Изображения страниц

nobles, yet very much reduced in their circumstances owing to the emancipation of their serfs. Of course they do not form an aristocracy in the European sense of the term, having no party-connection among themselves, and not the slightest influence upon the government, except in so far as they themselves enter the bureaucracy, and by obtaining any of the high ministerial or court posts come to form part of the exclusive clique, or camarilla, which governs the country. But even this camarilla itself cannot be said to govern Russia in the same sense, as for instance, a small set of ultra-royalists governed France under Charles X., or the Prussian pietists and evangelicals ruled instead of King Frederick William IV. The Russian, or rather the St. Petersburg, camarilla has no roots whatever in the country, no great names to boast of, no widespread family connexions, no tradition of any kind, and consequently no general principles connecting the different members of the clique among themselves, and for the most part not even any independent fortune of their own. This requires some explanation. As every functionary, civil as well as military, must serve up from the ranks, viz., begin his career as ensign in the army, or with the chinn of a simple clerk (“Collegiate Registrator" is the official title belonging to this, the lowest of the fourteen classes which form the official ladder of the chinns) in one of the Government offices, and as, except in rare cases, he receives the next chinn only every third year, it naturally follows that it requires a long time before he obtains a sufficiently high chinn, which would give him the right to a post of corresponding importance. Consequently those men who have some property of their own generally content themselves with the chinn of the fourth class, viz., that of Actual Councillor of State, and retire to their country seats and villages, leaving the race for the higher honours and, politically, really important posts connected with the chimns of Privy Councillor and Actual Privy Councillor to their needier rivals. Thus, as a general rule, a Russian Privy Councillor is a man of no great inherited private property. Should he wish to leave the service, he has rarely anything to fall back upon but his retiring pension, which, it is true, equals, after a certain number of years spent in the service, his former salary; but then this salary itself formed but a minor part of his real income, the latter consisting for the greatest part of all kinds of legal, extra-legal, and even illegal succedanca, which naturally fall away as soon as their recipient quits his post. About the purely illegal portions of a Russian official's income so much has been written and said, that I could scarcely add anything which, in substance at least, would be new; besides, mere unblushing venality is at present regarded even in Russia as immoral and degrading, and has, except in the very worst times of the Emperor Nicholas, formed no part of the recognised government system. Quite another thing

[ocr errors]

is the extra-legal income of a Russian employé; it consists of so-called “gratifications,” given generally at New Year, and besides, in special cases, over and above the regular salary to those officials, high and low, who have been brought by their superiors, or are come personally, under the notice of the Emperor. As far as the lower officials are concerned, these annual gratifications do not bear very heavily upon the national exchequer. Towards the end of every year the ministers present to the Emperor a long list of those among their subordinates who for their exemplary conduct or services rendered to the State deserve to be moved up one chinn, or to be decorated by one of the many imperial orders, or to receive some sum of money in addition to their salary. Granting a new chinn entails no expense whatever; on receiving an order, or other similar decoration, the new knight has to pay not only for the materials of the insignia, but a pretty round sum for the diploma besides, and the sums of money granted in these cases never exceed a few hundred roubles; so that the practical consequence of the whole process consists only in obliging every lower official to cringe and fawn during the whole year before his immediate superior, upon whom, of course, the presentation of all his subordinates to one or another kind of gratification, or even to no gratification at all, entirely depends. Now, with regard to the officials, who by their chinn belong to one of the three first classes, the system is modified in so far that, as members of the Senate, the Council of State, or occupants of ministerial and other important high posts, they naturally come under the immediate notice of the Emperor, and receive their gratifications in course and out of course, and in direct proportion to the good humour in which their imperial master may happen to be whenever good luck brings them into his presence. Now, it would seem that, if in the lower chinns the cross of the order of St. Anne, or of St. Vladimir, for instance, is sufficient to fire the zeal of a Russian official, a Privy Councillor, or Actual Privy Councillor of the first or second class is impervious to any such simple blandishments; so that in those high official regions the crosses of the various imperial orders are generally replaced by portraits of the Emperor set in diamonds, or by grants of land amounting to ten, twenty, even fifty thousand acres, and the gratifications in money are no more counted by hundreds, but by tens of thousands of roubles. There exists in Russia a highly interesting little volume, of the size and shape of the “Court Guide " or “Who's Who," of which a new edition, consisting, however, only of an extremely limited number of copies, is printed every three months. The title of this volume is, “ A List of all Persons belonging to the Chinns of the Four First Classes, and in it you find, opposite the name of each of the happy mortals mentioned therein, a succinct statement of all the pensions, gratifications, imperial presents, grants of land, &c., &c., he has received since he entered the service, and those he is still receiving; for it must be remarked that to draw the tie which binds these bestarred and bespangled servitors to their imperial master still tighter, the money grants are for the most part made only for a limited number of years-generally four or six, sometimes ten—of course with the tacit understanding of being renewed to the recipients for a similar term on the quamdiu se bene gesserint principle. The contents of this little volume are, of course, an official secret, and the possessors of the few copies printed every quarter are naturally responsible for the keeping of it. The chance manner in which one copy came under my eye a short time ago

does not oblige me to be equally reticent upon the subject. I had some business at the official printing-house of the imperial General Staff ; and as I happened to call during the dinner-hour of the men, I was obliged to wait a few minutes for the return of the foreman I wanted. Lounging about between the presses and stands, I noticed lying on one of the compositors' desks a few pages of the book in question, evidently in course of being printed for the next quarter. Unfortunately I had not time enough to copy a page or two, so that I am obliged to quote from memory. The duodecimo pages, printed in the very smallest diamond type, were got up in columns, thus :


Privy Council- Portrait of H.M. A grant of 10,000 12,000 4,000 roubs. lor A.

the Emperor Ni- dessiаtines in the roubs. in in 1846, to be cholas, set in dia-Government of 1848. continued for monds in 1839. Orenburg in 1845.

50,000|4 years. The Grand Cross

roubs. in The of the Order of St.

1852. 4,000 roubles Alexander Nevsky

continued for set in rubies in

4 years longer 1818.

in 1850.

6,000 roubles in 1854 to be continued for 3


Actual Privy Portrait of II.M. 6,000 dessiаtines

24,000 8,000 roubles Councillor of the the Emperor Alex- of arable land and roubs. for to be conti2nd Class N.N. ander, set in rubies forest in the Go-working nued for six

and diamonds in vernment of Perm the land years in 1859.
in 1849.


The same The Order of 20,000 dessiаtines in 1855. 8,000 roubles St. Andrew, set in in the Government

continued for diamonds in 1851. of Orenburg in

the same period 1855.

in 1865.

and so on for whole pages together. Two circumstances struck me more particularly in glancing at the contents of this interesting almanack: the first was that, with but very few exceptions, all the names mentioned were entirely unknown, not only to me, but probably to any and every one in Russia uninitiated into the private life of the Winter Palace; the second, and by far the more astonishing, circumstance was, that the majority of the names were either



German or Polish; the needy barons from the Baltic Provinces and renegade Poles, who have nothing more to lose of their honour, and everything to gain from court favour, offering evidently the most pliable material out of which to form servants and councillors fit for an autocrat emperor. Among the St. Petersburg senators there are many men I might mention by name who are the sons of court lacqueys or the illegitimate offspring of soine grandee or other of Catherine’s or Paul's time. It may be objected that a system which gives even the humblest born a fair chance of pushing his way to the very top of the ladder cannot be so bad after all ; but it should be remembered that there exists an cnormous difference between a former railsplitter or journeyman tailor being elected by his fellow citizens to the presidency of a free republic, and back-stair influence at first and grovelling in the dust afterwards sufficing to gain for any man, connected ever so slightly with the Court camarilla, the favour and the confidence of his sovereign, and a real influence on the fate of his country. Thus, composed of nobles by descent and ennobled time-servers, the Petersburg camarilla possesses none of the elements which give consistency, independence, and dignity to a political body or party ; even its present importance is owing only to the weakness of the Emperor, and to the circumstance that without a radical change of system it is impossible to replace its members by men who might perhaps be able to save Russia from the administrative and financial slough into which it has fallen. I say perhaps, because having never yet been tried, and lacking consequently that ability and savoir faire which a long habit of managing public affairs always gives, these men (of whom more by-and-by) have not yet had an opportunity to make good their words, and justify their systematic opposition (of course as yet only in words) to all the Government says or does. There certainly are among the Petersburg high officials men of good family and private fortune too; but the influence of their surroundings, and perhaps in a still higher degree the feeling that, once dismissed from their offices and removed from the presence of imperial favour, they must sink into utter insignificance, renders them as pliable as all the others. By way of illustration, I will say a few words about two prominent members of the Russian Government, whose names have of late been mentioned pretty frequently in Europe, viz., Prince Suvorof, late Governor-General of St. Petersburg, and M. Valujef, Minister of the Interior.

His Higiness Prince Alexander Suvorof, a nephew on the female side of the conqueror of Ismail and Praga, has been praised to the skies on account of his liberalism and still more on account of his love of justice and unshrinking maintenance of law and rightqualities, which in Russia have always, and justly, been considered as incompatible with the post of a Governor-General. As for the latter qualities, I have myself had frequent opportunities of convincing myself of the truth of the general opinion; I fear, however, that were I, for instance, to tell the story how Prince Suvorof actually had the courage to order an execution on the property of the Emperor's favourite, Count Nicholas Adlerberg, for a sum of 50,000 roubles, which the unhappy creditor was petitioning for in vain ; or how the same dauntless Governor-General would not even allow the Grand Duchess Marie to smuggle some French millinery goods through the Petersburg custom-house without paying the regular duty—such stories, I fear, would fall but flat on the ears of English readers, as it is probably necessary to be a Russian, or at least to know Russia well, to be able to understand and duly to appreciate the almost fabulous moral courage which these two instances prove. With regard to his much-vaunted liberalism,

-, Prince Suvorof may be taken as a very good sample of the more gifted and consequently more clear-sighted among the Russian high officials, and an analysis of his previous career in this respect does not allow us to form any very high estimate of the amount or quality of this official liberalism.

In the latter years of the preceding reign, Prince Suvorof occupied the post of Governor-General of the Baltic provinces; it was just the time when Nicholas' system of unlimited despotism in the State and orthodoxy in the Church had almost reached its climax, and in both these respects Prince Suvorof was one of the most faithful and zealous servants of his imperial master. In the Baltic provinces, and especially at Riga, the capital of Livonia and residence of the Governor-General, there exists and existed at the time a considerable population of Raskolniks (the Riga commune of Raskolniks together with that of Dunamunde amounts to some 60,000 souls) ; now, in the course of several visits to Riga, I have had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with most of the leading men of the sect, and I am sorry to say that what I heard there of the manner in which Prince Suvorof tried, together with the orthodox Archbishop Plato, to bring back these lost sheep into the fold of the Greek Church, would cut no bad figure in a catalogue of the deeds of prowess of General Mouravief himself. In the archives of the Riga Orthodox Consistory, and in the Chancery of the Riga Governor-General, are to be found protocols, declaring that on such and such a day of the year 1850 or 1851, the following persons “from their own free will and unbiassed conviction forsook their heretical sect, and were received into the pale of the Orthodox Church, in proof and confirmation of which

* I suppose I need scarcely add that the money was paid after all not by the Count, but by the Emperor, i.e., by the State--the Emperor's_and the nation's purse being identical in Russia.


[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »