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Russia by Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Part 7 out of 15

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Metropolitan of Kief--who was at that time the chief ecclesiastical
dignitary in Russia--and merely sent their nominees to
Constantinople for consecration. About 1448 this formality came to
be dispensed with, and the Metropolitan was commonly consecrated by
a Council of Russian bishops. A further step in the direction of
ecclesiastical autonomy was taken in 1589, when the Tsar succeeded
in procuring the consecration of a Russian Patriarch, equal in
dignity and authority to the Patriarchs of Constantinople,
Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria.

In all matters of external form the Patriarch of Moscow was a very
important personage. He exercised a certain influence in civil as
well as ecclesiastical affairs, bore the official title of "Great
Lord" (Veliki Gosudar), which had previously been reserved for the
civil head of the State, and habitually received from the people
scarcely less veneration than the Tsar himself. But in reality he
possessed very little independent power. The Tsar was the real
ruler in ecclesiastical as well as in civil affairs.*

* As this is frequently denied by Russians, it may be well to quote
one authority out of many that might be cited. Bishop Makarii,
whose erudition and good faith are alike above suspicion, says of
Dmitri of the Don: "He arrogated to himself full, unconditional
power over the Head of the Russian Church, and through him over the
whole Russian Church itself." ("Istoriya Russkoi Tserkvi," V., p.
101.) This is said of a Grand Prince who had strong rivals and had
to treat the Church as an ally. When the Grand Princes became
Tsars and had no longer any rivals, their power was certainly not
diminished. Any further confirmation that may be required will be
found in the Life of the famous Patriarch Nikon.

The Russian Patriarchate came to an end in the time of Peter the
Great. Peter wished, among other things, to reform the
ecclesiastical administration, and to introduce into his country
many novelties which the majority of the clergy and of the people
regarded as heretical; and he clearly perceived that a bigoted,
energetic Patriarch might throw considerable obstacles in his way,
and cause him infinite annoyance. Though such a Patriarch might be
deposed without any flagrant violation of the canonical
formalities, the operation would necessarily be attended with great
trouble and loss of time. Peter was no friend of roundabout,
tortuous methods, and preferred to remove the difficulty in his
usual thorough, violent fashion. When the Patriarch Adrian died,
the customary short interregnum was prolonged for twenty years, and
when the people had thus become accustomed to having no Patriarch,
it was announced that no more Patriarchs would be elected. Their
place was supplied by an ecclesiastical council, or Synod, in
which, as a contemporary explained, "the mainspring was Peter's
power, and the pendulum his understanding." The great autocrat
justly considered that such a council could be much more easily
managed than a stubborn Patriarch, and the wisdom of the measure
has been duly appreciated by succeeding sovereigns. Though the
idea of re-establishing the Patriarchate has more than once been
raised, it has never been carried into execution. The Holy Synod
remains the highest ecclesiastical authority.

But the Emperor? What is his relation to the Synod and to the
Church in general?

This is a question about which zealous Orthodox Russians are
extremely sensitive. If a foreigner ventures to hint in their
presence that the Emperor seems to have a considerable influence in
the Church, he may inadvertently produce a little outburst of
patriotic warmth and virtuous indignation. The truth is that many
Russians have a pet theory on this subject, and have at the same
time a dim consciousness that the theory is not quite in accordance
with reality. They hold theoretically that the Orthodox Church has
no "Head" but Christ, and is in some peculiar undefined sense
entirely independent of all terrestrial authority. In this respect
it is often contrasted with the Anglican Church, much to the
disadvantage of the latter; and the supposed differences between
the two are made a theme for semi-religious, semi-patriotic
exultation. Khomiakof, for instance, in one of his most vigorous
poems, predicts that God will one day take the destiny of the world
out of the hands of England in order to give it to Russia, and he
adduces as one of the reasons for this transfer the fact that
England "has chained, with sacrilegious hand, the Church of God to
the pedestal of the vain earthly power." So far the theory. As to
the facts, it is unquestionable that the Tsar exercises a much
greater influence in ecclesiastical affairs than the King and
Parliament in England. All who know the internal history of Russia
are aware that the Government does not draw a clear line of
distinction between the temporal and the spiritual, and that it
occasionally uses the ecclesiastical organisation for political

What, then, are the relations between Church and State?

To avoid confusion, we must carefully distinguish between the
Eastern Orthodox Church as a whole and that section of it which is
known as the Russian Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church* is, properly speaking, a confederation
of independent churches without any central authority--a unity
founded on the possession of a common dogma and on the theoretical
but now unrealisable possibility of holding Ecumenical Councils.
The Russian National Church is one of the members of this
ecclesiastical confederation. In matters of faith it is bound by
the decisions of the ancient Ecumenical Councils, but in all other
respects it enjoys complete independence and autonomy.

* Or Greek Orthodox Church, as it is sometimes called.

In relation to the Orthodox Church as a whole the Emperor of Russia
is nothing more than a simple member, and can no more interfere
with its dogmas or ceremonial than a King of Italy or an Emperor of
the French could modify Roman Catholic theology; but in relation to
the Russian National Church his position is peculiar. He is
described in one of the fundamental laws as "the supreme defender
and preserver of the dogmas of the dominant faith," and immediately
afterwards it is said that "the autocratic power acts in the
ecclesiastical administration by means of the most Holy Governing
Synod, created by it."* This describes very fairly the relations
between the Emperor and the Church. He is merely the defender of
the dogmas, and cannot in the least modify them; but he is at the
same time the chief administrator, and uses the Synod as an

* Svod Zakonov I., 42, 43.

Some ingenious people who wish to prove that the creation of the
Synod was not an innovation represent the institution as a
resuscitation of the ancient local councils; but this view is
utterly untenable. The Synod is not a council of deputies from
various sections of the Church, but a permanent college, or
ecclesiastical senate, the members of which are appointed and
dismissed by the Emperor as he thinks fit. It has no independent
legislative authority, for its legislative projects do not become
law till they have received the Imperial sanction; and they are
always published, not in the name of the Church, but in the name of
the Supreme Power. Even in matters of simple administration it is
not independent, for all its resolutions require the consent of the
Procureur, a layman nominated by his Majesty. In theory this
functionary protests only against those resolutions which are not
in accordance with the civil law of the country; but as he alone
has the right to address the Emperor directly on ecclesiastical
concerns, and as all communications between the Emperor and the
Synod pass through his hands, he possesses in reality considerable
power. Besides this, he can always influence the individual
members by holding out prospects of advancement and decorations,
and if this device fails, he can make refractory members retire,
and fill up their places with men of more pliant disposition. A
Council constituted in this way cannot, of course, display much
independence of thought or action, especially in a country like
Russia, where no one ventures to oppose openly the Imperial will.

It must not, however, be supposed that the Russian ecclesiastics
regard the Imperial authority with jealousy or dislike. They are
all most loyal subjects, and warm adherents of autocracy. Those
ideas of ecclesiastical independence which are so common in Western
Europe, and that spirit of opposition to the civil power which
animates the Roman Catholic clergy, are entirely foreign to their
minds. If a bishop sometimes complains to an intimate friend that
he has been brought to St. Petersburg and made a member of the
Synod merely to append his signature to official papers and to give
his consent to foregone conclusions, his displeasure is directed,
not against the Emperor, but against the Procureur. He is full of
loyalty and devotion to the Tsar, and has no desire to see his
Majesty excluded from all influence in ecclesiastical affairs; but
he feels saddened and humiliated when he finds that the whole
government of the Church is in the hands of a lay functionary, who
may be a military man, and who looks at all matters from a layman's
point of view.

This close connection between Church and State and the thoroughly
national character of the Russian Church is well illustrated by the
history of the local ecclesiastical administration. The civil and
the ecclesiastical administration have always had the same
character and have always been modified by the same influences.
The terrorism which was largely used by the Muscovite Tsars and
brought to a climax by Peter the Great appeared equally in both.
In the episcopal circulars, as in the Imperial ukazes, we find
frequent mention of "most cruel corporal punishment," "cruel
punishment with whips, so that the delinquent and others may not
acquire the habit of practising such insolence," and much more of
the same kind. And these terribly severe measures were sometimes
directed against very venial offences. The Bishop of Vologda, for
instance, in 1748 decrees "cruel corporal punishment" against
priests who wear coarse and ragged clothes,* and the records of the
Consistorial courts contain abundant proof that such decrees were
rigorously executed. When Catherine II. introduced a more humane
spirit into the civil administration, corporal punishment was at
once abolished in the Consistorial courts, and the procedure was
modified according to the accepted maxims of civil jurisprudence.
But I must not weary the reader with tiresome historical details.
Suffice it to say that, from the time of Peter the Great downwards,
the character of all the more energetic sovereigns is reflected in
the history of the ecclesiastical administration.

* Znamenski, "Prikhodskoe Dukhovenstvo v Rossii so vremeni reformy
Petra," Kazan, 1873.

Each province, or "government," forms a diocese, and the bishop,
like the civil governor, has a Council which theoretically controls
his power, but practically has no controlling influence whatever.
The Consistorial Council, which has in the theory of ecclesiastical
procedure a very imposing appearance, is in reality the bishop's
chancellerie, and its members are little more than secretaries,
whose chief object is to make themselves agreeable to their
superior. And it must be confessed that, so long as they remain
what they are, the less power they possess the better it will be
for those who have the misfortune to be under their jurisdiction.
The higher dignitaries have at least larger aims and a certain
consciousness of the dignity of their position; but the lower
officials, who have no such healthy restraints and receive
ridiculously small salaries, grossly misuse the little authority
which they possess, and habitually pilfer and extort in the most
shameless manner. The Consistories are, in fact, what the public
offices were in the time of Nicholas I.

The higher ecclesiastical administration has always been in the
hands of the monks, or "Black Clergy," as they are commonly termed,
who form a large and influential class. The monks who first
settled in Russia were, like those who first visited north-western
Europe, men of the earnest, ascetic, missionary type. Filled with
zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, they took
little or no thought for the morrow, and devoutly believed that
their Heavenly Father, without whose knowledge no sparrow falls to
the ground, would provide for their humble wants. Poor, clad in
rags, eating the most simple fare, and ever ready to share what
they had with any one poorer than themselves, they performed
faithfully and earnestly the work which their Master had given them
to do. But this ideal of monastic life soon gave way in Russia, as
in the West, to practices less simple and austere. By the liberal
donations and bequests of the faithful the monasteries became rich
in gold, in silver, in precious stones, and above all in land and
serfs. Troitsa, for instance, possessed at one time 120,000 serfs
and a proportionate amount of land, and it is said that at the
beginning of the eighteenth century more than a fourth of the
entire population had fallen under the jurisdiction of the Church.
Many of the monasteries engaged in commerce, and the monks were, if
we may credit Fletcher, who visited Russia in 1588, the most
intelligent merchants of the country.

During the eighteenth century the Church lands were secularised,
and the serfs of the Church became serfs of the State. This was a
severe blow for the monasteries, but it did not prove fatal, as
many people predicted. Some monasteries were abolished and others
were reduced to extreme poverty, but many survived and prospered.
These could no longer possess serfs, but they had still three
sources of revenue: a limited amount of real property, Government
subsidies, and the voluntary offerings of the faithful. At present
there are about 500 monastic establishments, and the great majority
of them, though not wealthy, have revenues more than sufficient to
satisfy all the requirements of an ascetic life.

Thus in Russia, as in Western Europe, the history of monastic
institutions is composed of three chapters, which may be briefly
entitled: asceticism and missionary enterprise; wealth, luxury, and
corruption; secularisation of property and decline. But between
Eastern and Western monasticism there is at least one marked
difference. The monasticism of the West made at various epochs of
its history a vigorous, spontaneous effort at self-regeneration,
which found expression in the foundation of separate Orders, each
of which proposed to itself some special aim--some special sphere
of usefulness. In Russia we find no similar phenomenon. Here the
monasteries never deviated from the rules of St. Basil, which
restrict the members to religious ceremonies, prayer, and
contemplation. From time to time a solitary individual raised his
voice against the prevailing abuses, or retired from his monastery
to spend the remainder of his days in ascetic solitude; but neither
in the monastic population as a whole, nor in any particular
monastery, do we find at any time a spontaneous, vigorous movement
towards reform. During the last two hundred years reforms have
certainly been effected, but they have all been the work of the
civil power, and in the realisation of them the monks have shown
little more than the virtue of resignation. Here, as elsewhere, we
have evidence of that inertness, apathy, and want of spontaneous
vigour which form one of the most characteristic traits of Russian
national life. In this, as in other departments of national
activity, the spring of action has lain not in the people, but in
the Government.

It is only fair to the monks to state that in their dislike to
progress and change of every kind they merely reflect the
traditional spirit of the Church to which they belong. The Russian
Church, like the Eastern Orthodox Church generally, is essentially
conservative. Anything in the nature of a religious revival is
foreign to her traditions and character. Quieta non movere is her
fundamental principle of conduct. She prides herself as being
above terrestrial influences.

The modifications that have been made in her administrative
organisation have not affected her inner nature. In spirit and
character she is now what she was under the Patriarchs in the time
of the Muscovite Tsars, holding fast to the promise that no jot or
tittle shall pass from the law till all be fulfilled. To those who
talk about the requirements of modern life and modern science she
turns a deaf ear. Partly from the predominance which she gives to
the ceremonial element, partly from the fact that her chief aim is
to preserve unmodified the doctrine and ceremonial as determined by
the early Ecumenical Councils, and partly from the low state of
general culture among the clergy, she has ever remained outside of
the intellectual movements. The attempts of the Roman Catholic
Church to develop the traditional dogmas by definition and
deduction, and the efforts of Protestants to reconcile their creeds
with progressive science and the ever-varying intellectual currents
of the time, are alike foreign to her nature. Hence she has
produced no profound theological treatises conceived in a
philosophical spirit, and has made no attempt to combat the spirit
of infidelity in its modern forms. Profoundly convinced that her
position is impregnable, she has "let the nations rave," and
scarcely deigned to cast a glance at their intellectual and
religious struggles. In a word, she is "in the world, but not of

If we wish to see represented in a visible form the peculiar
characteristics of the Russian Church, we have only to glance at
Russian religious art, and compare it with that of Western Europe.
In the West, from the time of the Renaissance downwards, religious
art has kept pace with artistic progress. Gradually it emancipated
itself from archaic forms and childish symbolism, converted the
lifeless typical figures into living individuals, lit up their dull
eyes and expressionless faces with human intelligence and human
feeling, and finally aimed at archaeological accuracy in costume
and other details. Thus in the West the Icon grew slowly into the
naturalistic portrait, and the rude symbolical groups developed
gradually into highly-finished historical pictures. In Russia the
history of religious art has been entirely different. Instead of
distinctive schools of painting and great religious artists, there
has been merely an anonymous traditional craft, destitute of any
artistic individuality. In all the productions of this craft the
old Byzantine forms have been faithfully and rigorously preserved,
and we can see reflected in the modern Icons--stiff, archaic,
expressionless--the immobility of the Eastern Church in general,
and of the Russian Church in particular.

To the Roman Catholic, who struggles against science as soon as it
contradicts traditional conceptions, and to the Protestant, who
strives to bring his religious beliefs into accordance with his
scientific knowledge, the Russian Church may seem to resemble an
antediluvian petrifaction, or a cumbrous line-of-battle ship that
has been long stranded. It must be confessed, however, that the
serene inactivity for which she is distinguished has had very
valuable practical consequences. The Russian clergy have neither
that haughty, aggressive intolerance which characterises their
Roman Catholic brethren, nor that bitter, uncharitable, sectarian
spirit which is too often to be found among Protestants. They
allow not only to heretics, but also to members of their own
communion, the most complete intellectual freedom, and never think
of anathematising any one for his scientific or unscientific
opinions. All that they demand is that those who have been born
within the pale of Orthodoxy should show the Church a certain
nominal allegiance; and in this matter of allegiance they are by no
mean very exacting. So long as a member refrains from openly
attacking the Church and from going over to another confession, he
may entirely neglect all religious ordinances and publicly profess
scientific theories logically inconsistent with any kind of
dogmatic religious belief without the slightest danger of incurring
ecclesiastical censure.

This apathetic tolerance may be partly explained by the national
character, but it is also to some extent due to the peculiar
relations between Church and State. The government vigilantly
protects the Church from attack, and at the same time prevents her
from attacking her enemies. Hence religious questions are never
discussed in the Press, and the ecclesiastical literature is all
historical, homiletic, or devotional. The authorities allow public
oral discussions to be held during Lent in the Kremlin of Moscow
between members of the State Church and Old Ritualists; but these
debates are not theological in our sense of the term. They turn
exclusively on details of Church history, and on the minutiae of
ceremonial observance.

A few years ago there was a good deal of vague talk about a
possible union of the Russian and Anglican Churches. If by "union"
is meant simply union in the bonds of brotherly love, there can be,
of course, no objection to any amount of such pia desideria; but if
anything more real and practical is intended, the project is an
absurdity. A real union of the Russian and Anglican Churches would
be as difficult of realisation, and is as undesirable, as a union
of the Russian Council of State and the British House of Commons.*

* I suppose that the more serious partisans of the union scheme
mean union with the Eastern Orthodox, and not with the Russian,
Church. To them the above remarks are not addressed. Their scheme
is, in my opinion, unrealisable and undesirable, but it contains
nothing absurd.



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

Hitherto I have been compelling the reader to move about among what
we should call the lower classes--peasants, burghers, traders,
parish priests, Dissenters, heretics, Cossacks, and the like--and
he feels perhaps inclined to complain that he has had no
opportunity of mixing with what old-fashioned people call gentle-
folk and persons of quality. By way of making amends to him for
this reprehensible conduct on my part, I propose now to present him
to the whole Noblesse* in a body, not only those at present living,
but also their near and distant ancestors, right back to the
foundation of the Russian Empire a thousand years ago. Thereafter
I shall introduce him to some of the country families and invite
him to make with me a few country-house visits.

* I use here a foreign, in preference to an English, term, because
the word "Nobility" would convey a false impression.
Etymologically the Russian word "Dvoryanin" means a Courtier (from
Dvor=court); but this term is equally objectionable, because the
great majority of the Dvoryanstvo have nothing to do with the

In the old times, when Russia was merely a collection of some
seventy independent principalities, each reigning prince was
surrounded by a group of armed men, composed partly of Boyars, or
large landed proprietors, and partly of knights, or soldiers of
fortune. These men, who formed the Noblesse of the time, were to a
certain extent under the authority of the Prince, but they were by
no means mere obedient, silent executors of his will. The Boyars
might refuse to take part in his military expeditions, and the
"free-lances" might leave his service and seek employment
elsewhere. If he wished to go to war without their consent, they
could say to him, as they did on one occasion, "You have planned
this yourself, Prince, so we will not go with you, for we knew
nothing of it." Nor was this resistance to the princely will
always merely passive. Once, in the principality of Galitch, the
armed men seized their prince, killed his favourites, burned his
mistress, and made him swear that he would in future live with his
lawful wife. To his successor, who had married the wife of a
priest, they spoke thus: "We have not risen against YOU, Prince,
but we will not do reverence to a priest's wife: we will put her to
death, and then you may marry whom you please." Even the energetic
Bogolubski, one of the most remarkable of the old Princes, did not
succeed in having his own way. When he attempted to force the
Boyars he met with stubborn opposition, and was finally
assassinated. From these incidents, which might be indefinitely
multiplied from the old chronicles, we see that in the early period
of Russian history the Boyars and knights were a body of free men,
possessing a considerable amount of political power.

Under the Mongol domination this political equilibrium was
destroyed. When the country had been conquered, the Princes became
servile vassals of the Khan and arbitrary rulers towards their own
subjects. The political significance of the nobles was thereby
greatly diminished. It was not, however, by any means annihilated.
Though the Prince no longer depended entirely on their support, he
had an interest in retaining their services, to protect his
territory in case of sudden attack, or to increase his possessions
at the expense of his neighbours when a convenient opportunity
presented itself. Theoretically, such conquests were impossible,
for all removing of the ancient landmarks depended on the decision
of the Khan; but in reality the Khan paid little attention to the
affairs of his vassals so long as the tribute was regularly paid;
and much took place in Russia without his permission. We find,
therefore, in some of the principalities the old relations still
subsisting under Mongol rule. The famous Dmitri of the Don, for
instance, when on his death-bed, speaks thus to his Boyars: "You
know my habits and my character; I was born among you, grew up
among you, governed with you--fighting by your side, showing you
honour and love, and placing you over towns and districts. I loved
your children, and did evil to no one. I rejoiced with you in your
joy, mourned with you in your grief, and called you the princes of
my land." Then, turning to his children, he adds, as a parting
advice: "Love your Boyars, my children; show them the honour which
their services merit, and undertake nothing without their consent."

When the Grand Princes of Moscow brought the other principalities
under their power, and formed them into the Tsardom of Muscovy, the
nobles descended another step in the political scale. So long as
there were many principalities they could quit the service of a
Prince as soon as he gave them reason to be discontented, knowing
that they would be well received by one of his rivals; but now they
had no longer any choice. The only rival of Moscow was Lithuania,
and precautions were taken to prevent the discontented from
crossing the Lithuanian frontier. The nobles were no longer
voluntary adherents of a Prince, but had become subjects of a Tsar;
and the Tsars were not as the old Princes had been. By a violent
legal fiction they conceived themselves to be the successors of the
Byzantine Emperors, and created a new court ceremonial, borrowed
partly from Constantinople and partly from the Mongol Horde. They
no longer associated familiarly with the Boyars, and no longer
asked their advice, but treated them rather as menials. When the
nobles entered their august master's presence they prostrated
themselves in Oriental fashion--occasionally as many as thirty
times--and when they incurred his displeasure they were summarily
flogged or executed, according to the Tsar's good pleasure. In
succeeding to the power of the Khans, the Tsars had adopted, we
see, a good deal of the Mongol system of government.

It may seem strange that a class of men which had formerly shown a
proud spirit of independence should have submitted quietly to such
humiliation and oppression without making a serious effort to curb
the new power, which had no longer a Tartar Horde at its back to
quell opposition. But we must remember that the nobles, as well as
the Princes, had passed in the meantime through the school of the
Mongol domination. In the course of two centuries they had
gradually become accustomed to despotic rule in the Oriental sense.
If they felt their position humiliating and irksome, they must have
felt, too, how difficult it was to better it. Their only resource
lay in combining against the common oppressor; and we have only to
glance at the motley, disorganised group, as they cluster round the
Tsar, to perceive that combination was extremely difficult. We can
distinguish there the mediatised Princes, still harbouring designs
for the recovery of their independence; the Moscow Boyars, jealous
of their family honour and proud of Muscovite supremacy; Tartar
Murzi, who have submitted to be baptised and have received land
like the other nobles; the Novgorodian magnate, who cannot forget
the ancient glory of his native city; Lithuanian nobles, who find
it more profitable to serve the Tsar than their own sovereign;
petty chiefs who have fled from the opposition of the Teutonic
order; and soldiers of fortune from every part of Russia. Strong,
permanent political factors are not easily formed out of such
heterogeneous material.

At the end of the sixteenth century the old dynasty became extinct,
and after a short period of political anarchy, commonly called "the
troublous times" (smutnoe vremya), the Romanof family were raised
to the throne by the will of the people, or at least by those who
were assumed to be its representatives. By this change the
Noblesse acquired a somewhat better position. They were no longer
exposed to capricious tyranny and barbarous cruelty, such as they
had experienced at the hands of Ivan the Terrible, but they did
not, as a class, gain any political influence. There were still
rival families and rival factions, but there were no political
parties in the proper sense of the term, and the highest aim of
families and factions was to gain the favour of the Tsar.

The frequent quarrels about precedence which took place among the
rival families at this period form one of the most curious episodes
of Russian history. The old patriarchal conception of the family
as a unit, one and indivisible, was still so strong among these men
that the elevation or degradation of one member of a family was
considered to affect deeply the honour of all the other members.
Each noble family had its rank in a recognised scale of dignity,
according to the rank which it held, or had previously held, in the
Tsar's service; and a whole family would have considered itself
dishonoured if one of its members accepted a post lower than that
to which he was entitled. Whenever a vacant place in the service
was filled up, the subordinates of the successful candidate
examined the official records and the genealogical trees of their
families, in order to discover whether some ancestor of their new
superior had not served under one of their own ancestors. If the
subordinate found such a case, he complained to the Tsar that it
was not becoming for him to serve under a man who had less family
honour than himself.

Unfounded complaints of this kind often entailed imprisonment or
corporal punishment, but in spite of this the quarrels for
precedence were very frequent. At the commencement of a campaign
many such disputes were sure to arise, and the Tsar's decision was
not always accepted by the party who considered himself aggrieved.
I have met at least with one example of a great dignitary
voluntarily mutilating his hand in order to escape the necessity of
serving under a man whom he considered his inferior in family
dignity. Even at the Tsar's table these rivalries sometimes
produced unseemly incidents, for it was almost impossible to
arrange the places so as to satisfy all the guests. In one
recorded instance a noble who received a place lower than that to
which he considered himself entitled openly declared to the Tsar
that he would rather be condemned to death than submit to such an
indignity. In another instance of a similar kind the refractory
guest was put on his chair by force, but saved his family honour by
slipping under the table!

The next transformation of the Noblesse was effected by Peter the
Great. Peter was by nature and position an autocrat, and could
brook no opposition. Having set before himself a great aim, he
sought everywhere obedient, intelligent, energetic instruments to
carry out his designs. He himself served the State zealously--as a
common artisan, when he considered it necessary--and he insisted on
all his subjects doing likewise, under pain of merciless
punishment. To noble birth and long pedigrees he habitually showed
a most democratic, or rather autocratic, indifference. Intent on
obtaining the service of living men, he paid no attention to the
claims of dead ancestors, and gave to his servants the pay and
honour which their services merited, irrespectively of birth or
social position. Hence many of his chief coadjutors had no
connection with the old Russian families. Count Yaguzhinski, who
long held one of the most important posts in the State, was the son
of a poor sacristan; Count Devier was a Portuguese by birth, and
had been a cabin-boy; Baron Shafirof was a Jew; Hannibal, who died
with the rank of Commander in Chief, was a negro who had been
bought in Constantinople; and his Serene Highness Prince Menshikof
had begun life, it was said, as a baker's apprentice! For the
future, noble birth was to count for nothing. The service of the
State was thrown open to men of all ranks, and personal merit was
to be the only claim to promotion.

This must have seemed to the Conservatives of the time a most
revolutionary and reprehensible proceeding, but it did not satisfy
the reforming tendencies of the great autocrat. He went a step
further, and entirely changed the legal status of the Noblesse.
Down to his time the nobles were free to serve or not as they
chose, and those who chose to serve enjoyed land on what we should
call a feudal tenure. Some served permanently in the military or
civil administration, but by far the greater number lived on their
estates, and entered the active service merely when the militia was
called out in view of war. This system was completely changed when
Peter created a large standing army and a great centralised
bureaucracy. By one of those "fell swoops" which periodically
occur in Russian history, he changed the feudal into freehold
tenures, and laid down the principle that all nobles, whatever
their landed possessions might be, should serve the State in the
army, the fleet, or the civil administration, from boyhood to old
age. In accordance with this principle, any noble who refused to
serve was not only deprived of his estate, as in the old times, but
was declared to be a traitor and might be condemned to capital

The nobles were thus transformed into servants of the State, and
the State in the time of Peter was a hard taskmaster. They
complained bitterly, and with reason, that they had been deprived
of their ancient rights, and were compelled to accept quietly and
uncomplainingly whatever burdens their master chose to place upon
them. "Though our country," they said, "is in no danger of
invasion, no sooner is peace concluded than plans are laid for a
new war, which has generally no other foundation than the ambition
of the Sovereign, or perhaps merely the ambition of one of his
Ministers. To please him our peasants are utterly exhausted, and
we ourselves are forced to leave our homes and families, not as
formerly for a single campaign, but for long years. We are
compelled to contract debts and to entrust our estates to thieving
overseers, who commonly reduce them to such a condition that when
we are allowed to retire from the service, in consequence of old
age or illness, we cannot to the end of our lives retrieve our
prosperity. In a word, we are so exhausted and ruined by the
keeping up of a standing army, and by the consequences flowing
therefrom, that the most cruel enemy, though he should devastate
the whole Empire, could not cause us one-half of the injury."*

* These complaints have been preserved by Vockerodt, a Prussian
diplomatic agent of the time.

This Spartan regime, which ruthlessly sacrificed private interests
to considerations of State policy, could not long be maintained in
its pristine severity. It undermined its own foundations by
demanding too much. Draconian laws threatening confiscation and
capital punishment were of little avail. Nobles became monks,
inscribed themselves as merchants, or engaged themselves as
domestic servants, in order to escape their obligations. "Some,"
says a contemporary, "grow old in disobedience and have never once
appeared in active service. . . . There is, for instance, Theodore
Mokeyef. . . . In spite of the strict orders sent regarding him no
one could ever catch him. Some of those sent to take him he
belaboured with blows, and when he could not beat the messengers,
he pretended to be dangerously ill, or feigned idiocy, and, running
into the pond, stood in the water up to his neck; but as soon as
the messengers were out of sight he returned home and roared like a
lion." *

* Pososhkof, "O skudosti i bogatstve."

After Peter's death the system was gradually relaxed, but the
Noblesse could not be satisfied by partial concessions. Russia had
in the meantime moved, as it were, out of Asia into Europe, and had
become one of the great European Powers. The upper classes had
been gradually learning something of the fashions, the literature,
the institutions, and the moral conceptions of Western Europe, and
the nobles naturally compared the class to which they belonged with
the aristocracies of Germany and France. For those who were
influenced by the new foreign ideas the comparison was humiliating.
In the West the Noblesse was a free and privileged class, proud of
its liberty, its rights, and its culture; whereas in Russia the
nobles were servants of the State, without privileges, without
dignity, subject to corporal punishment, and burdened with onerous
duties from which there was no escape. Thus arose in that section
of the Noblesse which had some acquaintance with Western
civilisation a feeling of discontent, and a desire to gain a social
position similar to that of the nobles in France and Germany.
These aspirations were in part realised by Peter III., who in 1762
abolished the principle of obligatory service. His consort,
Catherine II., went much farther in the same direction, and
inaugurated a new epoch in the history of the Dvoryanstvo, a period
in which its duties and obligations fell into the background, and
its rights and privileges came to the front.

Catherine had good reason to favour the Noblesse. As a foreigner
and a usurper, raised to the throne by a Court conspiracy, she
could not awaken in the masses that semi-religious veneration which
the legitimate Tsars have always enjoyed, and consequently she had
to seek support in the upper classes, who were less rigid and
uncompromising in their conceptions of legitimacy. She confirmed,
therefore, the ukaz which abolished obligatory service of the
nobles, and sought to gain their voluntary service by honours and
rewards. In her manifestoes she always spoke of them in the most
flattering terms; and tried to convince them that the welfare of
the country depended on their loyalty and devotion. Though she had
no intention of ceding any of her political power, she formed the
nobles of each province into a corporation, with periodical
assemblies, which were supposed to resemble the French Provincial
Parliaments, and entrusted to each of these corporations a large
part of the local administration. By these and similar means,
aided by her masculine energy and feminine tact, she made herself
very popular, and completely changed the old conceptions about the
public service. Formerly service had been looked on as a burden;
now it came to be looked on as a privilege. Thousands who had
retired to their estates after the publication of the liberation
edict now flocked back and sought appointments, and this tendency
was greatly increased by the brilliant campaigns against the Turks,
which excited the patriotic feelings and gave plentiful
opportunities of promotion. "Not only landed proprietors," it is
said in a comedy of the time,* "but all men, even shopkeepers and
cobblers, aim at becoming officers, and the man who has passed his
whole life without official rank seems to be not a human being."

* Knyazhnina, "Khvastun."

And Catherine did more than this. She shared the idea--generally
accepted throughout Europe since the brilliant reign of Louis XIV.--
that a refined, pomp-loving, pleasure-seeking Court Noblesse was
not only the best bulwark of Monarchy, but also a necessary
ornament of every highly civilised State; and as she ardently
desired that her country should have the reputation of being highly
civilised, she strove to create this national ornament. The love
of French civilisation, which already existed among the upper
classes of her subjects, here came to her aid, and her efforts in
this direction were singularly successful. The Court of St.
Petersburg became almost as brilliant, as galant, and as frivolous
as the Court of Versailles. All who aimed at high honours adopted
French fashions, spoke the French language, and affected an
unqualified admiration for French classical literature. The
Courtiers talked of the point d'honneur, discussed the question as
to what was consistent with the dignity of a noble, sought to
display "that chivalrous spirit which constitutes the pride and
ornament of France"; and looked back with horror on the humiliating
position of their fathers and grandfathers. "Peter the Great,"
writes one of them, "beat all who surrounded him, without
distinction of family or rank; but now, many of us would certainly
prefer capital punishment to being beaten or flogged, even though
the castigation were applied by the sacred hands of the Lord's

The tone which reigned in the Court circle of St. Petersburg spread
gradually towards the lower ranks of the Dvoryanstvo, and it seemed
to superficial observers that a very fair imitation of the French
Noblesse had been produced; but in reality the copy was very unlike
the model. The Russian Dvoryanin easily learned the language and
assumed the manners of the French gentilhomme, and succeeded in
changing his physical and intellectual exterior; but all those
deeper and more delicate parts of human nature which are formed by
the accumulated experience of past generations could not be so
easily and rapidly changed. The French gentilhomme of the
eighteenth century was the direct descendant of the feudal baron,
with the fundamental conceptions of his ancestors deeply embedded
in his nature. He had not, indeed, the old haughty bearing towards
the Sovereign, and his language was tinged with the fashionable
democratic philosophy of the time; but he possessed a large
intellectual and moral inheritance that had come down to him
directly from the palmy days of feudalism--an inheritance which
even the Great Revolution, which was then preparing, could not
annihilate. The Russian noble, on the contrary, had received from
his ancestors entirely different traditions. His father and
grandfather had been conscious of the burdens rather than the
privileges of the class to which they belonged. They had
considered it no disgrace to receive corporal punishment, and had
been jealous of their honour, not as gentlemen or descendants of
Boyars, but as Brigadiers, College Assessors, or Privy Counsellors.
Their dignity had rested not on the grace of God, but on the will
of the Tsar. Under these circumstances even the proudest magnate
of Catherine's Court, though he might speak French as fluently as
his mother tongue, could not be very deeply penetrated with the
conception of noble blood, the sacred character of nobility, and
the numerous feudal ideas interwoven with these conceptions. And
in adopting the outward forms of a foreign culture the nobles did
not, it seems, gain much in true dignity. "The old pride of the
nobles has fallen!" exclaims one who had more genuine aristocratic
feeling than his fellows.* "There are no longer any honourable
families; but merely official rank and personal merits. All seek
official rank, and as all cannot render direct services,
distinctions are sought by every possible means--by flattering the
Monarch and toadying the important personages." There was
considerable truth in this complaint, but the voice of this
solitary aristocrat was as of one crying in the wilderness. The
whole of the educated classes--men of old family and parvenus
alike--were, with few exceptions, too much engrossed with place-
hunting to attend to such sentimental wailing.

* Prince Shtcherbatof.

If the Russian Noblesse was thus in its new form but a very
imperfect imitation of its French model, it was still more unlike
the English aristocracy. Notwithstanding the liberal phrases in
which Catherine habitually indulged, she never had the least
intention of ceding one jot or tittle of her autocratic power, and
the Noblesse as a class never obtained even a shadow of political
influence. There was no real independence under the new airs of
dignity and hauteur. In all their acts and openly expressed
opinions the courtiers were guided by the real or supposed wishes
of the Sovereign, and much of their political sagacity was employed
in endeavouring to discover what would please her. "People never
talk politics in the salons," says a contemporary witness,* not
even to praise the Government. Fear has produced habits of
prudence, and the Frondeurs of the Capital express their opinions
only in the confidence of intimate friendship or in a relationship
still more confidential. Those who cannot bear this constraint
retire to Moscow, which cannot be called the centre of opposition,
for there is no such thing as opposition in a country with an
autocratic Government, but which is the capital of the
discontented." And even there the discontent did not venture to
show itself in the Imperial presence. "In Moscow," says another
witness, accustomed to the obsequiousness of Versailles, "you might
believe yourself to be among republicans who have just thrown off
the yoke of a tyrant, but as soon as the Court arrives you see
nothing but abject slaves."**

* Segur, long Ambassador of France at the Court of Catherine.

** Sabathier de Cabres, "Catherine II. et la Cour de Russie en

Though thus excluded from direct influence in political affairs the
Noblesse might still have acquired a certain political significance
in the State, by means of the Provincial Assemblies, and by the
part they took in local administration; but in reality they had
neither the requisite political experience nor the requisite
patience, nor even the desire to pursue such a policy. The
majority of the proprietors preferred the chances of promotion in
the Imperial service to the tranquil life of a country gentleman;
and those who resided permanently on their estates showed
indifference or positive antipathy to everything connected with the
local administration. What was officially described as "a
privilege conferred on the nobles for their fidelity, and for the
generous sacrifice of their lives in their country's cause," was
regarded by those who enjoyed it as a new kind of obligatory
service--an obligation to supply judges and officers of rural

If we require any additional proof that the nobles amidst all these
changes were still as dependent as ever on the arbitrary will or
caprice of the Monarch, we have only to glance at their position in
the time of Paul I., the capricious, eccentric, violent son and
successor of Catherine. The autobiographical memoirs of the time
depict in vivid colours the humiliating position of even the
leading men in the State, in constant fear of exciting by act,
word, or look the wrath of the Sovereign. As we read these
contemporary records we seem to have before us a picture of ancient
Rome under the most despotic and capricious of her Emperors.
Irritated and embittered before his accession to the throne by the
haughty demeanour of his mother's favourites, Paul lost no
opportunity of showing his contempt for aristocratic pretensions,
and of humiliating those who were supposed to harbour them.
"Apprenez, Monsieur," he said angrily on one occasion to Dumouriez,
who had accidentally referred to one of the "considerable"
personages of the Court, "Apprenez qu'il n'y a pas de considerable
ici, que la personne a laquelle je parle et pendant le temps que je
lui parle!"*

* This saying is often falsely attributed to Nicholas. The
anecdote is related by Segur.

From the time of Catherine down to the accession of Alexander II.
in 1855 no important change was made in the legal status of the
Noblesse, but a gradual change took place in its social character
by the continual influx of Western ideas and Western culture. The
exclusively French culture in vogue at the Court of Catherine
assumed a more cosmopolitan colouring, and permeated downwards till
all who had any pretensions to being civilises spoke French with
tolerable fluency and possessed at least a superficial acquaintance
with the literature of Western Europe. What chiefly distinguished
them in the eye of the law from the other classes was the privilege
of possessing "inhabited estates"--that is to say, estates with
serfs. By the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 this valuable
privilege was abolished, and about one-half of their landed
property passed into the hands of the peasantry. By the
administrative reforms which have since taken place, any little
significance which the provincial corporations may have possessed
has been annihilated. Thus at the present day the nobles are on a
level with the other classes with regard to the right of possessing
landed property and the administration of local affairs.

From this rapid sketch the reader will easily perceive that the
Russian Noblesse has had a peculiar historical development. In
Germany, France, and England the nobles were early formed into a
homogeneous organised body by the political conditions in which
they were placed. They had to repel the encroaching tendencies of
the Monarchy on the one hand, and of the bourgeoisie on the other;
and in this long struggle with powerful rivals they instinctively
held together and developed a vigorous esprit de corps. New
members penetrated into their ranks, but these intruders were so
few in number that they were rapidly assimilated without modifying
the general character or recognised ideals of the class, and
without rudely disturbing the fiction of purity of blood. The
class thus assumed more and more the nature of a caste with a
peculiar intellectual and moral culture, and stoutly defended its
position and privileges till the ever-increasing power of the
middle classes undermined its influence. Its fate in different
countries has been different. In Germany it clung to its feudal
traditions, and still preserves its social exclusiveness. In
France it was deprived of its political influence by the Monarchy
and crushed by the Revolution. In England it moderated its
pretensions, allied itself with the middle classes, created under
the disguise of constitutional monarchy an aristocratic republic,
and conceded inch by inch, as necessity demanded, a share of its
political influence to the ally that had helped it to curb the
Royal power. Thus the German baron, the French gentilhomme, and
the English nobleman represent three distinct, well-marked types;
but amidst all their diversities they have much in common. They
have all preserved to a greater or less extent a haughty
consciousness of innate inextinguishable superiority over the lower
orders, together with a more or less carefully disguised dislike
for the class which has been, and still is, an aggressive rival.

The Russian Noblesse has not these characteristics. It was formed
out of more heterogeneous materials, and these materials did not
spontaneously combine to form an organic whole, but were crushed
into a conglomerate mass by the weight of the autocratic power. It
never became a semi-independent factor in the State. What rights
and privileges it possesses it received from the Monarchy, and
consequently it has no deep-rooted jealousy or hatred of the
Imperial prerogative. On the other hand, it has never had to
struggle with the other social classes, and therefore it harbours
towards them no feelings of rivalry or hostility. If we hear a
Russian noble speak with indignation of autocracy or with acrimony
of the bourgeoisie, we may be sure that these feelings have their
source, not in traditional conceptions, but in principles learned
from the modern schools of social and political philosophy. The
class to which he belongs has undergone so many transformations
that it has no hoary traditions or deep-rooted prejudices, and
always willingly adapts itself to existing conditions. Indeed, it
may be said in general that it looks more to the future than the
past, and is ever ready to accept any new ideas that wear the badge
of progress. Its freedom from traditions and prejudices makes it
singularly susceptible of generous enthusiasm and capable of
vigorous spasmodic action, but calm moral courage and tenacity of
purpose are not among its prominent attributes. In a word, we find
in it neither the peculiar virtues nor the peculiar vices which are
engendered and fostered by an atmosphere of political liberty.

However we may explain the fact, there is no doubt that the Russian
Noblesse has little or nothing of what we call aristocratic
feeling--little or nothing of that haughty, domineering, exclusive
spirit which we are accustomed to associate with the word
aristocracy. We find plenty of Russians who are proud of their
wealth, of their culture, or of their official position, but we
rarely find a Russian who is proud of his birth or imagines that
the fact of his having a long pedigree gives him any right to
political privileges or social consideration. Hence there is a
certain amount of truth in the oft-repeated saying that there is in
reality no aristocracy in Russia.

Certainly the Noblesse as a whole cannot be called an aristocracy.
If the term is to be used at all, it must be applied to a group of
families which cluster around the Court and form the highest ranks
of the Noblesse. This social aristocracy contains many old
families, but its real basis is official rank and general culture
rather than pedigree or blood. The feudal conceptions of noble
birth, good family, and the like have been adopted by some of its
members, but do not form one of its conspicuous features. Though
habitually practising a certain exclusiveness, it has none of those
characteristics of a caste which we find in the German Adel, and is
utterly unable to understand such institutions as Tafelfähigkeit,
by which a man who has not a pedigree of a certain length is
considered unworthy to sit down at a royal table. It takes rather
the English aristocracy as its model, and harbours the secret hope
of one day obtaining a social and political position similar to
that of the nobility and gentry of England. Though it has no
peculiar legal privileges, its actual position in the
Administration and at Court gives its members great facilities for
advancement in the public service. On the other hand, its semi-
bureaucratic character, together with the law and custom of
dividing landed property among the children at the death of their
parents, deprives it of stability. New men force their way into it
by official distinction, whilst many of the old families are
compelled by poverty to retire from its ranks. The son of a small
proprietor, or even of a parish priest, may rise to the highest
offices of State, whilst the descendants of the half-mythical Rurik
may descend to the position of peasants. It is said that not very
long ago a certain Prince Krapotkin gained his living as a cabman
in St. Petersburg!

It is evident, then, that this social aristocracy must not be
confounded with the titled families. Titles do not possess the
same value in Russia as in Western Europe. They are very common--
because the titled families are numerous, and all the children bear
the titles of the parents even while the parents are still alive--
and they are by no means always associated with official rank,
wealth, social position, or distinction of any kind. There are
hundreds of princes and princesses who have not the right to appear
at Court, and who would not be admitted into what is called in St.
Petersburg la societe, or indeed into refined society in any

The only genuine Russian title is Knyaz, commonly translated
"Prince." It is borne by the descendants of Rurik, of the
Lithuanian Prince Ghedimin, and of the Tartar Khans and Murzi
officially recognised by the Tsars. Besides these, there are
fourteen families who have adopted it by Imperial command during
the last two centuries. The titles of count and baron are modern
importations, beginning with the time of Peter the Great. From
Peter and his successors about seventy families have received the
title of count and ten that of baron. The latter are all, with two
exceptions, of foreign extraction, and are mostly descended from
Court bankers.*

* Besides these, there are of course the German counts and barons
of the Baltic Provinces, who are Russian subjects.

There is a very common idea that Russian nobles are as a rule
enormously rich. This is a mistake. The majority of them are
poor. At the time of the Emancipation, in 1861, there were 100,247
landed proprietors, and of these, more than 41,000 were possessors
of less than twenty-one male serfs--that is to say, were in a
condition of poverty. A proprietor who was owner of 500 serfs was
not considered as by any means very rich, and yet there were only
3,803 proprietors belonging in that category. There were a few,
indeed, whose possessions were enormous. Count Sheremetief, for
instance, possessed more than 150,000 male serfs, or in other words
more than 300,000 souls; and thirty years ago Count Orloff-Davydof
owned considerably more than half a million of acres. The Demidof
family derive colossal revenues from their mines, and the
Strogonofs have estates which, if put together, would be sufficient
in extent to form a good-sized independent State in Western Europe.
The very rich families, however, are not numerous. The lavish
expenditure in which Russian nobles often indulge indicates too
frequently not large fortune, but simply foolish ostentation and
reckless improvidence.

Perhaps, after having spoken so much about the past history of the
Noblesse, I ought to endeavour to cast its horoscope, or at least
to say something of its probable future. Though predictions are
always hazardous, it is sometimes possible, by tracing the great
lines of history in the past, to follow them for a little distance
into the future. If it be allowable to apply this method of
prediction in the present matter, I should say that the Russian
Dvoryanstvo will assimilate with the other classes, rather than
form itself into an exclusive corporation. Hereditary
aristocracies may be preserved--or at least their decomposition may
be retarded--where they happen to exist, but it seems that they can
no longer be created. In Western Europe there is a large amount of
aristocratic sentiment, both in the nobles and in the people; but
it exists in spite of, rather than in consequence of, actual social
conditions. It is not a product of modern society, but an heirloom
that has come down to us from feudal times, when power, wealth, and
culture were in the hands of a privileged few. If there ever was
in Russia a period corresponding to the feudal times in Western
Europe, it has long since been forgotten. There is very little
aristocratic sentiment either in the people or in the nobles, and
it is difficult to imagine any source from which it could now be
derived. More than this, the nobles do not desire to make such an
acquisition. In so far as they have any political aspirations,
they aim at securing the political liberty of the people as a
whole, and not at acquiring exclusive rights and privileges for
their own class.

In that section which I have called a social aristocracy there are
a few individuals who desire to gain exclusive political influence
for the class to which they belong, but there is very little chance
of their succeeding. If their desires were ever by chance
realised, we should probably have a repetition of the scene which
occurred in 1730. When in that year some of the great families
raised the Duchess of Courland to the throne on condition of her
ceding part of her power to a supreme council, the lower ranks of
the Noblesse compelled her to tear up the constitution which she
had signed! Those who dislike the autocratic power dislike the
idea of an aristocratic oligarchy infinitely more. Nobles and
people alike seem to hold instinctively the creed of the French
philosopher, who thought it better to be governed by a lion of good
family than by a hundred rats of his own species.

Of the present condition of the Noblesse I shall again have
occasion to speak when I come to consider the consequences of the



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

Of all the foreign countries in which I have travelled, Russia
certainly bears off the palm in the matter of hospitality. Every
spring I found myself in possession of a large number of
invitations from landed proprietors in different parts of the
country--far more than I could possibly accept--and a great part of
the summer was generally spent in wandering about from one country-
house to another. I have no intention of asking the reader to
accompany me in all these expeditions--for though pleasant in
reality, they might be tedious in description--but I wish to
introduce him to some typical examples of the landed proprietors.
Among them are to be found nearly all ranks and conditions of men,
from the rich magnate, surrounded with the refined luxury of West-
European civilisation, to the poor, ill-clad, ignorant owner of a
few acres which barely supply him with the necessaries of life.
Let us take, first of all, a few specimens from the middle ranks.

In one of the central provinces, near the bank of a sluggish,
meandering stream, stands an irregular group of wooden
constructions--old, unpainted, blackened by time, and surmounted by
high, sloping roofs of moss-covered planks. The principal building
is a long, one-storied dwelling-house, constructed at right angles
to the road. At the front of the house is a spacious, ill-kept
yard, and at the back an equally spacious shady, garden, in which
art carries on a feeble conflict with encroaching nature. At the
other side of the yard, and facing the front door--or rather the
front doors, for there are two--stand the stables, hay-shed, and
granary, and near to that end of the house which is farthest from
the road are two smaller houses, one of which is the kitchen, and
the other the Lyudskaya, or servants' apartments. Beyond these we
can perceive, through a single row of lime-trees, another group of
time-blackened wooden constructions in a still more dilapidated
condition. That is the farmyard.

There is certainly not much symmetry in the disposition of these
buildings, but there is nevertheless a certain order and meaning in
the apparent chaos. All the buildings which do not require stoves
are built at a considerable distance from the dwelling-house and
kitchen, which are more liable to take fire; and the kitchen stands
by itself, because the odour of cookery where oil is used is by no
means agreeable, even for those whose olfactory nerves are not very
sensitive. The plan of the house is likewise not without a certain
meaning. The rigorous separation of the sexes, which formed a
characteristic trait of old Russian society, has long since
disappeared, but its influence may still be traced in houses built
on the old model. The house in question is one of these, and
consequently it is composed of three sections--at the one end the
male apartments, at the other the female apartments, and in the
middle the neutral territory, comprising the dining-room and the
salon. This arrangement has its conveniences, and explains the
fact that the house has two front doors. At the back is a third
door, which opens from the neutral territory into a spacious
verandah overlooking the garden.

Here lives, and has lived for many years, Ivan Ivanovitch K----, a
gentleman of the old school, and a very worthy man of his kind. If
we look at him as he sits in his comfortable armchair, with his
capacious dressing-gown hanging loosely about him, we shall be able
to read at a glance something of his character. Nature endowed him
with large bones and broad shoulders, and evidently intended him to
be a man of great muscular power, but he has contrived to frustrate
this benevolent intention, and has now more fat than muscle. His
close-cropped head is round as a bullet, and his features are
massive and heavy, but the heaviness is relieved by an expression
of calm contentment and imperturbable good-nature, which
occasionally blossoms into a broad grin. His face is one of those
on which no amount of histrionic talent could produce a look of
care and anxiety, and for this it is not to blame, for such an
expression has never been demanded of it. Like other mortals, he
sometimes experiences little annoyances, and on such occasions his
small grey eyes sparkle and his face becomes suffused with a
crimson glow that suggests apoplexy; but ill-fortune has never been
able to get sufficiently firm hold of him to make him understand
what such words as care and anxiety mean. Of struggle,
disappointment, hope, and all the other feelings which give to
human life a dramatic interest, he knows little by hearsay and
nothing by experience. He has, in fact, always lived outside of
that struggle for existence which modern philosophers declare to be
the law of nature.

Somewhere about seventy years ago Ivan Ivan'itch was born in the
house where he still lives. His first lessons he received from the
parish priest, and afterwards he was taught by a deacon's son, who
had studied in the ecclesiastical seminary to so little purpose
that he was unable to pass the final examination. By both of these
teachers he was treated with extreme leniency, and was allowed to
learn as little as he chose. His father wished him to study hard,
but his mother was afraid that study might injure his health, and
accordingly gave him several holidays every week. Under these
circumstances his progress was naturally not very rapid, and he was
still very slightly acquainted with the elementary rules of
arithmetic, when his father one day declared that he was already
eighteen years of age, and must at once enter the service.

But what kind of service? Ivan had no natural inclination for any
kind of activity. The project of entering him as a Junker in a
cavalry regiment, the colonel of which was an old friend of the
family, did not at all please him. He had no love for military
service, and positively disliked the prospect of an examination.
Whilst seeming, therefore, to bow implicitly to the paternal
authority, he induced his mother to oppose the scheme.

The dilemma in which Ivan found himself was this: in deference to
his father he wished to be in the service and gain that official
rank which every Russian noble desires to possess, and at the same
time, in deference to his mother and his own tastes, he wished to
remain at home and continue his indolent mode of life. The Marshal
of the Noblesse, who happened to call one day, helped him out of
the difficulty by offering to inscribe him as secretary in the
Dvoryanskaya Opeka, a bureau which acts as curator for the estates
of minors. All the duties of this office could be fulfilled by a
paid secretary, and the nominal occupant would be periodically
promoted as if he were an active official. This was precisely what
Ivan required. He accepted eagerly the proposal, and obtained, in
the course of seven years, without any effort on his part, the rank
of "collegiate secretary," corresponding to the "capitaine-en-
second" of the military hierarchy. To mount higher he would have
had to seek some place where he could not have fulfilled his duty
by proxy, so he determined to rest on his laurels, and sent in his

Immediately after the termination of his official life his married
life began. Before his resignation had been accepted he suddenly
found himself one morning on the high road to matrimony. Here
again there was no effort on his part. The course of true love,
which is said never to run smooth for ordinary mortals, ran smooth
for him. He never had even the trouble of proposing. The whole
affair was arranged by his parents, who chose as bride for their
son the only daughter of their nearest neighbour. The young lady
was only about sixteen years of age, and was not remarkable for
beauty, talent, or any other peculiarity, but she had one very
important qualification--she was the daughter of a man who had an
estate contiguous to their own, and who might give as a dowry a
certain bit of land which they had long desired to add to their own
property. The negotiations, being of a delicate nature, were
entrusted to an old lady who had a great reputation for diplomatic
skill in such matters, and she accomplished her mission with such
success that in the course of a few weeks the preliminaries were
arranged and the day fixed for the wedding. Thus Ivan Ivan'itch
won his bride as easily as he had won his tchin of "collegiate

Though the bridegroom had received rather than taken to himself a
wife, and did not imagine for a moment that he was in love, he had
no reason to regret the choice that was made for him. Maria
Petrovna was exactly suited by character and education to be the
wife of a man like Ivan Ivan'itch. She had grown up at home in the
society of nurses and servant-maids, and had never learned anything
more than could be obtained from the parish priest and from
"Ma'mselle," a personage occupying a position midway between a
servant-maid and a governess. The first events of her life were
the announcement that she was to be married and the preparations
for the wedding. She still remembers the delight which the
purchase of her trousseau afforded her, and keeps in her memory a
full catalogue of the articles bought. The first years of her
married life were not very happy, for she was treated by her
mother-in-law as a naughty child who required to be frequently
snubbed and lectured; but she bore the discipline with exemplary
patience, and in due time became her own mistress and autocratic
ruler in all domestic affairs. From that time she has lived an
active, uneventful life. Between her and her husband there is as
much mutual attachment as can reasonably be expected in phlegmatic
natures after half a century of matrimony. She has always devoted
her energies to satisfying his simple material wants--of
intellectual wants he has none--and securing his comfort in every
possible way. Under this fostering care he "effeminated himself"
(obabilsya), as he is wont to say. His love of shooting died out,
he cared less and less to visit his neighbours, and each successive
year he spent more and more time in his comfortable arm-chair.

The daily life of this worthy couple is singularly regular and
monotonous, varying only with the changing seasons. In summer Ivan
Ivan'itch gets up about seven o'clock, and puts on, with the
assistance of his valet de chambre, a simple costume, consisting
chiefly of a faded, plentifully stained dressing-gown. Having
nothing particular to do, he sits down at the open window and looks
into the yard. As the servants pass he stops and questions them,
and then gives them orders, or scolds them, as circumstances
demand. Towards nine o'clock tea is announced, and he goes into
the dining-room--a long, narrow apartment with bare wooden floor
and no furniture but a table and chairs, all in a more or less
rickety condition. Here he finds his wife with the tea-urn before
her. In a few minutes the grandchildren come in, kiss their
grandpapa's hand, and take their places round the table. As this
morning meal consists merely of bread and tea, it does not last
long; and all disperse to their several occupations. The head of
the house begins the labours of the day by resuming his seat at the
open window. When he has smoked some cigarettes and indulged in a
proportionate amount of silent contemplation, he goes out with the
intention of visiting the stables and farmyard, but generally
before he has crossed the court he finds the heat unbearable, and
returns to his former position by the open window. Here he sits
tranquilly till the sun has so far moved round that the verandah at
the back of the house is completely in the shade, when he has his
arm-chair removed thither, and sits there till dinner-time.

Maria Petrovna spends her morning in a more active way. As soon as
the breakfast table has been cleared she goes to the larder, takes
stock of the provisions, arranges the menu du jour, and gives to
the cook the necessary materials, with detailed instructions as to
how they are to be prepared. The rest of the morning she devotes
to her other household duties.

Towards one o'clock dinner is announced, and Ivan Ivan'itch
prepares his appetite by swallowing at a gulp a wineglassful of
home-made bitters. Dinner is the great event of the day. The food
is abundant and of good quality, but mushrooms, onions, and fat
play a rather too important part in the repast, and the whole is
prepared with very little attention to the recognised principles of
culinary hygiene. Many of the dishes, indeed, would make a British
valetudinarian stand aghast, but they seem to produce no bad effect
on those Russian organisms which have never been weakened by town
life, nervous excitement, or intellectual exertion.

No sooner has the last dish been removed than a deathlike stillness
falls upon the house: it is the time of the after-dinner siesta.
The young folks go into the garden, and all the other members of
the household give way to the drowsiness naturally engendered by a
heavy meal on a hot summer day. Ivan Ivan'itch retires to his own
room, from which the flies have been carefully expelled. Maria
Petrovna dozes in an arm-chair in the sitting-room, with a pocket-
handkerchief spread over her face. The servants snore in the
corridors, the garret, or the hay-shed; and even the old watch-dog
in the corner of the yard stretches himself out at full length on
the shady side of his kennel.

In about two hours the house gradually re-awakens. Doors begin to
creak; the names of various servants are bawled out in all tones,
from bass to falsetto; and footsteps are heard in the yard. Soon a
man-servant issues from the kitchen bearing an enormous tea-urn,
which puffs like a little steam-engine. The family assembles for
tea. In Russia, as elsewhere, sleep after a heavy meal produces
thirst, so that the tea and other beverages are very acceptable.
Then some little delicacies are served--such as fruit and wild
berries, or cucumbers with honey, or something else of the kind,
and the family again disperses. Ivan Ivan'itch takes a turn in the
fields on his begovuiya droshki--an extremely light vehicle
composed of two pairs of wheels joined together by a single board,
on which the driver sits stride-legged; and Maria Petrovna probably
receives a visit from the Popadya (the priest's wife), who is the
chief gossipmonger of the neighbourhood. There is not much scandal
in the district, but what little there is the Popadya carefully
collects, and distributes among her acquaintances with
undiscriminating generosity.

In the evening it often happens that a little group of peasants
come into the court, and ask to see the "master." The master goes
to the door, and generally finds that they have some favour to
request. In reply to his question, "Well, children, what do you
want?" they tell their story in a confused, rambling way, several
of them speaking at a time, and he has to question and cross-
question them before he comes to understand clearly what they
desire. If he tells them he cannot grant it, they probably do not
accept a first refusal, but endeavour by means of supplication to
make him reconsider his decision. Stepping forward a little, and
bowing low, one of the group begins in a half-respectful, half-
familiar, caressing tone: "Little Father, Ivan Ivan'itch, be
gracious; you are our father, and we are your children"--and so on.
Ivan Ivan'itch good-naturedly listens, and again explains that he
cannot grant what they ask; but they have still hopes of gaining
their point by entreaty, and continue their supplications till at
last his patience is exhausted and he says to them in a paternal
tone, "Now, enough! enough! you are blockheads--blockheads all
round! There's no use talking; it can't be done." And with these
words he enters the house, so as to prevent all further discussion.

A regular part of the evening's occupation is the interview with
the steward. The work that has just been done, and the programme
for the morrow, are always discussed at great length; and much time
is spent in speculating as to the weather during the next few days.
On this latter point the calendar is always carefully consulted,
and great confidence is placed in its predictions, though past
experience has often shown that they are not to be implicitly
trusted. The conversation drags on till supper is announced, and
immediately after that meal, which is an abridged repetition of
dinner, all retire for the night.

Thus pass the days and weeks and months in the house of Ivan
Ivan'itch, and rarely is there any deviation from the ordinary
programme. The climate necessitates, of course, some slight
modifications. When it is cold, the doors and windows have to be
kept shut, and after heavy rains those who do not like to wade in
mud have to remain in the house or garden. In the long winter
evenings the family assembles in the sitting-room, and all kill
time as best they can. Ivan Ivan'itch smokes and meditates or
listens to the barrel-organ played by one of the children. Maria
Petrovna knits a stocking. The old aunt, who commonly spends the
winter with them, plays Patience, and sometimes draws from the game
conclusions as to the future. Her favourite predictions are that a
stranger will arrive, or that a marriage will take place, and she
can determine the sex of the stranger and the colour of the
bridegroom's hair; but beyond this her art does not go, and she
cannot satisfy the young ladies' curiosity as to further details.

Books and newspapers are rarely seen in the sitting-room, but for
those who wish to read there is a book-case full of miscellaneous
literature, which gives some idea of the literary tastes of the
family during several generations. The oldest volumes were bought
by Ivan Ivan'itch's grandfather--a man who, according to the family
traditions, enjoyed the confidence of the great Catherine. Though
wholly overlooked by recent historians, he was evidently a man who
had some pretensions to culture. He had his portrait painted by a
foreign artist of considerable talent--it still hangs in the
sitting-room--and he bought several pieces of Sevres ware, the last
of which stands on a commode in the corner and contrasts strangely
with the rude home-made furniture and squalid appearance of the
apartment. Among the books which bear his name are the tragedies
of Sumarokof, who imagined himself to be "the Russian Voltaire";
the amusing comedies of Von-Wisin, some of which still keep the
stage; the loud-sounding odes of the courtly Derzhavin; two or
three books containing the mystic wisdom of Freemasonry as
interpreted by Schwarz and Novikoff; Russian translations of
Richardson's "Pamela," "Sir Charles Grandison," and "Clarissa
Harlowe"; Rousseau's "Nouvelle Heloise," in Russian garb; and three
or four volumes of Voltaire in the original. Among the works
collected at a somewhat later period are translations of Ann
Radcliffe, of Scott's early novels, and of Ducray Dumenil, whose
stories, "Lolotte et Fanfan" and "Victor," once enjoyed a great
reputation. At this point the literary tastes of the family appear
to have died out, for the succeeding literature is represented
exclusively by Kryloff's Fables, a farmer's manual, a handbook of
family medicine, and a series of calendars. There are, however,
some signs of a revival, for on the lowest shelf stand recent
editions of Pushkin, Lermontof, and Gogol, and a few works by
living authors.

Sometimes the monotony of the winter is broken by visiting
neighbours and receiving visitors in return, or in a more decided
way by a visit of a few days to the capital of the province. In
the latter case Maria Petrovna spends nearly all her time in
shopping, and brings home a large collection of miscellaneous
articles. The inspection of these by the assembled family forms an
important domestic event, which completely throws into the shade
the occasional visits of peddlers and colporteurs. Then there are
the festivities at Christmas and Easter, and occasionally little
incidents of less agreeable kind. It may be that there is a heavy
fall of snow, so that it is necessary to cut roads to the kitchen
and stables; or wolves enter the courtyard at night and have a
fight with the watch-dogs; or the news is brought that a peasant
who had been drinking in a neighbouring village has been found
frozen to death on the road.

Altogether the family live a very isolated life, but they have one
bond of connection with the great outer world. Two of the sons are
officers in the army and both of them write home occasionally to
their mother and sisters. To these two youths is devoted all the
little stock of sentimentality which Maria Petrovna possesses. She
can talk of them by the hour to any one who will listen to her, and
has related to the Popadya a hundred times every trivial incident
of their lives. Though they have never given her much cause for
anxiety, and they are now men of middle age, she lives in constant
fear that some evil may befall them. What she most fears is that
they may be sent on a campaign or may fall in love with actresses.
War and actresses are, in fact, the two bug-bears of her existence,
and whenever she has a disquieting dream she asks the priest to
offer up a moleben for the safety of her absent ones. Sometimes
she ventures to express her anxiety to her husband, and recommends
him to write to them; but he considers writing a letter a very
serious bit of work, and always replies evasively, "Well, well, we
must think about it."

During the Crimean War Ivan Ivan'itch half awoke from his habitual
lethargy, and read occasionally the meagre official reports
published by the Government. He was a little surprised that no
great victories were reported, and that the army did not at once
advance on Constantinople. As to causes he never speculated. Some
of his neighbours told him that the army was disorganised, and the
whole system of Nicholas had been proved to be utterly worthless.
That might all be very true, but he did not understand military and
political matters. No doubt it would all come right in the end.
All did come right, after a fashion, and he again gave up reading
newspapers; but ere long he was startled by reports much more
alarming than any rumours of war. People began to talk about the
peasant question, and to say openly that the serfs must soon be
emancipated. For once in his life Ivan Ivan'itch asked
explanations. Finding one of his neighbours, who had always been a
respectable, sensible man, and a severe disciplinarian, talking in
this way, he took him aside and asked what it all meant. The
neighbour explained that the old order of things had shown itself
bankrupt and was doomed, that a new epoch was opening, that
everything was to be reformed, and that the Emperor, in accordance
with a secret clause of the Treaty with the Allies, was about to
grant a Constitution! Ivan Ivan'itch listened for a little in
silence, and then, with a gesture of impatience, interrupted the
speaker: "Polno duratchitsya! enough of fun and tomfoolery.
Vassili Petrovitch, tell me seriously what you mean."

When Vassili Petrovitch vowed that he spoke in all seriousness, his
friend gazed at him with a look of intense compassion, and
remarked, as he turned away, "So you, too, have gone out of your

The utterances of Vassili Petrovitch, which his lethargic, sober-
minded friend regarded as indicating temporary insanity in the
speaker, represented fairly the mental condition of very many
Russian nobles at that time, and were not without a certain
foundation. The idea about a secret clause in the Treaty of Paris
was purely imaginary, but it was quite true that the country was
entering on an epoch of great reforms, among which the Emancipation
question occupied the chief place. Of this even the sceptical Ivan
Ivan'itch was soon convinced. The Emperor formally declared to the
Noblesse of the province of Moscow that the actual state of things
could not continue forever, and called on the landed proprietors to
consider by what means the condition of their serfs might be
ameliorated. Provincial committees were formed for the purpose of
preparing definite projects, and gradually it became apparent that
the emancipation of the serfs was really at hand.

Ivan Ivan'itch was alarmed at the prospect of losing his authority
over his serfs. Though he had never been a cruel taskmaster, he
had not spared the rod when he considered it necessary, and he
believed birch twigs to be a necessary instrument in the Russian
system of agriculture. For some time he drew consolation from the
thought that peasants were not birds of the air, that they must
under all circumstances require food and clothing, and that they
would be ready to serve him as agricultural labourers; but when he
learned that they were to receive a large part of the estate for
their own use, his hopes fell, and he greatly feared that he would
be inevitably ruined.

These dark forebodings have not been by any means realised. His
serfs were emancipated and received about a half of the estate, but
in return for the land ceded they paid him annually a considerable
sum, and they were always ready to cultivate his fields for a fair
remuneration. The yearly outlay was considerably greater, but the
price of grain rose, and this counterbalanced the additional yearly
expenditure. The administration of the estate has become much less
patriarchal; much that was formerly left to custom and tacit
understanding is now regulated by express agreement on purely
commercial principles; a great deal more money is paid out and a
great deal more received; there is much less authority in the hands
of the master, and his responsibilities are proportionately
diminished; but in spite of all these changes, Ivan Ivan'itch would
have great difficulty in deciding whether he is a richer or a
poorer man. He has fewer horses and fewer servants, but he has
still more than he requires, and his mode of life has undergone no
perceptible alteration. Maria Petrovna complains that she is no
longer supplied with eggs, chickens, and homespun linen by the
peasants, and that everything is three times as dear as it used to
be; but somehow the larder is still full, and abundance reigns in
the house as of old.

Ivan Ivan'itch certainly does not possess transcendent qualities of
any kind. It would be impossible to make a hero out of him, even
though his own son should be his biographer. Muscular Christians
may reasonably despise him, an active, energetic man may fairly
condemn him for his indolence and apathy. But, on the other hand,
he has no very bad qualities. His vices are of the passive,
negative kind. He is a respectable if not a distinguished member
of society, and appears a very worthy man when compared with many
of his neighbours who have been brought up in similar conditions.
Take, for instance, his younger brother Dimitri, who lives a short
way off.

Dimitri Ivanovitch, like his brother Ivan, had been endowed by
nature with a very decided repugnance to prolonged intellectual
exertion, but as he was a man of good parts he did not fear a
Junker's examination--especially when he could count on the
colonel's protection--and accordingly entered the army. In his
regiment were a number of jovial young officers like himself,
always ready to relieve the monotony of garrison life by boisterous
dissipation, and among these he easily acquired the reputation of
being a thoroughly good fellow. In drinking bouts he could hold
his own with the best of them, and in all mad pranks invariably
played the chief part. By this means he endeared himself to his
comrades, and for a time all went well. The colonel had himself
sown wild oats plentifully in his youth, and was quite disposed to
overlook, as far as possible, the bacchanalian peccadilloes of his
subordinates. But before many years had passed, the regiment
suddenly changed its character. Certain rumours had reached
headquarters, and the Emperor Nicholas appointed as colonel a stern
disciplinarian of German origin, who aimed at making the regiment a
kind of machine that should work with the accuracy of a

This change did not at all suit the tastes of Dimitri Ivan'itch.
He chafed under the new restraints, and as soon as he had gained
the rank of lieutenant retired from the service to enjoy the
freedom of country life. Shortly afterwards his father died, and
he thereby became owner of an estate, with two hundred serfs. He
did not, like his elder brother, marry, and "effeminate himself,"
but he did worse. In his little independent kingdom--for such was
practically a Russian estate in the good old times--he was lord of
all he surveyed, and gave full scope to his boisterous humour, his
passion for sport, and his love of drinking and dissipation. Many
of the mad pranks in which he indulged will long be preserved by
popular tradition, but they cannot well be related here.

Dimitri Ivan'itch is now a man long past middle age, and still
continues his wild, dissipated life. His house resembles an ill-
kept, disreputable tavern. The floor is filthy, the furniture
chipped and broken, the servants indolent, slovenly, and in rags.
Dogs of all breeds and sizes roam about the rooms and corridors.
The master, when not asleep, is always in a more or less complete
state of intoxication. Generally he has one or two guests staying
with him--men of the same type as himself--and days and nights are
spent in drinking and card-playing. When he cannot have his usual
boon-companions he sends for one or two small proprietors who live
near--men who are legally nobles, but who are so poor that they
differ little from peasants. Formerly, when ordinary resources
failed, he occasionally had recourse to the violent expedient of
ordering his servants to stop the first passing travellers, whoever
they might be, and bring them in by persuasion or force, as
circumstances might demand. If the travellers refused to accept
such rough, undesired hospitality, a wheel would be taken off their
tarantass, or some indispensable part of the harness would be
secreted, and they might consider themselves fortunate if they
succeeded in getting away next morning.*

* This custom has fortunately gone out of fashion even in outlying
districts, but an incident of the kind happened to a friend of mine
as late as 1871. He was detained against his will for two whole
days by a man whom he had never seen before, and at last effected
his escape by bribing the servants of his tyrannical host.

In the time of serfage the domestic serfs had much to bear from
their capricious, violent master. They lived in an atmosphere of
abusive language, and were subjected not unfrequently to corporal
punishment. Worse than this, their master was constantly
threatening to "shave their forehead"--that is to say, to give them
as recruits--and occasionally he put his threat into execution, in
spite of the wailings and entreaties of the culprit and his
relations. And yet, strange to say, nearly all of them remained
with him as free servants after the Emancipation.

In justice to the Russian landed proprietors, I must say that the
class represented by Dimitri Ivan'itch has now almost disappeared.
It was the natural result of serfage and social stagnation--of a
state of society in which there were few legal and moral
restraints, and few inducements to honourable activity.

Among the other landed proprietors of the district, one of the best
known is Nicolai Petrovitch B----, an old military man with the
rank of general. Like Ivan Ivan'itch, he belongs to the old
school; but the two men must be contrasted rather than compared.
The difference in their lives and characters is reflected in their
outward appearance. Ivan Ivan'itch, as we know, is portly in form
and heavy in all his movements, and loves to loll in his arm-chair
or to loaf about the house in a capacious dressing-gown. The
General, on the contrary, is thin, wiry, and muscular, wears
habitually a close-buttoned military tunic, and always has a stern
expression, the force of which is considerably augmented by a
bristly moustache resembling a shoe-brush. As he paces up and down
the room, knitting his brows and gazing at the floor, he looks as
if he were forming combinations of the first magnitude; but those
who know him well are aware that this is an optical delusion, of
which he is himself to some extent a victim. He is quite innocent
of deep thought and concentrated intellectual effort. Though he
frowns so fiercely he is by no means of a naturally ferocious
temperament. Had he passed all his life in the country he would
probably have been as good-natured and phlegmatic as Ivan Ivan'itch
himself, but, unlike that worshipper of tranquillity, he had
aspired to rise in the service, and had adopted the stern, formal
bearing which the Emperor Nicholas considered indispensable in an
officer. The manner which he had at first put on as part of his
uniform became by the force of habit almost a part of his nature,
and at the age of thirty he was a stern disciplinarian and
uncompromising formalist, who confined his attention exclusively to
drill and other military duties. Thus he rose steadily by his own
merit, and reached the goal of his early ambition--the rank of

As soon as this point was reached he determined to leave the
service and retire to his property. Many considerations urged him
to take this step. He enjoyed the title of Excellency which he had
long coveted, and when he put on his full uniform his breast was
bespangled with medals and decorations. Since the death of his
father the revenues of his estate had been steadily decreasing, and
report said that the best wood in his forest was rapidly
disappearing. His wife had no love for the country, and would have
preferred to settle in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but they found
that with their small income they could not live in a large town in
a style suitable to their rank.

The General determined to introduce order into his estate, and
become a practical farmer; but a little experience convinced him
that his new functions were much more difficult than the commanding
of a regiment. He has long since given over the practical
management of the property to a steward, and he contents himself
with exercising what he imagines to be an efficient control.
Though he wishes to do much, he finds small scope for his activity,
and spends his days in pretty much the same way as Ivan Ivan'itch,
with this difference, that he plays cards whenever he gets an
opportunity, and reads regularly the Moscow Gazette and Russki
Invalid, the official military paper. What specially interests him
is the list of promotions, retirements, and Imperial rewards for
merit and seniority. When he sees the announcement that some old
comrade has been made an officer of his Majesty's suite or has
received a grand cordon, he frowns a little more than usual, and is
tempted to regret that he retired from the service. Had he waited
patiently, perhaps a bit of good fortune might have fallen likewise
to his lot. This idea takes possession of him, and during the
remainder of the day he is taciturn and morose. His wife notices
the change, and knows the reason of it, but has too much good sense
and tact to make any allusion to the subject.

Anna Alexandrovna--as the good lady is called--is an elderly dame
who does not at all resemble the wife of Ivan Ivan'itch. She was
long accustomed to a numerous military society, with dinner-
parties, dancing, promenades, card-playing, and all the other
amusements of garrison life, and she never contracted a taste for
domestic concerns. Her knowledge of culinary affairs is extremely
vague, and she has no idea of how to make preserves, nalivka, and
other home-made delicacies, though Maria Petrovna, who is
universally acknowledged to be a great adept in such matters, has
proposed a hundred times to give her some choice recipes. In
short, domestic affairs are a burden to her, and she entrusts them
as far as possible to the housekeeper. Altogether she finds
country life very tiresome, but, possessing that placid,
philosophical temperament which seems to have some casual
connection with corpulence, she submits without murmuring, and
tries to lighten a little the unavoidable monotony by paying visits
and receiving visitors. The neighbours within a radius of twenty
miles are, with few exceptions, more or less of the Ivan Ivan'itch
and Maria Petrovna type--decidedly rustic in their manners and
conceptions; but their company is better than absolute solitude,
and they have at least the good quality of being always able and
willing to play cards for any number of hours. Besides this, Anna
Alexandrovna has the satisfaction of feeling that amongst them she
is almost a great personage, and unquestionably an authority in all
matters of taste and fashion; and she feels specially well disposed
towards those of them who frequently address her as "Your

The chief festivities take place on the "name-days" of the General
and his spouse--that is to say, the days sacred to St. Nicholas and
St. Anna. On these occasions all the neighbours come to offer
their congratulations, and remain to dinner as a matter of course.
After dinner the older visitors sit down to cards, and the young
people extemporise a dance. The fete is specially successful when
the eldest son comes home to take part in it, and brings a brother
officer with him. He is now a general like his father.* In days
gone by one of his comrades was expected to offer his hand to Olga
Nekola'vna, the second daughter, a delicate young lady who had been
educated in one of the great Instituts--gigantic boarding-schools,
founded and kept up by the Government, for the daughters of those
who are supposed to have deserved well of their country.
Unfortunately the expected offer was never made, and she and her
sister live at home as old maids, bewailing the absence of
"civilised" society, and killing time in a harmless, elegant way by
means of music, needlework, and light literature.

* Generals are much more common in Russia than in other countries.
A few years ago there was an old lady in Moscow who had a family of
ten sons, all of whom were generals! The rank may be obtained in
the civil as well as the military service.

At these "name-day" gatherings one used to meet still more
interesting specimens of the old school. One of them I remember
particularly. He was a tall, corpulent old man, in a threadbare
frock-coat, which wrinkled up about his waist. His shaggy eyebrows
almost covered his small, dull eyes, his heavy moustache partially
concealed a large mouth strongly indicating sensuous tendencies.
His hair was cut so short that it was difficult to say what its
colour would be if it were allowed to grow. He always arrived in
his tarantass just in time for the zakuska--the appetising
collation that is served shortly before dinner--grunted out a few
congratulations to the host and hostess and monosyllabic greetings
to his acquaintances, ate a copious meal, and immediately
afterwards placed himself at a card-table, where he sat in silence
as long as he could get any one to play with him. People did not
like, however, to play with Andrei Vassil'itch, for his society was
not agreeable, and he always contrived to go home with a well-
filled purse.

Andrei Vassil'itch was a noted man in the neighbourhood. He was
the centre of a whole cycle of legends, and I have often heard that
his name was used with effect by nurses to frighten naughty
children. I never missed an opportunity of meeting him, for I was
curious to see and study a legendary monster in the flesh. How far
the numerous stories told about him were true I cannot pretend to
say, but they were certainly not without foundation. In his youth
he had served for some time in the army, and was celebrated, even
in an age when martinets had always a good chance of promotion, for
his brutality to his subordinates. His career was cut short,
however, when he had only the rank of captain. Having compromised
himself in some way, he found it advisable to send in his
resignation and retire to his estate. Here he organised his house
on Mahometan rather than Christian principles, and ruled his
servants and peasants as he had been accustomed to rule his
soldiers--using corporal punishment in merciless fashion. His wife
did not venture to protest against the Mahometan arrangements, and
any peasant who stood in the way of their realisation was at once
given as a recruit, or transported to Siberia, in accordance with
his master's demand.* At last his tyranny and extortion drove his
serfs to revolt. One night his house was surrounded and set on
fire, but he contrived to escape the fate that was prepared for
him, and caused all who had taken part in the revolt to be
mercilessly punished. This was a severe lesson, but it had no
effect upon him. Taking precautions against a similar surprise, he
continued to tyrannise and extort as before, until in 1861 the
serfs were emancipated, and his authority came to an end.

* When a proprietor considered any of his serfs unruly he could,
according to law, have them transported to Siberia without trial,
on condition of paying the expenses of transport. Arrived at their
destination, they received land, and lived as free colonists, with
the single restriction that they were not allowed to leave the
locality where they settled.

A very different sort of man was Pavel Trophim'itch, who likewise
came regularly to pay his respects and present his congratulations
to the General and "Gheneralsha."* It was pleasant to turn from
the hard, wrinkled, morose features of the legendary monster to the
soft, smooth, jovial face of this man, who had been accustomed to
look at the bright side of things, till his face had caught
something of their brightness. "A good, jovial, honest face!" a
stranger might exclaim as he looked at him. Knowing something of
his character and history, I could not endorse such an opinion.
Jovial he certainly was, for few men were more capable of making
and enjoying mirth. Good he might he also called, if the word were
taken in the sense of good-natured, for he never took offence, and
was always ready to do a kindly action if it did not cost him any
trouble. But as to his honesty, that required some qualification.
Wholly untarnished his reputation certainly could not be, for he
had been a judge in the District Court before the time of the
judicial reforms; and, not being a Cato, he had succumbed to the
usual temptations. He had never studied law, and made no
pretensions to the possession of great legal knowledge. To all who
would listen to him he declared openly that he knew much more about
pointers and setters than about legal formalities. But his estate
was very small, and he could not afford to give up his appointment.

* The female form of the word General.

Of these unreformed Courts, which are happily among the things of
the past, I shall have occasion to speak in the sequel. For the
present I wish merely to say that they were thoroughly corrupt, and
I hasten to add that Pavel Trophim'itch was by no means a judge of
the worst kind. He had been known to protect widows and orphans
against those who wished to despoil them, and no amount of money
would induce him to give an unjust decision against a friend who
had privately explained the case to him; but when he knew nothing
of the case or of the parties he readily signed the decision
prepared by the secretary, and quietly pocketed the proceeds,
without feeling any very disagreeable twinges of conscience. All
judges, he knew, did likewise, and he had no pretension to being
better than his fellows.

When Pavel Trophim'itch played cards at the General's house or
elsewhere, a small, awkward, clean-shaven man, with dark eyes and a
Tartar cast of countenance, might generally be seen sitting at the
same table. His name was Alexei Petrovitch T----. Whether he
really had any Tartar blood in him it is impossible to say, but
certainly his ancestors for one or two generations were all good
orthodox Christians. His father had been a poor military surgeon
in a marching regiment, and he himself had become at an early age a
scribe in one of the bureaux of the district town. He was then
very poor, and had great difficulty in supporting life on the
miserable pittance which he received as a salary; but he was a
sharp, clever youth, and soon discovered that even a scribe had a
great many opportunities of extorting money from the ignorant

These opportunities Alexei Petrovitch used with great ability, and
became known as one of the most accomplished bribe-takers
(vzyatotchniki) in the district. His position, however, was so
very subordinate that he would never have become rich had he not
fallen upon a very ingenious expedient which completely succeeded.
Hearing that a small proprietor, who had an only daughter, had come
to live in the town for a few weeks, he took a room in the inn
where the newcomers lived, and when he had made their acquaintance
he fell dangerously ill. Feeling his last hours approaching, he
sent for a priest, confided to him that he had amassed a large
fortune, and requested that a will should be drawn up. In the will
he bequeathed large sums to all his relations, and a considerable
sum to the parish church. The whole affair was to be kept a secret
till after his death, but his neighbour--the old gentleman with the
daughter--was called in to act as a witness. When all this had
been done he did not die, but rapidly recovered, and now induced
the old gentleman to whom he had confided his secret to grant him
his daughter's hand. The daughter had no objections to marry a man
possessed of such wealth, and the marriage was duly celebrated.
Shortly after this the father died--without discovering, it is to
be hoped, the hoax that had been perpetrated--and Alexei Petrovitch
became virtual possessor of a very comfortable little estate. With
the change in his fortunes he completely changed his principles, or
at least his practice. In all his dealings he was strictly honest.
He lent money, it is true, at from ten to fifteen per cent., but
that was considered in these parts not a very exorbitant rate of
interest, nor was he unnecessarily hard upon his debtors.

It may seem strange that an honourable man like the General should
receive in his house such a motley company, comprising men of
decidedly tarnished reputation; but in this respect he was not at
all peculiar. One constantly meets in Russian society persons who
are known to have been guilty of flagrant dishonesty, and we find
that men who are themselves honourable enough associate with them
on friendly terms. This social leniency, moral laxity, or whatever
else it may be called, is the result of various causes. Several
concurrent influences have tended to lower the moral standard of
the Noblesse. Formerly, when the noble lived on his estate, he
could play with impunity the petty tyrant, and could freely indulge
his legitimate and illegitimate caprices without any legal or moral
restraint. I do not at all mean to assert that all proprietors
abused their authority, but I venture to say that no class of men
can long possess such enormous arbitrary power over those around
them without being thereby more or less demoralised. When the
noble entered the service he had not the same immunity from
restraint--on the contrary, his position resembled rather that of
the serf--but he breathed an atmosphere of peculation and jobbery,
little conducive to moral purity and uprightness. If an official
had refused to associate with those who were tainted with the
prevailing vices, he would have found himself completely isolated,
and would have been ridiculed as a modern Don Quixote. Add to this
that all classes of the Russian people have a certain kindly,
apathetic good-nature which makes them very charitable towards
their neighbours, and that they do not always distinguish between
forgiving private injury and excusing public delinquencies. If we
bear all this in mind, we may readily understand that in the time
of serfage and maladministration a man could be guilty of very
reprehensible practises without incurring social excommunication.

During the period of moral awakening, after the Crimean War and the
death of Nicholas I., society revelled in virtuous indignation
against the prevailing abuses, and placed on the pillory the most
prominent delinquents; but the intensity of the moral feeling has
declined, and something of the old apathy has returned. This might
have been predicted by any one well acquainted with the character
and past history of the Russian people. Russia advances on the
road of progress, not in that smooth, gradual, prosaic way to which
we are accustomed, but by a series of unconnected, frantic efforts,
each of which is naturally followed by a period of temporary



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

Hitherto I have presented to the reader old-fashioned types which
were common enough thirty years ago, when I first resided in
Russia, but which are rapidly disappearing. Let me now present a
few of the modern school.

In the same district as Ivan Ivan'itch and the General lives Victor
Alexandr'itch L----. As we approach his house we can at once
perceive that he differs from the majority of his neighbours. The
gate is painted and moves easily on its hinges, the fence is in
good repair, the short avenue leading up to the front door is well
kept, and in the garden we can perceive at a glance that more
attention is paid to flowers than to vegetables. The house is of
wood, and not large, but it has some architectural pretensions in
the form of a great, pseudo-Doric wooden portico that covers three-
fourths of the façade. In the interior we remark everywhere the
influence of Western civilisation. Victor Alexandr'itch is by no
means richer than Ivan Ivan'itch, but his rooms are much more
luxuriously furnished. The furniture is of a lighter model, more
comfortable, and in a much better state of preservation. Instead
of the bare, scantily furnished sitting-room, with the old-
fashioned barrel-organ which played only six airs, we find an
elegant drawing-room, with a piano by one of the most approved
makers, and numerous articles of foreign manufacture, comprising a
small buhl table and two bits of genuine old Wedgwood. The
servants are clean, and dressed in European costume. The master,
too, is very different in appearance. He pays great attention to
his toilette, wearing a dressing-gown only in the early morning,
and a fashionable lounging coat during the rest of the day. The
Turkish pipes which his grandfather loved he holds in abhorrence,
and habitually smokes cigarettes. With his wife and daughters he
always speaks French, and calls them by French or English names.

But the part of the house which most strikingly illustrates the
difference between old and new is "le cabinet de monsieur." In the
cabinet of Ivan Ivan'itch the furniture consists of a broad sofa
which serves as a bed, a few deal chairs, and a clumsy deal table,
on which are generally to be found a bundle of greasy papers, an
old chipped ink-bottle, a pen, and a calendar. The cabinet of
Victor Alexandr'itch has an entirely different appearance. It is
small, but at once comfortable and elegant. The principal objects
which it contains are a library-table, with ink-stand, presse-
papier, paper-knives, and other articles in keeping, and in the
opposite corner a large bookcase. The collection of books is
remarkable, not from the number of volumes or the presence of rare
editions, but from the variety of the subjects. History, art,
fiction, the drama, political economy, and agriculture are

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