wear a crown--and swing a saber over the heads of the multitude.

Then there will be people in Russia and in that part of the Empire of
old known as Siberia, who will rise and assert that the Allies, or
the United States, or somebody, betrayed them. They will say that our
“watchful waiting,” and our assurances of friendship and our efforts to
aid with Red Cross supplies, and our “we don’t know what to do” policy,
was merely our waiting for a “proper time” to hand them over to a new
Czar.

That is why I say the _sobranias_ with their dirty plays, filled with
audiences roaring gleefully over indecency, should have been filled
nightly with Siberians threshing out the problems which confronted
them. No. They were concerned chiefly with consuming the supply of
vodka, with the women who sifted through the port of Vladivostok or
came up from Harbin, and with cursing discreetly behind their hands
the gentlemanly Japanese officer who went to see the fun. I wonder if
some of these Japanese, accused by the Siberians of secretly desiring
to capture Siberia, did not realize with Japanese astuteness that the
Siberians were conquering themselves. There is no necessity for the
Japanese fighting with the Siberians for Siberia, when the Siberians
seem to be bent upon eliminating themselves.

Of course the Siberians are friendly to the United States--remember
that the American officer whom I relieved in Chita had been threatened
with assassination. This officer was a foreigner, who by faithful
service in our old regular army, had acquired a commission in our
native forces of the Philippines, known as the Philippine Scouts. I am
not sure what his nationality was--a Pole or a Ukranian. I think the
chief objection to him was the belief in certain quarters in Chita that
he was a Jew.

The United States makes a mistake when it sends a Jewish official to
represent it in any foreign country which is anti-Jewish, not because
the Jew is incapable in any way, but because the nation he represents
is forgotten, and only the fact that he is a Jew, is remembered. We of
the United States who have no racial or religious prejudices against
the Jew find it hard to realize the hatred that is held for them in a
country like Russia.

Since my stay in Siberia I am convinced that the hatred of the Jew is
neither racial nor religious at bottom. It is based on a resentment
of any person or race which is ambitious, which has foresight, which
attends to business, and so gets ahead. The Chinese in Siberia are
hated as much as the Jews, though not so badly persecuted. This is
because, as I understand it, the Chinese attend to their business while
the native is sleeping off the effects of liquor or late hours. The
Siberian dislikes anybody who represents “unfair competition”--the
doing a full day’s work. I believe the Japanese are hated chiefly for
the same reason--being up and doing, looking ahead, preparing for the
cold winter during the warm summer. All lazy persons resent the man or
woman who works. The Siberian was born lazy.

The general Russian workman in a factory will not work a minute more
than he is compelled to. I read an article by a Russian woman in this
country who ascribes this laziness of her countrymen to an artistic
temperament--they need a certain amount of dreaming, and their
spiritual condition is better than that of the American, who is always
too busy to enjoy life and understand the inner meanings of life. That
may be so, but I believe that the average American working man who
arrives at his work punctually and quits with the whistle, gets as much
of the “inner meanings of life” as the Russian who reaches the factory
an hour late, and then wants to assassinate the owner of the factory
because the boss scolds the Russian for being late. Maybe this yearning
for assassination is indicative of understanding the inner meaning of
life.

To disagree in Siberia means to desire to kill. That is one reason why
the _sobranias_ were full of rollickers every night in Chita. To sit
in a theater beside a man who is laughing at a play while you yourself
laugh at the same things he does, prevents anything in the nature of
a disagreement. Two men can get drunk together with a certain degree
of safety, but in Siberia if they should meet sober and begin to talk
about government, they might fight a duel. Perhaps they would rather
remain alive than to attempt to agree on how the nation should be
conducted.

While I was in Siberia I read in an American newspaper that an American
member of Congress demanded information as to why the United States was
not coöperating with the Russian Zemstvos in organizing a nucleus for
a representative Russian government. If he had been with me the day I
read of his demand, I could have taken him and shown him a zemstvo so
drunk that its members did not know their first names. The only way
in which anybody might have coöperated with them, would have been to
buy them a bottle of vodka. This was their way of killing time while
waiting for our government to make up its mind on Siberia.

In answer to my suggestion that the Siberians of Chita should have
gathered to discuss government in their _sobranias_, they might well
state that if they attempted to discuss government in any way than
to pass resolutions in favor of Semenoff’s government, they stood a
good chance of being executed with dispatch. It would be a fairly
good answer. Especially, as the United States merely showed mild
interest when Semenoff executed a batch of people. If the United States
as represented by the Siberian expedition, the commander being so
instructed and properly backed up, had told Semenoff that he had not
yet acquired the right to execute anybody and that he would not be
allowed to usurp that right, that would have been coöperation with the
people of Siberia. But coöperation of that kind might be interpreted as
interference, and we were pledged by somebody not to interfere with the
Siberians.

So the Siberians took good care, and wisely, not to interfere with
Semenoff. But we remained in Siberia with our forces, and proved
ourselves to be so gentle and considerate of others, that certain
Siberians have dared to interfere with us to the extent of killing some
of our officers and soldiers.

The Semenoffs and the Kalmikoffs did not love us any more because we
did not interfere with them; the Siberians did not love us because we
did not interfere with these petty tyrants; but we would have won the
love of all hands if we had done something--that is, all hands but the
Bolshevists, and since we have probed into their works at home, I doubt
if we seek their love. At least the Bolshevists would have learned to
respect us if we had done something beside invite them to the Prinkipo
conference, an invitation which they greeted with loud laughter and
other demonstrations of their scorn for our good intentions.

So the _sobranias_ of Chita, and other cities in Siberia, served to
while away the time for the populace, while they waited for the United
States to make up its mind about what to do in Siberia. If we had taken
a definite stand, and demanded that the Siberians show us what they
could do while we protected them from themselves and the Cossacks, the
_sobranias_ might have been filled with committees, and delegates, and
people learning something about what they must do to have a government,
instead of being filled with revelers.

If we think we can wait till these people meet our ideas of what
government is, we are making a great mistake. We must show them. They
have been kept ignorant for centuries, in order that they might be
kept in subjection. They have not been educated, because the ruling
class wanted cheap labor. Cheap labor becomes very expensive labor
when it destroys the employer, the factory and the government. Cheap
labor that listens to such arguments as the Bolshevists give it, is a
mighty costly commodity to any nation, whether that labor is native or
imported.



XXI

POLITICS AND PRINKIPO


All the time that I was in Chita, Ataman Semenoff and Kolchak were at
odds. Kolchak, accusing Semenoff with interfering with railroad traffic
at Chita and so hampering Kolchak’s “All Russian Government” in Omsk,
issued his famous order in which he denounced Semenoff as a traitor.
And while that order stood, Kolchak or Kolchak’s officers, asked
Semenoff to send his forces to Irkutsk and other points toward Omsk to
anticipate Bolshevist uprisings which were threatened.

Semenoff declined to lend his forces so long as Kolchak branded him
as a traitor. He denied that he had interfered with trains bound to
or from Omsk, and denied that he had cut telegraph wires or held up
messages.

On January second, Ivanoff-Renoff (Ivanov-Renov), “Commanding General
of the Siberian army and Ataman of Siberian Cossacks,” according to the
card I got from him, arrived in Chita in a special train with a staff.
He had come from Kolchak to treat with Semenoff, and find out on what
terms Semenoff would join Kolchak against the Bolshevists.

I called upon General Ivanoff-Renoff. He was at tea in his dining-car,
with three or four of his staff. He is a tall, soldierly man, with thin
face, clean-cut jaws, and most alert and intelligent. He impressed me
as being the ideal type of Russian general in appearance. Proud without
being haughty, frank without conveying the idea that he sought the good
graces of anybody for the purpose of misleading them, a manner of quiet
determination which suggested that he would not hesitate to be cruel if
necessary to gain his ends, he looked every inch the commander. He wore
several imperial orders.

“Commanding General of the Siberian Army and Ataman of Siberian
Cossacks” was rather a wide and all-embracing description, considering
the fact that Semenoff commanded some five thousand men supposed to be
Siberians, and was himself a Siberian Ataman in Trans-Baikal. There
probably was some conflict of authority, yet the Trans-Baikal has
been represented to me as not being really Siberia. However, stand
Ivanoff-Renoff beside Semenoff, in civilian attire, and on the instant
I would select Ivanoff-Renoff as a Siberian Cossack chief, and hire
Semenoff for a motorman. I do not mean to imply by this that Semenoff’s
abilities do not go beyond his being a motorman, but merely wish to
state that, compared with Ivanoff-Renoff, Semenoff does not contrast
favorably with the other.

At that time, it was reported that Trotsky had said that the Bolshevist
government would control all Russia in six months. I had my interpreter
quote Trotsky to Ivanoff-Renoff. He smiled grimly, and said: “Before
then we will have hanged Trotsky.”

Ivanoff-Renoff remained several days in Chita. I heard that Semenoff
offered to join forces with Kolchak if the latter would withdraw the
“traitor” order, but that in no case could he coöperate with Kolchak
while that order stood. I do not see that Semenoff could take any other
stand.

Ivanoff-Renoff investigated the charges that Semenoff had interfered
with supply and troop trains for Kolchak, and I heard that he reported
to Omsk that there had been misunderstandings, or exaggerations, and
that the charge should be withdrawn against Semenoff, together with
the “traitor” order. It seems that Kolchak was not satisfied with this
report, and in time Ivanoff-Renoff departed for Vladivostok, and was
reported to have broken with Kolchak because Kolchak did not take his
recommendations in the proper spirit. It was said that a commission
would be sent by Kolchak to take the matter up in detail, which I
suppose made Ivanoff-Renoff feel that his services were of no more
value to Kolchak. It would be absurd to suppose that I knew the real
truth of what was going on.

Both parties were probably playing for time, and keeping the Allies
confused. And all hands were waiting to see which way the cat of
the Peace Conference in Paris would jump. There was a new rumor in
the corridors of the Hotel Select every fifteen minutes. If I had
attempted to report them to Vladivostok, it would have taken a dozen
private wires and as many expert operators. But I did put considerable
credence in the rumour that Grand Duke Michael was in Harbin waiting
for the “proper time” to accomplish a coup d’etat and take the throne.

As a sample of Asiatic intrigue, while Ivanoff-Renoff was in Chita, it
was rumored that Semenoff was going to Harbin for a conference with
some mysterious person. It was also said that the Ataman needed the
services of a surgeon, as his wounds from the bomb were not healing
properly. Two days later it was reported that the Ataman had suffered
a collapse and returned to his bed, and that the trip to Harbin was
postponed indefinitely.

As a matter of fact, a couple of private cars of the Ataman had been
run up on a siding close to his residence, and the night that he was
supposed to be back in his bed, he secretly boarded his train, and was
whisked down the line. And his staff officers who remained in Chita
were gravely informing me that the Ataman was at home and feeling very
ill.

This demonstrates the amount of dependence which could be put in
information given out by Semenoff’s headquarters. It reveals the reason
why Americans and Russians were not coöperating to the puzzlement of
our statesmen at home. As a matter of fact, Semenoff went to Harbin,
and then went on to Vladivostok. And I so reported to Vladivostok.

[Illustration: AN EXAMPLE OF CARVING ON A TYPICAL SIBERIAN HOUSE]

[Illustration: TYPICAL RUSSIAN CHURCH IN CITIES OF SIBERIA]

Yet while Semenoff’s train was lying in the yards of Vladivostok, and
our own headquarters were watching for him, headquarters got a story
that Semenoff was still in Chita, and certain staff officers were
rather peevish that they should be misled as to the whereabouts of
Semenoff. They were told that Semenoff happened to be in their front
yard, and to look a little closer for him there. They did, and found
him.

It was about this time that news reached us in Chita that the
Bolshevist leaders had been invited to meet at Prinkipo with the
delegates of the Peace Conference. Our dispatch was translated into
Russian by our Committee on Public Information in Siberia, and
telegraphed to all the Siberian newspapers.

The effect was similar to letting loose about my ears a hornet’s nest.
A Japanese staff-officer came to my room in haste to ask what it meant.
He seemed afraid that the United States intended to recognize the
Bolshevist government. And he was extremely puzzled, which of course
reflected the attitude of General Oba, which was that after the Allies
had come into Siberia to restore order the United States appeared about
to take sides with those creating the disorder.

In any event, the United States appeared willing to treat with
Bolshevism, a fact which would strengthen Bolshevism. All I could say
was that the Prinkipo invitation was obviously based upon conditions of
which we in Siberia knew nothing, and that it was likely that the text
of the message as we received it, had been garbled in transit.

The humorous aspect of the invitation was that “all parties” were
invited to be in Prinkipo, in the Sea of Marmora by the first of
February, or some fifteen days after the invitation was issued.
Considering the fact that it had taken me thirteen days to travel from
Vladivostok to Chita, a distance of two thousand versts, fifteen days
for all delegates from Russia and Siberia to get to Prinkipo revealed
the fact that those who set the date were ignorant of the conditions of
travel in Siberia--or bluffing diplomatically.

So the Japanese were perturbed by the Prinkipo invitation--that is, as
perturbed as a Japanese permits himself to be.

The effect on the Cossack officers of Siberia, was to fill them with
suspicion toward the United States, to make them feel that we were not
playing fair with them, and to give them the impression that they had
been betrayed into the hands of the Bolshevists. In other words, that
the Bolshevists were right, and that all anti-Bolshevist forces were
wrong.

The information we got was to the effect that President Wilson
recognized a state of revolution in Russia and desired no
counter-revolutionary action.

“But we are counter-revolutionists,” expostulated an officer high in
the councils of Semenoff. “We have been fighting the Bolshevists from
the first, and always will fight them. This information that your
president is willing to hold a conference with a lot of robbers and
murderers, spread broadcast over the country, gives the Bolshevists
a standing they have never had before. And that is not the worst of
it--we have in our armies men who have been Bolshevists, and who have
been more or less argued out of it. These men are now beginning to
suspect that our representations to them against Bolshevism are false,
and we may have mutiny in our forces. It has been hard enough to fight
Bolshevist propaganda, in and out of our armies, but this thing has
made us afraid that we cannot hold the former active Bolshevists and
Bolshevist sympathizers whom we have won to our side. Even if nothing
is done toward a conference, this invitation in itself will do our
cause great harm, and the Bolshevist leaders much good. We feel that
the United States has turned against us, or will in time recognize the
Bolshevist government.”

All I could do was to state that President Wilson was the head of my
government, and commander in chief of our army, and that no matter what
course he pursued, no matter what orders he or his subordinate officers
issued, I should obey. And that if I were in a position to know his
intentions and all the facts in the matter, my personal opinion could
have no effect upon my obedience to orders. And that I could not enter
into a discussion of decisions made in Paris or elsewhere regarding the
policy of the United States. Also, that I had faith that the United
States would act consistently with its history and aspirations, and for
the good of Russia. I asserted that the invitation to Prinkipo might
be a desire to get the Bolshevist leaders to define their position
regarding Russia, and to commit themselves to a line of action--in
other words to state their ideas and ideals. And if their desires did
not meet approval, then we would take a stand against Bolshevism and
the Bolshevists. But my arguments did not reassure him much--he felt
that all the damage had been done.

Now I found a new spirit among those persons who were known to me as
Bolshevist sympathizers. I had had many frank talks with some of these
people, and had listened to their arguments in favor of Bolshevism.
These people now became almost insolent. They told me in effect that
I ought to go home, as my president had taken preliminary steps to
recognize the Bolshevist government, seeing that it would be useless
to combat the Bolshevist rule. They were right, and I was wrong by
being there in their country, and what was I doing, they asked, walking
around with a pistol in my belt. My answer to this was, if my president
felt they were right, and that the presence of American troops in
Siberia was wrong, my president as commander in chief would withdraw
the American forces from Siberia. All my Bolshevist friends had to do,
and all I had to do, I told them, was wait for that order.

For an officer who was practically on diplomatic duty, it was rather a
peculiar position--far inland in Siberia, with all parties suspicious
of him and his government. The Bolshevists regarded me with more open
hostility, the anti-Bolshevists not quite sure I was a friend, the
principal Allied power in Chita somewhat hurt and suspicious that
it might be discredited in Siberia, and such Russians as concealed
whatever partisanship they secretly held, discouraged and believing
that their country was to be betrayed to the Bolshevists by the nation
which they looked to for the most aid and moral support. And American
officers and civilians were scattered through the country, practically
alone, and far from supporting or protecting troops.

For a couple of weeks the Hotel Select buzzed with noisy discussions
in which the principal word was “Americanskys.” More than ever, I felt
that any nation sending its forces into a country, should know what it
intends to do before such troops are sent. And if it gets an expedition
into a foreign country and finds that conditions have changed which
leaves the purposes for which the expedition may be used, in doubt,
the expedition should be put into transports and sent to its own
territory. No man should expect to be a leader without being willing
to make decisions, and assume the responsibility for his decisions.
The man who is not brave enough to make a decision, should be retired
to private life. The quality of a man’s decisions is the only test of
his leadership, regardless of what his uttered ideals may be. Good
intentions with bad decisions will ruin a nation much more quickly than
autocratic ideas wisely expressed in action.

The United States must expect leadership in all its executive branches
because the will of the people in our vast country regarding foreign
affairs solidifies too slowly for the man in power during a crisis to
follow public opinion in matters which touch upon the safety of the
nation. National good must stand above the good of parties.

I was more discouraged by the views of the Prinkipo invitation than
were the Siberians or the Japanese. They suspected my attitude, for I
had always expressed myself as opposed to Bolshevism. But the Cossacks
had difficulty in understanding my reticence regarding my private
opinions and my avowal that I would stand with my political chiefs.
Probably they thought I should ferment an American revolution!

The Japanese understood better, I think, loyalty to government.
Probably, knowing I was anti-Bolshevist, they expected me to commit
hara-kiri.



XXII

FAREWELL TO CHITA


The routine of every day ran along about the same as ever for about a
week after the Prinkipo invitation to the Bolshevists had unsettled our
little world in Chita. But I noted a decided coolness from all parties,
or so it seemed to me. My old stock phrases about the “friendship of
the United States for a great and reunited Russia” did not ring so true
when I got up at banquets to say something pleasant.

And as the toasts to President Wilson and the United States at these
affairs became less frequent and less fervid, I began to feel like a
wet blanket at joyous occasions to which I had been invited. But I will
say that the Russians and the Japanese covered whatever chagrin they
felt in fine style and never relaxed their kindness.

At about this time there was a complete upheaval in Semenoff’s staff.
New officers got into control, and the old ones, with whom I had been
on most friendly terms, went into retirement, which generally took the
form of a trip to Harbin, or an absence explained by a necessity for a
jaunt to some other city. This new staff, with one or two exceptions,
struck me as being composed of the less capable officers in military
administration, but well schooled in intrigue. In effect, it seemed to
me that Semenoff was gradually drawing to him such officers as gave
him the worst advice. Some of them were of a very low type of mind,
and distinguished themselves at banquets by their ability to get so
drunk that they had to lean on the table when they stood up to make
maundering speeches.

I remember one officer who sat at the head of a great table and
represented the Ataman while Semenoff was out of the city. He was in a
drunken stupor, with his head resting on his chest, when the Cossack
band in the next room broke out into a loud and rattly patriotic air.
The host roused himself and got to his feet. He showed every sign of
being inspired to utter profound thoughts. He put up a swaying arm,
as a signal for somebody to stop the band, and when a young officer
ran out into the next room, the tune did stop abruptly. Meanwhile, the
presiding officer hung in stays for a full five minutes like a ship
waiting to come up into the wind. Suddenly the bandsmen, evidently
feeling that the silence in the next room should be covered, broke out
again in music. It was checked none too politely.

Once more the officer gathered himself, and managed to blurt out
the single word: “Russians!” Then he lapsed into silence. The band
exploded, so to speak, beginning on the very bar on which they had left
off. Somebody hurled an empty vodka bottle into the next room, and
demanded silence. The band stopped. This intermittent playing sounded
for all the world like a gigantic phonograph being stopped and started
while somebody tinkered with its machinery.

Our officer uttered a sentence in Russian, swayed and sat down heavily
in his chair. He was asleep by the time he touched the seat. Another
officer felt that he must fill the breach and cover the failure of his
superior. He was not quite so drunk as his chief. He strode to the
balustrade of a balcony, dragging behind him his heavy saber, which had
become unhooked. He raised his arm to command attention, and the sudden
readjustment of his center of gravity threw him heavily against the
balustrade. He lost his balance and fell off the balcony, a distance of
some ten feet to the floor.

But the floor was merely a landing at the head of a long stairway. In
getting up he missed his footing, and tumbled the length of the stairs,
his descent being accompanied by the musical rattle of his saber. The
cooks in the kitchen picked him up, and somebody ordered the band to
resume playing, which it did, at the very note where it had last left
off. No one dared to laugh.

In itself, this incident may appear trifling. Yet it must be borne in
mind that at the table was the governing body of Chita, less the Ataman
himself. But the Ataman’s brother was there, a distinguished-looking
man wearing a Japanese order. And he was not drunk. Mr. Tashkin,
the head of the “civil government” of the province, was also
present--sober, quiet, dignified. I wondered what he was thinking
while this orgy was going on.

And Japanese officers were present, jolly but self-contained, spending
most of their time explaining to some insistent Russian officer that
they could not drink any more champagne. And all the Russian speeches
were of a most patriotic character, and told of the wonderful things in
store for Russia under the flags of Ataman Semenoff.

Marvels were to be accomplished by all those present to restore Holy
Russia to her greatness before the world. The soldiers serving the
tables were quiet and sober. It did not take gigantic brain power
to understand that Russia would never regain any great powers with
Semenoffs set in the saddle.

And I managed, quite by mistake, to get into the kitchen in the
basement when I went down for my coat and cap. There I found at an
early hour in the morning, a group of poor old men and women in dirty
rags mechanically going about their work of cleaning dishes and
mopping the floors. And they looked at the Americansky officer with
inquiring eyes. Somewhere in their brains I suspect they wondered if
the Americans were upholding Semenoff’s régime. It looked that way. Was
I not a guest at the banquet?

This exposition of what was going on in Chita may appear to be bad form
on the part of one who was a guest. But in effect I was the United
States at that banquet, and the people of the United States were paying
me as an officer to learn as much about Siberia as I could, and the
people of the United States have a right to know what I learned.

My hosts knew I was an official guest, and their hospitality was
not really hospitality to me in the proper sense, but an attempt to
gain my esteem by proving to me that they were good fellows. They
thought that champagne would gain for them a favorable report from
me. But the future of Russia, and more particularly future relations
and understandings between the United States and Russia, should not
rest on the good-fellowship of wine. I can report on the splendid
hospitality of the Siberians, as dispensed on their own understanding
of hospitality. I cannot say I would commend Semenoff’s officers
as suitable administrators. It is quite likely that while the band
was playing, they were having several persons executed in a grove.
Festivity has been known to be used as a cover for firing squads.

Semenoff and others had lost hope that the United States would
coöperate with them against the Bolshevists, and had turned to other
agencies from which they might expect financial aid and moral support.

We demanded that an ideal government be formed before we would
recognize any. If an actual honest and competent government had been
formed I doubt if we would have recognized it, because no government
could, or will be formed, which will not be criticized by some Russian
faction. And all some Russian had to do in order to discredit with
us any government or leader that rose, was to whisper that such was
“monarchists,” or “not representative,” or “reactionary.” And all of
those charges would be true, for the simple reason that in any group
of Russians which can be gathered together there are bound to be among
them some who are monarchists, or not representative of all Russia, or
reactionary.

Kolchak formed a government at Omsk in November, 1918. He has not been
recognized yet by the United States. Some say he is a monarchist in
his sympathies. A former officer of the Czar’s fleet, his training and
sympathies are bound to be monarchistic in tendency. He feels that a
firm hand is necessary in dealing with the Russian situation. If we
had recognized him promptly, and backed him up, Semenoff and Kalmikoff
and other lesser lights would have had to adhere to him at once. All
power for the regeneration of Russia would have been coördinated, and
all ambitions of Cossack chiefs to become local princes, would have
been swept away. They would have had to join the parade, and the other
Allies would have been willing enough to follow our lead. And a lot of
bickering and killing would have been stopped.

For that matter, to give Semenoff and Kalmikoff their due, if they had
been recognized, with limitations of their authority, those leaders
would have given up much of their petty intriguing from the first, and
swung into line behind the United States. They would have listened to
our advice.

The whole question when our expedition first landed, was “What will
the United States do?” The answer in a couple of months was: “The
United States will do nothing--let us start something ourselves, which
will repay us for the trouble we have had fighting the Bolshevists.”

So the secret trading began, the forcing of loans from banks got
bolder, there was aid which we deprecated from certain quarters
to these Cossack chiefs. We played a dog-in-the-manger game, with
Christmas-Tree decorations in the form of Red Cross aid, and Y. M. C.
A., and Committee on Public Information, and Trade Boards. We conferred
and commissioned and sent official representatives in military uniform
to various places to make friends, while Bolshevists killed off a
vast population, and Cossack chiefs, under the plea of exterminating
Bolshevists, executed personal enemies.

We sent two or three hundred railroad engineers into the country, they
all thinking that they would be in the army. When they applied for
government insurance, they were told they were not in the army. But
they wore the uniforms and insignia of our army officers, and when some
of them wanted to get out of the country and go home, they were not
allowed to quit their jobs. Members of this organization told me that
they had been given to understand that if they insisted upon resigning,
they could do so, but that they need never again expect to hold a job
with an American railroad. And the Russians said that Russian money was
paying the salaries of these men--and that these Americans were there
to steal the railroad from the Russians. That may sound absurd. But
such absurdities thrust at men in Siberia are not pleasant. They reveal
to some slight extent the difficult environments in which Americans
found themselves in Siberia.

So while in January the temperature hung around seventy degrees below
zero, the social atmosphere was about as cold. Some weeks before,
having replied to a request that I class myself for discharge or for
permanent commission in the army, I had requested discharge.

On January twenty-sixth, in reply to my classification request, I
got orders to return to Vladivostok as soon as an officer who was to
relieve me, arrived in Chita. I had offered my services for the war,
and the war was over.

I immediately informed my friends that I was leaving soon for the
United States. General Oba’s chief of staff gave a Japanese dinner
at headquarters, and invited the British officers and me. We had a
most enjoyable time, free from the drunkenness which marked Siberian
affairs. In fact, it was my most enjoyable official function in Chita.

I made my official call on Oba the day of my departure, and he came to
my room to say farewell. I was sincerely sorry to say good-bye to him.

Captain B---- and Mrs. B---- had planned to go to Vladivostok before
I was relieved. They delayed their departure in order to go with me.
And we went in the private car of a Russian colonel who was going
to Harbin. He was in Semenoff’s service, but I surmised that he was
too high a type of officer and gentleman ever to get very far in the
councils of the Ataman. I did not remember having met him before in
Chita--a rougher element held the front of the stage most of the time.

As the colonel’s car was in the yards, we did not have to sit in the
station and wait for the train which was due to arrive from Irkutsk at
nine o’clock in the evening of January 31st.

It seemed to be the coldest weather I had ever experienced when with
Captain B----, Mrs. B----, and Werkstein, I set out from the Hotel
Select. There was a gentle breeze blowing--a barely perceptible
movement of the air--which intensified the seventy-below temperature.
In the five minutes we were crossing the square before the station,
walking against the pressure of a zephyr barely strong enough to stir
a feather, the tears ran out of my eyes and froze on my cheeks, and my
nose was frost-bitten before I could get the fur band of my cap across
it.

I looked back at the line of shops and restaurants. The lights were
shining through a gray haze of frozen fog, the doors were shrouded with
arches of icicles like entrances to fairy grottoes.

We plunged into the dark labyrinth of lines of cars in the yards. A
private train of Semenoff, with the palatial coaches of the old days,
protected by a few stamping sentries. Nearby was the Ataman’s armored
cars, with the muzzles of field-pieces and machine-guns jutting out
over the steel sides which were gleaming white with hoar frost in the
pale light of the chilled stars. A dim light spilling from our private
car, revealed letters a yard high painted on the end of an armored
box-car, in Russian “Cemehobr,” or Semenoff.

I could see in the distance, lights in the upper rooms of the Ataman’s
residence. Probably a council of state was being held--or only an
informal gathering of women who had recently been brought up from
Harbin. Above the clamor of the crowds of refugees in the station, I
heard the howling of wolves in the hills.

We got aboard the colonel’s car, and went to bed. The train which was
due at nine that night to pick us up, did not pull us out of the city
of convicts till nine in the morning of February 1, 1919.

I was started on my journey for New York, exactly on the other side of
the world. I was content.



XXIII

CHITA TO VLADIVOSTOK


In about five days we reached Manchuria Station, also known as
Mandchuli. At this station we had to change trains, for it was the end
of the Baikal division of the railroad and trains for Vladivostok were
made up there.

This line being the Chinese Eastern, all stations had our American
officers on duty, these men being railroad men serving in the Russian
Railway Service. Though we had come this far in the private car of the
Russian colonel bound for Harbin, it was advisable to arrange for room
in the Vladivostok train where the train was made up, for it would be
next to impossible to get accommodations out of Harbin.

I had asked my telegraph operators at Chita to notify by wire the
American officer on duty at Manchuria Station the time my train left
Chita, and to have him hold for me a coupé, or sleeping compartment,
in the proper Vladivostok train. But my operators gave the time I went
aboard the private car as time of my departure, saying I had left
on Number Four at nine in the evening of January thirty-first. But
the Number Four which picked up our car did not leave till nine the
following morning. And we made such slow progress, being five days in
getting to Manchuria Station, that reservation had been made for me on
the Vladivostok train departing the morning before I arrived.

As we pulled into Manchuria Station in the gray dawn of seven o’clock,
I saw the frost-covered steel cars of the Vladivostok train lying
alongside us. It was due to leave at nine o’clock.

We hastened out of our car with our numerous bags, boxes of food, and
cooking utensils. Captain B---- stood guard over our property, Mrs.
B---- went to the crowded station restaurant for hot tea, and I went
to the telegraph office to find which compartment of the Vladivostok
train had been reserved for me. I passed the train on the way to the
station, and it was already packed full of people--in seats, aisles and
on platforms.

Nobody in the telegraph office had ever heard of reserving anything for
me. Neither had the sleepy men in the station-master’s office. I asked
for the American officer to whom I had telegraphed--he had been sent to
Harbin to hospital, ill. (He died there immediately.) Yes, there was
another officer in his place--name unknown, whereabouts unknown. He
generally appeared about nine o’clock.

Hastening back to Captain B---- with the bad news, we visited the
Vladivostok train to see if we might secure some space. That is, we
went near to it, and watched mobs fighting to get aboard every car. It
was hopeless. The weather was fifty below zero. We saw the Vladivostok
train pull out at nine, leaving us in a swarming station, high and dry
on our baggage, to wait till nine o’clock the next morning.

The Chinese customs authorities demanded my lockers, and collected
eighty-four rubles in customs duty. A long line of Russians and
Chinese, which reached the entire length of the long and dark corridor
in the station, waited before the closed ticket window--to buy tickets
for the train leaving twenty-four hours later. Many of them had
been camping there for days, having food brought to them from the
restaurant, in order to buy tickets, which incidentally, gave them only
the right to try and get aboard the train.

We breakfasted in the restaurant, it requiring two hours before we were
served. And we waited more than an hour before we could get a seat,
while Russians and Chinese held the seats and read newspapers over a
single cup of tea.

Shortly after nine the American railway officer appeared, and told me
that he had reserved space in the Vladivostok train the morning before.
As we had not claimed it, he had come to the conclusion that we had not
left Chita at all, so did not make any reservation in the next train.

In disgust Captain B---- suggested that we go to the local _sobrania_
and kill time eating. We walked there, some dozen blocks distant, in
the face of a gentle breeze, which intensified the bitter cold.

On the way, Captain B---- chanced to look at me. Without warning he
shoved me toward a small snow bank, and thrust a handful of snow into
my face, rubbing it in hastily. My nose and cheeks were freezing, and
I did not know it. But before we reached the _sobrania_ I was chilled
to the marrow, and shook so hard after I had sat down at a table, that
the dishes rattled. My teeth chattered for a couple of hours, and my
shivers were so violent that I had difficulty in drinking the hot tea I
ordered. In fact, I shivered violently for two days and nights, though
I sat nearly all day in the _sobrania_ restaurant with my back against
a slightly warm wall-stove.

We spent the night once more in the colonel’s car, but were up before
daylight in order to begin our offensive for space in the next
Vladivostok train. With Captain B---- and Werkstein, I ran down the
whole length of the train as it arrived in the terribly cold morning
with only the light from the frozen stars, seeking for the best cars.
We identified the steel cars from the wooden ones by their coats of
hoar frost.

The great mob in the station surged out and attacked the train before
the sleepy passengers began to get off with their baggage. Immediately
there was a terrific jam.

[Illustration: SOME AMERICAN RAILROAD MEN OF THE “RUSSIAN RAILWAY
SERVICE”]

[Illustration: WASHING CLOTHES IN SIXTY-BELOW-ZERO WEATHER]

We fought our way into a car, inch by inch, shouldering through
the disembarking passengers and clambering over their bundles and
bales. The first compartment we could get into was still full of
sleepily-protesting passengers, six being jammed into a compartment
designed to hold four. The place was in a filthy condition, floors,
berths, and window-ledges being covered with food refuse, cigarette
stubs, dirty papers, candle-wax, mud which had melted out of ice
tracked in at various stations. The single guttering candle revealed it
to be in a condition worse than a pig-sty.

“We will hold this,” said Captain B----. “You remain here and I will
see the provodnik and pay him to clean it, and see that it is locked.
Then we will move our baggage in.”

He returned presently, having given the provodnik twenty rubles for
cleaning, and surety of possession. I suggested that my orderly be left
to hold it against the mob already swarming in and thrusting the door
open as they passed to look in. Captain B---- said that it was safe
enough, and that we would breakfast at the station while the coupé was
being cleaned, when we would begin moving our baggage. I doubted the
safety of this move, but as he was running things and asserted that the
station master was a friend, I felt assured that he was right.

After breakfast, still before dawn, I sent my orderly to get our
tickets. He came back saying that the line was so long that he could
not get to the window. Inquiry developed the fact that I could get a
military pass by seeing the Czech officer in charge of transportation.
We found him far up the railroad yard in a third-class car, with a lot
of his soldiers eating their breakfast. He sat on a shelf and scribbled
a pass.

Now our baggage must be moved to the coupé we had set aside in the
Vladivostok train. I left my orderly to look after the transfer with
the aid of a hired porter, and hastened to the compartment we had
chosen.

On the way through the crowd I met Captain B---- who went with me. We
found the car a seething mass of humanity, struggling with their boxes
in the corridor, and making a fight to gain entrance to every coupé
which had been preëmpted by the earliest, luckiest and strongest of the
travellers.

To our surprise we found the coupé which we had hired cleaned, full.
There was a burly Russian soldier, a Japanese officer, and a pair of
Russian civilian speculators lying in the berths, and the whole place
was crammed with baggage. They protested wildly at supposed intrusion.

Captain B----, being in Russian uniform overcoat with gold shoulder
straps, informed them all that they must get out, as he had reserved
the coupé. This met with violent opposition as the party inside was
well settled.

Captain B---- called for the provodnik, and as that worthy could
or would not come, he seized the baggage nearest at hand and began
pitching it out on the heads of those in the corridor.

I managed to get a window open, and he pitched bags and grips out on
the mob outside. The effect was magical. Our squatters needed their
personal effects more than they wanted the coupé, and they dashed out
to salvage their things, expressing themselves in Russian and Japanese
as not at all admirers of Captain B----.

I was left holding the fort. Captain B---- hunted up the provodnik, and
with a few properly placed kicks, induced him to once more clean the
coupé. He tearfully announced that there was no outside lock on the
door.

Finally, we got our baggage in after a lot of labor and fighting, and
never left that coupé unguarded for a minute the next three days on the
way to Vladivostok.

Late one night the Russian conductor managed to get in on the plea that
he wanted to see our tickets. He at once announced that he was going to
put two more passengers in the coupé, and that the lower berths would
have to be shared, despite the fact that it was plain there was barely
room for us to get in or out, or to turn round once inside. Captain
B---- referred him to me telling him that the coupé was reserved
for an American officer, and that he himself had nothing to do with
the matter. I lifted myself on one elbow, and reached for my pistol
holster. The conductor and his two villainous passengers faded away,
and presently we heard a rumpus in the next coupé, where the two men
were installed over the protests of some women.

Of course, the conductor probably got a thousand rubles to provide
quarters for the two men, whether they had tickets or not, as the
speculators pay well for accommodation. They made themselves so
obnoxious in the coupé which they got into that the women occupants
were forced to get off the train at the next station and wait
twenty-four hours for the next train.

At every station we were besieged by incoming passengers, who would
thrust the door of the coupé open and insist that they be allowed to
enter, and when we refused, they made insulting remarks. Then they
camped on their baggage outside the door and sang ribald songs all
night, or thrust burning cigarettes through the aperture we left for
air by opening the door an inch and keeping the chain on. Or they took
occasion to block us in the passage if we attempted to leave the coupé.

In order to allow Mrs. B---- to leave the coupé, I had to carry my
pistol in my hand ahead of her, and wait for her to come back. And
while the three of us got off at stations for tea, my orderly was left
with his automatic in his hand to keep off all comers. We never pointed
a gun at anybody, but having it in hand, it prevented burly Manchus,
Russians and others from insisting that they had a right to come in.

At one station down the line where we were to get coal for our engine,
we were delayed several hours because there was no coal. The mine was
not far away, but with typical Siberian procrastination, the coal was
allowed to run short at the station. When a train arrived which needed
coal, it was time enough to order an engine and a dozen coal cars to
proceed to the mine, load up, and return with a supply. So we lay in
the yards, and kept other trains at other stations waiting, till we
had coaled and released traffic in both directions. The branch line
running to the mine could have kept the coal yards full, with a switch
engine and one coal-car, but that would require planning ahead, and
doing something before it was actually necessary to do it.

At another station, we waited five hours to change a hot “brass” on a
journal. This job at home takes some ten minutes. As I watched a poor
Chinese mechanic scraping the bearing in forty-below weather, using a
primitive tool, I realized that the “hordes of cheap labor in Asia”
need not worry us at home. This mechanic would put the semi-cylindrical
bearing into the journal-box and take it out. Where it showed oil
stains, the metal had to be scraped away to get a good fit for the
bearing. He always scraped too much off where the oil showed it to be
ill-fitting, and of course, when he put it in again, oil revealed that
the spots which he had not scraped, now stuck up. So he scraped these
spots away and repeated the process.

We were held up one night at a tiny telegraph station on the plains.
After six hours wait, Captain B---- and I attempted to ascertain when
we might expect to go on. We learned that there was a wreck two versts
ahead. There were two cars off the track--freight cars. It developed
later that the reason we had to wait so long to get two freight cars
off the track, was due to the fact that some cases containing books
had been smashed in the wreck, and the books scattered along the
line. Before that freight train would come in, these cases had to be
repacked and renailed till they presented their original appearance as
near as it was possible to make them, by Siberian railroad men working
with a single old lantern which burned lard-oil. While they tinkered
with cases of books in semi-darkness, the train for Vladivostok, and
all other traffic for miles in both directions, were held nearly all
night. Fancy an American passenger train held till smashed cases of
freight could be rebuilt and repacked!

We got into Vladivostok three days late. The transport in which I
should have sailed for home departed the day before I arrived. And a
notice in headquarters warned me not to go near the Trans-Siberian
station because there were many cases of typhus among the refugees
sleeping in the corridors! It is needless to state that I calmly went
there for my baggage without worrying about typhus after living so many
days in trains and stations reeking with typhus and other diseases. But
one gets very finicky living at headquarters. Incidentally, there was a
lot of tiger hunting done on the stairs of headquarters at Vladivostok.
The whole staff became inveterate tiger hunters, and remained so, till
a big Siberian tiger came down near Vladivostok and killed a bull and
ate it.

On the fifteenth of February, 1919, I was aboard the Russian steamer
_Simbirsk_ when it pushed out through the ice in the bay. But I was not
yet out of Siberia. The stewards never cleaned our rooms or made up our
berths, the ship still had the same old Siberian smell, the decks and
carpets in salon and passage-ways remained consistently filthy, and we
had to put to sea without an adequate supply of fresh water.

In two days I reached Tsuruga, Japan, went to Yokohama by train, and
caught the _Tenyo Maru_ for San Francisco. When ashore in Japan, I
found once more that the world was going on in its old way--trunks
could be checked, tickets purchased which insured the right to a seat
in a train, beds were clean, food came soon after being ordered. I
felt as if I had escaped from an insane asylum. I had had enough of
Bolshevism to last me the rest of my life. And I suggest that when any
men or women develop a leaning for Bolshevism in this country, that
they be shipped to Siberia. The trip will kill or cure.



XXIV

THE PEASANTS


The problem of Siberia is the peasant-minded population. I use this
term to avoid confusion with what is the popular conception of
“peasant,” that is, a tiller of the soil, a rude and ignorant farmer
or farm-hand, the human being described in Russian as “_moujik_.” The
mass of the people is peasant-minded, whether working in cities or
in the wilderness. The fact that those in the cities have acquired
urban characteristics, does not to my mind prevent them from having
mental calibers on a par with the rural population when it comes to
knowledge of government, or minds revealing any alertness toward new
ideas or reaction to anything with which they are unfamiliar. This vast
population appears to be mentally static.

The stupidity of these people never ceases to amaze Americans. Many of
our soldiers who were Russians and had been for years in the United
States, apparently must make a great mental effort to comply with the
simplest request. Their brains seem to be congealed. And the Siberian,
asked a simple question in his own language by one speaking Russian
perfectly, acts like a man rousing himself from deep slumber before he
can comprehend the question, much less answer it.

Our knowledge of Russia has been gained from two sources--histories
and books on government telling us of official and court life, and
the Russian novelists. One class of writer deals with a few exalted
personages, the other class tells us of the common people. Really,
there is no history of Russia, for such history as we have concerns the
figures of the Imperial dynasties and their satellites. Reading this,
is something like attempting to get the history of the United States
by being able to read only scenes from meetings of the cabinets of our
presidents, and personal gossip about the characters of notable people,
and how they acted in times of national stress.

Now I believe that Tolstoy, Gorky and other Russian novelists, did the
Russian peasant more damage than all the Czars. They did not reveal the
peasant to us, despite their brilliancy as novelists. They idealized
the peasant. They built up a great illusion. I am not saying that after
six months in Siberia I know more about the Siberian peasant than
the novelists, but I am saying that they did not tell us the things
we should know about him. They made the outer world believe that the
peasant, once free of the Czars, would throw off his chrysalis of
tyranny and emerge as a beautiful creature, living a life of sobriety,
industry, and good behavior.

These novelists led us to believe that freedom in Russia was a matter
of legislation, emanating from the halls of the Duma; they led us to
believe that imperial bureaucracy was responsible for the woes of the
people, when as a matter of fact, the people were responsible for that
very imperial bureaucracy. We were led to believe that a machine-gun
government would transform itself into a printing-press government once
the old régime was shattered. We saw it shattered--and the vast Empire
became a shambles.

Freedom is in the hearts of a people, and not in legislative halls.
The congress of a nation is but an expression of the freedom which the
people feel in their hearts--the machine, but not the fuel which drives
it. It is futile to send representatives of the people to a congress if
the people do not know what they want to express. It results only in
autocracy, in exploitation. If a law-maker finds that he gets as much
credit for making a bad law as he gets for making a good law, neither
law being understood, he soon disregards the people and works for his
own ends, thus usurping power which has not been delegated to him. He
becomes master instead of servant. People are responsible for their
government.

A wave of joy swept the United States when the news came that the
Czar had fallen. We had a mental picture of two hundred million human
beings able now to enjoy a liberty similar to our own. It was a great
emancipation.

I believe it will take several hundred years before the mass of the
people of Russia will have attained a mental capacity on a par with
the civilization which we know. They are still in the dim twilight of
medieval times, though they are playing with modern machinery.

And when it comes to turning such a nation from an absolute autocracy
into a liberal republic, in which one man’s vote is as good as
another’s, it is impossible without the element of time. A country so
vast and so various, with the blood of so many nations running through
the people, and especially a people holding the Asiatic viewpoint of
government, cannot be administered immediately according to our ideal.
The best that can be hoped for is a constitutional monarchy, and even
if that form of government is gained, it will be for some time a
dictatorship.

I am forced to this conclusion. All the pity, all the sympathy we may
feel for this benighted people, will not alter the facts. We cannot
swing a magician’s wand and hand freedom to these people on a silver
salver. We have got to face facts, and realize that the Tolstoys and
Gorkys have misled us about the Russian peasant. For once given a free
hand, this sublimated peasant has produced a tragedy, with himself the
victim, which outdoes any tragedy the human race has ever wished itself
into.

The peasant has been described by Russian novelists as “inscrutable,”
the inference being that behind the “dreamy eyes” and simple
expressions on the faces of these people there were deep thoughts and a
yearning for an ideal existence--some mysterious greatness which if we
could once understand it, would reveal to us a wonderful race.

I consider this inscrutability to be of the same quality which exists
in the eyes of a simple old cow, which being invited into the parlor
and turned loose, kicks the walls out of the building and dies under
the wreckage of the roof. It is an ignorance deeper than we of the
United States are capable of comprehending--a childish mentality in a
white person who appears good-natured, religious, kind and hospitable
under a restraining government, but who will kill his neighbor simply
for the purpose of doing something dramatic.

It may be charged that my pessimism on the peasant is exaggerated, and
that the Russian in this country disproves my assertions that hundreds
of years must elapse before the peasant can meet our standards of
intelligence. What the Russian peasant does in this country has nothing
to do with the case except to show that removed from Russia he forges
ahead. But the Russian who comes here is of a higher type than those
of his fellows he leaves behind--he must be energetic, ambitious,
adventurous, aspiring to better things to take the trip of his own
initiative and to have acquired by himself passage-money. If he gets
aid from relatives already here in order to make the journey, there are
members of his family who have shown ability in getting ahead. If he is
compelled to escape from his country, that fact indicates that he was
not satisfied with his lot at home--he is not given to dumb submission.

But we cannot import to this country all the peasants in the Russian
Empire in order to advance their education to our standards. Their
future is in their own hands, no matter how much we may attempt to aid
them. And my pessimism toward the peasant is primarily an attitude
toward him as he exists in his native environment. I am not attempting
to judge him by our standards. I am attempting to show him in such
a light that our people will give up attempting to judge him by our
standards, so long as he remains at home.

We must stop considering Russia and Siberia as filled with people
much like ourselves. They must be considered from an entirely new
angle--much as if they were people of another planet. In fact, that has
been and is our difficulty with all Asia. And when I say Asia, I do not
mean so much a place, as I mean a state of mind.

The question may be raised as to why we should consider the peasant
seriously. We do not have to if we do not want to, but we should,
for what happens in Russia during the next decade or two will have
serious effects upon us, our national existence, and the future of our
children. I do not mean this in a sense of what they may do to us, but
in the sense of what they may do with themselves. What has happened in
Siberia and all Russia during the last couple of years has alarmed us.
The happenings were the result partly of our belief in the last fifty
years, that what happened in Russia was no concern of ours. We have
suddenly awakened to the fact that injustice and intrigue and a weak
monarch on the other side of the world, can have a most decided effect
upon us. We got a good deal of amusement out of Wilhelm of Germany and
his “mailed fist” and “shining armor”--it was all a merry show to us.
We are just beginning to pay the piper. We have had a demonstration
that what foreign princes may do is decidedly our business. We may not
have learned the lesson fully.

It is apparent that Bolshevism made a powerful appeal to the peasants
of Siberia, as it did to the submerged class of all Russia. The
readiness with which these benighted people took up a saturnalia of
crime in order to right certain crimes which had been committed against
them, startled the world. The universality of Bolshevism in Russia
actually led many people of peasant-minds here and abroad, to suspect
that there was something good behind it all--it was hard to believe
that a nation of two hundred million human beings supposedly civilized,
could be so utterly wrong.

And while Bolshevism was wrecking a vast nation, it seemed impossible
to get any definite idea of what it was, and what it intended to do.
Many of our people are still in that frame of mind, despite the fact
that a nation has been wrecked. There are charges and counter-charges,
accusations and denials, and all the while wholesale murder is
going on. People at home, supposed to have brains, still argue that
Bolshevism is a good thing, a just thing, and the only justice in
government that there is. They have not seen the wreckage.

There are others who have seen the wreckage, but are so enamored of a
theory which they have upheld, that they will not admit the terrible
things they have seen because these things would prove them and their
theory to be wrong. These people could look at a train wreck in which a
hundred persons were killed, and say: “There is nothing to worry about.
This all means that we will build better cars and use safety devices.
And if we don’t like the color of the new cars, we will wreck the
trains till we get equipment that suits us. It is necessary that people
die in order to have cars which meet our tastes in colors. What happens
to the passengers does not worry us--we have theories of railroading
which must be carried out, even if in testing them everybody in the
country is killed.”

The arguments of the Bolshevist leaders made headway with the peasants
because the basis of Bolshevism is class-war. Bolshevism is founded
on the fallacy that it is the ability of the lower class which is
exploited, when it is the ignorance of the lower class which is
exploited. And the Bolshevist leaders have exploited this ignorance in
a more terrible way than ever the ruling class did under the old régime.

The ignorance, credulity, stupidity and cruelty of the Siberian
peasant passes our understanding. And in passing judgment upon these
forlorn people, who filled me with disgust by their willingness to
be dirty when it would be as easy to be clean, and in stressing
their revolting aspects, my purpose is to bring home to the reader a
clearer appreciation of the problems which face us when we attempt to
aid them. I believe that I am helping them in depicting them to the
generous-minded people of the United States and other countries.

We cannot leave them alone, even if we would. The point I want to
make is that all our agencies for welfare work, all our machinery
of government which takes up the Siberian and Russian problem, must
realize the difficulties ahead and understand that the problem differs
from any other problem we have ever attacked. It is Asia, white man’s
Asia. Despite white skin, we have on our hands a race not akin to
white, yellow or black. We readjust our minds when we come to deal with
the colored races. We must readjust our minds when we deal with the
Siberian, and keep that readjustment steadily, for the Siberian does
not constantly warn us by the color of his face that his mind presents
to us a barrier against mutual understanding. We must learn about
him, as he must learn about us. Centuries of serfdom, centuries of
autocratic rule, centuries of cruelty, have left their imprint on his
brain. “Half devil and half child” was written of the black races. It
is also a good thing to keep in mind when we consider Siberia.

The more the peasant disgusted me, the more I pitied him. We may say
that the drowning man who reaches up and catches the gunwale of a
life-boat full of women and children and upsets it in his frantic
efforts to save himself, is a fool. Yet we must realize that he is
responding to the natural instinct of self-preservation. He knows
decidedly that he is in danger of death, his brain is not working
normally, and his greatest impulse is to save himself--all idea of
sacrificing himself for the benefit of the majority or the helpless,
have been swamped by unreasoning fear.

The Siberian peasant knew something was wrong when he was prevented
from having the soil. He loves the soil, and he loves to make
it produce. He and his forbears have been in the clutches of a
governmental system so asinine as to thwart him in his desire to
work the land. He endured this serfdom in fact, for ages, he endured
serfdom under another guise since official serfdom has been abolished.
Instigated and aided by the Bolshevists, who were in turn backed by
Germany, he wrecked the government of his oppressors, and finds himself
caught in the wreckage. If the thing works out in the way Germany
hopes, the peasant stands simply to change masters.

The peasant has been glorified by the Russian novelists for his quality
of endurance, rather than for his accomplishments. His submission was
extolled, and we gave his submission a wrong valuation. We pitied him,
and he became a martyr in our eyes, with all the virtues that go with
martyrdom. Freed of his chains, he mistook license for liberty, and we
were shocked to find that he whom we regarded as a kind man who had
been wronged, could only emulate his late masters in cruelty, murder
and injustice to his own kind.

It may be said that the people of Siberia, being the rudest of
Russians, are not at all typical, and that as the Siberians are the
descendants of exiles, or former exiles, they have experienced a
degeneration which prevents them from being representative of the
corresponding class in European Russia. There may be something in that
idea.

And I grant that judging the people of Siberia during a revolution, may
be like judging the people of San Francisco while they were camping
among the ruins of their city after the earthquake--that conditions
were abnormal, and reduced to a primitive state.

But if people seem to prefer being filthy to being clean, when the
desirable condition calls for but little effort, it is obvious that in
normal times, they were inherently filthy. And I experienced filth,
day after day, in trains, railway restaurants and hotels, which I
cannot hint at, much less describe. Sanitation is the beginning of
civilization. When conductors on trains, and passengers on trains,
will create and permit without protest, a condition of squalor and
unsanitary conditions such as I saw, and which the wildest animal
avoids, there is something wrong mentally with such a people. And when
a suggestion that conditions might be improved is met by a stare of
amazement that anyone should find these things revolting, one begins
to wonder if government by a knout was not actually needed. But we
know that the knout, censorship, repression, and the barriers against
outside ideas and education are responsible for these conditions. These
people are victims of a government that was criminal.

While observing the peasants, and while discussing them in this book, I
have tried to keep an open mind. I have not hesitated to reveal their
worst side. I am willing to bring out in full force their exasperating
habits of dilatoriness, their slow mental and physical gear which
we describe as laziness, that we may realize their problem, and our
problem in aiding them.

There is another side to the shield. It is my opinion that the
only hope which Russia has for regeneration, no matter how long it
may take to do the work, lies in the peasant class. Not the actual
stolid peasant, but in men and women from the peasant class. That is
the difference and distinction in my whole statement. Breshkovsky,
“Grandmother of the Revolution” is of the peasant class, but not
peasant-minded.

There are among the millions of peasants in Russia, men and women who
are beyond their class in mental attainments. That ability may be
latent, but it will rise to the top as surely as water seeks its own
level. This quality of genius runs through the whole human race in all
lands.

The genius of Russia under the old régime could only express itself in
protest against government, which was the biggest job at hand for the
genius. And this expression frequently came in the form of literature.
When Tolstoy and Gorky extolled the peasant, one a noble and the other
a commoner, both were merely praying that the latent genius in a few
individuals have a fair chance to come to flower. They were fighting
oppression, though they gave us an idea that if the peasants all had a
chance, all would reveal the quality of genius. That hope is absurd,
in Russia or elsewhere. What we want, in Russia and at home, is that
the peasant-minded people have comfort and justice though they persist
in remaining peasant-minded, and that when an individual reveals
extraordinary ability, he may develop it, and not be broken on the
wheel for daring to lift himself out of the rut.

My ideal is not a nation of peasants by any means. But I do insist that
a large mass of our own population prefers to be peasant-minded, and
fights against being anything else. There is but a small proportion of
our population which demands art in literature, pictures, or anything
else. There is a mental Bolshevism all about us at home. There is a
clearly defined hostility against mental accomplishments, expressed
in many newspaper cartoons, in fiction, and in the utterances of
demagogues. Our small-town hoodlum who resents the well-dressed
stranger as a “dude,” and despises good grammar and evidences of an
education, is at heart a Bolshevist--he is hostile to the “upper class”
just as is the Siberian peasant. The man in the motor car, who has no
consideration for the pedestrian, is at heart a Cossack. Both classes
are in a dangerous frame of mind.

Here at home we urge our young folks to get educations. Then we joke
about the college professors who get less in wages than laborers. We
all like to see labor well-paid, but while teachers get starvation
wages, we cannot consistently argue the value of education. The college
professor may say he gets more out of life than the laborer--what the
laborer says to his children is the thing we must consider. We must
be careful that we do not build up a class-war based on an ignorance
which has no ideas of relative values, which is the trouble in Siberia.
The Bolshevists turned the janitor of a college into president of the
college, and made the president do duty as janitor. Without hatred for
education, the Siberians could not do such a thing.

When I assert that the salvation of Russia lies in the hands of the
peasant class, I mean the peasant who has brains and wants to develop
them, not the peasant who wants to kill everybody wearing a white
collar. I do not mean that Russia should be led by the professional
agitator or the demagogue, or the silk-stockinged revolutionist, but
men who spring from the people and have the balance of sanity.

Russia will develop its own Lincoln; but before that time, I believe it
will have a national Napoleon. The latter will do it a service by first
coördinating and stabilizing the national spirit, and bringing the
shattered remnants of the vast land under one government. That is the
only kind of ruler the people will understand and obey now. If they
had to-day an ideal president directing the country under an ideal form
of government, he would probably be sacrificed by the warring factions
before he could get his program of regeneration under way.

We must bear in mind the fact that the mass of the Russian people got
their official freedom in the days of our Civil War, and their actual
freedom as recently as when the Czar’s government was overthrown.
They do not know what to do with it yet. They are literal minded,
and when we speak to them of equality in rights and of opportunity,
they interpret it to mean equality in all things--one man as good as
another, one man as wise as another, one man as rich as another. They
do not understand political equality. To disagree with them is fatal if
they have the power to kill.

We have people at home, who have lived for years under our form of
government, who do not yet grasp our meaning of liberty and freedom.
We cannot expect the Siberians to grasp the principles of republican
government over night. They have had no demonstration of our system of
government, and they find some of their own people who have experienced
our system of government, going back to Siberia to slander us. They
go back with the cry that they were exploited here, in our mills and
packing-houses. Their ignorance was exploited, and our government
is blamed. They assert that their ability was exploited. They do
not realize that in confessing that they were exploited, they are
admitting ignorance. That may not excuse their exploitation, but it
accounts for it.

One of my Russian orderlies, who had been in this country some ten
years, first as a steel worker in Pittsburgh, and then as a barber,
told me how he had finally induced his brother to come to America and
work. So he sent his brother passage-money. The brother got aboard a
ship for America--and found himself practically sold into slavery in
the Argentine, where he worked more than a year for miserable food
and quarters. By that time he had been located by his brother of
Pittsburgh, who sent passage-money to come to New York and fare to
Pittsburgh. But he got aboard a ship for Russia, having had enough
of “America.” He was killed as a Russian soldier in the war against
Germany. He told everybody in his home town what a terrible place
America was. The United States was blamed because he could not get here
when his ticket was purchased for him--so far as he was concerned,
life as a peon in a turpentine camp in the Argentine represented labor
conditions in the United States. He never could be made to understand
that Argentina was not the United States. It was all “America.”

In the same way, immigrants from Russia have been lured to Russian
boarding houses in this country, stripped of their little cash and few
belongings, and turned adrift. They blame the United States, when it
was their own countrymen who robbed them. Their ignorance was being
exploited.

We at home hear that the Trans-Siberian Railroad is running. So
are our transcontinental lines. A railroad is a railroad, to us.
In Siberia, however, it took me ten days to go by rail a distance
that would take ten hours at home. There I traveled in what we would
consider a fairly good cattle-car; here I moved in a palace on wheels.
There, I was glad to pay a dollar for a bowl of greasy cabbage soup;
here, I got a complete meal served in luxurious surroundings, for a
dollar.

These are some of the reasons why we require a mental readjustment when
we think of Siberia. It is impossible to use the same terms and convey
the same idea. And these differences in usual things and usual terms,
explain the difficulty we have had in visualizing and understanding
Bolshevism. We think of a theory at home; in Siberia we see the result
of the theory.

Returning home I heard a man in the Twentieth Century Limited
explaining some of the virtues of Bolshevism. He had never been in
Siberia. Our train was moving nearly sixty miles an hour, and we were
clean and comfortable, plenty of food at hand. As this man talked, I
smiled in remembrance of an engineer in Siberia who had demanded a
bottle of vodka before he would haul our train any farther--and when he
got it, proceeded to get drunk and let his train almost run away during
the night as it descended a steep grade in the Khingan Mountain range.

I wondered if the passenger in the Twentieth Century, who extolled
the virtues of Bolshevism, would have been willing to ride in the
Twentieth Century any longer if our engineer had suddenly stopped and
demanded a bottle of whiskey before he proceeded. That would have been
Bolshevism in fact. It was easy to theorize in safety with a sober
engineer at the throttle. A Bolshevist at the throttle of government
may make a good engineer, to hear our boudoir Bolshevists talk. I
observe a strange reluctance on their part to go to Russia where
Bolshevism is running things.

To me, the horror of the peasant in Siberia, was the realization that
his children and grandchildren had little hope to be better off. I do
not mean that the old régime will come back with all its terrors; but
no matter what form of government may flourish in Petrograd, it will be
many years before the leaven of the most enlightened rule can penetrate
the minds of these people and bring to the surface such good qualities
as are deeply imbedded in their brains, sealed up under layers of
ignorance, superstition, and submission.

They believe we are not there to help them, but to protect our own
investments. We are losing their confidence every day that we remain
in Siberia without doing something constructive, in which they have
understanding. If we want to do welfare work, do it, but without an
expedition on the ground; if we want to use our troops in cleaning up
the Bolshevists, get into action. They will understand either activity
by itself but they cannot understand military occupation without
action, and they cannot understand relief work carried on under
inactive bayonets. We have talked too much about our friendship for
Russia, and done little or nothing to aid the country in reëstablishing
itself with a government.

Whatever assurance we may give Kolchak, or other leaders, that we will
back them up, we will gain little unless our actions win the confidence
of the peasant masses, and the so-called “workers.” I group them
together.

The mass of the people of Siberia lean more toward Bolshevism than they
do toward us. Not that they are actively Bolshevist, but they have in
the backs of their heads a secret love for the theory, for it promises
them a chance to get rich quick. All ignorant people have a strong
tendency to greed--they want to take from those who have. That is all
Bolshevism is, and that is why I maintain that the masses are largely
Bolshevist in their sympathies.

The longer we hesitate, the longer we take to reach a decision, the
more these masses are slipping away from us. The crisis will come
in the winter of 1920, because the people were Bolshevist in their
tendencies with fairly good food supplies. They will turn to Bolshevism
wholly, in order to force us into feeding them, if crops have been
scanty and the food reserve has been consumed. They do not appear to be
yet ready to settle down to steady and regular work, because they have
not been assured that their earnings or accumulations will be protected
for them by a decent government.

We have failed to do much in nearly a year of occupation, and they
have done less because they were waiting for our lead. They had no
real grievance when they objected to our presence in the country last
winter. They will have a grievance if things do not suit them next
winter, for they will say: “You told us you were going to help. We
waited for you to help, and now we are in misery. It is your fault.”

We must remember that we are dealing with a people who not only may
become Bolshevists, but a people who have been Bolshevists, and rather
liked it. They will get at it again if we do not watch out. So far, we
have done little or nothing to gain either their friendship, or their
wholesome respect for our military powers. And they are being whispered
to all the time by influences which know how to make them react to
certain ideas.

What have the Allies done in Siberia, except to control the
Trans-Siberian Railroad? Our relief work was discredited by the
peasants on the plea that we were giving them things in order to get
them off their guard, induce them to be good, and grab their railroad.
They asserted that we were trying to bribe the Bolshevists into being
good, and that the Bolshevists would as soon get property from the
capitalists by having it given to them as by taking it. We cannot
expect to subsidize Bolshevism by those methods, for the more we give,
the more they will demand. It is the old game of paying tribute to
bandits so they will not rob your caravans--a scheme as old to Asia as
the Arabian Nights tales.

If we are going to remain in Siberia, we must back some horse. We must
either go against the peasants and compel them to behave, or we must go
in with them on some basis they will understand. We have been dealing
with big fellows, believing that the “leaders” knew what to do, yet we
have not supported any of the “leaders.” Throw in with Kolchak and back
him up, regardless of monarchist intrigues, and then if he attempts to
betray us and Russia, denounce him, and back such leader as is willing
to carry out what we suppose to be the wishes of the people.

But if we think that we can follow the wishes of the people, we will
make a mistake. That is the mistake we have made already. We have been
waiting for Russian “public opinion” to coagulate. It cannot be done.
There are a thousand Russian “public opinions.”

We have got to follow our own public opinion as to what should be done,
with consistency to our ideals of government, and then go ahead. There
will be factions in Siberia and Russia who will object, because the
people do not know what they want. They believe they are free, and
that freedom means doing as they please. As a matter of fact, they
abhor any government which attempts to control them. It has taken us
twenty years in the Philippines to prove to the Filipinos, a people
composed of various tribes, that we are working for their good. Some
of the “leaders” want a freer hand in leading than they get. I doubt
if we want to take on the same problem in Russia, I doubt if it is
necessary. But we have not told any Russians at present writing what we
intend to do for them, if anything.

The peasants cannot read their daily newspapers in order to form
opinions. They can only believe what they are told, so what they
believe depends upon who does the telling. And in Siberia one will
believe anything. I myself, after three weeks without news, gave
credence to absurd rumors.

Actions speak louder than words with the peasants of Siberia. We have
been long on promises and short on deeds--at least deeds which the
peasants can understand. We declined to act with the Japanese against
“agitating peasants.” Neither the Japanese nor the Siberians could
understand what we were driving at. Both understood our troops to
represent force to be used against disorder. We maintained that our
force was not to interfere with anything the Siberians wished to do
with their own country. So the “agitating peasants” began to interfere
with us, and we have killed and wounded in our casualty lists from
Siberia. We wished to avoid killing any Siberians. They reasoned that
we must be in the wrong by being there at all, and killed Americans.
This indicates that we have not made the proper impression on the
peasants. The problem of Siberia is the peasant, and we ignore him--at
least we do not consider how he will react to what we do. He fears that
we will betray him. It is much more likely that, as we are conducting
ourselves in Siberia, he will betray us.



XXV

FRENZIED FINANCE


Siberia is the land of Aladdins--Aladdins who can laugh at lamps so
long as they possess money-printing machines. The German General Staff
was the Magician who craftily suggested the use of the machines.
And those first sponsors of Bolshevism, who were the creatures of
the Magician, were the terrible jinns who gave their services to
the financial wrecking of Great Russia, including Siberia. Said the
Magician, “What you Russians want is land and money. There lies the
land. Take it! As for money, print it!” So the Aladdins, instead of
rubbing lamps, oiled up the printing-presses. And, presto--millions of
rubles!

Such a suggestion would have passed as a species of light humor in
any other country. Certainly it would not have been acted upon. But
the Magician knew the child-like psychology of his Aladdins, for to
their simple minds, a ruble is any piece of paper upon which the words
“One Ruble” have been printed. And such paper is made more attractive
than any genuine ruble if upon it is also engraved some crude picture,
preferably that of a working man resting from his labors and surveying
rich fields and bust factory chimneys.

First of all, the German Magician induced his jinns to steal from
the Russian Treasury the gold which was behind the Imperial paper
rubles--thus depreciating the value of those rubles (but only to
those few who knew that the gold had gone to Germany). Next, and with
characteristic inconsistency, the Bolshevists, while preaching a
crusade against money,--in other words, capitalism--proceeded to print
bales of money behind which they put no gold. Then they used money as
their chief weapon to fight money!

From the standpoint of imagination, the whole scheme put to shame the
wildest, most gigantic get-rich-quick dream ever born in the brain
of a mortal. Those bales of stage money dramatized the cash wealth
of the Bolshevists--actually visualized to every peasant and worker
the tangible success of Bolshevism. Further, the Bolshevists, through
their keen methods of distributing this wealth, were able to convince
a poverty-stricken people that Bolshevism stood for everything that
was generous and good. Already the Bolshevists had taken over the
government. With pockets stuffed full of stage money, the people massed
themselves in the defense of that new government.

If you have been desperately poor all your life, and a man thrusts
hundreds of dollars into your hands to prove that he is your friend,
you believe him. If he says he stands for the government which is
behind those dollars, are you not likely to range yourself on the
side of that government? And should a stranger from the other end of
the world happen along and tell you that the fellow who had made you
wealthy is a crazy man, will that stranger not need a pretty strong
argument to win you away from him who made you rich without labor?

This is precisely how the scheme was worked in Siberia.

The Bolshevists carried out their program of winning over the people
with great subtlety--a subtlety which suggests that the Magician was
inspired of the Devil. The method of procedure was as follows: As the
Bolshevist propagandists traveled by trains eastward from Vladivostok,
and westward from Petrograd, they took with them chests and sacks of
purposely rumpled, soiled and worn currency. Whenever they rolled into
a station, they would call, say, upon a _moujik_ for some trifling
service--perhaps the filling of a tea-kettle with hot water; and when
the _moujik_ returned with the kettle, a Bolshevist would hand him five
hundred one-ruble bills!

To a _moujik_, five hundred rubles represents years of hard work--it
is a fortune. He stands and stares at his fistful of money. “This poor
traveler is surely mad,” he concludes; “or he has made a terrible
mistake.”

But neither of these is the truth. It is astounding enough--yet for
the _moujik_ not difficult to believe. For like all his fellows, this
peasant has lived his whole life in the expectation that some such
wonderful thing would happen when the Czar was pulled from his throne.
And now the passenger tells the _moujik_ that the money is all his. The
miracle has come to pass!

“I am a Bolshevist,” says the traveler. “Therefore I am your friend. If
a capitalist asks you to fill his tea-kettle, what would he give you?
Five kopecks. I give you five hundred rubles. Comrade, your country
is behind this money. Look! There are the fields and factories on the
notes. The capitalists have worked you hard and given you little: I
work you little and give you much. That is because I am a Bolshevist.
If you will be a Bolshevist you will never want again. My brother,
freedom has come to Russia! Uphold the revolution!”

The secret of the success of this plan lay in the fact that the
miraculous conferring of wealth was general. The waiters in the station
restaurant received a thousand rubles each for a bowl of cabbage soup.
Clerks in nearby shops were paid exorbitant sums for various trifles.
Drosky-drivers had their belts filled with money. Bath-attendants
packed their tips away wrapped up in towels. In fact the whole
population of the town, even the beggars on the street-corners, found
that their pockets were bulging when that train pulled out. And since
practically every one had the currency, there was no one to say it was
bad. Therefore, it was considered good--unanimously.

Just as simple as that! They hated capital, yet were glad to have it!
Having it, they were Bolshevists.

You of the United States may laugh at all this. But you must consider
two things: First, the abysmal ignorance of the Siberian peasantry;
and, second, that from the days of Aladdin, Asia has reeked with
legends of magic wealth. So you have a whole people who, like that
first _moujik_, are ready to credit any story--especially a story
backed by real money. And the American, or other foreigner, who comes
along and says that that money is worthless, and dares to laugh at it,
may find himself facing a firing-squad.

When the Allies began to arrive in Siberia, and the Bolshevist
leaders found it convenient not to remain, they naturally took their
money-machines with them. But this worked the new régime no noticeable
hardship. For the larger business concerns, realizing the beauty
of a plan which permitted each firm to establish its own Treasury,
began to print their own currency. And there was a mad riot of money
manufacturing.

It was most profitable for the business houses--it had its shortcomings
for the public. For instance: You drop in at the balconied “Zolotoi
Roq” (this restaurant has been dubbed the “Solitary Dog” by the
doughboy), and order your five o’clock _stakahn chai_. The tea is
served in a glass. Your cake is about the size of a political campaign
button. The bill is four rubles. Being a newcomer to Vladivostok, you
hand out, unwisely, an Imperial twenty-ruble note. The waiter brings
back sixteen rubles in change. You count it, give him one, and fold the
other fifteen away--carefully.

Farther down the Svetlanskaya, which is the Broadway of Vladivostok,
you drop into a shop for a new shaving-stick and a picture-postcard.
“Four rubles, _pshaltza_.” You fish out that fifteen rubles from the
“Zolotoi Roq” and offer four of them. The clerk looks at the money,
then lifts shoulders and eyebrows. What is the matter? The rubles are
good only at the “Zolotoi Roq.” You demur. But for you an argument
in Russian is a fearsome thing. “Oh, well, _nitchyvo_.” (You are
acquiring already the native frame of mind!) But as you have no other
small change,--you will grow wiser later!--out comes another precious
twenty-ruble Imperial.

And what do you get this time? Imperial roubles, good elsewhere in
town? _Niet!_ You receive sixteen exquisite new rubles which have just
come off the presses of that particular shop, and--they are good only
at that shop!

Being an officer, you are blessed with many pockets. So now you plot
out, as it were, your khaki façade. The upstairs right hand, as Barrie
would say, becomes the Imperial pocket; the upstairs left, is sacred
to your American money; while the downstairs, right and left, is given
over respectively to the “Zolotoi Roq” and the shaving-stick store. In
other words, you are a walking bank for at least two establishments in
that town. You are virtually holding some of their money in escrow. You
may have it, but eventually it will belong to them. And it will be
your fate to wear out your field boots carrying that money back to the
place of its redemption. Yes, the light has dawned upon you--your lower
pockets are mortgaged!

It is probably at this point in your Siberian monetary education that
you wish on your soul that you had brought along your own little
printing-press! (And you feel sure that you could have produced better
looking rubles than even General Horvat’s American-made ones--with
their pictures of a lightning express.) But lacking the press, a supply
of cigar-store certificates from home would come in handy. For you
learn that the doughboys have already successfully put into circulation
the pink coupons of a certain popular cigarette.

But the monetary problem in Vladivostok is comparatively simple. This
is borne in upon you when you leave the city for the interior. (If
you leave on one of the innumerable Russian holidays, and all the
shops are shut up, you must overeat at the “Zolotoi Roq” to get rid of
that currency, but you must carry with you the paper belonging to the
closed shops.) For once en route, you begin to acquire various kinds of
Bolshevist money. And some of this money is good only in its particular
zone. If you pass out of that zone without knowing it, you find that
money worthless.

So travel through any single province is as complicated, from the
standpoint of money, as if you had been passing through several
different countries. Suppose the same conditions obtained in the
United States. In going from New York to Philadelphia, you would
have to get rid of your New York money in exchange for Philadelphia
money--if you could. (Less discount for exchange.) When you reach
Trenton, you wish to buy a sandwich. But the vendor will not take your
Philadelphia money. So you offer a coupon off a Liberty bond--value
five dollars--and receive in exchange some Trenton money, good only in
Trenton. It is either that or go without the sandwich! If you travel
as far as New Orleans, you have eleven kinds of money, no one kind of
which has any value to you.

Returning from the Trans-Baikal, I saw a sick man attempt to purchase a
bottle of milk from farm women who had set up a little market near the
Androvka station. The women were peasants. Their heads were wrapped in
old shawls. In the sixty-degrees-below-zero temperature, their breath
came like plumes of white smoke from their nostrils. They looked at
the sick man’s money and folded their arms, refusing to take it. “But
it is good in Nikolsk,” he pleaded. “Then go to Nikolsk and spend it,”
they returned. Shivering and hungry, the sick man climbed back into the
coupé of his car. His pockets were full and his stomach was empty! He
was as helpless as old King Midas.

In Siberia, a country fairly underlaid with precious metals--gold,
silver, platinum and copper--there is no metal money to be seen. In
fact coins are a curiosity, and even the beggar’s metal kopeck has
disappeared. Where is this money? Hidden in the niches between the logs
of huts, buried under frozen cabbages, sewed into ragged clothes. And
anything takes its place. In Chita, in the _sobrania_, or city club,
playing cards passed as currency--on them their denomination marked by
a rubber stamp. (And now you find yourself longing for a rubber stamp!)

At one shop, I offered coupons cut from Imperial bonds. Such coupons
being good everywhere, I had faith in them. But, alas, mine were
declined. What did a close reading of the small Russian type reveal?
The canny bond-holder had clipped his coupons and put them into
circulation a little prematurely. And if I wanted to spend them, I had
only to wait a small matter of six Siberian winters. The coupons were
not due for payment till 1925! (If a Czar ever comes back to the throne
of Russia, he is that many coupons ahead!)

The postage-stamp money is the greatest nuisance of all. It is
ungummed, and may be termed cubist cash, for it is wrapped into cubes
bound round by a paper band. These cubes are popularly supposed to
contain two rubles’ worth of ten-kopeck stamps, and “2R” is written on
each band. The trusting stranger does not question the value of the
packets. Few people ever remove the bands to verify. This is left to
the tireless and over-suspicious Chinese. And it is invariably your
bland-faced laundryman who shows you that your packets are short. From
another aspect, the broken cubes have their drawback. They are little
and elusive, these stamps. Your cold fingers are all thumbs. So it is
fatal to attempt to do business with stamps in a brisk wind.

The unlimited variation in money complicates every petty detail of life
in Siberia. Because each purchase resolves itself into an argument over
the merit of the paper you offer--or take. And I found it less wearing
to wash my own handkerchiefs than to engage in a wordy battle with a
Russian-speaking Chino. The illogical variation in the sizes of paper
money presents complications within complications. For size, in the
case of Imperials, has nothing to do with value. A thousand-ruble note
is as ample as your commission from the President. Which leads you into
the assumption that a small note is of small value. Not so. In this
land of topsy-turvy, a twenty-or forty-ruble note is one-sixth the size
of a five-ruble note. (And by virtue of somebody’s whim, a ten-ruble
note is only slightly smaller than a five!) And if an Allied officer
gets thoroughly acquainted with a five-ruble note, can you blame him
if he tips his drosky-driver with a tiny twenty-ruble note which he
mistakes for twenty kopecks?

Even in a land where unbacked money is good, there is actually some
money that is bad! Siberia is papered with Imperial counterfeits. This
increases the strain on the newcomer. One must become an expert in
identifying money, or go broke. Some notes are good if there is a dot
in one corner of the engraved border: if the dot is missing, so is
the value. The counterfeit Imperial twenty-ruble notes have the zero
standing straight up: the genuine have the zero a little askew--the
counterfeiter having improved on the Imperial engraving!

You soon learn all sorts of devices by which you return to circulation
your bad money. You contrive to pay off drosky-drivers hastily, and in
dark streets. For the first time in your life you delight in tipping
the hat-bandits at the doors of restaurants. By the time these rascals
have discovered your iniquity, you have disappeared into the frozen
night. Gamblers palm off their faulty currency in the excitement of
the game, there being no time to submit the pot to cross examination.
But beware, oh stranger, the too-obliging person who would turn your
American money into rubles!

In addition to counterfeiting, there is another worry. The banks of
some inland cities devised a method of depreciating vast quantities
of Bolshevist money not held by themselves. In this way: They stamped
their own; and generously offered to stamp, before a certain date,
any currency that was submitted to them for marking. But the date set
followed close upon the announcement, which excluded from the benefits
of the plan, all persons who did not learn of the offer and so failed
to have their money stamped on time. The banks, since they refused to
recognize unstamped notes, now had--by this system of crossing their
fingers--the bulk of the “good” money!

The poorest kinds of money are continually forced to the surface. The
better kinds--Imperials and Kerenskys--emerge reluctantly. At Chita,
my hotel charged exorbitant rates, based on Bolshevist scrip. I had
only Imperials. A Cossack officer who was a friend had only Bolshevist
notes. So when I paid my weekly bill, I swapped my Imperials with the
Cossack--and paid the greedy proprietor in the poorer paper.

With money good to-day and not so good to-morrow, or vice versa, what
a field for speculation presents itself! And fortunes are being made
on the rise and fall of Imperials. With rubles ten for a dollar in
Vladivostok, and seven for a dollar in Khabarovsk (for rubles are
dearer sometimes in inland cities), you have only to buy a gripful at
the one place, hop a train and rake in a fortune at the other. Return
and repeat. And as the rate changes from day to day, there is always a
lively interest in the fluctuation. It is said that when a Russian baby
is born in Vladivostok, he immediately asks the doctor, “How much are
rubles to-day?”

Why should anyone wonder that Siberia is largely Bolshevist? Our
Committee on Public Information tried to fight Bolshevism with movies,
by word of mouth, through millions of pamphlets printed in Russian in
the United States, and with a telegraphic news service. The Bolshevists
handed out real cash. The people still believe that they have found
Rainbow’s End. They are drugged with money--they are drunk on it!

What solidarity has a country once its financial system has gone to
pot? If we want to buy Siberian raw materials, what money can we
offer them? And if they buy from us--? If we recognize the Bolshevist
government, shall we recognize its money? Will we take that money at
face value? If not at face value then at what price?

_If_ the Bolshevist money be declared no good, there will be another
revolt. On the other hand, if those billions are redeemed, the country
that redeems them will be beggared. Why? Because no one knows the
amount outstanding--and who could stop those busy printing-presses?



XXVI

LEAVES FROM MY NOTE BOOK


Siberia is one of the richest lands in the world in undeveloped
resources. The wealth in its plains and hills, its rivers and forests,
is beyond computation. Our wheat fields of the northwest in comparison
to the wheat plains of Siberia are but backyard gardens.

Thousands of square miles in Siberia are literally underlaid with
precious metals, its great forests are filled with fur-bearing animals,
its rivers teem with great fish, its bird-life offers unlimited food
possibilities.

Siberian butter in normal times is shipped to Europe by train-loads
and much of it sold through Denmark as Danish butter. Siberian honey
is famous for its flavor. Fur and hair, hides and meat, vegetables and
forage--Siberia could feed the world if its agricultural industries
were operated under modern methods.

       *       *       *       *       *

We think of Siberia as a land buried in snow most of the year. There
is snow in the foothills of the Urals and beyond, and far to the
north, but early in February, traveling from Chita to Vladivostok, a
distance of some two thousand miles, I saw brown plains from horizon
to horizon day after day without a patch of snow the size of my hand.
There is very cold weather, it is true, but with proper clothing, homes
properly heated, trains and shops properly equipped for keeping out the
cold, the low temperatures do not cause much discomfort. However, it
is not comfortable to remain out of doors very long during the bitter
cold. The seventy-two-below weather registered in Chita, and mentioned
elsewhere in this book was not so terrible as it sounds, when there
was absence of wind. The air in Chita was very rare, as that city has
an elevation of nearly five thousand feet above sea level, and is just
below the High Plain of Vitim. The climate is invigorating.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transportation is the great problem of Siberia. I have heard it said by
Colonel Emerson, general manager of the Great Northern Railway, that
the Trans-Siberian Railway loses money on freight charges of five cents
per ton mile. Our American railways operated before the war at good
profits with freight charges computed in mills per ton mile.

Graft and ignorance, waste and laziness, even before the Bolshevist
troubles, sapped the life from the organization. The line was strewn
with scrap metal, from trucks with flat wheels to all the small parts
which break on trains. The Japanese bought this scrap as junk, remilled
it at home and sold it back to the Russians at from five to ten times
its cost as scrap.

The repair shops ran at a very low point of efficiency, and without
modern machinery--bolts, for instance, being made by hand! The whole
system appeared to be run for no other purpose than creating jobs, and
was over-manned.

Business is done in Siberia at a high margin of profit in order to
offset losses by theft. It is estimated that twenty-five per cent must
be allowed to cover loss by theft. Goods left in the customs house
over night under the care of watchmen are not always found intact in
the morning--the cases are opened and goods abstracted. A car-load of
shoes shipped to an inland city arrived apparently safe, with the seals
on the cars unbroken. When opened, the car was found to be full of
cord-wood. A person unfamiliar with the country had better avoid doing
business on a small scale there. An American who came to Chita with
fifty suits of ready-to-wear clothing, had to part with about half of
his lot to pay graft.

The velvet covering on the seats of cars is all ripped off. I heard
that the Bolshevists took the coverings to make clothing. At a
theater I saw many women in gowns of blue, gray and red velvet, and
discovered that the blues had come from first-class cars, the gray from
second-class cars, and the red from third-class cars. Combined with old
lace curtains, the stuff made rather attractive gowns.

A British colonel, coming up from Vladivostok with regular troops bound
for the front, wired to Chita to the “British consul” to arrange for
four hundred baths, twenty buckets, two hundred loaves of bread and
communion service of the Church of England for four hundred men. He
also stated that he wanted a hall in which the men could eat their
Christmas dinner, the hall to be decorated with holly and other
greenwood stuff.

The British officer who opened the telegram did his best, but there was
a hitch about the communion service, because the Russian church could
not give communion to non-communicants. When the colonel arrived, he
cited the fact that a Russian bishop had once arranged with a bishop
of the Church of England for mutual exchanges of courtesy in regard
to communion in emergencies. His men marched to a Russian church for
services that day, but did not receive communion. They were taken out
of their crowded box-cars, bathed and fed and preached to, and paraded
through the streets of Chita with fifes and drums.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early one morning I was summoned to the military prison of a certain
town. A note was brought to me by a smart young Cossack, who clicked
his heels, saluted most deferentially, and remained at attention in the
best military manner while in my room. He said the note was from the
prison commandant, and when my orderly had read it, he said my presence
at the prison was requested.

We drove to the prison, and informed the sentry at the gate that we
wished to see the commandant. Thereupon we were ushered into a spacious
corridor, crowded with prisoners.

A young man pushed his way out of the crowd and accosted me in
Russian. I told him that I could not talk with him till I had seen the
commandant. He then said in perfect English: “I am an American--I am
going to be shot. You must save me.”

It was my business to protect Americans.

“What part of the United States are you from?” I asked.

“New York City--Grand Street.”

“Were you born in New York City?”

“No. I was born in Russia. But I am an American. You tell ’em they
can’t shoot me.”

“When were you naturalized in America?”

“Well, I didn’t take out any papers. But I lived in New York nine
years.”

“Then Russia is your country. When did you come back?”

“About a year ago.”

“Why did you come?”

“I wanted to help my country.” Now the tears were running down his face.

“My orderly here was also born in Russia,” I said. “But he is a
naturalized American citizen, and has been six years in the regular
army. You have come back to help your country, but your country does
not appear to appreciate your services. You might have returned in an
American uniform, but for nine years you lived in New York and did not
care to become an American citizen. Now you claim American protection.
Why are you going to be shot?”

“I don’t know. I never was told. Please go and ask to see my papers.
Every minute is valuable! Save my life! I am a good American!”

The other prisoners now swarmed about us. The commandant pushed through
them and eyed me angrily. I told my orderly to inform him that I had
come in response to his summons, and handed over his note.

To my amazement he stared at the note and declared that he had neither
written it nor sent it. And he informed me that the very smart young
Cossack soldier, who had clicked his heels so ceremoniously, was a
suspected Bolshevist against whom no definite evidence had been found.
And this “soldier” had himself been released from the prison only that
morning! (Later in the day he was re-arrested for bringing the forged
message to me.)

I explained to the commandant that under the circumstances I had no
intention of interfering, but I desired that the execution might be
delayed till I could talk with the local chief of staff. He assented.

I drove hurriedly to the office of the chief of staff of the Cossack
commander, and asked about the prisoner. The passport of the condemned
man was put before me. He had obtained the passport as a Russian
subject. Also, he had pretended upon arrival to be an envoy sent by
radicals in the United States to the Bolshevists. And I was shown
clippings from Russian papers, which related how the “New Yorker”
had in street speeches after his arrival in Siberia denounced the
government of the United States as “capitalistic.” He had been arrested
while trying to pass through a certain city with Bolshevist dispatches.

“I wish the execution might be delayed,” I said, “until I can talk with
this man again. He might give me some information of value.”

The chief of staff nodded his head, and as I went out, reached for the
telephone.

I drove back to the prison. The commandant, now smiling and suave,
led me, when I asked to see the prisoner, to a window overlooking the
prison yard. There he pointed to a figure lying in the reddened snow.
It was the “New Yorker.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In a party of condemned prisoners taken out for execution, there was a
woman from the East Side of New York. She brought up the rear of the
little column. She was a tall, fine-looking Jewess, and bore herself
proudly, looking with scorn at the firing-squad.

When the death-grove was reached there was some delay. She observed
Americans among the on-lookers, and beckoned them over to her.

“Why, they’re not going to shoot me,” she boasted. “Look at me--I
am an attractive woman. I have been in that prison two months.” And
significantly, “I have been a good friend to the commandant. Tell him
I want to speak to him.” She smiled coyly.

The commandant came. He smiled at her admiringly, and gave her an
intimate wink.

“Of course I am not going to have you shot,” he declared. “I had to
bring you out here to make the others think that I am not showing you
any favoritism. But my soldiers have orders not to aim at you. Do not
fear the volley.”

These was a sharp command. The rifles came up. Some of the condemned
dropped to their knees in the snow to pray, some made a brave show of
facing the muzzles without a tremor, others openly wept. But the woman
stood upright, with a confident smile on her lips, sure that none of
the bullets was for her.

The volley crashed upon the cold air. The woman’s face took on an awful
look of surprise. Her body snapped backward from the impact of flying
lead, and then she pitched forward upon her face in the snow.

There are no sex lines drawn in matters of this kind. No, indeed, there
is perfect equality.

       *       *       *       *       *

The mass of the people in Siberia are Bolshevist. I would say that
ninety-eight per cent of them are Bolshevist. This assertion can be
very easily misunderstood, and anti-Bolshevists will undoubtedly attack
it, while the Bolshevist propagandists will probably use it to prove
that they have as adherents the mass of the people. But by “Bolshevist”
I do not mean that the people have studied Bolshevism and have decided
to adhere to it because they feel that Bolshevism is the form of
government which they want--far from it.

What I do mean to say is that the mass of the people, being
discontented and being in poverty, favor Bolshevism because it is the
only thing which promises them the license which they believe to be
liberty. It is a system which has demonstrated to them that they have a
right to take what they can; it is a system that tells them that they
can do no wrong because they have been wronged--that no matter what the
poor man does, he is right. It is the “divine right of kings” applied
to the proletariat--it makes every man a king provided he has been a
man who worked for somebody else.

When I assert that the mass of the people are Bolshevist in their
tendencies, I do not mean that they are all able to discuss Bolshevism
intelligently, nor do I mean that they are fighting in the ranks of the
Bolshevist army with arms. I mean that the drosky-driver, the waiter,
the railroad man,--all working classes,--are hostile to any man who
attempts to tell them that Bolshevism is wrong, or any man who looks
as though he did not work with his hands. By “Bolshevism” I mean class
hatred. The mass of the people of Siberia have been exploited so long,
and have been tricked by promises which were never kept, that they are
willing to be exploited by any person who comes along and tells them
that they own everything in the country merely because they work.

They have never known good government. They do not believe that it
exists. To them “government” means oppression, whether it is government
in the United States, or government by the Czar.

Now if the mass of the people are Bolshevist (admitting my assertion
for the sake of argument, if it cannot be accepted fully) and the
forces of the United States in Siberia attempt to control the people,
it might be argued that we would be opposing the wishes of the
majority of the people of Siberia--not allowing them to have the form
of government they desire. In other words, if we go to war against
Bolshevism, it means killing all Bolshevists, and if nearly all the
people in Siberia are Bolshevistic, it would mean, carried to its
logical conclusion, killing or bringing into subjection the mass of
people in Siberia.

We do not wish to do that. Then why do we not let them remain
Bolshevist and run the country with soviets?

We are a-straddle a barbed-wire fence in Siberia. The Czechs and the
Cossacks have whipped the Bolshevist forces in Siberia. We have aided
neither the Czechs nor the Cossacks militarily, and the Bolshevists
have been waiting till we and the Czechs got out. While waiting, the
Bolshevists have joined Cossack armies or have behaved themselves to
some extent--they are waiting till the Allies in Siberia give them a
clear field again. And the Allies have been surrounded by a vanishing
army--fighting Bolshevists who quit fighting and “surrender” when they
see that they are in danger of capture or defeat.

I do not believe that Bolshevism is going to be destroyed by “decisive
defeats” of Bolshevist armies. Bolshevist forces have been “decisively
defeated” time and again, and driven out of many cities, only to
reorganize in the rear of their attackers. Bolshevism can only be
smothered by attacking the idea of Bolshevism, for it is a soul-disease
which has infected vast masses of people who have been wronged for
centuries.

I do not object to the fact that these people wish to correct the
wrongs of government, the wrongs of exploitation, the wrongs of
enforced poverty which they have endured in a land of great natural
wealth. The greatest wrong which has been committed against them is
the system which has kept them in ignorance. They must be saved from
their own ignorance. They must be saved from a new exploitation which
is greater than any they have ever known. I do not believe that wrongs
against a people can be righted by committing new wrongs.

These people who are Bolshevist in their tendencies, are Bolshevist
because they have not seen anything better than Bolshevism, which was
visualized for them in tons of worthless money distributed to them.
We must demonstrate good government to them, even though we have to
“interfere” to do so. They are ready to swing to anything which proves
its worth. We have attempted to prove things by reasoning, when they
are not equipped mentally to reason. They suspect and fear us because
we reason while we have an expedition on their ground--and soldiers
to them mean intimidation, treachery and death. They do not trust each
other, how can they trust us? They do not trust the Japanese, and we
are allied with the Japanese.



XXVII

THE JOKER IN BOLSHEVISM


The Bolshevists of Siberia hate wall-paper. After traveling in that
country, I came to the conclusion that a Bolshevist operates on the
theory that there can be no freedom for anybody so long as a single
strip of wall-paper remains on any wall. Neither can there be any
freedom while glassware is unbroken, furniture unsmashed, curtains are
whole, windows intact, books unburned. And the parlor Bolshevists of
the United States, if they were really consistent, would stop talking
and start a little freedom in their own homes by pulling everything
down that is up, and pulling everything up that is down, sweeping the
total into the street and putting a match to it.

There is a joker in this “new form of government” known as Bolshevism.
In fact, the joker is the very core of the whole matter. Mutilated
wall-paper gave me my first inkling of that joker. In Chita, the
searchers after freedom had done a thorough job. For not only were the
interior walls of the town everywhere stripped clean, but, according to
the proprietor of a local store the stock in the different shops had
gone to feed the bon-fires.

“So the Bolshevists hate wall-paper even before it is hung,” I said to
this merchant.

“Yes,” he replied through my interpreter. “I heard from a friend in
another town that soon we’d be able to get some from Japan. But a
German prisoner of war, who helps my wife with the cooking, says to
wait till the railroad opens up to Petrograd, and then I’ll be able to
get cheaper and better wall-paper from Germany.”

I lunched that day at the Hotel Dayooria. A German prisoner of war was
my waiter. He was a meek sort of person who had set out from home with
Kultur on the point of his bayonet and now found himself a slave in a
foreign land. He served my tea in a glass that had been made from a
wine bottle by cutting the top off. The upper edge of the glass was
dangerously sharp.

“I am sorry, captain,” said the waiter; “--no other glasses now.” (He
spoke in English. He had learned it in a German school. He gently
hinted that any stray magazines I might have would be welcome.)

“Well, when is the boss going to order some regular goblets?”--which
was more or less an attempt at humor on my part, since in Siberia at
that time there was small chance of getting anything from anywhere.

“Pretty soon we’ll have glassware from Germany,” the waiter assured me
proudly. Then with a click of his heels, he went back to the kitchen.

That was my second glimpse of the joker.

Across the street from the Dayooria was a much larger and more modern
hotel, the Select. The lower windows on the street were all boarded up,
for these had been the fronts of banks and shops when the Bolshevists
cut loose on the town, and, in order to become free, found it necessary
to smash the plate-glass, and loot--all of which was done to the (I was
going to say King’s) proletariat’s taste.

But the interior of the Select had not suffered so complete a wrecking
as the Dayooria. An American consul had once occupied a room at the
Select, and through the kindness of the Cossack chief of staff, I was
allowed to rent this room, with another for my interpreter. (The rent
was raised each week, a mere detail even in Bolshevist Siberia.)

There was a shortage of electric globes in Chita. But the commandant
managed so that I had globes for the three wires hanging from my
ceiling, and a globe for the drop-light on my desk. In the halls of the
hotel, as in my room, the globes hung from the ceilings on wires. One
evening in a hall I observed a German war prisoner shorten the loop in
one wire so that the globe fell as low as his shoulder. The next time
he came through from the kitchen to the officers’ mess with a tray, he
bumped the globe in such a manner that it crashed against the wall, and
broke.

The same night I noticed that one of the lights in my room was not
burning. I called the German prisoner who acted as janitor, and asked
him to fix it. He brought a ladder, climbed up, unscrewed the globe,
dropped it, and broke it. He said he felt rather bad about it, too. It
was a blot on his efficiency.

The next night another globe gave no light. I investigated myself, by
moving my bed and piling my two lockers on it. The globe burned all
right when it was screwed into the socket. I unscrewed it until it
again failed to burn, moved the bed and lockers back into place, and
called the same German. He came with his ladder, examined the globe,
told me it was burned out, and took it away.

When the third globe went dark, I found that it too, had been unscrewed
enough to break the circuit. The German came, climbed his ladder, and
with pliers, when he thought I was not looking, pried off the glass
tip, rendering the globe useless. Then he told me the globe was no
good. And--there were no more globes.

Now all I had left was the globe in the drop-light. Every morning I hid
it, and thereby worried the German. There was evidence that he hunted
for it when I was out of my room. Why were the janitor and the waiter
destroying globes that were a necessity even to themselves? I clinched
my suspicions by asking a former merchant of electrical supplies this
question: “Where did you buy your electric globes and fixtures before
the war?” Well, they came from Moscow--mostly made in Germany.

Here was another corner of that joker! When Russian Bolshevists were
afraid they would get caught breaking things, the German prisoners
helped the game along by doing a little sly smashing on their own
account!

Because I had the room of a former American consul, the Russian owner
of a gold mine near Chita called upon me, thinking I was the present
American consul. He said he wanted advice as to where he might, some
time in the future, buy mining-machinery.

The Bolshevists had wrecked his entire plant. Their leaders had told
the peasants that the mines of Siberia belong to all, and that in time
a Bolshevist government would work the mines, and divide the gold among
the people. In that way no one would become richer than someone else.

“The German prisoners,” he said, “now tell my workmen that if I have
machinery I will need only a few men, and so hundreds of workmen will
be thrown out of jobs. Of course, if I could put machinery in I would
employ ten times as many men as I do now. I can’t make my mine pay
without machinery, and for the present I am employing only common labor
to clean things up so as to be ready for better times. If we Russian
mine owners can’t make our mines pay, we’ll have to sell out. During
the revolution, German capitalists have bought up a lot of companies in
European Russia at bankrupt prices.

“But assuming that Germany takes the mines, how can the Germans hope
to operate them if the workmen refuse to allow machinery to be used in
them?”

“You do not know our _moujiks_,” he replied. “They will not believe
what I tell them for their own good. But they will believe the lies
of an outsider--any childish story told to swindle them. By the time
Germany is ready to sell us machinery, maybe the _moujiks_ will be told
not to smash it--if the machinery is German.”

And picture the amount of mining-machinery that Siberia will be able
to use! For two thousand versts to the north of Chita there are gold
fields. The fields which have been developed make scarcely a dot on the
map. No. One Russian mine-worker will not become richer than another
when that vast country is worked. If Germany’s plans do not miscarry,
those who will profit first will be the German machinery manufacturers.

It was brought to my attention in a certain part of Siberia that wool,
cow hair and camel hair, valued at nine million rubles, purchased just
before the revolution by a Boston company through its Moscow agency,
was to be seized. Who was going to seize it is not a matter for me to
discuss here, but I can say there was good evidence that it would have
gone in the direction of Germany.

The warehouses containing this material were in three cities, and
somehow escaped being burned. Whenever Bolshevist bands broke loose
to loot and burn, the word must have been passed from some mysterious
fountain-head to spare the warehouses containing that wool and
hair--for, mind, those warehouses were in three different cities, far
apart. This would indicate that, after all, there is a system to
Bolshevism. The system appears to be, “Smash machinery and manufactured
goods but spare raw material.” As the wool and hair was owned by an
American company, an inference might be drawn that the protection
was due to its being American property. If so, why--when there was
a rumor that American troops might soon be in the vicinity of the
warehouses--was it to be seized and moved toward Germany?

Siberian Bolshevists with whom I talked told me of the great yearning
for education among the masses, and how the Bolshevists would provide
plenty of schools. I examined the condition of several schools where
the Bolshevists had been in control for a time. Every possible book had
been destroyed--geographies, grammars, spelling-books. It was a case
of _spurlos versenkt_. Pens, paper, pencils, maps, erasers, rulers,
ink and all other school accessories went the way of the books--to the
bon-fires in the streets. A yearning to learn? Certainly. One might
describe it as a burning desire. And will it not be fine for Leipsic to
print Russia’s new school books, with some German propaganda thrown in
free? Also, _lieber Gott_, vot a market for pencils and other little
things! (Note for Leipsic: Printers in Japan are already printing
Russian books!)

There is a significant angle to the smashing and burning that has gone
on in Russia--an angle which the American working man should bear in
mind when he is told that Russian Bolshevists are on the right track
for turning a _moujik_ into a magnate over night. Russia is a great
producer of raw material. Smashed machinery there means that whatever
raw material escapes destruction must seek a foreign market. Naturally,
if such material cannot be sold to a Russian factory, the factory
abroad buys it much cheaper than if there were a home demand for it.
Also, smashed machinery in Russia means no production in Russia of
manufactured goods; and no manufactured goods in Russia means that the
very working men who smashed the machinery must buy goods manufactured
abroad.

Further, if there are no goods manufactured in Russia, the foreign
manufacturer makes his own prices, both for what he buys from Russia
and what he sells to her. In other words, he gets raw materials from
her at low prices, and sells manufactured goods to her at high prices.
This forces all Russian labor, skilled as well as unskilled, into
working at low wages on the production of raw materials, and the cost
of the raw materials is constantly being pulled down because, with no
Russian demand for factory-skilled labor, there is a surplus of labor.
So the Russian manufacturing capitalist is wiped out, sure enough,
along with all machinery. Also, in time, Russian skilled labor will be
wiped out!

And for this condition of affairs, Russians can thank themselves!

Germany realized how crude were her methods when she sent to Belgium
and France a force that, operating behind her fighting men, wrecked
or burned factories, and seized raw material. That was a job she did
herself, and she had to take the blame of the whole world for it.
She had to devise a scheme by which she could get the same results
elsewhere without having to bear any blame.

That scheme was Bolshevism. The craftiest criminals always use fools
as their tools. And in Bolshevism Germany found the _Ersatz_, or
substitute, for an army of thieving and destroying Germans. It has
been estimated that more than a million Germans are prisoners of war
in Russia. These men whispered anti-capitalistic propaganda into the
ear of the poor _moujik_, who wants education so badly that he is
willing to burn school books, and who thinks he can attain freedom by
ripping off wall-paper. And the _moujik_, under skillful leadership,
did Germany’s work, and did it for nothing. That same Ivan who had died
by millions to beat the Germans ran home from the trenches and wrecked
his own country to the Kaiser’s taste, at the Kaiser’s word--wrecked it
more thoroughly than the German armies would have been able to wreck
it. For he smashed everything but the ikons and the rubber-plants.
Why he did not destroy the rubber-plants we cannot understand. Is it
because Germany does not wish to sell rubber-plants to Russia?

So keen were the Germans to help the Russian Bolshevists to “overthrow
the Russian capitalists,” that the German capitalists loaned the
Bolshevists armored cars and cannon made in Germany by the Krupp works
and in Austria by the Skoda works. Evidently the German capitalists
had suddenly fallen in love with the Russian proletariat! (This is a
nut for our own parlor Bolshevists to crack.)

I can guess how they will crack it. They will say, “Yes, the Russian
Bolshevists took help from the German capitalists, but in time they
will turn those guns upon the very capitalists who loaned them.” Yet
what I ask to know, as Hashimura Togo would say, is, “Why did the
German capitalists ever begin to help the Bolshevists?”

After all, Russian capitalists are the only people who can give
Russian working men jobs. By the same token, German capitalists are
the only people who can give German working men jobs. If the German
capitalists do not want the Russian capitalists to be able to give jobs
to Russians, are the German capitalists who loaned guns to Russian
Bolshevists, friends of the Russian working men?

The first parlor Bolshevist who answers that question correctly will
explain the joker in Bolshevism.

Germany mobilized the fools of Russia. Why not, she asked herself,
extend a scheme that worked so successfully with the _moujiks_ to
the working populations of other countries? She began to have hopes
(with the aid of Bolshevist propaganda) of mobilizing the malcontents
everywhere. Capital, if not wiped out, could at least be frightened or
forced into a period of non-production--or production at high prices.
High prices, in turn, create demands for higher wages--demands that
usually take the form of strikes. Labor troubles may lead to riots, or
even revolution--with consequent destruction. And to judge by Belgium,
northern France and Russia, destruction is what Germany wants.

Meanwhile, rumors of riots in the Fatherland encourage Bolshevism in
other countries. We have had copious news of Bolshevist troubles in
Germany. The fact that we get this news over German wires is evidence
that Germany wants us to get it. It makes a fine smoke-screen behind
which stand her great untouched factories with their unsmashed
machinery.

The Germans told the Russians that the great war was a “capitalistic
war.” Germany was right. But she neglected to say that it was designed
to aid the German capitalists. And if enough fools in every other
country can be induced to smash and tear and burn, saving only (take
note) some raw materials, then with her own factories and machinery
intact, Germany can flood the world with her own cheap manufactured
goods.

For this is the joker in Bolshevism: The providing for Germany, of
colossal markets!

And if she has these markets created for her, the indemnity which the
Allies have demanded, and which Germany says is “staggering,” will be
to her a mere handful of small change.



XXVIII

THE UNITED STATES IN ASIA


It must be fairly obvious to the reader in following my account of
what I saw and heard in Siberia that I regard the whole adventure on
the part of the United States in Siberia as a failure, whether it is
regarded in the light of being an attempt at international diplomacy,
military intervention, a gesture of friendship toward Russia, or an
enterprise in the nature of insurance against the spread of Bolshevism.

Primarily, it began as a new campaign against Germany-to prevent
Germany from getting possession of war-stores in Russia and Siberia and
replenishing her stocks of food, munitions and men and to prevent her
from penetrating the country for conquest. There was every reason for
our being in Russia, both on the Archangel front, and in Siberia, to
accomplish these ends. Our presence in Siberia alone was a menace to
Germany, a threat of a thrust through her back door in combination with
the other powers involved with us, including Russians, Czecho-Slovaks,
British, French, Japanese and others interested and concerned.

But we went about it even before the armistice was dreamed of, in a
tentative manner. We did not start a campaign, we began a debating
society. We twiddled our thumbs all winter in Siberia, while the forces
of evil, Bolshevist and others, took advantage of our lack of decision
on anything and acquired a certain technique in a chicane suitable to
the conditions existing to thwart us in any decision we might reach in
the future.

We kept insisting that we were helping Russia by being in Siberia. The
Czechs, the Russians and the Japanese knew that only action could help,
and action meant fighting those who were ruining the country. We were
helping Russia and Siberia in just about the manner a man might help a
family which was being beaten and robbed by burglars if the man sat out
on the front porch and remarked: “If this thing gets too serious, I am
here with a gun to help.”

And while he sat there, the members of the family still alive, yelled
frantically: “This is serious now--half my children are dead, and the
biggest robber has me by the throat.”

Whereupon the visitor on the porch would reply: “If I do anything
rough I will hurt somebody’s feelings. I don’t want to do that. But if
you kill the robbers, then you have settled the affair yourself, with
my moral support. But I am not quite sure the robbers are not in the
right. I am your friend, if you win this fight; if the robber wins it,
I want to make friends with him. In the meantime, I can supply you with
a Red Cross nurse to bind your wounds if you escape alive; I can give
you food if the robber steals or destroys all you have to eat; I can
send you ministers to bury you with prayers if you are killed, or to
preach to you if you are spared. I am a Good Samaritan but I must not
interfere.”

While we were thus pausing and surveying the wreckage, human and
material, various Cossack chiefs, schooled in the methods of the old
régime, seized power and began building up principalities of their
own--Kalmikoff as governor-general of the Ussuri district, and Semenoff
as boss of the Trans-Baikal.

They used the old tricks of autocracy--swords and ceremony--which the
people feared and by which they were impressed with demonstrations of
physical power. Then to catch the imagination of the nations which
wished to see Russia rehabilitate herself speedily, they began to
talk in a patter, the key-note of which was, and is: “I stand for a
free and reunited Russia, a Russia greater than the old.” Whereupon
they proceeded to deny anything in the nature of freedom, and to
disunite Russia. All they stood for, and still stand for, is their
own glorification and reward and the gambler’s chance that they
will inherit the throne of the Czars. If they cannot attain to such
ambitions, at least they hope to sell out their usurped powers in
case some figure of imperial lineage comes out of hiding to take the
shattered crown.

We kept assuring the Siberians that our government stood as their
friend, at the same time neither denouncing, nor interfering with these
usurpers. The people, for all their abysmal ignorance, knew perfectly
well what was going on--they recognized autocracy because they had
to submit to it. And, speaking generally, the attitude of the United
States was: “Why cannot you people get together and settle up this
mess--all you have to do is come to an agreement, and reunite Russia!”

This while several civil wars were being fought in the country!

At home our press and public were making a hue and cry against
Bolshevism. Yet in Siberia were Cossack chiefs with little armies
opposed to the Bolshevists, but inactive because they were not sure
what we might do. Our failure to throw in with these chiefs, led the
Bolshevist leaders to hope, if not actually believe, that we favored
Bolshevism, or at least did not dare fight it. At any rate, our “do
nothing” policy allowed the Bolshevist leaders, crafty in intrigue,
propaganda and organization, to whisper to their wavering adherents
that the United States was passively favoring them and that recognition
of the Bolshevist government was only a matter of time.

In effect, our operations for nearly a year, were a subsidy to
Bolshevism. Our civilian-aid agencies were unwitting helpers to the
secret Bolshevists of Siberia, for they gave comfort and encouragement
to the idea that Bolshevism in Siberia was a success. We repaired a
lot of damage that Bolshevism had done, before the people of Siberia
could realize what the destruction meant--before they could learn for
themselves what a mess they had made of things.

Our government did relief work, and became actually thereby an
ally of the Bolshevist régime, though maintaining an attitude of
non-interference--neutrality.

“One faction is as bad as another,” was the way our spokesmen put
it. That was a comforting phrase, but not true. It meant blaming
our own ignorance on the factions. It was on the same scale as the
statement made so often after the outbreak of the war: “Europe has gone
war-mad--one nation is as bad as the other,” a frame of mind which
helped Germany. How the Bolshevist leaders must have chuckled when they
heard that the United States classed them as no better and no worse
than the Russians who were actively fighting Bolshevism, and opposing
it in other ways. And the gallant Czechs were amazed and discouraged by
our failure to coöperate with them to the extent they had been led to
believe that we would.

Kalmikoff and Semenoff, more particularly the former, carried on
executions by the wholesale. It was a system of eliminating such
persons as might oppose them. Some of the victims were probably
Bolshevists, but many of them were decent and orderly Russians from
our viewpoint. They dared whisper their suspicions against the Cossack
chiefs--that was enough to send them to the execution party.

For instance, men and women of Khabarovsk protested to Colonel Styer
that Kalmikoff had their friends and relatives in prison and would
shoot them. Colonel Styer took the matter up with Kalmikoff. That night
fifteen or twenty men were chosen at random from the prison, taken
out into a grove, and shot down. They did not know what they had been
arrested for, they had never been tried.

This sort of thing went on for months after our forces were stationed
in Khabarovsk. But with Washington giving strict orders that there
should be nothing in the nature of “interference,” what could Colonel
Styer do? Yet at the same time we were assuring the “loyal” Russians
that our troops were on the ground for their protection.

To the Russians, who could not possibly fathom our policy and could not
know what was going on between our commanders and Kalmikoff, it looked
as if our troops were there to protect Kalmikoff while he decimated the
population. And Kalmikoff continued to lift himself into power by the
simple process of killing off everybody who objected to his assuming
autocratic powers.

Yet Kalmikoff and Semenoff, if properly dealt with from the first,
might have joined forces with us against the Bolshevists. They could
not have opposed us. They both have certain qualities as military
leaders, and while they undoubtedly are monarchists or “men on
horseback,” they are certainly anti-Bolshevist. And if we had adopted
an anti-Bolshevist policy from the start, this policy would have given
us a point of contact with the Cossack chiefs. We could have demanded
that they behave themselves, get busy and fight Bolshevists at the
front.

But they camped down in Khabarovsk and Chita, clamped a tight lid on
the press in their districts, and inspired the writing of articles
for the local newspapers which extolled their own virtues as Russian
patriots, and denounced the other Cossack chiefs with whom they were at
odds. And the peculiar fact about this press campaign, was that when
each told of the others faults and selfish ambitions, he was telling
the truth, as truth goes in Siberia.

The press muzzled or subsidized, the whole country became befogged in a
mass of rumors, gossip, lies and slander. The Americans heard all kinds
of stories against the Japanese, as no doubt the Japanese heard the
most fanciful tales about us; the Czechs became disgruntled and sullen
because they felt we were not helping them as we should; if an American
officer became friendly with a Russian and sought his views on the
situation, another Russian sought the American out to warn him against
his informant. Each Russian professed to be a “loyal” Russian. I found
that all Russians are loyal Russians. The difficulty was to ascertain
just what “loyal” meant. The test for us, should have been, loyal to
what idea of government?

I am familiar with the assertion that our expedition was opposing the
Bolshevists with armed force. When did we threaten any Bolshevists till
the Bolshevists attacked us? Is inviting all factions to “get together”
at Prinkipo, opposing Bolshevists? Is it opposing monarchists? Is it
opposing _hetmen_ who emulate Villa? Is it backing a democratic form of
government in Russia?

One thing is certain--neither a monarchy nor a republic can be formed
in all Russia so long as Bolshevism remains in the saddle. And our
unwillingness to oppose Bolshevism was in effect giving it aid and
strength. Many who were wavering in their sympathy for Bolshevism,
turned to it again secretly when they saw what the Cossack chiefs were
doing with apparent sanction of the United States.

Our attitude of neutrality in Russian affairs gave the Bolshevist
agents their chance to decry our promises of aid. They said: “Look!
The United States knows Bolshevism is too strong to quarrel with
openly. Who is the United States standing in with? Your enemies, the
Cossack chiefs, who are fighting us in order to restore to power the
old régime. The United States stands back and allows the Cossacks
to execute you. The American commanders protest mildly, but do the
executions stop? No. The United States hopes the Cossacks will defeat
us, but the United States does not dare fight, because they want to be
able to make friends with us when we control the whole country. They
know they will have to recognize us in time.”

No doubt Bolshevism will die out in time. All zealots are born despots,
and Russia will not submit to the despotism of Bolshevism any more than
it will submit from now on for a long period, to any form of cruel
despotism. Can we claim, when Bolshevism burns out, to have aided in
breaking its back?

Neutrality, between right and wrong, is a crime. It was invented by
militaristic criminals who want to murder nations, and make sure that
there will be no interference by neighbors.

The thug, murdering his victim, resents the interference of the
passerby, by saying: “This is none of your business.” He demands
neutrality.

So it has become a virtuous act for a nation, when two nations engage
in war, to declare itself neutral. We realize now that something is
wrong in this system, so we have devised the league of nations idea.
This idea is nothing more than an agreement that there shall be no more
neutrality. If a nation threatens war, all the others agree to take
sides. The fact that all the others may combine against the aggressor,
or the nation adjudged to be in the wrong, automatically prevents the
war. Unless the aggressing nation feels strong enough to defy the
others, or able to accomplish its purpose of destruction before the
others can get into action.

But issues between nations are often beclouded, or the minds of peoples
are befogged, or populations become divided over what is right and what
is wrong. A league of nations, to operate according to the ideals of
the idea, presupposes the ability of peoples, or their leaders, to make
swift decision as to who is right and who is wrong. It calls for not
merely national statesmanship, but international statesmanship--which
is always for right.

We wanted to operate on the patient in Siberia but the doctors could
not decide whether to take out the appendix of Bolshevism, or cut off
the head that ached without a crown. The patient is still suffering
from a bad appendix--and a violent headache.

We said at home that Bolshevism menaced the world. It had ruined
Siberia. We were in Siberia with troops. We should have attacked
Bolshevism on its native heath, and declared to Russia and the world
that once the Bolshevists were whipped and knew they were whipped, we
would stand beside the nation till it had reorganized itself in its own
non-Bolshevist way.

Japan expected us to do those things, just as England did. We
practically forbade Japan from going into Siberia without our sanction,
or without us. We decried intervention or interference, and then
proceeded to intervene. I do not care what other term is used in
describing our landing an expedition in Siberia--it was intervention.
It was a measure for the safety of Russia, and for our own protection.

The minute our first armed man stepped upon the dock at Vladivostok, we
had intervened--we had interfered. It was our business to be effective,
to justify our presence there, to act in the manner we thought proper
and be responsible for our acts. All the others would have been glad to
coöperate with us, I am sure.

In fact, all parties looked to us for leadership, regardless of what
their private ideas or ambitions may have been. Japan was ready to
coöperate with us, but we disgusted Japan by our failure to do anything
but sit on the lid of the Pandora’s box in Vladivostok. Japan went
ahead and did a few things on her own account, and then there were
whispers in certain quarters that Japan wanted to grab Siberia.

If Japan did want to grab Siberia, it was because the lackadaisical
attitude of the United States made Japan feel that whatever Japan did,
the United States would not do much more than mildly protest.

I do not doubt that Japan would like to have Siberia, or at least
the littoral of the Maritime Provinces with ownership or control of
Vladivostok. She would like to hook that country up with Korea, and
have a barrier between her own Empire and whatever Russia will develop
or degenerate into in the future. And considering Japan’s position in
Asia, her necessity for expansion, and more particularly her system
of government, this ambition to control the Siberian littoral is
consistent with her whole scheme of self-protection. The morality of
the policy is not for discussion here.

England would have been willing to follow our lead, and coöperate with
us. But tired of our dallying, England sent her forces up to the front,
and took a chance of having the Trans-Siberian railroad break down
between her advanced troops and their base. And England stands higher
in the regard of Russia to-day than we do, and always will, despite the
fact that we talked much of friendship for Russia and Siberia. England
said little, but acted with troops in supporting the anti-Bolshevist
forces.

I consider the Siberian campaign a failure, for the simple reason
that what we failed to do in Siberia will eventually aid Germany.
Germany is bound to penetrate Russia economically, and control the
country financially unless we change our tactics. We went to Siberia to
checkmate Germany--we have aided her. This is because the Russian will
never take us seriously again--we are regarded nationally as a “bluff.”

We went into Siberia with armed forces to help Russia, and did little
but talk, nurse the railroad, distribute pamphlets, and show pictures
to prove to the Russians what a great nation we were--at home. Among
the pamphlets we distributed was one in Russian, entitled: “If you want
a republic we will show you how to build one.”

In effect, we told them that everything we did was right, and
everything that they did was wrong. The wiser ones smiled, shook their
heads, and tolerated us. How, they asked, are you showing us the way
to build a republic if every time we submit a problem to you, you
throw up your hands and say: “We cannot advise you, for that would be
interfering. This is something you must settle for yourselves.”

There was no reason why, when the Siberian situation developed its own
peculiar problem after the armistice, the Siberian expedition could
not have been increased to a strength which would make it possible to
protect itself, and carried out a definite policy in regard to Russia.
If we could formulate no policy for Siberia which seemed to fit our
national aims toward Russia and Siberia, our expedition should have
been withdrawn.

I feel that none of the things we set out to accomplish in Siberia has
been accomplished. And many of the things we wished to prevent, have
been carried out by Bolshevist forces--at least we have had little if
any hand in checking Bolshevist activities.

The American expedition degenerated from a military expedition into a
political expedition, or probably what might be termed a diplomatic
expedition. I maintain that it is a great error in governmental policy
to attempt to turn a soldier into a diplomat, or a diplomat into a
soldier. The soldier should not be called in until the policy of the
nation had been clearly defined, and then the soldier should act, free
from all political complications. An American military expedition
should never leave our shores, till the government can tell its
commander what to do, and his instructions should be defined in terms
of action.

If Washington did not want to restrain “agitating peasants” by force of
arms, it never should have allowed our forces to enter Siberia, or to
remain a day after the signing of the armistice.

To land an expedition in a country, and then attempt to tell the
country that we do not intend to interfere in its internal affairs, is
absurd.

If a foreign power, during the Civil War, had landed military forces
on the Atlantic coast, no matter how much that power had assured us
that it did not intend to interfere, we would have demanded instant
withdrawal. And in replying to assurances of a non-interfering
intention, we would have replied: “You have already interfered--you
are on our territory, and if you do not come to aid us, our enemy will
be able to assert to his adherents, that you have come to aid him. You
must do one of two things--fight with us or against us. We mistrust
you, for we feel that if things should go against either side in this
quarrel, you would throw your forces in with what appeared to be the
winning side.”

And in Russia, and Siberia to-day, we are inclined to think that the
issue is between Bolshevism and non-Bolshevism. It is a greater issue
than that--it is a fight between an imperial form of government and a
republican form of government.

When Maximilian set up his Empire in Mexico, we regarded it as an
unfriendly act, and drove him out; and our own Monroe policy forbids
foreign powers from landing forces for aggression or anything else
in any part of the Western Hemisphere. No matter what a European
chancellory might assert as the motive for sending a military
expedition to this side of the world, we would regard it as an
unfriendly act.

I wish it borne in mind that I am not attacking the administration
for sending an expedition; but I am criticising the sending of an
expedition; and having no policy.

We sat around all winter in Siberia, refusing to oppose “agitating
peasants,” or “anti-Kolchak forces,” and when Spring came our own men
were killed and captured at the Suchan Mines, not far from Vladivostok,
by agitating peasants and anti-Kolchak forces, now revealed as
Bolshevists. The errors of statesmen are corrected with the lives of
soldiers.

What should we have done in Siberia? We should have done the only thing
a military expedition is supposed to do--prevent disorder, insure
safety to the inhabitants who go about their business, and demand that
the Russians in such places as we occupied get busy with plans for
government, and till they did so, go on and administer local government
with their coöperation in accordance with our own ideas, and with our
future intentions toward the people clearly stated and pledged.

That sounds like a big order. But those are the things we were expected
to do by all hands--Russians, and our Allied interventionists. Also, no
doubt, the decent element of our own country expected such action--and
thought it was being done.

We have lost face in Asia, and if we ever find we wish to make a
threatening gesture in that direction, we will not be taken very
seriously till we have carried out the threat at large cost in blood
and treasure. We may never have to make that threat, but we may be
menaced from that direction some day, because Germany will expand in
that direction, if not territorially at once, at least economically.
And one thing we must realize--Germany has far better chances of
merging with Asia than we have, because Asia understands the German
idea.

Asia does not understand our ideas or ideals in government, and since
seeing us operate in Siberia, is more puzzled with us than ever. Asia
realizes our strength, and fears us for that reason alone; but she has
seen our strength poorly demonstrated on her own soil, and she feels
inclined to say: “Pooh! The giant of the Western Hemisphere is afraid
of us, after all. He shakes his fist, but does not want to fight, he
does not want to exert himself in this direction, he does not want to
control us in any way. He is a good-natured giant, and there is no
reason why we should fear his bluster.”

Asia is saying that herself. If ever the day comes when another power
whispers to her that she is right about us, and that if she will join
up with them we can be driven out of Asia and kept out, then Asia will
in time be a serious menace to our peace and safety, and our existence
as a nation with Western ideals.

We may think Asia is “slow”--in many ways Asia can out-think us. The
land that had Confucius, the land of soul-searching which is India,
the land of the Grand Lamas which is Thibet, the land which produced
Buddha--they cannot be fooled.

We had better take care that we do not legislate ourselves into a
feeling of security, till we have educated Asia as to our aims and
purposes and feel that Asia feels as we do about the things we prize
the most. Not till that time is it possible to federate the world,
though we must attempt such a federation. Though the League of Nations
may fail as a preventive of wars, it will serve humanity by revealing
secret enmities and anti-American ideas, it will make for discussion
of world interests, it will clarify our purposes, it will serve to
educate nations about other nations. Though it never gets beyond
anything but an international debating society (assuming that fact for
the sake of argument) it gives the nations of the world a chance to go
somewhere with their grievances. It will do much for the United States
in making us internationally minded, though nationally conscious. No
doubt President Wilson is actuated by some such idea in his willingness
to forego many things he would like to have gained at the Peace
Conference, if only the League of Nations is saved as an idea.

The nations need a safety valve. The old diplomacy served to conceal
national aims and aspirations, either good or bad. The consequence was
that one-half the world found the other half arrayed against it, and
did not suspect it, till the war broke.

Asia must not be allowed to misunderstand us, and we must not
misunderstand Asia. Europe, with the same civilization, got into
conflict, by diplomatic concealment of opposing ideas. Frank
discussions under the old-style diplomacy was something in the nature
of an affront--we could not be frank with each other till we were at
war. We need to look facts in the face, to argue a little more and
fight less. We cannot assert that a condition exists merely because we
wish it existed, we must tell the truth to Asia about ourselves and we
must not be afraid to tell Asia what we want Asia to know, even though
Asia may resent it. We must educate Asia to our ideas, or she will
educate us to hers--which is subjection.

Asia’s history is a history of great conquests with intervening periods
of degeneration. She rises and falls like tides between cycles of time.
We have known her during a period in which she has bent the neck to the
white man in various ways.

We have been teaching her to build modern machinery for construction
and destruction. The old jig-saw geography of Asia is being juggled
into a new pattern, and seems ready for a new era and a new master.
She may develop another Ghengis Khan, another Tartar horde, (civilized
in modern warfare this time) and our Chinese wall which we call the
Pacific may not protect us.

This is not “Yellow Perilism” as we have understood it heretofore,
but a consideration of the possibilities in all Asia during the next
hundred years, under the ægis of a sort of Prussianism in a new form,
welding China, India, Persia, Asiatic Russia and all the East to an
idea which combats the American ideal of government.

As I have said, Asia can think. She almost has a league of nations in
her religion (the various sects agree among themselves better than
they all do with Christianity) and religion offers a splendid means
of communicating an idea to numberless people who are otherwise
illiterate. The Buddhist Mongol from Manchuria can carry a message to
the far-off temples of the Himalayas, without cable tolls or cable
censors.

Russia aflame with Bolshevism startled us. The propaganda had been
going on a long time before we considered it a serious menace, because
we did not believe that so many people could be trained to such absurd
ideas by absurd promises. We did not understand the possibilities for
united destruction in a vast, ignorant and subject people. We must
understand Asia--or our children’s children will wash the pots in
Asiatic sculleries.


THE END



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation and spelling have been standardized.



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