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Yacht Loreley, Stamboul, 20 October 1898

Dearest Nicky,

During my stay at Stamboul[1] I gave audiences to the Ambassadors. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. Sinoview[2]. I found in him a most accomplished diplomatist, a man with a very clear head. An energetic character, in all, what one calls a powerful man. I congratulate you on such an excellent choice. We had a long conversation, and of course his opinion about Oriental matters was of the greatest value to me, it was a pleasure to listen to him. His going to see you gives me an opportunity to send these lines through him. The conversation also turned on Cretan matters[3] and on the latest events that happened there. The source from which the latest excesses spring was doubtless not a clear one, and surely not the usual so called “mussulman fanaticism” generally talked of in the European press. I venture to suppose that intrigues of a certain meddlesome Power have had something to do with them. In the course of our conversation Sinoview openly told me that the situation was far from reassuring and that the only possibility for getting out of the impasse was to make the Turks leave Crete bag and baggage! Whether that must be so I of course do not know, but as I had the opportunity of pointing out to you at Peterhof[4], the question of Crete must be solved in a manner that no general imbroglio comes from it which those scoundrels of Cretans are not worth. I have talked with many old and prominent Turks who have all assured me that the whole People had made Crete a question of National honour. That an evacuation pure et simple if acceded to by the Sultan would cost him authority, Crown, even perhaps his life, and that they were all deeply concerned and afflicted. I therefore venture to make this known to you with the hopes that in your wisdom you will kindly be able to find a solution, which is apt to save the Sultan’s position vis a vis of his army and as Kalif vis a vis of the whole Mahometan world. You know by Osten Sacken’s reports which motives made me “lay down my flute on the table.” Because I felt and saw that a certain Power was using us all others as cats paw to get us to help her to take Crete or Suda bay, and I would not be of the party who are expected to appear with bread and salt and on the top the keys of Crete praying the said Power to kindly look after the welfare of those poor darling ” Cretans: who may one and all roast in hell”!

The recent events have shown me that my suspicions were right and that this certain Power means mischief and to use force. That is: They want to expel the Mussulman, who are born and Natives of Crete like the Christian insurgents, only converted of Islamism, who are the landed proprietors, after these have lost everything they have, and give the property to the Christians who were till now their own paid tenants and their labourers and who revolted against their masters. That is the Cretan question in a nutshell ! And that is what I call downright robbery! What an effect this act of pillage has had on the Mahometan world you have no idea, but I feel and see and hear it. What a terrible blow to the prestige of the

Christian en general in the eyes of the Mussulman and renewal of hatred you can hardly imagine! The Powers concerned in Crete have played a foolish and a most dangerous game, and that is what compels me to call your kind attention to the matter ! Remember what you and I agreed upon at Peterhof never to forget that the Mahometans were a tremendous card in our game in case you or I were suddenly confronted by a war with the certain meddlesome Power! You as the master of millions of Mahometans must be the best judge of this. If you quietly go on following the lead of the other Power in Crete as has been done till now, the effect will be deplorable upon your own Mahometan subjects and on Turkey, and you will lose a most precious d tout out of your play !

Therefore I implore you to give this matter once more your most serious attention and if possible find means by which you can save the Sultan from a dangerous and compromising situation envers ses sujets and solve the Cretan question in a manner acceptable to him. Don’t forget that his Army fought valiantly and victoriously for Crete at Larisse and Domokos [5] and reconquered the Province. It would never forget or forgive another Power the expulsion of their brothers in arms and their Master from a reconquered Province ! What a splendid opportunity for you to step in and save the Sultan from disgrace, the world from bloody war and gain the gratitude of all Mahometans! Otherwise revolution may come, and the Sultan’s blood may one day be at your door !

I beg your pardon for intruding like this in your time and repose, but the situation is too serious, the interests at stake are too manifold, and I should not wish to see Russia lose her fine position she still now has retained here; all hoping eyes are turned to the great Emperor of the East; will he bring the hoped for solution?

My perhaps rather rough openness may show you how great and intense my love for you is. Best love to Alix.

Your affate cousin and friend,


[1] the Emperor arrived in Constantinople on October 18th, 1898

[2] Zinovieff, Russian Ambassador in Constantinople

[3] So far as concerns the Cretan question Germany had, in the words of Bülow, “laid down her flute and left the concert room.” The German troops were withdrawn from Crete on March 16th. At the beginning of September there had been hard fighting between British troops in the island and Mohammedan and Turkish troops, accompanied by the usual massacres. On October 20th, the day this letter was written, Turkey accepted the British ultimatum, and the Turkish troops proceeded to evacuate the island, while the Mohammedan residents retired to the mainland. On December 7th Prince George of Greece was appointed High Commissioner of Crete. The Kaiser’s “laying down of his flute” caused little consternation in England. “For the rest the concert will do quite as much practical work without Germany as with her. Her bluejackets did but little to further the cause of order in Crete. Her shells when fired were usually ineffective.” (Morning Post, March 18th, 1898.)

[4] August, 1897

[5] Greeks defeated at Larisse April 28th, 1897; at Domoko May 17th, 1897