One Hundred Red Days: A Personal Chronicle of the Bolshevik Revolution

By Edgar Sisson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
December 20--De2cember 23, 1917. The Kalpashnikov
Case and Its Consequences.

1.

IT was apparent to American observers in this period between accepted armistice and the opening of the peace conference that the Bolshevik leaders were searching for excuses for verbal challenges to the ambassadors of the countries formerly the Allies of Russia. The political utility of such a course was obvious, serving to divert the attention of the public from the difficulties the party faced in consequence of having agreed to attempt a single-handed peace.

If the Russian people could be made to believe that their unhappy condition of the present and the evil aspect of the future was a responsibility of the Allies, the Bolsheviks were the gainers. If they could not be made to believe it, they might be confused by the dust of accusations thrown into the air. At the least the body of Bolshevik followers could be heartened by clamor against "Foreign Imperialists" and their representatives on the scene. Finally there was the advantage of threatening the Embassies with penalty for any action that could be interpreted as hostile to the Bolsheviks.

Trotsky, as Foreign Minister, was the natural leader of the campaign. If we Americans needed warning we got it when Trotsky tilted against Noulens, the French Ambassador. We felt, however, that we already were on guard. Though aware that the silence of Ambassador Francis was resented even more than that of Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador, we were confident that Trotsky could not attack without concrete material, and that we were giving him none.

We underestimated his ingenuity and overestimated our immunity from error. In the Kalpashnikov case he got his weapon, a poor, twisted thing good only for one thrust; only an irritant to the American Embassy in finality, but nearly fatal to Kalpashnikov, and for its hour a danger to all Allied nationals in Petrograd.

-144-

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