Paul Dukes.

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Adventures and Investigations
in Red Russia

SIR PAUL DUKES, k. b. e.

Former Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service in Soviet Rtutia














If ever there was a period when people blindly
hitched their wagons to shibboleths and slogans instead
of stars it is the present. In the helter-skelter of
events which constantly outrun mankind, the essential
meaning of commonly used words is becoming increas-
ingly confused. Not only the abstract ideas of liberty,
equality, and fraternity, but more concrete and more
recently popularized ones such as proletariat, bourgeois,
soviet, are already surrounded with a sort of fungous
growth concealing their real meaning, so that every
time they are employed they have to be freshly defined.

The phenomenon of Red Russia is a supreme ex-
ample of the triumph over reason of the shibboleth, the
slogan, and the political catchword. War- weary and
politics-weary, the Russian people easily succumbed to
those who promised wildly what nobody could give, the
promisers least of all. Catchwords such as "All Power
to the Soviets," possessing cryptic power before their
coiners seized the reins of government, were after-
ward discovered either to have no meaning whatso-
ever, or else to be endowed with some arbitrary, vari-
able, and quite unforeseen sense. Similarly, words
such as "workers," "bourgeois," "proletariat," "im-
perialist," "socialist," "cooperative," "soviet," are
endowed by mob orators everywhere, with arbitrary
significations, meaning one thing one day and another
the next as occasion demands.


The extreme opponents of Bolshevism, especially
amongst Russians, have sinned in this respect as greatly
as the extreme proponents, and with no advantage to
themselves even in their own class. For to their un-
reasoning immoderation, as much as to the distortion
of ideas by ultra-radicals, is due the appearance, among
a certain class of people of inquiring minds but in-
complete information, of that oddest of anomalies, the
"parlour Bolshevik." Clearness of vision and under-
standing will never be restored until precision in ter-
minology is again reestablished, and that will take
years and years.

It was the discrepancy between the actualities of
Bolshevist Russia and the terminology employed by
the Red leaders that impressed me beyond all else. I
soon came to the conclusion that this elaborate catch-
phraseology was designed primarily for propagandist
purposes in foreign countries, for the Bolsheviks in
their home press indulge at times in unexpected spurts
of candour, describing their own failures in terms that
vie with those of their most inveterate foes. But
they still cling to anomalous terms, such as "workers'
and peasants' government" and "dictatorship of the

It is to such discrepancies that I have sought to draw
attention in the following pages. My point of view
was neither that of the professional politician, nor of the
social reformer, nor of the stunt-journalist, but simply
that of the ordinary human individual, the "man in the
street." As an official of the intelligence service the
Soviet Government has charged me with conspiracies
and plots to overthrow it. But I went to Russia not
to conspire but to inquire. The Soviet Government's


references to rne have not been felicitous and I may be
pardoned for recalling one or two of the most striking.
At the close of 1920 I received an intimation from the
Foreign Office that on January 16, 1920, a certain Mr.
Charles Davison had been executed in Moscow and
that to the British Government's demand for an ex-
planation the Soviet Government had replied that Mr.
Davison was shot as an accomplice of my "provocative
activities." The letter from the British Foreign Office
was, however, my first intimation that such a person
as Mr. Davison had ever existed. Again, on the occa-
sion of the last advance of General Yudenich on Petro-
grad the Bolshevist Government asserted that I was the
instigator of a "White" Government which should seize
power upon the fall of the city, and a list of some dozen
or so ministers was published who were said to have
been nominated by me. Not only had I no knowledge
of or connection with the said government, but the
prospective ministers with one exception were unknown
to me even by name, the exception being a gentleman
I had formerly heard of but with whom I had never had
any form of communication.

It would be tedious to recount the numerous in-
stances of which these are examples. I recognize but
few of the names with which the Bolshevist Government
has associated mine. The majority are of people I
have never met or heard of. Even of the Englishmen
and women, of whom the Bolsheviks arrested several
as my "accomplices," holding them in prison in some
cases for over a twelvemonth, I knew but few. With
only one had I had any communication as intelligence
officer. Some of the others, whom I met subsequently,
gave me the interesting information that their arrest


and that of many innocent Russians was attributed by
the Bolsheviks to a "diary" which I was supposed to
have kept and in which I was said to have noted their
names. This "diary" has apparently also been ex-
hibited to sympathetic foreign visitors as conclusive
evidence of the implication of the said Russians and
Britishers in my numerous "conspiracies!" I barely
need say that, inexperienced though I was in the art
and science of intelligence work, I made it from the
outset an invariable rule in making notes never to in-
scribe any name or address except in a manner intelligi-
ble to no living soul besides myself, while the only
"diary" I ever kept was the chronicle from which this
book is partly compiled, made during those brief visits to
Finland which the reader will find described in the
following pages.

It goes without saying that this book is not designed
to rectify this record of inaccuracies on the part of the
Soviet Government. It was impossible in writing my
story to combine precision of narrative with effective
camouflage of individuals and places. The part of this
book which deals with my personal experiences is there-
fore not complete, but is a selection of episodes concern-
ing a few individuals, and I have endeavoured to weave
these episodes into a more or less consecutive narrative,
showing the peculiar chain of circumstances which led to
my remaining in charge of the intelligence service in
Russia for the best part of a year, instead of a month
or two, as I had originally expected. To my later
travels in Bielorussia, the northern Ukraine, and
Lithuania I make but little reference, since my ob-
servations there merely confirmed the conclusions I
had already arrived at as to the attitude of the Russian


peasantry. In writing, I believe I have achieved what
I was bound to regard as a fundamental condition,
namely, the masking of the characters by confusing
persons and places (except in one or two instances which
are now of small import) sufficiently to render them
untraceable by the Bolshevist authorities.

"Even when one thinks a view unsound or a scheme
unworkable," says Viscount Bryce in "Modern Democ-
racies," "one must regard all honest efforts to improve
this unsatisfactory world with a sympathy which rec-
ognizes how many things need to be changed, and how
many doctrines once held irrefragable need to be modi-
fied in the light of supervenient facts." This is true no
less of Communist experiments than of any others.
If in this book I dwell almost entirely on the Russian
people's point of view, and not on that of their present
governors, I can only say that it was the people's point
of view that I set out to study. The Bolshevist revolu-
tion will have results far other than those anticipated
by its promoters, but in the errors and miscalculations
of the Communists, in their fanatical efforts to better
the lot of mankind, albeit by coercion and bloodshed,
lessons are to be learned which will be of incalculable
profit to humanity. But the greatest and most inspir-
ing lesson of all will be the ultimate example of the
Russian people, by wondrous patience and invincible
endurance overcoming their present and perhaps even
greater tribulation, and emerging triumphant through
persevering belief in the truths of that philosophy which
the Communists describe as "the opium of the people."

"... Nothing is more vital to national prog-
ress than the spontaneous development of individ-
ual character. . . . Independence of thought
was formerly threatened by monarchs who
feared the disaffection of their subjects. May it
not again be threatened by other forms of intol-
erance, possible even in a popular government ? "

— Bryce, Modern Democracies



I. One of the Crowd 1

II. Five Days 31

III. The Green Shawl 82

IV. Meshes 117

V. Melnikoff 136

VI. Stepanovna 158

VII. Finland 168

VIII. A Village "Bourgeois-Capitalist" . . . 188

IX. Metamorphosis 200


X. The Sphinx 219

XI. The Red Army 225

XII. "The Party" and the People 262

XIII. Escape 298

XIV. Conclusion 307


Portions of this book first appeared, in slightly
different form, in Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic
Monthly, and The World's Work.

Paul Dukes Frontispiece


The author as he appeared on various occasions in

Soviet Russia 50

Passport with which author crossed the frontier. 51

Typical view of a Russian village 66

The author and peasant children 66

Night photograph of the Fortress of Peter and

Paul 67

A review by Trotzky of Red troops .... 67
"Speculation" in the streets of the Russian

capital 130

Cartoons published previous to the return of the

Bolsheviks to Russia 131

A typical peasant "bourgeois-capitalist" . . . 146
Peasants hiding their grain from Bolshevist req-

uisitioners 147

Night quarters of the "bourgeois" 210

A daughter of the soil 211

Bridge at Grodno destroyed by the Reds. . . 226
The author and the Colonel of the Polish Women's

Death Battalion 227

The Tauride Palace, headquarters of Russian

Duma, at Petrograd 290

Travelling in Soviet Russia 291

Save Russia's children ! 306







The snow glittered brilliantly in the frosty sunshine
on the afternoon of March 11, 1917. The Nevsky
Prospect was almost deserted. The air was tense with
excitement and it seemed as if from the girdling fau-
bourgs of the beautiful city of Peter the Great rose a
low, muffled rumbling as of many voices. Angry, pas-
sionate voices, rolling like distant thunder, while in the
heart of the city all was still and quiet. A mounted
patrol stood here or there, or paced the street with
measured step. There were bloodstains on the white
snow, and from the upper end of the Prospect still re-
sounded the intermittent crack of rifles.

How still those corpses lay over there! Their teeth
grinned ghastlily. Who were they and how did they
die? Who knew or cared? Perhaps a mother, a
wife. . . . The fighting was in the early morning.
A crowd — a cry — a command — a volley — panic — an
empty street — silence — and a little group of corpses
hideous, motionless in the cold sunshine!

Stretched across the wide roadway lay a cordon of


police disguised as soldiers, prostrate, firing at inter-
vals. The disguise was an attempt to deceive, for it
was known that the soldiers sided with the people.
"It is coming," I found myself repeating mechanically,
over and over again, and picturing a great cataclysm,
terrible and overwhelming, yet passionately hoped for.
"It is coming, any time now — to-morrow — the day
after "

What a day the morrow was ! I saw the first revolu-
tionary regiments come out and witnessed the sacking
of the arsenal by the infuriated mob. Over the river
the soldiers were breaking into the Kresty Prison.
Crushing throngs surged round the Duma building at
the Tauride Palace, and toward evening, after the
Tsarist police had been scattered in the Nevsky Pros-
pect, there rose a mighty murmur, whispered in awe
on a million lips: "Revolution!" A new era was to
open. The revolution, so thought I, would be the
Declaration of Independence of Russia! In my im-
agination I figured to myself a huge pendulum,
weighted with the pent-up miseries and woes of a
hundred and eighty millions of people, which had sud-
denly been set in motion. How far would it swing?
How many times? When and where would it come
to rest, its vast, hidden store of energy expended?

Late that night I stood outside the Tauride Palace,
which had become the centre of the revolution. No
one was admitted through the great gates without a
pass. I sought a place midway between the gates and,
when no one was looking, scrambled up, dropped over
the railings, and ran through the bushes straight to the
main porch. Here I soon met folk I knew — comrades
of student days, revolutionists. What a spectacle


within the palace, lately so still and dignified! Tired
soldiers lay sleeping in heaps in every hall and corridor.
The vaulted lobby, where Duma members had flitted
silently, was packed almost to the roof with all manner
of truck, baggage, arms, and ammunition. All night
long and the next I laboured with the revolutionists
to turn the Tauride Palace into a revolutionary ar-

Thus began the revolution. And after? Everyone
knows now how the hopes of freedom were blighted.
Truly had Russia's foe, Germany, who despatched the
proletarian dictator Lenin and his satellites to Russia,
discovered the Achilles' heel of the Russian revolution!
Everyone now knows how the flowers of the revolution
withered under the blast of the Class War, and how
Russia was replunged into starvation and serfdom.
I will not dwell on these things. My story relates to
the time when they were already cruel realities.

My reminiscences of the first year of Bolshevist ad-
ministration are jumbled into a kaleidoscopic pano-
rama of impressions gained while journeying from
city to city, sometimes crouched in the corner of
crowded box-cars, sometimes travelling in comfort,
sometimes riding on the steps, and sometimes on the
roofs or buffers. I was nominally in the service of the
British Foreign Office, but the Anglo-Russian Com-
mission (of which I was a member) having quit Russia,
I attached myself to the American Y. M. C. A., doing
relief work. A year after the revolution I found myself
in the eastern city of Samara, training a detachment of
boy scouts. As the snows of winter melted and the
spring sunshine shed joy and cheerfulness around, I held
my parades and together with my American colleagues


organized outings and sports. The new proletarian
lawgivers eyed our manoeuvres askance but were too
preoccupied in dispossessing the "bourgeoisie" to devote
serious attention to the "counter revolutionary" scouts,
however pronounced the anti-Bolshevik sympathies of
the latter. "Be prepared!" the scouts would cry,
greeting each other in the street. And the answer,
"Always prepared!", had a deep significance, intensi-
fied by their boyish enthusiasm.

Then one day, when in Moscow, I was handed an
unexpected telegram. "Urgent" — from the British
Foreign Office. "You are wanted at once in London,"
it ran. I set out for Archangel without delay. Mos-
cow, with its turbulences, its political wranglings, its
increasing hunger, its counter-revolutionary conspir-
acies, with Count Mirbach and his German designs,
was left behind. Like a bombshell followed the news
that Mirbach was murdered. Leaning over the side
of the White Sea steamer, a thousand kilometers from
Moscow, I cursed my luck that I was not in the capital.
I stood and watched the sun dip low to the horizon;
hover, an oval mass of fire, on the edge of the blazing
sea; merge with the water; and, without disappearing,
mount again to celebrate the triumph over darkness
of the nightless Arctic summer. Then, Murmansk
and perpetual day, a destroyer to Petchenga, a tug to
the Norwegian frontier, a ten-day journey round the
North Capt and by the fairy-land of Norwegian fjords
to Bergen, with finally a zigzag course across the North
Sea, dodging submarines, to Scotland.

At Aberdeen the control officer had received orders
to pass me through by the first train to London. At
Kings Cross a car was waiting, and knowing neither my


destination nor the cause of my recall I was driven to
a building in a side street in the vicinity of Trafalgar
Square. "This way," said the chauffeur, leaving the
car. The chauffeur had a face like a mask. We en-
tered the building and the elevator whisked us to the
top floor, above which additional superstructures had
been built for war-emergency offices.

I had always associated rabbit-warrens with subter-
ranean abodes, but here in this building I discovered a
maze of rabbit-burrow-like passages, corridors, nooks,
and alcoves, piled higgledy-piggledy on the roof.
Leaving the elevator my guide led me up one flight of
steps so narrow that a corpulent man would have stuck
tight, then down a similar flight on the other side, under
wooden archways so low that we had to stoop, round
unexpected corners, and again up a flight of steps which
brought us out on the roof. Crossing a short iron bridge
we entered another maze, until just as I was beginning
to feel dizzy I was shown into a tiny room about ten
feet square where sat an officer in the uniform of a Brit-
ish colonel. The impassive chauffeur announced me
and withdrew.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Dukes," said the colonel, ris-
ing and greeting me with a warm handshake. "I am
glad to see you. You doubtless wonder that no ex-
planation has been given you as to why you should re-
turn to England. Well, I have to inform you, con-
fidentially, that it has been proposed to offer you a
somewhat responsible post in the Secret Intelligence

I gasped. "But," I stammered, "I have never

May I ask what it implies?"

"Certainly," he replied. "We have reason to be-


lieve that Russia will not long continue to be open to
foreigners. We wish someone to remain there to keep
us informed of the march of events."

"But," I put in, "my present work? It is im-
portant, and if I drop it "

"We foresaw that objection," replied the colonel,
"and I must tell you that under war regulations we
have the right to requisition your services if need be.
You have been attached to the Foreign Office. This
office also works in conjunction with the Foreign Office,
which has been consulted on this question. Of course,"
he added, bitingly, "if the risk or danger alarms you "

I forget what I said but he did not continue.

"Very well," he proceeded, "consider the matter and
return at 4 :30 to-morrow. If you have no valid reasons
for not accepting this post we will consider you as in
our service and I will tell you further details." He
rang a bell. A young lady appeared and escorted me
out, threading her way with what seemed to me mar-
vellous dexterity through the maze of passages.

Burning with curiosity and fascinated already by
the mystery of this elevated labyrinth I ventured a
query to my young female guide. "What sort of
establishment is this?" I said. I detected a twinkle
in her eye. She shrugged her shoulders and without
replying pressed the button for the elevator. "Good
afternoon," was all she said as I passed in.

Next day another young lady escorted me up and
down the narrow stairways and ushered me into the
presence of the colonel. I found him in a fair-sized
apartment with easy chairs and walls hidden by book-
cases. He seemed to take it for granted that I had
nothing to say. " I will tell you briefly what we desire,"


he said. "Then you may make any comments you
wish, and I will take you up to interview — er — the Chief.
Briefly, we want you to return to Soviet Russia and to
send reports on the situation there. We wish to be
accurately informed as to the attitude of every section
of the community, the degree of support enjoyed by
the Bolshevist Government, the development and
modification of its policy, what possibility there may
be for an alteration of regime or for a counter-revolu-
tion, and what part Germany is playing. As to the
means whereby you gain access to the country, under
what cover you will live there, and how you will send
out reports, we shall leave it to you, being best informed
as to conditions, to make suggestions."

He expounded his views on Russia, asking for my
corroboration or correction, and also mentioned the
names of a few English people I might come into con-
tact with. "I will see if— er— the Chief is ready,"
he said finally, rising, "I will be back in a moment."

The apartment appeared to be an office but there
were no papers on the desk. I rose and stared at the
books on the bookshelves. My attention was arrested
by an edition of Thackeray's works in a decorative
binding of what looked like green morocco. I used at
one time to dabble in bookbinding and am always
interested in an artistically bound book. I took down
Henry Esmond from the shelf. To my bewilderment
the cover did not open, until, passing my finger acci-
dentally along what I thought was the edge of the pages,
the front suddenly flew open of itself, disclosing a box!
In my astonishment I almost dropped the volume and
a sheet of paper slipped out on to the floor. I picked it
up hastily and glanced at it. It was headed Kriegs-


ministerium, Berlin, had the German Imperial arms
imprinted on it, and was covered with minute handwrit-
ing in German. I had barely slipped it back into the
box and replaced the volume on the shelf when the colo-
nel returned.

"A — the — er — Chief is not in," he said, "But you
may see him to-morrow. You are interested in books? "
he added, seeing me looking at the shelves. "I collect
them. That is an interesting old volume on Cardinal
Richelieu, if you care to look at it. I picked it up in
Charing Cross Road for a shilling." The volume men-
tioned was immediately above Henry Esmond. I
took it down warily, expecting something uncommon
to occur, but it was only a musty old volume in French
with torn leaves and soiled pages. I pretended to
be interested. "There is not much else there worth
looking at, I think," said the colonel, casually. "Well,
good-bye. Come in to-morrow."

I wondered mightily who "the Chief" of this es-
tablishment could be and what he would be like. The
young lady smiled enigmatically as she showed me to
the elevator. I returned again next day after thinking
overnight how I should get back to Russia — and de-
ciding on nothing. My mind seemed to be a complete
blank on the subject in hand and I was entirely ab-
sorbed in the mysteries of the roof-labyrinth.

Again I was shown into the colonel's sitting room.
My eyes fell instinctively on the bookshelf. The
colonel was in a genial mood. "I see you like my
collection," he said. "That, by the way, is a fine
edition of Thackeray." My heart leaped! "It is the
most luxurious binding I have ever yet found. Would
you not like to look at it?"


I looked at the colonel very hard, but his face was
a mask. My immediate conclusion was that he wished
to initiate me into the secrets of the department.
I rose quickly and took down Henry Esmond, which
was in exactly the same place as it had been the day
before. To my utter confusion it opened quite nat-
urally and I found in my hands nothing more than an
edition de luxe printed on Indian paper and profusely
illustrated! I stared bewildered at the shelf. There
was no other Henry Esmond. Immediately over the
vacant space stood the life of Cardinal Richelieu as
it had stood yesterday. I replaced the volume,
and trying not to look disconcerted turned to the
colonel. His expression was quite impassive, even
bored. "It is a beautiful edition," he repeated, as if
wearily. "Now if you are ready we will go and see

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