Peter Petroff, Labour Leader, October, 1914

Promises of the Tsar

Source: Labour Leader, 1 October, 1914, p. 2, (letter);
Transcribed: by Scott Reeve and Ted Crawford.

The following letter from Mr Peter Petroff was refused insertion in the Times and Daily Chronicle.

Sir – In the Times of September 22, Mr H.G. Wells and Mr H. Wright try to convince the public that this war has transformed the Russian political regime from Hell to Heaven and the gentlemen known as the Russian government into angels.

Mr Wells talks about “promises of the Tsar to Jews, Poles and Finns, which are to be embodied by the Duma in legislation.” One would think that when Mr Wells makes such assertions he must have some reason or authority on which he bases his statements, for even a novelist in a letter to the Times must not indulge in fiction.

So far as I know there been made no such promises with the exception of a very vague proclamation of the Commander-in-Chief to the Poles circulated on the battlefield. There is, however, not even the shadow of a guarantee for the realisation of that vague statement. We in Russia know too well how to value such promises.


In 1905 the Tsar, in his manifestos and solemn declarations promised that no bill which had not obtained the assent of the representatives of the people would become law, yet the first and second Dumas were dissolved, the representatives of the people arrested, chained and sent off to Siberian hard labour prisons where many of them are still suffering, the electoral laws altered by order of the Tsar and by the aid of the police and spies a Black Hundred Duma selected.

It is true that certain Russian Revolutionaries and Anarchists have forgotten everything and declare their adherence to the Government, but the Russian Government has not forgotten anything and has not learned anything. Most of the European governments have declared amnesties, but the Russian prisons are now more crowded than ever with tens of thousands of young men and women whose only crime it is that they were striving for the freedom of the Russian people. The torture chambers in Orel, Smolensk, Schusselberg and elsewhere are carrying on their sordid business. At the outset of the war the two Labour papers in Petersburg, Rabochaya Gazetta and Za Pravda – were stopped and editors and staffs imprisoned.

Will Mr Wells tell us why these people as well as the prominent workers in the Trade Union movement, are kept in prison if, “every party and every tradition in Russia except the extreme reactionaries hail this war with passionate enthusiasm,” as Mr Wells freely asserts?

Mr Wells claims to have been in Russia. That is indisputable, but whether he has learnt anything about the Russian conditions I doubt very much.

Yours faithfully

27 Lisburne Rd, Hampstead

[Striking proof of the arguments put forward in these letters is forthcoming in the arrest and imprisonment of M. Bourtzeff, the Russian revolutionist, as soon as he returned to Russia – despite the fact that he intended to enlist! – Ed.]