Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

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great difference between Russia and America,
that Russia has no care for the masses, only for
the individual man. This has expanded in the
Russian a finesse of art, hterature, and music,
and for the Russian only. What a tremendous
value must lie in this individual art ! What great
charm the Russian art must exercise over Amer-
icans when they feel a longing to penetrate to the
soul of a people! It is this that Russia gives to
America for the stimulus of energies that Amer-
ica bestows on her. In the closer approach of
the two peoples lie enormous possibilities.

The Russian cannot be Americanized, and this
is the great advantage. The race always takes to
America its originality and will keep that orig-
inality even when the heart is remote from Rus-
sia. With great simplicity and sincerity the
Russian marches in the columns of America's
immigrants. He never disturbs his neighbor,
and is more intelligent than the Jew. Like the
American, he is tenacious in business, and trading
with the Russian is still a disquieting puzzle.
Even though many things may be changed now,
neither the Russian merchant nor his character-



istics in trading can be changed. There is one
remarkable hkeness between the American and
the Russian: both are Uke children who always
seek to get the bigger end. The American is
even slower in his business resolutions — if it is
business and not gambling — than the Russian.
The American talks business without talking
business. He talks over and over things, and
has the same time to waste as the Russian. The
Russian shows that he is in no hurry, while the
American always piles up appointments, appar-
ently to keep him busy. The Russian has one
business in mind, and he pursues it tenaciously
and frankly. It must be known that the Russian
does not believe in business carte blanche; there
must be some tricks in it, or it would not be busi-
ness. And with all his honesty, a Russian would
not admit any advantage that might lie in a
business for him.

Russians never will have trustees. They have
cooperative companies, which buy necessary
materials more easily and more quickly than the
individual man. The cash — a Russian never has
cash. He has property, but to get cash he has
to borrow or sell. The whole Russian mercantile



business is based on a system of long credit. It
is hard for an American to understand this, but
it is harder to accustom the Russian to pay cash.
It is even a danger for a Russian to have a certain
amount of money at his disposal. He immedi-
ately buys what he likes and not what he needs.
This is the reason that the Jews and the Germans
had such a good time trading with the Russians.
They knew the national weak point and played
on it. The German merchant always had in his
shop what the Russian liked, and if the Russian
went to buy what he needed, at the same time he
bought something he liked. The German wrote
it in the big book, and the Russian never needed
cash. Sometimes the Russian's whole harvest
was taken away, or his sheep or wood or horses, to
give him a new sheet in this big book. The Rus-
sian was never much bothered about this. It will
be different in America ; he will buy only what he

But Russia needs many, many things very
badly. Russia's little towns are in a state of
touching primitiveness, more than romantic, less
than endurable. Besides a broad comfort, a
waste of space, — ^this is perhaps something that



would be adequate to American proportions, — is
a lack of hygienic institutions worse than in Italy
and httle better than in the Orient. The streets
are seldom paved, and in bad weather it is impos-
sible to leave the house without danger of being
drowned in masses of dirt and mud. The houses
are kept warm by immense stoves, and most of
them are lighted by oil-lamps which smell bad.
It is regarded as a crime to let in fresh air; the
houses are not heated for storm and wind, the
inhabitants declare. The windows are plastered
with papers, only a small pane being left so that
it can be opened. In this atmosphere of himian
breaths, of cigarettes, of Russian leather, and of
cabbage soup the Russians live through the whole
winter and until late in the spring. Only when
the sun begins to ripen the wheat are the windows
opened and is the winter spirit let out. This is no
exception at all ; it is the normal state of the Rus-
sian town. The water is not di^inkable; in the
bath-tubs, which naturally never exist in the
average Russian house, it looks brown and

The Russians have their communal bath-
houses, with showers in the steam-heated rooms,



where they lie on wooden benches. Every Sat-
urday whole families, men, women, and children,
march to the bath-houses with their samovars and
big, round loaves of black bread. There they
remain for hours and hours not only bathing, but
washing their clothing, which can be quickly
dried in the warm rooms, and ready to be put on
again. They chat, drink their tea, and the
weekly bath is as much an entertainment to the
Russian as the motion-picture is to the American.

In Russian towns there is usually neither
plumbing nor sewer. Infectious diseases, such
as typhoid fever and cholera, are prevalent, and
the Russian patiently endures them. That is
what life brings, and no one can change it.

The houses of the peasants are indescribably
worse than those of the middle class in poverty,
uncleanliness, and bad air. Yet the peasants are
not so poor, not so primitive, not so helpless as
they appear; they are only hopelessly lazy.
They would like to have all conditions changed,
but they do not know where to begin first.
They need a Russian- American Cleaning Com-
pany; it would pay wonderfully.

Those who are to-day at the head of the Gov-



ernment know exactly the conditions of the
country; they have studied them. It is to be
hoped that they will not make the mistake made
by former governments, and, instead of institut-
ing radical reforms, send commissions to investi-
gate. This would take years, and the people,
still living in old filthiness, would not readily
open their minds to the demands of a new Russia.
The bodies must be freed before the spirit can
work properly.

America should investigate. America should
send out commissions to make necessary changes.
America's prosperity resulting from the war
could become a peace prosperity, the result of
constructive work instead of destructive work.
This would assure more peace in the world than
anything else. If America would go into Rus-
sia, it would become a matter-of-fact Russia, and
not the country for which every other nation has
a big scheme — to exploit it or to ruin it. But
America will not see in Russia a country for
colonization; it will be merely an outlet for
American pragmatism. The American would
have the Uberty to work out in Russia ideas that
in his own country are sometimes hampered by



the trust system, enslaving in another way and
retarding the development of a free trade. The
Russian hates the idea of trusts ; to him they seem
nothing but a despotism limiting free commerce.

•In the immensity of his country the Russian
has created his islands of trade, v^hich have stead-
ily flourished, old-fashioned, but sure. The big
fairs are held with regularity every year, and
with the same regularity represent the same mer-
chant names. When the fathers die the sons
succeed them. And between these merchants is
mutual confidence. They have the proud con-
viction that they are providing the country from
the farthest east to the west, from the north to
the south.

Every year in Nijni-Novgorod, the commercial
heart of Russia, all the thousand little streams of
labor from all parts of the country converge.
The annual fair is the most fantastic, the most
primitive, the greatest demonstration of indus-
trial Russia. AU Russia gathers to buy and to
sell. Nijni-Novgorod becomes a place of pil-
grimage to which all bring their year's work. It
never deceives. In the Russian's mind it always
will remain the great, benign spot from which



their fathers and grandfathers brought home
wealth or economic independence.

In Russia is far more wealth than Americans
imagine, not over-night wealth, not the dazzling
heights of multi-millions, but a solid, established
wealth, with the old-fashioned habit of keeping
money in a trunk that is hidden somewhere, or
investing it in land where treasure is deep in the
earth or where there is enough timber to heat big
Russia. The Russian is superstitious concern-
ing everything that Hes undergi^ound. The
forces that have slept since eternity cannot be
liberated without the tribute of human victims
who try to hft the mysterious treasures to the
daylight. It is difficult to get a Russian to labor
beneath the earth. There lurk dangers unknown
to him — dangers that he cannot meet with the
courage of a man, that he cannot fight, avenging
dangers, mythical dangers, which still exist in
imagination. Russia never has had volcanoes or
earthquakes, and the Russian, who knows that in
other parts of the world towns disappear, is of
the strong conviction that it is because the slum-
bering forces beneath the ground have been dis-
turbed in their quiet secrecy. With all his super-



stition, the Russian is shrewd enough to buy such
a piece of land. Often he lies down on the
ground with his ear close to the earth; he listens,
and it seems to him that he can hear the spirits
that would lure him to free them.

It happens that a simple man makes a journey
from the Caspian Sea to the capital with a bit of
sulphur in his pocket. A traveler has told him
that the piece of land he owns is of the greatest
value on account of the yellow stone that lies all
around his mountain like a crown. Yes, he him-
self has seen this strange glimmering in the sun-
shine, and has liked it very much to look at, and
sometimes he has had the idea it might be gold.
Men laughed at him, and showed him how soft it
was. Then he understood that it was not gold.
But the traveler told him it could be changed into
gold. In the capital he shows the piece of sul-
phur to a man at the inn, and the man takes him
about ; everybody seems amazed. But it requires
much money to have all those fellows around, and
at last, tired of all the promises, and having spent
all his rubles for a stupid dream, he goes back,
leaving the piece of sulphur with his address. So
the valuable specimen may He forgotten some-


where, for the Russian is usually too indo-
lent to form a company for exploiting latent

So it is everywhere in Russia. From the Cas-
pian Sea to the White Sea, through Siberia, the
Caucasus, and the Ural Mountains, gold-mines,
copper-mines, iron-mines have been opened, and
the half finished work deserted because, first of
all, the ofiicers of the companies generally stole
the money necessary for development. The
absolute lack of organization usually destroyed
any effort to disclose Russia's mineral resources.
Even the coal-mines in the Donetzky district
have been closed because filters were needed for
the impregnated waters. Sometimes a mining-
fever crazed Russia, and then companies were
hurriedly formed to exploit some newly dis-
covered virginal district. Such work has been
started with all the scientific skill of Russian
engineers; but after a short time enthusiasm
waned in the face of unexpected obstacles or on
account of the severe cold, too much solitude, or
lack of amusements, and finally the Russian
comes to the conclusion that life is too short to
bother with mines in the wilderness. Most of



the successful mining companies are therefore
French, English, and Belgian.

What Russia has not produced for herself in
iron and coal England, Germany, and even
Poland sent to her cheaper and without trouble.
It is known that only one-fifth of Russians per
capita need for iron is covered by domestic pro-
duction. The oil-fields in Baku were unex-
ploited until the Swedish engineer Nobel
obtained large concessions. English companies
have been recently organized that control many
thousand acres. All these mineral lands
belong to the crown, and will now be free to
benefit the Russian people.

It should be understood that labor and skill are
not lacking in Russia ; what is needed are money
and organization. Americans can achieve won-
ders by engaging Russian engineers and furnish-
ing necessary capital. Russian propositions,
when presented to Americans, are often declined
for the reason that Americans have enough op-
portunities in their own young country. But
Americans are confronted by the labor problem,
which unquestionably will hinder them more in
the future than in the past, on account of reduced



immigration owing to the wholesale man-
slaughter in the European War, and, as the
colonization of Chinese and Japanese is pro-
hibited, the working of mines will be limited. In
the meantime America's great ability in organiz-
ing and financing should be employed for the
benefit of Russia and to the ultimate advantage
of her own industries. In former Russia it was
difficult to procure proper treaties. To-day the
new order is too young, too effervescent, to make
possible any conclusion as to how much better
conditions will be. In any case, they could not
be worse for foreign interests.

There is much more money in Russia since the
war than there ever has been, because of the
abolition of vodka and the savings of the soldiers.
In 1915 the increase of deposits was more than
one billion rubles. Despite all the killed, the
crippled, and the missing men in Russia, there is
still a flourishing manhood among the people, an
inexhaustible store of health, patience, and good-
will. And there are the Jews, who in masses
will overflow Russia after all restrictions are
removed. They will grasp the possibilities well
known to them. They will take back to Russia


their keen intelligence and penetrating mentality.
With characteristic perseverance they will take
from Russian hands the reins of commerce, and
Russia will be ruled by Jewish capital. Jew-
ish industriahsm will trimnph over Russian
national indolence. A vast field of activity is
open for the Jew until the American intervenes
with his strong, clear initiative.

It is easy to handle the Russian laboring
classes since the abolition of vodka. In former
times the Russian's reason w^as always drunk;
to-day he will be amenable to sound arguments,
and he who has been enslaved for centuries should
not be left to his own childlike decisions. He
cannot dispose of himself to-day ; he is absolutely
helpless if not directed. It is a conscientious
duty to direct the free Russian workman and
peasant in the right way. This is the ethical
task that America will have to carry out — the
task of the mother democracy to educate the
j^oung country, which suddenly from darkest
autocracy has come into the light of freedom.

There is a great danger for the leaders as well
as for the people ; both will lose their sense of pro-
portion. They will do things that will make



them regret the liberty they have attained, and
the result may be that, tired and exhausted, they
will prefer to be again under the knout of gov-
ernors or police merely to have somebody who
knows exactly what they should do. It is the
hour for America to help Russia, even though
America has her own struggles. But America is
so energetic, so wonderfully equipped, that she
could help the new Russia organize, help her
stand on her feet, not as a menacing colossus, but
as a gigantic power guided by the spirit of light.
Russians have a boundless confidence in Amer-
icans. They know that Americans are not
despotic, that they are thoroughly practical, with
an utilitarian ideal. They know that there is no
danger that Russia will become a dependent
colony of the United States, or that American
influence could annihilate Russia's own interests.
Americans have many times sought trade with
Russia, and have met such entirely different com-
mercial conditions that, discouraged, they have
given up ; even in time of need the American and
the Russian have come together in trade only
through English, German, or Swedish inter-
mediaries. The Russian peasant knew not only



that he could emigrate to America, but he knew
about American machinery, the technical won-
ders that had been brought to Russia by the
zemstvos for work in the fields. American
mechanical skill has always been a great stimulus
for the inventive spirit of Russia. If a people is
able to invent all sorts of machinery to save
human labor, why should not the Russian, who
loves to work artistically and to invent all kinds
of miniature objects just for his own pleasure,
be able to direct big things? Few know how
many Russian inventions have gone into the
world, even to America. The Germans know.
They value Russian ideas, utilize them, and
present to the Russian, ready-made, what he has
thought out. America also knows something
about the efficiency of Russian engineers. It
would be the greatest mistake if Americans who
take up the tremendous railroad problems of Rus-
sia imagine that American engineers could solve
them. The Russian knows his own country and
its labor conditions. Americans will take their
ideas into Russia, and these will be an obstacle in
the way of success. All Americans have to do is
to use their precise and strict methods of business



organization, their sure and solid systems of
finance, and Russia will reward them by supply-
ing raw materials cheaper than America, with
her high cost of labor, can produce them.

America will discover that immigration from
Russia and Poland will cease completely after
the war. Jews, workmen, and intellectuals will
rush back home again, to be near when free
Russia shows the power of her strong limbs.
To-day she shows only an acrobatic virtuosity;
she gives an amazing performance without the
assurance that the "pyramid of the five," who
now form the government will be really the pillar
upon which the well-being of the whole country
can rest. While America congratulates Russia
on her rise, America still lacks confidence ; she is
afraid that in commercial relations Russia may
have unknown traps. America waits for Russia
to come to her, and this is a mistake. She should
go to Russia, and then will understand Russia.
Now she is interested without having any vital
part in Russia's commerce. She cannot see her-
self seriously connected with Russia without the
help of the English, who now guarantee the pay-
ment for everything that Russia purchases in



America. England does not perform this serv-
ice to Russia for love only, and America would
be amazed by an exact estimate of the good profit
lost to her in thus always having a broker between
her and Russia. In former years Germany did
tjiis work. She imported into Russia a tremend-
ous amount of American machinery, because the
Russian was stubborn, and would not accept
German manufactures even though much
cheaper. Germany sold to the Russians Ameri-
can products at high profits on long credit.

The American financial genius must find ways
and means of compromising with Russian com-
mercial ideas. The two nations must come
together in a pacifist union, the world's trade.
Japan is the most dangerous competitor. With
English support, Japan now supplies Russia,
but those who know the Russian realize that the
close union with Japan is temporary and caused
only by war conditions. The Russian peasant is
not inclined to trade with the Japanese. He is
afraid, he is superstitious. To him there is
something sinister about the Japanese, too
stereotyped, too polite. In the mind of the sim-
ple Russian still remains the memory of the "hell-



stories" of the Russo-Japanese War, the tales of
the thousand devils who are like leeches sucking
the heart's blood of the people. With all the
effort that Japan is putting forth, she never will
be popular in Russia, and though the Russian is
patient, he finally shakes off other races he does
not trust.

The Russian does not trust the Jews. It was
not only the former regime which drove the Jews
out of Russia. It was the people, the idiosyn-
crasy of the people. The unlimited colonization
of the Jews in free Russia will be hard for the
Russians to accept. The Russian has a race
hatred for the Jew; he cannot help himself, and
it is stronger than his democratic sense of duty,
which bids him accept them as brethren. The
peasant knows only the Jews who nag him.
Although the Jews were not in power, they found
a thousand ways to force a strangling money sys-
tem on the Russians. The Russian people have
never fully estimated the Jewish intelligence,
which is antipathetic to them. The receptiveness
of the Jews, which absorbed the Russian's ideas,
turned into money what had lain idle in the Rus-
sian's brain, ideas guessed or dragged out in an



hour when the Russian was drunk from the vodka
which a Jew had sold to him. The Jews took
advantage of all the Russian's weak poinjts to
the uttermost. They were the white slavers of
Russia, and played on the Russian's worst
instincts. The peasants never will forget this
influence. But these were the oppressed Jews
of the past, the avenging Jews.

America will seem to young Russia more and
more a redeeming factor, after all the terrible
experiences of the war, through which she had to
dance to various melodies played by her allies.
Not by France. Russians worship the French
because in their historic memory the French were
the people who even in defeat left the unforget-
able impression of chivalry. Can America see
her moral advantage in Russia? Can she see
that she will be received with open arms and open
hearts? The Russians who will go back to their
country will fomi the first bridge for trade
understandings. Even if the Russian became a
citizen of the United States when he had no hope
of a free Russia, he will go back, and he will take
with him the simple joy of working and a strict
sense of duty, which is not taught in America by



a knouting superintendent, but by the necessity
of keeping up with life. The Russian knew that
when he was not at work on time there was
another man waiting to take his place ; he was not
missed, only sneered at. It is easy to get
employment in America. No questions are
asked; it is not any one's concern why a man
works, only how he works.

It is a great mistake that the United States of
America postponed the estabhshment of broad
and close business relations until after the war.
It may be too late. Free Russia may be under
the economic domination of others not so advan-
tageous either for Russia or America. Russia
wishes nothing better than to give her enormous
contracts and orders to Americans, who could
then employ the Japanese as sub-contractors.
American capital should be invested in Russia's
big railway propositions, which will be guaran-
teed by the state and would assure big dividends.
America should send out experts to investigate
mineral lands and to start mills and factories.
Propaganda concerning Russia's business fu-
ture should inspire quick action not only for
Russia's sake, but for the expansion of American



interests in Russia. The American spirit is the
only acceptable commercial spirit for Russia and
the only one not destructive, not likely to under-
mine and to overthrow the national prosperity.
The clean, clear point of view of the American
will bring into the confusion of Russia's business
ideas precision and practicability.

The question is. How far will Americans adapt
themselves to Russian characteristics? The Rus-
sian in a foreign country has the innate amiability
not to make himself conspicuous by his patriot-
ism; he bothers no one with the misery his heart
suffers in his exile. For this reason Americans
may have the mistaken conception that a Russian

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Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 11 of 17)