The Masters of Czechoslovak Russia

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Our Intelligence service recently intercepted some correspondence of French diplomatic agents, sent from Samara to Petrograd. This correspondence characterizes very strikingly indeed the masters of the situation there and their relationships among themselves. The French agents speak with unconcealed contempt of the Russian White Guards and the Czechoslovaks as tools of their schemes. Without them, without these choice representatives of the Paris stock-exchange, the Samara regime could not, of course, endure. They, the French, are everything, and from Samara their domination is to be extended over the whole country. Their influence is guaranteed, in every branch of public life. Everything and everyone will be subject to them.

This is the tone of these letters. As usual, in the camp of the bourgeois victors, in Samara many intrigues, internecine machinations, slanders, and so on, are developing. The French consul is at daggers drawn with the French military plenipotentiary, Jeannot. [The name index to the original Russian edition wrongly identifies this Jeannot with General Janin, head of the French military mission in Siberia, 1918-1920. In fact, he was a warrant officer who ‘assumed’ the rank of colonel and engaged in activities which led to his being sent back to France in disgrace. In order to deny supplies to Germany, the French representatives in Russia carried out an extensive purchasing program which provided opportunities for dishonest elements in their own ranks and for local peculators linked with them. See J.F.N. Bradley, La Legion Tchechoslovaque en Russie, 1914-1920 (Paris 1965) and Pierre Pascal, Mon Journal de Russie (Paris 1975).] We consider it will be very instructive to quote an exact translation of the letter from the French consul in Samara which figures in our files as document No.4.

’Monsieur Jean,’ the consul writes to his Petrograd correspondent (Ambassador Noulens), ‘Monsieur Jean denies the report that he has been appointed envoy, and says that his function is solely that of plenipotentiary representative of the French government for military affairs. In so far as I remain without official papers, I have to play the role of observer of all these fantasies. I cannot suppose that there is any foundation for them. The consequence is that my excellent relations with the General Staff [i.e., the Dutovite-SR General Staff] have suffered since Monsieur Jeannot’s return: thus, in the name of his military requirements he has deprived me of the motor-car which had been placed at my disposal, and announced that the consul must concern himself only with consular matters. On the other hand, I know, from indubitably reliable sources, that Monsieur Jeannot’s military activities have consisted in acquiring 200,000 poods of tin at Omsk, and in other pieces of business – for example, with caviar – in various regions of this country. His official powers serve merely to facilitate profiteering by the speculators who surround Monsieur Jean. He receives donations amounting to hundreds of thousands of rubles from financiers and merchants, and spends this money freely on remunerating his general staff and on payments to recruiters of prisoners, who have already exploited him extensively. Can this go on? Naturally, if you allow it to! I only want to be informed, and you will appreciate that in this isolated situation the question of authority dominates everything. I ought, actually, either to be the head of the mission, or else to be arrested. I do not think that Monsieur Jean is going to have me arrested, but he may announce that he knows nothing about my plenary powers, and then I shall suddenly find myself just an ordinary French citizen.’

So writes the consul. His chief secretary, in a long letter to a certain Jeanne, relates that Samara is the principal center from which all operations are henceforth to begin. ‘The richest merchant has placed at the consul’s disposal his country residence, which is a real palace (it cost about a million). I shall be mobilized at the consulate. Here in Samara they are expecting the Allies to arrive.’

It subsequently turns out, to our surprise, that this Monsieur the chief secretary, who is getting ready to manage the affairs of Russia, is a dancing-master at a girls’ school. He laments that war and revolution have killed the taste for dancing, and his lessons have become less numerous. But he is not downhearted. ‘As military operations develop, so my work will increase in the French military mission which will undoubtedly be established in Samara.’ ‘In Petrograd,’ the dancing-master diplomat goes on, ‘life must now be absolutely unbearable. Here we have everything.’

Later, the author of the letter invites Jeanne, who is also a teacher of dancing, to come to Samara, promising her profitable work. ‘A high school is to be set up here, and if you were here you would, of course, enjoy advantages over the Russians. Our country and our representatives will progress daily in the extent of their influence.’ ... ‘My position gives me, of course, many advantages’ ... ‘I attend, of necessity, all banquets and festivals, and have dined with Dutov himself.’ – and so on and so forth.

Such are the new masters of the situation, those very persons who are going to ‘liberate’ Russia. A French dancing-master, placing both feet on the table, tells his Jeanne that, from now on, the French will enjoy in Russia all advantages over the Russians. Monsieur Jean, in the name of his military tasks, buys up metal and caviar and makes hundreds of thousands from murky speculations. This mob of parasites are preparing to rule over and govern our revolutionary country. We must hope that very soon the broom of the revolution will sweep away the Franco-Czecho-White-Guard rogues, with all their dancing-masters and Jeannots, from every corner of workers’ and peasants’ Russia!

August 14, 1918