Petrograd -the city of trouble - PDF book by Meriel Buchanan

Petrograd, the city of trouble, 1914-1918 

Petrograd


Excerpt:

On the 2nd of July, 1914, the French President, accompanied by a large suite, visited the Russian Court, and in the same moorings near Kronstadt were' — scarcely ten days earlier. — the Lion, the Queen Mary, Princess Royal and New Zealand had lain, French battleships now cast anchor; French flags fluttered from all the houses; French officers and sailors crowded the town, and on Tuesday, July 23, the President accompanied the Emperor at the evening review of the troops at Krassnoe. 

Down the straight road that led across the grey level plains, a stream of motors passed. Under the cloudless splendour of the sky, the fields lay burnt iron dry. An acrid smell of burning turf filled the air, and low down on the horizon lay a haze of smoke from some distant forest fire. Behind us Petersburg was hidden in a mist of heat.

Petersburg where an undercurrent of unrest and trouble seemed to be brewing, where workmen gathered at street comers and whole factories were out on strike. But the little faint chill of 'fear I had felt as we drove through the town was forgotten out here on the plains with, away to the right, the silver shimmer of the sea and all around the hurrying crowd who seemed to have no care or trouble in the world. One of the Imperial motors flying the white flag with the double eagle passed us in a cloud of dust.

 An officer with the silver aiguillettes that showed him to be an A.D.C. to some General cantered by, intent evidently on some order to be delivered; three or four soldiers sitting at the doorway of a wooden barracks were drinking tea out of little tin cans; a woman with a red and white handkerchief over her head stood still to stare at us.

 From the distance came the sound of a military band, somewhere a bugle rang out clearly, and as we drew upon the top of the incline we could see a stream of red and white pennons moving along below us. Just here the eternal flatness was broken, the ground sloped before us into a broad, low valley, and opposite lay the little hill with the village and church of Krassnoe and the low wooden barracks, summer quarters of the Guard regiments of Petersburg. 

The crowd of motors, soldiers, and brightly dressed women was almost impassable. A wooden estrade had been erected for the wives of officers, the officials and members of the Diplomatic body, while farther on a tent had been put up for the Emperor and Empress and the French President. A flutter of talk and laughter, gay, vapid, light as thistledown filled the air. 

Outside the wooden railings, officers paused to stand a moment in the conversation, looking up into some smiling downward bent face and then moved on with a silver jingling of spurs. Opposite the estrade a line of troops was drawn up immovable and silent, far away across the plain a regiment was passing, and the dust raised by their marching feet made a golden haze above them. Disjointed and broken fragments of talk reached me from the chattering crowd all around me. 

Somewhere in the background, a woman's voice complained bitterly about the carelessness of a nurse who had allowed her little boy to get nearly run over by a peasant's cart. 

On my left a woman was discussing an evening frock just received from a Paris dress- maker' — there was a rumour that skirts would be wider but it was probably not true, and no sleeves were to be worn, just a diamond strap on the shoulders; of course if one had perfect arms it was all right, but otherwise what a very trying fashion! 

A little in front of me two girls were whispering and giggling, discussing some secret which I could not help overhearing: 'Of course I pretended that our meeting him was just a perfect accident — Miss Evans never suspected for a moment that it had all been arranged beforehand. My dear ' here the whisper became inaudible, and then burst out again with a gurgle of laughter: ' Oh, Sonia, he has such adorable eyebrows! ' I wondered vaguely what constituted the charm of adorable eyebrows and then forgot to answer my own question as I watched a fat old General with a red face come limping down between the long lines of troops.

 Most evidently his brightly polished boots were too tight for him, and it made my own feet ache to think of the pain he must be suffering when the ground itself was so baked by the sun that one seemed to feel the heat of it rising up into one's face. Either that or the extreme height of his collar had affected his temper, for twice he paused to bark out some harsh reprimand to the immovable soldiers down the line, and once_ his fat, chubby hand flew out to point with no gentle terms to the delinquency of an unfastened strap. 

The sun was nearing the rim of the Krassnoe hill, the little church stood bathed in golden radiance, high up in the sky an aeroplane hung like a bird of prey. Then suddenly at some unheard signal, a silence fell on all the waiting crowd, and for a moment trash of almost breathless stillness held them as in a spell. Then from very far away came a burst of cheering that, drawing ever nearer, grew in sound and volume like the slowly rising strength of a distant storm. Something rose in my throat, and the serried ranks of soldiers opposite to me wavered and shook. 

A woman next to me whispered, ' Oh, mon Dieu ! ' and softly dabbed her eyes with a lace handkerchief. I saw the girl in front of me clutch hold of her companion and heard her voice, shaken by a new note, say sharply: 'Sonia — I am afraid' — why am I afraid?' And then, riding on a white horse, the Emperor passed in that tempest of cheering. I had a confused impression of grave blue eyes, of a hand raised in greeting, of a rustling of skirts as the women around me bent in low obeisance, of a crowd of officers who followed him on horseback, Grand Dukes, Generals, the varied uniforms of the foreign military attaches. 

Some contents:

  • July 24
  • Declaration of war.
  • The second winter
  • The Crimea .....
  • Summer, i916...
  • The court . . .
  • The murder of Rasputin
  • The gathering of the storm
  • Monday, March 12.
  • The emperor's abdication.
  • The first weeks of the revolution
  • Spring, 1917 
  • The women of Russia.
  • Bolshevik rising of July.

the book details :
  • Author: Meriel Buchanan
  • Publication date: 1918/li>
  • Company: London - W. collins

  • Download 4.3 MB

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