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Title: Russia
Author: Wallace, Donald Mackenzie, Sir, 1841-1919
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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by Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Copyright 1905





Railways--State Interference--River Communications--Russian "Grand
Tour"--The Volga--Kazan--Zhigulinskiya Gori--Finns and Tartars--The
Don--Difficulties of Navigation--Discomforts--Rats--Hotels and
Their Peculiar Customs--Roads--Hibernian Phraseology
Explained--Bridges--Posting--A Tarantass--Requisites for
Travelling--Travelling in Winter--Frostbitten--Disagreeable
Episodes--Scene at a Post-Station.



Bird's-eye View of Russia--The Northern Forests--Purpose of
my Journey--Negotiations--The Road--A Village--A Peasant's
House--Vapour-Baths--Curious Custom--Arrival.



Ivanofka--History of the Place--The Steward of the Estate--Slav and
Teutonic Natures--A German's View of the Emancipation--Justices of the
Peace--New School of Morals--The Russian Language--Linguistic Talent of
the Russians--My Teacher--A Big Dose of Current History.



Priests' Names--Clerical Marriages--The White and the Black Clergy--Why
the People do not Respect the Parish Priests--History of the White
Clergy--The Parish Priest and the Protestant Pastor--In What Sense
the Russian People are Religious--Icons--The Clergy and Popular
Education--Ecclesiastical Reform--Premonitory Symptoms of Change--Two
Typical Specimens of the Parochial Clergy of the Present Day.



Unexpected Illness--A Village Doctor--Siberian Plague--My
Studies--Russian Historians--A Russian Imitator of Dickens--A ci-devant
Domestic Serf--Medicine and Witchcraft--A Remnant of Paganism--Credulity
of the Peasantry--Absurd Rumours--A Mysterious Visit from St.
Barbara--Cholera on Board a Steamer--Hospitals--Lunatic Asylums--Amongst



Ivan Petroff--His Past Life--Co-operative Associations--Constitution of
a Peasant's Household--Predominance of Economic Conceptions over those
of Blood-relationship--Peasant Marriages--Advantages of Living in Large
Families--Its Defects--Family Disruptions and their Consequences.



Communal Land--System of Agriculture--Parish Fetes--Fasting--Winter
Occupations--Yearly Migrations--Domestic Industries--Influence
of Capital and Wholesale Enterprise--The State
Peasants--Serf-dues--Buckle's "History of Civilisation"--A precocious
Yamstchik--"People Who Play Pranks"--A Midnight Alarm--The Far North.



Social and Political Importance of the Mir--The Mir and the Family
Compared--Theory of the Communal System--Practical Deviations from the
Theory--The Mir a Good Specimen of Constitutional Government of the
Extreme Democratic Type--The Village Assembly--Female Members--The
Elections--Distribution of the Communal Land.



Sweeping Reforms after the Crimean War--Protest Against the Laissez
Faire Principle--Fear of the Proletariat--English and Russian Methods of
Legislation Contrasted--Sanguine Expectations--Evil Consequences of
the Communal System--The Commune of the Future--Proletariat of the
Towns--The Present State of Things Merely Temporary.



A Finnish Tribe--Finnish Villages--Various Stages of
Russification--Finnish Women--Finnish Religions--Method of "Laying"
Ghosts--Curious Mixture of Christianity and Paganism--Conversion of
the Finns--A Tartar Village--A Russian Peasant's Conception of
Mahometanism--A Mahometan's View of Christianity--Propaganda--The
Russian Colonist--Migrations of Peoples During the Dark Ages.



Departure from Ivanofka and Arrival at Novgorod--The Eastern Half of
the Town--The Kremlin--An Old Legend--The Armed Men of Rus--The
Northmen--Popular Liberty in Novgorod--The Prince and the Popular
Assembly--Civil Dissensions and Faction-fights--The Commercial Republic
Conquered by the Muscovite Tsars--Ivan the Terrible--Present Condition
of the Town--Provincial Society--Card-playing--Periodicals--"Eternal



General Character of Russian Towns--Scarcity of Towns in Russia--Why
the Urban Element in the Population is so Small--History of
Russian Municipal Institutions--Unsuccessful Efforts to Create a
Tiers-etat--Merchants, Burghers, and Artisans--Town Council--A Rich
Merchant--His House--His Love of Ostentation--His Conception of
Aristocracy--Official Decorations--Ignorance and Dishonesty of the
Commercial Classes--Symptoms of Change.



A Journey to the Steppe Region of the Southeast--The Volga--Town
and Province of Samara--Farther Eastward--Appearance of the
Villages--Characteristic Incident--Peasant Mendacity--Explanation of the
Phenomenon--I Awake in Asia--A Bashkir Aoul--Diner la Tartare--Kumyss--A
Bashkir Troubadour--Honest Mehemet Zian--Actual Economic Condition of
the Bashkirs Throws Light on a Well-known Philosophical Theory--Why
a Pastoral Race Adopts Agriculture--The Genuine Steppe--The
Kirghiz--Letter from Genghis Khan--The Kalmyks--Nogai Tartars--Struggle
between Nomadic Hordes and Agricultural Colonists.



The Conquest--Genghis Khan and his People--Creation and Rapid
Disintegration of the Mongol Empire--The Golden Horde--The Real
Character of the Mongol Domination--Religious Toleration--Mongol System
of Government--Grand Princes--The Princes of Moscow--Influence of the
Mongol Domination--Practical Importance of the Subject.



Lawlessness on the Steppe--Slave-markets of the Crimea--The Military
Cordon and the Free Cossacks--The Zaporovian Commonwealth Compared with
Sparta and with the Mediaeval Military Orders--The Cossacks of the Don,
of the Volga, and of the Ural--Border Warfare--The Modern Cossacks--Land
Tenure among the Cossacks of the Don--The Transition from Pastoral to
Agriculture Life--"Universal Law" of Social Development--Communal versus
Private Property--Flogging as a Means of Land-registration.



The Steppe--Variety of Races, Languages, and Religions--The German
Colonists--In What Sense the Russians are an Imitative
People--The Mennonites--Climate and Arboriculture--Bulgarian
Colonists--Tartar-Speaking Greeks--Jewish
Agriculturists--Russification--A Circassian Scotchman--Numerical
Strength of the Foreign Element.



The Molokanye--My Method of Investigation--Alexandrof-Hai--An Unexpected
Theological Discussion--Doctrines and Ecclesiastical Organisation of
the Molokanye--Moral Supervision and Mutual Assistance--History of the
Sect--A False Prophet--Utilitarian Christianity--Classification of
the Fantastic Sects--The "Khlysti"--Policy of the Government towards
Sectarianism--Two Kinds of Heresy--Probable Future of the Heretical
Sects--Political Disaffection.



Dissenters not to be Confounded with Heretics--Extreme Importance
Attached to Ritual Observances--The Raskol, or Great Schism in the
Seventeenth Century--Antichrist Appears!--Policy of Peter the Great
and Catherine II.--Present Ingenious Method of Securing Religious
Toleration--Internal Development of the Raskol--Schism among the
Schismatics--The Old Ritualists--The Priestless People--Cooling of the
Fanatical Enthusiasm and Formation of New Sects--Recent Policy of
the Government towards the Sectarians--Numerical Force and Political
Significance of Sectarianism.



The Russian Orthodox Church--Russia Outside of the Mediaeval Papal
Commonwealth--Influence of the Greek Church--Ecclesiastical History of
Russia--Relations between Church and State--Eastern Orthodoxy and the
Russian National Church--The Synod--Ecclesiastical Grumbling--Local
Ecclesiastical Administration--The Black Clergy and the Monasteries--The
Character of the Eastern Church Reflected in the History of Religious
Art--Practical Consequences--The Union Scheme.



The Nobles In Early Times--The Mongol Domination--The Tsardom of
Muscovy--Family Dignity--Reforms of Peter the Great--The Nobles Adopt
West-European Conceptions--Abolition of Obligatory Service--Influence of
Catherine II.--The Russian Dvoryanstvo Compared with the French Noblesse
and the English Aristocracy--Russian Titles--Probable Future of the
Russian Noblesse.



Russian Hospitality--A Country-House--Its Owner Described--His Life,
Past and Present--Winter Evenings--Books---Connection with the Outer
World--The Crimean War and the Emancipation--A Drunken, Dissolute
Proprietor--An Old General and his Wife--"Name Days"--A Legendary
Monster--A Retired Judge--A Clever Scribe--Social Leniency--Cause of



A Russian Petit Maitre--His House and Surroundings--Abortive Attempts
to Improve Agriculture and the Condition of the Serfs--A Comparison--A
"Liberal" Tchinovnik--His Idea of Progress--A Justice of the Peace--His
Opinion of Russian Literature, Tchinovniks, and Petits Maitres--His
Supposed and Real Character--An Extreme Radical--Disorders in
the Universities--Administrative Procedure--Russia's Capacity for
Accomplishing Political and Social Evolutions--A Court Dignitary in his
Country House.



Do Social Classes or Castes Exist in Russia?--Well-marked Social
Types--Classes Recognised by the Legislation and the Official
Statistics--Origin and Gradual Formation of these Classes--Peculiarity
in the Historical Development of Russia--Political Life and Political



The Officials in Norgorod Assist Me in My Studies--The Modern Imperial
Administration Created by Peter the Great, and Developed by his
Successors--A Slavophil's View of the Administration--The Administration
Briefly Described--The Tchinovniks, or Officials--Official Titles, and
Their Real Significance--What the Administration Has Done for Russia in
the Past--Its Character Determined by the Peculiar Relation between
the Government and the People--Its Radical Vices--Bureaucratic
Remedies--Complicated Formal Procedure--The Gendarmerie: My Personal
Relations with this Branch of the Administration; Arrest and Release--A
Strong, Healthy Public Opinion the Only Effectual Remedy for Bad



Two Ancient Cities--Kief Not a Good Point for Studying Old Russian
National Life--Great Russians and Little Russians--Moscow--Easter Eve
in the Kremlin--Curious Custom--Anecdote of the Emperor
Nicholas--Domiciliary Visits of the Iberian Madonna--The Streets of
Moscow--Recent Changes in the Character of the City--Vulgar Conception
of the Slavophils--Opinion Founded on Personal Acquaintance--Slavophil
Sentiment a Century Ago--Origin and Development of the Slavophil
Doctrine--Slavophilism Essentially Muscovite--The Panslavist
Element--The Slavophils and the Emancipation.



St. Petersburg and Berlin--Big Houses--The "Lions"--Peter the Great--His
Aims and Policy--The German Regime--Nationalist Reaction--French
Influence--Consequent Intellectual Sterility--Influence of the
Sentimental School--Hostility to Foreign Influences--A New Period of
Literary Importation--Secret Societies--The Catastrophe--The Age of
Nicholas--A Terrible War on Parnassus--Decline of Romanticism and
Transcendentalism--Gogol--The Revolutionary Agitation of 1848--New



The Emperor Nicholas and his System--The Men with Aspirations and the
Apathetically Contented--National Humiliation--Popular Discontent
and the Manuscript Literature--Death of Nicholas--Alexander II.--New
Spirit--Reform Enthusiasm--Change in the Periodical Literature--The
Kolokol--The Conservatives--The Tchinovniks--First Specific
Proposals--Joint-Stock Companies--The Serf Question Comes to the Front.



The Rural Population in Ancient Times--The Peasantry in the Eighteenth
Century--How Was This Change Effected?--The Common Explanation
Inaccurate--Serfage the Result of Permanent Economic and Political
Causes--Origin of the Adscriptio Glebae--Its Consequences--Serf
Insurrection--Turning-point in the History of Serfage--Serfage in
Russia and in Western Europe--State Peasants--Numbers and Geographical
Distribution of the Serf Population--Serf Dues--Legal and Actual Power
of the Proprietors--The Serfs' Means of Defence--Fugitives--Domestic
Serfs--Strange Advertisements in the Moscow Gazette--Moral Influence of



The Question Raised--Chief Committee--The Nobles of the Lithuanian
Provinces--The Tsar's Broad Hint to the Noblesse--Enthusiasm in the
Press--The Proprietors--Political Aspirations--No Opposition--The
Government--Public Opinion--Fear of the Proletariat--The Provincial
Committees--The Elaboration Commission--The Question Ripens--Provincial
Deputies--Discontent and Demonstrations--The Manifesto--Fundamental
Principles of the Law--Illusions and Disappointment of the
Serfs--Arbiters of the Peace--A Characteristic Incident--Redemption--Who
Effected the Emancipation?



Two Opposite Opinions--Difficulties of Investigation--The Problem
Simplified--Direct and Indirect Compensation--The Direct Compensation
Inadequate--What the Proprietors Have Done with the Remainder of
Their Estates--Immediate Moral Effect of the Abolition of Serfage--The
Economic Problem--The Ideal Solution and the Difficulty of Realising
It--More Primitive Arrangements--The Northern Agricultural Zone--The
Black-earth Zone--The Labour Difficulty--The Impoverishment of
the Noblesse Not a New Phenomenon--Mortgaging of Estates--Gradual
Expropriation of the Noblesse-Rapid Increase in the Production and
Export of Grain--How Far this Has Benefited the Landed Proprietors.



The Effects of Liberty--Difficulty of Obtaining Accurate
Information--Pessimist Testimony of the Proprietors--Vague Replies of
the Peasants--My Conclusions in 1877--Necessity of Revising Them--My
Investigations Renewed in 1903--Recent Researches by Native Political
Economists--Peasant Impoverishment Universally Recognised--Various
Explanations Suggested--Demoralisation of the Common People--Peasant
Self-government--Communal System of Land Tenure--Heavy
Taxation--Disruption of Peasant Families--Natural Increase of
Population--Remedies Proposed--Migration--Reclamation of Waste
Land--Land-purchase by Peasantry--Manufacturing Industry--Improvement of
Agricultural Methods--Indications of Progress.



Necessity of Reorganising the Provincial Administration--Zemstvo Created
in 1864--My First Acquaintance with the Institution--District and
Provincial Assemblies--The Leading Members--Great Expectations Created
by the Institution--These Expectations Not Realised--Suspicions and
Hostility of the Bureaucracy--Zemstvo Brought More Under Control of the
Centralised Administration--What It Has Really Done--Why It Has Not
Done More---Rapid Increase of the Rates--How Far the Expenditure
Is Judicious--Why the Impoverishment of the Peasantry Was
Neglected--Unpractical, Pedantic Spirit--Evil Consequences--Chinese and
Russian Formalism--Local Self-Government of Russia Contrasted with That
of England--Zemstvo Better than Its Predecessors--Its Future.



Judicial Procedure in the Olden Times--Defects and Abuses--Radical
Reform--The New System--Justices of the Peace and Monthly Sessions--The
Regular Tribunals--Court of Revision--Modification of the Original
Plan--How Does the System Work?--Rapid Acclimatisation--The Bench--The
Jury--Acquittal of Criminals Who Confess Their Crimes--Peasants,
Merchants, and Nobles as Jurymen--Independence and Political
Significance of the New Courts.



The Reform-enthusiasm Becomes Unpractical and Culminates in
Nihilism--Nihilism, the Distorted Reflection of Academic Western
Socialism--Russia Well Prepared for Reception of Ultra-Socialist
Virus--Social Reorganisation According to Latest Results of
Science--Positivist Theory--Leniency of Press-censure--Chief
Representatives of New Movement--Government Becomes Alarmed--Repressive
Measures--Reaction in the Public--The Term Nihilist Invented--The
Nihilist and His Theory--Further Repressive Measures--Attitude of Landed
Proprietors--Foundation of a Liberal Party--Liberalism Checked by Polish
Insurrection--Practical Reform Continued--An Attempt at Regicide Forms
a Turning-point of Government's Policy--Change in Educational
System--Decline of Nihilism.



Closer Relations with Western Socialism--Attempts to Influence
the Masses--Bakunin and Lavroff--"Going in among the People"--The
Missionaries of Revolutionary Socialism--Distinction between Propaganda
and Agitation--Revolutionary Pamphlets for the Common People--Aims
and Motives of the Propagandists--Failure of Propaganda--Energetic
Repression--Fruitless Attempts at Agitation--Proposal to Combine
with Liberals--Genesis of Terrorism--My Personal Relations with the
Revolutionists--Shadowers and Shadowed--A Series of Terrorist Crimes--A
Revolutionist Congress--Unsuccessful Attempts to Assassinate
the Tsar--Ineffectual Attempt at Conciliation by Loris
Melikof--Assassination of Alexander II.--The Executive Committee
Shows Itself Unpractical--Widespread Indignation and Severe
Repression--Temporary Collapse of the Revolutionary Movement--A New
Revolutionary Movement in Sight.



Russia till Lately a Peasant Empire--Early Efforts to Introduce Arts and
Crafts--Peter the Great and His Successors--Manufacturing Industry
Long Remains an Exotic--The Cotton Industry--The Reforms of Alexander
II.--Protectionists and Free Trade--Progress under High Tariffs--M.
Witte's Policy--How Capital Was Obtained--Increase of Exports--Foreign
Firms Cross the Customs Frontier--Rapid Development of Iron Industry--A
Commercial Crisis--M. Witte's Position Undermined by Agrarians and
Doctrinaires--M. Plehve a Formidable Opponent--His Apprehensions of
Revolution--Fall of M. Witte--The Industrial Proletariat



Influence of Capitalism and Proletariat on the Revolutionary
Movement--What is to be Done?--Reply of Plekhanof--A New Departure--Karl
Marx's Theories Applied to Russia--Beginnings of a Social Democratic
Movement--The Labour Troubles of 1894-96 in St. Petersburg--The Social
Democrats' Plan of Campaign--Schism in the Party--Trade-unionism and
Political Agitation--The Labour Troubles of 1902--How the Revolutionary
Groups are Differentiated from Each Other--Social Democracy and
Constitutionalism--Terrorism--The Socialist Revolutionaries--The
Militant Organisation--Attitude of the Government--Factory
Legislation--Government's Scheme for Undermining Social
Democracy--Father Gapon and His Labour Association--The Great Strike in
St. Petersburg--Father Gapon goes over to the Revolutionaries.



Rapid Growth of Russia--Expansive Tendency of Agricultural Peoples--The
Russo-Slavonians--The Northern Forest and the Steppe--Colonisation--The
Part of the Government in the Process of Expansion--Expansion towards
the West--Growth of the Empire Represented in a Tabular Form--Commercial
Motive for Expansion--The Expansive Force in the Future--Possibilities
of Expansion in Europe--Persia, Afghanistan, and India--Trans-Siberian
Railway and Weltpolitik--A Grandiose Scheme--Determined Opposition of
Japan--Negotiations and War--Russia's Imprudence Explained--Conclusion.



Reform or Revolution?--Reigns of Alexander II. and Nicholas II.
Compared and Contrasted--The Present Opposition--Various Groups--The
Constitutionalists--Zemski Sobors--The Young Tsar Dispels
Illusions--Liberal Frondeurs--Plehve's Repressive Policy--Discontent
Increased by the War--Relaxation and Wavering under Prince
Mirski--Reform Enthusiasm--The Constitutionalists Formulate their
Demands--The Social Democrats--Father Gapon's Demonstration--The
Socialist-Revolutionaries--The Agrarian Agitators--The
Subject-Nationalities--Numerical Strength of the Various Groups--All
United on One Point--Their Different Aims--Possible Solutions of the
Crisis--Difficulties of Introducing Constitutional Regime--A Strong Man
Wanted--Uncertainty of the Future.


The first edition of this work, published early in January, 1877,
contained the concentrated results of my studies during an uninterrupted
residence of six years in Russia--from the beginning of 1870 to the end
of 1875. Since that time I have spent in the European and Central Asian
provinces, at different periods, nearly two years more; and in the
intervals I have endeavoured to keep in touch with the progress of
events. My observations thus extend over a period of thirty-five years.

When I began, a few months ago, to prepare for publication the results
of my more recent observations and researches, my intention was to
write an entirely new work under the title of "Russia in the Twentieth
Century," but I soon perceived that it would be impossible to explain
clearly the present state of things without referring constantly to
events of the past, and that I should be obliged to embody in the new
work a large portion of the old one. The portion to be embodied grew
rapidly to such proportions that, in the course of a few weeks, I
began to ask myself whether it would not be better simply to recast
and complete my old material. With a view to deciding the question I
prepared a list of the principal changes which had taken place during
the last quarter of a century, and when I had marshalled them in logical
order, I recognised that they were neither so numerous nor so important
as I had supposed. Certainly there had been much progress, but it had
been nearly all on the old lines. Everywhere I perceived continuity and
evolution; nowhere could I discover radical changes and new departures.
In the central and local administration the reactionary policy of the
latter half of Alexander II.'s reign had been steadily maintained;
the revolutionary movement had waxed and waned, but its aims were
essentially the same as of old; the Church had remained in its usual
somnolent condition; a grave agricultural crisis affecting landed
proprietors and peasants had begun, but it was merely a development of
a state of things which I had previously described; the manufacturing
industry had made gigantic strides, but they were all in the direction
which the most competent observers had predicted; in foreign policy the
old principles of guiding the natural expansive forces along the lines
of least resistance, seeking to reach warm-water ports, and pegging out
territorial claims for the future were persistently followed. No doubt
there were pretty clear indications of more radical changes to come, but
these changes must belong to the future, and it is merely with the past
and the present that a writer who has no pretensions to being a prophet
has to deal.

Under these circumstances it seemed to me advisable to adopt a middle
course. Instead of writing an entirely new work I determined to prepare
a much extended and amplified edition of the old one, retaining such
information about the past as seemed to me of permanent value, and at
the same time meeting as far as possible the requirements of those who
wish to know the present condition of the country.

In accordance with this view I have revised, rearranged, and
supplemented the old material in the light of subsequent events, and
I have added five entirely new chapters--three on the revolutionary
movement, which has come into prominence since 1877; one on the
industrial progress, with which the latest phase of the movement is
closely connected; and one on the main lines of the present situation as
it appears to me at the moment of going to press.

During the many years which I have devoted to the study of Russia, I
have received unstinted assistance from many different quarters. Of the
friends who originally facilitated my task, and to whom I expressed my
gratitude in the preface and notes of the early editions, only three
survive--Mme. de Novikoff, M. E. I. Yakushkin, and Dr. Asher. To the
numerous friends who have kindly assisted me in the present edition I
must express my thanks collectively, but there are two who stand out
from the group so prominently that I may be allowed to mention them
personally: these are Prince Alexander Grigorievitch Stcherbatof, who
supplied me with voluminous materials regarding the agrarian question
generally and the present condition of the peasantry in particular,
and M. Albert Brockhaus, who placed at my disposal the gigantic Russian
Encyclopaedia recently published by his firm (Entsiklopeditcheski
Slovar, Leipzig and St. Petersburg, 1890-1904). This monumental work,
in forty-one volumes, is an inexhaustible storehouse of accurate and
well-digested information on all subjects connected with the Russian
Empire, and it has often been of great use to me in matters of detail.

With regard to the last chapter of this edition I must claim the
reader's indulgence, because the meaning of the title, "the present
situation," changes from day to day, and I cannot foresee what further
changes may occur before the work reaches the hands of the public.

LONDON, 22nd May, 1905.




Railways--State Interference--River Communications--Russian "Grand
Tour"--The Volga--Kazan--Zhigulinskiya Gori--Finns and Tartars--The
Don--Difficulties of Navigation--Discomforts--Rats--Hotels and
Their Peculiar Customs--Roads--Hibernian Phraseology
Explained--Bridges--Posting--A Tarantass--Requisites for
Travelling--Travelling in Winter--Frostbitten--Disagreeable
Episodes--Scene at a Post-Station.

Of course travelling in Russia is no longer what it was. During the last
half century a vast network of railways has been constructed, and one
can now travel in a comfortable first-class carriage from Berlin to St.
Petersburg or Moscow, and thence to Odessa, Sebastopol, the Lower Volga,
the Caucasus, Central Asia, or Eastern Siberia. Until the outbreak of
the war there was a train twice a week, with through carriages, from
Moscow to Port Arthur. And it must be admitted that on the main lines
the passengers have not much to complain of. The carriages are decidedly
better than in England, and in winter they are kept warm by small iron
stoves, assisted by double windows and double doors--a very necessary
precaution in a land where the thermometer often descends to 30
degrees below zero. The train never attains, it is true, a high rate
of speed--so at least English and Americans think--but then we must
remember that Russians are rarely in a hurry, and like to have frequent
opportunities of eating and drinking. In Russia time is not money; if
it were, nearly all the subjects of the Tsar would always have a large
stock of ready money on hand, and would often have great difficulty in
spending it. In reality, be it parenthetically remarked, a Russian with
a superabundance of ready money is a phenomenon rarely met with in real

In conveying passengers at the rate of from fifteen to thirty miles an
hour, the railway companies do at least all that they promise; but in
one very important respect they do not always strictly fulfil their
engagements. The traveller takes a ticket for a certain town, and on
arriving at what he imagines to be his destination, he may find merely a
railway-station surrounded by fields. On making inquiries, he discovers,
to his disappointment, that the station is by no means identical with
the town bearing the same name, and that the railway has fallen several
miles short of fulfilling the bargain, as he understood the terms of
the contract. Indeed, it might almost be said that as a general rule
railways in Russia, like camel-drivers in certain Eastern countries,
studiously avoid the towns. This seems at first a strange fact. It is
possible to conceive that the Bedouin is so enamoured of tent life and
nomadic habits that he shuns a town as he would a man-trap; but surely
civil engineers and railway contractors have no such dread of brick and
mortar. The true reason, I suspect, is that land within or immediately
beyond the municipal barrier is relatively dear, and that the
railways, being completely beyond the invigorating influence of healthy
competition, can afford to look upon the comfort and convenience of
passengers as a secondary consideration. Gradually, it is true, this
state of things is being improved by private initiative. As the railways
refuse to come to the towns, the towns are extending towards the
railways, and already some prophets are found bold enough to predict
that in the course of time those long, new, straggling streets, without
an inhabited hinterland, which at present try so severely the springs of
the ricketty droshkis, will be properly paved and kept in decent repair.
For my own part, I confess I am a little sceptical with regard to this
prediction, and I can only use a favourite expression of the Russian
peasants--dai Bog! God grant it may be so!

It is but fair to state that in one celebrated instance neither
engineers nor railway contractors were directly to blame. From St.
Petersburg to Moscow the locomotive runs for a distance of 400 miles
almost as "the crow" is supposed to fly, turning neither to the right
hand nor to the left. For twelve weary hours the passenger in the
express train looks out on forest and morass, and rarely catches sight
of human habitation. Only once he perceives in the distance what may be
called a town; it is Tver which has been thus favoured, not because it
is a place of importance, but simply because it happened to be near
the bee-line. And why was the railway constructed in this extraordinary
fashion? For the best of all reasons--because the Tsar so ordered it.
When the preliminary survey was being made, Nicholas I. learned that the
officers entrusted with the task--and the Minister of Ways and Roads
in the number--were being influenced more by personal than technical
considerations, and he determined to cut the Gordian knot in true
Imperial style. When the Minister laid before him the map with the
intention of explaining the proposed route, he took a ruler, drew a
straight line from the one terminus to the other, and remarked in a tone
that precluded all discussion, "You will construct the line so!" And
the line was so constructed--remaining to all future ages, like St.
Petersburg and the Pyramids, a magnificent monument of autocratic power.

Formerly this well-known incident was often cited in whispered
philippics to illustrate the evils of the autocratic form of government.
Imperial whims, it was said, over-ride grave economic considerations.
In recent years, however, a change seems to have taken place in public
opinion, and some people now assert that this so-called Imperial whim
was an act of far-seeing policy. As by far the greater part of the goods
and passengers are carried the whole length of the line, it is well that
the line should be as short as possible, and that branch lines should be
constructed to the towns lying to the right and left. Evidently there is
a good deal to be said in favour of this view.

In the development of the railway system there has been another
disturbing cause, which is not likely to occur to the English mind. In
England, individuals and companies habitually act according to their
private interests, and the State interferes as little as possible;
private initiative does as it pleases, unless the authorities can prove
that important bad consequences will necessarily result. In Russia, the
onus probandi lies on the other side; private initiative is allowed
to do nothing until it gives guarantees against all possible bad
consequences. When any great enterprise is projected, the first question
is--"How will this new scheme affect the interests of the State?" Thus,
when the course of a new railway has to be determined, the military
authorities are among the first to be consulted, and their opinion has
a great influence on the ultimate decision. The natural consequence is
that the railway-map of Russia presents to the eye of the strategist
much that is quite unintelligible to the ordinary observer--a fact that
will become apparent even to the uninitiated as soon as a war breaks out
in Eastern Europe. Russia is no longer what she was in the days of the
Crimean War, when troops and stores had to be conveyed hundreds of miles
by the most primitive means of transport. At that time she had only
750 miles of railway; now she has over 36,000 miles, and every year new
lines are constructed.

The water-communication has likewise in recent years been greatly
improved. On the principal rivers there are now good steamers.
Unfortunately, the climate puts serious obstructions in the way of
navigation. For nearly half of the year the rivers are covered with ice,
and during a great part of the open season navigation is difficult. When
the ice and snow melt the rivers overflow their banks and lay a great
part of the low-lying country under water, so that many villages can
only be approached in boats; but very soon the flood subsides, and the
water falls so rapidly that by midsummer the larger steamers have
great difficulty in picking their way among the sandbanks. The Neva
alone--that queen of northern rivers--has at all times a plentiful
supply of water.

Besides the Neva, the rivers commonly visited by the tourist are the
Volga and the Don, which form part of what may be called the Russian
grand tour. Englishmen who wish to see something more than St.
Petersburg and Moscow generally go by rail to Nizhni-Novgorod, where
they visit the great fair, and then get on board one of the Volga
steamers. For those who have mastered the important fact that Russia
is not a country of fine scenery, the voyage down the river is pleasant
enough. The left bank is as flat as the banks of the Rhine below
Cologne, but the right bank is high, occasionally well wooded, and not
devoid of a certain tame picturesqueness. Early on the second day
the steamer reaches Kazan, once the capital of an independent Tartar
khanate, and still containing a considerable Tartar population. Several
metchets (as the Mahometan houses of prayer are here termed), with their
diminutive minarets in the lower part of the town, show that Islamism
still survives, though the khanate was annexed to Muscovy more than
three centuries ago; but the town, as a whole, has a European rather
than an Asiatic character. If any one visits it in the hope of getting
"a glimpse of the East," he will be grievously disappointed, unless,
indeed, he happens to be one of those imaginative tourists who always
discover what they wish to see. And yet it must be admitted that, of
all the towns on the route, Kazan is the most interesting. Though
not Oriental, it has a peculiar character of its own, whilst all the
others--Simbirsk, Samara, Saratof--are as uninteresting as Russian
provincial towns commonly are. The full force and solemnity of that
expression will be explained in the sequel.

Probably about sunrise on the third day something like a range of
mountains will appear on the horizon. It may be well to say at once, to
prevent disappointment, that in reality nothing worthy of the name
of mountain is to be found in that part of the country. The nearest
mountain-range in that direction is the Caucasus, which is hundreds of
miles distant, and consequently cannot by any possibility be seen from
the deck of a steamer. The elevations in question are simply a low range
of hills, called the Zhigulinskiya Gori. In Western Europe they would
not attract much attention, but "in the kingdom of the blind," as the
French proverb has it, "the one-eyed man is king"; and in a flat region
like Eastern Russia these hills form a prominent feature. Though they
have nothing of Alpine grandeur, yet their well-wooded slopes, coming
down to the water's edge--especially when covered with the delicate
tints of early spring, or the rich yellow and red of autumnal
foliage--leave an impression on the memory not easily effaced.

On the whole--with all due deference to the opinions of my patriotic
Russian friends--I must say that Volga scenery hardly repays the time,
trouble and expense which a voyage from Nizhni to Tsaritsin demands.
There are some pretty bits here and there, but they are "few and far
between." A glass of the most exquisite wine diluted with a gallon
of water makes a very insipid beverage. The deck of the steamer is
generally much more interesting than the banks of the river. There one
meets with curious travelling companions. The majority of the passengers
are probably Russian peasants, who are always ready to chat freely
without demanding a formal introduction, and to relate--with certain
restrictions--to a new acquaintance the simple story of their lives.
Often I have thus whiled away the weary hours both pleasantly and
profitably, and have always been impressed with the peasant's homely
common sense, good-natured kindliness, half-fatalistic resignation,
and strong desire to learn something about foreign countries. This
last peculiarity makes him question as well as communicate, and his
questions, though sometimes apparently childish, are generally to the

Among the passengers are probably also some representatives of the
various Finnish tribes inhabiting this part of the country; they may be
interesting to the ethnologist who loves to study physiognomy, but they
are far less sociable than the Russians. Nature seems to have made them
silent and morose, whilst their conditions of life have made them shy
and distrustful. The Tartar, on the other hand, is almost sure to be
a lively and amusing companion. Most probably he is a peddler or small
trader of some kind. The bundle on which he reclines contains his
stock-in-trade, composed, perhaps, of cotton printed goods and
especially bright-coloured cotton handkerchiefs. He himself is enveloped
in a capacious greasy khalat, or dressing-gown, and wears a fur cap,
though the thermometer may be at 90 degrees in the shade. The roguish
twinkle in his small piercing eyes contrasts strongly with the sombre,
stolid expression of the Finnish peasants sitting near him. He has much
to relate about St. Petersburg, Moscow, and perhaps Astrakhan; but, like
a genuine trader, he is very reticent regarding the mysteries of his own
craft. Towards sunset he retires with his companions to some quiet spot
on the deck to recite evening prayers. Here all the good Mahometans on
board assemble and stroke their beards, kneel on their little strips
of carpet and prostrate themselves, all keeping time as if they
were performing some new kind of drill under the eve of a severe

If the voyage is made about the end of September, when the traders are
returning home from the fair at Nizhni-Novgorod, the ethnologist will
have a still better opportunity of study. He will then find not only
representatives of the Finnish and Tartar races, but also Armenians,
Circassians, Persians, Bokhariots, and other Orientals--a motley and
picturesque but decidedly unsavoury cargo.

However great the ethnographical variety on board may be, the traveller
will probably find that four days on the Volga are quite enough for all
practical and aesthetic purposes, and instead of going on to Astrakhan
he will quit the steamer at Tsaritsin. Here he will find a railway of
about fifty miles in length, connecting the Volga and the Don. I say
advisedly a railway, and not a train, because trains on this line are
not very frequent. When I first visited the locality, thirty years ago,
there were only two a week, so that if you inadvertently missed one
train you had to wait about three days for the next. Prudent, nervous
people preferred travelling by the road, for on the railway the strange
jolts and mysterious creakings were very alarming. On the other hand the
pace was so slow that running off the rails would have been merely an
amusing episode, and even a collision could scarcely have been attended
with serious consequences. Happily things are improving, even in this
outlying part of the country. Now there is one train daily, and it goes
at a less funereal pace.

From Kalatch, at the Don end of the line, a steamer starts for Rostoff,
which is situated near the mouth of the river. The navigation of the Don
is much more difficult than that of the Volga. The river is extremely
shallow, and the sand-banks are continually shifting, so that many times
in the course of the day the steamer runs aground. Sometimes she is got
off by simply reversing the engines, but not unfrequently she sticks so
fast that the engines have to be assisted. This is effected in a curious
way. The captain always gives a number of stalwart Cossacks a free
passage on condition that they will give him the assistance he requires;
and as soon as the ship sticks fast he orders them to jump overboard
with a stout hawser and haul her off! The task is not a pleasant one,
especially as the poor fellows cannot afterwards change their clothes;
but the order is always obeyed with alacrity and without grumbling.
Cossacks, it would seem, have no personal acquaintance with colds and

In the most approved manuals of geography the Don figures as one of the
principal European rivers, and its length and breadth give it a right to
be considered as such; but its depth in many parts is ludicrously out
of proportion to its length and breadth. I remember one day seeing
the captain of a large, flat-bottomed steamer slacken speed, to avoid
running down a man on horseback who was attempting to cross his bows in
the middle of the stream. Another day a not less characteristic incident
happened. A Cossack passenger wished to be set down at a place where
there was no pier, and on being informed that there was no means of
landing him, coolly jumped overboard and walked ashore. This simple
method of disembarking cannot, of course, be recommended to those who
have no local knowledge regarding the exact position of sand-banks and
deep pools.

Good serviceable fellows are those Cossacks who drag the steamer off
the sand-banks, and are often entertaining companions. Many of them can
relate from their own experience, in plain, unvarnished style,
stirring episodes of irregular warfare, and if they happen to be in
a communicative mood they may divulge a few secrets regarding their
simple, primitive commissariat system. Whether they are confidential
or not, the traveller who knows the language will spend his time
more profitably and pleasantly in chatting with them than in gazing
listlessly at the uninteresting country through which he is passing.

Unfortunately, these Don steamers carry a large number of free
passengers of another and more objectionable kind, who do not confine
themselves to the deck, but unceremoniously find their way into the
cabin, and prevent thin-skinned travellers from sleeping. I know too
little of natural history to decide whether these agile, bloodthirsty
parasites are of the same species as those which in England assist
unofficially the Sanitary Commissioners by punishing uncleanliness;
but I may say that their function in the system of created things is
essentially the same, and they fulfil it with a zeal and energy beyond
all praise. Possessing for my own part a happy immunity from their
indelicate attentions, and being perfectly innocent of entomological
curiosity, I might, had I been alone, have overlooked their existence,
but I was constantly reminded of their presence by less happily
constituted mortals, and the complaints of the sufferers received a
curious official confirmation. On arriving at the end of the journey
I asked permission to spend the night on board, and I noticed that the
captain acceded to my request with more readiness and warmth than I
expected. Next morning the fact was fully explained. When I began
to express my thanks for having been allowed to pass the night in a
comfortable cabin, my host interrupted me with a good-natured laugh, and
assured me that, on the contrary, he was under obligations to me. "You
see," he said, assuming an air of mock gravity, "I have always on board
a large body of light cavalry, and when I have all this part of the ship
to myself they make a combined attack on me; whereas, when some one is
sleeping close by, they divide their forces!"

On certain steamers on the Sea of Azof the privacy of the sleeping-cabin
is disturbed by still more objectionable intruders; I mean rats. During
one short voyage which I made on board the Kertch, these disagreeable
visitors became so importunate in the lower regions of the vessel that
the ladies obtained permission to sleep in the deck-saloon. After this
arrangement had been made, we unfortunate male passengers received
redoubled attention from our tormentors. Awakened early one morning
by the sensation of something running over me as I lay in my berth, I
conceived a method of retaliation. It seemed to me possible that, in the
event of another visit, I might, by seizing the proper moment, kick the
rat up to the ceiling with such force as to produce concussion of the
brain and instant death. Very soon I had an opportunity of putting my
plan into execution. A significant shaking of the little curtain at the
foot of the berth showed that it was being used as a scaling-ladder. I
lay perfectly still, quite as much interested in the sport as if I had
been waiting, rifle in hand, for big game. Soon the intruder peeped
into my berth, looked cautiously around him, and then proceeded to walk
stealthily across my feet. In an instant he was shot upwards. First was
heard a sharp knock on the ceiling, and then a dull "thud" on the floor.
The precise extent of the injuries inflicted I never discovered, for
the victim had sufficient strength and presence of mind to effect his
escape; and the gentleman at the other side of the cabin, who had been
roused by the noise, protested against my repeating the experiment,
on the ground that, though he was willing to take his own share of the
intruders, he strongly objected to having other people's rats kicked
into his berth.

On such occasions it is of no use to complain to the authorities. When
I met the captain on deck I related to him what had happened,
and protested vigorously against passengers being exposed to such
annoyances. After listening to me patiently, he coolly replied, entirely
overlooking my protestations, "Ah! I did better than that this morning;
I allowed my rat to get under the blanket, and then smothered him!"

Railways and steamboats, even when their arrangements leave much to be
desired, invariably effect a salutary revolution in hotel accommodation;
but this revolution is of necessity gradual. Foreign hotelkeepers must
immigrate and give the example; suitable houses must be built; servants
must be properly trained; and, above all, the native travellers must
learn the usages of civilised society. In Russia this revolution is in
progress, but still far from being complete. The cities where foreigners
most do congregate--St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa--already possess
hotels that will bear comparison with those of Western Europe, and
some of the more important provincial towns can offer very respectable
accommodation; but there is still much to be done before the
West-European can travel with comfort even on the principal routes.
Cleanliness, the first and most essential element of comfort, as we
understand the term, is still a rare commodity, and often cannot be
procured at any price.

Even in good hotels, when they are of the genuine Russian type, there
are certain peculiarities which, though not in themselves objectionable,
strike a foreigner as peculiar. Thus, when you alight at such an hotel,
you are expected to examine a considerable number of rooms, and to
inquire about the respective prices. When you have fixed upon a suitable
apartment, you will do well, if you wish to practise economy, to
propose to the landlord considerably less than he demands; and you will
generally find, if you have a talent for bargaining, that the rooms
may be hired for somewhat less than the sum first stated. You must be
careful, however, to leave no possibility of doubt as to the terms of
the contract. Perhaps you assume that, as in taking a cab, a horse is
always supplied without special stipulation, so in hiring a bedroom
the bargain includes a bed and the necessary appurtenances. Such an
assumption will not always be justified. The landlord may perhaps give
you a bedstead without extra charge, but if he be uncorrupted by foreign
notions, he will certainly not spontaneously supply you with bed-linen,
pillows, blankets, and towels. On the contrary, he will assume that you
carry all these articles with you, and if you do not, you must pay for

This ancient custom has produced among Russians of the old school a kind
of fastidiousness to which we are strangers. They strongly dislike
using sheets, blankets, and towels which are in a certain sense public
property, just as we should strongly object to putting on clothes which
had been already worn by other people. And the feeling may be developed
in people not Russian by birth. For my own part, I confess to having
been conscious of a certain disagreeable feeling on returning in this
respect to the usages of so-called civilised Europe.

The inconvenience of carrying about the essential articles of bedroom
furniture is by no means so great as might be supposed. Bedrooms in
Russia are always heated during cold weather, so that one light blanket,
which may be also used as a railway rug, is quite sufficient, whilst
sheets, pillow-cases, and towels take up little space in a portmanteau.
The most cumbrous object is the pillow, for air-cushions, having a
disagreeable odour, are not well suited for the purpose. But Russians
are accustomed to this encumbrance. In former days--as at the present
time in those parts of the country where there are neither railways
nor macadamised roads--people travelled in carts or carriages without
springs and in these instruments of torture a huge pile of cushions
or pillows is necessary to avoid contusions and dislocations. On the
railways the jolts and shaking are not deadly enough to require such
an antidote; but, even in unconservative Russia, customs outlive the
conditions that created them; and at every railway-station you may see
men and women carrying about their pillows with them as we carry wraps.
A genuine Russian merchant who loves comfort and respects tradition
may travel without a portmanteau, but he considers his pillow as an
indispensable article de voyage.

To return to the old-fashioned hotel. When you have completed the
negotiations with the landlord, you will notice that, unless you have a
servant with you, the waiter prepares to perform the duties of valet de
chambre. Do not be surprised at his officiousness, which seems founded
on the assumption that you are three-fourths paralysed. Formerly, every
well-born Russian had a valet always in attendance, and never dreamed
of doing for himself anything which could by any possibility be done
for him. You notice that there is no bell in the room, and no mechanical
means of communicating with the world below stairs. That is because the
attendant is supposed to be always within call, and it is so much easier
to shout than to get up and ring the bell.

In the good old times all this was quite natural. The well-born Russian
had commonly a superabundance of domestic serfs, and there was no reason
why one or two of them should not accompany their master when his Honour
undertook a journey. An additional person in the tarantass did not
increase the expense, and considerably diminished the little unavoidable
inconveniences of travel. But times have changed. In 1861 the domestic
serfs were emancipated by Imperial ukaz. Free servants demand wages; and
on railways or steamers a single ticket does not include an attendant.
The present generation must therefore get through life with a more
modest supply of valets, and must learn to do with its own hands much
that was formerly performed by serf labour. Still, a gentleman brought
up in the old conditions cannot be expected to dress himself without
assistance, and accordingly the waiter remains in your room to act as
valet. Perhaps, too, in the early morning you may learn in an unpleasant
way that other parts of the old system are not yet extinct. You may
hear, for instance, resounding along the corridors such an order
as--"Petrusha! Petrusha! Stakan vody!" ("Little Peter, little Peter, a
glass of water!") shouted in a stentorian voice that would startle the
Seven Sleepers.

When the toilet operations are completed, and you order tea--one always
orders tea in Russia--you will be asked whether you have your own tea
and sugar with you. If you are an experienced traveller you will be able
to reply in the affirmative, for good tea can be bought only in certain
well-known shops, and can rarely be found in hotels. A huge, steaming
tea-urn, called a samovar--etymologically, a "self-boiler"--will be
brought in, and you will make your tea according to your taste. The
tumbler, you know of course, is to be used as a cup, and when using it
you must be careful not to cauterise the points of your fingers. If you
should happen to have anything eatable or drinkable in your travelling
basket, you need not hesitate to take it out at once, for the waiter
will not feel at all aggrieved or astonished at your doing nothing "for
the good of the house." The twenty or twenty-five kopeks that you pay
for the samovar--teapot, tumbler, saucer, spoon, and slop-basin being
included under the generic term pribor--frees you from all corkage and
similar dues.

These and other remnants of old customs are now rapidly disappearing,
and will, doubtless, in a very few years be things of the past--things
to be picked up in out-of-the-way corners, and chronicled by social
archaeology; but they are still to be found in towns not unknown to
Western Europe.

Many of these old customs, and especially the old method of travelling,
may be studied in their pristine purity throughout a great part of the
country. Though railway construction has been pushed forward with great
energy during the last forty years, there are still vast regions where
the ancient solitudes have never been disturbed by the shrill whistle
of the locomotive, and roads have remained in their primitive condition.
Even in the central provinces one may still travel hundreds of miles
without ever encountering anything that recalls the name of Macadam.

If popular rumour is to be trusted, there is somewhere in the Highlands
of Scotland, by the side of a turnpike, a large stone bearing the
following doggerel inscription:

"If you had seen this road before it was made, You'd lift up your hands
and bless General Wade."

Any educated Englishman reading this strange announcement would
naturally remark that the first line of the couplet contains a logical
contradiction, probably of Hibernian origin; but I have often thought,
during my wanderings in Russia, that the expression, if not logically
justifiable, might for the sake of vulgar convenience be legalised by a
Permissive Bill. The truth is that, as a Frenchman might say, "there
are roads and roads"--roads made and roads unmade, roads artificial
and roads natural. Now, in Russia, roads are nearly all of the unmade,
natural kind, and are so conservative in their nature that they have at
the present day precisely the same appearance as they had many centuries
ago. They have thus for imaginative minds something of what is called
"the charm of historical association." The only perceptible change that
takes place in them during a series of generations is that the ruts
shift their position. When these become so deep that fore-wheels can no
longer fathom them, it becomes necessary to begin making a new pair of
ruts to the right or left of the old ones; and as the roads are commonly
of gigantic breadth, there is no difficulty in finding a place for the
operation. How the old ones get filled up I cannot explain; but as
I have rarely seen in any part of the country, except perhaps in the
immediate vicinity of towns, a human being engaged in road repairing,
I assume that beneficent Nature somehow accomplishes the task without
human assistance, either by means of alluvial deposits, or by some other
cosmical action only known to physical geographers.

On the roads one occasionally encounters bridges; and here, again,
I have discovered in Russia a key to the mysteries of Hibernian
phraseology. An Irish member once declared to the House of Commons that
the Church was "the bridge that separated the two great sections of the
Irish people." As bridges commonly connect rather than separate, the
metaphor was received with roars of laughter. If the honourable members
who joined in the hilarious applause had travelled much in Russia, they
would have been more moderate in their merriment; for in that
country, despite the laudable activity of the modern system of local
administration created in the sixties, bridges often act still as a
barrier rather than a connecting link, and to cross a river by a
bridge may still be what is termed in popular phrase "a tempting of
Providence." The cautious driver will generally prefer to take to the
water, if there is a ford within a reasonable distance, though both he
and his human load may be obliged, in order to avoid getting wet feet,
to assume undignified postures that would afford admirable material for
the caricaturist. But this little bit of discomfort, even though the
luggage should be soaked in the process of fording, is as nothing
compared to the danger of crossing by the bridge. As I have no desire
to harrow unnecessarily the feelings of the reader, I refrain from all
description of ugly accidents, ending in bruises and fractures,
and shall simply explain in a few words how a successful passage is

When it is possible to approach the bridge without sinking up to the
knees in mud, it is better to avoid all risks by walking over and
waiting for the vehicle on the other side; and when this is impossible,
a preliminary survey is advisable. To your inquiries whether it is safe,
your yamstchik (post-boy) is sure to reply, "Nitchevo!"--a word which,
according to the dictionaries, means "nothing" but which has, in the
mouths of the peasantry, a great variety of meanings, as I may explain
at some future time. In the present case it may be roughly translated.
"There is no danger." "Nitchevo, Barin, proyedem" ("There is no danger,
sir; we shall get over"), he repeats. You may refer to the generally
rotten appearance of the structure, and point in particular to the great
holes sufficient to engulf half a post-horse. "Ne bos', Bog pomozhet"
("Do not fear. God will help"), replies coolly your phlegmatic Jehu. You
may have your doubts as to whether in this irreligious age Providence
will intervene specially for your benefit; but your yamstchik, who has
more faith or fatalism, leaves you little time to solve the problem.
Making hurriedly the sign of the cross, he gathers up his reins, waves
his little whip in the air, and, shouting lustily, urges on his team.
The operation is not wanting in excitement. First there is a short
descent; then the horses plunge wildly through a zone of deep mud;
next comes a fearful jolt, as the vehicle is jerked up on to the first
planks; then the transverse planks, which are but loosely held in their
places, rattle and rumble ominously, as the experienced, sagacious
animals pick their way cautiously and gingerly among the dangerous holes
and crevices; lastly, you plunge with a horrible jolt into a second
mud zone, and finally regain terra firma, conscious of that pleasant
sensation which a young officer may be supposed to feel after his first
cavalry charge in real warfare.

Of course here, as elsewhere, familiarity breeds indifference. When you
have successfully crossed without serious accident a few hundred bridges
of this kind you learn to be as cool and fatalistic as your yamstchik.

The reader who has heard of the gigantic reforms that have been
repeatedly imposed on Russia by a paternal Government may naturally
be astonished to learn that the roads are still in such a disgraceful
condition. But for this, as for everything else in the world, there is
a good and sufficient reason. The country is still, comparatively
speaking, thinly populated, and in many regions it is difficult, or
practically impossible, to procure in sufficient quantity stone of any
kind, and especially hard stone fit for road-making. Besides this, when
roads are made, the severity of the climate renders it difficult to keep
them in good repair.

When a long journey has to be undertaken through a region in which there
are no railways, there are several ways in which it may be effected.
In former days, when time was of still less value than at present, many
landed proprietors travelled with their own horses, and carried with
them, in one or more capacious, lumbering vehicles, all that was
required for the degree of civilisation which they had attained; and
their requirements were often considerable. The grand seigneur, for
instance, who spent the greater part of his life amidst the luxury of
the court society, naturally took with him all the portable elements of
civilisation. His baggage included, therefore, camp-beds, table-linen,
silver plate, a batterie de cuisine, and a French cook. The pioneers
and part of the commissariat force were sent on in advance, so that
his Excellency found at each halting-place everything prepared for his
arrival. The poor owner of a few dozen serfs dispensed, of course, with
the elaborate commissariat department, and contented himself with such
modest fare as could be packed in the holes and corners of a single

It will be well to explain here, parenthetically, what a tarantass
is, for I shall often have occasion to use the word. It may be briefly
defined as a phaeton without springs. The function of springs
is imperfectly fulfilled by two parallel wooden bars, placed
longitudinally, on which is fixed the body of the vehicle. It is
commonly drawn by three horses--a strong, fast trotter in the shafts,
flanked on each side by a light, loosely-attached horse that goes along
at a gallop. The points of the shafts are connected by the duga, which
looks like a gigantic, badly formed horseshoe rising high above
the collar of the trotter. To the top of the duga is attached the
bearing-rein, and underneath the highest part of it is fastened a big
bell--in the southern provinces I found two, and sometimes even three
bells--which, when the country is open and the atmosphere still, may be
heard a mile off. The use of the bell is variously explained. Some say
it is in order to frighten the wolves, and others that it is to avoid
collisions on the narrow forest-paths. But neither of these explanations
is entirely satisfactory. It is used chiefly in summer, when there is no
danger of an attack from wolves; and the number of bells is greater in
the south, where there are no forests. Perhaps the original intention
was--I throw out the hint for the benefit of a certain school of
archaeologists--to frighten away evil spirits; and the practice has been
retained partly from unreasoning conservatism, and partly with a view to
lessen the chances of collisions. As the roads are noiselessly soft,
and the drivers not always vigilant, the dangers of collision are
considerably diminished by the ceaseless peal.

Altogether, the tarantass is well adapted to the conditions in which it
is used. By the curious way in which the horses are harnessed it recalls
the war-chariot of ancient times. The horse in the shafts is compelled
by the bearing-rein to keep his head high and straight before
him--though the movement of his ears shows plainly that he would very
much like to put it somewhere farther away from the tongue of the
bell--but the side horses gallop freely, turning their heads outwards in
classical fashion. I believe that this position is assumed not from any
sympathy on the part of these animals for the remains of classical art,
but rather from the natural desire to keep a sharp eye on the driver.
Every movement of his right hand they watch with close attention, and as
soon as they discover any symptoms indicating an intention of using the
whip they immediately show a desire to quicken the pace.

Now that the reader has gained some idea of what a tarantass is, we may
return to the modes of travelling through the regions which are not yet
supplied with railways.

However enduring and long-winded horses may be, they must be allowed
sometimes, during a long journey, to rest and feed. Travelling long
distances with one's own horses is therefore necessarily a slow
operation, and is now quite antiquated. People who value their time
prefer to make use of the Imperial Post organisation. On all the
principal lines of communication there are regular post-stations, at
from ten to twenty miles apart, where a certain number of horses and
vehicles are kept for the convenience of travellers. To enjoy
the privilege of this arrangement, one has to apply to the proper
authorities for a podorozhnaya--a large sheet of paper stamped with the
Imperial Eagle, and bearing the name of the recipient, the destination,
and the number of horses to be supplied. In return, a small sum is paid
for imaginary road-repairs; the rest of the sum is paid by instalments
at the respective stations.

Armed with this document you go to the post-station and demand the
requisite number of horses. Three is the number generally used, but if
you travel lightly and are indifferent to appearances, you may content
yourself with a pair. The vehicle is a kind of tarantass, but not such
as I have just described. The essentials in both are the same, but those
which the Imperial Government provides resemble an enormous cradle on
wheels rather than a phaeton. An armful of hay spread over the bottom of
the wooden box is supposed to play the part of seats and cushions. You
are expected to sit under the arched covering, and extend your legs so
that the feet lie beneath the driver's seat; but it is advisable, unless
the rain happens to be coming down in torrents, to get this covering
unshipped, and travel without it. When used, it painfully curtails the
little freedom of movement that you enjoy, and when you are shot upwards
by some obstruction on the road it is apt to arrest your ascent by
giving you a violent blow on the top of the head.

It is to be hoped that you are in no hurry to start, otherwise your
patience may be sorely tried. The horses, when at last produced, may
seem to you the most miserable screws that it was ever your misfortune
to behold; but you had better refrain from expressing your feelings, for
if you use violent, uncomplimentary language, it may turn out that you
have been guilty of gross calumny. I have seen many a team composed of
animals which a third-class London costermonger would have spurned, and
in which it was barely possible to recognise the equine form, do their
duty in highly creditable style, and go along at the rate of ten or
twelve miles an hour, under no stronger incentive then the voice of the
yamstchik. Indeed, the capabilities of these lean, slouching, ungainly
quadrupeds are often astounding when they are under the guidance of a
man who knows how to drive them. Though such a man commonly carries a
little harmless whip, he rarely uses it except by waving it horizontally
in the air. His incitements are all oral. He talks to his cattle as he
would to animals of his own species--now encouraging them by tender,
caressing epithets, and now launching at them expressions of indignant
scorn. At one moment they are his "little doves," and at the next they
have been transformed into "cursed hounds." How far they understand and
appreciate this curious mixture of endearing cajolery and contemptuous
abuse it is difficult to say, but there is no doubt that it somehow has
upon them a strange and powerful influence.

Any one who undertakes a journey of this kind should possess a
well-knit, muscular frame and good tough sinews, capable of supporting
an unlimited amount of jolting and shaking; at the same time he should
be well inured to all the hardships and discomforts incidental to
what is vaguely termed "roughing it." When he wishes to sleep in a
post-station, he will find nothing softer than a wooden bench, unless he
can induce the keeper to put for him on the floor a bundle of hay, which
is perhaps softer, but on the whole more disagreeable than the deal
board. Sometimes he will not get even the wooden bench, for in ordinary
post-stations there is but one room for travellers, and the two
benches--there are rarely more--may be already occupied. When he
does obtain a bench, and succeeds in falling asleep, he must not be
astonished if he is disturbed once or twice during the night by people
who use the apartment as a waiting-room whilst the post-horses are being
changed. These passers-by may even order a samovar, and drink tea,
chat, laugh, smoke, and make themselves otherwise disagreeable, utterly
regardless of the sleepers. Then there are the other intruders, smaller
in size but equally objectionable, of which I have already spoken when
describing the steamers on the Don. Regarding them I desire to give
merely one word of advice: As you will have abundant occupation in the
work of self-defence, learn to distinguish between belligerents and
neutrals, and follow the simple principle of international law, that
neutrals should not be molested. They may be very ugly, but ugliness
does not justify assassination. If, for instance, you should happen
in awaking to notice a few black or brown beetles running about your
pillow, restrain your murderous hand! If you kill them you commit an act
of unnecessary bloodshed; for though they may playfully scamper around
you, they will do you no bodily harm.

Another requisite for a journey in unfrequented districts is a knowledge
of the language. It is popularly supposed that if you are familiar with
French and German you may travel anywhere in Russia. So far as the great
cities and chief lines of communication are concerned, this may be true,
but beyond that it is a delusion. The Russian has not, any more than
the West-European, received from Nature the gift of tongues. Educated
Russians often speak one or two foreign languages fluently, but the
peasants know no language but their own, and it is with the peasantry
that one comes in contact. And to converse freely with the peasant
requires a considerable familiarity with the language--far more than is
required for simply reading a book. Though there are few provincialisms,
and all classes of the people use the same words--except the words of
foreign origin, which are used only by the upper classes--the peasant
always speaks in a more laconic and more idiomatic way than the educated

In the winter months travelling is in some respects pleasanter than in
summer, for snow and frost are great macadamisers. If the snow falls
evenly, there is for some time the most delightful road that can be
imagined. No jolts, no shaking, but a smooth, gliding motion, like
that of a boat in calm water, and the horses gallop along as if totally
unconscious of the sledge behind them. Unfortunately, this happy state
of things does not last all through the winter. The road soon gets cut
up, and deep transverse furrows (ukhaby) are formed. How these furrows
come into existence I have never been able clearly to comprehend, though
I have often heard the phenomenon explained by men who imagined they
understood it. Whatever the cause and mode of formation may be, certain
it is that little hills and valleys do get formed, and the sledge, as it
crosses over them, bobs up and down like a boat in a chopping sea, with
this important difference, that the boat falls into a yielding liquid,
whereas the sledge falls upon a solid substance, unyielding and
unelastic. The shaking and jolting which result may readily be imagined.

There are other discomforts, too, in winter travelling. So long as
the air is perfectly still, the cold may be very intense without being
disagreeable; but if a strong head wind is blowing, and the thermometer
ever so many degrees below zero, driving in an open sledge is a very
disagreeable operation, and noses may get frostbitten without their
owners perceiving the fact in time to take preventive measures. Then why
not take covered sledges on such occasions? For the simple reason that
they are not to be had; and if they could be procured, it would be well
to avoid using them, for they are apt to produce something very like
seasickness. Besides this, when the sledge gets overturned, it is
pleasanter to be shot out on to the clean, refreshing snow than to be
buried ignominiously under a pile of miscellaneous baggage.

The chief requisite for winter travelling in these icy regions is a
plentiful supply of warm furs. An Englishman is very apt to be imprudent
in this respect, and to trust too much to his natural power of resisting
cold. To a certain extent this confidence is justifiable, for an
Englishman often feels quite comfortable in an ordinary great coat when
his Russian friends consider it necessary to envelop themselves in furs
of the warmest kind; but it may be carried too far, in which case severe
punishment is sure to follow, as I once learned by experience. I may
relate the incident as a warning to others:

One day in mid-winter I started from Novgorod, with the intention of
visiting some friends at a cavalry barracks situated about ten miles
from the town. As the sun was shining brightly, and the distance to
be traversed was short, I considered that a light fur and a bashlyk--a
cloth hood which protects the ears--would be quite sufficient to keep
out the cold, and foolishly disregarded the warnings of a Russian friend
who happened to call as I was about to start. Our route lay along the
river due northward, right in the teeth of a strong north wind. A wintry
north wind is always and everywhere a disagreeable enemy to face; let
the reader try to imagine what it is when the Fahrenheit thermometer
is at 30 degrees below zero--or rather let him refrain from such an
attempt, for the sensation produced cannot be imagined by those who have
not experienced it. Of course I ought to have turned back--at least,
as soon as a sensation of faintness warned me that the circulation was
being seriously impeded--but I did not wish to confess my imprudence to
the friend who accompanied me. When we had driven about three-fourths of
the way we met a peasant-woman, who gesticulated violently, and shouted
something to us as we passed. I did not hear what she said, but my
friend turned to me and said in an alarming tone--we had been
speaking German--"Mein Gott! Ihre Nase ist abgefroren!" Now the word
"abgefroren," as the reader will understand, seemed to indicate that
my nose was frozen off, so I put up my hand in some alarm to discover
whether I had inadvertently lost the whole or part of the member
referred to. It was still in situ and entire, but as hard and insensible
as a bit of wood.

"You may still save it," said my companion, "if you get out at once and
rub it vigorously with snow."

I got out as directed, but was too faint to do anything vigorously. My
fur cloak flew open, the cold seemed to grasp me in the region of the
heart, and I fell insensible.

How long I remained unconscious I know not. When I awoke I found myself
in a strange room, surrounded by dragoon officers in uniform, and the
first words I heard were, "He is out of danger now, but he will have a

These words were spoken, as I afterwards discovered, by a very competent
surgeon; but the prophecy was not fulfilled. The promised fever never
came. The only bad consequences were that for some days my right hand
remained stiff, and for a week or two I had to conceal my nose from
public view.

If this little incident justifies me in drawing a general conclusion, I
should say that exposure to extreme cold is an almost painless form
of death; but that the process of being resuscitated is very painful
indeed--so painful, that the patient may be excused for momentarily
regretting that officious people prevented the temporary insensibility
from becoming "the sleep that knows no waking."

Between the alternate reigns of winter and summer there is always a
short interregnum, during which travelling in Russia by road is
almost impossible. Woe to the ill-fated mortal who has to make a long
road-journey immediately after the winter snow has melted; or, worse
still, at the beginning of winter, when the autumn mud has been
petrified by the frost, and not yet levelled by the snow!

At all seasons the monotony of a journey is pretty sure to be broken by
little unforeseen episodes of a more or less disagreeable kind. An axle
breaks, or a wheel comes off, or there is a difficulty in procuring
horses. As an illustration of the graver episodes which may occur, I
shall make here a quotation from my note-book:

Early in the morning we arrived at Maikop, a small town commanding the
entrance to one of the valleys which run up towards the main range
of the Caucasus. On alighting at the post-station, we at once ordered
horses for the next stage, and received the laconic reply, "There are no

"And when will there be some?"


This last reply we took for a piece of playful exaggeration, and
demanded the book in which, according to law, the departure of horses
is duly inscribed, and from which it is easy to calculate when the first
team should be ready to start. A short calculation proved that we
ought to get horses by four o'clock in the afternoon, so we showed the
station-keeper various documents signed by the Minister of the
Interior and other influential personages, and advised him to avoid all
contravention of the postal regulations.

These documents, which proved that we enjoyed the special protection
of the authorities, had generally been of great service to us in our
dealings with rascally station-keepers; but this station-keeper was not
one of the ordinary type. He was a Cossack, of herculean proportions,
with a bullet-shaped head, short-cropped bristly hair, shaggy eyebrows,
an enormous pendent moustache, a defiant air, and a peculiar expression
of countenance which plainly indicated "an ugly customer." Though it was
still early in the day, he had evidently already imbibed a considerable
quantity of alcohol, and his whole demeanour showed clearly enough that
he was not of those who are "pleasant in their liquor." After glancing
superciliously at the documents, as if to intimate he could read them
were he so disposed, he threw them down on the table, and, thrusting his
gigantic paws into his capacious trouser-pockets, remarked slowly and
decisively, in something deeper than a double-bass voice, "You'll have
horses to-morrow morning."

Wishing to avoid a quarrel we tried to hire horses in the village, and
when our efforts in that direction proved fruitless, we applied to the
head of the rural police. He came and used all his influence with the
refractory station-keeper, but in vain. Hercules was not in a mood to
listen to officials any more than to ordinary mortals. At last, after
considerable trouble to himself, our friend of the police contrived to
find horses for us, and we contented ourselves with entering an account
of the circumstances in the Complaint Book, but our difficulties were by
no means at an end. As soon as Hercules perceived that we had obtained
horses without his assistance, and that he had thereby lost his
opportunity of blackmailing us, he offered us one of his own teams, and
insisted on detaining us until we should cancel the complaint against
him. This we refused to do, and our relations with him became what is
called in diplomatic language "extremement tendues." Again we had to
apply to the police.

My friend mounted guard over the baggage whilst I went to the police
office. I was not long absent, but I found, on my return, that important
events had taken place in the interval. A crowd had collected round
the post-station, and on the steps stood the keeper and his post-boys,
declaring that the traveller inside had attempted to shoot them! I
rushed in and soon perceived, by the smell of gunpowder, that firearms
had been used, but found no trace of casualties. My friend was tramping
up and down the little room, and evidently for the moment there was an

In a very short time the local authorities had assembled, a candle had
been lit, two armed Cossacks stood as sentries at the door, and the
preliminary investigation had begun. The Chief of Police sat at the
table and wrote rapidly on a sheet of foolscap. The investigation showed
that two shots had been fired from a revolver, and two bullets were
found imbedded in the wall. All those who had been present, and some who
knew nothing of the incident except by hearsay, were duly examined. Our
opponents always assumed that my friend had been the assailant, in
spite of his protestations to the contrary, and more than once the
words pokyshenie na ubiistvo (attempt to murder) were pronounced. Things
looked very black indeed. We had the prospect of being detained for days
and weeks in the miserable place, till the insatiable demon of official
formality had been propitiated. And then?

When things were thus at their blackest they suddenly took an unexpected
turn, and the deus ex machina appeared precisely at the right moment,
just as if we had all been puppets in a sensation novel. There was
the usual momentary silence, and then, mixed with the sound of an
approaching tarantass, a confused murmur: "There he is! He is coming!"
The "he" thus vaguely and mysteriously indicated turned out to be an
official of the judicial administration, who had reason to visit the
village for an entirely different affair. As soon as he had been told
briefly what had happened he took the matter in hand and showed himself
equal to the occasion. Unlike the majority of Russian officials he
disliked lengthy procedure, and succeeded in making the case quite clear
in a very short time. There had been, he perceived, no attempt to murder
or anything of the kind. The station-keeper and his two post-boys, who
had no right to be in the traveller's room, had entered with threatening
mien, and when they refused to retire peaceably, my friend had fired
two shots in order to frighten them and bring assistance. The falsity of
their statement that he had fired at them as they entered the room was
proved by the fact that the bullets were lodged near the ceiling in the
wall farthest away from the door.

I must confess that I was agreeably surprised by this unexpected turn
of affairs. The conclusions arrived at were nothing more than a simple
statement of what had taken place; but I was surprised at the fact that
a man who was at once a lawyer and a Russian official should have been
able to take such a plain, commonsense view of the case.

Before midnight we were once more free men, driving rapidly in the
clear moonlight to the next station, under the escort of a fully-armed
Circassian Cossack; but the idea that we might have been detained for
weeks in that miserable place haunted us like a nightmare.



Bird's-eye View of Russia--The Northern Forests--Purpose of
my Journey--Negotiations--The Road--A Village--A Peasant's
House--Vapour-Baths--Curious Custom--Arrival.

There are many ways of describing a country that one has visited. The
simplest and most common method is to give a chronological account of
the journey; and this is perhaps the best way when the journey does
not extend over more than a few weeks. But it cannot be conveniently
employed in the case of a residence of many years. Did I adopt it, I
should very soon exhaust the reader's patience. I should have to take
him with me to a secluded village, and make him wait for me till I had
learned to speak the language. Thence he would have to accompany me to
a provincial town, and spend months in a public office, whilst I
endeavoured to master the mysteries of local self-government. After
this he would have to spend two years with me in a big library, where I
studied the history and literature of the country. And so on, and so
on. Even my journeys would prove tedious to him, as they often were to
myself, for he would have to drive with me many a score of weary miles,
where even the most zealous diary-writer would find nothing to record
beyond the names of the post-stations.

It will be well for me, then, to avoid the strictly chronological
method, and confine myself to a description of the more striking objects
and incidents that came under my notice. The knowledge which I derived
from books will help me to supply a running commentary on what I
happened to see and hear.

Instead of beginning in the usual way with St. Petersburg, I prefer for
many reasons to leave the description of the capital till some future
time, and plunge at once into the great northern forest region.

If it were possible to get a bird's-eye view of European Russia, the
spectator would perceive that the country is composed of two halves
widely differing from each other in character. The northern half is a
land of forest and morass, plentifully supplied with water in the form
of rivers, lakes, and marshes, and broken up by numerous patches of
cultivation. The southern half is, as it were, the other side of
the pattern--an immense expanse of rich, arable land, broken up by
occasional patches of sand or forest. The imaginary undulating line
separating those two regions starts from the western frontier about the
50th parallel of latitude, and runs in a northeasterly direction till it
enters the Ural range at about 56 degrees N.L.

Well do I remember my first experience of travel in the northern region,
and the weeks of voluntary exile which formed the goal of the journey.
It was in the summer of 1870. My reason for undertaking the journey was
this: a few months of life in St. Petersburg had fully convinced me that
the Russian language is one of those things which can only be acquired
by practice, and that even a person of antediluvian longevity might
spend all his life in that city without learning to express himself
fluently in the vernacular--especially if he has the misfortune of
being able to speak English, French, and German. With his friends and
associates he speaks French or English. German serves as a medium of
communication with waiters, shop keepers, and other people of that
class. It is only with isvoshtchiki--the drivers of the little open
droshkis which fulfil the function of cabs--that he is obliged to use
the native tongue, and with them a very limited vocabulary suffices. The
ordinal numerals and four short, easily-acquired expressions--poshol
(go on), na pravo (to the right), na lyevo (to the left), and stoi
(stop)--are all that is required.

Whilst I was considering how I could get beyond the sphere of
West-European languages, a friend came to my assistance, and suggested
that I should go to his estate in the province of Novgorod, where I
should find an intelligent, amiable parish priest, quite innocent of
any linguistic acquirements. This proposal I at once adopted, and
accordingly found myself one morning at a small station of the Moscow
Railway, endeavouring to explain to a peasant in sheep's clothing that
I wished to be conveyed to Ivanofka, the village where my future teacher
lived. At that time I still spoke Russian in a very fragmentary and
confused way--pretty much as Spanish cows are popularly supposed to
speak French. My first remark therefore being literally interpreted,
was--"Ivanofka. Horses. You can?" The point of interrogation was
expressed by a simultaneous raising of the voice and the eyebrows.

"Ivanofka?" cried the peasant, in an interrogatory tone of voice.
In Russia, as in other countries, the peasantry when speaking with
strangers like to repeat questions, apparently for the purpose of
gaining time.

"Ivanofka," I replied.



After some reflection the peasant nodded and said something which I did
not understand, but which I assumed to mean that he was open to consider
proposals for transporting me to my destination.

"Roubles. How many?"

To judge by the knitting of the brows and the scratching of the head,
I should say that that question gave occasion to a very abstruse
mathematical calculation. Gradually the look of concentrated attention
gave place to an expression such as children assume when they endeavour
to get a parental decision reversed by means of coaxing. Then came a
stream of soft words which were to me utterly unintelligible.

I must not weary the reader with a detailed account of the succeeding
negotiations, which were conducted with extreme diplomatic caution
on both sides, as if a cession of territory or the payment of a war
indemnity had been the subject of discussion. Three times he drove away
and three times returned. Each time he abated his pretensions, and each
time I slightly increased my offer. At last, when I began to fear that
he had finally taken his departure and had left me to my own devices, he
re-entered the room and took up my baggage, indicating thereby that he
agreed to my last offer.

The sum agreed upon would have been, under ordinary circumstances,
more than sufficient, but before proceeding far I discovered that the
circumstances were by no means ordinary, and I began to understand the
pantomimic gesticulation which had puzzled me during the negotiations.
Heavy rain had fallen without interruption for several days, and now the
track on which we were travelling could not, without poetical license,
be described as a road. In some parts it resembled a water-course, in
others a quagmire, and at least during the first half of the journey I
was constantly reminded of that stage in the work of creation when the
water was not yet separated from the dry land. During the few moments
when the work of keeping my balance and preventing my baggage from being
lost did not engross all my attention, I speculated on the possibility
of inventing a boat-carriage, to be drawn by some amphibious quadruped.
Fortunately our two lean, wiry little horses did not object to being
used as aquatic animals. They took the water bravely, and plunged
through the mud in gallant style. The telega in which we were seated--a
four-wheeled skeleton cart--did not submit to the ill-treatment so
silently. It creaked out its remonstrances and entreaties, and at
the more difficult spots threatened to go to pieces; but its owner
understood its character and capabilities, and paid no attention to its
ominous threats. Once, indeed, a wheel came off, but it was soon fished
out of the mud and replaced, and no further casualty occurred.

The horses did their work so well that when about midday we arrived at
a village, I could not refuse to let them have some rest and
refreshment--all the more as my own thoughts had begun to turn in that

The village, like villages in that part of the country generally,
consisted of two long parallel rows of wooden houses. The road--if a
stratum of deep mud can be called by that name--formed the intervening
space. All the houses turned their gables to the passerby, and some of
them had pretensions to architectural decoration in the form of rude
perforated woodwork. Between the houses, and in a line with them, were
great wooden gates and high wooden fences, separating the courtyards
from the road. Into one of these yards, near the farther end of the
village, our horses turned of their own accord.

"An inn?" I said, in an interrogative tone.

The driver shook his head and said something, in which I detected the
word "friend." Evidently there was no hostelry for man and beast in the
village, and the driver was using a friend's house for the purpose.

The yard was flanked on the one side by an open shed, containing rude
agricultural implements which might throw some light on the agriculture
of the primitive Aryans, and on the other side by the dwelling-house and
stable. Both the house and stable were built of logs, nearly cylindrical
in form, and placed in horizontal tiers.

Two of the strongest of human motives, hunger and curiosity, impelled me
to enter the house at once. Without waiting for an invitation, I went
up to the door--half protected against the winter snows by a small open
portico--and unceremoniously walked in. The first apartment was empty,
but I noticed a low door in the wall to the left, and passing through
this, entered the principal room. As the scene was new to me, I noted
the principal objects. In the wall before me were two small square
windows looking out upon the road, and in the corner to the right,
nearer to the ceiling than to the floor, was a little triangular shelf,
on which stood a religious picture. Before the picture hung a curious
oil lamp. In the corner to the left of the door was a gigantic stove,
built of brick, and whitewashed. From the top of the stove to the wall
on the right stretched what might be called an enormous shelf, six or
eight feet in breadth. This is the so-called palati, as I afterwards
discovered, and serves as a bed for part of the family. The furniture
consisted of a long wooden bench attached to the wall on the right, a
big, heavy, deal table, and a few wooden stools.

Whilst I was leisurely surveying these objects, I heard a noise on the
top of the stove, and, looking up, perceived a human face, with long
hair parted in the middle, and a full yellow beard. I was considerably
astonished by this apparition, for the air in the room was stifling,
and I had some difficulty in believing that any created being--except
perhaps a salamander or a negro--could exist in such a position. I
looked hard to convince myself that I was not the victim of a delusion.
As I stared, the head nodded slowly and pronounced the customary form of

I returned the greeting slowly, wondering what was to come next.

"Ill, very ill!" sighed the head.

"I'm not astonished at that," I remarked, in an "aside." "If I were
lying on the stove as you are I should be very ill too."

"Hot, very hot?" I remarked, interrogatively.

"Nitchevo"--that is to say, "not particularly." This remark astonished
me all the more as I noticed that the body to which the head belonged
was enveloped in a sheep-skin!

After living some time in Russia I was no longer surprised by such
incidents, for I soon discovered that the Russian peasant has a
marvellous power of bearing extreme heat as well as extreme cold. When
a coachman takes his master or mistress to the theatre or to a party,
he never thinks of going home and returning at an appointed time. Hour
after hour he sits placidly on the box, and though the cold be of an
intensity such as is never experienced in our temperate climate, he
can sleep as tranquilly as the lazzaroni at midday in Naples. In that
respect the Russian peasant seems to be first-cousin to the polar
bear, but, unlike the animals of the Arctic regions, he is not at all
incommoded by excessive heat. On the contrary, he likes it when he can
get it, and never omits an opportunity of laying in a reserve supply of
caloric. He even delights in rapid transitions from one extreme to
the other, as is amply proved by a curious custom which deserves to be

The reader must know that in the life of the Russian peasantry the
weekly vapour-bath plays a most important part. It has even a certain
religious signification, for no good orthodox peasant would dare to
enter a church after being soiled by certain kinds of pollution without
cleansing himself physically and morally by means of the bath. In the
weekly arrangements it forms the occupation for Saturday afternoon, and
care is taken to avoid thereafter all pollution until after the morning
service on Sunday. Many villages possess a public or communal bath of
the most primitive construction, but in some parts of the country--I
am not sure how far the practice extends--the peasants take their
vapour-bath in the household oven in which the bread is baked! In
all cases the operation is pushed to the extreme limit of human
endurance--far beyond the utmost limit that can be endured by those who
have not been accustomed to it from childhood. For my own part, I only
made the experiment once; and when I informed my attendant that my life
was in danger from congestion of the brain, he laughed outright, and
told me that the operation had only begun. Most astounding of all--and
this brings me to the fact which led me into this digression--the
peasants in winter often rush out of the bath and roll themselves in the
snow! This aptly illustrates a common Russian proverb, which says that
what is health to the Russian is death to the German.

Cold water, as well as hot vapour, is sometimes used as a means of
purification. In the villages the old pagan habit of masquerading in
absurd costumes at certain seasons--as is done during the carnival in
Roman Catholic countries with the approval, or at least connivance,
of the Church--still survives; but it is regarded as not altogether
sinless. He who uses such disguises places himself to a certain extent
under the influence of the Evil One, thereby putting his soul in
jeopardy; and to free himself from this danger he has to purify himself
in the following way: When the annual mid-winter ceremony of blessing
the waters is performed, by breaking a hole in the ice and immersing a
cross with certain religious rites, he should plunge into the hole as
soon as possible after the ceremony. I remember once at Yaroslavl,
on the Volga, two young peasants successfully accomplished this
feat--though the police have orders to prevent it--and escaped,
apparently without evil consequences, though the Fahrenheit thermometer
was below zero. How far the custom has really a purifying influence,
is a question which must be left to theologians; but even an ordinary
mortal can understand that, if it be regarded as a penance, it must
have a certain deterrent effect. The man who foresees the necessity
of undergoing this severe penance will think twice before putting on a
disguise. So at least it must have been in the good old times; but in
these degenerate days--among the Russian peasantry as elsewhere--the
fear of the Devil, which was formerly, if not the beginning, at least
one of the essential elements, of wisdom, has greatly decreased. Many
a young peasant will now thoughtlessly disguise himself, and when the
consecration of the water is performed, will stand and look on passively
like an ordinary spectator! It would seem that the Devil, like his enemy
the Pope, is destined to lose gradually his temporal power.

But all this time I am neglecting my new acquaintance on the top of the
stove. In reality I did not neglect him, but listened most attentively
to every word of the long tale that he recited. What it was all about
I could only vaguely guess, for I did not understand more than ten per
cent of the words used, but I assumed from the tone and gestures that he
was relating to me all the incidents and symptoms of his illness. And
a very severe illness it must have been, for it requires a very
considerable amount of physical suffering to make the patient Russian
peasant groan. Before he had finished his tale a woman entered,
apparently his wife.

To her I explained that I had a strong desire to eat and drink, and that
I wished to know what she would give me. By a good deal of laborious
explanation I was made to understand that I could have eggs, black
bread, and milk, and we agreed that there should be a division of
labour: my hostess should prepare the samovar for boiling water, whilst
I should fry the eggs to my own satisfaction.

In a few minutes the repast was ready, and, though not very delicate,
was highly acceptable. The tea and sugar I had of course brought with
me; the eggs were not very highly flavoured; and the black rye-bread,
strongly intermixed with sand, could be eaten by a peculiar and
easily-acquired method of mastication, in which the upper molars are
never allowed to touch those of the lower jaw. In this way the grating
of the sand between the teeth is avoided.

Eggs, black bread, milk, and tea--these formed my ordinary articles of
food during all my wanderings in Northern Russia. Occasionally potatoes
could be got, and afforded the possibility of varying the bill of fare.
The favourite materials employed in the native cookery are sour cabbage,
cucumbers, and kvass--a kind of very small beer made from black bread.
None of these can be recommended to the traveller who is not already
accustomed to them.

The remainder of the journey was accomplished at a rather more rapid
pace than the preceding part, for the road was decidedly better, though
it was traversed by numerous half-buried roots, which produced violent
jolts. From the conversation of the driver I gathered that wolves,
bears, and elks were found in the forest through which we were passing.

The sun had long since set when we reached our destination, and I found
to my dismay that the priest's house was closed for the night. To rouse
the reverend personage from his slumbers, and endeavour to explain to
him with my limited vocabulary the object of my visit, was not to be
thought of. On the other hand, there was no inn of any kind in the
vicinity. When I consulted the driver as to what was to be done, he
meditated for a little, and then pointed to a large house at some
distance where there were still lights. It turned out to be the
country-house of the gentleman who had advised me to undertake the
journey, and here, after a short explanation, though the owner was not
at home, I was hospitably received.

It had been my intention to live in the priest's house, but a short
interview with him on the following day convinced me that that part
of my plan could not be carried out. The preliminary objections that I
should find but poor fare in his humble household, and much more of
the same kind, were at once put aside by my assurance, made partly by
pantomime, that, as an old traveller, I was well accustomed to simple
fare, and could always accommodate myself to the habits of people
among whom my lot happened to be cast. But there was a more serious
difficulty. The priest's family had, as is generally the case with
priests' families, been rapidly increasing during the last few years,
and his house had not been growing with equal rapidity. The natural
consequence of this was that he had not a room or a bed to spare. The
little room which he had formerly kept for occasional visitors was now
occupied by his eldest daughter, who had returned from a "school for
the daughters of the clergy," where she had been for the last two years.
Under these circumstances, I was constrained to accept the kind proposal
made to me by the representative of my absent friend, that I should
take up my quarters in one of the numerous unoccupied rooms in the
manor-house. This arrangement, I was reminded, would not at all
interfere with my proposed studies, for the priest lived close at hand,
and I might spend with him as much time as I liked.

And now let me introduce the reader to my reverend teacher and one
or two other personages whose acquaintance I made during my voluntary



Ivanofka--History of the Place--The Steward of the Estate--Slav and
Teutonic Natures--A German's View of the Emancipation--Justices of the
Peace--New School of Morals--The Russian Language--Linguistic Talent of
the Russians--My Teacher--A Big Dose of Current History.

This village, Ivanofka by name, in which I proposed to spend some
months, was rather more picturesque than villages in these northern
forests commonly are. The peasants' huts, built on both sides of a
straight road, were colourless enough, and the big church, with its five
pear-shaped cupolas rising out of the bright green roof and its ugly
belfry in the Renaissance style, was not by any means beautiful in
itself; but when seen from a little distance, especially in the soft
evening twilight, the whole might have been made the subject of a
very pleasing picture. From the point that a landscape-painter would
naturally have chosen, the foreground was formed by a meadow, through
which flowed sluggishly a meandering stream. On a bit of rising ground
to the right, and half concealed by an intervening cluster of old
rich-coloured pines, stood the manor-house--a big, box-shaped,
whitewashed building, with a verandah in front, overlooking a small plot
that might some day become a flower-garden. To the left of this stood
the village, the houses grouping prettily with the big church, and a
little farther in this direction was an avenue of graceful birches. On
the extreme left were fields, bounded by a dark border of fir-trees.
Could the spectator have raised himself a few hundred feet from the
ground, he would have seen that there were fields beyond the village,
and that the whole of this agricultural oasis was imbedded in a forest
stretching in all directions as far as the eye could reach.

The history of the place may be told in a few words. In former times the
estate, including the village and all its inhabitants, had belonged to
a monastery, but when, in 1764, the Church lands were secularised by
Catherine, it became the property of the State. Some years afterwards
the Empress granted it, with the serfs and everything else which it
contained, to an old general who had distinguished himself in the
Turkish wars. From that time it had remained in the K---- family.
Some time between the years 1820 and 1840 the big church and the
mansion-house had been built by the actual possessor's father, who loved
country life, and devoted a large part of his time and energies to
the management of his estate. His son, on the contrary, preferred St.
Petersburg to the country, served in one of the public offices, loved
passionately French plays and other products of urban civilisation,
and left the entire management of the property to a German steward,
popularly known as Karl Karl'itch, whom I shall introduce to the reader

The village annals contained no important events, except bad harvests,
cattle-plagues, and destructive fires, with which the inhabitants seem
to have been periodically visited from time immemorial. If good
harvests were ever experienced, they must have faded from the popular
recollection. Then there were certain ancient traditions which might
have been lessened in bulk and improved in quality by being subjected to
searching historical criticism. More than once, for instance, a leshie,
or wood-sprite, had been seen in the neighbourhood; and in several
households the domovoi, or brownie, had been known to play strange
pranks until he was properly propitiated. And as a set-off against these
manifestations of evil powers, there were well-authenticated stories
about a miracle-working image that had mysteriously appeared on the
branch of a tree, and about numerous miraculous cures that had been
effected by means of pilgrimages to holy shrines.

But it is time to introduce the principal personages of this little
community. Of these, by far the most important was Karl Karl'itch, the

First of all I ought, perhaps, to explain how Karl Schmidt, the son of
a well-to-do Bauer in the Prussian village of Schonhausen, became Karl
Karl'itch, the principal personage in the Russian village of Ivanofka.

About the time of the Crimean War many of the Russian landed proprietors
had become alive to the necessity of improving the primitive,
traditional methods of agriculture, and sought for this purpose German
stewards for their estates. Among these proprietors was the owner of
Ivanofka. Through the medium of a friend in Berlin he succeeded in
engaging for a moderate salary a young man who had just finished his
studies in one of the German schools of agriculture--the institution at
Hohenheim, if my memory does not deceive me. This young man had arrived
in Russia as plain Karl Schmidt, but his name was soon transformed into
Karl Karl'itch, not from any desire of his own, but in accordance with
a curious Russian custom. In Russia one usually calls a man not by his
family name, but by his Christian name and patronymic--the latter being
formed from the name of his father. Thus, if a man's name is Nicholas,
and his father's Christian name is--or was--Ivan, you address him as
Nikolai Ivanovitch (pronounced Ivan'itch); and if this man should happen
to have a sister called Mary, you will address her--even though she
should be married--as Marya Ivanovna (pronounced Ivanna).

Immediately on his arrival young Schmidt had set himself vigorously
to reorganise the estate and improve the method of agriculture. Some
ploughs, harrows, and other implements which had been imported at a
former period were dragged out of the obscurity in which they had
lain for several years, and an attempt was made to farm on scientific
principles. The attempt was far from being completely successful, for
the serfs--this was before the Emancipation--could not be made to work
like regularly trained German labourers. In spite of all admonitions,
threats, and punishments, they persisted in working slowly, listlessly,
inaccurately, and occasionally they broke the new instruments from
carelessness or some more culpable motive. Karl Karl'itch was not
naturally a hard-hearted man, but he was very rigid in his notions of
duty, and could be cruelly severe when his orders were not executed with
an accuracy and punctuality that seemed to the Russian rustic mind mere
useless pedantry. The serfs did not offer him any open opposition, and
were always obsequiously respectful in their demeanour towards him, but
they invariably frustrated his plans by their carelessness and stolid,
passive resistance.

Thus arose that silent conflict and that smouldering mutual enmity which
almost always result from the contact of the Teuton with the Slav. The
serfs instinctively regretted the good old times, when they lived under
the rough-and-ready patriarchal rule of their masters, assisted by
a native "burmister," or overseer, who was one of themselves. The
burmister had not always been honest in his dealings with them, and
the master had often, when in anger, ordered severe punishments to be
inflicted; but the burmister had not attempted to make them change their
old habits, and had shut his eyes to many little sins of emission
and commission, whilst the master was always ready to assist them in
difficulties, and commonly treated them in a kindly, familiar way. As
the old Russian proverb has it, "Where danger is, there too is kindly
forgiveness." Karl Karl'itch, on the contrary, was the personification
of uncompassionate, inflexible law. Blind rage and compassionate
kindliness were alike foreign to his system of government. If he had
any feeling towards the serfs, it was one of chronic contempt. The word
durak (blockhead) was constantly on his lips, and when any bit of work
was well done, he took it as a matter of course, and never thought of
giving a word of approval or encouragement.

When it became evident, in 1859, that the emancipation of the serfs was
at hand, Karl Karl'itch confidently predicted that the country would
inevitably go to ruin. He knew by experience that the peasants were lazy
and improvident, even when they lived under the tutelage of a master,
and with the fear of the rod before their eyes. What would they become
when this guidance and salutary restraint should be removed? The
prospect raised terrible forebodings in the mind of the worthy steward,
who had his employer's interests really at heart; and these forebodings
were considerably increased and intensified when he learned that
the peasants were to receive by law the land which they occupied on
sufferance, and which comprised about a half of the whole arable land
of the estate. This arrangement he declared to be a dangerous and
unjustifiable infraction of the sacred rights of property, which
savoured strongly of communism, and could have but one practical result:
the emancipated peasants would live by the cultivation of their own
land, and would not consent on any terms to work for their former

In the few months which immediately followed the publication of the
Emancipation Edict in 1861, Karl Karl'itch found much to confirm his
most gloomy apprehensions. The peasants showed themselves dissatisfied
with the privileges conferred upon them, and sought to evade the
corresponding duties imposed on them by the new law. In vain he
endeavoured, by exhortations, promises, and threats, to get the most
necessary part of the field-work done, and showed the peasants the
provision of the law enjoining them to obey and work as of old until
some new arrangement should be made. To all his appeals they replied
that, having been freed by the Tsar, they were no longer obliged to
work for their former master; and he was at last forced to appeal to
the authorities. This step had a certain effect, but the field-work was
executed that year even worse than usual, and the harvest suffered in

Since that time things had gradually improved. The peasants had
discovered that they could not support themselves and pay their taxes
from the land ceded to them, and had accordingly consented to till the
proprietor's fields for a moderate recompense. "These last two years,"
said Karl Karl'itch to me, with an air of honest self-satisfaction, "I
have been able, after paying all expenses, to transmit little sums to
the young master in St. Petersburg. It was certainly not much, but it
shows that things are better than they were. Still, it is hard, uphill
work. The peasants have not been improved by liberty. They now work less
and drink more than they did in the times of serfage, and if you say a
word to them they'll go away, and not work for you at all." Here
Karl Karl'itch indemnified himself for his recent self-control in the
presence of his workers by using a series of the strongest epithets
which the combined languages of his native and of his adopted country
could supply. "But laziness and drunkenness are not their only faults.
They let their cattle wander into our fields, and never lose an
opportunity of stealing firewood from the forest."

"But you have now for such matters the rural justices of the peace," I
ventured to suggest.

"The justices of the peace!" . . . Here Karl Karl'itch used an inelegant
expression, which showed plainly that he was no unqualified admirer
of the new judicial institutions. "What is the use of applying to the
justices? The nearest one lives six miles off, and when I go to him he
evidently tries to make me lose as much time as possible. I am sure to
lose nearly a whole day, and at the end of it I may find that I have got
nothing for my pains. These justices always try to find some excuse for
the peasant, and when they do condemn, by way of exception, the
affair does not end there. There is pretty sure to be a pettifogging
practitioner prowling about--some rascally scribe who has been dismissed
from the public offices for pilfering and extorting too openly--and he
is always ready to whisper to the peasant that he should appeal. The
peasant knows that the decision is just, but he is easily persuaded
that by appealing to the Monthly Sessions he gets another chance in
the lottery, and may perhaps draw a prize. He lets the rascally scribe,
therefore, prepare an appeal for him, and I receive an invitation to
attend the Session of Justices in the district town on a certain day.

"It is a good five-and-thirty miles to the district town, as you know,
but I get up early, and arrive at eleven o'clock, the hour stated in the
official notice. A crowd of peasants are hanging about the door of the
court, but the only official present is the porter. I enquire of him
when my case is likely to come on, and receive the laconic answer, 'How
should I know?' After half an hour the secretary arrives. I repeat my
question, and receive the same answer. Another half hour passes, and one
of the justices drives up in his tarantass. Perhaps he is a glib-tongued
gentleman, and assures me that the proceedings will commence at once:
'Sei tchas! sei tchas!' Don't believe what the priest or the dictionary
tells you about the meaning of that expression. The dictionary will tell
you that it means 'immediately,' but that's all nonsense. In the mouth
of a Russian it means 'in an hour,' 'next week,' 'in a year or two,'
'never'--most commonly 'never.' Like many other words in Russian, 'sei
tchas' can be understood only after long experience. A second justice
drives up, and then a third. No more are required by law, but these
gentlemen must first smoke several cigarettes and discuss all the local
news before they begin work.

"At last they take their seats on the bench--a slightly elevated
platform at one end of the room, behind a table covered with green
baize--and the proceedings commence. My case is sure to be pretty far
down on the list--the secretary takes, I believe, a malicious pleasure
in watching my impatience--and before it is called the justices have to
retire at least once for refreshments and cigarettes. I have to amuse
myself by listening to the other cases, and some of them, I can assure
you, are amusing enough. The walls of that room must be by this time
pretty well saturated with perjury, and many of the witnesses catch at
once the infection. Perhaps I may tell you some other time a few of the
amusing incidents that I have seen there. At last my case is called. It
is as clear as daylight, but the rascally pettifogger is there with
a long-prepared speech, he holds in his hand a small volume of the
codified law, and quotes paragraphs which no amount of human ingenuity
can make to bear upon the subject. Perhaps the previous decision is
confirmed; perhaps it is reversed; in either case, I have lost a second
day and exhausted more patience than I can conveniently spare. And
something even worse may happen, as I know by experience. Once during
a case of mine there was some little informality--someone inadvertently
opened the door of the consulting-room when the decision was being
written, or some other little incident of the sort occurred, and the
rascally pettifogger complained to the Supreme Court of Revision, which
is a part of the Senate. The case was all about a few roubles, but it
was discussed in St. Petersburg, and afterwards tried over again by
another court of justices. Now I have paid my Lehrgeld, and go no more
to law."

"Then you must expose yourself to all kinds of extortion?"

"Not so much as you might imagine. I have my own way of dispensing
justice. When I catch a peasant's horse or cow in our fields, I lock it
up and make the owner pay a ransom."

"Is it not rather dangerous," I inquired, "to take the law thus into
your own hands? I have heard that the Russian justices are extremely
severe against any one who has recourse to what our German jurists call

"That they are! So long as you are in Russia, you had much better let
yourself be quietly robbed than use any violence against the robber. It
is less trouble, and it is cheaper in the long run. If you do not, you
may unexpectedly find yourself some fine morning in prison! You must
know that many of the young justices belong to the new school of

"What is that? I have not heard of any new discoveries lately in the
sphere of speculative ethics."

"Well, to tell you the truth, I am not one of the initiated, and I can
only tell you what I hear. So far as I have noticed, the representatives
of the new doctrine talk chiefly about Gumannost' and Tchelovetcheskoe
dostoinstvo. You know what these words mean?"

"Humanity, or rather humanitarianism and human dignity," I replied, not
sorry to give a proof that I was advancing in my studies.

"There, again, you allow your dictionary and your priest to mislead you.
These terms, when used by a Russian, cover much more than we understand
by them, and those who use them most frequently have generally a special
tenderness for all kinds of malefactors. In the old times, malefactors
were popularly believed to be bad, dangerous people; but it has been
lately discovered that this is a delusion. A young proprietor who lives
not far off assures me that they are the true Protestants, and the
most powerful social reformers! They protest practically against those
imperfections of social organisation of which they are the involuntary
victims. The feeble, characterless man quietly submits to his chains;
the bold, generous, strong man breaks his fetters, and helps others to
do the same. A very ingenious defence of all kinds of rascality, isn't

"Well, it is a theory that might certainly be carried too far, and might
easily lead to very inconvenient conclusions; but I am not sure that,
theoretically speaking, it does not contain a certain element of truth.
It ought at least to foster that charity which we are enjoined to
practise towards all men. But perhaps 'all men' does not include
publicans and sinners?"

On hearing these words Karl Karl'itch turned to me, and every feature of
his honest German face expressed the most undisguised astonishment.
"Are you, too, a Nihilist?" he inquired, as soon as he had partially
recovered his breath.

"I really don't know what a Nihilist is, but I may assure you that I am
not an 'ist' of any kind. What is a Nihilist?"

"If you live long in Russia you'll learn that without my telling you.
As I was saying, I am not at all afraid of the peasants citing me before
the justice. They know better now. If they gave me too much trouble I
could starve their cattle."

"Yes, when you catch them in your fields," I remarked, taking no notice
of the abrupt turn which he had given to the conversation.

"I can do it without that. You must know that, by the Emancipation
Law, the peasants received arable land, but they received little or no
pasturage. I have the whip hand of them there!"

The remarks of Karl Karl'itch on men and things were to me always
interesting, for he was a shrewd observer, and displayed occasionally a
pleasant, dry humour. But I very soon discovered that his opinions were
not to be accepted without reserve. His strong, inflexible Teutonic
nature often prevented him from judging impartially. He had no sympathy
with the men and the institutions around him, and consequently he was
unable to see things from the inside. The specks and blemishes on the
surface he perceived clearly enough, but he had no knowledge of the
secret, deep-rooted causes by which these specks and blemishes were
produced. The simple fact that a man was a Russian satisfactorily
accounted, in his opinion, for any kind of moral deformity; and his
knowledge turned out to be by no means so extensive as I had at first
supposed. Though he had been many years in the country, he knew very
little about the life of the peasants beyond that small part of it which
concerned directly his own interests and those of his employer. Of the
communal organisation, domestic life, religious beliefs, ceremonial
practices, and nomadic habits of his humble neighbours, he knew little,
and the little he happened to know was far from accurate. In order to
gain a knowledge of these matters it would be better, I perceived, to
consult the priest, or, better still, the peasants themselves. But to do
this it would be necessary to understand easily and speak fluently the
colloquial language, and I was still very far from having, acquired the
requisite proficiency.

Even for one who possesses a natural facility for acquiring foreign
tongues, the learning of Russian is by no means an easy task. Though
it is essentially an Aryan language like our own, and contains only a
slight intermixture of Tartar words,--such as bashlyk (a hood), kalpak
(a night-cap), arbuz (a water-melon), etc.--it has certain sounds
unknown to West-European ears, and difficult for West-European tongues,
and its roots, though in great part derived from the same original stock
as those of the Graeco-Latin and Teutonic languages, are generally not
at all easily recognised. As an illustration of this, take the Russian
word otets. Strange as it may at first sight appear, this word is merely
another form of our word father, of the German vater, and of the French
pere. The syllable ets is the ordinary Russian termination denoting the
agent, corresponding to the English and German ending er, as we see in
such words as--kup-ets (a buyer), plov-ets (a swimmer), and many others.
The root ot is a mutilated form of vot, as we see in the word otchina (a
paternal inheritance), which is frequently written votchina. Now vot is
evidently the same root as the German vat in Vater, and the English fath
in father. Quod erat demonstrandum.

All this is simple enough, and goes to prove the fundamental identity,
or rather the community of origin, of the Slav and Teutonic languages;
but it will be readily understood that etymological analogies so
carefully disguised are of little practical use in helping us to acquire
a foreign tongue. Besides this, the grammatical forms and constructions
in Russian are very peculiar, and present a great many strange
irregularities. As an illustration of this we may take the future tense.
The Russian verb has commonly a simple and a frequentative future. The
latter is always regularly formed by means of an auxiliary with the
infinitive, as in English, but the former is constructed in a variety of
ways, for which no rule can be given, so that the simple future of each
individual verb must be learned by a pure effort of memory. In many
verbs it is formed by prefixing a preposition, but it is impossible
to determine by rule which preposition should be used. Thus idu (I go)
becomes poidu; pishu (I write) becomes napishu; pyu (I drink) becomes
vuipyu, and so on.

Closely akin to the difficulties of pronunciation is the difficulty of
accentuating the proper syllable. In this respect Russian is like Greek;
you can rarely tell a priori on what syllable the accent falls. But
it is more puzzling than Greek, for two reasons: firstly, it is not
customary to print Russian with accents; and secondly, no one has yet
been able to lay down precise rules for the transposition of the accent
in the various inflections of the same word, Of this latter peculiarity,
let one illustration suffice. The word ruka (hand) has the accent on the
last syllable, but in the accusative (ruku) the accent goes back to the
first syllable. It must not, however, be assumed that in all words
of this type a similar transposition takes place. The word beda
(misfortune), for instance, as well as very many others, always retains
the accent on the last syllable.

These and many similar difficulties, which need not be here enumerated,
can be mastered only by long practice. Serious as they are, they need
not frighten any one who is in the habit of learning foreign tongues.
The ear and the tongue gradually become familiar with the peculiarities
of inflection and accentuation, and practice fulfils the same function
as abstract rules.

It is commonly supposed that Russians have been endowed by Nature with
a peculiar linguistic talent. Their own language, it is said, is so
difficult that they have no difficulty in acquiring others. This common
belief requires, as it seems to me, some explanation. That highly
educated Russians are better linguists than the educated classes of
Western Europe there can be no possible doubt, for they almost always
speak French, and often English and German also. The question, however,
is whether this is the result of a psychological peculiarity, or of
other causes. Now, without venturing to deny the existence of a natural
faculty, I should say that the other causes have at least exercised a
powerful influence. Any Russian who wishes to be regarded as civilise
must possess at least one foreign language; and, as a consequence of
this, the children of the upper classes are always taught at least
French in their infancy. Many households comprise a German nurse, a
French tutor, and an English governess; and the children thus become
accustomed from their earliest years to the use of these three
languages. Besides this, Russian is phonetically very rich and contains
nearly all the sounds which are to be found in West-European tongues.
Perhaps on the whole it would be well to apply here the Darwinian
theory, and suppose that the Russian Noblesse, having been obliged
for several generations to acquire foreign languages, have gradually
developed a hereditary polyglot talent.

Several circumstances concurred to assist me in my efforts, during my
voluntary exile, to acquire at least such a knowledge of the language
as would enable me to converse freely with the peasantry. In the first
place, my reverend teacher was an agreeable, kindly, talkative man,
who took a great delight in telling interminable stories, quite
independently of any satisfaction which he might derive from the
consciousness of their being understood and appreciated. Even when
walking alone he was always muttering something to an imaginary
listener. A stranger meeting him on such occasions might have supposed
that he was holding converse with unseen spirits, though his broad
muscular form and rubicund face militated strongly against such a
supposition; but no man, woman, or child living within a radius of
ten miles would ever have fallen into this mistake. Every one in the
neighbourhood knew that "Batushka" (papa), as he was familiarly called,
was too prosaical, practical a man to see things ethereal, that he was
an irrepressible talker, and that when he could not conveniently find an
audience he created one by his own imagination. This peculiarity of his
rendered me good service. Though for some time I understood very little
of what he said, and very often misplaced the positive and negative
monosyllables which I hazarded occasionally by way of encouragement,
he talked vigorously all the same. Like all garrulous people, he was
constantly repeating himself; but to this I did not object, for the
custom--however disagreeable in ordinary society--was for me highly
beneficial, and when I had already heard a story once or twice before,
it was much easier for me to assume at the proper moment the requisite
expression of countenance.

Another fortunate circumstance was that at Ivanofka there were no
distractions, so that the whole of the day and a great part of the night
could be devoted to study. My chief amusement was an occasional walk in
the fields with Karl Karl'itch; and even this mild form of dissipation
could not always be obtained, for as soon as rain had fallen it was
difficult to go beyond the verandah--the mud precluding the
possibility of a constitutional. The nearest approach to excitement was
mushroom-gathering; and in this occupation my inability to distinguish
the edible from the poisonous species made my efforts unacceptable. We
lived so "far from the madding crowd" that its din scarcely reached
our ears. A week or ten days might pass without our receiving any
intelligence from the outer world. The nearest post-office was in the
district town, and with that distant point we had no regular system of
communication. Letters and newspapers remained there till called for,
and were brought to us intermittently when some one of our neighbours
happened to pass that way. Current history was thus administered to us
in big doses.

One very big dose I remember well. For a much longer time than usual
no volunteer letter-carrier had appeared, and the delay was more than
usually tantalising, because it was known that war had broken out
between France and Germany. At last a big bundle of a daily paper called
the Golos was brought to me. Impatient to learn whether any great battle
had been fought, I began by examining the latest number, and stumbled
at once on an article headed, "Latest Intelligence: the Emperor at
Wilhelmshohe!!!" The large type in which the heading was printed and
the three marks of exclamation showed plainly that the article was very
important. I began to read with avidity, but was utterly mystified. What
emperor was this? Probably the Tsar or the Emperor of Austria, for
there was no German Emperor in those days. But no! It was evidently the
Emperor of the French. And how did Napoleon get to Wilhelmshohe? The
French must have broken through the Rhine defences, and pushed far
into Germany. But no! As I read further, I found this theory equally
untenable. It turned out that the Emperor was surrounded by Germans,
and--a prisoner! In order to solve the mystery, I had to go back to the
preceding numbers of the paper, and learned, at a sitting, all about the
successive German victories, the defeat and capitulation of Macmahon's
army at Sedan, and the other great events of that momentous time. The
impression produced can scarcely be realised by those who have always
imbibed current history in the homeopathic doses administered by the
morning and evening daily papers.

By the useful loquacity of my teacher and the possibility of devoting
all my time to my linguistic studies, I made such rapid progress in
the acquisition of the language that I was able after a few weeks to
understand much of what was said to me, and to express myself in a
vague, roundabout way. In the latter operation I was much assisted by
a peculiar faculty of divination which the Russians possess in a high
degree. If a foreigner succeeds in expressing about one-fourth of
an idea, the Russian peasant can generally fill up the remaining
three-fourths from his own intuition.

As my powers of comprehension increased, my long conversations with
the priest became more and more instructive. At first his remarks and
stories had for me simply a philological interest, but gradually
I perceived that his talk contained a great deal of solid,
curious information regarding himself and the class to which he
belonged--information of a kind not commonly found in grammatical
exercises. Some of this I now propose to communicate to the reader.



Priests' Names--Clerical Marriages--The White and the Black Clergy--Why
the People do not Respect the Parish Priests--History of the White
Clergy--The Parish Priest and the Protestant Pastor--In What Sense
the Russian People are Religious--Icons--The Clergy and Popular
Education--Ecclesiastical Reform--Premonitory Symptoms of Change--Two
Typical Specimens of the Parochial Clergy of the Present Day.

In formal introductions it is customary to pronounce in a more or less
inaudible voice the names of the two persons introduced. Circumstances
compel me in the present case to depart from received custom. The truth
is, I do not know the names of the two people whom I wish to bring
together! The reader who knows his own name will readily pardon one-half
of my ignorance, but he may naturally expect that I should know the name
of a man with whom I profess to be acquainted, and with whom I daily
held long conversations during a period of several months. Strange as
it may seem, I do not. During all the time of my sojourn in Ivanofka I
never heard him addressed or spoken of otherwise than as "Batushka." Now
"Batushka" is not a name at all. It is simply the diminutive form of an
obsolete word meaning "father," and is usually applied to all village
priests. The ushka is a common diminutive termination, and the root Bat
is evidently the same as that which appears in the Latin pater.

Though I do not happen to know what Batushka's family name was, I can
communicate two curious facts concerning it: he had not possessed it in
his childhood, and it was not the same as his father's.

The reader whose intuitive powers have been preternaturally sharpened by
a long course of sensation novels will probably leap to the conclusion
that Batushka was a mysterious individual, very different from what he
seemed--either the illegitimate son of some great personage, or a man of
high birth who had committed some great sin, and who now sought oblivion
and expiation in the humble duties of a parish priest. Let me dispel
at once all delusions of this kind. Batushka was actually as well as
legally the legitimate son of an ordinary parish priest, who was
still living, about twenty miles off, and for many generations all his
paternal and maternal ancestors, male and female, had belonged to the
priestly caste. He was thus a Levite of the purest water, and thoroughly
Levitical in his character. Though he knew by experience something about
the weakness of the flesh, he had never committed any sins of the heroic
kind, and had no reason to conceal his origin. The curious facts above
stated were simply the result of a peculiar custom which exists among
the Russian clergy. According to this custom, when a boy enters the
seminary he receives from the Bishop a new family name. The name may be
Bogoslafski, from a word signifying "Theology," or Bogolubof, "the love
of God," or some similar term; or it may be derived from the name of the
boy's native village, or from any other word which the Bishop thinks fit
to choose. I know of one instance where a Bishop chose two French words
for the purpose. He had intended to call the boy Velikoselski, after his
native place, Velikoe Selo, which means "big village"; but finding
that there was already a Velikoselski in the seminary, and being in a
facetious frame of mind, he called the new comer Grandvillageski--a word
that may perhaps sorely puzzle some philologist of the future.

My reverend teacher was a tall, muscular man of about forty years of
age, with a full dark-brown beard, and long lank hair falling over his
shoulders. The visible parts of his dress consisted of three articles--a
dingy-brown robe of coarse material buttoned closely at the neck and
descending to the ground, a wideawake hat, and a pair of large, heavy
boots. As to the esoteric parts of his attire, I refrained from making
investigations. His life had been an uneventful one. At an early age he
had been sent to the seminary in the chief town of the province, and had
made for himself the reputation of a good average scholar. "The seminary
of that time," he used to say to me, referring to that part of his
life, "was not what it is now. Nowadays the teachers talk about
humanitarianism, and the boys would think that a crime had been
committed against human dignity if one of them happened to be flogged.
But they don't consider that human dignity is at all affected by their
getting drunk, and going to--to--to places that I never went to. I was
flogged often enough, and I don't think that I am a worse man on that
account; and though I never heard then anything about pedagogical
science that they talk so much about now, I'll read a bit of Latin yet
with the best of them.

"When my studies were finished," said Batushka, continuing the simple
story of his life, "the Bishop found a wife for me, and I succeeded
her father, who was then an old man. In that way I became a priest of
Ivanofka, and have remained here ever since. It is a hard life, for the
parish is big, and my bit of land is not very fertile; but, praise be to
God! I am healthy and strong, and get on well enough."

"You said that the Bishop found a wife for you," I remarked. "I suppose,
therefore, that he was a great friend of yours."

"Not at all. The Bishop does the same for all the seminarists who wish
to be ordained: it is an important part of his pastoral duties."

"Indeed!" I exclaimed in astonishment. "Surely that is carrying the
system of paternal government a little too far. Why should his Reverence
meddle with things that don't concern him?"

"But these matters do concern him. He is the natural protector of widows
and orphans, especially among the clergy of his own diocese. When a
parish priest dies, what is to become of his wife and daughters?"

Not perceiving clearly the exact bearing of these last remarks, I
ventured to suggest that priests ought to economise in view of future

"It is easy to speak," replied Batushka: "'A story is soon told,' as
the old proverb has it, 'but a thing is not soon done.' How are we to
economise? Even without saving we have the greatest difficulty to make
the two ends meet."

"Then the widow and daughters might work and gain a livelihood."

"What, pray, could they work at?" asked Batushka, and paused for a
reply. Seeing that I had none to offer him, he continued, "Even the
house and land belong not to them, but to the new priest."

"If that position occurred in a novel," I said, "I could foretell what
would happen. The author would make the new priest fall in love with
and marry one of the daughters, and then the whole family, including the
mother-in-law, would live happily ever afterwards."

"That is exactly how the Bishop arranges the matter. What the novelist
does with the puppets of his imagination, the Bishop does with real
beings of flesh and blood. As a rational being he cannot leave things
to chance. Besides this, he must arrange the matter before the young man
takes orders, because, by the rules of the Church, the marriage cannot
take place after the ceremony of ordination. When the affair is arranged
before the charge becomes vacant, the old priest can die with the
pleasant consciousness that his family is provided for."

"Well, Batushka, you certainly put the matter in a very plausible way,
but there seem to be two flaws in the analogy. The novelist can make two
people fall in love with each other, and make them live happily together
with the mother-in-law, but that--with all due respect to his Reverence,
be it said--is beyond the power of a Bishop."

"I am not sure," said Batushka, avoiding the point of the objection,
"that love-marriages are always the happiest ones; and as to the
mother-in-law, there are--or at least there were until the emancipation
of the serfs--a mother-in-law and several daughters-in-law in almost
every peasant household."

"And does harmony generally reign in peasant households?"

"That depends upon the head of the house. If he is a man of the right
sort, he can keep the women-folks in order." This remark was made in
an energetic tone, with the evident intention of assuring me that the
speaker was himself "a man of the right sort"; but I did not attribute
much importance to it, for I have occasionally heard henpecked husbands
talk in this grandiloquent way when their wives were out of hearing.
Altogether I was by no means convinced that the system of providing for
the widows and orphans of the clergy by means of mariages de convenance
was a good one, but I determined to suspend my judgment until I should
obtain fuller information.

An additional bit of evidence came to me a week or two later. One
morning, on going into the priest's house, I found that he had a friend
with him--the priest of a village some fifteen miles off. Before we had
got through the ordinary conventional remarks about the weather and the
crops, a peasant drove up to the door in his cart with a message that
an old peasant was dying in a neighbouring village, and desired the last
consolations of religion. Batushka was thus obliged to leave us, and his
friend and I agreed to stroll leisurely in the direction of the village
to which he was going, so as to meet him on his way home. The harvest
was already finished, so that our road, after emerging from the village,
lay through stubble-fields. Beyond this we entered the pine forest, and
by the time we had reached this point I had succeeded in leading the
conversation to the subject of clerical marriages.

"I have been thinking a good deal on this subject," I said, "and I
should very much like to know your opinion about the system."

My new acquaintance was a tall, lean, black-haired man, with a sallow
complexion and vinegar aspect--evidently one of those unhappy mortals
who are intended by Nature to take a pessimistic view of all things, and
to point out to their fellows the deep shadows of human life. I was not
at all surprised, therefore, when he replied in a deep, decided tone,
"Bad, very bad--utterly bad!"

The way in which these words were pronounced left no doubt as to the
opinion of the speaker, but I was desirous of knowing on what that
opinion was founded--more especially as I seemed to detect in the tone a
note of personal grievance. My answer was shaped accordingly.

"I suspected that; but in the discussions which I have had I have always
been placed at a disadvantage, not being able to adduce any definite
facts in support of my opinion."

"You may congratulate yourself on being unable to find any in your own
experience. A mother-in-law living in the house does not conduce to
domestic harmony. I don't know how it is in your country, but so it is
with us."

I hastened to assure him that this was not a peculiarity of Russia.

"I know it only too well," he continued. "My mother-in-law lived with
me for some years, and I was obliged at last to insist on her going to
another son-in-law."

"Rather selfish conduct towards your brother-in-law," I said to myself,
and then added audibly, "I hope you have thus solved the difficulty

"Not at all. Things are worse now than they were. I agreed to pay her
three roubles a month, and have regularly fulfilled my promise, but
lately she has thought it not enough, and she made a complaint to the
Bishop. Last week I went to him to defend myself, but as I had not money
enough for all the officials in the Consistorium, I could not obtain
justice. My mother-in-law had made all sorts of absurd accusations
against me, and consequently I was laid under an inhibition for six

"And what is the effect of an inhibition?"

"The effect is that I cannot perform the ordinary rites of our religion.
It is really very unjust," he added, assuming an indignant tone, "and
very annoying. Think of all the hardship and inconvenience to which it
gives rise."

As I thought of the hardship and inconvenience to which the parishioners
must be exposed through the inconsiderate conduct of the old
mother-in-law, I could not but sympathise with my new acquaintance's
indignation. My sympathy was, however, somewhat cooled when I perceived
that I was on a wrong tack, and that the priest was looking at the
matter from an entirely different point of view.

"You see," he said, "it is a most unfortunate time of year. The peasants
have gathered in their harvest, and can give of their abundance.
There are merry-makings and marriages, besides the ordinary deaths
and baptisms. Altogether I shall lose by the thing more than a hundred

I confess I was a little shocked on hearing the priest thus speak of his
sacred functions as if they were an ordinary marketable commodity, and
talk of the inhibition as a pushing undertaker might talk of sanitary
improvements. My surprise was caused not by the fact that he regarded
the matter from a pecuniary point of view--for I was old enough to know
that clerical human nature is not altogether insensible to pecuniary
considerations--but by the fact that he should thus undisguisedly
express his opinions to a stranger without in the least suspecting
that there was anything unseemly in his way of speaking. The incident
appeared to me very characteristic, but I refrained from all audible
comments, lest I should inadvertently check his communicativeness. With
the view of encouraging it, I professed to be very much interested, as
I really was, in what he said, and I asked him how in his opinion the
present unsatisfactory state of things might be remedied.

"There is but one cure," he said, with a readiness that showed he had
often spoken on the theme already, "and that is freedom and publicity.
We full-grown men are treated like children, and watched like
conspirators. If I wish to preach a sermon--not that I often wish to
do such a thing, but there are occasions when it is advisable--I am
expected to show it first to the Blagotchinny, and--"

"I beg your pardon, who is the Blagotchinny?"

"The Blagotchinny is a parish priest who is in direct relations with
the Consistory of the Province, and who is supposed to exercise a strict
supervision over all the other parish priests of his district. He acts
as the spy of the Consistory, which is filled with greedy, shameless
officials, deaf to any one who does not come provided with a handful of
roubles. The Bishop may be a good, well-intentioned man, but he always
sees and acts through these worthless subordinates. Besides this, the
Bishops and heads of monasteries, who monopolise the higher places in
the ecclesiastical Administration, all belong to the Black Clergy--that
is to say, they are all monks--and consequently cannot understand our
wants. How can they, on whom celibacy is imposed by the rules of the
Church, understand the position of a parish priest who has to bring up
a family and to struggle with domestic cares of every kind? What they do
is to take all the comfortable places for themselves, and leave us all
the hard work. The monasteries are rich enough, and you see how poor we
are. Perhaps you have heard that the parish priests extort money from
the peasants--refusing to perform the rites of baptism or burial until
a considerable sum has been paid. It is only too true, but who is to
blame? The priest must live and bring up his family, and you cannot
imagine the humiliations to which he has to submit in order to gain a
scanty pittance. I know it by experience. When I make the periodical
visitation I can see that the peasants grudge every handful of rye and
every egg that they give me. I can overbear their sneers as I go away,
and I know they have many sayings such as--'The priest takes from the
living and from the dead.' Many of them fasten their doors, pretending
to be away from home, and do not even take the precaution of keeping
silent till I am out of hearing."

"You surprise me," I said, in reply to the last part of this long
tirade; "I have always heard that the Russians are a very religious
people--at least the lower classes."

"So they are; but the peasantry are poor and heavily taxed. They set
great importance on the sacraments, and observe rigorously the fasts,
which comprise nearly a half of the year; but they show very little
respect for their priests, who are almost as poor as themselves."

"But I do not see clearly how you propose to remedy this state of

"By freedom and publicity, as I said before." The worthy man seemed to
have learned this formula by rote. "First of all, our wants must be made
known. In some provinces there have been attempts to do this by means of
provincial assemblies of the clergy, but these efforts have always been
strenuously opposed by the Consistories, whose members fear publicity
above all things. But in order to have publicity we must have more

Here followed a long discourse on freedom and publicity, which seemed to
me very confused. So far as I could understand the argument, there was
a good deal of reasoning in a circle. Freedom was necessary in order to
get publicity, and publicity was necessary in order to get freedom;
and the practical result would be that the clergy would enjoy bigger
salaries and more popular respect. We had only got thus far in the
investigation of the subject when our conversation was interrupted by
the rumbling of a peasant's cart. In a few seconds our friend Batushka
appeared, and the conversation took a different turn.

Since that time I have frequently spoken on this subject with competent
authorities, and nearly all have admitted that the present condition of
the clergy is highly unsatisfactory, and that the parish priest rarely
enjoys the respect of his parishioners. In a semi-official report,
which I once accidentally stumbled upon when searching for material of
a different kind, the facts are stated in the following plain language:
"The people"--I seek to translate as literally as possible--"do not
respect the clergy, but persecute them with derision and reproaches, and
feel them to be a burden. In nearly all the popular comic stories the
priest, his wife, or his labourer is held up to ridicule, and in all the
proverbs and popular sayings where the clergy are mentioned it is always
with derision. The people shun the clergy, and have recourse to them not
from the inner impulse of conscience, but from necessity. . . . And why
do the people not respect the clergy? Because it forms a class apart;
because, having received a false kind of education, it does not
introduce into the life of the people the teaching of the Spirit, but
remains in the mere dead forms of outward ceremonial, at the same time
despising these forms even to blasphemy; because the clergy itself
continually presents examples of want of respect to religion, and
transforms the service of God into a profitable trade. Can the people
respect the clergy when they hear how one priest stole money from below
the pillow of a dying man at the moment of confession, how another was
publicly dragged out of a house of ill-fame, how a third christened a
dog, how a fourth whilst officiating at the Easter service was dragged
by the hair from the altar by the deacon? Is it possible for the
people to respect priests who spend their time in the gin-shop, write
fraudulent petitions, fight with the cross in their hands, and abuse
each other in bad language at the altar?

"One might fill several pages with examples of this kind--in each
instance naming the time and place--without overstepping the boundaries
of the province of Nizhni-Novgorod. Is it possible for the people
to respect the clergy when they see everywhere amongst them simony,
carelessness in performing the religious rites, and disorder in
administering the sacraments? Is it possible for the people to respect
the clergy when they see that truth has disappeared from it, and
that the Consistories, guided in their decisions not by rules, but
by personal friendship and bribery, destroy in it the last remains of
truthfulness? If we add to all this the false certificates which the
clergy give to those who do not wish to partake of the Eucharist, the
dues illegally extracted from the Old Ritualists, the conversion of
the altar into a source of revenue, the giving of churches to priests'
daughters as a dowry, and similar phenomena, the question as to whether
the people can respect the clergy requires no answer."

As these words were written by an orthodox Russian,* celebrated for his
extensive and intimate knowledge of Russian provincial life, and were
addressed in all seriousness to a member of the Imperial family, we
may safely assume that they contain a considerable amount of truth. The
reader must not, however, imagine that all Russian priests are of
the kind above referred to. Many of them are honest, respectable,
well-intentioned men, who conscientiously fulfil their humble duties,
and strive hard to procure a good education for their children. If they
have less learning, culture, and refinement than the Roman Catholic
priesthood, they have at the same time infinitely less fanaticism, less
spiritual pride, and less intolerance towards the adherents of other

     * Mr. Melnikof, in a "secret" Report to the Grand Duke
     Constantine Nikolaievitch.

Both the good and the bad qualities of the Russian priesthood at the
present time can be easily explained by its past history, and by certain
peculiarities of the national character.

The Russian White Clergy--that is to say, the parish priests, as
distinguished from the monks, who are called the Black Clergy--have had
a curious history. In primitive times they were drawn from all classes
of the population, and freely elected by the parishioners. When a man
was elected by the popular vote, he was presented to the Bishop, and
if he was found to be a fit and proper person for the office, he was
at once ordained. But this custom early fell into disuse. The Bishops,
finding that many of the candidates presented were illiterate peasants,
gradually assumed the right of appointing the priests, with or without
the consent of the parishioners; and their choice generally fell on the
sons of the clergy as the men best fitted to take orders. The creation
of Bishops' schools, afterwards called seminaries, in which the sons of
the clergy were educated, naturally led, in the course of time, to the
total exclusion of the other classes. The policy of the civil Government
led to the same end. Peter the Great laid down the principle that every
subject should in some way serve the State--the nobles as officers in
the army or navy, or as officials in the civil service; the clergy as
ministers of religion; and the lower classes as soldiers, sailors, or
tax-payers. Of these three classes the clergy had by far the lightest
burdens, and consequently many nobles and peasants would willingly have
entered its ranks. But this species of desertion the Government could
not tolerate, and accordingly the priesthood was surrounded by a legal
barrier which prevented all outsiders from entering it. Thus by the
combined efforts of the ecclesiastical and the civil Administration the
clergy became a separate class or caste, legally and actually incapable
of mingling with the other classes of the population.

The simple fact that the clergy became an exclusive caste, with a
peculiar character, peculiar habits, and peculiar ideals, would in
itself have had a prejudicial influence on the priesthood; but this
was not all. The caste increased in numbers by the process of natural
reproduction much more rapidly than the offices to be filled, so that
the supply of priests and deacons soon far exceeded the demand; and the
disproportion between supply and demand became every year greater and
greater. In this way was formed an ever-increasing clerical Proletariat,
which--as is always the case with a Proletariat of any kind--gravitated
towards the towns. In vain the Government issued ukazes prohibiting the
priests from quitting their places of domicile, and treated as vagrants
and runaways those who disregarded the prohibition; in vain successive
sovereigns endeavoured to diminish the number of these supernumeraries
by drafting them wholesale into the army. In Moscow, St. Petersburg, and
all the larger towns the cry was, "Still they come!" Every morning, in
the Kremlin of Moscow, a large crowd of them assembled for the purpose
of being hired to officiate in the private chapels of the rich nobles,
and a great deal of hard bargaining took place between the priests and
the lackeys sent to hire them--conducted in the same spirit, and in
nearly the same forms, as that which simultaneously took place in the
bazaar close by between extortionate traders and thrifty housewives.
"Listen to me," a priest would say, as an ultimatum, to a lackey who was
trying to beat down the price: "if you don't give me seventy-five kopeks
without further ado, I'll take a bite of this roll, and that will be
an end to it!" And that would have been an end to the bargaining, for,
according to the rules of the Church, a priest cannot officiate after
breaking his fast. The ultimatum, however, could be used with effect
only to country servants who had recently come to town. A sharp lackey,
experienced in this kind of diplomacy, would have laughed at the threat,
and replied coolly, "Bite away, Batushka; I can find plenty more of your
sort!" Amusing scenes of this kind I have heard described by old people
who professed to have been eye-witnesses.

The condition of the priests who remained in the villages was not much
better. Those of them who were fortunate enough to find places were
raised at least above the fear of absolute destitution, but their
position was by no means enviable. They received little consideration
or respect from the peasantry, and still less from the nobles. When the
church was situated not on the State Domains, but on a private estate,
they were practically under the power of the proprietor--almost as
completely as his serfs; and sometimes that power was exercised in a
most humiliating and shameful way. I have heard, for instance, of one
priest who was ducked in a pond on a cold winter day for the amusement
of the proprietor and his guests--choice spirits, of rough, jovial
temperament; and of another who, having neglected to take off his hat as
he passed the proprietor's house, was put into a barrel and rolled down
a hill into the river at the bottom!

In citing these incidents, I do not at all mean to imply that they
represent the relations which usually existed between proprietors and
village priests, for I am quite aware that wanton cruelty was not among
the ordinary vices of Russian serf-owners. My object in mentioning the
incidents is to show how a brutal proprietor--and it must be admitted
that they were not a few brutal individuals in the class--could maltreat
a priest without much danger of being called to account for his conduct.
Of course such conduct was an offence in the eyes of the criminal law;
but the criminal law of that time was very shortsighted, and strongly
disposed to close its eyes completely when the offender was an
influential proprietor. Had the incidents reached the ears of the
Emperor Nicholas he would probably have ordered the culprit to be
summarily and severely punished but, as the Russian proverb has it,
"Heaven is high, and the Tsar is far off." A village priest treated in
this barbarous way could have little hope of redress, and, if he were
a prudent man, he would make no attempt to obtain it; for any annoyance
which he might give the proprietor by complaining to the ecclesiastical
authorities would be sure to be paid back to him with interest in some
indirect way.

The sons of the clergy who did not succeed in finding regular sacerdotal
employment were in a still worse position. Many of them served as
scribes or subordinate officials in the public offices, where they
commonly eked out their scanty salaries by unblushing extortion and
pilfering. Those who did not succeed in gaining even modest employment
of this kind had to keep off starvation by less lawful means, and not
unfrequently found their way into the prisons or to Siberia.

In judging of the Russian priesthood of the present time, we must call
to mind this severe school through which it has passed, and we must
also take into consideration the spirit which has been for centuries
predominant in the Eastern Church--I mean the strong tendency both in
the clergy and in the laity to attribute an inordinate importance to
the ceremonial element of religion. Primitive mankind is everywhere and
always disposed to regard religion as simply a mass of mysterious rites
which have a secret magical power of averting evil in this world
and securing felicity in the next. To this general rule the Russian
peasantry are no exception, and the Russian Church has not done all it
might have done to eradicate this conception and to bring religion into
closer association with ordinary morality. Hence such incidents as the
following are still possible: A robber kills and rifles a traveller,
but he refrains from eating a piece of cooked meat which he finds in the
cart, because it happens to be a fast-day; a peasant prepares to rob a
young attache of the Austrian Embassy in St. Petersburg, and ultimately
kills his victim, but before going to the house he enters a church
and commends his undertaking to the protection of the saints; a
housebreaker, when in the act of robbing a church, finds it difficult to
extract the jewels from an Icon, and makes a vow that if a certain saint
assists him he will place a rouble's-worth of tapers before the saint's
image! These facts are within the memory of the present generation. I
knew the young attache, and saw him a few days before his death.

All these are of course extreme cases, but they illustrate a tendency
which in its milder forms is only too general amongst the Russian
people--the tendency to regard religion as a mass of ceremonies which
have a magical rather than a spiritual significance. The poor woman who
kneels at a religious procession in order that the Icon may be carried
over her head, and the rich merchant who invites the priests to bring
some famous Icon to his house, illustrates this tendency in a more
harmless form.

According to a popular saying, "As is the priest, so is the parish," and
the converse proposition is equally true--as is the parish, so is the
priest. The great majority of priests, like the great majority of men
in general, content themselves with simply striving to perform what is
expected of them, and their character is consequently determined to a
certain extent by the ideas and conceptions of their parishioners. This
will become more apparent if we contrast the Russian priest with the
Protestant pastor.

According to Protestant conceptions, the village pastor is a man of
grave demeanour and exemplary conduct, and possesses a certain amount
of education and refinement. He ought to expound weekly to his flock, in
simple, impressive words, the great truths of Christianity, and exhort
his hearers to walk in the paths of righteousness. Besides this, he is
expected to comfort the afflicted, to assist the needy, to counsel those
who are harassed with doubts, and to admonish those who openly stray
from the narrow path. Such is the ideal in the popular mind, and
pastors generally seek to realise it, if not in very deed, at least in
appearance. The Russian priest, on the contrary, has no such ideal set
before him by his parishioners. He is expected merely to conform
to certain observances, and to perform punctiliously the rites and
ceremonies prescribed by the Church. If he does this without practising
extortion his parishioners are quite satisfied. He rarely preaches or
exhorts, and neither has nor seeks to have a moral influence over his
flock. I have occasionally heard of Russian priests who approach to what
I have termed the Protestant ideal, and I have even seen one or two of
them, but I fear they are not numerous.

In the above contrast I have accidentally omitted one important feature.
The Protestant clergy have in all countries rendered valuable service to
the cause of popular education. The reason of this is not difficult to
find. In order to be a good Protestant it is necessary to "search the
Scriptures," and to do this, one must be able at least to read. To be a
good member of the Greek Orthodox Church, on the contrary, according to
popular conceptions, the reading of the Scriptures is not necessary, and
therefore primary education has not in the eyes of the Greek Orthodox
priest the same importance which it has in the eyes of the Protestant

It must be admitted that the Russian people are in a certain sense
religions. They go regularly to church on Sundays and holy-days, cross
themselves repeatedly when they pass a church or Icon, take the Holy
Communion at stated seasons, rigorously abstain from animal food--not
only on Wednesdays and Fridays, but also during Lent and the other long
fasts--make occasional pilgrimages to holy shrines, and, in a word,
fulfil punctiliously the ceremonial observances which they suppose
necessary for salvation. But here their religiousness ends. They are
generally profoundly ignorant of religious doctrine, and know little or
nothing of Holy Writ. A peasant, it is said, was once asked by a priest
if he could name the three Persons of the Trinity, and replied without a
moment's hesitation, "How can one not know that, Batushka? Of course
it is the Saviour, the Mother of God, and Saint Nicholas the

That answer represents fairly enough the theological attainments of a
very large section of the peasantry. The anecdote is so often repeated
that it is probably an invention, but it is not a calumny of theology
and of what Protestants term the "inner religious life" the orthodox
Russian peasant--of Dissenters, to whom these remarks do not apply, if
shall speak later--has no conception. For him the ceremonial part of
religion suffices, and he has the most unbounded, childlike confidence
in the saving efficacy of the rites which he practises. If he has been
baptised in infancy, has regularly observed the fasts, has annually
partaken of the Holy Communion, and has just confessed and received
extreme unction, he feels death approach with the most perfect
tranquillity. He is tormented with no doubts as to the efficacy of faith
or works, and has no fears that his past life may possibly have rendered
him unfit for eternal felicity. Like a man in a sinking ship who has
buckled on his life-preserver, he feels perfectly secure. With no fear
for the future and little regret for the present or the past, he awaits
calmly the dread summons, and dies with a resignation which a Stoic
philosopher might envy.

In the above paragraph I have used the word Icon, and perhaps the reader
may not clearly understand the word. Let me explain then, briefly,
what an Icon is--a very necessary explanation, for the Icons play an
important part in the religious observances of the Russian people.

Icons are pictorial, usually half-length, representations of the
Saviour, of the Madonna, or of a saint, executed in archaic Byzantine
style, on a yellow or gold ground, and varying in size from a square
inch to several square feet. Very often the whole picture, with the
exception of the face and hands of the figure, is covered with a metal
plaque, embossed so as to represent the form of the figure and the
drapery. When this plaque is not used, the crown and costume are often
adorned with pearls and other precious stones--sometimes of great price.

In respect of religions significance, Icons are of two kinds: simple,
and miraculous or miracle-working (tchudotvorny). The former are
manufactured in enormous quantities--chiefly in the province of
Vladimir, where whole villages are employed in this kind of work--and
are to be found in every Russian house, from the hut of the peasant to
the palace of the Emperor. They are generally placed high up in a corner
facing the door, and good orthodox Christians on entering bow in that
direction, making at the same time the sign of the cross. Before and
after meals the same short ceremony is always performed. On the eve of
fete-days a small lamp is kept burning before at least one of the Icons
in the house.

The wonder-working Icons are comparatively few in number, and are always
carefully preserved in a church or chapel. They are commonly believed
to have been "not made with hands," and to have appeared in a miraculous
way. A monk, or it may be a common mortal, has a vision, in which he
is informed that he may find a miraculous Icon in such a place, and on
going to the spot indicated he finds it, sometimes buried, sometimes
hanging on a tree. The sacred treasure is then removed to a church, and
the news spreads like wildfire through the district. Thousands flock to
prostrate themselves before the heaven-sent picture, and some are healed
of their diseases--a fact that plainly indicates its miracle-working
power. The whole affair is then officially reported to the Most Holy
Synod, the highest ecclesiastical authority in Russia, in order that
the existence of the miracle-working power may be fully and regularly
proved. The official recognition of the fact is by no means a mere
matter of form, for the Synod is well aware that wonder-working Icons
are always a rich source of revenue to the monasteries where they are
kept, and that zealous Superiors are consequently apt in such cases
to lean to the side of credulity, rather than that of over-severe
criticism. A regular investigation is therefore made, and the formal
recognition is not granted till the testimony of the finder is
thoroughly examined and the alleged miracles duly authenticated. If
the recognition is granted, the Icon is treated with the greatest
veneration, and is sure to be visited by pilgrims from far and near.

Some of the most revered Icons--as, for instance, the Kazan
Madonna--have annual fete-days instituted in their honour; or, more
correctly speaking, the anniversary of their miraculous appearance is
observed as a religions holiday. A few of them have an additional title
to popular respect and veneration: that of being intimately associated
with great events in the national history. The Vladimir Madonna, for
example, once saved Moscow from the Tartars; the Smolensk Madonna
accompanied the army in the glorious campaign against Napoleon in
1812; and when in that year it was known in Moscow that the French were
advancing on the city, the people wished the Metropolitan to take the
Iberian Madonna, which may still be seen near one of the gates of the
Kremlin, and to lead them out armed with hatchets against the enemy.

If the Russian priests have done little to advance popular education,
they have at least never intentionally opposed it. Unlike their Roman
Catholic brethren, they do not hold that "a little learning is a
dangerous thing," and do not fear that faith may be endangered by
knowledge. Indeed, it is a remarkable fact that the Russian Church
regards with profound apathy those various intellectual movements which
cause serious alarm to many thoughtful Christians in Western Europe. It
considers religion as something so entirely apart that its votaries
do not feel the necessity of bringing their theological beliefs into
logical harmony with their scientific conceptions. A man may remain a
good orthodox Christian long after he has adopted scientific opinions
irreconcilable with Eastern Orthodoxy, or, indeed, with dogmatic
Christianity of any kind. In the confessional the priest never seeks to
ferret out heretical opinions; and I can recall no instance in
Russian history of a man being burnt at the stake on the demand of the
ecclesiastical authorities, as so often happened in the Roman Catholic
world, for his scientific views. This tolerance proceeds partly, no
doubt, from the fact that the Eastern Church in general, and the
Russian Church in particular, have remained for centuries in a kind of
intellectual torpor. Even such a fervent orthodox Christian as the late
Ivan Aksakof perceived this absence of healthy vitality, and he did
not hesitate to declare his conviction that, "neither the Russian nor the
Slavonic world will be resuscitated . . . so long as the Church remains
in such lifelessness (mertvennost'), which is not a matter of chance,
but the legitimate fruit of some organic defect."*

     * Solovyoff, "Otcherki ig istorii Russkoi Literaturi XIX.
     veka." St. Petersburg, 1903, p. 269.

Though the unsatisfactory condition of the parochial clergy is generally
recognised by the educated classes, very few people take the trouble
to consider seriously how it might be improved. During the Reform
enthusiasm which raged for some years after the Crimean War
ecclesiastical affairs were entirely overlooked. Many of the reformers
of those days were so very "advanced" that religion in all its forms
seemed to them an old-world superstition which tended to retard rather
than accelerate social progress, and which consequently should be
allowed to die as tranquilly as possible; whilst the men of more
moderate views found they had enough to do in emancipating the serfs
and reforming the corrupt civil and judicial Administration. During the
subsequent reactionary period, which culminated in the reign of the
late Emperor, Alexander III., much more attention was devoted to Church
matters, and it came to be recognised in official circles that something
ought to be done for the parish clergy in the way of improving their
material condition so as to increase their moral influence. With this
object in view, M. Pobedonostsef, the Procurator of the Holy Synod,
induced the Government in 1893 to make a State-grant of about 6,500,000
roubles, which should be increased every year, but the sum was very
inadequate, and a large portion of it was devoted to purposes of
political propaganda in the form of maintaining Greek Orthodox priests
in districts where the population was Protestant or Roman Catholic.
Consequently, of the 35,865 parishes which Russia contains, only 18,936,
or a little more than one-half, were enabled to benefit by the grant. In
an optimistic, semi-official statement published as late as 1896 it is
admitted that "the means for the support of the parish clergy must even
now be considered insufficient and wanting in stability, making the
priests dependent on the parishioners, and thereby preventing the
establishment of the necessary moral authority of the spiritual father
over his flock."

In some places the needs of the Church are attended to by voluntary
parish-curatorships which annually raise a certain sum of money, and the
way in which they distribute it is very characteristic of the Russian
people, who have a profound veneration for the Church and its rites, but
very little consideration for the human beings who serve at the altar.
In 14,564 parishes possessing such curatorships no less than 2,500,000
roubles were collected, but of this sum 2,000,000 were expended on the
maintenance and embellishment of churches, and only 174,000 were devoted
to the personal wants of the clergy. According to the semi-official
document from which these figures are taken the whole body of the
Russian White Clergy in 1893 numbered 99,391, of whom 42,513 were
priests, 12,953 deacons, and 43,925 clerks.

In more recent observations among the parochial clergy I have noticed
premonitory symptoms of important changes. This may be illustrated by
an entry in my note-book, written in a village of one of the Southern
provinces, under date of 30th September, 1903:

"I have made here the acquaintance of two good specimens of the parish
clergy, both excellent men in their way, but very different from each
other. The elder one, Father Dmitri, is of the old school, a plain,
practical man, who fulfils his duties conscientiously according to his
lights, but without enthusiasm. His intellectual wants are very limited,
and he devotes his attention chiefly to the practical affairs of
everyday life, which he manages very successfully. He does not squeeze
his parishioners unduly, but he considers that the labourer is worthy of
his hire, and insists on his flock providing for his wants according to
their means. At the same time he farms on his own account and attends
personally to all the details of his farming operations. With the
condition and doings of every member of his flock he is intimately
acquainted, and, on the whole, as he never idealised anything or
anybody, he has not a very high opinion of them.

"The younger priest, Father Alexander, is of a different type, and the
difference may be remarked even in his external appearance. There is a
look of delicacy and refinement about him, though his dress and
domestic surroundings are of the plainest, and there is not a tinge of
affectation in his manner. His language is less archaic and picturesque.
He uses fewer Biblical and semi-Slavonic expressions--I mean expressions
which belong to the antiquated language of the Church Service rather
than to modern parlance--and his armoury of terse popular proverbs
which constitute such a characteristic trait of the peasantry, is less
frequently drawn on. When I ask him about the present condition of the
peasantry, his account does not differ substantially from that of his
elder colleague, but he does not condemn their sins in the same forcible
terms. He laments their shortcomings in an evangelical spirit and has
apparently aspirations for their future improvement. Admitting frankly
that there is a great deal of lukewarmness among them, he hopes to
revive their interest in ecclesiastical affairs and he has an idea of
constituting a sort of church committee for attending to the temporal
affairs of the village church and for works of charity, but he looks to
influencing the younger rather than the older generation.

"His interest in his parishioners is not confined to their spiritual
welfare, but extends to their material well-being. Of late an
association for mutual credit has been founded in the village, and
he uses his influence to induce the peasants to take advantage of the
benefits it offers, both to those who are in need of a little ready
money and to those who might invest their savings, instead of keeping
them hidden away in an old stocking or buried in an earthen pot. The
proposal to create a local agricultural society meets also with his

If the number of parish priests of this type increase, the clergy may
come to exercise great moral influence on the common people.



Unexpected Illness--A Village Doctor--Siberian Plague--My
Studies--Russian Historians--A Russian Imitator of Dickens--A ci-devant
Domestic Serf--Medicine and Witchcraft--A Remnant of Paganism--Credulity
of the Peasantry--Absurd Rumours--A Mysterious Visit from St.
Barbara--Cholera on Board a Steamer--Hospitals--Lunatic Asylums--Amongst

In enumerating the requisites for travelling in the less frequented
parts of Russia, I omitted to mention one important condition: the
traveller should be always in good health, and in case of illness be
ready to dispense with regular medical attendance. This I learned by
experience during my stay at Ivanofka.

A man who is accustomed to be always well, and has consequently cause
to believe himself exempt from the ordinary ills that flesh is heir
to, naturally feels aggrieved--as if some one had inflicted upon him
an undeserved injury--when he suddenly finds himself ill. At first he
refuses to believe the fact, and, as far as possible, takes no notice of
the disagreeable symptoms.

Such was my state of mind on being awakened early one morning by
peculiar symptoms which I had never before experienced. Unwilling to
admit to myself the possibility of being ill, I got up, and endeavoured
to dress as usual, but very soon discovered that I was unable to stand.
There was no denying the fact; not only was I ill, but the malady,
whatever it was, surpassed my powers of diagnosis; and when the
symptoms increased steadily all that day and the following night, I
was constrained to take the humiliating decision of asking for medical
advice. To my inquiries whether there was a doctor in the neighbourhood,
the old servant replied, "There is not exactly a doctor, but there is a
Feldsher in the village."

"And what is a Feldsher?"

"A Feldsher is . . . . is a Feldsher."

"I am quite aware of that, but I would like to know what you mean by the
word. What is this Feldsher?"

"He's an old soldier who dresses wounds and gives physic."

The definition did not predispose me in favour of the mysterious
personage, but as there was nothing better to be had I ordered him to be
sent for, notwithstanding the strenuous opposition of the old servant,
who evidently did not believe in feldshers.

In about half an hour a tall, broad-shouldered man entered, and
stood bolt upright in the middle of the room in the attitude which
is designated in military language by the word "Attention." His
clean-shaven chin, long moustache, and closely-cropped hair confirmed
one part of the old servant's definition; he was unmistakably an old

"You are a Feldsher," I said, making use of the word which I had
recently added to my vocabulary.

"Exactly so, your Nobility!" These words, the ordinary form of
affirmation used by soldiers to their officers, were pronounced in a
loud, metallic, monotonous tone, as if the speaker had been an automaton
conversing with a brother automaton at a distance of twenty yards.
As soon as the words were pronounced the mouth of the machine closed
spasmodically, and the head, which had been momentarily turned towards
me, reverted to its former position with a jerk as if it had received
the order "Eyes front!"

"Then please to sit down here, and I'll tell you about my ailment."
Upon this the figure took three paces to the front, wheeled to the
right-about, and sat down on the edge of the chair, retaining the
position of "Attention" as nearly as the sitting posture would allow.
When the symptoms had been carefully described, he knitted his brows,
and after some reflection remarked, "I can give you a dose of . . . ."
Here followed a long word which I did not understand.

"I don't wish you to give me a dose of anything till I know what is the
matter with me. Though a bit of a doctor myself, I have no idea what it
is, and, pardon me, I think you are in the same position." Noticing
a look of ruffled professional dignity on his face, I added, as a
sedative, "It is evidently something very peculiar, so that if the first
medical practitioner in the country were present he would probably be as
much puzzled as ourselves."

The sedative had the desired effect. "Well, sir, to tell you the truth,"
he said, in a more human tone of voice, "I do not clearly understand
what it is."

"Exactly; and therefore I think we had better leave the cure to Nature,
and not interfere with her mode of treatment."

"Perhaps it would be better."

"No doubt. And now, since I have to lie here on my back, and feel rather
lonely, I should like to have a talk with you. You are not in a hurry, I

"Not at all. My assistant knows where I am, and will send for me if I am

"So you have an assistant, have you?"

"Oh, yes; a very sharp young fellow, who has been two years in the
Feldsher school, and has now come here to help me and learn more by
practice. That is a new way. I never was at a school of the kind myself,
and had to pick up what I could when a servant in the hospital. There
were, I believe, no such schools in my time. The one where my assistant
learned was opened by the Zemstvo."

"The Zemstvo is the new local administration, is it not?"

"Exactly so. And I could not do without the assistant," continued my new
acquaintance, gradually losing his rigidity, and showing himself, what
he really was, a kindly, talkative man. "I have often to go to other
villages, and almost every day a number of peasants come here. At first
I had very little to do, for the people thought I was an official, and
would make them pay dearly for what I should give them; but now they
know that they don't require to pay, and come in great numbers. And
everything I give them--though sometimes I don't clearly understand what
the matter is--seems to do them good. I believe that faith does as much
as physic."

"In my country," I remarked, "there is a sect of doctors who get the
benefit of that principle. They give their patients two or three little
balls no bigger than a pin's head, or a few drops of tasteless liquid,
and they sometimes work wonderful cures."

"That system would not do for us. The Russian muzhik would have no
faith if he swallowed merely things of that kind. What he believes in is
something with a very bad taste, and lots of it. That is his idea of a
medicine; and he thinks that the more he takes of a medicine the better
chance he has of getting well. When I wish to give a peasant several
doses I make him come for each separate dose, for I know that if I did
not he would probably swallow the whole as soon as he was out of sight.
But there is not much serious disease here--not like what I used to see
on the Sheksna. You have been on the Sheksna?"

"Not yet, but I intend going there." The Sheksna is a river which
falls into the Volga, and forms part of the great system of
water-communication connecting the Volga with the Neva.

"When you go there you will see lots of diseases. If there is a hot
summer, and plenty of barges passing, something is sure to break
out--typhus, or black small-pox, or Siberian plague, or something of the
kind. That Siberian plague is a curious thing. Whether it really comes
from Siberia, God only knows. So soon as it breaks out the horses die
by dozens, and sometimes men and women are attacked, though it is not
properly a human disease. They say that flies carry the poison from the
dead horses to the people. The sign of it is a thing like a boil, with
a dark-coloured rim. If this is cut open in time the person may recover,
but if it is not, the person dies. There is cholera, too, sometimes."

"What a delightful country," I said to myself, "for a young doctor who
wishes to make discoveries in the science of disease!"

The catalogue of diseases inhabiting this favoured region was apparently
not yet complete, but it was cut short for the moment by the arrival of
the assistant, with the announcement that his superior was wanted.

This first interview with the feldsher was, on the whole, satisfactory.
He had not rendered me any medical assistance, but he had helped me to
pass an hour pleasantly, and had given me a little information of the
kind I desired. My later interviews with him were equally agreeable. He
was naturally an intelligent, observant man, who had seen a great deal
of the Russian world, and could describe graphically what he had seen.
Unfortunately the horizontal position to which I was condemned prevented
me from noting down at the time the interesting things which he related
to me. His visits, together with those of Karl Karl'itch and of the
priest, who kindly spent a great part of his time with me, helped me to
while away many an hour which would otherwise have been dreary enough.

During the intervals when I was alone I devoted myself to
reading--sometimes Russian history and sometimes works of fiction. The
history was that of Karamzin, who may fairly be called the Russian Livy.
It interested me much by the facts which it contained, but irritated me
not a little by the rhetorical style in which it is written. Afterwards,
when I had waded through some twenty volumes of the gigantic work
of Solovyoff--or Solovief, as the name is sometimes unphonetically
written--which is simply a vast collection of valuable but undigested
material, I was much less severe on the picturesque descriptions and
ornate style of his illustrious predecessor. The first work of fiction
which I read was a collection of tales by Grigorovitch, which had been
given to me by the author on my departure from St. Petersburg. These
tales, descriptive of rural life in Russia, had been written, as the
author afterwards admitted to me, under the influence of Dickens. Many
of the little tricks and affectations which became painfully obtrusive
in Dickens's later works I had no difficulty in recognising under their
Russian garb. In spite of these I found the book very pleasant reading,
and received from it some new notions--to be afterwards verified, of
course--about Russian peasant life.

One of these tales made a deep impression upon me, and I still remember
the chief incidents. The story opens with the description of a village
in late autumn. It has been raining for some time heavily, and the road
has become covered with a deep layer of black mud. An old woman--a small
proprietor--is sitting at home with a friend, drinking tea and trying to
read the future by means of a pack of cards. This occupation is suddenly
interrupted by the entrance of a female servant, who announces that
she has discovered an old man, apparently very ill, lying in one of the
outhouses. The old woman goes out to see her uninvited guest, and, being
of a kindly nature, prepares to have him removed to a more comfortable
place, and properly attended to; but her servant whispers to her that
perhaps he is a vagrant, and the generous impulse is thereby checked.
When it is discovered that the suspicion is only too well founded, and
that the man has no passport, the old woman becomes thoroughly alarmed.
Her imagination pictures to her the terrible consequences that would
ensue if the police should discover that she had harboured a vagrant.
All her little fortune might be extorted from her. And if the old man
should happen to die in her house or farmyard! The consequences in that
case might be very serious. Not only might she lose everything, but she
might even be dragged to prison. At the sight of these dangers the old
woman forgets her tender-heartedness, and becomes inexorable. The old
man, sick unto death though he be, must leave the premises instantly.
Knowing full well that he will nowhere find a refuge, he walks forth
into the cold, dark, stormy night, and next morning a dead body is found
at a short distance from the village.

Why this story, which was not strikingly remarkable for artistic merit,
impressed me so deeply I cannot say. Perhaps it was because I was myself
ill at the time, and imagined how terrible it would be to be turned out
on the muddy road on a cold, wet October night. Besides this, the story
interested me as illustrating the terror which the police inspired
during the reign of Nicholas I. The ingenious devices which they
employed for extorting money formed the subject of another sketch, which
I read shortly afterwards, and which has likewise remained in my memory.
The facts were as follows: An officer of rural police, when driving on
a country road, finds a dead body by the wayside. Congratulating himself
on this bit of good luck, he proceeds to the nearest village, and lets
the inhabitants know that all manner of legal proceedings will be taken
against them, so that the supposed murderer may be discovered. The
peasants are of course frightened, and give him a considerable sum of
money in order that he may hush up the affair. An ordinary officer
of police would have been quite satisfied with this ransom, but this
officer is not an ordinary man, and is very much in need of money; he
conceives, therefore, the brilliant idea of repeating the experiment.
Taking up the dead body, he takes it away in his tarantass, and a few
hours later declares to the inhabitants of a village some miles off
that some of them have been guilty of murder, and that he intends to
investigate the matter thoroughly. The peasants of course pay liberally
in order to escape the investigation, and the rascally officer,
emboldened by success, repeats the trick in different villages until he
has gathered a large sum.

Tales and sketches of this kind were very much in fashion during the
years which followed the death of the great autocrat, Nicholas I., when
the long-pent-up indignation against his severe, repressive regime was
suddenly allowed free expression, and they were still much read during
the first years of my stay in the country. Now the public taste
has changed. The reform enthusiast has evaporated, and the existing
administrative abuses, more refined and less comical than their
predecessors, receive comparatively little attention from the satirists.

When I did not feel disposed to read, and had none of my regular
visitors with me, I sometimes spent an hour or two in talking with the
old man-servant who attended me. Anton was decidedly an old man, but
what his age precisely was I never could discover; either he did not
know himself, or he did not wish to tell me. In appearance he seemed
about sixty, but from certain remarks which he made I concluded that he
must be nearer seventy, though he had scarcely a grey hair on his head.
As to who his father was he seemed, like the famous Topsy, to have no
very clear ideas, but he had an advantage over Topsy with regard to his
maternal ancestry. His mother had been a serf who had fulfilled for some
time the functions of a lady's maid, and after the death of her
mistress had been promoted to a not very clearly defined position of
responsibility in the household. Anton, too, had been promoted in
his time. His first function in the household had been that of
assistant-keeper of the tobacco-pipes, from which humble office he had
gradually risen to a position which may be roughly designated as that of
butler. All this time he had been, of course, a serf, as his mother had
been before him; but being naturally a man of sluggish intellect, he had
never thoroughly realised the fact, and had certainly never conceived
the possibility of being anything different from what he was. His master
was master, and he himself was Anton, obliged to obey his master, or
at least conceal disobedience--these were long the main facts in his
conception of the universe, and, as philosophers generally do with
regard to fundamental facts or axioms, he had accepted them without
examination. By means of these simple postulates he had led a tranquil
life, untroubled by doubts, until the year 1861, when the so-called
freedom was brought to Ivanofka. He himself had not gone to the church
to hear Batushka read the Tsar's manifesto, but his master, on returning
from the ceremony, had called him and said, "Anton, you are free now,
but the Tsar says you are to serve as you have done for two years

To this startling announcement Anton had replied coolly, "Slushayus,"
or, as we would say, "Yes, sir," and without further comment had gone to
fetch his master's breakfast; but what he saw and heard during the next
few weeks greatly troubled his old conceptions of human society and
the fitness of things. From that time must be dated, I suppose, the
expression of mental confusion which his face habitually wore.

The first thing that roused his indignation was the conduct of his
fellow-servants. Nearly all the unmarried ones seemed to be suddenly
attacked by a peculiar matrimonial mania. The reason of this was that
the new law expressly gave permission to the emancipated serfs to marry
as they chose without the consent of their masters, and nearly all the
unmarried adults hastened to take advantage of their newly-acquired
privilege, though many of them had great difficulty in raising the
capital necessary to pay the priest's fees. Then came disorders among
the peasantry, the death of the old master, and the removal of the
family first to St. Petersburg, and afterwards to Germany. Anton's mind
had never been of a very powerful order, and these great events had
exercised a deleterious influence upon it. When Karl Karl'itch, at the
expiry of the two years, informed him that he might now go where he
chose, he replied, with a look of blank, unfeigned astonishment, "Where
can I go to?" He had never conceived the possibility of being forced
to earn his bread in some new way, and begged Karl Karl'itch to let him
remain where he was. This request was readily granted, for Anton was an
honest, faithful servant, and sincerely attached to the family, and it
was accordingly arranged that he should receive a small monthly salary,
and occupy an intermediate position between those of major-domo and head

Had Anton been transformed into a real watch-dog he could scarcely have
slept more than he did. His power of sleeping, and his somnolence when
he imagined he was awake, were his two most prominent characteristics.
Out of consideration for his years and his love of repose, I troubled
him as little as possible; but even the small amount of service which
I demanded he contrived to curtail in an ingenious way. The time and
exertion required for traversing the intervening space between his
own room and mine might, he thought, be more profitably employed; and
accordingly he extemporised a bed in a small ante-chamber, close to
my door, and took up there his permanent abode. If sonorous snoring be
sufficient proof that the performer is asleep, then I must conclude that
Anton devoted about three-fourths of his time to sleeping and a
large part of the remaining fourth to yawning and elongated guttural
ejaculations. At first this little arrangement considerably annoyed me,
but I bore it patiently, and afterwards received my reward, for during
my illness I found it very convenient to have an attendant within call.
And I must do Anton the justice to say that he served me well in his own
somnolent fashion. He seemed to have the faculty of hearing when asleep,
and generally appeared in my room before he had succeeded in getting his
eyes completely open.

Anton had never found time, during his long life, to form many opinions,
but he had somehow imbibed or inhaled a few convictions, all of a
decidedly conservative kind, and one of these was that feldshers were
useless and dangerous members of society. Again and again he had advised
me to have nothing to do with the one who visited me, and more than once
he recommended to me an old woman of the name of Masha, who lived in
a village a few miles off. Masha was what is known in Russia as a
znakharka--that is to say, a woman who is half witch, half medical
practitioner--the whole permeated with a strong leaven of knavery.
According to Anton, she could effect by means of herbs and charms every
possible cure short of raising from the dead, and even with regard to
this last operation he cautiously refrained from expressing an opinion.

The idea of being subjected to a course of herbs and charms by an old
woman who probably knew very little about the hidden properties of
either, did not seem to me inviting, and more than once I flatly
refused to have recourse to such unhallowed means. On due consideration,
however, I thought that a professional interview with the old witch
would be rather amusing, and then a brilliant idea occurred to me! I
would bring together the feldsher and the znakharka, who no doubt hated
each other with a Kilkenny-cat hatred, and let them fight out their
differences before me for the benefit of science and my own delectation.

The more I thought of my project, the more I congratulated myself on
having conceived such a scheme; but, alas! in this very imperfectly
organised world of ours brilliant ideas are seldom realised, and in this
case I was destined to be disappointed. Did the old woman's black art
warn her of approaching danger, or was she simply actuated by a feeling
of professional jealousy and considerations of professional etiquette?
To this question I can give no positive answer, but certain it is that
she could not be induced to pay me a visit, and I was thus balked of
my expected amusement. I succeeded, however, in learning indirectly
something about the old witch. She enjoyed among her neighbours that
solid, durable kind of respect which is founded on vague, undefinable
fear, and was believed to have effected many remarkable cures. In the
treatment of syphilitic diseases, which are fearfully common among the
Russian peasantry, she was supposed to be specially successful, and I
have no doubt, from the vague descriptions which I received, that the
charm which she employed in these cases was of a mercurial kind. Some
time afterward I saw one of her victims. Whether she had succeeded in
destroying the poison I know not, but she had at least succeeded in
destroying most completely the patient's teeth. How women of this kind
obtain mercury, and how they have discovered its medicinal properties,
I cannot explain. Neither can I explain how they have come to know the
peculiar properties of ergot of rye, which they frequently employ for
illicit purposes familiar to all students of medical jurisprudence.

The znakharka and the feldsher represent two very different periods
in the history of medical science--the magical and the scientific.
The Russian peasantry have still many conceptions which belong to the
former. The great majority of them are already quite willing, under
ordinary circumstances, to use the scientific means of healing; but as
soon as a violent epidemic breaks out, and the scientific means prove
unequal to the occasion, the old faith revives, and recourse is had to
magical rites and incantations. Of these rites many are very curious.
Here, for instance, is one which had been performed in a village near
which I afterwards lived for some time. Cholera had been raging in the
district for several weeks. In the village in question no case had yet
occurred, but the inhabitants feared that the dreaded visitor would soon
arrive, and the following ingenious contrivance was adopted for warding
off the danger. At midnight, when the male population was supposed to
be asleep, all the maidens met in nocturnal costume, according to a
preconcerted plan, and formed a procession. In front marched a girl,
holding an Icon. Behind her came her companions, dragging a sokha--the
primitive plough commonly used by the peasantry--by means of a long
rope. In this order the procession made the circuit of the entire
village, and it was confidently believed that the cholera would not be
able to overstep the magical circle thus described. Many of the males
probably knew, or at least suspected, what was going on; but they
prudently remained within doors, knowing well that if they should
be caught peeping indiscreetly at the mystic ceremony, they would be
unmercifully beaten by those who were taking part in it.

This custom is doubtless a survival of old pagan superstitions. The
introduction of the Icon is a modern innovation, which illustrates that
curious blending of paganism and Christianity which is often to be
met with in Russia, and of which I shall have more to say in another

Sometimes, when an epidemic breaks out, the panic produced takes a more
dangerous form. The people suspect that it is the work of the doctors,
or that some ill-disposed persons have poisoned the wells, and no amount
of reasoning will convince them that their own habitual disregard of
the most simple sanitary precautions has something to do with the
phenomenon. I know of one case where an itinerant photographer was
severely maltreated in consequence of such suspicions; and once, in St.
Petersburg, during the reign of Nicholas I., a serious riot took place.
The excited populace had already thrown several doctors out of the
windows of the hospital, when the Emperor arrived, unattended, in an
open carriage, and quelled the disturbance by his simple presence, aided
by his stentorian voice.

Of the ignorant credulity of the Russian peasantry I might relate
many curious illustrations. The most absurd rumours sometimes awaken
consternation throughout a whole district. One of the most common
reports of this kind is that a female conscription is about to take
place. About the time of the Duke of Edinburgh's marriage with the
daughter of Alexander II. this report was specially frequent. A large
number of young girls were to be kidnapped and sent to England in a red
ship. Why the ship was to be red I can easily explain, because in the
peasants' language the conceptions of red and beautiful are expressed
by the same word (krasny), and in the popular legends the epithet is
indiscriminately applied to everything connected with princes and great
personages; but what was to be done with the kidnapped maidens when they
arrived at their destination, I never succeeded in discovering.

The most amusing instance of credulity which I can recall was the
following, related to me by a peasant woman who came from the village
where the incident had occurred. One day in winter, about the time
of sunset, a peasant family was startled by the entrance of a strange
visitor, a female figure, dressed as St. Barbara is commonly represented
in the religious pictures. All present were very much astonished by this
apparition; but the figure told them, in a low, soft voice, to be of
good cheer, for she was St. Barbara, and had come to honour the family
with a visit as a reward for their piety. The peasant thus favoured was
not remarkable for his piety, but he did not consider it necessary to
correct the mistake of his saintly visitor, and requested her to be
seated. With perfect readiness she accepted the invitation, and began at
once to discourse in an edifying way.

Meanwhile the news of this wonderful apparition spread like wildfire,
and all the inhabitants of the village, as well as those of a
neighbouring village about a mile distant, collected in and around the
house. Whether the priest was among those who came my informant did not
know. Many of those who had come could not get within hearing, but those
at the outskirts of the crowd hoped that the saint might come out before
disappearing. Their hopes were gratified. About midnight the mysterious
visitor announced that she would go and bring St. Nicholas, the
miracle-worker, and requested all to remain perfectly still during her
absence. The crowd respectfully made way for her, and she passed out
into the darkness. With breathless expectation all awaited the arrival
of St. Nicholas, who is the favourite saint of the Russian peasantry;
but hours passed, and he did not appear. At last, toward sunrise, some
of the less zealous spectators began to return home, and those of them
who had come from the neighbouring village discovered to their horror
that during their absence their horses had been stolen! At once they
raised the hue-and-cry; and the peasants scoured the country in all
directions in search of the soi-disant St. Barbara and her accomplices,
but they never recovered the stolen property. "And serve them right, the
blockheads!" added my informant, who had herself escaped falling into
the trap by being absent from the village at the time.

It is but fair to add that the ordinary Russian peasant, though in some
respects extremely credulous, and, like all other people, subject to
occasional panics, is by no means easily frightened by real dangers.
Those who have seen them under fire will readily credit this statement.
For my own part, I have had opportunities of observing them merely
in dangers of a non-military kind, and have often admired the perfect
coolness displayed. Even an epidemic alarms them only when it attains a
certain degree of intensity. Once I had a good opportunity of observing
this on board a large steamer on the Volga. It was a very hot day in
the early autumn. As it was well known that there was a great deal of
Asiatic cholera all over the country, prudent people refrained from
eating much raw fruit; but Russian peasants are not generally prudent
men, and I noticed that those on board were consuming enormous
quantities of raw cucumbers and water-melons. This imprudence was soon
followed by its natural punishment. I refrain from describing the scene
that ensued, but I may say that those who were attacked received
from the others every possible assistance. Had no unforeseen accident
happened, we should have arrived at Kazan on the following morning,
and been able to send the patients to the hospital of that town; but
as there was little water in the river, we had to cast anchor for the
night, and next morning we ran aground and stuck fast. Here we had to
remain patiently till a smaller steamer hove in sight. All this time
there was not the slightest symptom of panic, and when the small steamer
came alongside there was no frantic rush to get away from the infected
vessel, though it was quite evident that only a few of the passengers
could be taken off. Those who were nearest the gangway went quietly
on board the small steamer, and those who were less fortunate remained
patiently till another steamer happened to pass.

The old conceptions of disease, as something that may be most
successfully cured by charms and similar means, are rapidly
disappearing. The Zemstvo--that is to say, the new local
self-government--has done much towards this end by enabling the people
to procure better medical attendance. In the towns there are public
hospitals, which generally are--or at least seem to an unprofessional
eye--in a very satisfactory condition. The resident doctors are daily
besieged by a crowd of peasants, who come from far and near to ask
advice and receive medicines. Besides this, in some provinces feldshers
are placed in the principal villages, and the doctor makes frequent
tours of inspection. The doctors are generally well-educated men, and do
a large amount of work for a very small remuneration.

Of the lunatic asylums, which are generally attached to the larger
hospitals, I cannot speak very favourably. Some of the great central
ones are all that could be desired, but others are badly constructed and
fearfully overcrowded. One or two of those I visited appeared to me to
be conducted on very patriarchal principles, as the following incident
may illustrate.

I had been visiting a large hospital, and had remained there so long
that it was already dark before I reached the adjacent lunatic asylum.
Seeing no lights in the windows, I proposed to my companion, who was
one of the inspectors, that we should delay our visit till the following
morning, but he assured me that by the regulations the lights ought not
to be extinguished till considerably later, and consequently there was
no objection to our going in at once. If there was no legal objection,
there was at least a physical obstruction in the form of a large wooden
door, and all our efforts to attract the attention of the porter or some
other inmate were unavailing. At last, after much ringing, knocking, and
shouting, a voice from within asked us who we were and what we wanted. A
brief reply from my companion, not couched in the most polite or amiable
terms, made the bolts rattle and the door open with surprising rapidity,
and we saw before us an old man with long dishevelled hair, who, as
far as appearance went, might have been one of the lunatics, bowing
obsequiously and muttering apologies.

After groping our way along a dark corridor we entered a still darker
room, and the door was closed and locked behind us. As the key turned
in the rusty lock a wild scream rang through the darkness! Then came
a yell, then a howl, and then various sounds which the poverty of the
English language prevents me from designating--the whole blending into
a hideous discord that would have been at home in some of the worst
regions of Dante's Inferno. As to the cause of it I could not even form
a conjecture. Gradually my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, and I
could dimly perceive white figures flitting about the room. At the same
time I felt something standing near me, and close to my shoulder I saw
a pair of eyes and long streaming hair. On my other side, equally close,
was something very like a woman's night-cap. Though by no means of a
nervous temperament, I felt uncomfortable. To be shut up in a dark
room with an indefinite number of excited maniacs is not a comfortable
position. How long the imprisonment lasted I know not--probably not more
than two or three minutes, but it seemed a long time. At last a light
was procured, and the whole affair was explained. The guardians, not
expecting the visit of an inspector at so late an hour, had retired for
the night much earlier than usual, and the old porter had put us into
the nearest ward until he could fetch a light--locking the door behind
us lest any of the lunatics should escape. The noise had awakened one
of the unfortunate inmates of the ward, and her hysterical scream had
terrified the others.

By the influence of asylums, hospitals, and similar institutions, the
old conceptions of disease, as I have said, are gradually dying out, but
the znakharka still finds practice. The fact that the znakharka is to be
found side by side not only with the feldsher, but also with the highly
trained bacteriologist, is very characteristic of Russian civilisation,
which is a strange conglomeration of products belonging to very
different periods. The enquirer who undertakes the study of it will
sometimes be scarcely less surprised than would be the naturalist
who should unexpectedly stumble upon antediluvian megatheria grazing
tranquilly in the same field with prize Southdowns. He will discover
the most primitive institutions side by side with the latest products
of French doctrinairism, and the most childish superstitions in close
proximity with the most advanced free-thinking.



Ivan Petroff--His Past Life--Co-operative Associations--Constitution of
a Peasant's Household--Predominance of Economic Conceptions over those
of Blood-relationship--Peasant Marriages--Advantages of Living in Large
Families--Its Defects--Family Disruptions and their Consequences.

My illness had at least one good result. It brought me into contact
with the feldsher, and through him, after my recovery, I made the
acquaintance of several peasants living in the village. Of these by far
the most interesting was an old man called Ivan Petroff.

Ivan must have been about sixty years of age, but was still robust and
strong, and had the reputation of being able to mow more hay in a given
time than any other peasant in the village. His head would have made a
line study for a portrait-painter. Like Russian peasants in general,
he wore his hair parted in the middle--a custom which perhaps owes its
origin to the religious pictures. The reverend appearance given to his
face by his long fair beard, slightly tinged with grey, was in part
counteracted by his eyes, which had a strange twinkle in them--whether
of humour or of roguery, it was difficult to say. Under all
circumstances--whether in his light, nondescript summer costume, or in
his warm sheep-skin, or in the long, glossy, dark-blue, double-breasted
coat which he put on occasionally on Sundays and holidays--he always
looked a well-fed, respectable, prosperous member of society; whilst
his imperturbable composure, and the entire absence of obsequiousness or
truculence in his manner, indicated plainly that he possessed no small
amount of calm, deep-rooted self-respect. A stranger, on seeing him,
might readily have leaped to the conclusion that he must be the Village
Elder, but in reality he was a simple member of the Commune, like his
neighbour, poor Zakhar Leshkof, who never let slip an opportunity of
getting drunk, was always in debt, and, on the whole, possessed a more
than dubious reputation.

Ivan had, it is true, been Village Elder some years before. When elected
by the Village Assembly, against his own wishes, he had said quietly,
"Very well, children; I will serve my three years"; and at the end of
that period, when the Assembly wished to re-elect him, he had answered
firmly, "No, children; I have served my term. It is now the turn of some
one who is younger, and has more time. There's Peter Alekseyef, a good
fellow, and an honest; you may choose him." And the Assembly chose the
peasant indicated; for Ivan, though a simple member of the Commune, had
more influence in Communal affairs than any other half-dozen members put
together. No grave matter was decided without his being consulted,
and there was at least one instance on record of the Village Assembly
postponing deliberations for a week because he happened to be absent in
St. Petersburg.

No stranger casually meeting Ivan would ever for a moment have suspected
that that big man, of calm, commanding aspect, had been during a great
part of his life a serf. And yet a serf he had been from his birth till
he was about thirty years of age--not merely a serf of the State, but
the serf of a proprietor who had lived habitually on his property. For
thirty years of his life he had been dependent on the arbitrary will of
a master who had the legal power to flog him as often and as severely
as he considered desirable. In reality he had never been subjected to
corporal punishment, for the proprietor to whom he had belonged had
been, though in some respects severe, a just and intelligent master.

Ivan's bright, sympathetic face had early attracted the master's
attention, and it was decided that he should learn a trade. For this
purpose he was sent to Moscow, and apprenticed there to a carpenter.
After four years of apprenticeship he was able not only to earn his own
bread, but to help the household in the payment of their taxes, and to
pay annually to his master a fixed yearly sum--first ten, then twenty,
then thirty, and ultimately, for some years immediately before the
Emancipation, seventy roubles. In return for this annual sum he was free
to work and wander about as he pleased, and for some years he had made
ample use of his conditional liberty. I never succeeded in extracting
from him a chronological account of his travels, but I could gather
from his occasional remarks that he had wandered over a great part of
European Russia. Evidently he had been in his youth what is colloquially
termed "a roving blade," and had by no means confined himself to the
trade which he had learned during his four years of apprenticeship. Once
he had helped to navigate a raft from Vetluga to Astrakhan, a distance
of about two thousand miles. At another time he had been at Archangel
and Onega, on the shores of the White Sea. St. Petersburg and Moscow
were both well known to him, and he had visited Odessa.

The precise nature of Ivan's occupations during these wanderings I could
not ascertain; for, with all his openness of manner, he was extremely
reticent regarding his commercial affairs. To all my inquiries on this
topic he was wont to reply vaguely, "Lesnoe dyelo"--that is to say,
"Timber business"; and from this I concluded that his chief occupation
had been that of a timber merchant. Indeed, when I knew him, though he
was no longer a regular trader, he was always ready to buy any bit of
forest that could be bought in the vicinity for a reasonable price.

During all this nomadic period of his life Ivan had never entirely
severed his connection with his native village or with agricultural
life. When about the age of twenty he had spent several months at home,
taking part in the field labour, and had married a wife--a strong,
healthy young woman, who had been selected for him by his mother, and
strongly recommended to him on account of her good character and her
physical strength. In the opinion of Ivan's mother, beauty was a kind of
luxury which only nobles and rich merchants could afford, and ordinary
comeliness was a very secondary consideration--so secondary as to be
left almost entirely out of sight. This was likewise the opinion of
Ivan's wife. She had never been comely herself, she used to say, but she
had been a good wife to her husband. He had never complained about her
want of good looks, and had never gone after those who were considered
good-looking. In expressing this opinion she always first bent forward,
then drew herself up to her full length, and finally gave a little jerky
nod sideways, so as to clench the statement. Then Ivan's bright eye
would twinkle more brightly than usual, and he would ask her how she
knew that--reminding her that he was not always at home. This was Ivan's
stereotyped mode of teasing his wife, and every time he employed it he
was called an "old scarecrow," or something of the kind.

Perhaps, however, Ivan's jocular remark had more significance in it than
his wife cared to admit, for during the first years of their married
life they had seen very little of each other. A few days after the
marriage, when according to our notions the honeymoon should be at its
height, Ivan had gone to Moscow for several months, leaving his young
bride to the care of his father and mother. The young bride did not
consider this an extraordinary hardship, for many of her companions had
been treated in the same way, and according to public opinion in that
part of the country there was nothing abnormal in the proceeding.
Indeed, it may be said in general that there is very little romance
or sentimentality about Russian peasant marriages. In this as in other
respects the Russian peasantry are, as a class, extremely practical and
matter-of-fact in their conceptions and habits, and are not at all prone
to indulge in sublime, ethereal sentiments of any kind. They have little
or nothing of what may be termed the Hermann and Dorothea element
in their composition, and consequently know very little about those
sentimental, romantic ideas which we habitually associate with the
preliminary steps to matrimony. Even those authors who endeavour to
idealise peasant life have rarely ventured to make their story turn on
a sentimental love affair. Certainly in real life the wife is taken as a
helpmate, or in plain language a worker, rather than as a companion, and
the mother-in-law leaves her very little time to indulge in fruitless

As time wore on, and his father became older and frailer, Ivan's visits
to his native place became longer and more frequent, and when the old
man was at last incapable of work, Ivan settled down permanently and
undertook the direction of the household. In the meantime his
own children had been growing up. When I knew the family it
comprised--besides two daughters who had married early and gone to
live with their parents-in-law--Ivan and his wife, two sons, three
daughters-in-law, and an indefinite and frequently varying number of
grandchildren. The fact that there were three daughters-in-law and only
two sons was the result of the Conscription, which had taken away the
youngest son shortly after his marriage. The two who remained spent only
a small part of the year at home. The one was a carpenter and the
other a bricklayer, and both wandered about the country in search of
employment, as their father had done in his younger days. There was,
however, one difference. The father had always shown a leaning towards
commercial transactions, rather than the simple practice of his
handicraft, and consequently he had usually lived and travelled alone.
The sons, on the contrary, confined themselves to their handicrafts, and
were always during the working season members of an artel.

The artel in its various forms is a curious institution. Those to which
Ivan's sons belonged were simply temporary, itinerant associations of
workmen, who during the summer lived together, fed together, worked
together, and periodically divided amongst themselves the profits. This
is the primitive form of the institution, and is now not very often met
with. Here, as elsewhere, capital has made itself felt, and destroyed
that equality which exists among the members of an artel in the above
sense of the word. Instead of forming themselves into a temporary
association, the workmen now generally make an engagement with a
contractor who has a little capital, and receive from him fixed monthly
wages. The only association which exists in this case is for the
purchase and preparation of provisions, and even these duties are very
often left to the contractor.

In some of the larger towns there are artels of a much more complex
kind--permanent associations, possessing a large capital, and
pecuniarily responsible for the acts of the individual members. Of
these, by far the most celebrated is that of the Bank Porters. These men
have unlimited opportunities of stealing, and are often entrusted with
the guarding or transporting of enormous sums; but the banker has no
cause for anxiety, because he knows that if any defalcations occur
they will be made good to him by the artel. Such accidents very rarely
happen, and the fact is by no means so extraordinary as many people
suppose. The artel, being responsible for the individuals of which it
is composed, is very careful in admitting new members, and a man when
admitted is closely watched, not only by the regularly constituted
office-bearers, but also by all his fellow-members who have an
opportunity of observing him. If he begins to spend money too freely or
to neglect his duties, though his employer may know nothing of the
fact, suspicions are at once aroused among his fellow-members, and an
investigation ensues--ending in summary expulsion if the suspicions
prove to have been well founded. Mutual responsibility, in short,
creates a very effective system of mutual supervision.

Of Ivan's sons, the one who was a carpenter visited his family only
occasionally, and at irregular intervals; the bricklayer, on the
contrary, as building is impossible in Russia during the cold weather,
spent the greater part of the winter at home. Both of them paid a large
part of their earnings into the family treasury, over which their father
exercised uncontrolled authority. If he wished to make any considerable
outlay, he consulted his sons on the subject; but as he was a prudent,
intelligent man, and enjoyed the respect and confidence of the family,
he never met with any strong opposition. All the field work was
performed by him with the assistance of his daughters-in-law; only at
harvest time he hired one or two labourers to help him.

Ivan's household was a good specimen of the Russian peasant family
of the old type. Previous to the Emancipation in 1861 there were
many households of this kind, containing the representatives of
three generations. All the members, young and old, lived together in
patriarchal fashion under the direction and authority of the Head of the
House, called usually the Khozain--that is to say, the Administrator;
or, in some districts, the Bolshak, which means literally "the Big
One." Generally speaking, this important position was occupied by the
grandfather, or, if he was dead, by the eldest brother, but the rule
was not very strictly observed. If, for instance, the grandfather became
infirm, or if the eldest brother was incapacitated by disorderly
habits or other cause, the place of authority was taken by some other
member--it might be by a woman--who was a good manager, and possessed
the greatest moral influence.

The relations between the Head of the Household and the other members
depended on custom and personal character, and they consequently varied
greatly in different families. If the Big One was an intelligent man,
of decided, energetic character, like my friend Ivan, there was probably
perfect discipline in the household, except perhaps in the matter of
female tongues, which do not readily submit to the authority even
of their owners; but very often it happened that the Big One was not
thoroughly well fitted for his post, and in that case endless quarrels
and bickerings inevitably took place. Those quarrels were generally
caused and fomented by the female members of the family--a fact which
will not seem strange if we try to realise how difficult it must be
for several sisters-in-law to live together, with their children and a
mother-in-law, within the narrow limits of a peasant's household. The
complaints of the young bride, who finds that her mother-in-law puts all
the hard work on her shoulders, form a favourite motive in the popular

The house, with its appurtenances, the cattle, the agricultural
implements, the grain and other products, the money gained from the
sale of these products--in a word, the house and nearly everything it
contained--were the joint property of the family. Hence nothing was
bought or sold by any member--not even by the Big One himself, unless he
possessed an unusual amount of authority--without the express or tacit
consent of the other grown-up males, and all the money that was earned
was put into the common purse. When one of the sons left home to work
elsewhere, he was expected to bring or send home all his earnings,
except what he required for food, lodgings, and other necessary
expenses; and if he understood the word "necessary" in too lax a sense,
he had to listen to very plain-spoken reproaches when he returned.
During his absence, which might last for a whole year or several years,
his wife and children remained in the house as before, and the money
which he earned could be devoted to the payment of the family taxes.

The peasant household of the old type is thus a primitive labour
association, of which the members have all things in common, and it is
not a little remarkable that the peasant conceives it as such rather
than as a family. This is shown by the customary terminology, for
the Head of the Household is not called by any word corresponding
to Paterfamilias, but is termed, as I have said, Khozain, or
Administrator--a word that is applied equally to a farmer, a shopkeeper
or the head of an industrial undertaking, and does not at all convey
the idea of blood-relationship. It is likewise shown by what takes
place when a household is broken up. On such occasions the degree of
blood-relationship is not taken into consideration in the distribution
of the property. All the adult male members share equally. Illegitimate
and adopted sons, if they have contributed their share of labour,
have the same rights as the sons born in lawful wedlock. The married
daughter, on the contrary--being regarded as belonging to her husband's
family--and the son who has previously separated himself from the
household, are excluded from the succession. Strictly speaking, the
succession or inheritance is confined to the wearing apparel and any
little personal effects of a deceased member. The house and all that it
contains belong to the little household community; and, consequently,
when it is broken up, by the death of the Khozain or other cause, the
members do not inherit, but merely appropriate individually what
they had hitherto possessed collectively. Thus there is properly no
inheritance or succession, but simply liquidation and distribution of
the property among the members. The written law of inheritance founded
on the conception of personal property, is quite unknown to the
peasantry, and quite inapplicable to their mode of life. In this way a
large and most important section of the Code remains a dead letter for
about four-fifths of the population.

This predominance of practical economic considerations is exemplified
also by the way in which marriages are arranged in these large families.
In the primitive system of agriculture usually practised in Russia, the
natural labour-unit--if I may use such a term--comprises a man, a
woman, and a horse. As soon, therefore, as a boy becomes an able-bodied
labourer he ought to be provided with the two accessories necessary
for the completion of the labour-unit. To procure a horse, either by
purchase or by rearing a foal, is the duty of the Head of the House;
to procure a wife for the youth is the duty of "the female Big One"
(Bolshukha). And the chief consideration in determining the choice is
in both cases the same. Prudent domestic administrators are not to
be tempted by showy horses or beautiful brides; what they seek is not
beauty, but physical strength and capacity for work. When the youth
reaches the age of eighteen he is informed that he ought to marry at
once, and as soon as he gives his consent negotiations are opened with
the parents of some eligible young person. In the larger villages the
negotiations are sometimes facilitated by certain old women called
svakhi, who occupy themselves specially with this kind of mediation; but
very often the affair is arranged directly by, or through the agency of,
some common friend of the two houses.

Care must of course be taken that there is no legal obstacle, and
these obstacles are not always easily avoided in a small village, the
inhabitants of which have been long in the habit of intermarrying.
According to Russian ecclesiastical law, not only is marriage between
first-cousins illegal, but affinity is considered as equivalent to
consanguinity--that is to say a mother-in-law and a sister-in-law are
regarded as a mother and a sister--and even the fictitious relationship
created by standing together at the baptismal font as godfather and
godmother is legally recognised, and may constitute a bar to matrimony.
If all the preliminary negotiations are successful, the marriage takes
place, and the bridegroom brings his bride home to the house of which
he is a member. She brings nothing with her as a dowry except her
trousseau, but she brings a pair of good strong arms, and thereby
enriches her adopted family. Of course it happens occasionally--for
human nature is everywhere essentially the same--that a young peasant
falls in love with one of his former playmates, and brings his little
romance to a happy conclusion at the altar; but such cases are very
rare, and as a rule it may be said that the marriages of the Russian
peasantry are arranged under the influence of economic rather than
sentimental considerations.

The custom of living in large families has many economic advantages. We
all know the edifying fable of the dying man who showed to his sons by
means of a piece of wicker-work the advantages of living together and
assisting each other. In ordinary times the necessary expenses of a
large household of ten members are considerably less than the combined
expenses of two households comprising five members each, and when a
"black day" comes a large family can bear temporary adversity much
more successfully than a small one. These are principles of world-wide
application, but in the life of the Russian peasantry they have a
peculiar force. Each adult peasant possesses, as I shall hereafter
explain, a share of the Communal land, but this share is not sufficient
to occupy all his time and working power. One married pair can easily
cultivate two shares--at least in all provinces where the peasant
allotments are not very large. Now, if a family is composed of two
married couples, one of the men can go elsewhere and earn money, whilst
the other, with his wife and sister-in-law, can cultivate the two
combined shares of land. If, on the contrary a family consists merely
of one pair with their children, the man must either remain at home--in
which case he may have difficulty in finding work for the whole of his
time--or he must leave home, and entrust the cultivation of his share
of the land to his wife, whose time must be in great part devoted to
domestic affairs.

In the time of serfage the proprietors clearly perceived these and
similar advantages, and compelled their serfs to live together in large
families. No family could be broken up without the proprietor's consent,
and this consent was not easily obtained unless the family had assumed
quite abnormal proportions and was permanently disturbed by domestic
dissension. In the matrimonial affairs of the serfs, too, the majority
of the proprietors systematically exercised a certain supervision,
not necessarily from any paltry meddling spirit, but because their own
material interests were thereby affected. A proprietor would not,
for instance, allow the daughter of one of his serfs to marry a serf
belonging to another proprietor--because he would thereby lose a female
labourer--unless some compensation were offered. The compensation might
be a sum of money, or the affair might be arranged on the principle of
reciprocity by the master of the bridegroom allowing one of his female
serfs to marry a serf belonging to the master of the bride.

However advantageous the custom of living in large families may appear
when regarded from the economic point of view, it has very serious
defects, both theoretical and practical.

That families connected by the ties of blood-relationship and marriage
can easily live together in harmony is one of those social axioms which
are accepted universally and believed by nobody. We all know by our own
experience, or by that of others, that the friendly relations of two
such families are greatly endangered by proximity of habitation. To
live in the same street is not advisable; to occupy adjoining houses is
positively dangerous; and to live under the same roof is certainly fatal
to prolonged amity. There may be the very best intentions on both sides,
and the arrangement may be inaugurated by the most gushing expressions
of undying affection and by the discovery of innumerable secret
affinities, but neither affinities, affection, nor good intentions can
withstand the constant friction and occasional jerks which inevitably

Now the reader must endeavour to realise that Russian peasants, even
when clad in sheep-skins, are human beings like ourselves. Though they
are often represented as abstract entities--as figures in a table
of statistics or dots on a diagram--they have in reality "organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions." If not exactly "fed with the
same food," they are at least "hurt with the same weapons, subject to
the same diseases, healed by the same means," and liable to be irritated
by the same annoyances as we are. And those of them who live in large
families are subjected to a kind of probation that most of us have never
dreamed of. The families comprising a large household not only live
together, but have nearly all things in common. Each member works, not
for himself, but for the household, and all that he earns is expected to
go into the family treasury. The arrangement almost inevitably leads to
one of two results--either there are continual dissensions, or order is
preserved by a powerful domestic tyranny.

It is quite natural, therefore, that when the authority of the landed
proprietors was abolished in 1861, the large peasant families almost all
crumbled to pieces. The arbitrary rule of the Khozain was based on, and
maintained by, the arbitrary rule of the proprietor, and both naturally
fell together. Households like that of our friend Ivan were preserved
only in exceptional cases, where the Head of the House happened to
possess an unusual amount of moral influence over the other members.

This change has unquestionably had a prejudicial influence on the
material welfare of the peasantry, but it must have added considerably
to their domestic comfort, and may perhaps produce good moral results.
For the present, however, the evil consequences are by far the most
prominent. Every married peasant strives to have a house of his own,
and many of them, in order to defray the necessary expenses, have been
obliged to contract debts. This is a very serious matter. Even if the
peasants could obtain money at five or six per cent., the position of
the debtors would be bad enough, but it is in reality much worse, for
the village usurers consider twenty or twenty-five per cent. a by no
means exorbitant rate of interest. A laudable attempt has been made
to remedy this state of things by village banks, but these have proved
successful only in certain exceptional localities. As a rule the peasant
who contracts debts has a hard struggle to pay the interest in ordinary
times, and when some misfortune overtakes him--when, for instance, the
harvest is bad or his horse is stolen--he probably falls hopelessly into
pecuniary embarrassments. I have seen peasants not specially addicted
to drunkenness or other ruinous habits sink to a helpless state of
insolvency. Fortunately for such insolvent debtors, they are treated by
the law with extreme leniency. Their house, their share of the common
land, their agricultural implements, their horse--in a word, all that
is necessary for their subsistence, is exempt from sequestration. The
Commune, however, may bring strong pressure to bear on those who do
not pay their taxes. When I lived among the peasantry in the seventies,
corporal punishment inflicted by order of the Commune was among the
means usually employed; and though the custom was recently prohibited
by an Imperial decree of Nicholas II, I am not at all sure that it has
entirely disappeared.



Communal Land--System of Agriculture--Parish Fetes--Fasting--Winter
Occupations--Yearly Migrations--Domestic Industries--Influence
of Capital and Wholesale Enterprise--The State
Peasants--Serf-dues--Buckle's "History of Civilisation"--A precocious
Yamstchik--"People Who Play Pranks"--A Midnight Alarm--The Far North.

Ivanofka may be taken as a fair specimen of the villages in the northern
half of the country, and a brief description of its inhabitants will
convey a tolerably correct notion of the northern peasantry in general.

Nearly the whole of the female population, and about one-half of the
male inhabitants, are habitually engaged in cultivating the Communal
land, which comprises about two thousand acres of a light sandy soil.
The arable part of this land is divided into three large fields, each of
which is cut up into long narrow strips. The first field is reserved
for the winter grain--that is to say, rye, which forms, in the shape of
black bread, the principal food of the rural population. In the second
are raised oats for the horses, and buckwheat, which is largely used for
food. The third lies fallow, and is used in the summer as pasturage for
the cattle.

All the villagers in this part of the country divide the arable land
in this way, in order to suit the triennial rotation of crops. This
triennial system is extremely simple. The field which is used this
year for raising winter grain will be used next year for raising summer
grain, and in the following year will lie fallow. Before being sown
with winter grain it ought to receive a certain amount of manure. Every
family possesses in each of the two fields under cultivation one or more
of the long narrow strips or belts into which they are divided.

The annual life of the peasantry is that of simple husbandman,
inhabiting a country where the winter is long and severe. The
agricultural year begins in April with the melting of the snow. Nature
has been lying dormant for some months. Awaking now from her long sleep,
and throwing off her white mantle, she strives to make up for lost time.
No sooner has the snow disappeared than the fresh young grass begins to
shoot up, and very soon afterwards the shrubs and trees begin to bud.
The rapidity of this transition from winter to spring astonishes the
inhabitants of more temperate climes.

On St. George's Day (April 23rd*) the cattle are brought out for the
first time, and sprinkled with holy water by the priest. They are never
very fat, but at this period of the year their appearance is truly
lamentable. During the winter they have been cooped up in small
unventilated cow-houses, and fed almost exclusively on straw; now, when
they are released from their imprisonment, they look like the ghosts of
their former emaciated selves. All are lean and weak, many are lame, and
some cannot rise to their feet without assistance.

     * With regard to saints' days, I always give the date
     according to the old style.  To find the date according to
     our calendar, thirteen days must be added.

Meanwhile the peasants are impatient to begin the field labour. An old
proverb which they all know says: "Sow in mud and you will be a prince";
and they always act in accordance with this dictate of traditional
wisdom. As soon as it is possible to plough they begin to prepare the
land for the summer grain, and this labour occupies them probably till
the end of May. Then comes the work of carting out manure and preparing
the fallow field for the winter grain, which will last probably till
about St. Peter's Day (June 29th), when the hay-making generally begins.
After the hay-making comes the harvest, by far the busiest time of the
year. From the middle of July--especially from St. Elijah's Day (July
20th), when the saint is usually heard rumbling along the heavens in his
chariot of fire*--until the end of August, the peasant may work day and
night, and yet he will find that he has barely time to get all his
work done. In little more than a month he has to reap and stack his
grain--rye, oats, and whatever else he may have sown either in spring or
in the preceding autumn--and to sow the winter grain for next year.
To add to his troubles, it sometimes happens that the rye and the
oats ripen almost simultaneously, and his position is then still more

     * It is thus that the peasants explain the thunder, which is
     often heard at that season.

Whether the seasons favour him or not, the peasant has at this time
a hard task, for he can rarely afford to hire the requisite number
of labourers, and has generally the assistance merely of his wife
and family; but he can at this season work for a short time at high
pressure, for he has the prospect of soon obtaining a good rest and
an abundance of food. About the end of September the field labour is
finished, and on the first day of October the harvest festival begins--a
joyous season, during which the parish fetes are commonly celebrated.

To celebrate a parish fete in true orthodox fashion it is necessary
to prepare beforehand a large quantity of braga--a kind of home-brewed
small beer--and to bake a plentiful supply of piroghi or meat pies. Oil,
too, has to be procured, and vodka (rye spirit) in goodly quantity.
At the same time the big room of the izba, as the peasant's house is
called, has to be cleared, the floor washed, and the table and benches
scrubbed. The evening before the fete, while the piroghi are being
baked, a little lamp burns before the Icon in the corner of the room,
and perhaps one or two guests from a distance arrive in order that they
may have on the morrow a full day's enjoyment.

On the morning of the fete the proceedings begin by a long service
in the church, at which all the inhabitants are present in their best
holiday costumes, except those matrons and young women who remain at
home to prepare the dinner. About mid-day dinner is served in each izba
for the family and their friends. In general the Russian peasant's
fare is of the simplest kind, and rarely comprises animal food of any
sort--not from any vegetarian proclivities, but merely because beef,
mutton, and pork are too expensive; but on a holiday, such as a parish
fete, there is always on the dinner table a considerable variety of
dishes. In the house of a well-to-do family there will be not only
greasy cabbage-soup and kasha--a dish made from buckwheat--but also
pork, mutton, and perhaps even beef. Braga will be supplied in unlimited
quantities, and more than once vodka will be handed round. When the
repast is finished, all rise together, and, turning towards the Icon in
the corner, bow and cross themselves repeatedly. The guests then say to
their host, "Spasibo za khelb za sol"--that is to say, "Thanks for your
hospitality," or more literally, "Thanks for bread and salt"; and
the host replies, "Do not be displeased, sit down once more for good
luck"--or perhaps he puts the last part of his request into the form of
a rhyming couplet to the following effect: "Sit down, that the hens
may brood, and that the chickens and bees may multiply!" All obey this
request, and there is another round of vodka.

After dinner some stroll about, chatting with their friends, or go to
sleep in some shady nook, whilst those who wish to make merry go to the
spot where the young people are singing, playing, and amusing themselves
in various ways. As the sun sinks towards the horizon, the more grave,
staid guests wend their way homewards, but many remain for supper;
and as evening advances the effects of the vodka become more and more
apparent. Sounds of revelry are heard more frequently from the houses,
and a large proportion of the inhabitants and guests appear on the road
in various degrees of intoxication. Some of these vow eternal affection
to their friends, or with flaccid gestures and in incoherent tones
harangue invisible audiences; others stagger about aimlessly in
besotted self-contentment, till they drop down in a state of complete
unconsciousness. There they will lie tranquilly till they are picked up
by their less intoxicated friends, or more probably till they awake of
their own accord next morning.

As a whole, a village fete in Russia is a saddening spectacle. It
affords a new proof--where, alas! no new proof was required--that we
northern nations, who know so well how to work, have not yet learned the
art of amusing ourselves.

If the Russian peasant's food were always as good and plentiful as at
this season of the year, he would have little reason to complain; but
this is by no means the case. Gradually, as the harvest-time recedes, it
deteriorates in quality, and sometimes diminishes in quantity. Besides
this, during a great part of the year the peasant is prevented, by the
rules of the Church, from using much that he possesses.

In southern climes, where these rules were elaborated and first
practised, the prescribed fasts are perhaps useful not only in a
religious, but also in a sanitary sense. Having abundance of fruit and
vegetables, the inhabitants do well to abstain occasionally from animal
food. But in countries like Northern and Central Russia the influence
of these rules is very different. The Russian peasant cannot get as
much animal food as he requires, whilst sour cabbage and cucumbers are
probably the only vegetables he can procure, and fruit of any kind is
for him an unattainable luxury. Under these circumstances, abstinence
from eggs and milk in all their forms during several months of the year
seems to the secular mind a superfluous bit of asceticism. If the Church
would direct her maternal solicitude to the peasant's drinking, and
leave him to eat what he pleases, she might exercise a beneficial
influence on his material and moral welfare. Unfortunately she has a
great deal too much inherent immobility to attempt anything of the
kind, so the muzhik, while free to drink copiously whenever he gets the
chance, must fast during the seven weeks of Lent, during two or three
weeks in June, from the beginning of November till Christmas, and on all
Wednesdays and Fridays during the remainder of the year.

From the festival time till the following spring there is no possibility
of doing any agricultural work, for the ground is hard as iron, and
covered with a deep layer of snow. The male peasants, therefore, who
remain in the villages, have very little to do, and may spend the
greater part of their time in lying idly on the stove, unless they
happen to have learned some handicraft that can be practised at home.
Formerly, many of them were employed in transporting the grain to the
market town, which might be several hundred miles distant; but now this
species of occupation has been greatly diminished by the extension of

Another winter occupation which was formerly practised, and has now
almost fallen into disuse, was that of stealing wood in the forest. This
was, according to peasant morality, no sin, or at most a very venial
offence, for God plants and waters the trees, and therefore forests
belong properly to no one. So thought the peasantry, but the landed
proprietors and the Administration of the Domains held a different
theory of property, and consequently precautions had to be taken to
avoid detection. In order to ensure success it was necessary to choose
a night when there was a violent snowstorm, which would immediately
obliterate all traces of the expedition; and when such a night was
found, the operation was commonly performed with success. During the
hours of darkness a tree would be felled, stripped of its branches,
dragged into the village, and cut up into firewood, and at sunrise the
actors would be tranquilly sleeping on the stove as if they had spent
the night at home. In recent years the judicial authorities have done
much towards putting down this practice and eradicating the loose
conceptions of property with which it was connected.

For the female part of the population the winter used to be a busy
time, for it was during these four or five months that the spinning
and weaving had to be done, but now the big factories, with their cheap
methods of production, are rapidly killing the home industries, and the
young girls are not learning to work at the jenny and the loom as their
mothers and grandmothers did.

In many of the northern villages, where ancient usages happen to
be preserved, the tedium of the long winter evenings is relieved by
so-called Besedy, a word which signifies literally conversazioni. A
Beseda, however, is not exactly a conversazione as we understand the
term, but resembles rather what is by some ladies called a Dorcas
meeting, with this essential difference, that those present work for
themselves and not for any benevolent purposes. In some villages as many
as three Besedy regularly assemble about sunset; one for the children,
the second for the young people, and the third for the matrons. Each of
the three has its peculiar character. In the first, the children work
and amuse themselves under the superintendence of an old woman, who
trims the torch* and endeavours to keep order. The little girls spin
flax in a primitive way without the aid of a jenny, and the boys,
who are, on the whole, much less industrious, make simple bits of
wicker-work. Formerly--I mean within my own recollection--many of them
used to make rude shoes of plaited bark, called lapty, but these are
being rapidly supplanted by leather boots. These occupations do not
prevent an almost incessant hum of talk, frequent discordant attempts
to sing in chorus, and occasional quarrels requiring the energetic
interference of the old woman who controls the proceedings. To amuse her
noisy flock she sometimes relates to them, for the hundredth time, one
of those wonderful old stories that lose nothing by repetition, and all
listen to her attentively, as if they had never heard the story before.

     * The torch (lutchina) has now almost entirely disappeared
     and been replaced by the petroleum lamp.

The second Beseda is held in another house by the young people of a
riper age. Here the workers are naturally more staid, less given to
quarrelling, sing more in harmony, and require no one to look after
them. Some people, however, might think that a chaperon or inspector
of some kind would be by no means out of place, for a good deal of
flirtation goes on, and if village scandal is to be trusted, strict
propriety in thought, word, and deed is not always observed. How far
these reports are true I cannot pretend to say, for the presence of
a stranger always acts on the company like the presence of a severe
inspector. In the third Beseda there is always at least strict decorum.
Here the married women work together and talk about their domestic
concerns, enlivening the conversation occasionally by the introduction
of little bits of village scandal.

Such is the ordinary life of the peasants who live by agriculture; but
many of the villagers live occasionally or permanently in the towns.
Probably the majority of the peasants in this region have at some period
of their lives gained a living elsewhere. Many of the absentees spend
yearly a few months at home, whilst others visit their families only
occasionally, and, it may be, at long intervals. In no case, however, do
they sever their connection with their native village. Even the peasant
who becomes a rich merchant and settles permanently with his family
in Moscow or St. Petersburg remains probably a member of the Village
Commune, and pays his share of the taxes, though he does not enjoy any
of the corresponding privileges. Once I remember asking a rich man of
this kind, the proprietor of several large houses in St. Petersburg,
why he did not free himself from all connection with his native Commune,
with which he had no longer any interests in common. His answer was, "It
is all very well to be free, and I don't want anything from the Commune
now; but my old father lives there, my mother is buried there, and I
like to go back to the old place sometimes. Besides, I have children,
and our affairs are commercial (nashe dyelo torgovoe). Who knows but my
children may be very glad some day to have a share of the Commune land?"

In respect to these non-agricultural occupations, each district has its
specialty. The province of Yaroslavl, for instance, supplies the large
towns with waiters for the traktirs, or lower class of restaurants,
whilst the best hotels in Petersburg are supplied by the Tartars of
Kasimof, celebrated for their sobriety and honesty. One part of the
province of Kostroma has a special reputation for producing carpenters
and stove-builders, whilst another part, as I once discovered to
my surprise, sends yearly to Siberia--not as convicts, but as free
laborours--a large contingent of tailors and workers in felt! On
questioning some youngsters who were accompanying as apprentices one of
these bands, I was informed by a bright-eyed youth of about sixteen that
he had already made the journey twice, and intended to go every winter.
"And you always bring home a big pile of money with you?" I inquired.
"Nitchevo!" replied the little fellow, gaily, with an air of pride and
self-confidence; "last year I brought home three roubles!" This
answer was, at the moment, not altogether welcome, for I had just been
discussing with a Russian fellow-traveller as to whether the peasantry
can fairly be called industrious, and the boy's reply enabled my
antagonist to score a point against me. "You hear that!" he said,
triumphantly. "A Russian peasant goes all the way to Siberia and back
for three roubles! Could you get an Englishman to work at that rate?"
"Perhaps not," I replied, evasively, thinking at the same time that if a
youth were sent several times from Land's End to John o' Groat's House,
and obliged to make the greater part of the journey in carts or on foot,
he would probably expect, by way of remuneration for the time and labour
expended, rather more than seven and sixpence!

Very often the peasants find industrial occupations without leaving
home, for various industries which do not require complicated machinery
are practised in the villages by the peasants and their families. Wooden
vessels, wrought iron, pottery, leather, rush-matting, and numerous
other articles are thus produced in enormous quantities. Occasionally we
find not only a whole village, but even a whole district occupied almost
exclusively with some one kind of manual industry. In the province of
Vladimir, for example, a large group of villages live by Icon-painting;
in one locality near Nizhni-Novgorod nineteen villages are occupied
with the manufacture of axes; round about Pavlovo, in the same province,
eighty villages produce almost nothing but cutlery; and in a locality
called Ouloma, on the borders of Novgorod and Tver, no less than two
hundred villages live by nail-making.

These domestic industries have long existed, and were formerly an
abundant source of revenue--providing a certain compensation for
the poverty of the soil. But at present they are in a very critical
position. They belong to the primitive period of economic development,
and that period in Russia, as I shall explain in a future chapter, is
now rapidly drawing to a close. Formerly the Head of a Household bought
the raw material, had it worked up at home, and sold with a reasonable
profit the manufactured articles at the bazaars, as the local fairs are
called, or perhaps at the great annual yarmarkt* of Nizhni-Novgorod.
This primitive system is now rapidly becoming obsolete. Capital and
wholesale enterprise have come into the field and are revolutionising
the old methods of production and trade. Already whole groups of
industrial villages have fallen under the power of middle-men, who
advance money to the working households and fix the price of the
products. Attempts are frequently made to break their power by voluntary
co-operative associations, organised by the local authorities or
benevolent landed proprietors of the neighbourhood--like the benevolent
people in England who try to preserve the traditional cottage
industries--and some of the associations work very well; but the
ultimate success of such "efforts to stem the current of capitalism"
is extremely doubtful. At the same time, the periodical bazaars and
yarmarki, at which producers and consumers transacted their affairs
without mediation, are being replaced by permanent stores and by various
classes of tradesmen--wholesale and retail.

     * This term is a corruption of the German word Jahrmarkt.

To the political economist of the rigidly orthodox school this important
change may afford great satisfaction. According to his theories it is
a gigantic step in the right direction, and must necessarily redound
to the advantage of all parties concerned. The producer now receives a
regular supply of raw material, and regularly disposes of the articles
manufactured; and the time and trouble which he formerly devoted to
wandering about in search of customers he can now employ more profitably
in productive work. The creation of a class between the producers
and the consumers is an important step towards that division and
specialisation of labour which is a necessary condition of industrial
and commercial prosperity. The consumer no longer requires to go on a
fixed day to some distant point, on the chance of finding there what he
requires, but can always buy what he pleases in the permanent stores.
Above all, the production is greatly increased in amount, and the price
of manufactured goods is proportionally lessened.

All this seems clear enough in theory, and any one who values
intellectual tranquillity will feel disposed to accept this view of the
case without questioning its accuracy; but the unfortunate traveller
who is obliged to use his eyes as well as his logical faculties may
find some little difficulty in making the facts fit into the a
priori formula. Far be it from me to question the wisdom of political
economists, but I cannot refrain from remarking that of the three
classes concerned--small producers, middle-men, and consumers--two fail
to perceive and appreciate the benefits which have been conferred upon
them. The small producers complain that on the new system they work
more and gain less; and the consumers complain that the manufactured
articles, if cheaper and more showy in appearance, are far inferior in
quality. The middlemen, who are accused, rightly or wrongly, of taking
for themselves the lion's share of the profits, alone seem satisfied
with the new arrangement.

Interesting as this question undoubtedly is, it is not of permanent
importance, because the present state of things is merely transitory.
Though the peasants may continue for a time to work at home for the
wholesale dealers, they cannot in the long run compete with the
big factories and workshops, organised on the European model with
steam-power and complicated machinery, which already exist in many
provinces. Once a country has begun to move forward on the great highway
of economic progress, there is no possibility of stopping halfway.

Here again the orthodox economists find reason for congratulation,
because big factories and workshops are the cheapest and most productive
form of manufacturing industry; and again, the observant traveller
cannot shut his eyes to ugly facts which force themselves on his
attention. He notices that this cheapest and most productive form of
manufacturing industry does not seem to advance the material and moral
welfare of the population. Nowhere is there more disease, drunkenness,
demoralisation and misery than in the manufacturing districts.

The reader must not imagine that in making these statements I wish to
calumniate the spirit of modern enterprise, or to advocate a return to
primitive barbarism. All great changes produce a mixture of good and
evil, and at first the evil is pretty sure to come prominently forward.
Russia is at this moment in a state of transition, and the new condition
of things is not yet properly organised. With improved organisation many
of the existing evils will disappear. Already in recent years I have
noticed sporadic signs of improvement. When factories were first
established no proper arrangements were made for housing and feeding
the workmen, and the consequent hardships were specially felt when the
factories were founded, as is often the case, in rural districts. Now,
the richer and more enterprising manufacturers build large barracks for
the workmen and their families, and provide them with common kitchens,
wash-houses, steam-baths, schools, and similar requisites of civilised
life. At the same time the Government appoints inspectors to superintend
the sanitary arrangements and see that the health and comfort of the
workers are properly attended to.

On the whole we must assume that the activity of these inspectors tends
to improve the condition of the working-classes. Certainly in some
instances it has that effect. I remember, for example, some thirty years
ago, visiting a lucifer-match factory in which the hands employed worked
habitually in an atmosphere impregnated with the fumes of phosphorus,
which produce insidious and very painful diseases. Such a thing is
hardly possible nowadays. On the other hand, official inspection, like
Factory Acts, everywhere gives rise to a good deal of dissatisfaction
and does not always improve the relations between employers and
employed. Some of the Russian inspectors, if I may credit the testimony
of employers, are young gentlemen imbued with socialist notions, who
intentionally stir up discontent or who make mischief from inexperience.
An amusing illustration of the current complaints came under my notice
when, in 1903, I was visiting a landed proprietor of the southern
provinces, who has a large sugar factory on his estate. The inspector
objected to the traditional custom of the men sleeping in large
dormitories and insisted on sleeping-cots being constructed for them
individually. As soon as the change was made the workmen came to the
proprietor to complain, and put their grievance in an interrogative
form: "Are we cattle that we should be thus couped up in stalls?"

To return to the northern agricultural region, the rural population
have a peculiar type, which is to be accounted for by the fact that
they never experienced to its full extent the demoralising influence of
serfage. A large proportion of them were settled on State domains and
were governed by a special branch of the Imperial administration, whilst
others lived on the estates of rich absentee landlords, who were in the
habit of leaving the management of their properties to a steward acting
under a code of instructions. In either case, though serfs in the eye
of the law, they enjoyed practically a very large amount of liberty. By
paying a small sum for a passport they could leave their villages for
an indefinite period, and as long as they sent home regularly the
money required for taxes and dues, they were in little danger of being
molested. Many of them, though officially inscribed as domiciled in
their native communes, lived permanently in the towns, and not a few
succeeded in amassing large fortunes. The effect of this comparative
freedom is apparent even at the present day. These peasants of the north
are more energetic, more intelligent, more independent, and consequently
less docile and pliable than those of the fertile central provinces.
They have, too, more education. A large proportion of them can read and
write, and occasionally one meets among them men who have a keen desire
for knowledge. Several times I encountered peasants in this region who
had a small collection of books, and twice I found in such collections,
much to my astonishment, a Russian translation of Buckle's "History of

How, it may be asked, did a work of this sort find its way to such a
place? If the reader will pardon a short digression, I shall explain the

Immediately after the Crimean War there was a curious intellectual
movement--of which I shall have more to say hereafter--among the Russian
educated classes. The movement assumed various forms, of which two of
the most prominent were a desire for encyclopaedic knowledge, and an
attempt to reduce all knowledge to a scientific form. For men in this
state of mind Buckle's great work had naturally a powerful fascination.
It seemed at first sight to reduce the multifarious conflicting facts
of human history to a few simple principles, and to evolve order out of
chaos. Its success, therefore, was great. In the course of a few years
no less than four independent translations were published and sold.
Every one read, or at least professed to have read, the wonderful book,
and many believed that its author was the greatest genius of his time.
During the first year of my residence in Russia (1870), I rarely had
a serious conversation without hearing Buckle's name mentioned; and
my friends almost always assumed that he had succeeded in creating a
genuine science of history on the inductive method. In vain I pointed
out that Buckle had merely thrown out some hints in his introductory
chapter as to how such a science ought to be constructed, and that
he had himself made no serious attempt to use the method which he
commended. My objections had little or no effect: the belief was
too deep-rooted to be so easily eradicated. In books, periodicals,
newspapers, and professional lectures the name of Buckle was constantly
cited--often violently dragged in without the slightest reason--and the
cheap translations of his work were sold in enormous quantities. It is
not, then, so very wonderful after all that the book should have found
its way to two villages in the province of Yaroslavl.

The enterprising, self-reliant, independent spirit which is often to
be found among those peasants manifests itself occasionally in amusing
forms among the young generation. Often in this part of the country
I have encountered boys who recalled young America rather than young
Russia. One of these young hopefuls I remember well. I was waiting at a
post-station for the horses to be changed, when he appeared before me
in a sheep-skin, fur cap, and gigantic double-soled boots--all of which
articles had been made on a scale adapted to future rather than actual
requirements. He must have stood in his boots about three feet eight
inches, and he could not have been more than twelve years of age; but
he had already learned to look upon life as a serious business, wore a
commanding air, and knitted his innocent little brows as if the cares of
an empire weighed on his diminutive shoulders. Though he was to act
as yamstchik he had to leave the putting in of the horses to larger
specimens of the human species, but he took care that all was done
properly. Putting one of his big boots a little in advance, and drawing
himself up to his full shortness, he watched the operation attentively,
as if the smallness of his stature had nothing to do with his
inactivity. When all was ready, he climbed up to his seat, and at a
signal from the station-keeper, who watched with paternal pride all the
movements of the little prodigy, we dashed off at a pace rarely
attained by post-horses. He had the faculty of emitting a peculiar
sound--something between a whirr and a whistle--that appeared to have
a magical effect on the team and every few minutes he employed this
incentive. The road was rough, and at every jolt he was shot upwards
into the air, but he always fell back into his proper position, and
never lost for a moment his self-possession or his balance. At the end
of the journey I found we had made nearly fourteen miles within the

Unfortunately this energetic, enterprising spirit sometimes takes
an illegitimate direction. Not only whole villages, but even whole
districts, have in this way acquired a bad reputation for robbery, the
manufacture of paper-money, and similar offences against the criminal
law. In popular parlance, these localities are said to contain "people
who play pranks" (narod shalit). I must, however, remark that, if I may
judge by my own experience, these so-called "playful" tendencies are
greatly exaggerated. Though I have travelled hundreds of miles at
night on lonely roads, I was never robbed or in any way molested. Once,
indeed, when travelling at night in a tarantass, I discovered on awaking
that my driver was bending over me, and had introduced his hand into one
of my pockets; but the incident ended without serious consequences.
When I caught the delinquent hand, and demanded an explanation from the
owner, he replied, in an apologetic, caressing tone, that the night was
cold, and he wished to warm his fingers; and when I advised him to use
for that purpose his own pockets rather than mine, he promised to act
in future according to my advice. More than once, it is true, I believed
that I was in danger of being attacked, but on every occasion my fears
turned out to be unfounded, and sometimes the catastrophe was ludicrous
rather than tragical. Let the following serve as an illustration.

I had occasion to traverse, in company with a Russian friend, the
country lying to the east of the river Vetluga--a land of forest and
morass, with here and there a patch of cultivation. The majority of the
population are Tcheremiss, a Finnish tribe; but near the banks of the
river there are villages of Russian peasants, and these latter have the
reputation of "playing pranks." When we were on the point of starting
from Kozmodemiansk a town on the bank of the Volga, we received a visit
from an officer of rural police, who painted in very sombre colours the
habits and moral character--or, more properly, immoral character--of
the people whose acquaintance we were about to make. He related with
melodramatic gesticulation his encounters with malefactors belonging to
the villages through which we had to pass, and ended the interview with
a strong recommendation to us not to travel at night, and to keep at all
times our eyes open and our revolver ready. The effect of his narrative
was considerably diminished by the prominence of the moral, which was to
the effect that there never had been a police-officer who had shown
so much zeal, energy, and courage in the discharge of his duty as the
worthy man before us. We considered it, however, advisable to remember
his hint about keeping our eyes open.

In spite of our intention of being very cautious, it was already dark
when we arrived at the village which was to be our halting-place for the
night, and it seemed at first as if we should be obliged to spend the
night in the open air. The inhabitants had already retired to rest,
and refused to open their doors to unknown travellers. At length an old
woman, more hospitable than her neighbours, or more anxious to earn an
honest penny, consented to let us pass the night in an outer apartment
(seni), and this permission we gladly accepted. Mindful of the warnings
of the police officer, we barricaded the two doors and the window, and
the precaution was evidently not superfluous, for almost as soon as
the light was extinguished we could hear that an attempt was being made
stealthily to effect an entrance. Notwithstanding my efforts to remain
awake, and on the watch, I at last fell asleep, and was suddenly aroused
by some one grasping me tightly by the arm. Instantly I sprang to my
feet and endeavoured to close with my invisible assailant. In vain! He
dexterously eluded my grasp, and I stumbled over my portmanteau, which
was lying on the floor; but my prompt action revealed who the intruder
was, by producing a wild flutter and a frantic cackling! Before
my companion could strike a light the mysterious attack was fully
explained. The supposed midnight robber and possible assassin was simply
a peaceable hen that had gone to roost on my arm, and, on finding
her position unsteady, had dug her claws into what she mistook for a

When speaking of the peasantry of the north I have hitherto had in
view the inhabitants of the provinces of Old-Novgorod, Tver, Yaroslavl,
Nizhni-Novgorod, Kostroma, Kazan, and Viatka, and I have founded my
remarks chiefly on information collected on the spot. Beyond this lies
what may be called the Far North. Though I cannot profess to have the
same personal acquaintance with the peasantry of that region, I may
perhaps be allowed to insert here some information regarding them which
I collected from various trustworthy sources.

If we draw a wavy line eastward from a point a little to the north of
St. Petersburg, as is shown in the map facing page 1 of this volume, we
shall have between that line and the Polar Ocean what may be regarded as
a distinct, peculiar region, differing in many respects from the rest of
Russia. Throughout the whole of it the climate is very severe. For about
half of the year the ground is covered by deep snow, and the rivers are
frozen. By far the greater part of the land is occupied by forests of
pine, fir, larch, and birch, or by vast, unfathomable morasses. The
arable land and pasturage taken together form only about one and a half
per cent, of the area. The population is scarce--little more than one
to the English square mile--and settled chiefly along the banks of the
rivers. The peasantry support themselves by fishing, hunting, felling
and floating timber, preparing tar and charcoal, cattle-breeding, and,
in the extreme north, breeding reindeer.

These are their chief occupations, but the people do not entirely
neglect agriculture. They make the most of their short summer by
means of a peculiar and ingenious mode of farming, well adapted to the
peculiar local conditions. The peasant knows of course nothing about
agronomical chemistry, but he, as well as his forefathers, have observed
that if wood be burnt on a field, and the ashes be mixed with the soil,
a good harvest may be confidently expected. On this simple principle his
system of farming is based. When spring comes round and the leaves begin
to appear on the trees, a band of peasants, armed with their hatchets,
proceed to some spot in the woods previously fixed upon. Here they begin
to make a clearing. This is no easy matter, for tree-felling is hard
and tedious work; but the process does not take so much time as might be
expected, for the workmen have been brought up to the trade, and wield
their axes with marvellous dexterity. When they have felled all the
trees, great and small, they return to their homes, and think no more
about their clearing till the autumn, when they return, in order to
strip the fallen trees of the branches, to pick out what they require
for building purposes or firewood, and to pile up the remainder in
heaps. The logs for building or firewood are dragged away by horses as
soon as the first fall of snow has made a good slippery road, but the
piles are allowed to remain till the following spring, when they are
stirred up with long poles and ignited. The flames rapidly spread in all
directions till they join together and form a gigantic bonfire, such as
is never seen in more densely-populated countries. If the fire does its
work properly, the whole of the space is covered with a layer of ashes;
and when these have been slightly mixed with soil by means of a light
plough, the seed is sown.

On the field prepared in this original fashion is sown barley, rye,
or flax, and the harvests, nearly always good, sometimes border on the
miraculous. Barley or rye may be expected to produce about sixfold
in ordinary years, and they may produce as much as thirty-fold under
peculiarly favourable circumstances. The fertility is, however,
short-lived. If the soil is poor and stony, not more than two crops can
be raised; if it is of a better quality, it may give tolerable harvests
for six or seven successive years. In most countries this would be an
absurdly expensive way of manuring, for wood is much too valuable a
commodity to be used for such a purpose; but in this northern region the
forests are boundless, and in the districts where there is no river or
stream by which timber may be floated, the trees not used in this way
rot from old age. Under these circumstances the system is reasonable,
but it must be admitted that it does not give a very large return for
the amount of labour expended, and in bad seasons it gives almost no
return at all.

The other sources of revenue are scarcely less precarious. With his
gun and a little parcel of provisions the peasant wanders about in the
trackless forests, and too often returns after many days with a very
light bag; or he starts in autumn for some distant lake, and comes
back after five or six weeks with nothing better than perch and pike.
Sometimes he tries his luck at deep-sea fishing. In this case he starts
in February--probably on foot--for Kem, on the shore of the White Sea,
or perhaps for the more distant Kola, situated on a small river which
falls into the Arctic Ocean. There, in company with three or four
comrades, he starts on a fishing cruise along the Murman coast, or,
it may be, off the coast of Spitzbergen. His gains will depend on the
amount caught, for it is a joint-venture; but in no case can they be
very great, for three-fourths of the fish brought into port belongs to
the owner of the craft and tackle. Of the sum realised, he brings home
perhaps only a small part, for he has a strong temptation to buy
rum, tea, and other luxuries, which are very dear in those northern
latitudes. If the fishing is good and he resists temptation, he may save
as much as 100 roubles--about 10 pounds--and thereby live comfortably
all winter; but if the fishing season is bad, he may find himself at the
end of it not only with empty pockets, but in debt to the owner of the
boat. This debt he may pay off, if he has a horse, by transporting the
dried fish to Kargopol, St. Petersburg, or some other market.

It is here in the Far North that the ancient folk-lore--popular songs,
stories, and fragments of epic poetry--has been best preserved; but this
is a field on which I need not enter, for the reader can easily find all
that he may desire to know on the subject in the brilliant writings of
M. Rambaud and the very interesting, conscientious works of the late Mr.
Ralston,* which enjoy a high reputation in Russia.

     * Rambaud, "La Russie Epique," Paris, 1876; Ralston, "The
     Songs of the Russian People," London, 1872; and "Russian
     Folk-tales," London, 1873.



Social and Political Importance of the Mir--The Mir and the Family
Compared--Theory of the Communal System--Practical Deviations from the
Theory--The Mir a Good Specimen of Constitutional Government of the
Extreme Democratic Type--The Village Assembly--Female Members--The
Elections--Distribution of the Communal Land.

When I had gained a clear notion of the family-life and occupations of
the peasantry, I turned my attention to the constitution of the village.
This was a subject which specially interested me, because I was aware
that the Mir is the most peculiar of Russian institutions. Long before
visiting Russia I had looked into Haxthausen's celebrated work, by which
the peculiarities of the Russian village system were first made known
to Western Europe, and during my stay in St. Petersburg I had often
been informed by intelligent, educated Russians that the rural Commune
presented a practical solution of many difficult social problems with
which the philosophers and statesmen of the West had long been vainly
struggling. "The nations of the West"--such was the substance of
innumerable discourses which I had heard--"are at present on the
high-road to political and social anarchy, and England has the
unenviable distinction of being foremost in the race. The natural
increase of population, together with the expropriation of the small
landholders by the great landed proprietors, has created a dangerous and
ever-increasing Proletariat--a great disorganised mass of human beings,
without homes, without permanent domicile, without property of any kind,
without any stake in the existing institutions. Part of these gain a
miserable pittance as agricultural labourers, and live in a condition
infinitely worse than serfage. The others have been forever uprooted
from the soil, and have collected in the large towns, where they earn a
precarious living in the factories and workshops, or swell the ranks of
the criminal classes. In England you have no longer a peasantry in the
proper sense of the term, and unless some radical measures be very soon
adopted, you will never be able to create such a class, for men who
have been long exposed to the unwholesome influences of town life are
physically and morally incapable of becoming agriculturists.

"Hitherto," the disquisition proceeded, "England has enjoyed, in
consequence of her geographical position, her political freedom, and her
vast natural deposits of coal and iron, a wholly exceptional position
in the industrial world. Fearing no competition, she has proclaimed
the principles of Free Trade, and has inundated the world with her
manufactures--using unscrupulously her powerful navy and all the other
forces at her command for breaking down every barrier tending to check
the flood sent forth from Manchester and Birmingham. In that way her
hungry Proletariat has been fed. But the industrial supremacy of England
is drawing to a close. The nations have discovered the perfidious
fallacy of Free-Trade principles, and are now learning to manufacture
for their own wants, instead of paying England enormous sums to
manufacture for them. Very soon English goods will no longer find
foreign markets, and how will the hungry Proletariat then be fed?
Already the grain production of England is far from sufficient for the
wants of the population, so that, even when the harvest is exceptionally
abundant, enormous quantities of wheat are imported from all quarters
of the globe. Hitherto this grain has been paid for by the manufactured
goods annually exported, but how will it be procured when these goods
are no longer wanted by foreign consumers? And what then will the hungry
Proletariat do?"*

     * This passage was written, precisely as it stands, long
     before the fiscal question was raised by Mr. Chamberlain.
     It will be found in the first edition of this work,
     published in 1877.  (Vol. I., pp. 179-81.)

This sombre picture of England's future had often been presented to me,
and on nearly every occasion I had been assured that Russia had been
saved from these terrible evils by the rural Commune--an institution
which, in spite of its simplicity and incalculable utility, West
Europeans seemed utterly incapable of understanding and appreciating.

The reader will now easily conceive with what interest I took to
studying this wonderful institution, and with what energy I prosecuted
my researches. An institution which professes to solve satisfactorily
the most difficult social problems of the future is not to be met with
every day, even in Russia, which is specially rich in material for the
student of social science.

On my arrival at Ivanofka my knowledge of the institution was of that
vague, superficial kind which is commonly derived from men who are
fonder of sweeping generalisations and rhetorical declamation than of
serious, patient study of phenomena. I knew that the chief personage in
a Russian village is the Selski Starosta, or Village Elder, and that all
important Communal affairs are regulated by the Selski Skhod, or Village
Assembly. Further, I was aware that the land in the vicinity of the
village belongs to the Commune, and is distributed periodically among
the members in such a way that every able-bodied peasant possesses a
share sufficient, or nearly sufficient, for his maintenance. Beyond this
elementary information I knew little or nothing.

My first attempt at extending my knowledge was not very successful.
Hoping that my friend Ivan might be able to assist me, and knowing that
the popular name for the Commune is Mir, which means also "the world," I
put to him the direct, simple question, "What is the Mir?"

Ivan was not easily disconcerted, but for once he looked puzzled, and
stared at me vacantly. When I endeavoured to explain to him my question,
he simply knitted his brows and scratched the back of his head. This
latter movement is the Russian peasant's method of accelerating cerebral
action; but in the present instance it had no practical result. In
spite of his efforts, Ivan could not get much further than the "Kak vam
skazat'?" that is to say, "How am I to tell you?"

It was not difficult to perceive that I had adopted an utterly false
method of investigation, and a moment's reflection sufficed to show
me the absurdity of my question. I had asked from an uneducated man a
philosophical definition, instead of extracting from him material in
the form of concrete facts, and constructing therefrom a definition for
myself. These concrete facts Ivan was both able and willing to supply;
and as soon as I adopted a rational mode of questioning, I obtained from
him all I wanted. The information he gave me, together with the results
of much subsequent conversation and reading, I now propose to present to
the reader in my own words.

The peasant family of the old type is, as we have just seen, a kind of
primitive association in which the members have nearly all things in
common. The village may be roughly described as a primitive association
on a larger scale.

Between these two social units there are many points of analogy. In both
there are common interests and common responsibilities. In both there
is a principal personage, who is in a certain sense ruler within and
representative as regards the outside world: in the one case called
Khozain, or Head of the Household, and in the other Starosta, or Village
Elder. In both the authority of the ruler is limited: in the one case
by the adult members of the family, and in the other by the Heads of
Households. In both there is a certain amount of common property: in the
one case the house and nearly all that it contains, and in the other the
arable land and possibly a little pasturage. In both cases there is a
certain amount of common responsibility: in the one case for all the
debts, and in the other for all the taxes and Communal obligations.
And both are protected to a certain extent against the ordinary legal
consequences of insolvency, for the family cannot be deprived of its
house or necessary agricultural implements, and the Commune cannot be
deprived of its land, by importunate creditors.

On the other hand, there are many important points of contrast. The
Commune is, of course, much larger than the family, and the mutual
relations of its members are by no means so closely interwoven. The
members of a family all farm together, and those of them who earn money
from other sources are expected to put their savings into the common
purse; whilst the households composing a Commune farm independently, and
pay into the common treasury only a certain fixed sum.

From these brief remarks the reader will at once perceive that a Russian
village is something very different from a village in our sense of the
term, and that the villagers are bound together by ties quite unknown to
the English rural population. A family living in an English village has
little reason to take an interest in the affairs of its neighbours. The
isolation of the individual families is never quite perfect, for man,
being a social animal, takes necessarily a certain interest in the
affairs of those around him, and this social duty is sometimes fulfilled
by the weaker sex with more zeal than is absolutely indispensable for
the public welfare; but families may live for many years in the same
village without ever becoming conscious of common interests. So long as
the Jones family do not commit any culpable breach of public order, such
as putting obstructions on the highway or habitually setting their
house on fire, their neighbour Brown takes probably no interest in their
affairs, and has no ground for interfering with their perfect liberty of
action. Amongst the families composing a Russian village, such a state
of isolation is impossible. The Heads of Households must often meet
together and consult in the Village Assembly, and their daily occupation
must be influenced by the Communal decrees. They cannot begin to mow the
hay or plough the fallow field until the Village Assembly has passed
a resolution on the subject. If a peasant becomes a drunkard, or takes
some equally efficient means to become insolvent, every family in the
village has a right to complain, not merely in the interests of public
morality, but from selfish motives, because all the families are
collectively responsible for his taxes.* For the same reason no peasant
can permanently leave the village without the consent of the Commune,
and this consent will not be granted until the applicant gives
satisfactory security for the fulfilment of his actual and future
liabilities. If a peasant wishes to go away for a short time, in order
to work elsewhere, he must obtain a written permission, which serves him
as a passport during his absence; and he may be recalled at any moment
by a Communal decree. In reality he is rarely recalled so long as he
sends home regularly the full amount of his taxes--including the dues
which he has to pay for the temporary passport--but sometimes the
Commune uses the power of recall for purposes of extortion. If it
becomes known, for instance, that an absent member is receiving a good
salary or otherwise making money, he may one day receive a formal order
to return at once to his native village, but he is probably informed at
the same time, unofficially, that his presence will be dispensed with if
he will send to the Commune a certain specified sum. The money thus sent
is generally used by the Commune for convivial purposes. **

     * This common responsibility for the taxes was abolished in
     1903 by the Emperor, on the advice of M. Witte, and the
     other Communal fetters are being gradually relaxed.  A
     peasant may now, if he wishes, cease to be a member of the
     Commune altogether, as soon as he has defrayed all his
     outstanding obligations.

     ** With the recent relaxing of the Communal fetters,
     referred to in the foregoing note, this abuse should

In all countries the theory of government and administration differs
considerably from the actual practice. Nowhere is this difference
greater than in Russia, and in no Russian institution is it greater than
in the Village Commune. It is necessary, therefore, to know both theory
and practice; and it is well to begin with the former, because it is the
simpler of the two. When we have once thoroughly mastered the theory,
it is easy to understand the deviations that are made to suit peculiar
local conditions.

According, then, to theory, all male peasants in every part of the
Empire are inscribed in census-lists, which form the basis of the direct
taxation. These lists are revised at irregular intervals, and all
males alive at the time of the "revision," from the newborn babe to the
centenarian, are duly inscribed. Each Commune has a list of this kind,
and pays to the Government an annual sum proportionate to the number of
names which the list contains, or, in popular language, according to the
number of "revision souls." During the intervals between the revisions
the financial authorities take no notice of the births and deaths. A
Commune which has a hundred male members at the time of the revision
may have in a few years considerably more or considerably less than that
number, but it has to pay taxes for a hundred members all the same until
a new revision is made for the whole Empire.

Now in Russia, so far at least as the rural population is concerned, the
payment of taxes is inseparably connected with the possession of land.
Every peasant who pays taxes is supposed to have a share of the land
belonging to the Commune. If the Communal revision lists contain a
hundred names, the Communal land ought to be divided into a hundred
shares, and each "revision soul" should enjoy his share in return for
the taxes which he pays.

The reader who has followed my explanations up to this point may
naturally conclude that the taxes paid by the peasants are in reality a
species of rent for the land which they enjoy. Such a conclusion would
not be altogether justified. When a man rents a bit of land he acts
according to his own judgment, and makes a voluntary contract with the
proprietor; but the Russian peasant is obliged to pay his taxes whether
he desires to enjoy land or not. The theory, therefore, that the
taxes are simply the rent of the land will not bear even superficial
examination. Equally untenable is the theory that they are a species of
land-tax. In any reasonable system of land-dues the yearly sum imposed
bears some kind of proportion to the quantity and quality of the land
enjoyed; but in Russia it may be that the members of one Commune possess
six acres of bad land, and the members of the neighbouring Commune seven
acres of good land, and yet the taxes in both cases are the same. The
truth is that the taxes are personal, and are calculated according to
the number of male "souls," and the Government does not take the trouble
to inquire how the Communal land is distributed. The Commune has to pay
into the Imperial Treasury a fixed yearly sum, according to the number
of its "revision souls," and distributes the land among its members as
it thinks fit.

How, then, does the Commune distribute the land? To this question it is
impossible to reply in brief, general terms, because each Commune acts
as it pleases!* Some act strictly according to the theory. These divide
their land at the time of the revision into a number of portions or
shares corresponding to the number of revision souls, and give to each
family a number of shares corresponding to the number of revision souls
which it contains. This is from the administrative point of view by
far the simplest system. The census-list determines how much land each
family will enjoy, and the existing tenures are disturbed only by the
revisions which take place at irregular intervals.** But, on the other
hand, this system has serious defects. The revision-list represents
merely the numerical strength of the families, and the numerical
strength is often not at all in proportion to the working power. Let us
suppose, for example, two families, each containing at the time of
the revision five male members. According to the census-list these two
families are equal, and ought to receive equal shares of the land; but
in reality it may happen that the one contains a father in the prime of
life and four able-bodies sons, whilst the other contains a widow and
five little boys. The wants and working power of these two families are
of course very different; and if the above system of distribution be
applied, the man with four sons and a goodly supply of grandchildren
will probably find that he has too little land, whilst the widow with
her five little boys will find it difficult to cultivate the five shares
alloted to her, and utterly impossible to pay the corresponding amount
of taxation--for in all cases, it must be remembered, the Communal
burdens are distributed in the same proportion as the land.

     * A long list of the various systems of allotment to be
     found in individual Communes in different parts of the
     country is given in the opening chapter of a valuable work
     by Karelin, entitled "Obshtchinnoye Vladyenie v Rossii" (St.
     Petersburg, 1893).  As my object is to convey to the reader
     merely a general idea of the institution, I refrain from
     confusing him by an enumeration of the endless divergencies
     from the original type.

     ** Since 1719 eleven revisions have been made, the last in
     1897. The intervals varied from six to forty-one years.

But why, it may be said, should the widow not accept provisionally the
five shares, and let to others the part which she does not require? The
balance of rent after payment of the taxes might help her to bring up
her young family.

So it seems to one acquainted only with the rural economy of England,
where land is scarce, and always gives a revenue more than sufficient
to defray the taxes. But in Russia the possession of a share of Communal
land is often not a privilege, but a burden. In some Communes the land
is so poor and abundant that it cannot be let at any price. In others
the soil will repay cultivation, but a fair rent will not suffice to pay
the taxes and dues.

To obviate these inconvenient results of the simpler system, many
Communes have adopted the expedient of allotting the land, not according
to the number of revision souls, but according to the working power
of the families. Thus, in the instance above supposed, the widow would
receive perhaps two shares, and the large household, containing five
workers, would receive perhaps seven or eight. Since the breaking-up of
the large families, such inequality as I have supposed is, of course,
rare; but inequality of a less extreme kind does still occur, and
justifies a departure from the system of allotment according to the

Even if the allotment be fair and equitable at the time of the revision,
it may soon become unfair and burdensome by the natural fluctuations of
the population. Births and deaths may in the course of a very few years
entirely alter the relative working power of the various families.
The sons of the widow may grow up to manhood, whilst two or three
able-bodied members of the other family may be cut off by an epidemic.
Thus, long before a new revision takes place, the distribution of the
land may be no longer in accordance with the wants and capacities of
the various families composing the Commune. To correct this, various
expedients are employed. Some Communes transfer particular lots from one
family to another, as circumstances demand; whilst others make from
time to time, during the intervals between the revisions, a complete
redistribution and reallotment of the land. Of these two systems the
former is now more frequently employed.

The system of allotment adopted depends entirely on the will of the
particular Commune. In this respect the Communes enjoy the most complete
autonomy, and no peasant ever dreams of appealing against a Communal
decree.* The higher authorities not only abstain from all interference
in the allotment of the Communal lands, but remain in profound ignorance
as to which system the Communes habitually adopt. Though the Imperial
Administration has a most voracious appetite for symmetrically
constructed statistical tables--many of them formed chiefly out
of materials supplied by the mysterious inner consciousness of the
subordinate officials--no attempt has yet been made, so far as I know,
to collect statistical data which might throw light on this important
subject. In spite of the systematic and persistent efforts of the
centralised bureaucracy to regulate minutely all departments of the
national life, the rural Communes, which contain about five-sixths of
the population, remain in many respects entirely beyond its influence,
and even beyond its sphere of vision! But let not the reader be
astonished overmuch. He will learn in time that Russia is the land of
paradoxes; and meanwhile he is about to receive a still more startling
bit of information. In "the great stronghold of Caesarian despotism
and centralised bureaucracy," these Village Communes, containing about
five-sixths of the population, are capital specimens of representative
Constitutional government of the extreme democratic type!

     * This has been somewhat modified by recent legislation.
     According to the Emancipation Law of 1861, redistribution of
     the land could take place at any time provided it was voted
     by a majority of two-thirds at the Village Assembly.  By a
     law of 1893 redistribution cannot take place oftener than
     once in twelve years, and must receive the sanction of
     certain local authorities.

When I say that the rural Commune is a good specimen of Constitutional
government, I use the phrase in the English, and not in the Continental
sense. In the Continental languages a Constitutional regime implies
the existence of a long, formal document, in which the functions of the
various institutions, the powers of the various authorities, and the
methods of procedure are carefully defined. Such a document was never
heard of in Russian Village Communes, except those belonging to the
Imperial Domains, and the special legislation which formerly regulated
their affairs was repealed at the time of the Emancipation. At the
present day the Constitution of all the Village Communes is of the
English type--a body of unwritten, traditional conceptions, which have
grown up and modified themselves under the influence of ever-changing
practical necessity. No doubt certain definitions of the functions and
mutual relations of the Communal authorities might be extracted from
the Emancipation Law and subsequent official documents, but as a rule
neither the Village Elder nor the members of the Village Assembly
ever heard of such definitions; and yet every peasant knows, as if
by instinct, what each of these authorities can do and cannot do. The
Commune is, in fact, a living institution, whose spontaneous vitality
enables it to dispense with the assistance and guidance of the written
law, and its constitution is thoroughly democratic. The Elder represents
merely the executive power. The real authority resides in the Assembly,
of which all Heads of Households are members.*

     * An attempt was made by Alexander III. in 1884 to bring the
     rural Communes under supervision and control by the
     appointment of rural officials called Zemskiye Natchalniki.
     Of this so-called reform I shall have occasion to speak

The simple procedure, or rather the absence of all formal procedure,
at the Assemblies, illustrates admirably the essentially practical
character of the institution. The meetings are held in the open air,
because in the village there is no building--except the church, which
can be used only for religious purposes--large enough to contain all the
members; and they almost always take place on Sundays or holidays,
when the peasants have plenty of leisure. Any open space may serve as
a Forum. The discussions are occasionally very animated, but there is
rarely any attempt at speech-making. If any young member should show
an inclination to indulge in oratory, he is sure to be unceremoniously
interrupted by some of the older members, who have never any sympathy
with fine talking. The assemblage has the appearance of a crowd of
people who have accidentally come together and are discussing in little
groups subjects of local interest. Gradually some one group, containing
two or three peasants who have more moral influence than their fellows,
attracts the others, and the discussion becomes general. Two or more
peasants may speak at a time, and interrupt each other freely--using
plain, unvarnished language, not at all parliamentary--and the
discussion may become a confused, unintelligible din; but at the
moment when the spectator imagines that the consultation is about to
be transformed into a free fight, the tumult spontaneously subsides,
or perhaps a general roar of laughter announces that some one has been
successfully hit by a strong argumentum ad hominem, or biting personal
remark. In any case there is no danger of the disputants coming to
blows. No class of men in the world are more good-natured and pacific
than the Russian peasantry. When sober they never fight, and even when
under the influence of alcohol they are more likely to be violently
affectionate than disagreeably quarrelsome. If two of them take to
drinking together, the probability is that in a few minutes, though they
may never have seen each other before, they will be expressing in very
strong terms their mutual regard and affection, confirming their words
with an occasional friendly embrace.

Theoretically speaking, the Village Parliament has a Speaker, in the
person of the Village Elder. The word Speaker is etymologically less
objectionable than the term President, for the personage in question
never sits down, but mingles in the crowd like the ordinary members.
Objection may be taken to the word on the ground that the Elder speaks
much less than many other members, but this may likewise be said of the
Speaker of the House of Commons. Whatever we may call him, the Elder is
officially the principal personage in the crowd, and wears the insignia
of office in the form of a small medal suspended from his neck by a thin
brass chain. His duties, however, are extremely light. To call to order
those who interrupt the discussion is no part of his functions. If he
calls an honourable member "Durak" (blockhead), or interrupts an orator
with a laconic "Moltchi!" (hold your tongue!), he does so in virtue of
no special prerogative, but simply in accordance with a time-honoured
privilege, which is equally enjoyed by all present, and may be employed
with impunity against himself. Indeed, it may be said in general that
the phraseology and the procedure are not subjected to any strict rules.
The Elder comes prominently forward only when it is necessary to take
the sense of the meeting. On such occasions he may stand back a little
from the crowd and say, "Well, orthodox, have you decided so?" and the
crowd will probably shout, "Ladno! ladno!" that is to say, "Agreed!

Communal measures are generally carried in this way by acclamation; but
it sometimes happens that there is such a diversity of opinion that it
is difficult to tell which of the two parties has a majority. In this
case the Elder requests the one party to stand to the right and the
other to the left. The two groups are then counted, and the minority
submits, for no one ever dreams of opposing openly the will of the Mir.

During the reign of Nicholas I. an attempt was made to regulate by the
written law the procedure of Village Assemblies amongst the peasantry
of the State Domains, and among other reforms voting by ballot was
introduced; but the new custom never struck root. The peasants did
not regard with favour the new method, and persisted in calling it,
contemptuously, "playing at marbles." Here, again, we have one of those
wonderful and apparently anomalous facts which frequently meet the
student of Russian affairs: the Emperor Nicholas I., the incarnation of
autocracy and the champion of the Reactionary Party throughout Europe,
forces the ballot-box, the ingenious invention of extreme radicals, on
several millions of his subjects!

In the northern provinces, where a considerable portion of the male
population is always absent, the Village Assembly generally includes a
good many female members. These are women who, on account of the
absence or death of their husbands, happen to be for the moment Heads of
Households. As such they are entitled to be present, and their right to
take part in the deliberations is never called in question. In matters
affecting the general welfare of the Commune they rarely speak, and if
they do venture to enounce an opinion on such occasions they have little
chance of commanding attention, for the Russian peasantry are as yet
little imbued with the modern doctrines of female equality, and express
their opinion of female intelligence by the homely adage: "The hair is
long, but the mind is short." According to one proverb, seven women
have collectively but one soul, and, according to a still more ungallant
popular saying, women have no souls at all, but only a vapour. Woman,
therefore, as woman, is not deserving of much consideration, but a
particular woman, as Head of a Household, is entitled to speak on all
questions directly affecting the household under her care. If, for
instance, it be proposed to increase or diminish her household's share
of the land and the burdens, she will be allowed to speak freely on
the subject, and even to indulge in personal invective against her male
opponents. She thereby exposes herself, it is true, to uncomplimentary
remarks; but any which she happens to receive she is pretty sure to
repay with interest--referring, perhaps, with pertinent virulence to
the domestic affairs of those who attack her. And when argument and
invective fail, she can try the effect of pathetic appeal, supported by
copious tears.

As the Village Assembly is really a representative institution in the
full sense of the term, it reflects faithfully the good and the bad
qualities of the rural population. Its decisions are therefore usually
characterised by plain, practical common sense, but it is subject
to occasional unfortunate aberrations in consequence of pernicious
influences, chiefly of an alcoholic kind. An instance of this fact
occurred during my sojourn at Ivanofka. The question under discussion
was whether a kabak, or gin-shop, should be established in the village.
A trader from the district town desired to establish one, and offered to
pay to the Commune a yearly sum for the necessary permission. The more
industrious, respectable members of the Commune, backed by the whole
female population, were strongly opposed to the project, knowing full
well that a kabak would certainly lead to the ruin of more than one
household; but the enterprising trader had strong arguments wherewith
to seduce a large number of the members, and succeeded in obtaining a
decision in his favour.

The Assembly discusses all matters affecting the Communal welfare,
and, as these matters have never been legally defined, its recognised
competence is very wide. It fixes the time for making the hay, and the
day for commencing the ploughing of the fallow field; it decrees what
measures shall be employed against those who do not punctually pay
their taxes; it decides whether a new member shall be admitted into
the Commune, and whether an old member shall be allowed to change his
domicile; it gives or withholds permission to erect new buildings on
the Communal land; it prepares and signs all contracts which the Commune
makes with one of its own members or with a stranger; it interferes
whenever it thinks necessary in the domestic affairs of its members; it
elects the Elder--as well as the Communal tax-collector and watchman,
where such offices exist--and the Communal herd-boy; above all, it
divides and allots the Communal land among the members as it thinks fit.

Of all these various proceedings the English reader may naturally assume
that the elections are the most noisy and exciting. In reality this is a
mistake. The elections produce little excitement, for the simple reason
that, as a rule, no one desires to be elected. Once, it is said, a
peasant who had been guilty of some misdemeanor was informed by an
Arbiter of the Peace--a species of official of which I shall have
occasion to speak in the sequel--that he would be no longer capable of
filling any Communal office; and instead of regretting this diminution
of his civil rights, he bowed very low, and respectfully expressed his
thanks for the new privilege which he had acquired. This anecdote may
not be true, but it illustrates the undoubted fact that the Russian
peasant regards office as a burden rather than as an honour. There is no
civic ambition in those little rural commonwealths, whilst the privilege
of wearing a bronze medal, which commands no respect, and the reception
of a few roubles as salary afford no adequate compensation for the
trouble, annoyance, and responsibility which a Village Elder has to
bear. The elections are therefore generally very tame and uninteresting.
The following description may serve as an illustration:

It is a Sunday afternoon. The peasants, male and female, have turned out
in Sunday attire, and the bright costumes of the women help the sunshine
to put a little rich colour into the scene, which is at ordinary times
monotonously grey. Slowly the crowd collects on the open space at the
side of the church. All classes of the population are represented. On
the extreme outskirts are a band of fair-haired, merry children--some
of them standing or lying on the grass and gazing attentively at the
proceedings, and others running about and amusing themselves. Close
to these stand a group of young girls, convulsed with half-suppressed
laughter. The cause of their merriment is a youth of some seventeen
summers, evidently the wag of the village, who stands beside them with
an accordion in his hand, and relates to them in a half-whisper how he
is about to be elected Elder, and what mad pranks he will play in that
capacity. When one of the girls happens to laugh outright, the matrons
who are standing near turn round and scowl; and one of them, stepping
forward, orders the offender, in a tone of authority, to go home at once
if she cannot behave herself. Crestfallen, the culprit retires, and the
youth who is the cause of the merriment makes the incident the subject
of a new joke. Meanwhile the deliberations have begun. The majority of
the members are chatting together, or looking at a little group composed
of three peasants and a woman, who are standing a little apart from the
others. Here alone the matter in hand is being really discussed. The
woman is explaining, with tears in her eyes, and with a vast amount of
useless repetition, that her "old man," who is Elder for the time being,
is very ill, and cannot fulfil his duties.

"But he has not yet served a year, and he'll get better," remarks one
peasant, evidently the youngest of the little group.

"Who knows?" replies the woman, sobbing. "It is the will of God, but
I don't believe that he'll ever put his foot to the ground again. The
Feldsher has been four times to see him, and the doctor himself came
once, and said that he must be brought to the hospital."

"And why has he not been taken there?"

"How could he be taken? Who is to carry him? Do you think he's a baby?
The hospital is forty versts off. If you put him in a cart he would die
before he had gone a verst. And then, who knows what they do with people
in the hospital?" This last question contained probably the true reason
why the doctor's orders had been disobeyed.

"Very well, that's enough; hold your tongue," says the grey-beard of
the little group to the woman; and then, turning to the other peasants,
remarks, "There is nothing to be done. The Stanovoi [officer of rural
police] will be here one of these days, and will make a row again if we
don't elect a new Elder. Whom shall we choose?"

As soon as this question is asked several peasants look down to the
ground, or try in some other way to avoid attracting attention, lest
their names should be suggested. When the silence has continued a minute
or two, the greybeard says, "There is Alexei Ivanof; he has not served

"Yes, yes, Alexei Ivanof!" shout half-a-dozen voices, belonging probably
to peasants who fear they may be elected.

Alexei protests in the strongest terms. He cannot say that he is ill,
because his big ruddy face would give him the lie direct, but he finds
half-a-dozen other reasons why he should not be chosen, and accordingly
requests to be excused. But his protestations are not listened to, and
the proceedings terminate. A new Village Elder has been duly elected.

Far more important than the elections is the redistribution of the
Communal land. It can matter but little to the Head of a Household how
the elections go, provided he himself is not chosen. He can accept
with perfect equanimity Alexei, or Ivan, or Nikolai, because the
office-bearers have very little influence in Communal affairs. But he
cannot remain a passive, indifferent spectator when the division and
allotment of the land come to be discussed, for the material welfare of
every household depends to a great extent on the amount of land and of
burdens which it receives.

In the southern provinces, where the soil is fertile, and the taxes do
not exceed the normal rent, the process of division and allotment is
comparatively simple. Here each peasant desires to get as much land as
possible, and consequently each household demands all the land to which
it is entitled--that is to say, a number of shares equal to the number
of its members inscribed in the last revision list. The Assembly has
therefore no difficult questions to decide. The Communal revision list
determines the number of shares into which the land must be divided, and
the number of shares to be allotted to each family. The only difficulty
likely to arise is as to which particular shares a particular family
shall receive, and this difficulty is commonly obviated by the custom of
drawing lots. There may be, it is true, some difference of opinion as
to when a redistribution should be made, but this question is easily
decided by a vote of the Assembly.

Very different is the process of division and allotment in many Communes
of the northern provinces. Here the soil is often very unfertile and the
taxes exceed the normal rent, and consequently it may happen that the
peasants strive to have as little land as possible. In these cases such
scenes as the following may occur:

Ivan is being asked how many shares of the Communal land he will take,
and replies in a slow, contemplative way, "I have two sons, and there
is myself, so I'll take three shares, or somewhat less, if it is your

"Less!" exclaims a middle-aged peasant, who is not the Village Elder,
but merely an influential member, and takes the leading part in the
proceedings. "You talk nonsense. Your two sons are already old enough to
help you, and soon they may get married, and so bring you two new female

"My eldest son," explains Ivan, "always works in Moscow, and the other
often leaves me in summer."

"But they both send or bring home money, and when they get married, the
wives will remain with you."

"God knows what will be," replies Ivan, passing over in silence the
first part of his opponent's remark. "Who knows if they will marry?"

"You can easily arrange that!"

"That I cannot do. The times are changed now. The young people do as
they wish, and when they do get married they all wish to have houses of
their own. Three shares will be heavy enough for me!"

"No, no. If they wish to separate from you, they will take some land
from you. You must take at least four. The old wives there who have
little children cannot take shares according to the number of souls."

"He is a rich muzhik!" says a voice in the crowd. "Lay on him five
souls!" (that is to say, give him five shares of the land and of the

"Five souls I cannot! By God, I cannot!"

"Very well, you shall have four," says the leading spirit to Ivan; and
then, turning to the crowd, inquires, "Shall it be so?"

"Four! four!" murmurs the crowd; and the question is settled.

Next comes one of the old wives just referred to. Her husband is a
permanent invalid, and she has three little boys, only one of whom is
old enough for field labour. If the number of souls were taken as the
basis of distribution, she would receive four shares; but she would
never be able to pay four shares of the Communal burdens. She must
therefore receive less than that amount. When asked how many she will
take, she replies with downcast eyes, "As the Mir decides, so be it!"

"Then you must take three."

"What do you say, little father?" cries the woman, throwing off suddenly
her air of submissive obedience. "Do you hear that, ye orthodox? They
want to lay upon me three souls! Was such a thing ever heard of? Since
St. Peter's Day my husband has been bedridden--bewitched, it seems, for
nothing does him good. He cannot put a foot to the ground--all the same
as if he were dead; only he eats bread!"

"You talk nonsense," says a neighbour; "he was in the kabak [gin-shop]
last week."

"And you!" retorts the woman, wandering from the subject in hand; "what
did YOU do last parish fete? Was it not you who got drunk and beat
your wife till she roused the whole village with her shrieking? And no
further gone than last Sunday--pfu!"

"Listen!" says the old man, sternly cutting short the torrent of
invective. "You must take at least two shares and a half. If you cannot
manage it yourself, you can get some one to help you."

"How can that be? Where am I to get the money to pay a labourer?"
asks the woman, with much wailing and a flood of tears. "Have pity, ye
orthodox, on the poor orphans! God will reward you!" and so on, and so

I need not worry the reader with a further description of these scenes,
which are always very long and sometimes violent. All present are deeply
interested, for the allotment of the land is by far the most important
event in Russian peasant life, and the arrangement cannot be made
without endless talking and discussion. After the number of shares for
each family has been decided, the distribution of the lots gives rise to
new difficulties. The families who have plentifully manured their land
strive to get back their old lots, and the Commune respects their claims
so far as these are consistent with the new arrangement; but often it
happens that it is impossible to conciliate private rights and Communal
interests, and in such cases the former are sacrificed in a way that
would not be tolerated by men of Anglo-Saxon race. This leads, however,
to no serious consequences. The peasants are accustomed to work together
in this way, to make concessions for the Communal welfare, and to bow
unreservedly to the will of the Mir. I know of many instances where
the peasants have set at defiance the authority of the police, of the
provincial governor, and of the central Government itself, but I have
never heard of any instance where the will of the Mir was openly opposed
by one of its members.

In the preceding pages I have repeatedly spoken about "shares of the
Communal land." To prevent misconception I must explain carefully what
this expression means. A share does not mean simply a plot or parcel of
land; on the contrary, it always contains at least four, and may contain
a large number of distinct plots. We have here a new point of difference
between the Russian village and the villages of Western Europe.

Communal land in Russia is of three kinds: the land on which the village
is built, the arable land, and the meadow or hay-field, if the village
is fortunate enough to possess one. On the first of these each family
possesses a house and garden, which are the hereditary property of the
family, and are never affected by the periodical redistributions. The
other two kinds are both subject to redistribution, but on somewhat
different principles.

The whole of the Communal arable land is first of all divided into three
fields, to suit the triennial rotation of crops already described, and
each field is divided into a number of long narrow strips--corresponding
to the number of male members in the Commune--as nearly as possible
equal to each other in area and quality. Sometimes it is necessary to
divide the field into several portions, according to the quality of the
soil, and then to subdivide each of these portions into the requisite
number of strips. Thus in all cases every household possesses at
least one strip in each field; and in those cases where subdivision is
necessary, every household possesses a strip in each of the portions
into which the field is subdivided. It often happens, therefore, that
the strips are very narrow, and the portions belonging to each family
very numerous. Strips six feet wide are by no means rare. In 124
villages of the province of Moscow, regarding which I have special
information, they varied in width from 3 to 45 yards, with an average
of 11 yards. Of these narrow strips a household may possess as many
as thirty in a single field! The complicated process of division and
subdivision is accomplished by the peasants themselves, with the aid
of simple measuring-rods, and the accuracy of the result is truly

The meadow, which is reserved for the production of hay, is divided
into the same number of shares as the arable land. There, however, the
division and distribution take place, not at irregular intervals, but
annually. Every year, on a day fixed by the Assembly, the villagers
proceed in a body to this part of their property, and divide it into
the requisite number of portions. Lots are then cast, and each family
at once mows the portion allotted to it. In some Communes the meadow is
mown by all the peasants in common, and the hay afterwards distributed
by lot among the families; but this system is by no means so frequently

As the whole of the Communal land thus resembles to some extent a big
farm, it is necessary to make certain rules concerning cultivation.
A family may sow what it likes in the land allotted to it, but all
families must at least conform to the accepted system of rotation.
In like manner, a family cannot begin the autumn ploughing before the
appointed time, because it would thereby interfere with the rights of
the other families, who use the fallow field as pasturage.

It is not a little strange that this primitive system of land tenure
should have succeeded in living into the twentieth century, and still
more remarkable that the institution of which it forms an essential
part should be regarded by many intelligent people as one of the great
institutions of the future, and almost as a panacea for social and
political evils. The explanation of these facts will form the subject of
the next chapter.



Sweeping Reforms after the Crimean War--Protest Against the Laissez
Faire Principle--Fear of the Proletariat--English and Russian Methods of
Legislation Contrasted--Sanguine Expectations--Evil Consequences of
the Communal System--The Commune of the Future--Proletariat of the
Towns--The Present State of Things Merely Temporary.

The reader is probably aware that immediately after the Crimean War
Russia was subjected to a series of sweeping reforms, including the
emancipation of the serfs and the creation of a new system of local
self-government, and he may naturally wonder how it came to pass that
a curious, primitive institution like the rural Commune succeeded in
weathering the bureaucratic hurricane. This strange phenomena I now
proceed to explain, partly because the subject is in itself interesting,
and partly because I hope thereby to throw some light on the peculiar
intellectual condition of the Russian educated classes.

When it became evident, in 1857, that the serfs were about to be
emancipated, it was at first pretty generally supposed that the rural
Commune would be entirely abolished, or at least radically modified. At
that time many Russians were enthusiastic, indiscriminate admirers of
English institutions, and believed, in common with the orthodox school
of political economists, that England had acquired her commercial and
industrial superiority by adopting the principle of individual liberty
and unrestricted competition, or, as French writers term it, the
"laissez faire" principle. This principle is plainly inconsistent with
the rural Commune, which compels the peasantry to possess land, prevents
an enterprising peasant from acquiring the land of his less enterprising
neighbours, and places very considerable restrictions on the freedom of
action of the individual members. Accordingly it was assumed that the
rural Commune, being inconsistent with the modern spirit of progress,
would find no place in the new regime of liberty which was about to be

No sooner had these ideas been announced in the Press than they
called forth strenuous protests. In the crowd of protesters were
two well-defined groups. On the one hand there were the so-called
Slavophils, a small band of patriotic, highly educated Moscovites, who
were strongly disposed to admire everything specifically Russian, and
who habitually refused to bow the knee to the wisdom of Western Europe.
These gentlemen, in a special organ which they had recently founded,
pointed out to their countrymen that the Commune was a venerable and
peculiarly Russian institution, which had mitigated in the past the
baneful influence of serfage, and would certainly in the future confer
inestimable benefits on the emancipated peasantry. The other group was
animated by a very different spirit. They had no sympathy with national
peculiarities, and no reverence for hoary antiquity. That the Commune
was specifically Russian or Slavonic, and a remnant of primitive
times, was in their eyes anything but a recommendation in its favour.
Cosmopolitan in their tendencies, and absolutely free from all
archaeological sentimentality, they regarded the institution from
the purely utilitarian point of view. They agreed, however, with the
Slavophils in thinking that its preservation would have a beneficial
influence on the material and moral welfare of the peasantry.

For the sake of convenience it is necessary to designate this latter
group by some definite name, but I confess I have some difficulty in
making a choice. I do not wish to call these gentlemen Socialists,
because many people habitually and involuntarily attach a stigma to
the word, and believe that all to whom the term is applied must be
first-cousins to the petroleuses. To avoid misconceptions of this kind,
it will be well to designate them simply by the organ which most
ably represented their views, and to call them the adherents of The

The Slavophils and the adherents of The Contemporary, though differing
widely from each other in many respects, had the same immediate object
in view, and accordingly worked together. With great ingenuity they
contended that the Communal system of land tenure had much greater
advantages, and was attended with much fewer inconveniences, than
people generally supposed. But they did not confine themselves to these
immediate practical advantages, which had very little interest for
the general reader. The writers in The Contemporary explained that the
importance of the rural Commune lies, not in its actual condition, but
in its capabilities of development, and they drew, with prophetic eye,
most attractive pictures of the happy rural Commune of the future. Let
me give here, as an illustration, one of these prophetic descriptions:

"Thanks to the spread of primary and technical education the peasants
have become well acquainted with the science of agriculture, and are
always ready to undertake in common the necessary improvements. They no
longer exhaust the soil by exporting the grain, but sell merely certain
technical products containing no mineral ingredients. For this purpose
the Communes possess distilleries, starch-works, and the like, and the
soil thereby retains its original fertility. The scarcity induced by the
natural increase of the population is counteracted by improved methods
of cultivation. If the Chinese, who know nothing of natural science,
have succeeded by purely empirical methods in perfecting agriculture to
such an extent that a whole family can support itself on a few square
yards of land, what may not the European do with the help of chemistry,
botanical physiology, and the other natural sciences?"

Coming back from the possibilities of the future to the actualities of
the present, these ingenious and eloquent writers pointed out that
in the rural Commune, Russia possessed a sure preventive against the
greatest evil of West-European social organisation, the Proletariat.
Here the Slavophils could strike in with their favourite refrain about
the rotten social condition of Western Europe; and their temporary
allies, though they habitually scoffed at the Slavophil jeremiads, had
no reason for the moment to contradict them. Very soon the Proletariat
became, for the educated classes, a species of bugbear, and the reading
public were converted to the doctrine that the Communal institutions
should be preserved as a means of excluding the monster from Russia.

This fear of what is vaguely termed the Proletariat is still frequently
to be met with in Russia, and I have often taken pains to discover
precisely what is meant by the term. I cannot, however, say that my
efforts have been completely successful. The monster seems to be as
vague and shadowy as the awful forms which Milton placed at the gate of
the infernal regions. At one moment he seems to be simply our old enemy
Pauperism, but when we approach a little nearer we find that he
expands to colossal dimensions, so as to include all who do not
possess inalienable landed property. In short, he turns out to be, on
examination, as vague and undefinable as a good bugbear ought to be; and
this vagueness contributed probably not a little to his success.

The influence which the idea of the Proletariat exercised on the public
mind and on the legislation at the time of the Emancipation is a
very notable fact, and well worthy of attention, because it helps to
illustrate a point of difference between Russians and Englishmen.

Englishmen are, as a rule, too much occupied with the multifarious
concerns of the present to look much ahead into the distant future. We
profess, indeed, to regard with horror the maxim, Apres nous le deluge!
and we should probably annihilate with our virtuous indignation any one
who should boldly profess the principle. And yet we often act almost as
if we were really partisans of that heartless creed. When called upon
to consider the interests of the future generations, we declared
that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," and stigmatise as
visionaries and dreamers all who seek to withdraw our attention from the
present. A modern Cassandra who confidently predicts the near exhaustion
of our coal-fields, or graphically describes a crushing national
disaster that must some day overtake us, may attract some public
attention; but when we learn that the misfortune is not to take place in
our time, we placidly remark that future generations must take care
of themselves, and that we cannot reasonably be expected to bear their
burdens. When we are obliged to legislate, we proceed in a cautious,
tentative way, and are quite satisfied with any homely, simple remedies
that common sense and experience may suggest, without taking the trouble
to inquire whether the remedy adopted is in accordance with scientific
theories. In short, there is a certain truth in those "famous prophetick
pictures" spoken of by Stillingfleet, which "represent the fate of
England by a mole, a creature blind and busy, continually working under

In Russia we find the opposite extreme. There reformers have been
trained, not in the arena of practical politics, but in the school of
political speculation. As soon, therefore, as they begin to examine
any simple matter with a view to legislation, it at once becomes
a "question," and flies up into the region of political and social
science. Whilst we have been groping along an unexplored path, the
Russians have--at least in recent times--been constantly mapping out,
with the help of foreign experience, the country that lay before them,
and advancing with gigantic strides according to the newest political
theories. Men trained in this way cannot rest satisfied with homely
remedies which merely alleviate the evils of the moment. They wish to
"tear up evil by the roots," and to legislate for future generations as
well as for themselves.

This tendency was peculiarly strong at the time of the Emancipation. The
educated classes were profoundly convinced that the system of Nicholas
I. had been a mistake, and that a new and brighter era was about to dawn
upon the country. Everything had to be reformed. The whole social and
political edifice had to be reconstructed on entirely new principles.

Let us imagine the position of a man who, having no practical
acquaintance with building, suddenly finds himself called upon to
construct a large house, containing all the newest appliances for
convenience and comfort. What will his first step be? Probably he will
proceed at once to study the latest authorities on architecture and
construction, and when he has mastered the general principles he will
come down gradually to the details. This is precisely what the Russians
did when they found themselves called upon to reconstruct the political
and social edifice. They eagerly consulted the most recent English,
French, and German writers on social and political science, and here it
was that they made the acquaintance of the Proletariat.

People who read books of travel without ever leaving their own country
are very apt to acquire exaggerated notions regarding the hardships
and dangers of uncivilised life. They read about savage tribes, daring
robbers, ferocious wild beasts, poisonous snakes, deadly fevers, and the
like; and they cannot but wonder how a human being can exist for a week
among such dangers. But if they happen thereafter to visit the countries
described, they discover to their surprise that, though the descriptions
may not have been exaggerated, life under such conditions is much easier
than they supposed. Now the Russians who read about the Proletariat were
very much like the people who remain at home and devour books of travel.
They gained exaggerated notions, and learned to fear the Proletariat
much more than we do, who habitually live in the midst of it. Of course
it is quite possible that their view of the subject is truer than ours,
and that we may some day, like the people who live tranquilly on the
slopes of a volcano, be rudely awakened from our fancied security. But
this is an entirely different question. I am at present not endeavouring
to justify our habitual callousness with regard to social dangers,
but simply seeking to explain why the Russians, who have little or no
practical acquaintance with pauperism, should have taken such elaborate
precautions against it.

But how can the preservation of the Communal institutions lead to this
"consummation devoutly to be wished," and how far are the precautions
likely to be successful?

Those who have studied the mysteries of social science have generally
come to the conclusion that the Proletariat has been formed chiefly by
the expropriation of the peasantry or small land-holders, and that its
formation might be prevented, or at least retarded, by any system of
legislation which would secure the possession of land for the peasants
and prevent them from being uprooted from the soil. Now it must be
admitted that the Russian Communal system is admirably adapted for this
purpose. About one-half of the arable land has been reserved for the
peasantry, and cannot be encroached on by the great landowners or the
capitalists, and every adult peasant, roughly speaking, has a right to
a share of this land. When I have said that the peasantry compose about
five-sixths of the population, and that it is extremely difficult for
a peasant to sever his connection with the rural Commune, it will be at
once evident that, if the theories of social philosophers are correct,
and if the sanguine expectations entertained in many quarters regarding
the permanence of the present Communal institutions are destined to be
realised, there is little or no danger of a numerous Proletariat being
formed, and the Russians are justified in maintaining, as they often do,
that they have successfully solved one of the most important and most
difficult of social problems.

But is there any reasonable chance of these sanguine expectations being

This is, doubtless, a most complicated and difficult question, but it
cannot be shirked. However sceptical we may be with regard to social
panaceas of all sorts, we cannot dismiss with a few hackneyed phrases a
gigantic experiment in social science involving the material and moral
welfare of many millions of human beings. On the other hand, I do not
wish to exhaust the reader's patience by a long series of multifarious
details and conflicting arguments. What I propose to do, therefore, is
to state in a few words the conclusions at which I have arrived, after a
careful study of the question in all its bearings, and to indicate in a
general way how I have arrived at these conclusions.

If Russia were content to remain a purely agricultural country of
the Sleepy Hollow type, and if her Government were to devote all its
energies to maintaining economic and social stagnation, the rural
Commune might perhaps prevent the formation of a large Proletariat in
the future, as it has tended to prevent it for centuries in the past.
The periodical redistributions of the Communal land would secure to
every family a portion of the soil, and when the population became too
dense, the evils arising from inordinate subdivision of the land
might be obviated by a carefully regulated system of emigration to
the outlying, thinly populated provinces. All this sounds very well
in theory, but experience is proving that it cannot be carried out in
practice. In Russia, as in Western Europe, the struggle for life, even
among the conservative agricultural classes, is becoming yearly more
and more intense, and is producing both the desire and the necessity for
greater freedom of individual character and effort, so that each man may
make his way in the world according to the amount of his intelligence,
energy, spirit of enterprise, and tenacity of purpose. Whatever
institutions tend to fetter the individual and maintain a dead level
of mediocrity have little chance of subsisting for any great length of
time, and it must be admitted that among such institutions the rural
Commune in its present form occupies a prominent place. All its members
must possess, in principle if not always in practice, an equal share of
the soil and must practice the same methods of agriculture, and when a
certain inequality has been created by individual effort it is in great
measure wiped out by a redistribution of the Communal land.

Now, I am well aware that in practice the injustice and inconveniences
of the system, being always tempered and corrected by ingenious
compromises suggested by long experience, are not nearly so great as the
mere theorist might naturally suppose; but they are, I believe, quite
great enough to prevent the permanent maintenance of the institution,
and already there are ominous indications of the coming change, as I
shall explain more fully when I come to deal with the consequences of
serf-emancipation. On the other hand there is no danger of a sudden,
general abolition of the old system. Though the law now permits the
transition from Communal to personal hereditary tenure, even the
progressive enterprising peasants are slow to avail themselves of the
permission; and the reason I once heard given for this conservative
tendency is worth recording. A well-to-do peasant who had been in the
habit of manuring his land better than his neighbours, and who was,
consequently, a loser by the existing system, said to me: "Of course I
want to keep the allotment I have got. But if the land is never again
to be divided my grandchildren may be beggars. We must not sin against
those who are to come after us." This unexpected reply gave me food
for reflection. Surely those muzhiks who are so often accused of being
brutally indifferent to moral obligations must have peculiar deep-rooted
moral conceptions of their own which exercise a great influence on their
daily life. A man who hesitates to sin against his grandchildren still
unborn, though his conceptions of the meum and the tuum in the present
may be occasionally a little confused, must possess somewhere deep down
in his nature a secret fund of moral feeling of a very respectable kind.
Even among the educated classes in Russia the way of looking at these
matters is very different from ours. We should naturally feel inclined
to applaud, encourage, and assist the peasants who show energy and
initiative, and who try to rise above their fellows. To the Russian
this seems at once inexpedient and immoral. The success of the few, he
explains, is always obtained at the expense of the many, and generally
by means which the severe moralist cannot approve of. The rich peasants,
for example, have gained their fortune and influence by demoralising
and exploiting their weaker brethren, by committing all manner of
illegalities, and by bribing the local authorities. Hence they are
styled Miroyedy (Commune-devourers) or Kulaki (fists), or something
equally uncomplimentary. Once this view is adopted, it follows logically
that the Communal institutions, in so far as they form a barrier to the
activity of such persons, ought to be carefully preserved. This idea
underlies nearly all the arguments in favour of the Commune, and
explains why they are so popular. Russians of all classes have, in fact,
a leaning towards socialistic notions, and very little sympathy with our
belief in individual initiative and unrestricted competition.

Even if it be admitted that the Commune may effectually prevent the
formation of an agricultural Proletariat, the question is thereby
only half answered. Russia aspires to become a great industrial and
commercial country, and accordingly her town population is rapidly
augmenting. We have still to consider, then, how the Commune affects
the Proletariat of the towns. In Western Europe the great centres of
industry have uprooted from the soil and collected in the towns a great
part of the rural population. Those who yielded to this attractive
influence severed all connection with their native villages, became
unfit for field labour, and were transformed into artisans or
factory-workers. In Russia this transformation could not easily take
place. The peasant might work during the greater part of his life in
the towns, but he did not thereby sever his connection with his native
village. He remained, whether he desired it or not, a member of the
Commune, possessing a share of the Communal land, and liable for a share
of the Communal burdens. During his residence in the town his wife
and family remained at home, and thither he himself sooner or
later returned. In this way a class of hybrids--half-peasants,
half-artisans--has been created, and the formation of a town Proletariat
has been greatly retarded.

The existence of this hybrid class is commonly cited as a beneficent
result of the Communal institutions. The artisans and factory labourers,
it is said, have thus always a home to which they can retire when thrown
out of work or overtaken by old age, and their children are brought
up in the country, instead of being reared among the debilitating
influences of overcrowded cities. Every common labourer has, in
short, by this ingenious contrivance, some small capital and a country

In the present transitional state of Russian society this peculiar
arrangement is at once natural and convenient, but amidst its advantages
it has many serious defects. The unnatural separation of the artisan
from his wife and family leads to very undesirable results, well known
to all who are familiar with the details of peasant life in the northern
provinces. And whatever its advantages and defects may be, it cannot be
permanently retained. At the present time native industry is still in
its infancy. Protected by the tariff from foreign competition, and too
few in number to produce a strong competition among themselves, the
existing factories can give to their owners a large revenue without any
strenuous exertion. Manufacturers can therefore allow themselves many
little liberties, which would be quite inadmissible if the price of
manufactured goods were lowered by brisk competition. Ask a Lancashire
manufacturer if he could allow a large portion of his workers to go
yearly to Cornwall or Caithness to mow a field of hay or reap a few
acres of wheat or oats! And if Russia is to make great industrial
progress, the manufacturers of Moscow, Lodz, Ivanovo, and Shui will
some day be as hard pressed as are those of Bradford and Manchester. The
invariable tendency of modern industry, and the secret of its progress,
is the ever-increasing division of labour; and how can this principle be
applied if the artisans insist on remaining agriculturists?

The interests of agriculture, too, are opposed to the old system.
Agriculture cannot be expected to make progress, or even to be tolerably
productive, if it is left in great measure to women and children. At
present it is not desirable that the link which binds the factory-worker
or artisan with the village should be at once severed, for in
the neighbourhood of the large factories there is often no proper
accommodation for the families of the workers, and agriculture, as at
present practised, can be carried on successfully though the Head of
the Household happens to be absent. But the system must be regarded as
simply temporary, and the disruption of large families--a phenomenon
of which I have already spoken--renders its application more and more



A Finnish Tribe--Finnish Villages--Various Stages of
Russification--Finnish Women--Finnish Religions--Method of "Laying"
Ghosts--Curious Mixture of Christianity and Paganism--Conversion of
the Finns--A Tartar Village--A Russian Peasant's Conception of
Mahometanism--A Mahometan's View of Christianity--Propaganda--The
Russian Colonist--Migrations of Peoples During the Dark Ages.

When talking one day with a landed proprietor who lived near Ivanofka,
I accidentally discovered that in a district at some distance to the
northeast there were certain villages the inhabitants of which did not
understand Russian, and habitually used a peculiar language of their
own. With an illogical hastiness worthy of a genuine ethnologist, I at
once assumed that these must be the remnants of some aboriginal race.

"Des aborigenes!" I exclaimed, unable to recall the Russian equivalent
for the term, and knowing that my friend understood French. "Doubtless
the remains of some ancient race who formerly held the country, and are
now rapidly disappearing. Have you any Aborigines Protection Society in
this part of the world?"

My friend had evidently great difficulty in imagining what an Aborigines
Protection Society could be, and promptly assured me that there was
nothing of the kind in Russia. On being told that such a society might
render valuable services by protecting the weaker against the stronger
race, and collecting important materials for the new science of Social
Embryology, he looked thoroughly mystified. As to the new science,
he had never heard of it, and as to protection, he thought that the
inhabitants of the villages in question were quite capable of protecting
themselves. "I could invent," he added, with a malicious smile, "a
society for the protection of ALL peasants, but I am quite sure that the
authorities would not allow me to carry out my idea."

My ethnological curiosity was thoroughly aroused, and I endeavoured to
awaken a similar feeling in my friend by hinting that we had at hand a
promising field for discoveries which might immortalise the fortunate
explorers; but my efforts were in vain. The old gentleman was a portly,
indolent man, of phlegmatic temperament, who thought more of comfort
than of immortality in the terrestrial sense of the term. To my proposal
that we should start at once on an exploring expedition, he replied
calmly that the distance was considerable, that the roads were muddy,
and that there was nothing to be learned. The villages in question were
very like other villages, and their inhabitants lived, to all intents
and purposes, in the same way as their Russian neighbours. If they had
any secret peculiarities they would certainly not divulge them to
a stranger, for they were notoriously silent, gloomy, morose, and
uncommunicative. Everything that was known about them, my friend assured
me, might be communicated in a few words. They belonged to a Finnish
tribe called Korelli, and had been transported to their present
settlements in comparatively recent times. In answer to my questions as
to how, when, and by whom they had been transported thither my informant
replied that it had been the work of Ivan the Terrible.

Though I knew at that time little of Russian history, I suspected that
the last assertion was invented on the spur of the moment, in order to
satisfy my troublesome curiosity, and accordingly I determined not
to accept it without verification. The result showed how careful
the traveller should be in accepting the testimony of "intelligent,
well-informed natives." On further investigation I discovered, not only
that the story about Ivan the Terrible was a pure invention--whether of
my friend or of the popular imagination, which always uses heroic names
as pegs on which to hang traditions, I know not--but also that my first
theory was correct. These Finnish peasants turned out to be a remnant
of the aborigines, or at least of the oldest known inhabitants of the
district. Men of the same race, but bearing different tribal names,
such as Finns, Korelli, Tcheremiss, Tchuvash, Mordva, Votyaks, Permyaks,
Zyryanye, Voguls, are to be found in considerable numbers all over the
northern provinces, from the Gulf of Bothnia to Western Siberia, as well
as in the provinces bordering the Middle Volga as far south as Penza,
Simbirsk, and Tamboff.* The Russian peasants, who now compose the great
mass of the population, are the intruders.

     * The semi-official "Statesman's Handbook for Russia,"
     published in 1896, enumerates fourteen different tribes,
     with an aggregate of about 4,650,000 souls, but these
     numbers must not be regarded as having any pretensions to
     accuracy.  The best authorities differ widely in their

I had long taken a deep interest in what learned Germans call the
Volkerwanderung--that is to say, the migrations of peoples during the
gradual dissolution of the Roman Empire, and it had often occurred to me
that the most approved authorities, who had expended an infinite
amount of learning on the subject, had not always taken the trouble to
investigate the nature of the process. It is not enough to know that
a race or tribe extended its dominions or changed its geographical
position. We ought at the same time to inquire whether it expelled,
exterminated, or absorbed the former inhabitants, and how the expulsion,
extermination, or absorption was effected. Now of these three processes,
absorption may have been more frequent than is commonly supposed, and it
seemed to me that in Northern Russia this process might be conveniently
studied. A thousand years ago the whole of Northern Russia was peopled
by Finnish pagan tribes, and at the present day the greater part of it
is occupied by peasants who speak the language of Moscow, profess the
Orthodox faith, present in their physiognomy no striking peculiarities,
and appear to the superficial observer pure Russians. And we have
no reason to suppose that the former inhabitants were expelled or
exterminated, or that they gradually died out from contact with the
civilisation and vices of a higher race. History records no
wholesale Finnish migrations like that of the Kalmyks, and no war of
extermination; and statistics prove that among the remnants of those
primitive races the population increases as rapidly as among the Russian
peasantry.* From these facts I concluded that the Finnish aborigines had
been simply absorbed, or rather, were being absorbed, by the Slavonic

     * This latter statement is made on the authority of Popoff
     ("Zyryanye i zyryanski krai," Moscow, 1874) and
     Tcheremshanski ("Opisanie Orenburgskoi Gubernii," Ufa,

This conclusion has since been confirmed by observation. During my
wanderings in these northern provinces I have found villages in every
stage of Russification. In one, everything seemed thoroughly Finnish:
the inhabitants had a reddish-olive skin, very high cheek-bones,
obliquely set eyes, and a peculiar costume; none of the women, and very
few of the men, could understand Russian, and any Russian who visited
the place was regarded as a foreigner. In a second, there were already
some Russian inhabitants; the others had lost something of their pure
Finnish type, many of the men had discarded the old costume and spoke
Russian fluently, and a Russian visitor was no longer shunned. In a
third, the Finnish type was still further weakened: all the men spoke
Russian, and nearly all the women understood it; the old male costume
had entirely disappeared, and the old female costume was rapidly
following it; while intermarriage with the Russian population was no
longer rare. In a fourth, intermarriage had almost completely done its
work, and the old Finnish element could be detected merely in certain
peculiarities of physiognomy and pronunciation.*

     * One of the most common peculiarities of pronunciation is
     the substitution of the sound of ts for that of tch, which I
     found almost universal over a large area.

The process of Russification may be likewise observed in the manner of
building the houses and in the methods of farming, which show plainly
that the Finnish races did not obtain rudimentary civilisation from the
Slavs. Whence, then, was it derived? Was it obtained from some other
race, or is it indigenous? These are questions which I have no means of

A Positivist poet--or if that be a contradiction in terms, let us say
a Positivist who wrote verses--once composed an appeal to the fair sex,
beginning with the words:

"Pourquoi, O femmes, restez-vous en arriere?"

The question might have been addressed to the women in these Finnish
villages. Like their sisters in France, they are much more conservative
than the men, and oppose much more stubbornly the Russian influence.
On the other hand, like women in general, when they do begin to change,
they change more rapidly. This is seen especially in the matter of
costume. The men adopt the Russian costume very gradually; the women
adopt it at once. As soon as a single woman gets a gaudy Russian dress,
every other woman in the village feels envious and impatient till she
has done likewise. I remember once visiting a Mordva village when this
critical point had been reached, and a very characteristic incident
occurred. In the preceding villages through which I had passed I had
tried in vain to buy a female costume, and I again made the attempt.
This time the result was very different. A few minutes after I had
expressed my wish to purchase a costume, the house in which I was
sitting was besieged by a great crowd of women, holding in their hands
articles of wearing apparel. In order to make a selection I went out
into the crowd, but the desire to find a purchaser was so general and
so ardent that I was regularly mobbed. The women, shouting "Kupi! kupi!"
("Buy! buy!"), and struggling with each other to get near me, were so
importunate that I had at last to take refuge in the house, to prevent
my own costume from being torn to shreds. But even there I was not
safe, for the women followed at my heels, and a considerable amount of
good-natured violence had to be employed to expel the intruders.

It is especially interesting to observe the transformation of
nationality in the sphere of religious conceptions. The Finns remained
pagans long after the Russians had become Christians, but at the present
time the whole population, from the eastern boundary of Finland proper
to the Ural Mountains, are officially described as members of the
Greek Orthodox Church. The manner in which this change of religion was
effected is well worthy of attention.

The old religion of the Finnish tribes, if we may judge from the
fragments which still remain, had, like the people themselves, a
thoroughly practical, prosaic character. Their theology consisted not of
abstract dogmas, but merely of simple prescriptions for the ensuring
of material welfare. Even at the present day, in the districts not
completely Russified, their prayers are plain, unadorned requests for
a good harvest, plenty of cattle, and the like, and are expressed in a
tone of childlike familiarity that sounds strange in our ears. They
make no attempt to veil their desires with mystic solemnity, but ask, in
simple, straightforward fashion, that God should make the barley ripen
and the cow calve successfully, that He should prevent their horses from
being stolen, and that he should help them to gain money to pay their

Their religious ceremonies have, so far as I have been able to discover,
no hidden mystical signification, and are for the most part rather
magical rites for averting the influence of malicious spirits,
or freeing themselves from the unwelcome visits of their departed
relatives. For this latter purpose many even of those who are officially
Christians proceed at stated seasons to the graveyards and place an
abundant supply of cooked food on the graves of their relations who have
recently died, requesting the departed to accept this meal, and not to
return to their old homes, where their presence is no longer desired.
Though more of the food is eaten at night by the village dogs than
by the famished spirits, the custom is believed to have a powerful
influence in preventing the dead from wandering about at night and
frightening the living. If it be true, as I am inclined to believe, that
tombstones were originally used for keeping the dead in their graves,
then it must be admitted that in the matter of "laying" ghosts the
Finns have shown themselves much more humane than other races. It
may, however, be suggested that in the original home of the Finns--"le
berceau de la race," as French ethnologists say--stones could not easily
be procured, and that the custom of feeding the dead was adopted as a
pis aller. The decision of the question must be left to those who know
where the original home of the Finns was.

As the Russian peasantry, knowing little or nothing of theology, and
placing implicit confidence in rites and ceremonies, did not differ very
widely from the pagan Finns in the matter of religious conceptions, the
friendly contact of the two races naturally led to a curious blending of
the two religions. The Russians adopted many customs from the Finns,
and the Finns adopted still more from the Russians. When Yumala and the
other Finnish deities did not do as they were desired, their worshippers
naturally applied for protection or assistance to the Madonna and the
"Russian God." If their own traditional magic rites did not suffice to
ward off evil influences, they naturally tried the effect of crossing
themselves, as the Russians do in moments of danger. All this may seem
strange to us who have been taught from our earliest years that religion
is something quite different from spells, charms, and incantations, and
that of all the various religions in the world one alone is true, all
the others being false. But we must remember that the Finns have had a
very different education. They do not distinguish religion from magic
rites, and they have never been taught that other religions are less
true than their own. For them the best religion is the one which
contains the most potent spells, and they see no reason why less
powerful religions should not be blended therewith. Their deities are
not jealous gods, and do not insist on having a monopoly of devotion;
and in any case they cannot do much injury to those who have placed
themselves under the protection of a more powerful divinity.

This simple-minded eclecticism often produces a singular mixture of
Christianity and paganism. Thus, for instance, at the harvest festivals,
Tchuvash peasants have been known to pray first to their own deities,
and then to St. Nicholas, the miracle-worker, who is the favourite
saint of the Russian peasantry. Such dual worship is sometimes
even recommended by the Yomzi--a class of men who correspond to the
medicine-men among the Red Indians--and the prayers are on these
occasions couched in the most familiar terms. Here is a specimen given
by a Russian who has specially studied the language and customs of this
interesting people:* "Look here, O Nicholas-god! Perhaps my neighbour,
little Michael, has been slandering me to you, or perhaps he will do
so. If he does, don't believe him. I have done him no ill, and wish him
none. He is a worthless boaster and a babbler. He does not really honour
you, and merely plays the hypocrite. But I honour you from my heart;
and, behold, I place a taper before you!" Sometimes incidents occur
which display a still more curious blending of the two religions. Thus
a Tcheremiss, on one occasion, in consequence of a serious illness,
sacrificed a young foal to our Lady of Kazan!

     * Mr. Zolotnitski, "Tchuvasko-russki slovar," p. 167.

Though the Finnish beliefs affected to some extent the Russian
peasantry, the Russian faith ultimately prevailed. This can be
explained without taking into consideration the inherent superiority
of Christianity over all forms of paganism. The Finns had no organised
priesthood, and consequently never offered a systematic opposition to
the new faith; the Russians, on the contrary, had a regular hierarchy in
close alliance with the civil administration. In the principal villages
Christian churches were built, and some of the police-officers vied with
the ecclesiastical officials in the work of making converts. At the same
time there were other influences tending in the same direction. If
a Russian practised Finnish superstitions he exposed himself to
disagreeable consequences of a temporal kind; if, on the contrary, a
Finn adopted the Christian religion, the temporal consequences that
could result were all advantageous to him.

Many of the Finns gradually became Christians almost unconsciously. The
ecclesiastical authorities were extremely moderate in their demands.
They insisted on no religious knowledge, and merely demanded that the
converts should be baptised. The converts, failing to understand the
spiritual significance of the ceremony, commonly offered no resistance,
so long as the immersion was performed in summer. So little repugnance,
indeed, did they feel, that on some occasions, when a small reward
was given to those who consented, some of the new converts wished the
ceremony to be repeated several times. The chief objection to receiving
the Christian faith lay in the long and severe fasts imposed by the
Greek Orthodox Church; but this difficulty was overcome by assuming that
they need not be strictly observed. At first, in some districts, it was
popularly believed that the Icons informed the Russian priests against
those who did not fast as the Church prescribed; but experience
gradually exploded this theory. Some of the more prudent converts,
however, to prevent all possible tale-telling, took the precaution of
turning the face of the Icon to the wall when prohibited meats were
about to be eaten!

This gradual conversion of the Finnish tribes, effected without any
intellectual revolution in the minds of the converts, had very important
temporal consequences. Community of faith led to intermarriage, and
intermarriage led rapidly to the blending of the two races.

If we compare a Finnish village in any stage of Russification with a
Tartar village, of which the inhabitants are Mahometans, we cannot fail
to be struck by the contrast. In the latter, though there may be many
Russians, there is no blending of the two races. Between them religion
has raised an impassable barrier. There are many villages in the eastern
and north-eastern provinces of European Russia which have been for
generations half Tartar and half Russian, and the amalgamation of
the two nationalities has not yet begun. Near the one end stands the
Christian church, and near the other stands the little metchet, or
Mahometan house of prayer. The whole village forms one Commune, with one
Village Assembly and one Village Elder; but, socially, it is composed
of two distinct communities, each possessing its peculiar customs and
peculiar mode of life. The Tartar may learn Russian, but he does not on
that account become Russianised.

It must not, however, be supposed that the two races are imbued with
fanatical hatred towards each other. On the contrary, they live in
perfect good-fellowship, elect as Village Elder sometimes a Russian
and sometimes a Tartar, and discuss the Communal affairs in the Village
Assembly without reference to religious matters. I know one village
where the good-fellowship went even a step farther: the Christians
determined to repair their church, and the Mahometans helped them to
transport wood for the purpose! All this tends to show that under a
tolerably good Government, which does not favour one race at the expense
of the other, Mahometan Tartars and Christian Slavs can live peaceably

The absence of fanaticism and of that proselytising zeal which is one of
the most prolific sources of religious hatred, is to be explained by
the peculiar religious conceptions of these peasants. In their
minds religion and nationality are so closely allied as to be almost
identical. The Russian is, as it were, by nature a Christian, and the
Tartar a Mahometan; and it never occurs to any one in these villages
to disturb the appointed order of nature. On this subject I had once an
interesting conversation with a Russian peasant who had been for some
time living among Tartars. In reply to my question as to what kind of
people the Tartars were, he replied laconically, "Nitchevo"--that is to
say, "nothing in particular"; and on being pressed for a more definite
expression of opinion, he admitted that they were very good people

"And what kind of faith have they?" I continued.

"A good enough faith," was the prompt reply.

"Is it better than the faith of the Molokanye?" The Molokanye are
Russian sectarians--closely resembling Scotch Presbyterians--of whom I
shall have more to say in the sequel.

"Of course it is better than the Molokan faith."

"Indeed!" I exclaimed, endeavouring to conceal my astonishment at this
strange judgment. "Are the Molokanye, then, very bad people?"

"Not at all. The Molokanye are good and honest."

"Why, then, do you think their faith is so much worse than that of the

"How shall I tell you?" The peasant here paused as if to collect his
thoughts, and then proceeded slowly, "The Tartars, you see, received
their faith from God as they received the colour of their skins, but
the Molokanye are Russians who have invented a faith out of their own

This singular answer scarcely requires a commentary. As it would be
absurd to try to make Tartars change the colour of their skins, so it
would be absurd to try to make them change their religion. Besides this,
such an attempt would be an unjustifiable interference with the designs
of Providence, for, in the peasant's opinion, God gave Mahometanism to
the Tartars just as he gave the Orthodox faith to the Russians.

The ecclesiastical authorities do not formally adopt this strange
theory, but they generally act in accordance with it. There is little
official propaganda among the Mahometan subjects of the Tsar, and it is
well that it is so, for an energetic propaganda would lead merely to
the stirring up of any latent hostility which may exist deep down in the
nature of the two races, and it would not make any real converts. The
Tartars cannot unconsciously imbibe Christianity as the Finns have done.
Their religion is not a rude, simple paganism without theology in
the scholastic sense of the term, but a monotheism as exclusive as
Christianity itself. Enter into conversation with an intelligent man
who has no higher religious belief than a rude sort of paganism, and you
may, if you know him well and make a judicious use of your knowledge,
easily interest him in the touching story of Christ's life and teaching.
And in these unsophisticated natures there is but one step from interest
and sympathy to conversion.

Try the same method with a Mussulman, and you will soon find that all
your efforts are fruitless. He has already a theology and a prophet of
his own, and sees no reason why he should exchange them for those which
you have to offer. Perhaps he will show you more or less openly that he
pities your ignorance and wonders that you have not been able to ADVANCE
from Christianity to Mahometanism. In his opinion--I am supposing that
he is a man of education--Moses and Christ were great prophets in their
day, and consequently he is accustomed to respect their memory; but he
is profoundly convinced that however appropriate they were for their own
times, they have been entirely superseded by Mahomet, precisely as
we believe that Judaism was superseded by Christianity. Proud of his
superior knowledge, he regards you as a benighted polytheist, and may
perhaps tell you that the Orthodox Christians with whom he comes in
contact have three Gods and a host of lesser deities called saints, that
they pray to idols called Icons, and that they keep their holy days by
getting drunk. In vain you endeavour to explain to him that saints
and Icons are not essential parts of Christianity, and that habits of
intoxication have no religious significance. On these points he may make
concessions to you, but the doctrine of the Trinity remains for him a
fatal stumbling-block. "You Christians," he will say, "once had a great
prophet called Jisous, who is mentioned with respect in the Koran, but
you falsified your sacred writings and took to worshipping him, and
now you declare that he is the equal of Allah. Far from us be such
blasphemy! There is but one God, and Mahomet is His prophet."

A worthy Christian missionary, who had laboured long and zealously among
a Mussulman population, once called me sharply to account for having
expressed the opinion that Mahometans are very rarely converted to
Christianity. When I brought him down from the region of vague general
statements and insisted on knowing how many cases he had met with in his
own personal experience during sixteen years of missionary work, he was
constrained to admit that he had know only one: and when I pressed him
farther as to the disinterested sincerity of the convert in question his
reply was not altogether satisfactory.

The policy of religious non-intervention has not always been practised
by the Government. Soon after the conquest of the Khanate of Kazan in
the sixteenth century, the Tsars of Muscovy attempted to convert their
new subjects from Mahometanism to Christianity. The means employed were
partly spiritual and partly administrative, but the police-officers
seem to have played a more important part than the clergy. In this way
a certain number of Tartars were baptised; but the authorities were
obliged to admit that the new converts "shamelessly retain many horrid
Tartar customs, and neither hold nor know the Christian faith." When
spiritual exhortations failed, the Government ordered its officials to
"pacify, imprison, put in irons, and thereby UNTEACH and frighten from
the Tartar faith those who, though baptised, do not obey the admonitions
of the Metropolitan." These energetic measures proved as ineffectual
as the spiritual exhortations; and Catherine II. adopted a new
method, highly characteristic of her system of administration. The new
converts--who, be it remembered, were unable to read and write--were
ordered by Imperial ukaz to sign a written promise to the effect that
"they would completely forsake their infidel errors, and, avoiding all
intercourse with unbelievers, would hold firmly and unwaveringly the
Christian faith and its dogmas"*--of which latter, we may add, they had
not the slightest knowledge. The childlike faith in the magical efficacy
of stamped paper here displayed was not justified. The so-called
"baptised Tartars" are at the present time as far from being Christians
as they were in the sixteenth century. They cannot openly profess
Mahometanism, because men who have been once formally admitted into
the National Church cannot leave it without exposing themselves to
the severe pains and penalties of the criminal code, but they strongly
object to be Christianised.

     * "Ukaz Kazanskoi dukhovnoi Konsistorii."  Anno 1778.

On this subject I have found a remarkable admission in a semiofficial
article, published as recently as 1872.* "It is a fact worthy of
attention," says the writer, "that a long series of evident apostasies
coincides with the beginning of measures to confirm the converts in
the Christian faith. There must be, therefore, some collateral cause
producing those cases of apostasy precisely at the moment when the
contrary might be expected." There is a delightful naivete in this
way of stating the fact. The mysterious cause vaguely indicated is not
difficult to find. So long as the Government demanded merely that the
supposed converts should be inscribed as Christians in the official
registers, there was no official apostasy; but as soon as active
measures began to be taken "to confirm the converts," a spirit of
hostility and fanaticism appeared among the Mussulman population, and
made those who were inscribed as Christians resist the propaganda.

     * "Zhurnal Ministerstva Narodnago Prosveshtcheniya."  June,

It may safely be said that Christians are impervious to Islam, and
genuine Mussulmans impervious to Christianity; but between the two there
are certain tribes, or fractions of tribes, which present a promising
field for missionary enterprise. In this field the Tartars show much
more zeal than the Russians, and possess certain advantages over their
rivals. The tribes of Northeastern Russia learn Tartar much more easily
than Russian, and their geographical position and modes of life
bring them in contact with Russians much less than with Tartars. The
consequence is that whole villages of Tcheremiss and Votiaks, officially
inscribed as belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church, have openly
declared themselves Mahometans; and some of the more remarkable
conversions have been commemorated by popular songs, which are sung
by young and old. Against this propaganda the Orthodox ecclesiastical
authorities do little or nothing. Though the criminal code contains
severe enactments against those who fall away from the Orthodox Church,
and still more against those who produce apostasy,* the enactments are
rarely put in force. Both clergy and laity in the Russian Church are,
as a rule, very tolerant where no political questions are involved. The
parish priest pays attention to apostasy only when it diminishes his
annual revenues, and this can be easily avoided by the apostate's paying
a small yearly sum. If this precaution be taken, whole villages may be
converted to Islam without the higher ecclesiastical authorities knowing
anything of the matter.

     * A person convicted of converting a Christian to Islamism
     is sentenced, according to the criminal code (§184), to the
     loss of all civil rights, and to imprisonment with hard
     labour for a term varying from eight to ten years.

Whether the barrier that separates Christians and Mussulmans in Russia,
as elsewhere, will ever be broken down by education, I do not know; but
I may remark that hitherto the spread of education among the Tartars
has tended rather to imbue them with fanaticism. If we remember that
theological education always produces intolerance, and that Tartar
education is almost exclusively theological, we shall not be surprised
to find that a Tartar's religious fanaticism is generally in direct
proportion to the amount of his intellectual culture. The unlettered
Tartar, unspoiled by learning falsely so called, and knowing merely
enough of his religion to perform the customary ordinances prescribed by
the Prophet, is peaceable, kindly, and hospitable towards all men; but
the learned Tartar, who has been taught that the Christian is a kiafir
(infidel) and a mushrik (polytheist), odious in the sight of Allah, and
already condemned to eternal punishment, is as intolerant and fanatical
as the most bigoted Roman Catholic or Calvinist. Such fanatics are
occasionally to be met with in the eastern provinces, but they are
few in number, and have little influence on the masses. From my own
experience I can testify that during the whole course of my wanderings
I have nowhere received more kindness and hospitality than among the
uneducated Mussulman Bashkirs. Even here, however, Islam opposes a
strong barrier to Russification.

Though no such barrier existed among the pagan Finnish tribes, the work
of Russification among them is still, as I have already indicated, far
from complete. Not only whole villages, but even many entire districts,
are still very little affected by Russian influence. This is to be
explained partly by geographical conditions. In regions which have a
poor soil, and are intersected by no navigable river, there are few or
no Russian settlers, and consequently the Finns have there preserved
intact their language and customs; whilst in those districts which
present more inducements to colonisation, the Russian population is more
numerous, and the Finns less conservative. It must, however, be admitted
that geographical conditions do not completely explain the facts. The
various tribes, even when placed in the same conditions, are not
equally susceptible to foreign influence. The Mordva, for instance,
are infinitely less conservative than the Tchuvash. This I have often
noticed, and my impression has been confirmed by men who have had more
opportunities of observation. For the present we must attribute this to
some occult ethnological peculiarity, but future investigations may some
day supply a more satisfactory explanation. Already I have obtained
some facts which appear to throw light on the subject. The Tchuvash have
certain customs which seem to indicate that they were formerly, if not
avowed Mahometans, at least under the influence of Islam, whilst we have
no reason to suppose that the Mordva ever passed through that school.

The absence of religious fanaticism greatly facilitated Russian
colonisation in these northern regions, and the essentially peaceful
disposition of the Russian peasantry tended in the same direction.
The Russian peasant is admirably fitted for the work of peaceful
agricultural colonisation. Among uncivilised tribes he is good-natured,
long-suffering, conciliatory, capable of bearing extreme hardships, and
endowed with a marvellous power of adapting himself to circumstances.
The haughty consciousness of personal and national superiority
habitually displayed by Englishmen of all ranks when they are brought
in contact with races which they look upon as lower in the scale of
humanity than themselves, is entirely foreign to his character. He has
no desire to rule, and no wish to make the natives hewers of wood and
drawers of water. All he desires is a few acres of land which he and his
family can cultivate; and so long as he is allowed to enjoy these he is
not likely to molest his neighbours. Had the colonists of the Finnish
country been men of Anglo-Saxon race, they would in all probability have
taken possession of the land and reduced the natives to the condition of
agricultural labourers. The Russian colonists have contented themselves
with a humbler and less aggressive mode of action; they have settled
peaceably among the native population, and are rapidly becoming blended
with it. In many districts the so-called Russians have perhaps more
Finnish than Slavonic blood in their veins.

But what has all this to do, it may be asked, with the aforementioned
Volkerwanderung, or migration of peoples, during the Dark Ages? More
than may at first sight appear. Some of the so-called migrations were,
I suspect, not at all migrations in the ordinary sense of the term, but
rather gradual changes, such as those which have taken place, and are
still taking place, in Northern Russia. A thousand years ago what is now
known as the province of Yaroslavl was inhabited by Finns, and now it is
occupied by men who are commonly regarded as pure Slays. But it would be
an utter mistake to suppose that the Finns of this district migrated to
those more distant regions where they are now to be found. In reality
they formerly occupied, as I have said, the whole of Northern Russia,
and in the province of Yaroslavl they have been transformed by Slav
infiltration. In Central Europe the Slavs may be said in a certain
sense to have retreated, for in former times they occupied the whole of
Northern Germany as far as the Elbe. But what does the word "retreat"
mean in this case? It means probably that the Slays were gradually
Teutonised, and then absorbed by the Teutonic race. Some tribes, it
is true, swept over a part of Europe in genuine nomadic fashion, and
endeavoured perhaps to expel or exterminate the actual possessors of the
soil. This kind of migration may likewise be studied in Russia. But I
must leave the subject till I come to speak of the southern provinces.



Departure from Ivanofka and Arrival at Novgorod--The Eastern Half of
the Town--The Kremlin--An Old Legend--The Armed Men of Rus--The
Northmen--Popular Liberty in Novgorod--The Prince and the Popular
Assembly--Civil Dissensions and Faction-fights--The Commercial Republic
Conquered by the Muscovite Tsars--Ivan the Terrible--Present Condition
of the Town--Provincial Society--Card-playing--Periodicals--"Eternal

Country life in Russia is pleasant enough in summer or in winter, but
between summer and winter there is an intermediate period of several
weeks when the rain and mud transform a country-house into something
very like a prison. To escape this durance vile I determined in the
month of October to leave Ivanofka, and chose as my headquarters for the
next few months the town of Novgorod--the old town of that name, not
to be confounded with Nizhni Novgorod--i.e., Lower Novgorod, on the
Volga--where the great annual fair is held.

For this choice there were several reasons. I did not wish to go to St.
Petersburg or Moscow, because I foresaw that in either of those cities
my studies would certainly be interrupted. In a quiet, sleepy provincial
town I should have much more chance of coming in contact with people who
could not speak fluently any West-European languages, and much better
opportunities for studying native life and local administration. Of the
provincial capitals, Novgorod was the nearest, and more interesting than
most of its rivals; for it has had a curious history, much older than
that of St. Petersburg or even of Moscow, and some traces of its
former greatness are still visible. Though now a town of third-rate
importance--a mere shadow of its former self--it still contains about
21,000 inhabitants, and is the administrative centre of the large
province in which it is situated.

About eighty miles before reaching St. Petersburg the Moscow railway
crosses the Volkhof, a rapid, muddy river which connects Lake Ilmen with
Lake Ladoga. At the point of intersection I got on board a small steamer
and sailed up stream towards Lake Ilmen for about fifty miles.* The
journey was tedious, for the country was flat and monotonous, and the
steamer, though it puffed and snorted inordinately, did not make more
than nine knots. Towards sunset Novgorod appeared on the horizon.
Seen thus at a distance in the soft twilight, it seemed decidedly
picturesque. On the east bank lay the greater part of the town, the sky
line of which was agreeably broken by the green roofs and pear-shaped
cupolas of many churches. On the opposite bank rose the Kremlin.
Spanning the river was a long, venerable stone bridge, half hidden by a
temporary wooden one, which was doing duty for the older structure while
the latter was being repaired. A cynical fellow-passenger assured me
that the temporary structure was destined to become permanent, because
it yielded a comfortable revenue to certain officials, but this sinister
prediction has not been verified.

     * The journey would now be made by rail, but the branch line
     which runs near the bank of the river had not been
     constructed at that time.

That part of Novgorod which lies on the eastern bank of the river, and
in which I took up my abode for several months, contains nothing that
is worthy of special mention. As is the case in most Russian towns, the
streets are straight, wide, and ill-paved, and all run parallel or
at right angles to each other. At the end of the bridge is a spacious
market-place, flanked on one side by the Town-house. Near the other side
stand the houses of the Governor and of the chief military authority
of the district. The only other buildings of note are the numerous
churches, which are mostly small, and offer nothing that is likely to
interest the student of architecture. Altogether this part of the town
is unquestionably commonplace. The learned archaeologist may detect in
it some traces of the distant past, but the ordinary traveller will find
little to arrest his attention.

If now we cross over to the other side of the river, we are at once
confronted by something which very few Russian towns possess--a kremlin,
or citadel. This is a large and slightly-elevated enclosure, surrounded
by high brick walls, and in part by the remains of a moat. Before the
days of heavy artillery these walls must have presented a formidable
barrier to any besieging force, but they have long ceased to have any
military significance, and are now nothing more than an historical
monument. Passing through the gateway which faces the bridge, we find
ourselves in a large open space. To the right stands the cathedral--a
small, much-venerated church, which can make no pretensions to
architectural beauty--and an irregular group of buildings containing the
consistory and the residence of the Archbishop. To the left is a long
symmetrical range of buildings containing the Government offices and the
law courts. Midway between this and the cathedral, in the centre of
the great open space, stands a colossal monument, composed of a massive
circular stone pedestal and an enormous globe, on and around which
cluster a number of emblematic and historical figures. This curious
monument, which has at least the merit of being original in design, was
erected in 1862, in commemoration of Russia's thousandth birthday,
and is supposed to represent the history of Russia in general and of
Novgorod in particular during the last thousand years. It was placed
here because Novgorod is the oldest of Russian towns, and because
somewhere in the surrounding country occurred the incident which
is commonly recognised as the foundation of the Russian Empire. The
incident in question is thus described in the oldest chronicle:

"At that time, as the southern Slavonians paid tribute to the Kozars, so
the Novgorodian Slavonians suffered from the attacks of the Variags. For
some time the Variags exacted tribute from the Novgorodian Slavonians
and the neighbouring Finns; then the conquered tribes, by uniting their
forces, drove out the foreigners. But among the Slavonians arose strong
internal dissensions; the clans rose against each other. Then, for the
creation of order and safety, they resolved to call in princes from a
foreign land. In the year 862 Slavonic legates went away beyond the
sea to the Variag tribe called Rus, and said, 'Our land is great and
fruitful, but there is no order in it; come and reign and rule over us.'
Three brothers accepted the invitation, and appeared with their armed
followers. The eldest of these, Rurik, settled in Novgorod; the second,
Sineus, at Byelo-ozero; and the third, Truvor, in Isborsk. From them our
land is called Rus. After two years the brothers of Rurik died. He alone
began to rule over the Novgorod district, and confided to his men the
administration of the principal towns."

This simple legend has given rise to a vast amount of learned
controversy, and historical investigators have fought valiantly with
each other over the important question, Who were those armed men of Rus?
For a long time the commonly received opinion was that they were Normans
from Scandinavia. The Slavophils accepted the legend literally in this
sense, and constructed upon it an ingenious theory of Russian history.
The nations of the West, they said, were conquered by invaders, who
seized the country and created the feudal system for their own benefit;
hence the history of Western Europe is a long tale of bloody struggles
between conquerors and conquered, and at the present day the old enmity
still lives in the political rivalry of the different social classes.
The Russo-Slavonians, on the contrary, were not conquered, but
voluntarily invited a foreign prince to come and rule over them!
Hence the whole social and political development of Russia has been
essentially peaceful, and the Russian people know nothing of social
castes or feudalism. Though this theory afforded some nourishment for
patriotic self-satisfaction, it displeased extreme patriots, who did not
like the idea that order was first established in their country by men
of Teutonic race. These preferred to adopt the theory that Rurik and his
companions were Slavonians from the shores of the Baltic.

Though I devoted to the study of this question more time and labour than
perhaps the subject deserved, I have no intention of inviting the reader
to follow me through the tedious controversy. Suffice it to say that,
after careful consideration, and with all due deference to recent
historians, I am inclined to adopt the old theory, and to regard the
Normans of Scandinavia as in a certain sense the founders of the Russian
Empire. We know from other sources that during the ninth century there
was a great exodus from Scandinavia. Greedy of booty, and fired with
the spirit of adventure, the Northmen, in their light, open boats, swept
along the coasts of Germany, France, Spain, Greece, and Asia Minor,
pillaging the towns and villages near the sea, and entering into the
heart of the country by means of the rivers. At first they were mere
marauders, and showed everywhere such ferocity and cruelty that they
came to be regarded as something akin to plagues and famines, and the
faithful added a new petition to the Litany, "From the wrath and malice
of the Normans, O Lord, deliver us!" But towards the middle of the
century the movement changed its character. The raids became military
invasions, and the invaders sought to conquer the lands which they had
formerly plundered, "ut acquirant sibi spoliando regna quibus possent
vivere pace perpetua." The chiefs embraced Christianity, married the
daughters or sisters of the reigning princes, and obtained the conquered
territories as feudal grants. Thus arose Norman principalities in the
Low Countries, in France, in Italy, and in Sicily; and the Northmen,
rapidly blending with the native population, soon showed as much
political talent as they had formerly shown reckless and destructive

It would have been strange indeed if these adventurers, who succeeded
in reaching Asia Minor and the coasts of North America, should have
overlooked Russia, which lay, as it were, at their very doors. The
Volkhof, flowing through Novgorod, formed part of a great waterway which
afforded almost uninterrupted water-communication between the Baltic and
the Black Sea; and we know that some time afterwards the Scandinavians
used this route in their journeys to Constantinople. The change which
the Scandinavian movement underwent elsewhere is clearly indicated
by the Russian chronicles: first, the Variags came as collectors of
tribute, and raised so much popular opposition that they were expelled,
and then they came as rulers, and settled in the country. Whether they
really came on invitation may be doubted, but that they adopted the
language, religion, and customs of the native population does not
militate against the assertion that they were Normans. On the contrary,
we have here rather an additional confirmation, for elsewhere the
Normans did likewise. In the North of France they adopted almost at
once the French language and religion, and the son and successor of
the famous Rollo was sometimes reproached with being more French than

     *Strinnholm, "Die Vikingerzuge" (Hamburg, 1839), I., p. 135.

Though it is difficult to decide how far the legend is literally true,
there can be no possible doubt that the event which it more or less
accurately describes had an important influence on Russian history. From
that time dates the rapid expansion of the Russo-Slavonians--a movement
that is still going on at the present day. To the north, the east, and
the south new principalities were formed and governed by men who all
claimed to be descendants of Rurik, and down to the end of the sixteenth
century no Russian outside of this great family ever attempted to
establish independent sovereignty.

For six centuries after the so-called invitation of Rurik the city on
the Volkhof had a strange, checkered history. Rapidly it conquered the
neighbouring Finnish tribes, and grew into a powerful independent state,
with a territory extending to the Gulf of Finland, and northwards to the
White Sea. At the same time its commercial importance increased, and it
became an outpost of the Hanseatic League. In this work the descendants
of Rurik played an important part, but they were always kept in strict
subordination to the popular will. Political freedom kept pace with
commercial prosperity. What means Rurik employed for establishing
and preserving order we know not, but the chronicles show that his
successors in Novgorod possessed merely such authority as was freely
granted them by the people. The supreme power resided, not in the
prince, but in the assembly of the citizens called together in the
market-place by the sound of the great bell. This assembly made laws
for the prince as well as for the people, entered into alliances with
foreign powers, declared war, and concluded peace, imposed taxes,
raised troops, and not only elected the magistrates, but also judged and
deposed them when it thought fit. The prince was little more than
the hired commander of the troops and the president of the judicial
administration. When entering on his functions he had to take a solemn
oath that he would faithfully observe the ancient laws and usages, and
if he failed to fulfil his promise he was sure to be summarily deposed
and expelled. The people had an old rhymed proverb, "Koli khud knyaz,
tak v gryaz!" "If the prince is bad, into the mud with him!", and they
habitually acted according to it. So unpleasant, indeed, was the task of
ruling those sturdy, stiff-necked burghers, that some princes refused to
undertake it, and others, having tried it for a time, voluntarily laid
down their authority and departed. But these frequent depositions and
abdications--as many as thirty took place in the course of a single
century--did not permanently disturb the existing order of things. The
descendants of Rurik were numerous, and there were always plenty of
candidates for the vacant post. The municipal republic continued to
grow in strength and in riches, and during the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries it proudly styled itself "Lord Novgorod the Great" (Gospodin
Velilki Novgorod).

"Then came a change, as all things human change." To the east arose
the principality of Moscow--not an old, rich municipal republic, but a
young, vigorous State, ruled by a line of crafty, energetic, ambitious,
and unscrupulous princes of the Rurik stock, who were freeing the
country from the Tartar yoke and gradually annexing by fair means and
foul the neighbouring principalities to their own dominions. At the same
time, and in a similar manner, the Lithuanian Princes to the westward
united various small principalities and formed a large independent
State. Thus Novgorod found itself in a critical position. Under a
strong Government it might have held its own against these rivals and
successfully maintained its independence, but its strength was already
undermined by internal dissensions. Political liberty had led to
anarchy. Again and again on that great open space where the national
monument now stands, and in the market-place on the other side of the
river, scenes of disorder and bloodshed took place, and more than once
on the bridge battles were fought by contending factions. Sometimes it
was a contest between rival families, and sometimes a struggle between
the municipal aristocracy, who sought to monopolise the political
power, and the common people, who wished to have a large share in the
administration. A State thus divided against itself could not long
resist the aggressive tendencies of powerful neighbours. Artful
diplomacy could but postpone the evil day, and it required no great
political foresight to predict that sooner or later Novgorod must become
Lithuanian or Muscovite. The great families inclined to Lithuania, but
the popular party and the clergy, disliking Roman Catholicism, looked to
Moscow for assistance, and the Grand Princes of Muscovy ultimately won
the prize.

The barbarous way in which the Grand Princes effected the annexation
shows how thoroughly they had imbibed the spirit of Tartar
statesmanship. Thousands of families were transported to Moscow, and
Muscovite families put in their places; and when, in spite of this, the
old spirit revived, Ivan the Terrible determined to apply the method of
physical extermination which he had found so effectual in breaking the
power of his own nobles. Advancing with a large army, which met with no
resistance, he devastated the country with fire and sword, and during a
residence of five weeks in the town he put the inhabitants to death
with a ruthless ferocity which has perhaps never been surpassed even by
Oriental despots. If those old walls could speak they would have many
a horrible tale to tell. Enough has been preserved in the chronicles to
give us some idea of this awful time. Monks and priests were subjected
to the Tartar punishment called pravezh, which consisted in tying the
victim to a stake, and flogging him daily until a certain sum of money
was paid for his release. The merchants and officials were tortured with
fire, and then thrown from the bridge with their wives and children
into the river. Lest any of them should escape by swimming, boatfuls
of soldiers despatched those who were not killed by the fall. At the
present day there is a curious bubbling immediately below the bridge,
which prevents the water from freezing in winter, and according to
popular belief this is caused by the spirits of the terrible Tsar's
victims. Of those who were murdered in the villages there is no record,
but in the town alone no less than 60,000 human beings are said to have
been butchered--an awful hecatomb on the altar of national unity and
autocratic power!

This tragic scene, which occurred in 1570, closes the history of
Novgorod as an independent State. Its real independence had long
since ceased to exist, and now the last spark of the old spirit was
extinguished. The Tsars could not suffer even a shadow of political
independence to exist within their dominions.

In the old days, when many Hanseatic merchants annually visited the
city, and when the market-place, the bridge, and the Kremlin were often
the scene of violent political struggles, Novgorod must have been an
interesting place to live in; but now its glory has departed, and in
respect of social resources it is not even a first-rate provincial town.
Kief, Kharkof, and other towns which are situated at a greater distance
from the capital, in districts fertile enough to induce the nobles to
farm their own land, are in their way little semi-independent centres of
civilisation. They contain a theatre, a library, two or three clubs, and
large houses belonging to rich landed proprietors, who spend the
summer on their estates and come into town for the winter months. These
proprietors, together with the resident officials, form a numerous
society, and during the winter, dinner-parties, balls, and other social
gatherings are by no means infrequent. In Novgorod the society is much
more limited. It does not, like Kief, Kharkof, and Kazan, possess a
university, and it contains no houses belonging to wealthy nobles. The
few proprietors of the province who live on their estates, and are rich
enough to spend part of the year in town, prefer St. Petersburg for
their winter residence. The society, therefore, is composed exclusively
of the officials and of the officers who happen to be quartered in the
town or the immediate vicinity.

Of all the people whose acquaintance I made at Novgorod, I can recall
only two men who did not occupy some official position, civil or
military. One of these was a retired doctor, who was attempting to farm
on scientific principles, and who, I believe, soon afterwards gave up
the attempt and migrated elsewhere. The other was a Polish bishop who
had been compromised in the insurrection of 1863, and was condemned to
live here under police supervision. This latter could scarcely be said
to belong to the society of the place; though he sometimes appeared
at the unceremonious weekly receptions given by the Governor, and was
invariably treated by all present with marked respect, he could not but
feel that he was in a false position, and he was rarely or never seen in
other houses.

The official circle of a town like Novgorod is sure to contain a good
many people of average education and agreeable manners, but it is
sure to be neither brilliant nor interesting. Though it is constantly
undergoing a gradual renovation by the received system of frequently
transferring officials from one town to another, it preserves
faithfully, in spite of the new blood which it thus receives, its
essentially languid character. When a new official arrives he exchanges
visits with all the notables, and for a few days he produces quite a
sensation in the little community. If he appears at social gatherings
he is much talked to, and if he does not appear he is much talked about.
His former history is repeatedly narrated, and his various merits and
defects assiduously discussed.

If he is married, and has brought his wife with him, the field of
comment and discussion is very much enlarged. The first time that Madame
appears in society she is the "cynosure of neighbouring eyes." Her
features, her complexion, her hair, her dress, and her jewellery are
carefully noted and criticised. Perhaps she has brought with her, from
the capital or from abroad, some dresses of the newest fashion. As soon
as this is discovered she at once becomes an object of special curiosity
to the ladies, and of envious jealousy to those who regard as a personal
grievance the presence of a toilette finer or more fashionable than
their own. Her demeanour, too, is very carefully observed. If she is
friendly and affable in manner, she is patronised; if she is distant and
reserved, she is condemned as proud and pretentious. In either case
she is pretty sure to form a close intimacy with some one of the older
female residents, and for a few weeks the two ladies are inseparable,
till some incautious word or act disturbs the new-born friendship, and
the devoted friends become bitter enemies. Voluntarily or involuntarily
the husbands get mixed up in the quarrel. Highly undesirable qualities
are discovered in the characters of all parties concerned, and are made
the subject of unfriendly comment. Then the feud subsides, and some new
feud of a similar kind comes to occupy the public attention. Mrs. A.
wonders how her friends Mr. and Mrs. B. can afford to lose considerable
sums every evening at cards, and suspects that they are getting into
debt or starving themselves and their children; in her humble opinion
they would do well to give fewer supper-parties, and to refrain from
poisoning their guests. The bosom friend to whom this is related retails
it directly or indirectly to Mrs. B., and Mrs. B. naturally retaliates.
Here is a new quarrel, which for some time affords material for

When there is no quarrel, there is sure to be a bit of scandal afloat.
Though Russian provincial society is not at all prudish, and leans
rather to the side of extreme leniency, it cannot entirely overlook les
convenances. Madame C. has always a large number of male admirers, and
to this there can be no reasonable objection so long as her husband does
not complain, but she really parades her preference for Mr. X. at balls
and parties a little too conspicuously. Then there is Madame D., with
the big dreamy eyes. How can she remain in the place after her husband
was killed in a duel by a brother officer? Ostensibly the cause of the
quarrel was a trifling incident at the card-table, but every one knows
that in reality she was the cause of the deadly encounter. And so on,
and so on. In the absence of graver interests society naturally
bestows inordinate attention on the private affairs of its members; and
quarrelling, backbiting, and scandal-mongery help indolent people to
kill the time that hangs heavily on their hands.

Potent as these instruments are, they are not sufficient to kill all the
leisure hours. In the forenoons the gentlemen are occupied with their
official duties, whilst the ladies go out shopping or pay visits,
and devote any time that remains to their household duties and their
children; but the day's work is over about four o'clock, and the long
evening remains to be filled up. The siesta may dispose of an hour or an
hour and a half, but about seven o'clock some definite occupation has to
be found. As it is impossible to devote the whole evening to discussing
the ordinary news of the day, recourse is almost invariably had
to card-playing, which is indulged in to an extent that we had no
conception of in England until Bridge was imported. Hour after hour
the Russians of both sexes will sit in a hot room, filled with a
constantly-renewed cloud of tobacco-smoke--in the production of
which most of the ladies take part--and silently play "Preference,"
"Yarolash," or Bridge. Those who for some reason are obliged to be alone
can amuse themselves with "Patience," in which no partner is required.
In the other games the stakes are commonly very small, but the sittings
are often continued so long that a player may win or lose two or three
pounds sterling. It is no unusual thing for gentlemen to play for eight
or nine hours at a time. At the weekly club dinners, before coffee had
been served, nearly all present used to rush off impatiently to the
card-room, and sit there placidly from five o'clock in the afternoon
till one or two o'clock in the morning! When I asked my friends why they
devoted so much time to this unprofitable occupation, they always gave
me pretty much the same answer: "What are we to do? We have been reading
or writing official papers all day, and in the evening we like to have
a little relaxation. When we come together we have very little to talk
about, for we have all read the daily papers and nothing more. The best
thing we can do is to sit down at the card-table, where we can spend our
time pleasantly, without the necessity of talking."

In addition to the daily papers, some people read the monthly
periodicals--big, thick volumes, containing several serious articles on
historical and social subjects, sections of one or two novels, satirical
sketches, and a long review of home and foreign politics on the model
of those in the Revue des Deux Mondes. Several of these periodicals
are very ably conducted, and offer to their readers a large amount of
valuable information; but I have noticed that the leaves of the more
serious part often remain uncut. The translation of a sensation novel by
the latest French or English favourite finds many more readers than an
article by an historian or a political economist. As to books, they seem
to be very little read, for during all the time I lived in Novgorod I
never discovered a bookseller's shop, and when I required books I had to
get them sent from St. Petersburg. The local administration, it is true,
conceived the idea of forming a museum and circulating library, but in
my time the project was never realised. Of all the magnificent projects
that are formed in Russia, only a very small percentage come into
existence, and these are too often very short-lived. The Russians
have learned theoretically what are the wants of the most advanced
civilisation, and are ever ready to rush into the grand schemes which
their theoretical knowledge suggests; but very few of them really
and permanently feel these wants, and consequently the institutions
artificially formed to satisfy them very soon languish and die. In the
provincial towns the shops for the sale of gastronomic delicacies spring
up and flourish, whilst shops for the sale of intellectual food are
rarely to be met with.

About the beginning of December the ordinary monotony of Novgorod life
is a little relieved by the annual Provincial Assembly, which sits
daily for two or three weeks and discusses the economic wants of
the province.* During this time a good many lauded proprietors, who
habitually live on their estates or in St. Petersburg, collect in
the town, and enliven a little the ordinary society. But as Christmas
approaches the deputies disperse, and again the town becomes enshrouded
in that "eternal stillness" (vetchnaya tishina) which a native poet has
declared to be the essential characteristic of Russian provincial life.

     * Of these Assemblies I shall have more to say when I come
     to describe the local self-government.



General Character of Russian Towns--Scarcity of Towns in Russia--Why
the Urban Element in the Population is so Small--History of
Russian Municipal Institutions--Unsuccessful Efforts to Create a
Tiers-etat--Merchants, Burghers, and Artisans--Town Council--A Rich
Merchant--His House--His Love of Ostentation--His Conception of
Aristocracy--Official Decorations--Ignorance and Dishonesty of the
Commercial Classes--Symptoms of Change.

Those who wish to enjoy the illusions produced by scene painting and
stage decorations should never go behind the scenes. In like manner he
who wishes to preserve the delusion that Russian provincial towns are
picturesque should never enter them, but content himself with viewing
them from a distance.

However imposing they may look when seen from the outside, they will be
found on closer inspection, with very few exceptions, to be little more
than villages in disguise. If they have not a positively rustic, they
have at least a suburban, appearance. The streets are straight and wide,
and are either miserably paved or not paved at all. Trottoirs are
not considered indispensable. The houses are built of wood or brick,
generally one-storied, and separated from each other by spacious yards.
Many of them do not condescend to turn their facades to the street. The
general impression produced is that the majority of the burghers have
come from the country, and have brought their country-houses with them.
There are few or no shops with merchandise tastefully arranged in the
window to tempt the passer-by. If you wish to make purchases you must
go to the Gostinny Dvor,* or Bazaar, which consists of long, symmetrical
rows of low-roofed, dimly-lighted stores, with a colonnade in front.
This is the place where merchants most do congregate, but it presents
nothing of that bustle and activity which we are accustomed to associate
with commercial life. The shopkeepers stand at their doors or loiter
about in the immediate vicinity waiting for customers. From the scarcity
of these latter I should say that when sales are effected the profits
must be enormous.

     * These words mean literally the Guests' Court or Yard.  The
     Ghosti--a word which is etymologically the same as our
     "host" and "guest"--were originally the merchants who traded
     with other towns or other countries.

In the other parts of the town the air of solitude and languor is
still more conspicuous. In the great square, or by the side of the
promenade--if the town is fortunate enough to have one--cows or horses
may be seen grazing tranquilly, without being at all conscious of the
incongruity of their position. And, indeed, it would be strange if they
had any such consciousness, for it does not exist in the minds either
of the police or of the inhabitants. At night the streets may be lighted
merely with a few oil-lamps, which do little more than render the
darkness visible, so that cautious citizens returning home late often
provide themselves with lanterns. As late as the sixties the learned
historian, Pogodin, then a town-councillor of Moscow, opposed the
lighting of the city with gas on the ground that those who chose to
go out at night should carry their lamps with them. The objection was
overruled, and Moscow is now fairly well lit, but the provincial towns
are still far from being on the same level. Some retain their old
primitive arrangements, while others enjoy the luxury of electric

The scarcity of large towns in Russia is not less remarkable than their
rustic appearance. According to the last census (1897) the number of
towns, officially so-called, is 1,321, but about three-fifths of them
have under 5,000 inhabitants; only 104 have over 25,000, and only 19
over 100,000. These figures indicate plainly that the urban element of
the population is relatively small, and it is declared by the official
statisticians to be only 14 per cent., as against 72 per cent. in Great
Britain, but it is now increasing rapidly. When the first edition of
this work was published, in 1877, European Russia in the narrower sense
of the term--excluding Finland, the Baltic Provinces, Lithuania, Poland,
and the Caucasus--had only 11 towns with a population of over 50,000,
and now there are 34; that is to say, the number of such towns has more
than trebled. In the other portions of the country a similar increase
has taken place. The towns which have become important industrial and
commercial centres have naturally grown most rapidly. For example, in
a period of twelve years (1885-97) the populations of Lodz, of
Ekaterinoslaf, of Baku, of Yaroslavl, and of Libau, have more than
doubled. In the five largest towns of the Empire--St. Petersburg,
Moscow, Warsaw, Odessa and Lodz--the aggregate population rose during
the same twelve years from 2,423,000 to 3,590,000, or nearly 50 per
cent. In ten other towns, with populations varying from 50,000 to
282,000, the aggregate rose from 780,000 to 1,382,000, or about 77 per

That Russia should have taken so long to assimilate herself in this
respect to Western Europe is to be explained by the geographical and
political conditions. Her population was not hemmed in by natural
or artificial frontiers strong enough to restrain their expansive
tendencies. To the north, the east, and the southeast there was a
boundless expanse of fertile, uncultivated land, offering a tempting
field for emigration; and the peasantry have ever shown themselves ready
to take advantage of their opportunities. Instead of improving their
primitive system of agriculture, which requires an enormous area and
rapidly exhausts the soil, they have always found it easier and more
profitable to emigrate and take possession of the virgin land beyond.
Thus the territory--sometimes with the aid of, and sometimes in spite
of, the Government--has constantly expanded, and has already reached the
Polar Ocean, the Pacific, and the northern offshoots of the Himalayas.
The little district around the sources of the Dnieper has grown into a
mighty empire, comprising one-seventh of the land surface of the globe.
Prolific as the Russian race is, its power of reproduction could not
keep pace with its territorial expansion, and consequently the country
is still very thinly peopled. According to the latest census (1897) in
the whole empire there are under 130 millions of inhabitants, and the
average density of population is only about fifteen to the English
square mile. Even the most densely populated provinces, including Moscow
with its 988,610 inhabitants, cannot show more than 189 to the English
square mile, whereas England has about 400. A people that has such
an abundance of land, and can support itself by agriculture, is not
naturally disposed to devote itself to industry, or to congregate in
large cities.

For many generations there were other powerful influences working in the
same direction. Of these the most important was serfage, which was not
abolished till 1861. That institution, and the administrative system of
which it formed an essential part, tended to prevent the growth of the
towns by hemming the natural movements of the population. Peasants, for
example, who learned trades, and who ought to have drifted naturally
into the burgher class, were mostly retained by the master on his
estate, where artisans of all sorts were daily wanted, and the few who
were sent to seek work in the towns were not allowed to settle there

Thus the insignificance of the Russian towns is to be attributed mainly
to two causes. The abundance of land tended to prevent the development
of industry, and the little industry which did exist was prevented by
serfage from collecting in the towns. But this explanation is evidently
incomplete. The same causes existed during the Middle Ages in Central
Europe, and yet, in spite of them, flourishing cities grew up and played
an important part in the social and political history of Germany. In
these cities collected traders and artisans, forming a distinct
social class, distinguished from the nobles on the one hand, and the
surrounding peasantry on the other, by peculiar occupations, peculiar
aims, peculiar intellectual physiognomy, and peculiar moral conceptions.
Why did these important towns and this burgher class not likewise come
into existence in Russia, in spite of the two preventive causes above

To discuss this question fully it would be necessary to enter into
certain debated points of mediaeval history. All I can do here is to
indicate what seems to me the true explanation.

In Central Europe, all through the Middle Ages, a perpetual struggle
went on between the various political factors of which society was
composed, and the important towns were in a certain sense the products
of this struggle. They were preserved and fostered by the mutual rivalry
of the Sovereign, the Feudal Nobility, and the Church; and those who
desired to live by trade or industry settled in them in order to enjoy
the protection and immunities which they afforded. In Russia there was
never any political struggle of this kind. As soon as the Grand Princes
of Moscow, in the sixteenth century, threw off the yoke of the Tartars,
and made themselves Tsars of all Russia, their power was irresistible
and uncontested. Complete masters of the situation, they organised the
country as they thought fit. At first their policy was favourable to the
development of the towns. Perceiving that the mercantile and industrial
classes might be made a rich source of revenue, they separated them from
the peasantry, gave them the exclusive right of trading, prevented
the other classes from competing with them, and freed them from the
authority of the landed proprietors. Had they carried out this policy in
a cautious, rational way, they might have created a rich burgher class;
but they acted with true Oriental short-sightedness, and defeated their
own purpose by imposing inordinately heavy taxes, and treating the urban
population as their serfs. The richer merchants were forced to serve
as custom-house officers--often at a great distance from their
domiciles*--and artisans were yearly summoned to Moscow to do work for
the Tsars without remuneration.

     * Merchants from Yaroslavl, for instance, were sent to
     Astrakhan to collect the custom-dues.

Besides this, the system of taxation was radically defective, and
the members of the local administration, who received no pay and were
practically free from control, were merciless in their exactions. In a
word, the Tsars used their power so stupidly and so recklessly that the
industrial and trading population, instead of fleeing to the towns to
secure protection, fled from them to escape oppression. At length this
emigration from the towns assumed such dimensions that it was found
necessary to prevent it by administrative and legislative measures;
and the urban population was legally fixed in the towns as the rural
population was fixed to the soil. Those who fled were brought back as
runaways, and those who attempted flight a second time were ordered to
be flogged and transported to Siberia.*

     * See the "Ulozhenie" (i.e. the laws of Alexis, father of
     Peter the Great), chap. xix. 13.

With the eighteenth century began a new era in the history of the
towns and of the urban population. Peter the Great observed, during his
travels in Western Europe, that national wealth and prosperity reposed
chiefly on the enterprising, educated middle classes, and he attributed
the poverty of his own country to the absence of this burgher element.
Might not such a class be created in Russia? Peter unhesitatingly
assumed that it might, and set himself at once to create it in a simple,
straightforward way. Foreign artisans were imported into his dominions
and foreign merchants were invited to trade with his subjects; young
Russians were sent abroad to learn the useful arts; efforts were made to
disseminate practical knowledge by the translation of foreign books
and the foundation of schools; all kinds of trade were encouraged, and
various industrial enterprises were organised. At the same time the
administration of the towns was thoroughly reorganised after the model
of the ancient free-towns of Germany. In place of the old organisation,
which was a slightly modified form of the rural Commune, they received
German municipal institutions, with burgomasters, town councils, courts
of justice, guilds for the merchants, trade corporations (tsekhi)
for the artisans, and an endless list of instructions regarding the
development of trade and industry, the building of hospitals, sanitary
precautions, the founding of schools, the dispensation of justice, the
organisation of the police, and similar matters.

Catherine II. followed in the same track. If she did less for trade
and industry, she did more in the way of legislating and writing
grandiloquent manifestoes. In the course of her historical studies she
had learned, as she proclaims in one of her manifestoes, that "from
remotest antiquity we everywhere find the memory of town-builders
elevated to the same level as the memory of legislators, and we see
that heroes, famous for their victories, hoped by town-building to give
immortality to their names." As the securing of immortality for her own
name was her chief aim in life, she acted in accordance with historical
precedent, and created 216 towns in the short space of twenty-three
years. This seems a great work, but it did not satisfy her ambition.
She was not only a student of history, but was at the same time a
warm admirer of the fashionable political philosophy of her time.
That philosophy paid much attention to the tiers-etat, which was then
acquiring in France great political importance, and Catherine thought
that as she had created a Noblesse on the French model, she might
also create a bourgeoisie. For this purpose she modified the municipal
organisation created by her great predecessor, and granted to all the
towns an Imperial Charter. This charter remained without essential
modification until the publication of the new Municipality Law in 1870.

The efforts of the Government to create a rich, intelligent tiers-etat
were not attended with much success. Their influence was always more
apparent in official documents than in real life. The great mass of the
population remained serfs, fixed to the soil, whilst the nobles--that
is to say, all who possessed a little education--were required for the
military and civil services. Those who were sent abroad to learn the
useful arts learned little, and made little use of the knowledge which
they acquired. On their return to their native country they very soon
fell victims to the soporific influence of the surrounding social
atmosphere. The "town-building" had as little practical result. It was
an easy matter to create any number of towns in the official sense of
the term. To transform a village into a town, it was necessary merely to
prepare an izba, or log-house, for the district court, another for the
police-office, a third for the prison, and so on. On an appointed day
the Governor of the province arrived in the village, collected the
officials appointed to serve in the newly-constructed or newly-arranged
log-houses, ordered a simple religious ceremony to be performed by the
priest, caused a formal act to be drawn up, and then declared the town
to be "opened." All this required very little creative effort; to create
a spirit of commercial and industrial enterprise among the population
was a more difficult matter and could not be effected by Imperial ukaz.

To animate the newly-imported municipal institutions, which had no
root in the traditions and habits of the people, was a task of equal
difficulty. In the West these institutions had been slowly devised in
the course of centuries to meet real, keenly-felt, practical wants. In
Russia they were adopted for the purpose of creating those wants which
were not yet felt. Let the reader imagine our Board of Trade supplying
the masters of fishing-smacks with accurate charts, learned treatises
on navigation, and detailed instructions for the proper ventilation of
ships' cabins, and he will have some idea of the effect which Peter's
legislation had upon the towns. The office-bearers, elected against
their will, were hopelessly bewildered by the complicated procedure, and
were incapable of understanding the numerous ukazes which prescribed
to them their multifarious duties and threatened the most merciless
punishments for sins of omission and commission. Soon, however, it was
discovered that the threats were not nearly so dreadful as they seemed;
and accordingly those municipal authorities who were to protect and
enlighten the burghers, "forgot the fear of God and the Tsar," and
extorted so unblushingly that it was found necessary to place them under
the control of Government officials.

The chief practical result of the efforts made by Peter and Catherine
to create a bourgeoisie was that the inhabitants of the towns were more
systematically arranged in categories for the purpose of taxation, and
that the taxes were increased. All those parts of the new administration
which had no direct relation to the fiscal interests of the Government
had very little vitality in them. The whole system had been arbitrarily
imposed on the people, and had as motive only the Imperial will. Had
that motive power been withdrawn and the burghers left to regulate their
own municipal affairs, the system would immediately have collapsed.
Rathhaus, burgomasters, guilds, aldermen, and all the other lifeless
shadows which had been called into existence by Imperial ukaz would
instantly have vanished into space. In this fact we have one of the
characteristic traits of Russian historical development compared with
that of Western Europe. In the West monarchy had to struggle with
municipal institutions to prevent them from becoming too powerful; in
Russia, it had to struggle with them to prevent them from committing
suicide or dying of inanition.

According to Catherine's legislation, which remained in force until
1870, and still exists in some of its main features, the towns were
divided into three categories: (1) Government towns (gubernskiye
goroda)--that is to say, the chief towns of provinces, or governments
(gubernii)--in which are concentrated the various organs of provincial
administration; (2) district towns (uyezdniye goroda), in which resides
the administration of the districts (uyezdi) into which the provinces
are divided; and (3) supernumerary towns (zashtatniye goroda), which
have no particular significance in the territorial administration.

In all these the municipal organisation is the same. Leaving out of
consideration those persons who happen to reside in the towns, but
in reality belong to the Noblesse, the clergy, or the lower ranks of
officials, we may say that the town population is composed of three
groups: the merchants (kuptsi), the burghers in the narrower sense of
the term (meshtchanye), and the artisans (tsekhoviye). These categories
are not hereditary castes, like the nobles, the clergy, and the
peasantry. A noble may become a merchant, or a man may be one year a
burgher, the next year an artisan, and the third year a merchant, if he
changes his occupation and pays the necessary dues. But the categories
form, for the time being, distinct corporations, each possessing a
peculiar organisation and peculiar privileges and obligations.

Of these three groups the first in the scale of dignity is that of the
merchants. It is chiefly recruited from the burghers and the peasantry.
Any one who wishes to engage in commerce inscribes himself in one of the
three guilds, according to the amount of his capital and the nature of
the operations in which he wishes to embark, and as soon as he has paid
the required dues he becomes officially a merchant. As soon as he ceases
to pay these dues he ceases to be a merchant in the legal sense of the
term, and returns to the class to which he formerly belonged. There
are some families whose members have belonged to the merchant class for
several generations, and the law speaks about a certain "velvet-book"
(barkhatnaya kniga) in which their names should be inscribed, but in
reality they do not form a distinct category, and they descend at once
from their privileged position as soon as they cease to pay the annual
guild dues.

The artisans form the connecting link between the town population
and the peasantry, for peasants often enrol themselves in the
trades-corporations, or tsekhi, without severing their connection
with the rural Communes to which they belong. Each trade or handicraft
constitutes a tsekh, at the head of which stands an elder and two
assistants, elected by the members; and all the tsekhi together form
a corporation under an elected head (remeslenny golova) assisted by a
council composed of the elders of the various tsekhi. It is the duty of
this council and its president to regulate all matters connected with
the tsekhi, and to see that the multifarious regulations regarding
masters, journeymen, and apprentices are duly observed.

The nondescript class, composed of those who are inscribed as permanent
inhabitants of the towns, but who do not belong to any guild or tsekh,
constitutes what is called the burghers in the narrower sense of the
term. Like the other two categories, they form a separate corporation,
with an elder and an administrative bureau.

Some idea of the relative numerical strength of these three categories
may be obtained from the following figures. Thirty years ago in European
Russia the merchant class (including wives and children) numbered about
466,000, the burghers about 4,033,000, and the artisans about 260,000.
The numbers according to the last census are not yet available.

In 1870 the entire municipal administration was reorganised on modern
West-European principles, and the Town Council (gorodskaya duma),
which formed under the previous system the connecting link between the
old-fashioned corporations, and was composed exclusively of members
of these bodies, became a genuine representative body composed of
householders, irrespective of the social class to which they might
belong. A noble, provided he was a house-proprietor, could become Town
Councillor or Mayor, and in this way a certain amount of vitality and a
progressive spirit were infused into the municipal administration. As a
consequence of this change the schools, hospitals, and other benevolent
institutions were much improved, the streets were kept cleaner and
somewhat better paved, and for a time it seemed as if the towns in
Russia might gradually rise to the level of those of Western Europe. But
the charm of novelty, which so often works wonders in Russia, soon wore
off. After a few years of strenuous effort the best citizens no longer
came forward as candidates, and the office-bearers selected no longer
displayed zeal and intelligence in the discharge of their duties. In
these circumstances the Government felt called upon again to intervene.
By a decree dated June 11, 1892, it introduced a new series of reforms,
by which the municipal self-government was placed more under the
direction and control of the centralised bureaucracy, and the attendance
of the Town Councillors at the periodical meetings was declared to be
obligatory, recalcitrant members being threatened with reprimands and

This last fact speaks volumes for the low vitality of the institutions
and the prevalent popular apathy with regard to municipal affairs. Nor
was the unsatisfactory state of things much improved by the new reforms;
on the contrary, the increased interference of the regular officials
tended rather to weaken the vitality of the urban self government, and
the so-called reform was pretty generally condemned as a needlessly
reactionary measure. We have here, in fact, a case of what has often
occurred in the administrative history of the Russian Empire since the
time of Peter the Great, and to which I shall again have occasion to
refer. The central authority, finding itself incompetent to do all that
is required of it, and wishing to make a display of liberalism, accords
large concessions in the direction of local autonomy; and when it
discovers that the new institutions do not accomplish all that was
expected of them, and are not quite so subservient and obsequious as
is considered desirable, it returns in a certain measure to the old
principles of centralised bureaucracy.

The great development of trade and industry in recent years has of
course enriched the mercantile classes, and has introduced into them
a more highly educated element, drawn chiefly from the Noblesse, which
formerly eschewed such occupations; but it has not yet affected very
deeply the mode of life of those who have sprung from the old merchant
families and the peasantry. When a merchant, contractor, or manufacturer
of the old type becomes wealthy, he builds for himself a fine house, or
buys and thoroughly repairs the house of some ruined noble, and spends
money freely on parquetry floors, large mirrors, malachite tables, grand
pianos by the best makers, and other articles of furniture made of the
most costly materials. Occasionally--especially on the occasion of a
marriage or a death in the family--he will give magnificent banquets,
and expend enormous sums on gigantic sterlets, choice sturgeons, foreign
fruits, champagne, and all manner of costly delicacies. But this lavish,
ostentatious expenditure does not affect the ordinary current of his
daily life. As you enter those gaudily furnished rooms you can perceive
at a glance that they are not for ordinary use. You notice a rigid
symmetry and an indescribable bareness which inevitably suggest that
the original arrangements of the upholsterer have never been modified or
supplemented. The truth is that by far the greater part of the house is
used only on state occasions. The host and his family live down-stairs
in small, dirty rooms, furnished in a very different, and for them more
comfortable, style. At ordinary times the fine rooms are closed, and the
fine furniture carefully covered.

If you make a visite de politesse after an entertainment, you will
probably have some difficulty in gaining admission by the front door.
When you have knocked or rung several times, some one will come round
from the back regions and ask you what you want. Then follows another
long pause, and at last footsteps are heard approaching from within. The
bolts are drawn, the door is opened, and you are led up to a spacious
drawing-room. At the wall opposite the windows there is sure to be a
sofa, and before it an oval table. At each end of the table, and at
right angles to the sofa, there will be a row of three arm-chairs. The
other chairs will be symmetrically arranged round the room. In a few
minutes the host will appear, in his long double-breasted black coat
and well-polished long boots. His hair is parted in the middle, and his
beard shows no trace of scissors or razor.

After the customary greetings have been exchanged, glasses of tea, with
slices of lemon and preserves, or perhaps a bottle of champagne, are
brought in by way of refreshments. The female members of the family
you must not expect to see, unless you are an intimate friend; for the
merchants still retain something of that female seclusion which was in
vogue among the upper classes before the time of Peter the Great. The
host himself will probably be an intelligent, but totally uneducated and
decidedly taciturn, man.

About the weather and the crops he may talk fluently enough, but he will
not show much inclination to go beyond these topics. You may, perhaps,
desire to converse with him on the subject with which he is best
acquainted--the trade in which he is himself engaged; but if you make
the attempt, you will certainly not gain much information, and you may
possibly meet with such an incident as once happened to my travelling
companion, a Russian gentleman who had been commissioned by two learned
societies to collect information regarding the grain trade. When
he called on a merchant who had promised to assist him in his
investigation, he was hospitably received; but when he began to speak
about the grain trade of the district the merchant suddenly interrupted
him, and proposed to tell him a story. The story was as follows:

Once on a time a rich landed proprietor had a son, who was a thoroughly
spoilt child; and one day the boy said to his father that he wished all
the young serfs to come and sing before the door of the house. After
some attempts at dissuasion the request was granted, and the young
people assembled; but as soon as they began to sing, the boy rushed out
and drove them away.

When the merchant had told this apparently pointless story at great
length, and with much circumstantial detail, he paused a little, poured
some tea into his saucer, drank it off, and then inquired, "Now what do
you think was the reason of this strange conduct?"

My friend replied that the riddle surpassed his powers of divination.

"Well," said the merchant, looking hard at him, with a knowing grin,
"there was no reason; and all the boy could say was, 'Go away, go away!
I've changed my mind; I've changed my mind'" (poshli von; otkhotyel).

There was no possibility of mistaking the point of the story. My friend
took the hint and departed.

The Russian merchant's love of ostentation is of a peculiar
kind--something entirely different from English snobbery. He may delight
in gaudy reception-rooms, magnificent dinners, fast trotters, costly
furs; or he may display his riches by princely donations to churches,
monasteries, or benevolent institutions: but in all this he never
affects to be other than he really is. He habitually wears a costume
which designates plainly his social position; he makes no attempt
to adopt fine manners or elegant tastes; and he never seeks to gain
admission to what is called in Russia la societe. Having no desire to
seem what he is not, he has a plain, unaffected manner, and sometimes
a quiet dignity which contrasts favourably with the affected manner of
those nobles of the lower ranks who make pretensions to being highly
educated and strive to adopt the outward forms of French culture. At his
great dinners, it is true, the merchant likes to see among his guests as
many "generals"--that is to say, official personages--as possible, and
especially those who happen to have a grand cordon; but he never dreams
of thereby establishing an intimacy with these personages, or of being
invited by them in return. It is perfectly understood by both parties
that nothing of the kind is meant. The invitation is given and accepted
from quite different motives. The merchant has the satisfaction of
seeing at his table men of high official rank, and feels that the
consideration which he enjoys among people of his own class is thereby
augmented. If he succeeds in obtaining the presence of three generals,
he obtains a victory over a rival who cannot obtain more than two. The
general, on his side, gets a first-rate dinner, a la russe, and acquires
an undefined right to request subscriptions for public objects or
benevolent institutions.

Of course this undefined right is commonly nothing more than a mere
tacit understanding, but in certain cases the subject is expressly
mentioned. I know of one case in which a regular bargain was made. A
Moscow magnate was invited by a merchant to a dinner, and consented
to go in full uniform, with all his decorations, on condition that the
merchant should subscribe a certain sum to a benevolent institution in
which he was particularly interested. It is whispered that such bargains
are sometimes made, not on behalf of benevolent institutions, but simply
in the interest of the gentleman who accepts the invitation. I cannot
believe that there are many official personages who would consent to let
themselves out as table decorations, but that it may happen is proved by
the following incident, which accidentally came to my knowledge. A
rich merchant of the town of T---- once requested the Governor of the
Province to honour a family festivity with his presence, and added that
he would consider it a special favour if the "Governoress" would
enter an appearance. To this latter request his Excellency made
many objections, and at last let the petitioner understand that her
Excellency could not possibly be present, because she had no velvet
dress that could bear comparison with those of several merchants' wives
in the town. Two days after the interview a piece of the finest velvet
that could be procured in Moscow was received by the Governor from
an unknown donor, and his wife was thus enabled to be present at the
festivity, to the complete satisfaction of all parties concerned.

It is worthy of remark that the merchants recognise no aristocracy but
that of official rank. Many merchants would willingly give twenty pounds
for the presence of an "actual State Councillor" who perhaps never heard
of his grandfather, but who can show a grand cordon; whilst they would
not give twenty pence for the presence of an undecorated Prince without
official rank, though he might be able to trace his pedigree up to the
half-mythical Rurik. Of the latter they would probably say, "Kto ikh
znact?" (Who knows what sort of a fellow he is?) The former, on the
contrary, whoever his father and grandfather may have been, possesses
unmistakable marks of the Tsar's favour, which, in the merchant's
opinion, is infinitely more important than any rights or pretensions
founded on hereditary titles or long pedigrees.

Some marks of Imperial favour the old-fashioned merchants strive to
obtain for themselves. They do not dream of grand cordons--that is far
beyond their most sanguine expectations--but they do all in their power
to obtain those lesser decorations which are granted to the mercantile
class. For this purpose the most common expedient is a liberal
subscription to some benevolent institution, and occasionally a regular
bargain is made. I know of at least one instance where the kind of
decoration was expressly stipulated. The affair illustrates so well the
commercial character of these transactions that I venture to state the
facts as related to me by the official chiefly concerned. A merchant
subscribed to a society which enjoyed the patronage of a Grand Duchess
a considerable sum of money, under the express condition that he
should receive in return a St. Vladimir Cross. Instead of the desired
decoration, which was considered too much for the sum subscribed, a
cross of St. Stanislas was granted; but the donor was dissatisfied with
the latter and demanded that his money should be returned to him. The
demand had to be complied with, and, as an Imperial gift cannot be
retracted, the merchant had his Stanislas Cross for nothing.

This traffic in decorations has had its natural result. Like paper money
issued in too large quantities, the decorations have fallen in value.
The gold medals which were formerly much coveted and worn with pride by
the rich merchants--suspended by a ribbon round the neck--are now
little sought after. In like manner the inordinate respect for official
personages has considerably diminished. Fifty years ago the provincial
merchants vied with each other in their desire to entertain any great
dignitary who honoured their town with a visit, but now they seek rather
to avoid this expensive and barren honour. When they do accept the
honour, they fulfil the duties of hospitality in a most liberal spirit.
I have sometimes, when living as an honoured guest in a rich merchant's
house, found it difficult to obtain anything simpler than sterlet,
sturgeon, and champagne.

The two great blemishes on the character of the Russian merchants as
a class are, according to general opinion, their ignorance and their
dishonesty. As to the former of these there cannot possibly be any
difference of opinion. Many of them can neither read nor write, and are
forced to keep their accounts in their memory, or by means of ingenious
hieroglyphics, intelligible only to the inventor. Others can decipher
the calendar and the lives of the saints, can sign their names with
tolerable facility, and can make the simpler arithmetical calculations
with the help of the stchety, a little calculating instrument, composed
of wooden balls strung on brass wires, which resembles the "abaca"
of the old Romans, and is universally used in Russia. It is only the
minority who understand the mysteries of regular book-keeping, and of
these very few can make any pretensions to being educated men.

All this, however, is rapidly undergoing a radical change. Children are
now much better educated than their parents, and the next generation
will doubtless make further progress, so that the old-fashioned type
above described is destined to disappear. Already there are not a few
of the younger generation--especially among the wealthy manufacturers
of Moscow--who have been educated abroad, who may be described as tout
a fait civilises, and whose mode of life differs little from that of
the richer nobles; but they remain outside fashionable society, and
constitute a "set" of their own.

As to the dishonesty which is said to be so common among the Russian
commercial classes, it is difficult to form an accurate judgment. That
an enormous amount of unfair dealing does exist there can be no possible
doubt, but in this matter a foreigner is likely to be unduly severe. We
are apt to apply unflinchingly our own standard of commercial morality,
and to forget that trade in Russia is only emerging from that primitive
condition in which fixed prices and moderate profits are entirely
unknown. And when we happen to detect positive dishonesty, it seems to
us especially heinous, because the trickery employed is more primitive
and awkward than that to which we are accustomed. Trickery in weighing
and measuring, for instance, which is by no means uncommon in Russia,
is likely to make us more indignant than those ingenious methods of
adulteration which are practised nearer home, and are regarded by many
as almost legitimate. Besides this, foreigners who go to Russia and
embark in speculations without possessing any adequate knowledge of
the character, customs, and language of the people positively invite
spoliation, and ought to blame themselves rather than the people who
profit by their ignorance.

All this, and much more of the same kind, may be fairly urged in
mitigation of the severe judgments which foreign merchants commonly pass
on Russian commercial morality, but these judgments cannot be reversed
by such argumentation. The dishonesty and rascality which exist among
the merchants are fully recognised by the Russians themselves. In all
moral affairs the lower classes in Russia are very lenient in their
judgments, and are strongly disposed, like the Americans, to admire
what is called in Transatlantic phraseology "a smart man," though the
smartness is known to contain a large admixture of dishonesty; and yet
the vox populi in Russia emphatically declares that the merchants as a
class are unscrupulous and dishonest. There is a rude popular play in
which the Devil, as principal dramatis persona, succeeds in cheating all
manner and conditions of men, but is finally overreached by a genuine
Russian merchant. When this play is acted in the Carnival Theatre in St.
Petersburg the audience invariably agrees with the moral of the plot.

If this play were acted in the southern towns near the coast of the
Black Sea it would be necessary to modify it considerably, for here,
in company with Jews, Greeks, and Armenians, the Russian merchants seem
honest by comparison. As to Greeks and Armenians, I know not which of
the two nationalities deserves the palm, but it seems that both are
surpassed by the Children of Israel. "How these Jews do business,"
I have heard a Russian merchant of this region exclaim, "I cannot
understand. They buy up wheat in the villages at eleven roubles per
tchetvert, transport it to the coast at their own expense, and sell it
to the exporters at ten roubles! And yet they contrive to make a profit!
It is said that the Russian trader is cunning, but here 'our brother'
[i.e., the Russian] can do nothing." The truth of this statement I have
had abundant opportunities of confirming by personal investigations on
the spot.

If I might express a general opinion regarding Russian commercial
morality, I should say that trade in Russia is carried on very much on
the same principle as horse-dealing in England. A man who wishes to buy
or sell must trust to his own knowledge and acuteness, and if he gets
the worst of a bargain or lets himself be deceived, he has himself to
blame. Commercial Englishmen on arriving in Russia rarely understand
this, and when they know it theoretically they are too often unable,
from their ignorance of the language, the laws, and the customs of the
people, to turn their theoretical knowledge to account. They indulge,
therefore, at first in endless invectives against the prevailing
dishonesty; but gradually, when they have paid what Germans call
Lehrgeld, they accommodate themselves to circumstances, take large
profits to counterbalance bad debts, and generally succeed--if they have
sufficient energy, mother-wit, and capital--in making a very handsome

The old race of British merchants, however, is rapidly dying out, and I
greatly fear that the rising generation will not be equally successful.
Times have changed. It is no longer possible to amass large fortunes
in the old easy-going fashion. Every year the conditions alter, and
the competition increases. In order to foresee, understand, and take
advantage of the changes, one must have far more knowledge of the
country than the men of the old school possessed, and it seems to me
that the young generation have still less of that knowledge than their
predecessors. Unless some change takes place in this respect, the German
merchants, who have generally a much better commercial education and are
much better acquainted with their adopted country, will ultimately, I
believe, expel their British rivals. Already many branches of commerce
formerly carried on by Englishmen have passed into their hands.

It must not be supposed that the unsatisfactory organisation of the
Russian commercial world is the result of any radical peculiarity of
the Russian character. All new countries have to pass through a similar
state of things, and in Russia there are already premonitory symptoms
of a change for the better. For the present, it is true, the extensive
construction of railways and the rapid development of banks and limited
liability companies have opened up a new and wide field for all kinds
of commercial swindling; but, on the other hand, there are now in every
large town a certain number of merchants who carry on business in the
West-European manner, and have learnt by experience that honesty is
the best policy. The success which many of these have obtained will
doubtless cause their example to be followed. The old spirit of caste
and routine which has long animated the merchant class is rapidly
disappearing, and not a few nobles are now exchanging country life and
the service of the State for industrial and commercial enterprises.
In this way is being formed the nucleus of that wealthy, enlightened
bourgeoisie which Catherine endeavoured to create by legislation; but
many years must elapse before this class acquires sufficient social and
political significance to deserve the title of a tiers-etat.



A Journey to the Steppe Region of the Southeast--The Volga--Town
and Province of Samara--Farther Eastward--Appearance of the
Villages--Characteristic Incident--Peasant Mendacity--Explanation of the
Phenomenon--I Awake in Asia--A Bashkir Aoul--Diner la Tartare--Kumyss--A
Bashkir Troubadour--Honest Mehemet Zian--Actual Economic Condition of
the Bashkirs Throws Light on a Well-known Philosophical Theory--Why
a Pastoral Race Adopts Agriculture--The Genuine Steppe--The
Kirghiz--Letter from Genghis Khan--The Kalmyks--Nogai Tartars--Struggle
between Nomadic Hordes and Agricultural Colonists.

When I had spent a couple of years or more in the Northern and
North-Central provinces--the land of forests and of agriculture
conducted on the three-field system, with here and there a town of
respectable antiquity--I determined to visit for purposes of comparison
and contrast the Southeastern region, which possesses no forests nor
ancient towns, and corresponds to the Far West of the United States of
America. My point of departure was Yaroslavl, a town on the right bank
of the Volga to the northeast of Moscow--and thence I sailed down the
river during three days on a large comfortable steamer to Samara, the
chief town of the province or "government" of the name. Here I left the
steamer and prepared to make a journey into the eastern hinterland.

Samara is a new town, a child of the last century. At the time of
my first visit, now thirty years ago, it recalled by its unfinished
appearance the new towns of America. Many of the houses were of wood.
The streets were still in such a primitive condition that after rain
they were almost impassable from mud, and in dry, gusty weather they
generated thick clouds of blinding, suffocating dust. Before I had been
many days in the place I witnessed a dust-hurricane, during which it was
impossible at certain moments to see from my window the houses on
the other side of the street. Amidst such primitive surroundings the
colossal new church seemed a little out of keeping, and it occurred
to my practical British mind that some of the money expended on its
construction might have been more profitably employed. But the Russians
have their own ideas of the fitness of things. Religious after their
own fashion, they subscribe money liberally for ecclesiastical
purposes--especially for the building and decoration of their churches.
Besides this, the Government considers that every chief town of a
province should possess a cathedral.

In its early days Samara was one of the outposts of Russian
colonisation, and had often to take precautions against the raids of the
nomadic tribes living in the vicinity; but the agricultural frontier has
since been pushed far forward to the east and south, and the province
was until lately, despite occasional droughts, one of the most
productive in the Empire. The town is the chief market of this region,
and therein lies its importance. The grain is brought by the peasants
from great distances, and stored in large granaries by the merchants,
who send it to Moscow or St. Petersburg. In former days this was a very
tedious operation. The boats containing the grain were towed by horses
or stout peasants up the rivers and through the canals for hundreds of
miles. Then came the period of "cabestans"--unwieldly machines propelled
by means of anchors and windlasses. Now these primitive methods of
transport have disappeared. The grain is either despatched by rail
or put into gigantic barges, which are towed up the river by powerful
tug-steamers to some point connected with the great network of railways.

When the traveller has visited the Cathedral and the granaries he has
seen all the lions--not very formidable lions, truly--of the place. He
may then inspect the kumyss establishments, pleasantly situated near
the town. He will find there a considerable number of patients--mostly
consumptive--who drink enormous quantities of fermented mare's-milk,
and who declare that they receive great benefit from this modern

What interested me more than the lions of the town or the suburban
kumyss establishments were the offices of the local administration,
where I found in the archives much statistical and other information
of the kind I was in search of, regarding the economic condition of
the province generally, and of the emancipated peasantry in particular.
Having filled my note-book with material of this sort, I proceeded to
verify and complete it by visiting some characteristic villages and
questioning the inhabitants. For the student of Russian affairs who
wishes to arrive at real, as distinguished from official, truth, this is
not an altogether superfluous operation.

When I had thus made the acquaintance of the sedentary agricultural
population in several districts I journeyed eastwards with the intention
of visiting the Bashkirs, a Tartar tribe which still preserved--so at
least I was assured--its old nomadic habits. My reasons for undertaking
this journey were twofold. In the first place I was desirous of seeing
with my own eyes some remnants of those terrible nomadic tribes
which had at one time conquered Russia and long threatened to overrun
Europe--those Tartar hordes which gained, by their irresistible force
and relentless cruelty, the reputation of being "the scourge of God."
Besides this, I had long wished to study the conditions of pastoral
life, and congratulated myself on having found a convenient opportunity
of doing so.

As I proceeded eastwards I noticed a change in the appearance of the
villages. The ordinary wooden houses, with their high sloping roofs,
gradually gave place to flat-roofed huts, built of a peculiar kind of
unburnt bricks, composed of mud and straw. I noticed, too, that the
population became less and less dense, and the amount of fallow land
proportionately greater. The peasants were evidently richer than those
near the Volga, but they complained--as the Russian peasant always
does--that they had not land enough. In answer to my inquiries why they
did not use the thousands of acres that were lying fallow around them,
they explained that they had already raised crops on that land for
several successive years, and that consequently they must now allow it
to "rest."

In one of the villages through which I passed I met with a very
characteristic little incident. The village was called Samovolnaya
Ivanofka--that is to say, "Ivanofka the Self-willed" or "the
Non-authorised." Whilst our horses were being changed my travelling
companion, in the course of conversation with a group of peasants,
inquired about the origin of this extraordinary name, and discovered a
curious bit of local history. The founders of the village had settled on
the land without the permission of the absentee owner, and obstinately
resisted all attempts at eviction. Again and again troops had been
sent to drive them away, but as soon as the troops retired these
"self-willed" people returned and resumed possession, till at last the
proprietor, who lived in St. Petersburg or some other distant place,
became weary of the contest and allowed them to remain. The various
incidents were related with much circumstantial detail, so that
the narration lasted perhaps half an hour. All this time I listened
attentively, and when the story was finished I took out my note-book
in order to jot down the facts, and asked in what year the affair had
happened. No answer was given to my question. The peasants merely looked
at each other in a significant way and kept silence. Thinking that my
question had not been understood, I asked it a second time, repeating a
part of what had been related. To my astonishment and utter discomfiture
they all declared that they had never related anything of the sort!
In despair I appealed to my friend, and asked him whether my ears had
deceived me--whether I was labouring under some strange hallucination.
Without giving me any reply he simply smiled and turned away.

When we had left the village and were driving along in our tarantass the
mystery was satisfactorily cleared up. My friend explained to me that I
had not at all misunderstood what had been related, but that my
abrupt question and the sight of my note-book had suddenly aroused the
peasants' suspicions. "They evidently suspected," he continued, "that
you were a tchinovnik, and that you wished to use to their detriment the
knowledge you had acquired. They thought it safer, therefore, at once to
deny it all. You don't yet understand the Russian muzhik!"

In this last remark I was obliged to concur, but since that time I have
come to know the muzhik better, and an incident of the kind would now
no longer surprise me. From a long series of observations I have come
to the conclusion that the great majority of the Russian peasants, when
dealing with the authorities, consider the most patent and barefaced
falsehoods as a fair means of self-defence. Thus, for example, when
a muzhik is implicated in a criminal affair, and a preliminary
investigation is being made, he probably begins by constructing an
elaborate story to explain the facts and exculpate himself. The story
may be a tissue of self-evident falsehoods from beginning to end, but
he defends it valiantly as long as possible. When he perceives that the
position which he has taken up is utterly untenable, he declares
openly that all he has said is false, and that he wishes to make a
new declaration. This second declaration may have the same fate as the
former one, and then he proposes a third. Thus groping his way, he
tries various stories till he finds one that seems proof against all
objections. In the fact of his thus telling lies there is of course
nothing remarkable, for criminals in all parts of the world have a
tendency to deviate from the truth when they fall into the hands of
justice. The peculiarity is that he retracts his statements with the
composed air of a chess-player who requests his opponent to let him take
back an inadvertent move. Under the old system of procedure, which was
abolished in the sixties, clever criminals often contrived by means of
this simple device to have their trial postponed for many years.

Such incidents naturally astonish a foreigner, and he is apt, in
consequence, to pass a very severe judgment on the Russian peasantry
in general. The reader may remember Karl Karl'itch's remarks on the
subject. These remarks I have heard repeated in various forms by Germans
in all parts of the country, and there must be a certain amount of truth
in them, for even an eminent Slavophil once publicly admitted that the
peasant is prone to perjury.* It is necessary, however, as it seems to
me, to draw a distinction. In the ordinary intercourse of peasants
among themselves, or with people in whom they have confidence, I do not
believe that the habit of lying is abnormally developed. It is only when
the muzhik comes in contact with authorities that he shows himself an
expert fabricator of falsehoods. In this there is nothing that need
surprise us. For ages the peasantry were exposed to the arbitrary power
and ruthless exactions of those who were placed over them; and as the
law gave them no means of legally protecting themselves, their only
means of self-defence lay in cunning and deceit.

     * Kireyefski, in the Russakaya Beseda.

We have here, I believe, the true explanation of that "Oriental
mendacity" about which Eastern travellers have written so much. It is
simply the result of a lawless state of society. Suppose a truth-loving
Englishman falls into the hands of brigands or savages. Will he not, if
he have merely an ordinary moral character, consider himself justified
in inventing a few falsehoods in order to effect his escape? If so, we
have no right to condemn very severely the hereditary mendacity of those
races which have lived for many generations in a position analogous
to that of the supposed Englishman among brigands. When legitimate
interests cannot be protected by truthfulness and honesty, prudent
people always learn to employ means which experience has proved to be
more effectual. In a country where the law does not afford protection,
the strong man defends himself by his strength, the weak by cunning and
duplicity. This fully explains the fact that in Turkey the Christians
are less truthful than the Mahometans.

But we have wandered a long way from the road to Bashkiria. Let us
therefore return at once.

Of all the journeys which I made in Russia this was one of the most
agreeable. The weather was bright and warm, without being unpleasantly
hot; the roads were tolerably smooth; the tarantass, which had been
hired for the whole journey, was nearly as comfortable as a tarantass
can be; good milk, eggs, and white bread could be obtained in abundance;
there was not much difficulty in procuring horses in the villages
through which we passed, and the owners of them were not very
extortionate in their demands. But what most contributed to my comfort
was that I was accompanied by an agreeable, intelligent young Russian,
who kindly undertook to make all the necessary arrangements, and I
was thereby freed from those annoyances and worries which are always
encountered in primitive countries where travelling is not yet a
recognised institution. To him I left the entire control of our
movements, passively acquiescing in everything, and asking no questions
as to what was coming. Taking advantage of my passivity, he prepared for
me one evening a pleasant little surprise.

About sunset we had left a village called Morsha, and shortly
afterwards, feeling drowsy, and being warned by my companion that
we should have a long, uninteresting drive, I had lain down in the
tarantass and gone to sleep. On awaking I found that the tarantass had
stopped, and that the stars were shining brightly overhead. A big
dog was barking furiously close at hand, and I heard the voice of the
yamstchik informing us that we had arrived. I at once sat up and looked
about me, expecting to see a village of some kind, but instead of that
I perceived a wide open space, and at a short distance a group of
haystacks. Close to the tarantass stood two figures in long cloaks,
armed with big sticks, and speaking to each other in an unknown tongue.
My first idea was that we had been somehow led into a trap, so I drew
my revolver in order to be ready for all emergencies. My companion was
still snoring loudly by my side, and stoutly resisted all my efforts to
awaken him.

"What's this?" I said, in a gruff, angry voice, to the yamstchik. "Where
have you taken us to?"

"To where I was ordered, master!"

For the purpose of getting a more satisfactory explanation I took to
shaking my sleepy companion, but before he had returned to consciousness
the moon shone out brightly from behind a thick bank of clouds, and
cleared up the mystery. The supposed haystacks turned out to be
tents. The two figures with long sticks, whom I had suspected of being
brigands, were peaceable shepherds, dressed in the ordinary Oriental
khalat, and tending their sheep, which were grazing close by. Instead
of being in an empty hay-field, as I had imagined, we had before us a
regular Tartar aoul, such as I had often read about. For a moment I felt
astonished and bewildered. It seemed to me that I had fallen asleep in
Europe and woke up in Asia!

In a few minutes we were comfortably installed in one of the tents,
a circular, cupola-shaped erection, of about twelve feet in diameter,
composed of a frame-work of light wooden rods covered with thick felt.
It contained no furniture, except a goodly quantity of carpets and
pillows, which had been formed into a bed for our accommodation. Our
amiable host, who was evidently somewhat astonished at our unexpected
visit, but refrained from asking questions, soon bade us good-night
and retired. We were not, however, left alone. A large number of black
beetles remained and gave us a welcome in their own peculiar fashion.
Whether they were provided with wings, or made up for the want of flying
appliances by crawling up the sides of the tent and dropping down on any
object they wished to reach, I did not discover, but certain it is that
they somehow reached our heads--even when we were standing upright--and
clung to our hair with wonderful tenacity. Why they should show such
a marked preference for human hair we could not conjecture, till it
occurred to us that the natives habitually shaved their heads, and that
these beetles must naturally consider a hair-covered cranium a curious
novelty deserving of careful examination. Like all children of nature
they were decidedly indiscreet and troublesome in their curiosity, but
when the light was extinguished they took the hint and departed.

When we awoke next morning it was broad daylight, and we found a crowd
of natives in front of the tent. Our arrival was evidently regarded as
an important event, and all the inhabitants of the aoul were anxious
to make our acquaintance. First our host came forward. He was a short,
slimly-built man, of middle age, with a grave, severe expression,
indicating an unsociable disposition. We afterwards learned that he
was an akhun*--that is to say, a minor officer of the Mahometan
ecclesiastical administration, and at the same time a small trader in
silken and woollen stuffs. With him came the mullah, or priest, a portly
old gentleman with an open, honest face of the European type, and a
fine grey beard. The other important members of the little community
followed. They were all swarthy in colour, and had the small eyes and
prominent cheek-bones which are characteristic of the Tartar races, but
they had little of that flatness of countenance and peculiar ugliness
which distinguish the pure Mongol. All of them, with the exception of
the mullah, spoke a little Russian, and used it to assure us that we
were welcome. The children remained respectfully in the background, and
the women, with laces veiled, eyed us furtively from the doors of the

     * I presume this is the same word as akhund, well known on
     the Northwest frontier of India, where it was applied
     specially to the late ruler of Svat.

The aoul consisted of about twenty tents, all constructed on the same
model, and scattered about in sporadic fashion, without the least regard
to symmetry. Close by was a watercourse, which appears on some maps as
a river, under the name of Karalyk, but which was at that time merely a
succession of pools containing a dark-coloured liquid. As we more than
suspected that these pools supplied the inhabitants with water for
culinary purposes, the sight was not calculated to whet our appetites.
We turned away therefore hurriedly, and for want of something better
to do we watched the preparations for dinner. These were decidedly
primitive. A sheep was brought near the door of our tent, and there
killed, skinned, cut up into pieces, and put into an immense pot, under
which a fire had been kindled.

The dinner itself was not less primitive than the manner of preparing
it. The table consisted of a large napkin spread in the middle of the
tent, and the chairs were represented by cushions, on which we
sat cross-legged. There were no plates, knives, forks, spoons, or
chopsticks. Guests were expected all to eat out of a common wooden bowl,
and to use the instruments with which Nature had provided them. The
service was performed by the host and his son. The fare was copious, but
not varied--consisting entirely of boiled mutton, without bread or other
substitute, and a little salted horse-flesh thrown in as an entree.

To eat out of the same dish with half-a-dozen Mahometans who accept
their Prophet's injunction about ablutions in a highly figurative sense,
and who are totally unacquainted with the use of forks and spoons,
is not an agreeable operation, even if one is not much troubled with
religious prejudices; but with these Bashkirs something worse than this
has to be encountered, for their favourite method of expressing their
esteem and affection for one with whom they are eating consists in
putting bits of mutton, and sometimes even handfuls of hashed meat,
into his month! When I discovered this unexpected peculiarity in Bashkir
manners and customs, I almost regretted that I had made a favourable
impression upon my new acquaintances.

When the sheep had been devoured, partly by the company in the tent and
partly by a nondescript company outside--for the whole aoul took part
in the festivities--kumyss was served in unlimited quantities. This
beverage, as I have already explained, is mare's milk fermented; but
what here passed under the name was very different from the kumyss I
had tasted in the establissements of Samara. There it was a pleasant
effervescing drink, with only the slightest tinge of acidity; here
it was a "still" liquid, strongly resembling very thin and very sour
butter-milk. My Russian friend made a wry face on first tasting it, and
I felt inclined at first to do likewise, but noticing that his grimaces
made an unfavourable impression on the audience, I restrained my facial
muscles, and looked as if I liked it. Very soon I really came to like
it, and learned to "drink fair" with those who had been accustomed to it
from their childhood. By this feat I rose considerably in the estimation
of the natives; for if one does not drink kumyss one cannot be sociable
in the Bashkir sense of the term, and by acquiring the habit one adopts
an essential principle of Bashkir nationality. I should certainly have
preferred having a cup of it to myself, but I thought it well to conform
to the habits of the country, and to accept the big wooden bowl when it
was passed round. In return my friends made an important concession in
my favour: they allowed me to smoke as I pleased, though they considered
that, as the Prophet had refrained from tobacco, ordinary mortals should
do the same.

Whilst the "loving-cup" was going round I distributed some small
presents which I had brought for the purpose, and then proceeded to
explain the object of my visit. In the distant country from which I
came--far away to the westward--I had heard of the Bashkirs as a
people possessing many strange customs, but very kind and hospitable
to strangers. Of their kindness and hospitality I had already learned
something by experience, and I hoped they would allow me to learn
something of their mode of life, their customs, their songs, their
history, and their religion, in all of which I assured them my distant
countrymen took a lively interest.

This little after-dinner speech was perhaps not quite in accordance
with Bashkir etiquette, but it made a favourable impression. There was
a decided murmur of approbation, and those who understood Russian
translated my words to their less accomplished brethren. A short
consultation ensued, and then there was a general shout of "Abdullah!
Abdullah!" which was taken up and repeated by those standing outside.

In a few minutes Abdullah appeared, with a big, half-picked bone in his
hand, and the lower part of his face besmeared with grease. He was a
short, thin man, with a dark, sallow complexion, and a look of premature
old age; but the suppressed smile that played about his mouth and a
tremulous movement of his right eye-lid showed plainly that he had not
yet forgotten the fun and frolic of youth. His dress was of richer and
more gaudy material, but at the same time more tawdry and tattered, than
that of the others. Altogether he looked like an artiste in distressed
circumstances, and such he really was. At a word and a sign from the
host he laid aside his bone and drew from under his green silk khalat a
small wind-instrument resembling a flute or flageolet. On this he played
a number of native airs. The first melodies which he played reminded me
of a Highland pibroch--at one moment low, solemn, and plaintive,
then gradually rising into a soul-stirring, martial strain, and again
descending to a plaintive wail. The amount of expression which he put
into his simple instrument was truly marvellous. Then, passing suddenly
from grave to gay, he played a series of light, merry airs, and some
of the younger onlookers got up and performed a dance as boisterous and
ungraceful as an Irish jig.

This Abdullah turned out to be for me a most valuable acquaintance.
He was a kind of Bashkir troubadour, well acquainted not only with the
music, but also with the traditions, the history, the superstitions, and
the folk-lore of his people. By the akhun and the mullah he was regarded
as a frivolous, worthless fellow, who had no regular, respectable means
of gaining a livelihood, but among the men of less rigid principles he
was a general favourite. As he spoke Russian fluently I could converse
with him freely without the aid of an interpreter, and he willingly
placed his store of knowledge at my disposal. When in the company of the
akhun he was always solemn and taciturn, but as soon as he was relieved
of that dignitary's presence he became lively and communicative.

Another of my new acquaintances was equally useful to me in another way.
This was Mehemet Zian, who was not so intelligent as Abdullah, but
much more sympathetic. In his open, honest face, and kindly, unaffected
manner there was something so irresistibly attractive that before I had
known him twenty-four hours a sort of friendship had sprung up between
us. He was a tall, muscular, broad-shouldered man, with features that
suggested a mixture of European blood. Though already past middle
age, he was still wiry and active--so active that he could, when on
horseback, pick a stone off the ground without dismounting. He could,
however, no longer perform this feat at full gallop, as he had been wont
to do in his youth. His geographical knowledge was extremely limited and
inaccurate--his mind being in this respect like those old Russian maps
in which the nations of the earth and a good many peoples who had
never more than a mythical existence are jumbled together in
hopeless confusion--but his geographical curiosity was insatiable. My
travelling-map--the first thing of the kind he had ever seen--interested
him deeply. When he found that by simply examining it and glancing at my
compass I could tell him the direction and distance of places he
knew, his face was like that of a child who sees for the first time
a conjuror's performance; and when I explained the trick to him, and
taught him to calculate the distance to Bokhara--the sacred city of
the Mussulmans of that region--his delight was unbounded. Gradually I
perceived that to possess such a map had become the great object of his
ambition. Unfortunately I could not at once gratify him as I should have
wished, because I had a long journey before me and I had no other map
of the region, but I promised to find ways and means of sending him one,
and I kept my word by means of a native of the Karalyk district whom I
discovered in Samara. I did not add a compass because I could not find
one in the town, and it would have been of little use to him: like a
true child of nature he always knew the cardinal points by the sun or
the stars. Some years later I had the satisfaction of learning that the
map had reached its destination safely, through no less a personage
than Count Tolstoy. One evening at the home of a friend in Moscow I
was presented to the great novelist, and as soon as he heard my name he
said: "Oh! I know you already, and I know your friend Mehemet Zian. When
I passed a night this summer in his aoul he showed me a map with your
signature on the margin, and taught me how to calculate the distance to

If Mehemet knew little of foreign countries he was thoroughly well
acquainted with his own, and repaid me most liberally for my elementary
lessons in geography. With him I visited the neighbouring aouls. In all
of them he had numerous acquaintances, and everywhere we were received
with the greatest hospitality, except on one occasion when we paid a
visit of ceremony to a famous robber who was the terror of the whole
neighbourhood. Certainly he was one of the most brutalised specimens of
humanity I have ever encountered. He made no attempt to be amiable,
and I felt inclined to leave his tent at once; but I saw that my friend
wanted to conciliate him, so I restrained my feelings and eventually
established tolerably good relations with him. As a rule I avoided
festivities, partly because I knew that my hosts were mostly poor and
would not accept payment for the slaughtered sheep, and partly because
I had reason to apprehend that they would express to me their esteem
and affection more Bashkirico; but in kumyss-drinking, the ordinary
occupation of these people when they have nothing to do, I had to
indulge to a most inordinate extent. On these expeditions Abdullah
generally accompanied us, and rendered valuable service as interpreter
and troubadour. Mehemet could express himself in Russian, but his
vocabulary failed him as soon as the conversation ran above very
ordinary topics; Abdullah, on the contrary, was a first-rate
interpreter, and under the influence of his musical pipe and lively
talkativeness new acquaintances became sociable and communicative. Poor
Abdullah! He was a kind of universal genius; but his faded, tattered
khalat showed only too plainly that in Bashkiria, as in more civilised
countries, universal genius and the artistic temperament lead to poverty
rather than to wealth.

I have no intention of troubling the reader with the miscellaneous
facts which, with the assistance of these two friends, I succeeded in
collecting--indeed, I could not if I would, for the notes I then made
were afterwards lost--but I wish to say a few words about the actual
economic condition of the Bashkirs. They are at present passing from
pastoral to agricultural life; and it is not a little interesting to
note the causes which induce them to make this change, and the way in
which it is made.

Philosophers have long held a theory of social development according
to which men were at first hunters, then shepherds, and lastly
agriculturists. How far this theory is in accordance with reality we
need not for the present inquire, but we may examine an important part
of it and ask ourselves the question, Why did pastoral tribes adopt
agriculture? The common explanation is that they changed their mode of
life in consequence of some ill-defined, fortuitous circumstances. A
great legislator arose amongst them and taught them to till the soil, or
they came in contact with an agricultural race and adopted the customs
of their neighbours. Such explanations must appear unsatisfactory to
any one who has lived with a pastoral people. Pastoral life is so
incomparably more agreeable than the hard lot of the agriculturist, and
so much more in accordance with the natural indolence of human nature,
that no great legislator, though he had the wisdom of a Solon and the
eloquence of a Demosthenes, could possibly induce his fellow-countrymen
to pass voluntarily from the one to the other. Of all the ordinary
means of gaining a livelihood--with the exception perhaps of
mining--agriculture is the most laborious, and is never voluntarily
adopted by men who have not been accustomed to it from their childhood.
The life of a pastoral race, on the contrary, is a perennial holiday,
and I can imagine nothing except the prospect of starvation which could
induce men who live by their flocks and herds to make the transition to
agricultural life.

The prospect of starvation is, in fact, the cause of the
transition--probably in all cases, and certainly in the case of the
Bashkirs. So long as they had abundance of pasturage they never thought
of tilling the soil. Their flocks and herds supplied them with all that
they required, and enabled them to lead a tranquil, indolent existence.
No great legislator arose among them to teach them the use of the plough
and the sickle, and when they saw the Russian peasants on their borders
laboriously ploughing and reaping, they looked on them with compassion,
and never thought of following their example. But an impersonal
legislator came to them--a very severe and tyrannical legislator,
who would not brook disobedience--I mean Economic Necessity. By
the encroachments of the Ural Cossacks on the east, and by the
ever-advancing wave of Russian colonisation from the north and west,
their territory had been greatly diminished. With diminution of the
pasturage came diminution of the live stock, their sole means of
subsistence. In spite of their passively conservative spirit they had to
look about for some new means of obtaining food and clothing--some new
mode of life requiring less extensive territorial possessions. It was
only then that they began to think of imitating their neighbours. They
saw that the neighbouring Russian peasant lived comfortably on thirty or
forty acres of land, whilst they possessed a hundred and fifty acres per
male, and were in danger of starvation.

The conclusion to be drawn from this was self-evident--they ought
at once to begin ploughing and sowing. But there was a very serious
obstacle to the putting of this principle in practice. Agriculture
certainly requires less land than sheep-farming, but it requires very
much more labour, and to hard work the Bashkirs were not accustomed.
They could bear hardships and fatigues in the shape of long journeys
on horseback, but the severe, monotonous labour of the plough and the
sickle was not to their taste. At first, therefore, they adopted a
compromise. They had a portion of their land tilled by Russian peasants,
and ceded to these a part of the produce in return for the labour
expended; in other words, they assumed the position of landed
proprietors, and farmed part of their land on the metayage system.

The process of transition had reached this point in several aouls which
I visited. My friend Mehemet Zian showed me at some distance from the
tents his plot of arable land, and introduced me to the peasant who
tilled it--a Little-Russian, who assured me that the arrangement
satisfied all parties. The process of transition cannot, however, stop
here. The compromise is merely a temporary expedient. Virgin soil gives
very abundant harvests, sufficient to support both the labourer and the
indolent proprietor, but after a few years the soil becomes exhausted
and gives only a very moderate revenue. A proprietor, therefore, must
sooner or later dispense with the labourers who take half of the produce
as their recompense, and must himself put his hand to the plough.

Thus we see the Bashkirs are, properly speaking, no longer a purely
pastoral, nomadic people. The discovery of this fact caused me some
little disappointment, and in the hope of finding a tribe in a more
primitive condition I visited the Kirghiz of the Inner Horde, who occupy
the country to the southward, in the direction of the Caspian. Here for
the first time I saw the genuine Steppe in the full sense of the term--a
country level as the sea, with not a hillock or even a gentle
undulation to break the straight line of the horizon, and not a patch
of cultivation, a tree, a bush, or even a stone, to diversify the
monotonous expanse.

Traversing such a region is, I need scarcely say, very weary work--all
the more as there are no milestones or other landmarks to show the
progress you are making. Still, it is not so overwhelmingly wearisome
as might be supposed. In the morning you may watch the vast lakes,
with their rugged promontories and well-wooded banks, which the mirage
creates for your amusement. Then during the course of the day there are
always one or two trifling incidents which arouse you for a little from
your somnolence. Now you descry a couple of horsemen on the distant
horizon, and watch them as they approach; and when they come alongside
you may have a talk with them if you know the language or have an
interpreter; or you may amuse yourself with a little pantomime, if
articulate speech is impossible. Now you encounter a long train of
camels marching along with solemn, stately step, and speculate as to
the contents of the big packages with which they are laden. Now you
encounter the carcass of a horse that has fallen by the wayside, and
watch the dogs and the steppe eagles fighting over their prey; and if
you are murderously inclined you may take a shot with your revolver at
these great birds, for they are ignorantly brave, and will sometimes
allow you to approach within twenty or thirty yards. At last you
perceive--most pleasant sight of all--a group of haystack-shaped tents
in the distance; and you hurry on to enjoy the grateful shade, and
quench your thirst with "deep, deep draughts" of refreshing kumyss.

During my journey through the Kirghiz country I was accompanied by a
Russian gentleman, who had provided himself with a circular letter from
the hereditary chieftain of the Horde, a personage who rejoiced in the
imposing name of Genghis Khan,* and claimed to be a descendant of the
great Mongol conqueror. This document assured us a good reception in the
aouls through which we passed. Every Kirghis who saw it treated it with
profound respect, and professed to put all his goods and chattels at our
service. But in spite of this powerful recommendation we met with none
of the friendly cordiality and communicativeness which I had found among
the Bashkirs. A tent with an unlimited quantity of cushions was always
set apart for our accommodation; the sheep were killed and boiled for
our dinner, and the pails of kumyss were regularly brought for our
refreshment; but all this was evidently done as a matter of duty and not
as a spontaneous expression of hospitality. When we determined once or
twice to prolong our visit beyond the term originally announced, I could
perceive that our host was not at all delighted by the change of our
plans. The only consolation we had was that those who entertained
us made no scruples about accepting payment for the food and shelter

     * I have adopted the ordinary English spelling of this name.
     The Kirghiz and the Russians pronounce it "Tchinghiz."

From all this I have no intention of drawing the conclusion that the
Kirghiz are, as a people, inhospitable or unfriendly to strangers. My
experience of them is too limited to warrant any such inference. The
letter of Genghis Khan insured us all the accommodation we required,
but it at the same time gave us a certain official character not at all
favourable to the establishment of friendly relations. Those with whom
we came in contact regarded us as Russian officials, and suspected us of
having some secret designs. As I endeavoured to discover the number
of their cattle, and to form an approximate estimate of their annual
revenue, they naturally feared--having no conception of disinterested
scientific curiosity--that these data were being collected for the
purpose of increasing the taxes, or with some similar intention of a
sinister kind. Very soon I perceived clearly that any information we
might here collect regarding the economic conditions of pastoral life
would not be of much value, and I postponed my proposed studies to a
more convenient season.

The Kirghiz are, ethnographically speaking, closely allied to the
Bashkirs, but differ from them both in physiognomy and language. Their
features approach much nearer the pure Mongol type, and their language
is a distinct dialect, which a Bashkir or a Tartar of Kazan has some
difficulty in understanding. They are professedly Mahometans, but their
Mahometanism is not of a rigid kind, as may be seen by the fact that
their women do not veil their faces even in the presence of Ghiaours--a
laxness of which the Ghiaour will certainly not approve if he happen to
be sensitive to female beauty and ugliness. Their mode of life differs
from that of the Bashkirs, but they have proportionately more land and
are consequently still able to lead a purely pastoral life. Near their
western frontier, it is true, they annually let patches of land to
the Russian peasants for the purpose of raising crops; but these
encroachments can never advance very far, for the greater part of their
territory is unsuited to agriculture, on account of a large admixture
of salt in the soil. This fact will have an important influence on
their future. Unlike the Bashkirs, who possess good arable land, and
are consequently on the road to become agriculturists, they will in all
probability continue to live exclusively by their flocks and herds.

To the southwest of the Lower Volga, in the flat region lying to the
north of the Caucasus, we find another pastoral tribe, the Kalmyks,
differing widely from the two former in language, in physiognomy, and
in religion. Their language, a dialect of the Mongolian, has no close
affinity with any other language in this part of the world. In respect
of religion they are likewise isolated, for they are Buddhists, and have
consequently no co-religionists nearer than Mongolia or Thibet. But it
is their physiognomy that most strikingly distinguishes them from the
surrounding peoples, and stamps them as Mongols of the purest water.
There is something almost infra-human in their ugliness. They show in
an exaggerated degree all those repulsive traits which we see toned down
and refined in the face of an average Chinaman; and it is difficult,
when we meet them for the first time, to believe that a human soul lurks
behind their expressionless, flattened faces and small, dull, obliquely
set eyes. If the Tartar and Turkish races are really descended from
ancestors of that type, then we must assume that they have received in
the course of time a large admixture of Aryan or Semitic blood.

But we must not be too hard on the poor Kalmyks, or judge of their
character by their unprepossessing appearance. They are by no means so
unhuman as they look. Men who have lived among them have assured me that
they are decidedly intelligent, especially in all matters relating to
cattle, and that they are--though somewhat addicted to cattle-lifting
and other primitive customs not tolerated in the more advanced stages
of civilisation--by no means wanting in some of the better qualities of
human nature.

Formerly there was a fourth pastoral tribe in this region--the Nogai
Tartars. They occupied the plains to the north of the Sea of Azof, but
they are no longer to be found there. Shortly after the Crimean war
they emigrated to Turkey, and their lands are now occupied by Russian,
German, Bulgarian, and Montenegrin colonists.

Among the pastoral tribes of this region the Kalmyks are recent
intruders. They first appeared in the seventeenth century, and were long
formidable on account of their great numbers and compact organisation;
but in 1771 the majority of them suddenly struck their tents and
retreated to their old home in the north of the Celestial Empire. Those
who remained were easily pacified, and have long since lost, under the
influence of unbroken peace and a strong Russian administration, their
old warlike spirit. Their latest military exploits were performed during
the last years of the Napoleonic wars, and were not of a very serious
kind; a troop of them accompanied the Russian army, and astonished
Western Europe by their uncouth features, their strange costume, and
their primitive accoutrements, among which their curious bows and arrows
figured conspicuously.

The other pastoral tribes which I have mentioned--Bashkirs, Kirghiz, and
Nogai Tartars--are the last remnants of the famous marauders who from
time immemorial down to a comparatively recent period held the vast
plains of Southern Russia. The long struggle between them and the
agricultural colonists from the northwest, closely resembling the long
struggle between the Red-skins and the white settlers on the prairies of
North America, forms an important page of Russian history.

For centuries the warlike nomads stoutly resisted all encroachments on
their pasture-grounds, and considered cattle-lifting, kidnapping, and
pillage as a legitimate and honorable occupation. "Their raids," says an
old Byzantine writer, "are as flashes of lightning, and their retreat is
at once heavy and light--heavy from booty and light from the swiftness
of their movements. For them a peaceful life is a misfortune, and a
convenient opportunity for war is the height of felicity. Worst of
all, they are more numerous than bees in spring, their numbers are
uncountable." "Having no fixed place of abode," says another Byzantine
authority, "they seek to conquer all lands and colonise none. They are
flying people, and therefore cannot be caught. As they have neither
towns nor villages, they must be hunted like wild beasts, and can be
fitly compared only to griffins, which beneficent Nature has banished to
uninhabited regions." As a Persian distich, quoted by Vambery, has it--

     "They came, conquered, burned,
     pillaged, murdered, and went."

Their raids are thus described by an old Russian chronicler: "They burn
the villages, the farmyards, and the churches. The land is turned by
them into a desert, and the overgrown fields become the lair of wild
beasts. Many people are led away into slavery; others are tortured and
killed, or die from hunger and thirst. Sad, weary, stiff from cold, with
faces wan from woe, barefoot or naked, and torn by the thistles, the
Russian prisoners trudge along through an unknown country, and, weeping,
say to one another, 'I am from such a town, and I from such a village.'"
And in harmony with the monastic chroniclers we hear the nameless
Slavonic Ossian wailing for the fallen sons of Rus: "In the Russian land
is rarely heard the voice of the husbandman, but often the cry of the
vultures, fighting with each other over the bodies of the slain; and the
ravens scream as they fly to the spoil."

In spite of the stubborn resistance of the nomads the wave of
colonisation moved steadily onwards until the first years of the
thirteenth century, when it was suddenly checked and thrown back. A
great Mongolian horde from Eastern Asia, far more numerous and better
organized than the local nomadic tribes, overran the whole country,
and for more than two centuries Russia was in a certain sense ruled
by Mongol Khans. As I wish to speak at some length of this Mongol
domination, I shall devote to it a separate chapter.



The Conquest--Genghis Khan and his People--Creation and Rapid
Disintegration of the Mongol Empire--The Golden Horde--The Real
Character of the Mongol Domination--Religious Toleration--Mongol System
of Government--Grand Princes--The Princes of Moscow--Influence of the
Mongol Domination--Practical Importance of the Subject.

The Tartar invasion, with its direct and indirect consequences, is
a subject which has more than a mere antiquarian interest. To the
influence of the Mongols are commonly attributed many peculiarities
in the actual condition and national character of the Russians of the
present day, and some writers would even have us believe that the
men whom we call Russians are simply Tartars half disguised by a thin
varnish of European civilisation. It may be well, therefore, to inquire
what the Tartar or Mongol domination really was, and how far it affected
the historical development and national character of the Russian people.

The story of the conquest may be briefly told. In 1224 the chieftains
of the Poloftsi--one of those pastoral tribes which roamed on the Steppe
and habitually carried on a predatory warfare with the Russians of
the south--sent deputies to Mistislaf the Brave, Prince of Galicia, to
inform him that their country had been invaded from the southeast by
strong, cruel enemies called Tartars*--strange-looking men with brown
faces, eyes small and wide apart, thick lips, broad shoulders, and black
hair. "Today," said the deputies, "they have seized our country, and
tomorrow they will seize yours if you do not help us."

     * The word is properly "Tatar," and the Russians write and
     pronounce it in this way, but I have preferred to retain the
     better known form.

Mistislaf had probably no objection to the Poloftsi being annihilated
by some tribe stronger and fiercer than themselves, for they gave him
a great deal of trouble by their frequent raids; but he perceived the
force of the argument about his own turn coming next, and thought
it wise to assist his usually hostile neighbours. For the purpose of
warding off the danger he called together the neighbouring Princes,
and urged them to join him in an expedition against the new enemy. The
expedition was undertaken, and ended in disaster. On the Kalka, a small
river falling into the Sea of Azof, the Russian host met the invaders,
and was completely routed. The country was thereby opened to the
victors, but they did not follow up their advantage. After advancing for
some distance they suddenly wheeled round and disappeared.

Thus ended unexpectedly the first visit of these unwelcome strangers.
Thirteen years afterwards they returned, and were not so easily got rid
of. An enormous horde crossed the River Ural and advanced into the heart
of the country, pillaging, burning, devastating, and murdering. Nowhere
did they meet with serious resistance. The Princes made no attempt to
combine against the common enemy. Nearly all the principal towns were
laid in ashes, and the inhabitants were killed or carried off as slaves.
Having conquered Russia, they advanced westward, and threw all Europe
into alarm. The panic reached even England, and interrupted, it is said,
for a time the herring fishing on the coast. Western Europe, however,
escaped their ravages. After visiting Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Servia,
and Dalmatia, they retreated to the Lower Volga, and the Russian Princes
were summoned thither to do homage to the victorious Khan.

At first the Russians had only very vague notions as to who this
terrible enemy was. The old chronicler remarks briefly: "For our sins
unknown peoples have appeared. No one knows who they are or whence they
have come, or to what race and faith they belong. They are commonly
called Tartars, but some call them Tauermen, and others Petchenegs. Who
they really are is known only to God, and perhaps to wise men deeply
read in books." Some of these "wise men deeply read in books" supposed
them to be the idolatrous Moabites who had in Old Testament times
harassed God's chosen people, whilst others thought that they must be
the descendants of the men whom Gideon had driven out, of whom a revered
saint had prophesied that they would come in the latter days and conquer
the whole earth, from the East even unto the Euphrates, and from the
Tigris even unto the Black Sea.

We are now happily in a position to dispense with such vague
ethnographical speculations. From the accounts of several European
travellers who visited Tartary about that time, and from the writings of
various Oriental historians, we know a great deal about these barbarians
who conquered Russia and frightened the Western nations.

The vast region lying to the east of Russia, from the basin of the Volga
to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, was inhabited then, as it is still,
by numerous Tartar and Mongol tribes. These two terms are often regarded
as identical and interchangeable, but they ought, I think, to be
distinguished. From the ethnographic, the linguistic, and the religious
point of view they differ widely from each other. The Kazan Tartars,
the Bashkirs, the Kirghiz, in a word, all the tribes in the country
stretching latitudinally from the Volga to Kashgar, and longitudinally
from the Persian frontier, the Hindu Kush and the Northern Himalaya, to
a line drawn east and west through the middle of Siberia, belong to the
Tartar group; whereas those further eastward, occupying Mongolia and
Manchuria, are Mongol in the stricter sense of the term.

A very little experience enables the traveller to distinguish between
the two. Both of them have the well-known characteristics of the
Northern Asiatic--the broad flat face, yellow skin, small, obliquely set
eyes, high cheekbones, thin, straggling beard; but these traits are more
strongly marked, more exaggerated, if we may use such an expression,
in the Mongol than in the Tartar. Thus the Mongol is, according to our
conceptions, by far the uglier of the two, and the man of Tartar
race, when seen beside him, appears almost European by comparison. The
distinction is confirmed by a study of their languages. All the Tartar
languages are closely allied, so that a person of average linguistic
talent who has mastered one of them, whether it be the rude Turki of
Central Asia or the highly polished Turkish of Stambul, can easily
acquire any of the others; whereas even an extensive acquaintance with
the Tartar dialects will be of no practical use to him in learning a
language of the Mongol group. In their religions likewise the two races
differ. The Mongols are as a rule Shamanists or Buddhists, while the
Tartars are Mahometans. Some of the Mongol invaders, it is true, adopted
Mahometanism from the conquered Tartar tribes, and by this change of
religion, which led naturally to intermarriage, their descendants became
gradually blended with the older population; but the broad line of
distinction was not permanently effaced.

It is often supposed, even by people who profess to be acquainted with
Russian history, that Mongols and Tartars alike first came westward to
the frontiers of Europe with Genghis Khan. This is true of the Mongols,
but so far as the Tartars are concerned it is an entire mistake. From
time immemorial the Tartar tribes roamed over these territories. Like
the Russians, they were conquered by the Mongol invaders and had long to
pay tribute, and when the Mongol empire crumbled to pieces by internal
dissensions and finally disappeared before the victorious advance of the
Russians, the Tartars reappeared from the confusion without having lost,
notwithstanding an intermixture doubtless of Mongol blood, their
old racial characteristics, their old dialects, and their old tribal

The germ of the vast horde which swept over Asia and advanced into the
centre of Europe was a small pastoral tribe of Mongols living in the
hilly country to the north of China, near the sources of the Amur. This
tribe was neither more warlike nor more formidable than its neighbours
till near the close of the twelfth century, when there appeared in it
a man who is described as "a mighty hunter before the Lord." Of him and
his people we have a brief description by a Chinese author of the time:
"A man of gigantic stature, with broad forehead and long beard, and
remarkable for his bravery. As to his people, their faces are broad,
flat, and four-cornered, with prominent cheek-bones; their eyes have
no upper eyelashes; they have very little hair in their beards and
moustaches; their exterior is very repulsive." This man of gigantic
stature was no other than Genghis Khan. He began by subduing and
incorporating into his army the surrounding tribes, conquered with their
assistance a great part of Northern China, and then, leaving one of his
generals to complete the conquest of the Celestial Empire, he led his
army westward with the ambitious design of conquering the whole world.
"As there is but one God in heaven," he was wont to say, "so there
should be but one ruler on earth"; and this one universal ruler he
himself aspired to be.

A European army necessarily diminishes in force and its existence
becomes more and more imperilled as it advances from its base of
operations into a foreign and hostile country. Not so a horde like that
of Genghis Khan in a country such as that which it had to traverse. It
needed no base of operations, for it took with it its flocks, its tents,
and all its worldly goods. Properly speaking, it was not an army at all,
but rather a people in movement. The grassy Steppes fed the flocks, and
the flocks fed the warriors; and with such a simple commissariat system
there was no necessity for keeping up communications with the point
of departure. Instead of diminishing in numbers, the horde constantly
increased as it moved forwards. The nomadic tribes which it encountered
on its way, composed of men who found a home wherever they found pasture
and drinking-water, required little persuasion to make them join the
onward movement. By means of this terrible instrument of conquest
Genghis succeeded in creating a colossal Empire, stretching from the
Carpathians to the eastern shores of Asia, and from the Arctic Ocean to
the Himalayas.

Genghis was no mere ruthless destroyer; he was at the same time one
of the greatest administrators the world has ever seen. But his
administrative genius could not work miracles. His vast Empire, founded
on conquest and composed of the most heterogeneous elements, had no
principle of organic life in it, and could not possibly be long-lived.
It had been created by him, and it perished with him. For some time
after his death the dignity of Grand Khan was held by some one of his
descendants, and the centralised administration was nominally preserved;
but the local rulers rapidly emancipated themselves from the central
authority, and within half a century after the death of its founder the
great Mongol Empire was little more than "a geographical expression."

With the dismemberment of the short-lived Empire the danger for Eastern
Europe was by no means at an end. The independent hordes were scarcely
less formidable than the Empire itself. A grandson of Genghis formed
on the Russian frontier a new State, commonly known as Kiptchak, or the
Golden Horde, and built a capital called Serai, on one of the arms of
the Lower Volga. This capital, which has since so completely disappeared
that there is some doubt as to its site, is described by Ibn Batuta,
who visited it in the fifteenth century, as a very great, populous, and
beautiful city, possessing many mosques, fine market-places, and broad
streets, in which were to be seen merchants from Babylon, Egypt, Syria,
and other countries. Here lived the Khans of the Golden Horde, who kept
Russia in subjection for two centuries.

In conquering Russia the Mongols had no wish to possess themselves of
the soil, or to take into their own hands the local administration. What
they wanted was not land, of which they had enough and to spare,
but movable property which they might enjoy without giving up their
pastoral, nomadic life. They applied, therefore, to Russia the same
method of extracting supplies as they had used in other countries.
As soon as their authority had been formally acknowledged they sent
officials into the country to number the inhabitants and to collect an
amount of tribute proportionate to the population. This was a severe
burden for the people, not only on account of the sum demanded, but
also on account of the manner in which it was raised. The exactions
and cruelty of the tax-gatherers led to local insurrections, and the
insurrections were of course always severely punished. But there was
never any general military occupation of the country or any wholesale
confiscations of land, and the existing political organisation was left
undisturbed. The modern method of dealing with annexed provinces was
totally unknown to the Mongols. The Khans never thought of attempting
to denationalise their Russian subjects. They demanded simply an oath
of allegiance from the Princes* and a certain sum of tribute from
the people. The vanquished were allowed to retain their land, their
religion, their language, their courts of justice, and all their other

     * During the Mongol domination Russia was composed of a
     large number of independent principalities.

The nature of the Mongol domination is well illustrated by the policy
which the conquerors adopted towards the Russian Church. For more than
half a century after the conquest the religion of the Tartars was
a mixture of Buddhism and Paganism, with traces of Sabaeism or
fire-worship. During this period Christianity was more than simply
tolerated. The Grand Khan Kuyuk caused a Christian chapel to be erected
near his domicile, and one of his successors, Khubilai, was in the habit
of publicly taking part in the Easter festivals. In 1261 the Khan of the
Golden Horde allowed the Russians to found a bishopric in his capital,
and several members of his family adopted Christianity. One of them
even founded a monastery, and became a saint of the Russian Church! The
Orthodox clergy were exempted from the poll-tax, and in the charters
granted to them it was expressly declared that if any one committed
blasphemy against the faith of the Russians he should be put to death.
Some time afterwards the Golden Horde was converted to Islam, but the
Khans did not on that account change their policy. They continued
to favour the clergy, and their protection was long remembered. Many
generations later, when the property of the Church was threatened by the
autocratic power, refractory ecclesiastics contrasted the policy of
the Orthodox Sovereign with that of the "godless Tartars," much to the
advantage of the latter.

At first there was and could be very little mutual confidence between
the conquerors and the conquered. The Princes anxiously looked for an
opportunity of throwing off the galling yoke, and the people chafed
under the exactions and cruelty of the tribute-collectors, whilst
the Khans took precautions to prevent insurrection, and threatened to
devastate the country if their authority was not respected. But in the
course of time this mutual distrust and hostility greatly lessened. When
the Princes found by experience that all attempts at resistance were
fruitless, they became reconciled to their new position, and instead
of seeking to throw off the Khan's authority, they tried to gain his
favour, in the hope of forwarding their personal interests. For this
purpose they paid frequent visits to the Tartar Suzerain, made rich
presents to his wives and courtiers, received from him charters
confirming their authority, and sometimes even married members of his
family. Some of them used the favour thus acquired for extending their
possessions at the expense of neighbouring Princes of their own race,
and did not hesitate to call in Tartar hordes to their assistance.
The Khans, in their turn, placed greater confidence in their vassals,
entrusted them with the task of collecting the tribute, recalled their
own officials who were a constant eyesore to the people, and abstained
from all interference in the internal affairs of the principalities so
long as the tribute was regularly paid. The Princes acted, in short, as
the Khan's lieutenants, and became to a certain extent Tartarised. Some
of them carried this policy so far that they were reproached by the
people with "loving beyond measure the Tartars and their language, and
with giving them too freely land, and gold, and goods of every kind."

Had the Khans of the Golden Horde been prudent, far-seeing statesmen,
they might have long retained their supremacy over Russia. In reality
they showed themselves miserably deficient in political talent. Seeking
merely to extract from the country as much tribute as possible,
they overlooked all higher considerations, and by this culpable
shortsightedness prepared their own political ruin. Instead of keeping
all the Russian Princes on the same level and thereby rendering them all
equally feeble, they were constantly bribed or cajoled into giving to
one or more of their vassals a pre-eminence over the others. At first
this pre-eminence consisted in little more than the empty title of
Grand Prince; but the vassals thus favoured soon transformed the
barren distinction into a genuine power by arrogating to themselves the
exclusive right of holding direct communications with the Horde, and
compelling the minor Princes to deliver to them the Mongol tribute.
If any of the lesser Princes refused to acknowledge this intermediate
authority, the Grand Prince could easily crush them by representing them
at the Horde as rebels. Such an accusation would cause the accused to be
summoned before the Supreme Tribunal, where the procedure was extremely
summary and the Grand Prince had always the means of obtaining a
decision in his own favour.

Of the Princes who strove in this way to increase their influence,
the most successful were the Grand Princes of Moscow. They were not a
chivalrous race, or one with which the severe moralist can sympathise,
but they were largely endowed with cunning, tact, and perseverance, and
were little hampered by conscientious scruples. Having early discovered
that the liberal distribution of money at the Tartar court was the
surest means of gaining favour, they lived parsimoniously at home and
spent their savings at the Horde. To secure the continuance of the
favour thus acquired, they were ready to form matrimonial alliances
with the Khan's family, and to act zealously as his lieutenants. When
Novgorod, the haughty, turbulent republic, refused to pay the yearly
tribute, they quelled the insurrection and punished the leaders; and
when the inhabitants of Tver rose against the Tartars and compelled
their Prince to make common cause with them, the wily Muscovite
hastened to the Tartar court and received from the Khan the revolted
principality, with 50,000 Tartars to support his authority.

Thus those cunning Moscow Princes "loved the Tartars beyond measure" so
long as the Khan was irresistibly powerful, but as his power waned they
stood forth as his rivals. When the Golden Horde, like the great Empire
of which it had once formed a part, fell to pieces in the fifteenth
century, these ambitious Princes read the signs of the times, and put
themselves at the head of the liberation movement, which was at first
unsuccessful, but ultimately freed the country from the hated yoke.

From this brief sketch of the Mongol domination the reader will readily
understand that it did not leave any deep, lasting impression on
the people. The invaders never settled in Russia proper, and never
amalgamated with the native population. So long as they retained their
semi-pagan, semi-Buddhistic religion, a certain number of their notables
became Christians and were absorbed by the Russian Noblesse; but as
soon as the Horde adopted Islam this movement was arrested. There was no
blending of the two races such as has taken place--and is still taking
place--between the Russian peasantry and the Finnish tribes of the
North. The Russians remained Christians, and the Tartars remained
Mahometans; and this difference of religion raised an impassable barrier
between the two nationalities.

It must, however, be admitted that the Tartar domination, though it
had little influence on the life and habits of the people, had a
considerable influence on the political development of the nation.
At the time of the conquest Russia was composed of a large number of
independent principalities, all governed by descendants of Rurik. As
these principalities were not geographical or ethnographical units, but
mere artificial, arbitrarily defined districts, which were regularly
subdivided or combined according to the hereditary rights of the
Princes, it is highly probable that they would in any case have been
sooner or later united under one sceptre; but it is quite certain that
the policy of the Khans helped to accelerate this unification and to
create the autocratic power which has since been wielded by the Tsars.
If the principalities had been united without foreign interference we
should probably have found in the united State some form of political
organisation corresponding to that which existed in the component
parts--some mixed form of government, in which the political power would
have been more or less equally divided between the Tsar and the people.
The Tartar rule interrupted this normal development by extinguishing
all free political life. The first Tsars of Muscovy were the political
descendants, not of the old independent Princes, but of the Mongol
Khans. It may be said, therefore, that the autocratic power, which
has been during the last four centuries out of all comparison the most
important factor in Russian history, was in a certain sense created by
the Mongol domination.



Lawlessness on the Steppe--Slave-markets of the Crimea--The Military
Cordon and the Free Cossacks--The Zaporovian Commonwealth Compared with
Sparta and with the Mediaeval Military Orders--The Cossacks of the Don,
of the Volga, and of the Ural--Border Warfare--The Modern Cossacks--Land
Tenure among the Cossacks of the Don--The Transition from Pastoral to
Agriculture Life--"Universal Law" of Social Development--Communal versus
Private Property--Flogging as a Means of Land-registration.

No sooner had the Grand Princes of Moscow thrown off the Mongol yoke
and become independent Tsars of Muscovy than they began that eastward
territorial expansion which has been going on steadily ever since, and
which culminated in the occupation of Talienwan and Port Arthur. Ivan
the Terrible conquered the Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan (1552-54)
and reduced to nominal subjection the Bashkir and Kirghiz tribes in the
vicinity of the Volga, but he did not thereby establish law and order on
the Steppe. The lawless tribes retained their old pastoral mode of life
and predatory habits, and harassed the Russian agricultural population
of the outlying provinces in the same way as the Red Indians in America
used to harass the white colonists of the Far West. A large section
of the Horde, inhabiting the Crimea and the Steppe to the north of the
Black Sea, escaped annexation by submitting to the Ottoman Turks and
becoming tributaries of the Sultan.

The Turks were at that time a formidable power, with which the Tsars of
Muscovy were too weak to cope successfully, and the Khan of the Crimea
could always, when hard pressed by his northern neighbours, obtain
assistance from Constantinople. This potentate exercised a nominal
authority over the pastoral tribes which roamed on the Steppe between
the Crimea and the Russian frontier, but he had neither the power
nor the desire to control their aggressive tendencies. Their raids in
Russian and Polish territory ensured, among other advantages, a regular
and plentiful supply of slaves, which formed the chief article of export
from Kaffa--the modern Theodosia--and from the other seaports of the

Of this slave trade, which flourished down to 1783, when the Crimea was
finally conquered and annexed by Russia, we have a graphic account by
an eye-witness, a Lithuanian traveller of the sixteenth century. "Ships
from Asia," he says, "bring arms, clothes, and horses to the Crimean
Tartars, and start on the homeward voyage laden with slaves. It is for
this kind of merchandise alone that the Crimean markets are remarkable.
Slaves may be always had for sale as a pledge or as a present, and every
one rich enough to have a horse deals in them. If a man wishes to buy
clothes, arms, or horses, and does not happen to have at the moment any
slaves, he takes on credit the articles required, and makes a formal
promise to deliver at a certain time a certain number of people of
our blood--being convinced that he can get by that time the requisite
number. And these promises are always accurately fulfilled, as if those
who made them had always a supply of our people in their courtyards.
A Jewish money-changer, sitting at the gate of Tauris and seeing
constantly the countless multitude of our countrymen led in as captives,
asked us whether there still remained any people in our land, and whence
came such a multitude of them. The stronger of these captives, branded
on the forehead and cheeks and manacled or fettered, are tortured by
severe labour all day, and are shut up in dark cells at night. They are
kept alive by small quantities of food, composed chiefly of the flesh of
animals that have died--putrid, covered with maggots, disgusting even
to dogs. Women, who are more tender, are treated in a different fashion;
some of them who can sing and play are employed to amuse the guests at

"When the slaves are led out for sale they walk to the marketplace in
single file, like storks on the wing, in whole dozens, chained together
by the neck, and are there sold by auction. The auctioneer shouts loudly
that they are 'the newest arrivals, simple, and not cunning, lately
captured from the people of the kingdom (Poland), and not from Muscovy';
for the Muscovite race, being crafty and deceitful, does not bring a
good price. This kind of merchandise is appraised with great accuracy in
the Crimea, and is bought by foreign merchants at a high price, in order
to be sold at a still higher rate to blacker nations, such as Saracens,
Persians, Indians, Arabs, Syrians, and Assyrians. When a purchase
is made the teeth are examined, to see that they are neither few nor
discoloured. At the same time the more hidden parts of the body are
carefully inspected, and if a mole, excrescence, wound, or other latent
defect is discovered, the bargain is rescinded. But notwithstanding
these investigations the cunning slave-dealers and brokers succeed in
cheating the buyers; for when they have valuable boys and girls, they
do not at once produce them, but first fatten them, clothe them in silk,
and put powder and rouge on their cheeks, so as to sell them at a better
price. Sometimes beautiful and perfect maidens of our nation bring their
weight in gold. This takes place in all the towns of the peninsula, but
especially in Kaffa."*

     * Michalonis Litvani, "De moribus Tartarorum Fragmina," X.,
     Basilliae, 1615.

To protect the agricultural population of the Steppe against the raids
of these thieving, cattle-lifting, kidnapping neighbours, the Tsars of
Muscovy and the Kings of Poland built forts, constructed palisades, dug
trenches, and kept up a regular military cordon. The troops composing
this cordon were called Cossacks; but these were not the "Free Cossacks"
best known to history and romance. These latter lived beyond the
frontier on the debatable land which lay between the two hostile races,
and there they formed self-governing military communities. Each one of
the rivers flowing southwards--the Dnieper, the Don, the Volga, and the
Yaik or Ural--was held by a community of these Free Cossacks, and no
one, whether Christian or Tartar, was allowed to pass through their
territory without their permission.

Officially the Free Cossacks were Russians, for they professed to be
champions of Orthodox Christianity, and--with the exception of those
of the Dnieper--loyal subjects of the Tsar; but in reality they were
something different. Though they were Russian by origin, language, and
sympathy, the habit of kidnapping Tartar women introduced among them a
certain admixture of Tartar blood. Though self-constituted champions of
Christianity and haters of Islam, they troubled themselves very little
with religion, and did not submit to the ecclesiastical authorities.
As to their religious status, it cannot be easily defined. Whilst
professing allegiance and devotion to the Tsar, they did not think it
necessary to obey him, except in so far as his orders suited their own
convenience. And the Tsar, it must be confessed, acted towards them in a
similar fashion. When he found it convenient he called them his faithful
subjects; and when complaints were made to him about their raids in
Turkish territory, he declared that they were not his subjects, but
runaways and brigands, and that the Sultan might punish them as he saw
fit. At the same time, the so-called runaways and brigands regularly
received supplies and ammunition from Moscow, as is amply proved by
recently-published documents. Down to the middle of the seventeenth
century the Cossacks of the Dnieper stood in a similar relation to
the Polish kings; but at that time they threw off their allegiance to
Poland, and became subjects of the Tsars of Muscovy.

Of these semi-independent military communities, which formed a
continuous barrier along the southern and southeastern frontier, the
most celebrated were the Zaporovians* of the Dnieper, and the Cossacks
of the Don.

     * The name "Zaporovians," by which they are known in the
     West, is a corruption of the Russian word Zaporozhtsi, which
     means "Those who live beyond the rapids."

The Zaporovian Commonwealth has been compared sometimes to ancient
Sparta, and sometimes to the mediaeval Military Orders, but it had
in reality quite a different character. In Sparta the nobles kept in
subjection a large population of slaves, and were themselves constantly
under the severe discipline of the magistrates. These Cossacks of the
Dnieper, on the contrary, lived by fishing, hunting, and marauding,
and knew nothing of discipline, except in time of war. Amongst all
the inhabitants of the Setch--so the fortified camp was called--there
reigned the most perfect equality. The common saying, "Bear patiently,
Cossack; you will one day be Ataman!" was often realised; for every year
the office-bearers laid down the insignia of office in presence of the
general assembly, and after thanking the brotherhood for the honour they
had enjoyed, retired to their former position of common Cossack. At the
election which followed this ceremony any member could be chosen chief
of his kuren, or company, and any chief of a kuren could be chosen

The comparison of these bold Borderers with the mediaeval Military
Orders is scarcely less forced. They call themselves, indeed, Lytsars--a
corruption of the Russian word Ritsar, which is in its turn a corruption
of the German Ritter--talked of knightly honour (lytsarskaya tchest'),
and sometimes proclaimed themselves the champions of Greek Orthodoxy
against the Roman Catholicism of the Poles and the Mahometanism of the
Tartars; but religion occupied in their minds a very secondary place.
Their great object in life was the acquisition of booty. To attain this
object they lived in intermittent warfare with the Tartars, lifted their
cattle, pillaged their aouls, swept the Black Sea in flotillas of small
boats, and occasionally sacked important coast towns, such as Varna
and Sinope. When Tartar booty could not be easily obtained, they turned
their attention to the Slavonic populations; and when hard pressed by
Christian potentates, they did not hesitate to put themselves under the
protection of the Sultan.

The Cossacks of the Don, of the Volga, and of the Ural had a somewhat
different organisation. They had no fortified camp like the Setch, but
lived in villages, and assembled as necessity demanded. As they were
completely beyond the sphere of Polish influence, they knew nothing
about "knightly honour" and similar conceptions of Western chivalry;
they even adopted many Tartar customs, and loved in time of peace to
strut about in gorgeous Tartar costumes. Besides this, they were
nearly all emigrants from Great Russia, and mostly Old Ritualists or
Sectarians, whilst the Zaporovians were Little Russians and Orthodox.

These military communities rendered valuable service to Russia. The best
means of protecting the southern frontier was to have as allies a large
body of men leading the same kind of life and capable of carrying on the
same kind of warfare as the nomadic marauders; and such a body of men
were the Free Cossacks. The sentiment of self-preservation and the
desire of booty kept them constantly on the alert. By sending out small
parties in all directions, by "procuring tongues"--that is to say, by
kidnapping and torturing straggling Tartars with a view to extracting
information from them--and by keeping spies in the enemy's territory,
they were generally apprised beforehand of any intended incursion. When
danger threatened, the ordinary precautions were redoubled. Day and
night patrols kept watch at the points where the enemy was expected, and
as soon as sure signs of his approach were discovered a pile of tarred
barrels prepared for the purpose was fired to give the alarm. Rapidly
the signal was repeated at one point of observation after another, and
by this primitive system of telegraphy in the course of a few hours the
whole district was up in arms. If the invaders were not too numerous,
they were at once attacked and driven back. If they could not be
successfully resisted, they were allowed to pass; but a troop of
Cossacks was sent to pillage their aouls in their absence, whilst
another and larger force was collected, in order to intercept them when
they were returning home laden with booty. Thus many a nameless battle
was fought on the trackless Steppe, and many brave men fell unhonoured
and unsung:

"Illacrymabiles Urgentur ignotique longa Nocte, carent quia vate sacro."

Notwithstanding these valuable services, the Cossack communities were
a constant source of diplomatic difficulties and political dangers. As
they paid very little attention to the orders of the Government, they
supplied the Sultan with any number of casi belli, and were often ready
to turn their arms against the power to which they professed allegiance.
During "the troublous times," for example, when the national existence
was endangered by civil strife and foreign invasion, they overran the
country, robbing, pillaging, and burning as they were wont to do in the
Tartar aouls. At a later period the Don Cossacks twice raised formidable
insurrections--first under Stenka Razin (1670), and secondly under
Pugatchef (1773)--and during the war between Peter the Great and Charles
XII. of Sweden the Zaporovians took the side of the Swedish king.

The Government naturally strove to put an end to this danger,
and ultimately succeeded. All the Cossacks were deprived of their
independence, but the fate of the various communities was different.
Those of the Volga were transfered to the Terek, where they had abundant
occupation in guarding the frontier against the incursions of the
Eastern Caucasian tribes. The Zaporovians held tenaciously to their
"Dnieper liberties," and resisted all interference, till they were
forcibly disbanded in the time of Catherine II. The majority of them
fled to Turkey, where some of their descendants are still to be found,
and the remainder were settled on the Kuban, where they could lead their
old life by carrying on an irregular warfare with the tribes of the
Western Caucasus. Since the capture of Shamyl and the pacification
of the Caucasus, this Cossack population of the Kuban and the Terek,
extending in an unbroken line from the Sea of Azof to the Caspian, have
been able to turn their attention to peaceful pursuits, and now raise
large quantities of wheat for exportation; but they still retain their
martial bearing, and some of them regret the good old times when a brush
with the Circassians was an ordinary occurrence and the work of tilling
the soil was often diversified with a more exciting kind of occupation.

The Cossacks of the Ural and the Don have been allowed to remain in
their old homes, but they have been deprived of their independence
and self-government, and their social organisation has been completely
changed. The boisterous popular assemblies which formerly decided all
public affairs have been abolished, and the custom of choosing the
Ataman and other office-bearers by popular election has been replaced
by a system of regular promotion, according to rules elaborated in
St. Petersburg. The officers and their families now compose a kind of
hereditary aristocracy which has succeeded in appropriating, by means of
Imperial grants, a large portion of the land which was formerly common
property. As the Empire expanded in Asia the system of protecting the
parties by Cossack colonists was extended eastwards, so now there is a
belt of Cossack territory stretching almost without interruption from
the banks of the Don to the coast of the Pacific. It is divided into
eleven sections, in each of which is settled a Cossack corps with a
separate administration.

When universal military service was introduced, in 1873, the Cossacks
were brought under the new law, but in order to preserve their military
traditions and habits they were allowed to retain, with certain
modifications, their old organisation, rights, and privileges. In return
for a large amount of fertile land and exemption from direct taxation,
they have to equip themselves at their own expense, and serve for twenty
years, of which three are spent in preparatory training, twelve in the
active army, and five in the reserve. This system gives to the army
a contingent of about 330,000 men--divided into 890 squadrons and 108
infantry companies--with 236 guns.

The Cossacks in active service are to be met with in all parts of
the Empire, from the Prussian to the Chinese frontier. In the Asiatic
Provinces their services are invaluable. Capable of enduring an
incredible amount of fatigue and all manner of privations, they can live
and thrive in conditions which would soon disable regular troops. The
capacity of self-adaptation, which is characteristic of the Russian
people generally, is possessed by them in the highest degree. When
placed on some distant Asiatic frontier they can at once transform
themselves into squatters--building their own houses, raising crops of
grain, and living as colonists without neglecting their military duties.

I have sometimes heard it asserted by military men that the Cossack
organisation is an antiquated institution, and that the soldiers which
it produces, however useful they may be in Central Asia, would be of
little service in regular European warfare. Whether this view, which
received some confirmation in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, is
true or false I cannot pretend to say, for it is a subject on which
a civilian has no right to speak; but I may remark that the Cossacks
themselves are not by any means of that opinion. They regard themselves
as the most valuable troops which the Tsar possesses, believing
themselves capable of performing anything within the bounds of human
possibility, and a good deal that lies beyond that limit. More than once
Don Cossacks have assured me that if the Tsar had allowed them to fit
out a flotilla of small boats during the Crimean War they would have
captured the British fleet, as their ancestors used to capture Turkish
galleys on the Black Sea!

In old times, throughout the whole territory of the Don Cossacks,
agriculture was prohibited on pain of death. It is generally supposed
that this measure was adopted with a view to preserve the martial
spirit of the inhabitants, but it may be explained otherwise. The great
majority of the Cossacks, averse to all regular, laborious occupations,
wished to live by fishing, hunting, cattle-breeding, and marauding,
but there was always amongst them a considerable number of
immigrants--runaway serfs from the interior--who had been accustomed to
live by agriculture. These latter wished to raise crops on the fertile
virgin soil, and if they had been allowed to do so they would to some
extent have spoiled the pastures. We have here, I believe, the true
reason for the above-mentioned prohibition, and this view is strongly
confirmed by analogous facts which I have observed in another locality.
In the Kirghiz territory the poorer inhabitants of the aouls near the
frontier, having few or no cattle, wish to let part of the common land
to the neighbouring Russian peasantry for agricultural purposes; but
the richer inhabitants, who possess flocks and herds, strenuously oppose
this movement, and would doubtless prohibit it under pain of death if
they had the power, because all agricultural encroachments diminish the

Whatever was the real reason of the prohibition, practical necessity
proved in the long run too strong for the anti-agriculturists. As the
population augmented and the opportunities for marauding decreased, the
majority had to overcome their repugnance to husbandry; and soon large
patches of ploughed land or waving grain were to be seen in the vicinity
of the stanitsas, as the Cossack villages are termed. At first there was
no attempt to regulate this new use of the ager publicus. Each Cossack
who wished to raise a crop ploughed and sowed wherever he thought fit,
and retained as long as he chose the land thus appropriated; and when
the soil began to show signs of exhaustion he abandoned his plot and
ploughed elsewhere. But this unregulated use of the Communal property
could not long continue. As the number of agriculturists increased,
quarrels frequently arose, and sometimes terminated in bloodshed. Still
worse evils appeared when markets were created in the vicinity, and it
became possible to sell the grain for exportation. In some stanitsas the
richer families appropriated enormous quantities of the common land
by using several teams of oxen, or by hiring peasants in the nearest
villages to come and plough for them; and instead of abandoning the land
after raising two or three crops they retained possession of it, and
came to regard it as their private property. Thus the whole of the
arable land, or at least the best part of it, became actually, if
not legally, the private property of a few families, whilst the less
energetic or less fortunate inhabitants of the stanitsa had only parcels
of comparatively barren soil, or had no land whatever, and became mere
agricultural labourers.

After a time this injustice was remedied. The landless members justly
complained that they had to bear the same burdens as those who possessed
the land, and that therefore they ought to enjoy the same privileges.
The old spirit of equality was still strong amongst them, and they
ultimately succeeded in asserting their rights. In accordance with their
demands the appropriated land was confiscated by the Commune, and the
system of periodical redistributions was introduced. By this system each
adult male possesses a share of the land.

These facts tend to throw light on some of the dark questions of social
development in its early stages.

So long as a village community leads a purely pastoral life, and
possesses an abundance of land, there is no reason why the individuals
or the families of which it is composed should divide the land into
private lots, and there are very potent reasons why they should not
adopt such a course. To give the division of the land any practical
significance, it would be necessary to raise fences of some kind, and
these fences, requiring for their construction a certain amount of
labour, would prove merely a useless encumbrance, for it is much more
convenient that all the sheep and cattle should graze together. If there
is a scarcity of pasture, and consequently a conflict of interest among
the families, the enjoyment of the common land will be regulated not by
raising fences, but by simply limiting the number of sheep and cattle
which each family is entitled to put upon the pasturage, as is done in
many Russian villages at the present day. When any one desires to keep
more sheep and cattle than the maximum to which he is entitled, he pays
to the others a certain compensation. Thus, we see, in pastoral life
the dividing of the common land is unnecessary and inexpedient, and
consequently private property in land is not likely to come into

With the introduction of agriculture appears a tendency to divide the
land among the families composing the community, for each family living
by husbandry requires a definite portion of the soil. If the land
suitable for agricultural purposes be plentiful, each head of a family
may be allowed to take possession of as much of it as he requires, as
was formerly done in the Cossack stanitsas; if, on the contrary, the
area of arable land is small, as is the case in some Bashkir aouls,
there will probably be a regular allotment of it among the families.

With the tendency to divide the land into definite portions arises a
conflict between the principle of communal and the principle of private
property. Those who obtain definite portions of the soil are in general
likely to keep them and transmit them to their descendants. In a
country, however, like the Steppe--and it is only of such countries
that I am at present speaking--the nature of the soil and the system of
agriculture militate against this conversion of simple possession into a
right of property. A plot of land is commonly cultivated for only three
or four years in succession. It is then abandoned for at least double
that period, and the cultivators remove to some other portion of the
communal territory. After a time, it is true, they return to the old
portion, which has been in the meantime lying fallow; but as the soil is
tolerably equal in quality, the families or individuals have no reason
to desire the precise plots which they formerly possessed. Under such
circumstances the principle of private property in the land is not
likely to strike root; each family insists on possessing a certain
QUANTITY rather than a certain PLOT of land, and contents itself with a
right of usufruct, whilst the right of property remains in the hands of
the Commune; and it must not be forgotten that the difference between
usufruct and property here is of great practical importance, for so long
as the Commune retains the right of property it may re-allot the land in
any way it thinks fit.

As the population increases and land becomes less plentiful, the
primitive method of agriculture above alluded to gives place to a less
primitive method, commonly known as "the three-field system," according
to which the cultivators do not migrate periodically from one part of
the communal territory to another, but till always the same fields,
and are obliged to manure the plots which they occupy. The principle of
communal property rarely survives this change, for by long possession
the families acquire a prescriptive right to the portions which they
cultivate, and those who manure their land well naturally object to
exchange it for land which has been held by indolent, improvident
neighbours. In Russia, however, this change has not destroyed the
principle of communal property. Though the three-field system has been
in use for many generations in the central provinces, the communal
principle, with its periodical re-allotment of the land, still remains

For the student of sociology the past history and actual condition of
the Don Cossacks present many other features equally interesting and
instructive. He may there see, for instance, how an aristocracy can be
created by military promotion, and how serfage may originate and become
a recognised institution without any legislative enactment. If he takes
an interest in peculiar manifestations of religious thought and feeling,
he will find a rich field of investigation in the countless religious
sects; and if he is a collector of quaint old customs, he will not lack

One curious custom, which has very recently died out, I may here
mention by way of illustration. As the Cossacks knew very little about
land-surveying, and still less about land-registration, the precise
boundary between two contiguous yurts--as the communal land of a
stanitsa was called--was often a matter of uncertainty and a fruitful
source of disputes. When the boundary was once determined, the following
method of registering it was employed. All the boys of the two stanitsas
were collected and driven in a body like sheep to the intervening
frontier. The whole population then walked along the frontier that had
been agreed upon, and at each landmark a number of boys were soundly
whipped and allowed to run home! This was done in the hope that the
victims would remember, as long as they lived, the spot where they had
received their unmerited castigation.* The device, I have been assured,
was generally very effective, but it was not always quite successful.
Whether from the castigation not being sufficiently severe, or from
some other defect in the method, it sometimes happened that disputes
afterwards arose, and the whipped boys, now grown up to manhood, gave
conflicting testimony. When such a case occurred the following expedient
was adopted. One of the oldest inhabitants was chosen as arbiter, and
made to swear on the Scriptures that he would act honestly to the best
of his knowledge; then taking an Icon in his hand, he walked along what
he believed to be the old frontier. Whether he made mistakes or not, his
decision was accepted by both parties and regarded as final. This custom
existed in some stanitsas down to the year 1850, when the boundaries
were clearly determined by Government officials.

     * A custom of this kind, I am told, existed not very long
     ago in England and is still spoken of as "the beating of the



The Steppe--Variety of Races, Languages, and Religions--The German
Colonists--In What Sense the Russians are an Imitative
People--The Mennonites--Climate and Arboriculture--Bulgarian
Colonists--Tartar-Speaking Greeks--Jewish
Agriculturists--Russification--A Circassian Scotchman--Numerical
Strength of the Foreign Element.

In European Russia the struggle between agriculture and nomadic
barbarism is now a thing of the past, and the fertile Steppe, which was
for centuries a battle-ground of the Aryan and Turanian races, has been
incorporated into the dominions of the Tsar. The nomadic tribes have
been partly driven out and partly pacified and parked in "reserves,"
and the territory which they so long and so stubbornly defended is now
studded with peaceful villages and tilled by laborious agriculturists.

In traversing this region the ordinary tourist will find little to
interest him. He will see nothing which he can possibly dignify by the
name of scenery, and he may journey on for many days without having
any occasion to make an entry in his note-book. If he should happen,
however, to be an ethnologist and linguist, he may find occupation, for
he will here meet with fragments of many different races and a variety
of foreign tongues.

This ethnological variety is the result of a policy inaugurated by
Catherine II. So long as the southern frontier was pushed forward
slowly, the acquired territory was regularly filled up by Russian
peasants from the central provinces who were anxious to obtain more land
and more liberty than they enjoyed in their native villages; but during
"the glorious age of Catherine" the frontier was pushed forward so
rapidly that the old method of spontaneous emigration no longer sufficed
to people the annexed territory. The Empress had recourse, therefore,
to organised emigration from foreign countries. Her diplomatic
representatives in Western Europe tried to induce artisans and peasants
to emigrate to Russia, and special agents were sent to various countries
to supplement the efforts of the diplomatists. Thousands accepted the
invitation, and were for the most part settled on the land which had
been recently the pasture-ground of the nomadic hordes.

This policy was adopted by succeeding sovereigns, and the consequence of
it has been that Southern Russia now contains a variety of races such as
is to be found, perhaps, nowhere else in Europe. The official statistics
of New Russia alone--that is to say, the provinces of Ekaterinoslaf,
Tauride, Kherson, and Bessarabia--enumerate the following nationalities:
Great Russians, Little Russians, Poles, Servians, Montenegrins,
Bulgarians, Moldavians, Germans, English, Swedes, Swiss, French,
Italians, Greeks, Armenians, Tartars, Mordwa, Jews, and Gypsies. The
religions are almost equally numerous. The statistics speak of Greek
Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Gregorians, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans,
Mennonites, Separatists, Pietists, Karaim Jews, Talmudists, Mahometans,
and numerous Russian sects, such as the Molokanye and the Skoptsi or
Eunuchs. America herself could scarcely show a more motley list in her
statistics of population.

It is but fair to state that the above list, though literally correct,
does not give a true idea of the actual population. The great body
of the inhabitants are Russian and Orthodox, whilst several of the
nationalities named are represented by a small number of souls--some of
them, such as the French, being found exclusively in the towns. Still,
the variety even in the rural population is very great. Once, in
the space of three days, and using only the most primitive means of
conveyance, I visited colonies of Greeks, Germans, Servians, Bulgarians,
Montenegrins, and Jews.

Of all the foreign colonists the Germans are by far the most numerous.
The object of the Government in inviting them to settle in the country
was that they should till the unoccupied land and thereby increase
the national wealth, and that they should at the same time exercise a
civilising influence on the Russian peasantry in their vicinity. In
this latter respect they have totally failed to fulfil their mission.
A Russian village, situated in the midst of German colonies, shows
generally, so far as I could observe, no signs of German influence. Each
nationality lives more majorum, and holds as little communication as
possible with the other. The muzhik observes carefully--for he is very
curious--the mode of life of his more advanced neighbours, but he never
thinks of adopting it. He looks upon Germans almost as beings of a
different world--as a wonderfully cunning and ingenious people, who
have been endowed by Providence with peculiar qualities not possessed by
ordinary Orthodox humanity. To him it seems in the nature of things that
Germans should live in large, clean, well-built houses, in the same way
as it is in the nature of things that birds should build nests; and
as it has probably never occurred to a human being to build a nest for
himself and his family, so it never occurs to a Russian peasant to
build a house on the German model. Germans are Germans, and Russians are
Russians--and there is nothing more to be said on the subject.

This stubbornly conservative spirit of the peasantry who live in
the neighbourhood of Germans seems to give the lie direct to the
oft-repeated and universally believed assertion that Russians are an
imitative people strongly disposed to adopt the manners and customs of
any foreigners with whom they may come in contact. The Russian, it is
said, changes his nationality as easily as he changes his coat, and
derives great satisfaction from wearing some nationality that does not
belong to him; but here we have an important fact which appears to prove
the contrary.

The truth is that in this matter we must distinguish between the
Noblesse and the peasantry. The nobles are singularly prone to adopt
foreign manners, customs, and institutions; the peasants, on the
contrary, are as a rule decidedly conservative. It must not, however, be
supposed that this proceeds from a difference of race; the difference is
to be explained by the past history of the two classes. Like all other
peoples, the Russians are strongly conservative so long as they remain
in what may be termed their primitive moral habitat--that is to say, so
long as external circumstances do not force them out of their accustomed
traditional groove. The Noblesse were long ago violently forced out of
their old groove by the reforming Tsars, and since that time they have
been so constantly driven hither and thither by foreign influences that
they have never been able to form a new one. Thus they easily enter upon
any new path which seems to them profitable or attractive. The great
mass of the people, on the contrary, too heavy to be thus lifted out of
the guiding influence of custom and tradition, are still animated with a
strongly conservative spirit.

In confirmation of this view I may mention two facts which have often
attracted my attention. The first is that the Molokanye--a primitive
Evangelical sect of which I shall speak at length in the next
chapter--succumb gradually to German influence; by becoming heretics in
religion they free themselves from one of the strongest bonds attaching
them to the past, and soon become heretics in things secular. The second
fact is that even the Orthodox peasant, when placed by circumstances in
some new sphere of activity, readily adopts whatever seems profitable.
Take, for example, the peasants who abandon agriculture and embark in
industrial enterprises; finding themselves, as it were, in a new world,
in which their old traditional notions are totally inapplicable, they
have no hesitation in adopting foreign ideas and foreign inventions. And
when once they have chosen this new path, they are much more "go-ahead"
than the Germans. Freed alike from the trammels of hereditary
conceptions and from the prudence which experience generates, they often
give a loose rein to their impulsive character, and enter freely on the
wildest speculations.

The marked contrast presented by a German colony and a Russian village
in close proximity with each other is often used to illustrate the
superiority of the Teutonic over the Slavonic race, and in order to make
the contrast more striking, the Mennonite colonies are generally taken
as the representatives of the Germans. Without entering here on the
general question, I must say that this method of argumentation is
scarcely fair. The Mennonites, who formerly lived in the neighbourhood
of Danzig and emigrated from Prussia in order to escape the military
conscription, brought with them to their new home a large store of
useful technical knowledge and a considerable amount of capital, and
they received a quantity of land very much greater than the Russian
peasants possess. Besides this, they enjoyed until very recently several
valuable privileges. They were entirely exempted from military service
and almost entirely exempted from taxation. Altogether their lines fell
in very pleasant places. In material and moral well-being they stand as
far above the majority of the ordinary German colonists as these latter
do above their Russian neighbours. Even in the richest districts of
Germany their prosperity would attract attention. To compare these
rich, privileged, well-educated farmers with the poor, heavily taxed,
uneducated peasantry, and to draw from the comparison conclusions
concerning the capabilities of the two races, is a proceeding so absurd
that it requires no further comment.

To the wearied traveller who has been living for some time in Russian
villages, one of these Mennonite colonies seems an earthly paradise. In
a little hollow, perhaps by the side of a watercourse, he suddenly comes
on a long row of high-roofed houses half concealed in trees. The
trees may be found on closer inspection to be little better than mere
saplings; but after a long journey on the bare Steppe, where there is
neither tree nor bush of any kind, the foliage, scant as it is, appears
singularly inviting. The houses are large, well arranged, and kept in
such thoroughly good repair that they always appear to be newly built.
The rooms are plainly furnished, without any pretensions to elegance,
but scrupulously clean. Adjoining the house are the stable and byre,
which would not disgrace a model farm in Germany or England. In front
is a spacious courtyard, which has the appearance of being swept several
times a day, and behind there is a garden well stocked with vegetables.
Fruit trees and flowers are not very plentiful, for the climate is not
favourable to them.

The inhabitants are honest, frugal folk, somewhat sluggish of intellect
and indifferent to things lying beyond the narrow limits of their own
little world, but shrewd enough in all matters which they deem worthy of
their attention. If you arrive amongst them as a stranger you may be
a little chilled by the welcome you receive, for they are exclusive,
reserved, and distrustful, and do not much like to associate with those
who do not belong to their own sect; but if you can converse with
them in their mother tongue and talk about religious matters in
an evangelical tone, you may easily overcome their stiffness and
exclusiveness. Altogether such a village cannot be recommended for a
lengthened sojourn, for the severe order and symmetry which everywhere
prevail would soon prove irksome to any one having no Dutch blood in
his veins;* but as a temporary resting-place during a pilgrimage on
the Steppe, when the pilgrim is longing for a little cleanliness and
comfort, it is very agreeable.

     * The Mennonites were originally Dutchmen.  Persecuted for
     their religious views in the sixteenth century, a large
     number of them accepted an invitation to settle in West
     Prussia, where they helped to drain the great marshes
     between Danzig, Elbing, and Marienburg. Here in the course
     of time they forgot their native language. Their emigration
     to Russia began in 1789.

The fact that these Mennonites and some other German colonies have
succeeded in rearing a few sickly trees has suggested to some fertile
minds the idea that the prevailing dryness of the climate, which is
the chief difficulty with which the agriculturist of that region has
to contend, might be to some extent counteracted by arboriculture on a
large scale. This scheme, though it has been seriously entertained by
one of his Majesty's ministers, must seem hardly practicable to any
one who knows how much labour and money the colonists have expended in
creating that agreeable shade which they love to enjoy in their leisure
hours. If climate is affected at all by the existence or non-existence
of forests--a point on which scientific men do not seem to be entirely
agreed--any palpable increase of the rainfall can be produced only by
forests of enormous extent, and it is hardly conceivable that these
could be artificially produced in Southern Russia. It is quite possible,
however, that local ameliorations may be effected. During a visit to
the province of Voronezh in 1903 I found that comparatively small
plantations diminished the effects of drought in their immediate
vicinity by retaining the moisture for a time in the soil and the
surrounding atmosphere.

After the Mennonites and other Germans, the Bulgarian colonists deserve
a passing notice. They settled in this region much more recently, on the
land that was left vacant by the exodus of the Nogai Tartars after the
Crimean War. If I may judge of their condition by a mere flying visit,
I should say that in agriculture and domestic civilisation they are
not very far behind the majority of German colonists. Their houses
are indeed small--so small that one of them might almost be put into a
single room of a Mennonite's house; but there is an air of cleanliness
and comfort about them that would do credit to a German housewife.

In spite of all this, these Bulgarians were, I could easily perceive, by
no means delighted with their new home. The cause of their discontent,
so far as I could gather from the few laconic remarks which I
extracted from them, seemed to be this: Trusting to the highly coloured
descriptions furnished by the emigration agents who had induced them to
change the rule of the Sultan for the authority of the Tsar, they
came to Russia with the expectation of finding a fertile and beautiful
Promised Land. Instead of a land flowing with milk and honey, they
received a tract of bare Steppe on which even water could be obtained
only with great difficulty--with no shade to protect them from the heat
of summer and nothing to shelter them from the keen northern blasts that
often sweep over those open plains. As no adequate arrangements had been
made for their reception, they were quartered during the first winter
on the German colonists, who, being quite innocent of any Slavophil
sympathies, were probably not very hospitable to their uninvited
guests. To complete their disappointment, they found that they could not
cultivate the vine, and that their mild, fragrant tobacco, which is for
them a necessary of life, could be obtained only at a very high price.
So disconsolate were they under this cruel disenchantment that, at the
time of my visit, they talked of returning to their old homes in Turkey.

As an example of the less prosperous colonists, I may mention the
Tartar-speaking Greeks in the neighbourhood of Mariupol, on the northern
shore of the Sea of Azof. Their ancestors lived in the Crimea, under
the rule of the Tartar Khans, and emigrated to Russia in the time of
Catherine II., before Crim Tartary was annexed to the Russian Empire.
They have almost entirely forgotten their old language, but have
preserved their old faith. In adopting the Tartar language they have
adopted something of Tartar indolence and apathy, and the natural
consequence is that they are poor and ignorant.

But of all the colonists of this region the least prosperous are the
Jews. The Chosen People are certainly a most intelligent, industrious,
frugal race, and in all matters of buying, selling, and bartering they
are unrivalled among the nations of the earth, but they have been too
long accustomed to town life to be good tillers of the soil. These
Jewish colonies were founded as an experiment to see whether the
Israelite could be weaned from his traditionary pursuits and transferred
to what some economists call the productive section of society. The
experiment has failed, and the cause of the failure is not difficult to
find. One has merely to look at these men of gaunt visage and shambling
gait, with their loop-holed slippers, and black, threadbare coats
reaching down to their ankles, to understand that they are not in their
proper sphere. Their houses are in a most dilapidated condition, and
their villages remind one of the abomination of desolation spoken of by
Daniel the Prophet. A great part of their land is left uncultivated or
let to colonists of a different race. What little revenue they have is
derived chiefly from trade of a more or less clandestine nature.*

     * Mr. Arnold White, who subsequently visited some of these
     Jewish Colonies in connection with Baron Hirsch's
     colonisation scheme, assured me that he found them in a much
     more prosperous condition.

As Scandinavia was formerly called officina gentium--a workshop in which
new nations were made--so we may regard Southern Russia as a workshop
in which fragments of old nations are being melted down to form a new,
composite whole. It must be confessed, however, that the melting process
has as yet scarcely begun.

National peculiarities are not obliterated so rapidly in Russia as in
America or in British colonies. Among the German colonists in Russia the
process of assimilation is hardly perceptible. Though their fathers and
grandfathers may have been born in the new country, they would consider
it an insult to be called Russians. They look down upon the Russian
peasantry as poor, ignorant, lazy, and dishonest, fear the officials
on account of their tyranny and extortion, preserve jealously their
own language and customs, rarely speak Russian well--sometimes not at
all--and never intermarry with those from whom they are separated by
nationality and religion. The Russian influence acts, however,
more rapidly on the Slavonic colonists--Servians, Bulgarians,
Montenegrins--who profess the Greek Orthodox faith, learn more easily
the Russian language, which is closely allied to their own, have no
consciousness of belonging to a Culturvolk, and in general possess a
nature much more pliable than the Teutonic.

The Government has recently attempted to accelerate the fusing process
by retracting the privileges granted to the colonists and abolishing
the peculiar administration under which they were placed. These
measures--especially the universal military service--may eventually
diminish the extreme exclusiveness of the Germans; the youths, whilst
serving in the army, will at least learn the Russian language, and may
possibly imbibe something of the Russian spirit. But for the present
this new policy has aroused a strong feeling of hostility and greatly
intensified the spirit of exclusiveness. In the German colonies I have
often overheard complaints about Russian tyranny and uncomplimentary
remarks about the Russian national character.

The Mennonites consider themselves specially aggrieved by the so-called
reforms. They came to Russia in order to escape military service and
with the distinct understanding that they should be exempted from it,
and now they are forced to act contrary to the religious tenets of their
sect. This is the ground of complaint which they put forward in the
petitions addressed to the Government, but they have at the same time
another, and perhaps more important, objection to the proposed changes.
They feel, as several of them admitted to me, that if the barrier which
separates them from the rest of the population were in any way broken
down, they could no longer preserve that stern Puritanical discipline
which at present constitutes their force. Hence, though the Government
was disposed to make important concessions, hundreds of families sold
their property and emigrated to America. The movement, however, did
not become general. At present the Russian Mennonites number, male and
female, about 50,000, divided into 160 colonies and possessing over
800,000 acres of land.

It is quite possible that under the new system of administration the
colonists who profess in common with the Russians the Greek Orthodox
faith may be rapidly Russianised; but I am convinced that the
others will long resist assimilation. Greek orthodoxy and Protestant
sectarianism are so radically different in spirit that their respective
votaries are not likely to intermarry; and without intermarriage it is
impossible that the two nationalities should blend.

As an instance of the ethnological curiosities which the traveller may
stumble upon unawares in this curious region, I may mention a strange
acquaintance I made when travelling on the great plain which stretches
from the Sea of Azof to the Caspian. One day I accidentally noticed on
my travelling-map the name "Shotlandskaya Koldniya" (Scottish Colony)
near the celebrated baths of Piatigorsk. I was at that moment in
Stavropol, a town about eighty miles to the north, and could not
gain any satisfactory information as to what this colony was. Some
well-informed people assured me that it really was what its name
implied, whilst others asserted as confidently that it was simply a
small German settlement. To decide the matter I determined to visit
the place myself, though it did not lie near my intended route, and I
accordingly found myself one morning in the village in question. The
first inhabitants whom I encountered were unmistakably German, and
they professed to know nothing about the existence of Scotsmen in
the locality either at the present or in former times. This was
disappointing, and I was about to turn away and drive off, when a young
man, who proved to be the schoolmaster, came up, and on hearing what I
desired, advised me to consult an old Circassian who lived at the end
of the village and was well acquainted with local antiquities. On
proceeding to the house indicated, I found a venerable old man, with
fine, regular features of the Circassian type, coal-black sparkling
eyes, and a long grey beard that would have done honour to a patriarch.
To him I explained briefly, in Russian, the object of my visit, and
asked whether he knew of any Scotsmen in the district.

"And why do you wish to know?" he replied, in the same language, fixing
me with his keen, sparkling eyes.

"Because I am myself a Scotsman, and hoped to find fellow-countrymen

Let the reader imagine my astonishment when, in reply to this, he
answered, in genuine broad Scotch, "Od, man, I'm a Scotsman tae! My name
is John Abercrombie. Did ye never hear tell o' John Abercrombie, the
famous Edinburgh doctor?"

I was fairly puzzled by this extraordinary declaration. Dr.
Abercrombie's name was familiar to me as that of a medical practitioner
and writer on psychology, but I knew that he was long since dead. When
I had recovered a little from my surprise, I ventured to remark to the
enigmatical personage before me that, though his tongue was certainly
Scotch, his face was as certainly Circassian.

"Weel, weel," he replied, evidently enjoying my look of mystification,
"you're no' far wrang. I'm a Circassian Scotsman!"

This extraordinary admission did not diminish my perplexity, so I
begged my new acquaintance to be a little more explicit, and he at once
complied with my request. His long story may be told in a few words:

In the first years of the present century a band of Scotch missionaries
came to Russia for the purpose of converting the Circassian tribes, and
received from the Emperor Alexander I. a large grant of land in this
place, which was then on the frontier of the Empire. Here they founded
a mission, and began the work; but they soon discovered that the
surrounding population were not idolaters, but Mussulmans, and
consequently impervious to Christianity. In this difficulty they fell
on the happy idea of buying Circassian children from their parents and
bringing them up as Christians. One of these children, purchased about
the year 1806, was a little boy called Teoona. As he had been purchased
with money subscribed by Dr. Abercrombie, he had received in baptism
that gentleman's name, and he considered himself the foster-son of his
benefactor. Here was the explanation of the mystery.

Teoona, alias Mr. Abercrombie, was a man of more than average
intelligence. Besides his native tongue, he spoke English, German,
and Russian perfectly; and he assured me that he knew several other
languages equally well. His life had been devoted to missionary work,
and especially to translating and printing the Scriptures. He had
laboured first in Astrakhan, then for four years and a half in
Persia--in the service of the Bale mission--and afterwards for six years
in Siberia.

The Scottish mission was suppressed by the Emperor Nicholas about the
year 1835, and all the missionaries except two returned home. The son of
one of these two (Galloway) was the only genuine Scotsman remaining at
the time of my visit. Of the "Circassian Scotsmen" there were several,
most of whom had married Germans. The other inhabitants were German
colonists from the province of Saratof, and German was the language
commonly spoken in the village.

After hearing so much about foreign colonists, Tartar invaders,
and Finnish aborigines, the reader may naturally desire to know the
numerical strength of this foreign element. Unfortunately we have no
accurate data on this subject, but from a careful examination of the
available statistics I am inclined to conclude that it constitutes
about one-sixth of the population of European Russia, including Poland,
Finland, and the Caucasus, and nearly a third of the population of the
Empire as a whole.



The Molokanye--My Method of Investigation--Alexandrof-Hai--An Unexpected
Theological Discussion--Doctrines and Ecclesiastical Organisation of
the Molokanye--Moral Supervision and Mutual Assistance--History of the
Sect--A False Prophet--Utilitarian Christianity--Classification of
the Fantastic Sects--The "Khlysti"--Policy of the Government towards
Sectarianism--Two Kinds of Heresy--Probable Future of the Heretical
Sects--Political Disaffection.

Whilst travelling on the Steppe I heard a great deal about a peculiar
religious sect called the Molokanye, and I felt interested in them
because their religious belief, whatever it was, seemed to have a
beneficial influence on their material welfare. Of the same race and
placed in the same conditions as the Orthodox peasantry around them,
they were undoubtedly better housed, better clad, more punctual in
the payment of their taxes, and, in a word, more prosperous. All my
informants agreed in describing them as quiet, decent, sober people;
but regarding their religious doctrines the evidence was vague and
contradictory. Some described them as Protestants or Lutherans, whilst
others believed them to be the last remnants of a curious heretical sect
which existed in the early Christian Church.

Desirous of obtaining clear notions on the subject, I determined to
investigate the matter for myself. At first I found this to be no easy
task. In the villages through which I passed I found numerous members of
the sect, but they all showed a decided repugnance to speak about their
religious beliefs. Long accustomed to extortion and persecution at the
hands of the Administration, and suspecting me to be a secret agent of
the Government, they carefully avoided speaking on any subject beyond
the state of the weather and the prospects of the harvest, and replied
to my questions on other topics as if they had been standing before a
Grand Inquisitor.

A few unsuccessful attempts convinced me that it would be impossible
to extract from them their religious beliefs by direct questioning. I
adopted, therefore, a different system of tactics. From meagre replies
already received I had discovered that their doctrine had at least a
superficial resemblance to Presbyterianism, and from former experience
I was aware that the curiosity of intelligent Russian peasants is easily
excited by descriptions of foreign countries. On these two facts I
based my plan of campaign. When I found a Molokan, or some one whom I
suspected to be such, I talked for some time about the weather and the
crops, as if I had no ulterior object in view. Having fully discussed
this matter, I led the conversation gradually from the weather and crops
in Russia to the weather and crops in Scotland, and then passed slowly
from Scotch agriculture to the Scotch Presbyterian Church. On nearly
every occasion this policy succeeded. When the peasant heard that
there was a country where the people interpreted the Scriptures for
themselves, had no bishops, and considered the veneration of Icons as
idolatry, he invariably listened with profound attention; and when he
learned further that in that wonderful country the parishes annually
sent deputies to an assembly in which all matters pertaining to the
Church were freely and publicly discussed, he almost always gave free
expression to his astonishment, and I had to answer a whole volley of
questions. "Where is that country?" "Is it to the east, or the west?"
"Is it very far away?" "If our Presbyter could only hear all that!"

This last expression was precisely what I wanted, because it gave me
an opportunity of making the acquaintance of the Presbyter, or pastor,
without seeming to desire it; and I knew that a conversation with that
personage, who is always an uneducated peasant like the others, but
is generally more intelligent and better acquainted with religious
doctrine, would certainly be of use to me. On more than one occasion I
spent a great part of the night with a Presbyter, and thereby learned
much concerning the religious beliefs and practices of the sect. After
these interviews I was sure to be treated with confidence and respect by
all the Molokanye in the village, and recommended to the brethren of
the faith in the neighbouring villages through which I intended to pass.
Several of the more intelligent peasants with whom I spoke advised me
strongly to visit Alexandrof-Hai, a village situated on the borders of
the Kirghiz Steppe. "We are dark [i.e., ignorant] people here," they
were wont to say, "and do not know anything, but in Alexandrof-Hai you
will find those who know the faith, and they will discuss with you."
This prediction was fulfilled in a somewhat unexpected way.

When returning some weeks later from a visit to the Kirghiz of the Inner
Horde, I arrived one evening at this centre of the Molokan faith,
and was hospitably received by one of the brotherhood. In conversing
casually with my host on religious subjects I expressed to him a desire
to find some one well read in Holy Writ and well grounded in the faith,
and he promised to do what he could for me in this respect. Next morning
he kept his promise with a vengeance. Immediately after the tea-urn had
been removed the door of the room was opened and twelve peasants were
ushered in! After the customary salutations with these unexpected
visitors, my host informed me to my astonishment that his friends
had come to have a talk with me about the faith; and without further
ceremony he placed before me a folio Bible in the old Slavonic tongue,
in order that I might read passages in support of my arguments. As I was
not at all prepared to open a formal theological discussion, I felt not
a little embarrassed, and I could see that my travelling companions,
two Russian friends who cared for none of these things, were thoroughly
enjoying my discomfiture. There was, however, no possibility of drawing
back. I had asked for an opportunity of having a talk with some of the
brethren, and now I had got it in a way that I certainly did not expect.
My friends withdrew--"leaving me to my fate," as they whispered to
me--and the "talk" began.

My fate was by no means so terrible as had been anticipated, but at
first the situation was a little awkward. Neither party had any clear
ideas as to what the other desired, and my visitors expected that I
was to begin the proceedings. This expectation was quite natural and
justifiable, for I had inadvertently invited them to meet me, but I
could not make a speech to them, for the best of all reasons--that I
did not know what to say. If I told them my real aims, their suspicions
would probably be aroused. My usual stratagem of the weather and the
crops was wholly inapplicable. For a moment I thought of proposing that
a psalm should be sung as a means of breaking the ice, but I felt that
this would give to the meeting a solemnity which I wished to avoid. On
the whole it seemed best to begin at once a formal discussion. I told
them, therefore, that I had spoken with many of their brethren in
various villages, and that I had found what I considered grave errors
of doctrine. I could not, for instance, agree with them in their belief
that it was unlawful to eat pork. This was perhaps an abrupt way
of entering on the subject, but it furnished at least a locus
standi--something to talk about--and an animated discussion immediately
ensued. My opponents first endeavoured to prove their thesis from the
New Testament, and when this argument broke down they had recourse
to the Pentateuch. From a particular article of the ceremonial law we
passed to the broader question as to how far the ceremonial law is still
binding, and from this to other points equally important.

If the logic of the peasants was not always unimpeachable, their
knowledge of the Scriptures left nothing to be desired. In support
of their views they quoted long passages from memory, and whenever I
indicated vaguely any text which I needed, they at once supplied it
verbatim, so that the big folio Bible served merely as an ornament.
Three or four of them seemed to know the whole of the New Testament by
heart. The course of our informal debate need not here be described;
suffice it to say that, after four hours of uninterrupted conversation,
we agreed to differ on questions of detail, and parted from each other
without a trace of that ill-feeling which religious discussion commonly
engenders. Never have I met men more honest and courteous in debate,
more earnest in the search after truth, more careless of dialectical
triumphs, than these simple, uneducated muzhiks. If at one or two points
in the discussion a little undue warmth was displayed, I must do my
opponents the justice to say that they were not the offending party.

This long discussion, as well as numerous discussions which I had
had before and since have had with Molokanye in various parts of the
country, confirmed my first impression that their doctrines have a
strong resemblance to Presbyterianism. There is, however, an important
difference. Presbyterianism has an ecclesiastical organisation and a
written creed, and its doctrines have long since become clearly defined
by means of public discussion, polemical literature, and general
assemblies. The Molokanye, on the contrary, have had no means of
developing their fundamental principles and forming their vague
religious beliefs into a clearly defined logical system. Their theology
is therefore still in a half-fluid state, so that it is impossible to
predict what form it will ultimately assume. "We have not yet thought
about that," I have frequently been told when I inquired about some
abstruse doctrine; "we must talk about it at the meeting next Sunday.
What is your opinion?" Besides this, their fundamental principles allow
great latitude for individual and local differences of opinion. They
hold that Holy Writ is the only rule of faith and conduct, but that it
must be taken in the spiritual, and not in the literal, sense. As there
is no terrestrial authority to which doubtful points can be referred,
each individual is free to adopt the interpretation which commends
itself to his own judgment. This will no doubt ultimately lead to a
variety of sects, and already there is a considerable diversity of
opinion between different communities; but this diversity has not yet
been recognised, and I may say that I nowhere found that fanatically
dogmatic, quibbling spirit which is usually the soul of sectarianism.

For their ecclesiastical organisation the Molokanye take as their
model the early Apostolic Church, as depicted in the New Testament, and
uncompromisingly reject all later authorities. In accordance with this
model they have no hierarchy and no paid clergy, but choose from among
themselves a Presbyter and two assistants--men well known among
the brethren for their exemplary life and their knowledge of the
Scriptures--whose duty it is to watch over the religious and moral
welfare of the flock. On Sundays they hold meetings in private
houses--they are not allowed to build churches--and spend two or three
hours in psalm singing, prayer, reading the Scriptures, and friendly
conversation on religious subjects. If any one has a doctrinal
difficulty which he desires to have cleared up, he states it to the
congregation, and some of the others give their opinions, with the texts
on which the opinions are founded. If the question seems clearly solved
by the texts, it is decided; if not, it is left open.

As in many young sects, there exists among the Molokanye a system of
severe moral supervision. If a member has been guilty of drunkenness or
any act unbecoming a Christian, he is first admonished by the Presbyter
in private or before the congregation; and if this does not produce the
desired effect, he is excluded for a longer or shorter period from the
meetings and from all intercourse with the members. In extreme cases
expulsion is resorted to. On the other hand, if any one of the members
happens to be, from no fault of his own, in pecuniary difficulties,
the others will assist him. This system of mutual control and mutual
assistance has no doubt something to do with the fact that the Molokanye
are distinguished from the surrounding population by their sobriety,
uprightness, and material prosperity.

Of the history of the sect my friends in Alexandrof-Hai could tell me
very little, but I have obtained from other quarters some interesting
information. The founder was a peasant of the province of Tambof called
Uklein, who lived in the reign of Catherine II., and gained his living
as an itinerant tailor. For some time he belonged to the sect of the
Dukhobortsi--who are sometimes called the Russian Quakers, and who have
recently become known in Western Europe through the efforts of Count
Tolstoy on their behalf--but he soon seceded from them, because he could
not admit their doctrine that God dwells in the human soul, and
that consequently the chief source of religious truth is internal
enlightenment. To him it seemed that religious truth was to be found
only in the Scriptures. With this doctrine he soon made many converts,
and one day he unexpectedly entered the town of Tambof, surrounded by
seventy "Apostles" chanting psalms. They were all quickly arrested
and imprisoned, and when the affair was reported to St. Petersburg
the Empress Catherine ordered that they should be handed over to the
ecclesiastical authorities, and that in the event of their proving
obdurate to exhortation they should be tried by the Criminal Courts.
Uklein professed to recant, and was liberated; but he continued his
teaching secretly in the villages, and at the time of his death he was
believed to have no less than five thousand followers.

As to the actual strength of the sect it is difficult to form even a
conjecture. Certainly it has many thousand members--probably several
hundred thousand. Formerly the Government transported them from the
central provinces to the thinly populated outlying districts, where
they had less opportunity of contaminating Orthodox neighbours; and
accordingly we find them in the southeastern districts of Samara, on the
north coast of the Sea of Azof, in the Crimea, in the Caucasus, and
in Siberia. There are still, however, very many of them in the central
region, especially in the province of Tambof.

The readiness with which the Molokanye modify their opinions and beliefs
in accordance with what seems to them new light saves them effectually
from bigotry and fanaticism, but it at the same time exposes them to
evils of a different kind, from which they might be preserved by a
few stubborn prejudices. "False prophets arise among us," said an old,
sober-minded member to me on one occasion, "and lead many away from the

In 1835, for example, great excitement was produced among them by
rumours that the second advent of Christ was at hand, and that the
Son of Man, coming to judge the world, was about to appear in the New
Jerusalem, somewhere near Mount Ararat. As Elijah and Enoch were to
appear before the opening of the Millennium, they were anxiously
awaited by the faithful, and at last Elijah appeared, in the person of
a Melitopol peasant called Belozvorof, who announced that on a given
day he would ascend into heaven. On the day appointed a great crowd
collected, but he failed to keep his promise, and was handed over to the
police as an impostor by the Molokanye themselves. Unfortunately they
were not always so sensible as on that occasion. In the very next year
many of them were persuaded by a certain Lukian Petrof to put on their
best garments and start for the Promised Land in the Caucasus, where the
Millennium was about to begin.

Of these false prophets the most remarkable in recent times was a man
who called himself Ivan Grigorief, a mysterious personage who had at one
time a Turkish and at another an American passport, but who seemed in
all other respects a genuine Russian. Some years previously to my visit
he appeared at Alexandrof-Hai. Though he professed himself to be a good
Molokan and was received as such, he enounced at the weekly meetings
many new and startling ideas. At first he simply urged his hearers to
live like the early Christians, and have all things in common. This
seemed sound doctrine to the Molokanye, who profess to take the
early Christians as their model, and some of them thought of at once
abolishing personal property; but when the teacher intimated pretty
plainly that this communism should include free love, a decided
opposition arose, and it was objected that the early Church did not
recommend wholesale adultery and cognate sins. This was a formidable
objection, but "the prophet" was equal to the occasion. He reminded his
friends that in accordance with their own doctrine the Scriptures should
be understood, not in the literal, but in the spiritual, sense--that
Christianity had made men free, and every true Christian ought to use
his freedom.

This account of the new doctrine was given to me by an intelligent
Molokan, who had formerly been a peasant and was now a trader, as I sat
one evening in his house in Novo-usensk, the chief town of the district
in which Alexandrof-Hai is situated. It seemed to me that the author
of this ingenious attempt to conciliate Christianity with extreme
Utilitarianism must be an educated man in disguise. This conviction I
communicated to my host, but he did not agree with me.

"No, I think not," he replied; "in fact, I am sure he is a peasant,
and I strongly suspect he was at some time a soldier. He has not much
learning, but he has a wonderful gift of talking; never have I heard any
one speak like him. He would have talked over the whole village, had it
not been for an old man who was more than a match for him. And then
he went to Orloff-Hai and there he did talk the people over." What he
really did in this latter place I never could clearly ascertain. Report
said that he founded a communistic association, of which he was himself
president and treasurer, and converted the members to an extraordinary
theory of prophetic succession, invented apparently for his own sensual
gratification. For further information my host advised me to apply
either to the prophet himself, who was at that time confined in the
gaol on a charge of using a forged passport, or to one of his friends, a
certain Mr. I----, who lived in the town. As it was a difficult
matter to gain admittance to the prisoner, and I had little time at my
disposal, I adopted the latter alternative.

Mr. I---- was himself a somewhat curious character. He had been a
student in Moscow, and in consequence of some youthful indiscretions
during the University disturbances had been exiled to this place.
After waiting in vain some years for a release, he gave up the idea of
entering one of the learned professions, married a peasant girl, rented
a piece of land, bought a pair of camels, and settled down as a small
farmer.* He had a great deal to tell about the prophet.

     * Here for the first time I saw camels used for agricultural
     purposes.  When yoked to a small four-wheeled cart, the
     "ships of the desert" seemed decidedly out of place.

Grigorief, it seemed, was really simply a Russian peasant, but he had
been from his youth upwards one of those restless people who can never
long work in harness. Where his native place was, and why he left it,
he never divulged, for reasons best known to himself. He had travelled
much, and had been an attentive observer. Whether he had ever been
in America was doubtful, but he had certainly been in Turkey, and had
fraternised with various Russian sectarians, who are to be found in
considerable numbers near the Danube. Here, probably, he acquired many
of his peculiar religious ideas, and conceived his grand scheme of
founding a new religion--of rivalling the Founder of Christianity! He
aimed at nothing less than this, as he on one occasion confessed, and
he did not see why he should not be successful. He believed that
the Founder of Christianity had been simply a man like himself,
who understood better than others the people around him and the
circumstances of the time, and he was convinced that he himself had
these qualifications. One qualification, however, for becoming a prophet
he certainly did not possess: he had no genuine religious enthusiasm in
him--nothing of the martyr spirit about him. Much of his own preaching
he did not himself believe, and he had a secret contempt for those who
naively accepted it all. Not only was he cunning, but he knew he was
cunning, and he was conscious that he was playing an assumed part. And
yet perhaps it would be unjust to say that he was merely an impostor
exclusively occupied with his own personal advantage. Though he was
naturally a man of sensual tastes, and could not resist convenient
opportunities of gratifying them, he seemed to believe that his
communistic schemes would, if realised, be beneficial not only to
himself, but also to the people. Altogether a curious mixture of the
prophet, the social reformer, and the cunning impostor!

Besides the Molokanye, there are in Russia many other heretical sects.
Some of them are simply Evangelical Protestants, like the Stundisti, who
have adopted the religious conceptions of their neighbours, the German
colonists; whilst others are composed of wild enthusiasts, who give a
loose rein to their excited imagination, and revel in what the Germans
aptly term "der hohere Blodsinn." I cannot here attempt to convey even
a general idea of these fantastic sects with their doctrinal and
ceremonial absurdities, but I may offer the following classification of
them for the benefit of those who may desire to study the subject:

1. Sects which take the Scriptures as the basis of their belief, but
interpret and complete the doctrines therein contained by means of
the occasional inspiration or internal enlightenment of their leading

2. Sects which reject interpretation and insist on certain passages of
Scripture being taken in the literal sense. In one of the best known
of these sects--the Skoptsi, or Eunuchs--fanaticism has led to physical

3. Sects which pay little or no attention to Scripture, and derive their
doctrine from the supposed inspiration of their living teachers.

4. Sects which believe in the re-incarnation of Christ.

5. Sects which confound religion with nervous excitement, and are
more or less erotic in their character. The excitement necessary for
prophesying is commonly produced by dancing, jumping, pirouetting, or
self-castigation; and the absurdities spoken at such times are regarded
as the direct expression of divine wisdom. The religious exercises
resemble more or less closely those of the "dancing dervishes" and
"howling dervishes's" with which all who have visited Constantinople are
familiar. There is, however, one important difference: the dervishes
practice their religious exercises in public, and consequently observe a
certain decorum, whilst these Russian sects assemble in secret, and give
free scope to their excitement, so that most disgusting orgies sometimes
take place at their meetings.

To illustrate the general character of the sects belonging to this last
category, I may quote here a short extract from a description of the
"Khlysti" by one who was initiated into their mysteries: "Among them
men and women alike take upon themselves the calling of teachers and
prophets, and in this character they lead a strict, ascetic life,
refrain from the most ordinary and innocent pleasures, exhaust
themselves by long fasting and wild, ecstatic religious exercises, and
abhor marriage. Under the excitement caused by their supposed holiness
and inspiration, they call themselves not only teachers and prophets,
but also 'Saviours,' 'Redeemers,' 'Christs,' 'Mothers of God.' Generally
speaking, they call themselves simply Gods, and pray to each other as to
real Gods and living Christs or Madonnas. When several of these teachers
come together at a meeting, they dispute with each other in a vain
boasting way as to which of them possesses most grace and power. In this
rivalry they sometimes give each other lusty blows on the ear, and
he who bears the blows most patiently, turning the other cheek to the
smiter, acquires the reputation of having most holiness."

Another sect belonging to this category is the Jumpers, among whom the
erotic element is disagreeably prominent. Here is a description of their
religious meetings, which are held during summer in the forest, and
during winter in some out-house or barn: "After due preparation prayers
are read by the chief teacher, dressed in a white robe and standing in
the midst of the congregation. At first he reads in an ordinary tone
of voice, and then passes gradually into a merry chant. When he remarks
that the chanting has sufficiently acted on the hearers, he begins
to jump. The hearers, singing likewise, follow his example. Their
ever-increasing excitement finds expression in the highest possible
jumps. This they continue as long as they can--men and women alike
yelling like enraged savages. When all are thoroughly exhausted, the
leader declares that he hears the angels singing"--and then begins a
scene which cannot be here described.

It is but fair to add that we know very little of these peculiar sects,
and what we do know is furnished by avowed enemies. It is very possible,
therefore, that some of them are not nearly so absurd as they are
commonly represented, and that many of the stories told are mere

The Government is very hostile to sectarianism, and occasionally
endeavours to suppress it. This is natural enough as regards these
fantastic sects, but it seems strange that the peaceful, industrious,
honest Molokanye and Stundisti should be put under the ban. Why is it
that a Russian peasant should be punished for holding doctrines which
are openly professed, with the sanction of the authorities, by his
neighbours, the German colonists?

To understand this the reader must know that according to Russian
conceptions there are two distinct kinds of heresy, distinguished from
each other, not by the doctrines held, but by the nationality of the
holder, it seems to a Russian in the nature of things that Tartars
should be Mahometans, that Poles should be Roman Catholics, and that
Germans should be Protestants; and the mere act of becoming a Russian
subject is not supposed to lay the Tartar, the Pole, or the German under
any obligation to change his faith. These nationalities are therefore
allowed the most perfect freedom in the exercise of their respective
religions, so long as they refrain from disturbing by propagandism the
divinely established order of things.

This is the received theory, and we must do the Russians the justice to
say that they habitually act up to it. If the Government has sometimes
attempted to convert alien races, the motive has always been political,
and the efforts have never awakened much sympathy among the people at
large, or even among the clergy. In like manner the missionary societies
which have sometimes been formed in imitation of the Western nations
have never received much popular support. Thus with regard to aliens
this peculiar theory has led to very extensive religious toleration.
With regard to the Russians themselves the theory has had a very
different effect. If in the nature of things the Tartar is a Mahometan,
the Pole a Roman Catholic, and the German a Protestant, it is equally in
the nature of things that the Russian should be a member of the Orthodox
Church. On this point the written law and public opinion are in perfect
accord. If an Orthodox Russian becomes a Roman Catholic or a Protestant,
he is amenable to the criminal law, and is at the same time condemned by
public opinion as an apostate and renegade--almost as a traitor.

As to the future of these heretical sects it is impossible to speak
with confidence. The more gross and fantastic will probably disappear
as primary education spreads among the people; but the Protestant sects
seem to possess much more vitality. For the present, at least, they are
rapidly spreading. I have seen large villages where, according to the
testimony of the inhabitants, there was not a single heretic fifteen
years before, and where one-half of the population had already become
Molokanye; and this change, be it remarked, had taken place without any
propagandist organisation. The civil and ecclesiastical authorities were
well aware of the existence of the movement, but they were powerless
to prevent it. The few efforts which they made were without effect, or
worse than useless. Among the Stundisti corporal punishment was tried as
an antidote--without the concurrence, it is to be hoped, of the central
authorities--and to the Molokanye of the province of Samara a learned
monk was sent in the hope of converting them from their errors by
reason and eloquence. What effect the birch-twigs had on the religious
convictions of the Stundisti I have not been able to ascertain, but I
assume that they were not very efficacious, for according to the latest
accounts the numbers of the sect are increasing. Of the mission in the
province of Samara I happen to know more, and can state on the evidence
of many peasants--some of them Orthodox--that the only immediate effect
was to stir up religious fanaticism, and to induce a certain number of
Orthodox to go over to the heretical camp.

In their public discussions the disputants could find no common
ground on which to argue, for the simple reason that their fundamental
conceptions were different. The monk spoke of the Church as the
terrestrial representative of Christ and the sole possessor of truth,
whilst his opponents knew nothing of a Church in this sense, and held
simply that all men should live in accordance with the dictates of
Scripture. Once the monk consented to argue with them on their own
ground, and on that occasion he sustained a signal defeat, for he could
not produce a single passage recommending the veneration of Icons--a
practice which the Russian peasants consider an essential part of
Orthodoxy. After this he always insisted on the authority of the early
Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the Church--an authority which
his antagonists did not recognise. Altogether the mission was a complete
failure, and all parties regretted that it had been undertaken. "It was
a great mistake," remarked to me confidentially an Orthodox peasant; "a
very great mistake. The Molokanye are a cunning people. The monk was
no match for them; they knew the Scriptures a great deal better than he
did. The Church should not condescend to discuss with heretics."

It is often said that these heretical sects are politically disaffected,
and the Molokanye are thought to be specially dangerous in this respect.
Perhaps there is a certain foundation for this opinion, for men
are naturally disposed to doubt the legitimacy of a power that
systematically persecutes them. With regard to the Molokanye, I believe
the accusation to be a groundless calumny. Political ideas seemed
entirely foreign to their modes of thought. During my intercourse with
them I often heard them refer to the police as "wolves which have to
be fed," but I never heard them speak of the Emperor otherwise than in
terms of filial affection and veneration.



Dissenters not to be Confounded with Heretics--Extreme Importance
Attached to Ritual Observances--The Raskol, or Great Schism in the
Seventeenth Century--Antichrist Appears!--Policy of Peter the Great
and Catherine II.--Present Ingenious Method of Securing Religious
Toleration--Internal Development of the Raskol--Schism among the
Schismatics--The Old Ritualists--The Priestless People--Cooling of the
Fanatical Enthusiasm and Formation of New Sects--Recent Policy of
the Government towards the Sectarians--Numerical Force and Political
Significance of Sectarianism.

We must be careful not to confound those heretical sects, Protestant and
fantastical, of which I have spoken in the preceding chapter, with the
more numerous Dissenters or Schismatics, the descendants of those who
seceded from the Russian Church--or more correctly from whom the Russian
Church seceded--in the seventeenth century. So far from regarding
themselves as heretics, these latter consider themselves more orthodox
than the official Orthodox Church. They are conservatives, too, in the
social as well as the religious sense of the term. Among them are to
be found the last remnants of old Russian life, untinged by foreign

The Russian Church, as I have already had occasion to remark, has
always paid inordinate attention to ceremonial observances and somewhat
neglected the doctrinal and moral elements of the faith which it
professes. This peculiarity greatly facilitated the spread of its
influence among a people accustomed to pagan rites and magical
incantations, but it had the pernicious effect of confirming in the new
converts their superstitious belief in the virtue of mere ceremonies.
Thus the Russians became zealous Christians in all matters of external
observance, without knowing much about the spiritual meaning of the
rites which they practised. They looked upon the rites and sacraments
as mysterious charms which preserved them from evil influences in the
present life and secured them eternal felicity in the life to come, and
they believed that these charms would inevitably lose their efficacy
if modified in the slightest degree. Extreme importance was therefore
attached to the ritual minutiae, and the slightest modification of these
minutiae assumed the importance of an historical event. In the year
1476, for instance, the Novgorodian Chronicler gravely relates:

"This winter some philosophers (!) began to sing, 'O Lord, have mercy,'
and others merely, 'Lord, have mercy.'" And this attaching of enormous
importance to trifles was not confined to the ignorant multitude. An
Archbishop of Novgorod declared solemnly that those who repeat the word
"Alleluia" only twice at certain points in the liturgy "sing to their
own damnation," and a celebrated Ecclesiastical Council, held in 1551,
put such matters as the position of the fingers when making the sign of
the cross on the same level as heresies--formally anathematising those
who acted in such trifles contrary to its decisions.

This conservative spirit in religious concerns had a considerable
influence on social life. As there was no clear line of demarcation
between religious observances and simple traditional customs, the most
ordinary act might receive a religious significance, and the slightest
departure from a traditional custom might be looked upon as a deadly
sin. A Russian of the olden time would have resisted the attempt to
deprive him of his beard as strenuously as a Calvinist of the present
day would resist the attempt to make him abjure the doctrine of
Predestination--and both for the same reason. As the doctrine of
Predestination is for the Calvinist, so the wearing of a beard was for
the old Russian--an essential of salvation. "Where," asked one of the
Patriarchs of Moscow, "will those who shave their chins stand at
the Last Day?--among the righteous adorned with beards, or among the
beardless heretics?" The question required no answer.

In the seventeenth century this superstitious, conservative spirit
reached its climax. The civil wars and foreign invasions, accompanied by
pillage, famine, and plagues with which that century opened, produced
a wide-spread conviction that the end of all things was at hand. The
mysterious number of the Beast was found to indicate the year 1666, and
timid souls began to discover signs of that falling away from the Faith
which is spoken of in the Apocalypse. The majority of the people did not
perhaps share this notion, but they believed that the sufferings with
which they had been visited were a Divine punishment for having forsaken
the ancient customs. And it could not be denied that considerable
changes had taken place. Orthodox Russia was now tainted with the
presence of heretics. Foreigners who shaved their chins and smoked the
accursed weed had been allowed to settle in Moscow, and the Tsars not
only held converse with them, but had even adopted some of their "pagan"
practises. Besides this, the Government had introduced innovations and
reforms, many of which were displeasing to the people. In short, the
country was polluted with "heresy"--a subtle, evil influence lurking
in everything foreign, and very dangerous to the spiritual and temporal
welfare of the Faithful--something of the nature of an epidemic, but
infinitely more dangerous; for disease kills merely the body, whereas
"heresy" kills the soul, and causes both soul and body to be cast into

Had the Government introduced the innovations slowly and cautiously,
respecting as far as possible all outward forms, it might have effected
much without producing a religious panic; but, instead of acting
circumspectly as the occasion demanded, it ran full-tilt against the
ancient prejudices and superstitious fears, and drove the people into
open resistance. When the art of printing was introduced, it became
necessary to choose the best texts of the Liturgy, Psalter, and other
religious books, and on examination it was found that, through the
ignorance and carelessness of copyists, numerous errors had crept into
the manuscripts in use. This discovery led to further investigation,
which showed that certain irregularities had likewise crept into the
ceremonial. The chief of the clerical errors lay in the orthography of
the word "Jesus," and the chief irregularity in the ceremonial regarded
the position of the fingers when making the sign of the cross.

To correct these errors the celebrated Nikon, who was Patriarch in the
time of Tsar Alexis, father of Peter the Great, ordered all the old
liturgical books and the old Icons to be called in, and new ones to be
distributed; but the clergy and the people resisted. Believing these
"Nikonian novelties" to be heretical, they clung to their old Icons,
their old missals and their old religious customs as the sole anchors of
safety which could save the Faithful from drifting to perdition. In vain
the Patriarch assured the people that the change was a return to the
ancient forms still preserved in Greece and Constantinople. "The Greek
Church," it was replied, "is no longer free from heresy. Orthodoxy has
become many-coloured from the violence of the Turkish Mahomet; and
the Greeks, under the sons of Hagar, have fallen away from the ancient

An anathema, formally pronounced by an Ecclesiastical Council against
these Nonconformists, had no more effect than the admonitions of the
Patriarch. They persevered in their obstinacy, and refused to believe
that the blessed saints and holy martyrs who had used the ancient forms
had not prayed and crossed themselves aright. "Not those holy men of
old, but the present Patriarch and his counsellors must be heretics."
"Woe to us! Woe to us!" cried the monks of Solovetsk when they received
the new Liturgies. "What have you done with the Son of God? Give him
back to us! You have changed Isus [the old Russian form of Jesus] into
Iisus! It is fearful not only to commit such a sin, but even to think
of it!" And the sturdy monks shut their gates, and defied Patriarch,
Council, and Tsar for seven long years, till the monastery was taken by
an armed force.

The decree of excommunication pronounced by the Ecclesiastical Council
placed the Nonconformists beyond the pale of the Church, and the civil
power undertook the task of persecuting them. Persecution had of course
merely the effect of confirming the victims in their belief that the
Church and the Tsar had become heretical. Thousands fled across the
frontier and settled in the neighbouring countries--Poland, Russia,
Sweden, Austria, Turkey, the Caucasus, and Siberia. Others concealed
themselves in the northern forests and the densely wooded region near
the Polish frontier, where they lived by agriculture or fishing, and
prayed, crossed themselves and buried their dead according to the
customs of their forefathers. The northern forests were their favourite
place of refuge. Hither flocked many of those who wished to keep
themselves pure and undefiled. Here the more learned men among the
Nonconformists--well acquainted with Holy Writ, with fragmentary
translations from the Greek Fathers, and with the more important
decisions of the early Ecumenical Councils--wrote polemical and edifying
works for the confounding of heretics and the confirming of true
believers. Hence were sent out in all directions zealous missionaries,
in the guise of traders, peddlers, and labourers, to sow what they
called the living seed, and what the official Church termed "Satan's
tares." When the Government agents discovered these retreats, the
inmates generally fled from the "ravenous wolves"; but on more than one
occasion a large number of fanatical men and women, shutting themselves
up, set fire to their houses, and voluntarily perished in the flames.
In Paleostrofski Monastery, for instance, in the year 1687, no less
than 2,700 fanatics gained the crown of martyrdom in this way; and many
similar instances are on record.* As in all periods of religious panic,
the Apocalypse was carefully studied, and the Millennial ideas rapidly
spread. The signs of the time were plain: Satan was being let loose
for a little season. Men anxiously looked for the reappearance of
Antichrist--and Antichrist appeared!

     * A list of well-authenticated cases is given by Nilski,
     "Semeinaya zhizn v russkom Raskole," St. Petersburg, 1869;
     part I., pp. 55-57. The number of these self-immolators
     certainly amounted to many thousands.

The man in whom the people recognised the incarnate spirit of evil was
no other than Peter the Great.

From the Nonconformist point of view, Peter had very strong claims to be
considered Antichrist. He had none of the staid, pious demeanour of the
old Tsars, and showed no respect for many things which were venerated
by the people. He ate, drank, and habitually associated with heretics,
spoke their language, wore their costume, chose from among them his most
intimate friends, and favoured them more than his own people. Imagine
the horror and commotion which would be produced among pious Catholics
if the Pope should some day appear in the costume of the Grand Turk, and
should choose Pashas as his chief counsellors! The horror which Peter's
conduct produced among a large section of his subjects was not less
great. They could not explain it otherwise than by supposing him to
be the Devil in disguise, and they saw in all his important measures
convincing proofs of his Satanic origin. The newly invented census, or
"revision," was a profane "numbering of the people," and an attempt to
enrol in the service of Beëlzebub those whose names were written in the
Lamb's Book of Life. The new title of Imperator was explained to mean
something very diabolical. The passport bearing the Imperial arms was
the seal of Antichrist. The order to shave the beard was an attempt to
disfigure "the image of God," after which man had been created, and by
which Christ would recognise His own at the Last Day. The change in
the calendar, by which New Year's Day was transferred from September
to January, was the destruction of "the years of our Lord," and the
introduction of the years of Satan in their place. Of the ingenious
arguments by which these theses were supported, I may quote one by
way of illustration. The world, it was explained, could not have been
created in January as the new calendar seemed to indicate, because
apples are not ripe at that season, and consequently Eve could not have
been tempted in the way described!*

     * I found this ingenious argument in one of the polemical
     treatises of the Old Believers.

These ideas regarding Peter and his reforms were strongly confirmed by
the vigorous persecutions which took place during the earlier years of
his reign. The Nonconformists were constantly convicted of political
disaffection--especially of "insulting the Imperial Majesty"--and were
accordingly flogged, tortured, and beheaded without mercy. But when
Peter had succeeded in putting down all armed opposition, and found that
the movement was no longer dangerous for the throne, he adopted a policy
more in accordance with his personal character. Whether he had himself
any religious belief whatever may be doubted; certainly he had not a
spark of religious fanaticism in his nature. Exclusively occupied with
secular concerns, he took no interest in subtle questions of religious
ceremonial, and was profoundly indifferent as to how his subjects prayed
and crossed themselves, provided they obeyed his orders in worldly
matters and paid their taxes regularly. As soon, therefore, as political
considerations admitted of clemency, he stopped the persecutions, and
at last, in 1714, issued ukazes to the effect that all Dissenters might
live unmolested, provided they inscribed themselves in the official
registers and paid a double poll-tax. Somewhat later they were allowed
to practise freely all their old rites and customs, on condition of
paying certain fines.

With the accession of Catherine II., "the friend of philosophers," the
Raskol,* as the schism had come to be called, entered on a new phase.
Penetrated with the ideas of religious toleration then in fashion
in Western Europe, Catherine abolished the disabilities to which the
Raskolniks were subjected, and invited those of them who had fled
across the frontier to return to their homes. Thousands accepted the
invitation, and many who had hitherto sought to conceal themselves from
the eyes of the authorities became rich and respected merchants. The
peculiar semi-monastic religious communities, which had up till that
time existed only in the forests of the northern and western provinces,
began to appear in Moscow, and were officially recognised by the
Administration. At first they took the form of hospitals for the
sick, or asylums for the aged and infirm, but soon they became regular
monasteries, the superiors of which exercised an undefined spiritual
authority not only over the inmates, but also over the members of the
sect throughout the length and breadth of the Empire.

     * The term is derived from two Russian words--ras, asunder;
     and kolot, to split.  Those who belong to the Raskol are
     called Raskolniki.  They call themselves Staro-obriadtsi
     (Old Ritualists) or Staroveri (Old Believers).

From that time down to the present the Government has followed a
wavering policy, oscillating between complete tolerance and active
persecution. It must, however, be said that the persecution has
never been of a very searching kind. In persecution, as in all other
manifestations, the Russian Church directs its attention chiefly
to external forms. It does not seek to ferret out heresy in a man's
opinions, but complacently accepts as Orthodox all who annually
appear at confession and communion, and who refrain from acts of open
hostility. Those who can make these concessions to convenience are
practically free from molestation, and those who cannot so trifle
with their conscience have an equally convenient method of escaping
persecution. The parish clergy, with their customary indifference
to things spiritual and their traditional habit of regarding their
functions from the financial point of view, are hostile to sectarianism
chiefly because it diminishes their revenues by diminishing the number
of parishioners requiring their ministrations. This cause of hostility
can easily be removed by a certain pecuniary sacrifice on the part of
the sectarians, and accordingly there generally exists between them
and their parish priest a tacit contract, by which both parties are
perfectly satisfied. The priest receives his income as if all his
parishioners belonged to the State Church, and the parishioners are
left in peace to believe and practise what they please. By this rude,
convenient method a very large amount of toleration is effectually
secured. Whether the practise has a beneficial moral influence on the
parish clergy is, of course, an entirely different question.

When the priest has been satisfied, there still remains the police,
which likewise levies an irregular tax on heterodoxy; but the
negotiations are generally not difficult, for it is in the interest of
both parties that they should come to terms and live in good-fellowship.
Thus practically the Raskolniki live in the same condition as in the
time of Peter: they pay a tax and are not molested--only the money paid
does not now find its way into the Imperial Exchequer.

These external changes in the history of the Raskol have exercised a
powerful influence on its internal development.

When formally anathematised and excluded from the dominant Church the
Nonconformists had neither a definite organisation nor a positive creed.
The only tie that bound them together was hostility to the "Nikonian
novelties," and all they desired was to preserve intact the beliefs and
customs of their forefathers. At first they never thought of creating
any permanent organisation. The more moderate believed that the Tsar
would soon re-establish Orthodoxy, and the more fanatical imagined that
the end of all things was at hand.* In either case they had only to
suffer for a little season, keeping themselves free from the taint of
heresy and from all contact with the kingdom of Antichrist.

     * Some had coffins made, and lay down in them at night, in
     the expectation that the Second Advent might take place
     before the morning.

But years passed, and neither of these expectations was fulfilled. The
fanatics awaited in vain the sound of the last trump and the appearance
of Christ, coming with His angels to judge the world. The sun continued
to rise, and the seasons followed each other in their accustomed course,
but the end was not yet. Nor did the civil power return to the old
faith. Nikon fell a victim to Court intrigues and his own overweening
pride, and was formally deposed. Tsar Alexis in the fulness of time was
gathered unto his fathers. But there was no sign of a re-establishment
of the old Orthodoxy. Gradually the leading Raskolniki perceived that
they must make preparations, not for the Day of Judgment, but for
a terrestrial future--that they must create some permanent form of
ecclesiastical organisation. In this work they encountered at the very
outset not only practical, but also theoretical difficulties.

So long as they confined themselves simply to resisting the official
innovations, they seemed to be unanimous; but when they were forced to
abandon this negative policy and to determine theoretically their new
position, radical differences of opinion became apparent. All were
convinced that the official Russian Church had become heretical, and
that it had now Antichrist instead of Christ as its head; but it was not
easy to determine what should be done by those who refused to bow the
knee to the Son of Destruction. According to Protestant conceptions
there was a very simple solution of the difficulty: the Nonconformists
had simply to create a new Church for themselves, and worship God in
the way that seemed good to them. But to the Russians of that time such
notions were still more repulsive than the innovations of Nikon. These
men were Orthodox to the backbone--"plus royalistes que le roi"--and
according to Orthodox conceptions the founding of a new Church is an
absurdity. They believed that if the chain of historic continuity were
once broken, the Church must necessarily cease to exist, in the same way
as an ancient family becomes extinct when its sole representative dies
without issue. If, therefore, the Church had already ceased to exist,
there was no longer any means of communication between Christ and His
people, the sacraments were no longer efficacious, and mankind was
forever deprived of the ordinary means of grace.

Now, on this important point there was a difference of opinion among
the Dissenters. Some of them believed that, though the ecclesiastical
authorities had become heretical, the Church still existed in the
communion of those who had refused to accept the innovations. Others
declared boldly that the Orthodox Church had ceased to exist, that
the ancient means of grace had been withdrawn, and that those who
had remained faithful must thenceforth seek salvation, not in the
sacraments, but in prayer and such other religious exercises as did not
require the co-operation of duly consecrated priests. Thus took place a
schism among the Schismatics. The one party retained all the sacraments
and ceremonial observances in the older form; the other refrained from
the sacraments and from many of the ordinary rites, on the ground
that there was no longer a real priesthood, and that consequently
the sacraments could not be efficacious. The former party are
termed Staro-obriadsti, or Old Ritualists; the latter are called
Bezpopoftsi--that is to say, people "without priests" (bez popov).

The succeeding history of these two sections of the Nonconformists has
been widely different. The Old Ritualists, being simply ecclesiastical
Conservatives desirous of resisting all innovations, have remained a
compact body little troubled by differences of opinion. The Priestless
People, on the contrary, ever seeking to discover some new effectual
means of salvation, have fallen into an endless number of independent

The Old Ritualists had still, however, one important theoretical
difficulty. At first they had amongst themselves plenty of consecrated
priests for the celebration of the ordinances, but they had no means
of renewing the supply. They had no bishops, and according to Orthodox
belief the lower degrees of the clergy cannot be created without
episcopal consecration. At the time of the schism one bishop had thrown
in his lot with the Schismatics, but he had died shortly afterwards
without leaving a successor, and thereafter no bishop had joined their
ranks. As time wore on, the necessity of episcopal consecration came to
be more and more felt, and it is not a little interesting to observe
how these rigorists, who held to the letter of the law and declared
themselves ready to die for a jot or a tittle, modified their theory
in accordance with the changing exigencies of their position. When the
priests who had kept themselves "pure and undefiled"--free from all
contact with Antichrist--became scarce, it was discovered that certain
priests of the dominant Church might be accepted if they formally
abjured the Nikonian novelties. At first, however, only those who had
been consecrated previous to the supposed apostasy of the Church were
accepted, for the very good reason that consecration by bishops who had
become heretical could not be efficacious. When these could no longer be
obtained it was discovered that those who had been baptised previous to
the apostasy might be accepted; and when even these could no longer
be found, a still further concession was made to necessity, and all
consecrated priests were received on condition of their solemnly
abjuring their errors. Of such priests there was always an abundant
supply. If a regular priest could not find a parish, or if he was
deposed by the authorities for some crime or misdemeanour, he had merely
to pass over to the Old Ritualists, and was sure to find among them a
hearty welcome and a tolerable salary.

By these concessions the indefinite prolongation of Old Ritualism was
secured, but many of the Old Ritualists could not but feel that their
position was, to say the least, extremely anomalous. They had no bishops
of their own, and their priests were all consecrated by bishops whom
they believed to be heretical! For many years they hoped to escape
from this dilemma by discovering "Orthodox"--that is to say, Old
Ritualist--bishops somewhere in the East; but when the East had been
searched in vain, and all their efforts to obtain native bishops proved
fruitless, they conceived the design of creating a bishopric somewhere
beyond the frontier, among the Old Ritualists who had in times of
persecution fled to Prussia, Austria, and Turkey. There were, however,
immense difficulties in the way. In the first place it was necessary
to obtain the formal permission of some foreign Government; and in the
second place an Orthodox bishop must be found, willing to consecrate an
Old Ritualist or to become an Old Ritualist himself. Again and again
the attempt was made, and failed; but at last, after years of effort and
intrigue, the design was realised. In 1844 the Austrian Government gave
permission to found a bishopric at Belaya Krinitsa, in Galicia, a
few miles from the Russian frontier; and two years later the deposed
Metropolitan of Bosnia consented, after much hesitation, to pass over to
the Old Ritualist confession and accept the diocese.* From that time the
Old Ritualists have had their own bishops, and have not been obliged to
accept the runaway priests of the official Church.

     * An interesting account of these negotiations, and a most
     curious picture of the Orthodox ecciestiastical world in
     Constantinople, is given by Subbotiny, "Istoria
     Belokrinitskoi Ierarkhii," Moscow, 1874.

The Old Ritualists were naturally much grieved by the schism, and
were often sorely tried by persecution, but they have always enjoyed a
certain spiritual tranquillity, proceeding from the conviction that they
have preserved for themselves the means of salvation. The position of
the more extreme section of the Schismatics was much more tragical. They
believed that the sacraments had irretrievably lost their efficacy, that
the ordinary means of salvation were forever withdrawn, that the powers
of darkness had been let loose for a little season, that the authorities
were the agents of Satan, and that the personage who filled the place
of the old God-fearing Tsars was no other than Antichrist. Under the
influence of these horrible ideas they fled to the woods and the caves
to escape from the rage of the Beast, and to await the second coming of
Our Lord.

This state of things could not continue permanently. Extreme religious
fanaticism, like all other abnormal states, cannot long exist in a
mass of human beings without some constant exciting cause. The vulgar
necessities of everyday life, especially among people who have to live
by the labour of their hands, have a wonderfully sobering influence
on the excited brain, and must always, sooner or later, prove fatal to
inordinate excitement. A few peculiarly constituted individuals may show
themselves capable of a lifelong enthusiasm, but the multitude is ever
spasmodic in its fervour, and begins to slide back to its former apathy
as soon as the exciting cause ceases to act.

All this we find exemplified in the history of the Priestless People.
When it was found that the world did not come to an end, and that the
rigorous system of persecution was relaxed, the less excitable natures
returned to their homes, and resumed their old mode of life; and when
Peter the Great made his politic concessions, many who had declared him
to be Antichrist came to suspect that he was really not so black as he
was painted. This idea struck deep root in a religious community near
Lake Onega (Vuigovski Skit) which had received special privileges on
condition of supplying labourers for the neighbouring mines; and here
was developed a new theory which opened up a way of reconciliation with
the Government. By a more attentive study of Holy Writ and ancient books
it was discovered that the reign of Antichrist would consist of two
periods. In the former, the Son of Destruction would reign merely in
the spiritual sense, and the Faithful would not be much molested; in the
latter, he would reign visibly in the flesh, and true believers would be
subjected to the most frightful persecution. The second period, it was
held, had evidently not yet arrived, for the Faithful now enjoyed "a
time of freedom, and not of compulsion or oppression." Whether this
theory is strictly in accordance with Apocalyptic prophecy and patristic
theology may be doubted, but it fully satisfied those who had already
arrived at the conclusion by a different road, and who sought merely
a means of justifying their position. Certain it is that very many
accepted it, and determined to render unto Caesar the things that were
Caesar's, or, in secular language, to pray for the Tsar and to pay their

This ingenious compromise was not accepted by all the Priestless People.
On the contrary, many of them regarded it as a woeful backsliding--a new
device of the Evil One; and among these irreconcilables was a certain
peasant called Theodosi, a man of little education, but of remarkable
intellectual power and unusual strength of character. He raised anew
the old fanaticism by his preaching and writings--widely circulated in
manuscript--and succeeded in founding a new sect in the forest region
near the Polish frontier.

The Priestless Nonconformists thus fell into two sections; the one,
called Pomortsi,* accepted at least a partial reconciliation with the
civil power; the other, called Theodosians, after their founder, held
to the old opinions, and refused to regard the Tsar otherwise than as

     *The word Pomortsi means "those who live near the seashore."
     It is commonly applied to the inhabitants of the Northern
     provinces--that is, those who live near the shore of the
     White Sea, the only maritime frontier that Russia possessed
     previous to the conquests of Peter the Great.

These latter were at first very wild in their fanaticism, but ere long
they gave way to the influences which had softened the fanaticism of the
Pomortsi. Under the liberal, conciliatory rule of Catherine they lived
in contentment, and many of them enriched themselves by trade. Their
fanatical zeal and exclusiveness evaporated under the influence
of material well-being and constant contact with the outer world,
especially after they were allowed to build a monastery in Moscow.
The Superior of this monastery, a man of much shrewdness and enormous
wealth, succeeded in gaining the favour not only of the lower officials,
who could be easily bought, but even of high-placed dignitaries, and for
many years he exercised a very real, if undefined, authority over all
sections of the Priestless People. "His fame," it is said, "sounded
throughout Moscow, and the echoes were heard in Petropol (St.
Petersburg), Riga, Astrakhan, Nizhni-Novgorod, and other lands
of piety"; and when deputies came to consult him, they prostrated
themselves in his presence, as before the great ones of the earth.
Living thus not only in peace and plenty, but even in honour and luxury,
"the proud Patriarch of the Theodosian Church" could not consistently
fulminate against "the ravenous wolves" with whom he was on friendly
terms, or excite the fanaticism of his followers by highly coloured
descriptions of "the awful sufferings and persecution of God's people
in these latter days," as the founder of the sect had been wont to do.
Though he could not openly abandon any fundamental doctrines, he allowed
the ideas about the reign of Antichrist to fall into the background,
and taught by example, if not by precept, that the Faithful might, by
prudent concessions, live very comfortably in this present evil world.
This seed fell upon soil already prepared for its reception. The
Faithful gradually forgot their old savage fanaticism, and they have
since contrived, while holding many of their old ideas in theory, to
accommodate themselves in practice to the existing order of things.

The gradual softening and toning down of the original fanaticism in
these two sects are strikingly exemplified in their ideas of marriage.
According to Orthodox doctrine, marriage is a sacrament which can
only be performed by a consecrated priest, and consequently for the
Priestless People the celebration of marriage was an impossibility.
In the first ages of sectarianism a state of celibacy was quite in
accordance with their surroundings. Living in constant fear of their
persecutors, and wandering from one place of refuge to another, the
sufferers for the Faith had little time or inclination to think of
family ties, and readily listened to the monks, who exhorted them to
mortify the lusts of the flesh.

The result, however, proved that celibacy in the creed by no means
ensures chastity in practice. Not only in the villages of the
Dissenters, but even in those religious communities which professed
a more ascetic mode of life, a numerous class of "orphans" began to
appear, who knew not who their parents were; and this ignorance of
blood-relationship naturally led to incestuous connections. Besides
this, the doctrine of celibacy had grave practical inconveniences, for
the peasant requires a housewife to attend to domestic concerns and
to help him in his agricultural occupations. Thus the necessity of
re-establishing family life came to be felt, and the feeling soon found
expression in a doctrinal form both among the Pomortsi and among the
Theodsians. Learned dissertations were written and disseminated in
manuscript copies, violent discussions took place, and at last a great
Council was held in Moscow to discuss the question.* The point at issue
was never unanimously decided, but many accepted the ingenious arguments
in favour of matrimony, and contracted marriages which were, of course,
null and void in the eye of the law and of the Church, but valid in all
other respects.

     * I cannot here enter into the details of this remarkable
     controversy, but I may say that in studying it I have been
     frequently astonished by the dialectical power and logical
     subtlety displayed by the disputants, some of them simple

This new backsliding of the unstable multitude produced a new outburst
of fanaticism among the stubborn few. Some of those who had hitherto
sought to conceal the origin of the "orphan" class above referred to
now boldly asserted that the existence of this class was a religious
necessity, because in order to be saved men must repent, and in order
to repent men must sin! At the same time the old ideas about Antichrist
were revived and preached with fervour by a peasant called Philip, who
founded a new sect called the Philipists. This sect still exists. They
hold fast to the old belief that the Tsar is Antichrist, and that the
civil and ecclesiastical authorities are the servants of Satan--an
idea that was kept alive by the corruption and extortion for which the
Administration was notorious. They do not venture on open resistance
to the authorities, but the bolder members take little pains to conceal
their opinions and sentiments, and may be easily recognised by their
severe aspect, their Puritanical manner, and their Pharisaical horror of
everything which they suppose heretical and unclean. Some of them, it is
said, carry this fastidiousness to such an extent that they throw away
the handle of a door if it has been touched by a heretic!

It may seem that we have here reached the extreme limits of fanaticism,
but in reality there were men whom even the Pharisaical Puritanism of
the Philipists did not satisfy. These new zealots, who appeared in the
time of Catherine II., but first became known to the official world in
the reign of Nicholas I., rebuked the lukewarmness of their brethren,
and founded a new sect in order to preserve intact the asceticism
practised immediately after the schism. This sect still exists. They
call themselves "Christ's people" (Christoviye Lyudi), but are better
known under the popular name of "Wanderers" (Stranniki), or "Fugitives"
(Beguny). Of all the sects they are the most hostile to the existing
political and social organisation. Not content with condemning
the military conscription, the payment of taxes, the acceptance of
passports, and everything connected with the civil and ecclesiastical
authorities, they consider it sinful to live peaceably among an
orthodox--that is, according to their belief, a heretical--population,
and to have dealings with any who do not share their extreme views.
Holding the Antichrist doctrine in the extreme form, they declare that
Tsars are the vessels of Satan, that the Established Church is the
dwelling-place of the Father of Lies, and that all who submit to the
authorities are children of the Devil. According to this creed, those
who wish to escape from the wrath to come must have neither houses nor
fixed places of abode, must sever all ties that bind them to the world,
and must wander about continually from place to place. True Christians
are but strangers and pilgrims in the present life, and whoso binds
himself to the world will perish with the world.

Such is the theory of these Wanderers, but among them, as among the less
fanatical sects, practical necessities have produced concessions and
compromises. As it is impossible to lead a nomadic life in Russian
forests, the Wanderers have been compelled to admit into their ranks
what may be called lay-brethren--men who nominally belong to the sect,
but who live like ordinary mortals and have some rational way of gaining
a livelihood. These latter live in the villages or towns, support
themselves by agriculture or trade, accept passports from the
authorities, pay their taxes regularly, and conduct themselves in
all outward respects like loyal subjects. Their chief religious duty
consists in giving food and shelter to their more zealous brethren, who
have adopted a vagabond life in practise as well as in theory. It is
only when they feel death approaching that they consider it necessary
to separate themselves from the heretical world, and they effect this
by having themselves carried out to some neighbouring wood--or into a
garden if there is no wood at hand--where they may die in the open air.

Thus, we see, there is among the Russian Nonconformist sects what may be
called a gradation of fanaticism, in which is reflected the history of
the Great Schism. In the Wanderers we have the representatives of
those who adopted and preserved the Antichrist doctrine in its extreme
form--the successors of those who fled to the forests to escape from
the rage of the Beast and to await the second coming of Christ. In the
Philipists we have the representatives of those who adopted these ideas
in a somewhat softer form, and who came to recognise the necessity of
having some regular means of subsistence until the last trump should be
heard. The Theodosians represent those who were in theory at one with
the preceding category, but who, having less religious fanaticism,
considered it necessary to yield to force and make peace with the
Government without sacrificing their convictions. In the Pomortsi we see
those who preserved only the religious ideas of the schism, and became
reconciled with the civil power. Lastly we have the Old Ritualists, who
differed from all the other sects in retaining the old ordinances, and
who simply rejected the spiritual authority of the dominant Church.
Besides these chief sections of the Nonconformists there are a great
many minor denominations (tolki), differing from each other on minor
points of doctrine. In certain districts, it is said, nearly every
village has one or two independent sects. This is especially the case
among the Don Cossacks and the Cossacks of the Ural, who are in part
descendants of the men who fled from the early persecutions.

Of all the sects the Old Ritualists stand nearest to the official
Church. They hold the same dogmas, practise the same rites, and
differ only in trifling ceremonial matters, which few people consider
essential. In the hope of inducing them to return to the official
fold the Government created at the beginning of last century special
churches, in which they were allowed to retain their ceremonial
peculiarities on condition of accepting regularly consecrated priests
and submitting to ecclesiastical jurisdiction. As yet the design has not
met with much success. The great majority of the Old Ritualists regard
it as a trap, and assert that the Church in making this concession
has been guilty of self-contradiction. "The Ecclesiastical Council of
Moscow," they say, "anathematised our forefathers for holding to the old
ritual, and declared that the whole course of nature would be changed
sooner than the curse be withdrawn. The course of nature has not been
changed, but the anathema has been cancelled." This argument ought to
have a certain weight with those who believe in the infallibility of
Ecclesiastical Councils.

Towards the Priestless People the Government has always acted in a much
less conciliatory spirit. Its severity has been sometimes justified on
the ground that sectarianism has had a political as well as a religious
significance. A State like Russia cannot overlook the existence of
sects which preach the duty of systematic resistance to the civil and
ecclesiastical authorities and hold doctrines which lead to the grossest
immorality. This argument, it must be admitted, is not without a certain
force, but it seems to me that the policy adopted tended to increase
rather than diminish the evils which it sought to cure. Instead of
dispelling the absurd idea that the Tsar was Antichrist by a system
of strict and evenhanded justice, punishing merely actual crimes and
delinquencies, the Government confirmed the notion in the minds of
thousands by persecuting those who had committed no crime and who
desired merely to worship God according to their conscience. Above all
it erred in opposing and punishing those marriages which, though legally
irregular, were the best possible means of diminishing fanaticism, by
leading back the fanatics to healthy social life. Fortunately these
errors have now been abandoned. A policy of greater clemency and
conciliation has been adopted, and has proved much more efficacious than
persecution. The Dissenters have not returned to the official fold, but
they have lost much of their old fanaticism and exclusiveness.

In respect of numbers the sectarians compose a very formidable body. Of
Old Ritualists and Priestless People there are, it is said, no less
than eleven millions; and the Protestant and fantastical sects comprise
probably about five millions more. If these numbers be correct, the
sectarians constitute about an eighth of the whole population of the
Empire. They count in their ranks none of the nobles--none of the
so-called enlightened class--but they include in their number a
respectable proportion of the peasants, a third of the rich merchant
class, the majority of the Don Cossacks, and nearly all the Cossacks of
the Ural.

Under these circumstances it is important to know how far the sectarians
are politically disaffected. Some people imagine that in the event of
an insurrection or a foreign invasion they might rise against the
Government, whilst others believe that this supposed danger is purely
imaginary. For my own part I agree with the latter opinion, which is
strongly supported by the history of many important events, such as
the French invasion in 1812, the Crimean War, and the last Polish
insurrection. The great majority of the Schismatics and heretics are, I
believe, loyal subjects of the Tsar. The more violent sects, which are
alone capable of active hostility against the authorities, are weak in
numbers, and regard all outsiders with such profound mistrust that they
are wholly impervious to inflammatory influences from without. Even if
all the sects were capable of active hostility, they would not be nearly
so formidable as their numbers seem to indicate, for they are hostile to
each other, and are wholly incapable of combining for a common purpose.

Though sectarianism is thus by no means a serious political danger,
it has nevertheless a considerable political significance. It proves
satisfactorily that the Russian people is by no means so docile and
pliable as is commonly supposed, and that it is capable of showing
a stubborn, passive resistance to authority when it believes great
interests to be at stake. The dogged energy which it has displayed in
asserting for centuries its religious liberty may perhaps some day be
employed in the arena of secular politics.



The Russian Orthodox Church--Russia Outside of the Mediaeval Papal
Commonwealth--Influence of the Greek Church--Ecclesiastical History of
Russia--Relations between Church and State--Eastern Orthodoxy and the
Russian National Church--The Synod--Ecclesiastical Grumbling--Local
Ecclesiastical Administration--The Black Clergy and the Monasteries--The
Character of the Eastern Church Reflected in the History of Religious
Art--Practical Consequences--The Union Scheme.

From the curious world of heretics and Dissenters let us pass now to
the Russian Orthodox Church, to which the great majority of the Russian
people belong. It has played an important part in the national history,
and has exercised a powerful influence in the formation of the national

Russians are in the habit of patriotically and proudly congratulating
themselves on the fact that their forefathers always resisted
successfully the aggressive tendencies of the Papacy, but it may be
doubted whether, from a worldly point of view, the freedom from Papal
authority has been an unmixed blessing for the country. If the Popes
failed to realise their grand design of creating a vast European empire
based on theocratic principles, they succeeded at least in inspiring
with a feeling of brotherhood and a vague consciousness of common
interest all the nations which acknowledged their spiritual supremacy.
These nations, whilst remaining politically independent and frequently
coming into hostile contact with each other, all looked to Rome as
the capital of the Christian world, and to the Pope as the highest
terrestrial authority. Though the Church did not annihilate nationality,
it made a wide breach in the political barriers, and formed a channel
for international communication by which the social and intellectual
progress of each nation became known to all the other members of the
great Christian confederacy. Throughout the length and breadth of
the Papal Commonwealth educated men had a common language, a common
literature, a common scientific method, and to a certain extent a common
jurisprudence. Western Christendom was thus all through the Middle Ages
not merely an abstract conception or a geographical expression: if not
a political, it was at least a religious and intellectual unit, and all
the countries of which it was composed benefited more or less by the

For centuries Russia stood outside of this religious and intellectual
confederation, for her Church connected her not with Rome, but with
Constantinople, and Papal Europe looked upon her as belonging to the
barbarous East. When the Mongol hosts swept over her plains, burnt her
towns and villages, and finally incorporated her into the great empire
of Genghis khan, the so-called Christian world took no interest in the
struggle except in so far as its own safety was threatened. And as
time wore on, the barriers which separated the two great sections of
Christendom became more and more formidable. The aggressive pretensions
and ambitious schemes of the Vatican produced in the Greek Orthodox
world a profound antipathy to the Roman Catholic Church and to Western
influence of every kind. So strong was this aversion that when the
nations of the West awakened in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
from their intellectual lethargy and began to move forward on the path
of intellectual and material progress, Russia not only remained unmoved,
but looked on the new civilisation with suspicion and fear as a thing
heretical and accursed. We have here one of the chief reasons why
Russia, at the present day, is in many respects less civilised than the
nations of Western Europe.

But it is not merely in this negative way that the acceptance of
Christianity from Constantinople has affected the fate of Russia. The
Greek Church, whilst excluding Roman Catholic civilisation, exerted
at the same time a powerful positive influence on the historical
development of the nation.

The Church of the West inherited from old Rome something of that
logical, juridical, administrative spirit which had created the Roman
law, and something of that ambition and dogged, energetic perseverance
that had formed nearly the whole known world into a great centralised
empire. The Bishops of Rome early conceived the design of reconstructing
that old empire on a new basis, and long strove to create a universal
Christian theocratic State, in which kings and other civil authorities
should be the subordinates of Christ's Vicar upon earth. The Eastern
Church, on the contrary, has remained true to her Byzantine traditions,
and has never dreamed of such lofty pretensions. Accustomed to lean on
the civil power, she has always been content to play a secondary part,
and has never strenuously resisted the formation of national churches.

For about two centuries after the introduction of Christianity--from
988 to 1240--Russia formed, ecclesiastically speaking, part of the
Patriarchate of Constantinople. The metropolitans and the bishops were
Greek by birth and education, and the ecclesiastical administration was
guided and controlled by the Byzantine Patriarchs. But from the time of
the Mongol invasion, when communication with Constantinople became more
difficult and educated native priests had become more numerous, this
complete dependence on the Patriarch of Constantinople ceased. The
Princes gradually arrogated to themselves the right of choosing the
Metropolitan of Kief--who was at that time the chief ecclesiastical
dignitary in Russia--and merely sent their nominees to Constantinople
for consecration. About 1448 this formality came to be dispensed with,
and the Metropolitan was commonly consecrated by a Council of Russian
bishops. A further step in the direction of ecclesiastical autonomy was
taken in 1589, when the Tsar succeeded in procuring the consecration of
a Russian Patriarch, equal in dignity and authority to the Patriarchs of
Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria.

In all matters of external form the Patriarch of Moscow was a very
important personage. He exercised a certain influence in civil as well
as ecclesiastical affairs, bore the official title of "Great Lord"
(Veliki Gosudar), which had previously been reserved for the civil head
of the State, and habitually received from the people scarcely less
veneration than the Tsar himself. But in reality he possessed very
little independent power. The Tsar was the real ruler in ecclesiastical
as well as in civil affairs.*

     * As this is frequently denied by Russians, it may be well
     to quote one authority out of many that might be cited.
     Bishop Makarii, whose erudition and good faith are alike
     above suspicion, says of Dmitri of the Don: "He arrogated to
     himself full, unconditional power over the Head of the
     Russian Church, and through him over the whole Russian
     Church itself."  ("Istoriya Russkoi Tserkvi," V., p. 101.)
     This is said of a Grand Prince who had strong rivals and had
     to treat the Church as an ally.  When the Grand Princes
     became Tsars and had no longer any rivals, their power was
     certainly not diminished.  Any further confirmation that may
     be required will be found in the Life of the famous
     Patriarch Nikon.

The Russian Patriarchate came to an end in the time of Peter the
Great. Peter wished, among other things, to reform the ecclesiastical
administration, and to introduce into his country many novelties which
the majority of the clergy and of the people regarded as heretical; and
he clearly perceived that a bigoted, energetic Patriarch might throw
considerable obstacles in his way, and cause him infinite annoyance.
Though such a Patriarch might be deposed without any flagrant violation
of the canonical formalities, the operation would necessarily be
attended with great trouble and loss of time. Peter was no friend of
roundabout, tortuous methods, and preferred to remove the difficulty in
his usual thorough, violent fashion. When the Patriarch Adrian died, the
customary short interregnum was prolonged for twenty years, and when
the people had thus become accustomed to having no Patriarch, it was
announced that no more Patriarchs would be elected. Their place
was supplied by an ecclesiastical council, or Synod, in which, as a
contemporary explained, "the mainspring was Peter's power, and the
pendulum his understanding." The great autocrat justly considered
that such a council could be much more easily managed than a stubborn
Patriarch, and the wisdom of the measure has been duly appreciated
by succeeding sovereigns. Though the idea of re-establishing the
Patriarchate has more than once been raised, it has never been carried
into execution. The Holy Synod remains the highest ecclesiastical

But the Emperor? What is his relation to the Synod and to the Church in

This is a question about which zealous Orthodox Russians are extremely
sensitive. If a foreigner ventures to hint in their presence that the
Emperor seems to have a considerable influence in the Church, he may
inadvertently produce a little outburst of patriotic warmth and virtuous
indignation. The truth is that many Russians have a pet theory on this
subject, and have at the same time a dim consciousness that the theory
is not quite in accordance with reality. They hold theoretically that
the Orthodox Church has no "Head" but Christ, and is in some peculiar
undefined sense entirely independent of all terrestrial authority. In
this respect it is often contrasted with the Anglican Church, much to
the disadvantage of the latter; and the supposed differences between
the two are made a theme for semi-religious, semi-patriotic exultation.
Khomiakof, for instance, in one of his most vigorous poems, predicts
that God will one day take the destiny of the world out of the hands
of England in order to give it to Russia, and he adduces as one of
the reasons for this transfer the fact that England "has chained, with
sacrilegious hand, the Church of God to the pedestal of the vain earthly
power." So far the theory. As to the facts, it is unquestionable that
the Tsar exercises a much greater influence in ecclesiastical affairs
than the King and Parliament in England. All who know the internal
history of Russia are aware that the Government does not draw a clear
line of distinction between the temporal and the spiritual, and that
it occasionally uses the ecclesiastical organisation for political

What, then, are the relations between Church and State?

To avoid confusion, we must carefully distinguish between the Eastern
Orthodox Church as a whole and that section of it which is known as the
Russian Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church* is, properly speaking, a confederation of
independent churches without any central authority--a unity founded
on the possession of a common dogma and on the theoretical but now
unrealisable possibility of holding Ecumenical Councils. The
Russian National Church is one of the members of this ecclesiastical
confederation. In matters of faith it is bound by the decisions of
the ancient Ecumenical Councils, but in all other respects it enjoys
complete independence and autonomy.

     * Or Greek Orthodox Church, as it is sometimes called.

In relation to the Orthodox Church as a whole the Emperor of Russia is
nothing more than a simple member, and can no more interfere with its
dogmas or ceremonial than a King of Italy or an Emperor of the French
could modify Roman Catholic theology; but in relation to the Russian
National Church his position is peculiar. He is described in one of the
fundamental laws as "the supreme defender and preserver of the dogmas
of the dominant faith," and immediately afterwards it is said that "the
autocratic power acts in the ecclesiastical administration by means
of the most Holy Governing Synod, created by it."* This describes very
fairly the relations between the Emperor and the Church. He is merely
the defender of the dogmas, and cannot in the least modify them; but he
is at the same time the chief administrator, and uses the Synod as an

     * Svod Zakonov I., 42, 43.

Some ingenious people who wish to prove that the creation of the Synod
was not an innovation represent the institution as a resuscitation of
the ancient local councils; but this view is utterly untenable. The
Synod is not a council of deputies from various sections of the Church,
but a permanent college, or ecclesiastical senate, the members of which
are appointed and dismissed by the Emperor as he thinks fit. It has no
independent legislative authority, for its legislative projects do not
become law till they have received the Imperial sanction; and they are
always published, not in the name of the Church, but in the name of
the Supreme Power. Even in matters of simple administration it is
not independent, for all its resolutions require the consent of the
Procureur, a layman nominated by his Majesty. In theory this functionary
protests only against those resolutions which are not in accordance with
the civil law of the country; but as he alone has the right to
address the Emperor directly on ecclesiastical concerns, and as all
communications between the Emperor and the Synod pass through his hands,
he possesses in reality considerable power. Besides this, he can always
influence the individual members by holding out prospects of advancement
and decorations, and if this device fails, he can make refractory
members retire, and fill up their places with men of more pliant
disposition. A Council constituted in this way cannot, of course,
display much independence of thought or action, especially in a country
like Russia, where no one ventures to oppose openly the Imperial will.

It must not, however, be supposed that the Russian ecclesiastics regard
the Imperial authority with jealousy or dislike. They are all most loyal
subjects, and warm adherents of autocracy. Those ideas of ecclesiastical
independence which are so common in Western Europe, and that spirit of
opposition to the civil power which animates the Roman Catholic clergy,
are entirely foreign to their minds. If a bishop sometimes complains to
an intimate friend that he has been brought to St. Petersburg and made
a member of the Synod merely to append his signature to official papers
and to give his consent to foregone conclusions, his displeasure is
directed, not against the Emperor, but against the Procureur. He is
full of loyalty and devotion to the Tsar, and has no desire to see his
Majesty excluded from all influence in ecclesiastical affairs; but he
feels saddened and humiliated when he finds that the whole government of
the Church is in the hands of a lay functionary, who may be a military
man, and who looks at all matters from a layman's point of view.

This close connection between Church and State and the thoroughly
national character of the Russian Church is well illustrated by the
history of the local ecclesiastical administration. The civil and the
ecclesiastical administration have always had the same character and
have always been modified by the same influences. The terrorism which
was largely used by the Muscovite Tsars and brought to a climax by Peter
the Great appeared equally in both. In the episcopal circulars, as in
the Imperial ukazes, we find frequent mention of "most cruel corporal
punishment," "cruel punishment with whips, so that the delinquent and
others may not acquire the habit of practising such insolence," and much
more of the same kind. And these terribly severe measures were sometimes
directed against very venial offences. The Bishop of Vologda, for
instance, in 1748 decrees "cruel corporal punishment" against priests
who wear coarse and ragged clothes,* and the records of the Consistorial
courts contain abundant proof that such decrees were rigorously
executed. When Catherine II. introduced a more humane spirit into the
civil administration, corporal punishment was at once abolished in the
Consistorial courts, and the procedure was modified according to the
accepted maxims of civil jurisprudence. But I must not weary the reader
with tiresome historical details. Suffice it to say that, from the time
of Peter the Great downwards, the character of all the more energetic
sovereigns is reflected in the history of the ecclesiastical

     * Znamenski, "Prikhodskoe Dukhovenstvo v Rossii so vremeni
     reformy Petra," Kazan, 1873.

Each province, or "government," forms a diocese, and the bishop, like
the civil governor, has a Council which theoretically controls his
power, but practically has no controlling influence whatever. The
Consistorial Council, which has in the theory of ecclesiastical
procedure a very imposing appearance, is in reality the bishop's
chancellerie, and its members are little more than secretaries, whose
chief object is to make themselves agreeable to their superior. And it
must be confessed that, so long as they remain what they are, the
less power they possess the better it will be for those who have the
misfortune to be under their jurisdiction. The higher dignitaries have
at least larger aims and a certain consciousness of the dignity of their
position; but the lower officials, who have no such healthy restraints
and receive ridiculously small salaries, grossly misuse the little
authority which they possess, and habitually pilfer and extort in the
most shameless manner. The Consistories are, in fact, what the public
offices were in the time of Nicholas I.

The higher ecclesiastical administration has always been in the hands
of the monks, or "Black Clergy," as they are commonly termed, who form a
large and influential class. The monks who first settled in Russia were,
like those who first visited north-western Europe, men of the earnest,
ascetic, missionary type. Filled with zeal for the glory of God and the
salvation of souls, they took little or no thought for the morrow, and
devoutly believed that their Heavenly Father, without whose knowledge no
sparrow falls to the ground, would provide for their humble wants. Poor,
clad in rags, eating the most simple fare, and ever ready to share what
they had with any one poorer than themselves, they performed faithfully
and earnestly the work which their Master had given them to do. But
this ideal of monastic life soon gave way in Russia, as in the West, to
practices less simple and austere. By the liberal donations and bequests
of the faithful the monasteries became rich in gold, in silver, in
precious stones, and above all in land and serfs. Troitsa, for instance,
possessed at one time 120,000 serfs and a proportionate amount of land,
and it is said that at the beginning of the eighteenth century more than
a fourth of the entire population had fallen under the jurisdiction of
the Church. Many of the monasteries engaged in commerce, and the monks
were, if we may credit Fletcher, who visited Russia in 1588, the most
intelligent merchants of the country.

During the eighteenth century the Church lands were secularised, and the
serfs of the Church became serfs of the State. This was a severe
blow for the monasteries, but it did not prove fatal, as many people
predicted. Some monasteries were abolished and others were reduced to
extreme poverty, but many survived and prospered. These could no longer
possess serfs, but they had still three sources of revenue: a limited
amount of real property, Government subsidies, and the voluntary
offerings of the faithful. At present there are about 500 monastic
establishments, and the great majority of them, though not wealthy,
have revenues more than sufficient to satisfy all the requirements of an
ascetic life.

Thus in Russia, as in Western Europe, the history of monastic
institutions is composed of three chapters, which may be briefly
entitled: asceticism and missionary enterprise; wealth, luxury, and
corruption; secularisation of property and decline. But between Eastern
and Western monasticism there is at least one marked difference.
The monasticism of the West made at various epochs of its history
a vigorous, spontaneous effort at self-regeneration, which found
expression in the foundation of separate Orders, each of which proposed
to itself some special aim--some special sphere of usefulness. In Russia
we find no similar phenomenon. Here the monasteries never deviated
from the rules of St. Basil, which restrict the members to religious
ceremonies, prayer, and contemplation. From time to time a solitary
individual raised his voice against the prevailing abuses, or retired
from his monastery to spend the remainder of his days in ascetic
solitude; but neither in the monastic population as a whole, nor in any
particular monastery, do we find at any time a spontaneous, vigorous
movement towards reform. During the last two hundred years reforms have
certainly been effected, but they have all been the work of the civil
power, and in the realisation of them the monks have shown little more
than the virtue of resignation. Here, as elsewhere, we have evidence of
that inertness, apathy, and want of spontaneous vigour which form one of
the most characteristic traits of Russian national life. In this, as in
other departments of national activity, the spring of action has lain
not in the people, but in the Government.

It is only fair to the monks to state that in their dislike to progress
and change of every kind they merely reflect the traditional spirit of
the Church to which they belong. The Russian Church, like the Eastern
Orthodox Church generally, is essentially conservative. Anything in
the nature of a religious revival is foreign to her traditions and
character. Quieta non movere is her fundamental principle of conduct.
She prides herself as being above terrestrial influences.

The modifications that have been made in her administrative organisation
have not affected her inner nature. In spirit and character she is now
what she was under the Patriarchs in the time of the Muscovite Tsars,
holding fast to the promise that no jot or tittle shall pass from the
law till all be fulfilled. To those who talk about the requirements of
modern life and modern science she turns a deaf ear. Partly from the
predominance which she gives to the ceremonial element, partly from
the fact that her chief aim is to preserve unmodified the doctrine and
ceremonial as determined by the early Ecumenical Councils, and partly
from the low state of general culture among the clergy, she has ever
remained outside of the intellectual movements. The attempts of the
Roman Catholic Church to develop the traditional dogmas by definition
and deduction, and the efforts of Protestants to reconcile their creeds
with progressive science and the ever-varying intellectual currents of
the time, are alike foreign to her nature. Hence she has produced no
profound theological treatises conceived in a philosophical spirit, and
has made no attempt to combat the spirit of infidelity in its modern
forms. Profoundly convinced that her position is impregnable, she has
"let the nations rave," and scarcely deigned to cast a glance at their
intellectual and religious struggles. In a word, she is "in the world,
but not of it."

If we wish to see represented in a visible form the peculiar
characteristics of the Russian Church, we have only to glance at Russian
religious art, and compare it with that of Western Europe. In the West,
from the time of the Renaissance downwards, religious art has kept pace
with artistic progress. Gradually it emancipated itself from archaic
forms and childish symbolism, converted the lifeless typical figures
into living individuals, lit up their dull eyes and expressionless
faces with human intelligence and human feeling, and finally aimed at
archaeological accuracy in costume and other details. Thus in the
West the Icon grew slowly into the naturalistic portrait, and the rude
symbolical groups developed gradually into highly-finished historical
pictures. In Russia the history of religious art has been entirely
different. Instead of distinctive schools of painting and great
religious artists, there has been merely an anonymous traditional craft,
destitute of any artistic individuality. In all the productions of
this craft the old Byzantine forms have been faithfully and rigorously
preserved, and we can see reflected in the modern Icons--stiff, archaic,
expressionless--the immobility of the Eastern Church in general, and of
the Russian Church in particular.

To the Roman Catholic, who struggles against science as soon as it
contradicts traditional conceptions, and to the Protestant, who strives
to bring his religious beliefs into accordance with his scientific
knowledge, the Russian Church may seem to resemble an antediluvian
petrifaction, or a cumbrous line-of-battle ship that has been long
stranded. It must be confessed, however, that the serene inactivity for
which she is distinguished has had very valuable practical consequences.
The Russian clergy have neither that haughty, aggressive intolerance
which characterises their Roman Catholic brethren, nor that bitter,
uncharitable, sectarian spirit which is too often to be found among
Protestants. They allow not only to heretics, but also to members of
their own communion, the most complete intellectual freedom, and never
think of anathematising any one for his scientific or unscientific
opinions. All that they demand is that those who have been born
within the pale of Orthodoxy should show the Church a certain nominal
allegiance; and in this matter of allegiance they are by no mean very
exacting. So long as a member refrains from openly attacking the Church
and from going over to another confession, he may entirely neglect all
religious ordinances and publicly profess scientific theories logically
inconsistent with any kind of dogmatic religious belief without the
slightest danger of incurring ecclesiastical censure.

This apathetic tolerance may be partly explained by the national
character, but it is also to some extent due to the peculiar relations
between Church and State. The government vigilantly protects the Church
from attack, and at the same time prevents her from attacking her
enemies. Hence religious questions are never discussed in the Press,
and the ecclesiastical literature is all historical, homiletic, or
devotional. The authorities allow public oral discussions to be held
during Lent in the Kremlin of Moscow between members of the State Church
and Old Ritualists; but these debates are not theological in our sense
of the term. They turn exclusively on details of Church history, and on
the minutiae of ceremonial observance.

A few years ago there was a good deal of vague talk about a possible
union of the Russian and Anglican Churches. If by "union" is meant
simply union in the bonds of brotherly love, there can be, of course, no
objection to any amount of such pia desideria; but if anything more real
and practical is intended, the project is an absurdity. A real union of
the Russian and Anglican Churches would be as difficult of realisation,
and is as undesirable, as a union of the Russian Council of State and
the British House of Commons.*

     * I suppose that the more serious partisans of the union
     scheme mean union with the Eastern Orthodox, and not with
     the Russian, Church.  To them the above remarks are not
     addressed.  Their scheme is, in my opinion, unrealisable and
     undesirable, but it contains nothing absurd.



The Nobles In Early Times--The Mongol Domination--The Tsardom of
Muscovy--Family Dignity--Reforms of Peter the Great--The Nobles Adopt
West-European Conceptions--Abolition of Obligatory Service--Influence of
Catherine II.--The Russian Dvoryanstvo Compared with the French Noblesse
and the English Aristocracy--Russian Titles--Probable Future of the
Russian Noblesse.

Hitherto I have been compelling the reader to move about among what
we should call the lower classes--peasants, burghers, traders, parish
priests, Dissenters, heretics, Cossacks, and the like--and he feels
perhaps inclined to complain that he has had no opportunity of mixing
with what old-fashioned people call gentle-folk and persons of quality.
By way of making amends to him for this reprehensible conduct on my
part, I propose now to present him to the whole Noblesse* in a body, not
only those at present living, but also their near and distant ancestors,
right back to the foundation of the Russian Empire a thousand years ago.
Thereafter I shall introduce him to some of the country families and
invite him to make with me a few country-house visits.

     * I use here a foreign, in preference to an English, term,
     because the word "Nobility" would convey a false impression.
     Etymologically the Russian word "Dvoryanin" means a Courtier
     (from Dvor=court); but this term is equally objectionable,
     because the great majority of the Dvoryanstvo have nothing
     to do with the Court.

In the old times, when Russia was merely a collection of some seventy
independent principalities, each reigning prince was surrounded by
a group of armed men, composed partly of Boyars, or large landed
proprietors, and partly of knights, or soldiers of fortune. These men,
who formed the Noblesse of the time, were to a certain extent under the
authority of the Prince, but they were by no means mere obedient, silent
executors of his will. The Boyars might refuse to take part in his
military expeditions, and the "free-lances" might leave his service
and seek employment elsewhere. If he wished to go to war without their
consent, they could say to him, as they did on one occasion, "You have
planned this yourself, Prince, so we will not go with you, for we knew
nothing of it." Nor was this resistance to the princely will always
merely passive. Once, in the principality of Galitch, the armed men
seized their prince, killed his favourites, burned his mistress, and
made him swear that he would in future live with his lawful wife. To his
successor, who had married the wife of a priest, they spoke thus: "We
have not risen against YOU, Prince, but we will not do reverence to a
priest's wife: we will put her to death, and then you may marry whom you
please." Even the energetic Bogolubski, one of the most remarkable
of the old Princes, did not succeed in having his own way. When he
attempted to force the Boyars he met with stubborn opposition, and was
finally assassinated. From these incidents, which might be indefinitely
multiplied from the old chronicles, we see that in the early period
of Russian history the Boyars and knights were a body of free men,
possessing a considerable amount of political power.

Under the Mongol domination this political equilibrium was destroyed.
When the country had been conquered, the Princes became servile vassals
of the Khan and arbitrary rulers towards their own subjects. The
political significance of the nobles was thereby greatly diminished. It
was not, however, by any means annihilated. Though the Prince no longer
depended entirely on their support, he had an interest in retaining
their services, to protect his territory in case of sudden attack, or
to increase his possessions at the expense of his neighbours when a
convenient opportunity presented itself. Theoretically, such conquests
were impossible, for all removing of the ancient landmarks depended on
the decision of the Khan; but in reality the Khan paid little attention
to the affairs of his vassals so long as the tribute was regularly
paid; and much took place in Russia without his permission. We find,
therefore, in some of the principalities the old relations still
subsisting under Mongol rule. The famous Dmitri of the Don, for
instance, when on his death-bed, speaks thus to his Boyars: "You know
my habits and my character; I was born among you, grew up among you,
governed with you--fighting by your side, showing you honour and love,
and placing you over towns and districts. I loved your children, and
did evil to no one. I rejoiced with you in your joy, mourned with you in
your grief, and called you the princes of my land." Then, turning to his
children, he adds, as a parting advice: "Love your Boyars, my children;
show them the honour which their services merit, and undertake nothing
without their consent."

When the Grand Princes of Moscow brought the other principalities under
their power, and formed them into the Tsardom of Muscovy, the nobles
descended another step in the political scale. So long as there were
many principalities they could quit the service of a Prince as soon as
he gave them reason to be discontented, knowing that they would be well
received by one of his rivals; but now they had no longer any choice.
The only rival of Moscow was Lithuania, and precautions were taken to
prevent the discontented from crossing the Lithuanian frontier. The
nobles were no longer voluntary adherents of a Prince, but had become
subjects of a Tsar; and the Tsars were not as the old Princes had
been. By a violent legal fiction they conceived themselves to be
the successors of the Byzantine Emperors, and created a new court
ceremonial, borrowed partly from Constantinople and partly from the
Mongol Horde. They no longer associated familiarly with the Boyars, and
no longer asked their advice, but treated them rather as menials.
When the nobles entered their august master's presence they prostrated
themselves in Oriental fashion--occasionally as many as thirty
times--and when they incurred his displeasure they were summarily
flogged or executed, according to the Tsar's good pleasure. In
succeeding to the power of the Khans, the Tsars had adopted, we see, a
good deal of the Mongol system of government.

It may seem strange that a class of men which had formerly shown a proud
spirit of independence should have submitted quietly to such humiliation
and oppression without making a serious effort to curb the new power,
which had no longer a Tartar Horde at its back to quell opposition. But
we must remember that the nobles, as well as the Princes, had passed in
the meantime through the school of the Mongol domination. In the course
of two centuries they had gradually become accustomed to despotic rule
in the Oriental sense. If they felt their position humiliating and
irksome, they must have felt, too, how difficult it was to better it.
Their only resource lay in combining against the common oppressor;
and we have only to glance at the motley, disorganised group, as they
cluster round the Tsar, to perceive that combination was extremely
difficult. We can distinguish there the mediatised Princes, still
harbouring designs for the recovery of their independence; the Moscow
Boyars, jealous of their family honour and proud of Muscovite supremacy;
Tartar Murzi, who have submitted to be baptised and have received land
like the other nobles; the Novgorodian magnate, who cannot forget the
ancient glory of his native city; Lithuanian nobles, who find it more
profitable to serve the Tsar than their own sovereign; petty chiefs who
have fled from the opposition of the Teutonic order; and soldiers of
fortune from every part of Russia. Strong, permanent political factors
are not easily formed out of such heterogeneous material.

At the end of the sixteenth century the old dynasty became extinct,
and after a short period of political anarchy, commonly called "the
troublous times" (smutnoe vremya), the Romanof family were raised to the
throne by the will of the people, or at least by those who were assumed
to be its representatives. By this change the Noblesse acquired a
somewhat better position. They were no longer exposed to capricious
tyranny and barbarous cruelty, such as they had experienced at the hands
of Ivan the Terrible, but they did not, as a class, gain any political
influence. There were still rival families and rival factions, but
there were no political parties in the proper sense of the term, and the
highest aim of families and factions was to gain the favour of the Tsar.

The frequent quarrels about precedence which took place among the rival
families at this period form one of the most curious episodes of Russian
history. The old patriarchal conception of the family as a unit, one and
indivisible, was still so strong among these men that the elevation or
degradation of one member of a family was considered to affect deeply
the honour of all the other members. Each noble family had its rank in a
recognised scale of dignity, according to the rank which it held, or had
previously held, in the Tsar's service; and a whole family would have
considered itself dishonoured if one of its members accepted a post
lower than that to which he was entitled. Whenever a vacant place in
the service was filled up, the subordinates of the successful candidate
examined the official records and the genealogical trees of their
families, in order to discover whether some ancestor of their new
superior had not served under one of their own ancestors. If the
subordinate found such a case, he complained to the Tsar that it was not
becoming for him to serve under a man who had less family honour than

Unfounded complaints of this kind often entailed imprisonment or
corporal punishment, but in spite of this the quarrels for precedence
were very frequent. At the commencement of a campaign many such disputes
were sure to arise, and the Tsar's decision was not always accepted by
the party who considered himself aggrieved. I have met at least with one
example of a great dignitary voluntarily mutilating his hand in order
to escape the necessity of serving under a man whom he considered his
inferior in family dignity. Even at the Tsar's table these rivalries
sometimes produced unseemly incidents, for it was almost impossible
to arrange the places so as to satisfy all the guests. In one recorded
instance a noble who received a place lower than that to which he
considered himself entitled openly declared to the Tsar that he would
rather be condemned to death than submit to such an indignity. In
another instance of a similar kind the refractory guest was put on his
chair by force, but saved his family honour by slipping under the table!

The next transformation of the Noblesse was effected by Peter the
Great. Peter was by nature and position an autocrat, and could brook no
opposition. Having set before himself a great aim, he sought everywhere
obedient, intelligent, energetic instruments to carry out his designs.
He himself served the State zealously--as a common artisan, when he
considered it necessary--and he insisted on all his subjects doing
likewise, under pain of merciless punishment. To noble birth and long
pedigrees he habitually showed a most democratic, or rather autocratic,
indifference. Intent on obtaining the service of living men, he paid no
attention to the claims of dead ancestors, and gave to his servants the
pay and honour which their services merited, irrespectively of birth or
social position. Hence many of his chief coadjutors had no connection
with the old Russian families. Count Yaguzhinski, who long held one of
the most important posts in the State, was the son of a poor sacristan;
Count Devier was a Portuguese by birth, and had been a cabin-boy; Baron
Shafirof was a Jew; Hannibal, who died with the rank of Commander in
Chief, was a negro who had been bought in Constantinople; and his Serene
Highness Prince Menshikof had begun life, it was said, as a baker's
apprentice! For the future, noble birth was to count for nothing. The
service of the State was thrown open to men of all ranks, and personal
merit was to be the only claim to promotion.

This must have seemed to the Conservatives of the time a most
revolutionary and reprehensible proceeding, but it did not satisfy the
reforming tendencies of the great autocrat. He went a step further, and
entirely changed the legal status of the Noblesse. Down to his time the
nobles were free to serve or not as they chose, and those who chose to
serve enjoyed land on what we should call a feudal tenure. Some served
permanently in the military or civil administration, but by far the
greater number lived on their estates, and entered the active service
merely when the militia was called out in view of war. This system was
completely changed when Peter created a large standing army and a
great centralised bureaucracy. By one of those "fell swoops" which
periodically occur in Russian history, he changed the feudal into
freehold tenures, and laid down the principle that all nobles, whatever
their landed possessions might be, should serve the State in the army,
the fleet, or the civil administration, from boyhood to old age. In
accordance with this principle, any noble who refused to serve was not
only deprived of his estate, as in the old times, but was declared to be
a traitor and might be condemned to capital punishment.

The nobles were thus transformed into servants of the State, and the
State in the time of Peter was a hard taskmaster. They complained
bitterly, and with reason, that they had been deprived of their ancient
rights, and were compelled to accept quietly and uncomplainingly
whatever burdens their master chose to place upon them. "Though our
country," they said, "is in no danger of invasion, no sooner is peace
concluded than plans are laid for a new war, which has generally no
other foundation than the ambition of the Sovereign, or perhaps merely
the ambition of one of his Ministers. To please him our peasants are
utterly exhausted, and we ourselves are forced to leave our homes and
families, not as formerly for a single campaign, but for long years. We
are compelled to contract debts and to entrust our estates to thieving
overseers, who commonly reduce them to such a condition that when we
are allowed to retire from the service, in consequence of old age or
illness, we cannot to the end of our lives retrieve our prosperity. In
a word, we are so exhausted and ruined by the keeping up of a standing
army, and by the consequences flowing therefrom, that the most cruel
enemy, though he should devastate the whole Empire, could not cause us
one-half of the injury."*

     * These complaints have been preserved by Vockerodt, a
     Prussian diplomatic agent of the time.

This Spartan regime, which ruthlessly sacrificed private interests to
considerations of State policy, could not long be maintained in its
pristine severity. It undermined its own foundations by demanding too
much. Draconian laws threatening confiscation and capital punishment
were of little avail. Nobles became monks, inscribed themselves as
merchants, or engaged themselves as domestic servants, in order to
escape their obligations. "Some," says a contemporary, "grow old in
disobedience and have never once appeared in active service. . . . There
is, for instance, Theodore Mokeyef. . . . In spite of the strict orders
sent regarding him no one could ever catch him. Some of those sent
to take him he belaboured with blows, and when he could not beat the
messengers, he pretended to be dangerously ill, or feigned idiocy, and,
running into the pond, stood in the water up to his neck; but as soon
as the messengers were out of sight he returned home and roared like a
lion." *

     * Pososhkof, "O skudosti i bogatstve."

After Peter's death the system was gradually relaxed, but the Noblesse
could not be satisfied by partial concessions. Russia had in the
meantime moved, as it were, out of Asia into Europe, and had become
one of the great European Powers. The upper classes had been gradually
learning something of the fashions, the literature, the institutions,
and the moral conceptions of Western Europe, and the nobles naturally
compared the class to which they belonged with the aristocracies of
Germany and France. For those who were influenced by the new foreign
ideas the comparison was humiliating. In the West the Noblesse was a
free and privileged class, proud of its liberty, its rights, and its
culture; whereas in Russia the nobles were servants of the State,
without privileges, without dignity, subject to corporal punishment, and
burdened with onerous duties from which there was no escape. Thus arose
in that section of the Noblesse which had some acquaintance with Western
civilisation a feeling of discontent, and a desire to gain a social
position similar to that of the nobles in France and Germany. These
aspirations were in part realised by Peter III., who in 1762 abolished
the principle of obligatory service. His consort, Catherine II., went
much farther in the same direction, and inaugurated a new epoch in the
history of the Dvoryanstvo, a period in which its duties and obligations
fell into the background, and its rights and privileges came to the

Catherine had good reason to favour the Noblesse. As a foreigner and
a usurper, raised to the throne by a Court conspiracy, she could not
awaken in the masses that semi-religious veneration which the legitimate
Tsars have always enjoyed, and consequently she had to seek support
in the upper classes, who were less rigid and uncompromising in their
conceptions of legitimacy. She confirmed, therefore, the ukaz which
abolished obligatory service of the nobles, and sought to gain their
voluntary service by honours and rewards. In her manifestoes she always
spoke of them in the most flattering terms; and tried to convince them
that the welfare of the country depended on their loyalty and devotion.
Though she had no intention of ceding any of her political power, she
formed the nobles of each province into a corporation, with periodical
assemblies, which were supposed to resemble the French Provincial
Parliaments, and entrusted to each of these corporations a large part
of the local administration. By these and similar means, aided by her
masculine energy and feminine tact, she made herself very popular,
and completely changed the old conceptions about the public service.
Formerly service had been looked on as a burden; now it came to be
looked on as a privilege. Thousands who had retired to their estates
after the publication of the liberation edict now flocked back and
sought appointments, and this tendency was greatly increased by the
brilliant campaigns against the Turks, which excited the patriotic
feelings and gave plentiful opportunities of promotion. "Not only landed
proprietors," it is said in a comedy of the time,* "but all men, even
shopkeepers and cobblers, aim at becoming officers, and the man who
has passed his whole life without official rank seems to be not a human

     * Knyazhnina, "Khvastun."

And Catherine did more than this. She shared the idea--generally
accepted throughout Europe since the brilliant reign of Louis XIV.--that
a refined, pomp-loving, pleasure-seeking Court Noblesse was not only the
best bulwark of Monarchy, but also a necessary ornament of every highly
civilised State; and as she ardently desired that her country should
have the reputation of being highly civilised, she strove to create
this national ornament. The love of French civilisation, which already
existed among the upper classes of her subjects, here came to her aid,
and her efforts in this direction were singularly successful. The
Court of St. Petersburg became almost as brilliant, as galant, and as
frivolous as the Court of Versailles. All who aimed at high honours
adopted French fashions, spoke the French language, and affected an
unqualified admiration for French classical literature. The Courtiers
talked of the point d'honneur, discussed the question as to what
was consistent with the dignity of a noble, sought to display "that
chivalrous spirit which constitutes the pride and ornament of France";
and looked back with horror on the humiliating position of their fathers
and grandfathers. "Peter the Great," writes one of them, "beat all who
surrounded him, without distinction of family or rank; but now, many of
us would certainly prefer capital punishment to being beaten or flogged,
even though the castigation were applied by the sacred hands of the
Lord's Anointed."

The tone which reigned in the Court circle of St. Petersburg spread
gradually towards the lower ranks of the Dvoryanstvo, and it seemed to
superficial observers that a very fair imitation of the French Noblesse
had been produced; but in reality the copy was very unlike the model.
The Russian Dvoryanin easily learned the language and assumed the
manners of the French gentilhomme, and succeeded in changing his
physical and intellectual exterior; but all those deeper and more
delicate parts of human nature which are formed by the accumulated
experience of past generations could not be so easily and rapidly
changed. The French gentilhomme of the eighteenth century was the direct
descendant of the feudal baron, with the fundamental conceptions of his
ancestors deeply embedded in his nature. He had not, indeed, the old
haughty bearing towards the Sovereign, and his language was tinged with
the fashionable democratic philosophy of the time; but he possessed
a large intellectual and moral inheritance that had come down to him
directly from the palmy days of feudalism--an inheritance which even the
Great Revolution, which was then preparing, could not annihilate. The
Russian noble, on the contrary, had received from his ancestors entirely
different traditions. His father and grandfather had been conscious
of the burdens rather than the privileges of the class to which they
belonged. They had considered it no disgrace to receive corporal
punishment, and had been jealous of their honour, not as gentlemen or
descendants of Boyars, but as Brigadiers, College Assessors, or Privy
Counsellors. Their dignity had rested not on the grace of God, but
on the will of the Tsar. Under these circumstances even the proudest
magnate of Catherine's Court, though he might speak French as fluently
as his mother tongue, could not be very deeply penetrated with the
conception of noble blood, the sacred character of nobility, and the
numerous feudal ideas interwoven with these conceptions. And in adopting
the outward forms of a foreign culture the nobles did not, it seems,
gain much in true dignity. "The old pride of the nobles has fallen!"
exclaims one who had more genuine aristocratic feeling than his
fellows.* "There are no longer any honourable families; but merely
official rank and personal merits. All seek official rank, and as all
cannot render direct services, distinctions are sought by every possible
means--by flattering the Monarch and toadying the important personages."
There was considerable truth in this complaint, but the voice of this
solitary aristocrat was as of one crying in the wilderness. The whole of
the educated classes--men of old family and parvenus alike--were, with
few exceptions, too much engrossed with place-hunting to attend to such
sentimental wailing.

     * Prince Shtcherbatof.

If the Russian Noblesse was thus in its new form but a very imperfect
imitation of its French model, it was still more unlike the English
aristocracy. Notwithstanding the liberal phrases in which Catherine
habitually indulged, she never had the least intention of ceding one
jot or tittle of her autocratic power, and the Noblesse as a class
never obtained even a shadow of political influence. There was no real
independence under the new airs of dignity and hauteur. In all their
acts and openly expressed opinions the courtiers were guided by the
real or supposed wishes of the Sovereign, and much of their political
sagacity was employed in endeavouring to discover what would please
her. "People never talk politics in the salons," says a contemporary
witness,* "not even to praise the Government. Fear has produced habits of
prudence, and the Frondeurs of the Capital express their opinions only
in the confidence of intimate friendship or in a relationship still more
confidential. Those who cannot bear this constraint retire to Moscow,
which cannot be called the centre of opposition, for there is no such
thing as opposition in a country with an autocratic Government, but
which is the capital of the discontented." And even there the discontent
did not venture to show itself in the Imperial presence. "In Moscow,"
says another witness, accustomed to the obsequiousness of Versailles,
"you might believe yourself to be among republicans who have just thrown
off the yoke of a tyrant, but as soon as the Court arrives you see
nothing but abject slaves."**

     * Segur, long Ambassador of France at the Court of

     ** Sabathier de Cabres, "Catherine II. et la Cour de Russie
     en 1772."

Though thus excluded from direct influence in political affairs the
Noblesse might still have acquired a certain political significance in
the State, by means of the Provincial Assemblies, and by the part
they took in local administration; but in reality they had neither the
requisite political experience nor the requisite patience, nor even
the desire to pursue such a policy. The majority of the proprietors
preferred the chances of promotion in the Imperial service to the
tranquil life of a country gentleman; and those who resided permanently
on their estates showed indifference or positive antipathy to everything
connected with the local administration. What was officially described
as "a privilege conferred on the nobles for their fidelity, and for
the generous sacrifice of their lives in their country's cause," was
regarded by those who enjoyed it as a new kind of obligatory service--an
obligation to supply judges and officers of rural police.

If we require any additional proof that the nobles amidst all these
changes were still as dependent as ever on the arbitrary will or caprice
of the Monarch, we have only to glance at their position in the time
of Paul I., the capricious, eccentric, violent son and successor of
Catherine. The autobiographical memoirs of the time depict in vivid
colours the humiliating position of even the leading men in the State,
in constant fear of exciting by act, word, or look the wrath of the
Sovereign. As we read these contemporary records we seem to have before
us a picture of ancient Rome under the most despotic and capricious
of her Emperors. Irritated and embittered before his accession to the
throne by the haughty demeanour of his mother's favourites, Paul lost no
opportunity of showing his contempt for aristocratic pretensions, and
of humiliating those who were supposed to harbour them. "Apprenez,
Monsieur," he said angrily on one occasion to Dumouriez, who had
accidentally referred to one of the "considerable" personages of the
Court, "Apprenez qu'il n'y a pas de considerable ici, que la personne a
laquelle je parle et pendant le temps que je lui parle!"*

     * This saying is often falsely attributed to Nicholas.  The
     anecdote is related by Segur.

From the time of Catherine down to the accession of Alexander II. in
1855 no important change was made in the legal status of the Noblesse,
but a gradual change took place in its social character by the continual
influx of Western ideas and Western culture. The exclusively French
culture in vogue at the Court of Catherine assumed a more cosmopolitan
colouring, and permeated downwards till all who had any pretensions to
being civilises spoke French with tolerable fluency and possessed at
least a superficial acquaintance with the literature of Western Europe.
What chiefly distinguished them in the eye of the law from the other
classes was the privilege of possessing "inhabited estates"--that is to
say, estates with serfs. By the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 this
valuable privilege was abolished, and about one-half of their landed
property passed into the hands of the peasantry. By the administrative
reforms which have since taken place, any little significance which the
provincial corporations may have possessed has been annihilated. Thus
at the present day the nobles are on a level with the other classes with
regard to the right of possessing landed property and the administration
of local affairs.

From this rapid sketch the reader will easily perceive that the Russian
Noblesse has had a peculiar historical development. In Germany, France,
and England the nobles were early formed into a homogeneous organised
body by the political conditions in which they were placed. They had to
repel the encroaching tendencies of the Monarchy on the one hand, and
of the bourgeoisie on the other; and in this long struggle with powerful
rivals they instinctively held together and developed a vigorous esprit
de corps. New members penetrated into their ranks, but these intruders
were so few in number that they were rapidly assimilated without
modifying the general character or recognised ideals of the class, and
without rudely disturbing the fiction of purity of blood. The class thus
assumed more and more the nature of a caste with a peculiar intellectual
and moral culture, and stoutly defended its position and privileges
till the ever-increasing power of the middle classes undermined its
influence. Its fate in different countries has been different. In
Germany it clung to its feudal traditions, and still preserves its
social exclusiveness. In France it was deprived of its political
influence by the Monarchy and crushed by the Revolution. In England
it moderated its pretensions, allied itself with the middle classes,
created under the disguise of constitutional monarchy an aristocratic
republic, and conceded inch by inch, as necessity demanded, a share of
its political influence to the ally that had helped it to curb the Royal
power. Thus the German baron, the French gentilhomme, and the English
nobleman represent three distinct, well-marked types; but amidst all
their diversities they have much in common. They have all preserved to
a greater or less extent a haughty consciousness of innate
inextinguishable superiority over the lower orders, together with a more
or less carefully disguised dislike for the class which has been, and
still is, an aggressive rival.

The Russian Noblesse has not these characteristics. It was formed out of
more heterogeneous materials, and these materials did not spontaneously
combine to form an organic whole, but were crushed into a conglomerate
mass by the weight of the autocratic power. It never became a
semi-independent factor in the State. What rights and privileges it
possesses it received from the Monarchy, and consequently it has no
deep-rooted jealousy or hatred of the Imperial prerogative. On the other
hand, it has never had to struggle with the other social classes, and
therefore it harbours towards them no feelings of rivalry or hostility.
If we hear a Russian noble speak with indignation of autocracy or with
acrimony of the bourgeoisie, we may be sure that these feelings have
their source, not in traditional conceptions, but in principles learned
from the modern schools of social and political philosophy. The class
to which he belongs has undergone so many transformations that it has no
hoary traditions or deep-rooted prejudices, and always willingly adapts
itself to existing conditions. Indeed, it may be said in general that it
looks more to the future than the past, and is ever ready to accept any
new ideas that wear the badge of progress. Its freedom from traditions
and prejudices makes it singularly susceptible of generous enthusiasm
and capable of vigorous spasmodic action, but calm moral courage and
tenacity of purpose are not among its prominent attributes. In a word,
we find in it neither the peculiar virtues nor the peculiar vices which
are engendered and fostered by an atmosphere of political liberty.

However we may explain the fact, there is no doubt that the
Russian Noblesse has little or nothing of what we call aristocratic
feeling--little or nothing of that haughty, domineering, exclusive
spirit which we are accustomed to associate with the word aristocracy.
We find plenty of Russians who are proud of their wealth, of their
culture, or of their official position, but we rarely find a Russian
who is proud of his birth or imagines that the fact of his having a
long pedigree gives him any right to political privileges or social
consideration. Hence there is a certain amount of truth in the
oft-repeated saying that there is in reality no aristocracy in Russia.

Certainly the Noblesse as a whole cannot be called an aristocracy. If
the term is to be used at all, it must be applied to a group of families
which cluster around the Court and form the highest ranks of the
Noblesse. This social aristocracy contains many old families, but its
real basis is official rank and general culture rather than pedigree or
blood. The feudal conceptions of noble birth, good family, and the like
have been adopted by some of its members, but do not form one of
its conspicuous features. Though habitually practising a certain
exclusiveness, it has none of those characteristics of a caste which
we find in the German Adel, and is utterly unable to understand such
institutions as Tafelfähigkeit, by which a man who has not a pedigree of
a certain length is considered unworthy to sit down at a royal table.
It takes rather the English aristocracy as its model, and harbours the
secret hope of one day obtaining a social and political position similar
to that of the nobility and gentry of England. Though it has no peculiar
legal privileges, its actual position in the Administration and at
Court gives its members great facilities for advancement in the public
service. On the other hand, its semi-bureaucratic character, together
with the law and custom of dividing landed property among the children
at the death of their parents, deprives it of stability. New men force
their way into it by official distinction, whilst many of the old
families are compelled by poverty to retire from its ranks. The son of
a small proprietor, or even of a parish priest, may rise to the highest
offices of State, whilst the descendants of the half-mythical Rurik may
descend to the position of peasants. It is said that not very long ago
a certain Prince Krapotkin gained his living as a cabman in St.

It is evident, then, that this social aristocracy must not be confounded
with the titled families. Titles do not possess the same value in Russia
as in Western Europe. They are very common--because the titled families
are numerous, and all the children bear the titles of the parents even
while the parents are still alive--and they are by no means always
associated with official rank, wealth, social position, or distinction
of any kind. There are hundreds of princes and princesses who have not
the right to appear at Court, and who would not be admitted into what is
called in St. Petersburg la societe, or indeed into refined society in
any country.

The only genuine Russian title is Knyaz, commonly translated "Prince."
It is borne by the descendants of Rurik, of the Lithuanian Prince
Ghedimin, and of the Tartar Khans and Murzi officially recognised by the
Tsars. Besides these, there are fourteen families who have adopted it by
Imperial command during the last two centuries. The titles of count
and baron are modern importations, beginning with the time of Peter
the Great. From Peter and his successors about seventy families have
received the title of count and ten that of baron. The latter are all,
with two exceptions, of foreign extraction, and are mostly descended
from Court bankers.*

     * Besides these, there are of course the German counts and
     barons of the Baltic Provinces, who are Russian subjects.

There is a very common idea that Russian nobles are as a rule enormously
rich. This is a mistake. The majority of them are poor. At the time of
the Emancipation, in 1861, there were 100,247 landed proprietors, and
of these, more than 41,000 were possessors of less than twenty-one male
serfs--that is to say, were in a condition of poverty. A proprietor who
was owner of 500 serfs was not considered as by any means very rich, and
yet there were only 3,803 proprietors belonging in that category. There
were a few, indeed, whose possessions were enormous. Count Sheremetief,
for instance, possessed more than 150,000 male serfs, or in other words
more than 300,000 souls; and thirty years ago Count Orloff-Davydof
owned considerably more than half a million of acres. The Demidof family
derive colossal revenues from their mines, and the Strogonofs have
estates which, if put together, would be sufficient in extent to form a
good-sized independent State in Western Europe. The very rich families,
however, are not numerous. The lavish expenditure in which Russian
nobles often indulge indicates too frequently not large fortune, but
simply foolish ostentation and reckless improvidence.

Perhaps, after having spoken so much about the past history of the
Noblesse, I ought to endeavour to cast its horoscope, or at least to
say something of its probable future. Though predictions are always
hazardous, it is sometimes possible, by tracing the great lines of
history in the past, to follow them for a little distance into the
future. If it be allowable to apply this method of prediction in
the present matter, I should say that the Russian Dvoryanstvo will
assimilate with the other classes, rather than form itself into an
exclusive corporation. Hereditary aristocracies may be preserved--or at
least their decomposition may be retarded--where they happen to exist,
but it seems that they can no longer be created. In Western Europe there
is a large amount of aristocratic sentiment, both in the nobles and in
the people; but it exists in spite of, rather than in consequence of,
actual social conditions. It is not a product of modern society, but an
heirloom that has come down to us from feudal times, when power, wealth,
and culture were in the hands of a privileged few. If there ever was in
Russia a period corresponding to the feudal times in Western Europe,
it has long since been forgotten. There is very little aristocratic
sentiment either in the people or in the nobles, and it is difficult to
imagine any source from which it could now be derived. More than this,
the nobles do not desire to make such an acquisition. In so far as
they have any political aspirations, they aim at securing the political
liberty of the people as a whole, and not at acquiring exclusive rights
and privileges for their own class.

In that section which I have called a social aristocracy there are a
few individuals who desire to gain exclusive political influence for
the class to which they belong, but there is very little chance of their
succeeding. If their desires were ever by chance realised, we should
probably have a repetition of the scene which occurred in 1730. When in
that year some of the great families raised the Duchess of Courland to
the throne on condition of her ceding part of her power to a supreme
council, the lower ranks of the Noblesse compelled her to tear up the
constitution which she had signed! Those who dislike the autocratic
power dislike the idea of an aristocratic oligarchy infinitely more.
Nobles and people alike seem to hold instinctively the creed of the
French philosopher, who thought it better to be governed by a lion of
good family than by a hundred rats of his own species.

Of the present condition of the Noblesse I shall again have occasion to
speak when I come to consider the consequences of the Emancipation.



Russian Hospitality--A Country-House--Its Owner Described--His Life,
Past and Present--Winter Evenings--Books---Connection with the Outer
World--The Crimean War and the Emancipation--A Drunken, Dissolute
Proprietor--An Old General and his Wife--"Name Days"--A Legendary
Monster--A Retired Judge--A Clever Scribe--Social Leniency--Cause of

Of all the foreign countries in which I have travelled, Russia certainly
bears off the palm in the matter of hospitality. Every spring I found
myself in possession of a large number of invitations from landed
proprietors in different parts of the country--far more than I could
possibly accept--and a great part of the summer was generally spent in
wandering about from one country-house to another. I have no intention
of asking the reader to accompany me in all these expeditions--for
though pleasant in reality, they might be tedious in description--but
I wish to introduce him to some typical examples of the landed
proprietors. Among them are to be found nearly all ranks and conditions
of men, from the rich magnate, surrounded with the refined luxury of
West-European civilisation, to the poor, ill-clad, ignorant owner of a
few acres which barely supply him with the necessaries of life. Let us
take, first of all, a few specimens from the middle ranks.

In one of the central provinces, near the bank of a sluggish, meandering
stream, stands an irregular group of wooden constructions--old,
unpainted, blackened by time, and surmounted by high, sloping roofs
of moss-covered planks. The principal building is a long, one-storied
dwelling-house, constructed at right angles to the road. At the front
of the house is a spacious, ill-kept yard, and at the back an equally
spacious shady, garden, in which art carries on a feeble conflict with
encroaching nature. At the other side of the yard, and facing the front
door--or rather the front doors, for there are two--stand the stables,
hay-shed, and granary, and near to that end of the house which is
farthest from the road are two smaller houses, one of which is the
kitchen, and the other the Lyudskaya, or servants' apartments. Beyond
these we can perceive, through a single row of lime-trees, another
group of time-blackened wooden constructions in a still more dilapidated
condition. That is the farmyard.

There is certainly not much symmetry in the disposition of these
buildings, but there is nevertheless a certain order and meaning in the
apparent chaos. All the buildings which do not require stoves are built
at a considerable distance from the dwelling-house and kitchen, which
are more liable to take fire; and the kitchen stands by itself, because
the odour of cookery where oil is used is by no means agreeable, even
for those whose olfactory nerves are not very sensitive. The plan of the
house is likewise not without a certain meaning. The rigorous separation
of the sexes, which formed a characteristic trait of old Russian
society, has long since disappeared, but its influence may still be
traced in houses built on the old model. The house in question is one of
these, and consequently it is composed of three sections--at the one
end the male apartments, at the other the female apartments, and in the
middle the neutral territory, comprising the dining-room and the salon.
This arrangement has its conveniences, and explains the fact that the
house has two front doors. At the back is a third door, which opens from
the neutral territory into a spacious verandah overlooking the garden.

Here lives, and has lived for many years, Ivan Ivanovitch K----, a
gentleman of the old school, and a very worthy man of his kind. If we
look at him as he sits in his comfortable armchair, with his capacious
dressing-gown hanging loosely about him, we shall be able to read at a
glance something of his character. Nature endowed him with large bones
and broad shoulders, and evidently intended him to be a man of great
muscular power, but he has contrived to frustrate this benevolent
intention, and has now more fat than muscle. His close-cropped head
is round as a bullet, and his features are massive and heavy, but
the heaviness is relieved by an expression of calm contentment and
imperturbable good-nature, which occasionally blossoms into a broad
grin. His face is one of those on which no amount of histrionic talent
could produce a look of care and anxiety, and for this it is not to
blame, for such an expression has never been demanded of it. Like
other mortals, he sometimes experiences little annoyances, and on such
occasions his small grey eyes sparkle and his face becomes suffused with
a crimson glow that suggests apoplexy; but ill-fortune has never been
able to get sufficiently firm hold of him to make him understand what
such words as care and anxiety mean. Of struggle, disappointment, hope,
and all the other feelings which give to human life a dramatic interest,
he knows little by hearsay and nothing by experience. He has, in
fact, always lived outside of that struggle for existence which modern
philosophers declare to be the law of nature.

Somewhere about seventy years ago Ivan Ivan'itch was born in the house
where he still lives. His first lessons he received from the parish
priest, and afterwards he was taught by a deacon's son, who had studied
in the ecclesiastical seminary to so little purpose that he was unable
to pass the final examination. By both of these teachers he was treated
with extreme leniency, and was allowed to learn as little as he chose.
His father wished him to study hard, but his mother was afraid that
study might injure his health, and accordingly gave him several holidays
every week. Under these circumstances his progress was naturally
not very rapid, and he was still very slightly acquainted with the
elementary rules of arithmetic, when his father one day declared that he
was already eighteen years of age, and must at once enter the service.

But what kind of service? Ivan had no natural inclination for any
kind of activity. The project of entering him as a Junker in a cavalry
regiment, the colonel of which was an old friend of the family, did not
at all please him. He had no love for military service, and positively
disliked the prospect of an examination. Whilst seeming, therefore,
to bow implicitly to the paternal authority, he induced his mother to
oppose the scheme.

The dilemma in which Ivan found himself was this: in deference to his
father he wished to be in the service and gain that official rank
which every Russian noble desires to possess, and at the same time, in
deference to his mother and his own tastes, he wished to remain at home
and continue his indolent mode of life. The Marshal of the Noblesse, who
happened to call one day, helped him out of the difficulty by offering
to inscribe him as secretary in the Dvoryanskaya Opeka, a bureau which
acts as curator for the estates of minors. All the duties of this office
could be fulfilled by a paid secretary, and the nominal occupant would
be periodically promoted as if he were an active official. This was
precisely what Ivan required. He accepted eagerly the proposal, and
obtained, in the course of seven years, without any effort on his
part, the rank of "collegiate secretary," corresponding to the
"capitaine-en-second" of the military hierarchy. To mount higher he
would have had to seek some place where he could not have fulfilled his
duty by proxy, so he determined to rest on his laurels, and sent in his

Immediately after the termination of his official life his married
life began. Before his resignation had been accepted he suddenly found
himself one morning on the high road to matrimony. Here again there was
no effort on his part. The course of true love, which is said never to
run smooth for ordinary mortals, ran smooth for him. He never had even
the trouble of proposing. The whole affair was arranged by his parents,
who chose as bride for their son the only daughter of their nearest
neighbour. The young lady was only about sixteen years of age, and was
not remarkable for beauty, talent, or any other peculiarity, but she had
one very important qualification--she was the daughter of a man who
had an estate contiguous to their own, and who might give as a dowry
a certain bit of land which they had long desired to add to their own
property. The negotiations, being of a delicate nature, were entrusted
to an old lady who had a great reputation for diplomatic skill in such
matters, and she accomplished her mission with such success that in the
course of a few weeks the preliminaries were arranged and the day fixed
for the wedding. Thus Ivan Ivan'itch won his bride as easily as he had
won his tchin of "collegiate secretary."

Though the bridegroom had received rather than taken to himself a wife,
and did not imagine for a moment that he was in love, he had no reason
to regret the choice that was made for him. Maria Petrovna was exactly
suited by character and education to be the wife of a man like Ivan
Ivan'itch. She had grown up at home in the society of nurses and
servant-maids, and had never learned anything more than could be
obtained from the parish priest and from "Ma'mselle," a personage
occupying a position midway between a servant-maid and a governess.
The first events of her life were the announcement that she was to be
married and the preparations for the wedding. She still remembers the
delight which the purchase of her trousseau afforded her, and keeps in
her memory a full catalogue of the articles bought. The first years
of her married life were not very happy, for she was treated by her
mother-in-law as a naughty child who required to be frequently snubbed
and lectured; but she bore the discipline with exemplary patience, and
in due time became her own mistress and autocratic ruler in all domestic
affairs. From that time she has lived an active, uneventful life.
Between her and her husband there is as much mutual attachment as can
reasonably be expected in phlegmatic natures after half a century of
matrimony. She has always devoted her energies to satisfying his simple
material wants--of intellectual wants he has none--and securing his
comfort in every possible way. Under this fostering care he "effeminated
himself" (obabilsya), as he is wont to say. His love of shooting died
out, he cared less and less to visit his neighbours, and each successive
year he spent more and more time in his comfortable arm-chair.

The daily life of this worthy couple is singularly regular and
monotonous, varying only with the changing seasons. In summer Ivan
Ivan'itch gets up about seven o'clock, and puts on, with the assistance
of his valet de chambre, a simple costume, consisting chiefly of a
faded, plentifully stained dressing-gown. Having nothing particular
to do, he sits down at the open window and looks into the yard. As the
servants pass he stops and questions them, and then gives them orders,
or scolds them, as circumstances demand. Towards nine o'clock tea is
announced, and he goes into the dining-room--a long, narrow apartment
with bare wooden floor and no furniture but a table and chairs, all in a
more or less rickety condition. Here he finds his wife with the tea-urn
before her. In a few minutes the grandchildren come in, kiss their
grandpapa's hand, and take their places round the table. As this morning
meal consists merely of bread and tea, it does not last long; and all
disperse to their several occupations. The head of the house begins the
labours of the day by resuming his seat at the open window. When he has
smoked some cigarettes and indulged in a proportionate amount of silent
contemplation, he goes out with the intention of visiting the stables
and farmyard, but generally before he has crossed the court he finds the
heat unbearable, and returns to his former position by the open window.
Here he sits tranquilly till the sun has so far moved round that the
verandah at the back of the house is completely in the shade, when he
has his arm-chair removed thither, and sits there till dinner-time.

Maria Petrovna spends her morning in a more active way. As soon as the
breakfast table has been cleared she goes to the larder, takes stock
of the provisions, arranges the menu du jour, and gives to the cook the
necessary materials, with detailed instructions as to how they are to
be prepared. The rest of the morning she devotes to her other household

Towards one o'clock dinner is announced, and Ivan Ivan'itch prepares his
appetite by swallowing at a gulp a wineglassful of home-made bitters.
Dinner is the great event of the day. The food is abundant and of good
quality, but mushrooms, onions, and fat play a rather too important part
in the repast, and the whole is prepared with very little attention
to the recognised principles of culinary hygiene. Many of the dishes,
indeed, would make a British valetudinarian stand aghast, but they seem
to produce no bad effect on those Russian organisms which have never
been weakened by town life, nervous excitement, or intellectual

No sooner has the last dish been removed than a deathlike stillness
falls upon the house: it is the time of the after-dinner siesta.
The young folks go into the garden, and all the other members of the
household give way to the drowsiness naturally engendered by a heavy
meal on a hot summer day. Ivan Ivan'itch retires to his own room, from
which the flies have been carefully expelled. Maria Petrovna dozes in
an arm-chair in the sitting-room, with a pocket-handkerchief spread
over her face. The servants snore in the corridors, the garret, or the
hay-shed; and even the old watch-dog in the corner of the yard stretches
himself out at full length on the shady side of his kennel.

In about two hours the house gradually re-awakens. Doors begin to creak;
the names of various servants are bawled out in all tones, from bass to
falsetto; and footsteps are heard in the yard. Soon a man-servant issues
from the kitchen bearing an enormous tea-urn, which puffs like a little
steam-engine. The family assembles for tea. In Russia, as elsewhere,
sleep after a heavy meal produces thirst, so that the tea and other
beverages are very acceptable. Then some little delicacies are
served--such as fruit and wild berries, or cucumbers with honey,
or something else of the kind, and the family again disperses. Ivan
Ivan'itch takes a turn in the fields on his begovuiya droshki--an
extremely light vehicle composed of two pairs of wheels joined together
by a single board, on which the driver sits stride-legged; and Maria
Petrovna probably receives a visit from the Popadya (the priest's wife),
who is the chief gossipmonger of the neighbourhood. There is not much
scandal in the district, but what little there is the Popadya carefully
collects, and distributes among her acquaintances with undiscriminating

In the evening it often happens that a little group of peasants come
into the court, and ask to see the "master." The master goes to the
door, and generally finds that they have some favour to request. In
reply to his question, "Well, children, what do you want?" they tell
their story in a confused, rambling way, several of them speaking at a
time, and he has to question and cross-question them before he comes to
understand clearly what they desire. If he tells them he cannot grant
it, they probably do not accept a first refusal, but endeavour by means
of supplication to make him reconsider his decision. Stepping forward
a little, and bowing low, one of the group begins in a half-respectful,
half-familiar, caressing tone: "Little Father, Ivan Ivan'itch, be
gracious; you are our father, and we are your children"--and so on.
Ivan Ivan'itch good-naturedly listens, and again explains that he cannot
grant what they ask; but they have still hopes of gaining their point by
entreaty, and continue their supplications till at last his patience is
exhausted and he says to them in a paternal tone, "Now, enough! enough!
you are blockheads--blockheads all round! There's no use talking; it
can't be done." And with these words he enters the house, so as to
prevent all further discussion.

A regular part of the evening's occupation is the interview with the
steward. The work that has just been done, and the programme for the
morrow, are always discussed at great length; and much time is spent in
speculating as to the weather during the next few days. On this latter
point the calendar is always carefully consulted, and great confidence
is placed in its predictions, though past experience has often shown
that they are not to be implicitly trusted. The conversation drags on
till supper is announced, and immediately after that meal, which is an
abridged repetition of dinner, all retire for the night.

Thus pass the days and weeks and months in the house of Ivan Ivan'itch,
and rarely is there any deviation from the ordinary programme. The
climate necessitates, of course, some slight modifications. When it is
cold, the doors and windows have to be kept shut, and after heavy rains
those who do not like to wade in mud have to remain in the house
or garden. In the long winter evenings the family assembles in the
sitting-room, and all kill time as best they can. Ivan Ivan'itch smokes
and meditates or listens to the barrel-organ played by one of the
children. Maria Petrovna knits a stocking. The old aunt, who commonly
spends the winter with them, plays Patience, and sometimes draws from
the game conclusions as to the future. Her favourite predictions are
that a stranger will arrive, or that a marriage will take place, and she
can determine the sex of the stranger and the colour of the bridegroom's
hair; but beyond this her art does not go, and she cannot satisfy the
young ladies' curiosity as to further details.

Books and newspapers are rarely seen in the sitting-room, but for those
who wish to read there is a book-case full of miscellaneous literature,
which gives some idea of the literary tastes of the family during
several generations. The oldest volumes were bought by Ivan Ivan'itch's
grandfather--a man who, according to the family traditions, enjoyed the
confidence of the great Catherine. Though wholly overlooked by recent
historians, he was evidently a man who had some pretensions to culture.
He had his portrait painted by a foreign artist of considerable
talent--it still hangs in the sitting-room--and he bought several pieces
of Sevres ware, the last of which stands on a commode in the corner
and contrasts strangely with the rude home-made furniture and squalid
appearance of the apartment. Among the books which bear his name are
the tragedies of Sumarokof, who imagined himself to be "the Russian
Voltaire"; the amusing comedies of Von-Wisin, some of which still keep
the stage; the loud-sounding odes of the courtly Derzhavin; two or three
books containing the mystic wisdom of Freemasonry as interpreted by
Schwarz and Novikoff; Russian translations of Richardson's "Pamela,"
"Sir Charles Grandison," and "Clarissa Harlowe"; Rousseau's "Nouvelle
Heloise," in Russian garb; and three or four volumes of Voltaire in
the original. Among the works collected at a somewhat later period are
translations of Ann Radcliffe, of Scott's early novels, and of Ducray
Dumenil, whose stories, "Lolotte et Fanfan" and "Victor," once enjoyed a
great reputation. At this point the literary tastes of the family
appear to have died out, for the succeeding literature is represented
exclusively by Kryloff's Fables, a farmer's manual, a handbook of family
medicine, and a series of calendars. There are, however, some signs of
a revival, for on the lowest shelf stand recent editions of Pushkin,
Lermontof, and Gogol, and a few works by living authors.

Sometimes the monotony of the winter is broken by visiting neighbours
and receiving visitors in return, or in a more decided way by a visit
of a few days to the capital of the province. In the latter case Maria
Petrovna spends nearly all her time in shopping, and brings home a large
collection of miscellaneous articles. The inspection of these by the
assembled family forms an important domestic event, which completely
throws into the shade the occasional visits of peddlers and colporteurs.
Then there are the festivities at Christmas and Easter, and occasionally
little incidents of less agreeable kind. It may be that there is a heavy
fall of snow, so that it is necessary to cut roads to the kitchen and
stables; or wolves enter the courtyard at night and have a fight with
the watch-dogs; or the news is brought that a peasant who had been
drinking in a neighbouring village has been found frozen to death on the

Altogether the family live a very isolated life, but they have one bond
of connection with the great outer world. Two of the sons are officers
in the army and both of them write home occasionally to their mother
and sisters. To these two youths is devoted all the little stock of
sentimentality which Maria Petrovna possesses. She can talk of them
by the hour to any one who will listen to her, and has related to the
Popadya a hundred times every trivial incident of their lives. Though
they have never given her much cause for anxiety, and they are now men
of middle age, she lives in constant fear that some evil may befall
them. What she most fears is that they may be sent on a campaign or may
fall in love with actresses. War and actresses are, in fact, the two
bug-bears of her existence, and whenever she has a disquieting dream she
asks the priest to offer up a moleben for the safety of her absent
ones. Sometimes she ventures to express her anxiety to her husband, and
recommends him to write to them; but he considers writing a letter a
very serious bit of work, and always replies evasively, "Well, well, we
must think about it."

During the Crimean War Ivan Ivan'itch half awoke from his habitual
lethargy, and read occasionally the meagre official reports published by
the Government. He was a little surprised that no great victories were
reported, and that the army did not at once advance on Constantinople.
As to causes he never speculated. Some of his neighbours told him that
the army was disorganised, and the whole system of Nicholas had been
proved to be utterly worthless. That might all be very true, but he did
not understand military and political matters. No doubt it would all
come right in the end. All did come right, after a fashion, and he again
gave up reading newspapers; but ere long he was startled by reports much
more alarming than any rumours of war. People began to talk about
the peasant question, and to say openly that the serfs must soon be
emancipated. For once in his life Ivan Ivan'itch asked explanations.
Finding one of his neighbours, who had always been a respectable,
sensible man, and a severe disciplinarian, talking in this way, he took
him aside and asked what it all meant. The neighbour explained that the
old order of things had shown itself bankrupt and was doomed, that a
new epoch was opening, that everything was to be reformed, and that
the Emperor, in accordance with a secret clause of the Treaty with the
Allies, was about to grant a Constitution! Ivan Ivan'itch listened for
a little in silence, and then, with a gesture of impatience, interrupted
the speaker: "Polno duratchitsya! enough of fun and tomfoolery. Vassili
Petrovitch, tell me seriously what you mean."

When Vassili Petrovitch vowed that he spoke in all seriousness, his
friend gazed at him with a look of intense compassion, and remarked, as
he turned away, "So you, too, have gone out of your mind!"

The utterances of Vassili Petrovitch, which his lethargic, sober-minded
friend regarded as indicating temporary insanity in the speaker,
represented fairly the mental condition of very many Russian nobles at
that time, and were not without a certain foundation. The idea about a
secret clause in the Treaty of Paris was purely imaginary, but it was
quite true that the country was entering on an epoch of great reforms,
among which the Emancipation question occupied the chief place. Of
this even the sceptical Ivan Ivan'itch was soon convinced. The Emperor
formally declared to the Noblesse of the province of Moscow that the
actual state of things could not continue forever, and called on the
landed proprietors to consider by what means the condition of their
serfs might be ameliorated. Provincial committees were formed for the
purpose of preparing definite projects, and gradually it became apparent
that the emancipation of the serfs was really at hand.

Ivan Ivan'itch was alarmed at the prospect of losing his authority
over his serfs. Though he had never been a cruel taskmaster, he had not
spared the rod when he considered it necessary, and he believed birch
twigs to be a necessary instrument in the Russian system of agriculture.
For some time he drew consolation from the thought that peasants were
not birds of the air, that they must under all circumstances require
food and clothing, and that they would be ready to serve him as
agricultural labourers; but when he learned that they were to receive
a large part of the estate for their own use, his hopes fell, and he
greatly feared that he would be inevitably ruined.

These dark forebodings have not been by any means realised. His serfs
were emancipated and received about a half of the estate, but in return
for the land ceded they paid him annually a considerable sum, and they
were always ready to cultivate his fields for a fair remuneration. The
yearly outlay was considerably greater, but the price of grain rose,
and this counterbalanced the additional yearly expenditure. The
administration of the estate has become much less patriarchal; much that
was formerly left to custom and tacit understanding is now regulated
by express agreement on purely commercial principles; a great deal more
money is paid out and a great deal more received; there is much less
authority in the hands of the master, and his responsibilities are
proportionately diminished; but in spite of all these changes, Ivan
Ivan'itch would have great difficulty in deciding whether he is a richer
or a poorer man. He has fewer horses and fewer servants, but he has
still more than he requires, and his mode of life has undergone no
perceptible alteration. Maria Petrovna complains that she is no longer
supplied with eggs, chickens, and homespun linen by the peasants, and
that everything is three times as dear as it used to be; but somehow the
larder is still full, and abundance reigns in the house as of old.

Ivan Ivan'itch certainly does not possess transcendent qualities of any
kind. It would be impossible to make a hero out of him, even though his
own son should be his biographer. Muscular Christians may reasonably
despise him, an active, energetic man may fairly condemn him for
his indolence and apathy. But, on the other hand, he has no very
bad qualities. His vices are of the passive, negative kind. He is a
respectable if not a distinguished member of society, and appears a
very worthy man when compared with many of his neighbours who have
been brought up in similar conditions. Take, for instance, his younger
brother Dimitri, who lives a short way off.

Dimitri Ivanovitch, like his brother Ivan, had been endowed by nature
with a very decided repugnance to prolonged intellectual exertion,
but as he was a man of good parts he did not fear a Junker's
examination--especially when he could count on the colonel's
protection--and accordingly entered the army. In his regiment were a
number of jovial young officers like himself, always ready to relieve
the monotony of garrison life by boisterous dissipation, and among these
he easily acquired the reputation of being a thoroughly good fellow. In
drinking bouts he could hold his own with the best of them, and in all
mad pranks invariably played the chief part. By this means he endeared
himself to his comrades, and for a time all went well. The colonel had
himself sown wild oats plentifully in his youth, and was quite disposed
to overlook, as far as possible, the bacchanalian peccadilloes of his
subordinates. But before many years had passed, the regiment suddenly
changed its character. Certain rumours had reached headquarters, and the
Emperor Nicholas appointed as colonel a stern disciplinarian of German
origin, who aimed at making the regiment a kind of machine that should
work with the accuracy of a chronometer.

This change did not at all suit the tastes of Dimitri Ivan'itch. He
chafed under the new restraints, and as soon as he had gained the rank
of lieutenant retired from the service to enjoy the freedom of country
life. Shortly afterwards his father died, and he thereby became owner of
an estate, with two hundred serfs. He did not, like his elder brother,
marry, and "effeminate himself," but he did worse. In his little
independent kingdom--for such was practically a Russian estate in the
good old times--he was lord of all he surveyed, and gave full scope to
his boisterous humour, his passion for sport, and his love of drinking
and dissipation. Many of the mad pranks in which he indulged will long
be preserved by popular tradition, but they cannot well be related here.

Dimitri Ivan'itch is now a man long past middle age, and still continues
his wild, dissipated life. His house resembles an ill-kept, disreputable
tavern. The floor is filthy, the furniture chipped and broken, the
servants indolent, slovenly, and in rags. Dogs of all breeds and sizes
roam about the rooms and corridors. The master, when not asleep, is
always in a more or less complete state of intoxication. Generally
he has one or two guests staying with him--men of the same type as
himself--and days and nights are spent in drinking and card-playing.
When he cannot have his usual boon-companions he sends for one or two
small proprietors who live near--men who are legally nobles, but who are
so poor that they differ little from peasants. Formerly, when ordinary
resources failed, he occasionally had recourse to the violent expedient
of ordering his servants to stop the first passing travellers,
whoever they might be, and bring them in by persuasion or force, as
circumstances might demand. If the travellers refused to accept
such rough, undesired hospitality, a wheel would be taken off their
tarantass, or some indispensable part of the harness would be secreted,
and they might consider themselves fortunate if they succeeded in
getting away next morning.*

     * This custom has fortunately gone out of fashion even in
     outlying districts, but an incident of the kind happened to
     a friend of mine as late as 1871.  He was detained against
     his will for two whole days by a man whom he had never seen
     before, and at last effected his escape by bribing the
     servants of his tyrannical host.

In the time of serfage the domestic serfs had much to bear from their
capricious, violent master. They lived in an atmosphere of abusive
language, and were subjected not unfrequently to corporal punishment.
Worse than this, their master was constantly threatening to "shave their
forehead"--that is to say, to give them as recruits--and occasionally he
put his threat into execution, in spite of the wailings and entreaties
of the culprit and his relations. And yet, strange to say, nearly all of
them remained with him as free servants after the Emancipation.

In justice to the Russian landed proprietors, I must say that the class
represented by Dimitri Ivan'itch has now almost disappeared. It was the
natural result of serfage and social stagnation--of a state of society
in which there were few legal and moral restraints, and few inducements
to honourable activity.

Among the other landed proprietors of the district, one of the best
known is Nicolai Petrovitch B----, an old military man with the rank of
general. Like Ivan Ivan'itch, he belongs to the old school; but the two
men must be contrasted rather than compared. The difference in their
lives and characters is reflected in their outward appearance. Ivan
Ivan'itch, as we know, is portly in form and heavy in all his movements,
and loves to loll in his arm-chair or to loaf about the house in a
capacious dressing-gown. The General, on the contrary, is thin, wiry,
and muscular, wears habitually a close-buttoned military tunic, and
always has a stern expression, the force of which is considerably
augmented by a bristly moustache resembling a shoe-brush. As he paces up
and down the room, knitting his brows and gazing at the floor, he looks
as if he were forming combinations of the first magnitude; but those who
know him well are aware that this is an optical delusion, of which he
is himself to some extent a victim. He is quite innocent of deep thought
and concentrated intellectual effort. Though he frowns so fiercely he is
by no means of a naturally ferocious temperament. Had he passed all
his life in the country he would probably have been as good-natured and
phlegmatic as Ivan Ivan'itch himself, but, unlike that worshipper of
tranquillity, he had aspired to rise in the service, and had adopted
the stern, formal bearing which the Emperor Nicholas considered
indispensable in an officer. The manner which he had at first put on as
part of his uniform became by the force of habit almost a part of his
nature, and at the age of thirty he was a stern disciplinarian and
uncompromising formalist, who confined his attention exclusively to
drill and other military duties. Thus he rose steadily by his own merit,
and reached the goal of his early ambition--the rank of general.

As soon as this point was reached he determined to leave the service and
retire to his property. Many considerations urged him to take this step.
He enjoyed the title of Excellency which he had long coveted, and when
he put on his full uniform his breast was bespangled with medals and
decorations. Since the death of his father the revenues of his estate
had been steadily decreasing, and report said that the best wood in his
forest was rapidly disappearing. His wife had no love for the country,
and would have preferred to settle in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but they
found that with their small income they could not live in a large town
in a style suitable to their rank.

The General determined to introduce order into his estate, and become
a practical farmer; but a little experience convinced him that his new
functions were much more difficult than the commanding of a regiment. He
has long since given over the practical management of the property to a
steward, and he contents himself with exercising what he imagines to be
an efficient control. Though he wishes to do much, he finds small scope
for his activity, and spends his days in pretty much the same way as
Ivan Ivan'itch, with this difference, that he plays cards whenever he
gets an opportunity, and reads regularly the Moscow Gazette and Russki
Invalid, the official military paper. What specially interests him is
the list of promotions, retirements, and Imperial rewards for merit and
seniority. When he sees the announcement that some old comrade has been
made an officer of his Majesty's suite or has received a grand cordon,
he frowns a little more than usual, and is tempted to regret that he
retired from the service. Had he waited patiently, perhaps a bit of
good fortune might have fallen likewise to his lot. This idea takes
possession of him, and during the remainder of the day he is taciturn
and morose. His wife notices the change, and knows the reason of it, but
has too much good sense and tact to make any allusion to the subject.

Anna Alexandrovna--as the good lady is called--is an elderly dame
who does not at all resemble the wife of Ivan Ivan'itch. She was long
accustomed to a numerous military society, with dinner-parties, dancing,
promenades, card-playing, and all the other amusements of garrison life,
and she never contracted a taste for domestic concerns. Her knowledge of
culinary affairs is extremely vague, and she has no idea of how to
make preserves, nalivka, and other home-made delicacies, though Maria
Petrovna, who is universally acknowledged to be a great adept in such
matters, has proposed a hundred times to give her some choice recipes.
In short, domestic affairs are a burden to her, and she entrusts them
as far as possible to the housekeeper. Altogether she finds country life
very tiresome, but, possessing that placid, philosophical temperament
which seems to have some casual connection with corpulence, she submits
without murmuring, and tries to lighten a little the unavoidable
monotony by paying visits and receiving visitors. The neighbours within
a radius of twenty miles are, with few exceptions, more or less of
the Ivan Ivan'itch and Maria Petrovna type--decidedly rustic in their
manners and conceptions; but their company is better than absolute
solitude, and they have at least the good quality of being always able
and willing to play cards for any number of hours. Besides this, Anna
Alexandrovna has the satisfaction of feeling that amongst them she is
almost a great personage, and unquestionably an authority in all matters
of taste and fashion; and she feels specially well disposed towards
those of them who frequently address her as "Your Excellency."

The chief festivities take place on the "name-days" of the General and
his spouse--that is to say, the days sacred to St. Nicholas and
St. Anna. On these occasions all the neighbours come to offer their
congratulations, and remain to dinner as a matter of course. After
dinner the older visitors sit down to cards, and the young people
extemporise a dance. The fete is specially successful when the eldest
son comes home to take part in it, and brings a brother officer with
him. He is now a general like his father.* In days gone by one of his
comrades was expected to offer his hand to Olga Nekola'vna, the second
daughter, a delicate young lady who had been educated in one of the
great Instituts--gigantic boarding-schools, founded and kept up by the
Government, for the daughters of those who are supposed to have deserved
well of their country. Unfortunately the expected offer was never made,
and she and her sister live at home as old maids, bewailing the absence
of "civilised" society, and killing time in a harmless, elegant way by
means of music, needlework, and light literature.

     * Generals are much more common in Russia than in other
     countries. A few years ago there was an old lady in Moscow
     who had a family of ten sons, all of whom were generals!
     The rank may be obtained in the civil as well as the
     military service.

At these "name-day" gatherings one used to meet still more interesting
specimens of the old school. One of them I remember particularly. He was
a tall, corpulent old man, in a threadbare frock-coat, which wrinkled
up about his waist. His shaggy eyebrows almost covered his small, dull
eyes, his heavy moustache partially concealed a large mouth strongly
indicating sensuous tendencies. His hair was cut so short that it was
difficult to say what its colour would be if it were allowed to grow.
He always arrived in his tarantass just in time for the zakuska--the
appetising collation that is served shortly before dinner--grunted out
a few congratulations to the host and hostess and monosyllabic greetings
to his acquaintances, ate a copious meal, and immediately afterwards
placed himself at a card-table, where he sat in silence as long as he
could get any one to play with him. People did not like, however, to
play with Andrei Vassil'itch, for his society was not agreeable, and he
always contrived to go home with a well-filled purse.

Andrei Vassil'itch was a noted man in the neighbourhood. He was the
centre of a whole cycle of legends, and I have often heard that his name
was used with effect by nurses to frighten naughty children. I never
missed an opportunity of meeting him, for I was curious to see and study
a legendary monster in the flesh. How far the numerous stories told
about him were true I cannot pretend to say, but they were certainly
not without foundation. In his youth he had served for some time in the
army, and was celebrated, even in an age when martinets had always a
good chance of promotion, for his brutality to his subordinates. His
career was cut short, however, when he had only the rank of captain.
Having compromised himself in some way, he found it advisable to send in
his resignation and retire to his estate. Here he organised his house on
Mahometan rather than Christian principles, and ruled his servants and
peasants as he had been accustomed to rule his soldiers--using corporal
punishment in merciless fashion. His wife did not venture to protest
against the Mahometan arrangements, and any peasant who stood in the way
of their realisation was at once given as a recruit, or transported to
Siberia, in accordance with his master's demand.* At last his tyranny
and extortion drove his serfs to revolt. One night his house was
surrounded and set on fire, but he contrived to escape the fate that was
prepared for him, and caused all who had taken part in the revolt to
be mercilessly punished. This was a severe lesson, but it had no effect
upon him. Taking precautions against a similar surprise, he continued
to tyrannise and extort as before, until in 1861 the serfs were
emancipated, and his authority came to an end.

     * When a proprietor considered any of his serfs unruly he
     could, according to law, have them transported to Siberia
     without trial, on condition of paying the expenses of
     transport.  Arrived at their destination, they received
     land, and lived as free colonists, with the single
     restriction that they were not allowed to leave the locality
     where they settled.

A very different sort of man was Pavel Trophim'itch, who likewise came
regularly to pay his respects and present his congratulations to the
General and "Gheneralsha."* It was pleasant to turn from the hard,
wrinkled, morose features of the legendary monster to the soft, smooth,
jovial face of this man, who had been accustomed to look at the bright
side of things, till his face had caught something of their brightness.
"A good, jovial, honest face!" a stranger might exclaim as he looked at
him. Knowing something of his character and history, I could not endorse
such an opinion. Jovial he certainly was, for few men were more capable
of making and enjoying mirth. Good he might be also called, if the word
were taken in the sense of good-natured, for he never took offence,
and was always ready to do a kindly action if it did not cost him any
trouble. But as to his honesty, that required some qualification. Wholly
untarnished his reputation certainly could not be, for he had been a
judge in the District Court before the time of the judicial reforms;
and, not being a Cato, he had succumbed to the usual temptations. He had
never studied law, and made no pretensions to the possession of great
legal knowledge. To all who would listen to him he declared openly
that he knew much more about pointers and setters than about legal
formalities. But his estate was very small, and he could not afford to
give up his appointment.

     * The female form of the word General.

Of these unreformed Courts, which are happily among the things of the
past, I shall have occasion to speak in the sequel. For the present I
wish merely to say that they were thoroughly corrupt, and I hasten to
add that Pavel Trophim'itch was by no means a judge of the worst kind.
He had been known to protect widows and orphans against those who wished
to despoil them, and no amount of money would induce him to give an
unjust decision against a friend who had privately explained the case to
him; but when he knew nothing of the case or of the parties he readily
signed the decision prepared by the secretary, and quietly pocketed the
proceeds, without feeling any very disagreeable twinges of conscience.
All judges, he knew, did likewise, and he had no pretension to being
better than his fellows.

When Pavel Trophim'itch played cards at the General's house or
elsewhere, a small, awkward, clean-shaven man, with dark eyes and a
Tartar cast of countenance, might generally be seen sitting at the same
table. His name was Alexei Petrovitch T----. Whether he really had any
Tartar blood in him it is impossible to say, but certainly his ancestors
for one or two generations were all good orthodox Christians. His father
had been a poor military surgeon in a marching regiment, and he himself
had become at an early age a scribe in one of the bureaux of the
district town. He was then very poor, and had great difficulty in
supporting life on the miserable pittance which he received as a salary;
but he was a sharp, clever youth, and soon discovered that even a scribe
had a great many opportunities of extorting money from the ignorant

These opportunities Alexei Petrovitch used with great ability,
and became known as one of the most accomplished bribe-takers
(vzyatotchniki) in the district. His position, however, was so very
subordinate that he would never have become rich had he not fallen upon
a very ingenious expedient which completely succeeded. Hearing that a
small proprietor, who had an only daughter, had come to live in the town
for a few weeks, he took a room in the inn where the newcomers lived,
and when he had made their acquaintance he fell dangerously ill. Feeling
his last hours approaching, he sent for a priest, confided to him that
he had amassed a large fortune, and requested that a will should be
drawn up. In the will he bequeathed large sums to all his relations, and
a considerable sum to the parish church. The whole affair was to be kept
a secret till after his death, but his neighbour--the old gentleman with
the daughter--was called in to act as a witness. When all this had been
done he did not die, but rapidly recovered, and now induced the old
gentleman to whom he had confided his secret to grant him his daughter's
hand. The daughter had no objections to marry a man possessed of such
wealth, and the marriage was duly celebrated. Shortly after this the
father died--without discovering, it is to be hoped, the hoax that had
been perpetrated--and Alexei Petrovitch became virtual possessor of
a very comfortable little estate. With the change in his fortunes he
completely changed his principles, or at least his practice. In all his
dealings he was strictly honest. He lent money, it is true, at from ten
to fifteen per cent., but that was considered in these parts not a very
exorbitant rate of interest, nor was he unnecessarily hard upon his

It may seem strange that an honourable man like the General should
receive in his house such a motley company, comprising men of decidedly
tarnished reputation; but in this respect he was not at all peculiar.
One constantly meets in Russian society persons who are known to
have been guilty of flagrant dishonesty, and we find that men who are
themselves honourable enough associate with them on friendly terms. This
social leniency, moral laxity, or whatever else it may be called, is the
result of various causes. Several concurrent influences have tended to
lower the moral standard of the Noblesse. Formerly, when the noble lived
on his estate, he could play with impunity the petty tyrant, and could
freely indulge his legitimate and illegitimate caprices without any
legal or moral restraint. I do not at all mean to assert that all
proprietors abused their authority, but I venture to say that no class
of men can long possess such enormous arbitrary power over those around
them without being thereby more or less demoralised. When the noble
entered the service he had not the same immunity from restraint--on
the contrary, his position resembled rather that of the serf--but he
breathed an atmosphere of peculation and jobbery, little conducive to
moral purity and uprightness. If an official had refused to associate
with those who were tainted with the prevailing vices, he would have
found himself completely isolated, and would have been ridiculed as a
modern Don Quixote. Add to this that all classes of the Russian people
have a certain kindly, apathetic good-nature which makes them very
charitable towards their neighbours, and that they do not always
distinguish between forgiving private injury and excusing public
delinquencies. If we bear all this in mind, we may readily understand
that in the time of serfage and maladministration a man could be
guilty of very reprehensible practises without incurring social

During the period of moral awakening, after the Crimean War and the
death of Nicholas I., society revelled in virtuous indignation against
the prevailing abuses, and placed on the pillory the most prominent
delinquents; but the intensity of the moral feeling has declined, and
something of the old apathy has returned. This might have been predicted
by any one well acquainted with the character and past history of the
Russian people. Russia advances on the road of progress, not in that
smooth, gradual, prosaic way to which we are accustomed, but by a series
of unconnected, frantic efforts, each of which is naturally followed by
a period of temporary exhaustion.



A Russian Petit Maitre--His House and Surroundings--Abortive Attempts
to Improve Agriculture and the Condition of the Serfs--A Comparison--A
"Liberal" Tchinovnik--His Idea of Progress--A Justice of the Peace--His
Opinion of Russian Literature, Tchinovniks, and Petits Maitres--His
Supposed and Real Character--An Extreme Radical--Disorders in
the Universities--Administrative Procedure--Russia's Capacity for
Accomplishing Political and Social Evolutions--A Court Dignitary in his
Country House.

Hitherto I have presented to the reader old-fashioned types which were
common enough thirty years ago, when I first resided in Russia, but
which are rapidly disappearing. Let me now present a few of the modern

In the same district as Ivan Ivan'itch and the General lives Victor
Alexandr'itch L----. As we approach his house we can at once perceive
that he differs from the majority of his neighbours. The gate is painted
and moves easily on its hinges, the fence is in good repair, the short
avenue leading up to the front door is well kept, and in the garden we
can perceive at a glance that more attention is paid to flowers than
to vegetables. The house is of wood, and not large, but it has some
architectural pretensions in the form of a great, pseudo-Doric wooden
portico that covers three-fourths of the façade. In the interior
we remark everywhere the influence of Western civilisation. Victor
Alexandr'itch is by no means richer than Ivan Ivan'itch, but his rooms
are much more luxuriously furnished. The furniture is of a lighter
model, more comfortable, and in a much better state of preservation.
Instead of the bare, scantily furnished sitting-room, with the
old-fashioned barrel-organ which played only six airs, we find an
elegant drawing-room, with a piano by one of the most approved makers,
and numerous articles of foreign manufacture, comprising a small buhl
table and two bits of genuine old Wedgwood. The servants are clean,
and dressed in European costume. The master, too, is very different
in appearance. He pays great attention to his toilette, wearing a
dressing-gown only in the early morning, and a fashionable lounging
coat during the rest of the day. The Turkish pipes which his grandfather
loved he holds in abhorrence, and habitually smokes cigarettes. With his
wife and daughters he always speaks French, and calls them by French or
English names.

But the part of the house which most strikingly illustrates the
difference between old and new is "le cabinet de monsieur." In the
cabinet of Ivan Ivan'itch the furniture consists of a broad sofa which
serves as a bed, a few deal chairs, and a clumsy deal table, on which
are generally to be found a bundle of greasy papers, an old chipped
ink-bottle, a pen, and a calendar. The cabinet of Victor Alexandr'itch
has an entirely different appearance. It is small, but at once
comfortable and elegant. The principal objects which it contains are a
library-table, with ink-stand, presse-papier, paper-knives, and other
articles in keeping, and in the opposite corner a large bookcase. The
collection of books is remarkable, not from the number of volumes or
the presence of rare editions, but from the variety of the subjects.
History, art, fiction, the drama, political economy, and agriculture
are represented in about equal proportions. Some of the works are
in Russian, others in German, a large number in French, and a few
in Italian. The collection illustrates the former life and present
occupations of the owner.

The father of Victor Alexandr'itch was a landed proprietor who had
made a successful career in the civil service, and desired that his son
should follow the same profession. For this purpose Victor was first
carefully trained at home, and then sent to the University of Moscow,
where he spent four years as a student of law. From the University he
passed to the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg, but he found
the monotonous routine of official life not at all suited to his taste,
and very soon sent in his resignation. The death of his father had made
him proprietor of an estate, and thither he retired, hoping to find
there plenty of occupation more congenial than the writing of official

At the University of Moscow he had attended lectures on history and
philosophy, and had got through a large amount of desultory reading.
The chief result of his studies was the acquisition of many ill-digested
general principles, and certain vague, generous, humanitarian
aspirations. With this intellectual capital he hoped to lead a useful
life in the country. When he had repaired and furnished the house he set
himself to improve the estate. In the course of his promiscuous reading
he had stumbled on some descriptions of English and Tuscan agriculture,
and had there learned what wonders might be effected by a rational
system of farming. Why should not Russia follow the example of England
and Tuscany? By proper drainage, plentiful manure, good ploughs, and the
cultivation of artificial grasses, the production might be multiplied
tenfold; and by the introduction of agricultural machines the manual
labour might be greatly diminished. All this seemed as simple as a sum
in arithmetic, and Victor Alexandr'itch, more scholarum rei familiaris
ignarus, without a moment's hesitation expended his ready money in
procuring from England a threshing-machine, ploughs, harrows, and other
implements of the newest model.

The arrival of these was an event that was long remembered. The peasants
examined them with attention, not unmixed with wonder, but said nothing.
When the master explained to them the advantages of the new
instruments, they still remained silent. Only one old man, gazing at the
threshing-machine, remarked, in an audible "aside," "A cunning people,
these Germans!"* On being asked for their opinion, they replied vaguely,
"How should we know? It OUGHT to be so." But when their master had
retired, and was explaining to his wife and the French governess that
the chief obstacle to progress in Russia was the apathetic indolence and
conservative spirit of the peasantry, they expressed their opinions more
freely. "These may be all very well for the Germans, but they won't do
for us. How are our little horses to drag these big ploughs? And as for
that [the threshing-machine], it's of no use." Further examination
and reflection confirmed this first impression, and it was unanimously
decided that no good would come of the new-fangled inventions.

     * The Russian peasant comprehends all the inhabitants of
     Western Europe under the term Nyemtsi, which in the language
     of the educated designates only Germans.  The rest of
     humanity is composed of Pravoslavniye (Greek Orthodox),
     Busurmanye (Mahometans), and Poliacki (Poles).

These apprehensions proved to be only too well founded. The ploughs were
much too heavy for the peasants' small horses, and the threshing-machine
broke down at the first attempt to use it. For the purchase of lighter
implements or stronger horses there was no ready money, and for the
repairing of the threshing-machine there was not an engineer within a
radius of a hundred and fifty miles. The experiment was, in short, a
complete failure, and the new purchases were put away out of sight.

For some weeks after this incident Victor Alexandr'itch felt very
despondent, and spoke more than usual about the apathy and stupidity of
the peasantry. His faith in infallible science was somewhat shaken, and
his benevolent aspirations were for a time laid aside. But this eclipse
of faith was not of long duration. Gradually he recovered his normal
condition, and began to form new schemes. From the study of certain
works on political economy he learned that the system of communal
property was ruinous to the fertility of the soil, and that free
labour was always more productive than serfage. By the light of these
principles he discovered why the peasantry in Russia were so poor, and
by what means their condition could he ameliorated. The Communal land
should be divided into family lots, and the serfs, instead of being
forced to work for the proprietor, should pay a yearly sum as rent. The
advantages of this change he perceived clearly--as clearly as he
had formerly perceived the advantages of English agricultural
implements--and he determined to make the experiment on his own estate.

His first step was to call together the more intelligent and influential
of his serfs, and to explain to them his project; but his efforts at
explanation were eminently unsuccessful. Even with regard to ordinary
current affairs he could not express himself in that simple, homely
language with which alone the peasants are familiar, and when he spoke
on abstract subjects he naturally became quite unintelligible to his
uneducated audience. The serfs listened attentively, but understood
nothing. He might as well have spoken to them, as he often did in
another kind of society, about the comparative excellence of Italian
and German music. At a second attempt he had rather more success. The
peasants came to understand that what he wished was to break up the Mir,
or rural Commune, and to put them all on obrok--that is to say,
make them pay a yearly sum instead of giving him a certain amount of
agricultural labour. Much to his astonishment, his scheme did not meet
with any sympathy. As to being put on obrok, the serfs did not much
object, though they preferred to remain as they were; but his proposal
to break up the Mir astonished and bewildered them. They regarded it
as a sea-captain might regard the proposal of a scientific wiseacre
to knock a hole in the ship's bottom in order to make her sail faster.
Though they did not say much, he was intelligent enough to see that they
would offer a strenuous passive resistance, and as he did not wish
to act tyrannically, he let the matter drop. Thus a second benevolent
scheme was shipwrecked. Many other schemes had a similar fate, and
Victor Alexandr'itch began to perceive that it was very difficult to
do good in this world, especially when the persons to be benefited were
Russian peasants.

In reality the fault lay less with the serfs than with their master.
Victor Alexandr'itch was by no means a stupid man. On the contrary, he
had more than average talents. Few men were more capable of grasping
a new idea and forming a scheme for its realisation, and few men could
play more dexterously with abstract principles. What he wanted was
the power of dealing with concrete facts. The principles which he had
acquired from University lectures and desultory reading were far too
vague and abstract for practical use. He had studied abstract science
without gaining any technical knowledge of details, and consequently
when he stood face to face with real life he was like a student who,
having studied mechanics in text-books, is suddenly placed in a workshop
and ordered to construct a machine. Only there was one difference:
Victor Alexandr'itch was not ordered to do anything. Voluntarily,
without any apparent necessity, he set himself to work with tools which
he could not handle. It was this that chiefly puzzled the peasants. Why
should he trouble himself with these new schemes, when he might live
comfortably as he was? In some of his projects they could detect a
desire to increase the revenue, but in others they could discover
no such motive. In these latter they attributed his conduct to pure
caprice, and put it into the same category as those mad pranks in which
proprietors of jovial humour sometimes indulged.

In the last years of serfage there were a good many landed proprietors
like Victor Alexandr'itch--men who wished to do something beneficent,
and did not know how to do it. When serfage was being abolished the
majority of these men took an active part in the great work and rendered
valuable service to their country. Victor Alexandr'itch acted otherwise.
At first he sympathised warmly with the proposed emancipation and
wrote several articles on the advantages of free labour, but when the
Government took the matter into its own hands he declared that the
officials had deceived and slighted the Noblesse, and he went over to
the opposition. Before the Imperial Edict was signed he went abroad, and
travelled for three years in Germany, France, and Italy. Shortly after
his return he married a pretty, accomplished young lady, the daughter of
an eminent official in St. Petersburg, and since that time he has lived
in his country-house.

Though a man of education and culture, Victor Alexandr'itch spends his
time in almost as indolent a way as the men of the old school. He rises
somewhat later, and instead of sitting by the open window and gazing
into the courtyard, he turns over the pages of a book or periodical.
Instead of dining at midday and supping at nine o'clock, he takes
dejeuner at twelve and dines at five. He spends less time in sitting in
the verandah and pacing up and down with his hands behind his back,
for he can vary the operation of time-killing by occasionally writing
a letter, or by standing behind his wife at the piano while she plays
selections from Mozart and Beethoven. But these peculiarities are merely
variations in detail. If there is any essential difference between the
lives of Victor Alexandr'itch and of Ivan Ivan'itch, it is in the fact
that the former never goes out into the fields to see how the work is
done, and never troubles himself with the state of the weather, the
condition of the crops, and cognate subjects. He leaves the management
of his estate entirely to his steward, and refers to that personage all
peasants who come to him with complaints or petitions. Though he takes
a deep interest in the peasant as an impersonal, abstract entity, and
loves to contemplate concrete examples of the genus in the works of
certain popular authors, he does not like to have any direct relations
with peasants in the flesh. If he has to speak with them he always feels
awkward, and suffers from the odour of their sheepskins. Ivan Ivan'itch
is ever ready to talk with the peasants, and give them sound, practical
advice or severe admonitions; and in the old times he was apt, in
moments of irritation, to supplement his admonitions by a free use of
his fists. Victor Alexandr'itch, on the contrary, never could give any
advice except vague commonplace, and as to using his fist, he would have
shrunk from that, not only from respect to humanitarian principles, but
also from motives which belong to the region of aesthetic sensitiveness.

This difference between the two men has an important influence on their
pecuniary affairs. The stewards of both steal from their masters; but
that of Ivan Ivan'itch steals with difficulty, and to a very limited
extent, whereas that of Victor Alexandr'itch steals regularly and
methodically, and counts his gains, not by kopecks, but by roubles.
Though the two estates are of about the same size and value, they give
a very different revenue. The rough, practical man has a much larger
income than his elegant, well-educated neighbour, and at the same time
spends very much less. The consequences of this, if not at present
visible, must some day become painfully apparent. Ivan Ivan'itch will
doubtless leave to his children an unencumbered estate and a certain
amount of capital. The children of Victor Alexandr'itch have a different
prospect. He has already begun to mortgage his property and to cut down
the timber, and he always finds a deficit at the end of the year. What
will become of his wife and children when the estate comes to be sold
for payment of the mortgage, it is difficult to predict. He thinks very
little of that eventuality, and when his thoughts happen to wander in
that direction he consoles himself with the thought that before the
crash comes he will have inherited a fortune from a rich uncle who has
no children.

The proprietors of the old school lead the same uniform, monotonous life
year after year, with very little variation. Victor Alexandr'itch,
on the contrary, feels the need of a periodical return to "civilised
society," and accordingly spends a few weeks every winter in St.
Petersburg. During the summer months he has the society of his
brother--un homme tout a fait civilise--who possesses an estate a few
miles off.

This brother, Vladimir Alexandr'itch, was educated in the School of Law
in St. Petersburg, and has since risen rapidly in the service. He holds
now a prominent position in one of the Ministries, and has the honourary
court title of "Chambellan de sa Majeste." He is a marked man in the
higher circles of the Administration, and will, it is thought, some
day become Minister. Though an adherent of enlightened views, and a
professed "Liberal," he contrives to keep on very good terms with those
who imagine themselves to be "Conservatives." In this he is assisted by
his soft, oily manner. If you express an opinion to him he will always
begin by telling you that you are quite right; and if he ends by showing
you that you are quite wrong, he will at least make you feel that your
error is not only excusable, but in some way highly creditable to your
intellectual acuteness or goodness of heart. In spite of his Liberalism
he is a staunch Monarchist, and considers that the time has not yet come
for the Emperor to grant a Constitution. He recognises that the present
order of things has its defects, but thinks that, on the whole, it acts
very well, and would act much better if certain high officials were
removed, and more energetic men put in their places. Like all genuine
St. Petersburg tchinovniks (officials), he has great faith in the
miraculous power of Imperial ukazes and Ministerial circulars, and
believes that national progress consists in multiplying these documents,
and centralising the Administration, so as to give them more effect.
As a supplementary means of progress he highly approves of aesthetic
culture, and he can speak with some eloquence of the humanising
influence of the fine arts. For his own part he is well acquainted with
French and English classics, and particularly admires Macaulay, whom
he declares to have been not only a great writer, but also a great
statesman. Among writers of fiction he gives the palm to George Eliot,
and speaks of the novelists of his own country, and, indeed, of Russian
literature as a whole, in the most disparaging terms.

A very different estimate of Russian literature is held by Alexander
Ivan'itch N----, formerly arbiter in peasant affairs, and afterwards
justice of the peace. Discussions on this subject often take place
between the two. The admirer of Macaulay declares that Russia has,
properly speaking, no literature whatever, and that the works which
bear the names of Russian authors are nothing but a feeble echo of the
literature of Western Europe. "Imitators," he is wont to say, "skilful
imitators, we have produced in abundance. But where is there a man of
original genius? What is our famous poet Zhukofski? A translator. What
is Pushkin? A clever pupil of the romantic school. What is Lermontoff? A
feeble imitator of Byron. What is Gogol?"

At this point Alexander Ivan'itch invariable intervenes. He is ready to
sacrifice all the pseudo-classic and romantic poetry, and, in fact, the
whole of Russian literature anterior to about the year 1840, but he will
not allow anything disrespectful to be said of Gogol, who about that
time founded the Russian realistic school. "Gogol," he holds, "was
a great and original genius. Gogol not only created a new kind of
literature; he at the same time transformed the reading public, and
inaugurated a new era in the intellectual development of the nation. By
his humorous, satirical sketches he swept away the metaphysical dreaming
and foolish romantic affectation then in fashion, and taught men to see
their country as it was, in all its hideous ugliness. With his help the
young generation perceived the rottenness of the Administration, and
the meanness, stupidity, dishonesty, and worthlessness of the landed
proprietors, whom he made the special butt of his ridicule. The
recognition of defects produced a desire for reform. From laughing at
the proprietors there was but one step to despising them, and when we
learned to despise the proprietors we naturally came to sympathise with
the serfs. Thus the Emancipation was prepared by the literature; and
when the great question had to be solved, it was the literature that
discovered a satisfactory solution."

This is a subject on which Alexander Ivan'itch feels very strongly, and
on which he always speaks with warmth. He knows a good deal regarding
the intellectual movement which began about 1840, and culminated in
the great reforms of the sixties. As a University student he troubled
himself very little with serious academic work, but he read with intense
interest all the leading periodicals, and adopted the doctrine of
Belinski that art should not be cultivated for its own sake, but should
be made subservient to social progress. This belief was confirmed by
a perusal of some of George Sand's earlier works, which were for him
a kind of revelation. Social questions engrossed his thoughts, and all
other subjects seemed puny by comparison. When the Emancipation question
was raised he saw an opportunity of applying some of his theories,
and threw himself enthusiastically into the new movement as an ardent
abolitionist. When the law was passed he helped to put it into execution
by serving for three years as an Arbiter of the Peace. Now he is an
old man, but he has preserved some of his youthful enthusiasm, attends
regularly the annual assemblies of the Zemstvo, and takes a lively
interest in all public affairs.

As an ardent partisan of local self-government he habitually scoffs at
the centralised bureaucracy, which he proclaims to be the great bane of
his unhappy country. "These tchinovniks," he is wont to say in moments
of excitement, "who live in St. Petersburg and govern the Empire, know
about as much of Russia as they do of China. They live in a world of
official documents, and are hopelessly ignorant of the real wants and
interests of the people. So long as all the required formalities are
duly observed they are perfectly satisfied. The people may be allowed
to die of starvation if only the fact do not appear in the official
reports. Powerless to do any good themselves, they are powerful enough
to prevent others from working for the public good, and are extremely
jealous of all private initiative. How have they acted, for instance,
towards the Zemstvo? The Zemstvo is really a good institution, and might
have done great things if it had been left alone, but as soon as it
began to show a little independent energy the officials at once clipped
its wings and then strangled it. Towards the Press they have acted in
the same way. They are afraid of the Press, because they fear above
all things a healthy public opinion, which the Press alone can create.
Everything that disturbs the habitual routine alarms them. Russia
cannot make any real progress so long as she is ruled by these cursed

Scarcely less pernicious than the tchinovnik, in the eyes of our
would-be reformer, is the baritch--that is to say, the pampered,
capricious, spoiled child of mature years, whose life is spent in
elegant indolence and fine talking. Our friend Victor Alexandr'itch
is commonly selected as a representative of this type. "Look at him!"
exclaims Alexander Ivan'itch. "What a useless, contemptible member of
society! In spite of his generous aspirations he never succeeds in doing
anything useful to himself or to others. When the peasant question
was raised and there was work to be done, he went abroad and talked
liberalism in Paris and Baden-Baden. Though he reads, or at least
professes to read, books on agriculture, and is always ready to
discourse on the best means of preventing the exhaustion of the soil,
he knows less of farming than a peasant-boy of twelve, and when he goes
into the fields he can hardly distinguish rye from oats. Instead of
babbling about German and Italian music, he would do well to learn a
little about practical farming, and look after his estate."

Whilst Alexander Ivan'itch thus censures his neighbours, he is himself
not without detractors. Some staid old proprietors regard him as a
dangerous man, and quote expressions of his which seem to indicate
that his notions of property are somewhat loose. Many consider that his
liberalism is of a very violent kind, and that he has strong republican
sympathies. In his decisions as Justice he often leaned, it is said,
to the side of the peasants against the proprietors. Then he was always
trying to induce the peasants of the neighbouring villages to found
schools, and he had wonderful ideas about the best method of teaching
children. These and similar facts make many people believe that he has
very advanced ideas, and one old gentleman habitually calls him--half in
joke and half in earnest--"our friend the communist."

In reality Alexander Ivan'itch has nothing of the communist about him.
Though he loudly denounces the tchinovnik spirit--or, as we should
say, red-tape in all its forms--and is an ardent partisan of local
self-government, he is one of the last men in the world to take part in
any revolutionary movement, he would like to see the Central Government
enlightened and controlled by public opinion and by a national
representation, but he believes that this can only be effected by
voluntary concessions on the part of the autocratic power. He has,
perhaps, a sentimental love of the peasantry, and is always ready
to advocate its interests; but he has come too much in contact with
individual peasants to accept those idealised descriptions in which
some popular writers indulge, and it may safely be asserted that the
accusation of his voluntarily favouring peasants at the expense of the
proprietors is wholly unfounded. Alexander Ivan'itch is, in fact, a
quiet, sensible man, who is capable of generous enthusiasm, and is not
at all satisfied with the existing state of things; but he is not a
dreamer and a revolutionnaire, as some of his neighbours assert.

I am afraid I cannot say as much for his younger brother Nikolai, who
lives with him. Nikolai Ivan'itch is a tall, slender man, about sixty
years of age, with emaciated face, bilious complexion and long black
hair--evidently a person of excitable, nervous temperament. When he
speaks he articulates rapidly, and uses more gesticulation than is
common among his countrymen. His favourite subject of conversation, or
rather of discourse, for he more frequently preaches than talks, is the
lamentable state of the country and the worthlessness of the Government.
Against the Government he has a great many causes for complaint, and one
or two of a personal kind. In 1861 he was a student in the University of
St. Petersburg. At that time there was a great deal of public excitement
all over Russia, and especially in the capital. The serfs had just been
emancipated, and other important reforms had been undertaken. There was
a general conviction among the young generation--and it must be added
among many older men--that the autocratic, paternal system of government
was at an end, and that Russia was about to be reorganised according
to the most advanced principles of political and social science.
The students, sharing this conviction, wished to be freed from
all academical authority, and to organise a kind of academic
self-government. They desired especially the right of holding public
meetings for the discussion of their common affairs. The authorities
would not allow this, and issued a list of rules prohibiting meetings
and raising the class-fees, so as practically to exclude many of the
poorer students. This was felt to be a wanton insult to the spirit of
the new era. In spite of the prohibition, indignation meetings were
held, and fiery speeches made by male and female orators, first in the
class-rooms, and afterwards in the courtyard of the University. On one
occasion a long procession marched through the principal streets to the
house of the Curator. Never had such a spectacle been seen before in
St. Petersburg. Timid people feared that it was the commencement of a
revolution, and dreamed about barricades. At last the authorities took
energetic measures; about three hundred students were arrested, and of
these, thirty-two were expelled from the University.

Among those who were expelled was Nicolai Ivan'itch. All his hopes of
becoming a professor, as he had intended, were thereby shipwrecked,
and he had to look out for some other profession. A literary career
now seemed the most promising, and certainly the most congenial to his
tastes. It would enable him to gratify his ambition of being a
public man, and give him opportunities of attacking and annoying his
persecutors. He had already written occasionally for one of the leading
periodicals, and now he became a regular contributor. His stock of
positive knowledge was not very large, but he had the power of writing
fluently and of making his readers believe that he had an unlimited
store of political wisdom which the Press-censure prevented him from
publishing. Besides this, he had the talent of saying sharp, satirical
things about those in authority, in such a way that even a Press censor
could not easily raise objections. Articles written in this style were
sure at that time to be popular, and his had a very great success. He
became a known man in literary circles, and for a time all went well.
But gradually he became less cautious, whilst the authorities became
more vigilant. Some copies of a violent seditious proclamation fell into
the hands of the police, and it was generally believed that the document
proceeded from the coterie to which he belonged. From that moment he was
carefully watched, till one night he was unexpectedly roused from his
sleep by a gendarme and conveyed to the fortress.

When a man is arrested in this way for a real or supposed political
offence, there are two modes of dealing with him. He may be tried
before a regular tribunal, or he may be dealt with "by administrative
procedure" (administrativnym poryadkom). In the former case he will, if
convicted, be condemned to imprisonment for a certain term; or, if the
offence be of a graver nature, he may be transported to Siberia either
for a fixed period or for life. By the administrative procedure he is
simply removed without a trial to some distant town, and compelled
to live there under police supervision during his Majesty's pleasure.
Nikolai Ivan'itch was treated "administratively," because the
authorities, though convinced that he was a dangerous character, could
not find sufficient evidence to procure his conviction before a court
of justice. For five years he lived under police supervision in a small
town near the White Sea, and then one day he was informed, without any
explanation, that he might go and live anywhere he pleased except in St.
Petersburg and Moscow.

Since that time he has lived with his brother, and spends his time in
brooding over his grievances and bewailing his shattered illusions. He
has lost none of that fluency which gained him an ephemeral literary
reputation, and can speak by the hour on political and social questions
to any one who will listen to him. It is extremely difficult, however,
to follow his discourses, and utterly impossible to retain them in the
memory. They belong to what may be called political metaphysics--for
though he professes to hold metaphysics in abhorrence, he is himself a
thorough metaphysician in his modes of thought. He lives, indeed, in
a world of abstract conceptions, in which he can scarcely perceive
concrete facts, and his arguments are always a kind of clever juggling
with such equivocal, conventional terms as aristocracy, bourgeoisie,
monarchy, and the like. At concrete facts he arrives, not directly by
observation, but by deductions from general principles, so that his
facts can never by any possibility contradict his theories. Then he has
certain axioms which he tacitly assumes, and on which all his arguments
are based; as, for instance, that everything to which the term "liberal"
can be applied must necessarily be good at all times and under all

Among a mass of vague conceptions which it is impossible to reduce
to any clearly defined form he has a few ideas which are perhaps not
strictly true, but which are at least intelligible. Among these is
his conviction that Russia has let slip a magnificent opportunity of
distancing all Europe on the road of progress. She might, he thinks, at
the time of the Emancipation, have boldly accepted all the most
advanced principles of political and social science, and have completely
reorganised the political and social structure in accordance with them.
Other nations could not take such a step, because they are old and
decrepit, filled with stubborn, hereditary prejudices, and cursed with
an aristocracy and a bourgeoisie; but Russia is young, knows nothing of
social castes, and has no deep-rooted prejudices to contend with. The
population is like potter's clay, which can be made to assume any
form that science may recommend. Alexander II. began a magnificent
sociological experiment, but he stopped half-way.

Some day, he believes, the experiment will be completed, but not by the
autocratic power. In his opinion autocracy is "played out," and must
give way to Parliamentary institutions. For him a Constitution is a kind
of omnipotent fetish. You may try to explain to him that a Parliamentary
regime, whatever its advantages may be, necessarily produces political
parties and political conflicts, and is not nearly so suitable for grand
sociological experiments as a good paternal despotism. You may try to
convince him that, though it may be difficult to convert an autocrat, it
is infinitely more difficult to convert a House of Commons. But all your
efforts will be in vain. He will assure you that a Russian Parliament
would be something quite different from what Parliaments commonly are.
It would contain no parties, for Russia has no social castes, and would
be guided entirely by scientific considerations--as free from prejudice
and personal influences as a philosopher speculating on the nature of
the Infinite! In short, he evidently imagines that a national Parliament
would be composed of himself and his friends, and that the nation would
calmly submit to their ukazes, as it has hitherto submitted to the
ukazes of the Tsars.

Pending the advent of this political Millennium, when unimpassioned
science is to reign supreme, Nikolai Ivan'itch allows himself the luxury
of indulging in some very decided political animosities, and he hates
with the fervour of a fanatic. Firstly and chiefly, he hates what he
calls the bourgeoisie--he is obliged to use the French word, because
his native language does not contain an equivalent term--and especially
capitalists of all sorts and dimensions. Next, he hates aristocracy,
especially a form of aristocracy called Feudalism. To these abstract
terms he does not attach a very precise meaning, but he hates the
entities which they are supposed to represent quite as heartily as if
they were personal enemies. Among the things which he hates in his
own country, the Autocratic Power holds the first place. Next, as
an emanation from the Autocratic Power, come the tchinovniks, and
especially the gendarmes. Then come the landed proprietors. Though he
is himself a landed proprietor, he regards the class as cumberers of
the ground, and thinks that all their land should be confiscated and
distributed among the peasantry.

All proprietors have the misfortune to come under his sweeping
denunciations, because they are inconsistent with his ideal of a peasant
Empire, but he recognises amongst them degrees of depravity. Some are
simply obstructive, whilst others are actively prejudicial to the public
welfare. Among these latter a special object of aversion is Prince
S----, because he not only possesses very large estates, but at the same
time has aristocratic pretensions, and calls himself Conservative.

Prince S---- is by far the most important man in the district. His
family is one of the oldest in the country, but he does not owe his
influence to his pedigree, for pedigree pure and simple does not count
for much in Russia. He is influential and respected because he is a
great land-holder with a high official position, and belongs by birth
to that group of families which forms the permanent nucleus of the
ever-changing Court society. His father and grandfather were important
personages in the Administration and at Court, and his sons and
grandsons will probably in this respect follow in the footsteps of
their ancestors. Though in the eye of the law all nobles are equal,
and, theoretically speaking, promotion is gained exclusively by personal
merit, yet, in reality, those who have friends at Court rise more easily
and more rapidly.

The Prince has had a prosperous but not very eventful life. He was
educated, first at home, under an English tutor, and afterwards in the
Corps des Pages. On leaving this institution he entered a regiment
of the Guards, and rose steadily to high military rank. His activity,
however, has been chiefly in the civil administration, and he now has
a seat in the Council of State. Though he has always taken a certain
interest in public affairs, he did not play an important part in any of
the great reforms. When the peasant question was raised he sympathised
with the idea of Emancipation, but did not at all sympathise with the
idea of giving land to the emancipated serfs and preserving the Communal
institutions. What he desired was that the proprietors should liberate
their serfs without any pecuniary indemnity, and should receive in
return a certain share of political power. His scheme was not adopted,
but he has not relinquished the hope that the great landed proprietors
may somehow obtain a social and political position similar to that of
the great land-owners in England.

Official duties and social relations compel the Prince to live for a
large part of the year in the capital. He spends only a few weeks yearly
on his estate. The house is large, and fitted up in the English style,
with a view to combining elegance and comfort. It contains several
spacious apartments, a library, and a billiard-room. There is an
extensive park, an immense garden with hot houses, numerous horses and
carriages, and a legion of servants. In the drawing-room is a plentiful
supply of English and French books, newspapers, and periodicals,
including the Journal de St. Petersbourg, which gives the news of the

The family have, in short, all the conveniences and comforts which money
and refinement can procure, but it cannot be said that they greatly
enjoy the time spent in the country. The Princess has no decided
objection to it. She is devoted to a little grandchild, is fond of
reading and correspondence, amuses herself with a school and hospital
which she has founded for the peasantry, and occasionally drives over to
see her friend, the Countess N----, who lives about fifteen miles off.

The Prince, however, finds country life excessively dull. He does not
care for riding or shooting, and he finds nothing else to do. He knows
nothing about the management of his estate, and holds consultations
with the steward merely pro forma--this estate and the others which he
possesses in different provinces being ruled by a head-steward in St.
Petersburg, in whom he has the most complete confidence. In the vicinity
there is no one with whom he cares to associate. Naturally he is not a
sociable man, and he has acquired a stiff, formal, reserved manner
that is rarely met with in Russia. This manner repels the neighbouring
proprietors--a fact that he does not at all regret, for they do not
belong to his monde, and they have in their manners and habits a
free-and-easy rusticity which is positively disagreeable to him. His
relations with them are therefore confined to formal calls. The greater
part of the day he spends in listless loitering, frequently yawning,
regretting the routine of St. Petersburg life--the pleasant chats with
his colleagues, the opera, the ballet, the French theatre, and the quiet
rubber at the Club Anglais. His spirits rise as the day of his departure
approaches, and when he drives off to the station he looks bright and
cheerful. If he consulted merely his own tastes he would never visit his
estates at all, and would spend his summer holidays in Germany, France,
or Switzerland, as he did in his bachelor days; but as a large landowner
he considers it right to sacrifice his personal inclinations to the
duties of his position.

There is, by the way, another princely magnate in the district, and
I ought perhaps to introduce him to my readers, because he represents
worthily a new type. Like Prince S----, of whom I have just spoken, he
is a great land-owner and a descendant of the half-mythical Rurik; but
he has no official rank, and does not possess a single grand cordon.
In that respect he has followed in the footsteps of his father and
grandfather, who had something of the frondeur spirit, and preferred
the position of a grand seigneur and a country gentleman to that of
a tchinovnik and a courtier. In the Liberal camp he is regarded as
a Conservative, but he has little in common with the Krepostnik, who
declares that the reforms of the last half-century were a mistake,
that everything is going to the bad, that the emancipated serfs are all
sluggards, drunkards, and thieves, that the local self-government is an
ingenious machine for wasting money, and that the reformed law-courts
have conferred benefits only on the lawyers. On the contrary, he
recognises the necessity and beneficent results of the reforms, and
with regard to the future he has none of the despairing pessimism of the
incorrigible old Tory.

But in order that real progress should be made, he thinks that certain
current and fashionable errors must be avoided, and among these errors
he places, in the first rank, the views and principles of the advanced
Liberals, who have a blind admiration for Western Europe, and for what
they are pleased to call the results of science. Like the Liberals of
the West, these gentlemen assume that the best form of government is
constitutionalism, monarchical or republican, on a broad democratic
basis, and towards the realisation of this ideal all their efforts
are directed. Not so our Conservative friend. While admitting that
democratic Parliamentary institutions may be the best form of government
for the more advanced nations of the West, he maintains that the only
firm foundation for the Russian Empire, and the only solid guarantee
of its future prosperity, is the Autocratic Power, which is the sole
genuine representative of the national spirit. Looking at the past from
this point of view, he perceives that the Tsars have ever identified
themselves with the nation, and have always understood, in part
instinctively and in part by reflection, what the nation really
required. Whenever the infiltration of Western ideas threatened to swamp
the national individuality, the Autocratic Power intervened and averted
the danger by timely precautions. Something of the kind may be observed,
he believes, at present, when the Liberals are clamouring for a
Parliament and a Constitution; but the Autocratic Power is on the alert,
and is making itself acquainted with the needs of the people by means
far more effectual than could be supplied by oratorical politicians.

With the efforts of the Zemstvo in this direction, and with the activity
of the Zemstvo generally, the Prince has little sympathy, partly because
the institution is in the hands of the Liberals and is guided by
their unpractical ideas, and partly because it enables some ambitious
outsiders to acquire the influence in local affairs which ought to be
exercised by the old-established noble families of the neighbourhood.
What he would like to see is an enlightened, influential gentry working
in conjunction with the Autocratic Power for the good of the country. If
Russia could produce a few hundred thousand men like himself, his ideal
might perhaps be realised. For the present, such men are extremely
rare--I should have difficulty in naming a dozen of them--and
aristocratic ideas are extremely unpopular among the great majority of
the educated classes. When a Russian indulges in political speculation,
he is pretty sure to show himself thoroughly democratic, with a strong
leaning to socialism.

The Prince belongs to the highest rank of the Russian Noblesse. If we
wish to get an idea of the lowest rank, we can find in the neighbourhood
a number of poor, uneducated men, who live in small, squalid houses, and
are not easily to be distinguished from peasants. They are nobles, like
his Highness; but, unlike him, they enjoy no social consideration,
and their landed property consists of a few acres of land which barely
supply them with the first necessaries of life. If we went to other
parts of the country we might find men in this condition bearing the
title of Prince! This is the natural result of the Russian law of
inheritance, which does not recognise the principle of primogeniture
with regard to titles and estates. All the sons of a Prince are Princes,
and at his death his property, movable and immovable, is divided amongst



Do Social Classes or Castes Exist in Russia?--Well-marked Social
Types--Classes Recognised by the Legislation and the Official
Statistics--Origin and Gradual Formation of these Classes--Peculiarity
in the Historical Development of Russia--Political Life and Political

In the preceding pages I have repeatedly used the expression "social
classes," and probably more than once the reader has felt inclined to
ask, What are social classes in the Russian sense of the term? It may be
well, therefore, before going farther, to answer this question.

If the question were put to a Russian it is not at all unlikely that
he would reply somewhat in this fashion: "In Russia there are no social
classes, and there never have been any. That fact constitutes one of the
most striking peculiarities of her historical development, and one of
the surest foundations of her future greatness. We know nothing,
and have never known anything, of those class distinctions and class
enmities which in Western Europe have often rudely shaken society in
past times, and imperil its existence in the future."

This statement will not be readily accepted by the traveller who visits
Russia with no preconceived ideas and forms his opinions from his own
observations. To him it seems that class distinctions form one of the
most prominent characteristics of Russian society. In a few days he
learns to distinguish the various classes by their outward appearance.
He easily recognises the French-speaking nobles in West-European
costume; the burly, bearded merchant in black cloth cap and long, shiny,
double-breasted coat; the priest with his uncut hair and flowing robes;
the peasant with his full, fair beard and unsavoury, greasy sheepskin.
Meeting everywhere those well-marked types, he naturally assumes
that Russian society is composed of exclusive castes; and this first
impression will be fully confirmed by a glance at the Code. On examining
that monumental work, he finds that an entire volume--and by no means
the smallest--is devoted to the rights and obligations of the various
classes. From this he concludes that the classes have a legal as well as
an actual existence. To make assurance doubly sure he turns to official
statistics, and there he finds the following table:

     Hereditary nobles........652,887
     Personal nobles..........374,367
     Clerical classes.........695,905
     Town classes...........7,196,005
     Rural classes.........63,840,291
     Military classes.......4,767,703
     ----------                      77,680,293*

     * Livron: "Statistitcheskoe Obozrenie Rossiiskoi Imperii,"
     St. Petersburg, 1875.  The above figures include the whole
     Empire.  The figures according to the latest census (1897)
     are not yet available.

Armed with these materials, the traveller goes to his Russian friends
who have assured him that their country knows nothing of class
distinctions. He is confident of being able to convince them that
they have been labouring under a strange delusion, but he will be
disappointed. They will tell him that these laws and statistics
prove nothing, and that the categories therein mentioned are mere
administrative fictions.

This apparent contradiction is to be explained by the equivocal meaning
of the Russian terms Sosloviya and Sostoyaniya, which are commonly
translated "social classes." If by these terms are meant "castes" in
the Oriental sense, then it may be confidently asserted that such do not
exist in Russia. Between the nobles, the clergy, the burghers, and the
peasants there are no distinctions of race and no impassable barriers.
The peasant often becomes a merchant, and there are many cases on record
of peasants and sons of parish priests becoming nobles. Until very
recently the parish clergy composed, as we have seen, a peculiar and
exclusive class, with many of the characteristics of a caste; but this
has been changed, and it may now be said that in Russia there are no
castes in the Oriental sense.

If the word Sosloviya be taken to mean an organised political unit
with an esprit de corps and a clearly conceived political aim, it may
likewise be admitted that there are none in Russia. As there has been
for centuries no political life among the subjects of the Tsars, there
have been no political parties.

On the other hand, to say that social classes have never existed in
Russia and that the categories which appear in the legislation and in
the official statistics are mere administrative fictions, is a piece of
gross exaggeration.

From the very beginning of Russian history we can detect unmistakably
the existence of social classes, such as the Princes, the Boyars, the
armed followers of the Princes, the peasantry, the slaves, and various
others; and one of the oldest legal documents which we possess--the
"Russian Right" (Russkaya Pravda) of the Grand Prince Yaroslaff
(1019-1054)--contains irrefragable proof, in the penalties attached
to various crimes, that these classes were formally recognised by
the legislation. Since that time they have frequently changed their
character, but they have never at any period ceased to exist.

In ancient times, when there was very little administrative regulation,
the classes had perhaps no clearly defined boundaries, and the
peculiarities which distinguished them from each other were actual
rather than legal--lying in the mode of life and social position rather
than in peculiar obligations and privileges. But as the autocratic power
developed and strove to transform the nation into a State with a highly
centralised administration, the legal element in the social distinctions
became more and more prominent. For financial and other purposes
the people had to be divided into various categories. The actual
distinctions were of course taken as the basis of the legal
classification, but the classifying had more than a merely formal
significance. The necessity of clearly defining the different groups
entailed the necessity of elevating and strengthening the barriers which
already existed between them, and the difficulty of passing from one
group to another was thereby increased.

In this work of classification Peter the Great especially distinguished
himself. With his insatiable passion for regulation, he raised
formidable barriers between the different categories, and defined the
obligations of each with microscopic minuteness. After his death the
work was carried on in the same spirit, and the tendency reached its
climax in the reign of Nicholas, when the number of students to be
received in the universities was determined by Imperial ukaz!

In the reign of Catherine a new element was introduced into the official
conception of social classes. Down to her time the Government had
thought merely of class obligations; under the influence of Western
ideas she introduced the conception of class rights. She wished, as we
have seen, to have in her Empire a Noblesse and tiers-etat like those
which existed in France, and for this purpose she granted, first to the
Dvoryanstvo and afterwards to the towns, an Imperial Charter, or Bill
of Rights. Succeeding sovereigns have acted in the same spirit, and the
Code now confers on each class numerous privileges as well as numerous

Thus, we see, the oft-repeated assertion that the Russian social classes
are simply artificial categories created by the legislature is to a
certain extent true, but is by no means accurate. The social groups,
such as peasants, landed proprietors, and the like, came into existence
in Russia, as in other countries, by the simple force of circumstances.
The legislature merely recognised and developed the social distinctions
which already existed. The legal status, obligations, and rights of each
group were minutely defined and regulated, and legal barriers were added
to the actual barriers which separated the groups from each other.

What is peculiar in the historical development of Russia is this: until
lately she remained an almost exclusively agricultural Empire with
abundance of unoccupied land. Her history presents, therefore, few of
those conflicts which result from the variety of social conditions and
the intensified struggle for existence. Certain social groups were,
indeed, formed in the course of time, but they were never allowed to
fight out their own battles. The irresistible autocratic power kept them
always in check and fashioned them into whatever form it thought proper,
defining minutely and carefully their obligations, their rights, their
mutual relations, and their respective positions in the political
organisation. Hence we find in the history of Russia almost no trace
of those class hatreds which appear so conspicuously in the history of
Western Europe.*

     * This is, I believe, the true explanation of an important
     fact, which the Slavophils endeavoured to explain by an
     ill-authenticated legend (vide supra p.151).

The practical consequence of all this is that in Russia at the present
day there is very little caste spirit or caste prejudice. Within
half-a-dozen years after the emancipation of the serfs, proprietors and
peasants, forgetting apparently their old relationship of master and
serf, were working amicably together in the new local administration,
and not a few similar curious facts might be cited. The confident
anticipation of many Russians that their country will one day enjoy
political life without political parties is, if not a contradiction
in terms, at least a Utopian absurdity; but we may be sure that when
political parties do appear they will be very different from those which
exist in Germany, France, and England.

Meanwhile, let us see how the country is governed without political
parties and without political life in the West-European sense of the
term. This will form the subject of our next chapter.



The Officials in Norgorod Assist Me in My Studies--The Modern Imperial
Administration Created by Peter the Great, and Developed by his
Successors--A Slavophil's View of the Administration--The Administration
Briefly Described--The Tchinovniks, or Officials--Official Titles, and
Their Real Significance--What the Administration Has Done for Russia in
the Past--Its Character Determined by the Peculiar Relation between
the Government and the People--Its Radical Vices--Bureaucratic
Remedies--Complicated Formal Procedure--The Gendarmerie: My Personal
Relations with this Branch of the Administration; Arrest and Release--A
Strong, Healthy Public Opinion the Only Effectual Remedy for Bad

My administrative studies were begun in Novgorod. One of my reasons for
spending a winter in that provincial capital was that I might study the
provincial administration, and as soon as I had made the acquaintance of
the leading officials I explained to them the object I had in view. With
the kindly bonhomie which distinguishes the Russian educated classes,
they all volunteered to give me every assistance in their power, but
some of them, on mature reflection, evidently saw reason to check their
first generous impulse. Among these was the Vice-Governor, a gentleman
of German origin, and therefore more inclined to be pedantic than a
genuine Russian. When I called on him one evening and reminded him of
his friendly offer, I found to my surprise that he had in the meantime
changed his mind. Instead of answering my first simple inquiry, he
stared at me fixedly, as if for the purpose of detecting some covert,
malicious design, and then, putting on an air of official dignity,
informed me that as I had not been authorised by the Minister to make
these investigations, he could not assist me, and would certainly not
allow me to examine the archives.

This was not encouraging, but it did not prevent me from applying to the
Governor, and I found him a man of a very different stamp. Delighted to
meet a foreigner who seemed anxious to study seriously in an unbiassed
frame of mind the institutions of his much-maligned native country, he
willingly explained to me the mechanism of the administration which he
directed and controlled, and kindly placed at my disposal the books and
documents in which I could find the historical and practical information
which I required.

This friendly attitude of his Excellency towards me soon became
generally known in the town, and from that moment my difficulties were
at an end. The minor officials no longer hesitated to initiate me into
the mysteries of their respective departments, and at last even the
Vice-Governor threw off his reserve and followed the example of his
colleagues. The elementary information thus acquired I had afterwards
abundant opportunities of completing by observation and study in other
parts of the Empire, and I now propose to communicate to the reader a
few of the more general results.

The gigantic administrative machine which holds together all the various
parts of the vast Empire has been gradually created by successive
generations, but we may say roughly that it was first designed and
constructed by Peter the Great. Before his time the country was governed
in a rude, primitive fashion. The Grand Princes of Moscow, in subduing
their rivals and annexing the surrounding principalities, merely cleared
the ground for a great homogeneous State. Wily, practical politicians,
rather than statesmen of the doctrinaire type, they never dreamed of
introducing uniformity and symmetry into the administration as a whole.
They developed the ancient institutions so far as these were useful and
consistent with the exercise of autocratic power, and made only such
alterations as practical necessity demanded. And these necessary
alterations were more frequently local than general. Special decisions,
instruction to particular officials, and charters for particular
communes of proprietors were much more common than general legislative

In short, the old Muscovite Tsars practised a hand-to-mouth policy,
destroying whatever caused temporary inconvenience, and giving little
heed to what did not force itself upon their attention. Hence,
under their rule the administration presented not only territorial
peculiarities, but also an ill-assorted combination of different systems
in the same district--a conglomeration of institutions belonging to
different epochs, like a fleet composed of triremes, three-deckers, and

This irregular system, or rather want of system, seemed highly
unsatisfactory to the logical mind of Peter the Great, and he conceived
the grand design of sweeping it away, and putting in its place a
symmetrical bureaucratic machine. It is scarcely necessary to say
that this magnificent project, so foreign to the traditional ideas and
customs of the people, was not easily realised. Imagine a man, without
technical knowledge, without skilled workmen, without good tools, and
with no better material than soft, crumbling sandstone, endeavouring
to build a palace on a marsh! The undertaking would seem to reasonable
minds utterly absurd, and yet it must be admitted that Peter's project
was scarcely more feasible. He had neither technical knowledge, nor the
requisite materials, nor a firm foundation to build on. With his usual
Titanic energy he demolished the old structure, but his attempts to
construct were little more than a series of failures. In his numerous
ukazes he has left us a graphic description of his efforts, and it is
at once instructive and pathetic to watch the great worker toiling
indefatigably at his self-imposed task. His instruments are constantly
breaking in his hands. The foundations of the building are continually
giving way, and the lower tiers crumbling under the superincumbent
weight. Now and then a whole section is found to be unsuitable, and is
ruthlessly pulled down, or falls of its own accord. And yet the builder
toils on, with a perseverance and an energy of purpose that compel
admiration, frankly confessing his mistakes and failures, and
patiently seeking the means of remedying them, never allowing a word of
despondency to escape him, and never despairing of ultimate success. And
at length death comes, and the mighty builder is snatched away suddenly
in the midst of his unfinished labours, bequeathing to his successors
the task of carrying on the great work.

None of these successors possessed Peter's genius and energy--with the
exception perhaps of Catherine II.--but they were all compelled by
the force of circumstances to adopt his plans. A return to the old
rough-and-ready rule of time local Voyevods was impossible. As the
Autocratic Power became more and more imbued with Western ideas, it
felt more and more the need of new means for carrying them out, and
accordingly it strove to systematise and centralise the administration.

In this change we may perceive a certain analogy with the history of the
French administration from the reign of Philippe le Bel to that of
Louis XIV. In both countries we see the central power bringing the local
administrative organs more and more under its control, till at last it
succeeds in creating a thoroughly centralised bureaucratic organisation.
But under this superficial resemblance lie profound differences. The
French kings had to struggle with provincial sovereignties and feudal
rights, and when they had annihilated this opposition they easily found
materials with which to build up the bureaucratic structure. The Russian
sovereigns, on the contrary, met with no such opposition, but they
had great difficulty in finding bureaucratic material amongst their
uneducated, undisciplined subjects, notwithstanding the numerous schools
and colleges which were founded and maintained simply for the purpose of
preparing men for the public service.

The administration was thus brought much nearer to the West-European
ideal, but some people have grave doubts as to whether it became thereby
better adapted to the practical wants of the people for whom it was
created. On this point a well-known Slavophil once made to me some
remarks which are worthy of being recorded. "You have observed," he
said, "that till very recently there was in Russia an enormous amount
of official peculation, extortion, and misgovernment of every kind, that
the courts of law were dens of iniquity, that the people often committed
perjury, and much more of the same sort, and it must be admitted that
all this has not yet entirely disappeared. But what does it prove? That
the Russian people are morally inferior to the German? Not at all. It
simply proves that the German system of administration, which was forced
upon them without their consent, was utterly unsuited to their nature.
If a young growing boy be compelled to wear very tight boots, he will
probably burst them, and the ugly rents will doubtless produce an
unfavourable impression on the passers-by; but surely it is better that
the boots should burst than that the feet should be deformed. Now, the
Russian people was compelled to put on not only tight boots, but also
a tight jacket, and, being young and vigorous, it burst them.
Narrow-minded, pedantic Germans can neither understand nor provide for
the wants of the broad Slavonic nature."

In its present form the Russian administration seems at first sight a
very imposing edifice. At the top of the pyramid stands the Emperor,
"the autocratic monarch," as Peter the Great described him, "who has
to give an account of his acts to no one on earth, but has power
and authority to rule his States and lands as a Christian sovereign
according to his own will and judgment." Immediately below the Emperor
we see the Council of State, the Committee of Ministers, and the Senate,
which represent respectively the legislative, the administrative, and
the judicial power. An Englishman glancing over the first volume of the
great Code of Laws might imagine that the Council of State is a kind of
Parliament, and the Committee of Ministers a cabinet in our sense of the
term, but in reality both institutions are simply incarnations of the
Autocratic Power. Though the Council is entrusted by law with many
important functions--such as discussing Bills, criticising the annual
budget, declaring war and concluding peace--it has merely a consultative
character, and the Emperor is not in any way bound by its decisions.
The Committee is not at all a cabinet as we understand the word. The
Ministers are directly and individually responsible to the Emperor, and
therefore the Committee has no common responsibility or other cohesive
force. As to the Senate, it has descended from its high estate. It
was originally entrusted with the supreme power during the absence or
minority of the monarch, and was intended to exercise a controlling
influence in all sections of the administration, but now its activity
is restricted to judicial matters, and it is little more than a supreme
court of appeal.

Immediately below these three institutions stand the Ministries, ten in
number. They are the central points in which converge the various kinds
of territorial administration, and from which radiates the Imperial will
all over the Empire.

For the purpose of territorial administration Russia proper--that is to
say, European Russia, exclusive of Poland, the Baltic Provinces, Finland
and the Caucasus--is divided into forty-nine provinces or "Governments"
(gubernii), and each Government is subdivided into Districts (uyezdi).
The average area of a province is about the size of Portugal, but some
are as small as Belgium, whilst one at least is twenty-five times as
big. The population, however, does not correspond to the amount of
territory. In the largest province, that of Archangel, there are only
about 350,000 inhabitants, whilst in two of the smaller ones there are
over three millions. The districts likewise vary greatly in size. Some
are smaller than Oxfordshire or Buckingham, and others are bigger than
the whole of the United Kingdom.

Over each province is placed a Governor, who is assisted in his duties
by a Vice-Governor and a small council. According to the legislation
of Catherine II., which still appears in the Code and has only
been partially repealed, the Governor is termed "the steward of the
province," and is entrusted with so many and such delicate duties, that
in order to obtain qualified men for the post it would be necessary to
realise the great Empress's design of creating, by education, "a new
race of people." Down to the time of the Crimean War the Governors
understood the term "stewards" in a very literal sense, and ruled in
a most arbitrary, high-handed style, often exercising an important
influence on the civil and criminal tribunals. These extensive and
vaguely defined powers have now been very much curtailed, partly by
positive legislation, and partly by increased publicity and improved
means of communication. All judicial matters have been placed
theoretically beyond the Governor's control, and many of his former
functions are now fulfilled by the Zemstvo--the new organ of local
self-government. Besides this, all ordinary current affairs are
regulated by an already big and ever-growing body of instructions, in
the form of Imperial orders and ministerial circulars, and as soon as
anything not provided for by the instructions happens to occur, the
minister is consulted through the post-office or by telegraph.

Even within the sphere of their lawful authority the Governors have now
a certain respect for public opinion and occasionally a very wholesome
dread of casual newspaper correspondents. Thus the men who were formerly
described by the satirists as "little satraps" have sunk to the level
of subordinate officials. I can confidently say that many (I believe the
majority) of them are honest, upright men, who are perhaps not endowed
with any unusual administrative capacities, but who perform their duties
faithfully according to their lights. If any representatives of the old
"satraps" still exist, they must be sought for in the outlying Asiatic

Independent of the Governor, who is the local representative of the
Ministry of the Interior, are a number of resident officials, who
represent the other ministries, and each of them has a bureau, with the
requisite number of assistants, secretaries, and scribes.

To keep this vast and complex bureaucratic machine in motion it is
necessary to have a large and well-drilled army of officials. These are
drawn chiefly from the ranks of the Noblesse and the clergy, and form
a peculiar social class called Tchinovniks, or men with Tchins. As the
Tchin plays an important part in Russia, not only in the official world,
but also to some extent in social life, it may be well to explain its

All offices, civil and military, are, according to a scheme invented
by Peter the Great, arranged in fourteen classes or ranks, and to each
class or rank a particular name is attached. As promotion is supposed
to be given according to personal merit, a man who enters the public
service for the first time must, whatever be his social position, begin
in the lower ranks, and work his way upwards. Educational certificates
may exempt him from the necessity of passing through the lowest classes,
and the Imperial will may disregard the restrictions laid down by
law; but as general rule a man must begin at or near the bottom of the
official ladder, and he must remain on each step a certain specified
time. The step on which he is for the moment standing, or, in other
words, the official rank or tchin which he possesses determines what
offices he is competent to hold. Thus rank or tchin is a necessary
condition for receiving an appointment, but it does not designate any
actual office, and the names of the different ranks are extremely apt to
mislead a foreigner.

We must always bear this in mind when we meet with those imposing titles
which Russian tourists sometimes put on their visiting cards, such as
"Conseiller de Cour," "Conseiller d'Etat," "Conseiller prive de S. M.
l'Empereur de toutes les Russies." It would be uncharitable to suppose
that these titles are used with the intention of misleading, but that
they do sometimes mislead there cannot be the least doubt. I shall never
forget the look of intense disgust which I once saw on the face of
an American who had invited to dinner a "Conseiller de Cour," on the
assumption that he would have a Court dignitary as his guest, and
who casually discovered that the personage in question was simply an
insignificant official in one of the public offices. No doubt other
people have bad similar experiences. The unwary foreigner who has heard
that there is in Russia a very important institution called the "Conseil
d'Etat," naturally supposes that a "Conseiller d'Etat" is a member
of that venerable body; and if he meets "Son Excellence le Conseiller
prive," he is pretty sure to assume--especially if the word "actuel"
has been affixed--that he sees before him a real living member of the
Russian Privy Council. When to the title is added, "de S. M. l'Empereur
de toutes les Russies," a boundless field is opened up to the
non-Russian imagination. In reality these titles are not nearly so
important as they seem. The soi-disant "Conseiller de Cour" has probably
nothing to do with the Court. The Conseiller d'Etat is so far from being
a member of the Conseil d'Etat that he cannot possibly become a member
till he receives a higher tchin.* As to the Privy Councillor, it is
sufficient to say that the Privy Council, which had a very odious
reputation in its lifetime, died more than a century ago, and has not
since been resuscitated. The explanation of these anomalies is to be
found in the fact that the Russian tchins, like the German honorary
titles--Hofrath, Staatsrath, Geheimrath--of which they are a literal
translation, indicate not actual office, but simply official rank.
Formerly the appointment to an office generally depended on the tchin;
now there is a tendency to reverse the old order of things and make the
tchin depend upon the office actually held.

     * In Russian the two words are quite different; the Council
     is called Gosudarstvenny sovet, and the title Statski

The reader of practical mind who is in the habit of considering
results rather than forms and formalities desires probably no further
description of the Russian bureaucracy, but wishes to know simply how it
works in practice. What has it done for Russia in the past, and what is
it doing in the present?

At the present day, when faith in despotic civilisers and paternal
government has been rudely shaken, and the advantages of a free,
spontaneous national development are fully recognised, centralised
bureaucracies have everywhere fallen into bad odour. In Russia the
dislike to them is particularly strong, because it has there something
more than a purely theoretical basis. The recollection of the reign
of Nicholas I., with its stern military regime, and minute, pedantic
formalism, makes many Russians condemn in no measured terms the
administration under which they live, and most Englishmen will feel
inclined to endorse this condemnation. Before passing sentence,
however, we ought to know that the system has at least an historical
justification, and we must not allow our love of constitutional liberty
and local self-government to blind us to the distinction between
theoretical and historical possibility. What seems to political
philosophers abstractly the best possible government may be utterly
inapplicable in certain concrete cases. We need not attempt to decide
whether it is better for humanity that Russia should exist as a
nation, but we may boldly assert that without a strongly centralised
administration Russia would never have become one of the great European
Powers. Until comparatively recent times the part of the world which
is known as the Russian Empire was a conglomeration of independent or
semi-independent political units, animated with centrifugal as well as
centripetal forces; and even at the present day it is far from being
a compact homogeneous State. It was the autocratic power, with the
centralised administration as its necessary complement, that first
created Russia, then saved her from dismemberment and political
annihilation, and ultimately secured for her a place among European
nations by introducing Western civilisation.

Whilst thus recognising clearly that autocracy and a strongly
centralised administration were necessary first for the creation and
afterwards for the preservation of national independence, we must
not shut our eyes to the evil consequences which resulted from
this unfortunate necessity. It was in the nature of things that the
Government, aiming at the realisation of designs which its subjects
neither sympathised with nor clearly understood, should have become
separated from the nation; and the reckless haste and violence with
which it attempted to carry out its schemes aroused a spirit of positive
opposition among the masses. A considerable section of the people long
looked on the reforming Tsars as incarnations of the spirit of evil, and
the Tsars in their turn looked upon the people as raw material for the
realisation of their political designs. This peculiar relation between
the nation and the Government has given the key-note to the whole system
of administration. The Government has always treated the people as
minors, incapable of understanding its political aims, and only very
partially competent to look after their own local affairs. The officials
have naturally acted in the same spirit. Looking for direction and
approbation merely to their superiors, they have systematically treated
those over whom they were placed as a conquered or inferior race. The
State has thus come to be regarded as an abstract entity, with interests
entirely different from those of the human beings composing it; and in
all matters in which State interests are supposed to be involved, the
rights of individuals are ruthlessly sacrificed.

If we remember that the difficulties of centralised administration must
be in direct proportion to the extent and territorial variety of
the country to be governed, we may readily understand how slowly and
imperfectly the administrative machine necessarily works in Russia. The
whole of the vast region stretching from the Polar Ocean to the Caspian,
and from the shores of the Baltic to the confines of the Celestial
Empire, is administered from St. Petersburg. The genuine bureaucrat has
a wholesome dread of formal responsibility, and generally tries to
avoid it by taking all matters out of the hands of his subordinates,
and passing them on to the higher authorities. As soon, therefore,
as affairs are caught up by the administrative machine they begin to
ascend, and probably arrive some day at the cabinet of the minister.
Thus the ministries are flooded with papers--many of the most trivial
import--from all parts of the Empire; and the higher officials, even
if they had the eyes of an Argus and the hands of a Briareus, could not
possibly fulfil conscientiously the duties imposed on them. In reality
the Russian administrators of the higher ranks recall neither Argus
nor Briareus. They commonly show neither an extensive nor a profound
knowledge of the country which they are supposed to govern, and seem
always to have a fair amount of leisure time at their disposal.

Besides the unavoidable evils of excessive centralisation, Russia has
had to suffer much from the jobbery, venality, and extortion of the
officials. When Peter the Great one day proposed to hang every man who
should steal as much as would buy a rope, his Procurator-General frankly
replied that if his Majesty put his project into execution there would
be no officials left. "We all steal," added the worthy official; "the
only difference is that some of us steal larger amounts and more openly
than others." Since these words were spoken nearly two centuries
have passed, and during all that time Russia has been steadily making
progress, but until the accession of Alexander II. in 1855 little change
took place in the moral character of the administration. Some people
still living can remember the time when they could have repeated,
without much exaggeration, the confession of Peter's Procurator-General.

To appreciate aright this ugly phenomenon we must distinguish two kinds
of venality. On the one hand there was the habit of exacting what are
vulgarly termed "tips" for services performed, and on the other there
were the various kinds of positive dishonesty. Though it might not
be always easy to draw a clear line between the two categories, the
distinction was fully recognised in the moral consciousness of the
time, and many an official who regularly received "sinless revenues"
(bezgreshniye dokhodi), as the tips were sometimes called, would have
been very indignant had he been stigmatised as a dishonest man. The
practice was, in fact, universal, and could be, to a certain extent,
justified by the smallness of the official salaries. In some departments
there was a recognised tariff. The "brandy farmers," for example, who
worked the State Monopoly for the manufacture and sale of alcoholic
liquors, paid regularly a fixed sum to every official, from the Governor
to the policeman, according to his rank. I knew of one case where an
official, on receiving a larger sum than was customary, conscientiously
handed back the change! The other and more heinous offences were by no
means so common, but were still fearfully frequent. Many high officials
and important dignitaries were known to receive large revenues, to
which the term "sinless" could not by any means be applied, and yet they
retained their position, and were received in society with respectful

The Sovereigns were well aware of the abuses, and strove more or less
to root them out, but the success which attended their efforts does not
give us a very exalted idea of the practical omnipotence of autocracy.
In a centralised bureaucratic administration, in which each official is
to a certain extent responsible for the sins of his subordinates, it is
always extremely difficult to bring an official culprit to justice, for
he is sure to be protected by his superiors; and when the superiors are
themselves habitually guilty of malpractices, the culprit is quite safe
from exposure and punishment. The Tsar, indeed, might do much towards
exposing and punishing offenders if he could venture to call in public
opinion to his assistance, but in reality he is very apt to become a
party to the system of hushing up official delinquencies. He is himself
the first official in the realm, and he knows that the abuse of power by
a subordinate has a tendency to produce hostility towards the fountain
of all official power. Frequent punishment of officials might, it is
thought, diminish public respect for the Government, and undermine that
social discipline which is necessary for the public tranquillity. It
is therefore considered expedient to give to official delinquencies as
little publicity as possible.

Besides this, strange as it may seem, a Government which rests on the
arbitrary will of a single individual is, notwithstanding occasional
outbursts of severity, much less systematically severe than authority
founded on free public opinion. When delinquencies occur in very high
places the Tsar is almost sure to display a leniency approaching to
tenderness. If it be necessary to make a sacrifice to justice, the
sacrificial operation is made as painless as may be, and illustrious
scapegoats are not allowed to die of starvation in the wilderness--the
wilderness being generally Paris or the Riviera. This fact may seem
strange to those who are in the habit of associating autocracy with
Neapolitan dungeons and the mines of Siberia, but it is not difficult
to explain. No individual, even though he be the Autocrat of all the
Russias, can so case himself in the armour of official dignity as to be
completely proof against personal influences. The severity of autocrats
is reserved for political offenders, against whom they naturally harbour
a feeling of personal resentment. It is so much easier for us to be
lenient and charitable towards a man who sins against public morality
than towards one who sins against ourselves!

In justice to the bureaucratic reformers in Russia, it must be said that
they have preferred prevention to cure. Refraining from all Draconian
legislation, they have put their faith in a system of ingenious checks
and a complicated formal procedure. When we examine the complicated
formalities and labyrinthine procedure by which the administration is
controlled, our first impression is that administrative abuses must be
almost impossible. Every possible act of every official seems to have
been foreseen, and every possible outlet from the narrow path of honesty
seems to have been carefully walled up. As the English reader has
probably no conception of formal procedure in a highly centralised
bureaucracy, let me give, by way of illustration, an instance which
accidentally came to my knowledge.

In the residence of a Governor-General one of the stoves is in need
of repairs. An ordinary mortal may assume that a man with the rank
of Governor-General may be trusted to expend a few shillings
conscientiously, and that consequently his Excellency will at once order
the repairs to be made and the payment to be put down among the petty
expenses. To the bureaucratic mind the case appears in a very different
light. All possible contingencies must be carefully provided for. As
a Governor-General may possibly be possessed with a mania for making
useless alterations, the necessity for the repairs ought to be verified;
and as wisdom and honesty are more likely to reside in an assembly than
in an individual, it is well to entrust the verification to a council. A
council of three or four members accordingly certifies that the repairs
are necessary. This is pretty strong authority, but it is not enough.
Councils are composed of mere human beings, liable to error and subject
to be intimidated by a Governor-General. It is prudent, therefore, to
demand that the decision of the council be confirmed by the Procureur,
who is directly subordinated to the Minister of Justice. When this
double confirmation has been obtained, an architect examines the stove,
and makes an estimate. But it would be dangerous to give carte blanche
to an architect, and therefore the estimate has to be confirmed, first
by the aforesaid council and afterwards by the Procureur. When all these
formalities--which require sixteen days and ten sheets of paper--have
been duly observed, his Excellency is informed that the contemplated
repairs will cost two roubles and forty kopecks, or about five shillings
of our money. Even here the formalities do not stop, for the Government
must have the assurance that the architect who made the estimate and
superintended the repairs has not been guilty of negligence. A second
architect is therefore sent to examine the work, and his report, like
the estimate, requires to be confirmed by the council and the Procureur.
The whole correspondence lasts thirty days, and requires no less than
thirty sheets of paper! Had the person who desired the repairs been not
a Governor-General, but an ordinary mortal, it is impossible to say how
long the procedure might have lasted.*

     * In fairness I feel constrained to add that incidents of
     this kind occasionally occur--or at least occurred as late
     as 1886--in our Indian Administration.  I remember an
     instance of a pane of glass being broken in the Viceroy's
     bedroom in the Viceregal Lodge at Simla, and it would have
     required nearly a week, if the official procedure had been
     scrupulously observed, to have it replaced by the Public
     Works Department.

It might naturally be supposed that this circuitous and complicated
method, with its registers, ledgers, and minutes of proceedings, must
at least prevent pilfering; but this a priori conclusion has been
emphatically belied by experience. Every new ingenious device had merely
the effect of producing a still more ingenious means of avoiding it.
The system did not restrain those who wished to pilfer, and it had a
deleterious effect on honest officials by making them feel that the
Government reposed no confidence in them. Besides this, it produced
among all officials, honest and dishonest alike, the habit of systematic
falsification. As it was impossible for even the most pedantic of
men--and pedantry, be it remarked, is a rare quality among Russians--to
fulfil conscientiously all the prescribed formalities, it became
customary to observe the forms merely on paper. Officials certified
facts which they never dreamed of examining, and secretaries gravely
wrote the minutes of meetings that had never been held! Thus, in the
case above cited, the repairs were in reality begun and ended long
before the architect was officially authorised to begin the work. The
comedy was nevertheless gravely played out to the end, so that any one
afterwards revising the documents would have found that everything had
been done in perfect order.

Perhaps the most ingenious means for preventing administrative abuses
was devised by the Emperor Nicholas I. Fully aware that he was regularly
and systematically deceived by the ordinary officials, he formed a body
of well-paid officers, called the gendarmerie, who were scattered over
the country, and ordered to report directly to his Majesty whatever
seemed to them worthy of attention. Bureaucratic minds considered this
an admirable expedient; and the Tsar confidently expected that he would,
by means of these official observers who had no interest in concealing
the truth, be able to know everything, and to correct all official
abuses. In reality the institution produced few good results, and in
some respects had a very pernicious influence. Though picked men and
provided with good salaries, these officers were all more or less
permeated with the prevailing spirit. They could not but feel that they
were regarded as spies and informers--a humiliating conviction, little
calculated to develop that feeling of self-respect which is the main
foundation of uprightness--and that all their efforts could do but
little good. They were, in fact, in pretty much the same position
as Peter's Procurator-General, and, with true Russian bonhomie, they
disliked ruining individuals who were no worse than the majority of
their fellows. Besides this, according to the received code of official
morality insubordination was a more heinous sin than dishonesty, and
political offences were regarded as the blackest of all. The gendarmerie
officers shut their eyes, therefore, to the prevailing abuses, which
were believed to be incurable, and directed their attention to real or
imaginary political delinquencies. Oppression and extortion remained
unnoticed, whilst an incautious word or a foolish joke at the expense of
the Government was too often magnified into an act of high treason.

This force still exists under a slightly modified form. Towards the
close of the reign of Alexander II. (1880), when Count Loris Melikof,
with the sanction and approval of his august master, was preparing to
introduce a system of liberal political reforms, it was intended
to abolish the gendarmerie as an organ of political espionage, and
accordingly the direction of it was transferred from the so-called
Third Section of his Imperial Majesty's Chancery to the Ministry of the
Interior; but when the benevolent monarch was a few months afterwards
assassinated by revolutionists, the project was naturally abandoned, and
the Corps of Gendarmes, while remaining nominally under the Minister of
the Interior, was practically reinstated in its former position. Now, as
then, it serves as a kind of supplement to the ordinary police, and
is generally employed for matters in which secrecy is required.
Unfortunately it is not bound by those legal restrictions which protect
the public against the arbitrary will of the ordinary authorities.
In addition to its regular duties it has a vaguely defined roving
commission to watch and arrest all persons who seem to it in any way
dangerous or suspectes, and it may keep such in confinement for an
indefinite time, or remove them to some distant and inhospitable part
of the Empire, without making them undergo a regular trial. It is,
in short, the ordinary instrument for punishing political dreamers,
suppressing secret societies, counteracting political agitations, and in
general executing the extra-legal orders of the Government.

My relations with this anomalous branch of the administration were
somewhat peculiar. After my experience with the Vice-Governor of
Novgorod I determined to place myself above suspicion, and accordingly
applied to the "Chef des Gendarmes" for some kind of official document
which would prove to all officials with whom I might come in contact
that I had no illicit designs. My request was granted, and I was
furnished with the necessary documents; but I soon found that in
seeking to avoid Scylla I had fallen into Charybdis. In calming official
suspicions, I inadvertently aroused suspicions of another kind. The
documents proving that I enjoyed the protection of the Government made
many people suspect that I was an emissary of the gendarmerie, and
greatly impeded me in my efforts to collect information from private
sources. As the private were for me more important than the official
sources of information, I refrained from asking for a renewal of the
protection, and wandered about the country as an ordinary unprotected
traveller. For some time I had no cause to regret this decision. I knew
that I was pretty closely watched, and that my letters were occasionally
opened in the post-office, but I was subjected to no further
inconvenience. At last, when I had nearly forgotten all about Scylla
and Charybdis, I one night unexpectedly ran upon the former, and, to my
astonishment, found myself formally arrested! The incident happened in
this wise.

I had been visiting Austria and Servia, and after a short absence
returned to Russia through Moldavia. On arriving at the Pruth, which
there forms the frontier, I found an officer of gendarmerie, whose duty
it was to examine the passports of all passers-by. Though my passport
was completely en regle, having been duly vise by the British and
Russian Consuls at Galatz, this gentleman subjected me to a searching
examination regarding my past life, actual occupation, and intentions
for the future. On learning that I had been for more than two years
travelling in Russia at my own expense, for the simple purpose of
collecting miscellaneous information, he looked incredulous, and seemed
to have some doubts as to my being a genuine British subject; but when
my statements were confirmed by my travelling companion, a Russian
friend who carried awe-inspiring credentials, he countersigned my
passport, and allowed us to depart. The inspection of our luggage by
the custom-house officers was soon got over; and as we drove off to the
neighbouring village where we were to spend the night we congratulated
ourselves on having escaped for some time from all contact with the
official world. In this we were "reckoning without the host." As the
clock struck twelve that night I was roused by a loud knocking at my
door, and after a good deal of parley, during which some one proposed to
effect an entrance by force, I drew the bolt. The officer who had
signed my passport entered, and said, in a stiff, official tone, "I must
request you to remain here for twenty-four hours."

Not a little astonished by this announcement, I ventured to inquire the
reason for this strange request.

"That is my business," was the laconic reply.

"Perhaps it is; still you must, on mature consideration, admit that
I too have some interest in the matter. To my extreme regret I cannot
comply with your request, and must leave at sunrise."

"You shall not leave. Give me your passport."

"Unless detained by force, I shall start at four o'clock; and as I wish
to get some sleep before that time, I must request you instantly to
retire. You had the right to stop me at the frontier, but you have no
right to come and disturb me in this fashion, and I shall certainly
report you. My passport I shall give to none but a regular officer of

Here followed a long discussion on the rights, privileges, and general
character of the gendarmerie, during which my opponent gradually laid
aside his dictatorial tone, and endeavoured to convince me that the
honourable body to which he belonged was merely an ordinary branch of
the administration. Though evidently irritated, he never, I must say,
overstepped the bounds of politeness, and seemed only half convinced
that he was justified in interfering with my movements. When he found
that he could not induce me to give up my passport, he withdrew, and I
again lay down to rest; but in about half an hour I was again disturbed.
This time an officer of regular police entered, and demanded my
"papers." To my inquiries as to the reason of all this disturbance, he
replied, in a very polite, apologetic way, that he knew nothing about
the reason, but he had received orders to arrest me, and must obey.
To him I delivered my passport, on condition that I should receive
a written receipt, and should be allowed to telegraph to the British
ambassador in St. Petersburg.

Early next morning I telegraphed to the ambassador, and waited
impatiently all day for a reply. I was allowed to walk about the village
and the immediate vicinity, but of this permission I did not make much
use. The village population was entirely Jewish, and Jews in that part
of the world have a wonderful capacity for spreading intelligence. By
the early morning there was probably not a man, woman, or child in
the place who had not heard of my arrest, and many of them felt a not
unnatural curiosity to see the malefactor who had been caught by the
police. To be stared at as a malefactor is not very agreeable, so I
preferred to remain in my room, where, in the company of my friend, who
kindly remained with me and made small jokes about the boasted liberty
of British subjects, I spent the time pleasantly enough. The most
disagreeable part of the affair was the uncertainty as to how many
days, weeks, or months I might be detained, and on this point the
police-officer would not even hazard a conjecture.

The detention came to an end sooner than I expected. On the following
day--that is to say, about thirty-six hours after the nocturnal
visit--the police-officer brought me my passport, and at the same time
a telegram from the British Embassy informed me that the central
authorities had ordered my release. On my afterwards pertinaciously
requesting an explanation of the unceremonious treatment to which I
had been subjected, the Minister for Foreign Affairs declared that the
authorities expected a person of my name to cross the frontier about
that time with a quantity of false bank-notes, and that I had been
arrested by mistake. I must confess that this explanation, though
official, seemed to me more ingenious than satisfactory, but I was
obliged to accept it for what it was worth. At a later period I had
again the misfortune to attract the attention of the secret police, but
I reserve the incident till I come to speak of my relations with the

From all I have seen and heard of the gendarmerie I am disposed to
believe that the officers are for the most part polite, well-educated
men, who seek to fulfil their disagreeable duties in as inoffensive a
way as possible. It must, however, be admitted that they are generally
regarded with suspicion and dislike, even by those people who fear the
attempts at revolutionary propaganda which it is the special duty of the
gendarmerie to discover and suppress. Nor need this surprise us. Though
very many people believe in the necessity of capital punishment, there
are few who do not feel a decided aversion to the public executioner.

The only effectual remedy for administrative abuses lies in placing the
administration under public control. This has been abundantly proved in
Russia. All the efforts of the Tsars during many generations to check
the evil by means of ingenious bureaucratic devices proved utterly
fruitless. Even the iron will and gigantic energy of Nicholas I. were
insufficient for the task. But when, after the Crimean War, there was a
great moral awakening, and the Tsar called the people to his assistance,
the stubborn, deep-rooted evils immediately disappeared. For a time
venality and extortion were unknown, and since that period they have
never been able to regain their old force.

At the present moment it cannot be said that the administration is
immaculate, but it is incomparably purer than it was in old times.
Though public opinion is no longer so powerful as it was in the early
sixties, it is still strong enough to repress many malpractices which
in the time of Nicholas I. and his predecessors were too frequent to
attract attention. On this subject I shall have more to say hereafter.

If administrative abuses are rife in the Empire of the Tsars, it is not
from any want of carefully prepared laws. In no country in the world,
perhaps, is the legislation more voluminous, and in theory, not only
the officials, but even the Tsar himself, must obey the laws he has
sanctioned, like the meanest of his subjects. This is one of those
cases, not infrequent in Russia, in which theory differs somewhat from
practice. In real life the Emperor may at any moment override the law
by means of what is called a Supreme Command (vysotchaishiye povelenie),
and a minister may "interpret" a law in any way he pleases by means of
a circular. This is a frequent cause of complaint even among those who
wish to uphold the Autocratic Power. In their opinion law-respecting
autocracy wielded by a strong Tsar is an excellent institution for
Russia; it is arbitrary autocracy wielded by irresponsible ministers
that they object to.

As Englishmen may have some difficulty in imagining how laws can come
into being without a Parliament or Legislative Chamber of some sort,
I shall explain briefly how they are manufactured by the Russian
bureaucratic machine without the assistance of representative

When a minister considers that some institution in his branch of the
service requires to be reformed, he begins by submitting to the Emperor
a formal report on the matter. If the Emperor agrees with his minister
as to the necessity for reform, he orders a Commission to be appointed
for the purpose of considering the subject and preparing a definite
legislative project. The Commission meets and sets to work in what seems
a very thorough way. It first studies the history of the institution in
Russia from the earliest times downwards--or rather, it listens to
an essay on the subject, especially prepared for the occasion by some
official who has a taste for historical studies, and can write in a
pleasant style. The next step--to use a phrase which often occurs in the
minutes of such commissions--consists in "shedding the light of science
on the question" (prolit' na dyelo svet nauki). This important operation
is performed by preparing a memorial containing the history of similar
institutions in foreign countries, and an elaborate exposition of
numerous theories held by French and German philosophical jurists.
In these memorials it is often considered necessary to include every
European country except Turkey, and sometimes the small German States
and principal Swiss cantons are treated separately.

To illustrate the character of these wonderful productions, let me give
an example. From a pile of such papers lying before me I take one almost
at random. It is a memorial relating to a proposed reform of benevolent
institutions. First I find a philosophical disquisition on benevolence
in general; next, some remarks on the Talmud and the Koran; then a
reference to the treatment of paupers in Athens after the Peloponnesian
War, and in Rome under the emperors: then some vague observations on the
Middle Ages, with a quotation that was evidently intended to be Latin;
lastly, comes an account of the poor-laws of modern times, in which I
meet with "the Anglo-Saxon domination," King Egbert, King Ethelred, "a
remarkable book of Icelandic laws, called Hragas"; Sweden and Norway,
France, Holland, Belgium, Prussia, and nearly all the minor German
States. The most wonderful thing is that all this mass of historical
information, extending from the Talmud to the most recent legislation
of Hesse-Darmstadt, is compressed into twenty-one octavo pages! The
doctrinal part of the memorandum is not less rich. Many respected names
from the literature of Germany, France, and England are forcibly dragged
in; and the general conclusion drawn from this mass of raw, undigested
materials is believed to be "the latest results of science."

Does the reader suspect that I have here chosen an extremely exceptional
case? If so, let us take the next paper in the file. It refers to a
project of law regarding imprisonment for debt. On the first page I find
references to "the Salic laws of the fifth century," and the "Assises de
Jerusalem, A.D 1099." That, I think, will suffice. Let us pass, then, to
the next step.

When the quintessence of human wisdom and experience has thus been
extracted, the commission considers how the valuable product may
be applied to Russia, so as to harmonise with the existing general
conditions and local peculiarities. For a man of practical mind this
is, of course, the most interesting and most important part of the
operation, but from Russian legislators it receives comparatively little
attention. Very often have I turned to this section of official papers
in order to obtain information regarding the actual state of the
country, and in every case I have been grievously disappointed.
Vague general phrases, founded on a priori reasoning rather than on
observation, together with a few statistical tables--which the cautious
investigator should avoid as he would an ambuscade--are too often all
that is to be found. Through the thin veil of pseudo-erudition the real
facts are clear enough. These philosophical legislators, who have spent
their lives in the official atmosphere of St. Petersburg, know as much
about Russia as the genuine cockney knows about Great Britain, and
in this part of their work they derive no assistance from the learned
German treatises which supply an unlimited amount of historical facts
and philosophical speculation.

From the commission the project passes to the Council of State, where
it is certainly examined and criticised, and perhaps modified, but it is
not likely to be improved from the practical point of view, because
the members of the Council are merely ci-devant members of similar
commissions, hardened by a few additional years of official routine. The
Council is, in fact, an assembly of tchinovniks who know little of
the practical, everyday wants of the unofficial classes. No merchant,
manufacturer, or farmer ever enters its sacred precincts, so that its
bureaucratic serenity is rarely disturbed by practical objections. It
is not surprising, therefore, that it has been known to pass laws which
were found at once to be absolutely unworkable.

From the Council of State the Bill is taken to the Emperor, and he
generally begins by examining the signatures. The "Ayes" are in one
column and the "Noes" in another. If his Majesty is not specially
acquainted with the matter--and he cannot possibly be acquainted with
all the matters submitted to him--he usually signs with the majority,
or on the side where he sees the names of officials in whose judgment he
has special confidence; but if he has strong views of his own, he places
his signature in whichever column he thinks fit, and it outweighs the
signatures of any number of Councillors. Whatever side he supports, that
side "has it," and in this way a small minority may be transformed into
a majority. When the important question, for example, as to how far
classics should be taught in the ordinary schools was considered by the
Council, it is said that only two members signed in favour of classical
education, which was excessively unpopular at the moment, but the
Emperor Alexander III., disregarding public opinion and the advice of
his Councillors, threw his signature into the lighter scale, and the
classicists were victorious.



Two Ancient Cities--Kief Not a Good Point for Studying Old Russian
National Life--Great Russians and Little Russians--Moscow--Easter Eve
in the Kremlin--Curious Custom--Anecdote of the Emperor
Nicholas--Domiciliary Visits of the Iberian Madonna--The Streets of
Moscow--Recent Changes in the Character of the City--Vulgar Conception
of the Slavophils--Opinion Founded on Personal Acquaintance--Slavophil
Sentiment a Century Ago--Origin and Development of the Slavophil
Doctrine--Slavophilism Essentially Muscovite--The Panslavist
Element--The Slavophils and the Emancipation.

In the last chapter, as in many of the preceding ones, the reader must
have observed that at one moment there was a sudden break, almost
a solution of continuity, in Russian national life. The Tsardom of
Muscovy, with its ancient Oriental costumes and Byzantine traditions,
unexpectedly disappears, and the Russian Empire, clad in modern garb
and animated with the spirit of modern progress, steps forward uninvited
into European history. Of the older civilisation, if civilisation it can
be called, very little survived the political transformation, and that
little is generally supposed to hover ghostlike around Kief and Moscow.
To one or other of these towns, therefore, the student who desires
to learn something of genuine old Russian life, untainted by foreign
influences, naturally wends his way. For my part I thought first of
settling for a time in Kief, the oldest and most revered of Russian
cities, where missionaries from Byzantium first planted Christianity on
Russian soil, and where thousands of pilgrims still assemble yearly
from far and near to prostrate themselves before the Holy Icons in the
churches and to venerate the relics of the blessed saints and martyrs in
the catacombs of the great monastery. I soon discovered, however, that
Kief, though it represents in a certain sense the Byzantine traditions
so dear to the Russian people, is not a good point of observation for
studying the Russian character. It was early exposed to the ravages of
the nomadic tribes of the Steppe, and when it was liberated from those
incursions it was seized by the Poles and Lithuanians, and remained for
centuries under their domination. Only in comparatively recent times
did it begin to recover its Russian character--a university having been
created there for that purpose after the Polish insurrection of 1830.
Even now the process of Russification is far from complete, and the
Russian elements in the population are far from being pure in the
nationalist sense. The city and the surrounding country are, in fact,
Little Russian rather than Great Russian, and between these two sections
of the population there are profound differences--differences of
language, costume, traditions, popular songs, proverbs, folk-lore,
domestic arrangements, mode of life, and Communal organisation. In these
and other respects the Little Russians, South Russians, Ruthenes,
or Khokhly, as they are variously designated, differ from the Great
Russians of the North, who form the predominant factor in the
Empire, and who have given to that wonderful structure its essential
characteristics. Indeed, if I did not fear to ruffle unnecessarily the
patriotic susceptibilities of my Great Russian friends who have a pet
theory on this subject, I should say that we have here two distinct
nationalities, further apart from each other than the English and the
Scotch. The differences are due, I believe, partly to ethnographical
peculiarities and partly to historic conditions.

As it was the energetic Great Russian empire-builders and not the
half-dreamy, half-astute, sympathetic descendants of the Free Cossacks
that I wanted to study, I soon abandoned my idea of settling in the Holy
City on the Dnieper, and chose Moscow as my point of observation; and
here, during several years, I spent regularly some of the winter months.

The first few weeks of my stay in the ancient capital of the Tsars were
spent in the ordinary manner of intelligent tourists. After mastering
the contents of a guide-book I carefully inspected all the officially
recognised objects of interest--the Kremlin, with its picturesque towers
and six centuries of historical associations; the Cathedrals, containing
the venerated tombs of martyrs, saints, and Tsars; the old churches,
with their quaint, archaic, richly decorated Icons; the "Patriarchs'
Treasury," rich in jewelled ecclesiastical vestments and vessels of
silver and gold; the ancient and the modern palace; the Ethnological
Museum, showing the costumes and physiognomy of all the various races in
the Empire; the archaeological collections, containing many objects that
recall the barbaric splendour of old Muscovy; the picture-gallery, with
Ivanof's gigantic picture, in which patriotic Russian critics discover
occult merits which place it above anything that Western Europe has yet
produced! Of course I climbed up to the top of the tall belfry which
rejoices in the name of "Ivan the Great," and looked down on the "gilded
domes"* of the churches, and bright green roofs of the houses, and far
away, beyond these, the gently undulating country with the "Sparrow
Hills," from which Napoleon is said, in cicerone language, to have
"gazed upon the doomed city." Occasionally I walked about the bazaars
in the hope of finding interesting specimens of genuine native
art-industry, and was urgently invited to purchase every conceivable
article which I did not want. At midday or in the evening I visited the
most noted traktirs, and made the acquaintance of the caviar, sturgeons,
sterlets, and other native delicacies for which these institutions
are famous--deafened the while by the deep tones of the colossal
barrel-organ, out of all proportion to the size of the room; and in
order to see how the common people spent their evenings I looked in at
some of the more modest traktirs, and gazed with wonder, not unmixed
with fear, at the enormous quantity of weak tea which the inmates

     * Allowance must be made here for poetical licence.  In
     reality, very few of the domes are gilt.  The great majority
     of them are painted green, like the roofs of the houses.

Since these first weeks of my sojourn in Moscow more than thirty years
have passed, and many of my early impressions have been blurred by time,
but one scene remains deeply graven on my memory. It was Easter Eve,
and I had gone with a friend to the Kremlin to witness the customary
religious ceremonies. Though the rain was falling heavily, an immense
number of people had assembled in and around the Cathedral of the
Assumption. The crowd was of the most mixed kind. There stood the
patient bearded muzhik in his well-worn sheepskin; the big, burly,
self-satisfied merchant in his long black glossy kaftan; the noble with
fashionable great-coat and umbrella; thinly clad old women shivering
in the cold, and bright-eyed young damsels with their warm cloaks drawn
closely round them; old men with long beard, wallet, and pilgrim's
staff; and mischievous urchins with faces for the moment preternaturally
demure. Each right hand, of old and young alike, held a lighted taper,
and these myriads of flickering little flames produced a curious
illumination, giving to the surrounding buildings a weird
picturesqueness which they do not possess in broad daylight. All stood
patiently waiting for the announcement of the glad tidings: "He is
risen!" As midnight approached, the hum of voices gradually ceased,
till, as the clock struck twelve, the deep-toned bell on "Ivan the
Great" began to toll, and in answer to this signal all the bells in
Moscow suddenly sent forth a merry peal. Each bell--and their name is
legion--seemed frantically desirous of drowning its neighbour's voice,
the solemn boom of the great one overhead mingling curiously with the
sharp, fussy "ting-a-ting-ting" of diminutive rivals. If demons dwell
in Moscow and dislike bell-ringing, as is generally supposed, then
there must have been at that moment a general stampede of the powers of
darkness such as is described by Milton in his poem on the Nativity, and
as if this deafening din were not enough, big guns were fired in rapid
succession from a battery of artillery close at hand! The noise seemed
to stimulate the religious enthusiasm, and the general excitement had
a wonderful effect on a Russian friend who accompanied me. When in his
normal condition that gentleman was a quiet, undemonstrative person,
devoted to science, an ardent adherent of Western civilisation in
general and of Darwinism in particular, and a thorough sceptic with
regard to all forms of religious belief; but the influence of the
surroundings was too much for his philosophical equanimity. For a moment
his orthodox Muscovite soul awoke from its sceptical, cosmopolitan
lethargy. After crossing himself repeatedly--an act of devotion which I
had never before seen him perform--he grasped my arm, and, pointing to
the crowd, said in an exultant tone of voice, "Look there! There is a
sight that you can see nowhere but in the 'White-stone City.'* Are not
the Russians a religious people?"

     *Belokamenny, meaning "of white stone," is one of the
     popular names of Moscow.

To this unexpected question I gave a monosyllabic assent, and refrained
from disturbing my friend's new-born enthusiasm by any discordant note;
but I must confess that this sudden outburst of deafening noise and
the dazzling light aroused in my heretical breast feelings of a warlike
rather than a religious kind. For a moment I could imagine myself in
ancient Moscow, and could fancy the people being called out to repel a
Tartar horde already thundering at the gates!

The service lasted two or three hours, and terminated with the curious
ceremony of blessing the Easter cakes, which were ranged--each one with
a lighted taper stuck in it--in long rows outside of the cathedral. A
not less curious custom practised at this season is that of exchanging
kisses of fraternal love. Theoretically one ought to embrace and be
embraced by all present--indicating thereby that all are brethren in
Christ--but the refinements of modern life have made innovations in the
practice, and most people confine their salutations to their friends
and acquaintances. When two friends meet during that night or on the
following day, the one says, "Christos voskres!" ("Christ hath risen!");
and the other replies, "Vo istine voskres!" ("In truth he hath risen!").
They then kiss each other three times on the right and left cheek
alternately. The custom is more or less observed in all classes of
society, and the Emperor himself conforms to it.

This reminds me of an anecdote which is related of the Emperor Nicholas
I., tending to show that he was not so devoid of kindly human feelings
as his imperial and imperious exterior suggested. On coming out of his
cabinet one Easter morning he addressed to the soldier who was mounting
guard at the door the ordinary words of salutation, "Christ hath risen!"
and received instead of the ordinary reply, a flat contradiction--"Not
at all, your Imperial Majesty!" Astounded by such an unexpected
answer--for no one ventured to dissent from Nicholas even in the most
guarded and respectful terms--he instantly demanded an explanation. The
soldier, trembling at his own audacity, explained that he was a Jew,
and could not conscientiously admit the fact of the Resurrection. This
boldness for conscience' sake so pleased the Tsar that he gave the man a
handsome Easter present.

A quarter of a century after the Easter Eve above mentioned--or, to be
quite accurate, on the 26th of May, 1896--I again find myself in the
Kremlin on the occasion of a great religious ceremony--a ceremony
which shows that "the White-stone City" on the Moskva is still in some
respects the capital of Holy Russia. This time my post of observation is
inside the cathedral, which is artistically draped with purple hangings
and crowded with the most distinguished personages of the Empire, all
arrayed in gorgeous apparel--Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses, Imperial
Highnesses and High Excellencies, Metropolitans and Archbishops,
Senators and Councillors of State, Generals and Court dignitaries. In
the centre of the building, on a high, richly decorated platform, sits
the Emperor with his Imperial Consort, and his mother, the widowed
Consort of Alexander III. Though Nicholas II. has not the colossal
stature which has distinguished so many of the Romanofs, he is well
built, holds himself erect, and shows a quiet dignity in his movements;
while his face, which resembles that of his cousin, the Prince of Wales,
wears a kindly, sympathetic expression. The Empress looks even more than
usually beautiful, in a low dress cut in the ancient fashion, her thick
brown hair, dressed most simply without jewellery or other ornaments,
falling in two long ringlets over her white shoulders. For the moment,
her attire is much simpler than that of the Empress Dowager, who wears
a diamond crown and a great mantle of gold brocade, lined and edged
with ermine, the long train displaying in bright-coloured embroidery the
heraldic double-headed eagle of the Imperial arms.

Each of these august personages sits on a throne of curious workmanship,
consecrated by ancient historic associations. That of the Emperor, the
gift of the Shah of Persia to Ivan the Terrible, and commonly called the
Throne of Tsar Michael, the founder of the Romanof dynasty, is covered
with gold plaques, and studded with hundreds of big, roughly cut
precious stones, mostly rubies, emeralds, and turquoises. Of still older
date is the throne of the young Empress, for it was given by Pope Paul
II. to Tsar Ivan III., grandfather of the Terrible, on the occasion of
his marriage with a niece of the last Byzantine Emperor. More recent
but not less curious is that of the Empress Dowager. It is the throne of
Tsar Alexis, the father of Peter the Great, covered with countless and
priceless diamonds, rubies, and pearls, and surmounted by an Imperial
eagle of solid gold, together with golden statuettes of St. Peter and
St. Nicholas, the miracle-worker. Over each throne is a canopy of purple
velvet fringed with gold, out of which rise stately plumes representing
the national colours.

Their Majesties have come hither, in accordance with time-honoured
custom, to be crowned in this old Cathedral of the Assumption, the
central point of the Kremlin, within a stone-throw of the Cathedral of
the Archangel Michael, in which lie the remains of the old Grand Dukes
and Tsars of Muscovy. Already the Emperor has read aloud, in a clear,
unfaltering voice, from a richly bound parchment folio, held by the
Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, the Orthodox creed; and his Eminence,
after invoking on his Majesty the blessing of the Holy Spirit, has
performed the mystic rite of placing his hands in the form of a cross on
the Imperial forehead. Thus all is ready for the most important part of
the solemn ceremony. Standing erect, the Emperor doffs his small
diadem and puts on with his own hands the great diamond crown, offered
respectfully by the Metropolitan; then he reseats himself on his
throne, holding in his right hand the Sceptre and in his left the Orb
of Dominion. After sitting thus in state for a few minutes, he stands up
and proceeds to crown his august spouse, kneeling before him. First he
touches her forehead with his own crown, and then he places on her
head a smaller one, which is immediately attached to her hair by four
ladies-in-waiting, dressed in the old Muscovite Court-costume. At the
same time her Majesty is invested with a mantle of heavy gold brocade,
similar to those of the Emperor and Empress Dowager, lined and bordered
with ermine.

Thus crowned and robed their Majesties sit in state, while a
proto-deacon reads, in a loud stentorian voice, the long list of
sonorous hereditary titles belonging of right to the Imperator and
Autocrat of all the Russias, and the choir chants a prayer invoking long
life and happiness--"Many years! Many years! Many years!"--on the high
and mighty possessor of the titles aforesaid. And now begins the Mass,
celebrated with a pomp and magnificence that can be witnessed only
once or twice in a generation. Sixty gorgeously robed ecclesiastical
dignitaries of the highest orders fulfil their various functions with
due solemnity and unction; but the magnificence of the vestments and the
pomp of the ceremonial are soon forgotten in the exquisite solemnising
music, as the deep double-bass tones of the adult singers in the
background--carefully selected for the occasion in all parts of the
Empire--peal forth as from a great organ, and blend marvellously with
the clear, soft, gentle notes of the red-robed chorister boys in front
of the Iconostase. Listening with intense emotion, I involuntarily
recall to mind Fra Angelico's pictures of angelic choirs, and cannot
help thinking that the pious old Florentine, whose soul was attuned to
all that was sacred and beautiful, must have heard in imagination such
music as this. So strong is the impression that the subsequent details
of the long ceremony, including the anointing with the holy chrism, fail
to engrave themselves on my memory. One incident, however, remains; and
if it had happened in an earlier and more superstitious age it would
doubtless have been chronicled as an omen full of significance. As the
Emperor is on the point of descending from the dais, duly crowned and
anointed, a staggering ray of sunshine steals through one of the narrow
upper windows and, traversing the dimly lit edifice, falls full on the
Imperial crown, lighting up for a moment the great mass of diamonds with
a hundredfold brilliance.

In a detailed account of the Coronation which I wrote on leaving the
Kremlin, I find the following: "The magnificent ceremony is at an end,
and now Nicholas II. is the crowned Emperor and anointed Autocrat of all
the Russias. May the cares of Empire rest lightly on him! That must be
the earnest prayer of every loyal subject and every sincere well-wisher,
for of all living mortals he is perhaps the one who has been
entrusted by Providence with the greatest power and the greatest
responsibilities." In writing those words I did not foresee how heavy
his responsibilities would one day weigh upon him, when his Empire would
be sorely tried, by foreign war and internal discontent.

One more of these old Moscow reminiscences, and I have done. A day or
two after the Coronation I saw the Khodinskoye Polye, a great plain in
the outskirts of Moscow, strewn with hundreds of corpses! During
the previous night enormous crowds from the city and the surrounding
districts had collected here in order to receive at sunrise, by the
Tsar's command, a little memento of the coronation ceremony, in the
form of a packet containing a metal cup and a few eatables; and as day
dawned, in their anxiety to get near the row of booths from which the
distribution was to be made, about two thousand had been crushed to
death. It was a sight more horrible than a battlefield, because among
the dead were a large proportion of women and children, terribly
mutilated in the struggle. Altogether, "a sight to shudder at, not to

To return to the remark of my friend in the Kremlin on Easter Eve,
the Russians in general, and the Muscovites in particular, as the
quintessence of all that is Russian, are certainly a religious people,
but their piety sometimes finds modes of expression which rather
shock the Protestant mind. As an instance of these, I may mention the
domiciliary visits of the Iberian Madonna. This celebrated Icon, for
reasons which I have never heard satisfactorily explained, is held
in peculiar veneration by the Muscovites, and occupies in popular
estimation a position analogous to the tutelary deities of ancient pagan
cities. Thus when Napoleon was about to enter the city in 1812, the
populace clamorously called upon the Metropolitan to take the Madonna,
and lead them out armed with hatchets against the hosts of the infidel;
and when the Tsar visits Moscow he generally drives straight from the
railway-station to the little chapel where the Icon resides--near one of
the entrances to the Kremlin--and there offers up a short prayer.
Every Orthodox Russian, as he passes this chapel, uncovers and crosses
himself, and whenever a religious service is performed in it there
is always a considerable group of worshippers. Some of the richer
inhabitants, however, are not content with thus performing their
devotions in public before the Icon. They like to have it from time to
time in their houses, and the ecclesiastical authorities think fit to
humour this strange fancy. Accordingly every morning the Iberian Madonna
may be seen driving about the city from one house to another in a
carriage and four! The carriage may be at once recognised, not from any
peculiarity in its structure, for it is an ordinary close carriage such
as may be obtained at livery stables, but by the fact that the coachman
sits bare-headed, and all the people in the street uncover and cross
themselves as it passes. Arrived at the house to which it has been
invited, the Icon is carried through all the rooms, and in the principal
apartment a short religious service is performed before it. As it is
being brought in or taken away, female servants may sometimes be seen
to kneel on the floor so that it may be carried over them. During
its absence from its chapel it is replaced by a copy not easily
distinguishable from the original, and thus the devotions of the
faithful and the flow of pecuniary contributions do not suffer
interruption. These contributions, together with the sums paid for the
domiciliary visits, amount to a considerable yearly sum, and go--if I am
rightly informed--to swell the revenues of the Metropolitan.

A single drive or stroll through Moscow will suffice to convince the
traveller, even if he knows nothing of Russian history, that the city
is not, like its modern rival on the Neva, the artificial creation of a
far-seeing, self-willed autocrat, but rather a natural product which has
grown up slowly and been modified according to the constantly changing
wants of the population. A few of the streets have been Europeanised--in
all except the paving, which is everywhere execrably Asiatic--to suit
the tastes of those who have adopted European culture, but the great
majority of them still retain much of their ancient character and
primitive irregularity. As soon as we diverge from the principal
thoroughfares, we find one-storied houses--some of them still of
wood--which appear to have been transported bodily from the country,
with courtyard, garden, stables, and other appurtenances. The whole is
no doubt a little compressed, for land has here a certain value, but the
character is in no way changed, and we have some difficulty in believing
that we are not in the suburbs but near the centre of a great
town. There is nothing that can by any possibility be called street
architecture. Though there is unmistakable evidence of the streets
having been laid out according to a preconceived plan, many of them show
clearly that in their infancy they had a wayward will of their own, and
bent to the right or left without any topographical justification. The
houses, too, display considerable individuality of character, having
evidently during the course of their construction paid no attention to
their neighbours. Hence we find no regularly built terraces, crescents,
or squares. There is, it is true, a double circle of boulevards, but the
houses which flank them have none of that regularity which we commonly
associate with the term. Dilapidated buildings which in West-European
cities would hide themselves in some narrow lane or back slum here
stand composedly in the face of day by the side of a palatial residence,
without having the least consciousness of the incongruity of their
position, just as the unsophisticated muzhik, in his unsavoury
sheepskin, can stand in the midst of a crowd of well-dressed people
without feeling at all awkward or uncomfortable.

All this incongruity, however, is speedily disappearing. Moscow has
become the centre of a great network of railways, and the commercial
and industrial capital of the Empire. Already her rapidly increasing
population has nearly reached a million.* The value of land and property
is being doubled and trebled, and building speculations, with the aid of
credit institutions of various kinds, are being carried on with feverish
rapidity. Well may the men of the old school complain that the world is
turned upside down, and regret the old times of traditional somnolence
and comfortable routine! Those good old times are gone now, never to
return. The ancient capital, which long gloried in its past historical
associations, now glories in its present commercial prosperity, and
looks forward with confidence to the future. Even the Slavophils, the
obstinate champions of the ultra-Muscovite spirit, have changed with the
times, and descended to the level of ordinary prosaic life. These men,
who formerly spent years in seeking to determine the place of Moscow
in the past and future history of humanity, have--to their honour be
it said--become in these latter days town-counsellors, and have devoted
much of their time to devising ways and means of improving the drainage
and the street-paving! But I am anticipating in a most unjustifiable
way. I ought first to tell the reader who these Slavophils were, and why
they sought to correct the commonly received conceptions of universal

     * According to the census of 1897 it was 988,610.

The reader may have heard of the Slavophils as a set of fanatics who,
about half a century ago, were wont to go about in what they considered
the ancient Russian costume, who wore beards in defiance of Peter the
Great's celebrated ukaz and Nicholas's clearly-expressed wish anent
shaving, who gloried in Muscovite barbarism, and had solemnly "sworn a
feud" against European civilisation and enlightenment. By the tourists
of the time who visited Moscow they were regarded as among the most
noteworthy lions of the place, and were commonly depicted in not very
flattering colours. At the beginning of the Crimean War they were among
the extreme Chauvinists who urged the necessity of planting the Greek
cross on the desecrated dome of St. Sophia in Constantinople, and
hoped to see the Emperor proclaimed "Panslavonic Tsar"; and after the
termination of the war they were frequently accused of inventing Turkish
atrocities, stirring up discontent among the Slavonic subjects of the
Sultan, and secretly plotting for the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire.
All this was known to me before I went to Russia, and I had consequently
invested the Slavophils with a halo of romance. Shortly after my arrival
in St. Petersburg I heard something more which tended to increase my
interest in them--they had caused, I was told, great trepidation among
the highest official circles by petitioning the Emperor to resuscitate a
certain ancient institution, called Zemskiye Sobory, which might be
made to serve the purposes of a parliament! This threw a new light
upon them--under the disguise of archaeological conservatives they were
evidently aiming at important liberal reforms.

As a foreigner and a heretic, I expected a very cold and distant
reception from these uncompromising champions of Russian nationality and
the Orthodox faith; but in this I was agreeably disappointed. By all
of them I was received in the most amiable and friendly way, and I soon
discovered that my preconceived ideas of them were very far from the
truth. Instead of wild fanatics I found quiet, extremely intelligent,
highly educated gentlemen, speaking foreign languages with ease and
elegance, and deeply imbued with that Western culture which they were
commonly supposed to despise. And this first impression was amply
confirmed by subsequent experience during several years of friendly
intercourse. They always showed themselves men of earnest character
and strong convictions, but they never said or did anything that could
justify the appellation of fanatics. Like all philosophical theorists,
they often allowed their logic to blind them to facts, but their
reasonings were very plausible--so plausible, indeed, that, had I been a
Russian they would have almost persuaded me to be a Slavophil, at least
during the time they were talking to me.

To understand their doctrine we must know something of its origin and

The origin of the Slavophil sentiment, which must not be confounded
with the Slavophil doctrine, is to be sought in the latter half of
the seventeenth century, when the Tsars of Muscovy were introducing
innovations in Church and State. These innovations were profoundly
displeasing to the people. A large portion of the lower classes, as I
have related in a previous chapter, sought refuge in Old Ritualism or
sectarianism, and imagined that Tsar Peter, who called himself by the
heretical title of "Imperator," was an emanation of the Evil Principle.
The nobles did not go quite so far. They remained members of the
official Church, and restricted themselves to hinting that Peter was the
son, not of Satan, but of a German surgeon--a lineage which, according
to the conceptions of the time, was a little less objectionable; but
most of them were very hostile to the changes, and complained bitterly
of the new burdens which these changes entailed. Under Peter's immediate
successors, when not only the principles of administration but also many
of the administrators were German, this hostility greatly increased.

So long as the innovations appeared only in the official activity of
the Government, the patriotic, conservative spirit was obliged to keep
silence; but when the foreign influence spread to the social life of the
Court aristocracy, the opposition began to find a literary expression.
In the time of Catherine II., when Gallomania was at its height in Court
circles, comedies and satirical journals ridiculed those who, "blinded
by some externally brilliant gifts of foreigners, not only prefer
foreign countries to their native land, but even despise their
fellow-countrymen, and think that a Russian ought to borrow all--even
personal character. As if nature arranging all things with such wisdom,
and bestowing on all regions the gifts and customs which are appropriate
to the climate, had been so unjust as to refuse to the Russians a
character of their own! As if she condemned them to wander over all
regions, and to adopt by bits the various customs of various nations,
in order to compose out of the mixture a new character appropriate to
no nation whatever!" Numerous passages of this kind might be quoted,
attacking the "monkeyism" and "parrotism" of those who indiscriminately
adopted foreign manners and customs--those who

     "Sauntered Europe round,
      And gathered ev'ry vice in ev'ry ground."

Sometimes the terms and metaphors employed were more forcible than
refined. One satirical journal, for instance, relates an amusing
story about certain little Russian pigs that went to foreign lands to
enlighten their understanding, and came back to their country full-grown
swine. The national pride was wounded by the thought that Russians
could be called "clever apes who feed on foreign intelligence," and
many writers, stung by such reproaches, fell into the opposite extreme,
discovering unheard-of excellences in the Russian mind and character,
and vociferously decrying everything foreign in order to place these
imagined excellences in a stronger light by contrast. Even when they
recognised that their country was not quite so advanced in civilisation
as certain other nations, they congratulated themselves on the fact,
and invented by way of justification an ingenious theory, which was
afterwards developed by the Slavophils. "The nations of the West," they
said, "began to live before us, and are consequently more advanced than
we are; but we have on that account no reason to envy them, for we can
profit by their errors, and avoid those deep-rooted evils from which
they are suffering. He who has just been born is happier than he who is

Thus, we see, a patriotic reaction against the introduction of foreign
institutions and the inordinate admiration of foreign culture already
existed in Russia more than a century ago. It did not, however, take the
form of a philosophical theory till a much later period, when a similar
movement was going on in various countries of Western Europe.

After the overthrow of the great Napoleonic Empire a reaction against
cosmopolitanism took place and a romantic enthusiasm for nationality
spread over Europe like an epidemic. Blind, enthusiastic patriotism
became the fashionable sentiment of the time. Each nation took to
admiring itself complacently, to praising its own character and
achievements, and to idealising its historical and mythical past.
National peculiarities, "local colour," ancient customs, traditional
superstitions--in short, everything that a nation believed to be
specially and exclusively its own, now raised an enthusiasm similar to
that which had been formerly excited by cosmopolitan conceptions founded
on the law of nature. The movement produced good and evil results.
In serious minds it led to a deep and conscientious study of history,
national literature, popular mythology, and the like; whilst in
frivolous, inflammable spirits it gave birth merely to a torrent of
patriotic fervour and rhetorical exaggeration. The Slavophils were the
Russian representatives of this nationalistic reaction, and displayed
both its serious and its frivolous elements.

Among the most important products of this movement in Germany was the
Hegelian theory of universal history. According to Hegel's views,
which were generally accepted by those who occupied themselves with
philosophical questions, universal history was described as "Progress in
the consciousness of freedom" (Fortschritt im Bewusstsein der Freiheit).
In each period of the world's history, it was explained, some one
nation or race had been intrusted with the high mission of enabling the
Absolute Reason, or Weltgeist, to express itself in objective existence,
while the other nations and races had for the time no metaphysical
justification for their existence, and no higher duty than to imitate
slavishly the favoured rival in which the Weltgeist had for the moment
chosen to incorporate itself. The incarnation had taken place first in
the Eastern Monarchies, then in Greece, next in Rome, and lastly in the
Germanic race; and it was generally assumed, if not openly asserted,
that this mystical Metempsychosis of the Absolute was now at an end. The
cycle of existence was complete. In the Germanic peoples the Weltgeist
had found its highest and final expression.

Russians in general knew nothing about German philosophy, and were
consequently not in any way affected by these ideas, but there was in
Moscow a small group of young men who ardently studied German literature
and metaphysics, and they were much shocked by Hegel's views. Ever since
the brilliant reign of Catherine II., who had defeated the Turks and had
dreamed of resuscitating the Byzantine Empire, and especially since the
memorable events of 1812-15, when Alexander I. appeared as the liberator
of enthralled Europe and the arbiter of her destinies, Russians
were firmly convinced that their country was destined to play a most
important part in human history. Already the great Russian historian
Karamzin had declared that henceforth Clio must be silent or accord
to Russia a prominent place in the history of the nations. Now, by the
Hegelian theory, the whole of the Slav race was left out in the cold,
with no high mission, with no new truths to divulge, with nothing better
to do, in fact, than to imitate the Germans.

The patriotic philosophers of Moscow could not, of course, adopt this
view. Whilst accepting the fundamental principles, they declared the
theory to be incomplete. The incompleteness lay in the assumption that
humanity had already entered on the final stages of its development. The
Teutonic nations were perhaps for the moment the leaders in the march of
civilisation, but there was no reason to suppose that they would always
retain that privileged position. On the contrary, there were already
symptoms that their ascendency was drawing to a close. "Western Europe,"
it was said, "presents a strange, saddening spectacle. Opinion struggles
against opinion, power against power, throne against throne. Science,
Art, and Religion, the three chief motors of social life, have lost
their force. We venture to make an assertion which to many at present
may seem strange, but which will be in a few years only too evident:
Western Europe is on the highroad to ruin! We Russians, on the contrary,
are young and fresh, and have taken no part in the crimes of Europe.
We have a great mission to fulfil. Our name is already inscribed on
the tablets of victory, and now we have to inscribe our spirit in the
history of the human mind. A higher kind of victory--the victory of
Science, Art and Faith--awaits us on the ruins of tottering Europe!"*

     * These words were written by Prince Odoefski.

This conclusion was supported by arguments drawn from history--or,
at least, what was believed to be history. The European world was
represented as being composed of two hemispheres--the Eastern or
Graeco-Slavonic on the one hand, and the Western, or Roman Catholic
and Protestant, on the other. These two hemispheres, it was said, are
distinguished from each other by many fundamental characteristics. In
both of them Christianity formed originally the basis of civilisation,
but in the West it became distorted and gave a false direction to the
intellectual development. By placing the logical reason of the learned
above the conscience of the whole Church, Roman Catholicism produced
Protestantism, which proclaimed the right of private judgment and
consequently became split up into innumerable sects. The dry, logical
spirit which was thus fostered created a purely intellectual, one-sided
philosophy, which must end in pure scepticism, by blinding men to those
great truths which lie above the sphere of reasoning and logic. The
Graeco-Slavonic world, on the contrary, having accepted Christianity
not from Rome, but from Byzantium, received pure orthodoxy and true
enlightenment, and was thus saved alike from Papal tyranny and from
Protestant free-thinking. Hence the Eastern Christians have preserved
faithfully not only the ancient dogmas, but also the ancient spirit of
Christianity--that spirit of pious humility, resignation, and brotherly
love which Christ taught by precept and example. If they have not yet a
philosophy, they will create one, and it will far surpass all previous
systems; for in the writings of the Greek Fathers are to be found the
germs of a broader, a deeper, and a truer philosophy than the dry,
meagre rationalism of the West--a philosophy founded not on the logical
faculty alone, but on the broader basis of human nature as a whole.

The fundamental characteristics of the Graeco-Slavonic world--so runs
the Slavophil theory--have been displayed in the history of Russia.
Throughout Western Christendom the principal of individual judgment and
reckless individual egotism have exhausted the social forces and brought
society to the verge of incurable anarchy and inevitable dissolution,
whereas the social and political history of Russia has been harmonious
and peaceful. It presents no struggles between the different social
classes, and no conflicts between Church and State. All the factors have
worked in unison, and the development has been guided by the spirit of
pure orthodoxy. But in this harmonious picture there is one big,
ugly black spot--Peter, falsely styled "the Great," and his so-called
reforms. Instead of following the wise policy of his ancestors, Peter
rejected the national traditions and principles, and applied to his
country, which belonged to the Eastern world, the principles of Western
civilisation. His reforms, conceived in a foreign spirit, and elaborated
by men who did not possess the national instincts, were forced upon the
nation against its will, and the result was precisely what might have
been expected. The "broad Slavonic nature" could not be controlled by
institutions which had been invented by narrow-minded, pedantic German
bureaucrats, and, like another Samson, it pulled down the building in
which foreign legislators sought to confine it. The attempt to introduce
foreign culture had a still worse effect. The upper classes, charmed and
dazzled by the glare and glitter of Western science, threw themselves
impulsively on the newly found treasures, and thereby condemned
themselves to moral slavery and intellectual sterility. Fortunately--and
herein lay one of the fundamental principles of the Slavophil
doctrine--the imported civilisation had not at all infected the common
people. Through all the changes which the administration and the
Noblesse underwent the peasantry preserved religiously in their hearts
"the living legacy of antiquity," the essence of Russian nationality,
"a clear spring welling up living waters, hidden and unknown, but
powerful."* To recover this lost legacy by studying the character,
customs, and institutions of the peasantry, to lead the educated classes
back to the path from which they had strayed, and to re-establish that
intellectual and moral unity which had been disturbed by the foreign
importations--such was the task which the Slavophils proposed to

     * This was one of the favourite themes of Khomiakof, the
     Slavophil poet and theologian.

Deeply imbued with that romantic spirit which distorted all the
intellectual activity of the time, the Slavophils often indulged in
the wildest exaggerations, condemning everything foreign and praising
everything Russian. When in this mood they saw in the history of the
West nothing but violence, slavery, and egotism, and in that of their
own country free-will, liberty, and peace. The fact that Russia did not
possess free political institutions was adduced as a precious fruit of
that spirit of Christian resignation and self-sacrifice which places
the Russian at such an immeasurable height above the proud, selfish
European; and because Russia possessed few of the comforts and
conveniences of common life, the West was accused of having made comfort
its God! We need not, however, dwell on these puerilities, which only
gained for their authors the reputation of being ignorant, narrow-minded
men, imbued with a hatred of enlightenment and desirous of leading their
country back to its primitive barbarism. What the Slavophils really
condemned, at least in their calmer moments, was not European culture,
but the uncritical, indiscriminate adoption of it by their countrymen.
Their tirades against foreign culture must appear excusable when we
remember that many Russians of the upper ranks could speak and write
French more correctly than their native language, and that even the
great national poet Pushkin was not ashamed to confess--what was not
true, and a mere piece of affectation--that "the language of Europe" was
more familiar to him than his mother-tongue!

The Slavophil doctrine, though it made a great noise in the world, never
found many adherents. The society of St. Petersburg regarded it as one
of those harmless provincial eccentricities which are always to be found
in Moscow. In the modern capital, with its foreign name, its streets
and squares on the European model, its palaces and churches in the
Renaissance style, and its passionate love of everything French, any
attempt to resuscitate the old Boyaric times would have been eminently
ridiculous. Indeed, hostility to St. Petersburg and to "the Petersburg
period of Russian history" is one of the characteristic traits of
genuine Slavophilism. In Moscow the doctrine found a more appropriate
home. There the ancient churches, with the tombs of Grand Princes and
holy martyrs, the palace in which the Tsars of Muscovy had lived, the
Kremlin which had resisted--not always successfully--the attacks of
savage Tartars and heretical Poles, the venerable Icons that had many a
time protected the people from danger, the block of masonry from which,
on solemn occasions, the Tsar and the Patriarch had addressed the
assembled multitude--these, and a hundred other monuments sanctified by
tradition, have kept alive in the popular memory some vague remembrance
of the olden time, and are still capable of awakening antiquarian

The inhabitants, too, have preserved something of the old Muscovite
character. Whilst successive sovereigns have been striving to make the
country a progressive European empire, Moscow has remained the home of
passive conservatism and an asylum for the discontented, especially for
the disappointed aspirants to Imperial favour. Abandoned by the modern
Emperors, she can glory in her ancient Tsars. But even the Muscovites
were not prepared to accept the Slavophil doctrine in the extreme form
which it assumed, and were not a little perplexed by the eccentricities
of those who professed it. Plain, sensible people, though they might
be proud of being citizens of the ancient capital, and might thoroughly
enjoy a joke at the expense of St. Petersburg, could not understand
a little coterie of enthusiasts who sought neither official rank nor
decorations, who slighted many of the conventionalities of the higher
classes to which by birth and education they belonged, who loved to
fraternise with the common people, and who occasionally dressed in the
national costume which had been discarded by the nobles since the time
of Peter the Great.

The Slavophils thus remained merely a small literary party, which
probably did not count more than a dozen members, but their influence
was out of all proportion to their numbers. They preached successfully
the doctrine that the historical development of Russia has been
peculiar, that her present social and political organisation is
radically different from that of the countries of Western Europe, and
that consequently the social and political evils from which she suffers
are not to be cured by the remedies which have proved efficacious in
France and Germany. These truths, which now appear commonplace, were
formerly by no means generally recognised, and the Slavophils deserve
credit for directing attention to them. Besides this, they helped to
awaken in the upper classes a lively sympathy with the poor, oppressed,
and despised peasantry. So long as the Emperor Nicholas lived they had
to confine themselves to a purely literary activity; but during the
great reforms initiated by his successor, Alexander II., they descended
into the arena of practical politics, and played a most useful and
honourable part in the emancipation of the serfs. In the new
local self-government, too--the Zemstvo and the new municipal
institutions--they laboured energetically and to good purpose. Of all
this I shall have occasion to speak more fully in future chapters.

But what of their Panslavist aspirations? By their theory they were
constrained to pay attention to the Slav race as a whole, but they were
more Russian than Slav, and more Muscovite than Russian. The Panslavist
element consequently occupied a secondary place in Slavophil doctrine.
Though they did much to stimulate popular sympathy with the Southern
Slavs, and always cherished the hope that the Serbs, Bulgarians, and
cognate Slav nationalities would one day throw off the bondage of the
German and the Turk, they never proposed any elaborate project for the
solution of the Eastern Question. So far as I was able to gather from
their conversation, they seemed to favour the idea of a grand Slavonic
Confederation, in which the hegemony would, of course, belong to Russia.
In ordinary times the only steps which they took for the realisation of
this idea consisted in contributing money for schools and churches
among the Slav population of Austria and Turkey, and in educating young
Bulgarians in Russia. During the Cretan insurrection they
sympathised warmly with the insurgents as co-religionists, but
afterwards--especially during the crisis of the Eastern Question which
culminated in the Treaty of San Stefano and the Congress of Berlin
(1878)--their Hellenic sympathies cooled, because the Greeks showed that
they had political aspirations inconsistent with the designs of Russia,
and that they were likely to be the rivals rather than the allies of the
Slavs in the struggle for the Sick Man's inheritance.

Since the time when I was living in Moscow in constant intercourse with
the leading Slavophils more than a quarter of a century has passed, and
of those with whom I spent so many pleasant evenings discussing the past
history and future destinies of the Slav races, not one remains alive.
All the great prophets of the old Slavophil doctrine--Jun Samarin,
Prince Tcherkaski, Ivan Aksakof, Kosheleff--have departed without
leaving behind them any genuine disciples. The present generation of
Muscovite frondeurs, who continue to rail against Western Europe and the
pedantic officialism of St. Petersburg, are of a more modern and less
academic type. Their philippics are directed not against Peter the Great
and his reforms, but rather against recent Ministers of Foreign Affairs
who are thought to have shown themselves too subservient to foreign
Powers, and against M. Witte, the late Minister of Finance, who is
accused of favouring the introduction of foreign capital and enterprise,
and of sacrificing to unhealthy industrial development the interests of
the agricultural classes. These laments and diatribes are allowed free
expression in private conversation and in the Press, but they do not
influence very deeply the policy of the Government or the natural course
of events; for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to cultivate
friendly relations with the Cabinets of the West, and Moscow is rapidly
becoming, by the force of economic conditions, the great industrial and
commercial centre of the Empire.

The administrative and bureaucratic centre--if anything on the frontier
of a country can be called its centre--has long been, and is likely to
remain, Peter's stately city at the mouth of the Neva, to which I now
invite the reader to accompany me.



St. Petersburg and Berlin--Big Houses--The "Lions"--Peter the Great--His
Aims and Policy--The German Regime--Nationalist Reaction--French
Influence--Consequent Intellectual Sterility--Influence of the
Sentimental School--Hostility to Foreign Influences--A New Period of
Literary Importation--Secret Societies--The Catastrophe--The Age of
Nicholas--A Terrible War on Parnassus--Decline of Romanticism and
Transcendentalism--Gogol--The Revolutionary Agitation of 1848--New

From whatever side the traveller approaches St. Petersburg, unless he
goes thither by sea, he must traverse several hundred miles of forest
and morass, presenting few traces of human habitation or agriculture.
This fact adds powerfully to the first impression which the city makes
on his mind. In the midst of a waste howling wilderness, he suddenly
comes on a magnificent artificial oasis.

Of all the great European cities, the one that most resembles the
capital of the Tsars is Berlin. Both are built on perfectly level
ground; both have wide, regularly arranged streets; in both there is
a general look of stiffness and symmetry which suggests military
discipline and German bureaucracy. But there is at least one profound
difference. Though Berlin is said by geographers to be built on the
Spree, we might live a long time in the city without noticing
the sluggish little stream on which the name of a river has been
undeservedly conferred. St. Petersburg, on the contrary, is built on
a magnificent river, which forms the main feature of the place. By its
breadth, and by the enormous volume of its clear, blue, cold water,
the Neva is certainly one of the noblest rivers of Europe. A few miles
before reaching the Gulf of Finland it breaks up into several streams
and forms a delta. It is here that St. Petersburg stands.

Like the river, everything in St. Petersburg is on a colossal scale. The
streets, the squares, the palaces, the public buildings, the churches,
whatever may be their defects, have at least the attribute of greatness,
and seem to have been designed for the countless generations to come,
rather than for the practical wants of the present inhabitants. In this
respect the city well represents the Empire of which it is the capital.
Even the private houses are built in enormous blocks and divided into
many separate apartments. Those built for the working classes sometimes
contain, I am assured, more than a thousand inhabitants. How many cubic
feet of air is allowed to each person, I do not know; not so many, I
fear, as is recommended by the most advanced sanitary authorities.

For a detailed description of the city I must refer the reader to the
guide books. Among its numerous monuments, of which the Russians are
justly proud, I confess that the one which interested me most was
neither St. Isaac's Cathedral, with its majestic gilded dome, its
colossal monolithic columns of red granite, and its gaudy interior; nor
the Hermitage, with its magnificent collection of Dutch pictures; nor
the gloomy, frowning fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, containing
the tombs of the Emperors. These and other "sights" may deserve all the
praise which enthusiastic tourists have lavished upon them, but what
made a far deeper impression on me was the little wooden house in which
Peter the Great lived whilst his future capital was being built. In its
style and arrangement it looks more like the hut of a navvy than the
residence of a Tsar, but it was quite in keeping with the character of
the illustrious man who occupied it. Peter could and did occasionally
work like a navvy without feeling that his Imperial dignity was thereby
impaired. When he determined to build a new capital on a Finnish
marsh, inhabited chiefly by wildfowl, he did not content himself with
exercising his autocratic power in a comfortable arm chair. Like the
Greek gods, he went down from his Olympus and took his place in the
ranks of ordinary mortals, superintending the work with his own eyes,
and taking part in it with his own hands. If he was as arbitrary and
oppressive as any of the pyramid-building Pharaohs, he could at least
say in self-justification that he did not spare himself any more than
his people, but exposed himself freely to the discomforts and dangers
under which thousands of his fellow-labourers succumbed.

In reading the account of Peter's life, written in part by his own pen,
we can easily understand how the piously Conservative section of his
subjects failed to recognise in him the legitimate successor of the
orthodox Tsars. The old Tsars had been men of grave, pompous demeanour,
deeply imbued with the consciousness of their semi-religious dignity.
Living habitually in Moscow or its immediate neighbourhood, they spent
their time in attending long religious services, in consulting with
their Boyars, in being present at ceremonious hunting-parties, in
visiting the monasteries, and in holding edifying conversations with
ecclesiastical dignitaries or revered ascetics. If they undertook a
journey, it was probably to make a pilgrimage to some holy shrine; and,
whether in Moscow or elsewhere, they were always protected from contact
with ordinary humanity by a formidable barricade of court ceremonial.
In short, they combined the characters of a Christian monk and of an
Oriental potentate.

Peter was a man of an entirely different type, and played in the calm,
dignified, orthodox, ceremonious world of Moscow the part of the bull in
the china shop, outraging ruthlessly and wantonly all the time-honored
traditional conceptions of propriety and etiquette. Utterly regardless
of public opinion and popular prejudices, he swept away the old
formalities, avoided ceremonies of all kinds, scoffed at ancient usage,
preferred foreign secular books to edifying conversations, chose profane
heretics as his boon companions, travelled in foreign countries, dressed
in heretical costume, defaced the image of God and put his soul in
jeopardy by shaving off his beard, compelled his nobles to dress and
shave like himself, rushed about the Empire as if goaded on by the demon
of unrest, employed his sacred hands in carpentering and other menial
occupations, took part openly in the uproarious orgies of his foreign
soldiery, and, in short, did everything that "the Lord's anointed"
might reasonably be expected not to do. No wonder the Muscovites were
scandalised by his conduct, and that some of them suspected he was not
the Tsar at all, but Antichrist in disguise. And no wonder he felt the
atmosphere of Moscow oppressive, and preferred living in the new capital
which he had himself created.

His avowed object in building St. Petersburg was to have "a window by
which the Russians might look into civilised Europe"; and well has
the city fulfilled its purpose. From its foundation may be dated the
European period of Russian history. Before Peter's time Russia belonged
to Asia rather than to Europe, and was doubtless regarded by Englishmen
and Frenchmen pretty much as we nowadays regard Bokhara or Kashgar;
since that time she has formed an integral part of the European
political system, and her intellectual history has been but a reflection
of the intellectual history of Western Europe, modified and coloured by
national character and by peculiar local conditions.

When we speak of the intellectual history of a nation we generally mean
in reality the intellectual history of the upper classes. With regard
to Russia, more perhaps than with regard to any other country, this
distinction must always carefully be borne in mind. Peter succeeded in
forcing European civilisation on the nobles, but the people remained
unaffected. The nation was, as it were, cleft in two, and with each
succeeding generation the cleft has widened. Whilst the masses clung
obstinately to their time-honoured customs and beliefs, the nobles
came to look on the objects of popular veneration as the relics of a
barbarous past, of which a civilised nation ought to be ashamed.

The intellectual movement inaugurated by Peter had a purely practical
character. He was himself a thorough utilitarian, and perceived clearly
that what his people needed was not theological or philosophical
enlightment, but plain, practical knowledge suitable for the
requirements of everyday life. He wanted neither theologians nor
philosophers, but military and naval officers, administrators, artisans,
miners, manufacturers, and merchants, and for this purpose he introduced
secular technical education. For the young generation primary schools
were founded, and for more advanced pupils the best foreign works on
fortification, architecture, navigation, metallurgy, engineering and
cognate subjects were translated into the native tongue. Scientific men
and cunning artificers were brought into the country, and young Russians
were sent abroad to learn foreign languages and the useful arts. In a
word, everything was done that seemed likely to raise the Russians to
the level of material well-being already attained by the more advanced

We have here an important peculiarity in the intellectual development
of Russia. In Western Europe the modern scientific spirit, being the
natural offspring of numerous concomitant historical causes, was born in
the natural way, and Society had, consequently, before giving birth to
it, to endure the pains of pregnancy and the throes of prolonged labour.
In Russia, on the contrary, this spirit appeared suddenly as an adult
foreigner, adopted by a despotic paterfamilias. Thus Russia made the
transition from mediaeval to modern times without any violent struggle
between the old and the new conceptions such as had taken place in the
West. The Church, effectually restrained from all active opposition by
the Imperial power, preserved unmodified her ancient beliefs; whilst the
nobles, casting their traditional conceptions and beliefs to the
winds, marched forward unfettered on that path which their fathers and
grandfathers had regarded as the direct road to perdition.

During the first part of Peter's reign Russia was not subjected to
the exclusive influence of any one particular country. Thoroughly
cosmopolitan in his sympathies, the great reformer, like the Japanese
of the present day, was ready to borrow from any foreign nation--German,
Dutch, Danish, or French--whatever seemed to him to suit his purpose.
But soon the geographical proximity to Germany, the annexation of
the Baltic Provinces in which the civilisation was German, and
intermarriages between the Imperial family and various German dynasties,
gave to German influence a decided preponderance. When the Empress Anne,
Peter's niece, who had been Duchess of Courland, entrusted the whole
administration of the country to her favourite Biron, the German
influence became almost exclusive, and the Court, the official world,
and the schools were Germanised.

The harsh, cruel, tyrannical rule of Biron produced a strong reaction,
ending in a revolution, which raised to the throne the Princess
Elizabeth, Peter's unmarried daughter, who had lived in retirement and
neglect during the German regime. She was expected to rid the country of
foreigners, and she did what she could to fulfil the expectations that
were entertained of her. With loud protestations of patriotic feelings,
she removed the Germans from all important posts, demanded that in
future the members of the Academy should be chosen from among born
Russians, and gave orders that the Russian youth should be carefully
prepared for all kinds of official activity.

This attempt to throw off the German bondage did not lead to
intellectual independence. During Peter's violent reforms Russia had
ruthlessly thrown away her own historic past with whatever germs it
contained, and now she possessed none of the elements of a genuine
national culture. She was in the position of a fugitive who has escaped
from slavery, and, finding himself in danger of starvation, looks
about for a new master. The upper classes, who had acquired a taste for
foreign civilisation, no sooner threw off everything German than they
sought some other civilisation to put in its place. And they could not
long hesitate in making a choice, for at that time all who thought of
culture and refinement turned their eyes to Paris and Versailles. All
that was most brilliant and refined was to be found at the Court of
the French kings, under whose patronage the art and literature of the
Renaissance had attained their highest development. Even Germany, which
had resisted the ambitious designs of Louis XIV., imitated the manners
of his Court. Every petty German potentate strove to ape the pomp and
dignity of the Grand Monarque; and the courtiers, affecting to look on
everything German as rude and barbarous, adopted French fashions, and
spoke a hybrid jargon which they considered much more elegant than the
plain mother tongue. In a word, Gallomania had become the prevailing
social epidemic of the time, and it could not fail to attack and
metamorphose such a class as the Russian Noblesse, which possessed few
stubborn deep-rooted national convictions.

At first the French influence was manifested chiefly in external
forms--that is to say, in dress, manners, language, and upholstery--but
gradually, and very rapidly after the accession of Catherine II., the
friend of Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists, it sank deeper. Every
noble who had pretensions to being "civilised" learned to speak
French fluently, and gained some superficial acquaintance with French
literature. The tragedies of Corneille and Racine and the comedies of
Moliere were played regularly at the Court theatre in presence of the
Empress, and awakened a real or affected enthusiasm among the audience.
For those who preferred reading in their native language, numerous
translations were published, a simple list of which would fill
several pages. Among them we find not only Voltaire, Rousseau, Lesage,
Marmontel, and other favourite French authors, but also all the
masterpieces of European literature, ancient and modern, which at that
time enjoyed a high reputation in the French literary world--Homer and
Demosthenes, Cicero and Virgil, Ariosto and Camoens, Milton and Locke,
Sterne and Fielding.

It is related of Byron that he never wrote a description whilst the
scene was actually before him; and this fact points to an important
psychological principle. The human mind, so long as it is compelled
to strain the receptive faculties, cannot engage in that "poetic"
activity--to use the term in its Greek sense--which is commonly called
"original creation." And as with individuals, so with nations. By
accepting in a lump a foreign culture a nation inevitably condemns
itself for a time to intellectual sterility. So long as it is occupied
in receiving and assimilating a flood of new ideas, unfamiliar
conceptions, and foreign modes of thought, it will produce nothing
original, and the result of its highest efforts will be merely
successful imitation. We need not be surprised therefore to find that
the Russians, in becoming acquainted with foreign literature, became
imitators and plagiarists. In this kind of work their natural pliancy
of mind and powerful histrionic talent made them wonderfully successful.
Odes, pseudo-classical tragedies, satirical comedies, epic poems,
elegies, and all the other recognised forms of poetical composition,
appeared in great profusion, and many of the writers acquired a
remarkable command over their native language, which had hitherto been
regarded as uncouth and barbarous. But in all this mass of imitative
literature, which has since fallen into well-merited oblivion, there
are very few traces of genuine originality. To obtain the title of
the Russian Racine, the Russian Lafontaine, the Russian Pindar, or the
Russian Homer, was at that time the highest aim of Russian literary

Together with the fashionable literature the Russian educated classes
adopted something of the fashionable philosophy. They were peculiarly
unfitted to resist that hurricane of "enlightenment" which swept over
Europe during the latter half of the eighteenth century, first
breaking or uprooting the received philosophical systems, theological
conceptions, and scientific theories, and then shaking to their
foundations the existing political and social institutions. The Russian
Noblesse had neither the traditional conservative spirit, nor the firm,
well-reasoned, logical beliefs which in England and Germany formed a
powerful barrier against the spread of French influence. They had been
too recently metamorphosed, and were too eager to acquire a foreign
civilisation, to have even the germs of a conservative spirit. The
rapidity and violence with which Peter's reforms had been effected,
together with the peculiar spirit of Greek Orthodoxy and the low
intellectual level of the clergy, had prevented theology from
associating itself with the new order of things. The upper classes had
become estranged from the beliefs of their forefathers without acquiring
other beliefs to supply the place of those which had been lost. The
old religious conceptions were inseparably interwoven with what was
recognised as antiquated and barbarous, whilst the new philosophical
ideas were associated with all that was modern and civilised. Besides
this, the sovereign, Catherine II., who enjoyed the unbounded admiration
of the upper classes, openly professed allegiance to the new philosophy,
and sought the advice and friendship of its high priests. If we bear
in mind these facts we shall not be surprised to find among the Russian
nobles of that time a considerable number of so-called "Voltaireans"
and numerous unquestioning believers in the infallibility of the
Encyclopedie. What is a little more surprising is, that the new
philosophy sometimes found its way into the ecclesiastical seminaries.
The famous Speranski relates that in the seminary of St. Petersburg one
of his professors, when not in a state of intoxication, was in the habit
of preaching the doctrines of Voltaire and Diderot!

The rise of the sentimental school in Western Europe produced an
important change in Russian literature, by undermining the inordinate
admiration for the French pseudo-classical school. Florian, Richardson,
Sterne, Rousseau, and Bernardin de St. Pierre found first translators,
and then imitators, and soon the loud-sounding declamation and wordy
ecstatic despair of the stage heroes were drowned in the deep-drawn
sighs and plaintive wailings of amorous swains and peasant-maids
forsaken. The mania seems to have been in Russia even more severe than
in the countries where it originated. Full-grown, bearded men wept
because they had not been born in peaceful primitive times, "when all
men were shepherds and brothers." Hundreds of sighing youths and maidens
visited the scenes described by the sentimental writers, and wandered
by the rivers and ponds in which despairing heroines had drowned
themselves. People talked, wrote, and meditated about "the sympathy
of hearts created for each other," "the soft communion of sympathetic
souls," and much more of the same kind. Sentimental journeys became
a favourite amusement, and formed the subject of very popular books,
containing maudlin absurdities likely to produce nowadays mirth rather
than tears. One traveller, for instance, throws himself on his knees
before an old oak and makes a speech to it; another weeps daily on the
grave of a favourite dog, and constantly longs to marry a peasant girl;
a third talks love to the moon, sends kisses to the stars, and wishes to
press the heavenly orbs to his bosom! For a time the public would read
nothing but absurd productions of this sort, and Karamzin, the great
literary authority of the time, expressly declared that the true
function of Art was "to disseminate agreeable impressions in the region
of the sentimental."

The love of French philosophy vanished as suddenly as the inordinate
admiration of the French pseudo-classical literature. When the great
Revolution broke out in Paris the fashionable philosophic literature in
St. Petersburg disappeared. Men who talked about political freedom
and the rights of man, without thinking for a moment of limiting
the autocratic power or of emancipating their serfs, were naturally
surprised and frightened on discovering what the liberal principles
could effect when applied to real life. Horrified by the awful scenes of
the Terror, they hastened to divest themselves of the principles which
led to such results, and sank into a kind of optimistic conservatism
that harmonised well with the virtuous sentimentalism in vogue. In this
the Empress herself gave the example. The Imperial disciple and friend
of the Encyclopaedists became in the last years of her reign a decided

During the Napoleonic wars, when the patriotic feelings were excited,
there was a violent hostility to foreign intellectual influence; and
feeble intermittent attempts were made to throw off the intellectual
bondage. The invasion of the country in 1812 by the Grande Armee, and
the burning of Moscow, added abundant fuel to this patriotic fire. For
some time any one who ventured to express even a moderate admiration for
French culture incurred the risk of being stigmatised as a traitor to
his country and a renegade to the national faith. But this patriotic
fanaticism soon evaporated, and exaggerations of the ultra-national
party became the object of satire and parody. When the political danger
was past, and people resumed their ordinary occupations, those who
loved foreign literature returned to their old favourites--or, as the
ultra-patriots called it, to their "wallowing in the mire"--simply
because the native literature did not supply them with what they
desired. "We are quite ready," they said to their upbraiders, "to admire
your great works as soon as they appear, but in the meantime please
allow us to enjoy what we possess." Thus in the last years of the reign
of Alexander I. the patriotic opposition to West European literature
gradually ceased, and a new period of unrestricted intellectual
importation began.

The intellectual merchandise now brought into the country was very
different from that which had been imported in the time of Catherine.
The French Revolution, the Napoleonic domination, the patriotic wars,
the restoration of the Bourbons, and the other great events of that
memorable epoch, had in the interval produced profound changes in the
intellectual as well as the political condition of Western Europe.
During the Napoleonic wars Russia had become closely associated with
Germany; and now the peculiar intellectual fermentation which was going
on among the German educated classes was reflected in the society of St.
Petersburg. It did not appear, indeed, in the printed literature, for
the Press-censure had been recently organised on the principles laid
down by Metternich, but it was none the less violent on that account.
Whilst the periodicals were filled with commonplace meditations on
youth, spring, the love of Art, and similar innocent topics, the young
generation was discussing in the salons all the burning questions which
Metternich and his adherents were endeavouring to extinguish.

These discussions, if discussions they might be called, were not of
a very serious kind. In true dilettante style the fashionable young
philosophers culled from the newest books the newest thoughts and
theories, and retailed them in the salon or the ballroom. And they were
always sure to find attentive listeners. The more astounding the idea
or dogma, the more likely was it to be favourably received. No matter
whether it came from the Rationalists, the Mystics, the Freemasons, or
the Methodists, it was certain to find favour, provided it was novel and
presented in an elegant form. The eclectic minds of that curious time
could derive equal satisfaction from the brilliant discourses of the
reactionary jesuitical De Maistre, the revolutionary odes of Pushkin,
and the mysticism of Frau von Krudener. For the majority the vague
theosophic doctrines and the projects for a spiritual union of
governments and peoples had perhaps the greatest charm, being specially
commended by the fact that they enjoyed the protection and sympathy
of the Emperor. Pious souls discovered in the mystical lucubrations
of Jung-Stilling and Baader the final solution of all existing
difficulties--political, social, and philosophical. Men of less dreamy
temperament put their faith in political economy and constitutional
theories, and sought a foundation for their favourite schemes in
the past history of the country and in the supposed fundamental
peculiarities of the national character. Like the young German
democrats, who were then talking enthusiastically about Teutons,
Cheruskers, Skalds, the shade of Arminius, and the heroes of the
Niebelungen, these young Russian savants recognised in early Russian
history--when reconstructed according to their own fancy--lofty
political ideals, and dreamed of resuscitating the ancient institutions
in all their pristine imaginary splendour.

Each age has its peculiar social and political panaceas. One generation
puts its trust in religion, another in philanthropy, a third in written
constitutions, a fourth in universal suffrage, a fifth in popular
education. In the Epoch of the Restoration, as it is called, the
favourite panacea all over the Continent was secret political
association. Very soon after the overthrow of Napoleon the peoples who
had risen in arms to obtain political independence discovered that they
had merely changed masters. The Princes reconstructed Europe according
to their own convenience, without paying much attention to patriotic
aspirations, and forgot their promises of liberal institutions as soon
as they were again firmly seated on their thrones. This was naturally
for many a bitter deception. The young generation, excluded from all
share in political life and gagged by the stringent police supervision,
sought to realise its political aspirations by means of secret
societies, resembling more or less the Masonic brotherhoods. There were
the Burschenschaften in Germany; the Union, and the "Aide toi et le ciel
t'aidera," in France; the Order of the Hammer in Spain; the Carbonari in
Italy; and the Hetairai in Greece. In Russia the young nobles followed
the prevailing fashion. Secret societies were formed, and in December,
1825, an attempt was made to raise a military insurrection in St.
Petersburg, for the purpose of deposing the Imperial family and
proclaiming a republic; but the attempt failed, and the vague Utopian
dreams of the romantic would-be reformers were swept away by grape-shot.

This "December catastrophe," still vividly remembered, was for the
society of St. Petersburg like the giving way of the floor in a crowded
ball-room. But a moment before, all had been animated, careless, and
happy; now consternation was depicted on every face. The salons, that
but yesterday had been ringing with lively discussions on morals,
aesthetics, politics, and theology, were now silent and deserted. Many
of those who had been wont to lead the causeries had been removed to the
cells of the fortress, and those who had not been arrested trembled for
themselves or their friends; for nearly all had of late dabbled more
or less in the theory and practice of revolution. The announcement
that five of the conspirators had been condemned to the gallows and
the others sentenced to transportation did not tend to calm the
consternation. Society was like a discomfited child, who, amidst the
delight and excitement of letting off fireworks, has had its fingers
severely burnt.

The sentimental, wavering Alexander I. had been succeeded by his stern,
energetic brother Nicholas, and the command went forth that there should
be no more fireworks, no more dilettante philosophising or political
aspirations. There was, however, little need for such an order. Society
had been, for the moment at least, effectually cured of all tendencies
to political dreaming. It had discovered, to its astonishment and
dismay, that these new ideas, which were to bring temporal salvation to
humanity, and to make all men happy, virtuous, refined, and poetical,
led in reality to exile and the scaffold! The pleasant dream was at an
end, and the fashionable world, giving up its former habits, took to
harmless occupations--card-playing, dissipation, and the reading of
French light literature. "The French quadrille," as a writer of the time
tersely expresses it, "has taken the place of Adam Smith."

When the storm had passed, the life of the salons began anew, but it was
very different from what it had been. There was no longer any talk about
political economy, theology, popular education, administrative abuses,
social and political reforms. Everything that had any relation to
politics in the wider sense of the term was by tacit consent avoided.
Discussions there were as of old, but they were now confined to literary
topics, theories of art, and similar innocent subjects.

This indifference or positive repugnance to philosophy and political
science, strengthened and prolonged by the repressive system of
administration adopted by Nicholas, was of course fatal to the
many-sided intellectual activity which had flourished during the
preceding reign, but it was by no means unfavourable to the cultivation
of imaginative literature. On the contrary, by excluding those practical
interests which tend to disturb artistic production and to engross the
attention of the public, it fostered what was called in the phraseology
of that time "the pure-hearted worship of the Muses." We need not,
therefore, be surprised to find that the reign of Nicholas, which
is commonly and not unjustly described as an epoch of social and
intellectual stagnation, may be called in a certain sense the Golden Age
of Russian literature.

Already in the preceding reign the struggle between the Classical and
the Romantic school--between the adherents of traditional aesthetic
principles and the partisans of untrammelled poetic inspiration--which
was being carried on in Western Europe, was reflected in Russia. A group
of young men belonging to the aristocratic society of St. Petersburg
embraced with enthusiasm the new doctrines, and declared war against
"classicism," under which term they understood all that was antiquated,
dry, and pedantic. Discarding the stately, lumbering, unwieldy periods
which had hitherto been in fashion, they wrote a light, elastic,
vigorous style, and formed a literary society for the express purpose of
ridiculing the most approved classical writers. The new principles
found many adherents, and the new style many admirers, but this only
intensified the hostility of the literary Conservatives. The staid,
respectable leaders of the old school, who had all their lives kept the
fear of Boileau before their eyes and considered his precepts as the
infallible utterances of aesthetic wisdom, thundered against the impious
innovations as unmistakable symptoms of literary decline and moral
degeneracy--representing the boisterous young iconoclasts as dissipated
Don Juans and dangerous freethinkers.

Thus for some time in Russia, as in Western Europe, "a terrible war
raged on Parnassus." At first the Government frowned at the innovators,
on account of certain revolutionary odes which one of their number had
written; but when the Romantic Muse, having turned away from the present
as essentially prosaic, went back into the distant past and soared into
the region of sublime abstractions, the most keen-eyed Press Censors
found no reason to condemn her worship, and the authorities placed
almost no restrictions on free poetic inspiration. Romantic poetry
acquired the protection of the Government and the patronage of the
Court, and the names of Zhukofski, Pushkin, and Lermontof--the three
chief representatives of the Russian Romantic school--became household
words in all ranks of the educated classes.

These three great luminaries of the literary world were of course
attended by a host of satellites of various magnitudes, who did all
in their power to refute the romantic principles by reductiones ad
absurdum. Endowed for the most part with considerable facility of
composition, the poetasters poured forth their feelings with torrential
recklessness, demanding freedom for their inspiration, and cursing the
age that fettered them with its prosaic cares, its cold reason, and
its dry science. At the same time the dramatists and novelists created
heroes of immaculate character and angelic purity, endowed with all the
cardinal virtues in the superlative degree; and, as a contrast to these,
terrible Satanic personages with savage passions, gleaming daggers,
deadly poisons, and all manner of aimless melodramatic villainy.
These stilted productions, interspersed with light satirical essays,
historical sketches, literary criticism, and amusing anecdotes, formed
the contents of the periodical literature, and completely satisfied
the wants of the reading public. Almost no one at that time took
any interest in public affairs or foreign politics. The acts of the
Government which were watched most attentively were the promotions in
the service and the conferring of decorations. The publication of a
new tale by Zagoskin or Marlinski--two writers now well-nigh
forgotten--seemed of much greater importance than any amount of
legislation, and such events as the French Revolution of 1830 paled
before the publication of a new poem by Pushkin.

The Transcendental philosophy, which in Germany went hand in hand with
the Romantic literature, found likewise a faint reflection in Russia. A
number of young professors and students in Moscow, who had become
ardent admirers of German literature, passed from the works of Schiller,
Goethe, and Hoffmann to the writing of Schelling and Hegel. Trained in
the Romantic school, these young philosophers found at first a special
charm in Schelling's mystical system, teeming with hazy poetical
metaphors, and presenting a misty grandiose picture of the universe;
but gradually they felt the want of some logical basis for their
speculations, and Hegel became their favourite. Gallantly they struggled
with the uncouth terminology and epigrammatic paradoxes of the great
thinker, and strove to force their way through the intricate mazes of
his logical formulae. With the ardour of neophytes they looked at every
phenomenon--even the most trivial incident of common life--from the
philosophical point of view, talked day and night about principles,
ideas, subjectivity, Weltauffassung, and similar abstract entities,
and habitually attacked the "hydra of unphilosophy" by analysing the
phenomena presented and relegating the ingredient elements to the
recognised categories. In ordinary life they were men of quiet, grave,
contemplative demeanour, but their faces could flush and their blood
boil when they discussed the all-important question, whether it is
possible to pass logically from Pure Being through Nonentity to the
conception of Development and Definite Existence!

We know how in Western Europe Romanticism and Transcendentalism,
in their various forms, sank into oblivion, and were replaced by a
literature which had a closer connection with ordinary prosaic wants and
plain everyday life. The educated public became weary of the Romantic
writers, who were always "sighing like a furnace," delighting in
solitude, cold eternity, and moonshine, deluging the world with their
heart-gushings, and calling on the heavens and the earth to stand aghast
at their Promethean agonising or their Wertherean despair. Healthy
human nature revolted against the poetical enthusiasts who had lost
the faculty of seeing things in their natural light, and who constantly
indulged in that morbid self-analysis which is fatal to genuine feeling
and vigorous action. And in this healthy reaction the philosophers fared
no better than the poets, with whom, indeed, they had much in common.
Shutting their eyes to the visible world around them, they had busied
themselves with burrowing in the mysterious depths of Absolute Being,
grappling with the ego and the non-ego, constructing the great
world, visible and invisible, out of their own puny internal
self-consciousness, endeavouring to appropriate all departments of human
thought, and imparting to every subject they touched the dryness and
rigidity of an algebraical formula. Gradually men with real human
sympathies began to perceive that from all this philosophical turmoil
little real advantage was to be derived. It became only too evident
that the philosophers were perfectly reconciled with all the evil in the
world, provided it did not contradict their theories; that they were men
of the same type as the physician in Moliere's comedy, whose chief care
was that his patients should die selon les ordonnances de la medicine.

In Russia the reaction first appeared in the aesthetic literature. Its
first influential representative was Gogol (b. 1808, d. 1852), who may
be called, in a certain sense, the Russian Dickens. A minute comparison
of those two great humourists would perhaps show as many points of
contrast as of similarity, but there is a strong superficial resemblance
between them. They both possessed an inexhaustible supply of broad
humour and an imagination of singular vividness. Both had the power of
seeing the ridiculous side of common things, and the talent of producing
caricatures that had a wonderful semblance of reality. A little calm
reflection would suffice to show that the characters presented are for
the most part psychological impossibilities; but on first making their
acquaintance we are so struck with one or two life-like characteristics
and various little details dexterously introduced, and at the same time
we are so carried away by the overflowing fun of the narrative, that we
have neither time nor inclination to use our critical faculties. In a
very short time Gogol's fame spread throughout the length and breadth
of the Empire, and many of his characters became as familiar to
his countrymen as Sam Weller and Mrs. Gamp were to Englishmen. His
descriptions were so graphic--so like the world which everybody knew!
The characters seemed to be old acquaintances hit off to the life; and
readers revelled in that peculiar pleasure which most of us derive from
seeing our friends successfully mimicked. Even the Iron Tsar could not
resist the fun and humour of "The Inspector" (Revizor), and not only
laughed heartily, but also protected the author against the tyranny of
the literary censors, who considered that the piece was not written in
a sufficiently "well-intentioned" tone. In a word, the reading public
laughed as it had never laughed before, and this wholesome genuine
merriment did much to destroy the morbid appetite for Byronic heroes and
Romantic affectation.

The Romantic Muse did not at once abdicate, but with the spread of
Gogol's popularity her reign was practically at an end. In vain some
of the conservative critics decried the new favourite as talentless,
prosaic, and vulgar. The public were not to be robbed of their amusement
for the sake of any abstract aesthetic considerations; and young
authors, taking Gogol for their model, chose their subjects from real
life, and endeavoured to delineate with minute truthfulness.

This new intellectual movement was at first purely literary, and
affected merely the manner of writing novels, tales, and poems. The
critics who had previously demanded beauty of form and elegance
of expression now demanded accuracy of description, condemned the
aspirations towards so-called high art, and praised loudly those who
produced the best literary photographs. But authors and critics did
not long remain on this purely aesthetic standpoint. The authors, in
describing reality, began to indicate moral approval and condemnation,
and the critics began to pass from the criticism of the representations
to the criticism of the realities represented. A poem or a tale was
often used as a peg on which to hang a moral lecture, and the fictitious
characters were soundly rated for their sins of omission and commission.
Much was said about the defence of the oppressed, female emancipation,
honour, and humanitarianism; and ridicule was unsparingly launched
against all forms of ignorance, apathy, and the spirit of routine.
The ordinary refrain was that the public ought now to discard what was
formerly regarded as poetical and sublime, and to occupy itself with
practical concerns--with the real wants of social life.

The literary movement was thus becoming a movement in favour of social
and political reforms when it was suddenly arrested by political
events in the West. The February Revolution in Paris, and the political
fermentation which appeared during 1848-49 in almost every country of
Europe, alarmed the Emperor Nicholas and his counsellors. A Russian army
was sent into Austria to suppress the Hungarian insurrection and save
the Hapsburg dynasty, and the most stringent measures were taken
to prevent disorders at home. One of the first precautions for the
preservation of domestic tranquillity was to muzzle the Press more
firmly than before, and to silence the aspirations towards reform and
progress; thenceforth nothing could be printed which was not in strict
accordance with the ultra-patriotic theory of Russian history, as
expressed by a leading official personage: "The past has been admirable,
the present is more than magnificent, and the future will surpass
all that the human imagination can conceive!" The alarm caused by the
revolutionary disorders spread to the non-official world, and gave rise
to much patriotic self-congratulation. "The nations of the West," it was
said, "envy us, and if they knew us better--if they could see how happy
and prosperous we are--they would envy us still more. We ought not,
however, to withdraw from Europe our solicitude; its hostility should
not deprive us of our high mission of saving order and restoring rest
to the nations; we ought to teach them to obey authority as we do. It is
for us to introduce the saving principle of order into a world that has
fallen a prey to anarchy. Russia ought not to abandon that mission which
has been entrusted to her by the heavenly and by the earthly Tsar."*

     * These words were written by Tchaadaef, who, a few years
     before, had vigorously attacked the Slavophils for enouncing
     similar views.

Men who saw in the significant political eruption of 1848 nothing but
an outburst of meaningless, aimless anarchy, and who believed that their
country was destined to restore order throughout the civilised world,
had of course little time or inclination to think of putting their
own house in order. No one now spoke of the necessity of social
reorganisation: the recently awakened aspirations and expectations
seemed to be completely forgotten. The critics returned to their old
theory that art and literature should be cultivated for their own sake
and not used as a vehicle for the propagation of ideas foreign to their
nature. It seemed, in short, as if all the prolific ideas which had for
a time occupied the public attention had been merely "writ in water,"
and had now disappeared without leaving a trace behind them.

In reality the new movement was destined to reappear very soon with
tenfold force; but the account of its reappearance and development
belongs to a future chapter. Meanwhile I may formulate the general
conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing pages. Ever since the time of
Peter the Great there has been such a close connection between Russia
and Western Europe that every intellectual movement which has appeared
in France and Germany has been reflected--albeit in an exaggerated,
distorted form--in the educated society of St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Thus the window which Peter opened in order to enable his subjects to
look into Europe has well served its purpose.



The Emperor Nicholas and his System--The Men with Aspirations and the
Apathetically Contented--National Humiliation--Popular Discontent
and the Manuscript Literature--Death of Nicholas--Alexander II.--New
Spirit--Reform Enthusiasm--Change in the Periodical Literature--The
Kolokol--The Conservatives--The Tchinovniks--First Specific
Proposals--Joint-Stock Companies--The Serf Question Comes to the Front.

The Russians frankly admit that they were beaten in the Crimean War, but
they regard the heroic defence of Sebastopol as one of the most glorious
events in the military annals of their country. Nor do they altogether
regret the result of the struggle. Often in a half-jocular, half-serious
tone they say that they had reason to be grateful to the Allies. And
there is much truth in this paradoxical statement. The Crimean War
inaugurated a new epoch in the national history. It gave the death-blow
to the repressive system of the Emperor Nicholas, and produced an
intellectual movement and a moral revival which led to gigantic results.

"The affair of December," 1825--I mean the abortive attempt at a
military insurrection in St. Petersburg, to which I have alluded in
the foregoing chapter--gave the key-note to Nicholas's reign. The armed
attempt to overthrow the Imperial power, ending in the execution or
exile of many young members of the first families, struck terror into
the Noblesse, and prepared the way for a period of repressive police
administration. Nicholas had none of the moral limpness and vacillating
character of his predecessor. His was one of those simple, vigorous,
tenacious, straightforward natures--more frequently to be met with
among the Teutonic than among the Slav races--whose conceptions are all
founded on a few deep-rooted, semi-instinctive convictions, and who are
utterly incapable of accommodating themselves with histrionic cleverness
to the changes of external circumstances. From his early youth he had
shown a strong liking for military discipline and a decided repugnance
to the humanitarianism and liberal principles then in fashion. With
"the rights of man," "the spirit of the age," and similar philosophical
abstractions his strong, domineering nature had no sympathy; and for
the vague, loud-sounding phrases of philosophic liberalism he had a most
profound contempt. "Attend to your military duties," he was wont to say
to his officers before his accession; "don't trouble your heads with
philosophy. I cannot bear philosophers!" The tragic event which formed
the prelude to his reign naturally confirmed and fortified his previous
convictions. The representatives of liberalism, who could talk so
eloquently about duty in the abstract, had, whilst wearing the uniform
of the Imperial Guard, openly disobeyed the repeated orders of their
superior officers and attempted to shake the allegiance of the troops
for the purpose of overthrowing the Imperial power! A man who was at
once soldier and autocrat, by nature as well as by position, could of
course admit no extenuating circumstances. The incident stereotyped his
character for life, and made him the sworn enemy of liberalism and
the fanatical defender of autocracy, not only in his own country, but
throughout Europe. In European politics he saw two forces struggling
for mastery--monarchy and democracy, which were in his opinion identical
with order and anarchy; and he was always ready to assist his brother
sovereigns in putting down democratic movements. In his own Empire he
endeavoured by every means in his power to prevent the introduction
of the dangerous ideas. For this purpose a stringent intellectual
quarantine was established on the western frontier. All foreign books
and newspapers, except those of the most harmless kind, were rigorously
excluded. Native writers were placed under strict supervision, and
peremptorily silenced as soon as they departed from what was considered
a "well-intentioned" tone. The number of university students was
diminished, the chairs for political science were suppressed, and the
military schools multiplied. Russians were prevented from travelling
abroad, and foreigners who visited the country were closely watched by
the police. By these and similar measures it was hoped that Russia would
be preserved from the dangers of revolutionary agitation.

Nicholas has been called the Don Quixote of Autocracy, and the
comparison which the term implies is true in many points. By character
and aims he belonged to a time that had passed away; but failure and
mishap could not shake his faith in his ideal, and made no change in his
honest, stubborn nature, which was as loyal and chivalresque as that
of the ill-fated Knight of La Mancha. In spite of all evidence to the
contrary, he believed in the practical omnipotence of autocracy. He
imagined that as his authority was theoretically unlimited, so his power
could work miracles. By nature and training a soldier, he considered
government a slightly modified form of military discipline, and looked
on the nation as an army which might be made to perform any intellectual
or economic evolutions that he might see fit to command. All social ills
seemed to him the consequence of disobedience to his orders, and he
knew only one remedy--more discipline. Any expression of doubt as to
the wisdom of his policy, or any criticism of existing regulations, he
treated as an act of insubordination which a wise sovereign ought not
to tolerate. If he never said, "L'Etat--c'est moi!" it was because he
considered the fact so self-evident that it did not need to be stated.
Hence any attack on the administration, even in the person of the most
insignificant official, was an attack on himself and on the monarchical
principle which he represented. The people must believe--and faith, as
we know, comes not by sight--that they lived under the best possible
government. To doubt this was political heresy. An incautious word or a
foolish joke against the Government was considered a serious crime, and
might be punished by a long exile in some distant and inhospitable part
of the Empire. Progress should by all means be made, but it must be made
by word of command, and in the way ordered. Private initiative in any
form was a thing on no account to be tolerated. Nicholas never
suspected that a ruler, however well-intentioned, energetic, and legally
autocratic he may be, can do but little without the co-operation of
his people. Experience constantly showed him the fruitlessness of his
efforts, but he paid no attention to its teachings. He had formed
once for all his theory of government, and for thirty years he acted
according to it with all the blindness and obstinacy of a reckless,
fanatical doctrinaire. Even at the close of his reign, when the terrible
logic of facts had proved his system to be a mistake--when his armies
had been defeated, his best fleet destroyed, his ports blockaded, and
his treasury well-nigh emptied--he could not recant. "My successor," he
is reported to have said on his deathbed, "may do as he pleases, but I
cannot change."

Had Nicholas lived in the old patriarchal times, when kings were the
uncontrolled "shepherds of the people," he would perhaps have been
an admirable ruler; but in the nineteenth century he was a flagrant
anachronism. His system of administration completely broke down. In vain
he multiplied formalities and inspectors, and punished severely the few
delinquents who happened by some accident to be brought to justice; the
officials continued to pilfer, extort, and misgovern in every possible
way. Though the country was reduced to what would be called in Europe
"a state of siege," the inhabitants might still have said--as they are
reported to have declared a thousand years before--"Our land is great
and fertile, but there is no order in it."

In a nation accustomed to political life and to a certain amount of
self-government, any approach to the system of Nicholas would, of
course, have produced wide-spread dissatisfaction and violent hatred
against the ruling power. But in Russia at that time no such feelings
were awakened. The educated classes--and a fortiori the uneducated--were
profoundly indifferent not only to political questions, but also to
ordinary public affairs, whether local or Imperial, and were quite
content to leave them in the hands of those who were paid for attending
to them. In common with the uneducated peasantry, the nobles had a
boundless respect--one might almost say a superstitious reverence--not
only for the person, but also for the will of the Tsar, and were ready
to show unquestioning obedience to his commands, so long as these did
not interfere with their accustomed mode of life. The Tsar desired them
not to trouble their heads with political questions, and to leave all
public matters to the care of the Administration; and in this respect
the Imperial will coincided so well with their personal inclinations
that they had no difficulty in complying with it.

When the Tsar ordered those of them who held office to refrain from
extortion and peculation, his orders were not so punctiliously obeyed,
but in this disobedience there was no open opposition--no assertion of
a right to pilfer and extort. As the disobedience proceeded, not from a
feeling of insubordination, but merely from the weakness that
official flesh is heir to, it was not regarded as very heinous. In the
aristocratic circles of St. Petersburg and Moscow there was the same
indifference to political questions and public affairs. All strove to
have the reputation of being "well-intentioned," which was the first
requisite for those who desired Court favour or advancement in the
public service; and those whose attention was not entirely occupied
with official duties, card-playing, and the ordinary routine of everyday
life, cultivated belles-lettres or the fine arts. In short, the educated
classes in Russia at that time showed a complete indifference to
political and social questions, an apathetic acquiescence in the
system of administration adopted by the Government, and an unreasoning
contentment with the existing state of things.

About the year 1845, when the reaction against Romanticism was awakening
in the reading public an interest in the affairs of real life,* began to
appear what may be called "the men with aspirations," a little band of
generous enthusiasts, strongly resembling the youth in Longfellow's poem
who carries a banner with the device "Excelsior," and strives ever to
climb higher, without having any clear notion of where he was going or
of what he is to do when he reaches the summit. At first they had little
more than a sentimental enthusiasm for the true, the beautiful, and
the good, and a certain Platonic love for free institutions, liberty,
enlightenment, progress, and everything that was generally comprehended
at that period under the term "liberal." Gradually, under the influence
of current French literature, their ideas became a little clearer, and
they began to look on reality around them with a critical eye. They
could perceive, without much effort, the unrelenting tyranny of the
Administration, the notorious venality of the tribunals, the reckless
squandering of the public money, the miserable condition of the serfs,
the systematic strangulation of all independent opinion or private
initiative, and, above all, the profound apathy of the upper classes,
who seemed quite content with things as they were.

     * Vide supra, p. 377 et seq.

With such ugly facts staring them in the face, and with the habit
of looking at things from the moral point of view, these men could
understand how hollow and false were the soothing or triumphant phrases
of official optimism. They did not, indeed, dare to express their
indignation publicly, for the authorities would allow no public
expression of dissatisfaction with the existing state of things, but
they disseminated their ideas among their friends and acquaintances by
means of conversation and manuscript literature, and some of them, as
university professors and writers in the periodical Press, contrived to
awaken in a certain section of the young generation an ardent enthusiasm
for enlightenment and progress, and a vague hope that a brighter day was
about to dawn.

Not a few sympathised with these new conceptions and aspirations, but
the great majority of the nobles regarded them--especially after the
French Revolution of 1848--as revolutionary and dangerous. Thus the
educated classes became divided into two sections, which have sometimes
been called the Liberals and the Conservatives, but which might be
more properly designated the men with aspirations and the apathetically
contented. These latter doubtless felt occasionally the irksomeness of
the existing system, but they had always one consolation--if they were
oppressed at home they were feared abroad. The Tsar was at least a
thorough soldier, possessing an enormous and well-equipped army by
which he might at any moment impose his will on Europe. Ever since the
glorious days of 1812, when Napoleon was forced to make an ignominious
retreat from the ruins of Moscow, the belief that the Russian soldiers
were superior to all others, and that the Russian army was invincible,
had become an article of the popular creed; and the respect which the
voice of Nicholas commanded in Western Europe seemed to prove that
the fact was admitted by foreign nations. In these and similar
considerations the apathetically contented found a justification for
their lethargy.

When it became evident that Russia was about to engage in a trial of
strength with the Western Powers, this optimism became general. "The
heavy burdens," it was said, "which the people have had to bear were
necessary to make Russia the first military Power in Europe, and now
the nation will reap the fruits of its long-suffering and patient
resignation. The West will learn that her boasted liberty and liberal
institutions are of little service in the hour of danger, and the
Russians who admire such institutions will be constrained to admit
that a strong, all-directing autocracy is the only means of preserving
national greatness." As the patriotic fervour and military enthusiasm
increased, nothing was heard but praises of Nicholas and his system. The
war was regarded by many as a kind of crusade--even the Emperor spoke
about the defence of "the native soil and the holy faith"--and the
most exaggerated expectations were entertained of its results. The old
Eastern Question was at last to be solved in accordance with Russian
aspirations, and Nicholas was about to realise Catherine II.'s grand
scheme of driving the Turks out of Europe. The date at which the troops
would arrive at Constantinople was actively discussed, and a Slavophil
poet called on the Emperor to lie down in Constantinople, and rise up as
Tsar of a Panslavonic Empire. Some enthusiasts even expected the speedy
liberation of Jerusalem from the power of the Infidel. To the enemy, who
might possibly hinder the accomplishment of these schemes, very little
attention was paid. "We have only to throw our hats at them!" (Shapkami
zakidaem) became a favourite expression.

There were, however, a few men in whom the prospect of the coming
struggle awoke very different thoughts and feelings. They could not
share the sanguine expectations of those who were confident of success.
"What preparations have we made," they asked, "for the struggle with
civilisation, which now sends its forces against us? With all our vast
territory and countless population we are incapable of coping with it.
When we talk of the glorious campaign against Napoleon, we forget
that since that time Europe has been steadily advancing on the road of
progress while we have been standing still. We march not to victory,
but to defeat, and the only grain of consolation which we have is that
Russia will learn by experience a lesson that will be of use to her in
the future."*

     * These are the words of Granovski.

These prophets of evil found, of course, few disciples, and were
generally regarded as unworthy sons of the Fatherland--almost as
traitors to their country. But their predictions were confirmed by
events. The Allies were victorious in the Crimea, and even the despised
Turks made a successful stand on the line of the Danube. In spite of the
efforts of the Government to suppress all unpleasant intelligence, it
soon became known that the military organisation was little, if at all,
better than the civil administration--that the individual bravery of
soldiers and officers was neutralised by the incapacity of the generals,
the venality of the officials, and the shameless peculation of the
commissariat department. The Emperor, it was said, had drilled out of
the officers all energy, individuality, and moral force. Almost the only
men who showed judgment, decision, and energy were the officers of the
Black Sea fleet, which had been less subjected to the prevailing system.
As the struggle went on, it became evident how weak the country really
was--how deficient in the resources necessary to sustain a prolonged
conflict. "Another year of war," writes an eye-witness in 1855, "and
the whole of Southern Russia will be ruined." To meet the extraordinary
demands on the Treasury, recourse was had to an enormous issue of paper
money; but the rapid depreciation of the currency showed that this
resource would soon be exhausted. Militia regiments were everywhere
raised throughout the country, and many proprietors spent large sums in
equipping volunteer corps; but very soon this enthusiasm cooled when
it was found that the patriotic efforts enriched the jobbers without
inflicting any serious injury on the enemy.

Under the sting of the great national humiliation, the upper classes
awoke from their optimistic resignation. They had borne patiently the
oppression of a semi-military administration, and for this! The system
of Nicholas had been put to a crucial test, and found wanting. The
policy which had sacrificed all to increase the military power of
the Empire was seen to be a fatal error, and the worthlessness of
the drill-sergeant regime was proved by bitter experience. Those
administrative fetters which had for more than a quarter of a century
cramped every spontaneous movement had failed to fulfil even the narrow
purpose for which they had been forged. They had, indeed, secured a
certain external tranquillity during those troublous times when Europe
was convulsed by revolutionary agitation; but this tranquillity was not
that of healthy normal action, but of death--and underneath the surface
lay secret and rapidly spreading corruption. The army still possessed
that dashing gallantry which it had displayed in the campaigns of
Suvorof, that dogged, stoical bravery which had checked the advance of
Napoleon on the field of Borodino, and that wondrous power of endurance
which had often redeemed the negligence of generals and the defects of
the commissariat; but the result was now not victory, but defeat. How
could this be explained except by the radical defects of that system
which had been long practised with such inflexible perseverance? The
Government had imagined that it could do everything by its own wisdom
and energy, and in reality it had done nothing, or worse than nothing.
The higher officers had learned only too well to be mere automata; the
ameliorations in the military organisation, on which Nicholas had always
bestowed special attention, were found to exist for the most part only
in the official reports; the shameful exploits of the commissariat
department were such as to excite the indignation of those who had
long lived in an atmosphere of official jobbery and peculation; and
the finances, which people had generally supposed to be in a highly
satisfactory condition, had become seriously crippled by the first great
national effort.

This deep and wide-spread dissatisfaction was not allowed to appear
in the Press, but it found very free expression in the manuscript
literature and in conversation. In almost every house--I mean, of
course, among the educated classes--words were spoken which a few months
before would have seemed treasonable, if not blasphemous. Philippics and
satires in prose and verse were written by the dozen, and circulated
in hundreds of copies. A pasquil on the Commander in Chief, or a tirade
against the Government, was sure to be eagerly read and warmly approved
of. As a specimen of this kind of literature, and an illustration of the
public opinion of the time, I may translate here one of those metrical
tirades. Though it was never printed, it obtained a wide circulation:

"'God has placed me over Russia,' said the Tsar to us, 'and you must bow
down before me, for my throne is His altar. Trouble not yourselves with
public affairs, for I think for you and watch over you every hour. My
watchful eye detects internal evils and the machinations of foreign
enemies; and I have no need of counsel, for God inspires me with wisdom.
Be proud, therefore, of being my slaves, O Russians, and regard my will
as your law.'

"We listened to these words with deep reverence, and gave a tacit
consent; and what was the result? Under mountains of official papers
real interests were forgotten. The letter of the law was observed, but
negligence and crime were allowed to go unpunished. While grovelling in
the dust before ministers and directors of departments in the hope of
receiving tchins and decorations, the officials stole unblushingly;
and theft became so common that he who stole the most was the most
respected. The merits of officers were decided at reviews; and he who
obtained the rank of General was supposed capable of becoming at once an
able governor, an excellent engineer, or a most wise senator. Those who
were appointed governors were for the most part genuine satraps, the
scourges of the provinces entrusted to their care. The other offices
were filled up with as little attention to the merits of the candidates.
A stable-boy became Press censor! an Imperial fool became admiral!
Kleinmichel became a count! In a word, the country was handed over to
the tender mercies of a band of robbers.

"And what did we Russians do all this time?

"We Russians slept! With groans the peasant paid his yearly dues; with
groans the proprietor mortgaged the second half of his estate; groaning,
we all paid our heavy tribute to the officials. Occasionally, with a
grave shaking of the head, we remarked in a whisper that it was a shame
and a disgrace--that there was no justice in the courts--that millions
were squandered on Imperial tours, kiosks, and pavilions--that
everything was wrong; and then, with an easy conscience, we sat down
to our rubber, praised the acting of Rachel, criticised the singing of
Frezzolini, bowed low to venal magnates, and squabbled with each other
for advancement in the very service which we so severely condemned.
If we did not obtain the place we wished we retired to our ancestral
estates, where we talked of the crops, fattened in indolence and
gluttony, and lived a genuine animal life. If any one, amidst the
general lethargy, suddenly called upon us to rise and fight for the
truth and for Russia, how ridiculous did he appear! How cleverly the
Pharisaical official ridiculed him, and how quickly the friends of
yesterday showed him the cold shoulder! Under the anathema of public
opinion, in some distant Siberian mine he recognised what a heinous
sin it was to disturb the heavy sleep of apathetic slaves. Soon he was
forgotten, or remembered as an unfortunate madman; and the few who said,
'Perhaps after all he was right,' hastened to add, 'but that is none of
our business.'

"But amidst all this we had at least one consolation, one thing to be
proud of--the might of Russia in the assembly of kings. 'What need we
care,' we said, 'for the reproaches of foreign nations? We are stronger
than those who reproach us.' And when at great reviews the stately
regiments marched past with waving standards, glittering helmets, and
sparkling bayonets, when we heard the loud hurrah with which the troops
greeted the Emperor, then our hearts swelled with patriotic pride, and
we were ready to repeat the words of the poet--

"Strong is our native country, and great the Russian Tsar."

"Then British statesmen, in company with the crowned conspirator of
France, and with treacherous Austria, raised Western Europe against us,
but we laughed scornfully at the coming storm. 'Let the nations rave,'
we said; 'we have no cause to be afraid. The Tsar doubtless foresaw
all, and has long since made the necessary preparations.' Boldly we went
forth to fight, and confidently awaited the moment of the struggle.

"And lo! after all our boasting we were taken by surprise, and caught
unawares, as by a robber in the dark. The sleep of innate stupidity
blinded our Ambassadors, and our Foreign Minister sold us to
our enemies.* Where were our millions of soldiers? Where was the
well-considered plan of defence? One courier brought the order to
advance; another brought the order to retreat; and the army wandered
about without definite aim or purpose. With loss and shame we retreated
from the forts of Silistria, and the pride of Russia was humbled before
the Hapsburg eagle. The soldiers fought well, but the parade-admiral
(Menshikof)--the amphibious hero of lost battles--did not know
the geography of his own country, and sent his troops to certain

     * Many people at that time imagined that Count Nesselrode,
     who was then Minister for Foreign Affairs, was a traitor to
     his adopted country.

"Awake, O Russia! Devoured by foreign enemies, crushed by slavery,
shamefully oppressed by stupid authorities and spies, awaken from your
long sleep of ignorance and apathy! You have been long enough held
in bondage by the successors of the Tartar Khan. Stand forward calmly
before the throne of the despot, and demand from him an account of the
national disaster. Say to him boldly that his throne is not the altar of
God, and that God did not condemn us to be slaves. Russia entrusted to
you, O Tsar, the supreme power, and you were as a God upon earth. And
what have you done? Blinded by ignorance and passion, you have lusted
after power and have forgotten Russia. You have spent your life in
reviewing troops, in modifying uniforms, and in appending your signature
to the legislative projects of ignorant charlatans. You created the
despicable race of Press censors, in order to sleep in peace--in order
not to know the wants and not to hear the groans of the people--in order
not to listen to Truth. You buried Truth, rolled a great stone to the
door of the sepulchre, placed a strong guard over it, and said in the
pride of your heart: For her there is no resurrection! But the third day
has dawned, and Truth has arisen from the dead.

"Stand forward, O Tsar, before the judgment-seat of history and of God!
You have mercilessly trampled Truth under foot, you have denied
Freedom, you have been the slave of your own passions. By your pride and
obstinacy you have exhausted Russia and raised the world in arms against
us. Bow down before your brethren and humble yourself in the dust! Crave
pardon and ask advice! Throw yourself into the arms of the people! There
is now no other salvation!"

The innumerable tirades of which the above is a fair specimen were not
very remarkable for literary merit or political wisdom. For the most
part they were simply bits of bombastic rhetoric couched in doggerel
rhyme, and they have consequently been long since consigned to
well-merited oblivion--so completely that it is now difficult to obtain
copies of them.* They have, however, an historical interest, because
they express in a more or less exaggerated form the public opinion and
prevalent ideas of the educated classes at that moment. In order to
comprehend their real significance, we must remember that the writers
and readers were not a band of conspirators, but ordinary, respectable,
well-intentioned people, who never for a moment dreamed of embarking
in revolutionary designs. It was the same society that had been a few
months before so indifferent to all political questions, and even now
there was no clear conception as to how the loud-sounding phrases could
be translated into action. We can imagine the comical discomfiture of
those who read and listened to these appeals, if the "despot" had obeyed
their summons, and suddenly appeared before them.

     * I am indebted for the copies which I possess to friends
     who copied and collected these pamphlets at the time.

Was the movement, then, merely an outburst of childish petulance?
Certainly not. The public were really and seriously convinced that
things were all wrong, and they were seriously and enthusiastically
desirous that a new and better order of things should be introduced. It
must be said to their honour that they did not content themselves with
accusing and lampooning the individuals who were supposed to be the
chief culprits. On the contrary, they looked reality boldly in the face,
made a public confession of their past sins, sought conscientiously the
causes which had produced the recent disasters, and endeavoured to find
means by which such calamities might be prevented in the future. The
public feeling and aspirations were not strong enough to conquer the
traditional respect for the Imperial will and create an open opposition
to the Autocratic Power, but they were strong enough to do great things
by aiding the Government, if the Emperor voluntarily undertook a series
of radical reforms.

What Nicholas would have done, had he lived, in face of this national
awakening, it is difficult to say. He declared, indeed, that he could
not change, and we can readily believe that his proud spirit would
have scorned to make concessions to the principles which he had always
condemned; but he gave decided indications in the last days of his life
that his old faith in his system was somewhat shaken, and he did not
exhort his son to persevere in the path along which he himself had
forced his way with such obstinate consistency. It is useless, however,
to speculate on possibilities. Whilst the Government had still to
concentrate all its energies on the defence of the country, the Iron
Tsar died, and was succeeded by his son, a man of a very different type.

Of a kind-hearted, humane disposition, sincerely desirous of maintaining
the national honour, but singularly free from military ambition
and imbued with no fanatical belief in the drill-sergeant system of
government, Alexander II. was by no means insensible to the spirit
of the time. He had, however, none of the sentimental enthusiasm for
liberal institutions which had characterised his uncle, Alexander I.
On the contrary, he had inherited from his father a strong dislike to
sentimentalism and rhetoric of all kinds. This dislike, joined to a
goodly portion of sober common-sense, a limited confidence in his own
judgment, and a consciousness of enormous responsibility, prevented him
from being carried away by the prevailing excitement. With all that was
generous and humane in the movement he thoroughly sympathised, and he
allowed the popular ideas and aspirations to find free utterance; but
he did not at once commit himself to any definite policy, and carefully
refrained from all exaggerated expressions of reforming zeal.

As soon, however, as peace had been concluded, there were unmistakable
symptoms that the rigorously repressive system of Nicholas was about to
be abandoned. In the manifesto announcing the termination of hostilities
the Emperor expressed his conviction that by the combined efforts of the
Government and the people, the public administration would be improved,
and that justice and mercy would reign in the courts of law. Apparently
as a preparation for this great work, to be undertaken by the Tsar and
his people in common, the ministers began to take the public into their
confidence, and submitted to public criticism many official data
which had hitherto been regarded as State secrets. The Minister of the
Interior, for instance, in his annual report, spoke almost in the tone
of a penitent, and confessed openly that the morality of the officials
under his orders left much to be desired. He declared that the Emperor
now showed a paternal confidence in his people, and as a proof of this
he mentioned the significant fact that 9,000 persons had been liberated
from police supervision. The other branches of the Administration
underwent a similar transformation. The haughty, dictatorial tone which
had hitherto been used by superiors to their subordinates, and by all
ranks of officials to the public, was replaced by one of considerate
politeness. About the same time those of the Decembrists who were still
alive were pardoned. The restrictions regarding the number of students
in each university were abolished, the difficulty of obtaining
foreign passports was removed, and the Press censors became singularly
indulgent. Though no decided change had been made in the laws, it was
universally felt that the spirit of Nicholas was no more.

The public, anxiously seeking after a sign, readily took these symptoms
of change as a complete confirmation of their ardent hopes, and leaped
at once to the conclusion that a vast, all-embracing system of radical
reform was about to be undertaken--not secretly by the Administration,
as had been the custom in the preceding reign when any little changes
had to be made, but publicly, by the Government and the people in
common. "The heart trembles with joy," said one of the leading organs of
the Press, "in expectation of the great social reforms that are about to
be effected--reforms that are thoroughly in accordance with the spirit,
the wishes, and the expectations of the public." "The old harmony and
community of feeling," said another, "which has always existed between
the government and the people, save during short exceptional periods,
has been fully re-established. The absence of all sentiment of caste,
and the feeling of common origin and brotherhood which binds all classes
of the Russian people into a homogeneous whole, will enable Russia to
accomplish peacefully and without effort not only those great reforms
which cost Europe centuries of struggle and bloodshed, but also many
which the nations of the West are still unable to accomplish, in
consequence of feudal traditions and caste prejudices." The past was
depicted in the blackest colours, and the nation was called upon to
begin a new and glorious epoch of its history. "We have to struggle," it
was said, "in the name of the highest truth against egotism and the puny
interests of the moment; and we ought to prepare our children from their
infancy to take part in that struggle which awaits every honest man.
We have to thank the war for opening our eyes to the dark sides of our
political and social organisation, and it is now our duty to profit
by the lesson. But it must not be supposed that the Government can,
single-handed, remedy the defects. The destinies of Russia are, as it
were, a stranded vessel wh