Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

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Copyright, ^917, by

The Century Co,

Published, June^ 1917








I Awakening Russia 3

II The Military Party 27

III Unbalanced Policies 57

IV The Russian Court 90

V Aristocratic Women in Russian Life and

Politics 135

VI The End of the Romanoff Dynasty —
The Grand Dukes — Princes with a
Birthright to the Throne . . . 161

VII The German Influence in Russia — The

Baltic Question 185

VIII America and Russia 220

IX Russian Art, Dramatic Literature and

Music 256

X The Peasants — Bureaucracy — Little

Nobility 286

XI Traveling in Russl\ of Yesterday,
Which Will Also Be the Russia of
To-morrow 323

XII Russia of To-morrow 364*



The Former Czar and the Czarevitch . Frontispiece

Bloody Sunday, when the Order was given to the
Soldiers to Fire on the People 13

Grand Duke Nicholas 35

A. Braussilow 45

Count and Countess Witte 65

Alexandra, the Former Czarina 105

Gregory Rasputin 123

Military Parade 165

The Former Czar Praying with a Regiment before
its being sent to the Front 191

Sebastopol, Crimea 209

The Blessing of the Water 227

Arsinatschef 261

Father Gapon with the Workmen and Women . . 294

The Duma, with the Picture of the Czar . . . 313

The Taurida Palace, where the Duma Convenes . 337

Moscow 357





The idea of Russia as a mysterious country
was maintained in a century of the telegraph
and essential materialism, in a world accustomed
to an open display of mankind's thoughts, feel-
ings, and actions. This was the real mystery.

To enter Russia one had to cross the famous
and dreaded frontier, which in a way was the
shrewd invention of an imaginative government
to make visitors shudder before its "almighti-
ness." It is worth while to recall this inqui-
sitional institution, now possibly vanished forever,
to those who have crossed the Russian border and
to others who may be interested in the time when
Russia was a country of the past.

From the first crossing of the frontier, the
traveler found that the train crept into the



station as if the slow turning of the wheels sang:
"Take care! You enter Russia, the holy, the
mysterious ! It is not essential what your trunks
contain ; it is more essential what your mind con-
tains. If you have any thoughts of freedom or
any anti-governmental ideas hidden anywhere in
your head or heart, be sure that they will be dis-
covered by the hawk-like eyes of our pohce."
Everybody who for the first time stepped over
the Russian border has felt the disquieting con-
viction that he must be an anarchist at heart, and
in his excited fancy has seen across the frontier
the flaming sign, Siberia.

The train stopped. The tension grew during
the enforced waiting in locked cars until a smil-
ing friend — sometimes one made such a new
friend and had become confidential with him —
who had traveled in civilian clothes stepped out
of his compartment fully equipped as a Russian
general. He smiled, and winked out of the
window, whereupon the door was suddenly
thrown open, and two soldiers sprang forward
with outstretched rifles. The passenger grew
pale ; the general smiled. It was only the tribute
paid to his power to protect whom he wanted pro-



tected or to arrest whom he wanted arrested.
The protected ones marched between the two
soldiers, just as the arrested ones marched, and
handed out their passports with trembhng fingers.
They were then received by a colonel of the mili-
tary police, who, bowing peaceably and smoking
cigarettes, conducted them to a special waiting-
room for guests of honor, where they fared
sumptuously before they were finally led to the
side of the station where their train stood.
There an assiduous employee placed a carpeted
bridge up to the car-steps, and the conductor
relieved the traveler of all his hand-bags and
settled him * 'paternally" in a large and comfort-
able compartment. The conductor returned
again and again, anticipating every wish, bring-
ing cushions, candlesticks, bed linen sealed in
bags, and finally asked if the barin would like to
drink something "enheartening."

That was for the protected one; but for those
less fortunate it was quite another story. A
gendarme in Cossack uniform, his chest beaded
with cartridges, pierced the luckless traveler with
suspicious eyes as he took his passports and sent
him to the custom-hall. All the poor, traveling



with their bundles, were huddled together in the
middle of the place, while with trembling fingers
they untied the ropes of their boxes or opened
their willow baskets to display their possessions
to the eagle eyes of the custom-officers. Cring-
ing, and searching for copecks with which to
worm themselves into the good graces of the
officials, the}^ waited like sheep until they were
dismissed with a haughty gesture or with lamen-
tations and protestations were compelled to pay
some duty.

Another complication arose with the reading
of passports. It was the special pleasure of the
police official to complicate the simple duty of
calling the names and handing back the papers.
To the joy of most of the spectators, he pro-
nounced the Jewish names with sneering suspi-
cion. The poor victims advanced, bowing ser-
vilely, and the papers were shown to them, but
withheld tantalizingly while the official con-
ducted an inquisition. The poor Jew, perspir-
ing, finally came to doubt his identity. He was
sent before another official, who made him pay
another ruble to get out of the hall.

The real mystery began with the arrival at the



Russian capital. Hospitable, generous Russia
bestowed unlimited personal and individual free-
dom on everybody. If one did not interfere with
the sanctity of her policy, did not speak too much
about freedom, one received all the freedom ever
dreamed of. There was no bothering, no hurry,
or no limitation. Everything was ready at any
hour of the day, and this lack of system was
neither peculiar nor strange; it was absolutely
understood that everybody did as he pleased.
There was no formality. Politeness existed only
to make life as easy as possible. Most extrava-
gant hospitality was showered on the stranger;
he found himself in the midst of a Russian life so
simple, so informal that he imagined himself as
belonging to the nation, actually one of its chil-
dren. The Russians talk so wonderfully, dis-
course so cleverly on philosophy and art, that
every word seems frank, new, and interesting.
Yet despite this apparent intimacy, despite this
apparent understanding, after months or years
the stranger was no nearer a real knowledge of
the people than on the first day. It might
happen that in an animated discussion a Russian,
suddenly bored by the conventional smoothness



of the conversation, would feel an unconquerable
desire to utter insult, to spit words on the amazed
stranger — words of cruel truth and disdain that
opened the abyss between the Russian and the
outer world. The Russian is eager to pursue
everything to the end; he drains out the last
drop fro'm the foreigner's psychology. A free-
masonry prevails among Russians, and no out-
sider will ever penetrate their spirit, their music,
or the mysterious splendor of their Byzantine
souls. Mystified, frightened, and enchanted at
the same time, the foreigner remains in a per-
manent tension of mind, waiting for the rising of
the curtain behind which he imagines the "great
Russian truth" to be.

The director of the Russian state stage, the
censor, hesitated many years to lift the curtain.
A narrow opening recently revealed to the
startled spectator the scene of a revolution in one
dramatic act, in which the Romanoff dynasty was
dragged from the throne. The representatives
of the Duma, assembled on a platform around
the empty throne, declared that Russia had
become a democracy. Then the curtain fell, and
the great plot was hidden again in the immensity



of a land with a shuddering setting of coldness,
of solitudes, where a wonder people breathe and
live in unrealized hopes and expectations. Since
the European War has brought the world within
grasping distance of the Russian people — the
good, strong, obedient masses — the idea has pre-
vailed, with a mingling of shyness and hope, that
Russia is awakening, that Russia is the land of
the future.

The Russian people have been awakened by an
event that has brought a new excitement into the
war, which after nearly three years had become
commonplace. That the czar could be dismissed
as if he were a tschinownik, or under-official, that
a few men, indifferent to the people yesterday,
could hold Russia in their hands, were at first
overwhelming thoughts. The masses do not
reflect, and the man who gave the word to hoist
the red flag was looked upon as so miraculous a
hero that the people enthusiastically enjoyed each
revolution-day, although on the next they might
awake to the sober consideration of why they
hoisted the flag of the people.

The "fundamental change," as it is called, is
not so fundamental as it appears. It is still a



victory of the officials and not of the people.
The men were not at home; they were fighting
at the front for the old regime, which ordered the
Great War. The people were not consulted.
The new order of things was dictated, and the
five heroes who started the revolution at the risk
of their ovni lives depend on the good-will of the
people. No one can imagine just what an
awakening of the Russian people will prove to
be. The millions of illiterates see in this awaken-
ing the wild intoxication of a liberty that could
make short work with their superiors. This lib-
erty could be cataclysmic, a terribly serious thing,
an elemental thing that would shake Russia to its

Russian history never has faced facts. It has
told only of tremendous greatness or tremendous
baseness, which has helped to increase the world's
curiosity. History elsewhere has shown with
mathematical sureness the renewing, the develop-
ment, of all the peoples of earth, as well as their
downfall; but it is a most disturbing truth that
history is not applicable to Russia.

Between Russia as it was and Russia as it will
be lies the moral cleft of centuries. That means



not the few men who awoke to a superhuman
courage and activity, — they have always been in
Russia; they have been aHve in the anarchists,
nihihsts, and terrorists, — it means the people, the
Russian masses, who were left in a state of primi-
tiveness of mind and who have been reared with
the poison of superstitious imagination. En-
hghtenment for the people was the lurking
danger for czarism, for the church. Even when
the individual barin was no longer permitted to
lift the whip, the big knout of czarism and the
church always swayed over the Russians. They
did not walk straight and erect as other people
walk; they crept along sleepily, dreamily, and it
was only what they dreamed that was known to
the outer world. Deeds were like the explosion
of compressed forces, the electrical outburst of
friction, occurring sporadically.

Previous upheavals in Russia have never led
to logical evolution toward civilization. Yet out
of the chaos of social, racial, and human problems
had grown this world's colossus, the most menac-
ing power in the European concert of nations.
But the colossus was on a clay pedestal. It was
an immense body whose members did not work



organically, because the brain had not the capac-
ity to coordinate. Events of the most horrid and
tragic consequences — wars, revolutions — have
convulsed from time to time one side of the bodv
without the other side taking any part in them.
People in the north of Russia have been kept in
darkness about their brothers in the south. They
have only the general ties of Slavism, without any
knowledge of one another ; yet through the whole
enormous body flows one red stream of sacred
Slavic blood. This war aroused this blood,
brought the people together; Pan- Slavism was
their sacred war-cry. Those of the north for the
first time saw their brothers of the south; they
sat side by side in the mud of the trenches, they
learned to know one another, they had the same
idioms, the same longing for home and children,
the same sufferings, and they were dying side by
side. They certainly were dying. By the hun-
dred thousands, ruthlessly, recklessly, they were
thrown into battle. Why not? Russia's human
storehouse is inexhaustible.

Revolution, with its terrible nihilism, has been
antipathetic to the world outside of Russia. It











I— I











was not the sound earth in which a democracy
could grow. Russia had to wait for a more
optimistic expression through which to make her-
self understood to civilization. Only the war
could bring about the solution of the Russian
problem, the simple adherence of the masses to
one single idea, to death or victory. Those two
words contain the power to awaken a people.
They gave strength to the strongest. The men
facing death gained the courage to bring forth a
new national life.

Nowhere else in the world have revolutions
been of so fantastic a character and of so short
duration as in Russia. The revolutions have told
the most dramatic stories ; they have always been
the revolutions of individual men, the great cries
of pained and suffering men and women who
endured physical tortures to free their brethren
from moral enslavement. They are the stories
of the wildest, the most amazing courage of men
who would fight bears without weapons. The
physical and mental strain which led to the chmax
of the deeds of these martyrs was so terrible that
they collapsed before their tasks were done, and



all was in vain. Everybody sank back to the old
slavery, and the heroic ones who were not sacri-
ficed took their deception into exile.

Does not it sound like a fairy-tale, the story of
the two young men who went to Kronstadt, the
fortress within five miles of Petrograd, and
organized the disorganized soldiers, who, singing
*'The Marseillaise," marched on a Sunday morn-
ing through the small streets of the fortress to
the casino, where the officers were sitting at Sun-
day dinner? The commandant and his officers
were frightened when they heard the soldiers
singing and saw them marching, led by two men
swinging the red flag. ''Revolution!" was the
paralyzing thought, and before the troops arrived
at the casino, the officers had fled from the for-
tress in boats, to announce to Petrograd the terri-
ble events taking place at Kronstadt. Not one
shot was fired. But the imagination of the
government officials was set on fire. The news-
papers printed details of the most terrifying
revolutionary movement, and nobody dared to
approach the fortress.

In the meantime, while waiting for develop-
ments, the young revolutionists gave the soldiers



a good time. Count Witte, who was then in
power, sent Prince Dolgoruky to the fortress
with a white flag. The two young heroes
received the prince and dictated the conditions:
the czar should proclaim freedom of speech and
press, the people should send representatives to
the imperial council, and the Duma should be
established. The prince, gracefully dismissed by
the youngsters, went back to Petrograd and
remained there a few days, while the most fantas-
tic reports about Kronstadt were spread in the
capital. Meanwhile the people looked with timid
admiration toward the fortress which stood
mysterious and silent on the bank of the Neva.
Again the prince returned to the fortress and
was received by the two revolutionists, to whom
he brought a document, signed by Count Witte,
in which the czar granted all that had been asked.
It was supposed that Kronstadt was full of revo-
lutionists ; and it was not imagined that the two
leaders were absolutely alone in possession of the
fortress, while the soldiers were enjoying their
vacation tremendously. The two leaders kept
Prince Dolgoruky for two days under guard,
while they escaped over Finland to Sweden and



thence to America, where one is still living.

The five leaders of new Russia, strong and
sincere in their holy zeal, have forgotten the
psychology of the people. The Russia of to-day
is a democracy to the outside world and to the
exiled, but not to the people. And this is the
pessimistic undertone that stifles all joy for the
wonderful change in Russia. In this revolution
the people as a whole were not the inspiring
element. The few at home had their share in it
— the excitement of killing, of threatening to
enter the houses of the nobles, which had been
forbidden sanctuaries to them. They could
arrest ministers, high court officials, the czar him-
self. Finally they raised the red flag on the
historic Winter Palace of the czar, where the
great Catharine, the people's idol, once lived.
Moreover, the holy synod, the great, mysterious
power of the church, was disrobed of its sanctity,
was exposed in its nakedness; its head, the
"Little Father," was disgraced.

Despite the tremendous deed of the five heroes
of new Russia the revolution was not eruptive
enough. It was too hesitating. First, the czar's



abdication was demanded in favor of the
czarevitch, with Michael as regent. Then, when
the czar had also abdicated for his son, Michael
was asked to accept the throne; and after
Michael, who was unwilling to pay the debts of
the dynasty with his head, decline^, the new
rulers wavered in their resolution to have no
throne at all. There was the weak point. They
were not organized. They were resourceful, but
they were not ready to remove all the old
machinery of government. Instead of consign-
ing the royal robe of czarism to a historical
museum and di'aping the young republic with
the ermine of power, crowning it with the fresh
enthusiasm of the people who had helped to
destroy the throne, the leaders made mistakes
they could not help making because they, too, like
the people, were Russians. Their wonderful
mentality, overdeveloped on one side, lacked sys-
tematic training. Unfortunately, it was not a
time for mistakes. In the first few days of hesi-
tation, of vain promises impossible to fulfil, it was
easy to lose what might never be regained. The
Russian people are like children. Take away



their doll, and they must have another plaything
to replace it, to hold their attention.

The first signal of the new epoch in Russia was
the killing of Rasputin, the peasant. A noble-
man killed him. It had been hammered into the
people's minds that Rasputin was the criminal
who had brought the country to the edge of an
abyss. The peasants hated Rasputin ; they were
never proud of his glory when he lived. He had
no right to hve like a prince in a palace; he was
no better than they. Why should a man who had
tramped through the villages, a sectarian who had
followers among the idle, a man who could neither
read nor write, exercise such power? They
could not imagine that it was the power of all of
them that Rasputin daringly represented as a
contrast to the weakened forces of the nobles.
But Rasputin was dead; murdered by a noble-
man. In their minds it was not the business of
a nobleman to kill a peasant. Rasputin should
have been judged by his own. They would have
killed him, too, if he was guilty of being a traitor
to holy Slavism.

Rasputin is dead, and the people will begin to
defend the peasant, even though, as they said, he



had misled the czar and the czarina and had taken
away vodka in an hour when it was most needed
to help the people in their distress. Rasputin is
dead, and that they do not have vodka they will
finally understand to be a good thing; instead of
vodka they now have money in the savings-banks,
enough to buy food for their families. But food
cannot be bought even with all the money that
their sons fighting at the front have sent home to
them. And the money cannot buy back their
slain children; it cannot restore their crippled.
Rasputin is dead, the Duma has punished even
the czar; but the scarcity of food still prevails,
the sons are not coming home, the enemy is still
on Russia's soil. Where are the promised won-
ders ?

The five leaders of the revolution are the living
torch flaming in the ashes of old Russia's hopes
— the torch which scorched despotism, and must
be kept burning b}^ the breath of the people.
Those who risked their lives as well as the lives
of the soldiers to transform Russia fundamen-
tally have the fault of their race, the sinister fault
of the Slavs — fanaticism, blind, tenacious fanat-
icism. They may exult in this fanaticism, which



gave the elemental strength of a Hercules or a
Samson, which made them start a revolution; but
they must do great things to sustain the sugges-
tion of invincibihty. They must have the magic
force to change the Tatar into a European, not
giving time to the Tatar to ask the primitive
question: If it was possible to dethrone a czar,
in whose name good and bad were done to the
people, in whose name will things be done now?
And if all will be done in the name of the people,
then every man has the right to make demands.
Like children annoying their parents and teach-
ers, they will ask much and tirelessly. And
what of the church wonders? When the Little
Father, the czar, could be sent away, and no other
czar took his place, can God be sent away, too?
Thousands of illiterates will begin to think, to
move, to ask their rights ; and the wonder-work of
the five who have forgotten how many centuries
it requires to educate a people to the balanced
state of mind for a democracy, is in serious

Despite all the efforts of the Government of
former Russia, most of the people again and
again refused to obey the imperative command



to industrialize their energies. They were
artisans or peasants; comparatively few were
working-men in factories. Now they will be
forced into the modern rut ; they will become like
the common people of the other countries, a dis-
gruntled result of industrialism, victims of the
machine. Worse than this, Russians will be a
dull people without the foreigners' mechanical
efficiency, deprived of their own native imagina-
tion, divorced from the mystical shyness of their
rehgion, and in misunderstanding struggle with
their new rulers. Their conception of life and
happiness is so different from that of other
nations that it cannot be understood by an Amer-
ican mind. Their joy partakes of an indolence
which has nothing to do with the dolce far niente
of the children of the sun, nor is it the fateful
nirvana or kismet of Oriental peoples. It is a
bodily and mental indolence coupled with a rest-
less and yearning soul eager for its redemption.
The climate has influenced the Russian. The
long nights and the frightful cold have increased
his dreamy laziness. A warm stove, the family
crowded together in one room, the boiling, com-
forting samovar, an ikon under a Httle burning



lamp, meditation upon the abstractions of life —
this is all that he has asked from his saints. In
this primitive uniformity his spirit has developed
into one single touching quality — patience.
There is a great power in patience that fast-
living people can hardly understand. It stores
up vast possibilities. Patience has caused the
simple Russian to create wonders of art com-

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Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 1 of 17)