from ‘The War Budget’ October 19th 1916
'The Tsar in His Office'
by a Russian Correspondent

A Peep at the Russian Headquarters


The Tsar's headquarters are situated in a town on the Dnieper. The town itself has the usual aspect of many Russian provincial towns, and but for the presence of a great number of military men one would never guess that here is the nerve centre of a front covering more than 3,000 miles in length. The Tsar himself occupies the house formerly the residence of the Governor of the Province. He reserved only two rooms, one bedroom where he sleeps with his son Alexis, heir to the throne, and a private study and sitting-room combined. The bedroom is scantily furnished, with two folding field beds, a simple wash-stand, and a table between the beds. The Tsar's suite is very limited, and simplicity and economy are the outstanding characteristics of his life. But the far more important building — the real headquarters — is situated opposite. From this house, as nerves from the brain, wires extend, which not only connect it directly with the three main Russian fronts in the East, hut also with the headquarters of the Grand Duke in the Caucasus. From here also the Government business is transacted, and the Ministers in Petrograd receive orders.

Imperial Telegraph Office

At first sight the building is more like the General Telegraph Office than anything else, for the telegraph hums day and night uninterruptedly. General Alexieff is probably the most hard-working man in the Army, for he is invariably up at 7 o'clock in the morning, and sometimes is still at work after midnight. He seldom attends formal dinners with the Tsar, and is excused from taking any part in military parades.

When the Tsar is not visiting his troops, he sets an example to others with regard to work. He rises usually at 8 o'clock, and after a light breakfast he passes to the staff quarters opposite his "palace." At 12.30 work is interrupted for lunch. At lunch not only the members of his staff and suite participate, but all the officers and civil servants who have been sent on any errands to the headquarters. Lunch usually consists of two courses and is very simple. No liquors or wines of any kind are served. But there is splendid "kvas," the Russian national beverage, a kind of light cider, made from rye. After lunch the Tsar talks with Commanding Officers who have arrived from the front, and gets information which enables many wrongs to be righted which otherwise would pass unnoticed. After this the Tsar again works until three o'clock, when he usually takes a walk, or a motor ride with his son. Sometimes he goes boating on the Dnieper, where he usually takes an oar. At six o'clock sharp he is again in his study, and the time until dinner, which is served at eight o'clock, is occupied by the reception of Ministers and other officials who come to report on different errands entrusted to them, either in connection with the supplying of the Army, or on business of State. These reports are continued after dinner.

Work In The Small Hours

The event of the day is the arrival of the messenger at midnight with post and State documents requiring the signature of the Tsar. If there is urgent business to be transacted the Tsar continues his work until the early hours of the morning.

This routine is but little interrupted during the rare visits of the Tsaritsa. The visits of wives to their husbands in the Army is strictly limited, and the Tsar sets an example by adhering to the general rule. On the days of the visits of the Tsaritsa dinner is served in her train.

The Tsarevitch, when not studying, has his playmates whom he selected among the cadets living in the town, who also participate in motor rides when the Tsar takes his son out.

Russia's Field-Marshal

General Alexieff has able assistants in Generals Pustovoitoff and Borissoff. He is full of vigour and optimism, though he is the first to recognise the seriousness of the situation. His broad democratic spirit pervades the whole atmosphere, and more often than not casts its influence even on the inner life of Russia. Without glancing at a map he can tell where every Corps is situated on the enormous front, and he predicted a change in German tactics long before Falkenhayn was superseded by Hindenburg. He strongly believes that the main German effort will be directed against Russia, and if this blow falls it will not take him unawares. He has been preparing for it for months past.

Calm in the Eye of the Storm

When Turtukai and Silistria fell and there was general excitement at the headquarters, General Alexeiff alone remained unperturbed, "You will see that he will break his neck there," was all he said about Mackensen, and subsequent events have amply justified his optimism.

General Alexieff is full of admiration for the Allied successes in the West. He says that they show what can be achieved when the whole people are in arms, and he has no doubt that a complete victory will soon crown the efforts of the Allies. He does not believe in a war of attrition. He thinks that the Germans will be crushed in the field.

"The climatic conditions of the various theatres of war are so different," said he once, "that when operations have to cease at one place blows can be struck at another. Each blow, however, is a step nearer final victory."


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