Through a terrible 60 mile defile, worse than the Khyber and over a long snow Pass, road good, reached Mendzil where we put up at a house calling itself a hotel. Met many Bolshevik soldiers and had long talks with them, but there’s not really much the matter with them after all, but lack of discipline which leads to disorder and murder.
Left at 7 a.m., arrived at Kasvin 2 p.m., staying with Goodwin, Bank and Consul, Sir Charles Marling and Col. Napier* – Minister and Military Secretary, Teheran, came to confer with me – very interesting talk. There never was such a terrifying situation – but one is not paid to be terrified. The Caucasus seems already to be in the thick of civil war – and Persia also on the verge. My port of embarkation is in the hands of Persian revolutionaries and my port of arrival in the hands of Russian and Tartar anarchists. Kasvin is a filthy, filthy town, and full of disorderly Russian soldiers. But beautiful fruit gardens all round – I have at last seen a pistachio-tree – after meeting the liquorice bush in Mesopotamia – and some beautiful coloured tile domes in the town.
* I cannot identify any of these men
This map shows the route across the mountains which run between modern-day Iraq and Iran. It’s astonishing to think it took 12 days to do a journey which Google Maps reckons should take just about 9 hours.The map also shows the critical nature of the region – with the Turks, the Russians (the old, white Russians loyal to the Tsar as well as the ‘red’ Communist/Bolshevik Russians), the British and the Germans all desperate to control this piece of land.
Such an appalling lunch with the Russian officers – General Baratov made a long speech and I replied in a short one, thinking it was all over. But he made 11 more. He toasted us, the British Army, our wives and families, our regiments, the Baghdad Army, the capture of Baghdad, the Union of the Churches, General Maude, General Marshall and many others, 1.30 to 5.30. My brain was rotted with platitudes, and my interior disturbed with endless food and drink. I was very cautious with the latter, but just sipped some very poor and sour Persian wine. Then Gen. Baratov and I kissed each other, and we were free at last – a whole day wasted – Weather fine – Terrible reports of enemies barring my way down the road. Turks, Germans, Austrians and the Jangali tribe. Well, well – we must just trust in God and see for ourselves. What chaos – the world is a large lunatic asylum – when and how will it all end?
At last the cars got over, dragged by coolies – they got in about 4 p.m. and the men were very hospitably entertained by the American Missionaries. All officers dined with the Mc.Murrays, a party of 20 and very jolly, singing and an impromptu dance afterwards with Mrs. Mc.Murray the only lady.
General Baratov returned my call and spoke for 3 hours without taking breath re the Russian evacuation, Russian financial requirements and Russian tactical considerations. I do much listening and the time is not yet for me to talk. The road ahead is reported dangerous and every animate and inanimate thing is out to stop me, but if you face the obstacles they disappear as a rule. Turkish, German and Austrian agents, all over the place, and hostile Bolshevik soldiers several thousand, blocking the road between here and Enzeli – it is lively.