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Russia by Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Part 15 out of 15

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their northwestern frontier, is enormously expensive, and was
utterly impossible in a country like Southern Russia, where there
is no stone for building purposes; the second was constantly tried,
and constantly found wanting; the third alone proved practicable
and efficient. Though the Government has long since recognised
that the acquisition of barren, thinly populated steppes is a
burden rather than an advantage, it has been induced to go on
making annexations for the purpose of self-defence, as well as for
other reasons.

In consequence of this active part which the Government took in the
extension of the territory, the process of political expansion
sometimes got greatly ahead of the colonisation. After the Turkish
wars and consequent annexations in the time of Catherine II., for
example, a great part of Southern Russia was almost uninhabited,
and the deficiency had to be corrected, as we have seen, by
organised emigration. At the present day, in the Asiatic
provinces, there are still immense tracts of unoccupied land, some
of which are being gradually colonised.

If we turn now from the East to the West we shall find that the
expansion in this direction was of an entirely different kind. The
country lying to the westward of the early Russo-Slavonian
settlements had a poor soil and a comparatively dense population,
and consequently held out little inducement to emigration. Besides
this, it was inhabited by warlike agricultural races, who were not
only capable of defending their own territory, but even strongly
disposed to make encroachments on their eastern neighbours.
Russian expansion to the westward was, therefore, not a spontaneous
movement of the agricultural population, but the work of the
Government, acting slowly and laboriously by means of diplomacy and
military force; it had, however, a certain historical

No sooner had Russia freed herself, in the fifteenth century, from
the Tartar domination, than her political independence, and even
her national existence, were threatened from the West. Her western
neighbours, were like herself, animated with that tendency to
national expansion which I have above described; and for a time it
seemed doubtful who should ultimately possess the vast plains of
Eastern Europe. The chief competitors were the Tsars of Moscow and
the Kings of Poland, and the latter appeared to have the better
chance. In close connection with Western Europe, they had been
able to adopt many of the improvements which had recently been made
in the art of war, and they already possessed the rich valley of
the Dnieper. Once, with the help of the free Cossacks, they
succeeded in overrunning the whole of Muscovy, and a son of the
Polish king was elected Tsar in Moscow. By attempting to
accomplish their purpose in a too hasty and reckless fashion, they
raised a storm of religious and patriotic fanaticism, which very
soon drove them out of their newly acquired possessions. The
country remained, however, in a very precarious position, and its
more intelligent rulers perceived plainly that, in order to carry
on the struggle successfully, they must import something of that
Western civilisation which gave such an advantage to their

Some steps had already been taken in that direction. In the year
1553 an English navigator, whilst seeking for a short route to
China and India, had accidentally discovered the port of Archangel
on the White Sea, and since that time the Tsars had kept up an
intermittent diplomatic and commercial intercourse with England.
But this route was at all times tedious and dangerous, and during a
great part of the year it was closed by the ice. In view of these
difficulties the Tsars tried to import "cunning foreign
artificers," by way of the Baltic; but their efforts were hampered
by the Livonian Order, who at that time held the east coast, and
who considered, like the Europeans on the coast of Africa at the
present day, that the barbarous natives of the interior should not
be supplied with arms and ammunition. All the other routes to the
West traversed likewise the territory of rivals, who might at any
time become avowed enemies. Under these circumstances the Tsars
naturally desired to break through the barrier which hemmed them
in, and the acquisition of the eastern coast of the Baltic became
one of the chief objects of Russia's foreign policy.

After Poland, Russia's most formidable rival was Sweden. That
power early acquired a large amount of territory to the east of the
Baltic--including the mouths of the Neva, where St. Petersburg now
stands--and long harboured ambitious schemes of further conquest.
In the troublous times when the Poles overran the Tsardom of
Muscovy, she took advantage of the occasion to annex a considerable
amount of territory, and her expansion in this direction went on in
intermittent fashion until it was finally stopped by Peter the

In comparison with these two rivals Russia was weak in all that
regarded the art of war; but she had two immense advantages: she
had a very large population, and a strong, stable Government that
could concentrate the national forces for any definite purpose.
All that she required for success in the competition was an army on
the European model. Peter the Great created such an army, and won
the prize. After this the political disintegration of Poland
proceeded rapidly, and when that unhappy country fell to pieces
Russia naturally took for herself the lion's share of the spoil.
Sweden, too, sank to political insignificance, and gradually lost
all her trans-Baltic possessions. The last of them--the Grand
Duchy of Finland, which stretches from the Gulf of Finland to the
Polar Ocean--was ceded to Russia by the peace of Friederichshamm in

The territorial extent of all these acquisitions will be best shown
in a tabular form. The following table represents the process of
expansion from the time when Ivan III. united the independent
principalities and threw off the Tartar yoke, down to the accession
of Peter the Great in 1682:

Sq. Miles.
In 1505 the Tsardom of Muscovy contained about 784,000
" 1583 " " " " 996,000
" 1584 " " " " 2,650,000
" 1598 " " " " 3,328,000
" 1676 " " " " 5,448,000
" 1682 " " " " 5,618,000

Of these 5,618,000 English square miles about 1,696,000 were in
Europe and about 3,922,000 in Asia. Peter the Great, though famous
as a conqueror, did not annex nearly so much territory as many of
his predecessors and successors. At his death, in 1752, the Empire
contained, in round numbers, 1,738,000 square miles in Europe and
4,092,000 in Asia. The following table shows the subsequent

In Europe and
the Caucasus In Asia.
Eng. sq. m Eng. sq. m.
In 1725 the Russian Empire contained about 1,738,000 4,092,000
" 1770 " " " " 1,780,000 4,452,000
" 1800 " " " " 2,014,000 4,452,000
" 1825 " " " " 2,226,000 4,452,000
" 1855 " " " " 2,261,250 5,194,000
" 1867 " " " " 2,267,360 5,267,560
" 1897 " " " " 2,267,360 6,382,321

In this table is not included the territory in the North-west of
America--containing about 513,250 English square miles--which was
annexed to Russia in 1799 and ceded to the United States in 1867.

When once Russia has annexed she does not readily relax her grasp.
She has, however, since the death of Peter the Great, on four
occasions ceded territory which had come into her possession. To
Persia she ceded, in 1729, Mazanderan and Astrabad, and in 1735 a
large portion of the Caucasus; in 1856, by the Treaty of Paris, she
gave up the mouths of the Danube and part of Bessarabia; in 1867
she sold to the United States her American possessions; in 1881 she
retroceded to China the greater part of Kuldja, which she had
occupied for ten years; and now she is releasing her hold on
Manchuria under the pressure of Japan.

The increase in the population--due in part to territorial
acquisitions--since 1722, when the first census was taken, has been
as follows:--

In 1722 the Empire contained about 14 million inhabitants.
" 1742 " " " 16 "
" 1762 " " " 19 "
" 1782 " " " 28 "
" 1796 " " " 36 "
" 1812 " " " 41 "
" 1815 " " " 45 "
" 1835 " " " 60 "
" 1851 " " " 68 "
" 1858 " " " 44 "
" 1897 " " " 129 "

So much for the past. To sum up, we may say that, if we have read
Russian history aright, the chief motives of expansion have been
spontaneous colonisation, self-defence against nomadic tribes, and
high political aims, such as the desire to reach the sea-coast; and
that the process has been greatly facilitated by peculiar
geographical conditions and the autocratic form of government.
Before passing to the future, I must mention another cause of
expansion which has recently come into play, and which has already
acquired very great importance.

Russia is rapidly becoming, as I have explained in a previous
chapter, a great industrial and commercial nation, and is anxious
to acquire new markets for her manufactured goods. Though her
industries cannot yet supply her own wants, she likes to peg out
claims for the future, so as not to be forestalled by more advanced
nations. I am not sure that she ever makes a conquest exclusively
for this purpose, but whenever it happens that she has other
reasons for widening her borders, the idea of acquiring commercial
advantages acts as a subsidiary incentive, and as soon as the
territory is annexed she raises round it a line of commercial
fortifications in the shape of custom-houses, through which foreign
goods have great difficulty in forcing their way.

This policy is quite intelligible from the patriotic point of view,
but Russians like to justify it, and condemn English competition,
on higher ground. England, they say, is like a successful
manufacturer who has oustripped his rivals and who seeks to prevent
any new competitors from coming into the field. By her mercantile
policy she has become the great blood-sucker of other nations.
Haying no cause to fear competition, she advocates the insidious
principles of Free Trade, and deluges foreign countries with her
manufactures to such an extent that unprotected native industries
are inevitably ruined. Thus all nations have long paid tribute to
England, but the era of emancipation had dawned. The fallacies of
Free Trade have been detected and exposed, and Russia, like other
nations, has found in the beneficent power of protective tariffs a
means of escape from British economic thraldom. Henceforth, not
only the muzhiks of European Russia, but also the populations of
Central Asia, will be saved from the heartless exploitation of
Manchester and Birmingham--and be handed over, I presume, to the
tender mercies of the manufacturers of Moscow and St. Petersburg,
who sell their goods much dearer than their English rivals.

Having thus analysed the expansive tendency, let us endeavour to
determine how the various factors of which it is composed are
acting in the present and are likely to act in the future. In this
investigation it will be well to begin with the simpler, and
proceed gradually to the more complex parts of the problem.

Towards the north and the west the history of Russian expansion may
almost be regarded as closed. Northwards there is nothing to be
annexed but the Arctic Ocean and the Polar regions; and, westwards,
annexations at the expense of Germany are not to be thought of.
There remain, therefore, only Sweden and Norway. They may
possibly, at some future time, come within the range of Russia's
territorial appetite, but at present the only part of the
Scandinavian Peninsula on which she is supposed to cast longing
eyes is a barren district in the extreme north, which is said to
contain an excellent warm-water port.

Towards the south-west there are possibilities of future expansion,
and already some people talk of Austrian Galicia being
geographically and ethnographically a part of Russia; but so long
as the Austro-Hungarian Empire holds together such possibilities do
not come within the sphere of practical politics.

Farther east, towards the Balkan Peninsula, the expansive tendency
is much more complicated and of very ancient date. The Russo-Slavs
who held the valley of the Dnieper from the ninth to the thirteenth
century belonged to those numerous frontier tribes which the
tottering Byzantine Empires attempted to ward off by diplomacy and
rich gifts, and by giving to the troublesome chiefs, on condition
of their accepting Christianity, princesses of the Imperial family
as brides. Vladimir, Prince of Kief, now recognised as a Saint by
the Russian Church, accepted Christianity in this way (A. D. 988),
and his subjects followed his example. Russia thus became
ecclesiastically a part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and
the people learned to regard Tsargrad--that is, the City of the
Tsar, as the Byzantine Emperor was then called--with peculiar

All through the long Tartar domination, when the nomadic hordes
held the valley of the Dnieper and formed a barrier between Russia
and the Balkan Peninsula, the capital of the Greek Orthodox world
was remembered and venerated by the Russian people, and in the
fifteenth century it acquired in their eyes a new significance. At
that time the relative positions of Constantinople and Moscow were
changed. Constantinople fell under the power of the Mahometan
Turks, whilst Moscow threw off the yoke of the Mahometan Tartars,
the northern representatives of the Turkish race. The Grand Prince
of Moscow thereby became the Protector of the Faith, and in some
sort the successor of the Byzantine Tsars. To strengthen this
claim, Ivan III. married a niece of the last Byzantine Emperor, and
his successors went further in the same direction by assuming the
title of Tsar, and inventing a fable about their ancestor Rurik
having been a descendant of Caesar Augustus.

All this would seem to a lawyer, or even to a diplomatist, a very
shadowy title, and none of the Russian monarchs--except perhaps
Catherine II., who conceived the project of resuscitating the
Byzantine Empire, and caused one of her grandsons to learn modern
Greek, in view of possible contingencies--ever thought seriously of
claiming the imaginary heritage; but the idea that the Tsars ought
to reign in Tsargrad, and that St. Sophia, polluted by Moslem
abominations, should be restored to the Orthodox Christians, struck
deep root in the minds of the Russian people, and is still by no
means extinct. As soon as serious disturbances break out in the
East the peasantry begin to think that perhaps the time has come
for undertaking a crusade for the recovery of the Holy City on the
Bosphorus, and for the liberation of their brethren in the faith
who groan under Turkish bondage.

Essentially different from this religious sentiment, but often
blended with it, is a vague feeling of racial affinity, which has
long existed among the various Slav nationalities, and which was
greatly developed during last century by writers of the Panslavist
school. When Germans and Italians were striving after political
independence and unity, it naturally occurred to the Slavs that
they might do likewise. The idea became popular among the subject
Slav nationalities of Austria and Turkey, and it awoke a certain
amount of enthusiasm in Moscow, where it was hoped that "all the
Slav streams would unite in the great Russian Sea." It required no
great political perspicacity to foresee that in any confederation
of Slav nationalities the hegemony must necessarily devolve on
Russia, the only Slav State which has succeeded in becoming a Great

Those two currents of national feeling ran parallel to, and
intermingled with, the policy of the Government. Desirous of
becoming a great naval Power, Russia has always striven to reach
the sea-coast and obtain good harbours. In the north and north-
west she succeeded in a certain degree, but neither the White Sea
nor the Baltic satisfied her requirements, and she naturally turned
her eyes to the Mediterranean. With difficulty she gained
possession of the northern shores of the Black Sea, but her designs
were thereby only half realised, because the Turks held the only
outlet to the Mediterranean, and could effectually blockade, so far
as the open sea is concerned, all her Black Sea ports, without
employing a single ship of war. Thus the possession of the
Straits, involving necessarily the possession of Constantinople,
became a cardinal point of Russia's foreign policy. Any
description of the various methods adopted by her at different
times for the attainment of this end does not enter into my present
programme, but I may say briefly that the action of the three
factors above mentioned--the religious feeling, the Panslavist
sentiment, and the political aims--has never been better
exemplified than in the last struggle with Turkey, culminating in
the Treaty of San Stefano and the Congress of Berlin.

For all classes in Russia the result of that struggle was a feeling
of profound disappointment. The peasantry bewailed the fact that
the Crescent on St. Sophia had not been replaced by the Cross; the
Slavophil patriots were indignant that the "little brothers" had
shown themselves unworthy of the generous efforts and sacrifices
made on their behalf, and that a portion of the future Slav
confederation had passed under the domination of Austria; and the
Government recognised that the acquisition of the Straits must be
indefinitely postponed. Then history repeated itself. After the
Crimean War, in accordance with Prince Gortchakoff's famous
epigram, La Russie ne boude pas elle se recueille, the Government
had for some years abandoned an active policy in Europe, and
devoted itself to the work of internal reorganisation; whilst the
military party had turned their attention to making new
acquisitions of territory and influence in Asia. In like manner,
after the Turkish campaign of 1877-78, Alexander III., turning his
back on the Slav brethren, inaugurated an era of peace in Europe
and of territorial expansion in the east. In this direction the
expansive force was not affected by religious feeling, or
Panslavist sentiment, and was controlled and guided by purely
political considerations. It is consequently much easier to
determine in this field of action what the political aims really

In Asia, as in Europe, the dominant factor in the policy of the
Government has been the desire to reach the sea-coast; and in both
continents the ports first acquired were in northern latitudes
where the coasts are free from ice during only a part of the year.
In this respect, Nikolaefsk and Vladivostok in the Far East
correspond to Archangel and St. Petersburg in Europe. Such ports
could not fulfil all the requirements, and consequently the
expansive tendency turned southwards--in Europe towards the Black
Sea and the Mediterranean, and in Asia towards the Persian Gulf,
the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Pechili.

In Persia the Russian Government pursues the policy of pacific
infiltration, and already the northern half of the Shah's dominions
is pretty well permeated with Russian influence, commercial and
political. In the southern half the infiltration is to some extent
checked by physical obstacles and British influence, but it is
steadily advancing, and the idea of obtaining a port on the Persian
Gulf is coming within the range of practical politics.

In Afghanistan also the pressure is felt, and here too the
expansive tendency meets with opposition from England. More than
once the two great Powers have come dangerously near to war--
notably in 1885, at the moment of the Penjdeh incident, when the
British Parliament voted 11,000,000 pounds for military
preparations. Fortunately on that occasion the problem was solved
by diplomacy. The northern frontier of Afghanistan was demarcated
by a joint commission, and an agreement was come to by which this
line should form the boundary of the British and Russian spheres of
influence. For some years Russia scrupulously respected this
agreement, but during our South African difficulties she showed
symptoms of departing from it, and at one moment orders were issued
from St. Petersburg for a military demonstration on the Afghan
frontier. Strange to say, the military authorities, who are
usually very bellicose, deprecated such a movement, on the ground
that a military demonstration in a country like Afghanistan might
easily develop into a serious campaign, and that a serious campaign
ought not to be undertaken in that region until after the
completion of the strategical railways from Orenburg to Tashkent.

As this important line has now been completed, and other strategic
lines are in contemplation, the question arises whether Russia
meditates an attack on India. It is a question which is not easily
answered. No doubt there are many Russians who think it would be a
grand thing to annex our Indian Empire, with its teeming millions
and its imaginary fabulous treasures, and not a few young officers
imagine that it would be an easy task. Further, it is certain that
the problem of an invasion has been studied by the Headquarters
Staff in St. Petersburg, just as the problem of an invasion of
England has been studied by the Headquarters Staff in Berlin. It
may be pretty safely asserted, however, that the idea of a conquest
of India has never been seriously entertained in the Russian
official world. What has been seriously entertained, not only in
the official world, but by the Government itself, is the idea--
strongly recommended by the late General Skobelef--that Russia
should, as quickly as possible, get within striking distance of our
Indian possessions, so that she may always be able to bring strong
diplomatic pressure on the British Government, and in the event of
a conflict immobilise a large part of the British army.

The expansive tendency in the direction of the Persian Gulf and the
Indian Ocean was considerably weakened by the completion of the
Trans-Siberian Railway and the rapid development of an aggressive
policy in the Far east. Never, perhaps, has the construction of a
single line produced such deep and lasting changes in the sphere of

As soon as the Trans-Siberian was being rapidly constructed a
magnificent prospect opened up to the gaze of imaginative
politicians in St. Petersburg. The foreground was Manchuria a
region of 364,000 square miles, endowed by nature with enormous
mineral resources, and presenting a splendid field for agricultural
colonisation and commercial enterprise. Beyond was seen Korea,
geographically an appendix of Manchuria, possessing splendid
harbours, and occupied by an effete, unwarlike population, wholly
incapable of resisting a European Power. That was quite enough to
inflame the imagination of patriotic Russians; but there was
something more, dimly perceived in the background. Once in
possession of Manchuria, supplied with a network of railways,
Russia would dominate Peking and the whole of Northern China, and
she would thus be able to play a decisive part in the approaching
struggle of the European Powers for the Far-Eastern Sick Man's

Of course there were obstacles in the way of realising this
grandiose scheme, and there were some cool heads in St. Petersburg
who were not slow to point them out. In the first place the
undertaking must be extremely costly, and the economic condition of
Russia proper was not such as to justify the expenditure of an
enormous capital which must be for many years unproductive. Any
superfluous capital which the country might possess was much more
urgently required for purposes of internal development, and the
impoverished agricultural population ought not to be drained of
their last meagre reserves for the sake of gigantic political
schemes which did not directly contribute to their material
welfare. To this the enthusiastic advocates of the forward policy
replied that the national finances had never been in such a
prosperous condition, that the revenue was increasing by leaps and
bounds, that the money invested in the proposed enterprise would
soon be repaid with interest; and that if Russia did not at once
seize the opportunity she would find herself forestalled by
energetic rivals. There was still, however, one formidable
objection. Such an enormous increase of Russia's power in the Far
East would inevitably arouse the jealousy and opposition of other
Powers, especially of Japan, for whom the future of Korea and
Manchuria was a question of life and death. Here again these
advocates of the forward policy had their answer ready. They
declared that the danger was more apparent than real. In Far-
Eastern diplomacy the European Powers could not compete with
Russia, and they might easily be bought off by giving them a very
modest share of the spoil; as for Japan, she was not formidable,
for she was just emerging from Oriental barbarism, and all her
boasted progress was nothing more than a thin veneer of European
civilisation. As the Moscow patriots on the eve of the Crimean War
said contemptuously of the Allies, "We have only to throw our hats
at them," so now the believers in Russia's historic mission in the
Far East spoke of their future opponents as "monkeys" and

The war between China and Japan in 1894-5, terminating in the
Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ceded to Japan the Liaotung Peninsula,
showed Russia that if she was not to be forestalled she must be up
and doing. She accordingly formed a coalition with France and
Germany, and compelled Japan to withdraw from the mainland, on the
pretext that the integrity of China must be maintained. In this
way China recovered, for a moment, a bit of lost territory, and
further benefits were conferred on her by a guarantee for a foreign
loan, and by the creation of the Russo-Chinese Bank, which would
assist her in her financial affairs. For these and other favours
she was expected to be grateful, and it was suggested to her that
her gratitude might take the form of facilitating the construction
of the Trans-Siberian Railway. If constructed wholly on Russian
territory the line would have to make an enormous bend to the
northward, whereas if it went straight from Lake Baikal to
Vladivostok it would be very much shorter, and would confer a very
great benefit on the north-eastern provinces of the Celestial
Empire. This benefit, moreover, might be greatly increased by
making a branch line to Talienwan and Port Arthur, which would some
day be united with Peking. Gradually Li-Hung-Chang and other
influential Chinese officials were induced to sympathise with the
scheme, and a concession was granted for the direct line to
Vladivostok through Chinese territory.

The retrocession of the Liaotung Peninsula had not been effected by
Russia alone. Germany and France had co-operated, and they also
expected from China a mark of gratitude in some tangible form. On
this point the statesmen of Berlin held very strong views, and they
thought it advisable to obtain a material guarantee for the
fulfilment of their expectations by seizing Kiaochau, on the ground
that German missionaries had been murdered by Chinese fanatics.

For Russia this was a most unwelcome incident. She had earmarked
Kiaochau for her own purposes, and had already made an agreement
with the authorities in Peking that the harbour might be used
freely by her fleet. And this was not the worst. The incident
might inaugurate an era of partition for which she was not yet
prepared, and another port which she had earmarked for her own use
might be seized by a rival. Already English ships of war were
reported to be prowling about in the vicinity of the Liaotung
Peninsula. She hastened to demand, therefore, as a set-off for the
loss of Kiaochau, a lease of Port Arthur and Talienwan, and a
railway concession to unite these ports with the Trans-Siberian
Railway. The Chinese Government was too weak to think of refusing
the demands, and the process of gradually absorbing Manchuria
began, in accordance with a plan already roughly sketched out in
St. Petersburg.

In the light of a few authentic documents and many subsequent
events, the outline of this plan can be traced with tolerable
accuracy. In the region through which the projected railways were
to run there was a large marauding population, and consequently the
labourers and the works would have to be protected; and as Chinese
troops can never be thoroughly relied on, the protecting force must
be Russian. Under this rather transparent disguise a small army of
occupation could be gradually introduced, and in establishing a
modus vivendi between it and the Chinese civil and military
authorities a predominant influence in the local administration
could be established. At the same time, by energetic diplomatic
action at Peking, which would be brought within striking-distance
by the railways, all rival foreign influences might be excluded
from the occupied provinces, and the rest might be left to the
action of "spontaneous infiltration." Thus, while professing to
uphold the principle of the territorial integrity of the Celestial
Empire, the Cabinet of St. Petersburg might practically annex the
whole of Manchuria and transform Port Arthur into a great naval
port and arsenal, a far more effectual "Dominator of the East" than
Vladivostok, which was intended, as its name implies, to fulfil
that function. From Manchuria the political influence and the
spontaneous infiltration would naturally extend to Korea, and on
the deeply indented coast of the Hermit Kingdom new ports and
arsenals, far more spacious and strategically more important than
Port Arthur, might be constructed.

The grandiose scheme was carefully laid, and for a time it was
favoured by circumstances. In 1900 the Boxer troubles justified
Russia in sending a large force into Manchuria, and enabled her
subsequently to play the part of China's protector against the
inordinate demands of the Western Powers for compensation and
guarantees. For a moment it seemed as if the slow process of
gradual infiltration might be replaced by a more expeditious mode
of annexation. As the dexterous diplomacy of Ignatief in 1858 had
induced the Son of Heaven to cede to Russia the rich Primorsk
provinces between the Amur and the sea, as compensation for Russian
protection against the English and French, who had burnt his Summer
Palace, so his successor might now perhaps be induced to cede
Manchuria to the Tsar for similar reasons.

No such cession actually took place, but the Russian diplomatists
in Peking could use the gratitude argument in support of their
demands for an extension of the rights and privileges of the
"temporary" occupation; and when China sought to resist the
pressure by leaning on the rival Powers she found them to be little
better than broken reeds. France could not openly oppose her ally,
and Germany had reasons of her own for conciliating the Tsar,
whilst England and the United States, though avowedly opposing the
scheme as dangerous to their commercial interests, were not
prepared to go to war in defence of their policy. It seemed,
therefore, that by patience, tenacity and diplomatic dexterity
Russia might ultimately attain her ends; but a surprise was in
store for her. There was one Power which recognised that her own
vital interests were at stake, and which was ready to undertake a
life-and-death struggle in defence of them.

Though still smarting under the humiliation of her expulsion from
the Liaotung Peninsula in 1895, and watching with the keenest
interest every move in the political game, Japan had remained for
some time in the background, and had confined her efforts to
resisting Russian influence in Korea and supporting diplomatically
the Powers who were upholding the policy of the open door. Now,
when it had become evident that the Western Powers would not
prevent the realisation of the Russian scheme, she determined to
intervene energetically, and to stake her national existence on the
result. Ever since 1895 she had been making military and naval
preparations for the day of the revanche, and now that day was at
hand. Against the danger of a coalition such as had checkmated her
on the previous occasion she was protected by the alliance which
she had concluded with England in 1902, and she felt confident that
with Russia alone she was quite capable of dealing single-handed.
Her position is briefly and graphically described in a despatch,
telegraphed at that time (28th July, 1903) by the Japanese
Government to its representative at St. Petersburg, instructing him
to open negotiations:

"The recent conduct of Russia in making new demands at Peking and
tightening her hold upon Manchuria has led the Imperial Government
to believe that she must have abandoned her intention of retiring
from that province. At the same time, her increased activity upon
the Korean frontier is such as to raise doubts as to the limits of
her ambition. The unconditional and permanent occupation of
Manchuria by Russia would create a state of things prejudicial to
the security and interests of Japan. The principle of equal
opportunity (the open door) would thereby be annulled, and the
territorial integrity of China impaired. There is, however, a
still more serious consideration for the Japanese Government. If
Russia were established on the flank of Korea she would constantly
menace the separate existence of that Empire, or at least exercise
in it a predominant influence; and as Japan considers Korea an
important outpost in her line of defence, she regards its
independence as absolutely essential to her own repose and safety.
Moreover, the political as well as commercial and industrial
interests and influence which Japan possesses in Korea are
paramount over those of other Powers; she cannot, having regard to
her own security, consent to surrender them to, or share them with,
another Power."

In accordance with this view of the situation the Japanese
Government informed Count Lamsdorff that, as it desired to remove
from the relations of the two Empires every cause of future
misunderstanding, it would be glad to enter with the Imperial
Russian Government upon an examination of the condition of affairs
in the Far East, with a view to defining the respective special
interests of the two countries in those regions.

Though Count Lamsdorff accepted the proposal with apparent
cordiality and professed to regard it as a means of preventing any
outsider from sowing the seeds of discord between the two
countries, the idea of a general discussion was not at all welcome.
Careful definition of respective interests was the last thing the
Russian Government desired. Its policy was to keep the whole
situation in a haze until it had consolidated its position in
Manchuria and on the Korean frontier to such an extent that it
could dictate its own terms in any future arrangement. It could
not, however, consistently with its oft-repeated declarations of
disinterestedness and love of peace, decline to discuss the
subject. It consented, therefore, to an exchange of views, but in
order to ensure that the tightening of its hold on the territories
in question should proceed pari passu with the diplomatic action,
it made an extraordinary departure from ordinary procedure,
entrusting the conduct of the affair, not to Count Lamsdorff and
the Foreign Office, but to Admiral Alexeyef, the newly created
Viceroy of the Far East, in whom was vested the control of all
civil, military, naval, and diplomatic affairs relating to that
part of the world.

From the commencement of the negotiations, which lasted from August
12th, 1903, to February 6th, 1904, the irreconcilable differences
of the two rivals became apparent, and all through the
correspondence, in which a few apparent concessions were offered by
Japan, neither Power retreated a step from the positions originally
taken up. What Japan suggested was, roughly speaking, a mutual
engagement to uphold the independence and integrity of the Chinese
and Korean empires, and at the same time a bilateral arrangement by
which the special interests of the two contracting parties in
Manchuria and in Korea should be formally recognised, and the means
of protecting them clearly defined. The scheme did not commend
itself to the Russians. They systematically ignored the interests
of Japan in Manchuria, and maintained that she had no right to
interfere in any arrangements they might think fit to make with the
Chinese Government with regard to that province. In their opinion,
Japan ought to recognise formally that Manchuria lay outside her
sphere of interest, and the negotiations should be confined to
limiting her freedom of action in Korea.

With such a wide divergence in principle the two parties were not
likely to agree in matters of detail. Their conflicting aims came
out most clearly in the question of the open door. The Japanese
insisted on obtaining the privileges of the open door, including
the right of settlement in Manchuria, and Russia obstinately
refused. Having marked out Manchuria as a close reserve for her
own colonisation, trade, and industry, and knowing that she could
not compete with the Japanese if they were freely admitted, she
could not adopt the principle of "equal opportunity" which her
rivals recommended. A fidus achates of Admiral Alexeyef explained
to me quite frankly, during the negotiations, why no concessions
could be made on that point. In the work of establishing law and
order in Manchuria, constructing roads, bridges, railways, and
towns, Russia had expended an enormous sum--estimated by Count
Cassini at 60,000,000 pounds--and until that capital was recovered,
or until a reasonable interest was derived from the investment,
Russia could not think of sharing with any one the fruits of the
prosperity which she had created.

We need not go further into the details of the negotiations. Japan
soon convinced herself that the onward march of the Colossus was
not to be stopped by paper barricades, and knowing well that her
actual military and naval superiority was being rapidly diminished
by Russia's warlike preparations,* she suddenly broke off
diplomatic relations and commenced hostilities.

* According to an estimate made by the Japanese authorities,
between April, 1903, and the outbreak of the war, Russia increased
her naval and military forces in the Far East by nineteen war
vessels, aggregating 82,415 tons, and 40,000 soldiers. In addition
to this, one battleship, three cruisers, seven torpedo destroyers,
and four torpedo boats, aggregating about 37,040 tons, were on
their way to the East, and preparations had been made for
increasing the land forces by 200,000 men. For further details,
see Asakawa, "The Russo-Japanese Conflict" (London, 1904), pp. 352-

Russia thus found herself engaged in a war of the first magnitude,
of which no one can predict the ultimate consequences, and the
question naturally arises as to why, with an Emperor who lately
aspired to play in politics the part of a great peacemaker, she
provoked a conflict, for which she was very imperfectly prepared--
imposing on herself the obligation of defending a naval fortress,
hastily constructed on foreign territory, and united with her base
by a single line of railway 6,000 miles long. The question is
easily answered: she did not believe in the possibility of war.
The Emperor was firmly resolved that he would not attack Japan, and
no one would admit for a moment that Japan could have the audacity
to attack the great Russian Empire. In the late autumn of 1903, it
is true, a few well-informed officials in St. Petersburg,
influenced by the warnings of Baron Rosen, the Russian Minister in
Tokio, began to perceive that perhaps Japan would provoke a
conflict, but they were convinced that the military and naval
preparations already made were quite sufficient to repel the
attack. One of these officials--probably the best informed of all--
said to me quite frankly: "If Japan had attacked us in May or
June, we should have been in a sorry plight, but now [November,
1903] we are ready."

The whole past history of territoral expansion in Asia tended to
confirm the prevailing illusions. Russia had advanced steadily
from the Ural and the Caspian to the Hindu Kush and the Northern
Pacific without once encountering serious resistance. Not once had
she been called on to make a great national effort, and the armed
resistance of the native races had never inflicted on her anything
worse than pin-pricks. From decrepit China, which possessed no
army in the European sense of the term, a more energetic resistance
was not to be expected. Had not Muravieff Amurski with a few
Cossacks quietly occupied her Amur territories without provoking
anything more dangerous than a diplomatic protest; and had not
Ignatief annexed her rich Primorsk provinces, including the site of
Vladivostok, by purely diplomatic means? Why should not Count
Cassini, a diplomatist of the same type as Ignatief, imitate his
adroit predecessor, and secure for Russia, if not the formal
annexation, at least the permanent occupation, of Manchuria?
Remembering all this, we can perceive that the great mistake of the
Russian Government is not so very difficult to explain. It
certainly did not want war--far from it--but it wanted to obtain
Manchuria by a gradual, painless process of absorption, and it did
not perceive that this could not be attained without a life-and-
death struggle with a young, vigorous nationality, which has
contrived to combine the passions and virtues of a primitive race
with the organising powers and scientific appliances of the most
advanced civilisation.

Russian territorial expansion has thus been checked, for some years
to come, on the Pacific coast; but the expansive tendency will re-
appear soon in other regions, and it behooves us to be watchful,
because, whatever direction it may take, it is likely to affect our
interests directly or indirectly. Will it confine itself for some
years to a process of infiltration in Mongolia and Northern Thibet,
the line of least resistance? Or will it impinge on our Indian
frontier, directed by those who desire to avenge themselves on
Japan's ally for the reverses sustained in Manchuria? Or will it
once more take the direction of the Bosphorous, where a campaign
might be expected to awaken religious and warlike enthusiasm among
the masses? To these questions I cannot give any answer, because
so much depends on the internal consequences of the present war,
and on accidental circumstances which no one can at present
foresee. I have always desired, and still desire, that we should
cultivate friendly relations with our great rival, and that we
should learn to appreciate the many good qualities of her people;
but I have at the same time always desired that we should keep a
watchful eye on her irrepressible tendency to expand, and that we
should take timely precautions against any unprovoked aggression,
however justifiable it may seem to her from the point of view of
her own national interests.



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

Is history about to repeat itself, or are we on the eve of a
cataclysm? Is the reign of Nicholas II. to be, in its main lines,
a repetition of the reign of Alexander II., or is Russia about to
enter on an entirely new phase of her political development?

To this momentous question I do not profess to give a categorical
answer. If it be true, even in ordinary times, that "of all forms
of human folly, prediction is the most gratuitous," it is
especially true at a moment like the present, when we are
constantly reminded of the French proverb that there is nothing
certain but the unforeseen. All I can hope to do is to throw a
little light on the elements of the problem, and allow the reader
to draw his own conclusions.

Between the present situation and the early part of Alexander II.'s
reign there is undoubtedly a certain analogy. In both cases we
find in the educated classes a passionate desire for political
liberty, generated by long years of a stern, autocratic regime, and
stimulated by military disasters for which autocracy is held
responsible; and in both cases we find the throne occupied by a
Sovereign of less accentuated political convictions and less
energetic character than his immediate predecessor. In the earlier
case, the autocrat, showing more perspicacity and energy than were
expected of him, guides and controls the popular enthusiasm, and
postpones the threatened political crisis by effecting a series of
far reaching and beneficent reforms. In the present case . . . the
description of the result must be left to future historians. For
the moment, all we can say is that between the two situations there
are as many points of difference as of analogy. After the Crimean
War the enthusiasm was of a vague, eclectic kind, and consequently
it could find satisfaction in practical administrative reforms not
affecting the essence of the Autocratic Power, the main pivot round
which the Empire has revolved for centuries. Now, on the contrary,
it is precisely on this pivot that the reform enthusiasm is
concentrated. Mere bureaucratic reforms can no longer give
satisfaction. All sections of the educated classes, with the
exception of a small group of Conservative doctrinaires, insist on
obtaining a controlling influence in the government of the country,
and demand that the Autocratic Power, if not abolished, shall be
limited by parliamentary institutions of a democratic type.

Another difference between the present and the past, is that those
who now clamour for radical changes are more numerous, more
courageous, and better organised than their predecessors, and they
are consequently better able to bring pressure to bear on the
Government. Formerly the would-be reformers were of two
categories; on the one hand, the Constitutionalists, who remained
within the bounds of legality, and confined themselves to inserting
vague hints in loyal addresses to the Tsar and making mild
political demonstrations; and on the other hand, the so-called
Nihilists, who talked about organising society on Socialistic
principles, and who hoped to attain their object by means of secret
associations. With both of these groups, as soon as they became
aggressive, the Government had no difficulty in dealing
effectually. The leading Constitutionalists were simply
reprimanded or ordered to remain for a time in their country
houses, while the more active revolutionaries were exiled,
imprisoned, or compelled to take refuge abroad. All this gave the
police a good deal of trouble, especially when the Nihilists took
to Socialist propaganda among the common people, and to acts of
terrorism against the officials; but the existence of the
Autocratic Power was never seriously endangered. Nowadays the
Liberals have no fear of official reprimands, and openly disregard
the orders of the authorities about holding meetings and making
speeches, while a large section of the Socialists proclaim
themselves a Social Democratic party, enrol large numbers of
working men, organise formidable strikes, and make monster
demonstrations leading to bloodshed.

Let us now examine this new Opposition a little more closely. We
can perceive at a glance that it is composed of two sections,
differing widely from each other in character and aims. On the one
hand, there are the Liberals, who desire merely political reforms
of a more or less democratic type; on the other, there are the
Socialists, who aim at transforming thoroughly the existing
economic organisation of Society, and who, if they desire
parliamentary institutions at all, desire them simply as a stepping
stone to the realisation of the Socialist ideal. Behind the
Socialists, and to some extent mingling with them, stand a number
of men belonging to the various subject-nationalities, who have
placed themselves under the Socialist banner, but who hold, more or
less concealed, their little national flags, ready to be unfurled
at the proper moment.

Of these three sections of the Opposition, the most numerous and
the best prepared to undertake the functions and responsibilities
of government is that of the Liberals. The movement which they
represent began immediately after the Crimean War, when the upper
ranks of society, smarting under defeat and looking about for the
cause of the military disasters, came to the conclusion that
Autocracy had been put to a crucial test, and found wanting. The
outburst of patriotic indignation at that time and the eager desire
for a more liberal regime have been described in previous chapters.
For a moment the more sanguine critics of the Government imagined
that the Autocratic Power, persuaded of its own inefficiency, would
gladly accept the assistance of the educated classes, and would
spontaneously transform itself into a Constitutional Monarchy. In
reality Alexander II. had no such intentions. He was resolved to
purify the administration and to reform as far as possible all
existing abuses, and he seemed ready at first to listen to the
advice and accept the co-operation of his faithful subjects; but he
had not the slightest intention of limiting his supreme authority,
which he regarded as essential to the existence of the Empire. As
soon as the landed proprietors began to complain that the great
question of serf emancipation was being taken out of their hands by
the bureaucracy, he reminded them that "in Russia laws are made by
the Autocratic Power," and when the more courageous Marshals of
Noblesse ventured to protest against the unceremonious manner in
which the nobles were being treated by the tchinovniks, some of
them were officially reprimanded and others were deposed.

The indignation produced by this procedure, in which the Tsar
identified himself with the bureaucracy, was momentarily appeased
by the decision of the Government to entrust to the landed
proprietors the carrying out of the Emancipation law, and by the
confident hope that political rights would be granted them as
compensation for the material sacrifices they had made for the good
of the State; but when they found that this confident hope was an
illusion, the indignation and discontent reappeared.

There was still, however, a ray of hope. Though the Autocratic
Power was evidently determined not to transform itself at once into
a limited Constitutional Monarchy, it might make concessions in the
sphere of local self-government. At that moment it was creating
the Zemstvo, and the Constitutionalists hoped that these new
institutions, though restricted legally to the sphere of purely
economic wants, might gradually acquire a considerable political
influence. Learned Germans had proved that in England, "the mother
of modern Constitutionalism," it was on local self-government that
the political liberties were founded, and the Slavophils now
suggested that by means of an ancient institution called the Zemski
Sobor, the Zemstvo might gradually and naturally acquire a
political character in accordance with Russian historic
development. As this idea has often been referred to in recent
discussions, I may explain briefly what the ancient institution in
question was.

In the Tsardom of Muscovy during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries representative assemblies were occasionally called
together to deal with matters of exceptional importance, such as
the election of a Tsar when the throne became vacant, a declaration
of war, the conclusion of a peace, or the preparation of a new code
of laws. Some fifteen assemblies of the kind were convoked in the
space of about a century (1550-1653). They were composed largely
of officials named by the Government, but they contained also some
representatives of the unofficial classes. Their procedure was
peculiar. When a speech from the throne had been read by the Tsar
or his representative, explaining the question to be decided, the
assembly transformed itself into a large number of commissions, and
each commission had to give in writing its opinion regarding the
questions submitted to it. The opinions thus elicited were
codified by the officials and submitted to the Tsar, and he was
free to adopt or reject them, as he thought fit. We may say,
therefore, that the Zemski Sobor was merely consultative and had no
legislative power; but we must add that it was allowed a certain
initiative, because it was permitted to submit to the Tsar humble
petitions regarding anything which it considered worthy of

Alexander II. might have adopted this Slavophil idea and used the
Zemski Sobor as a means of transition from pure autocracy to a more
modern system of government, but he had no sooner created the
Zemstvo than he thought it necessary, as we have seen, to clip its
wings, and dispel its political ambition. By this repressive
policy the frondeur spirit of the Noblesse was revived, and it has
continued to exist down to the present time. On each occasion when
I revisited Russia and had an opportunity of feeling the pulse of
public opinion, between 1876 and 1903, I noticed that the
dissatisfaction with the traditional methods of government, and the
desire of the educated classes to obtain a share of the political
power, notwithstanding short periods of apparent apathy, were
steadily spreading in area and increasing in intensity, and I often
heard predictions that a disastrous foreign war like the Crimean
campaign would probably bring about the desired changes. Of those
who made such predictions not a few showed clearly that, though
patriotic enough in a certain sense, they would not regret any
military disaster which would have the effect they anticipated.
Progress in the direction of political emancipation, accompanied by
radical improvements in the administration, was evidently regarded
as much more important and desirable than military prestige or
extension of territory.

During the first part of the Turkish campaign of 1877-78, when the
Russian armies were repulsed in Bulgaria and Asia Minor, the
hostility to autocracy was very strong, and the famous acquittal of
Vera Zasulitch, who had attempted to assassinate General Trepof,
caused widespread satisfaction among people who were not themselves
revolutionaries and who did not approve of such violent methods of
political struggle. Towards the end of the war, when the tide of
fortune had turned both in Europe and in Asia, and the Russian army
was encamped under the walls of Constantinople, within sight of St.
Sophia, the Chauvinist feelings gained the upper hand, and they
were greatly intensified by the Congress of Berlin, which deprived
Russia of some fruits of her victories.

This change in public feeling and the horror excited by the
assassination of Alexander II. prepared the way for Alexander
III.'s reign (1881-94), which was a period of political stagnation.
He was a man of strong character, and a vigorous ruler who believed
in Autocracy as he did in the dogmas of his Church; and very soon
after his accession he gave it clearly to be understood that he
would permit no limitations of the Autocratic Power. The men with
Liberal aspirations knew that nothing would make him change his
mind on that subject, and that any Liberal demonstrations would
merely confirm him in his reactionary tendencies. They accordingly
remained quiet and prudently waited for better times.

The better times were supposed to have come when Nicholas II.
ascended the throne in November, 1894, because it was generally
assumed that the young Tsar, who was known to be humane and well-
intentioned, would inaugurate a more liberal policy. Before he had
been three months on the throne he summarily destroyed these
illusions. On 17th (29th) January, 1895, when receiving deputies
from the Noblesse, the Zemstvo, and the municipalities, who had
come to St. Petersburg to congratulate him on his marriage, he
declared his confidence in the sincerity of the loyal feelings
which the delegates expressed; and then, to the astonishment of all
present, he added: "It is known to me that recently, in some
Zemstvo assemblies, were heard the voices of people who had let
themselves be carried away by absurd dreams of the Zemstvo
representatives taking part in the affairs of internal
administration; let them know that I, devoting all my efforts to
the prosperity of the nation, will preserve the principles of
autocracy as firmly and unswervingly as my late father of
imperishable memory."

These words, pronounced by the young ruler at the commencement of
his reign, produced profound disappointment and dissatisfaction in
all sections of the educated classes, and from that moment the
frondeur spirit began to show itself more openly than at any
previous period. In the case of some people of good social
position it took the unusual form of speaking disrespectfully of
his Majesty. Others supposed that the Emperor had simply repeated
words prepared for him by the Minister of the Interior, and this
idea spread rapidly, till hostility to the bureaucracy became

This feeling reached its climax when the Ministry of the Interior
was confided to M. Plehve. His immediate predecessors, though
sincere believers in autocracy and very hostile to Liberalism of
all kinds, considered that the Liberal ideas might be rendered
harmless by firm passive resistance and mild reactionary measures.
He, on the contrary, took a more alarmist view of the situation.
His appointment coincided with the revival of terrorism, and he
believed that autocracy was in danger. To save it, the only means
was, in his opinion, a vigorous, repressive police administration,
and as he was a man of strong convictions and exceptional energy,
he screwed up his system of police supervision to the sticking-
point and applied it to the Liberals as well as to the terrorists.
In the year 1903, if we may credit information which comes from an
apparently trustworthy source, no less than 1,988 political affairs
were initiated by the police, and 4,867 persons were condemned
inquisitorially to various punishments without any regular trial.

Whilst this unpopular rigorism was in full force the war
unexpectedly broke out, and added greatly to the existing

Very few people in Russia had been following closely the recent
developments of the Far Eastern Question, and still fewer
understood their importance. There seemed to be nothing abnormal
in what was taking place. Russia was expanding, and would continue
to expand indefinitely, in that direction, without any strenuous
effort on her part. Of course the English would try to arrest her
progress as usual by diplomatic notes, but their efforts would be
as futile as they had been on all previous occasions. They might
incite the Japanese to active resistance, but Japan would not
commit the insane folly of challenging her giant rival to mortal
combat. The whole question could be settled in accordance with
Russian interests, as so many similar questions had been settled in
the past, by a little skilful diplomacy; and Manchuria could be
absorbed, as the contiguous Chinese provinces had been forty years
ago, without the necessity of going to war.

When these comforting illusions were suddenly destroyed by the
rupture of diplomatic relations and the naval attack on Port
Arthur, there was an outburst of indignant astonishment. At first
the indignation was directed against Japan and England, but it soon
turned against the home Government, which had made no adequate
preparations for the struggle, and it was intensified by current
rumours that the crisis had been wantonly provoked by certain
influential personages for purely personal reasons.

How far the accounts of the disorders in the military organisation
and the rumours about pilfering in high quarters were true, we need
not inquire. True or false, they helped greatly to make the war
unpopular, and to stimulate the desire for political changes.
Under a more liberal and enlightened regime such things were
supposed to be impossible, and, as at the time of the Crimean War,
public opinion decided that autocracy was being tried, and found

So long as the stern, uncompromising Plehve was at the Ministry of
the Interior, enjoying the Emperor's confidence and directing the
police administration, public opinion was prudent and reserved in
its utterances, but when he was assassinated by a terrorist (July
28th, 1904), and was succeeded by Prince Sviatopolk Mirski, a
humane man of Liberal views, the Constitutionalists thought that
the time had come for making known their grievances and demands,
and for bringing pressure to bear on the Emperor. First came
forward the leading members of the Zemstvos. After some
preliminary consultation they assembled in St. Petersburg, with the
consent of the authorities, in the hope that they would be allowed
to discuss publicly the political wants of the country, and prepare
the draft of a Constitution. Their wishes were only partially
acceded to. They were informed semi-officially that their meetings
must be private, but that they might send their resolutions to the
Minister of the Interior for transmission to his Majesty. A
memorandum was accordingly drawn up and signed on November 21st by
102 out of the 104 representatives present.

This hesitating attitude on the part of the Government encouraged
other sections of the educated classes to give expression to their
long pent-up political aspirations. On the heels of the Zemstvo
delegates appeared the barristers, who discussed the existing evils
from the juridical point of view, and prescribed what they
considered the necessary remedies. Then came municipalities of the
large towns, corporations of various kinds, academic leagues,
medical faculties, learned societies, and miscellaneous gatherings,
all demanding reforms. Great banquets were organised, and very
strong speeches, which would have led in Plehve's time to the
immediate arrest of the orators, were delivered and published
without provoking police intervention.

In the memorandum presented to the Minister of the Interior by the
Zemstvo Congress, and in the resolutions passed by the other
corporate bodies, we see reflected the grievances and aspirations
of the great majority of the educated classes.

The theory propounded in these documents is that a lawless,
arbitrary bureaucracy, which seeks to exclude the people from all
participation in the management of public affairs, has come between
the nation and the Supreme Power, and that it is necessary to
eliminate at once this baneful intermediary and inaugurate the so-
called "reign of law." For this purpose the petitioners and
orators demanded:

(1) Inviolability of person and domicile, so that no one should be
troubled by the police without a warrant from an independent
magistrate, and no one punished without a regular trial;

(2) Freedom of conscience, of speech, and of the Press, together
with the right of holding public meetings and forming associations;

(3) Greater freedom and increased activity of the local self-
government, rural and municipal;

(4) An assembly of freely elected representatives, who should
participate in the legislative activity and control the
administration in all its branches;

(5) The immediate convocation of a constituent assembly, which
should frame a Constitution on these lines.

Of these requirements the last two are considered by far the most
important. The truth is that the educated classes have come to be
possessed of an ardent desire for genuine parliamentary
institutions on a broad, democratic basis, and neither improvements
in the bureaucratic organisation, nor even a Zemski Sobor in the
sense of a Consultative Assembly, would satisfy them. They imagine
that with a full-fledged constitution they would be guaranteed, not
only against administrative oppression, but even against military
reverses such as they have recently experienced in the Far East--an
opinion in which those who know by experience how military
unreadiness and inefficiency can be combined with parliamentary
institutions will hardly feel inclined to concur.

It may surprise English readers to learn that the corruption and
venality of the civil and military administration, of which we have
recently heard so much, are nowhere mentioned in the complaints and
remonstrances; but the fact is easily accounted for. Though
corrupt practices undoubtedly exist in some branches of the public
service, they are not so universal as is commonly supposed in
Western Europe; and the Russian reformers evidently consider that
the purifying of the administration is less urgent than the
acquisition of political liberties, or that under an enlightened
democratic regime the existing abuses would spontaneously

The demands put forward in St. Petersburg did not meet with
universal approval in Moscow. There they seemed excessive and un-
Russian, and an attempt was made to form a more moderate party. In
the ancient Capital of the Tsars even among the Liberals there are
not a few who have a sentimental tenderness for the Autocratic
Power, and they argue that parliamentary government would be very
dangerous in a country which is still far from being homogeneous or
compact. To maintain the integrity of the Empire, and to hold the
balance equally between the various races and social classes of
which the population is composed, it is necessary, they think, to
have some permanent authority above the sphere of party spirit and
electioneering strife. While admitting that the Government in its
present bureaucratic form is unsatisfactory and stands in need of
being enlightened by the unofficial classes, they think that a
Consultative Assembly on the model of the old Zemski Sobors would
be infinitely better suited to Russian wants than a Parliament such
as that which sits at Westminster.

For a whole month the Government took little notice of the
unprecedented excitement and demonstrations. It was not till
December 25th that a reply was given to the public demands. On
that day the Emperor signed an ukaz in which he enumerated the
reforms which he considered most urgent, and instructed the
Committee of Ministers to prepare the requisite legislation. The
list of reforms coincided to a certain extent with the demands
formulated by the Zemstvos, but the document as a whole produced
profound disappointment, because it contained no mention of a
National Assembly. To those who could read between the lines the
attitude of the Emperor seemed perfectly clear. He was evidently
desirous of introducing very considerable reforms, but he was
resolved that they must be effected by the unimpaired Autocratic
Power in the old bureaucratic fashion, without any participation of
the unofficial world.

To obviate any misconception on this point, the Government
published, simultaneously with the ukaz, an official communication
in which it condemned the agitation and excitement, and warned the
Zemstvos, municipalities, and other corporate bodies that in
discussing political questions they were overstepping the limits of
their legally-defined functions and exposing themselves to the
rigours of the law.

As might have been foreseen, the ukaz and the circular had not at
all the desired effect of "introducing the necessary tranquillity
into public life, which has lately been diverted from its normal
course." On the contrary, they increased the excitement, and
evoked a new series of public demonstrations. On December 27th,
the very day on which the two official documents were published--
the Provincial Zemstvo of Moscow, openly disregarding the
ministerial warnings, expressed the conviction that the day was
near when the bureaucratic regime, which had so long estranged the
Supreme Power from the people, would be changed, and when freely-
elected representatives of the people would take part in
legislation. The same evening, at St. Petersburg, a great Liberal
banquet was held, at which a resolution was voted condemning the
war, and declaring that Russia could be extricated from her
difficulties only by the representatives of the nation, freely
elected by secret ballot. As an encouragement to the organs of
local administration to persevere in their disregard of ministerial
instructions, the St. Petersburg Medical Society, after adopting
the programme of the Zemstvo Congress, sent telegrams of
congratulation to the Mayor of Moscow and the President of the
Tchernigof Zemstvo bureau, both of whom had incurred the
displeasure of the Government. A similar telegram was sent by a
Congress of 496 engineers to the Moscow Town Council, in which the
burning political questions had been freely discussed. In other
large towns, when the mayor prevented such discussions, a
considerable number of the town councillors resigned.

From the Zemstvos and municipalities the spirit of opposition
spread to the provincial assemblies of the Noblesse. The nobles of
the province of St. Petersburg, for example, voted by a large
majority an address to the Tsar recommending the convocation of a
freely-elected National Assembly; and in Moscow, usually regarded
as the fortress of Conservatism, eighty members of the Assembly
entered a formal protest against a patriotic Conservative address
which had been voted two days before. Even the fair sex considered
it necessary to support the opposition movement. The matrons of
Moscow, in a humble petition to the Empress, declared that they
could not continue to bring up their children properly in the
existing state of unconstitutional lawlessness, and their view was
endorsed in several provincial towns by the schoolboys, who marched
through the streets in procession, and refused to learn their
lessons until popular liberties had been granted!

Again, for more than a month the Government remained silent on the
fundamental questions which were exercising the public mind. At
last, on the morning of March 3d, appeared an Imperial manifesto of
a very unexpected kind. In it the Emperor deplored the outbreak of
internal disturbances at a moment when the glorious sons of Russia
were fighting with self-sacrificing bravery and offering their
lives for the Faith, the Tsar, and the Fatherland; but he drew
consolation and hope from remembering that, with the help of the
prayers of the Holy Orthodox Church, under the banner of the Tsar's
autocratic might, Russia had frequently passed through great wars
and internal troubles, and had always issued from them with fresh
strength. He appealed, therefore, to all right-minded subjects, to
whatever class they might belong, to join him in the great and
sacred task of overcoming the stubborn foreign foe, and eradicating
revolt at home. As for the manner in which he hoped this might be
accomplished, he gave a pretty clear indication, at the end of the
document, by praying to God, not only for the welfare of his
subjects, but also for "the consolidation of autocracy."

This extraordinary pronouncement, couched in semi-ecclesiastical
language, produced in the Liberal world feelings of surprise,
disappointment, and dismay. No one was more astonished and
dismayed than the Ministers, who had known nothing of the manifesto
until they saw it in the official Gazette. In the course of the
forenoon they paid their usual weekly visit to Tsarskoe Selo, and
respectfully submitted to the Emperor that such a document must
have a deplorable effect on public opinion. In consequence of
their representations his Majesty consented to supplement the
manifesto by a rescript to the Minister of the Interior, in which
he explained that in carrying out his intentions for the welfare of
his people the Government was to have the co-operation of "the
experienced elements of the community." Then followed the
memorable words: "I am resolved henceforth, with the help of God,
to convene the most worthy men, possessing the confidence of the
people and elected by them, in order that they may participate in
the preparation and consideration of legislative measures." For
the carrying out of this resolution a commission, or "special
conference," was to be at once convened, under the presidency of M.
Bulyghin, the Minister of the Interior.

The rescript softened the impression produced by the manifesto, but
it did not give general satisfaction, because it contained
significant indications that the Emperor, while promising to create
an assembly of some kind, was still determined to maintain the
Autocratic Power. So at least the public interpreted a vague phase
about the difficulty of introducing reforms "while preserving
absolutely the immutability of the fundamental laws of the Empire."
And this impression seemed to be confirmed by the fact that the
task of preparing the future representative institutions was
confided, not to a constituent assembly, but to a small commission
composed chiefly or entirely of officials.

In these circumstances the Liberals determined to continue the
agitation. The Bulyghin Commission was accordingly inundated with
petitions and addresses explaining the wants of the nation in
general, and of various sections of it in particular; and when the
Minister declined to receive deputations and discuss with them the
aforesaid wants, the reform question was taken up by a new series
of congresses, composed of doctors, lawyers, professors,
journalists, etc. Even the higher ecclesiastical dignitaries woke
up for a moment from their accustomed lethargy, remembered how they
had lived for so many years under the rod of M. Pobedonostsef,
recognised as uncanonical such subordination to a layman, and
petitioned for the resurrection of the Patriarchate, which had been
abolished by Peter the Great.

On May 9th a new Zemstvo Congress was held in Moscow, and it at
once showed that since their November session in St. Petersburg the
delegates had made a decided movement to the Left. Those of them
who had then led the movement were now regarded as too
Conservative. The idea of a Zemski Sobor was discarded as
insufficient for the necessities of the situation, and strong
speeches were made in support of a much more democratic

It was thus becoming clearer every day that between the Liberals
and the Government there was an essential difference which could
not be removed by ordinary concessions. The Emperor proved that he
was in favour of reform by granting a very large measure of
religious toleration, by removing some of the disabilities imposed
on the Poles, and allowing the Polish language to be used in
schools, and by confirming the proposals of the Committee of
Ministers to place the Press censure on a legal basis. But these
concessions to public opinion did not gain for him the sympathy and
support of his Liberal subjects. What they insisted on was a
considerable limitation of the Autocratic Power; and on that point
the Emperor has hitherto shown himself inexorable. His firmness
proceeds not from any wayward desire to be able to do as he
pleases, but from a hereditary respect for a principle. From his
boyhood he has been taught that Russia owes her greatness and her
security to her autocratic form of government, and that it is the
sacred duty of the Tsar to hand down intact to his successors the
power which he holds in trust for them.

While the Liberals were thus striving to attain their object
without popular disorders, and without any very serious infraction
of the law, Revolutionaries were likewise busy, working on
different but parallel lines.

In the chapter on the present phase of the revolutionary movement I
have sketched briefly the origin and character of the two main
Socialist groups, and I have now merely to convey a general idea of
their attitude during recent events. And first, of the Social

At the end of 1894 the Social Democrats were in what may be called
their normal condition--that is to say, they were occupied in
organising and developing the Labour Movement. The removal of
Plehve, who had greatly hampered them by his energetic police
administration, enabled them to work more freely, and they looked
with a friendly eye on the efforts of the Liberal Zemstvo-ists; but
they took no part in the agitation, because the Zemstvo world lay
outside their sphere of action. In the labour world, to which they
confined their attention, they must have foreseen that a crisis
would sooner or later be produced by the war, and that they would
then have an excellent opportunity of preaching their doctrine that
for all the sufferings of the working classes the Government is
responsible. What they did not foresee was that serious labour
troubles were so near at hand, and that the conflict with the
authorities would be accelerated by Father Gapon. Accustomed to
regard him as a persistent opponent, they did not expect him to
become suddenly an energetic, self-willed ally. Hence they were
taken unawares, and at first the direction of the movement was by
no means entirely in their hands. Very soon, however, they grasped
the situation, and utilised it for their own ends. It was in great
measure due to their secret organisation and activity that the
strike in the Putilof Ironworks, which might easily have been
terminated amicably, spread rapidly not only to the other works and
factories in St. Petersburg, but also to those of Moscow, Riga,
Warsaw, Lodz, and other industrial centres. Though they did not
approve of Father Gapon's idea of presenting a petition to the
Tsar, the loss of life which his demonstration occasioned was very
useful to them in their efforts to propagate the belief that the
Autocratic Power is the ally of the capitalists and hostile to the
claims and aspirations of the working classes.

The other great Socialist group contributed much more largely
towards bringing about the present state of things. It was their
Militant Organisation that assassinated Plehve, and thereby roused
the Liberals to action. To them, likewise, is due the subsequent
assassination of the Grand Duke Serge, and it is an open secret
that they are preparing other acts of terrorism of a similar kind.
At the same time they have been very active in creating provincial
revolutionary committees, in printing and distributing
revolutionary literature, and, above all, in organising agrarian
disturbances, which they intend to make a very important factor in
the development of events. Indeed, it is chiefly by agrarian
disturbances that they hope to overthrow the Autocratic Power and
bring about the great economic and social revolution to which the
political revolution would be merely the prologue.

Therein lies a serious danger.

After the failure of the propaganda and the insurrectionary
agitation in the seventies, it became customary in revolutionary
circles to regard the muzhik as impervious to Socialist ideas and
insurrectionary excitement, but the hope of eventually employing
him in the cause never quite died out, and in recent times, when
his economic condition in many districts has become critical,
attempts have occasionally been made to embarrass the Government by
agrarian disturbances. The method usually employed is to
disseminate among the peasantry by oral propaganda, by printed or
hectographed leaflets, and by forged Imperial manifestoes, the
belief that the Tsar has ordered the land of the proprietors to be
given to the rural Communes, and that his benevolent wishes are
being frustrated by the land-owners and the officials. The forged
manifesto is sometimes written in letters of gold as a proof of its
being genuine, and in one case which I heard of in the province of
Poltava, the revolutionary agent, wearing the uniform of an aide-
de-camp of the Emperor, induced the village priest to read the
document in the parish church.

The danger lies in the fact that, quite independent of
revolutionary activity, there has always been, since the time of
the Emancipation, a widespread belief among the peasantry that they
would sooner or later receive the whole of the land. Successive
Tsars have tried personally to destroy this illusion, but their
efforts have not been successful. Alexander II., when passing
through a province where the idea was very prevalent, caused a
number of village elders to be brought before him, and told them in
a threatening tone that they must remain satisfied with their
allotments and pay their taxes regularly; but the wily peasants
could not be convinced that the "General" who had talked to them in
this sense was really the Tsar. Alexander III. made a similar
attempt at the time of his accession. To the Volost elders
collected together from all parts of the Empire, he said: "Do not
believe the foolish rumours and absurd reports about a
redistribution of the land, and addition to your allotments, and
such like things. These reports are disseminated by your enemies.
Every kind of property, your own included, must be inviolable."
Recalling these words, Nicholas II. confirmed them at his
accession, and warned the peasants not to be led astray by evil-
disposed persons.

Notwithstanding these repeated warnings, the peasants still cling
to the idea that all the land belongs to them; and the Socialist-
Revolutionaries now announce publicly that they intend to use this
belief for the purpose of carrying out their revolutionary designs.
In a pamphlet entitled "Concerning Liberty and the Means of
Obtaining it," they explain their plan of campaign. Under the
guidance of the revolutionary agents the peasants of each district
all over the Empire are to make it impossible for the proprietors
to work their estates, and then, after driving away the local
authorities and rural police, they are to take possession of the
estates for their own use. The Government, in its vain attempts to
dislodge them, will have to employ all the troops at its disposal,
and this will give the working classes of the towns, led by the
revolutionists, an opportunity of destroying the most essential
parts of the administrative mechanism. Thus a great social
revolution can be successfully accomplished, and any Zemski Sobor
or Parliament which may be convoked will merely have to give a
legislative sanction to accomplished facts.

These three groups--the Liberals, the Social Democrats, and the
Socialist Revolutionaries--constitute what may be called the purely
Russian Opposition. They found their claims and justify their
action on utilitarian and philosophic grounds, and demand liberty
(in various senses) for themselves and others, independently of
race and creed. This distinguishes them from the fourth group, who
claim to represent the subject-nationalities, and who mingle
nationalist feelings and aspirations with enthusiasm for liberty
and justice in the abstract.

The policy of Russifying these subject-nationalities, which was
inaugurated by Alexander III. and maintained by his successor, has
failed in its object. It has increased the use of the Russian
language in official procedure, modified the system of instruction
in the schools and universities, and brought, nominally, a few
schismatic and heretical sheep into the Eastern Orthodox fold, but
it has entirely failed to inspire the subject-populations with
Russian feeling and national patriotism; on the contrary, it has
aroused in them a bitter hostility to Russian nationality, and to
the Central Government. In such of them as have retained their old
aspirations of political independence--notably the Poles--the semi-
latent disaffection has been stimulated; and in those of them
which, like the Finlanders and the Armenians, desire merely to
preserve the limited autonomy they formerly enjoyed, a sentiment of
disaffection has been created. All of them know very well that in
an armed struggle with the dominant Russian nationality they would
speedily be crushed, as the Poles were in 1863. Their disaffection
shows itself, therefore, merely in resistance to the obligatory
military service, and in an undisguised or thinly veiled attitude
of systematic hostility, which causes the Government some anxiety
and prevents it from sending to the Far East a large number of
troops which would otherwise be available. They hail, however,
with delight the Liberal and revolutionary movements in the hope
that the Russians themselves may undermine, and possibly overthrow,
the tyrannical Autocratic Power. Towards this end they would
gladly co-operate, and they are endeavouring, therefore, to get
into touch with each other; but they have so little in common, and
so many mutually antagonistic interests, that they are not likely
to succeed in forming a solid coalition.

While sympathising with every form of opposition to the Government,
the men of the subject-nationalities reserve their special
affection for the Socialists, because these not only proclaim, like
the Liberals, the principles of extensive local self-government and
universal equality before the law, but they also speak of replacing
the existing system of coercive centralisation by a voluntary
confederation of heterogeneous units. This explains why so many
Poles, Armenians and Georgians are to be found in the ranks of the
Social Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

Of the recruits from oppressed nationalities the great majority
come from the Jews, who, though they have never dreamed of
political independence, or even of local autonomy, have most reason
to complain of the existing order of things. At all times they
have furnished a goodly contingent to the revolutionary movement,
and many of them have belied their traditional reputation of
timidity and cowardice by taking part in very dangerous terrorist
enterprises--in some cases ending their career on the scaffold. In
1897 they created a Social-Democratic organisation of their own,
commonly known as the Bund, which joined, in 1898, the Russian
Social-Democratic Labour Party, on the understanding that it should
retain its independence on all matters affecting exclusively the
Jewish population.* It now possesses a very ably-conducted weekly
organ, and of all sections of the Social-Democratic group it is
unquestionably the best organised. This is not surprising, because
the Jews have more business capacity than the Russians, and
centuries of oppression have developed in the race a wonderful
talent for secret illegal activity, and for eluding the vigilance
of the police.

* The official title of this Bund is the "Universal Jewish Labour
Union in Russia and Poland." Its organ is called Sovremenniya
Izvestiya (Contemporary News).

It would be very interesting to know the numerical strength of
these groups, but we have no materials for forming even an
approximate estimate. The Liberals are certainly the most
numerous. They include the great majority of the educated classes,
but they are less persistently energetic than their rivals, and
their methods of action make less impression on the Government.
The two Socialist groups, though communicative enough with regard
to their doctrines and aims, are very reticent with regard to the
number of their adherents, and this naturally awakens a suspicion
that an authoritative statement on the subject would tend to
diminish rather than enhance their importance in the eyes of the
public. If statistics of the Social Democrats could be obtained,
it would be necessary to distinguish between the three categories
of which the group is composed: (1) The educated active members,
who form the directing, controlling element; (2) the fully
indoctrinated recruits from the working classes; and (3) workmen
who desire merely to better their material condition, but who take
part in political demonstrations in the hope of bringing pressure
to bear on their employers, and inducing the Government to
intervene on their behalf.

The two Socialist groups are not only increasing the number of
their adherents; they are also extending and improving their
organisation, as is proved by the recent strikes, which are the
work of the Social Democrats, and by the increasing rural
disturbances and acts of terrorism, which are the work of the

With regard to the unorganised Nationalist group, all I can do
towards conveying a vague, general idea of its numerical strength
is to give the numbers of the populations--men, women, and
children--of which the Nationalist agitators are the self-
constituted representatives, without attempting to estimate the
percentage of the actively disaffected. The populations in
question are:

Poles 7,900,000
Jews 5,190,000
Finlanders 2,592,000
Armenians 1,200,000
Georgians 408,000

If a National Assembly were created, in which all the nationalities
were represented according to the numbers of the population, the
Poles, roughly speaking, would have 38 members, the Jews 24, the
Finlanders 12, the Armenians 6, and the Georgians 2: whereas the
Russians would have about 400. The other subject-nationalities in
which symptoms of revolutionary fermentation have appeared are too
insignificant to require special mention.

As the representatives of the various subject-nationalities are
endeavouring to combine, so likewise are the Liberals and the two
Socialist groups trying to form a coalition, and for this purpose
they have already held several conferences. How far they will
succeed it is impossible to say. On one point--the necessity of
limiting or abolishing the Autocratic Power--they are unanimous,
and there seems to be a tacit understanding that for the present
they shall work together amicably on parallel lines, each group
reserving its freedom of action for the future, and using meanwhile
its own customary means of putting pressure on the Government. We
may expect, therefore, that for a time the Liberals will go on
holding conferences and congresses in defiance of the police
authorities, delivering eloquent speeches, discussing thorny
political questions, drafting elaborate constitutions, and making
gentle efforts to clog the wheels of the Administration,* while the
Social Democrats will continue to organise strikes and semi-pacific
demonstrations,** and the Socialist-Revolutionaries will seek to
accelerate the march of events by agrarian disturbances and acts of

* As an illustration of this I may cite the fact that several
Zemstvos have declared themselves unable, under present conditions,
to support the indigent families of soldiers at the front.

** I call them semi-pacific, because on such occasions the
demonstrators are instructed to refrain from violence only so long
as the police do not attempt to stop the proceedings by force.

It is certain, however, that the parting of the ways will be
reached sooner or later, and already there are indications that it
is not very far off. Liberals and Social Democrats may perhaps
work together for a considerable time, because the latter, though
publicly committed to socialistic schemes which the Liberals must
regard with the strongest antipathy, are willing to accept a
Constitutional regime during the period of transition. It is
difficult, however, to imagine that the Liberals, of whom a large
proportion are landed proprietors, can long go hand in hand with
the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who propose to bring about the
revolution by inciting the peasants to seize unceremoniously the
estates, live stock, and agricultural implements of the landlords.

Already the Socialist-Revolutionaries have begun to speak publicly
of the inevitable rupture in terms by no means flattering to their
temporary allies. In a brochure recently issued by their central
committee the following passage occurs:

"If we consider the matter seriously and attentively, it becomes
evident that all the strength of the bourgeoisie lies in its
greater or less capacity for frightening and intimidating the
Government by the fear of a popular rising; but as the bourgeoisie
itself stands in mortal terror of the thing with which it frightens
the Government, its position at the moment of insurrection will be
rather ridiculous and pitiable."

To understand the significance of this passage, the reader must
know that, in the language of the Socialists, bourgeoisie and
Liberals are convertible terms.

The truth is that the Liberals find themselves in an awkward
strategical position. As quiet, respectable members of society
they dislike violence of every kind, and occasionally in moments of
excitement they believe that they may attain their ends by mere
moral pressure, but when they find that academic protests and
pacific demonstrations make no perceptible impression on the
Government, they become impatient and feel tempted to approve, at
least tacitly, of stronger measures. Many of them do not profess
to regard with horror and indignation the acts of the terrorists,
and some of them, if I am correctly informed, go so far as to
subscribe to the funds of the Socialist-Revolutionaries without
taking very stringent precautions against the danger of the money
being employed for the preparation of dynamite and hand grenades.

This extraordinary conduct on the part of moderate Liberals may
well surprise Englishmen, but it is easily explained. The Russians
have a strong vein of recklessness in their character, and many of
them are at present imbued with an unquestioning faith in the
miracle-working power of Constitutionalism. These seem to imagine
that as soon as the Autocratic Power is limited by parliamentary
institutions the discontented will cease from troubling and the
country will be at rest.

It is hardly necessary to say that such expectations are not likely
to be realised. All sections of the educated classes may be agreed
in desiring "liberty," but the word has many meanings, and nowhere
more than in Russia at the present day. For the Liberals it means
simply democratic parliamentary government; for the Social Democrat
it means the undisputed predominance of the Proletariat; for the
Socialist-Revolutionary it means the opportunity of realising
immediately the Socialist ideal; for the representative of a
subject-nationality it means the abolition of racial and religious
disabilities and the attainment of local autonomy or political
independence. There is no doubt, therefore, that in Russia, as in
other countries, a parliament would develop political parties
bitterly hostile to each other, and its early history might contain
some startling surprises for those who had helped to create it. If
the Constitution, for example, were made as democratic as the
Liberals and Socialists demand, the elections might possibly result
in an overwhelming Conservative majority ready to re-establish the
Autocratic Power! This is not at all so absurd as it sounds, for
the peasants, apart from the land question, are thoroughly
Conservative. The ordinary muzhik can hardly conceive that the
Emperor's power can be limited by a law or an Assembly, and if the
idea were suggested to him, he would certainly not approve. In his
opinion the Tsar should be omnipotent. If everything is not
satisfactory in Russia, it is because the Tsar does not know of the
evil, or is prevented from curing it by the tchinovniks and the
landed proprietors. "More power, therefore, to his elbow!" as an
Irishman might say. Such is the simple political creed of the
"undeveloped" muzhik, and all the efforts of the revolutionary
groups to develop him have not yet been attended with much success.

How, then, the reader may ask, is an issue to be found out of the
present imbroglio? I cannot pretend to speak with authority, but
it seems to me that there are only two methods of dealing with the
situation: prompt, energetic repression, or timely, judicious
concessions to popular feeling. Either of these methods might,
perhaps, have been successful, but the Government adopted neither,
and has halted between the two. By this policy of drift it has
encouraged the hopes of all, has satisfied nobody, and has
diminished its own prestige.

In defence or extenuation of this attitude it may be said that
there is considerable danger in the adoption of either course.
Vigorous repression means staking all on a single card, and if it
were successful it could not do more than postpone the evil day,
because the present antiquated form of government--suitable enough,
perhaps, for a simply organised peasant-empire vegetating in an
atmosphere of "eternal stillness"--cannot permanently resist the
rising tide of modern ideas and aspirations, and is incapable of
grappling successfully with the complicated problems of economic
and social progress which are already awaiting solution. Sooner or
later the bureaucratic machine, driven solely by the Autocratic
Power in the teeth of popular apathy or opposition, must inevitably
break down, and the longer the collapse is postponed the more
violent is it likely to be. On the other hand, it is impossible to
foresee the effects of concessions. Mere bureaucratic reforms will
satisfy no one; they are indeed not wanted except as a result of
more radical changes. What all sections of the Opposition demand
is that the people should at least take part in the government of
the country by means of freely elected representatives in
Parliament assembled. It is useless to argue with them that
Constitutionalism will certainly not work the miracles that are
expected of it, and that in the struggles of political parties
which it is sure to produce the unity and integrity of the Empire
may be endangered. Lessons of that kind can only be learned by
experience. Other countries, it is said, have existed and thriven
under free political institutions, and why not Russia? Why should
she be a pariah among the nations? She gave parliamentary
institutions to the young nationalities of the Balkan Peninsula as
soon as they were liberated from Turkish bondage, and she has not
yet been allowed such privileges herself!

Let us suppose now that the Autocratic Power has come to feel the
impossibility of remaining isolated as it is at present, and that
it has decided to seek solid support in some section of the
population, what section should it choose? Practically it has no
choice. The only way of relieving the pressure is to make
concessions to the Constitutionalists. That course would
conciliate, not merely the section of the Opposition which calls
itself by that name and represents the majority of the educated
classes, but also, in a lesser degree, all the other sections. No
doubt these latter would accept the concession only as part payment
of their demands and a means of attaining ulterior aims. Again and
again the Social Democrats have proclaimed publicly that they
desire parliamentary government, not as an end in itself, but as a
stepping stone towards the realisation of the Socialist ideal. It
is evident, however, that they would have to remain on this
stepping stone for a long series of years--until the
representatives of the Proletariat obtained an overwhelming
majority in the Chamber. In like manner the subject-nationalities
would regard a parliamentary regime as a mere temporary expedient--
a means of attaining greater local and national autonomy--and they
would probably show themselves more impatient than the Social
Democrats. Any inordinate claims, however, which they might put
forward would encounter resistance, as the Poles found in 1863, not
merely from the Autocratic Power, but from the great majority of
the Russian people, who have no sympathy with any efforts tending
to bring about the disruption of the Empire. In short, as soon as
the Assembly set to work, the delegates would be sobered by a
consciousness of responsibility, differences of opinion and aims
would inevitably appear, and the various groups transformed into
political parties, instead of all endeavouring as at present to
pull down the Autocratic Power, would expend a great part of their
energy in pulling against each other.

In order to reach this haven of safety it is necessary to pass
through a period of transition, in which there are some formidable
difficulties. One of these I may mention by way of illustration.

In creating parliamentary institutions of any kind the Government
could hardly leave intact the present system of allowing the police
to arrest without a proper warrant, and send into exile without
trial, any one suspected of revolutionary designs. On this point
all the Opposition groups are agreed, and all consequently put
forward prominently the demand for the inviolability of person and
domicile. To grant such a concession seems a very simple and easy
matter, but any responsible minister might hesitate to accept such
a restriction of his authority. We know, he would argue, that the
terrorist section of the Socialist-Revolutionary group, the so-
called Militant Organisation, are very busy preparing bombs, and
the police, even with the extensive, ill-defined powers which they
at present possess, have the greatest difficulty in preventing the
use of such objectionable instruments of political warfare. Would
not the dynamiters and throwers of hand-grenades utilise a
relaxation of police supervision, as they did in the time of Louis
Melikof,* for carrying out their nefarious designs?

* Vide supra, p. 569.

I have no desire to conceal or minimise such dangers, but I believe
they are temporary and by no means so great as the dangers of the
only other alternatives--energetic repression and listless
inactivity. Terrorism and similar objectionable methods of
political warfare are symptoms of an abnormal, unhealthy state of
society, and would doubtless disappear in Russia, as they have
disappeared in other countries, with the conditions which produced
them. If the terrorists continued to exist under a more liberal
regime, they would be much less formidable, because they would lose
the half-concealed sympathy which they at present enjoy.

Political assassinations may occasionally take place under the most
democratic governments, as the history of the United States proves,
but terrorism as a system is to be found only in countries where
the political power is concentrated in the hands of a few
individuals; and it sometimes happens that irresponsible persons
are exposed to terrorist attacks. We have an instance of this at
present in St. Petersburg. The reluctance of the Emperor to adopt
at once a Liberal programme is commonly attributed to the influence
of two members of the Imperial family, the Empress Dowager and the
Grand Duke Vladimir. This is a mistake. Neither of these
personages is so reactionary as is generally supposed, and their
political views, whatever they may be, have no appreciable
influence on the course of affairs. If the Empress Dowager had
possessed the influence so often ascribed to her, M. Plehve would
not have remained so long in power. As for the Grand Duke
Vladimir, he is not in favour, and for nearly two years he has
never been consulted on political matters. The so-called Grand
Ducal party of which he is supposed to be the leader, is a recently
invented fiction. When in difficulties the Emperor may consult
individually some of his near relatives, but there is no coherent
group to which the term party could properly be applied.

As soon as the Autocratic Power has decided on a definite line of
action, it is to be hoped that a strong man will be found to take
the direction of affairs. In Russia, as in other autocratically
governed countries, strong men in the political sense of the term
are extremely rare, and when they do appear as a lusus naturae they
generally take their colour from their surroundings, and are of the
authoritative, dictatorial type. During recent years only two
strong men have come to the front in the Russian official world.
The one was M. Plehve, who was nothing if not authoritative and
dictatorial, and who is no longer available for experiments in
repression or constitutionalism. The other is M. Witte. As an
administrator under an autocratic regime he has displayed immense
ability and energy, but it does not follow that he is a statesman
capable of piloting the ship into calm waters, and he is not likely
to have an opportunity of making the attempt, for he does not--to
state the case mildly--possess the full confidence of his august

Even if a strong man, enjoying fully the Imperial confidence, could
be found, the problem would not be thereby completely and
satisfactorily solved, because an autocrat, who is the Lord's
Anointed, cannot delegate his authority to a simple mortal without
losing something of the semi-religious halo and the prestige on
which his authority rests. While a roi faineant may fulfil
effectively all the essential duties of sovereignty, an autocrate
faineant is an absurdity.

In these circumstances, it is idle to speculate as to the future.
All we can do is to await patiently the development of events, and
in all probability it is the unexpected that will happen.

The reader doubtless feels that I am offering a very lame and
impotent conclusion, and I must confess that I am conscious of this
feeling myself, but I think I may fairly plead extenuating
circumstances. Happily for my peace of mind I am a mere observer
who is not called upon to invent a means of extricating Russia from
her difficult position. For that arduous task there are already
brave volunteers enough in the field. All I have to do is to
explain as clearly as I can the complicated problem to be solved.
Nor do I feel it any part of my duty to make predictions. I
believe I am pretty well acquainted with the situation at the
present moment, but what it may be a few weeks hence, when the
words I am now writing issue from the press, I do not profess to

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