“The girls will go with the flags out of a sheet”: a unique diary of the revolution

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.

photo: ru.wikipedia.org
Shelled in October of 1917 the building near the Kremlin.

The end.

Consul General of America promised me on the phone that if necessary can give our part of the reserves of canned food. Director of the Swedish-Russian-Danish telephone company Nielson had the doctor Set and Mr. Lundberg of the red cross. They are also in a relatively good position, but their entire house under heavy surveillance, and threatened with the death penalty they are not allowed to walk the yard or to display in the window. So all moved into the inner chambers. The reason for this prohibition is said to be a suspicion that the roof is a machine gun.

The air around is so filled with contradictory rumors, that can come only to one conclusion: no one in reality knows nothing. On Friday handed the newspaper “the Official announcement,” where it was said that all the missions in Petrograd left the city and went to Finland. On the same day at the meeting with the consular corps revealed that the message was incorrect. Arrived by courier a letter from the American Ambassador, which reported that the mission decided to stay in Petrograd. A Swedish engineer, who had arrived from Petrograd, reported that our mission certainly intend to stay.

And since then we’re completely cut off from the outside world.

The situation is reminiscent of the siege of Beijing during the uprising in 1900. And I amuse myself in moments of peace to those that read about the event again.

Tuesday, November 13.

The night was pretty calm. About 16 hours of the day, I went to the house of the Governor-General to obtain a pass for all my lives, and to explore the possibility to send through the Executive Committee a telegram to the Department of foreign Affairs. I willingly promised to meet in both cases. I had to go back to list of all names and private addresses and the text of the telegram with my signature and seal of the Consulate. Short cut the way back was fraught with serious danger to life. I was involved in a shooting. But nothing happened, I was injured. When the paper was ready, it turned out that the Vice-Consul Hellstrand can’t even try to go back — the soldiers ‘ pickets no one was allowed to approach the house of the Governor-General, which was under heavy shelling. Was firing of guns and cannons. At the same time it was reported that around germanskogo house falling grenades, and several surrounding buildings were already on fire. I just phone called on the American Consul, together with his wife and son to join us, settling on the lower floor of our house or in the basement. In addition, I wrote a request to the commander of the troops that you need to take measures to protect home Hagman, where the Swedes and the Americans are in immediate danger. I’ll try to persuade one of the guards standing in the street, give him my letter.

Today we hoisted the house flag. Before we do this, so as not to attract too much attention, but now it could save our lives. Mr. Lindelof decided to do it myself. I agreed with pastovymi to cover the roof while he was there. You had to be vigilant, because it raised a foreign flag might seem suspicious signal. However, all went well. And the house of the Consulate General is decorated with blue-and-yellow canvas is just a few meters from the headquarters of the Bolsheviks (once the former Palace of the Governor-General).

Sweden later than other countries recognized the first revolutionary Russian government, but we have now one of the first to apply to power of the Bolsheviks to save the life and property of the Swedes. How quickly things can change! My letter reached the Executive Committee. The soldiers agreed to take them for a good reward, returned with a receipt, signed by the commander-in-chief. Now we have to see what will be the result of my petition. We are not able to determine the situation in germanskom house, as the broken telephone connection (probably the line was heavily damaged by fire). The roar of guns is stronger than ever. Shoot, it seems, from different sides, and often right next to us. But our house was hit only once.


The intensity of the battle after lunch was significantly weakened, at least in our sector. Gone is the smoke of the fires. However, the real situation we do not know, after the last contact with the outside world — the phone was cut off. Requires a huge effort to sit here, without the ability to assess the situation and without confidence that they will be able to get out of here alive. Most deplorable to me is that I can’t contact the colony, which I could be useful, at least in that part of the city, which in the hands of the Bolsheviks.

The command was very helpful. It is making efforts to maintain discipline and suppress any arbitrariness on the part of soldiers.

photo: ru.wikipedia.org
Obituary on the death of the Asker in a Swedish newspaper of 17 March 1919. For all the Swedes he was a hero who survived himself and rescued other employees of the Consulate during the October revolution in Moscow.

November 14, Wednesday.

Last night when I tried to send a written message through one of the soldiers to our friends at germanskom house and tried to open the door to the street, then immediately a shot rang out. The bullet flew so near his head that I felt the movement of air. The message I never sent. No one tried to open the door.

The night was quite calm. But the American and his Russian wife all night was terribly loud — talking, Smoking, coughing, snoring. We hardly slept because of this. Agreed that they will move to building “B” where there is enough space, and it is unlikely then they will be heard here. Today I was there to see how strong it destruction. It turned out, they are not particularly noticeable.

Soon after Breakfast I went to the house of the Governor-General to talk with the authorities. I got all requested passes for living in the consulates. I asked him to give us the Essentials. I stressed that in the current situation, which caused them to provide all the necessary it is their duty. They promised that will do everything. But when the question “when?” I didn’t get a clear answer and asked me immediately to give me a couple people right now who could take something out of the items. To my strong surprise, I went to meet him, and before I got back to the Consulate was sent a basket filled with bread, meat, cheese, butter and preserves. At the Consulate she was met with a strong surprise and joy. To get it amid the wild turmoil that prevails at the headquarters, was an achievement. And it spurred on a new proposal: I asked for a meeting with the commander and requested an order signed by himself and another member of the Executive Committee, directed all military personnel to use all possible means to prevent all disturbances near the two blocks of the Consulate General. The fact that the attempted robbery had already taken place in the vicinity of us. I was given the requested document for presentation to his patrol. Later I was assured that yesterday’s telegram to the Minister of foreign Affairs sent that protection measures germanskogo houses are already taken, and you my request about the supply and the protection of the Swedish colony and a refuge for the Germans. Now it only remains to see how all these promises will be fulfilled. In fairness I must report that so far, they willingly complied with my wishes. It’s a strange feeling — to put their demands in the house of the Governor-General surrounded by a forest of bayonets… I am aware that they could kill me without the slightest risk to themselves.

Not without a sense of humor, I watched as several important trusted people running around in this big house to catch the goose, which is promised to the Swedes. It was like this. While talking about the products I was asked, I’d like to take the goose. I said, “Yes.” And a powerful Executive Committee in the middle of solving issues of national importance, and the rumble of guns has channeled his energies on the capture of this bird. Then, with an apologetic expression on his face told me that this goose had just been sacrificed on the altar of human love is given to the Red Cross. They very politely asked me if I could make 10 pounds of fresh meat instead of goose. For me it was easy to bring them joy, accepting their offer with gratitude.

Generally, even in these serious times is not without comic situations.

I was supposed to leave the house of the Governor-General, and at that moment there was the escorted four Belgian soldier. They were arrested because they did not participate in the fighting on the side of the Bolsheviks. In my opinion, they are not to blame and that it is right kept complete neutrality in the political conflict. Soon came a French officer, he was very indignant over the arrest. I had enough worries with my countrymen, and I didn’t want to interfere in the Affairs of the Belgians. My stay here lasted almost three hours, and in Russia time runs fast…

Shortly after my return we all sat at the dinner table and discussed how best to establish contact with the colony. In the military headquarters explained to me that no matter how they wanted to build us a permanent telephone connection, it is now technically impossible, as the Central station completely destroyed. In the second half of the day the colonels, Genberg, Holm, Sandberg and Lindelof on different roads reached germanskogo home. But to get to them was only to the corner of Malaya Nikitskaya and George lane, where they fired at soldiers from rooftops. They had to return home. However, the expedition helped to ensure that hermanski the house is in a critical situation. Under fire from several sides and also surrounded by the burning houses. The rest of the evening we were discussing how they may assist. Their situation is dangerous, because they are right next to the border between government troops and the Bolsheviks.

Towards evening the cannonade increased, and there was the same feeling that happens in a severe thunderstorm. The flames of fire breaks through the twilight with a Bang, creates a terrible impression. Involuntarily came the thoughts about the fire in Moscow during the Napoleonic invasion of 1812… We tried on a map to determine where there are burning houses, and came to the sad conclusion that this is somewhere very near the house of the Lord Bolin and the American Consulate General, that is 500-800 meters from us. High nearby house closed the review, but it was still seen as a rampant fire, and the sky in the smoke.

Today close to us hummed a fragment of an exploded grenade.

photo: ru.wikipedia.org
The caricature of the events of 1917 a young employee of the Swedish Consulate General Bengt Idestam-Almquist. During this time he served as a translator for the Consulate General. He later became one of the most famous film critics in Sweden.

November 15, Thursday.

Fire seems to be extinguished, but the cannon fire is still strong. For morning tea I decided to equip the colony and hermansky building an expedition under cover of flags of the red cross and to get to places. All that we could do with a clear conscience, because among us there were two representatives of the Swedish red cross. Moreover, in a hopeless situation all means are good. In any case, I wrote a letter to the commander about permission for the column to unhindered travel around the city. Girls carried flags bearing the red cross of the sheets and red pillowcases. The Vice-Consul reached the house of the Governor-General and submitted my written request. He immediately wrote out the necessary papers. It turned out that the telegram was not sent due to a broken telegraphic communication. It was bad. Our homes are completely unaware of our destiny and, apparently, very worried for us. Today we will try to send another telegram, saying that the ruling power has provided us with food and protection, and promised to do the same for the whole colony, and that I know not a single Swede was injured. But I seriously doubt that these messages will ever reach.

Along our street under military guard was a crowd of people, carrying all sorts of things. Apparently, those who were left without homes after yesterday’s big fire. We have the impression that not all so smoothly with the Bolsheviks, not all right at them with discipline. One of the soldiers that was on duty near us, however, announced that it will be over soon, as government forces will not be able to hold out longer.

The rescue party managed to reach destination and to come back with three gentlemen and two girls. They are all very happy to be reunited with us. Now we have 15 people without a servant, plus the Americans in building “B”.

Vice-Consul Hellstrand said that during a visit to the home of the Governor-General this morning he was a witness, as the Metropolitan of Moscow, followed by many high spiritual ranks, came to the Executive Committee for peace talks between the warring parties. He asked that the Kremlin is not shelled by artillery (the intention of the Bolsheviks). It was a shame to see with what a scornful facial expression and abusive cries of the Bolsheviks took these earlier, so deeply respected clergy.

November 16, Friday.

Today, the Bolsheviks announced a complete victory over the enemy. Calm restored, the shots almost completely stopped, people again began to appear on the streets. Many members of the colony went to the Consulate, and from Samara arrived the very Baroness Anna Linder. Among the visitors were the chief of “the Northern company” Mr Olsson, who said that the grenade hit the house in which he lived, and that while General Brusilov broke the bones of one of the legs. When the doctor asked him about the pain, he replied: “it doesn’t Hurt in the leg. Painful because for three years I fought for the Motherland and never was affected neither the German nor the Austrian bullet, but became a victim of my own countrymen”. In the afternoon, my guests have gone, except Linder, Colonel Genberg, Vice-Consul Hellstrand and Mr. Sandberg. In the evening departs our first courier in Saint Petersburg. During lunch I expressed gratitude to everyone for the way they sacrificed themselves for the common good during the test (now thankfully ended).

Comments the current Ambassador of Sweden in Russia Peter ERICKSON:

“This year, we are reminded of the revolution in Russia, which marks 100 years. It was a revolution that not only changed the basis of Russia, but the whole of Europe. I’m glad the readers of “MK” provided the chance to get acquainted with the report of my colleague. Historians are still exploring the processes that led to the revolution, and the depth of its consequences. The documents will help you understand what happened 100 years ago. The Bolshevik seizure of power in Moscow was a bloody event. Street fighting went on for several days, killing hundreds of people. In November 1917, the Consul General of Sweden Claes Asker went to Stockholm a long report in which he described the events of those days.

The position of the Asker was complicated: Sweden has not recognized the Bolsheviks legitimate rulers of Russia, but the Consul still had to negotiate and cooperate with the new authorities. To observe this balance is a difficult and thankless job, and in 1918 the Bolsheviks announced the Asker persona non grata. After that he got a new post at the Swedish Embassy in Norway, where he died, having caught the Spanish flu.

Sweden and Russia supported a variety of contacts within thousands of years — we traded were enemies and allies, a lot of each other learned.

Despite the change of political regimes and eras, Russia and Sweden have always remained neighbors and treated each other with respect.”

Read the first part first published diary.

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