Arthur Ransome
Russia in 1919

A Bolshevik Fellow Of The Royal Society


At Sukhanov's suggestion I went, to see Professor Timiriazev, the greatest Russian Darwinian, well-known to many scientific men in this country, a foreign member of the Royal Society, a Doctor of Cambridge University and a Bolshevik. He is about eighty years old. His left arm is paralysed, and, as he said, he can only work at his desk and not be out and about to help as he would wish. A venerable old savant, he was sitting writing with a green dressing gown about him, for his little flat was very cold. On the walls were portraits of Darwin, Newton and Gilbert, besides portraits of contemporary men of science whom he had known. English books were everywhere. He gave me, two copies of his last scientific book and his latest portrait to take to two of his friends in England.

He lives with his wife and son. I asked if his son were also a Bolshevik.

"Of course," he replied.

He then read me a letter he had written protesting against intervention. He spoke of his old love for England and for the English people. Then, speaking of the veil of lies drawn between Soviet Russia and the rest of the world, he broke down altogether, and bent his head to hide his tears.

"I suffer doubly," he said, after excusing himself for the weakness of a very old man. "I suffer as a Russian, and, if I may say so, I suffer as an Englishman. I have English blood in my veins. My mother, you see, looks quite English," pointing to a daguerreotype on the wall, "and my grandmother was actually English. I suffer as an Englishman when I see the country that I love misled by lies, and I suffer as a Russian because those lies concern the country to which I belong, and the ideas which I am proud to hold."

The old man rose with difficulty, for he, like every one else in Moscow, is half starved. He showed me his Byron, his Shakespeare, his Encyclopaedia Britannica, his English diplomas. He pointed to the portraits on the wall. "If I could but let them know the truth," he said, "those friends of mine in England, they would protest against actions which are unworthy of the England we have loved together."


Chapter 25: Digression