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pation, were put back under the control of the local
upper classes as much as possible, in something like the
same way that the white people of the South immediately
after the Civil War tried to keep the newly enfranchised
negroes in inferior and servile position. In 1886 it was
decreed that breach of contract by a Russian laborer
should be a criminal offense, thus binding the lower classes
with stricter economic control. More important still,
The Land hi 1889 the local elected magistrates were replaced by
Captains officials known as Land Captains, to be appointed by the

provincial governor from among the upper classes of the
neighborhood. They were given not only judicial but
also administrative functions, so that they had practi-
cally unlimited authority over the peasants, ruling them at
the behest of the central government. In this way the
administration of justice sank back into the evil state of a
generation before. About the same time the character
of the zemstvos or provincial assemblies and the dumas
or councils of the cities was changed, by increasing the
representation of the upper classes and diminishing that
of the lower, and then taking from the assemblies thus
altered much of their power. Some of the zemstvos
had done excellent work in local government and in better-
ing the condition of the people, but the autocracy of


Alexander and Pobiedonostsev had no desire to see the
people governing themselves even in their local affairs.

In upholding their system the methods of Metter- Repression
nich's age were again employed. There was stern regula-
tion of the press, and many newspapers were stopped. The
universities were put imder strictest control, and such
supervision was extended to the lower branches of educa-
tion. A great part of all the Russian people were illiterate,
but from those who got an education in Russia all perni-
cious western ideas were to be kept. The radicals and
nihilists were remorselessly pursued by the secret police,
and the police of Russia under the direction of another
reactionary, Von Plehve, reached a terrible efficiency
previously not attained. For a long time all this seemed
to succeed well enough. The tsar spent the thirteen
years of his reign apart from his people, apart from his
ministers even, guarded by the secret police and by in-
numerable sentries, safe from the enemies w^ho continued
to threaten his life as they had threatened his father's. The
old system of government and church remained unaltered
and unshaken. The nihilists lost influence after the
assassination of Alexander II, and presently they also lost
heart. The great mass of the people, an ignorant peasan-
try devoted to the old Russian system and traditions, even
in the midst of misery which they endured but did not
understand how to cure, remained passive and loyal.
There was no powerful middle class yet, and the central
government with its vast organization of officials seemed
to hold unassailable position.

In accordance also with his ideas of governing Russia Russifica-
well and making her great, Alexander entered vigorously tion
upon a policy of Russifying all the people in his empire.
He wished to bring about greater unity and strength by
obliterating the local differences that divided the popu-
lation of his domain. Such an ideal was no new thing.
It had been cherished by the riders of Austria half a



The attain-
ment of

The peoples
of Russia

century before, and also by the Hungarians as soon as
they had the power to govern. It was a policy which the
rulers of Germany were vigorously carrying out in Schles-
wig and Posen. Most of the great states of Europe had
once been formed by bringing together different peoples.
This was so of France and Spain and Italy, and, though
long time had obhterated most of the differences, some of
them still remained. The differences were more striking
in Germany and the British Isles, for the Poles of Posen
and some of the Irish longed to separate from the govern-
ment over them. But the divisions were far more marked
and much more important in Austria-Hungary and the
Russian Empire. In the Dual Monarchy Germans and
Magyars often worked together with utmost difficulty,
while a great number of Bohemians, Rumanians, Poles,
and South Slavs were held together only by force. In
the western world it was not generally realized that the
Russian Empire contained peoples as diverse and forces
almost as disruptive as those within Austria-Hungary.
There was, indeed, a great difference between the circum-
stances of the two, for whereas the power of the Dual
Monarchy was based upon a minority made up of Ger-
mans and Magyars, the power of Russia was founded
upon the Great Russians who were much the largest, the
strongest, and the most important element in the State.
None the less, the vast expanse of the Empire contained
other elements of much importance which had not yet
been welded together, while in the outlying portions were
large districts containing non-Russian peoples who had
lost their freedom and were held in unwilling subjection.
All of central and most of north Russia were held by the
Great Russians. But to the south in the Ukraine, the
richest district of the Empire and one of the chief sources
of the wheat supply of the world, the people, while Slavic
in race, and adherents of the Eastern Catholic faith,
spoke a dialect which differed from that of the Great


Russians, as much as T>ow German was unlike High (Jer- The lesser

man, and tliey liad devel()i)e(l a h'teralure of llieir own. To ,^^'*^ ^

1 -..n • -ri • 1 M I I L elements

the west lay the White Russians, also Slavs and also be-

longin*? to the Orthodox Chureh, but speaking yet an-
other dialect of Slavic; and the Lithuanians, an Indo-
European people closely related to the Slavs, with their
own distinct speech, and adliering to the Roman Catholic
religion. Over Lithuania, and to a less extent the Ukraine,
Polish culture prevailed and some of tlie upi)er classes
were Polish, for in the days of its greatness the Kingdom
of Poland had included these outlying dominions. To
the east of European Russia the vast reaches of her
Asiatic empire contained a sparse population of many
diverse peoples but also, as the principal class, Russian
immigrants from Europe. All of these parts, Great
Russia, the Ukraine, Lithuania, Siberia, were sufficiently
alike to unite naturally, and the local differences that
persisted, would, under good administration, do no harm
or else disappear in course of time.

This was not so in some of the outlying parts which Outlying
brought Russia down to the sea or into contact with cen- parts
tral Europe. In the far north were the Lapps, a Mon-
golian people, unimportant in their distant frozen plains.
To the south of them, and on the sea, were the Finns, also
an Asiatic people, whose country formerly'' had for a long
time been possessed by Sweden, so that not only was the
civilization Swedish and the religion Lutheran but the
people of the upper class were Swedish. Finland had
long been a distinct state, as Poland had been at first,
organized as a grand duchy, and connected with Russia
through the person of the tsar. These people had been
taken by conquest. They had no real bond of union
with the Russian people; they were greatly jealous of any
t^ncroachment upon their p^i^^leges, and were determined
to maintain their identity and character. To the south
of the Gulf of Finland, on the Gulf of Riga, and do\^Tl the

of the



Diversity of

The Jews
in Russia

coast of the Baltic were provinces — ^Esthonia, Livonia,
Courland — taken from Sweden or Poland when Russia
won her outlets here on the sea. Their people were Finns
or Letts, a branch of the Lithuanian people, completely
dominated by a German upper class, the "Baltic Barons,"
Farther to the west and the south, and thrusting itself in
between Prussia and Austria-Hungary, was Poland, for-
merly the Kingdom of Poland which Russia had organized
and united with herself under the tsar, and a part of the
independent Poland of earlier days. The Poles were
Roman Catholic in religion, and while Slavic in race, were
a distinct branch of the Slavic people, speaking a tongue
as different from Russian as Swedish was from German.
For a long time they had been the leading branch of the
Slavs in Europe. Now they continued to feel that their
civilization was higher than that of the Russians; they
clung to their nationality and Roman Catholic faith with
passionate devotion; and longed vainly, it seemed, for
freedom and independence once more. Far to the south-
east, between the Black and the Caspian seas, was Cau-
casia, comprising a great number of little peoples of
different races and religions, strongly conscious of their
separate nationality. The great diversity of peoples in
the Russian Empire was strikingly seen in some of the
cities on the Volga, where the market places were thronged
with multitudes of strange people speaking a babble of
different tongues.

Nor was this all. In European Russia the larger num-
ber of the Jews of the world long continued to live, clinging
to their faith, their customs, and their racial consciousness
as the Jews have generally done. More important but
less striking was the German element. The German
people, whose eastward extension in the Middle Ages
had laid the foundations of Austrian and Prussian power,
had continued their movement to the east, and for a long
time had been penetrating the lands of the Russian Empire,



where by their superior culture and efficiency they were
able to exploit the natives. In the Baltic Provinces the
upper class was German. In other places were isolated
colonies of Germans, who preserved their language and
racial character. Almost everywhere were German busi-
ness men and skilled artisans, who controlled or directed
a great part of the economic life of the state. For a cen-
tury and a half the tsars had usually married German
princesses, and been attended by German favorites and
assistants. All of this was natural enough, and probably
there would be more of it in the future. Russia, indeed,
with a huge population of backward people, with illimit-
able resources and raw materials to be exploited and
used, lying right to the east of the German Empire with
its intelligent, highly developed, and aggressive people,
was for Germans the best field for economic expansion.
In the days to come almost certainly such relations be-
tween Germany and Russia will be resumed.

It had generally been the ambition and the proper
policy of states to achieve as complete a unity as possible.
In France and Great Britain such unification had long
since been almost completely effected. But it was not
entirely achieved in the German Empire, much less in
Russia, and only to a small extent in Austria-Hungary.
Posen with its unwilling and oppressed Poles on Germany's
border might be a source of grave danger in war; so Poland,
and Finland, and the Baltic country on the Russian frontier
might, unless they could be more closely united, bring
great weakness in time of danger, and try to separate
themselves. Indeed, when the great disaster came in
1917, the Ukraine, Finland, and certain Caucasian dis-
tricts soon broke away, while Poland and the Baltic Prov-
inces had already been lost. It was, therefore, the desire
of Russian rulers to do away with the differences that
divided their subjects, and make of them one Russian

Germans in




tion by com-

of Russifica-

In the United States of America, where the population
had been increased by immigration from all parts of
Europe, an English-speaking nation, with much coherence
and unity, had been easily achieved because of an excellent
system of education and as a result of liberal institutions,
which, with all their imperfections, gave men great free-
dom to use the abundant economic resources of the
country. The children of immigrants in the United
States of their own accord gave up the alien speech and
the foreign customs which their parents had brought.
But in Russia, where there was no general system of
education, and where the government was comparatively
inefficient, such unification could only be attempted
through compulsion, and this the Russian Government
tried in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Under Alexander III continued attempt was made to
Russianize all the people of Russia. The Jews, the most
evidently alien part of the population and greatly disliked
by the people because of their financial ability and hard-
ness, were subjected to such persecution as to deprive
them of "the most common rights of citizens." They
were concentrated together in the west, in what was
known as the Jewish Pale, forbidden to own land, de-
barred to a great extent from schools and the professions,
and often left to the mercy of furious mobs. In Poland
Alexander continued the work of his father; Poles were
excluded from the government and Russian was to be
taught in the schools. In the next reign the particular
privileges of Finland were withdrawn, and the govern-
ment put in the hands of Russian officials; in the Baltic
Provinces Russian was proclaimed as the official tongue.
The Russian Church, as always, cooperating with the
Russian Government, forwarded the work. The Holy
Synod persecuted the members of other sects, forcibly
converted some of them to the Orthodox Church again,
and persecuted the missionaries of other sects.



The treatment of Ihe Poles and the Finns awakened
great sympathy in oIIkt i)arts of the world, and some of
its results were terrible indeed. But this i)oliey of Rus-
sifieation was only one aspect of the extreme nationalism
which grew constantly so much stronger in the nineteenth
century. In the latter half of that period in the (German
Empire a whole school of writers and teachers proclaimed
that the German j)e()i)le were the best and the greatest
in the world, that their civilization was superior to
any other, and that it was destined to spread far over
the earth, and deserved so to spread, since wherever
it came it would better the people whom it reached.
vSo, during the same time there rose up among the Slavs,
and especially among the Great Russians, a host of
writers who asserted that almost all of the inhabitants
of the Russian Empire, and many peoples of central
Europe and the Balkans, were of the great Slavic race,
foremost of races in its character and institutions, and
destined to have the most glorious future of all the peoples
of the earth. The Russian autocracy, the Orthodox
Church, the village community of the Slavs, were all
the best things of their kind. These nationalists in-
culcated the doctrine of Pan-Slavism, just as in central
Europe Pan-Germanism was similarly taught. It was
their object first to unify the peoples within Russia, and so
make her stronger and then ready to undertake the mis-
sion of protecting all the other Slavs, perhaps some day of
uniting them all together.

The Russian Government under Alexander III was
able to maintain itself and strengthen the old order of
things and resist all progress. The tsar and some of
his principal officials believed sincerely that the system
they upheld was best in itself and for the best inter-
ests of the people. In their own way they labored hard
to make Russia strong and great. But such government
as they succeeded in establishing, above the influence

Slavic na-

Strength and
of the




by ineffi-
ciency and

Nicholas II

and criticism of the mass of tlie people, controlled entirely
by the Autocrat of all the Russias, yet mostly adminis-
tered by a large number of officials with whom he rarely
if ever came in contact, and who therefore did much as
they pleased, contained within itself the causes of its own
destruction. Many of the officials were corrupt and in-
efficient, powerful in oppressing the people beneath them,
but not able to rule honestly or well. After a while
the Russian Government came to be something like the
systems that had endured so long in western Europe,
then fell almost of their own weight about the time of the
French Revolution. It might maintain itself in ordinary
times over the multitude of passive Russian peasants, but
most probably it would be silently undermined by imper-
ceptible forces, and if some great disaster came it would
suddenly crash down into ruins. During the last part of
the nineteenth century the old Russian system was in
reality being shaken by the Industrial Revolution. Then
in 1905 the disasters of the Russo-Japanese War shook
it to its base, and the greater calamities of the War of the
Nations at last destroyed it altogether.

The policy of Alexander III was continued by his son
Nicholas II (1894-1918). The history and the fate of
this ruler have caused him to be compared with Louis XVI
of France. Like the last French ruler of the Old Regime,
he was amiable in character, but also weak and easily
swayed, whether by the German Emperor in foreign af-
fairs or his wife and his ministers at home. He took what
he found, and he upheld it because he believed it was
good. To diminish his autocratic power would be most
foolish, he thought. For a long time his most trusted
adviser also was Pobiedonostsev. Von Plehve was made
minister of the interior and given enormous power for the
continuance of his work. Nicholas approved the policy
of Russianizing all the parts of his dominions. It may
be that had he been stronger in character, and abler as a



ruler, the tragedy which overwhehned him and the dis-
aster which came to Russia miglit luive been averted;
but it may also be that conditions in the country were
such, and reforms had so long been repressed and held
back, that if any violent dislocation occurred reforms
would be carried out by revolution.

The forerunner of the great changes soon to take place
was the Industrial Revolution, after the emancipation of
the serfs the most important thing in the history of
Russia in the nineteenth century. Especially under the
guidance of Count Sergei Witte, who became minister of
finance in 1893, an immense industrial development went
forward. The Dual Alliance had just been made between
Russia and France, and a great amount of capital was
loaned by the French. Rapid increase of the Russian
agricultural population, which was obliged to support
itself upon holdings of land not sufficiently large, drove
increasing numbers of Russian peasants to the cities in
search of work, and so provided an abundant supply of
cheap labor. Tariffs were imposed to protect new in-
dustries, factories multiplied, and the population of the
cities rapidly increased. Railroads w^ere constructed or
extended, until Russian mileage exceeded that of any
European country, though because of the long distances
within the Empire railway facilities continued to be more
inadequate than in any other great country of Europe.

The consequences of the new industrialism in Russia
were to some extent what they had been long before
in England and France and later on in Austria-Hungary
and the German Empire. About the middle of the nine-
teenth century more than nine tenths of the people of the
Russian Empire lived scattered in the country, where they
carried on their rude agricultural work. Upon this rural
population, ignorant and extremely conservative, the
earlier reformers and radicals had been unable to make
any impression, and so the nihilist movement had come

The Indus-
trial Revolu-
tion in







to an end largely because it remained a movement with
leaders but without followers among the people. Now
there grew up a larger urban population, an industrial
proletariat more quickly responsive to the ideas of leaders
who -^^ished to change the government and the system
that existed. In Moscow and St. Petersburg and in the
Polish cities where the Russian Industrial Revolution had
begun there were increasing crowds of over-worked, ill-
paid workingmen, whose economic grievances made them
very willing to think of changes in the State. There now
rose up the party of the Social Democrats, who hoped
that later on the existing system would be overthrown,
after which, in a regenerated Russia, there might be
estabhshed the socialism which Karl Marx had once
taught in western Europe. The new leaders obtained
adlierents more easily than the old, yet the urban popula-
tion of Russia at the end of the century was still less than
14 per cent, of the whole. But the new ideas soon began
to affect also the mass of the peasants, hitherto inert. The
Social Democratic Party of the workmen organized the
factory operatives of the towns, who tried to better their
condition and get their reforms by strikes. Among the
peasants, who had no land or who had not enough land to
support them, the Socialist Revolutionary Party rose up,
these peasants desiring to take from the great proprietors
their estates, which were then to be divided among the
peasants in small holdings.

The great changes which shortly took place resulted
from failure in foreign relations and terrible disasters which
profoundly affected all the people. For some time in
the latter part of the nineteenth century Russian for-
eign pohcy continued as it had been in the earher part:
friendship was maintained with Prussia and the German
Empire, and Russia continued to try to expand toward
the sea. Her efforts to dominate the Balkans and, per-
haps, control Constantinople were frustrated by Great



I - -^..



Britain after the Russo-Turkisli War in 1878, and there-
after by the opposition of Anstria-IIungary. Germany
drew closer in alhance with the Dual ^Monarchy, but under
Bismarck's masterly handling of foreign relations Russia
was bound to Germany by a secret treaty. In 1890, how-
ever, the new German Emperor refused to prolong this;
and three years later Russia joined France in the Dual
Alliance, thus changing her foreign policy completely. She
now had increasingly the opposition of Germany as well
as of Austria in the Balkans, and while continuing to take
great interest in affairs there she turned her attention more
and more to the expansion of her donn'nions in Asia. Long
before, all of northern Asia, or Siberia, had been taken as
far as the Pacific, but always the Russians hoped to go to
the southward and reach ports on the warmer seas. Much
progress was made, but always in western Asia the power
of Great Britain in the end blocked the way.

In the eastern half of the continent Russia's southern
neighbor was China, and here the prospect of success was
greater, for China was stagnant and in decay, and, at the
end of the century, seemed just about to fall to pieces. Still
farther to the east, it is true, the Japanese, in their island
empire, had taken up western civilization and methods
with amazing capacity, and in 1891-5 gained a complete
triumph in the Chinese-Japanese War. But Japan was
not yet regarded as a match for any great European
power, and at once she was compelled by Russia, Ger-
many, and France to renounce most of the fruits of her
victory. The so-called Trans-Siberian Railway, which had
been begun in 1891, and which was to run from Moscow to
Vladivostok on the Pacific, was being pushed steadily
forward, and Russian expansionists dreamed of splendid
possessions soon to be got from the dying Chinese Empire,
and the acquisition at last of an ice-free port. This was a
time when apparently China was about to be divided up
among predatory European powers. In 1897 the Germans

Russia, the

China, and



seize parts
of China

The Russo-
War, 1904-5

Japan gets
control of
the sea

seized Kiao-chaii. Next year France secured concessions
in southern China. At the same time Russia obtained
much greater ones in the north. In 1898 she procured
from the Chinese Government the right to build the Siber-
ian Railway across Manchuria, and she was soon in posses-

Online LibraryEdward Raymond TurnerEurope since 1870 → online text (page 24 of 49)