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Russia by Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Part 5 out of 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friend replied that the riddle surpassed his powers of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Kireyefski, in the Russakaya Beseda.

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

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

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

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

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

"To where I was ordered, master!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urgentur ignotique longa
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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