25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 11

Three Days in Russia—III

AT 10.30 p.m. we left the hotel in Moscow for t he stat ion. There was great activity even at that comparatively late hour, just as there had been at time Leningrad terminus. At 11.0 promptly the train left, but in the corridor members of our party stood for some time, dis- cussing the events of the day and exchanging experiemlees. We were up early. My stable companion, a well-known writer having several languages, including Arabic, WaS unable to read a Russian notice placed above a handle

near the berths. He concluded that it controlled the heating apparatus, and was glad, for as we travelled north it became much colder. He pulled the handle, and there was immediately a hissing noise, like air escaping from a leaky tyre valve. The train began to slow down and stopped. He had pulled the Russian equivalent to the communication cord ! Our civil attendant entered smiling, and said something in Russian. Then the guard came in and examined the handle, and found the broken seal.

For the moment we had visions of Archangel ! But the guard fortunately treated the matter as a joke, and the train proceeded on its way. We could not help reflecting upon what might have happened in such circumstances in a Latin country—or even in England for that matter.

We arrived at Leningrad at 10.30 in the morning, and were met once more by our guide of the day before yesterday. After breakfast we set out again, this time to visit Dyetskoye Selo. We had agreed that the road surfaces in Leningrad and in Moscow were about as bad as they could possibly be, but the fifteen-mile motor ride along the country " roads " from Leningrad to Dyetskoye Selo showed us that there were still worse to be found in Russia. But Dyetskoye .Selo is well worth the extreme physical discomfort of getting there. The name Dyetskoye Selo (Children's Village) was adopted after the Revolution in place of Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar's Village). Here the former Imperial palaces and villas of the people about the Court have now been converted into museums, schools, hospitals and sanatoria for children. Especially in summer the small town becomes one big colony of children ; hence its present name. Tsarskoye was developed by the Empresses Elisabeth and Catherine II as a summer residence of the Court, and as such it served the later Tsars. One is shown the Catherine Palace—a museum—and the perfectly wonderful grounds. But the centre of tragic interest is the Alexander Palace. From 1905 until the Revolution the Alexander Palace was the favourite retreat of the Imperial Family. On entering it one has the strange feeling that the place has only just been vacated, as everything stands as it did in 1917, when Nicholas 'II and the Tsarina left it, never to return.

As one walks through those intimate rooms there is evidence on every hand of the simple tastes of the last Tsar and his family. In the centre of the palace is a semi- circular hall. In this room on that tragic night in August 1917, the Imperial Family assembled, surrounded by their baggage, before their banishment to an unknown destination in the Urals. There is the French window through which they stepped. We compared this with Ver- sailles : the analogy is so striking. But at Versailles one experiences only faintly the kind of feeling which at Tsarskoye Selo becomes intense.

The personal apartments of Nicholas II have been left undisturbed, and are maintained in excellent order, for Soviet Russia prizes its " museums." The Imperial study is comparatively plain. The Tsar's writing-desk, inkstand, pens and blotting-pad remain just as he left them. By the door is a child's desk, at which the little Tsarevitch used to sit, day by day, during the audiences, in order to gain early experience in the " king-business " which he was never to put into practice. Along one side of the room is a large divan, where the Tsar would rest between the audiences. Over the divan, on a shelf, are photographs of the Tsar's rela- tives and friends. We saw the Imperial bathroom, decorated in Moorish style, fitted with a large swimming- tank and gymnastic apparatus. There are hundreds of photographs about the rooms,- many of which obviously represent—and are gifts from—members of our own Royal Family. In an adjoining room, the walls of which are of grey marble, there is an enormous toboggan-slide, a play- thing of the Tsarevitch, and close by his toy motor-ear, almost as large as a British " baby " car. In the last few years before the War these moms were the scene of many historic conferences. The last one was that in which Nicholas II assumed the supreme command of the Russian Army in the War.

Across a corridor are the Tsarina's rooms. The walls of the Boudoir' are covered with photographs illustrating her life, from childhood onward. In her bedroom, the wall at the head of the bed is completely hidden by Ikons, of which the guide informed us there were eight hundred I Adjoining was the Oratory, also with innumerable Ikons.

We remarked upon the crowded furniture in the Empress's rooms. They seemed far too full of chairs and tables and . cabinets to be comfortable. But we were told that the Tsarina had a horror of empty spaces ; hence the masses of furniture in her rooms.

Nearby is the Feodor Cathedral, the underground chapel of which served, during the years immediately preceding the Revolution, as the Court Church of the Imperial Family. Rasputin frequently assisted at these services, and his body now lies in the adjoining park.

It was late in the afternoon when we returned to the ship, and the members of our party spent much time in the Government shops on the landing-stage, with the result that many Russian objets d'art have now found their way to England. Among the items with which the Baggage Master of the ' Carintbia ' had to deal were a large oil painting and a Louis XV chair ; while two heavy crystal vases bearing the Imperial Arms, and a flask whose inscription showed that it had originally belonged to the ill-fated Grand Duke Sergius, were among the smaller fry acquired by the souvenir hunters.

The ship's firemen, during our absence, had organized a special entertainment for the benefit of the workers in the dock " Cafe-Bar." They had formed a band, the principal instruments being a drum, a banjo, mouth- organs and a triangle. The Russian dock workers so greatly enjoyed this musical evening that, on the following morning, an official message reached the ship from the Soviet Authorities, expressing their. thanks for the excellent entertainment which had been provided by the British. Comrades !

The steward who gave us this information, and who had been to Leningrad on a former recent occasion, mentioned that it was extremely difficult for members of the crew, going ashore, to avoid being drawn into a political argu- ment, although before landing they had received strict injunctions on this score. Trained talkers are to be found everywhere (we had met them at many of the places of interest we visited), who speak English quite Well, and who are anxious to persuade all corners to support the new order of things.

The ' Carinthia ' was late in sailing the next morning, owing to the grounding of a small steamer in the Morskoi Canal—a sea channel fifteen miles in length for the use of large ships leading to Kronstadt, through which we had to pass. This delay enabled us later to pass Kronstadt in daylight, and we saw there not only the forts and floating batteries, but also the Soviet Fleet. And here, too we caught a glimpse of the old Imperial yacht.

This was our last impression as we passed out of Soviet waters. E. D. W. C. [Nos. 1. and II. of this series appeared in our issues of October 411; and 11th.]