« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the official Northern Post. The movement naturally did not stop with the nobles ; circulars like that of the Minister to the Governors, were sent by the latter to all their subordinates, and a few months later-Russian distances do not admit of any shorter periods—there was scarcely a township, district, or commune, which had not presented its address of undying devotion to the Imperial throne and of hatred and contempt for the “foreigner,” who ventured to mix in the internal affairs of Holy Russia. Nothing could be more ludicrous than the style in which thousands of these addresses were got up, or the manner in which they were signed. Every town through the district clerk (upon whom the composition of the addresses mainly devolved) naturally tried its utmost to out-do its neighbours in eloquence and patriotic bathos ; thus, for instance, the peasants of a district on the Volga were made to talk of the “sacred and inalienable rights” of the Tsar, while a commune of Don-Cossacks addressed him by a title composed of the word “ Augustus,” with a Russian prefix and suffix superadded, which can be rendered literally only by : “Preaugustissimus.” As to the manner in which the addresses were signed, I can speak from personal knowledge. In the months of April and May, 1863, I was travelling in the Government of Kostromà ; not a hundred versts from the district-town of Vjetlooga I witnessed the following scene. The Chief of the Cantonal policeI the Stanovoj Pristav, as he is called—had assembled all the peasants of a considerable number of villages and communes, forming, according to the new rural division, a Volostj.—“You have heard, children,” began the officer of police, “that those d-- Poles are rebelling against our father the Emperor, and want to come and take away the land the Emperor has given you; now here is a letter (showing the address), I have written to say that you do not mean to stand that, and this your elders must sign.”
Now, to make a Russian peasant sign his name, or, more frequently, put a sign-manual to any document, whatever its purport may be, is not so easy a matter. The operation, he knows from experience, always brings endless trouble and very often even considerable expense, so that to the demand of the Pristav, there was an unanimous answer of “Sign it yourself, little father, sign it for all of us : that'll do as well.”
In the government of Saratof, in the district of Serdobsk, I saw several of these addresses being signed with the greatest willingness; certainly the fact loses a great deal of its significance, if I add that, in signing their names, the peasants were convinced that they were
entering themselves for Cossacks”: the name of “ Cossack” still retaining among the Russian peasantry, especially in the southeastern governments, a faint flavour of its former meaning, viz., of independence, personal freedom, licence, and booty. A great deal
of noise was made at the time about the addresses sent in by the Raskolniks, i.e., dissenters from the orthodox Church. The various sects of the Raskolniks, amounting altogether to something like seven or eight millions, have certainly given the lie to all who looked upon them as upon revolutionists or at least malcontents, only waiting for the first opportunity to avenge themselves on their oppressors, the orthodox clergy, and the Government; yet it is equally certain that their assurances of devotion were called forth simply by a hope held out to them, that, in return for their expressions of loyalty, they were to be recognised by Government, and allowed the free exercise of their worship. I suppose I need scarcely add that the latter promise has not been fulfilled to this day.
Now the provoking part of this whole business is, that the English Government and the English public took it all in good faith, and believed, on the strength of these addresses, the Russian nation to be ready to rise as one man at the first call of the Emperor. The mistake of thinking the Russian Government isolated from the nation and hated by it was by no means greater than the one, which gained so strong a hold upon the public mind in the summer of 1963, viz., that the loyalty addresses really meant what they said. Certainly, every one knew well enough, that addresses in general, however fiery, are not shot and shell, nor expressions of devotion quite as good as ready money ; but yet, there is no doubt that in England people considered these addresses as the true expression of a movement as real and as serious as any English popular agitation, in fact as far more real and serious than, for instance, the feeling of hatred towards England, which found vent in the addresses of the French colonels presented to the Emperor Napoleon and were published in the Moniteur at the time of the Orsini affair.
With one exception the English Government did nothing to obtain a clearer idea upon the subject, and this one exception only made the matter, if possible, worse. The only member of the British Embassy at St. Petersburg, who is a tolerable proficient in Russian, was sent into the interior of the country, there to convince himself by personal observation of the real state of popular feeling. The gentleman in question thought, and I suppose his superiors were of the same opinion, that he had done all that was to be done, by taking a run to Moscow and there paying a visit—to M. Katkòf, the well-known editor of the Moscow Gazette! To enable the reader fully to appreciate the touching naïveté of this proceeding, it will be necessary to say a few words about M. Katkòf, a person whom circumstances have of late brought forward rather prominently in Russia. Up to the beginning of 1863 M. Katkòf, a former professor of the Moscow University, had been known in Russia as the editor of a monthly review, the Russian Messenger, whose principal feature was an Anglomania of the most uncompromising kind ; according to the learned editor of the Messenger, the Russian universities were all to be transformed into Oxfords and Cambridges, the Russian magnates were to turn dukes and earls, and the mass of Russian landed proprietors were to be metamorphosed into an English gentry and entrusted with a local self-government after the English fashion. A real, practical knowledge of politics does not yet exist in Russia, so that the ideas propounded by the Messenger, however incongruous and inapplicable they might be, were listened to with respect, as being sufficiently liberal at a time when “liberalism” was the order of the day in Russian society. With the 1st of January, 1863, M. Katkòf became, by contract, editor of the Moscow Gazette, a daily paper belonging to the Moscow University, and farmed out by it under certain conditions, which do, however, in no wise fetter the political programme of the editor for the time being. There can be no doubt that, had not the Polish revolution broken out a fortnight later, the Moscow Gazette would have gone on preaching “Gentry and English Self-government,” just as the Russian Messenger had done for the last four or five years, and Europe would probably never have heard of either. As it was, however, M. Katkòf suddenly threw all his Anglomania to the winds, troubled his head no more about the Oxonians and Cantabs of Moscow and Kazan, or the self-governing gentry of Iver and Kalooga, and became, instead, not only the firmest supporter of the Government in its Polish policy, but went much farther than any government with a particle of self-respect could venture to do ; thus, for instance, recommending during the hottest of the fight in Poland and Lithuania, to set fire to crery forest in which it might be supposed that insurgents were hiding. The remonstrances of the European Powers were treated by M. Katkòf with such a scorn and derision, that the answers they met with at the hands of Prince Gortchakof may, by comparison, be called courteous and conciliatory. The addresses of loyalty were naturally raised by the Moscow Gazette to the dignity of acts of heroism and patriotic devotion ; every one who should dare to doubt the purity of the motives which had led to them, or the sincerity of the feelings they expressed, was declared a traitor to his country; and when General Mouravief was just beginning his career of blood and shame at Vilna, M. Katkòf could not find words adequately to praise this great “ Champion of Holy Russia.” And yet this was the man to whom the English Government turned indirectly for information upon the subject of the popular feeling which was supposed to consist of a burning enmity towards the Poles and all their friends, combined with an equally fiery devotion to the Emperor !
paid the slightest attention to the addresses, and to all the noise purposely made about them, if such elementary facts as the following were properly known and fully appreciated in Europe. In the first place, public opinion, in the sense of an entity, standing upon a perfectly independent basis, developing itself according to its own laws, and receiving extraneous impressions, but not merely submitting to them, does not exist in Russia. Secondly, the comparatively insignificant number of individuals who, according to European analogy, are commonly supposed to represent Russian society, represent as yet nothing at all, or rather represent merely their own personal, and for the most part egotistic, even sordid interests—interests which can be satisfied only by the Government, thus rendering any independent action, or even expression of opinion, on the part of this so-called society, absolutely impossible. Lastly, the numerically strongest proprietary and productive classes, such as the mass of small landed proprietors, the merchants, and peasants, have as yet no influence whatever, and would probably not know how to exercise it, even if they had any, being incapacitated for it by their ignorance, mutual suspicion, and the thirty years of crushing tyranny of the preceding reign. These three propositions forcibly lead to the conclusion, that for other nations the only important political factor in Russia is, as yet, the Government: all the classes of its subjects go, consequently, in so far for nothing; it would be a mistake to suppose any of them sufficiently disaffected, or sufficiently strong to cause the Government, in the event of a war, for instance, any serious trouble, but it would be equally false to consider them on that account as serious supports to the Government. The latter can count upon its soldi
its soldiers, and upon its own money or credit, and, as far as these go, they must, of course, be taken into account; beyond these it has nothing whatever to look to, so that nothing beyond should be ascribed to it.
In support of the above propositions I will now proceed to give a succinct sketch of the classes, or rather of the class, which in Russia forms what is generally known by the rather vague name of "society.”
I say class because, in a certain sense, the Russian nation consists only of two perfectly distinct, but very unequal classes, the governing and the governed. The first of these embraces, besides the whole army of regular officials, both civil and military, the so-called Russian nobles, who, in fact, are nothing else but hereditary officials, and who have neither a logical, nor even a historical raison d'être independently of the Government; disguise it as they and the Government may, the real principle actuating all the members, hereditary or not, of this official class is a blind submission to the imperial system in return for the right and the means of preying upon, and living by, the millions, whom they are supposed to
govern for the benefit of the latter, and in the name of the Emperor. The millions of the governed class not forming the subject of the present paper, I will merely add for greater clearness' sake, that they are composed of an overwhelming majority of peasants, of a comparatively insignificant number of merchants, citizens, or burghers (Russian towns being, with a few exceptions, nothing else than official colonies), and of the, in fact, although not by law, hereditary caste of the clergy. In a sketch of Russian society like the present one there is no necessity, even if it were possible, to draw a line between the hereditary officials or nobles and the salaried nobles or functionaries proper. Neither in their privileges, nor in their own conviction, nor in that of the people, does there exist any difference between them. Almost every noble has served the Government in some official capacity or other, and, on the other hand, the not-noble functionary receives, at a certain step along the official ladder, his patent of nobility as a matter of course. The rich landed proprietor certainly looks down with contempt on the poor not-noble clerk, who is just beginning to toil up the official ladder ; but let this said clerk have once crept into a senatorial or directorial post, and the proudest aristocrat (?) in the country—if he does not happen to occupy a similar or a still higher position—will be his humble servant. But if the Russian nobles do not distinguish between themselves and the herd of imperial officials, still less does the mass of the people admit such a distinction. When the first rumours of the impending emancipation reached the serfs in 1859 and 1860, it became a settled opinion among them, that the Emperor was going to give them back the land, which till now they had tilled for the benefit of their noble proprietors, and “send these same proprietors into the towns, where some official provision would, of course, be made for them.” Putting, therefore, aside a classification which, although officially received, has no foundation in the history and social life of the country, let us examine what the real divisions of Russian society are. One more preliminary remark, however, is necessary. All I mean to say being founded upon personal observations extending over some six years, my account will naturally bear a strongly anecdotical character; as, however, I shall not mention a single fact beyond those which I witnessed myself, my picture will gain in fidelity what it loses in fulness.
Russian society can be divided into two unequal and perfectly distinct halves. To the first and smaller half belong the five or six hundred families of large landed proprietors, the magnates of only a few years ago, when the property of each of them was counted by thousands of “souls,” or male serfs living and working on their masters' land; to-day, however, even they are for the most part, if not exactly ruined, like their poorer brethren, the mass of country