Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

1913 to 1923 Folktales, War and Revolution

Folktales, war and revolution: Arthur Ransome’s timeline, part 3  

1913

  • Jan14: Portraits and Speculations published.
  • Apr: Lord Alfred Douglas libel trial (re Ransome’s Oscar Wilde). Ransome acquitted.
  • May: Left for first visit to Russia, via Copenhagen and Stockholm. Began learning Russian and studying Russian folklore.
  • Sep: Returned to England.

1914

  • May 13: Arrived back in St Petersburg, with a commission to write a travel guide to the city. Ransome completed the book in two months.

(Jul 28: Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, leading to World War I).

  • Aug 1: Ransome observed the start of mobilisation in St Petersburg.
  • Aug: Returned to Britain, only to be persuaded by the Under-secretary of State at the Foreign Office to return to Russia. (Ransome’s medical ailments – severe myopia and stomach trouble – ruled out military service).
  • Dec 25: Arrived in Bergen and took the railway to Christiania (Oslo).
  • Dec 30: Reached Petrograd after a journey by rail and sledge through Sweden and Finland.

1915

  • Jan 13: Celebrated the Russian New Year at the Kremlin.
  • Feb 20: Began working on The Elixir of Life.
  • Aug 7: Ransome had an operation in Petrograd for his stomach ailments – memorable because the anaesthetic failed.
  • Aug: On leaving hospital Ransome began covering for the Daily News’s war correspondent, who had fallen ill.
  • Sep 16: The Elixir of Life published.
  • Sep 18: Set off for Britain.
  • Oct 27: Set off back to Russia as the Daily News’s official correspondent.
  • Nov 13: Ransome’s first byline report appears in the Daily News.

1916

  • Jan 22: Submitted a report to the Foreign Office, suggesting the establishment of an unofficial news agency, to help explain the Western Allies’ war effort to the Russians. The Anglo-Russian Bureau was subsequently established, albeit as a more obvious propaganda agency.
  • Mar: Ransome obtained permission to visit the Eastern Front for the first time.
  • Aug: Stows away on a munitions train in order to crosses unofficially into Roumania to report.
  • Oct 29: Sets off from Petrograd for London.
  • Nov 7: Ransome advised Foreign Office officials that he believed revolts were likely in Russia in 1917, probably in March or October.
  • Nov/Dec: Old Peter’s Russian Tales published.
  • Dec 11: Arrived back in Petrograd.

(Dec: Rasputin killed)

  • Became a correspondent for The Observer.

1917

(Mar: “February” Revolution in Petrograd. Tsar Nicholas II abdicates; Provisional Government formed).

  • Ransome observes the Revolution and begins to report on politics in Russia.
  • Mar 14: Ransome present at the Duma when news arrived of the Tsar’s arrest.
  • Ransome passes a statement from the arrested War Industry Committee to the British Embassy. He found himself unexpectedly invited to attend meetings of the “Soviet” of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies – giving him a much better view of developments than most other correspondents and ex-patriots.
  • Apr 16: Ransome observes Lenin’s arrival in Russia, at Finlyandsky Station, Petrograd.
  • Oct 9: Ransome left for Britain (believing he had time to get back before the impending Bolshevik Revolution).

(Nov: October Revolution. The Bolsheviks overthrow the Provisional Government. Russian Civil War starts.)

  • Nov 8: Heard news of the fall of Kerensky’s Provisional Government.
  • Met Lord Robert Cecil at the Foreign Office. He gave Ransome his blessing to try and return to Russia.
  • Dec 5: Ransome set off, via Aberdeen, carrying the diplomatic bag for Stockholm.
  • Dec 25: Arrived in Petrograd.
  • Invited to the Foreign Commissariat, to meet Karl Radek.
  • Began to visit and interview Trotsky.
  • Met Evgenia Shelepina at the Foreign Commissariat, whilst trying to get a censorship stamp for a telegram to the Daily News.

1918

(Feb 19: Soviet Government offer to renew negotiations with Germany).

  • Feb 24: Observed the critical meeting of the Executive Committee of the Soviet that settled on withdrawal from World War I.
  • Feb 26: Spent 20 hours helping a historian, Professor Pokrovsky and Madame Radek pack up the Imperial archives.
  • Feb 27: The British Consul, Lockhart, asked Ransome to travel to Vologda with a flag, to claim any suitable building he could find for future use as a new embassy. Ransome set off with a Pilot Jack borrowed from a merchant ship. Having seen Vologda, Ransome didn’t bother claiming anything and went on to Moscow.
  • Attended the Fifth Cngress of the Soviets at the Bolshoi theatre, Moscow.

(Mar 3: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed. Russia exits World War I)

(German Ambassador assassinated in an attempted counter-revolution against the Bolsheviks).

  • Persuaded Radek and Lenin not to force the Allied embassies to Moscow by force. Subsequently accompanied Radek to Vologda, to meet the American ambassador and Lindley, head of the new British Mission there.

(Jul 16: Tsar murdered. Allied embassies withdrew to Archangel).

(Allied Intervention in Russia begins, with forces from Britain, France, United States, Japan and other countries).

  • Lockhart and Ransome agreed to add Evgenia to Ransome’s passport (fearing for her safety, should the White Russian forces take Moscow).
  • Jul: On Behalf of Russia published.
  • Jul 27: Evgenia able to leave for Stockholm via Berlin, to join the Russian Legation.
  • Aug: Radek agreed to help Ransome leave Russia for Stockholm, on condition he took Russian despatches to their Legation.
  • Aug 14: Ransome was able to resume reports to the Daily News.
  • Sep 5: Heard news of the supposed “Lockhart Plot” in Moscow.
  • Oct 8: Met Lockhart as the latter passed through Stockholm back to Britain.

(Nov 11: the Armistice ends fighting in World War I).

(Sweden broke off diplomatic relations with Russia and prepared to expel the Russian Legation).

  • Ransome asked the Foreign Office to decide whether he should return to Britain, with Evgenia, or go back into Russia with the Legation. They asked him to return to Russia, only for the Bolsheviks to refuse to accept him (suspicions having grown that he was a Capitalist spy.
  • The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) enrolled Ransome (code number S76), then arranged to have him discredited at home, via a lecture given by Lockhart, and also expelled by the Swedish Government (on the grounds he was a Bolshevik agent).

1919

  • Jan 30: With his credentials sufficiently restored, Ransome left Stockholm with the Russian Legation (including Evgenia), ostensibly to research a history of the Bolshevik Revolution. The did intend to write such a book, but his aim was also to gather information for a report to the Foreign Office.
  • Mar: Invited to observe the founding of the Comintern (organisation intended to foster revolution outside Russia).
  • Mar 11: Ransome met an American delegation and succeeded in leaving Russia as a member of their party, thus circumventing an attempt to have him arrested in Finland.
  • Intercepted at King’s Cross and taken to Scotland Yard for interview by its head, Sir Basil Thompson about his political views.
  • Reported back to the Foreign Office and MI6.
  • Jun 12: Six Weeks in Russia published. Read by CP Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, who subsequently offered Ransome the post of Russian correspondent.
  • Sets out with difficulty for Russia, having overcome obstruction from British Government officials (who were suspicious of his anti-interventionist views), with the help of Lloyd George and Sir Basil Thompson.
  • Reached Reval in Estonia. Saw Mr Piip, the Estonian Foreign Minister, requesting help to cross the front lines into Russia. Piip agreed, if Ransome would deliver a peace overture to the Bolsheviks. Ransome crossed the lines, reached Moscow and delivered the message.
  • Returned through the lines with the Russian Government’s answer and Evgenia.

(Estonia and Russia agree peace, with Estonian independence).

1920

  • Feb: Visits Russia and sees Madame Radek in the Kremlin.
  • Purchased Slug (an open boat) in Reval and begins sailing in the Baltic.
  • Jul: The Soldier and Death published.

(Most of the Allies withdraw their forces from Russia).

1921

  • Spring: Replaces Slug with Kittiwake.
  • Feb: The Crisis in Russia published.
  • Aug: Moved to Latvia.
  • Met one of his childhood heroes, the Norwegian explorer, Fridjof Nansen.
  • Visited the Volga regions with an American film-cameraman, to report on the famines there.
  • Began to plan his first yacht, Racundra, with the local designer Otto Eggers.

1922

(Russian Civil War ends. Soviet Union formed)

  • Aug 19: Starts first cruise in Racundra.
  • Sep 26: Finishes first cruise in Racundra.

1923

  • Mar: Visits Britain, seeing the Collingwoods and Ted Scott.
  • April: Returned to Riga.
  • Jul: Racundra’s First Cruise published.



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