A large building, much the style of the Sailors' Club, bore a placard announcing that here the Committee of Soldiers and Sailors met to settle all municipal questions and disputes. I attended one afternoon session, but found little of interest in the talkative proceedings. Another fine old residence, formerly used as an officers' club, was now doing active service as a club for soldiers. Officers might go there as guests, if they so desired. The rooms were stripped of everything in the way of furniture, and it was difficult to see where the "club" part came in. But the soldiers could not allow the sailors to get ahead of them.
The freight-yards of the Trans-Siberian were choked with goods awaiting shipment. Transportation was steadily falling off, owing, I was told, to three reasons: the old Minister of Communications had neglected the lines, following an "economic" policy; many cars had been captured by the Germans, and few new ones were being built; and the new administration had adopted a laissez-faire attitude toward the roads.
Indeed, all along the water-front I noted acres of provisions of every kind, from America, Japan, and the South, covered with sail-cloth, and left there. Shortage of cars, of labor, of system all conspired to promote general stagnation.
We had a car-load of materials from America, for use in our work in the army; we at least saw it safely on its way for Petrograd. It arrived there five months later, after tracers had trailed it all over Siberia. It reached its destination only to be hurried out of the city again to keep it from German hands. Yet the cities of Russia were depending almost entirely now upon the Pacific terminal and the Siberian road for their clothing, shoes, and food.
In these mountains of supplies in Vladivostok were millions of dollars' worth of American barbed wire and ammunition, en route to do battle for Russia and the Allies. It is all still there!
The local stores were appreciating the tremendous trading opportunities, but even their stock was getting low, while the goods they needed were rotting in front of their doors. When I remarked on the high price of any article, the merchants always answered with: "Wait until you reach Petrograd. You can't buy this there at all, or, if you can, you'll pay five times what we're charging you." And in most cases I found, later on, that they were right.
Click pictures and drawings to download higher-resolution versions.