Nikolai Bazili’s memoirs have just been published in Russian for the first time by Airis-press (Moscow). Bazili, also known by his Westernized name, Nicolas de Basily, was a Russian diplomat who played a key role in the events of 1917 Russian Revolution as the author of Nicholas II’s abdication decree. His widow, Lascelle de Basily, gave his papers, library, and personal objects to the Hoover Library & Archives starting in 1964. These include all the various drafts he composed for the decree, showing the tortuous path of this world-altering document. The final edit was made by Nicholas II himself, who unexpectedly abdicated in favor of his brother, rather than his son, as was expected by others and outlined in Bazili’s document. When the brother, Grand Duke Michael, declined to accept the throne, the Romanov Dynasty was finished.
Originally written in French, Bazili’s memoirs were translated into English, slightly abridged, and published by the Hoover Institution in 1973 as Nicolas de Basily, Diplomat of Imperial Russia, 1903–1917. The memoirs cover Bazili’s childhood and education, and his service in the Russian Foreign Ministry, with emphasis on the period of the First World War, particularly his time at General Headquarters as the Foreign Ministry’s liaison with the military command. The new publication of these memoirs is enriched not only by the inclusion of original text absent from the English version but also by numerous documents from Bazili’s papers in the Hoover Institution Archives and other sources that illustrate passages in the memoirs. The edition is thoughtfully edited by Lada Tremsina, who spent many months studying the papers in the reading room, and beautifully translated by Helene Kolosovich; historian Sergei Volkov added commentary and annotations.
For many years, the only guide to the Bazili papers was an inventory describing their contents in a general way. The papers were more fully processed in 2011 with details that revealed numerous gems in the collection that have yet to be considered by scholars; it is a magnificent resource for Russian intellectual history. Over half of Bazili’s life was spent in exile, much of it spent writing two books. One, Russia under Soviet Rule, was published in 1938 and earned the author some accolades. The other book, on prerevolutionary Russia, was never published, but Bazili’s papers hold valuable correspondence and manuscripts collected for the work, many of them commissioned from some of Russia’s leading intellectuals on various aspects of Russian life that they were most familiar with. Mikhail Bernatskii and Pavel Apostol wrote on economics and commerce; Georgii Fedotov, Grigorii Lozinskii, and Kirill Zaitsev on culture, philosophy, and religion; Prince Vladimir Obolenskii, Dmitrii Odinets, and Arkadii Rumanov on political and social developments. The correspondence and interviews with various political and cultural figures amplify this material’s significance as a major source for the history of prerevolutionary Russia.