Jun. 6th, 2003

The Chinese had the utmost contempt for the Russians, whom they regarded, not as 'foreign devils' like ourselves, but simply as barbarians. For this they had some reason. The Russians not only got drunk far more often and far more gloriously than any Chinese, but suffered from sudden fits of panic, when, for no clear reason, they would round up a number of Chinese and shoot them. The hard-headed Chinese saw and opportunity even in this. The widows, real or self-appointed, of the victims would come weeping to the Russian officers, who would be deeply touched, burst into tears of sympathy, and give them handfuls of roubles. From this a technique was developed, and if any shooting was in the offing, the Chinese grandmothers, who ruled their households, would see that the family ne'er-do-wells were the first to face the firing-squad and that handsome compensation was paid for them.

...Though my father liked the Russians and was on good terms with their commander-in-chief, Alexeyev, he was shocked by their incompetence, their unreliability, and their corruption. He could not bear to see a Russian postman drunkenly scattering letters on the snow at New Year, nor could he dream of offering the bribes which the Russians regarded as indispensable to any services rendered.

Bowra again

Jun. 6th, 2003 05:09 pm
[Petrograd, 1916]
I made friends with a young Russian who was an ensign in a Guards Regiment...He took me to dine in his mess, and this solved the problem of food shortage...The only danger was that my friend's fellow-officers would in the course of dinner get so excited that they would shoot the electric bulbs in the chandeliers and plunge us into darkness. The solution was to advance early to the zakoushka and eat all you could before the fun begins. My friend had a sister of remarkable beauty, who from the first moment I saw her obsessed my thoughts. She was extremely intelligent, warm-hearted, natural and quick on the uptake. She had much fancy and humour, and unlike some Russians, did not bother to talk about her soul or even about mine.



May 2012


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