Lord Kilmarnock to Earl Curzon. ― (Received February 1.)
Copenhagen, January 21, 1919.
I HAVE the honour to report that a reliable Danish engineer, employed in the Ryabusinsky factory near Moscow, who has travelled considerably in Russia lately, and who left Petrograd on the 11th instant, reports that there is a growing tendency on the part of the Central Committees to disregard the local committees and to absorb all the power. Though the Bolshevik régime was more hated than ever, resistance from inside was less strong, and as nearly the whole population was suffering from starvation the people were physically incapable of throwing off the yoke of the oppressors. My informant stated that recently, in connection with arranging a credit for his factory, he had to deal with the committees, and he was surprised to find how largely they were recruited from former officers, directors of factories, &c., and he said that every day there were fewer people who refused to serve the Red Guard. The hostility between the soldiers and the peasants was less acute as the stocks of the latter were now exhausted and they no longer feared the arbitrary requisitions of the guards. Only the smaller peasants were admitted to the committees.
The Chinese guard in Petrograd numbered about 5,000, and discipline in the Bolshevik army was severer than ever before and executions as numerous. Peasants were being mobilised, but as they resisted, they were always distributed in several regiments so that there should be no large focus of discontent in any particular regiment.
His own factory, which had been nationalised, was still working and 6,000 workmen were employed. Though there were still a few Bolsheviks among them, the majority had gradually seceded and had given up their belief in Bolshevism. As the factory owned a forest they were still able to get fuel, and shoddy goods were turned out, which were handed over to the Central, but my informant states that they were not sold, but were added to the stocks of goods collected by the Central. His factory was one of the few that were still working as, owing to lack of raw materials and especially of fuel, one after another had been obliged to close down. A passenger train ran daily between Petrograd and Moscow and a few goods trains, but owing to lack of fuel it was stated that this service would be further curtailed.
As regards food conditions, the situation was getting worse day by day, and in Petrograd the majority of persons were living on ½-lb. of oats a day. The Red Guards were better off, as they could still obtain small quantities of tea, sugar, and bread, but even for the highest prices other people could not get food.
Transport difficulties increased day by day as there were hardly any horses left in Petrograd, and innumerable formalities had to be gone through before a parcel could be taken from a shop or a store. All transport without a permit was prohibited.
The food question dominates all others.
I have, &c.