Donald Mackenzie Wallace.

Russia (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 21)
Online LibraryDonald Mackenzie WallaceRussia (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


^j^'HC^








THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES




sill DONALD MACKENZIE WALL AG

K.c.i.i:.. k.c.v.o.



Volume XXII




V



1S!^



^1^




Copyright, 1910
J. H. MILLET CO.



TIIK • I'MMIMKN • PRFSS

|w.u...]
mi 111 » I Mil) • M c-rt • L • M • A



/!>



CONTENTS

lAFTEB PAGE

Editorial Note ix

I Travelling ix Russia 1

II In the Northern Forests 42

III Voluntary Exile 57

IV The Village Priest 78

V A Medical Consultation 96

VI A Peasant Family of the Old Type . 110

VII The Peasantry of the North .... 128

VIII The Mir, or Village Community . 164

IX Tartar Villages 187

X The Towns and the Mercantile Classes . 204

XI Lord Novgorod the Great 227

XII The Imperial Administration and the Offi-
cials 245

XIII Landed Proprietors of the Old School 269

XIV Proprietors of the Modern School . 298



5165'?'7



ILLUSTRATIONS

Page

Marriage Procession in the Reign of the Silent Tsar

Frontispiece

The Great Cannon at Moscow 64

Russian Peasants in a Procession for Rain .... 160

Market Place, Odessa 224

Winter Palace and Column of Alexander, St. Peters-
burg 252

An Old Fortress in Baku, now a Lighthouse . 288



vn



EDITORIAL NOTE

RUSSIA, the most easterly country of Europe,
stretching far away across the whole of North-
ern Asia to the Far East, abutting on Turkey,
Persia, Afghanistan, and the Chinese Empire, is, next to
the British, the most powerful empire in the world. Its
position and power as affecting the Orient make it an
object of overpowering interest to all who have relations
with that part of the globe, and few of the great world
problems can be properly studied without taking into
account the position which this vast empire holds with
regard to them.

Its history is part of European history, and of Orien-
tal history as well; its diversified people and its vast
proportions make its government and its politics an inter-
esting and diflBcult problem worthy of careful study.
Its climate and its natural products, animal, vegetable,
and mineral, and its manufactures are important factors
in the world's commerce; the rapid growth of its people
and the gradual removal of restrictions on trade from
over-seas have of recent years invested it with special
importance in the eyes of our own manufacturers and
exporters. The religions, the morals and manners, and
the education of its p>eople, its language and literature,
its army and navy, and in a word all that concerns Rus-
sian affairs, have a profound importance for the Amer-
ican people, and all these and many other matters have

ix



EDITORIAL NOTE

been dealt with once for all in the three volumes devoted
to the great Russian Empire. The work is the standard
one on the subject. No one, before Sir Donald Mackenzie
Wallace wrote, has had such opportunities of studying it,
and there is in no language a clearer and more interest-
ing exposition of it.

Charles Welsh.



RUSSIA



VOL. I

CHAPTER I

TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

OF course travelling in Russia is no longer
what it was. During the last quarter of
a century a vast net-work of railways has
been constructed, and one can now travel in a
comfortable first-class carriage from Berlin to St.
Petersburg or Moscow, and thence to Odessa,
Sebastopol, the lower Volga, or even the foot of the
Caucasus; and, on the whole, it must be admitted
that the railways are tolerably comfortable. In
winter the carriages are kept warm by small iron
stoves, such as we sometimes see in steamers,
assisted by double windows and double doors — a
very necessary precaution in a land where the ther-
mometer often descends to 30° below zero. The
trains never attain, it is true, a high rate of speed
— so at least English and Americans think — but
then we must remember that Russians are rarely
in a hurry, and like to have frequent opportuni-
ties of eating and drinking. In Russia time is not
money; if it were, nearly all the subjects of the
Tsar would always have a large stock of ready money
on hand, and would often have great difficulty in

BDSSIA I — 1 1



RUSSIA

spending it. In reality, be it parenthetically re-
marked, a Russian with a superabundance of ready
money is a phenomenon rarely met with in real life.
In conveying passengers at the rate of from fif-
teen to thirty miles an hour, the railway companies
do at least all that they promise; but in one very
important respect they do not always strictly fulfil
their engagements. The traveller takes a ticket for
a certain town, and on arriving at what he imagines
to be his destination, he may find merely a railway-
station surrounded by fields. On making inquiries,
he finds, to his disappointment, that the station is
by no means identical with the town bearing the
same name, and that the railway has fallen several
miles short of fulfilling the bargain, as he under-
stood the terms of the contract. Indeed, it might
almost be said that as a general rule railways in
Russia, like camel-drivers in certain Eastern coun-
tries, studiously avoid the towns. This seems at
first a strange fact. It is possible to conceive that
the Bedouin is so enamoured of tent life and no-
madic habits, that he shuns a town as he would a
man-trap; but surely civil engineers and railway
contractors have no such dread of brick and mor-
tar. The true reason, I suspect, is that land within
or immediately without the municipal barrier is
relatively dear, and that the railways, being com-
pletely beyond the invigorating influence of healthy
competition, can afford to look upon the comfort
and convenience of passengers as a secondary con-
sideration.

2



TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

It is but fair to state that in one celebrated
instance neither engineers nor railway contractors
were to blame. From St. Petersburg to Moscow
the locomotive runs for a distance of 400 miles,
almost as "the crow" is supposed to fly, turning
neither to the right hand nor to the left. For fif-
teen weary hours the passenger in the express train
looks out on forest and morass, and rarely catches
sight of human habitation. Only once he perceives
in the distance what may be called a town; it is
Tver w^hich has been thus favoured, not because it
is a place of importance, but simply because it
happened to be near the straight line. And why
was the railway constructed in this extraordinary
fashion? For the best of all reasons — because the
Tsar so ordered it. When the preliminary survey
was being made, Nicholas learned that the officers
entrusted with the task — and the Minister of Ways
and Roads in the number — were being influenced
more by personal than technical considerations, and
he determined to cut the Gordian knot in true
Imperial style. When the Minister laid before him
the map with the intention of explaining the pro-
posed route, he took a ruler, drew a straight line
from the one terminus to the other, and remarked
in a tone that precluded all discussion, "You will
construct the line so!" And the line was so con-
structed — remaining to all future ages, like St.
Petersburg and the Pyramids, a magnificent monu-
ment of autocratic power.

Formerly this well-known incident was often cited

3



RUSSIA

in whispered philippics to illustrate the evils of the
autocratic form of government. Imperial whims,
it was said, over-ride grave economic considerations.
In recent years, however, a change seems to have
taken place in public opinion, and some people now
venture to assert that this so-called Imperial whim
was an act of far-seeing policy. As by far the
greater part of the goods and passengers are carried
the whole length of the line, it is well that the line
should be as short as possible, and that branch
lines should be constructed to the towns lying to
the right and left. Apart from political considera-
tions, it must be admitted that a good deal may be
said in support of this view.

When the course of a new railway has to be
determined, the military authorities are always
consulted, and their opinion has a great influence on
the ultimate decision. The consequence of this is
that the railway-map of Russia presents to the eye
of the tactician much that is quite unintelligible to
the ordinary observer — a fact that will become
apparent to the uninitiated as soon as a war breaks
out in Eastern Europe. Russia is no longer what
she was in the days of the Crimean War, when
troops and stores had to be conveyed hundreds of
miles by the most primitive means of transport.
At that time she had only about 750 miles of rail-
way; now she has more than 11,000 miles, and every
year new lines are constructed.

The water-communication has likewise in recent
years been greatly improved. On all the principal

4



TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

rivers there are now tolerably good steamers. Un-
fortunately, the climate puts serious obstructions
in the way of navigation. For nearly half of the
year the rivers are covered with ice, and during a
great part of the open season navigation is difficult.
When the ice and snow melt, the rivers overflow
their banks and lay a great part of the low-lying
country under water, so that many villages can only
be approached in boats; but very soon the flood
subsides, and the water falls so rapidly, that by
mid-summer the larger steamers have great diffi-
culty in picking their way among the sand-banks.
The Neva alone — that queen of northern rivers —
has at all times a plentiful supply of water.

Besides the Neva, the rivers commonly visited by
the tourist are the Volga and the Don, which form
part of what may be called the Russian grand tour.
Englishmen who w^ish to see something more than
St. Petersburg and Moscow generally go by rail to
Nizhni-Novgorod, where they visit the great fair,
and then get on board one of the Volga steamers.
For those who have mastered the important fact
that there is no fine scenery in Russia, the voyage
down the river is pleasant enough. The left bank
is as flat as the banks of the Rhine below Cologne,
but the right bank is high, occasionally well wooded,
and not devoid of a certain tame picturesqueness.
Early on the second day the steamer reaches Kazan,
once the capital of an independent Tartar khanate,
and still containing a considerable Tartar popula-
tion. Several "metchets" (as the Mahometan

5



RUSSIA

houses of prayer are here termed) with their dimin-
utive minarets in the lower part of the town, show
that Islamism still survives, though the klianate was
annexed to Muscovy more than three centuries ago;
but the town, as a whole, has a European rather
than an Asiatic character. If any one visits it in
the hope of getting "a glimpse of the East," he
will be grievously disappointed, unless, indeed, he
happen to be one of those imaginative tourists who
always discover what they wish to see, especially
when it can be made the subject of an effective
chapter in their *' Impressions de Voyage." And
yet it must be admitted that, of all the towns on
the route, Kazan is the most interesting. Though
not Oriental, it has a peculiar character of its own,
whilst all the others — Simbirsk, Samara, Sara-
tof — are as uninteresting as Russian provincial
towns commonly are. The full force and solem-
nity of that expression will be explained in the
sequel.

Probably about sunrise on the third day some-
thing like a range of mountains will appear on the
horizon. It may be well to say at once, to prevent
disappointment, that in reality nothing worthy of
the name of mountain is to be found in that part of
the country. The nearest mountain-range in that
direction is the Caucasus, which is several hundred
miles distant, and consequently cannot by any pos-
si})ility be seen from the deck of a steamer. The
elevations in question are simply a low range of
hills, called the Zhigulinskiya Gori. In Western

G



TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

Europe they would not attract much attention, but
*'in the kingdom of the bhnd," as the French prov-
erb has it, "the one-eyed man is king;" and in
a flat region Hke Eastern Russia these hills form
a prominent feature. Though they have nothing
of Alpine grandeur, yet their well-wooded slopes,
coming down to the water's edge — especially when
covered with the delicate tints of early spring, or
the rich yellow and red autumnal foliage — leave
an impression on the memory not easily effaced.

On the whole — with all due deference to the
opinions of my patriotic Russian friends — I must
say that Volga scenery does not repay the time,
trouble, and expense which a voyage from Nizhni
to Tsaritsin demands. There are some pretty bits
here and there, but they are "few and far be-
tween." A glass of the most exquisite wine diluted
with twenty gallons of water makes a very insipid
beverage. The deck of the steamer is generally
much more interesting than the banks of the river.
There one meets with curious travelling compan-
ions. The majority of the passengers are probably
Russian peasants, who are always ready to chat
freely without demanding a formal introduction,
and to relate to a new acquaintance the simple
story of their lives. Often I have thus whiled
away the weary hours both pleasantly and profit-
ably, and have alwaj^s been impressed with the
peasant's homely common sense, good-natured kind-
liness, half-fatalistic resignation, and strong desire
to learn something about foreign countries. This

7



RUSSIA

last peculiarity makes him question as well as com-
municate, and his questions, though sometimes
apparently childish, are generally to the point.
Among the passengers are probably also some rep-
resentatives of the various Finnish tribes inhabiting
this part of the country; they may be interesting
to the ethnologist who loves to study physiognomy,
but they are far less sociable than the Russians.
Nature seems to have made them silent and mo-
rose, whilst their conditions of life have made them
shy and distrustful. The Tartar, on the other hand,
is almost sure to be a lively and amusing compan-
ion. Most probably he is a pedler or small trader
of some kind. The bundle on which he reclines
contains his stock-in-trade, composed, perhaps, of
cotton printed goods and bright-coloured cotton
handkerchiefs. He himself is enveloped in a capa-
cious greasy klialat, or dressing-gown, and wears a
fur cap, though the thermometer may be at 90° in
the shade. The roguish twinkle in his small pierc-
ing eyes contrasts strongly with the sombre, stolid
expression of the Finnish peasants sitting near him.
He has much to relate about St. Petersburg, Mos-
cow, and perhaps Astrakhan; but, like a genuine
trader, he is very reticent regarding the mysteries
of his own craft. Towards sunset he retires with
his companions to some quiet spot on the deck to
recite the evening prayers. Here all the good
Mahometans on board assemble and stroke their
beards, kneel on their little strips of carpet and pros-
trate themselves, all keeping time as if they were

8



TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

performing some new kind of drill under the eye
of a severe drill-sergeant.

If the voyage is made about the end of Septem-
ber, when the traders are returning home from the
fair at Nizhni-Novgorod, the ethnologist will have
a still better opportunity of study. He will then
find not only representatives of the Finnish and
Tartar races, but also Armenians, Circassians,
Persians, Bokhariots, and other Orientals — a
motley and picturesque but decidedly unsavoury
cargo.

However great the ethnographical variety on
board may be, the traveller will probably find that
four days on the Volga are quite enough for all
practical and sesthetic purposes, and instead of
going on to Astrakhan he will quit the steamer at
Tsaritsin. Here he will find a railway of about fifty
miles in length, connecting the Volga with the Don.
I say advisedly a railway, and not a train, for there
are only two trains a week, so that if you lose one
train you have to wait about three days for the
next. Prudent, nervous people prefer travelling by
the road; and they do well, for this line has, I
believe, the undisputed honour of being the most
infamous in Europe. But perhaps, after all, we ought
to apply here the principle that all things are less
dreadful than they seem. The strange jolts and
mysterious noises may naturally alarm a person of
nervous temperament, but a man of ordinary nerve
can easily preserve his equanimity, for the pace is
so slow that running off the rails would be merely an

9



RUSSIA

amusing episode, and even a collision could scarcely
be attended with serious consequences.

Some time after the arrival of the bi-weekly train
at Kalatch, a steamer starts for Rostoff, which is
situated near the mouth of the river. The naviga-
tion of the Don is much more difficult than that of
the Volga. The river is extremely shallow, and the
sand-banks are continually shifting, so that many
times in the course of the day the steamer runs
aground. Sometimes she is got off by simply re-
versing the engines, but not unfrequently she sticks
so fast that the engines have to be assisted. This
is effected in a curious way. The captain always
gives a number of stalwart Cossacks a free pas-
sage on condition that they will give him the assist-
ance he requires; and as soon as the ship sticks
fast, he orders them to jump overboard with a stout
hawser and haul her off! The task is not a pleas-
ant one, especially as the poor fellows cannot after-
wards change their clothes; but the order is always
obeyed with alacrity and without grumbling. Cos-
sacks, it would seem, have no personal acquaintance
with colds and rheumatism.

In the most approved manuals of geography the
Don figures as one of the principal European rivers;
and its length and breadth give it a right to be
considered as such, but its depth in many parts
is ludicrously out of proportion to its length and
breadth. I remember one day seeing the captain
of a large, flat-bottomed steamer slacken speed, to
avoid running down a man on horseback who was

10



TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

attempting to cross his bows in the middle of the
stream. Another day a not less characteristic inci-
dent happened. A Cossack passenger wished to be
set down at a place where there was no pier, and
on being informed that there was no means of land-
ing him, coolly jumped overboard and walked ashore.
This simple method of disembarking cannot, of
course, be recommended to those who have no
special local knowledge regarding the exact position
of sand-banks and deep pools.

Good serviceable fellows are those Cossacks who
drag the steamer off the sand -banks, and well do
they deserve a free passage. Both they and their
richer companions who can afford to pay for tickets
are agreeable, interesting fellow-travellers. Many
of them can relate from their own experience, in
plain, unvarnished style, stirring episodes of irregu-
lar warfare; and some of the older men amongst
them can add curious unpublished incidents of the
Crimean War. If they happen to be in a very com-
municative mood they may divulge a few secrets
regarding their simple, primitive commissariat sys-
tem — of which I shall have occasion to speak here-
after. Whether they are confidential or not, the
traveller who knows the language will spend his
time more profitably and pleasantly in chatting
with them than in gazing listlessly at the uninter-
esting country through which he is passing.

Unfortunately, these Don steamers carry a large
number of free passengers of another and more
objectionable kind, who do not confine themselves

11



RUSSIA

to the deck, but unceremoniously find their way
into the cabin, and prevent thin-skinned travellers
from sleeping. I know too little of Natural history
to decide whether these agile, bloodthirsty parasites
are of the same species as those which in England
assist unofficially the Sanitary Commissioners by
punishing uncleanliness, but I may say that their
function in the system of created things is essentially
the same, and they fulfil it with a zeal and energy
beyond all praise. Possessing for my own part a
happy immunity from their indelicate attentions,
and being perfectly innocent of entomological curi-
osity, I might, had I been alone, have overlooked
their existence, but I was constantly reminded of
their presence by less happily constituted mortals,
and the complaints of the sufferers received a curious
official confirmation. On arriving at the end of the
journey, I asked permission to spend the night on
board, and I noticed that the captain acceded to my
request with a readiness and warmth not quite in
keeping with his ordinary demeanour. Next morn-
ing the fact was fully explained. When I began
to express my thanks for having been allowed to
pass the night in a comfortable cabin, my host
interrupted me with a good-natured laugh, and
assured me that, on the contrary, he was under
obligations to me. "You see," he said, assuming an
air of mock gravity, "I have always on board a
large body of light cavalry, and when I sleep alone
in the cabin they make a combined attack on me;
whereas, when some one shares the cabin with me,

12



TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

they always divide their forces. So, you see, you
have unconsciously performed an heroic act, and
laid me under a deep obligation." If this was, as I
half suspected, merely an ingenious way of conceal-
ing hospitality, it must be admitted that it was ben
trovato — a piece of elaborate politeness to be ex-
pected from a Spanish hidalgo rather than from the
captain of a Don steamer.

On certain steamers on the Sea of Azof the privacy
of the sleeping-cabin is disturbed by still more
objectionable intruders; I mean rats. During one
short voyage which I made on board the Kertchy
these disagreeable visitors became so importunate
in the lower regions of the vessel that the ladies
obtained permission to sleep in the deck-saloon.
After this arrangement had been made, we unfortu-
nate male passengers received redoubled attention
from our tormentors. Awakened early one morn-
ing by the sensation of something running over
me as I lay in my berth, I conceived a method
of retaliation. It seemed to me possible that, in
the event of another visit, I might, by seizing the
proper moment, kick the rat up to the ceiling with
such force as to produce concussion of the brain
and instant death. Very soon I had an opportunity
of putting my plan into execution. A significant
shaking of the little curtain at the foot of the berth
showed that it was being used as a scaling-ladder.
I lay perfectly still, quite as much interested in
the sport as if I had been waiting, rifle in hand,
for big game. As if cognisant of my plan, and

13



RUSSIA

anxious to play creditably his part in the experi-
ment, the rat stepped into my berth and took up
his position on my foot. In an instant he was
shot upwards. First was heard a sharp knock on
the ceiling, and then a dull '*thud" on the floor.
The precise extent of the injuries inflicted I never
discovered, for the victim had sufiicient strength
and presence of mind to effect his escape; and the
gentleman at the other side of the cabin, who had
been roused by the noise, protested against my
repeating the experiment, on the ground that,
though he was willing to take his own share of the
intruders, he strongly objected to having other
people's rats kicked into his berth.

On such occasions it is of no use to complain to
the authorities. "When I met the captain on deck
I related to him what had happened, and protested
vigorously against passengers being exposed to such
annoyances. After listening to me patiently, he
coolly replied, entirely overlooking my protesta-
tions, "Ah! I did better than that this morning;
I allowed my rat to get under the blanket, and then
smothered him!"

Railways and steamboats, even when their ar-
rangements leave much to be desired, invariably
effect a salutary revolution in hotel accommoda-
tion but this revolution is of necessity gradual.
Foreign hotel-keepers must immigrate and give the
example; suitable houses must be built; servants
must be properly trained; and, above all, the native
travellers must learn the usages of civilised society.

14



TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA

In Russia this revolution is only in progress, and is
as yet by no means complete. The cities where for-
eigners most do congregate — St. Petersburg, Mos-
cow, Odessa — already possess hotels that will bear
comparison with those of Western Europe, and some
of the more important provincial towns can offer


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryDonald Mackenzie WallaceRussia (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 21)