Sivut kuvina



M.A. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1877. 2. Russische und Baltische Characterbilder aus Geschichte

und Literatur. Von JULIUS ECKARDT. 1 vol. 8vo.

Leipzig: 1876. 3. Études sur l'Avenir de la Russie. Par D. K. SCHÉDO

FERROTI. Quatrième Édition. Berlin : 1859. 4. Aus der Petersburger Gesellschaft.

Von einem Russen. Berlin: 1874. 5. Savage and Civilized Russia. By W.R. London: 1877. 6. La Russie Épique. Etudes sur les chansons Héroïques de

la Russie. Par ALFRED RAMBAUD. Paris : 1876. IF F Mr. Wallace had published this book under the more

modest title of Rural Russia,' it might deserve to be considered the best work we possess in English on the peasantry and country life of that vast empire. The writer has unquestionably some qualifications unusual in a foreigner. He is well acquainted with the Russian language. He has lived for several years, not only in St. Petersburg and Moscow, but amongst the people; and in his zeal for the acquisition of a thorough knowledge of the country, he braved the discomfort of a Russian parsonage and the dullness of a provincial town. Applying himself more especially to the study of the communal tenure of land and the results of the recent emancipation of the serfs, he has published, on those subjects, a large amount of valuable information. He writes in a spirit of fairness and good temper, not always. to be found in the books relating to the institutions of the Russian Empire; and if he is biassed at all, it is by a kindly sense of the hospitality he has met with and by a lively appreciation of the good qualities of the Russian people. He has collected with scrupulous care all that it is possible to say in their favour, but unfortunately his benevolent theories are not always borne out by the facts which his candour compels him to disclose. We receive his evidence, however, with pleasure and confidence as far as it goes. But it is impossible not to remark that the scope of this work is very limited. We are struck at once by surprising omissions of the most important subjects, which affect the whole social and political condition of the Empire. Mr. Wallace has nothing to say of the army, or of the finances, or of commerce, or of the Imperial administration. But these are the four pillars of the edifice. The life and manners of the

peasantry are interesting, and very unlike anything that exists in Western Europe. Perhaps the time may come when their primitive institutions may exercise some power in the State. But at present they are entirely subject to the exigencies of a vast military establishment, to an oppressive and demoralising system of finance, to a prohibitive commercial system, and to the absolute control of a despotic government. A book on Russia which omits these subjects appears to us, therefore, to be essentially defective and incomplete. The author tells us that he hopes in a third volume to repair some of these omissions. But he has failed to show the bearing that the obligations of military service, the mode of taxation, commercial restrictions, and the application of arbitrary power have on all the subordinate institutions of the country; and this deficiency can never be supplied.

If therefore the object of the reader were to obtain a knowledge of Russia, as a State and a Power in Europe, he would derive much fuller and more accurate information from several works recently published on the Continent, such as M. SchédoFerroti's · Études sur l'Avenir de la Russie,' or the · Peters• burger Gesellschaft,' by a Russian; or Herr Julius Eckardt's • Russische und Baltische Characterbilder;'* not to mention Prince Dolgoroukow's somewhat defamatory volume on the state of his own country. The peasantry of Russia, though they exceed by incalculable numbers the population of the towns, are still an inert mass. The communal institutions which have existed for some centuries among them are confined to their own very limited sphere of action. They have not as yet shown the slightest aptitude for political power or even the slightest desire to exercise it, except when their own immediate interests were concerned. The emancipation of the serfs was unquestionably a great revolution in Russian society, and a measure which does the highest honour to the firmness, benevolence, and wisdom of Alexander II. But never was a great social revolution more exclusively accomplished from above. It was imposed on nobles and serfs alike by the Imperial will; and we gather from Mr. Wallace's own pages that it has had little or no effect in changing the condition of the peasantry, except in so far as their relations to their former owners are concerned.

Herr Eckhardt states emphatically A translation of the first edition of this work was published in London in 1870, under the title • Modern Russia ;' but a second edition has since appeared in Germany, considerably enlarged. It is a most valuable and instructive work, and far superior, in our estimation, to that of Mr. Wallace.

[ocr errors]



that after the emancipation, in the agricultural arrangements, in the relations of the individual members to the community, in the periodical re-allotments, in the mode of taxation, and in the division of the soil, absolutely nothing was changed.

The omission of all mention of the army in Mr. Wallace's volumes is that which most surprises us, because we have always understood that Russia is essentially constituted on military principles, and the maintenance of an enormous army is regarded as the great end of the State. All rank in Russia may be said to be military, or represented by military equivalents. Thus even M. de Kancrine, the late Minister of Finance, and a civilian, had the rank of a general; and when two young men of high birth, a Soumoroff and a Woronzoff, announced their intention of entering the civil service, they were told that this was a derogation from their proper position, measured by the military standard.

The army was the grand object of the solicitude of the Emperor Nicholas; and although a milder régime has succeeded to that of the late Czar, the military establishment of the Empire has been largely increased and extended within the last three years by the introduction of universal compulsory service,-a fact which must have the most serious effect on the whole rural population, from whom the troops are raised. “Russia,' says M. Schédo-Ferroti, “is a state militarily organised. Everything ' in our country breathes of arms, and people of the most un

warlike professions are obliged to put on the uniform of • soldiers.' The profession of arms has always been regarded in Russia as the noblest pursuit in life—the only one that a man of a certain social position could follow, or that led to rapid advancement, The reason of this preponderance of the army is thus explained by the Russians themselves :

* At its origin the Russian monarchy already occupied a vast territory comprising the sources of six great rivers—the Northern Dwina, the Volchow, communicating with the sea by Lake Ladoga, and the Neva, the Duna, the Dnieper, the Don, and the Volga. All these great streams flowed into territories not then subject to Russian dominion, except the Northern Dwina, the mouth of which was Russian but inaccessible to trade, as the passage to the White Sea was only discovered by the English in 1553. Thus, a great political body was circumscribed within narrow limits, which, as it were, suffocated it; it had to spread in order to breathe ; it had to conquer the mouths of the rivers crossing its territory or to perish. Hence that tendency to conquest which may be traced in any reign from Rurik to our own time.' (SchédoFerroti. Etude v. p. 3.)

If this be the true explanation of the Russian policy of



military aggression, it must be acknowledged that the cause assigned has long ceased to be operative. Russia reached the mouths of her rivers long ago, and has got_beyond them, unless the Danube is also to be reckoned as a Russian stream. Yet the exertions of the Russian Government to augment its military forces were never greater than they have been in the last six years.

She had already the power to bring half a million of men into the field. But the grand measure of universal conscription sanctioned by the Ukase of January 1, 1875, will add another half million to that number of her active troops, and another million to the reserve. These enormous forces can only be raised and maintained for aggressive

purposes. The territory of Russia is invulnerable. Nobody has the slightest interest in attacking it, unless she begins by attacking some one else. If attacked, as she was in 1812, she may rely on her climate, her extent, and the patriotism of her population for effectual defence. Setting aside ambitious considerations, we should say that to burden a poor and thinly peopled country with the maintenance of an enormous army is the most mischievous policy that can be conceived. It is a perpetual drain on the manhood of the Empire. It enormously weakens its productive powers. It leads to a frightful waste of life. When the Emperor Nicholas once expressed his surprise at the inferiority of the men in his army to the seamen of his fleet, in point of discipline and condition, Count Woronzow replied that what the army wanted was more food ' and less drill.? Hundreds of thousands of human beings have been sacrificed in the last fifty years to the stupid pride of exhibiting to the world the shows and pageants of a great military establishment. What renders this state of things still more lamentable and extraordinary is that the Russians are not a warlike or combative people. Even in their drinking bouts they do not fight. They are entirely ignorant of all that goes on abroad, and entirely indifferent to glory. Nor can any conceivable benefit accrue to the people of Russia by threatening and molesting their neighbours or by the acquisition of territory of which they have already more than enough. If their country were attacked they would defend it with undaunted courage, but as a race of men there is no people in the world less disposed to slaughter their neighbours. Military service is with them the result of absolute, blind, unquestioning obedience. They submit to it as they submit to a law of nature, because they are docile and brave. Yet surely military service as it is understood in Russia is the most detestable form of slavery; for a peaceful peasant is converted by it, without the least will of his own, into a blood-hound, a destroyer, or a victim. And this burden is now hung with redoubled weight upon the back of every peasant in the Empire. The whole community is crushed by it. Military service is the primary obligation of life, and must affect every other relation of society. We think therefore that in omitting all notice of the Russian army, and of the new organisation of it, Mr. Wallace has lost sight of the most important feature in the whole question.

Not less unaccountable is his omission of any general view of the system of Russian finance; for the amount of taxation borne by every member of the community is an essential element in the condition of the people, whilst the total revenue of the Empire and the mode in which it is raised is the true measure of its power. We come here and there in this book on a detail which leads us to suppose that the burden of taxation is enormous in relation to the wealth of the people. Thus Mr. Wallace gives us what he terms the budget of a family of five persons in Northern Russian in a good year. He estimates their income at 121.5s. (English money), derived principally from the sale of game and fish or caviare. Their outgoings are as follows:

Rye-meal (2,240 lb.) to supply the deficiency £ 8. d. of the harvest

0 Taxes .

2 5 0 Clothes and Boots

2 10 0 Fishing Tackle, Powder and Shot, &c.

0 10 0

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

So that if these figures are correct, the taxes amount to more than a sixth of their available income. In another place he computes the rate of taxation at 23 roubles and three quarters per homestead, or more than 31. In addition to this direct taxation, the excise on spirits, which is the main stay of the Russian revenue, is of course paid by the inordinate drunken habits of the peasantry. The returns of the poll-tax and land-tax amount in round numbers to fifteen millions sterling, and of the excise on spirits to twenty-five millionsforty millions sterling levied on sixty millions of peasants, for these are taxes which sit lightly on the upper classes and on the towns: they are paid by the bulk of the rural population. We should be disposed to infer from certain notices on the subject scattered through this book, that there is hardly any population in the world more severely taxed than the Russian peasantry. Take for example India. Some of the

« EdellinenJatka »