Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

. (page 17 of 17)
Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 17 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

people have. They have not a czar in America;
they have a President. He is like a czar, and yet
he is not. He is not the father of his people.
He is not loved ; he is not hated. He is the head
of a great business. Russians can not grasp the
idea that the state is a tremendous business pro-
position. They are old fashioned, and think
there must be some superhuman being who knows
all about the people, the omnipotent one who
rewards and who punishes. The Russian mind
is strongly directed to the unit, to the one of the



great number, which is responsible for the httle
numbers that form the big figures. They must
have this one. The czar had not a position; he
had a mission. But a PresidentвАФ how can he be
popular, and how can people beheve in his final
decision, when before his election they stripped
him of all his good quahties, because a part of the
people belonged to a political party that favored
another man? And how is it possible, so the
Russian ponders, to look up to a man who was
not elected because he was the wisest and strong-
est, but because the party who elected him was
stronger, had more money, or had better fighters?
The President's own party has to pull together
the stripped figure and show his capacity as a
whole. Each new figurehead must first struggle
against all kinds of prejudices among the people
who accepted him or rejected him. When finally
he has begun to win confidence, to be a man of his
own personality, of his own color, when he has
ceased to be a figurehead, the battles begin again
for a new man. And this they call democracy.
This might be possible for a country like Amer-
ica, where the people were first before they had
their rulers, where the people settled from old



countries from which they brought knowledge of
everything that history taught them. The set-
tlement of America began only when Russia still
had her czar.

It is very difficult to take away from the Rus-
sian the idea that the czar was the man next to
God, that he had to be crowned with a heavy
diadem of gold and costly stones, that he had to
be draped in a purple robe bordered with ermine,
that splendor distinguishes him from other
mortals. When this man, sometimes kind and
generous, stepped down from his golden throne
and condescended to the people, great miracles
were achieved ; victories were won where the czar
showed himself. The Russians worshiped this
mysterious force, and that made of them the
devoted, the imaginative, the patient people.

The Russian people look to-day on the five
heroes of the revolution as the link that connects
the Russia of yesterday with the Russia of
to-morrow. They have a childlike confidence in
those five. They see in them their own force
reflected, a force never known before, and they
accept the ^ve as those who will prepare young
Russia for to-morrow.



The Russians would not talk of a republic.
They were afraid before this denial of their
holiest convictions. The five who first headed
the new Government were wise enough to call
themselves "provisional." They know why.
These rulers will have to answer, and they will
disappoint the people, whom they hurried into
tremendous changes, from whom they took away
the illusion that beyond enslavement exists a con-
tentment on earth. As a substitute for the czar
the five must provide for to-morrow an equal
grandeur for the people's soul, which still is the
Russian soul that they would not sacrifice for
the comfort of the body. The meaning of the
Russia of to-morrow for the people can be felt
only through a deep knowledge of the Russian

The Russian as an individual man did not
bother much about the blessings that the five
bestowed first so hberally. Personally he had
nothing to do with the question of religious free-
dom. If sects appeared or disappeared, that
was merely a matter of a few who fanatically
believed in a new Messiah. The Russian knew
that every one has to suffer for his faith, and a



faith would not be worth while if there was no
suffering for it. Christ died for mankind.
Christ was the great martyr. The man who
preaches a new faith must know that he, also,
will be a martyr some day; that belongs to his
holy vocation. If a man who proclaims a new
faith has not the courage to die for that faith,
then the faith is wrong. The Russian Church
did not want the sectarians ; she did not want the
Jews, who are a strong race, a convincing race, a
race that has had its martyrs, which still has its
martyrs. In the Russian people is a holy respect
for everything that has suffered for a conviction,
and if they object to the Jews as a race, they
respect their faith.

The Russia of to-morrow means more for the
Russian than political freedom. Even in the
darkest days of old Russia the human being felt,
as nowhere else, rest for the soul. Nothing was
ridiculed, neither imagination nor utopianism.
The soul could expand; it could laugh and cry.
Human sins met nowhere else such kindly, sym-
pathetic understanding. Nowhere else was there
such fertile earth for fantastic ideas. Freedom
for Russia means more than the simple liberties


which are permitted in other democracies, where,
for utihtarian reasons, the people are able to
rule themselves, where the people recognize
restrictions which are necessary for maintaining
pubhc order, and where the exceptional cases are
punished. In Russia are too many exceptions,
and the first disappointment for the Russians
will come through the simple laws to which
every man has to submit for the sake of the

There will be many little revolutions growing
out of the varying opinions of what freedom
means. In Russia live many persons who never
have been connected with political movements.
These will demand other reforms, a different sort
of freedom. The Slavic fantasy is so extensive
that every man in Russia has his own dream,
which he will want fulfilled, and every man will
rush to the new rulers to make his own demands.
When the busy ministers will not have special
time for him, the Russian will go back home to
tell his fellow-men that such a thing as freedom
does not exist, and that he prefers to be ruled by
a czar, who had a regular cabinet, with many men
employed to listen to petitions, rather than to be



snubbed by men of the people who think them-
selves the new autocrats.

It is a fact that the cabinet of the czars at which
petitions were received was hke a little govern-
ment of itself. Catharine the Great desired to
meet all petitioners, to look into demands per-
sonally, and to grant them or to explain why
they could not be granted. She had to give up
this plan, and she appointed three high officials
as state secretaries to communicate with peti-
tioners "kindly, patiently, indulgently"; but
sealed letters addressed privately and confi-
dentially to "His Majesty's own hand" reached
the sovereign without intervention.

Czar Paul tried to imitate Catharine and made
every effort to come into contact with the people,
who went to the palace. To facilitate the receiv-
ing of petitions, a large iron box painted yellow
was attached to one of the windows on the gTound
floor of the Winter Palace in Petrograd. This
box had to be opened by the state secretary and
the contents submitted to the czar. Some peti-
tions were so absurd that they were partly torn
and returned through the postoffice. Others
were pubhshed in the St. Petersburg "Gazette,"



with the reasons for refusal. In 1799 this same
Czar Paul was so eager to meet all demands from
his people that he issued a ukase forbidding the
presentation of unreasonable requests; but it
gradually became impossible to prolong the box
method of communication.

In the time of Alexander I a commission of
appeals was establishe

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17

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