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Cathedral of the Assumption with its domes and


cupolas, and walls glittering with grotesque frescoes
of sacred subjects; the great Church of the Annuncia-
tion, where the Tsar assumes the crown, paved with
jaspar, cornelian, and agate ; the Arkhanghelski
Sabor, where lie the bodies of many Tsars ; the
Tower of Ivan Veliki, rising to a height of two hun-
dred feet and culminating in a golden dome ; the
beautiful Cathedral of St. Vassili, with its score of
gilded domes and towers ; these and five hundred
more are the cathedrals, palaces, and churches in
Moscow, which serve as the residences of the " God
on Earth," or for the worship of the mighty icon.

And they have bells ; bells by the tens of
thousands ; bells that twenty horses can scarcely
draw ; bells the size of a teacup. The sound of
them ascends to the heavens, as though they would
compel the Lord of Hosts to give ear to the joraise of
the holy city, Moscow. For here, on the border-
land of East and West, are met the barbaric magnifi-
cence of the dark Orient and the fringe of Western

And what of the rank and file of the priesthood —
the " popes," as they are called ? They are drawn
from the lower orders of the people. They pass
through a seminary, where they receive an educa-
tion of a scanty nature, as we regard education ; but
doubtless it is suited to the ministry that lies before
them, and they are instructed in all the tricks of
their trade. He leaves the seminary and becomes a
pope. He conducts his services in his church as
prescribed, and he visits the sick and dying when he
is paid to do so. For the rest, he is the obedient


and humble tool of the " God on Earth," and he will
play cards from morning till midnight.

This is the Church that instructs the young of
Russia ! This is the Church to which they turn for
enlightenment and the spread of civilisation ! The
Synod belongs to the Pope, and the Pope is the
Tsar, and the Tsar is *' God on Earth." And the
Tsar decrees that all his people shall belong to this
Church, that they may stumble in darkness, and lay
hold of superstition to guide their steps. Such as
refuse to bow the knee to the icon, he orders to be
thrust into a burning fiery furnace of persecution
and affliction.

Ask the Poles ; ask the Finns ; ask the Jews.



It is not my intention to recite the numbers of horse
and foot and guns that the Imperial Army of the
Tsar contains ; neither shall I enter into details of
the organisation and equipment of the forces. These
facts are easily ascertainable by those who desire
to acquaint themselves with the subject. The
conscientious traveller will have noted them down
in his book on Russia ; it is even possible that they
may be known in Pall Mall.

The facts that I wish to bring forward are to be
found in no Blue Book of the Imperial Russian
Army, and there is no record of them kept in St.
Petersburg. But, like many other accounts in Russia,
they are seared with a hot iron on the brains of men
and women, and they are never forgotten.

The Voinskaja Povinost is the most dreaded
ordeal in Russia. The town hall of a provincial
town : behind the barrier which divides the room in
two is huddled together a motley assortment of men
and women, and perhaps a few children. There are
mothers and fathers, wives and sons, with faces
anxious to the degree of pain. Their solicitude
is all for the younger men amongst them, round
whom they press, clinging to their arms, and gazing


wistfully into their haggard, callous faces. It is well
to assume an air of callous indifference when the heart
is full and the words stick in the throat ; it is the
one little bit of acting which comes naturally to all
brave men.

The opening in the barrier is kept by two soldiers
that none may pass through until their names are
called. In the other portion of the hall there is a
table at which some officers are seated, and in front
of the table is a long barrel-shaped box with an
opening at the top, supported on a trestle.

The young men are sorted out from their relations
and formed into a ragged line along the barrier.
They are about to take part in a grim game of
chance. The stakes are years of human life, and the
bank pays nothing if it loses. They file past the
ballot-box, dipping their hands in as they pass and
drawing out a slip of paper, and in accordance witVi
the number on the paper is their fate decided. For
those who have drawn the unlucky numbers, but
one hope remains — that they may be found medically

Within my own observation, I have known young
men to starve themselves for two months before the
recruiting time so that they might be rejected on
medical grounds. Some even maim themselves for
life rather than chance that medical examination.
Oh, the joy over the rejected ! Oh, the tears for
those who are taken ! It is a pitiable spectacle.

I was once invited by the chief medical officer to
accompany him to the Voinskaja Povinost. He
asked me whether I would like to examine some of


the recruits myself — I have taken a degree in
medicine — and I readily assented. I brought joy to
the hearts of a good few mothers, and I would have
made still more happy, but I feared to overstep the
limits of my invitation.

It is true that other nations are called upon to
face the ordeal of conscription. It is a fact that
they also dislike it, and stories of malingering are
not confined to Kussia. But there is this difference.
In Germany or France a man is taken against his
will and made to serve ; he is kicked and ill treated
by those in authority over him, and eventually he
is sent back to civil life without any further in-

In Kussia the kicks are harder and the ill-treat-
ment more malignant, and to these are added a
system of persecution and sjDoliation which beggars
description. Then, too, the Kussian has very little,
if any, sentiment of patriotism, a virtue which
upholds and consoles both the Teuton and the Gaul
in the hour of his despondency

I once asked a wretched mother, who was weeping
bitterly over the fate of her son :

"Why all these tears? You ought to be proud
that your son is to serve his country."

" Oi, Oi," she answered. " I would not cry if I
were a mother in your country, knowing that my
son would return with honours. But he will serve
his time for nothing, and come home dishonoured."

" But how dishonoured ? " I asked.

" You do not know what is before him, Bareen ;
nobody will associate with a soldier when he

THl-: ARMY 17

returns. And if he should chance to be crippled he
will only be given a certificate that he has the
privilege of begging for a living."

The Russian soldier is heavy and dull and slow.
He has no initiative whatsoever ; he is not encouraged
to have any, nor would he dare to possess such a
dangerous commodity. With an empty belly he is
a very poor creature. With a full belly he is brave,
with a stubborn, unreasoning courage that makes
him perfectly indifferent as to whether he lives or
dies for his country and the Tsar. lie is ready then
to be driven with his comrades to the slaughter, or
to stand his ground and be cut down, that is, as the
officers order. It is no affair of his in what manner
they dispose of him. He is quite prepared to march
with his regiment into the bed of a river, and,
flinging himself down with them in the stream, form
a human causeway for the passage of the guns, as he
did in the Kusso-Turkish War.

The rank and file of the Russian army are
illiterate. Not lo per cent, of them can read or
write. It was the great-grandftither of the present
Tsar who issued an ukase that all generals on the
active list must know how to read and write ! The
patient, apathetic ignorance of the Russian soldier is
the only quality that makes life bearable to him ;
and it is also the officer's opportunity, for the
Russian officer is a bird of prey, and his men are

Poor Ivan has been taken for a soldier, and his
parents at home lock themselves to and fro in the
extravagance of their grief, and blubber prayers to


the icon in the corner of their hovel. But the
poignancy of anguish is soon dulled in the hearts of
the very poor ; the struggle for life and the gnawing
pangs of hunger are powerful anaesthetics for the
troubles of the mind. And so they go about their
tasks once more ; but Ivan is not forgotten. The
father brings home his meagre wage to his wife, and
a few kopeks are put aside for Ivan. There will be
a little less food for the others ; but Ivan must have
something. And every week the store of kopeks is
increased, until a rouble has been collected, and a
few kopeks over for postage and remuneration to
the poor clerk who is to write the letter. It is a
proud day for the old moujik and his wife when that
letter is at last posted.

Then what becomes of it ? It is delivered at the
barracks, where it falls into the hands of the
company officer. Now Ivan is illiterate, and it is
therefore obviously the duty of his officer to open
and read his correspondence for him. So the
younker sends for Ivan and reads as much of the
letter as he considers it is good for him to hear. It
is even possible that he gives him a few kopeks of
the money. Then the captain interviews the
younke7\ and there is a further division of the old
moujik's rouble. It is well for Ivan if his old father's
hard-earned rouble procures for him some relaxation
of the brutality that his officers habitually mete
out to him. But he must not expect too much for
his money.

I have seen officers strike their men in the most
savage manner, without reason or provocation. I


have seen an officer kick a private soldier in the
stomach and strike him three times with his clenched
fist in the face, because the man was occupying a
latrine which the officer was waiting to use, and in
which the man had a perfect right to be. I have
seen, too, a wretched crippled soldier sitting in the
porch of a church begging. His begging certificate
was his sole pension for the loss of his legs. He asked
alms of a member of the nobility who was going into
the church. The nobleman turned upon him with a
savage curse :

*' Thou dog's son ! What art thou doing here ? "

Then stepping across the poor mutilated body he
entered the church, and sprinkling himself with holy
water got him to his prayers.

A total disregard for the welfare and lives of his
men is a characteristic of the Russian officer. They
are simply so many units under him, to be instructed
and bled in times of peace ; to be driven and sacrificed
in war. A good officer will lead his men, and they
will follow him to the gates of Hell, and beyond. It
is the bad officer who finds it necessary to drive his
men. The difference between leading and driving
is the difference between a well disciplined and a
badly disciplined force. In the Russian army it is
driving that predominates.

The callous indifference to the lives of the men
extends to officers of the highest rank. They sacrifice
them needlessly in war, and show a shocking disre-
gard to the death-rate in their commands in time of
peace. No casualty list, of any account, is published
in the newspapers. It is better that these details


should not be made public. Consequently, the
unhappy relations of the soldier are left to speculate
on his fate, and to await his return home, until they
are weary of waiting for one who will never come
back to them.

In his private capacity the Russian officer is
seldom a gentleman. He is drawn from the lower
middle classes for the most part, and he is not a very
refined person. If you are anxious to make his
acquaintance in private life, knock at the third door
on the left hand side of the street, where there is a
red lamp in the window, after 8 p.m. It is a house
which is licensed by the Government, and from which
the Tsar draws a considerable portion of his

The terrors of conscription drive many young
men across the frontier under cover of the night.
But it is only the more enterprising who thus seek
to avoid the ordeal of military service. The moujik
is too stupid and lethargic to attempt to avoid his
obligations to his Fatherland except by malingering.

Numbers of these fugitives from the military
tyranny of the Tsar come to England, and help
to swell the huge total of our alien immigrants. In
terror lest they should be sent back to Russia, they
will say that they belong to any other nation but
their own ; and they frequently adopt names calcu-
lated to mislead the inquisitive as to their origin or

In conclusion, a word about the Cossacks. There
is no (juestion that they are a race of born fighters ;
keen, agile, and ferocious, and lovers of the bloodiest


work. Formerly they served as the frontier force of
the Empire, guarding the peaceful Russians from the
inroads of the tribes on the frontier. Now they have
other duties assigned to them. They are the pioneers
of Russia's colonial expansion, and the compellers
of order within her gates.

How they are hated and feared by the people !
Let loose upon a mob of unruly students they dash
in amongst them knout in hand, and no man, woman,
or child in the crowd is spared the curling lash.
At the least show of resistance, the sword is out of
the scabbard and the streets are red with blood.
The yelling crowd breaks and disperses on every side,
pursued and cut down by the Cossacks in the frenzy
of murder.

I wonder what the Tsar thinks of a London police-
man or of a Tammany Hall uniform.



I SUPPOSE that justice may be considered as one of
the essentials of civiHsation. In a crude form it
exists even among savages. Therefore, it is fair to
assume that the government which is without justice
is unclean.

Is it possible that Holy Russia is unclean ? In the
law of Moses (Leviticus ii.) it is laid down that the
beasts which are cloven-footed and chew the cud are
clean. " And the swine, though he divide the hoof
and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud ;
he is unclean to you."

The outward and visible signs — the cloven feet
are the courts and the machinery of the law. The
chewing of the cud is the conscientious administra-
tion and use of the means provided for justice. To
be clean, a government must divide the hoof and
chew the cud. If it only succeeds in one of these
essentials, it is unclean. Even the swine is anxious
to appear clean. Watch him lying in his sty. He
buries his snout in the mire, so that none may see
that he does not chew the cud ; but his cloven feet
he exposes to the view of all.

The cloven feet of His Imperial Majesty, the Tsar
of all the Russias, are patent to the world. He has


his courts of justice, his trial by jury, his Book of
Kights, his civil and criminal procedure, and his

But what about the cud ? If he wishes to prove
to the civilised world that he chews the cud, and
that his Government is clean, he can do so with a
stroke of the pen. Let him recall from Siberia and
Vladikavkas the honest men whom he has banished
thither because they had the courage of their
opinions, and spoke or wrote in defence of justice
and the right. Until he does so, be sure that the
beast is unclean and an abomination.

I have visited the High Courts and Law Courts
of all the governments in Kussia. I do not pro-
pose to deal here with the minor cases, which are
tried before the Pristav. A sugar loaf or a rouble
will always satisfy him as to the justice of your
cause. You can bring it into court with you, and
he will tell you where to put it. Nor will I touch
upon the Mirovoy Sud or the Mirovoy Syezd, courts
which are conducted by one or more judges, whose
price varies from a hundred to a thousand roubles.
But the Okruznoi Sud (Supreme Court) is deserving
of notice ; for in this court there is trial by jury
and a full bench of judges, attended by advocates
and counsel. After the lawyers are through with
their arguments, the judges retire to deliberate —
and for other purposes. Then they return into
court, and the decision is handed to the presiding

On the return of the judges to court, I have
frequently seen them drunk ; one learned brother


supporting his neighbour to his seat on the bench.
A verdict in this court costs some thousands of
roubles, to be paid to the presiding judge before he
leaves his home for the circuit.

Trial by jury is an absolute farce. The jury, who
are drawn from all classes, are for the most part
uneducated men. Many of them do not understand
the language of the lawyers. They have no say
in the verdict, which has probably been paid for
some weeks before the trial. But they have other
matters to occupy them in court, matters which
touch them more closely than the doings and affairs
of other men.

They have entered the court, crossed themselves
to the icon, and taken their places on the jury
bench, with mixed feelings — they are awed by the
majesty of the law, and within them is a sensation
of pride at the importance of their position. They
have on their best clothes and a general air of
conscious respectability. The court opens and the
trial begins ; and they very quickly realise that their
part in the farce is simply that of " walking gentle-
men." Nevertheless they are the jury, and the
glamour of the situation awes them to correct

But, anon, first one and then another begins to
fidget uneasily, to work his shoulders, to rub his
knees together. And then, with twitching fingers,
one seizes his leg, and, unable to bear the torture
longer, indulges in a luxurious scratch. The others
gain courage by his example, and soon they all fall
to scratching. The warmth of the court-house has


aroused their enemies to activity ; and neither for
the judge, nor for the icon, nor even for the picture
of the " God on Earth " himself, will they show any
resjiect. How welcome is the retirement from court
for a Russian jury only those who have been similarly
afflicted can judge.

The duties and responsibilities of a Russian lawyer
are, to say the least of it, complex. His first duty
is, of course, towards the Tsar ; but it is a little
difficult to say what his duties are towards his

A special court was assembled, by order of the
Tsar, to try certain persons for the slaughter of Jews
in KishinefF. Counsel were appointed to represent
the defendants, and the trial was commenced. It
ended, so far as the defendants were concerned, in a
few of them receiving slight sentences. Then came
the turn of the defending counsel. For their efforts
on behalf of their clients some were despatched to
Siberia or Vladikavkas, others were struck off the
rolls. And the questions which are exercising the
minds of the Presajni Povereyii (Attorney-at-Law)
at this moment can be more easily imagined than

With the example of the governors and judges
before them, it is hardly to be expected that the
police should be free from guile. They are not. The
stolid gorodovoy in the streets is always on the look
out for a tip. He will touch his cap to you like an
English crossing-sweeper when you cross the road ;
and the other hand is always behind him palm up-
wards. If you happen to be a humble subject of the


Tsar, living in the neighbourhood of his beat, it is as
well to place something in it now and again ; for he
has it in his power to make things unpleasant.
He divides the spoil with the thief; and he can
give useful information to the burglar as to the
easiest method of entry into your house, for he
makes a particular study of the windows and
doors of the habitations of which he is placed in

His superior officer expects, and gets, a share ot
the plunder when he is relieved from duty ; and he,
in his turn, is liable to calls from higher authority ;
and so on, up to the Pristav, who is also receiving
loaf-sugar and stara vodka from petty offenders,
against the day of reckoning.

In the witness-box, it is scarcely necessary to state,
the gorodovoy and his superiors are liars ; but that,
alas ! is a failing not confined to the police of the
Tsar. There is this difference, however, that whereas
the departure from the truth on the part of the
police of other countries is deplored, in Russia it is
the normal tendency.

The passport system of the country is in the
hands of the Meschanshaia Uprava* and under the
supervision of the police ; and here is another source
of income. Juggling with passports may be very
remunerative when skilfully managed. The pass-
port is a sacred document in Russia. None may live

* Inhabitants of cities must obtain their passports from the
Meschamkaia Uprava. Those who live in the country from the
Volostnoia Pravlenia. People desiring to (juit Russia must obtain
passports from the Governor of State.


without it ; and the theft of this holy certificate of
the Hberty of the subject is a serious oifence. So
great is the soHcitude of the Tsar for the welfare of
his people, that he has adopted this means of knowing
exactly where every individual one of them is, and
what he is doing.

When I was in Tomsk, on my way to Siberia, my
passport " ran out," and it was necessary for me to
apply for a new one. There was a good deal of
trouble about it, and I became impatient.

" In my country," I exclaimed, "it is only the dogs
who are required to have passports."

" They are all dogs in Russia," the official answered

From the Baltic to the Yenisei the whole country
is corrupt. From Governor to Uryadnik every man
has his price, and is anxious to be offered it. The
Government, the Synod, the Army, the Bench are
putrid with corruption. Every man preys on his
poorer neighbours and cozens his superiors if he
can. A certain Burgomaister of St. Petersburg,
who robbed widows and orphans, and lent out the
money at 500 per cent., was a noble example of the
rule, and not the exception.

The cloven hoof is there, but, of a certainty, the
Beast does not chew the cud.



The school system in Russia is generally dictated
by the Synod.

The Synod is the Church, and the Church is the
Tsar. The Tsar is therefore the teacher of his
people. And his indulgence of his pupils is quite
touching. On no account will he allow their brains
to be overstrained ; and no child is compelled to
come to his school. There are many different nations
and races within the limits of his vast Empire ; and
the Tsar, with his enlightened understanding, has
arranged for every nation to be offered instruction
and education in accordance with its requirements,
with certain restrictions, and on payment.

The whole system of education in the Empire is
under his control. There are no private schools,
except for girls ; and there is no competition with
His Imperial Majesty in the form of independent
educational establishments. He does it all by him-
self, with the assistance of the Metropolitans and the

There are the elementary schools, where the
children of the poor can receive instruction in read-
ing, writing, arithmetic, Russian history, and geo-
graphy if their parents will pay the fees. There are


the Real Schools, divided into seven classes, for the
sons of the wealthier people. From the Real Schools
the students can pass on to the Gymnasium, which
is also divided into seven classes. Then there are
the Universities and Polytechnics.

In none of these institutions are board and lodg-
ing provided for the students. Parents sending
their children to the Real Schools and the Gym-
nasiums from outlying towns and villages must
arrange for their housing and care within reach of
the schools.

I have stated that in the different nations which
go to form the Empire of the Tsar different regula-
tions are in force as regards education, and certain
restrictions are imposed by His Imperial Majesty in
his desire to promote the welfare and enlightenment
of his subjects.

First, take the case of the moujik of Russia
proper. There are the elementary schools for him,
if he is in a position to pay for the education of his
children. But he is not.

After all, what does a moujik want with educa-
tion ? His father must bring him up as best he can,
and at the age of one-and-twenty he must come
to the Voinskaja Povinost and become a soldier.
Surely he can eat kapusta and black bread without

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Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 2 of 18)