Carl Joubert.

Russia as it really is online

. (page 3 of 18)
Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 3 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


knowing who discovered America ! If he knew too
much it might become difficult to manage him. It
is possible that he would begin to think, and there
is nothing more dangerous than the thinking man.
He might compare the rule of his "Little Father"
with the governments of other countries. What



30 " HOLY RUSSIA "

then ? He would learn the translation of two Latin
phrases — "Magna Charta " and "Habeas Corpus,"
and in time he might demand them for himself He
would know what a " Constitution " is, and he would
want one. It is far better that he should live his
life in happy contentment under the care and pro-
tection of an all- wise and all-powerful " God on
Earth," to be spoon-fed on ignorance and super-
stition, with no yearnings for the unattainable, and
no knowledge of the laws and customs of foreign
heretics. For the moujik decidedly " Ignorance is
bliss."

Then as to the Jew. The Jew will not acknow-
ledge the "Holy Mother" nor the divinity of the
" God on Earth," therefore measures must be taken
to bring him to a repentant frame of mind. It
would be manifestly ridiculous to educate him until
he has become a member of the Holy Greek Church.
But if he will repent and bow the knee to the icon
he will be free to enjoy the advantages of education
as supplied by the Tsar. How zealous is the " God
on Earth " for the conversion of the Jews to the true
Faith ! Look at the record of the efforts of the last
three generations of Tsars on behalf of the souls of
the Hebrew race. This touching solicitude for the
poor heretic Israelites should bring tears to the eyes
of the world.

The methods of conversion of the Jews in Bussia
savour of the Middle Ages, it is true — and an apology
is due to the Middle Ages for the comparison — but
the Holy Tsar of Russia is a student of the Bible,
and he finds there a precedent for his methods in



EDUCATION 31

the treatment of the Chosen People by the Pharoah
who knew not Joseph. There is this difference
between them, that whereas Pharoah of old ordered
the destruction of the male children of Israel at
birth, the Tsar of Russia in his mercy usually allows
them a few years of life before he turns the Cossacks
loose on them. But it is my intention to deal with
the Jews, as a part of the gi^eat Russian Empire,
later on. It is only the question of their education
that concerns us at present.

Since he has been unable to turn them from the
religion of their forefathers, the Tsar has forbidden
that more than 5 per cent, of them shall receive
education. But, even so, he cannot keep them in
the utter darkness of ignorance ; for in their chedars
they receive a sound education, which raises them,
in this respect, far above their Russian neighbours.

The Poles, like the Jews, are heretics, for they do
not acknowledge the Tsar as their Pope ; they even
have their doubts as to his infallibility ! Therefore,
they, too, must be kept in the pit of ignorance. Not
more than 10 per cent, of their children are allowed
to attend schools. The Polish language and the
teaching of Polish history are forbidden, and all
Polish books ; and no Pole is allowed to rise above
the rank of younker (lieutenant) in the army of the
Tsar.

There is the same trouble with the Finlander.
He is a lyiauvais sujet, and must be treated accord-
ingly. He refuses to adopt the customs and manners
of the Russians in any form, and, therefore, it would
be absurd to educate him. He has another lesson



82 "HOLY RUSSIA"

to learn first, and good General BobrikofF is busy
teaching him.

When I was in Kussia some of the universities
were ojDen, but not all. As a rule, more than one
half were closed — " for repairs," I was told, with a
twinkle of the eye. It is easy to understand that
the educational establishments of Russia are in need
of repairs — and alterations. But ask the students
themselves about the closing of their universities,
and you will hear another story.

It seems that some of the students began to think.
That is the worst of education ; it makes men think.
They studied history — and they thought about it.
They read the classic literature of the Greeks and
Romans — and they thought about that. They
dipped into philosophy, science, and sociology —
and their thoughts became deeper than ever. Por-
ing over their books, doubts began to obtrude them-
selves on their minds — doubts about the infallibility
of the " God on Earth," doubts of the sanctity of
Holy Russia.

Then, one day, a student whispered his doubts to
his friend, and found that he, too, had his doubts.
So they went to a third and whispered to him ;
and he whispered to another. At last, somebody
whispered to the governor ; and the university was
closed, and a squadron of Cossacks was quartered in
the town.

Then the governor held an inquiry, by order of
the Tsar ; and the more thoughtful students were
brought before him. There were signs of unrest
amongst their companions whilst the inquiry was in



EDUCATION 33

progress ; little groups of students discussing affairs
on the outskirts of the town, a general, undefined
air of excitement and anxiety amongst the towns-
men. One day it became known that the thinkers
were to be sent to Vladikavkas ; and the groups of
students united and formed themselves into a pro-
cession and marched through the streets. The
squadron of Cossacks was ordered out. The officer
in command gave the word to " go " ; and the bloody
work began. The university was closed " until
further orders."

Of such a scene I was an eye-witness in Kazan,
where the students assailed the university, which
was closed because they were too poor to pay the
fees. Thus it happens that a great many of the
best brains of the Empire are now in Siberia or
Vladikavkas. But they are not all there. Students,
thinkers, and philosophers are still at large in
Russia ; and the Tsar knows it and trembles.

That is the reason why he has sealed the lips of
Dr. Rastovbseff, and commanded him to discontinue
his lectures on science. He was making known to
the poor the inestimable blessings of medical science,
and it is not good for the peasants to know such
things. Therefore, in spite of the protests of
thousands of medical men throughout Russia, he
was suppressed. There was not a word of this in
the Russian newspapers ; it was not likely that there
would be ! But it is the truth nevertheless, and it
happened as lately as January 1904.

Now what is the present state of affairs in Russia ?
Half her universities are closed on account of



34 "HOLY RUSSIA"

disturbances. Scores of students are weekly exiled
to Siberia ; scores are imprisoned ; and the ablest are
those who have revolted against the system of the
Tsar and the Synod. But what good will this do to
the Government, to the Synod, to the Tsar ? They
are all one.

They cannot exile all the thinkers to Siberia.
Even if they could, they cannot exile their thoughts.
Though they place irons on their limbs they cannot
fetter their understanding. For every head that
the Tsar takes off, a hundred will spring up in
defence of the liberties and rights of humanity.

It is fool's work to suppress all that is noblest
and best in a great country, to bolster up a bogus
divinity — especially when the divinity has cloven
feet and does not chew the cud.



CHAPTER VI

THE ARISTOCRACY

In the preface to this book I stated that I have been
the guest of princes and the bed-fellow of peasants
throughout the Empire of Russia. There is no
credit due to me for either experience. I went to
Russia in search of information, and I sought it from
every quarter. But I can truthfully say that I
received no hospitality from princes or beggars that
I did not return with interest. No man shall say
that under cover of friendship I have abused his
hospitality. I made few friends in Russia, and not
a few enemies — but I paid my way. And in a
country where the chief subject of conversation is
money, I consider that I have bought my privilege
to speak.

To speak alphabetically, I have visited every
Guhernii from Archangel to Yaroslaif; and I
have made the acquaintance of a certain number
of the aristocracy in each government that I have
visited. The girls I have always found well
educated and versed in several languages. No
matter how rich their parents may be, they always
are acquainted with the simplest household duties.
Many have a taste for music, art, or literature.

For the most part, the education of the children



36 « HOLY RUSSIA ^

of the aristocracy is entrusted to tutors in their own
homes. These tutors are taken from the ranks of
the poor students at the universities or are imported
from France. I have seen as many as four tutors
living in one house for the education of the children.

But the sons of the Russian aristocracy are of an
altogether different stamp from their sisters. It is
useless to disguise the fact, that all Russian men,
from the Holy Tsar downwards, are, with few
exceptions, moujiks. The hot Tartar blood is so
close to the surface that the thin veneer of civilisa-
tion is unable to keep it in check. A moment of
anger, a pair of flashing eyes, an extra glass of
stwa vodka, will suffice to reduce the polished
Russian gentleman to the level of the moujik. I
will give an example of it.

I was at a dinnei-party one night in the Hotel de
France, St. Petersburg. The company was what
might be called distinguished. Our host was an
official of the War Office, whose father was a gentle-
man-in-waiting on the Tsar. There were also present
a general of the army and several other officers —
all noblemen.

The dinner was excellently cooked and well served,
and the table was decorated with china, plate, and
flowers. All went well until the arrival of the coffee
at the end of the repast. Then the general, who
was also a kniaz (prince), turned to me — he had
drunk a great deal of champagne and his utterance
was thick.

" Now, young man, show us how the soldiers
marcli in your country."



THE ARISTOCRACY 37

I replied politely that I was not a soldier, and
that I did not consider the dining-room a proper
place for the display of martial skill.

He scowled at me savagely and growled like a
bear, but he left me alone.

The rest of the party, who had been watching us
intently in the hope of seeing me drawn into an un-
dignified exhibition, pushed back their chairs and
rose from the table. Then, as is the custom in
Russia, they turned towards the icon in the corner of
the room and began to cross themselves. I was the
only one present who did not do so, and once again
I unconsciously became the centre of attraction.

" Have you no icons in your country ? " one of
them asked brusquely.

" We have no icons," I replied ; *' but we have
our God, and our honour."

They asked me no more unpleasant questions and
harmony was restored. They filled up their glasses
afresh and began to drink to each other. As each
toast was honoured they dashed their glasses to the
ground. Soon the whole floor was covered with
broken glass ; and the waiters came and went among
the debris bringing more wine and more glasses.
It is not necessary to scratch the Russian to find the
Tartar — you only need to lubricate him. As the
drinking became more fast and furious, and the glass
crackled beneath their feet, I could see the moujik
coming out in all of them.

Then, when they could drink no more, our host
advanced unsteadily towards the table, and seizing
the cloth at one end swept everything on the floor,



38 "HOLY RUSSIA"

china, cut-glass vases, fruit dishes and plates,
epergne and flowers, all broken and destroyed in a
heap on the carpet. So have I seen the cloven-footed
pigs gulp down the wash prepared for them and
then take savage vengeance on the empty trough.

Shift the scene of this story from St. Petersburg
to London ; for Russian kniaz and officers substitute
the names of British nobleman and high Staff
officers, and it makes very amusing reading. It is
only by travel in foreign countries that the Russian
nobleman loses his moujik manners. The education
he receives in Russia is not sufficient to eradicate the
lower instincts in him.

He spends his life partly on his estates in the
country and partly in St. Petersburg or Moscow.
He is a bully by nature, and his servants and depen-
dants stand in dread of him. His wife he treats as
an inferior being, unless, indeed, she happens to be a
woman of spirit, and refuses to occupy the position
accorded to the wife of a Mussulman or Buddhist. In
St. Petersburg he spends most of his time in gambling
at his club, or in the society of the demi-monde.

He has a great opinion of himself, and the word
" honour " is perpetually on his lips — but it does not
go any further. He has, however, a certain amour
2)ropre which takes its place, and for which he is
prepared to fight. As to honour, as the word is
understood by a nation of shop-keepers as Great
Britain is, he has none. His word is not his bond.
He will lie to you on the smallest provocation ; and
his promises of to-day he will utterly repudiate to-
morrow. He is the same man all over Russia, with



THE ARISTOCRACY 39

the exception of the Baltic Provinces and Poland.
And in these parts the nobility are either of German
or Polish descent.

The religion of the Russian aristocrat is of the
same superstitious order as that of the moujik. The
fear of the icon is over all the land. I have seen a
Russian noble standing before the icon in his room
bowing and crossing himself for three hours without
cessation. What crime he had committed to merit
such a severe penance I do not know ; but it must
have been of a peculiarly malignant nature. During
the performance it almost seemed as though his arm
must fall off from the elbow, so strenuous and rapid
were his movements. At the end of his devotions
his face looked as happy as possible. Doubtless all
his sins were forgiven, and he was free to start
afresh.

The sons of the aristocracy, as I have stated, are
usually educated at home, until they are old enough
to go to the university. There they seldom distin-
guish themselves as scholars, and it is rare to find
scions of the noble Russian families amongst those
who have graduated with honours.

After they leave the universities they either go
into " crack " regiments or else loaf away the time
at their homes or in St. Petersburg. You will never
find the sons of the aristocracy employed in engineer-
ing works or any other craft ; and, of course, trade of
any kind is out of the question for them.

Like every other class in Russia, they are unscru-
pulous as to the means by which they obtain money.
The London Stock Exchange and Wall Street, New



40 " HOLY RUSSIA "

York, are innocents in comparison with the Russian
aristocracy, who do not even trouble to issue a lying
prospectus before they set about to rob the widow
and orphan.

But there is more money to be made out of
company promoting in London and New York than
in Holy Russia, and, therefore, they are often to
be found in the principal hotels of the two capitals
with wonderful concessions to sell to the British or
American public at absurdly reasonable figures. One
has mineral oil springs on his estate ; another exten-
sive coal-fields. Kniaz Blowhisnoski has a conces-
sion from the Tsar to build a railway in the Ural
Mountains ; Baron Hurriupski has discovered a
second Rand on his Siberian estate. And they have
all come to London to give the British public an
opportunity, which may not occur again, of making
immense sums of money out of them !

This brings me to another element in the social
life of the Russian Empire. I refer to the Russian
adventuress. She is not necessarily of the aristo-
cracy ; but she is closely associated with it, and
assumes names and titles with the full consent of the
genuine owners. In Russia she is to be found in
Kharkoff", Kieff, Moscow, Nijni Novgorod, St. Peters-
burg, and Warsaw, &c. She is always on friendly
terms with the Politzmaister and Pristav, for it
is through their goodwill that she is enabled to
travel with valid passports and impressive titles.
The arrangement is eminently satisfactory to both
parties. She pays, and they provide the pass-
ports.



THE ARISTOCRACY 41

She is devoted to travelling, and makes many
friends on the Wagon Lit. She dines with them
on the train. The victim orders champagne, but the
Countess will drink nothing but water ; and there-
fore he is compelled to finish the bottle by himself
When he awakes in the morning he finds that the
fair Countess left the train at midnight for some
unknown destination. And then he suddenly recol-
lects that she borrowed a hundred rouble note from
him on some pretext or other. Of course, as she is a
Countess, his lips are sealed.

She does not confine her travels to Russia. She
will go to the Governor one day, and, with her
most gracious smile, ask for a passport for Paris,
or London, or Brussels. The Governor draws a
long face, he is unwilling to lose so good a client
as the Countess for a prolonged period ; but he
gives it to her at a special advanced rate for foreign
passports, and expresses the hope that he will have
the felicity of seeing her home again in due course.

So the Countess arrives in London with unex-
ceptionable credentials, and takes up her abode in
one of the large, fashionable hotels in the neighbour-
hood of the Strand. She spends money with no
mean hand. The servants at the hotel receive
liberal tips, and bow and scrape to her. It soon
becomes known, and well known, that the Countess
has large coal estates in the Don Cossacks, and has
come to London to raise the necessary capital for
working them. She flourishes the engineer's report
on the property signed by a Notary Public of Holy
Kussia — for all of which she paid twenty-five roubles



42 " HOLY RUSSIA ^'

— and with her kuptchi kriepost (deed of property)
gets her to Mincing Lane, and seduces some poor,
Withering idiot there to advance her ^2000 on the
strength of the documents and a few endearments.
If he only knew it, those documents are as easily
obtained in Russia as lice from the moujik, and the
endearments don't require even that amount of
hunting.

Then she is suddenly called away to Brussels, and
the Mincing Lane idiot is left in possession of the
deed of property and an I.O.U. for ^2000, signed
by the fair Countess' hand, as a memento of her
visit to London.

Perhaps it was a little outside the purposes of
this chapter to introduce the Russian adventuress ;
but if the exposure of her methods helps to clear the
names and fame of the noble ladies in Russia whom
she unblushingly impersonates in foreign countries,
as in her own, then, at least, it will have served a
good purpose.



CHAPTER VII

TRADERS

*'The holy St. John. Who'll buy the holy St.
John ! " The cry came from a moujik in the market-
place of YaroslafF, who was selling coloured prints
of the Holy Mother and the Saints. He was only a
common, ignorant moujik, but the nature of his
wares made him a holy man amongst the buyers
and sellers in the market. Partly on account of
his holiness, and partly because the gaudy colours
of the prints fascinated the eyes of the humble
peasants of the YaroslafF district, he was always
sure of customers.

The market-place was crowded, and the vendors
had ranged their wares in rows, and set them out to
the best advantage. Here was a stall with red and
black wooden bowls and platters and spoons. Next
to it a fine assortment of children's toys. Remnants
of coloured cotton and cloth textures were dis-
played on another. Rags of meat and sickly sweet-
stuffs, bread, vegetables, and eatables of all kinds
were exposed for sale. And at the corner was the
holy man selling his pictures of the Mother of God
and the Saints.

A man in a coarse sheepskin coat and long
leather boots slouched up to him, and stood looking



44 "HOI.Y RUSSIA''

admiringly at the rich blues and reds of St. John's
apparel.

" How much ? " he asked laconically.

" The holy Ivan, thirty-five kopeks."

" Impossible. I cannot pay so much."

The dealer in holy pictures crossed himself and
began to roll up the St. John. It might mean that
he would take no less, and was going to put it
away from the gaze of the penurious ; or, it might
be that he intended to effect a sale, and was rolling
the picture for the customer to take away with
him.

" Eh, my brother," he said sadly, '* times are
hard with us all. The Holy Mother is punishing
us because we are wicked. But since you say, my
brother, that thirty-five kopeks are too much money
you shall have it for thirty kopeks."

The man shook his head, but he still remained
before the stall of the dealer in holy pictures.

" You don't know, my brother," the vendor con-
tinued, in the same tones of pious regret, " how evil
the times are. I have seen some brothers go into
the kharchevna and drink thirty glasses of tea and
ten glasses of vodka, and they will go home and
not so much as bend their knees to the Holy
Mother. But I sold one of them a St. Peter yester-
day and he is a dift'erent man. It is not for the
money only that I sell the holy saints, it is for the
good that they will do." He unrolled the picture
and held it before the eyes of the man.

" See, my brother, see the holy St. John ! You
can almost hear him cry from the Wilderness !



TRADERS 45

You shall have it for twenty kopeks. You shall not
go away without it, as I fear for your salvation."

But still the would-be purchaser held back ; he
might buy his salvation for less than twenty kopeks
if he were patient. It was evident to the vendor of
holy pictures that he must change his tactics.

" What is your name, brother ? " he asked.

" Ivan Ilyitchovitch."

"Is it possible that your father's name was
Ilyitch ? That also was my father's name, who is
now in heaven among the angels. You shall have
the holy St. John for ten kopeks ! "

And rolling up the picture once more he thrust it
into the hands of Ivan Ilyitchovitch, receiving ten
kopeks in exchange. Whilst he was stowing away
the money in the little canvas bag which he wore
round his neck I went up to Ivan Ilyitchovtich.

"Well, brother, are you satisfied with your
picture ? " I asked.

The man looked at me dreamily, his thoughts
intent on the holy St. John.

" Yes ; but it was five kopeks too much."

This is a humble example of the manner of trad-
ing throughout Russia. In the big establishments
of St. Petersburg or Moscow it is the same as in the
market-place of Yaroslaff — there will be an attempt
made to cheat the customer to begin with, and a
gradual " climb down " on the part of the merchant
until a reasonable figure is reached.

It is a dangerous custom to look into shop
windows if you do not intend to buy, for just
within the door sits a buxom woman waiting, like



46 " HOLY RUSSIA "

some large spider for flies to become entangled in
her web. The unwary loiterer is suddenly seized
upon and dragged within the door, and when he
emerges again he generally carries a parcel under
his arm.

When I was in Ekaterinoslaff I wanted to buy
a polshupka, a fur coat made from a sheepskin, so I
went to the best fur store in the town to procure it.
There was an old lady sitting behind the counter,
rolled up in a shawl and warming her hands at the
stove. The shawl enveloped her whole head, and
only her eyes were visible between the folds of it.
There was an expensive icon of the Boje Matery in
the corner, and the little lamp burnt in front of it.
The remainder of the wall space was occupied by fur
coats of every description hanging on pegs.

Besides the old lady there was a boy in the shop
and an intelligent-looking girl of seventeen or so,
who came towards me and asked what I wanted. I
answered her in French, for I took it into my head
to leave the Russian language alone for the purposes
of the business which I had come to transact.

The girl gave me to understand that she could
not speak French. I, in my turn, displayed an
absolute ignorance of Russian. With a wave of the
hand in the direction of the goods on the walls she
indicated that I should point out to her what I
wanted. The old lady, seeing the difficulties of the
situation, hit upon a bright idea. She despatched
the boy to a neighbouring iron foundry, where, she
knew, there were several foreign engineers, with
instructions to bring back an interpreter.



TRADERS 47

The lad returned in five minutes with a Belgian
engineer. His French was very shaky and his


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 3 of 18)