Vladivostok was a city of soldiers and sailors. They were everywhereon the streets, in the parks, in the trams. Red flags floated on all sides, and the soldiers had painted a little, bright-red daub over the old "eye of the Czar" on the fronts of their caps. They straggled along, looking for amusement; they had no drill; they refused to guard the harbor fortifications; there was nothing to do but draw their wages and spend them. The civilian got out of their way when he saw them coming, for they would brook no interference from any man.
I spoke of the Chinese incident that evening at dinner. I was fortunate in being the guest of a prominent English importer, and his charming Russian wife, who had been educated in California.
"Oh, you're evidently just beginning to find Vladivostok out," commented my hostess. "It's still better than Petrograd and Moscow, I understand, but it's getting to be bad enough. Most of the soldiers you see are deserters from the army, or men called for service and never transferred. They all gravitate toward Vladivostok. They live in hovels up on the hills, packed like sardines, and existing under the worst possible moral and sanitary conditions.
"Agitators arrived shortly after the revolution, and stirred up the men in uniform to violent mischief. Vladivostok used to boast a pleasant social life, on account of its being the port of the Pacific fleet. We have a good many English and American families, and we all enjoyed life together. We welcomed the revolution because we thought it would help those who were downtrodden. It is amusing to think that we have taken their places, and now we are living from day to day in danger of losing everything we possess, even our lives.
"The sailors ordered the admiral of the fleet to hand over his mansion to them. You know that large, brown-stone place overlooking the water, with its beautiful gardens. That is where most of the balls used to be given. The admiral left the building, but managed to take with him most of his furniture. He said the house might belong to the state, but the tables and chairs were his. The men seized his paintings, and you ought to see them now. They say they are cut and slashed, and fit well into the present general scheme of things there. The place is a club-room for the new owners."
I had visited the mansion that day, in company with an English sailor of the Russian fleet. All was as Mrs. B had described it, except that she could not picture with words the dilapidated condition of the walls and ceilings. Stains, cuts, and broken frescoes gave an appearance of hideous ruin. The occupants were spending their time in ignorant idleness, wantonly destroying property, or flirting with some frowsy girl from the streets.
Click pictures and drawings to download higher-resolution versions.