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Russia by Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Part 8 out of 15

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represented in about equal proportions. Some of the works are in
Russian, others in German, a large number in French, and a few in
Italian. The collection illustrates the former life and present
occupations of the owner.

The father of Victor Alexandr'itch was a landed proprietor who had
made a successful career in the civil service, and desired that his
son should follow the same profession. For this purpose Victor was
first carefully trained at home, and then sent to the University of
Moscow, where he spent four years as a student of law. From the
University he passed to the Ministry of the Interior in St.
Petersburg, but he found the monotonous routine of official life
not at all suited to his taste, and very soon sent in his
resignation. The death of his father had made him proprietor of an
estate, and thither he retired, hoping to find there plenty of
occupation more congenial than the writing of official papers.

At the University of Moscow he had attended lectures on history and
philosophy, and had got through a large amount of desultory
reading. The chief result of his studies was the acquisition of
many ill-digested general principles, and certain vague, generous,
humanitarian aspirations. With this intellectual capital he hoped
to lead a useful life in the country. When he had repaired and
furnished the house he set himself to improve the estate. In the
course of his promiscuous reading he had stumbled on some
descriptions of English and Tuscan agriculture, and had there
learned what wonders might be effected by a rational system of
farming. Why should not Russia follow the example of England and
Tuscany? By proper drainage, plentiful manure, good ploughs, and
the cultivation of artificial grasses, the production might be
multiplied tenfold; and by the introduction of agricultural
machines the manual labour might be greatly diminished. All this
seemed as simple as a sum in arithmetic, and Victor Alexandr'itch,
more scholarum rei familiaris ignarus, without a moment's
hesitation expended his ready money in procuring from England a
threshing-machine, ploughs, harrows, and other implements of the
newest model.

The arrival of these was an event that was long remembered. The
peasants examined them with attention, not unmixed with wonder, but
said nothing. When the master explained to them the advantages of
the new instruments, they still remained silent. Only one old man,
gazing at the threshing-machine, remarked, in an audible "aside,"
"A cunning people, these Germans!"* On being asked for their
opinion, they replied vaguely, "How should we know? It OUGHT to be
so." But when their master had retired, and was explaining to his
wife and the French governess that the chief obstacle to progress
in Russia was the apathetic indolence and conservative spirit of
the peasantry, they expressed their opinions more freely. "These
may be all very well for the Germans, but they won't do for us.
How are our little horses to drag these big ploughs? And as for
that [the threshing-machine], it's of no use." Further examination
and reflection confirmed this first impression, and it was
unanimously decided that no good would come of the new-fangled

* The Russian peasant comprehends all the inhabitants of Western
Europe under the term Nyemtsi, which in the language of the
educated designates only Germans. The rest of humanity is composed
of Pravoslavniye (Greek Orthodox), Busurmanye (Mahometans), and
Poliacki (Poles).

These apprehensions proved to be only too well founded. The
ploughs were much too heavy for the peasants' small horses, and the
threshing-machine broke down at the first attempt to use it. For
the purchase of lighter implements or stronger horses there was no
ready money, and for the repairing of the threshing-machine there
was not an engineer within a radius of a hundred and fifty miles.
The experiment was, in short, a complete failure, and the new
purchases were put away out of sight.

For some weeks after this incident Victor Alexandr'itch felt very
despondent, and spoke more than usual about the apathy and
stupidity of the peasantry. His faith in infallible science was
somewhat shaken, and his benevolent aspirations were for a time
laid aside. But this eclipse of faith was not of long duration.
Gradually he recovered his normal condition, and began to form new
schemes. From the study of certain works on political economy he
learned that the system of communal property was ruinous to the
fertility of the soil, and that free labour was always more
productive than serfage. By the light of these principles he
discovered why the peasantry in Russia were so poor, and by what
means their condition could he ameliorated. The Communal land
should he divided into family lots, and the serfs, instead of being
forced to work for the proprietor, should pay a yearly sum as rent.
The advantages of this change he perceived clearly--as clearly as
he had formerly perceived the advantages of English agricultural
implements--and he determined to make the experiment on his own

His first step was to call together the more intelligent and
influential of his serfs, and to explain to them his project; but
his efforts at explanation were eminently unsuccessful. Even with
regard to ordinary current affairs he could not express himself in
that simple, homely language with which alone the peasants are
familiar, and when he spoke on abstract subjects he naturally
became quite unintelligible to his uneducated audience. The serfs
listened attentively, but understood nothing. He might as well
have spoken to them, as he often did in another kind of society,
about the comparative excellence of Italian and German music. At a
second attempt he had rather more success. The peasants came to
understand that what he wished was to break up the Mir, or rural
Commune, and to put them all on obrok--that is to say, make them
pay a yearly sum instead of giving him a certain amount of
agricultural labour. Much to his astonishment, his scheme did not
meet with any sympathy. As to being put on obrok, the serfs did
not much object, though they preferred to remain as they were; but
his proposal to break up the Mir astonished and bewildered them.
They regarded it as a sea-captain might regard the proposal of a
scientific wiseacre to knock a hole in the ship's bottom in order
to make her sail faster. Though they did not say much, he was
intelligent enough to see that they would offer a strenuous passive
resistance, and as he did not wish to act tyrannically, he let the
matter drop. Thus a second benevolent scheme was shipwrecked.
Many other schemes had a similar fate, and Victor Alexandr'itch
began to perceive that it was very difficult to do good in this
world, especially when the persons to be benefited were Russian

In reality the fault lay less with the serfs than with their
master. Victor Alexandr'itch was by no means a stupid man. On the
contrary, he had more than average talents. Few men were more
capable of grasping a new idea and forming a scheme for its
realisation, and few men could play more dexterously with abstract
principles. What he wanted was the power of dealing with concrete
facts. The principles which he had acquired from University
lectures and desultory reading were far too vague and abstract for
practical use. He had studied abstract science without gaining any
technical knowledge of details, and consequently when he stood face
to face with real life he was like a student who, having studied
mechanics in text-books, is suddenly placed in a workshop and
ordered to construct a machine. Only there was one difference:
Victor Alexandr'itch was not ordered to do anything. Voluntarily,
without any apparent necessity, he set himself to work with tools
which he could not handle. It was this that chiefly puzzled the
peasants. Why should he trouble himself with these new schemes,
when he might live comfortably as he was? In some of his projects
they could detect a desire to increase the revenue, but in others
they could discover no such motive. In these latter they
attributed his conduct to pure caprice, and put it into the same
category as those mad pranks in which proprietors of jovial humour
sometimes indulged.

In the last years of serfage there were a good many landed
proprietors like Victor Alexandr'itch--men who wished to do
something beneficent, and did not know how to do it. When serfage
was being abolished the majority of these men took an active part
in the great work and rendered valuable service to their country.
Victor Alexandr'itch acted otherwise. At first he sympathised
warmly with the proposed emancipation and wrote several articles on
the advantages of free labour, but when the Government took the
matter into its own hands he declared that the officials had
deceived and slighted the Noblesse, and he went over to the
opposition. Before the Imperial Edict was signed he went abroad,
and travelled for three years in Germany, France, and Italy.
Shortly after his return he married a pretty, accomplished young
lady, the daughter of an eminent official in St. Petersburg, and
since that time he has lived in his country-house.

Though a man of education and culture, Victor Alexandr'itch spends
his time in almost as indolent a way as the men of the old school.
He rises somewhat later, and instead of sitting by the open window
and gazing into the courtyard, he turns over the pages of a book or
periodical. Instead of dining at midday and supping at nine
o'clock, he takes dejeuner at twelve and dines at five. He spends
less time in sitting in the verandah and pacing up and down with
his hands behind his back, for he can vary the operation of time-
killing by occasionally writing a letter, or by standing behind his
wife at the piano while she plays selections from Mozart and
Beethoven. But these peculiarities are merely variations in
detail. If there is any essential difference between the lives of
Victor Alexandr'itch and of Ivan Ivan'itch, it is in the fact that
the former never goes out into the fields to see how the work is
done, and never troubles himself with the state of the weather, the
condition of the crops, and cognate subjects. He leaves the
management of his estate entirely to his steward, and refers to
that personage all peasants who come to him with complaints or
petitions. Though he takes a deep interest in the peasant as an
impersonal, abstract entity, and loves to contemplate concrete
examples of the genus in the works of certain popular authors, he
does not like to have any direct relations with peasants in the
flesh. If he has to speak with them he always feels awkward, and
suffers from the odour of their sheepskins. Ivan Ivan'itch is ever
ready to talk with the peasants, and give them sound, practical
advice or severe admonitions; and in the old times he was apt, in
moments of irritation, to supplement his admonitions by a free use
of his fists. Victor Alexandr'itch, on the contrary, never could
give any advice except vague commonplace, and as to using his fist,
he would have shrunk from that, not only from respect to
humanitarian principles, but also from motives which belong to the
region of aesthetic sensitiveness.

This difference between the two men has an important influence on
their pecuniary affairs. The stewards of both steal from their
masters; but that of Ivan Ivan'itch steals with difficulty, and to
a very limited extent, whereas that of Victor Alexandr'itch steals
regularly and methodically, and counts his gains, not by kopecks,
but by roubles. Though the two estates are of about the same size
and value, they give a very different revenue. The rough,
practical man has a much larger income than his elegant, well-
educated neighbour, and at the same time spends very much less.
The consequences of this, if not at present visible, must some day
become painfully apparent. Ivan Ivan'itch will doubtless leave to
his children an unencumbered estate and a certain amount of
capital. The children of Victor Alexandr'itch have a different
prospect. He has already begun to mortgage his property and to cut
down the timber, and he always finds a deficit at the end of the
year. What will become of his wife and children when the estate
comes to be sold for payment of the mortgage, it is difficult to
predict. He thinks very little of that eventuality, and when his
thoughts happen to wander in that direction he consoles himself
with the thought that before the crash comes he will have inherited
a fortune from a rich uncle who has no children.

The proprietors of the old school lead the same uniform, monotonous
life year after year, with very little variation. Victor
Alexandr'itch, on the contrary, feels the need of a periodical
return to "civilised society," and accordingly spends a few weeks
every winter in St. Petersburg. During the summer months he has
the society of his brother--un homme tout a fait civilise--who
possesses an estate a few miles off.

This brother, Vladimir Alexandr'itch, was educated in the School of
Law in St. Petersburg, and has since risen rapidly in the service.
He holds now a prominent position in one of the Ministries, and has
the honourary court title of "Chambellan de sa Majeste." He is a
marked man in the higher circles of the Administration, and will,
it is thought, some day become Minister. Though an adherent of
enlightened views, and a professed "Liberal," he contrives to keep
on very good terms with those who imagine themselves to be
"Conservatives." In this he is assisted by his soft, oily manner.
If you express an opinion to him he will always begin by telling
you that you are quite right; and if he ends by showing you that
you are quite wrong, he will at least make you feel that your error
is not only excusable, but in some way highly creditable to your
intellectual acuteness or goodness of heart. In spite of his
Liberalism he is a staunch Monarchist, and considers that the time
has not yet come for the Emperor to grant a Constitution. He
recognises that the present order of things has its defects, but
thinks that, on the whole, it acts very well, and would act much
better if certain high officials were removed, and more energetic
men put in their places. Like all genuine St. Petersburg
tchinovniks (officials), he has great faith in the miraculous power
of Imperial ukazes and Ministerial circulars, and believes that
national progress consists in multiplying these documents, and
centralising the Administration, so as to give them more effect.
As a supplementary means of progress he highly approves of
aesthetic culture, and he can speak with some eloquence of the
humanising influence of the fine arts. For his own part he is well
acquainted with French and English classics, and particularly
admires Macaulay, whom he declares to have been not only a great
writer, but also a great statesman. Among writers of fiction he
gives the palm to George Eliot, and speaks of the novelists of his
own country, and, indeed, of Russian literature as a whole, in the
most disparaging terms.

A very different estimate of Russian literature is held by
Alexander Ivan'itch N----, formerly arbiter in peasant affairs, and
afterwards justice of the peace. Discussions on this subject often
take place between the two. The admirer of Macaulay declares that
Russia has, properly speaking, no literature whatever, and that the
works which bear the names of Russian authors are nothing but a
feeble echo of the literature of Western Europe. "Imitators," he
is wont to say, "skilful imitators, we have produced in abundance.
But where is there a man of original genius? What is our famous
poet Zhukofski? A translator. What is Pushkin? A clever pupil of
the romantic school. What is Lermontoff? A feeble imitator of
Byron. What is Gogol?"

At this point Alexander Ivan'itch invariable intervenes. He is
ready to sacrifice all the pseudo-classic and romantic poetry, and,
in fact, the whole of Russian literature anterior to about the year
1840, but he will not allow anything disrespectful to be said of
Gogol, who about that time founded the Russian realistic school.
"Gogol," he holds, "was a great and original genius. Gogol not
only created a new kind of literature; he at the same time
transformed the reading public, and inaugurated a new era in the
intellectual development of the nation. By his humorous, satirical
sketches he swept away the metaphysical dreaming and foolish
romantic affectation then in fashion, and taught men to see their
country as it was, in all its hideous ugliness. With his help the
young generation perceived the rottenness of the Administration,
and the meanness, stupidity, dishonesty, and worthlessness of the
landed proprietors, whom he made the special butt of his ridicule.
The recognition of defects produced a desire for reform. From
laughing at the proprietors there was but one step to despising
them, and when we learned to despise the proprietors we naturally
came to sympathise with the serfs. Thus the Emancipation was
prepared by the literature; and when the great question had to be
solved, it was the literature that discovered a satisfactory

This is a subject on which Alexander Ivan'itch feels very strongly,
and on which he always speaks with warmth. He knows a good deal
regarding the intellectual movement which began about 1840, and
culminated in the great reforms of the sixties. As a University
student he troubled himself very little with serious academic work,
but he read with intense interest all the leading periodicals, and
adopted the doctrine of Belinski that art should not be cultivated
for its own sake, but should be made subservient to social
progress. This belief was confirmed by a perusal of some of George
Sand's earlier works, which were for him a kind of revelation.
Social questions engrossed his thoughts, and all other subjects
seemed puny by comparison. When the Emancipation question was
raised he saw an opportunity of applying some of his theories, and
threw himself enthusiastically into the new movement as an ardent
abolitionist. When the law was passed he helped to put it into
execution by serving for three years as an Arbiter of the Peace.
Now he is an old man, but he has preserved some of his youthful
enthusiasm, attends regularly the annual assemblies of the Zemstvo,
and takes a lively interest in all public affairs.

As an ardent partisan of local self-government he habitually scoffs
at the centralised bureaucracy, which he proclaims to be the great
bane of his unhappy country. "These tchinovniks," he is wont to
say in moments of excitement, "who live in St. Petersburg and
govern the Empire, know about as much of Russia as they do of
China. They live in a world of official documents, and are
hopelessly ignorant of the real wants and interests of the people.
So long as all the required formalities are duly observed they are
perfectly satisfied. The people may be allowed to die of
starvation if only the fact do not appear in the official reports.
Powerless to do any good themselves, they are powerful enough to
prevent others from working for the public good, and are extremely
jealous of all private initiative. How have they acted, for
instance, towards the Zemstvo? The Zemstvo is really a good
institution, and might have done great things if it had been left
alone, but as soon as it began to show a little independent energy
the officials at once clipped its wings and then strangled it.
Towards the Press they have acted in the same way. They are afraid
of the Press, because they fear above all things a healthy public
opinion, which the Press alone can create. Everything that
disturbs the habitual routine alarms them. Russia cannot make any
real progress so long as she is ruled by these cursed tchinovniks."

Scarcely less pernicious than the tchinovnik, in the eyes of our
would-be reformer, is the baritch--that is to say, the pampered,
capricious, spoiled child of mature years, whose life is spent in
elegant indolence and fine talking. Our friend Victor
Alexandr'itch is commonly selected as a representative of this
type. "Look at him!" exclaims Alexander Ivan'itch. "What a
useless, contemptible member of society! In spite of his generous
aspirations he never succeeds in doing anything useful to himself
or to others. When the peasant question was raised and there was
work to be done, he went abroad and talked liberalism in Paris and
Baden-Baden. Though he reads, or at least professes to read, books
on agriculture, and is always ready to discourse on the best means
of preventing the exhaustion of the soil, he knows less of farming
than a peasant-boy of twelve, and when he goes into the fields he
can hardly distinguish rye from oats. Instead of babbling about
German and Italian music, he would do well to learn a little about
practical farming, and look after his estate."

Whilst Alexander Ivan'itch thus censures his neighbours, he is
himself not without detractors. Some staid old proprietors regard
him as a dangerous man, and quote expressions of his which seem to
indicate that his notions of property are somewhat loose. Many
consider that his liberalism is of a very violent kind, and that he
has strong republican sympathies. In his decisions as Justice he
often leaned, it is said, to the side of the peasants against the
proprietors. Then he was always trying to induce the peasants of
the neighbouring villages to found schools, and he had wonderful
ideas about the best method of teaching children. These and
similar facts make many people believe that he has very advanced
ideas, and one old gentleman habitually calls him--half in joke and
half in earnest--"our friend the communist."

In reality Alexander Ivan'itch has nothing of the communist about
him. Though he loudly denounces the tchinovnik spirit--or, as we
should say, red-tape in all its forms--and is an ardent partisan of
local self-government, he is one of the last men in the world to
take part in any revolutionary movement, he would like to see the
Central Government enlightened and controlled by public opinion and
by a national representation, but he believes that this can only be
effected by voluntary concessions on the part of the autocratic
power. He has, perhaps, a sentimental love of the peasantry, and
is always ready to advocate its interests; but he has come too much
in contact with individual peasants to accept those idealised
descriptions in which some popular writers indulge, and it may
safely be asserted that the accusation of his voluntarily favouring
peasants at the expense of the proprietors is wholly unfounded.
Alexander Ivan'itch is, in fact, a quiet, sensible man, who is
capable of generous enthusiasm, and is not at all satisfied with
the existing state of things; but he is not a dreamer and a
revolutionnaire, as some of his neighbours assert.

I am afraid I cannot say as much for his younger brother Nikolai,
who lives with him. Nikolai Ivan'itch is a tall, slender man,
about sixty years of age, with emaciated face, bilious complexion
and long black hair--evidently a person of excitable, nervous
temperament. When he speaks he articulates rapidly, and uses more
gesticulation than is common among his countrymen. His favourite
subject of conversation, or rather of discourse, for he more
frequently preaches than talks, is the lamentable state of the
country and the worthlessness of the Government. Against the
Government he has a great many causes for complaint, and one or two
of a personal kind. In 1861 he was a student in the University of
St. Petersburg. At that time there was a great deal of public
excitement all over Russia, and especially in the capital. The
serfs had just been emancipated, and other important reforms had
been undertaken. There was a general conviction among the young
generation--and it must be added among many older men--that the
autocratic, paternal system of government was at an end, and that
Russia was about to be reorganised according to the most advanced
principles of political and social science. The students, sharing
this conviction, wished to be freed from all academical authority,
and to organise a kind of academic self-government. They desired
especially the right of holding public meetings for the discussion
of their common affairs. The authorities would not allow this, and
issued a list of rules prohibiting meetings and raising the class-
fees, so as practically to exclude many of the poorer students.
This was felt to be a wanton insult to the spirit of the new era.
In spite of the prohibition, indignation meetings were held, and
fiery speeches made by male and female orators, first in the class-
rooms, and afterwards in the courtyard of the University. On one
occasion a long procession marched through the principal streets to
the house of the Curator. Never had such a spectacle been seen
before in St. Petersburg. Timid people feared that it was the
commencement of a revolution, and dreamed about barricades. At
last the authorities took energetic measures; about three hundred
students were arrested, and of these, thirty-two were expelled from
the University.

Among those who were expelled was Nicolai Ivan'itch. All his hopes
of becoming a professor, as he had intended, were thereby
shipwrecked, and he had to look out for some other profession. A
literary career now seemed the most promising, and certainly the
most congenial to his tastes. It would enable him to gratify his
ambition of being a public man, and give him opportunities of
attacking and annoying his persecutors. He had already written
occasionally for one of the leading periodicals, and now he became
a regular contributor. His stock of positive knowledge was not
very large, but he had the power of writing fluently and of making
his readers believe that he had an unlimited store of political
wisdom which the Press-censure prevented him from publishing.
Besides this, he had the talent of saying sharp, satirical things
about those in authority, in such a way that even a Press censor
could not easily raise objections. Articles written in this style
were sure at that time to be popular, and his had a very great
success. He became a known man in literary circles, and for a time
all went well. But gradually he became less cautious, whilst the
authorities became more vigilant. Some copies of a violent
seditious proclamation fell into the hands of the police, and it
was generally believed that the document proceeded from the coterie
to which he belonged. From that moment he was carefully watched,
till one night he was unexpectedly roused from his sleep by a
gendarme and conveyed to the fortress.

When a man is arrested in this way for a real or supposed political
offence, there are two modes of dealing with him. He may be tried
before a regular tribunal, or he may be dealt with "by
administrative procedure" (administrativnym poryadkom). In the
former case he will, if convicted, be condemned to imprisonment for
a certain term; or, if the offence be of a graver nature, he may be
transported to Siberia either for a fixed period or for life. By
the administrative procedure he is simply removed without a trial
to some distant town, and compelled to live there under police
supervision during his Majesty's pleasure. Nikolai Ivan'itch was
treated "administratively," because the authorities, though
convinced that he was a dangerous character, could not find
sufficient evidence to procure his conviction before a court of
justice. For five years he lived under police supervision in a
small town near the White Sea, and then one day he was informed,
without any explanation, that he might go and live anywhere he
pleased except in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Since that time he has lived with his brother, and spends his time
in brooding over his grievances and bewailing his shattered
illusions. He has lost none of that fluency which gained him an
ephemeral literary reputation, and can speak by the hour on
political and social questions to any one who will listen to him.
It is extremely difficult, however, to follow his discourses, and
utterly impossible to retain them in the memory. They belong to
what may be called political metaphysics--for though he professes
to hold metaphysics in abhorrence, he is himself a thorough
metaphysician in his modes of thought. He lives, indeed, in a
world of abstract conceptions, in which he can scarcely perceive
concrete facts, and his arguments are always a kind of clever
juggling with such equivocal, conventional terms as aristocracy,
bourgeoisie, monarchy, and the like. At concrete facts he arrives,
not directly by observation, but by deductions from general
principles, so that his facts can never by any possibility
contradict his theories. Then he has certain axioms which he
tacitly assumes, and on which all his arguments are based; as, for
instance, that everything to which the term "liberal" can be
applied must necessarily be good at all times and under all

Among a mass of vague conceptions which it is impossible to reduce
to any clearly defined form he has a few ideas which are perhaps
not strictly true, but which are at least intelligible. Among
these is his conviction that Russia has let slip a magnificent
opportunity of distancing all Europe on the road of progress. She
might, he thinks, at the time of the Emancipation, have boldly
accepted all the most advanced principles of political and social
science, and have completely reorganised the political and social
structure in accordance with them. Other nations could not take
such a step, because they are old and decrepit, filled with
stubborn, hereditary prejudices, and cursed with an aristocracy and
a bourgeoisie; but Russia is young, knows nothing of social castes,
and has no deep-rooted prejudices to contend with. The population
is like potter's clay, which can be made to assume any form that
science may recommend. Alexander II. began a magnificent
sociological experiment, but he stopped half-way.

Some day, he believes, the experiment will be completed, but not by
the autocratic power. In his opinion autocracy is "played out,"
and must give way to Parliamentary institutions. For him a
Constitution is a kind of omnipotent fetish. You may try to
explain to him that a Parliamentary regime, whatever its advantages
may be, necessarily produces political parties and political
conflicts, and is not nearly so suitable for grand sociological
experiments as a good paternal despotism. You may try to convince
him that, though it may be difficult to convert an autocrat, it is
infinitely more difficult to convert a House of Commons. But all
your efforts will be in vain. He will assure you that a Russian
Parliament would be something quite different from what Parliaments
commonly are. It would contain no parties, for Russia has no
social castes, and would be guided entirely by scientific
considerations--as free from prejudice and personal influences as a
philosopher speculating on the nature of the Infinite! In short,
he evidently imagines that a national Parliament would be composed
of himself and his friends, and that the nation would calmly submit
to their ukazes, as it has hitherto submitted to the ukazes of the

Pending the advent of this political Millennium, when unimpassioned
science is to reign supreme, Nikolai Ivan'itch allows himself the
luxury of indulging in some very decided political animosities, and
he hates with the fervour of a fanatic. Firstly and chiefly, he
hates what he calls the bourgeoisie--he is obliged to use the
French word, because his native language does not contain an
equivalent term--and especially capitalists of all sorts and
dimensions. Next, he hates aristocracy, especially a form of
aristocracy called Feudalism. To these abstract terms he does not
attach a very precise meaning, but he hates the entities which they
are supposed to represent quite as heartily as if they were
personal enemies. Among the things which he hates in his own
country, the Autocratic Power holds the first place. Next, as an
emanation from the Autocratic Power, come the tchinovniks, and
especially the gendarmes. Then come the landed proprietors.
Though he is himself a landed proprietor, he regards the class as
cumberers of the ground, and thinks that all their land should be
confiscated and distributed among the peasantry.

All proprietors have the misfortune to come under his sweeping
denunciations, because they are inconsistent with his ideal of a
peasant Empire, but he recognises amongst them degrees of
depravity. Some are simply obstructive, whilst others are actively
prejudicial to the public welfare. Among these latter a special
object of aversion is Prince S----, because he not only possesses
very large estates, but at the same time has aristocratic
pretensions, and calls himself Conservative.

Prince S---- is by far the most important man in the district. His
family is one of the oldest in the country, but he does not owe his
influence to his pedigree, for pedigree pure and simple does not
count for much in Russia. He is influential and respected because
he is a great land-holder with a high official position, and
belongs by birth to that group of families which forms the
permanent nucleus of the ever-changing Court society. His father
and grandfather were important personages in the Administration and
at Court, and his sons and grandsons will probably in this respect
follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. Though in the eye of
the law all nobles are equal, and, theoretically speaking,
promotion is gained exclusively by personal merit, yet, in reality,
those who have friends at Court rise more easily and more rapidly.

The Prince has had a prosperous but not very eventful life. He was
educated, first at home, under an English tutor, and afterwards in
the Corps des Pages. On leaving this institution he entered a
regiment of the Guards, and rose steadily to high military rank.
His activity, however, has been chiefly in the civil
administration, and he now has a seat in the Council of State.
Though he has always taken a certain interest in public affairs, he
did not play an important part in any of the great reforms. When
the peasant question was raised he sympathised with the idea of
Emancipation, but did not at all sympathise with the idea of giving
land to the emancipated serfs and preserving the Communal
institutions. What he desired was that the proprietors should
liberate their serfs without any pecuniary indemnity, and should
receive in return a certain share of political power. His scheme
was not adopted, but he has not relinquished the hope that the
great landed proprietors may somehow obtain a social and political
position similar to that of the great land-owners in England.

Official duties and social relations compel the Prince to live for
a large part of the year in the capital. He spends only a few
weeks yearly on his estate. The house is large, and fitted up in
the English style, with a view to combining elegance and comfort.
It contains several spacious apartments, a library, and a billiard-
room. There is an extensive park, an immense garden with hot
houses, numerous horses and carriages, and a legion of servants.
In the drawing-room is a plentiful supply of English and French
books, newspapers, and periodicals, including the Journal de St.
Petersbourg, which gives the news of the day.

The family have, in short, all the conveniences and comforts which
money and refinement can procure, but it cannot be said that they
greatly enjoy the time spent in the country. The Princess has no
decided objection to it. She is devoted to a little grandchild, is
fond of reading and correspondence, amuses herself with a school
and hospital which she has founded for the peasantry, and
occasionally drives over to see her friend, the Countess N----, who
lives about fifteen miles off.

The Prince, however, finds country life excessively dull. He does
not care for riding or shooting, and he finds nothing else to do.
He knows nothing about the management of his estate, and holds
consultations with the steward merely pro forma--this estate and
the others which he possesses in different provinces being ruled by
a head-steward in St. Petersburg, in whom he has the most complete
confidence. In the vicinity there is no one with whom he cares to
associate. Naturally he is not a sociable man, and he has acquired
a stiff, formal, reserved manner that is rarely met with in Russia.
This manner repels the neighbouring proprietors--a fact that he
does not at all regret, for they do not belong to his monde, and
they have in their manners and habits a free-and-easy rusticity
which is positively disagreeable to him. His relations with them
are therefore confined to formal calls. The greater part of the
day he spends in listless loitering, frequently yawning, regretting
the routine of St. Petersburg life--the pleasant chats with his
colleagues, the opera, the ballet, the French theatre, and the
quiet rubber at the Club Anglais. His spirits rise as the day of
his departure approaches, and when he drives off to the station he
looks bright and cheerful. If he consulted merely his own tastes
he would never visit his estates at all, and would spend his summer
holidays in Germany, France, or Switzerland, as he did in his
bachelor days; but as a large landowner he considers it right to
sacrifice his personal inclinations to the duties of his position.

There is, by the way, another princely magnate in the district, and
I ought perhaps to introduce him to my readers, because he
represents worthily a new type. Like Prince S----, of whom I have
just spoken, he is a great land-owner and a descendant of the half-
mythical Rurik; but he has no official rank, and does not possess a
single grand cordon. In that respect he has followed in the
footsteps of his father and grandfather, who had something of the
frondeur spirit, and preferred the position of a grand seigneur and
a country gentleman to that of a tchinovnik and a courtier. In the
Liberal camp he is regarded as a Conservative, but he has little in
common with the Krepostnik, who declares that the reforms of the
last half-century were a mistake, that everything is going to the
bad, that the emancipated serfs are all sluggards, drunkards, and
thieves, that the local self-government is an ingenious machine for
wasting money, and that the reformed law-courts have conferred
benefits only on the lawyers. On the contrary, he recognises the
necessity and beneficent results of the reforms, and with regard to
the future he has none of the despairing pessimism of the
incorrigible old Tory.

But in order that real progress should be made, he thinks that
certain current and fashionable errors must be avoided, and among
these errors he places, in the first rank, the views and principles
of the advanced Liberals, who have a blind admiration for Western
Europe, and for what they are pleased to call the results of
science. Like the Liberals of the West, these gentlemen assume
that the best form of government is constitutionalism, monarchical
or republican, on a broad democratic basis, and towards the
realisation of this ideal all their efforts are directed. Not so
our Conservative friend. While admitting that democratic
Parliamentary institutions may be the best form of government for
the more advanced nations of the West, he maintains that the only
firm foundation for the Russian Empire, and the only solid
guarantee of its future prosperity, is the Autocratic Power, which
is the sole genuine representative of the national spirit. Looking
at the past from this point of view, he perceives that the Tsars
have ever identified themselves with the nation, and have always
understood, in part instinctively and in part by reflection, what
the nation really required. Whenever the infiltration of Western
ideas threatened to swamp the national individuality, the
Autocratic Power intervened and averted the danger by timely
precautions. Something of the kind may be observed, he believes,
at present, when the Liberals are clamouring for a Parliament and a
Constitution; but the Autocratic Power is on the alert, and is
making itself acquainted with the needs of the people by means far
more effectual than could be supplied by oratorical politicians.

With the efforts of the Zemstvo in this direction, and with the
activity of the Zemstvo generally, the Prince has little sympathy,
partly because the institution is in the hands of the Liberals and
is guided by their unpractical ideas, and partly because it enables
some ambitious outsiders to acquire the influence in local affairs
which ought to be exercised by the old-established noble families
of the neighbourhood. What he would like to see is an enlightened,
influential gentry working in conjunction with the Autocratic Power
for the good of the country. If Russia could produce a few hundred
thousand men like himself, his ideal might perhaps be realised.
For the present, such men are extremely rare--I should have
difficulty in naming a dozen of them--and aristocratic ideas are
extremely unpopular among the great majority of the educated
classes. When a Russian indulges in political speculation, he is
pretty sure to show himself thoroughly democratic, with a strong
leaning to socialism.

The Prince belongs to the highest rank of the Russian Noblesse. If
we wish to get an idea of the lowest rank, we can find in the
neighbourhood a number of poor, uneducated men, who live in small,
squalid houses, and are not easily to be distinguished from
peasants. They are nobles, like his Highness; but, unlike him,
they enjoy no social consideration, and their landed property
consists of a few acres of land which barely supply them with the
first necessaries of life. If we went to other parts of the
country we might find men in this condition bearing the title of
Prince! This is the natural result of the Russian law of
inheritance, which does not recognise the principle of
primogeniture with regard to titles and estates. All the sons of a
Prince are Princes, and at his death his property, movable and
immovable, is divided amongst them.



Do Social Classes or Castes Exist in Russia?--Well-marked Social
Types--Classes Recognised by the Legislation and the Official
Statistics--Origin and Gradual Formation of these Classes--
Peculiarity in the Historical Development of Russia--Political Life
and Political Parties.

In the preceding pages I have repeatedly used the expression
"social classes," and probably more than once the reader has felt
inclined to ask, What are social classes in the Russian sense of
the term? It may be well, therefore, before going farther, to
answer this question.

If the question were put to a Russian it is not at all unlikely
that he would reply somewhat in this fashion: "In Russia there are
no social classes, and there never have been any. That fact
constitutes one of the most striking peculiarities of her
historical development, and one of the surest foundations of her
future greatness. We know nothing, and have never known anything,
of those class distinctions and class enmities which in Western
Europe have often rudely shaken society in past times, and imperil
its existence in the future."

This statement will not be readily accepted by the traveller who
visits Russia with no preconceived ideas and forms his opinions
from his own observations. To him it seems that class distinctions
form one of the most prominent characteristics of Russian society.
In a few days he learns to distinguish the various classes by their
outward appearance. He easily recognises the French-speaking
nobles in West-European costume; the burly, bearded merchant in
black cloth cap and long, shiny, double-breasted coat; the priest
with his uncut hair and flowing robes; the peasant with his full,
fair beard and unsavoury, greasy sheepskin. Meeting everywhere
those well-marked types, he naturally assumes that Russian society
is composed of exclusive castes; and this first impression will be
fully confirmed by a glance at the Code. On examining that
monumental work, he finds that an entire volume--and by no means
the smallest--is devoted to the rights and obligations of the
various classes. From this he concludes that the classes have a
legal as well as an actual existence. To make assurance doubly
sure he turns to official statistics, and there he finds the
following table:

Hereditary nobles........652,887
Personal nobles..........374,367
Clerical classes.........695,905
Town classes...........7,196,005
Rural classes.........63,840,291
Military classes.......4,767,703

* Livron: "Statistitcheskoe Obozrenie Rossiiskoi Imperii," St.
Petersburg, 1875. The above figures include the whole Empire. The
figures according to the latest census (1897) are not yet

Armed with these materials, the traveller goes to his Russian
friends who have assured him that their country knows nothing of
class distinctions. He is confident of being able to convince them
that they have been labouring under a strange delusion, but he will
be disappointed. They will tell him that these laws and statistics
prove nothing, and that the categories therein mentioned are mere
administrative fictions.

This apparent contradiction is to be explained by the equivocal
meaning of the Russian terms Sosloviya and Sostoyaniya, which are
commonly translated "social classes." If by these terms are meant
"castes" in the Oriental sense, then it may be confidently asserted
that such do not exist in Russia. Between the nobles, the clergy,
the burghers, and the peasants there are no distinctions of race
and no impassable barriers. The peasant often becomes a merchant,
and there are many cases on record of peasants and sons of parish
priests becoming nobles. Until very recently the parish clergy
composed, as we have seen, a peculiar and exclusive class, with
many of the characteristics of a caste; but this has been changed,
and it may now be said that in Russia there are no castes in the
Oriental sense.

If the word Sosloviya be taken to mean an organised political unit
with an esprit de corps and a clearly conceived political aim, it
may likewise be admitted that there are none in Russia. As there
has been for centuries no political life among the subjects of the
Tsars, there have been no political parties.

On the other hand, to say that social classes have never existed in
Russia and that the categories which appear in the legislation and
in the official statistics are mere administrative fictions, is a
piece of gross exaggeration.

From the very beginning of Russian history we can detect
unmistakably the existence of social classes, such as the Princes,
the Boyars, the armed followers of the Princes, the peasantry, the
slaves, and various others; and one of the oldest legal documents
which we possess--the "Russian Right" (Russkaya Pravda) of the
Grand Prince Yaroslaff (1019-1054)--contains irrefragable proof, in
the penalties attached to various crimes, that these classes were
formally recognised by the legislation. Since that time they have
frequently changed their character, but they have never at any
period ceased to exist.

In ancient times, when there was very little administrative
regulation, the classes had perhaps no clearly defined boundaries,
and the peculiarities which distinguished them from each other were
actual rather than legal--lying in the mode of life and social
position rather than in peculiar obligations and privileges. But
as the autocratic power developed and strove to transform the
nation into a State with a highly centralised administration, the
legal element in the social distinctions became more and more
prominent. For financial and other purposes the people had to be
divided into various categories. The actual distinctions were of
course taken as the basis of the legal classification, but the
classifying had more than a merely formal significance. The
necessity of clearly defining the different groups entailed the
necessity of elevating and strengthening the barriers which already
existed between them, and the difficulty of passing from one group
to another was thereby increased.

In this work of classification Peter the Great especially
distinguished himself. With his insatiable passion for regulation,
he raised formidable barriers between the different categories, and
defined the obligations of each with microscopic minuteness. After
his death the work was carried on in the same spirit, and the
tendency reached its climax in the reign of Nicholas, when the
number of students to be received in the universities was
determined by Imperial ukaz!

In the reign of Catherine a new element was introduced into the
official conception of social classes. Down to her time the
Government had thought merely of class obligations; under the
influence of Western ideas she introduced the conception of class
rights. She wished, as we have seen, to have in her Empire a
Noblesse and tiers-etat like those which existed in France, and for
this purpose she granted, first to the Dvoryanstvo and afterwards
to the towns, an Imperial Charter, or Bill of Rights. Succeeding
sovereigns have acted in the same spirit, and the Code now confers
on each class numerous privileges as well as numerous obligations.

Thus, we see, the oft-repeated assertion that the Russian social
classes are simply artificial categories created by the legislature
is to a certain extent true, but is by no means accurate. The
social groups, such as peasants, landed proprietors, and the like,
came into existence in Russia, as in other countries, by the simple
force of circumstances. The legislature merely recognised and
developed the social distinctions which already existed. The legal
status, obligations, and rights of each group were minutely defined
and regulated, and legal barriers were added to the actual barriers
which separated the groups from each other.

What is peculiar in the historical development of Russia is this:
until lately she remained an almost exclusively agricultural Empire
with abundance of unoccupied land. Her history presents,
therefore, few of those conflicts which result from the variety of
social conditions and the intensified struggle for existence.
Certain social groups were, indeed, formed in the course of time,
but they were never allowed to fight out their own battles. The
irresistible autocratic power kept them always in check and
fashioned them into whatever form it thought proper, defining
minutely and carefully their obligations, their rights, their
mutual relations, and their respective positions in the political
organisation. Hence we find in the history of Russia almost no
trace of those class hatreds which appear so conspicuously in the
history of Western Europe.*

* This is, I believe, the true explanation of an important fact,
which the Slavophils endeavoured to explain by an ill-authenticated
legend (vide supra p.151).

The practical consequence of all this is that in Russia at the
present day there is very little caste spirit or caste prejudice.
Within half-a-dozen years after the emancipation of the serfs,
proprietors and peasants, forgetting apparently their old
relationship of master and serf, were working amicably together in
the new local administration, and not a few similar curious facts
might be cited. The confident anticipation of many Russians that
their country will one day enjoy political life without political
parties is, if not a contradiction in terms, at least a Utopian
absurdity; but we may be sure that when political parties do appear
they will be very different from those which exist in Germany,
France, and England.

Meanwhile, let us see how the country is governed without political
parties and without political life in the West-European sense of
the term. This will form the subject of our next chapter.



The Officials in Norgorod Assist Me in My Studies--The Modern
Imperial Administration Created by Peter the Great, and Developed
by his Successors--A Slavophil's View of the Administration--The
Administration Briefly Described--The Tchinovniks, or Officials--
Official Titles, and Their Real Significance--What the
Administration Has Done for Russia in the Past--Its Character
Determined by the Peculiar Relation between the Government and the
People--Its Radical Vices--Bureaucratic Remedies--Complicated
Formal Procedure--The Gendarmerie: My Personal Relations with this
Branch of the Administration; Arrest and Release--A Strong, Healthy
Public Opinion the Only Effectual Remedy for Bad Administration.

My administrative studies were begun in Novgorod. One of my
reasons for spending a winter in that provincial capital was that I
might study the provincial administration, and as soon as I had
made the acquaintance of the leading officials I explained to them
the object I had in view. With the kindly bonhomie which
distinguishes the Russian educated classes, they all volunteered to
give me every assistance in their power, but some of them, on
mature reflection, evidently saw reason to check their first
generous impulse. Among these was the Vice-Governor, a gentleman
of German origin, and therefore more inclined to be pedantic than a
genuine Russian. When I called on him one evening and reminded him
of his friendly offer, I found to my surprise that he had in the
meantime changed his mind. Instead of answering my first simple
inquiry, he stared at me fixedly, as if for the purpose of
detecting some covert, malicious design, and then, putting on an
air of official dignity, informed me that as I had not been
authorised by the Minister to make these investigations, he could
not assist me, and would certainly not allow me to examine the

This was not encouraging, but it did not prevent me from applying
to the Governor, and I found him a man of a very different stamp.
Delighted to meet a foreigner who seemed anxious to study seriously
in an unbiassed frame of mind the institutions of his much-maligned
native country, he willingly explained to me the mechanism of the
administration which he directed and controlled, and kindly placed
at my disposal the books and documents in which I could find the
historical and practical information which I required.

This friendly attitude of his Excellency towards me soon became
generally known in the town, and from that moment my difficulties
were at an end. The minor officials no longer hesitated to
initiate me into the mysteries of their respective departments, and
at last even the Vice-Governor threw off his reserve and followed
the example of his colleagues. The elementary information thus
acquired I had afterwards abundant opportunities of completing by
observation and study in other parts of the Empire, and I now
propose to communicate to the reader a few of the more general

The gigantic administrative machine which holds together all the
various parts of the vast Empire has been gradually created by
successive generations, but we may say roughly that it was first
designed and constructed by Peter the Great. Before his time the
country was governed in a rude, primitive fashion. The Grand
Princes of Moscow, in subduing their rivals and annexing the
surrounding principalities, merely cleared the ground for a great
homogeneous State. Wily, practical politicians, rather than
statesmen of the doctrinaire type, they never dreamed of
introducing uniformity and symmetry into the administration as a
whole. They developed the ancient institutions so far as these
were useful and consistent with the exercise of autocratic power,
and made only such alterations as practical necessity demanded.
And these necessary alterations were more frequently local than
general. Special decisions, instruction to particular officials,
and charters for particular communes of proprietors were much more
common than general legislative measures.

In short, the old Muscovite Tsars practised a hand-to-mouth policy,
destroying whatever caused temporary inconvenience, and giving
little heed to what did not force itself upon their attention.
Hence, under their rule the administration presented not only
territorial peculiarities, but also an ill-assorted combination of
different systems in the same district--a conglomeration of
institutions belonging to different epochs, like a fleet composed
of triremes, three-deckers, and iron-clads.

This irregular system, or rather want of system, seemed highly
unsatisfactory to the logical mind of Peter the Great, and he
conceived the grand design of sweeping it away, and putting in its
place a symmetrical bureaucratic machine. It is scarcely necessary
to say that this magnificent project, so foreign to the traditional
ideas and customs of the people, was not easily realised. Imagine
a man, without technical knowledge, without skilled workmen,
without good tools, and with no better material than soft,
crumbling sandstone, endeavouring to build a palace on a marsh!
The undertaking would seem to reasonable minds utterly absurd, and
yet it must be admitted that Peter's project was scarcely more
feasible. He had neither technical knowledge, nor the requisite
materials, nor a firm foundation to build on. With his usual
Titanic energy he demolished the old structure, but his attempts to
construct were little more than a series of failures. In his
numerous ukazes he has left us a graphic description of his
efforts, and it is at once instructive and pathetic to watch the
great worker toiling indefatigably at his self-imposed task. His
instruments are constantly breaking in his hands. The foundations
of the building are continually giving way, and the lower tiers
crumbling under the superincumbent weight. Now and then a whole
section is found to be unsuitable, and is ruthlessly pulled down,
or falls of its own accord. And yet the builder toils on, with a
perseverance and an energy of purpose that compel admiration,
frankly confessing his mistakes and failures, and patiently seeking
the means of remedying them, never allowing a word of despondency
to escape him, and never despairing of ultimate success. And at
length death comes, and the mighty builder is snatched away
suddenly in the midst of his unfinished labours, bequeathing to his
successors the task of carrying on the great work.

None of these successors possessed Peter's genius and energy--with
the exception perhaps of Catherine II.--but they were all compelled
by the force of circumstances to adopt his plans. A return to the
old rough-and-ready rule of time local Voyevods was impossible. As
the Autocratic Power became more and more imbued with Western
ideas, it felt more and more the need of new means for carrying
them out, and accordingly it strove to systematise and centralise
the administration.

In this change we may perceive a certain analogy with the history
of the French administration from the reign of Philippe le Bel to
that of Louis XIV. In both countries we see the central power
bringing the local administrative organs more and more under its
control, till at last it succeeds in creating a thoroughly
centralised bureaucratic organisation. But under this superficial
resemblance lie profound differences. The French kings had to
struggle with provincial sovereignties and feudal rights, and when
they had annihilated this opposition they easily found materials
with which to build up the bureaucratic structure. The Russian
sovereigns, on the contrary, met with no such opposition, but they
had great difficulty in finding bureaucratic material amongst their
uneducated, undisciplined subjects, notwithstanding the numerous
schools and colleges which were founded and maintained simply for
the purpose of preparing men for the public service.

The administration was thus brought much nearer to the West-
European ideal, but some people have grave doubts as to whether it
became thereby better adapted to the practical wants of the people
for whom it was created. On this point a well-known Slavophil once
made to me some remarks which are worthy of being recorded. "You
have observed," he said, "that till very recently there was in
Russia an enormous amount of official peculation, extortion, and
misgovernment of every kind, that the courts of law were dens of
iniquity, that the people often committed perjury, and much more of
the same sort, and it must be admitted that all this has not yet
entirely disappeared. But what does it prove? That the Russian
people are morally inferior to the German? Not at all. It simply
proves that the German system of administration, which was forced
upon them without their consent, was utterly unsuited to their
nature. If a young growing boy be compelled to wear very tight
boots, he will probably burst them, and the ugly rents will
doubtless produce an unfavourable impression on the passers-by; but
surely it is better that the boots should burst than that the feet
should be deformed. Now, the Russian people was compelled to put
on not only tight boots, but also a tight jacket, and, being young
and vigorous, it burst them. Narrow-minded, pedantic Germans can
neither understand nor provide for the wants of the broad Slavonic

In its present form the Russian administration seems at first sight
a very imposing edifice. At the top of the pyramid stands the
Emperor, "the autocratic monarch," as Peter the Great described
him, "who has to give an account of his acts to no one on earth,
but has power and authority to rule his States and lands as a
Christian sovereign according to his own will and judgment."
Immediately below the Emperor we see the Council of State, the
Committee of Ministers, and the Senate, which represent
respectively the legislative, the administrative, and the judicial
power. An Englishman glancing over the first volume of the great
Code of Laws might imagine that the Council of State is a kind of
Parliament, and the Committee of Ministers a cabinet in our sense
of the term, but in reality both institutions are simply
incarnations of the Autocratic Power. Though the Council is
entrusted by law with many important functions--such as discussing
Bills, criticising the annual budget, declaring war and concluding
peace--it has merely a consultative character, and the Emperor is
not in any way bound by its decisions. The Committee is not at all
a cabinet as we understand the word. The Ministers are directly
and individually responsible to the Emperor, and therefore the
Committee has no common responsibility or other cohesive force. As
to the Senate, it has descended from its high estate. It was
originally entrusted with the supreme power during the absence or
minority of the monarch, and was intended to exercise a controlling
influence in all sections of the administration, but now its
activity is restricted to judicial matters, and it is little more
than a supreme court of appeal.

Immediately below these three institutions stand the Ministries,
ten in number. They are the central points in which converge the
various kinds of territorial administration, and from which
radiates the Imperial will all over the Empire.

For the purpose of territorial administration Russia proper--that
is to say, European Russia, exclusive of Poland, the Baltic
Provinces, Finland and the Caucasus--is divided into forty-nine
provinces or "Governments" (gubernii), and each Government is
subdivided into Districts (uyezdi). The average area of a province
is about the size of Portugal, but some are as small as Belgium,
whilst one at least is twenty-five times as big. The population,
however, does not correspond to the amount of territory. In the
largest province, that of Archangel, there are only about 350,000
inhabitants, whilst in two of the smaller ones there are over three
millions. The districts likewise vary greatly in size. Some are
smaller than Oxfordshire or Buckingham, and others are bigger than
the whole of the United Kingdom.

Over each province is placed a Governor, who is assisted in his
duties by a Vice-Governor and a small council. According to the
legislation of Catherine II., which still appears in the Code and
has only been partially repealed, the Governor is termed "the
steward of the province," and is entrusted with so many and such
delicate duties, that in order to obtain qualified men for the post
it would be necessary to realise the great Empress's design of
creating, by education, "a new race of people." Down to the time
of the Crimean War the Governors understood the term "stewards" in
a very literal sense, and ruled in a most arbitrary, high-handed
style, often exercising an important influence on the civil and
criminal tribunals. These extensive and vaguely defined powers
have now been very much curtailed, partly by positive legislation,
and partly by increased publicity and improved means of
communication. All judicial matters have been placed theoretically
beyond the Governor's control, and many of his former functions are
now fulfilled by the Zemstvo--the new organ of local self-
government. Besides this, all ordinary current affairs are
regulated by an already big and ever-growing body of instructions,
in the form of Imperial orders and ministerial circulars, and as
soon as anything not provided for by the instructions happens to
occur, the minister is consulted through the post-office or by

Even within the sphere of their lawful authority the Governors have
now a certain respect for public opinion and occasionally a very
wholesome dread of casual newspaper correspondents. Thus the men
who were formerly described by the satirists as "little satraps"
have sunk to the level of subordinate officials. I can confidently
say that many (I believe the majority) of them are honest, upright
men, who are perhaps not endowed with any unusual administrative
capacities, but who perform their duties faithfully according to
their lights. If any representatives of the old "satraps" still
exist, they must be sought for in the outlying Asiatic provinces.

Independent of the Governor, who is the local representative of the
Ministry of the Interior, are a number of resident officials, who
represent the other ministries, and each of them has a bureau, with
the requisite number of assistants, secretaries, and scribes.

To keep this vast and complex bureaucratic machine in motion it is
necessary to have a large and well-drilled army of officials.
These are drawn chiefly from the ranks of the Noblesse and the
clergy, and form a peculiar social class called Tchinovniks, or men
with Tchins. As the Tchin plays an important part in Russia, not
only in the official world, but also to some extent in social life,
it may be well to explain its significance.

All offices, civil and military, are, according to a scheme
invented by Peter the Great, arranged in fourteen classes or ranks,
and to each class or rank a particular name is attached. As
promotion is supposed to be given according to personal merit, a
man who enters the public service for the first time must, whatever
be his social position, begin in the lower ranks, and work his way
upwards. Educational certificates may exempt him from the
necessity of passing through the lowest classes, and the Imperial
will may disregard the restrictions laid down by law; but as
general rule a man must begin at or near the bottom of the official
ladder, and he must remain on each step a certain specified time.
The step on which he is for the moment standing, or, in other
words, the official rank or tchin which he possesses determines
what offices he is competent to hold. Thus rank or tchin is a
necessary condition for receiving an appointment, but it does not
designate any actual office, and the names of the different ranks
are extremely apt to mislead a foreigner.

We must always bear this in mind when we meet with those imposing
titles which Russian tourists sometimes put on their visiting
cards, such as "Conseiller de Cour," "Conseiller d'Etat,"
"Conseiller prive de S. M. l'Empereur de toutes les Russies." It
would be uncharitable to suppose that these titles are used with
the intention of misleading, but that they do sometimes mislead
there cannot be the least doubt. I shall never forget the look of
intense disgust which I once saw on the face of an American who had
invited to dinner a "Conseiller de Cour," on the assumption that he
would have a Court dignitary as his guest, and who casually
discovered that the personage in question was simply an
insignificant official in one of the public offices. No doubt
other people have bad similar experiences. The unwary foreigner
who has heard that there is in Russia a very important institution
called the Conseil d'Etat," naturally supposes that a " Conseiller
d'Etat" is a member of that venerable body; and if he meets "Son
Excellence le Conseiller prive," he is pretty sure to assume--
especially if the word "actuel" has been affixed--that he sees
before him a real living member of the Russian Privy Council. When
to the title is added, "de S. M. l'Empereur de toutes les Russies,"
a boundless field is opened up to the non-Russian imagination. In
reality these titles are not nearly so important as they seem. The
soi-disant "Conseiller de Cour" has probably nothing to do with the
Court. The Conseiller d'Etat is so far from being a member of the
Conseil d'Etat that he cannot possibly become a member till he
receives a higher tchin.* As to the Privy Councillor, it is
sufficient to say that the Privy Council, which had a very odious
reputation in its lifetime, died more than a century ago, and has
not since been resuscitated. The explanation of these anomalies is
to be found in the fact that the Russian tchins, like the German
honorary titles--Hofrath, Staatsrath, Geheimrath--of which they are
a literal translation, indicate not actual office, but simply
official rank. Formerly the appointment to an office generally
depended on the tchin; now there is a tendency to reverse the old
order of things and make the tchin depend upon the office actually

* In Russian the two words are quite different; the Council is
called Gosudarstvenny sovet, and the title Statski sovetnik.

The reader of practical mind who is in the habit of considering
results rather than forms and formalities desires probably no
further description of the Russian bureaucracy, but wishes to know
simply how it works in practice. What has it done for Russia in
the past, and what is it doing in the present?

At the present day, when faith in despotic civilisers and paternal
government has been rudely shaken, and the advantages of a free,
spontaneous national development are fully recognised, centralised
bureaucracies have everywhere fallen into bad odour. In Russia the
dislike to them is particularly strong, because it has there
something more than a purely theoretical basis. The recollection
of the reign of Nicholas I., with its stern military regime, and
minute, pedantic formalism, makes many Russians condemn in no
measured terms the administration under which they live, and most
Englishmen will feel inclined to endorse this condemnation. Before
passing sentence, however, we ought to know that the system has at
least an historical justification, and we must not allow our love
of constitutional liberty and local self-government to blind us to
the distinction between theoretical and historical possibility.
What seems to political philosophers abstractly the best possible
government may be utterly inapplicable in certain concrete cases.
We need not attempt to decide whether it is better for humanity
that Russia should exist as a nation, but we may boldly assert that
without a strongly centralised administration Russia would never
have become one of the great European Powers. Until comparatively
recent times the part of the world which is known as the Russian
Empire was a conglomeration of independent or semi-independent
political units, animated with centrifugal as well as centripetal
forces; and even at the present day it is far from being a compact
homogeneous State. It was the autocratic power, with the
centralised administration as its necessary complement, that first
created Russia, then saved her from dismemberment and political
annihilation, and ultimately secured for her a place among European
nations by introducing Western civilisation.

Whilst thus recognising clearly that autocracy and a strongly
centralised administration were necessary first for the creation
and afterwards for the preservation of national independence, we
must not shut our eyes to the evil consequences which resulted from
this unfortunate necessity. It was in the nature of things that
the Government, aiming at the realisation of designs which its
subjects neither sympathised with nor clearly understood, should
have become separated from the nation; and the reckless haste and
violence with which it attempted to carry out its schemes aroused a
spirit of positive opposition among the masses. A considerable
section of the people long looked on the reforming Tsars as
incarnations of the spirit of evil, and the Tsars in their turn
looked upon the people as raw material for the realisation of their
political designs. This peculiar relation between the nation and
the Government has given the key-note to the whole system of
administration. The Government has always treated the people as
minors, incapable of understanding its political aims, and only
very partially competent to look after their own local affairs.
The officials have naturally acted in the same spirit. Looking for
direction and approbation merely to their superiors, they have
systematically treated those over whom they were placed as a
conquered or inferior race. The State has thus come to be regarded
as an abstract entity, with interests entirely different from those
of the human beings composing it; and in all matters in which State
interests are supposed to be involved, the rights of individuals
are ruthlessly sacrificed.

If we remember that the difficulties of centralised administration
must be in direct proportion to the extent and territorial variety
of the country to be governed, we may readily understand how slowly
and imperfectly the administrative machine necessarily works in
Russia. The whole of the vast region stretching from the Polar
Ocean to the Caspian, and from the shores of the Baltic to the
confines of the Celestial Empire, is administered from St.
Petersburg. The genuine bureaucrat has a wholesome dread of formal
responsibility, and generally tries to avoid it by taking all
matters out of the hands of his subordinates, and passing them on
to the higher authorities. As soon, therefore, as affairs are
caught up by the administrative machine they begin to ascend, and
probably arrive some day at the cabinet of the minister. Thus the
ministries are flooded with papers--many of the most trivial
import--from all parts of the Empire; and the higher officials,
even if they had the eyes of an Argus and the hands of a Briareus,
could not possibly fulfil conscientiously the duties imposed on
them. In reality the Russian administrators of the higher ranks
recall neither Argus nor Briareus. They commonly show neither an
extensive nor a profound knowledge of the country which they are
supposed to govern, and seem always to have a fair amount of
leisure time at their disposal.

Besides the unavoidable evils of excessive centralisation, Russia
has had to suffer much from the jobbery, venality, and extortion of
the officials. When Peter the Great one day proposed to hang every
man who should steal as much as would buy a rope, his Procurator-
General frankly replied that if his Majesty put his project into
execution there would be no officials left. "We all steal," added
the worthy official; "the only difference is that some of us steal
larger amounts and more openly than others." Since these words
were spoken nearly two centuries have passed, and during all that
time Russia has been steadily making progress, but until the
accession of Alexander II. in 1855 little change took place in the
moral character of the administration. Some people still living
can remember the time when they could have repeated, without much
exaggeration, the confession of Peter's Procurator-General.

To appreciate aright this ugly phenomenon we must distinguish two
kinds of venality. On the one hand there was the habit of exacting
what are vulgarly termed "tips" for services performed, and on the
other there were the various kinds of positive dishonesty. Though
it might not be always easy to draw a clear line between the two
categories, the distinction was fully recognised in the moral
consciousness of the time, and many an official who regularly
received "sinless revenues" (bezgreshniye dokhodi), as the tips
were sometimes called, would have been very indignant had he been
stigmatised as a dishonest man. The practice was, in fact,
universal, and could be, to a certain extent, justified by the
smallness of the official salaries. In some departments there was
a recognised tariff. The "brandy farmers," for example, who worked
the State Monopoly for the manufacture and sale of alcoholic
liquors, paid regularly a fixed sum to every official, from the
Governor to the policeman, according to his rank. I knew of one
case where an official, on receiving a larger sum than was
customary, conscientiously handed back the change! The other and
more heinous offences were by no means so common, but were still
fearfully frequent. Many high officials and important dignitaries
were known to receive large revenues, to which the term "sinless"
could not by any means be applied, and yet they retained their
position, and were received in society with respectful deference.

The Sovereigns were well aware of the abuses, and strove more or
less to root them out, but the success which attended their efforts
does not give us a very exalted idea of the practical omnipotence
of autocracy. In a centralised bureaucratic administration, in
which each official is to a certain extent responsible for the sins
of his subordinates, it is always extremely difficult to bring an
official culprit to justice, for he is sure to be protected by his
superiors; and when the superiors are themselves habitually guilty
of malpractices, the culprit is quite safe from exposure and
punishment. The Tsar, indeed, might do much towards exposing and
punishing offenders if he could venture to call in public opinion
to his assistance, but in reality he is very apt to become a party
to the system of hushing up official delinquencies. He is himself
the first official in the realm, and he knows that the abuse of
power by a subordinate has a tendency to produce hostility towards
the fountain of all official power. Frequent punishment of
officials might, it is thought, diminish public respect for the
Government, and undermine that social discipline which is necessary
for the public tranquillity. It is therefore considered expedient
to give to official delinquencies as little publicity as possible.

Besides this, strange as it may seem, a Government which rests on
the arbitrary will of a single individual is, notwithstanding
occasional outbursts of severity, much less systematically severe
than authority founded on free public opinion. When delinquencies
occur in very high places the Tsar is almost sure to display a
leniency approaching to tenderness. If it be necessary to make a
sacrifice to justice, the sacrificial operation is made as painless
as may be, and illustrious scapegoats are not allowed to die of
starvation in the wilderness--the wilderness being generally Paris
or the Riviera. This fact may seem strange to those who are in the
habit of associating autocracy with Neapolitan dungeons and the
mines of Siberia, but it is not difficult to explain. No
individual, even though he be the Autocrat of all the Russias, can
so case himself in the armour of official dignity as to be
completely proof against personal influences. The severity of
autocrats is reserved for political offenders, against whom they
naturally harbour a feeling of personal resentment. It is so much
easier for us to be lenient and charitable towards a man who sins
against public morality than towards one who sins against

In justice to the bureaucratic reformers in Russia, it must be said
that they have preferred prevention to cure. Refraining from all
Draconian legislation, they have put their faith in a system of
ingenious checks and a complicated formal procedure. When we
examine the complicated formalities and labyrinthine procedure by
which the administration is controlled, our first impression is
that administrative abuses must be almost impossible. Every
possible act of every official seems to have been foreseen, and
every possible outlet from the narrow path of honesty seems to have
been carefully walled up. As the English reader has probably no
conception of formal procedure in a highly centralised bureaucracy,
let me give, by way of illustration, an instance which accidentally
came to my knowledge.

In the residence of a Governor-General one of the stoves is in need
of repairs. An ordinary mortal may assume that a man with the rank
of Governor-General may be trusted to expend a few shillings
conscientiously, and that consequently his Excellency will at once
order the repairs to be made and the payment to be put down among
the petty expenses. To the bureaucratic mind the case appears in a
very different light. All possible contingencies must be carefully
provided for. As a Governor-General may possibly be possessed with
a mania for making useless alterations, the necessity for the
repairs ought to be verified; and as wisdom and honesty are more
likely to reside in an assembly than in an individual, it is well
to entrust the verification to a council. A council of three or
four members accordingly certifies that the repairs are necessary.
This is pretty strong authority, but it is not enough. Councils
are composed of mere human beings, liable to error and subject to
be intimidated by a Governor-General. It is prudent, therefore, to
demand that the decision of the council be confirmed by the
Procureur, who is directly subordinated to the Minister of Justice.
When this double confirmation has been obtained, an architect
examines the stove, and makes an estimate. But it would be
dangerous to give carte blanche to an architect, and therefore the
estimate has to be confirmed, first by the aforesaid council and
afterwards by the Procureur. When all these formalities--which
require sixteen days and ten sheets of paper--have been duly
observed, his Excellency is informed that the contemplated repairs
will cost two roubles and forty kopecks, or about five shillings of
our money. Even here the formalities do not stop, for the
Government must have the assurance that the architect who made the
estimate and superintended the repairs has not been guilty of
negligence. A second architect is therefore sent to examine the
work, and his report, like the estimate, requires to be confirmed
by the council and the Procureur. The whole correspondence lasts
thirty days, and requires no less than thirty sheets of paper! Had
the person who desired the repairs been not a Governor-General, but
an ordinary mortal, it is impossible to say how long the procedure
might have lasted.*

* In fairness I feel constrained to add that incidents of this kind
occasionally occur--or at least occurred as late as 1886--in our
Indian Administration. I remember an instance of a pane of glass
being broken in the Viceroy's bedroom in the Viceregal Lodge at
Simla, and it would have required nearly a week, if the official
procedure had been scrupulously observed, to have it replaced by
the Public Works Department.

It might naturally be supposed that this circuitous and complicated
method, with its registers, ledgers, and minutes of proceedings,
must at least prevent pilfering; but this a priori conclusion has
been emphatically belied by experience. Every new ingenious device
had merely the effect of producing a still more ingenious means of
avoiding it. The system did not restrain those who wished to
pilfer, and it had a deleterious effect on honest officials by
making them feel that the Government reposed no confidence in them.
Besides this, it produced among all officials, honest and dishonest
alike, the habit of systematic falsification. As it was impossible
for even the most pedantic of men--and pedantry, be it remarked, is
a rare quality among Russians--to fulfil conscientiously all the
prescribed formalities, it became customary to observe the forms
merely on paper. Officials certified facts which they never
dreamed of examining, and secretaries gravely wrote the minutes of
meetings that had never been held! Thus, in the case above cited,
the repairs were in reality begun and ended long before the
architect was officially authorised to begin the work. The comedy
was nevertheless gravely played out to the end, so that any one
afterwards revising the documents would have found that everything
had been done in perfect order.

Perhaps the most ingenious means for preventing administrative
abuses was devised by the Emperor Nicholas I. Fully aware that he
was regularly and systematically deceived by the ordinary
officials, he formed a body of well-paid officers, called the
gendarmerie, who were scattered over the country, and ordered to
report directly to his Majesty whatever seemed to them worthy of
attention. Bureaucratic minds considered this an admirable
expedient; and the Tsar confidently expected that he would, by
means of these official observers who had no interest in concealing
the truth, be able to know everything, and to correct all official
abuses. In reality the institution produced few good results, and
in some respects had a very pernicious influence. Though picked
men and provided with good salaries, these officers were all more
or less permeated with the prevailing spirit. They could not but
feel that they were regarded as spies and informers--a humiliating
conviction, little calculated to develop that feeling of self-
respect which is the main foundation of uprightness--and that all
their efforts could do but little good. They were, in fact, in
pretty much the same position as Peter's Procurator-General, and,
with true Russian bonhomie, they disliked ruining individuals who
were no worse than the majority of their fellows. Besides this,
according to the received code of official morality insubordination
was a more heinous sin than dishonesty, and political offences were
regarded as the blackest of all. The gendarmerie officers shut
their eyes, therefore, to the prevailing abuses, which were
believed to be incurable, and directed their attention to real or
imaginary political delinquencies. Oppression and extortion
remained unnoticed, whilst an incautious word or a foolish joke at
the expense of the Government was too often magnified into an act
of high treason.

This force still exists under a slightly modified form. Towards
the close of the reign of Alexander II. (1880), when Count Loris
Melikof, with the sanction and approval of his august master, was
preparing to introduce a system of liberal political reforms, it
was intended to abolish the gendarmerie as an organ of political
espionage, and accordingly the direction of it was transferred from
the so-called Third Section of his Imperial Majesty's Chancery to
the Ministry of the Interior; but when the benevolent monarch was a
few months afterwards assassinated by revolutionists, the project
was naturally abandoned, and the Corps of Gendarmes, while
remaining nominally under the Minister of the Interior, was
practically reinstated in its former position. Now, as then, it
serves as a kind of supplement to the ordinary police, and is
generally employed for matters in which secrecy is required.
Unfortunately it is not bound by those legal restrictions which
protect the public against the arbitrary will of the ordinary
authorities. In addition to its regular duties it has a vaguely
defined roving commission to watch and arrest all persons who seem
to it in any way dangerous or suspectes, and it may keep such in
confinement for an indefinite time, or remove them to some distant
and inhospitable part of the Empire, without making them undergo a
regular trial. It is, in short, the ordinary instrument for
punishing political dreamers, suppressing secret societies,
counteracting political agitations, and in general executing the
extra-legal orders of the Government.

My relations with this anomalous branch of the administration were
somewhat peculiar. After my experience with the Vice-Governor of
Novgorod I determined to place myself above suspicion, and
accordingly applied to the "Chef des Gendarmes" for some kind of
official document which would prove to all officials with whom I
might come in contact that I had no illicit designs. My request
was granted, and I was furnished with the necessary documents; but
I soon found that in seeking to avoid Scylla I had fallen into
Charybdis. In calming official suspicions, I inadvertently aroused
suspicions of another kind. The documents proving that I enjoyed
the protection of the Government made many people suspect that I
was an emissary of the gendarmerie, and greatly impeded me in my
efforts to collect information from private sources. As the
private were for me more important than the official sources of
information, I refrained from asking for a renewal of the
protection, and wandered about the country as an ordinary
unprotected traveller. For some time I had no cause to regret this
decision. I knew that I was pretty closely watched, and that my
letters were occasionally opened in the post-office, but I was
subjected to no further inconvenience. At last, when I had nearly
forgotten all about Scylla and Charybdis, I one night unexpectedly
ran upon the former, and, to my astonishment, found myself formally
arrested! The incident happened in this wise.

I had been visiting Austria and Servia, and after a short absence
returned to Russia through Moldavia. On arriving at the Pruth,
which there forms the frontier, I found an officer of gendarmerie,
whose duty it was to examine the passports of all passers-by.
Though my passport was completely en regle, having been duly vise
by the British and Russian Consuls at Galatz, this gentleman
subjected me to a searching examination regarding my past life,
actual occupation, and intentions for the future. On learning that
I had been for more than two years travelling in Russia at my own
expense, for the simple purpose of collecting miscellaneous
information, he looked incredulous, and seemed to have some doubts
as to my being a genuine British subject; but when my statements
were confirmed by my travelling companion, a Russian friend who
carried awe-inspiring credentials, he countersigned my passport,
and allowed us to depart. The inspection of our luggage by the
custom-house officers was soon got over; and as we drove off to the
neighbouring village where we were to spend the night we
congratulated ourselves on having escaped for some time from all
contact with the official world. In this we were "reckoning
without the host." As the clock struck twelve that night I was
roused by a loud knocking at my door, and after a good deal of
parley, during which some one proposed to effect an entrance by
force, I drew the bolt. The officer who had signed my passport
entered, and said, in a stiff, official tone, "I must request you
to remain here for twenty-four hours."

Not a little astonished by this announcement, I ventured to inquire
the reason for this strange request.

"That is my business," was the laconic reply.

"Perhaps it is; still you must, on mature consideration, admit that
I too have some interest in the matter. To my extreme regret I
cannot comply with your request, and must leave at sunrise."

"You shall not leave. Give me your passport."

"Unless detained by force, I shall start at four o'clock; and as I
wish to get some sleep before that time, I must request you
instantly to retire. You had the right to stop me at the frontier,
but you have no right to come and disturb me in this fashion, and I
shall certainly report you. My passport I shall give to none but a
regular officer of police."

Here followed a long discussion on the rights, privileges, and
general character of the gendarmerie, during which my opponent
gradually laid aside his dictatorial tone, and endeavoured to
convince me that the honourable body to which he belonged was
merely an ordinary branch of the administration. Though evidently
irritated, he never, I must say, overstepped the bounds of
politeness, and seemed only half convinced that he was justified in
interfering with my movements. When he found that he could not
induce me to give up my passport, he withdrew, and I again lay down
to rest; but in about half an hour I was again disturbed. This
time an officer of regular police entered, and demanded my
"papers." To my inquiries as to the reason of all this
disturbance, he replied, in a very polite, apologetic way, that he
knew nothing about the reason, but he had received orders to arrest
me, and must obey. To him I delivered my passport, on condition
that I should receive a written receipt, and should be allowed to
telegraph to the British ambassador in St. Petersburg.

Early next morning I telegraphed to the ambassador, and waited
impatiently all day for a reply. I was allowed to walk about the
village and the immediate vicinity, but of this permission I did
not make much use. The village population was entirely Jewish, and
Jews in that part of the world have a wonderful capacity for
spreading intelligence. By the early morning there was probably
not a man, woman, or child in the place who had not heard of my
arrest, and many of them felt a not unnatural curiosity to see the
malefactor who had been caught by the police. To be stared at as a
malefactor is not very agreeable, so I preferred to remain in my
room, where, in the company of my friend, who kindly remained with
me and made small jokes about the boasted liberty of British
subjects, I spent the time pleasantly enough. The most
disagreeable part of the affair was the uncertainty as to how many
days, weeks, or months I might be detained, and on this point the
police-officer would not even hazard a conjecture.

The detention came to an end sooner than I expected. On the
following day--that is to say, about thirty-six hours after the
nocturnal visit--the police-officer brought me my passport, and at
the same time a telegram from the British Embassy informed me that
the central authorities had ordered my release. On my afterwards
pertinaciously requesting an explanation of the unceremonious
treatment to which I had been subjected, the Minister for Foreign
Affairs declared that the authorities expected a person of my name
to cross the frontier about that time with a quantity of false
bank-notes, and that I had been arrested by mistake. I must
confess that this explanation, though official, seemed to me more
ingenious than satisfactory, but I was obliged to accept it for
what it was worth. At a later period I had again the misfortune to
attract the attention of the secret police, but I reserve the
incident till I come to speak of my relations with the

From all I have seen and heard of the gendarmerie I am disposed to
believe that the officers are for the most part polite, well-
educated men, who seek to fulfil their disagreeable duties in as
inoffensive a way as possible. It must, however, be admitted that
they are generally regarded with suspicion and dislike, even by
those people who fear the attempts at revolutionary propaganda
which it is the special duty of the gendarmerie to discover and
suppress. Nor need this surprise us. Though very many people
believe in the necessity of capital punishment, there are few who
do not feel a decided aversion to the public executioner.

The only effectual remedy for administrative abuses lies in placing
the administration under public control. This has been abundantly
proved in Russia. All the efforts of the Tsars during many
generations to check the evil by means of ingenious bureaucratic
devices proved utterly fruitless. Even the iron will and gigantic
energy of Nicholas I. were insufficient for the task. But when,
after the Crimean War, there was a great moral awakening, and the
Tsar called the people to his assistance, the stubborn, deep-rooted
evils immediately disappeared. For a time venality and extortion
were unknown, and since that period they have never been able to
regain their old force.

At the present moment it cannot be said that the administration is
immaculate, but it is incomparably purer than it was in old times.
Though public opinion is no longer so powerful as it was in the
early sixties, it is still strong enough to repress many
malpractices which in the time of Nicholas I. and his predecessors
were too frequent to attract attention. On this subject I shall
have more to say hereafter.

If administrative abuses are rife in the Empire of the Tsars, it is
not from any want of carefully prepared laws. In no country in the
world, perhaps, is the legislation more voluminous, and in theory,
not only the officials, but even the Tsar himself, must obey the
laws he has sanctioned, like the meanest of his subjects. This is
one of those cases, not infrequent in Russia, in which theory
differs somewhat from practice. In real life the Emperor may at
any moment override the law by means of what is called a Supreme
Command (vysotchaishiye povelenie), and a minister may "interpret"
a law in any way he pleases by means of a circular. This is a
frequent cause of complaint even among those who wish to uphold the
Autocratic Power. In their opinion law-respecting autocracy
wielded by a strong Tsar is an excellent institution for Russia; it
is arbitrary autocracy wielded by irresponsible ministers that they
object to.

As Englishmen may have some difficulty in imagining how laws can
come into being without a Parliament or Legislative Chamber of some
sort, I shall explain briefly how they are manufactured by the
Russian bureaucratic machine without the assistance of
representative institutions.

When a minister considers that some institution in his branch of
the service requires to be reformed, he begins by submitting to the
Emperor a formal report on the matter. If the Emperor agrees with
his minister as to the necessity for reform, he orders a Commission
to be appointed for the purpose of considering the subject and
preparing a definite legislative project. The Commission meets and
sets to work in what seems a very thorough way. It first studies
the history of the institution in Russia from the earliest times
downwards--or rather, it listens to an essay on the subject,
especially prepared for the occasion by some official who has a
taste for historical studies, and can write in a pleasant style.
The next step--to use a phrase which often occurs in the minutes of
such commissions--consists in "shedding the light of science on the
question" (prolit' na dyelo svet nauki). This important operation
is performed by preparing a memorial containing the history of
similar institutions in foreign countries, and an elaborate
exposition of numerous theories held by French and German
philosophical jurists. In these memorials it is often considered
necessary to include every European country except Turkey, and
sometimes the small German States and principal Swiss cantons are
treated separately.

To illustrate the character of these wonderful productions, let me
give an example. From a pile of such papers lying before me I take
one almost at random. It is a memorial relating to a proposed
reform of benevolent institutions. First I find a philosophical
disquisition on benevolence in general; next, some remarks on the
Talmud and the Koran; then a reference to the treatment of paupers
in Athens after the Peloponnesian War, and in Rome under the
emperors: then some vague observations on the Middle Ages, with a
quotation that was evidently intended to be Latin; lastly, comes an
account of the poor-laws of modern times, in which I meet with "the
Anglo-Saxon domination," King Egbert, King Ethelred, "a remarkable
book of Icelandic laws, called Hragas"; Sweden and Norway, France,
Holland, Belgium, Prussia, and nearly all the minor German States.
The most wonderful thing is that all this mass of historical
information, extending from the Talmud to the most recent
legislation of Hesse-Darmstadt, is compressed into twenty-one
octavo pages! The doctrinal part of the memorandum is not less
rich. Many respected names from the literature of Germany, France,
and England are forcibly dragged in; and the general conclusion
drawn from this mass of raw, undigested materials is believed to be
"the latest results of science."

Does the reader suspect that I have here chosen an extremely
exceptional case? If so, let us take the next paper in the file.
It refers to a project of law regarding imprisonment for debt. On
the first page I find references to "the Salic laws of the fifth
century," and the "Assises de Jerusalem, A.D 1099." That, I think,
will suffice. Let us pass, then, to the next step.

When the quintessence of human wisdom and experience has thus been
extracted, the commission considers how the valuable product may be
applied to Russia, so as to harmonise with the existing general
conditions and local peculiarities. For a man of practical mind
this is, of course, the most interesting and most important part of
the operation, but from Russian legislators it receives
comparatively little attention. Very often have I turned to this
section of official papers in order to obtain information regarding
the actual state of the country, and in every case I have been
grievously disappointed. Vague general phrases, founded on a
priori reasoning rather than on observation, together with a few
statistical tables--which the cautious investigator should avoid as
he would an ambuscade--are too often all that is to be found.
Through the thin veil of pseudo-erudition the real facts are clear
enough. These philosophical legislators, who have spent their
lives in the official atmosphere of St. Petersburg, know as much
about Russia as the genuine cockney knows about Great Britain, and
in this part of their work they derive no assistance from the
learned German treatises which supply an unlimited amount of
historical facts and philosophical speculation.

From the commission the project passes to the Council of State,
where it is certainly examined and criticised, and perhaps
modified, but it is not likely to be improved from the practical
point of view, because the members of the Council are merely ci-
devant members of similar commissions, hardened by a few additional
years of official routine. The Council is, in fact, an assembly of
tchinovniks who know little of the practical, everyday wants of the
unofficial classes. No merchant, manufacturer, or farmer ever
enters its sacred precincts, so that its bureaucratic serenity is
rarely disturbed by practical objections. It is not surprising,
therefore, that it has been known to pass laws which were found at
once to be absolutely unworkable.

From the Council of State the Bill is taken to the Emperor, and he
generally begins by examining the signatures. The "Ayes" are in
one column and the "Noes" in another. If his Majesty is not
specially acquainted with the matter--and he cannot possibly be
acquainted with all the matters submitted to him--he usually signs
with the majority, or on the side where he sees the names of
officials in whose judgment he has special confidence; but if he
has strong views of his own, he places his signature in whichever
column he thinks fit, and it outweighs the signatures of any number
of Councillors. Whatever side he supports, that side "has it," and
in this way a small minority may be transformed into a majority.
When the important question, for example, as to how far classics
should be taught in the ordinary schools was considered by the
Council, it is said that only two members signed in favour of
classical education, which was excessively unpopular at the moment,
but the Emperor Alexander III., disregarding public opinion and the
advice of his Councillors, threw his signature into the lighter
scale, and the classicists were victorious.



Two Ancient Cities--Kief Not a Good Point for Studying Old Russian
National Life--Great Russians and Little Russians--Moscow--Easter
Eve in the Kremlin--Curious Custom--Anecdote of the Emperor
Nicholas--Domiciliary Visits of the Iberian Madonna--The Streets of
Moscow--Recent Changes in the Character of the City--Vulgar
Conception of the Slavophils--Opinion Founded on Personal
Acquaintance--Slavophil Sentiment a Century Ago--Origin and
Development of the Slavophil Doctrine--Slavophilism Essentially
Muscovite--The Panslavist Element--The Slavophils and the

In the last chapter, as in many of the preceding ones, the reader
must have observed that at one moment there was a sudden break,
almost a solution of continuity, in Russian national life. The
Tsardom of Muscovy, with its ancient Oriental costumes and
Byzantine traditions, unexpectedly disappears, and the Russian
Empire, clad in modern garb and animated with the spirit of modern
progress, steps forward uninvited into European history. Of the
older civilisation, if civilisation it can be called, very little
survived the political transformation, and that little is generally
supposed to hover ghostlike around Kief and Moscow. To one or
other of these towns, therefore, the student who desires to learn
something of genuine old Russian life, untainted by foreign
influences, naturally wends his way. For my part I thought first
of settling for a time in Kief, the oldest and most revered of
Russian cities, where missionaries from Byzantium first planted
Christianity on Russian soil, and where thousands of pilgrims still
assemble yearly from far and near to prostrate themselves before
the Holy Icons in the churches and to venerate the relics of the
blessed saints and martyrs in the catacombs of the great monastery.
I soon discovered, however, that Kief, though it represents in a
certain sense the Byzantine traditions so dear to the Russian
people, is not a good point of observation for studying the Russian
character. It was early exposed to the ravages of the nomadic
tribes of the Steppe, and when it was liberated from those
incursions it was seized by the Poles and Lithuanians, and remained
for centuries under their domination. Only in comparatively recent
times did it begin to recover its Russian character--a university
having been created there for that purpose after the Polish
insurrection of 1830. Even now the process of Russification is far
from complete, and the Russian elements in the population are far
from being pure in the nationalist sense. The city and the
surrounding country are, in fact, Little Russian rather than Great
Russian, and between these two sections of the population there are
profound differences--differences of language, costume, traditions,
popular songs, proverbs, folk-lore, domestic arrangements, mode of
life, and Communal organisation. In these and other respects the
Little Russians, South Russians, Ruthenes, or Khokhly, as they are
variously designated, differ from the Great Russians of the North,
who form the predominant factor in the Empire, and who have given
to that wonderful structure its essential characteristics. Indeed,
if I did not fear to ruffle unnecessarily the patriotic
susceptibilities of my Great Russian friends who have a pet theory
on this subject, I should say that we have here two distinct
nationalities, further apart from each other than the English and
the Scotch. The differences are due, I believe, partly to
ethnographical peculiarities and partly to historic conditions.

As it was the energetic Great Russian empire-builders and not the
half-dreamy, half-astute, sympathetic descendants of the Free
Cossacks that I wanted to study, I soon abandoned my idea of
settling in the Holy City on the Dnieper, and chose Moscow as my
point of observation; and here, during several years, I spent
regularly some of the winter months.

The first few weeks of my stay in the ancient capital of the Tsars
were spent in the ordinary manner of intelligent tourists. After
mastering the contents of a guide-book I carefully inspected all
the officially recognised objects of interest--the Kremlin, with
its picturesque towers and six centuries of historical
associations; the Cathedrals, containing the venerated tombs of
martyrs, saints, and Tsars; the old churches, with their quaint,
archaic, richly decorated Icons; the "Patriarchs' Treasury," rich
in jewelled ecclesiastical vestments and vessels of silver and
gold; the ancient and the modern palace; the Ethnological Museum,
showing the costumes and physiognomy of all the various races in
the Empire; the archaeological collections, containing many objects
that recall the barbaric splendour of old Muscovy; the picture-
gallery, with Ivanof's gigantic picture, in which patriotic Russian
critics discover occult merits which place it above anything that
Western Europe has yet produced! Of course I climbed up to the top
of the tall belfry which rejoices in the name of "Ivan the Great,"
and looked down on the "gilded domes"* of the churches, and bright
green roofs of the houses, and far away, beyond these, the gently
undulating country with the "Sparrow Hills," from which Napoleon is
said, in cicerone language, to have "gazed upon the doomed city."
Occasionally I walked about the bazaars in the hope of finding
interesting specimens of genuine native art-industry, and was
urgently invited to purchase every conceivable article which I did
not want. At midday or in the evening I visited the most noted
traktirs, and made the acquaintance of the caviar, sturgeons,
sterlets, and other native delicacies for which these institutions
are famous--deafened the while by the deep tones of the colossal
barrel-organ, out of all proportion to the size of the room; and in
order to see how the common people spent their evenings I looked in
at some of the more modest traktirs, and gazed with wonder, not
unmixed with fear, at the enormous quantity of weak tea which the
inmates consumed.

* Allowance must be made here for poetical licence. In reality,
very few of the domes are gilt. The great majority of them are
painted green, like the roofs of the houses.

Since these first weeks of my sojourn in Moscow more than thirty
years have passed, and many of my early impressions have been
blurred by time, but one scene remains deeply graven on my memory.
It was Easter Eve, and I had gone with a friend to the Kremlin to
witness the customary religious ceremonies. Though the rain was
falling heavily, an immense number of people had assembled in and
around the Cathedral of the Assumption. The crowd was of the most
mixed kind. There stood the patient bearded muzhik in his well-
worn sheepskin; the big, burly, self-satisfied merchant in his long
black glossy kaftan; the noble with fashionable great-coat and
umbrella; thinly clad old women shivering in the cold, and bright-
eyed young damsels with their warm cloaks drawn closely round them;
old men with long beard, wallet, and pilgrim's staff; and
mischievous urchins with faces for the moment preternaturally
demure. Each right hand, of old and young alike, held a lighted
taper, and these myriads of flickering little flames produced a
curious illumination, giving to the surrounding buildings a weird
picturesqueness which they do not possess in broad daylight. All
stood patiently waiting for the announcement of the glad tidings:
"He is risen!" As midnight approached, the hum of voices gradually
ceased, till, as the clock struck twelve, the deep-toned bell on
"Ivan the Great" began to toll, and in answer to this signal all
the bells in Moscow suddenly sent forth a merry peal. Each bell--
and their name is legion--seemed frantically desirous of drowning
its neighbour's voice, the solemn boom of the great one overhead
mingling curiously with the sharp, fussy "ting-a-ting-ting" of
diminutive rivals. If demons dwell in Moscow and dislike bell-
ringing, as is generally supposed, then there must have been at
that moment a general stampede of the powers of darkness such as is
described by Milton in his poem on the Nativity, and as if this
deafening din were not enough, big guns were fired in rapid
succession from a battery of artillery close at hand! The noise
seemed to stimulate the religious enthusiasm, and the general
excitement had a wonderful effect on a Russian friend who
accompanied me. When in his normal condition that gentleman was a
quiet, undemonstrative person, devoted to science, an ardent
adherent of Western civilisation in general and of Darwinism in
particular, and a thorough sceptic with regard to all forms of
religious belief; but the influence of the surroundings was too
much for his philosophical equanimity. For a moment his orthodox
Muscovite soul awoke from its sceptical, cosmopolitan lethargy.
After crossing himself repeatedly--an act of devotion which I had
never before seen him perform--he grasped my arm, and, pointing to
the crowd, said in an exultant tone of voice, "Look there! There
is a sight that you can see nowhere but in the 'White-stone City.'*
Are not the Russians a religious people?"

*Belokamenny, meaning "of white stone," is one of the popular names
of Moscow.

To this unexpected question I gave a monosyllabic assent, and
refrained from disturbing my friend's new-born enthusiasm by any
discordant note; but I must confess that this sudden outburst of
deafening noise and the dazzling light aroused in my heretical
breast feelings of a warlike rather than a religious kind. For a
moment I could imagine myself in ancient Moscow, and could fancy
the people being called out to repel a Tartar horde already
thundering at the gates!

The service lasted two or three hours, and terminated with the
curious ceremony of blessing the Easter cakes, which were ranged--
each one with a lighted taper stuck in it--in long rows outside of
the cathedral. A not less curious custom practised at this season
is that of exchanging kisses of fraternal love. Theoretically one
ought to embrace and be embraced by all present--indicating thereby
that all are brethren in Christ--but the refinements of modern life
have made innovations in the practice, and most people confine
their salutations to their friends and acquaintances. When two
friends meet during that night or on the following day, the one

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