The revolutionary Moscow through the eyes of Swedish diplomats

Exactly one hundred years ago, October 25, 1917 there was the October revolution. What we know so far about the events of a century ago in addition to written in the history books (be it Soviet or Russian)? Alas, a little. But 100 years later we had the opportunity to see everything with the eyes of not just the witnesses, and foreigners, of which the white stone at the time lacked.

In the hands of the journalist “MK” proved to be a genuine diary of the Consul General of Sweden Claes Asker, caught the revolutionary events in Moscow. To study these records is like reading a fascinating detective story! Swedish so vividly depicts everything that happens that you feel something under fire, the saving from starvation of the old American then watching the members of the government caught the goose on the house of the Governor-General… All of those stories are in this wonderful diary.

So, the report of the Swedish Consul. The document provides only a small reduction (we are, alas, limited newspaper space). Published for the first time.

The first battles of the Bolsheviks in Tver.

Friday evening, November 9, 1917.

Threatening political situation, coupled with the significant advances of the enemy — these two factors indicate the beginning of serious unrest. All foreign consular corps was assembled today at the meeting with the American Consul Sommers. Decided to work together in exceptional cases, but otherwise — watch and wait.

Yet it is impossible to predict who would be preferable to turn to the Bolsheviks or the government troops. Closer to the evening I had assembled a Committee (the Committee appeared on 6 November to develop legal acts for the Swedish Union in Moscow). Shortly before the end of the meeting, at 22.30, you could hear several shots rang from the nearby streets. People in panic rushed past our Windows.

Consul General of Sweden Claes Asker.

Saturday, November 10.

The shooting lasted all night. From the staff at branch “B” (Department of the consular corps) could be only a few people. They were immediately sent home. In the first half of the day I was asked to call to the Danish Minister, the Commissioner of spermaceti Baron Rosenorn-Len. His phone half the: can receive calls, but to call — no. He wanted to know which route you would be able to get to your Consulate. On the basis of the information which left our staff, I advised him against it even to go outside. Theater of war is rapidly growing and is becoming a frightening character.

Sunday, November 11.

The civil war is in full swing. The Palace of the Governor-General in the hands of the Bolsheviks. It housed their headquarters. From there, they also run operations against government troops who still hold the Kremlin in his hands.

Guns are located at the corner of Tverskaya, the street and Bryusov lane. This is our corner. And from there, all down Tverskaya to the Kremlin covered with fire. All bordering streets exposed to machine-gun and artillery fire. Government troops, as they say, moving up in Tver and streets that pass between Tverskaya and Bolshaya Nikitskaya. Ours also is under fire. Day and night the cannonade continues, and what at first seemed ominous, have now become routine.

We however can not go to building “B”, as a street sweep the length and breadth of the nearby tall buildings. Many bullets hit the wall in front of us. But yet our large long Windows on the street (as well as all other Windows in the house) fully intact. The entire first day of the riots, on Thursday, before another began to shoot at the entrance to our house was a post from four of the Bolsheviks, saying that he had received orders to see that the street was quiet.

The only way to know about something now — via phone. Of Newspapers, there is only a highly tendentious leaflets that are printed on both sides. And out of the house very dangerous.

The Americans, too hot. Government forces have them in the yard (Consulate General), while the Bolsheviks confront them with the English Church. Since yesterday I have the Colonel, Genberg and actuary Brusewitz (living room), Vice-Consul Hellstrand and attaches Lundquist (one bedroom), as well as Lord Holm, Lindelof and Sandberg (in the library).

Night watches are divided into 3 teams of 2 each. Food enough for a week. Maria the cook nevertheless, in a good mood, as well as everyone else, including Ajax — our police dog, which seems to be much like to be with us all day.

Government forces, who hold the post, Telegraph and telephone, was kind enough, or considerate enough to allow the consulates (at least the serious States to which they, I think, will carry us) to keep a telephone connection within the city. On this occasion, we were in constant contact with the colony (referring to the Swedish colony in Moscow. — E. M.).

Mr. and Mrs. B., who live not far from us, very anxious and quite often ask us to find out what happens next. Their children just in case moved to the basement. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do for them, as the connection between us is completely interrupted because of the strong fire in the streets with machine gun fire.

We can assume that we have a pretty good prospects to survive this, “the siege”. The tipping point in either direction should occur soon. The most unpleasant — if the threat to fire guns from the Kremlin, the Palace of the Governor-General will be powered, because then we are just in the line of fire. In this case, it will only go down to the basement or try to leave, that would be very difficult and fraught with the same serious threat as to remain in place.

Now, it seems, government forces took the garden (yard) down from the building “B” where they machine-gun fire fired at the Governor’s complex. We see through our Windows like bullets come into this house, as increasingly Smoking plaster. Oddly enough, but yet not a single window was broken.


Buckshot “Metropol” hotel — part of the holes are patched with boards and rags.

Later in the afternoon.

Several Windows in the neighboring house shot. Just in case, we left the hall with Windows facing the street, and all the furniture (the piano and the carpet) moved into the inner room. Can easily happen that our low-level display window will be smashed. And then entrance for the crowd to be open.

For us it will be easier to handle them if the room is empty.

And besides the temptation, therefore, will be much less.

The phone is constantly receiving new messages. The hotel “national” must be destroyed. And now the hotel “Metropol” creates a target of particular interest for shooting. They say that the number of dead and wounded is in the thousands.

This is not surprising: the shots heard here every minute. Guns working around us without stopping. It was a miracle that nobody was hurt. Mr. Lindelof soon after lunch, climbed over the wall of our stables in a neighboring yard, where building “B”. He has just returned and says that all the Windows in my old room (where he earlier lived, and now lives there as Vice-Consul) embossed, but everything else was fine.

The caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Lutz — an elderly couple, who worked after the German Consulate first Americans, and then we — were unharmed and in good spirits. In contrast, gatekeeper have you lost your mind. However, the good news is that no troops in the court are not entrenched. They are only in the courtyard of the Church of England, which on this side extends to our street around 300 meters.

This post makes the situation more favorable, since it’ll take a long time until our yard will be in the theater of war (if it happens) and we will use all our means to prevent it.

In the house of the Vice-Consul Hellstrand the gate broken in the first night, it has to be common thieves. But most criminals and failed: they startled the patrol. Living near General Brusilov, hero of last year’s offensive in Galicia. And he’s suspected of counter-revolutionary tendencies and is located in the center of their attention. The head of the “Northern company,” Mr. Ulsson had the misfortune to live in the same house with the General. I am afraid that there will be hot before they will be able to surround Brusilov.

During the day I was in contact with the colony, which, in General, as it seems, keeps quiet. What a strange life. Cut off from the outside world, do not receive dozens of telegrams and hundreds of letters that came every morning from 30 provinces. On the other hand, is quite pleased that finally appeared in the work.

My guests — these smart and nice people. At night, as I said, they keep watch in pairs. I myself am in rotational shift does not consist, as it should be available at any time. Watch sitting in the small salon and burning fire in an open fireplace. And the rest trying to make it as small as possible light. When changing watch at 13.00 and 16.00 — tea and biscuits. With this allocation of work life proceeds quietly and orderly, we’re all in good spirits.

Declassified the report of Consul-General in Swedish.

November 12 morning, Monday.

We have a pretty hectic since soldiers patrol in the street said, you know, we often talk on the phone. Threatened to fire at our house. After Breakfast I went through the patrols, standing every 20 meters with loaded rifles in the direction of the Governor-General’s Palace, where despite all the rumors was still the headquarters of the Bolsheviks. I was escorted to their superiors protected. Reported who I am, and have received written permission to move freely around the city and also day and night to use the phone.

I mentioned them a little bit about international agreements and consular privileges, about which they did not know but that they were impressed that I had on hand.

Soldiers stationed at our house, was very surprised when I returned and showed them the paper. Knowing the peculiarities of the Russian mentality, I can say that this paper can bring great benefits in different situations.

Called again Mrs N. and asked me to move in with him. Their children are still in the basement, and they are located in the hallway. They would like to I now joined them. I said that I respect their friendly care about me, but I find it my duty to remain where I am. However, it considered that in such a situation as it is now, life is more important than debt. But at this point we could not agree. The conversation ended with a mutual friendship requests.

photo: Ivan Skryplev

Later that same day.

About 4 hours old Swede (at the time, he was forced to leave Courland, and now is serving as our Concierge) opened the door when she called. Immediately in the doorway appeared a few bayonets, and the six soldiers paved them their way inside. Hearing loud voices in the hallway, I went there. The soldiers said that I know that there are strangers who are not tenants. Partly for this reason, and partly to find out if we have weapons, they wanted to search it. I explained to them that it is impossible that they are in Sweden and that is already breaking into my hallway, they violated international agreements. It seemed that they had no idea about this. They argued that the current state repealed all existing legislation. In response, I stressed that the only position that could justify their actions — it is a war between Sweden and Russia. And at the moment between these countries prevail only friends, and I asked them not to risk this state of Affairs. In the end they agreed with my proposal to wait for additional instructions from his superiors (after the report on my protest and the need for a ban on the search of the house). Then the four of them remained near the entrance, the others went for further orders.

And again, the difficult road between endless pastovymi went to the house of the Governor-General, where I was lucky enough to speak with one of the members of the Executive Committee. They were very welcoming after a series of discussions between us and have written under my dictation document, which was forbidden as units and individual soldiers to enter the territory of the Consulate General.

With paper in hand in the dark I went home. On the road again 20 I stopped the patrol. However, the document is valid, at least up until the Executive Committee is respected. And if there was a search warrant and found the weapons in our house, we would be instantly fired at the crowd of soldiers off the street.

The same day came to us an elderly American and his wife, and asked for asylum. They were sent to the Consulate General, leaving his home, which was occupied by the soldiers. But due to the intense fighting in the streets leading to the U.S. Consulate, they were stopped and turned around. I called the Consulate and their identities. The man is a dentist, one of the most older Americans in Moscow. I invited them to stay with us until the situation will not allow them to return. Now they live in the nursery. Wife short in stature sleeping in the bed of our four daughters, and the man on the floor — we laid him on a mattress and was given a blanket. So now we are 10 people without a maid. The complete ignorance in which we live, combined with the repeated attempts of the soldiers to encroach on our territory undermined today our mood. Nevertheless, we celebrated the arrival of the Americans dinner with a cocktail. And now some in our company are playing cards. What is this — a cocktail or card can cause elevated mood, I don’t know. But the fact is — it’s now on top.

By evening the shooting stopped almost completely. Does this mean that the rumors are true and the Bolsheviks are now masters of the situation? Hard to say. In any case, the preponderance of power in any of the parties would be much better than pressing the unknown. In the evening we got on the phone with many members of the colony. Among them the Director Nelson, engineer Lindell and others. By and large, all of them good. The spirit does not fall, although more and more shortage of food.

In the house of the Swedish manufacturer Hagman on Malaya Nikitskaya, 13, whose lower floor is devoted to the needs of the Consulate General stationed notary Selberg and G. Almquist, the translator of Colonel Genberg, ladies Jonson and Halden — everything related to block B — they have everything in order, only the food difficult. Almquist in Moscow tried to get a piece of meat and under fire barely got food home.


Claes Asker was born in 1886. Was a free entrepreneur, and then appointed trade representative of the Kingdom of Sweden. Received the post of Consul General of Sweden in Russia in 1917 Left the country in 1918, becoming a Minister at the Embassy in Oslo. Died of the Spanish flu in 1919, 33 years old, leaving a widow and children.

Continued in the next issue.

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