Moussia 14: Mistaken identity causes a 24-day delay in Japan


With reference to the previous articles 12 and 13, we see on the picture above a rather Imperial-looking Moussia, second from the left. In the album from which this photo came, only the date and one name are written under the photo: 1917, Mme. Nadine Vissotzky, who presumably is the lady on the right.

According to a September 1917 London newspaper article, she was the wife of a former Director in the Russian Ministry of Labor who left Russia earlier that year. On the far right a consular official in tails who seems to be taking the task of receiving Moussia very seriously, it looks as if he believes whole-heartedly that he is receiving Princess Tatiana.

He is certainly not the American Vice Consul in Yokohama who put his signature twice on Vladimir’s passport, on arrival and departure (see below), whose name  was  Paul E. Jenks, brother of a well-known American writer and a colorful figure (see Internet). So it has to be presumed that the man in tails was a Russian consular official, maybe the original source of the news ‘from a Pacific port”. His wife, in a rather Korean-looking headdress, stands on the left. Was it Vladimir who took the picture?

In an attempt to understand what had caused the flurry of news items in the United States, let us inspect some of the protagonists in the newspaper story in my previous article 13:

Daniel Frohman was a New York film producer, having been involved in more than 70 films.  Margaret Barry Carver was an actress, expressionist and dancer who had just lived in Petrograd with her husband, a banker and founder of the first American bank in that city. He must have known the Baranovsky family and their factories. According to later newspaper reports, Margaret was none too pleased having been asked by Narodny to go to San Francisco to meet  ‘Princess Tatiana’; she may well have known Moussia in St. Petersburg.

And then Ivan Narodny. This director of the Russian-American Asiatic Corporation said he heard the story straight from Frederick, an old friend, the Emperor’s former second chamberlain, “and that the young woman’s flight had been known to a close circle of friends.” Would he have received a telegram from Vladimir’s father? Had Vladimir announced his coming, prior to leaving Petrograd?

In a whole-page advertisement placed in a New York newspaper in 1915, the Russian Imperial Government had exposed Narodny as a self-proclaimed “Russian Chamber of Commerce” but that had not stopped him. He did business with Russia selling American munitions which, he told the press, were a ‘hit’ in Russia and which he imported there by way of Japan and Vladivostok. He must have known the Baranovsky munitions and gun manufacturers, called the “Krupp of Russia” in  some American newspapers.

It is intriguing that, calling himself a writer who had come to the United States in 1906  with Maxim Gorky, in 1914 he was accompanying a certain Russian Vladimir V. Agafonev. In a press interview, both men talked about business opportunities between Russia and America in general industry, railways, engines, automobiles, with Vladimir V., in an aside at the end of the interview, saying that it had struck him that in America, music, singing and playing instruments, were not as popular and widespread as in Russia. Vladimir’s American family of today tells me that he told them that  he had visited America once before, with his father. If that is so, I think it is likely that they met Mr. Narodny in New York.

According to Vladimir’s passport he was carrying in 1917, he was going to America to study railways. On a document he completed in the United States many years later, he declared that in 1917/18 he was actually to see people in New York. I suspect that Vladimir was in touch with Ivan Narodny from Japan telling him he was on the way with Moussia. Then, Mr. Narodny went into action.

What was the purpose of this hoax? I think that Messrs. Frohman and Narodny saw a opportunity in their respective fields, showbiz and the export of munitions and locomotives, and were gladly joined by  Mrs. Barry Carver and George Romanovsky  who may have known Moussia in St.Petersburg and both may also have  known that she was a spitting image of Tatiana.

They had not reckoned with Moussia. Moussia had not come to pose for pictures although, with her flair for the theatrical, it had amused her for a moment to do so. She had come to make political declarations. Declarations which were clearly pro-Kerensky, just as she would make them subsequently, in her first year in the United States.

With the smile of the twenty-year-old Princess Tatiana, daughter of the Czar, she declared from Yokohama, “the Pacific port”, that “she did not care whether the deposed emperor or the Romanovs would regain the throne, but that she was very concerned about a stable democratic Russian government or rather a “United States of Russia” and would explain to the American people that they should not desert Russia and leave her to the Socialist adventurers (i.e. the Bolsheviks) and to the Germans.”

I think she had been given a propaganda mission by her friend and relative by marriage, Alexander Kerensky, who at that moment thought he would be soon back in power. However, from his hiding place in Finland he must have worried about the negative effect of the Tatiana association.

In a matter of days, on 3 December, George Romanovsky was re-instated as Consul, on transfer from Chicago to San Francisco,  at the behest of the Russian Ambassador Bakhmeteff, who represented the Kerensky government-in-hiding. He arrived in San Francisco just in time to receive them and take matters in hand, before going back to Chicago for his wedding in January. At least, that was the idea.

I think that also the American government was in on the act. They would not give Moussia and Vladimir an entry visa until she could convince them that she was not Tatiana, hence their three week delay in leaving. On 14th December 1917, twenty-four days after arrival in Yokohama, Vladimir and Moussia sailed from there to San Francisco on the SS Ecuador, travelling First Class, as we shall see in the following article.

The good Mr. Paul E. Jenks, a fluent Japanese speaker who was to die a few years later in the big Kanto Earthquake which destroyed Yokohama, whose instincts had not failed him, had given them his approval on the 4th. They had made good use of their time, buying elegant clothes as we will see.


For the newspaper people, the story was not quite dead yet:

George Romanovsky will return in our story in future articles. It would have been better for Moussia and Vladimir if they had never met him, after their arrival. But they did.

(to be continued)

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