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Russia by Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Part 6 out of 15

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land is not likely to come into existence.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As an instance of the ethnological curiosities which the traveller
may stumble upon unawares in this curious region, I may mention a
strange acquaintance I made when travelling on the great plain
which stretches from the Sea of Azof to the Caspian. One day I
accidentally noticed on my travelling-map the name "Shotlandskaya
Kol6niya" (Scottish Colony) near the celebrated baths of
Piatigorsk. I was at that moment in Stavropol, a town about eighty
miles to the north, and could not gain any satisfactory information
as to what this colony was. Some well-informed people assured me
that it really was what its name implied, whilst others asserted as
confidently that it was simply a small German settlement. To
decide the matter I determined to visit the place myself, though it
did not lie near my intended route, and I accordingly found myself
one morning in the village in question. The first inhabitants whom
I encountered were unmistakably German, and they professed to know
nothing about the existence of Scotsmen in the locality either at
the present or in former times. This was disappointing, and I was
about to turn away and drive off, when a young man, who proved to
be the schoolmaster, came up, and on hearing what I desired,
advised me to consult an old Circassian who lived at the end of the
village and was well acquainted with local antiquities. On
proceeding to the house indicated, I found a venerable old man,
with fine, regular features of the Circassian type, coal-black
sparkling eyes, and a long grey beard that would have done honour
to a patriarch. To him I explained briefly, in Russian, the object
of my visit, and asked whether he knew of any Scotsmen in the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Some had coffins made, and lay down in them at night, in the
expectation that the Second Advent might take place before the

But years passed, and neither of these expectations was fulfilled.
The fanatics awaited in vain the sound of the last trump and the
appearance of Christ, coming with His angels to judge the world.
The sun continued to rise, and the seasons followed each other in
their accustomed course, but the end was not yet. Nor did the
civil power return to the old faith. Nikon fell a victim to Court
intrigues and his own overweening pride, and was formally deposed.
Tsar Alexis in the fulness of time was gathered unto his fathers.
But there was no sign of a re-establishment of the old Orthodoxy.
Gradually the leading Raskolniki perceived that they must make
preparations, not for the Day of Judgment, but for a terrestrial
future--that they must create some permanent form of ecclesiastical
organisation. In this work they encountered at the very outset not
only practical, but also theoretical difficulties.

So long as they confined themselves simply to resisting the
official innovations, they seemed to be unanimous; but when they
were forced to abandon this negative policy and to determine
theoretically their new position, radical differences of opinion
became apparent. All were convinced that the official Russian
Church had become heretical, and that it had now Antichrist instead
of Christ as its head; but it was not easy to determine what should
be done by those who refused to bow the knee to the Son of
Destruction. According to Protestant conceptions there was a very
simple solution of the difficulty: the Nonconformists had simply to
create a new Church for themselves, and worship God in the way that
seemed good to them. But to the Russians of that time such notions
were still more repulsive than the innovations of Nikon. These men
were Orthodox to the backbone--"plus royalistes que le roi"--and
according to Orthodox conceptions the founding of a new Church is
an absurdity. They believed that if the chain of historic
continuity were once broken, the Church must necessarily cease to
exist, in the same way as an ancient family becomes extinct when
its sole representative dies without issue. If, therefore, the
Church had already ceased to exist, there was no longer any means
of communication between Christ and His people, the sacraments were
no longer efficacious, and mankind was forever deprived of the
ordinary means of grace.

Now, on this important point there was a difference of opinion
among the Dissenters. Some of them believed that, though the
ecclesiastical authorities had become heretical, the Church still
existed in the communion of those who had refused to accept the
innovations. Others declared boldly that the Orthodox Church had
ceased to exist, that the ancient means of grace had been
withdrawn, and that those who had remained faithful must
thenceforth seek salvation, not in the sacraments, but in prayer
and such other religious exercises as did not require the co-
operation of duly consecrated priests. Thus took place a schism
among the Schismatics. The one party retained all the sacraments
and ceremonial observances in the older form; the other refrained
from the sacraments and from many of the ordinary rites, on the
ground that there was no longer a real priesthood, and that
consequently the sacraments could not be efficacious. The former
party are termed Staro-obriadsti, or Old Ritualists; the latter are
called Bezpopoftsi--that is to say, people "without priests" (bez

The succeeding history of these two sections of the Nonconformists
has been widely different. The Old Ritualists, being simply
ecclesiastical Conservatives desirous of resisting all innovations,
have remained a compact body little troubled by differences of
opinion. The Priestless People, on the contrary, ever seeking to
discover some new effectual means of salvation, have fallen into an
endless number of independent sects.

The Old Ritualists had still, however, one important theoretical
difficulty. At first they had amongst themselves plenty of
consecrated priests for the celebration of the ordinances, but they
had no means of renewing the supply. They had no bishops, and
according to Orthodox belief the lower degrees of the clergy cannot
be created without episcopal consecration. At the time of the
schism one bishop had thrown in his lot with the Schismatics, but
he had died shortly afterwards without leaving a successor, and
thereafter no bishop had joined their ranks. As time wore on, the
necessity of episcopal consecration came to be more and more felt,
and it is not a little interesting to observe how these rigorists,
who held to the letter of the law and declared themselves ready to
die for a jot or a tittle, modified their theory in accordance with
the changing exigencies of their position. When the priests who
had kept themselves "pure and undefiled"--free from all contact
with Antichrist--became scarce, it was discovered that certain
priests of the dominant Church might be accepted if they formally
abjured the Nikonian novelties. At first, however, only those who
had been consecrated previous to the supposed apostasy of the
Church were accepted, for the very good reason that consecration by
bishops who had become heretical could not be efficacious. When
these could no longer be obtained it was discovered that those who
had been baptised previous to the apostasy might be accepted; and
when even these could no longer be found, a still further
concession was made to necessity, and all consecrated priests were
received on condition of their solemnly abjuring their errors. Of
such priests there was always an abundant supply. If a regular
priest could not find a parish, or if he was deposed by the
authorities for some crime or misdemeanour, he had merely to pass
over to the Old Ritualists, and was sure to find among them a
hearty welcome and a tolerable salary.

By these concessions the indefinite prolongation of Old Ritualism
was secured, but many of the Old Ritualists could not but feel that
their position was, to say the least, extremely anomalous. They
had no bishops of their own, and their priests were all consecrated
by bishops whom they believed to be heretical! For many years they
hoped to escape from this dilemma by discovering "Orthodox"--that
is to say, Old Ritualist--bishops somewhere in the East; but when
the East had been searched in vain, and all their efforts to obtain
native bishops proved fruitless, they conceived the design of
creating a bishopric somewhere beyond the frontier, among the Old
Ritualists who had in times of persecution fled to Prussia,
Austria, and Turkey. There were, however, immense difficulties in
the way. In the first place it was necessary to obtain the formal
permission of some foreign Government; and in the second place an
Orthodox bishop must be found, willing to consecrate an Old
Ritualist or to become an Old Ritualist himself. Again and again
the attempt was made, and failed; but at last, after years of
effort and intrigue, the design was realised. In 1844 the Austrian
Government gave permission to found a bishopric at Belaya Krinitsa,
in Galicia, a few miles from the Russian frontier; and two years
later the deposed Metropolitan of Bosnia consented, after much
hesitation, to pass over to the Old Ritualist confession and accept
the diocese.* From that time the Old Ritualists have had their own
bishops, and have not been obliged to accept the runaway priests of
the official Church.

* An interesting account of these negotiations, and a most curious
picture of the Orthodox ecciestiastical world in Constantinople, is
given by Subbotiny, "Istoria Belokrinitskoi Ierarkhii," Moscow,

The Old Ritualists were naturally much grieved by the schism, and
were often sorely tried by persecution, but they have always
enjoyed a certain spiritual tranquillity, proceeding from the
conviction that they have preserved for themselves the means of
salvation. The position of the more extreme section of the
Schismatics was much more tragical. They believed that the
sacraments had irretrievably lost their efficacy, that the ordinary
means of salvation were forever withdrawn, that the powers of
darkness had been let loose for a little season, that the
authorities were the agents of Satan, and that the personage who
filled the place of the old God-fearing Tsars was no other than
Antichrist. Under the influence of these horrible ideas they fled
to the woods and the caves to escape from the rage of the Beast,
and to await the second coming of Our Lord.

This state of things could not continue permanently. Extreme
religious fanaticism, like all other abnormal states, cannot long
exist in a mass of human beings without some constant exciting
cause. The vulgar necessities of everyday life, especially among
people who have to live by the labour of their hands, have a
wonderfully sobering influence on the excited brain, and must
always, sooner or later, prove fatal to inordinate excitement. A
few peculiarly constituted individuals may show themselves capable
of a lifelong enthusiasm, but the multitude is ever spasmodic in
its fervour, and begins to slide back to its former apathy as soon
as the exciting cause ceases to act.

All this we find exemplified in the history of the Priestless
People. When it was found that the world did not come to an end,
and that the rigorous system of persecution was relaxed, the less
excitable natures returned to their homes, and resumed their old
mode of life; and when Peter the Great made his politic
concessions, many who had declared him to be Antichrist came to
suspect that he was really not so black as he was painted. This
idea struck deep root in a religious community near Lake Onega
(Vuigovski Skit) which had received special privileges on condition
of supplying labourers for the neighbouring mines; and here was
developed a new theory which opened up a way of reconciliation with
the Government. By a more attentive study of Holy Writ and ancient
books it was discovered that the reign of Antichrist would consist
of two periods. In the former, the Son of Destruction would reign
merely in the spiritual sense, and the Faithful would not be much
molested; in the latter, he would reign visibly in the flesh, and
true believers would be subjected to the most frightful
persecution. The second period, it was held, had evidently not yet
arrived, for the Faithful now enjoyed "a time of freedom, and not
of compulsion or oppression." Whether this theory is strictly in
accordance with Apocalyptic prophecy and patristic theology may be
doubted, but it fully satisfied those who had already arrived at
the conclusion by a different road, and who sought merely a means
of justifying their position. Certain it is that very many
accepted it, and determined to render unto Caesar the things that
were Caesar's, or, in secular language, to pray for the Tsar and to
pay their taxes.

This ingenious compromise was not accepted by all the Priestless
People. On the contrary, many of them regarded it as a woeful
backsliding--a new device of the Evil One; and among these
irreconcilables was a certain peasant called Theodosi, a man of
little education, but of remarkable intellectual power and unusual
strength of character. He raised anew the old fanaticism by his
preaching and writings--widely circulated in manuscript--and
succeeded in founding a new sect in the forest region near the
Polish frontier.

The Priestless Nonconformists thus fell into two sections; the one,
called Pomortsi,* accepted at least a partial reconciliation with
the civil power; the other, called Theodosians, after their
founder, held to the old opinions, and refused to regard the Tsar
otherwise than as Antichrist.

*The word Pomortsi means "those who live near the seashore." It is
commonly applied to the inhabitants of the Northern provinces--that
is, those who live near the shore of the White Sea, the only
maritime frontier that Russia possessed previous to the conquests
of Peter the Great.

These latter were at first very wild in their fanaticism, but ere
long they gave way to the influences which had softened the
fanaticism of the Pomortsi. Under the liberal, conciliatory rule
of Catherine they lived in contentment, and many of them enriched
themselves by trade. Their fanatical zeal and exclusiveness
evaporated under the influence of material well-being and constant
contact with the outer world, especially after they were allowed to
build a monastery in Moscow. The Superior of this monastery, a man
of much shrewdness and enormous wealth, succeeded in gaining the
favour not only of the lower officials, who could be easily bought,
but even of high-placed dignitaries, and for many years he
exercised a very real, if undefined, authority over all sections of
the Priestless People. "His fame," it is said, "sounded throughout
Moscow, and the echoes were heard in Petropol (St. Petersburg),
Riga, Astrakhan, Nizhni-Novgorod, and other lands of piety"; and
when deputies came to consult him, they prostrated themselves in
his presence, as before the great ones of the earth. Living thus
not only in peace and plenty, but even in honour and luxury, "the
proud Patriarch of the Theodosian Church" could not consistently
fulminate against "the ravenous wolves" with whom he was on
friendly terms, or excite the fanaticism of his followers by highly
coloured descriptions of "the awful sufferings and persecution of
God's people in these latter days," as the founder of the sect had
been wont to do. Though he could not openly abandon any
fundamental doctrines, he allowed the ideas about the reign of
Antichrist to fall into the background, and taught by example, if
not by precept, that the Faithful might, by prudent concessions,
live very comfortably in this present evil world. This seed fell
upon soil already prepared for its reception. The Faithful
gradually forgot their old savage fanaticism, and they have since
contrived, while holding many of their old ideas in theory, to
accommodate themselves in practice to the existing order of things.

The gradual softening and toning down of the original fanaticism in
these two sects are strikingly exemplified in their ideas of
marriage. According to Orthodox doctrine, marriage is a sacrament
which can only be performed by a consecrated priest, and
consequently for the Priestless People the celebration of marriage
was an impossibility. In the first ages of sectarianism a state of
celibacy was quite in accordance with their surroundings. Living
in constant fear of their persecutors, and wandering from one place
of refuge to another, the sufferers for the Faith had little time
or inclination to think of family ties, and readily listened to the
monks, who exhorted them to mortify the lusts of the flesh.

The result, however, proved that celibacy in the creed by no means
ensures chastity in practice. Not only in the villages of the
Dissenters, but even in those religious communities which professed
a more ascetic mode of life, a numerous class of "orphans" began to
appear, who knew not who their parents were; and this ignorance of
blood-relationship naturally led to incestuous connections.
Besides this, the doctrine of celibacy had grave practical
inconveniences, for the peasant requires a housewife to attend to
domestic concerns and to help him in his agricultural occupations.
Thus the necessity of re-establishing family life came to be felt,
and the feeling soon found expression in a doctrinal form both
among the Pomortsi and among the Theodsians. Learned dissertations
were written and disseminated in manuscript copies, violent
discussions took place, and at last a great Council was held in
Moscow to discuss the question.* The point at issue was never
unanimously decided, but many accepted the ingenious arguments in
favour of matrimony, and contracted marriages which were, of
course, null and void in the eye of the law and of the Church, but
valid in all other respects.

* I cannot here enter into the details of this remarkable
controversy, but I may say that in studying it I have been
frequently astonished by the dialectical power and logical subtlety
displayed by the disputants, some of them simple peasants.

This new backsliding of the unstable multitude produced a new
outburst of fanaticism among the stubborn few. Some of those who
had hitherto sought to conceal the origin of the "orphan" class
above referred to now boldly asserted that the existence of this
class was a religious necessity, because in order to be saved men
must repent, and in order to repent men must sin! At the same time
the old ideas about Antichrist were revived and preached with
fervour by a peasant called Philip, who founded a new sect called
the Philipists. This sect still exists. They hold fast to the old
belief that the Tsar is Antichrist, and that the civil and
ecclesiastical authorities are the servants of Satan--an idea that
was kept alive by the corruption and extortion for which the
Administration was notorious. They do not venture on open
resistance to the authorities, but the bolder members take little
pains to conceal their opinions and sentiments, and may be easily
recognised by their severe aspect, their Puritanical manner, and
their Pharisaical horror of everything which they suppose heretical
and unclean. Some of them, it is said, carry this fastidiousness
to such an extent that they throw away the handle of a door if it
has been touched by a heretic!

It may seem that we have here reached the extreme limits of
fanaticism, but in reality there were men whom even the Pharisaical
Puritanism of the Philipists did not satisfy. These new zealots,
who appeared in the time of Catherine II., but first became known
to the official world in the reign of Nicholas I., rebuked the
lukewarmness of their brethren, and founded a new sect in order to
preserve intact the asceticism practised immediately after the
schism. This sect still exists. They call themselves "Christ's
people" (Christoviye Lyudi), but are better known under the popular
name of "Wanderers" (Stranniki), or "Fugitives" (Beguny). Of all
the sects they are the most hostile to the existing political and
social organisation. Not content with condemning the military
conscription, the payment of taxes, the acceptance of passports,
and everything connected with the civil and ecclesiastical
authorities, they consider it sinful to live peaceably among an
orthodox--that is, according to their belief, a heretical--
population, and to have dealings with any who do not share their
extreme views. Holding the Antichrist doctrine in the extreme
form, they declare that Tsars are the vessels of Satan, that the
Established Church is the dwelling-place of the Father of Lies, and
that all who submit to the authorities are children of the Devil.
According to this creed, those who wish to escape from the wrath to
come must have neither houses nor fixed places of abode, must sever
all ties that bind them to the world, and must wander about
continually from place to place. True Christians are but strangers
and pilgrims in the present life, and whoso binds himself to the
world will perish with the world.

Such is the theory of these Wanderers, but among them, as among the
less fanatical sects, practical necessities have produced
concessions and compromises. As it is impossible to lead a nomadic
life in Russian forests, the Wanderers have been compelled to admit
into their ranks what may be called lay-brethren--men who nominally
belong to the sect, but who live like ordinary mortals and have
some rational way of gaining a livelihood. These latter live in
the villages or towns, support themselves by agriculture or trade,
accept passports from the authorities, pay their taxes regularly,
and conduct themselves in all outward respects like loyal subjects.
Their chief religious duty consists in giving food and shelter to
their more zealous brethren, who have adopted a vagabond life in
practise as well as in theory. It is only when they feel death
approaching that they consider it necessary to separate themselves
from the heretical world, and they effect this by having themselves
carried out to some neighbouring wood--or into a garden if there is
no wood at hand--where they may die in the open air.

Thus, we see, there is among the Russian Nonconformist sects what
may be called a gradation of fanaticism, in which is reflected the
history of the Great Schism. In the Wanderers we have the
representatives of those who adopted and preserved the Antichrist
doctrine in its extreme form--the successors of those who fled to
the forests to escape from the rage of the Beast and to await the
second coming of Christ. In the Philipists we have the
representatives of those who adopted these ideas in a somewhat
softer form, and who came to recognise the necessity of having some
regular means of subsistence until the last trump should be heard.
The Theodosians represent those who were in theory at one with the
preceding category, but who, having less religious fanaticism,
considered it necessary to yield to force and make peace with the
Government without sacrificing their convictions. In the Pomortsi
we see those who preserved only the religious ideas of the schism,
and became reconciled with the civil power. Lastly we have the Old
Ritualists, who differed from all the other sects in retaining the
old ordinances, and who simply rejected the spiritual authority of
the dominant Church. Besides these chief sections of the
Nonconformists there are a great many minor denominations (tolki),
differing from each other on minor points of doctrine. In certain
districts, it is said, nearly every village has one or two
independent sects. This is especially the case among the Don
Cossacks and the Cossacks of the Ural, who are in part descendants
of the men who fled from the early persecutions.

Of all the sects the Old Ritualists stand nearest to the official
Church. They hold the same dogmas, practise the same rites, and
differ only in trifling ceremonial matters, which few people
consider essential. In the hope of inducing them to return to the
official fold the Government created at the beginning of last
century special churches, in which they were allowed to retain
their ceremonial peculiarities on condition of accepting regularly
consecrated priests and submitting to ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
As yet the design has not met with much success. The great
majority of the Old Ritualists regard it as a trap, and assert that
the Church in making this concession has been guilty of self-
contradiction. "The Ecclesiastical Council of Moscow," they say,
"anathematised our forefathers for holding to the old ritual, and
declared that the whole course of nature would be changed sooner
than the curse be withdrawn. The course of nature has not been
changed, but the anathema has been cancelled." This argument ought
to have a certain weight with those who believe in the
infallibility of Ecclesiastical Councils.

Towards the Priestless People the Government has always acted in a
much less conciliatory spirit. Its severity has been sometimes
justified on the ground that sectarianism has had a political as
well as a religious significance. A State like Russia cannot
overlook the existence of sects which preach the duty of systematic
resistance to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and hold
doctrines which lead to the grossest immorality. This argument, it
must be admitted, is not without a certain force, but it seems to
me that the policy adopted tended to increase rather than diminish
the evils which it sought to cure. Instead of dispelling the
absurd idea that the Tsar was Antichrist by a system of strict and
evenhanded justice, punishing merely actual crimes and
delinquencies, the Government confirmed the notion in the minds of
thousands by persecuting those who had committed no crime and who
desired merely to worship God according to their conscience. Above
all it erred in opposing and punishing those marriages which,
though legally irregular, were the best possible means of
diminishing fanaticism, by leading back the fanatics to healthy
social life. Fortunately these errors have now been abandoned. A
policy of greater clemency and conciliation has been adopted, and
has proved much more efficacious than persecution. The Dissenters
have not returned to the official fold, but they have lost much of
their old fanaticism and exclusiveness.

In respect of numbers the sectarians compose a very formidable
body. Of Old Ritualists and Priestless People there are, it is
said, no less than eleven millions; and the Protestant and
fantastical sects comprise probably about five millions more. If
these numbers be correct, the sectarians constitute about an eighth
of the whole population of the Empire. They count in their ranks
none of the nobles--none of the so-called enlightened class--but
they include in their number a respectable proportion of the
peasants, a third of the rich merchant class, the majority of the
Don Cossacks, and nearly all the Cossacks of the Ural.

Under these circumstances it is important to know how far the
sectarians are politically disaffected. Some people imagine that
in the event of an insurrection or a foreign invasion they might
rise against the Government, whilst others believe that this
supposed danger is purely imaginary. For my own part I agree with
the latter opinion, which is strongly supported by the history of
many important events, such as the French invasion in 1812, the
Crimean War, and the last Polish insurrection. The great majority
of the Schismatics and heretics are, I believe, loyal subjects of
the Tsar. The more violent sects, which are alone capable of
active hostility against the authorities, are weak in numbers, and
regard all outsiders with such profound mistrust that they are
wholly impervious to inflammatory influences from without. Even if
all the sects were capable of active hostility, they would not be
nearly so formidable as their numbers seem to indicate, for they
are hostile to each other, and are wholly incapable of combining
for a common purpose.

Though sectarianism is thus by no means a serious political danger,
it has nevertheless a considerable political significance. It
proves satisfactorily that the Russian people is by no means so
docile and pliable as is commonly supposed, and that it is capable
of showing a stubborn, passive resistance to authority when it
believes great interests to be at stake. The dogged energy which
it has displayed in asserting for centuries its religious liberty
may perhaps some day be employed in the arena of secular politics.



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

From the curious world of heretics and Dissenters let us pass now
to the Russian Orthodox Church, to which the great majority of the
Russian people belong. It has played an important part in the
national history, and has exercised a powerful influence in the
formation of the national character.

Russians are in the habit of patriotically and proudly
congratulating themselves on the fact that their forefathers always
resisted successfully the aggressive tendencies of the Papacy, but
it may be doubted whether, from a worldly point of view, the
freedom from Papal authority has been an unmixed blessing for the
country. If the Popes failed to realise their grand design of
creating a vast European empire based on theocratic principles,
they succeeded at least in inspiring with a feeling of brotherhood
and a vague consciousness of common interest all the nations which
acknowledged their spiritual supremacy. These nations, whilst
remaining politically independent and frequently coming into
hostile contact with each other, all looked to Rome as the capital
of the Christian world, and to the Pope as the highest terrestrial
authority. Though the Church did not annihilate nationality, it
made a wide breach in the political barriers, and formed a channel
for international communication by which the social and
intellectual progress of each nation became known to all the other
members of the great Christian confederacy. Throughout the length
and breadth of the Papal Commonwealth educated men had a common
language, a common literature, a common scientific method, and to a
certain extent a common jurisprudence. Western Christendom was
thus all through the Middle Ages not merely an abstract conception
or a geographical expression: if not a political, it was at least a
religious and intellectual unit, and all the countries of which it
was composed benefited more or less by the connection.

For centuries Russia stood outside of this religious and
intellectual confederation, for her Church connected her not with
Rome, but with Constantinople, and Papal Europe looked upon her as
belonging to the barbarous East. When the Mongol hosts swept over
her plains, burnt her towns and villages, and finally incorporated
her into the great empire of Genghis khan, the so-called Christian
world took no interest in the struggle except in so far as its own
safety was threatened. And as time wore on, the barriers which
separated the two great sections of Christendom became more and
more formidable. The aggressive pretensions and ambitious schemes
of the Vatican produced in the Greek Orthodox world a profound
antipathy to the Roman Catholic Church and to Western influence of
every kind. So strong was this aversion that when the nations of
the West awakened in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries from
their intellectual lethargy and began to move forward on the path
of intellectual and material progress, Russia not only remained
unmoved, but looked on the new civilisation with suspicion and fear
as a thing heretical and accursed. We have here one of the chief
reasons why Russia, at the present day, is in many respects less
civilised than the nations of Western Europe.

But it is not merely in this negative way that the acceptance of
Christianity from Constantinople has affected the fate of Russia.
The Greek Church, whilst excluding Roman Catholic civilisation,
exerted at the same time a powerful positive influence on the
historical development of the nation.

The Church of the West inherited from old Rome something of that
logical, juridical, administrative spirit which had created the
Roman law, and something of that ambition and dogged, energetic
perseverance that had formed nearly the whole known world into a
great centralised empire. The Bishops of Rome early conceived the
design of reconstructing that old empire on a new basis, and long
strove to create a universal Christian theocratic State, in which
kings and other civil authorities should be the subordinates of
Christ's Vicar upon earth. The Eastern Church, on the contrary,
has remained true to her Byzantine traditions, and has never
dreamed of such lofty pretensions. Accustomed to lean on the civil
power, she has always been content to play a secondary part, and
has never strenuously resisted the formation of national churches.

For about two centuries after the introduction of Christianity--
from 988 to 1240--Russia formed, ecclesiastically speaking, part of
the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The metropolitans and the
bishops were Greek by birth and education, and the ecclesiastical
administration was guided and controlled by the Byzantine
Patriarchs. But from the time of the Mongol invasion, when
communication with Constantinople became more difficult and
educated native priests had become more numerous, this complete
dependence on the Patriarch of Constantinople ceased. The Princes
gradually arrogated to themselves the right of choosing the

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