Memorandum on Conditions in Moscow by a British subject, who left Moscow on December 1.
THE economic and social conditions in Moscow are in a state of chaos.
All trade and commerce―except illicit trading which is still carried on by the Jews―is at a complete standstill. The shops, even the smallest, are either closed or on the point of being closed, and all the places of business also.
On account of the fuel scarcity the compression of the people in such houses as can be heated was becoming greater and greater. I was reduced from five rooms to one room, and was threatened with a further reduction.
Nothing was supposed to be obtainable except on the card system, and very little on that ; clothing, boots, &c., were practically unobtainable, and even galoshes, so necessary in Russia, could hardly be got. Food without cards was still procurable at fabulous prices, but was every day getting scarcer. Milk was 5 roubles* per glass ; sugar, 50 roubles per pound ; butter, 80 roubles per pound ; tea, 125 roubles per pound; coffee, 100 roubles per pound ; black flour, 10 roubles per pound.
This is not because there is a serious dearth of these foodstuffs―on the contrary, there is plenty of everything (except perhaps coffee) in the country, but because the Bolsheviks will not allow it to be brought into Moscow. They have divided the people into four categories―and only the two lowest, consisting of workpeople and employees of the Soviet, can get enough to live on, the other two are meant to starve, The different centrals, like the sugar central, the tea central, and the textile central, were in a state of helpless, hopeless chaos. Full of employees who had little or nothing to do―only half heated, and with huge queues of waiting people who cannot get the information, &c., they want.
The stability of the Soviet did not appear to me to be very great. It depended entirely on the well-paid Lettish battalions. Certainly the mass of the workpeople and peasants was not behind it. Many of the people working for it were only doing so to preserve themselves from starvation.
It was estimated that the Red Army consisted of about 200,000 fighting men. Many more were being drilled―but so little dependence was placed on them that they were not entrusted with arms. Meetings of workmen to discuss the mobilisation order openly decided to comply with it, because it was the easiest way of procuring food and clothing, but to decline to fight.
Great difficulty was encountered in getting regiments to leave Moscow for the front, and on many occasions trains intended to convey such troops were delayed for days. It was only by means of heavy disbursements that men were eventually induced to leave. It was reported that Moscow was almost denuded of troops and artillery. I was told that there were no guns for the Pskoff front, all having been sent south.
There is no actual food famine in Russia ; on the contrary, there are enormous stocks of foodstuffs which could be spared for the rest of Europe. There is a famine, however, in articles of clothing and agricultural implements. Outside of Moscow and Petrograd, and, perhaps, some other centres, food was procurable at comparatively moderate prices, and in exchange for textile products even at really low prices. It is the disorganisation in the transport service, and the shortness of goods which the peasants need, coupled with the decrees of the Bolsheviks, which have brought about the present shortage of foodstuffs in certain localities.
I don't know what is the signification of the terms "Red" and "Cold" terrors.
All I can say is that the number of people who have been coldly done to death in Moscow is enormous.Many thousands have been shot, but lately those condemned to death were hung instead, and that in the most brutal manner.They were taken out in batches in the early hours of the morning to a place on the outskirts of the town, stripped to their shirts,and then hung one by one by being drawn up at the end of a rope until their feet were a few inches from the ground and then left to die. The work was done by Mongolian soldiers. Shooting was too noisy and not sure enough. Men have crawled away after a volley, and others have been buried while still alive. I was told in Stockholm by one of the representatives of the Esthonian Government that 150 Russian officers who were taken prisoners at Pskoff by the Red Guards were given over to the Mongolian soldiers, who sawed them in pieces.
* 1 Rouble = (nominally) 2s. 1½ d.