The Strange Career of a Terrorist
BY ALBERT E KAHN and MICHAELM SAYERS
CHAPTER lX from The Great Conspiracy: the secret war against soviet Russia
None of the incidents or dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors. The material has been drawn from various documentary sources which are indicated in the text or listed in the Bibliographical Notes.
1. The Return of Sidney Reilly
BERLIN, December 1922. A German naval officer and a British Intelligence officer were chatting in the crowded lounge of the famous Hotel Adlon with a young, pretty, fashionably dressed woman. She was a London musical comedy star, Pepita Bobadilla, otherwise known as Mrs. Chambers, widow of the successful British dramatist, Haddon Chambers. The subject of espionage came up. The Englishman began talking about the extraordinary exploits in Soviet Russia of a British Intelligence agent to whom he referred as Mr. C. The German was familiar with Mr. C.'s reputation. They regaled one another with anecdotes of his fabulous adventures. Finally, unable to restrain her curiosity any longer, Mrs. Chambers asked, "Who is this Mr. C.?"
"Who is he not?" replied the Englishman. "I tell you, Mrs. Chambers, this Mr. C. is a man of mystery. He is the most mysterious man in Europe. And incidentally I should say he has a bigger price on his head than any man breathing. The Bolsheviks would give a province for him dead or alive. . . . He's a man that lives on danger. He has been our eyes and ears in Russia on many an occasion, and, between ourselves, he alone is responsible for Bolshevism not being a bigger danger to Western civilization than it is at present."
Mrs. Chambers was eager to hear more about the mysterious Mr. C. Her companion smiled. "I saw him this afternoon," the Englishman said. "He's staying here in the Adlon Hotel. . . ."
That same evening Mrs. Chambers had her first glimpse of Mr. C. He was, she later wrote, "a well-groomed and well tailored figure" with "a lean, rather sombre face" and "an expression, which might almost have been sardonic, the expression of a man, who not once, but many times had laughed in the face of death." Mrs. Chambers fell in love with him at first sight.
They were introduced. Mr. C. talked to Mrs. Chambers that evening "of the state of Europe, of Russia, of the Cheka," above all, of the "menace of Bolshevism." He told Mrs. Chambers his real name: Captain Sidney George Reilly. . . .
Following the debacle of his 1918 conspiracy against the Soviets. Sidney Reilly had been sent back to Russia by the British Secretary of War, Winston Churchill, to help organize the espionage service of General Denikin. Reilly also acted as liaison between Denikin and his various European anti-Soviet allies. During 1919 and 1920, the British spy had worked diligently in Paris, Warsaw and Prague, organizing anti-Soviet armies and espionage-sabotage agencies. Later, he served as a semiofficial agent for some of the Czarist émigré millionaires, including his old friend and employer, Count Tchubersky. One of the more ambitious projects Reilly helped launch during this period was the Torgprom, the cartel of the Czarist émigré industrialists and their Anglo-French and German partners.
As a result of his financial operations, Reilly had amassed a considerable personal fortune and held directorships in a number of firms formerly associated with Russian big business. He had developed important international contacts, and counted among his personal friends Winston Churchill, General Max Hoffmann and the Finnish Chief of Staff Wallenius.
The British spy's fanatical hatred of Soviet Russia had not diminished. The annihilation of Bolshevism was now the dominating motive of his life. His passionate interest in Napoleon, the would-be conqueror of Russia, had led him to become one of the world's most enthusiastic collectors of Napoleonana. The value of his collection ran into the tens of thousands of dollars. The personality of the Corsican dictator fascinated him.
"A Corsican lieutenant of artillery trod out the embers of the French Revolution," said Sidney Reilly. "Surely a British espionage agent with so many factors on his side, could make himself master of Moscow?"
On May 18, 1923, Mrs. Chambers was married to Captain Sidney Reilly at the Registry Office in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, in London. Captain George Hill, Reilly's old accomplice from Moscow days, acted as witness.
Mrs. Chambers was soon participating in the fantastic intrigues of her husband's life. She later wrote: -
Gradually I was initiated into those strange proceedings which were going on behind the scenes of European politics. I learned how beneath the surface of every capital in Europe was simmering the conspiracy of the exiles against the present tyrants of their country. In Berlin, in Paris, in Prague, in London itself, small groups of exiles were plotting, planning, conspiring. Helsingfors [Helsinki] was absolutely seething with counter-revolution, which had been financed and abetted by several of the governments of Europe. In this whole movement Sidney was intensely interested and was devoting much time and money to the cause.
One day a mysterious visitor presented himself at Sidney Reilly's London apartment. He first introduced himself as "Mr. Warner." He had a great black beard which almost concealed his entire face, prominent cheekbones and cold, steely-blue eyes. He was a huge man, and his long loose arms hung almost to his knees. He produced his credentials. They included a British passport, a voucher, written and signed in Paris by the Social Revolutionary leader, Boris Savinkov, and a letter of introduction by a prominent British statesman.
"I shall be in London about a week," the visitor told Reilly, "conferring with your Foreign Office."
"Mr. Warner" then revealed his identity. His real name was Drebkov, and he had been the leader of one of the "Fives" groups in Reilly's anti-Soviet conspiratorial apparatus in Russia in 1918. He now was head of a White Russian underground organization In Moscow.
"That was a fine organization you had in Russia, Captain Reilly," said Drebkov. "We picked up the strands again! We have got it working again. All your old agents are there. You remember Balkov? He's with us. . . . Some day or outer we overthrow the Redskins, and the good tittles begin again. But you know what we Russians are. We scheme and scheme and scheme, and build wonderful plot after wonderful plot, and quarrel among ourselves over irrelevant details, and golden opportunity after golden opportunity slips by, and nothing is done. Pall!" Drebkov came to the point of his visit. "We want a man in Russia, Captain Reilly," he said, "a man who can command and get things done, whose commands there is no disputing, a man who will be master, a dictator, if you like, as Mussolini is in Italy, a man who will compose the feuds which disunite our friends there with an iron hand and will weld us into the weapon that will smite the present tyrants of Russia to the heart!"
"What about Savinkov?" asked Sidney Reilly. "He is in Paris, the very man for you, a really great man, a great personality, a born leader and organizer!"
Mrs. Reilly, recording the interview in her memoirs, wrote: -
I could read in Sidney's tone how great was the sacrifice he was making in handing over this business to Savinlcov, the Russian leader, whom he admired so wholeheartedly.
2."A Business Like Any Other! "
Boris Savinlcov, who by 1924 was being seriously considered in the inner policy-staking circles at Downing Street and the Quai d'Orsay as the future Dictator of Russia, was in many ways one of the most remarkable men to emerge from the chaos of the collapse of Old Russia. A slight, pallid, baldish, soft-spoken man, who was usually impeccably dressed in a frock coat and patent-leather boots, Savinlcov looked more like "the manager of a bank," as Somerset Maugham once said, than the famous terrorist and ruthless counterrevolutionary he really was. His talents were many and diverse. Winston Churchill, to whom Savinkov was first introduced by Sidney Reilly, later described the Russian terrorist in his book Great Contemporaries as displaying "the wisdom of a statesman, the qualities of a commander, the courage of a hero, and the endurance of a martyr." Savinkov's whole life, adds Churchill, "had been spent in conspiracy."
As a young titan in Czarist Russia, Savinkov had been a leading Member of the Social Revolutionary Party. Together with four other leaders he headed the Party's Battle Organization, a special terrorist committee responsible for arranging the assassination of Czarist officials. The Grand Duke Sergei, uncle of the Czar, and the Minister of the Interior, V. K. Plehve, were among the Czarist officials killed by the Battle Organization in the early 1900's.(1)
After the failure of the first attempt to overthrow Czarism in 1905, Boris Savinkov became somewhat disillusioned with the life of a revolutionary. He began to devote himself to literature. He wrote a sensational autobiographical novel, The Pale Horse, in which lie described his role in the assassinations of Plehvc and the Grand Duke Sergei. He related how, disguised as a British agent, he sat in a little house on a Russian side street, with a forged British passport in his pocket and "3 kilograms of dynamite under the table," waiting day after day for the Grand Duke's carriage to pass down the street.
Years later, during the First World War, when the British novelist, Somerset Maughan was sent into Russia by the British Secret Service to establish contact with Savinkov, (2) he asked the Russian terrorist if it had not taken great courage to carry out these assassinations. Savinkov replied: -
"Not at all, believe me. It is a business, like any other. One gets accustomed to it."
In June 1917, Boris Savinkov, professional assassin and novelist, was appointed by Kerensky, on the advice of his Allied advisers, to the post of Political Commissar of the 7th Army on the Galician Front. The troops of this army group were mutinying against the Provisional Government, and it was thought Savinkov's strong-arm methods were needed to cope with the situation. Savinkov quelled the disturbance. On one occasion, he was reported to have shot with his own hands the delegates from a Bolshevik Soldiers' Council. . . .
At Savinkov's insistence Kerensky made General Kornilov Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armies. Savinkov himself was appointed Assistant Minister of War. He was already acting as a secret agent of the French Government and was plotting to overthrow the Kerensky regime and establish a military dictatorship under Kornilov.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, Savinkov led an anti-Soviet uprising at Yaroslav secretly financed by the French and timed to coincide with Sidney Reilly's attempted coup d'etat in Moscow. Savinkov's forces were smashed by the Red Army, and he barely escaped with his life. Fleeing the country, he became one of the diplomatic representatives of the White Russians in Europe. As winston Churchill wrote about Savinkov in Great Contempo-raries: "Responsible for all the relations with the Allies and with not the less important Baltic and Border states which formed at that time the `Sanitary Cordon' of the west, the ex-Nihilist displayed every capacity whether for command or for intrigue."
In 1920, Savinkov moved to Poland. With the aid of his good friend Marshal Pilsudski, he collected some 30,000 officers and men, armed them and began training them in preparation for another assault against Soviet Russia.
Subsequently, Savinkov moved his headquarters to Prague. There, working closely with the Czech fascist General Gayda, Savinkov created an organization known as the Green Guards, composed largely of former Czarist officers and counterrevolutionary terrorists. The Green Guards launched a series of raids across the Soviet borders, robbing, pillaging, burning farms, massacring workers and peasants, and murdering the local Soviet officials. In this activity Savinkov had the close co-operation of various European secret service agencies.
One of Savinkov's aides, a Social Revolutionary terrorist named Fomitchov, set up a branch of Savinkov's conspiratorial and terrorist apparatus in Vilna, the former Lithuanian capital, which had been seized by the Poles in 1920. Fomitchov's group, with the aid of the Polish Intelligence, began forming secret cells on Soviet territory to carry on espionage work and to assist terrorist groups sent in from Poland, equipped with arms, money and forged documents by the Polish authorities.
Later, in a letter to Izvestia on September 17, 1924, Fomitchov gave this description of the operations carried on by his group: -
When these spies and detachments returned after the murders which they had been sent to perpetrate, I was the intermediary between them and the Polish authorities, for it was I who handed over to the latter the stolen documents and espionage material. This is how the detachments of Sergei Pavlovsky, Trubnikov, Monitch, Daniel, Ivanov and other smaller detachments, as well as single spies and terrorists were sent to Soviet Russia. Among other things, I remember how Colonel Svezhevsky was sent to Russia in 1922 with the injunction to kill Lenin. . . .
Savinkov's ruthless methods, magnetic personality and unusual organizational talents held tremendous appeal for those White Russian émigrés and anti-Soviet European statesmen who still dreamed of overthrowing the Soviet Government. Occasionally, however, these persons felt a mild embarrassment because of Savinkov's record. In Paris, in 1919, when Winston Churchill was negotiating with the former Czarist Prime Minister Sazonov, the question of Savinkov came up. Churchill later described the incident in his book Great Contemporaries.
"How do you get on with Savinkov?" asked Churchill.
The Czar's former chief Minister made a deprecating gesture with his hands. "He is an assassin! I am astonished to be working with him! But what is one to do? He is a man most competent, full of resource and resolution. No one is so good!"
3. Sunday at Chequers
In 1922 famine was raging in the devastated regions of Russia, and it seemed that the imminent collapse of the Soviet Government was inevitable. European statesmen, White Russian émigrés and political oppositionists inside Soviet Russia were busily drawing up secret pacts and organizing new Russian cabinets ready to assume office at a moment's notice. Intensive discussions were going on regarding a potential Russian dictator. Captain Sidney Reilly brought Savinkov to Winston Churchill.
Churchill had long been intrigued with the personality of this "literary assassin," as he called him. Agreeing with Reilly that Savinkov was a man "to be entrusted with the command of great undertakings," Churchill decided to introduce him to the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George. A confidential conference was arranged to take place at Chequers, the country retreat of British Prime Ministers in office.
Churchill and Savinkov motored out to Chequers together. "It was a Sunday," relates Churchill in Great Contemporaries. "The Prime Minister was entertaining several leading Free Church divines, and was himself surrounded by a band of Welsh singers who had travelled from their native principality to do him choral honors. For several hours they sang Welsh hymns in the most beautiful manner. Afterwards we had our talk."
But Lloyd George was not inclined to be stampeded into having the British Government sponsor Boris Savinkov. In Lloyd George's opinion, the "worst was over" in Russia. The Bolshevik experiment - socialist control of the country's industries - would, of course, fail. The Bolshevik leaders, "confronted with the responsibilities of actual government," would give up their Communist theories or, "like Robespierre and St. Just [sic]," would quarrel among themselves and fall from power.
As for the "world Communist menace," about which Churchill and the British Intelligence Service seemed to be so agitated, it simply did not exist, said Lloyd George. . . .
"Mr. Prime Minister," Boris Savinkov observed in his grave, formal manner, when Lloyd George had finished, "you will permit me the honor of observing that after the fall of the Roman Empire there ensued the Dark Ages!"
4. Moscow Trial, 1924
The death of Lenin on January 21, 1924, gave rise to fervent new hopes in Reilly's mind. His agents in Russia reported that the opposition elements within the country were greatly intensifying their efforts to come to power. Within the Bolshevik Party itself, acute differences were manifesting themselves, and there seemed to be the possibility of exploiting a real split. From Reilly's point of view, it was a highly strategic moment to strike.
Reilly had made up his mind that his old plans for the restoration of Czarism were outdated. Russia had moved away from Czarism. Reilly believed that a dictatorship would have to be set up based on the richer peasants (kulaks) and various army and political forces hostile to the Soviet Government. He was convinced that Boris Savinkov was the ideal man to introduce into Russia the sort of regime which Mussolini headed in Italy. The British spy traveled from one European capital to another. trying to persuade the Intelligence Services and General Staffs to support Savinkov's cause.
One of the most important personalities to be drawn into the anti-Soviet campaign at this time was Sir Henri Wilhelm August Deterding, Dutch-born Knight of the British Empire and head of the great British international oil trust, Royal Dutch Shell. Deterding was destined to become the world's foremost financial backer and big-business spokesman, of the anti-Bolshevik cause.
Through Reilly's efforts, the British oil king became interested in the Torgprom, the organization of the Czarist émigré millionaires. >From Lianozov and Mantashev in Paris, and other Torgprom members in Europe, Deterding shrewdly bought up the paper rights to some of the most important oil fields in Soviet Russia. Early in 1924, having failed to gain control of Soviet oil by diplomatic pressure, the British oil king declared himself to be the "owner" of Russian oil and denounced the Soviet regime as unlawful and outside the pale of civilization. With all the immense resources of his wealth, influence and innumerable secret agents, Sir Henri Deterding declared war on Soviet Russia with the frank intention of gaining possession of the rich oil wells of the Soviet Caucasus.
Deterding's intervention placed a new emphasis on Sidney Reilly's campaign. The British spy promptly drew up a concrete plan of attack on Soviet Russia and submitted it to interested members of the European General Staffs. The plan, a variant of the Hoffmann Plan, involved both political and military action.
Politically, Reilly's plan envisaged a counterrevolution in Russia started by the secret opposition elements in conjunction with Savinkov's terrorists. As soon as the counterrevolution was successfully under way, the military phase would begin. London and Paris would formally denounce the Soviet Government and recognize Boris Savinkov as the dictator of Russia. The White Armies stationed in Yugoslavia and Rumania would cross the Soviet border. Poland would march on Kiev. Finland would blockade Leningrad. Simultaneously, there would be an armed revolt in the Caucasus led by followers of the Georgian Menshevik, Noi Jordania. (3) The Caucasus would be severed from the rest of Russia, established as an "independent" Trans-Caucasian Federation under Anglo-French auspices, and the oil wells and pipelines returned to their former owners and foreign partners.
Reilly's plan won the approval and endorsement of the anti-Bolshevik leaders of the French, Polish, Finnish and Rumanian General Staffs. The British Foreign Office was definitely interested in the scheme to sever the Caucasus from Russia. The Italian Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, summoned Boris Savinkov to Rome for a special conference. Mussolini wanted to meet the "Russian dictator." He offered to provide Savinkov's agents with Italian passports to facilitate their traveling in and out of Russia while preparing for the attack. In addition, Il Duce agreed to instruct his Fascist legations and his secret police, the OVRA, to render Savinkov every possible assistance. . . .
In Reilly's words, "A great counterrevolutionary plot was nearing completion."
On August 10, 1924, after a long final discussion with Reilly, Boris Savinkov, equipped with an Italian passport, left for Russia. He was accompanied by a few trusted aides and lieutenants of his Green Guards. Once he had crossed the Soviet border, he was to make the last-minute preparations for the general uprising. Every precaution had been taken to insure that Savinkov's identity would not be disclosed, or his safety endangered. The moment he reached Soviet territory, he was to be met by representatives of the White underground movement who had obtained positions as Soviet officials in the border towns. Savinkov was to send a message by secret courier to Reilly as soon as he arrived.
Days passed, and no word came from Savinkov. In Paris, Reilly waited with growing impatience and anxiety, unable to make a move until the courier arrived. A week elapsed. Two weeks. . . .
On August 28, the planned uprising in the Caucasus broke out. At dawn, an armed detachment of Noi Jordania's men attacked the still sleeping town of Tschiatury in Georgia, murdered the local Soviet officials and took possession of the town. Acts of terror, killings and bombings occurred throughout the Caucasus. Attempts were made to seize the oil fields. . . .
The next day Reilly found out what had happened to Boris Savinkov. On August 29, 1924, the Soviet newspaper, Izvestia, announced that "the former terrorist and counter-revolutionary Boris Savinkov" had been arrested by the Soviet authorities "after he had attempted to make a secret entry across the Soviet border."
Savinkov and his aides had crossed the border from Poland. They had been met on Soviet soil by a group of men whom they believed to be co-conspirators and conducted to a house in Minsk. No sooner had they arrived than an armed Soviet officer had appeared and announced that the house was surrounded. Savinkov and his companions had fallen into a trap.
The uprising in the Caucasus encountered an equally unlucky fate. The mountaineers, on whom the counterrevolutionaries had counted as allies, rose to the defense of the Soviet regime. Together with the oil workers, they held the railroads, pipelines and oil fields until the regular Soviet troops arrived. Fighting went on sporadically for a few weeks; but it was clear from the start that the Soviet authorities had the situation in hand. The New York Times reported on September 13, 1924, that the Caucasian uprising was "being financed and directed from Paris" by "powerful financiers" and "former proprietors of the Baku oil wells." A few days later the remnants of Jordania's counterrevolutionary army were rounded up and captured by the Soviet troops.
The arrest of Savinkov and the collapse of the Caucasian uprising were a bitter enough disappointment for Sidney Reilly and his friends; but the public trial of Savinkov, which took place shortly afterwards in Moscow, proved to be the most severe blow of all. To the horror and amazement of the many prominent personalities who had been implicated in his plotting, Boris Savinkov proceeded to relate the details of the whole conspiracy. He calmly informed the Soviet court that he had known all along he was walking into a trap when he crossed the Soviet border. "You have done a good job in getting me into your net," Savinkov had told the Soviet officer who arrested him. "As a matter of fact, I suspected a trap. But I decided to come to Russia anyway. I'll tell you why . . . I have decided to quit my struggle against you!"
Savinkov said that his eyes had finally been opened to the futility and evil of the anti-Soviet movement. He pictured himself before the court as an honest but misguided Russian patriot who had been gradually disillusioned in the character and aims of his associates.
"With horror," he declared, "I became more and more convinced that they thought not of the fatherland, not of the people, but only of their own class interests!"
Back in 1918, Savinkov told the court, the French Ambassador Noulens had financed his secret terrorist organization in Russia. Noulens had ordered Savinkov to begin the revolt at Yaroslav early in July 1918, and had promised effective support in the form of the landing of French troops. The revolt had taken place as arranged, but the support had not been forthcoming.
"From where did you derive your money at this time and what was the amount."' asked the president of the court.
"I remember at the time I was in the greatest desperation," Savinkov said, "as I did not know from whence we could obtain money, when without any solicitation we were approached by certain Czechs, who handed me a sum of over 200,000 Kerensky roubles. This money saved our organization at the time. . . . they declared as follows: they desired this money should be employed for terrorist fighting purposes. They knew - I did not conceal the fact - that I recognized terror as a means of struggle, they knew and gave us money emphasizing that it should be used chiefly for terrorist purposes."
In later years, Savinkov continued, it became clear to him as a Russian patriot that the anti-Soviet elements abroad were not interested in supporting his movement for its own sake but only for the sake of obtaining Russian oil wells and other mineral riches. "They spoke to me very much and very persistently," said Savinkov of his British advisers, "as to it being desirable to set up an independent South-Eastern Federation consisting of Northern and Trans-Caucasia. Thev said this Federation would only be the beginning, as Azerbaidjan and Georgia would be joined to it later. Here one smelt the odor of petroleum."
Savinkov described his dealings with Winston Churchill.
"Churchill once showed me the map of South Russia, in which the positions of Denikin's and your army were indicated with little flags. I still remember how shocked I was when I went to turn and he, pointing to the Denikin flags, said suddenly: `This here is my army!' I did not reply but stood as if rooted to the spot. I was going to leave the room, but then I thought if I made a scandal here and shut the door on myself, our soldiers in Russia would be left without boots."
"For what reason did the English and French supply you with these boots, shells, machine-guns, and so forth?" asked the president of the court.
"Officially, they had very noble aims," replied Savinkov. "We were faithful allies, you were traitors, et cetera. In the background there was the following: as a minimum, well, petroleum is a very desirable thing. As a maximum: let the Russians squabble among themselves, the fewer there are left living the better. Russia will be all the weaker."
Savinkov's sensational testimony lasted two days. He told of his whole career as a conspirator. He named the well-known statesmen and financiers in England, France and other European countries who had given him assistance. He said he had unwittingly become their tool. "I lived, as it were, in a glass cage. I saw nothing else but my own conspiracy. . . . I did not know the people. I loved them. I was prepared to lay down my life for them. But their interests - their actual desires.- could I have any knowledge of them?"
In 1923, he had begun to have an inkling of "the great "world importance" of the Bolshevik Revolution. He began to yearn to return to Russia "to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears."
"I thought perhaps what I read in the foreign press is all lies," said Savinkov. "I thought it cannot be that people whom nobody can overcome have done nothing for the Russian people."
The Soviet court sentenced Boris Savinkov to death as a traitor to his country, but because of the completeness and candor of his testimony, the sentence was commuted to ten years' imprisonment.(4)
As soon as the news of Savinkov's arrest, and the even greater bombshell of his recantation, reached Paris, Sidney Reilly had hurried back to London to confer with his superiors. On September 8, 1924, a lengthy and extraordinary statement by Reilly appeared in the Morning Post, the organ of British Tory antiBolshevism. Reilly declared that Savinkov's public trial in Moscow had actually never taken place. He stated categorically that Savinkov had really been shot while crossing the Soviet frontier, and that the trial was a colossal fraud: -
Savinkov was killed while attempting to cross the Russian frontier, and a mock trial, with one of their own agents as chief actor, was staged by the Cheka in Moscow behind closed doors.(5)
Reilly vigorously, defended Savinkov's staunchness as an anti-Soviet conspirator: -
I claim the privilege of having been one of his most intimate friends and devoted followers, and on me devolves the sacred duty of vindicating his honor. . . . I was one of the very few who knew of his intention to penetrate into Soviet Russia. . . . I have spent every day with Savinkov up to the day of his departure for the Soviet frontier. I have been in his fullest confidence, and his plans have been elaborated conjointly with me.
Reilly's statement concluded with an appeal to the editor of the Morning Post: -
Sir, I appeal to you, whose organ has always been the professed champion of anti-Bolshevism and anti-Communism, to help me vindicate the name and honour of Boris Savinkov!
At the same time, Reilly dispatched a private, carefully worded letter to Winston Churchill: -
Dear Mr. Churchill,
The disaster which has overtaken Boris Savinkov has undoubtedly produced the most painful impression upon you. Neither I nor any of his intimate friends and co-workers have so far been able to obtain any reliable news about his fate. Our conviction is that he had fallen a victim to the vilest and most daring intrigue the Cheka has ever attempted. Our opinion is expressed in the letter which I am today sending to the Morning Post. Knowing your invariably kind interest I take the liberty of enclosing a copy for your information.
I am, dear Mr. Churchill,
Yours very faithfully,
The unquestionable authenticity of the trial, however, was soon established, and Reilly was compelled to send another letter to the Morning Post. It read: -
The detailed and in many instances stenographic Press reports of Savinkov's trial, supported by the testimony of reliable and impartial eye-witnesses, have established Savinkov's treachery beyond all possibility of doubt. He has not only betrayed his friends, his organization, and his cause, but he has deliberately and completely gone over to his former enemies. He has connived with his captors to deal the heaviest possible blow at the anti-Bolshevik movement, and to provide them with an outstanding political triumph both for internal and external use. By his act Savinkov has erased forever his name from the scroll of honour of the anti-Communist movement.
His former friends and followers grieve over his terrible and inglorious downfall, but those amongst them who under no circumstances will practise with the enemies of mankind are undismayed. The moral 'suicide' of their former leader is for them an added incentive to close their ranks and to "carry on."
Shortly afterwards, Reilly received a discreet note from Winston Churchill: -
15th September, 1924
Dear Mr. Reilly:
I am very interested in your letter. The event has turned out as I myself expected at the very first. I do not think you should judge Savinkov too harshly. He was placed in a terrible position; and only those who have sustained successfully such an ordeal have a full right to pronounce censure. At any rate I shall wait to hear the end of the story before changing my view about Savinkov.
Yours very truly,
W. S. Churchill
The publication of Savinkov's confession and testimony was deeply embarrassing to those in England who had supported his cause. In the midst of the scandal, Reiliy was hastily packed off to the United States. Churchill temporarily retired to his country residence in Kent. The British Foreign Office maintained a discreet silence.
A sensational epilogue was yet to come.
Towards the end of October' 1924, a few days before the British General Elections, banner headlines in Lord Rothermere's Daily Mail abruptly announced that Scotland Yard had uncovered a sinister Soviet plot against Britain. As documentary proof of the plot, the Daily Mail published the notorious "Zinoviev Letter" purporting to be instructions sent by Grigori Zinoviev, the Russian Comintern leader, to the British Communists on how to combat the Tories in the coming election.
This was the Tory reply to Savinkov's confession; and it had its effect The Tories won the elections on a violently anti-. Bolshevik platform.
Several years later, Sir Wyndham Childs of Scotland Yard stated that there had never really been any letter by Zinoviev. The document was a forgery, and various foreign agents had been involved in its preparation. It had originally emanated from the Berlin office of Colonel Walther Nicolai, former head of the Imperial German Military Intelligence, who was now working closely with the Nazi Party. Under Nicolai's supervision, a Baltic White Guard named Baron Uexkuell, who was later to head a Nazi press service, had established in the German capital a special bureau for forging anti-Soviet documents and arranging for these forgeries to receive the widest possible distribution and the most effective publicity.
The actual introduction of the forged Zinoviev Letter to the British Foreign Office and subsequently to the Daily Mail was said to have been accomplished by George Bell, a mysterious international agent. Bell was on the payroll of the Anglo-Dutch oil magnate, Sir Henri Deterding.
(1) The real leader of the Battle Organization was Icvno Aseff, one of the most extraordinary agents provocateurs in history. A spy in the employ of the Czarist secret police, Aseff --while periodically betraying revolutionaries and terrorists - actually drew up the plans for the assassination of the Grand Duke Sergei, Plelive, and other Czarist officials. His sole interest was money; he helped arrange these killings because he knew that such accomplishments would enable him to demand a larger expense account from the Social Revolutionary Party. Naturally, he kept the Czarist secret police unaware of the part he was playing in these assassinations.
Another Social Revolutionary leader who worked closely with Savinlcov and Aseff was Victor Chernov. Like Savinkov, Chernov later became very active in anti-Soviet work. he came to the United States in 1940, and, at the time of writing, is still in this country, where he specializes in spreading anti-Soviet propaganda. See page 348 for further detail on Chernov's current activities.
(2) In the preface to his book, Ashenden or The British Agent, Somerset Maugham describes his chief assignment in Russia as follows: "In 1917 I went to Russia. I was sent to prevent the Bolshevik revolution and to keep Russia in the war." Maugham adds: "The reader will know that my efforts did not meet with success."
(3) In 1918, Noi Jordania had headed a German puppet regime in the Caucasus. In 1919, the British drove out the Germans, and Jordania became head of a British-controlled Transcaucasian Federation. In 1924, his headquarters were in Paris. The French Government had placed at his disposal a subsidy of 4,000,000 francs.
(4) Savinkov was treated with remarkable consideration by the Soviet authorities while he was in prison. He was allowed special privileges, given all the books he desired, and granted facilities for writing. But he pined for liberty. On May 7, 1925, he wrote a long appeal to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of the Cheka. "Either shoot me or give me a chance to work," said Savinkov. "I was against you; now I am for you. I cannot endure the half and half existence of being neither for nor against you, merely sitting in prison and becoming one of its it inhabitants." He pleaded for pardon and offered to do anything the Government would require of him. His plea was rejected. Soon after, Savinkov committed suicide by throwing himself from a four-story window in the prison.
(5) This was the first of many extravagant "explanations" given by enemies of the Soviet Union during the years following the Revolution in an attempt to discredit the admissions made by foreign conspirators and Russian traitors in Soviet courts of law. These "explanations" reached their peak during the so-called Moscow Trials (1936-1938). See Book III.
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