Direct-Line Conversation Between The Government and Field H. Q. November 22 (9), 1917

"In the name of the Government of the Russian Republic, on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars, we dismiss you from your post for refusing to obey government orders and for conduct that entails untold hardships for the working people of all countries and especially the armies."

Is that the Commander-in-Chief?

Dieterichs here.

We should like to speak to the Acting Commander-in-Chief. If General Dukhonin is no longer charged with these duties, please let us have the person now acting in his stead. As far as we are aware, General Dukhonin has not yet resigned.

Field H. Q. replying: Acting C.-in-C. General Dukhonin waited for your call until 1 a.m., and is now asleep. The telegraph was out of order, and later was used by Field H. Q. to communicate with G. H. Q.

Could you tell us whether you have received a wireless message from the Council of People’s Commissars sent at 4:00 o’clock, and what has been done to carry out the instructions of the Council of People’s Commissars?

Field H. Q. replying: An undated and unnumbered message of State importance was received, and that is why General Dukhonin requested General Mnnikovsky for the necessary guarantees confirming its authenticity.

What was Manikovsky’s reply, at what time was the query sent, and was it radioed, telephoned or telegraphed?

Field H. Q. replying: No answer has been received yet, and a request was sent an hour ago to speed up the reply.

Please specify the time and means used in sending the first query. Will you hurry up, please?

Field H. Q. replying: The message was telegraphed and radioed to General Manikovsky—the time, just a minute....

The message was sent at 19.50.

Why wasn’t a copy of the query sent to me, the People’s Commissar for War[2]? From a personal conversation with me the C.-in-C. was aware that General Manikovsky’s sole responsibility is continuity of technical operations in logistics and food supplies, and that I have been entrusted with the political direction of and responsibility for the War Ministry’s activity.

Field H. Q. replying: I can say nothing at all about this.

We declare most emphatically that we place all the responsibility for the delay in this crucial state matter upon General Dukhonin and unconditionally demand: first, the immediate dispatch of truce envoys, and second, General Dukhonins personal presence on the line at 11 a.m. sharp tomorrow. Should the delay result in famine, disorganisation or defeat, or anarchic revolts, the full blame will fall upon you, and the soldiers will be duly informed of it.

Field H. Q. replying: I shall inform General Dukhonin of this.

When? Right away? We are waiting for Dukhonin.

Field H. Q. replying: I shall wake him up at once.

This is Acting C.-in-C. General Dukhonin.

The People’s Commissars here; what’s your answer?

I see from the tape I just got of your conversation with G. H. Q. that your message to me was sent before any decision was taken on the substance of the message signed by the People’s Commissars Ulyanov-Lenin, Trotsky and Krylenko; in view of this I must have the following factual information: (1) Has the Council of People’s Commissars received any reply to its message to the belligerent powers containing the Decree on Peace; (2) What was to be done with the Rumanian Army, which is a part of our front; (3) Was there any intention, of engaging in talks about a separate armistice and with whom, only with the Germans or with the Turks, or are we to negotiate a general armistice?

The text of the message sent to you is absolutely clear and to the point; it speaks of an immediate opening of armistice talks with all the belligerents, and we resolutely deny the right to delay this matter of state importance by any preliminary queries whatsoever; we insist that truce envoys should be dispatched immediately and that we receive progress reports every hour.

Field H. Q. replying: My questions are of a purely technical character and unless they are answered it will be impossible to negotiate.

You must be aware that many technical, rather detailed questions will arise during the talks, and we shall answer them as they arise or are raised by the enemy; that is why we demand once again, in the form of an ultimatum, that formal armistice negotiations be started unconditionally and without delay with all the belligerent countries, both Allied and those hostile to us. Please state your reply in precise terms.

I can understand only one thing, and it is that you cannot negotiate directly with the powers. It is even less possible for me to do so on your behalf. Only a central government supported by the army and the nation can have enough prestige and importance for the enemy to lend these negotiations the authority necessary to achieve results. I also believe that an early conclusion of a general peace is in Russia’s interests.

Do you flatly refuse to give us a precise reply and carry out our orders?

I have given you a precise reply as to the reasons why I find it impossible to put your message into effect, and I repeat that the peace Russia needs can be obtained only by a central government. Dukhonin.

In the name of the Government of the Russian Republic, on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars, we dismiss you from your post for refusing to obey government orders and for conduct that entails untold hardships for the working people of all countries and especially the armies. We order you, on pain of responsibility under war-time laws, to continue your duties pending the arrival at Field Headquarters of a new Commander-in-Chief or a person empowered by him to take over from you. Ensign Krylenko is appointed Commander-in-Chief.

Lenin, Stalin, Krylenko.


[1] The circumstances which led to the conversation between members of the Soviet Government and Field H. Q. in Mogilev are set forth on pp. 312-13 and 316-17. Field HQ., which in that period was a centre where plans were being hatched for the overthrow of Soviet power, was occupied by revolutionary troops on November 20 (December 3).

[2] The conversation was conducted by the People's Commissar for War N.y. Krylenko.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.