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Russia by Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Part 14 out of 15

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of view that the struggle with autocracy has a meaning. From any
other standpoint it must seem a sanguinary farce--a mere exercise
in the art of self-sacrifice!" Such are the conclusions arrived at
in 1892 by a man who had been in 1878 one of the leading
terrorists, and who had with his own hand assassinated General
Mezentsef, Chief of the Political Police.

Thus the revolutionary movement, after passing through four stages,
which I may call the academic, the propagandist, the
insurrectionary, and the terrorist, had failed to accomplish its
object. One of those who had taken an active part in it, and who,
after spending two years in Siberia as a political exile, escaped
and settled in Western Europe, could write thus: "Our revolutionary
movement is dead, and we who are still alive stand by the grave of
our beautiful departed and discuss what is wanting to her. One of
us thinks that her nose should be improved; another suggests a
change in her chin or her hair. We do not notice the essential
that what our beautiful departed wants is life; that it is not a
matter of hair or eyebrows, but of a living soul, which formerly
concealed all defects, and made her beautiful, and which now has
flown away. However we may invent changes and improvements, all
these things are utterly insignificant in comparison with what is
really wanting, and what we cannot give; for who can breathe a
living soul into a corpse?"

In truth, the movement which I have endeavoured to describe was at
an end; but another movement, having the same ultimate object, was
coming into existence, and it constitutes one of the essential
factors of the present situation. Some of the exiles in
Switzerland and Paris had become acquainted with the social-
democratic and labour movements in Western Europe, and they
believed that the strategy and tactics employed in these movements
might be adopted in Russia. How far they have succeeded in
carrying out this policy I shall relate presently; but before
entering on this subject, I must explain how the application of
such a policy had been rendered possible by changes in the economic
conditions. Russia had begun to create rapidly a great
manufacturing industry and an industrial proletariat. This will
form the subject of the next chapter.



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.

Fifty years ago Russia was still essentially a peasant empire,
living by agriculture of a primitive type, and supplying her other
wants chiefly by home industries, as was the custom in Western
Europe during the Middle Ages.

For many generations her rulers had been trying to transplant into
their wide dominions the art and crafts of the West, but they had
formidable difficulties to contend with, and their success was not
nearly as great as they desired. We know that as far back as the
fourteenth century there were cloth-workers in Moscow, for we read
in the chronicles that the workshops of these artisans were sacked
when the town was stormed by the Tartars. Workers in metal had
also appeared in some of the larger towns by that time, but they do
not seem to have risen much above the level of ordinary
blacksmiths. They were destined, however, to make more rapid
progress than other classes of artisans, because the old Tsars of
Muscovy, like other semi-barbarous potentates, admired and envied
the industries of more civilised countries mainly from the military
point of view. What they wanted most was a plentiful supply of
good arms wherewith to defend themselves and attack their
neighbours, and it was to this object that their most strenuous
efforts were directed.

As early as 1475 Ivan III., the grandfather of Ivan the Terrible,
sent a delegate to Venice to seek out for him an architect who, in
addition to his own craft, knew how to make guns; and in due course
appeared in the Kremlin a certain Muroli, called Aristotle by his
contemporaries on account of his profound learning. He undertook
"to build churches and palaces, to cast big bells and cannons, to
fire off the said cannons, and to make every sort of castings very
cunningly"; and for the exercise of these various arts it was
solemnly stipulated in a formal document that he should receive the
modest salary of ten roubles monthly. With regard to the military
products, at least, the Venetian faithfully fulfilled his contract,
and in a short time the Tsar had the satisfaction of possessing a
"cannon-house," subsequently dignified with the name of "arsenal."
Some of the natives learned the foreign art, and exactly a century
later (1856) a Russian, or at least a Slav, called Tchekhof,
produced a famous "Tsar-cannon," weighing as much as 96,000 lbs.
The connection thus established with the mechanical arts of the
West was always afterwards maintained, and we find frequent notices
of the fact in contemporary writers. In the reign of the
grandfather of Peter the Great, for example, two paper-works were
established by an Italian; and velvet for the Tsar and his Boyars,
gold brocades for ecclesiastical vestments, and rude kinds of glass
for ordinary purposes were manufactured under the august patronage
of the enlightened ruler. His son Alexis went a good many steps
further, and scandalised his God-fearing orthodox subjects by his
love of foreign heretical inventions. It was in his German suburb
of Moscow that young Peter, who was to be crowned "the Great," made
his first acquaintance with the useful arts of the West.

When the great reformer came to the throne he found in his Tsardom,
besides many workshops, some ten foundries, all of which were under
orders "to cast cannons, bombs, and bullets, and to make arms for
the service of the State." This seemed to him only a beginning,
especially for the mining and iron industry, in which he was
particularly interested. By importing foreign artificers and
placing at their disposal big estates, with numerous serfs, in the
districts where minerals were plentiful, and by carefully
stipulating that these foreigners should teach his subjects well,
and conceal from them none of the secrets of the craft, he created
in the Ural a great iron industry, which still exists at the
present day. Finding by experience that State mines and State
ironworks were a heavy drain on his insufficiently replenished
treasury, he transferred some of them to private persons, and this
policy was followed occasionally by his successors. Hence the
gigantic fortunes of the Demidofs and other families. The
Shuvalovs, for example, in 1760 possessed, for the purpose of
working their mines and ironworks, no less than 33,000 serfs and a
corresponding amount of land. Unfortunately the concessions were
generally given not to enterprising business-men, but to
influential court-dignitaries, who confined their attention to
squandering the revenues, and not a few of the mines and works
reverted to the Government.

The army required not only arms and ammunition, but also uniforms
and blankets. Great attention, therefore, was paid to the woollen
industry from the reign of Peter downwards. In the time of
Catherine there were already 120 cloth factories, but they were on
a very small scale, according to modern conceptions. Ten factories
in Moscow, for example, had amongst them only 104 looms, 130
workers, and a yearly output for 200,000 roubles.

While thus largely influenced in its economic policy by military
considerations, the Government did not entirely neglect other
branches of manufacturing industry. Ever since Russia had
pretensions to being a civilised power its rulers have always been
inclined to pay more attention to the ornamental than the useful--
to the varnish rather than the framework of civilisation--and we
need not therefore be surprised to find that long before the native
industry could supply the materials required for the ordinary wants
of humble life, attempts were made to produce such things as
Gobelin tapestries. I mention this merely as an illustration of a
characteristic trait of the national character, the influence of
which may be found in many other spheres of official activity.

If Russia did not attain the industrial level of Western Europe, it
was not from want of ambition and effort on the part of the rulers.
They worked hard, if not always wisely, for this end.
Manufacturers were exempted from rates and taxes, and even from
military service, and some of them, as I have said, received large
estates from the Crown on the understanding that the serfs should
be employed as workmen. At the same time they were protected from
foreign competition by prohibitive tariffs. In a word, the
manufacturing industry was nursed and fostered in a way to satisfy
the most thorough-going protectionist, especially those branches
which worked up native raw material such as ores, flax, hemp, wool,
and tallow. Occasionally the official interference and anxiety to
protect public interests went further than the manufacturers
desired. On more than one occasion the authorities fixed the price
of certain kinds of manufactured goods, and in 1754 the Senate,
being anxious to protect the population from fires, ordered all
glass and iron works within a radius of 200 versts around Moscow to
be destroyed! In spite of such obstacles, the manufacturing
industry as a whole made considerable progress. Between 1729 and
1762 the number of establishments officially recognised as
factories rose from 26 to 335.

These results did not satisfy Catherine II., who ascended the
throne in 1762. Under the influence of her friends, the French
Encyclopedistes, she imagined for a time that the official control
might be relaxed, and that the system of employing serfs in the
factories and foundries might be replaced by free labour, as in
Western Europe; monopolies might be abolished, and all liege
subjects, including the peasants, might be allowed to embark in
industrial undertakings as they pleased, "for the benefit of the
State and the nation." All this looked very well on paper, but
Catherine never allowed her sentimental liberalism to injure
seriously the interests of her Empire, and she accordingly
refrained from putting the laissez-faire principle largely into
practice. Though a good deal has been written about her economic
policy, it is hardly distinguishable from that of her predecessors.
Like them, she maintained high tariffs, accorded large subsidies,
and even prevented the export of raw material, in the hope that it
might be worked up at home; and when the prices in the woollen
market rose very high, she compelled the manufacturers to supply
the army with cloth at a price fixed by the authorities. In short,
the old system remained practically unimpaired, and notwithstanding
the steady progress made during the reign of Nicholas I. (1825-55),
when the number of factory hands rose from 210,000 to 380,000, the
manufacturing industry as a whole continued to be, until the serfs
were emancipated in 1861, a hothouse plant which could flourish
only in an officially heated atmosphere.

There was one branch of it, however, to which this remark does not
apply. The art of cotton-spinning and cotton-weaving struck deep
root in Russian soil. After remaining for generations in the
condition of a cottage industry--the yarn being distributed among
the peasants and worked up by them in their own homes--it began,
about 1825, to be modernised. Though it still required to be
protected against foreign competition, it rapidly outgrew the
necessity for direct official support. Big factories driven by
steam-power were constructed, the number of hands employed rose to
110,000, and the foundations of great fortunes were laid. Strange
to say, many of the future millionaires were uneducated serfs.
Sava Morozof, for example, who was to become one of the industrial
magnates of Moscow, was a serf belonging to a proprietor called
Ryumin; most of the others were serfs of Count Sheremetyef--the
owner of a large estate on which the industrial town of Ivanovo had
sprung up--who was proud of having millionaires among his serfs,
and who never abused his authority over them. The great movement,
however, was not effected without the assistance of foreigners.
Foreign foremen were largely employed, and in the work of
organisation a leading part was played by a German called Ludwig
Knoop. Beginning life as a commercial traveller for an English
firm, he soon became a large cotton importer, and when in 1840 a
feverish activity was produced in the Russian manufacturing world
by the Government's permission to import English machines, his firm
supplied these machines to the factories on condition of obtaining
a share in the business. It has been calculated that it obtained
in this way a share in no less than 122 factories, and hence arose
among the peasantry a popular saying:

"Where there is a church, there you find a pope,
And where there is a factory, there you find a Knoop."*

The biggest creation of the firm was a factory built at Narva in
1856, with nearly half a million spindles driven by water-power.

* Gdye tserkov--tam pop;
A gdye fabrika--tam Knop.

In the second half of last century a revolution was brought about
in the manufacturing industry generally by the emancipation of the
serfs, the rapid extension of railways, the facilities for creating
limited liability companies, and by certain innovations in the
financial policy of the Government. The emancipation put on the
market an unlimited supply of cheap labour; the construction of
railways in all directions increased a hundredfold the means of
communication; and the new banks and other credit institutions,
aided by an overwhelming influx of foreign capital, encouraged the
foundation and extension of industrial and commercial enterprise of
every description. For a time there was great excitement. It was
commonly supposed that in all matters relating to trade and
industry Russia had suddenly jumped up to the level of Western
Europe, and many people in St. Petersburg, carried away by the
prevailing enthusiasm for liberalism in general and the doctrines
of Free Trade in particular, were in favour of abolishing
protectionism as an antiquated restriction on liberty and an
obstacle to economic progress.

At one moment the Government was disposed to yield to the current,
but it was restrained by an influential group of conservative
Political Economists, who appealed to patriotic sentiment, and by
the Moscow manufacturers, who declared that Free Trade would ruin
the country. After a little hesitation it proceeded to raise,
instead of lowering, the protectionist tariff. In 1869-76 the ad
valorem duties were, on an average, under thirteen per cent., but
from that time onwards they rose steadily, until the last five
years of the century, when they averaged thirty-three per cent.,
and were for some articles very much higher. In this way the
Moscow industrial magnates were protected against the influx of
cheap foreign goods, but they were not saved from foreign
competition, for many foreign manufacturers, in order to enjoy the
benefit of the high duties, founded factories in Russia. Even the
firmly established cotton industry suffered from these intruders.
Industrial suburbs containing not a few cotton factories sprang up
around St. Petersburg; and a small Polish village called Lodz, near
the German frontier, grew rapidly into a prosperous town of 300,000
inhabitants, and became a serious rival to the ancient Muscovite
capital. So severely was the competition of this young upstart
felt, that the Moscow merchants petitioned the Emperor to protect
them by drawing a customs frontier round the Polish provinces, but
their petition was not granted.

Under the shelter of the high tariffs the manufacturing industry as
a whole has made rapid progress, and the cotton trade has kept well
to the front. In that branch, between 1861 and 1897, the number of
hands employed rose from 120,000 to 325,000, and the estimated
value of the products from 72 to 478 millions of roubles. In 1899
the number of spindles was considerably over six millions, and the
number of automatic weaving machines 145,000.

The iron industry has likewise progressed rapidly, though it has
not yet outgrown the necessity for Government support, and it is
not yet able to provide for all home wants. About forty years ago
it received a powerful impulse from the discovery that in the
provinces to the north of the Crimea and the Sea of Azof there were
enormous quantities of iron ore and beds of good coal in close
proximity to each other. Thanks to this discovery and to other
facts of which I shall have occasion to speak presently, this
district, which had previously been agricultural and pastoral, has
outstripped the famous Ural region, and has become the Black
Country of Russia. The vast lonely steppe, where formerly one saw
merely the peasant-farmer, the shepherd, and the Tchumak,* driving
along somnolently with his big, long-horned, white bullocks, is now
dotted over with busy industrial settlements of mushroom growth,
and great ironworks--some of them unfinished; while at night the
landscape is lit up with the lurid flames of gigantic blast-
furnaces. In this wonderful transformation, as in the history of
Russian industrial progress generally, a great part was played by
foreigners. The pioneer who did most in this district was an
Englishman, John Hughes, who began life as the son and pupil of a
Welsh blacksmith, and whose sons are now directors of the biggest
of the South Russian ironworks.

* The Tchumak, a familiar figure in the songs and legends of Little
Russia, was the carrier who before the construction of railways
transported the grain to the great markets, and brought back
merchandise to the interior. He is gradually disappearing.

Much as the South has progressed industrially in recent years, it
still remains far behind those industrial portions of the country
which were thickly settled at an earlier date. From this point of
view the most important region is the group of provinces clustering
round Moscow; next comes the St. Petersburg region, including
Livonia; and thirdly Poland. As for the various kinds of industry,
the most important category is that of textile fabrics, the second
that of articles of nutrition, and the third that of ores and
metals. The total production, if we may believe certain
statistical authorities, places Russia now among the industrial
nations of the world in the fifth place, immediately after the
United States, England, Germany, and France, and a little before

The man who has in recent times carried out most energetically the
policy of protecting and fostering native industries is M. Witte, a
name now familiar to Western Europe. An avowed disciple of the
great German economist, Friedrich List, about whose works he
published a brochure in 1888, he held firmly, from his youth
upwards, the doctrine that "each nation should above all things
develop harmoniously its natural resources to the highest possible
degree of independence, protecting its own industries and
preferring the national aim to the pecuniary advantage of
individuals." As a corollary to this principle he declared that
purely agricultural countries are economically backward and
intellectually stagnant, being condemned to pay tribute to the
nations who have learned to work up their raw products into more
valuable commodities. The good old English doctrine that certain
countries were intended by Providence to be eternally agricultural,
and that their function in the economy of the universe is to supply
raw material for the industrial nations, was always in his eyes an
abomination--an ingenious, nefarious invention of the Manchester
school, astutely invented for the purpose of keeping the younger
nations permanently in a state of economic bondage for the benefit
of English manufacturers. To emancipate Russia from this thraldom
by enabling her to create a great native industry, sufficient to
supply all her own wants, was the aim of his policy and the
constant object of his untiring efforts. Those who have had the
good fortune to know him personally must have often heard him
discourse eloquently on this theme, supporting his views by
quotations from the economists of his own school, and by
illustrations drawn from the history of his own and other

A necessary condition of realising this aim was that there should
be high tariffs. These already existed, and they might be raised
still higher, but in themselves they were not enough. For the
rapid development of the native industry an enormous capital was
required, and the first problem to be solved was how this capital
could be obtained. At one moment the energetic minister conceived
the project of creating a fictitious capital by inflating the paper
currency; but this idea proved unpopular. When broached in the
Council of State it encountered determined opposition. Some of the
members of that body, especially M. Bunge, who had been himself
Minister of Finance, and who remembered the evil effects of the
inordinate inflation of the currency on foreign exchanges during
the Turkish War, advocated strongly the directly opposite course--a
return to gold monometallism, for which M. Vishnegradski, M.
Witte's immediate predecessor, had made considerable preparations.
Being a practical man without inveterate prejudices, M. Witte gave
up the scheme which he could not carry through, and adopted the
views of his opponents. He would introduce the gold currency as
recommended; but how was the requisite capital to be obtained? It
must be procured from abroad, somehow, and the simplest way seemed
to be to stimulate the export of native products. For this purpose
the railways were extended,* the traffic rates manipulated, and the
means of transport improved generally.

* In 1892, when M. Witte undertook the financial administration,
there were 30,620 versts of railway, and at the end of 1900 there
were 51,288 versts.

A certain influx of gold was thus secured, but not nearly enough
for the object in view.* Some more potent means, therefore, had to
be employed, and the inventive minister evolved a new scheme. If
he could only induce foreign capitalists to undertake manufacturing
industries in Russia, they would, at one and the same time, bring
into the country the capital required, and they would cooperate
powerfully in that development of the national industry which he so
ardently wished. No sooner had he roughly sketched out his plan--
for he was not a man to let the grass grow under his feet--than he
set himself to put it into execution by letting it be known in the
financial world that the Government was ready to open a great field
for lucrative investments, in the form of profitable enterprises
under the control of those who subscribed the capital.

* In 1891 the total value of the exports was roughly 70,000,000
pounds. It then fell, in consequence of bad harvests, to 45
millions, and did not recover the previous maximum until 1897, when
it stood at 73 millions. Thereafter there was a steady rise till
1901, when the total was estimated at 76 millions.

Foreign capitalists responded warmly to the call. Crowds of
concession-hunters, projectors, company promoters, et hoc genus
omne, collected in St. Petersburg, offering their services on the
most tempting terms; and all of them who could make out a plausible
case were well received at the Ministry of Finance. It was there
explained to them that in many branches of industry, such as the
manufacture of textile fabrics, there was little or no room for
newcomers, but that in others the prospects were most brilliant.
Take, for example, the iron industries of Southern Russia. The
boundless mineral wealth of that region was still almost intact,
and the few works which had been there established were paying very
large dividends. The works founded by John Hughes, for example,
had repeatedly divided considerably over twenty per cent., and
there was little fear for the future, because the Government had
embarked on a great scheme of railway extension, requiring an
unlimited amount of rails and rolling-stock. What better opening
could be desired? Certainly the opening seemed most attractive,
and into it rushed the crowd of company promoters, followed by
stock-jobbers and brokers, playing lively pieces of what the
Germans call Zukunftsmusik. An unwary and confiding public,
especially in Belgium and France, listened to the enchanting
strains of the financial syrens, and invested largely. Quickly the
number of completed ironworks in that region rose from nine to
seventeen, and in the short space of three years the output of pig-
iron was nearly doubled. In 1900 there were 44 blast furnaces in
working order, and ten more were in course of construction. And
all this time the Imperial revenue increased by leaps and bounds,
so that the introduction of the gold currency was effected without
difficulty. M. Witte was declared to be the greatest minister of
his time--a Russian Colbert or Turgot, or perhaps the two rolled
into one.

Then came a change. Competition and over-production led naturally
to a fall in prices, and at the same time the demand decreased,
because the railway-building activity of the Government slackened.
Alarmed at this state of things, the banks which had helped to
start and foster the huge and costly enterprises contracted their
credits. By the end of 1899 the disenchantment was general and
widespread. Some of the companies were so weighted by the
preliminary financial obligations, and had conducted their affairs
in such careless, reckless fashion, that they had soon to shut down
their mines and close their works. Even solid undertakings
suffered. The shares of the Briansk works, for example, which had
given dividends as high as 30 per cent., fell from 500 to 230. The
Mamontof companies--supposed to be one of the strongest financial
groups in the country--had to suspend payment, and numerous other
failures occurred. Nearly all the commercial banks, having
directly participated in the industrial concerns, were rudely
shaken. M. Witte, who had been for a time the idol of a certain
section of the financial world, became very unpopular, and was
accused of misleading the investing public. Among the accusations
brought against him some at least could easily be refuted. He may
have made mistakes in his policy, and may have been himself over-
sanguine, but surely, as he subsequently replied to his accusers,
it was no part of his duty to warn company promoters and directors
that they should refrain from over-production, and that their
enterprises might not be as remunerative as they expected. As to
whether there is any truth in the assertion that he held out
prospects of larger Government orders than he actually gave, I
cannot say. That he cut down prices, and showed himself a hard man
to deal with, there seems no doubt.

The reader may naturally be inclined to jump to the conclusion that
the commercial crisis just referred to was the cause of M. Witte's
fall. Such a conclusion would be entirely erroneous. The crisis
happened in the winter of 1899-1900, and M. Witte remained Finance
Minister until the autumn of 1903. His fall was the result of
causes of a totally different kind, and these I propose now to
explain, because the explanation will throw light on certain very
curious and characteristic conceptions at present current in the
Russian educated classes.

Of course there were certain causes of a purely personal kind, but
I shall dismiss them in a very few words. I remember once asking a
well-informed friend of M. Witte's what he thought of him as an
administrator and a statesman. The friend replied: "Imagine a
negro of the Gold Coast let loose in modern European civilisation!"
This reply, like most epigrammatic remarks, is a piece of gross
exaggeration, but it has a modicum of truth in it. In the eyes of
well-trained Russian officials M. Witte was a titanic, reckless
character, capable at any moment of playing the part of the bull in
the china-shop. As a masterful person, brusque in manner and
incapable of brooking contradiction, he had made for himself many
enemies; and his restless, irrepressible energy had led him to
encroach on the provinces of all his colleagues. Possessing as he
did the control of the purse, his interference could not easily be
resisted. The Ministers of Interior, War, Agriculture, Public
Works, Public Instruction, and Foreign Affairs had all occasion to
complain of his incursions into their departments. In contrast to
his colleagues, he was not only extremely energetic, but he was
ever ready to assume an astounding amount of responsibility; and as
he was something of an opportunist, he was perhaps not always
quixotically scrupulous in the choice of expedients for attaining
his ends.

Altogether M. Witte was an inconvenient personage in an
administration in which strong personality is regarded as entirely
out of place, and in which personal initiative is supposed to
reside exclusively in the Tsar. In addition to all this he was a
man who felt keenly, and when he was irritated he did not always
keep the unruly member under strict control. If I am correctly
informed, it was some imprudent and not very respectful remarks,
repeated by a subordinate and transmitted by a Grand Duke to the
Tsar, which were the immediate cause of his transfer from the
influential post of Minister of Finance to the ornamental position
of President of the Council of Ministers; but that was merely the
proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back. His position
was already undermined, and it is the undermining process which I
wish to describe.

The first to work for his overthrow were the Agrarian
Conservatives. They could not deny that, from the purely fiscal
point of view, his administration was a marvellous success; for he
was rapidly doubling the revenue, and he had succeeded in replacing
the fluctuating depreciated paper currency by a gold coinage; but
they maintained that he was killing the goose that laid the golden
eggs. Evidently the tax-paying power of the rural classes was
being overstrained, for they were falling more and more into
arrears in the payment of their taxes, and their impoverishment was
yearly increasing. All their reserves had been exhausted, as was
shown by the famines of 1891-92, when the Government had to spend
hundreds of millions to feed them. Whilst the land was losing its
fertility, those who had to live by it were increasing in numbers
at an alarming rate. Already in some districts one-fifth of the
peasant households had no longer any land of their own, and of
those who still possessed land a large proportion had no longer the
cattle and horses necessary to till and manure their allotments.
No doubt M. Witte was beginning to perceive his mistake, and had
done something to palliate the evils by improving the system of
collecting the taxes and abolishing the duty on passports, but such
merely palliative remedies could have little effect. While a few
capitalists were amassing gigantic fortunes, the masses were slowly
and surely advancing to the brink of starvation. The welfare of
the agriculturists, who constitute nine-tenths of the whole
population, was being ruthlessly sacrificed, and for what? For the
creation of a manufacturing industry which rested on an artificial,
precarious basis, and which had already begun to decline.

So far the Agrarians, who champion the interests of the
agricultural classes. Their views were confirmed and their
arguments strengthened by an influential group of men whom I may
call, for want of a better name, the philosophers or doctrinaire
interpreters of history, who have, strange to say, more influence
in Russia than in any other country.

The Russian educated classes desire that the nation should be
wealthy and self-supporting, and they recognise that for this
purpose a large manufacturing industry is required; but they are
reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to attain the object in
view, and they imagine that, somehow or other, these sacrifices may
be avoided. Sympathising with this frame of mind, the doctrinaires
explain that the rich and prosperous countries of Europe and
America obtained their wealth and prosperity by so-called
"Capitalism"--that is to say, by a peculiar social organisation in
which the two main factors are a small body of rich capitalists and
manufacturers and an enormous pauper proletariat living from hand
to mouth, at the mercy of the heartless employers of labour.
Russia has lately followed in the footsteps of those wealthy
countries, and if she continues to do so she will inevitably be
saddled with the same disastrous results--plutocracy, pauperism,
unrestrained competition in all spheres of activity, and a greatly
intensified struggle for life, in which the weaker will necessarily
go to the wall.*

* Free competition in all spheres of activity, leading to social
inequality, plutocracy, and pauperism, is the favourite bugbear of
Russian theorists; and who is not a theorist in Russia? The fact
indicates the prevalence of Socialist ideas in the educated

Happily there is, according to these theorists, a more excellent
way, and Russia can adopt it if she only remains true to certain
mysterious principles of her past historic development. Without
attempting to expound those mysterious principles, to which I have
repeatedly referred in previous chapters, I may mention briefly
that the traditional patriarchal institutions on which the
theorists found their hopes of a happy social future for their
country are the rural Commune, the native home-industries, and the
peculiar co-operative institutions called Artels. How these
remnants of a semi-patriarchal state of society are to be
practically developed in such a way as to withstand the competition
of manufacturing industry organised on modern "capitalist" lines,
no one has hitherto been able to explain satisfactorily, but many
people indulge in ingenious speculations on the subject, like
children planning the means of diverting with their little toy
spades a formidable inundation. In my humble opinion, the whole
theory is a delusion; but it is held firmly--I might almost say
fanatically--by those who, in opposition to the indiscriminate
admirers of West-European and American civilisation, consider
themselves genuine Russians and exceptionally good patriots. M.
Witte has never belonged to that class. He believes that there is
only one road to national prosperity--the road by which Western
Europe has travelled--and along this road he tried to drive his
country as rapidly as possible. He threw himself, therefore, heart
and soul into what his opponents call "Capitalism," by raising
State loans, organising banks and other credit institutions,
encouraging the creation and extension of big factories, which must
inevitably destroy the home industry, and even--horribile dictu!--
undermining the rural Commune, and thereby adding to the ranks of
the landless proletariat, in order to increase the amount of cheap
labour for the benefit of the capitalists.

With the arguments thus supplied by Agrarians and doctrinaires,
quite honest and well-meaning, according to their lights, it was
easy to sap M. Witte's position. Among his opponents, the most
formidable was the late M. Plehve, Minister of Interior--a man of a
totally different stamp. A few months before his tragic end I had
a long and interesting conversation with him, and I came away
deeply impressed. Having repeatedly had conversations of a similar
kind with M. Witte, I could compare, or rather contrast, the two
men. Both of them evidently possessed an exceptional amount of
mental power and energy, but in the one it was volcanic, and in the
other it was concentrated and thoroughly under control. In
discussion, the one reminded me of the self-taught, slashing
swordsman; the other of the dexterous fencer, carefully trained in
the use of the foils, who never launches out beyond the point at
which he can quickly recover himself. As to whether M. Plehve was
anything more than a bold, energetic, clever official there may be
differences of opinion, but he certainly could assume the airs of a
profound and polished statesman, capable of looking at things from
a much higher point of view than the ordinary tchinovnik, and he
had the talent of tacitly suggesting that a great deal of genuine,
enlightened statesmanship lay hidden under the smooth surface of
his cautious reserve. Once or twice I could perceive that when
criticising the present state of things he had his volcanic
colleague in his mind's eye; but the covert allusions were so vague
and so carefully worded that the said colleague, if he had been
present, would hardly have been justified in entering a personal
protest. A statesman of the higher type, I was made to feel,
should deal not with personalities, but with things, and it would
be altogether unbecoming to complain of a colleague in presence of
an outsider. Thus his attitude towards his opponent was most
correct, but it was not difficult to infer that he had little
sympathy with the policy of the Ministry of Finance.

From other sources I learned the cause of this want of sympathy.
Being Minister of Interior, and having served long in the Police
Department, M. Plehve considered that his first duty was the
maintenance of public order and the protection of the person and
autocracy of his august master. He was therefore the determined
enemy of revolutionary tendencies, in whatever garb or disguise
they might appear; and as a statesman he had to direct his
attention to everything likely to increase those tendencies in the
future. Now it seemed that in the financial policy which had been
followed for some years there were germs of future revolutionary
fermentation. The peasantry were becoming impoverished, and were
therefore more likely to listen to the insidious suggestions of
Socialist agitators; and already agrarian disturbances had occurred
in the provinces of Kharkof and Poltava. The industrial
proletariat which was being rapidly created was being secretly
organised by the revolutionary Social Democrats, and already there
had been serious labour troubles in some of the large towns. For
any future revolutionary movement the proletariat would naturally
supply recruits. Then, at the other end of the social scale, a
class of rich capitalists was being created, and everybody who has
read a little history knows that a rich and powerful tiers etat
cannot be permanently conciliated with autocracy. Though himself
neither an agrarian nor a Slavophil doctrinaire, M. Plehve could
not but have a certain sympathy with those who were forging
thunderbolts for the official annihilation of M. Witte. He was too
practical a man to imagine that the hands on the dial of economic
progress could be set back and a return made to moribund
patriarchal institutions; but he thought that at least the pace
might be moderated. The Minister of Finance need not be in such a
desperate, reckless hurry, and it was desirable to create
conservative forces which might counteract the revolutionary forces
which his impulsive colleague was inadvertently calling into

Some of the forgers of thunderbolts went a great deal further, and
asserted or insinuated that M. Witte was himself consciously a
revolutionist, with secret, malevolent intentions. In support of
their insinuations they cited certain cases in which well-known
Socialists had been appointed professors in academies under the
control of the Ministry of Finance, and they pointed to the Peasant
Bank, which enjoyed M. Witte's special protection. At first it had
been supposed that the bank would have an anti-revolutionary
influence by preventing the formation of a landless proletariat and
increasing the number of small land-owners, who are always and
everywhere conservative so far as the rights of private property
are concerned.

Unfortunately its success roused the fears of the more conservative
section of the landed proprietors. These gentlemen, as I have
already mentioned, pointed out that the estates of the nobles were
rapidly passing into the hands of the peasantry, and that if this
process were allowed to continue the hereditary Noblesse, which had
always been the civilising element in the rural population, and the
surest support of the throne, would drift into the towns and there
sink into poverty or amalgamate with the commercial plutocracy, and
help to form a tiers etat which would be hostile to the Autocratic

In these circumstances it was evident that the headstrong Minister
of Finance could maintain his position only so long as he enjoyed
the energetic support of the Emperor, and this support, for reasons
which I have indicated above, failed him at the critical moment.
When his work was still unfinished he was suddenly compelled, by
the Emperor's command, to relinquish his post and accept a position
in which, it was supposed, he would cease to have any influence in
the administration.

Thus fell the Russian Colbert-Turgot, or whatever else he may be
called. Whether financial difficulties in the future will lead to
his reinstatement as Minister of Finance remains to be seen; but in
any case his work cannot be undone. He has increased manufacturing
industry to an unprecedented extent, and, as M. Plehve perceived,
the industrial proletariat which manufacturing industry on
capitalist lines always creates has provided a new field of
activity for the revolutionists. I return, therefore, to the
evolution of the revolutionary movement in order to describe its
present phase, the first-fruits of which have been revealed in the
labour disturbances in St. Petersburg and other industrial centres.



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.

The development of manufacturing industry on capitalist lines, and
the consequent formation of a large industrial proletariat,
produced great disappointment in all the theorising sections of the
educated classes. The thousands of men and women who had, since
the accession of the Tsar-Emancipator in 1855, taken a keen,
enthusiastic interest in the progress of their native country, all
had believed firmly that in some way or other Russia would escape
"the festering sores of Western civilisation." Now experience had
proved that the belief was an illusion, and those who had tried to
check the natural course of industrial progress were constrained to
confess that their efforts had been futile. Big factories were
increasing in size and numbers, while cottage industries were
disappearing or falling under the power of middlemen, and the
Artels had not advanced a step in their expected development. The
factory workers, though all of peasant origin, were losing their
connection with their native villages and abandoning their
allotments of the Communal land. They were becoming, in short, a
hereditary caste in the town population, and the pleasant Slavophil
dream of every factory worker having a house in the country was
being rudely dispelled. Nor was there any prospect of a change for
the better in the future. With the increase of competition among
the manufacturers, the uprooting of the muzhik from the soil must
go on more and more rapidly, because employers must insist more and
more on having thoroughly trained operatives ready to work steadily
all the year round.

This state of things had a curious effect on the course of the
revolutionary movement.

Let me recall very briefly the successive stages through which the
movement had already passed. It had been inaugurated, as we have
seen, by the Nihilists, the ardent young representatives of a
"storm-and-stress" period, in which the venerable traditions and
respected principles of the past were rejected and ridiculed, and
the newest ideas of Western Europe were eagerly adopted and
distorted. Like the majority of their educated countrymen, they
believed that in the race of progress Russia was about to overtake
and surpass the nations of the West, and that this desirable result
was to be attained by making a tabula rasa of existing
institutions, and reconstructing society according to the plans of
Proudhon, Fourier, and the other writers of the early Socialist

When the Nihilists had expended their energies and exhausted the
patience of the public in theorising, talking, and writing, a party
of action came upon the scene. Like the Nihilists, they desired
political, social, and economic reforms of the most thorough-going
kind, but they believed that such things could not be effected by
the educated classes alone, and they determined to call in the co-
operation of the people. For this purpose they tried to convert
the masses to the gospel of Socialism. Hundreds of them became
missionaries and "went in among the people." But the gospel of
Socialism proved unintelligible to the uneducated, and the more
ardent, incautious missionaries fell into the hands of the police.
Those of them who escaped, perceiving the error of their ways, but
still clinging to the hope of bringing about a political, social,
and economic revolution, determined to change their tactics. The
emancipated serf had shown himself incapable of "prolonged
revolutionary activity," but there was reason to believe that he
was, like his forefathers in the time of Stenka Razin and
Pugatcheff, capable of rising and murdering his oppressors. He
must be used, therefore, for the destruction of the Autocratic
Power and the bureaucracy, and then it would be easy to reorganise
society on a basis of universal equality, and to take permanent
precautions against capitalism and the creation of a proletariat.

The hopes of the agitators proved as delusive as those of the
propagandists. The muzhik turned a deaf ear to their instigations,
and the police soon prevented their further activity. Thus the
would-be root-and-branch reforms found themselves in a dilemma.
Either they must abandon their schemes for the moment or they must
strike immediately at their persecutors. They chose, as we have
seen, the latter alternative, and after vain attempts to frighten
the Government by acts of terrorism against zealous officials, they
assassinated the Tsar himself; but before they had time to think of
the constructive part of their task, their organisation was
destroyed by the Autocratic Power and the bureaucracy, and those of
them who escaped arrest had to seek safety in emigration to
Switzerland and Paris.

Then arose, all along the line of the defeated, decimated
revolutionists, the cry, "What is to be done?" Some replied that
the shattered organisation should be reconstructed, and a number of
secret agents were sent successively from Switzerland for this
purpose. But their efforts, as they themselves confessed, were
fruitless, and despondency seemed to be settling down permanently
on all, except a few fanatics, when a voice was heard calling on
the fugitives to rally round a new banner and carry on the struggle
by entirely new methods. The voice came from a revolutionologist
(if I may use such a term) of remarkable talent, called M.
Plekhanof, who had settled in Geneva with a little circle of
friends, calling themselves the "Labour Emancipation Group." His
views were expounded in a series of interesting publications, the
first of which was a brochure entitled "Socialism and the Political
Struggle," published in 1883.

According to M. Plekhanof and his group the revolutionary movement
had been conducted up to that moment on altogether wrong lines.
All previous revolutionary groups had acted on the assumption that
the political revolution and the economic reorganisation of society
must be effected simultaneously, and consequently they had rejected
contemptuously all proposals for reforms, however radical, of a
merely political kind. These had been considered, as I have
mentioned in a previous chapter, not only as worthless, but as
positively prejudicial to the interests of the working classes,
because so-called political liberties and parliamentary government
would be sure to consolidate the domination of the bourgeoisie.
That such has generally been the immediate effect of parliamentary
institutions is undeniable, but it did not follow that the creation
of such institutions should be opposed. On the contrary, they
ought to be welcomed, not merely because, as some revolutionists
had already pointed out, propaganda and agitation could be more
easily carried on under a constitutional regime, but because
constitutionalism is certainly the most convenient, and perhaps the
only, road by which the socialistic ideal can ultimately be
attained. This is a dark saying, but it will become clearer when I
have explained, according to the new apostles, a second error into
which their predecessors had fallen.

That second error was the assumption that all true friends of the
people, whether Conservatives, Liberals, or revolutionaries, ought
to oppose to the utmost the development of capitalism. In the
light of Karl Marx's discoveries in economic science every one must
recognise this to be an egregious mistake. That great authority,
it was said, had proved that the development of capitalism was
irresistible, and his conclusions had been confirmed by the recent
history of Russia, for all the economic progress made during the
last half century had been on capitalist lines.

Even if it were possible to arrest the capitalist movement, it is
not desirable from the revolutionary point of view. In support of
this thesis Karl Marx is again cited. He has shown that
capitalism, though an evil in itself, is a necessary stage of
economic and social progress. At first it is prejudicial to the
interests of the working classes, but in the long run it benefits
them, because the ever-growing proletariat must, whether it desires
it or not, become a political party, and as a political party it
must one day break the domination of the bourgeoisie. As soon as
it has obtained the predominant political power, it will
confiscate, for the public good, the instruments of production--
factories, foundries, machines, etc.--by expropriating the
capitalist. In this way all the profits which accrue from
production on a large scale, and which at present go into the
pockets of the capitalists, will be distributed equally among the

Thus began a new phase of the revolutionary movement, and, like all
previous phases, it remained for some years in the academic stage,
during which there were endless discussions on theoretical and
practical questions. Lavroff, the prophet of the old propaganda,
treated the new ideas "with grandfatherly severity," and
Tikhomirof, the leading representative of the moribund Narodnaya
Volya, which had prepared the acts of terrorism, maintained stoutly
that the West European methods recommended by Plekhanof were
inapplicable to Russia. The Plekhanof group replied in a long
series of publications, partly original and partly translations
from Marx and Engels, explaining the doctrines and aims of the
Social Democrats.

Seven years were spent in this academic literary activity--a period
of comparative repose for the Russian secret police--and about 1890
the propagandists of the new school began to work cautiously in St.
Petersburg. At first they confined themselves to forming little
secret circles for making converts, and they found that the ground
had been to some extent prepared for the seed which they had to
sow. The workmen were discontented, and some of the more
intelligent amongst them who had formerly been in touch with the
propagandists of the older generation had learned that there was an
ingenious and effective means of getting their grievances
redressed. How was that possible? By combination and strikes.
For the uneducated workers this was an important discovery, and
they soon began to put the suggested remedy to a practical test.
In the autumn of 1894 labour troubles broke out in the Nevski
engineering works and the arsenal, and in the following year in the
Thornton factory and the cigarette works. In all these strikes the
Social Democratic agents took part behind the scenes. Avoiding the
main errors of the old propagandists, who had offered the workmen
merely abstract Socialist theories which no uneducated person could
reasonably be expected to understand, they adopted a more rational
method. Though impervious to abstract theories, the Russian
workman is not at all insensible to the prospect of bettering his
material condition and getting his everyday grievances redressed.
Of these grievances the ones he felt most keenly were the long
hours, the low wages, the fines arbitrarily imposed by the
managers, and the brutual severity of the foreman. By helping him
to have these grievances removed the Social Democratic agents might
gain his confidence, and when they had come to be regarded by him
as his real friends they might widen his sympathies and teach him
to feel that his personal interests were identical with the
interests of the working classes as a whole. In this way it would
be possible to awaken in the industrial proletariat generally a
sort of esprit de corps, which is the first condition of political

On these lines the agents set to work. Having formed themselves
into a secret association called the "Union for the Emancipation of
the Working Classes," they gradually abandoned the narrow limits of
coterie-propaganda, and prepared the way for agitation on a larger
scale. Among the discontented workmen they distributed a large
number of carefully written tracts, in which the material
grievances were formulated, and the whole political system, with
its police, gendarmes, Cossacks, and tax-gathers, was criticised in
no friendly spirit, but without violent language. In introducing
into the programme this political element, great caution had to be
exercised, because the workmen did not yet perceive clearly any
close connection between their grievances and the existing
political institutions, and those of them who belonged to the older
generation regarded the Tsar as the incarnation of disinterested
benevolence. Bearing this in mind, the Union circulated a pamphlet
for the enlightenment of the labouring population, in which the
writer refrained from all reference to the Autocratic Power, and
described simply the condition of the labouring classes, the heavy
burdens they had to bear, the abuses of which they were the
victims, and the inconsiderate way in which they were treated by
their employers. This pamphlet was eagerly read, and from that
moment whenever labour troubles arose the men applied to the Social
Democratic agents to assist them in formulating their grievances.

Of course, the assistance had to be given secretly, because there
were always police spies in the factories, and all persons
suspected of aiding the labour movement were liable to be arrested
and exiled. In spite of this danger the work was carried on with
great energy, and in the summer of 1896 the field of operations was
extended. During the coronation ceremonies of that year the
factories and workshops in St. Petersburg were closed, and the men
considered that for these days they ought to receive wages as
usual. When their demand was refused, 40,000 of them went out on
strike. The Social Democratic Union seized the opportunity and
distributed tracts in large quantities. For the first time such
tracts were read aloud at workmen's meetings and applauded by the
audience. The Union encouraged the workmen in their resistance,
but advised them to refrain from violence, so as not to provoke the
intervention of the police and the military, as they had
imprudently done on some previous occasions. When the police did
intervene and expelled some of the strike-leaders from St.
Petersburg, the agitators had an excellent opportunity of
explaining that the authorities were the protectors of the
employers and the enemies of the working classes. These
explanations counteracted the effect of an official proclamation to
the workmen, in which M. Witte tried to convince them that the Tsar
was constantly striving to improve their condition. The struggle
was decided, not by arguments and exhortations, but by a more
potent force; having no funds for continuing the strike, the men
were compelled by starvation to resume work.

This is the point at which the labour movement began to be
conducted on a large scale and by more systematic methods. In the
earlier labour troubles the strikers had not understood that the
best means of bringing pressure on employers was simply to refuse
to work, and they had often proceeded to show their dissatisfaction
by ruthlessly destroying their employers' property. This had
brought the police, and sometimes the military, on the scene, and
numerous arrests had followed. Another mistake made by the
inexperienced strikers was that they had neglected to create a
reserve fund from which they could draw the means of subsistence
when they no longer received wages and could no longer obtain
credit at the factory provision store. Efforts were now made to
correct these two mistakes, and with regard to the former they were
fairly successful, for wanton destruction of property ceased to be
a prominent feature of labour troubles; but strong reserve funds
have not yet been created, so that the strikes have never been of
long duration.

Though the strikes had led, so far, to no great practical, tangible
results, the new ideas and aspirations were spreading rapidly in
the factories and workshops, and they had already struck such deep
root that some of the genuine workmen wished to have a voice in the
managing committee of the Union, which was composed exclusively of
educated men. When a request to that effect was rejected by the
committee a lengthy discussion took place, and it soon became
evident that underneath the question of organisation lay a most
important question of principle. The workmen wished to concentrate
their efforts on the improvement of their material condition, and
to proceed on what we should call trade-unionist lines, whereas the
committee wished them to aim also at the acquisition of political
rights. Great determination was shown on both sides. An attempt
of the workmen to maintain a secret organ of their own with the
view of emancipating themselves from the "Politicals" ended in
failure; but they received sympathy and support from some of the
educated members of the party, and in this way a schism took place
in the Social Democrat camp. After repeated ineffectual attempts
to find a satisfactory compromise, the question was submitted to a
Congress which was held in Switzerland in 1900; but the discussions
merely accentuated the differences of opinion, and the two parties
constituted themselves into separate independent groups. The one
under the leadership of Plekhanof, and calling itself the
Revolutionary Social Democrats, held to the Marx doctrines in all
their extent and purity, and maintained the necessity of constant
agitation in the political sense. The other, calling itself the
Union of Foreign Social Democrats, inclined to the trade-unionism
programme, and proclaimed the necessity of being guided by
political expediency rather than inflexible dogmas. Between the
two a wordy warfare was carried on for some time in pedantic,
technical language; but though habitually brandishing their weapons
and denouncing their antagonists in true Homeric style, they were
really allies, struggling towards a common end--two sections of the
Social Democratic party differing from each other on questions of

The two divergent tendencies have often reappeared in the
subsequent history of the movement. During ordinary peaceful times
the economic or trade-unionist tendency can generally hold its own,
but as soon as disturbances occur and the authorities have to
intervene, the political current quickly gains the upper hand.
This was exemplified in the labour troubles which took place at
Rostoff-on-the-Don in 1902. During the first two days of the
strike the economic demands alone were put forward, and in the
speeches which were delivered at the meetings of workmen no
reference was made to political grievances. On the third day one
orator ventured to speak disrespectfully of the Autocratic Power,
but he thereby provoked signs of dissatisfaction in the audiences.
On the fifth and following days, however, several political
speeches were made, ending with the cry of "Down with Tsarism!" and
a crowd of 30,000 workmen agreed with the speakers. Thereafter
occurred similar strikes in Odessa, the Caucasus, Kief, and Central
Russia, and they had all a political rather than a purely economic

I must now endeavour to explain clearly the point of view and plan
of campaign of this new movement, which I may call the
revolutionary Renaissance.

The ultimate aim of the new reformers was the same as that of all
their predecessors--the thorough reorganisation of Society on
Socialistic principles. According to their doctrines, Society as
at present constituted consists of two great classes, called
variously the exploiters and the exploited, the shearers and the
shorn, the capitalists and the workers, the employers and the
employed, the tyrants and the oppressed; and this unsatisfactory
state of things must go on so long as the so-called bourgeois or
capitalist regime continues to exist. In the new heaven and the
new earth of which the Socialist dreams this unjust distinction is
to disappear; all human beings are to be equally free and
independent, all are to cooperate spontaneously with brains and
hands to the common good, and all are to enjoy in equal shares the
natural and artificial good things of this life.

So far there has never been any difference of opinion among the
various groups of Russian thorough-going revolutionists. All of
them, from the antiquated Nihilist down to the Social Democrat of
the latest type, have held these views. What has differentiated
them from each other is the greater or less degree of impatience to
realise the ideal.

The most impatient were the Anarchists, who grouped themselves
around Bakunin. They wished to overthrow immediately by a frontal
attack all existing forms of government and social organisation, in
the hope that chance, or evolution, or natural instinct, or sudden
inspiration or some other mysterious force, would create something
better. They themselves declined to aid this mysterious force even
by suggestions, on the ground that, as one of them has said, "to
construct is not the business of the generation whose duty is to
destroy." Notwithstanding the strong impulsive element in the
national character, the reckless, ultra-impatient doctrinaires
never became numerous, and never succeeded in forming an organised
group, probably because the young generation in Russia were too
much occupied with the actual and future condition of their own
country to embark on schemes of cosmopolitan anarchism such as
Bakunin recommended.

Next in the scale of impatience came the group of believers in
Socialist agitation among the masses, with a view to overturning
the existing Government and putting themselves in its place as soon
as the masses were sufficiently organised to play the part destined
for them. Between them and the Anarchists the essential points of
difference were that they admitted the necessity of some years of
preparation, and they intended, when the Government was overturned,
not to preserve indefinitely the state of anarchy, but to put in
the place of autocracy, limited monarchy, or the republic, a
strong, despotic Government thoroughly imbued with Socialistic
principles. As soon as it had laid firmly the foundations of the
new order of things it was to call a National Assembly, from which
it was to receive, I presume, a bill of indemnity for the
benevolent tyranny which it had temporarily exercised.

Impatience a few degrees less intense produced the next group, the
partisans of pacific Socialist propaganda. They maintained that
there was no necessity for overthrowing the old order of things
till the masses had been intellectually prepared for the new, and
they objected to the foundation of the new regime being laid by
despots, however well-intentioned in the Socialist sense. The
people must be made happy and preserved in a state of happiness by
the people themselves.

In the last place came the least impatient of all, the Social
Democrats, who differ widely from all the preceding categories.

All previous revolutionary groups had systematically rejected the
idea of a gradual transition from the bourgeois to the Socialist
regime. They would not listen to any suggestion about a
constitutional monarchy or a democratic republic even as a mere
intermediate stage of social development. All such things, as part
and parcel of the bourgeois system, were anathematised. There must
be no half-way houses between present misery and future happiness;
for many weary travellers might be tempted to settle there in the
desert, and fail to reach the promised land. "Ever onward" should
be the watchword, and no time should be wasted on the foolish
struggles of political parties and the empty vanities of political

Not thus thought the Social Democrat. He was much wiser in his
generation. Having seen how the attempts of the impatient groups
had ended in disaster, and knowing that, if they had succeeded, the
old effete despotism would probably have been replaced by a young,
vigorous one more objectionable than its predecessor, he determined
to try a more circuitous but surer road to the goal which the
impatient people had in view. In his opinion the distance from the
present Russian regime protected by autocracy to the future
Socialist paradise was far too great to be traversed in a single
stage, and he knew of one or two comfortable rest-houses on the
way. First there was the rest-house of Constitutionalism, with
parliamentary institutions. For some years the bourgeoisie would
doubtless have a parliamentary majority, but gradually, by
persistent effort, the Fourth Estate would gain the upper hand, and
then the Socialist millennium might be proclaimed. Meanwhile, what
had to be done was to gain the confidence of the masses, especially
of the factory workers, who were more intelligent and less
conservative than the peasantry, and to create powerful labour
organisations as material for a future political party.

This programme implied, of course, a certain unity of action with
the constitutionalists, from whom, as I have said, the
revolutionists of the old school had stood sternly aloof. There
was now no question of a formal union, and certainly no idea of a
"union of hearts," because the Socialists knew that their ultimate
aim would be strenuously opposed by the Liberals, and the Liberals
knew that an attempt was being made to use them as a cat's-paw; but
there seemed to be no reason why they of the two groups should not
observe towards each other a benevolent neutrality, and march side
by side as far as the half-way house, where they could consider the
conditions of the further advance.

When I first became acquainted with the Russian Social Democrats I
imagined that their plan of campaign was of a purely pacific
character; and that they were, unlike their predecessors, an
evolutionary, as distinguished from a revolutionary, party.
Subsequently I discovered that this conception was not quite
accurate. In ordinary quiet times they use merely pacific methods,
and they feel that the Proletariat is not yet sufficiently
prepared, intellectually and politically, to assume the great
responsibilities which are reserved for it in the future.
Moreover, when the moment comes for getting rid of the Autocratic
Power, they would prefer a gradual process of liquidation to a
sudden cataclysm. So far they may be said to be evolutionaries
rather than revolutionaries, but their plan of campaign does not
entirely exclude violence. They would not consider it their duty
to oppose the use of violence on the part of the more impatient
sections of the revolutionists, and they would have no scruples
about utilising disturbances for the attainment of their own end.
Public agitation, which is always likely in Russia to provoke
violent repression by the authorities, they regard as necessary for
keeping alive and strengthening the spirit of opposition; and when
force is used by the police they approve of the agitators using
force in return. To acts of terrorism, however, they are opposed
on principle.

Who, then, are the Terrorists, who have assassinated so many great
personages, including the Grand Duke Serge? In reply to this
question I must introduce the reader to another group of the
revolutionists who have usually been in hostile, rather than
friendly, relations with the Social Democrats, and who call
themselves the Socialist-Revolutionaries (Sotsialisty-

It will be remembered that the terrorist group, commonly called
Narodnaya Volya, or Narodovoltsi, which succeeded in assassinating
Alexander II., were very soon broken up by the police and most of
the leading members were arrested. A few escaped, of whom some
remained in the country and others emigrated to Switzerland or
Paris, and efforts at reorganisation were made, especially in the
southern and western provinces, but they proved ineffectual. At
last, sobered by experience and despairing of further success, some
of the prisoners and a few of the exiles--notably Tikhomirof, who
was regarded as the leader--made their peace with the Government,
and for some years terrorism seemed to be a thing of the past.
Passing through Russia on my way home from India and Central Asia
at that time, I came to the conclusion that the young generation
had recovered from its prolonged attack of brain-fever, and had
entered on a more normal, tranquil, and healthy period of

My expectations proved too optimistic. About 1894 the Narodnaya
Volya came to life again, with all its terrorist traditions intact;
and shortly afterwards appeared the new group which I have just
mentioned, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, with somewhat similar
principles and a better organisation. For some seven or eight
years the two groups existed side by side, and then the Narodnaya
Volya disappeared, absorbed probably by its more powerful rival.

During the first years of their existence neither group was strong
enough to cause the Government serious inconvenience, and it was
not till 1897-98 that they found means of issuing manifestos and
programmes. In these the Narodovoltsi declared that their
immediate aims were the annihilation of Autocracy, the convocation
of a National Assembly and the reorganisation of the Empire on the
principles of federation and local self-government, and that for
the attainment of these objects the means to be employed should
include popular insurrections, military conspiracies, bombs and

Very similar, though ostensibly a little more eclectic, was the
programme of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Their ultimate aim was
declared to be the transfer of political authority from the
Autocratic Power to the people, the abolition of private property
in the means of production, and in general the reorganisation of
national life on Socialist principles. On certain points they were
at one with the Social Democrats. They recognised, for example,
that the social reorganisation must be preceded by a political
revolution, that much preparatory work was necessary, and that
attention should be directed first to the industrial proletariat as
the most intelligent section of the masses. On the other hand they
maintained that it was a mistake to confine the revolutionary
activity to the working classes of the towns, who were not strong
enough to overturn the Autocratic Power. The agitation ought,
therefore, to be extended to the peasantry, who were quite
"developed" enough to understand at least the idea of land-
nationalisation; and for the carrying out of this part of the
programme a special organisation was created.

With so many opinions in common, it seemed at one moment as if the
Social Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries might unite
their forces for a combined attack on the Government; but apart
from the mutual jealousy and hatred which so often characterise
revolutionary as well as religious sects, they were prevented from
coalescing, or even cordially co-operating, by profound differences
both in doctrine and in method.

The Social Democrats are essentially doctrinaires. Thorough-going
disciples of Karl Marx, they believed in what they consider the
immutable laws of social progress, according to which the
Socialistic ideal can be reached only through capitalism; and the
intermediate political revolution, which is to substitute the will
of the people for the Autocratic Power, must be effected by the
conversion and organisation of the industrial proletariat. With
the spiritual pride of men who feel themselves to be the
incarnations or avatars of immutable law, they are inclined to look
down with something very like contempt on mere empirics who are
ignorant of scientific principles and are guided by considerations
of practical expediency. The Social-Revolutionaries seem to them
to be empirics of this kind because they reject the tenets, or at
least deny the infallibility, of the Marx school, cling to the idea
of partially resisting the overwhelming influence of capitalism in
Russia, hope that the peasantry will play at least a secondary part
in bringing about the political revolution, and are profoundly
convinced that the advent of political liberty may be greatly
accelerated by the use of terrorism. On this last point they
stated their views very frankly in a pamphlet which they published
in 1902 under the title of "Our Task" (Nasha Zadatcha). It is
there said:

"One of the powerful means of struggle, dictated by our
revolutionary past and present, is political terrorism, consisting
of the annihilation of the most injurious and influential
personages of Russian autocracy in given conditions. Systematic
terrorism, in conjunction with other forms of open mass-struggle
(industrial riots and agrarian risings, demonstrations, etc.),
which receive from terrorism an enormous, decisive significance,
will lead to the disorganisation of the enemy. Terrorist activity
will cease only with the victory over autocracy and the complete
attainment of political liberty. Besides its chief significance as
a means of disorganising, terrorist activity will serve at the same
time as a means of propaganda and agitation, a form of open
struggle taking place before the eyes of the whole people,
undermining the prestige of Government authority, and calling into
life new revolutionary forces, while the oral and literary
propaganda is being continued without interruption. Lastly, the
terrorist activity serves for the whole secret revolutionary party
as a means of self-defence and of protecting the organisation
against the injurious elements of spies and treachery."

In accordance with this theory a "militant organisation" (Boevaga
Organisatsia) was formed and soon set to work with revolvers and
bombs. First an attempt was made on the life of Pobedonostsef;
then the Minister of the Interior, Sipiagin, was assassinated; next
attempts were made on the lives of the Governors of Vilna and
Kharkof, and the Kharkof chief of police; and since that time the
Governor of Ufa, the Vice-Governor of Elizabetpol, the Minister of
the Interior, M. Plehve, and the Grand Duke Serge have fallen
victims to the terrorist policy.*

* In this list I have not mentioned the assassination of M.
Bogolyepof, Minister of Public Instruction, in 1901, because I do
not know whether it should be attributed to the Socialist-
Revolutionaries or to the Narodovoltsi, who had not yet amalgamated
with them.

Though the Social Democrats have no sentimental squeamishness about
bloodshed, they objected to this policy on the ground that acts of
terrorism were unnecessary and were apt to prove injurious rather
than beneficial to the revolutionist cause. One of the main
objects of every intelligent revolutionary party should be to
awaken all classes from their habitual apathy and induce them to
take an active part in the political movement; but terrorism must
have a contrary effect by suggesting that political freedom is to
be attained, not by the steady pressure and persevering cooperation
of the people, but by startling, sensational acts of individual

The efforts of these two revolutionary parties, as well as of minor
groups, to get hold of the industrial proletariat did not escape
the notice of the authorities; and during the labour troubles of
1896, on the suggestion of M. Witte, the Government had considered
the question as to what should be done to counteract the influence
of the agitators. On that question it had no difficulty in coming
to a decision; the condition of the working classes must be
improved. An expert official was accordingly instructed to write a
report on what had already been done in that direction. In his
report it was shown that the Government had long been thinking
about the subject. Not to speak of a still-born law about a ten-
hour day for artisans, dating from the time of Catherine II., an
Imperial commission had been appointed as early as 1859, but
nothing practical came of its deliberations until 1882, when
legislative measures were taken for the protection of women and
children in factories. A little later (1886) other grievances were
dealt with and partly removed by regulating contracts of hire,
providing that the money derived from deductions and fines should
not be appropriated by the employers, and creating a staff of
factory inspectors who should take care that the benevolent
intentions of the Government were duly carried out. Having
reviewed all these official efforts in 1896, the Government passed
in the following year a law prohibiting night work and limiting the
working day to eleven and a half hours.

This did not satisfy the workmen. Their wages were still low, and
it was difficult to get them increased because strikes and all
forms of association were still, as they had always been, criminal
offences. On this point the Government remained firm so far as the
law was concerned, but it gradually made practical concessions by
allowing the workmen to combine for certain purposes. In 1898, for
example, in Kharkof, the Engineers' Mutual Aid Society was
sanctioned, and gradually it became customary to allow the workmen
to elect delegates for the discussion of their grievances with the
employers and inspectors.

Finding that these concessions did not check the growing influence
of the Social Democratic agitators among the operatives, the
Government resolved to go a step further; it would organise the
workers on purely trade-unionist lines, and would thereby combat
the Social Democrats, who always advised the strikers to mix up
political demands with their material grievances. The project
seemed to have a good prospect of success, because there were many
workmen, especially of the older generation, who did not at all
like the mixing up of politics, which so often led to arrest,
imprisonment and exile, with the practical concerns of every day

The first attempt of the kind was made in Moscow under the
direction of a certain Zubatof, chief of the secret police, who had
been himself a revolutionary in his youth, and afterwards an agent
provocateur. Aided by Tikhomirof, the repentant terrorist whom I
have already mentioned, Zubatof organised a large workmen's
association, with reading-rooms, lectures, discussions and other
attractions, and sought to convince the members that they should
turn a deaf ear to the Social Democratic agents, and look only to
the Government for the improvement of their condition. In order to
gain their sympathy and confidence, he instructed his subordinates
to take the side of the workmen in all labour disputes, while he
himself brought official pressure to bear on the employers. By
this means he made a considerable number of converts, and for a
time the association seemed to prosper, but he did not possess the
extraordinary ability and tact required to play the complicated
game successfully, and he committed the fatal mistake of using the
office-bearers of the association as detectives for the discovery
of the "evil-intentioned." This tactical error had its natural
consequences. As soon as the workmen perceived that their
professed benefactors were police spies, who did not obtain for
them any real improvement of their condition, the popularity of the
association rapidly declined. At the same time, the factory owners
complained to the Minister of Finance that the police, who ought to
be guardians of public order, and who had accused the factory
inspectors of stirring up discontent in the labouring population,
were themselves creating troubles by inciting the workmen to make
inordinate demands. The Minister of Finance at the moment was M.
Witte, and the Minister of Interior, responsible for the acts of
the police, was M. Plehve, and between these two official
dignitaries, who were already in very strained relations, Zubatof's
activity formed a new base of contention. In these circumstances
it is not surprising that the very risky experiment came to an
untimely end.

In St. Petersburg a similar experiment was made, and it ended much
more tragically. There the chief rôle was played by a mysterious
personage called Father Gapon, who acquired great momentary
notoriety. Though a genuine priest, he did not belong by birth, as
most Russian priests do, to the ecclesiastical caste. The son of a
peasant in Little Russia, where the ranks of the clergy are not
hermetically sealed against the other social classes, he aspired to
take orders, and after being rusticated from a seminary for
supposed sympathy with revolutionary ideas, he contrived to finish
his studies and obtain ordination. During a residence in Moscow he
took part in the Zubatof experiment, and when that badly conducted
scheme collapsed he was transferred to St. Petersburg and appointed
chaplain to a large convict prison. His new professional duties
did not prevent him from continuing to take a keen interest in the
welfare of the working classes, and in the summer of 1904 he
became, with the approval of the police authorities, president of a
large labour union called the Society of Russian Workmen, which had
eleven sections in the various industrial suburbs of the capital.
Under his guidance the experiment proceeded for some months very
successfully. He gained the sympathy and confidence of the
workmen, and so long as no serious questions arose he kept his hold
on them; but a storm was brewing and he proved unequal to the

In the first days of 1905, when the economic consequences of the
war had come to be keenly felt, a spirit of discontent appeared
among the labouring population of St. Petersburg, and on Sunday,
January 15th--exactly a week before the famous Sunday when the
troops were called into play--a strike began in the Putilof
ironworks and spread like wildfire to the other big works in the
neighbourhood. The immediate cause of the disturbance was the
dismissal of some workmen and a demand on the part of the labour
union that they should be reinstated. A deputation, composed
partly of genuine workmen and partly of Social Democratic
agitators, and led by Gapon, negotiated with the managers of the
Putilof works, and failed to effect an arrangement. At this moment
Gapon tried hard to confine the negotiations to the points in
dispute, whereas the agitators put forward demands of a wider kind,
such as the eight-hour working day, and they gradually obtained his
concurrence on condition that no political demands should be
introduced into the programme. In defending this condition he was
supported by the workmen, so that when agitators tried to make
political speeches at the meetings they were unceremoniously

A similar struggle between the "Economists" and the "Politicals"
was going on in the other industrial suburbs, notably in the Nevski
quarter, where 45,000 operatives had struck work, and the Social
Democrats were particularly active. In this section of the Labour
Union the most influential member was a young workman called
Petroff, who was a staunch Gaponist in the sense that he wished the
workers to confine themselves to their own grievances and to resist
the introduction of political demands. At first he succeeded in
preventing the agitators from speaking at the meetings, but they
soon proved too much for him. At one of the meetings on Tuesday,
when he happened to be absent, a Social Democrat contrived to get
himself elected chairman, and from that moment the political
agitators had a free hand. They had a regular organisation
composed of an organiser, three "oratorical agitators," and several
assistant-organisers who attended the small meetings in the
operatives' sleeping-quarters. Besides these there were a certain
number of workmen already converted to Social Democratic principles
who had learned the art of making political speeches.

The reports of the agitators to the central organisation, written
hurriedly during this eventful week, are extremely graphic and
interesting. They declared that there is a frightful amount of
work to be done and very few to do it. Their stock of Social
Democratic pamphlets is exhausted and they are hoarse from speech-
making. In spite of their superhuman efforts the masses remain
frightfully "undeveloped." The men willingly collect to hear the
orators, listen to them attentively, express approval or dissent,
and even put questions; but with all this they remain obstinately
on the ground of their own immediate wants, such as the increase of
wages and protection against brutal foremen, and they only hint
vaguely at more serious demands. The agitators, however, are
equally obstinate, and they make a few converts. To illustrate how
conversions are made, the following incident is related. At one
meeting the cry of "Stop the war!" is raised by an orator without
sufficient preparation, and at once a voice is heard in the
audience saying. "No, no! The little Japs (Yaposhki) must be
beaten!" Thereupon a more experienced orator comes forward and a
characteristic conversation takes place:

"Have we much land of our own, my friends?" asks the orator.

"Much!" replies the crowd.

"Do we require Manchuria?"


"Who pays for the war?"

"We do!"

"Are our brothers dying, and do your wives and children remain
without a bit of bread?"

"So it is!" say many, with a significant shake of the head.

Having succeeded so far, the orator tries to turn the popular
indignation against the Tsar by explaining that he is to blame for
all this misery and suffering, but Petroff suddenly appears on the
scene and maintains that for the misery and suffering the Tsar is
not at all to blame, for he knows nothing about it. It is all the
fault of his servants, the tchinovniks.

By this device Petroff suppresses the seditious cry of "Down with
autocracy!" which the Social Democrats were anxious to make the
watchword of the movement, but he has thereby been drawn from his
strong position of "No politics," and he is standing, as we shall
see presently, on a slippery incline.

On Thursday and Friday the activity of the leaders and the
excitement of the masses increase. While the Gaponists speak
merely of local grievances and material wants, the Social Democrats
incite their hearers to a political struggle, advising them to
demand a Constituent Assembly, and explaining the necessity for all
workmen to draw together and form a powerful political party. The
haranguing goes on from morning to night, and agitators drive about
from one factory to another to keep the excitement at fever-heat.
The police, usually so active on such occasions, do not put in an
appearance. Prince Sviatopolk Mirski, the honest, well-
intentioned, liberal Minister of the Interior, cannot make up his
mind to act with energy, and lets things drift. The agitators
themselves are astonished at this extraordinary inactivity. One of
them, writing a few days afterwards, says: "The police was
paralysed. It would have been easy to arrest Gapon, and discover
the orators. On Friday the clubs might have been surrounded and
the orators arrested. . . . In a word, decided measures might have
been taken, but they were not."

It is not only Petroff that has abandoned his strong position of
"No politics"; Gapon is doing likewise. The movement has spread
far beyond what he expected, and he is being carried away by the
prevailing excitement. With all his benevolent intentions, he is
of a nervous, excitable nature, and his besetting sin is vanity.
He perceives that by resisting the Social Democrats he is losing
his hold on the masses. Early in the week, as we have seen, he
began to widen his programme in the Social Democratic sense, and
every day he makes new concessions. Before the week is finished a
Social Democratic orator can write triumphantly: "In three days we
have transformed the Gaponist assemblies into political meetings!"
Like Petroff, Gapon seeks to defend the Tsar, and he falls into
Petroff's strategical mistake of pretending that the Tsar knows
nothing of the sufferings of his people. From that admission to
the resolution that the Tsar must somehow be informed personally
and directly, by some means outside of the regular official
channel, there is but one step, and that step is quickly taken. On
Friday morning Gapon has determined to present with his own hands a
petition to his Majesty, and the petition is already drafted,
containing demands which go far beyond workmen's grievances. After
resisting the Social Democratic agitators so stoutly, he is now
going over, bag and baggage, to the Social Democratic camp.

This wonderful change was consummated on Friday evening at a
conference which he held with some delegates of the Social
Democrats. From an account written by one of these delegates
immediately after the meeting we get an insight into the worthy
priest's character and motives. In the morning he had written to
them: "I have 100,000 workmen, and I am going with them to the
Palace to present a petition. If it is not granted, we shall make
a revolution. Do you agree?" They did not like the idea, because
the Social Democratic policy is to extort concessions, not to ask
favours, and to refrain from anything that might increase the
prestige of the Autocratic Power. In their reply, therefore, they
consented simply to discuss the matter. I proceed now to quote
from the delegate's account of what took place at the conference:

"The company consisted of Gapon, with two adherents, and five
Social Democrats. All sat round a table, and the conversation
began. Gapon is a good-looking man, with dark complexion and
thoughtful, sympathetic face. He is evidently very tired, and,
like the other orators, he is hoarse. To the questions addressed
to him, he replies: 'The masses are at present so electrified that
you may lead them wherever you like. We shall go on Sunday to the
Palace, and present a petition. If we are allowed to pass without
hindrance, we shall march to the Palace Square, and summon the Tsar
from Tsarskoe Selo. We shall wait for him till the evening. When
he arrives, I shall go to him with a deputation, and in presenting
to him the petition, I shall say: "Your Majesty! Things cannot go
on like this; it is time to give the people liberty." (Tak nelzya!
Para dat' narodu svobodu.) If he consents, we shall insist that he
take an oath before the people. Only then we shall come away, and
when we begin to work, it will only be for eight hours a day. If,
on the other hand, we are prevented from entering the city, we
shall request and beg, and if they do not let us pass, we shall
force our way. In the Palace Square we shall find troops, and we
shall entreat them to come over to our side. If they beat us, we
shall strike back. There will be sacrifices, but part of the
troops will come over to us, and then, being ourselves strong in
numbers, we shall make a revolution. We shall construct
barricades, pillage the armourers' shops, break open the prisons,
and seize the telephones and telegraphs. The Socialist-
Revolutionaries have promised us bombs, and the Democrats money:
and we shall be victorious!*

* This confirms the information which comes to me from other
quarters that Gapon was already in friendly relations with other
revolutionary groups.

"Such, in a few words, were the ideas which Gapon expounded. The
impression he made on us was that he did not clearly realise where
he was going. Acting with sincerity, he was ready to die, but he
was convinced that the troops would not fire, and that the
deputation would be received by the Emperor. He did not
distinguish between different methods. Though not at all a
partisan of violent means, he had become infuriated against
autocracy and the Tsar, as was shown by his language when he said:
'If that blockhead of a Tsar comes out' (Yesli etot durak Tsar
vuidet) . . . Burning with the desire to attain his object, he
looked on revolution like a child, as if it could be accomplished
in a day with empty hands!"

Knowing that no previous preparations had been made for a
revolution such as Gapon talked of, the Social Democratic agents
tried to dissuade him from carrying out his idea on Sunday, but he
stood firm. He had already committed himself publicly to the
project. At a workmen's meeting in another quarter (Vassiliostrof)
earlier in the day he had explained the petition, and said: "Let us
go to the Winter Palace and summon the Emperor, and let us tell him
our wants; if he does not listen to us we do not require him any
longer." To a Social Democrat who shook him warmly by the hand and
expressed his astonishment that there should be such a man among
the clergy, he replied: "I am no longer a priest; I am a fighter
for liberty! They want to exile me, and for some nights I have not
slept at home." When offered assistance to escape arrest, he
answered laconically: "Thanks; I have already a place of refuge."
After his departure from the meeting one of his friends, to whom he
had confided a copy of the petition, rose and said: "Now has
arrived the great historical moment! Now we can and must demand
rights and liberty!" After hearing the petition read the meeting
decided that if the Tsar did not come out at the demand of the
people strong measures should be taken, and one orator indicated
pretty plainly what they should be: "We don't require a Tsar who is
deaf to the woes of the people; we shall perish ourselves, but we
shall kill him. Swear that you will all come to the Palace on
Sunday at twelve o'clock!" The audience raised their hands in
token of assent.

Finding it impossible to dissuade Gapon from his purpose, the
Social Democrats told him that they would take advantage of the
circumstances independently, and that if he was allowed to enter
the city with his deputation they would organise monster meetings
in the Palace Square.

The imperious tone used by Gapon at the public meetings and private
consultations was adopted by him also in his letters to the
Minister of the Interior and to the Emperor. To the former he

"The workmen and inhabitants of St. Petersburg of various classes
desire to see the Tsar at two o'clock on Sunday in the Winter
Palace Square, in order to lay before him personally their needs
and those of the whole Russian people. . . . Tell the Tsar that I
and the workmen, many thousands in number, have peacefully, with
confidence in him, but irrevocably, resolved to proceed to the
Winter Palace. Let him show his confidence by deeds, and not by

To the Tsar himself his language was not more respectful:

"Sovereign,--I fear the Ministers have not told you the truth about
the situation. The whole people, trusting in you, has resolved to
appear at the Winter Palace at two o'clock in the afternoon, in
order to inform you of its needs. If you hesitate, and do not
appear before the people, then you tear the moral bonds between you
and them. Trust in you will disappear, because innocent blood will
flow. Appear to-morrow before your people and receive our address
of devotion in a courageous spirit! I and the labour
representatives, my brave comrades, guarantee the inviolability of
your person."

Gapon was no longer merely the president of the Workmen's Union:
inebriated with the excitement he had done so much to create, he
now imagined himself the representative of the oppressed Russian
people, and the heroic leader of a great political revolution. In
the petition which he had prepared he said little about the
grievances of the St. Petersburg workmen whose interests he had a
right to advocate, and preferred to soar into much higher regions:

"The bureaucracy has brought the country to the verge of ruin, and,
by a shameful war, is bringing it to its downfall. We have no
voice in the heavy burdens imposed on us; we do not even know for
whom or why this money is wrung from the impoverished people, and
we do not know how it is expended. This state of things is
contrary to the Divine laws, and renders life unbearable.
Assembled before your palace, we plead for our salvation. Refuse
not your aid; raise your people from the tomb, and give them the
means of working out their own destiny. Rescue them from the
intolerable yoke of officialdom; throw down the wall that separates
you from them, in order that they may rule with you the country
that was created for their happiness--a happiness which is being
wrenched from us, leaving nothing but sorrow and humiliation."

With an innate sentiment of autocratic dignity the Emperor declined
to obey the imperious summons, and he thereby avoided an unseemly
altercation with the excited priest, as well as the boisterous
public meetings which the Social Democrats were preparing to hold
in the Palace Square. Orders were given to the police and the
troops to prevent the crowds of workmen from penetrating into the
centre of the city from the industrial suburbs. The rest need not
be described in detail. On Sunday the crowds tried to force their
way, the troops fired, and many of the demonstrators were killed or
wounded. How many it is impossible to say; between the various
estimates there is an enormous discrepancy. At one of the first
volleys Father Gapon fell, but he turned out to be quite unhurt,
and was spirited away to his place of refuge, whence he escaped
across the frontier.

As soon as he had an opportunity of giving public expression to his
feelings, he indulged in very strong language. In his letters and
proclamations the Tsar is called a miscreant and an assassin, and
is described as traitorous, bloodthirsty, and bestial. To the
ministers he is equally uncomplimentary. They appear to him an
accursed band of brigands, Mamelukes, jackals, monsters. Against
the Tsar, "with his reptilian brood," and the ministers alike, he
vows vengeance--"death to them all!" As for the means for
realising his sacred mission, he recommends bombs, dynamite,
individual and wholesale terrorism, popular insurrection, and
paralysing the life of the cities by destroying the water-mains,
the gas-pipes, the telegraph and telephone wires, the railways and
tram-ways, the Government buildings and the prisons. At some
moments he seems to imagine himself invested with papal powers, for
he anathematises the soldiers who did their duty on the eventful
day, whilst he blesses and absolves from their oath of allegiance
those who help the nation to win liberty.

So far I have spoken merely of the main currents in the
revolutionary movement. Of the minor currents--particularly those
in the outlying provinces, where the Socialist tendencies were
mingled with nationalist feeling--I shall have occasion to speak
when I come to deal with the present political situation as a
whole. Meanwhile, I wish to sketch in outline the foreign policy
which has powerfully contributed to bring about the present crisis.



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.

The rapid growth of Russia is one of the most remarkable facts of
modern history. An insignificant tribe, or collection of tribes,
which, a thousand years ago, occupied a small district near the
sources of the Dnieper and Western Dvina, has grown into a great
nation with a territory stretching from the Baltic to the Northern
Pacific, and from the Polar Ocean to the frontiers of Turkey,
Persia, Afghanistan, and China. We have here a fact well deserving
of investigation, and as the process is still going on and is
commonly supposed to threaten our national interests, the
investigation ought to have for us more than a mere scientific
interest. What is the secret of this expansive power? Is it a
mere barbarous lust of territorial aggrandisement, or is it some
more reasonable motive? And what is the nature of the process? Is
annexation followed by assimilation, or do the new acquisitions
retain their old character? Is the Empire in its present extent a
homogeneous whole, or merely a conglomeration of heterogenous units
held together by the outward bond of centralised administration?
If we could find satisfactory answers to these questions, we might
determine how far Russia is strengthened or weakened by her
annexations of territory, and might form some plausible conjectures
as to how, when, and where the process of expansion is to stop.

By glancing at her history from the economic point of view we may
easily detect one prominent cause of expansion.

An agricultural people, employing merely the primitive methods of
agriculture, has always a strong tendency to widen its borders.
The natural increase of population demands a constantly increasing
production of grain, whilst the primitive methods of cultivation
exhaust the soil and steadily diminish its productivity. With
regard to this stage of economic development, the modest assertion
of Malthus, that the supply of food does not increase so rapidly as
the population, often falls far short of the truth. As the
population increases, the supply of food may decrease not only
relatively, but absolutely. When a people finds itself in this
critical position, it must adopt one of two alternatives: either it
must prevent the increase of population, or it must increase the
production of food. In the former case it may legalise the custom
of "exposing" infants, as was done in ancient Greece; or it may
regularly sell a large portion of the young women and children, as
was done until recently in Circassia; or the surplus population may
emigrate to foreign lands, as the Scandinavians did in the ninth
century, and as we ourselves are doing in a more peaceable fashion
at the present day. The other alternative may be effected either
by extending the area of cultivation or by improving the system of

The Russo-Slavonians, being an agricultural people, experienced
this difficulty, but for them it was not serious. A convenient way
of escape was plainly indicated by their peculiar geographical
position. They were not hemmed in by lofty mountains or stormy
seas. To the south and east--at their very doors, as it were--lay
a boundless expanse of thinly populated virgin soil, awaiting the
labour of the husbandman, and ready to repay it most liberally.
The peasantry therefore, instead of exposing their infants, selling
their daughters, or sweeping the seas as Vikings, simply spread out
towards the east and south. This was at once the most natural and
the wisest course, for of all the expedients for preserving the
equilibrium between population and food-production, increasing the
area of cultivation is, under the circumstances just described, the
easiest and most effective. Theoretically the same result might
have been obtained by improving the method of agriculture, but
practically this was impossible. Intensive culture is not likely
to be adopted so long as expansion is easy. High farming is a
thing to be proud of when there is a scarcity of land, but it would
be absurd to attempt it where there is abundance of virgin soil in
the vicinity.

The process of expansion, thus produced by purely economic causes,
was accelerated by influences of another kind, especially during
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The increase in the
number of officials, the augmentation of the taxes, the merciless
exactions of the Voyevods and their subordinates, the
transformation of the peasants and "free wandering people" into
serfs, the ecclesiastical reforms and consequent persecution of the
schismatics, the frequent conscriptions and violent reforms of
Peter the Great--these and other kinds of oppression made thousands
flee from their homes and seek a refuge in the free territory,
where there were no officials, no tax-gatherers, and no
proprietors. But the State, with its army of tax-gatherers and
officials, followed close on the heels of the fugitives, and those
who wished to preserve their liberty had to advance still further.
Notwithstanding the efforts of the authorities to retain the
population in the localities actually occupied, the wave of
colonisation moved steadily onwards.

The vast territory which lay open to the colonists consisted of two
contiguous regions, separated from each other by no mountains or
rivers, but widely differing from each other in many respects. The
one, comprising all the northern part of Eastern Europe and of
Asia, even unto Kamchatka, may be roughly described as a land of
forests, intersected by many rivers, and containing numerous lakes
and marshes; the other, stretching southwards to the Black Sea, and
eastwards far away into Central Asia, is for the most part what
Russians call "the Steppe," and Americans would call the prairies.

Each of these two regions presented peculiar inducements and
peculiar obstacles to colonisation. So far as the facility of
raising grain was concerned, the southern region was decidedly
preferable. In the north the soil had little natural fertility,
and was covered with dense forests, so that much time and labour
had to be expended in making a clearing before the seed could be
sown.* In the south, on the contrary, the squatter had no trees to
fell, and no clearing to make. Nature had cleared the land for
him, and supplied him with a rich black soil of marvellous
fertility, which has not yet been exhausted by centuries of
cultivation. Why, then, did the peasant often prefer the northern
forests to the fertile Steppe where the land was already prepared
for him?

* The modus operandi has been already described; vide supra, pp.
104 et seq.

For this apparent inconsistency there was a good and valid reason.
The muzhik had not, even in those good old times, any passionate
love of labour for its own sake, nor was he by any means insensible
to the facilities for agriculture afforded by the Steppe. But he
could not regard the subject exclusively from the agricultural
point of view. He had to take into consideration the fauna as well
as the flora of the two regions. At the head of the fauna in the
northern forests stood the peace-loving, laborious Finnish tribes,
little disposed to molest settlers who did not make themselves
obnoxiously aggressive; on the Steppe lived the predatory, nomadic
hordes, ever ready to attack, plunder, and carry off as slaves the
peaceful agricultural population. These facts, as well as the
agricultural conditions, were known to intending colonists, and
influenced them in their choice of a new home. Though generally
fearless and fatalistic in a higher degree, they could not entirely
overlook the dangers of the Steppe, and many of them preferred to
encounter the hard work of the forest region.

These differences in the character and population of the two
regions determined the character of the colonisation. Though the
colonisation of the northern regions was not effected entirely
without bloodshed, it was, on the whole, of a peaceful kind, and
consequently received little attention from the contemporary
chroniclers. The colonisation of the Steppe, on the contrary,
required the help of the Cossacks, and forms, as I have already
shown, one of the bloodiest pages of European history.

Thus, we see, the process of expansion towards the north, east, and
south may be described as a spontaneous movement of the
agricultural population. It must, however, be admitted that this
is an imperfect and one-sided representation of the phenomenon.
Though the initiative unquestionably came from the people, the
Government played an important part in the movement.

In early times when Russia was merely a conglomeration of
independent principalities, the Princes were under the moral and
political obligation of protecting their subjects, and this
obligation coincided admirably with their natural desire to extend
their dominions. When the Grand Princes of Muscovy, in the
fifteenth century, united the numerous principalities and
proclaimed themselves Tsars, they accepted this obligation for the
whole country, and conceived much grander schemes of territorial
aggrandisement. Towards the north and northeast no strenuous
efforts were required. The Republic of Novgorod easily gained
possession of Northern Russia as far as the Ural Mountains, and
Siberia was conquered by a small band of Cossacks without the
authorisation of Muscovy, so that the Tsars had merely to annex the
already conquered territory. In the southern region the part
played by the Government was very different. The agricultural
population had to be constantly protected along a frontier of
enormous length, lying open at all points to the incursions of
nomadic tribes. To prevent raids it was necessary to keep up a
military cordon, and this means did not always ensure protection to
those living near the frontier. The nomads often came in
formidable hordes, which could be successfully resisted only by
large armies, and sometimes the armies were not large enough to
cope with them. Again and again during the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries Tartar hordes swept over the country--burning
the villages and towns, and spreading devastation wherever they
appeared--and during more than two centuries Russia had to pay a
heavy tribute to the Khans.

Gradually the Tsars threw off this galling yoke. Ivan the Terrible
annexed the three Khanates of the Lower Volga--Kazan, Kipttchak,
and Astrakhan--and in that way removed the danger of a foreign
domination. But permanent protection was not thereby secured to
the outlying provinces. The nomadic tribes living near the
frontier continued their raids, and in the slave markets of the
Crimea the living merchandise was supplied by Russia and Poland.

To protect an open frontier against the incursions of nomadic
tribes three methods are possible: the construction of a great
wall, the establishment of a strong military cordon, and the
permanent subjugation of the marauders. The first of these
expedients, adopted by the Romans in Britain and by the Chinese on

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