GRAND DUKE EXPOSES SECRETS OF RUSSO REVOLT
THREE FIGURES IN DRAMATIC STORY
Intrigues of a Socially Degenerate Dynasty Cause Even Princelings to Rise
Uncle of the Czar, Himself a Revolutionist, Paints Vivid Picture of a Court Morally and Politically Rotten and All But Imbecile in Its Superstitions
Written by the Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovitch,
(Son of Czar Alexander II and Uncle of the Czar)
Excerpt from conversation between Grand Duke Paul and Czarina, in presence of Nicholas, which was brought about by the Grand Dukes intercession for his son, Dmitri, accused of murdering Rasputin, monk, favorite at court:
"Your hospitality to the elements who are plotting against our dynasty indicates ill of you--."
"Halt, madame!" I shouted so loudly that the Czarina stopped in the middle of her sentence. "The son of Alexander the Second was taught to regard the fatherland more sacred than the dynasty. Somewhere in the Old Testament there is an incident in which allusion is made to a certain handwriting on the wall."
When I left the palace she was ringing her hands and saying, "Treason, treason, treason!"
I HAVE steadfastly refused to comply with the wishes of my near and dear friends to relate the events leading to the revolution and after. The story awakens in me very unpleasant memories, memories that I shall carry to my grave with a heavy heart. For how can a patriot son of the fatherland remember the pre-revolution days without becoming sick at heart? And who can tell the story of the Russian Revolution without mentioning that beast who went under the name of Rasputin? However, I must mention his name, for who can write the story of the Russian Revolution without alluding to him?
For years I have been the patient recipient of many insults at the hands of my royal relatives and their satellites, who were mostly men and women of social degeneracy. My nephew, Czar Nicholas II, was one of the principal persecutors of myself and my family. My marriage to my present wife, the Countess of Paeli, was a sin that my royal brother was unwilling to forgive. I had inured myself to the royal insults when another misfortune visited me.
Rasputin was murdered at the palace of Yussufov on the 17th day of December, 1916, and two days later, on the 19th, my son Dmitri was arrested in his own palace as one of the murderers. My sons arrest was not ordered by my nephew, the Czar; it was ordered after a court meeting in which Protopopov and the Czarina took part. My son Dmitri was forbidden from communicating the news of his arrest to my wife, but, nevertheless, succeeded in getting into telephonic communication with her. The time was stolen and his words over the telephone were few. "I am under arrest for the murder of Rasputin. I swear to you on my honor, mother, that I am innocent of the murder."
LOADED REVOLVER HIS ADMITTANCE CARD
Early on the following morning, on the 20th, I reached Petrograd and at once went to the royal palace and demanded to see the Czar. One can imagine the degree of my resentment when one of the doorkeeper court generals made a serious attempt to stop me from seeing him. I, the son of Alexander the Second, blocked from seeing my nephew, and by a man who was only yesterday imported from the Courtland province and who can hardly speak the language of the fatherland. He informed me with supreme arrogance that no one could be admitted to the palace without a special "permit" from Protopopov. I was never so resentful in my life. I was about to give way to my anger, but in the last second I succeeded in mastering myself. I produced my loaded revolver, and, assuming almost the role of an actor, I said to him:
"My dear Herr, this is the only permit I have on my person."
If that doorkeeper court general was not shot dead through the heart it was not because of the fact that I was the more prudent.
At every corridor entrance I encountered such doorkeeper court generals until I reached the large Divan room, where I found my nephew with the Czarina. The Czarina greeted me with an angry glance that almost gave words to her thoughts. I felt that I heard her say: "How did you get here? My guards shall be punished for having disregarded my orders and allowing you to enter the royal palace." My nephew stood up and greeted me with kindness due to his royal uncle. The Czarina, however, maintained a sullen and insulting attitude. Once more I nearly lost my temper, and, again producing my loaded revolver, I bowed with exaggerated courtesy.
"Madame, truly your servants are faithful, but a loaded revolver is like a bewitching feminine beauty: it has great powers of persuasion."
CZAR PROMISES TO ORDER SONS RELEASE
The Czarina became full of resentment at this obvious insult: she got up deliberately, cast at me several studiously hateful glances and left the room, holding her head erect and taking slow steps. The Czar watched her with apparent concern, but as soon as she disappeared, addressing me with a smile on his lips, he said:
"Now that the little theatrical has ended, what are the wishes of Friend Paul?"
"You must tell me why Dmitri was arrested?" I inquired. I was surprised and amazed when he told me coolly that my son, his own favorite cousin, was arrested for the murder of Rasputin.
"He is innocent. I swear to you by my honor, Dmitri is innocent of murder. You shall liberate him at once!"
"Very well, Friend Paul, I shall order his release at once; you shall have Dmitri with You tomorrow," he said nervously.
The Czar had scarcely finished these words, which were addressed to me almost in a whisper, when the Czarina re-entered the room. She, no doubt, had heard my demands addressed to my nephew regarding the immediate release of my son, but she had not heard the Czars answer.
I was about to take leave of my nephew -- I had bowed to the Czarina silently -- when she addressed me sharply:
"Uncle Paul, your recent intimate relationship with a certain element at Petrograd and elsewhere has repeatedly been called to my attention. Your hospitality to the elements who are plotting against our dynasty indicates ill of you--." I could not understand such an impudent speech from a foreign princess. I was almost wild. "Halt, madame!" I shouted so loudly that the Czarina stopped in the middle of her sentence. I then bowed to my nephew, and, addressing her, I said with a cutting tone:
"The son of Alexander the Second was taught to regard the fatherland more sacred than the dynasty."
The Czar was displeased with my remarks addressed to the Czarina. He knew that these words were really meant for him. He was about to say something when I again said to the Czarina:
"Alexandra Feodorovna, somewhere in the Old Testament there is an incident in which allusion is made to a certain handwriting on the wall. I have grave concern for the fatherland, but little thought of the safety of the dynasty."
NICHOLAS FAILS TO KEEP KINGLY WORD
These words had an obvious effect on my nephew, the Czar. He dropped in his chair and murmured some words which I was unable to distinguish. As I left the royal presence the Czarina fell in a raving fit. She was ringing her hands, walking back and forth and saying between her tightly closed teeth: "Treason, treason, treason!"
On the following morning I received this letter from the Czar:
"My Dear Friend Paul: The investigation of the murder is not yet completed. For that reason I am unable to order Dmitris release. I have already given explicit order that the investigations regarding the murder be hurried up and that Dmitri be accorded special considerations. All these are sad events, but you must admit, Dear Friend Paul, that he himself should be blamed for having mixed up in such a venture with such companions. I pray to God that Dmitri will be found honest and innocent of such a crime."
On receiving the Czars letter I decided to make a personal investigation leading to the circumstances of the murder. My son Vladimir, who is a close friend of Yussupov -- in whose house Rasputin was murdered -- and several other persons who had witnessed the killing of the impostor, informed me that the council that propounded sentence of execution had met in the ambulance train at Pureschkevitch, and the execution took place soon afterward. I also learned that my son Dmitri had taken part in the deliberations of the council, but he had nothing to do with the actual murder of Rasputin.
On the 22d day of December my son Dmitri sought an interview with the Czar, but was refused an audience. On the 23d he telephoned, again in his stolen moments, and his voice came to my anxious ears. He said: "Father, General Maximovitch was just here to inform me that this very evening I am to start for Persia. Come and meet me at the station."
I felt as though a huge hammer had struck me on the head with a terrible blow. It is only those who understand the fathers affection toward son who can truly understand my heavy grief. How helpless and grief-laden I felt! I was half crazed. I started for the palace without my hat and fur coat. At the palace gate I encountered a group of the Czars own bodyguards. I was promptly informed that the Czar had given special orders not to allow me to his presence, and not even to the interior of the palace. I was turned away like a beggar. They treated me like a criminal and spoke to me as though I was a court fool. And on that very night, within three or four hours, my son Dmitri was exiled to Persia. He would be murdered on the way! They would provoke him to desperation. They would shoot him for attempting to escape. How these thoughts tortured my mind!
EXILED SON SAYS WORD TO SUSTAIN HIM
I met him at the station. He was without a fur coat. They had taken away his regimental stripes. They were treating him like a criminal who was tried and found guilty. Madam Derfelden, the daughter of my wife, was among those who had come to bid him farewell. My tears were frozen on my eyeglasses. I removed them, and was wiping my eyes when Dmitri said to me: "Father, I am really ashamed of your conduct. Remember, these exile scenes are Russian. Many others have gone before me. Why should we complain when Dmitris turn comes?"
I gathered strength and courage from these words. His words still resound in my ears, and at the thought of them I shout every time: "Long live free Russia!"
"Father, do not try to stop Dmitri from going into exile, let us try to stop these exile scenes." These were the last words he uttered as he kissed my hands from the train window.
Until this hour and during the last three or four years I had had revolutionary inclinations, but from this moment I became a fanatical revolutionist.
I remember a few days afterward when I announced at a meeting of radical friends in my house that in order to safeguard the fatherland the Romanovs must go, my hearers looked at each other in dazed amazement. Had I lost my senses? or, was I an agent provocature? I fully understand now the spirit of the revolutionary fanatic. He first becomes a revolutionary. Then he becomes a revolutionist. He really forgets how it all came about. He becomes so excited and agitated that be does not remember the origin of his first transformation.
DUKE BECOMES FULL-FLEDGED REVOLUTIONARY
From that hour I forgot all thought of my Dmitri. And the stupid Protopopov regime did its best to make me a thorough revolutionist. They further persecuted me. The regime ordered a thorough search made of my house. Vulgar secret police ransacked everything in my house. Searched every nook and corner, threw the contents of the closets belonging to my wife and daughter on the floor, and even removed the boards of the floor. And, angered at not finding anything that justified their rudely conducted search, they put my stepdaughter under arrest. These things could no longer affect me. Like exile scenes, these domiciliary searches had long ago become a Russian institution.
Later I learned from an authoritative source that this search had been decided upon after a spiritualist meeting of the court circle, which had taken place under the auspices of the Czarina and Protopopov, in which the spirit of Rasputin was invoked for light, and who directed that my house be searched and the floors removed. The spirit had told the circle that such a search would uncover a deep-rooted plot to remove the Romanovs from the throne forever. However, I must remark that the spirit was quite accurate in its prophecy this time, if it is true that he directed the regime to undertake such a search of my house.
HIS HOME IS MADE REVOLUTIONARY OFFICE
It was well known to the Czarina herself, to the Czar and also the Protopopov regime that I was in full sympathy with ending the Romanov dynasty. Men of well-known revolutionary faith were frequenting my house. Many Radical and Socialist members of the Duma had gathered under my roof, and these facts were well known to the royal circle and the regime. But what they wished to find was documentary evidence in order to exile me to the east. At first they could not obtain the Czars consent to have my house searched and my stepdaughter arrested. This they were able to do only through the spirit of Rasputin, in whose divinity the Czar believed implicitly. Both my nephew and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna were devout believers in the saintliness of the "impostor." But I know that Protopopov was not sincere in his belief, but used Rasputin for the purpose of influencing the royal couple to do his bidding.
After many attempts I succeeded in inducing Protopopov to receive Madam Derfelden, my stepdaughter. My intention in securing this interview with Protopopov with my stepdaughter was to learn to what extent he was interested in punishing those who were accused of Rasputins murder, and the degree of his influence over the Czar and the Czarina. I had made valuable discoveries that made me firmly believe that the Protopopov regime was distinctly pro-German.
PROTOPOPOV INSULTS DAUGHTER OF THE DUKE
No sooner had my stepdaughter entered the room when Protopopov heaped abuse on her, accusing her of being implicated in the murder of the "impostor." He even accused her of plotting his own murder. He told her that the reason he so long refused to receive her was that he feared that she would shoot him at the first opportunity.
On the following morning I again succeeded in seeing the Czar. I sought him for the purpose of telling him that the country was dangerously restless and that the Rasputin influences in the court circle were being used throughout the empire to excite the unthinking people into violence against the very person of the Czar and the Czarina. On this occasion l was with the Czar alone more than four hours, trying to prevail upon him to separate himself from the Czarina, as she had already become dangerously unpopular in the eyes of the people.
After these many hours of urgent attempts to persuade the Czar to loosen himself from the spiritualistic fallacy of the court circle the Czar told me that he cared very little what the people thought. "I put my trust in God," he said sternly. I pitied him sincerely, not because he had put his trust in God, but for foolishly thinking that God would tolerate Rasputin and his kind.
TALK WITH CZAR AT ROYAL RECEPTION
I attended the Czars next reception, nevertheless. I had become a revolutionist, and to a revolutionist such a light disregard of court etiquette is a matter of small consideration. I found my nephew, amiable toward me. He told me that he was seriously considering to order Dmitris return from Persia. I told him that neither Dmitri nor I any longer cared whether or not he is recalled from exile. I told him I had concern for other things that are more important than a dozen Dmitris. That night for the first time it came to my observation that the Czar had aged out of proportion to his years. He appeared unhappy. And more than that, be looked friendless. All the Grand Dukes and other royal Princes were aware of the swiftly approaching catastrophe. He had become a man deaf and blind to all signals. How I pitied him!
I was about to ask him for another audience at which I wished to urge to his attention the coming danger more forcefully, when M. Protopopov approached the Czar. On seeing his approach I was about to step aside in order to avoid him when the Czar touched my elbow and requested me to stay.
PRIME MINISTER TELLS LIE TO EMPEROR
After a few remarks by the Czar Protopopov said to him: "Your majesty, yesterday I had a visit from a very pretty young woman. She had come for the purpose of murdering me. I at once divined her evil purpose. I reasoned with her, meanwhile showing such a good spirit that finally she broke down and confessed to me her original evil errand. And finally we parted as good friends. Can you imagine who that woman was? Madame Derfelden."
Protopopovs false statement to the Czar right in my presence regarding my stepdaughter was a direct insult and the remark was made with that motive. Protopopovs purpose was to enrage me so that I would strike him in the presence of the Czar: that would have banished me from an audience with him forever!
February 27, Russo time, February 14, the day set for the opening of the Duma, was the first day on which the higher court circle scented trouble in the air. The 28th made things much clearer. On the afternoon of February 28 the Czarina sent for me. On reaching the palace I was ushered into her presence hurriedly.
CZARINA IMPLORES HIM TO CALL TROOPS
"Go at once to the front," she begged with tears in her eyes. "Try to bring the troops which are loyal to the dynasty to the capital. We must save the throne at whatsoever cost -- the throne is in great danger."
I told her that I was not at all interested in the welfare of the throne. To me the throne was worth as much as an old chair in the servants apartment. I refused to call the troops, and told her in addition that it was useless to undertake such a thing, as those troops brought over from the front would at once join the revolution. I tried to explain to her that the revolution had already gone too far, and that the doom of the dynasty had been sealed. I admit that I did not have the courage to tell the Czarina then and there that almost without exception all the royal Princes and Grand Dukes, also the Czars own mother, were a party to the grand plot, and that the rough draft of the deposal of the Czar had our approval.
The Czarina then asked me: "Where is my husband? Is he alive?" I told her to sit down and calm herself and read the new constitution which I handed to her. I told her that I had the assurance of the Czars secretary that he, the Czar, would sign the instrument. The Czarina did not see anything objectionable in the constitution. She fully approved of it, and assured me that she would urge her husband to sign it. I left the copy with her and left the palace.
TELLS CZARINA OF FATE AWAITING COURT
On the 3d day of March (Russo time) I was again summoned to the royal palace by the Czarina. I had just finished reading in a newspaper the manifesto of abdication which was drafted earlier in the day, also in my residence. It had been offered to the Czar for his signature. I took the newspaper along with me and went to the palace. When the Czarina entered the room I at once began to read it aloud for her hearing. I had scarcely finished the reading when the Empress exclaimed: "Not one word of it do I believe. These are the inventions of vulgar newspapers. I do not believe it. I fear them not. I put my trust in God and in the army."
It was pathetic. To me she was no longer the Czarina. Neither was she my powerful antagonist; not even the personage who exiled my dear Dmitri to far away Persia. She was a poor, defenseless woman. She was in despair and agony, and when she declared that she believed only in God and the army she said exactly what she did believe. Therefore it was my duty to persuade her to the belief that both God and the army had great grievances of old against the house of Romanovs.
However, she would not be convinced. Wringing her hands, and in a temper mixed with fear and anger, she walked up and down the length of the room, crying like a helpless child, and pitifully begging me to rush to the front. Then accusing me of being one of the prime conspirators against the dynasty for the purpose of seizing the throne, either for myself or one of my sons, she worked herself into a swoon. For about ten or fifteen minutes not one word was exchanged between us.
FATHERLAND COMES BEFORE THE DYNASTY
I watched her with a feeling akin to pity and a secret remorse. For a few seconds I was overcome with a feeling that is really impossible to explain. I, the son of Czar Alexander the Second, was in the strange role of conspirator to dethrone his grandson and my own nephew, Czar Nicholas II! But just as suddenly I came out of this strange trance. The fatherland was in grave danger and my nephew had become a political imbecile. His wife, the Czarina, Alexandra Feodorovna, was ruling the empire just as though it was her own private nursery. The future Grand Duke and Grand Duchesses were also being tutored in the dread faith of a peculiarly fatalistic spiritualism that was at once vile, livid and degenerating. The Czar was in the sure clutches of this base court circle, from which his nearest and dearest blood relations were unsuccessful in separating him. His royal relatives had, during the last few months, repeatedly begged him to send the Czarina away, surround himself with responsible, sane and patriotic Ministers, and rule the empire as became a strong constitutional ruler, but our urgent solicitations fell on deaf ears. Therefore, the "day" was inevitable. Yes, his own mother had fixed her approving signature to the manifesto of the Czars abdication.
The Czarina suddenly fell on her knees and invoked the spirits in a vocabulary that was not intelligent to me. At last, rising to her feet, she again importuned me to go to the front and bring back the royal troops. "Our army is faithful to us, the people are loyal to us; it is only a few murderers in the capital who are making all this trouble," she exclaimed again and again. The poor creature, she did not know what was going on, and what had been going on in the streets of Petrograd during the last few weeks and months.
GOD AND THE ARMY QUIT ROTTEN COURT
I considered that she had to be disillusioned. I told her that I had been reliably informed that all the Generals at the front had joined the revolution. The army would not return to the capital and if it should return it would at once make a common cause with the revolutionists. I also informed her that the abdication manifesto had the full approval of even the royal family. Then I appealed to her to be calm and for the good of the fatherland admit to the dictates of the people peacefully.
"Even if the army has deserted us, I still believe and trust in God: he is on our side, he will safeguard the throne," she exclaimed again. I could not help admiring her sublime faith in God, but I was fully convinced that she should be disillusioned at once. I said:
"But, Madame, God has also joined the revolution!" I said this very seriously, for I sincerely believed that the great God was on the side of the revolution, for the cause of the revolution was just, and God is always a party to any just cause. My last words induced her to become more submissive. But, knowing her as I did, I felt somewhat apprehensive of what she might attempt to do, and in doing it she might, perhaps, make blood run flowing through the streets of every Russian city. I suddenly decided to be cruel to her. I assumed an accusing attitude and for nearly twenty minutes, without interruption by her, I enumerated the thousand and one sins committed by her and her regime under the once sacred roof of the Romanovs. I reminded her that it was she and her unspeakably vile surroundings that had brought the fatherland to such dire straits. Then I asked her in a voice that could not be mistaken or misunderstood: "Then, Madame, what God would stoop so low as to takes sides with such a regime, yea, with such a court of dynasty?"
After hearing these words she became subdued. As I left her I bid her farewell, but she made no reply.
The San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, September 2, 1917, p. 8