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Now that the first series of papers on closely bound up. They aimed, therefore, Russian Characteristics which bave ap- at giving expression to ethnographical peared during the past two years in the truths rather than political opinions. He pages of this Review have come to a close, would, indeed, be engaged on a wild goose I have been asked to remove one or two chase, who should hopefully strive at the misconceptions that have arisen in some present moment to awaken an enlightened quarters respecting them, by offering a
and fruitful interest in foreign politics, few remarks as to their scope and object. bristling with outlandish names of persons They were written without a trace of bit- and places, among a peaceful domestic terness against the governing classes or the people like our own. Even our chosen governed masses of Russian society, in the representatives in the House of Commons, hope that they might prove a trustworthy although possessed, no doubt, of an incontribution to Englishmen's knowledge timate knowledge of physical and political of a truly remarkable people, who, in the geography, modestly imitate the Bouropinion alike of sober friends and impar- geois Gentilhomme, and would fain be tial enemies, seem destined at no very dis- treated by the leaders on both sides as if tant date to play a leading part in the poli- they were unaware that Bucharest is not tics of Europe, and it may be-I say it in Asia Minor, or Salonica on the coast of with all due respect for the authoritative Chili. The best service that could be renand optimistic views of General Roberts- dered to such a people under such circumin that part of Asia with the prosperity of stances, by their best friend, seemed that which the interests of this country are so of introducing them in an easy, informal NEW SERIES. -VOL, LIV., No. 6.
way to their
future neighbors and proba- only a Goethe, a Dante, or a Shakespeare ble heirs. This I have honestly endeav- could hope to do justice. ored to do.
There was a tiine when the Russian peoMy aim, as affecting the Russian people, ple were as completely equipped for their was twofold ; on the one hand to direct part in the struggle for national existence the attention of the Government to the were most of those who are become the miserable lot of the peasantry in the hope successful nations of to-day. of obtaining for them some moderate when, split up into a number of petty measure of relief, and on the other, to principalities and republics, they were show that the people, in provident, shift- honest, believing Pagans. Centralization less, superstitious, and immoral though gave them Muscory, which began by abthey appear from our lofty English point sorbing all the Russias, and may end by of view, are yet not undeserving of a cer- sucking in Sclavonic Austria and the tain subdued admiration for having steered Balkan Peninsula. Byzantine Christianclear of still greater abysses into which ity, which is a foul libel on Christ's teachalmost every other people in like circum- ings, a blasphemous mockery of His stances would probably have fallen. Aud actions, sowed the seeds of irreligion, in neither of these respects, I am pleased superstition, fatalism, and Nihilism, of to think, have my efforts been wholly which we have, as yet, only seen the flow
The articles, which to my ers, the fruit being still immature. The own knowledge were carefully read by the result of these combined forces—Autocracy highest dignitaries of the empire, were in and Orthodoxy—is the Russian people of due time followed by a few slight im- to-day. provements; the paper on Finances, hy a It is difficult for the most impartial hisdecree abolishing the premium on Russian torian to tell the story of a people's life sugar exported to Persia ; that on Finland without creating the chief actors in his by a Ukase giving the assurance, which I own image and likeness, attributing to had authority to state would satisfy the them intentions which they never harlegitimate aspirations of the Finnish peo- bored, and suggesting motives by which ple (a solemn promise that the legislative they were never actuated. The Russian independence of the Principality would be governing classes have lost or gained more rigorously respected); the paper on Pris- in this way than any body of men known ons, by the creation of a secret comunis- to history. No Tsar or Minister, from sion to report specially on the subject ; the days of Ivan the Terrible, ever conthat on the Racking of the Peasantry to a ceived a deliberate plan of centralization, project of law which will probably receive ever meditated diabolical schemes of deThe imperial signature in the autumn, the moralization, or harbored Machiavellian object of which is to abolish inhuman usury designs to reduce an entire people to a of the kind described in that paper, and common denominator of profligate imby another proposal now under the consid- becility—before the last quarter of the eration of the ministry to lessen the bur- nineteenth century. And yet if all these den of local, as distinct from Imperial, immoral projects had been the realities taxation.
they are supposed to have been, the results If I have aroused less admiration for the would not be appreciably different from endurance, or less pity for the sufferings, what they are. Whether we term it acciof the masses than seemed reasonable to dent or design, it is a fact vouched for by hope, the explanation, I fancy, is to be history that two strongly-marked tendenfound in the intellectual sluggishness of cies characterize the policy of the governthose readers who refuse to come down ing classes since the reign of Ivan the Terfrom their own lofty ethical plane to rible : one, to keep the bulk of the nation analyze the enormous forces which for as near to the hunger line as seemed concenturies have been crushing out every sistent with comparative tranquillity, and inoral sentinent and aspiration, every the other, to drive them as close to the nascent germ of manhood that manifests verge of idiocy by means of alcoholism as itself in the Russian people, and to com- was compatible with the continuation of pare them with the marvellous resistance agricultural labor. It wonld be cruel, and offered and the upshot of the unequal perhaps unveracious, to speak of these struggle. It is a terrible tale to which tendencies as the ontcome of a deliberate
system, but it matters very little to the their fathers had created. And yet even wayfarer shot dead by a highwayman that among these step-children of Providence, his murderer intended only to disable in before hunger-typhus has bad time to resorder the better to rob him, and never for cue them from torture, the Governmental a moment conceived the plan of causing lash and birch are busy-very busy, but death by internal hemorrhage. One need unsuccessful. have no hesitation to declare that the Gov- Tax-gathering was never better underernment are at present pursuing a system stood or more successfully practised in of which the object is to prop up the Russia than at the present day.
A comautocracy, and the nieans include every parison between the methods in vogue conceivable act—whatever its ethical char. then and now leaves no doubt on that acter-w! —which promises to facilitate the at
About twenty years ago M. Obytainment of this end. The peasantry, denkoff, the Nikitinsky Elder, was wont which for generations had been sleeping to extract the taxes by the simple process the natural sleep of ignorance, were be- of “ hanging up an impecunious peasant ginning to show signs of waking up and head downward until he had consented to growing restive toward the close of the pay the sum demanded. A fellow who last reign, but the Governmental nurse has had been thus hung up for a quarter of an dosed it with strong opiates, which may hour and then come to himself, preferred possibly kill, but will infallibly stupefy it. a complaint against the officer ; but the The difference between the condition of authorities, for all encouragement, conthe people now and in the days of serf- demned him to be knouted for his restivedom is one of degree, the latter state
That was in the old days, when being worse than the former. They still the country was, comparatively speaking, continue to support the upper classes, not prosperous. Now that hunger is taking in harmless idleness, but in diabolical mis- more lives than a modern epidemic, chievousness, while they too frequently representatives of the Government," we fail to support themselves. It is with are credibly informed, never stop to inblood withheld from the veins and whipped quire into the causes that have brought from the backs of the most miserable of about the distress ; they simply insist mortals that that militarism is maintained upon immediate payment.” The means which is a menace to Europe and a curse they employ are drastic, their zeal wholly to mankind.
misplaced, and they end by ruining whole This being an exceptionally bad year for villages, without satisfying the authorities the peasantry, offers a favorable oppor- or eren shielding themselves from the tunity for testing the true character of that charge of neglect of duty. Thus“ in the paternal care which the Government is Government of Kherson the police have in said to lavish on its subjects. Famine, we many places sold by auction all the movare told by official newspapers, threatens able property of the peasants to pay the to prove as intense as it will be wide- taxes. This has been done, for instance, spread. In numerous districts of the Gov- in Petrovka, Verbliushka, Vershinokaernment of Penza the people cannot even menka, Spassovo, Novostarodoob, etc.. now obtain any food but bread, and even agricultural implements and live - stock that only every second day; and the bread being the chief kinds of property knocked which they thus wistfully long for is like down under the hammer.” +
The anthe Psalmist's, mingled with tears, and thorities may possibly desire, though they with other ingredients incomparably more cannot reasonably hope, that these peasinjurious-tree-bark, grasses, dung, etc. ants will soon recover from the effects of We read of women and children stalking a blow like this. As well might one dein the highways, crouching in ditches and prive a Siberian hunter of his gun and lanes, with bloodshot eyes, faces pinched ammunition, and then condemn him to and fleshless, the lower parts of the body live exclusively on the produce of the swollen as with dropsy to monstrous chase. And yet this is a favorite method dimensions. The heart of a Gradgrind or of procedure. For the last twelve months a Scrooge, in his unregenerate days, would have melted in pity at the sight of these
* Kama and Ural, by M. Nemirovitch-Dantsgasping wretches perishing miserably in
chenko, St. Petersburg, 1890, in 8vo, p. 279. the midst of the wealth which they and + The Week, 8th February, 1891.
all the newspapers and reviews in the Em- elder arrested and imprisoned—for undue pire have been constantly advocating or leniency and neglect of duty; or to put it condemning, as emphatically as seemed in official phraseology, " for luck of zeal.” consistent with the retension of personal He should have whipped the blood from liberty, the systematic flogging by which the louts' backs till it dropped down in the Government is striving to recover the the form of gold imperials. To Englishtaxes and support an army of idle men. men this will seem too horrible to be
No private misfortune or national calam- credible. And yet it is literally true. ity seems successfully to appeal for ruth The story is taken from the Nedelya (21st or indulgence to a body which possesses June, 1891), and is capable of being veri: no soul and knows no pity. The sun may fied by the sceptical or the curious. refuse for weeks to give its heat, the rain The abject terror of the tschinovniks, inay not moisten the soil till the grass is wbich is a distinctive feature of the Rusbrown and the crops burned up, water and sian peasantry, is perfectly intelligible to fire may destroy whole villages and impov. those who are cognizant of the mutual reerish tens of thousands of the inhabitants, lations of these two classes. Jaines I, is but in spite of it all the victims are expect- said to have threatened his horse that, if ed to have their taxes ready, as if gold not quiet, he would send him to the five sprang into existence at their touch. In hundred kings of the Lower House, who one district the misfortunes caused by a would very soon tame hin. No horse or failure of the crops were intensified by the or wild beast that lives could live ravages of fires, which destroyed several under the rule of the hundred thousand villages ; and the peasants, abandoned— tsarlets who govern Russia among thein, as it seemed to them—by God, turned to without losing every trace of independence their rulers, not for help but for human and individuality. The
very bears,” sympathy. Dives in hell had a better says M. Nemirovitch-Dantschenko, the chance of being heard when he begged most successful of Russian journalists now Lazarus to give him a few drops of cold living, “the very bears are not indifferent water to moisten his tongue. The village to conditions and are capable of being Elder, inexorable as Fate, came and insist- moved to pity ; but the tschinovnik knows cd on being paid to the last farthing.
He will skin you five times in The trembling peasants sold everything succession, just as he would a hare." * salable in order to scrape together the And in the provinces there is no appeal needful sums, and the taxes were duly from them, do remedy for the evils they collected in all the villages but two, in create. As an instance—and by no means which there was nothing left to sell. But an extreme one-of what goes on in the not a metaphysical in: possibility country districts, I shall cite an authentiscems to count in Russia when it is a cated case vouched for by a well-known question of gathering money into the State Russian journalist actually living in St. coffers. " More than fifty peasants were Petersburg. “ A certain man stole a cart taken and flogged, and then sent to pris- with a load of hay and disappeared. His
This happened so very lately that brother, a young boy, came to the city to their backs may still be smarting.
look for him. The governor had the child “ An exceptional case," I fancy I hear arrested. “Where's your brother ?' he a Radical Tsarophile exclaim. His asked. “I don't know,' was the reply, Majesty the Emperor knows nothing of 'I've come myself to look for him. Mothit," another may urge.
“It occurred er sent me.' Flog bim. Torture him!' somewhere in the provinces and was never went forth the decree, and he was flogged brought to the knowledge of the Govern- and tortured. With the next day came ment,” a third may suggest. Truth com- the same punishment, the same torture. pels me to admit that the gorernmental On the third day the programme was reauthority did not know of the occurrence peated. On the fourth day they found at the tiine-not till a few days later, and the child dead in jail-he had hanged himthat when duly informed they did not look self! This governor, now a general on on and treat the matter with indifference the retired list, is living in St. Petersburg or approval. No ; they had the cruel in the enjoyment of well-merited repose,
* Nedelya, 21st June, 1891.
* Novoye Vremya, 7th March, 1890.
and punctually collects his rents. Is it patriots they inflict the pain peculiar to absolutely impossible to awaken feeling in the opening of old wounds. The most esthe breast of this miserable beast ?" * In teemed writers, like Salty koff, Solovieff, the Dookhovtshinsky district, a woman Tolstoi, Aksakoff, have given as frequent about to become a mother was severely and emphatic expression to the same views flogged because she suggested that the fa- as seemed compatible with living outside ther of her child should contribute a little a prison. “Why,'' asks Saltykoff, “ does to its support ; and the whole Mir, with our peasant go in bast shoes instead of the Starosta and the police, were present leather boots ? Why does such dense, at the exccution.
universal ignorance prevail in the country ! The Government, which is obviously Why does the peasant seldom or never eat acting with the utmost deliberation, is re- meat, butter, or even animal fat ? How solved to reduce the people to a condition does it happer. that you seldom find a of abject unreasoning slavishness, which peasant who knows what a bed is? Why will permit them to be dealt with like cat- is it that in all the movements of a Rustle. This ideal, in the opinion of the sian mooshik we notice something fatalistic, authorities, has not yet been attained. something devoid of the impress of conThat the goal is not very far off will per- science ? ... Why, in a word, do the haps seem probable, from the following peasants come into the world like insects fact, vouched for by one of the most loyal and die like summer flies ?"' * and reactionary crgans of the Russian “ The common Russian man not only press. During the review of the army suffers, but his consciousness of his own recruits in Viloa, the general in command, suffering is extremely blunted and deadturning to one of the new soldiers, asked ened. He looks upon it as a species of him, * What is military discipline ?'' original sin with which it is out of the " It is that a soldier has got to do just question to grapple, and which he needs what he's told by his superior officer, only must bear as long as his strength holds nothing against the Tsar,'' was the answer. out. Test this by telling him that the “ All right, then ; you take your cap, bid duty of enduring, instead of satisfying his your comrades good-by, and go and hunger, the duty of vegetating, of sinking drown yourself in that lake there. Look and drowning in bogs and marshes, of sharp !” Tears glistened in the soldier's straining his muscles till they are on the cyes; he gazed earnestly and prayerfully point of snapping asunder, is not necesat his commander, turned suddenly right sarily his portion in life, is not the outabout, and rushed off to the lake. He come of predestination, and you will notice was on the very brink before he was over- that his features will at once settle into an taken and stopped by the sergeant sent to expression of blank astonishment. Is it prevent the involuntary suicide." I If the not clear that as long as that astonishment nation were as ready to dispose of its soul, continues, no desire to better bis lot can or the remnant of its soul, at the beck of its possibly prove effectual ?”' hundred thousand tsarlets, the ideal of the The Russian authorities might appropriRussian Government might be considered ately sum up the results of their guidance realized. But between them and this goal from a material point of view, by telling stand a few millions of strong-minded, the masses more truthfully than the Prince Godfearirg men, known as Raskolniks, of Orange told the English mob at Portson whose victory or defeat depends the mouth : “ We are here for your goodfuture of the Russian Einpire.
for all your goods,” and adding as Dean But before leaving this question of the Swift afterward suggested, by way of exmaterial condition of the Russian peas- planation, “ For all your goods and chat-, antry, it is perhaps well to point out that iels." the conclusions to which the facts narrat- It is needless to insist here upon the imed clearly point are not new, though mediato fruits of this state of things, for to most English readers they possess all which the Government must be held directthe novelty or a revelation, and on Russian ly and indeed solely responsible ; they are,
* Kama and Ural, p. 282. † Novoye Vremya, 13th May, 1890. # Vilna Messenger, April, 1891. The Week, 26th April, 1891.
Signs of the Times, by M. Saltykoff, p. 257. | Letters about the Provinces, by M. Saltykoff,