- Project Runeberg -  A practical guide for Russian consular officers and all persons having relations with Russia /
135

(1916) Author: Alfons Heyking - Tema: Russia
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P. v., Сн. i.

GENERAL.

135

without such letters of recommendation. But these letters are more
in the nature of certificates of identity and cannot convey a testimonial
involving any serious responsibility on the part of the Consul.
Especially in relation to business matters the Consul is not only not
obliged to give such letters, but, on the contrary, he should, as a matter
of principle, refrain from doing so, in order not to compromise his
official position and lose his impartiality. There can be no question
that the Consul, however desirous he is of aiding his fellow
countrymen, must not jeopardise his official position in the interests of private
individuals. If a Consul were to give a letter of recommendation
to every compatriot who applies to him for one without knowing him
personally, his recommendations would soon lose all value.

There are persons who seem to think that the Consul is obliged to
hold lengthy conversations with every one who chooses to present
himself at the Consulate. In this respect ladies are the worst offenders.
If the Consular Officer answers the questions put to him in a terse
and business-like manner it seems that he gives offence. There is a
confusion here between the idea of social and of business relations.
Moreover, it is forgotten that the Consular Officer cannot afford to
spend unlimited time with each applicant, especially when his
reception-room is full of people awaiting their turn. There is a type of
wandering people who have strayed abroad through a
misunderstanding. They cannot speak the language of the place, they are completely
ignorant of local conditions of life, and voluntarily place themselves
in such a position, that the only thing left for them to do is to ask the
nearest policeman to show them to the Russian Consulate. They
then present themselves before the Consular Officer, overwhelm him
with endless empty questions and require from him assistance which
can only be expected by a child from its nurse. Some time ago a
Russian student, wearing the uniform of the University, came to the
Consulate-General in London and stated that he had arrived the day
before and put up at a boarding house. He had left his luggage there
and had gone out into the street—and had since been unable to find
the boarding house. He did not know the name of the street in which
it was situated, nor the name of the house, he could not speak English
and was, in fact, utterly helpless. He had to be sent back to Russia.
There are other characters—wasters, neurasthenics and others, who
travel abroad without sufficient means, and without the least knowledge
of the country which they honour with their sojourn and who do not
seem to be quite sure of what they want ! This particular type appeals
to Consulates with the most varied petitions, which have no connection
whatever with Consular duties. In 1908, a young Russian boarded one
of the steamers of the Volunteer Fleet at Odessa, accompanied by his
lady cousin, intending to take a trip as far as Constantinople. On the
way he decided to continue the voyage to Port Said and thence to
Colombo. In Colombo he was rather surprised to find that no one could
speak his native tongue, but he was not disconcerted, as he assumed
that Consular Officers could and must lend him their assistance. He
came through to Bombay and presented himself at the Russian
Consulate in that city. Naturally, having no knowledge of foreign
languages and with no acquaintance with the countries in which he
was travelling, this eccentric person was obliged to seek the aid of his

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