Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

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parable with the masterpieces of Benvenuto
Cellini. The illiterate peasant has been happy
in his own way, and it will be a tragedy for him
when he is forced suddenly to live a life dictated
by the will of others.

It will be the greatest fight for the new rulers
to accustom Russian children to regular school-
work. Parents will revolt at the idea of having
children taught things which are all right for the
masters. And the children who learn how to read
and to write will gi^ow up to revolt against the
world. The patience that the parents had, no
longer existing with the children, will be replaced
in the new generation by the self-destroying urge
of anarchism, which will revenge lost, happy,
primitive conditions by turning on society.

In former Russia the poor felt less poor, less



humiliated than in other countries. True, they
seldom rose, they seldom left their original status.
The Russian people were strongly divided in the
classes which are mentioned by the laws ; nobility,
clergy, burgesses, merchants, artisans, and peas-
ants. And these classes again were strongly
divided in inherited and personal nobility, in
privileged burgesses and burgesses; but in prac-
tice only the nobility and the peasantry had
clearly defined rights and obligations that gave to
these two groups distinct class character.

The peasants confided their rights to the
nobility. This was the original idea of the
foundation of the zemstvos. The peasantry was
the first to have representatives for its interests
in the council. But the number of representa-
tives was fixed by a special law in a manner to
secure predominance for the representatives of
the nobility; in very few district zemstvos have
the peasants had the preponderance. Even in
this strong and broad-minded institution of Rus-
sia that Alexander II founded in 1864 the land-
owning nobles had great power, and the peasants
had to submit to their decisions.

Autocracy was the sun around which every-



thing circled. Blindly the people accepted it.
It was an established, a tested idea, and the crown
was necessary to this fantastic figure, which
embodied the magnificence of the Slavic imagina-
tion. The conception of the czar was absolutely
inseparable from the Russian picture. The new
rulers must have something great in store to
replace the superstition of majesty that was deep
in the people's soul.

Russia is struggling with her noblest forces out
of the century-old mysticism and nightmare
cruelties to the light of humanity. Five men,
among them one who has been a martyr for free-
dom, will help the country in these trying days.
They will dictate, they will condemn, and they
will judge.




Three years ago, at one of the resplendent
balls of the Club de la Noblesse, a foreign attache,
overwhelmed by the brilliant coloring, looked
around the vast ball-room, and watched the entrv
of a great grand duke with his suite, together
with numerous little grand dukes, garbed in
scarlet and gold or green and gold, their swelling
chests covered with decorations, and with dia-
mond-glittering orders suspended about their
necks on orange, black, or red ribbons.

Music trumpeted the sharp rhythms of the
polonaise, and the dancers, solely young officers
with their noble young ladies, advanced couple by

"One would suppose Russia to be a military
state," remarked the attache. * 'Uniforms every-
where. Do they mean merely show or do they
denote a new spirit for greater preparedness?"

Who would ever reply to a diplomat? In



Russia variegated uniforms always have been
preferred to dull black-and-white evening
clothes, which do not differentiate a gentleman
from his lackey. In training for the army the
youths of Russia's higher set were following their
sense of patriotic duty, and their love of dis-
tinguishing themselves from the bureaucratic
classes through bravery and elegance. It was
unthinkable that a young aristocrat should be
other than an officer, one of the splendidly trained
bodyguards or one of the highly admired convoys.
It was playing with arms without a deep con-
sciousness of its terrible significance, and the
uniform did not impose so great a degree of
importance as in some countries, notably Ger-
many, where it necessitates on the part of officers
rigid rules and restrictions.

In Russia a uniform is not sacred; it is seen
everywhere, even at night in the gay restaurants
and cabarets, and did not prevent an old general,
with all his decorations on the breast, from being
present in such a place and carrying a beautiful
young girl in his arms like a baby, gaily feeding
her from a bottle not containing milk! On the
contrary, the uniform in Russia protects its



wearer from his extravagances, which are indul-
gently tolerated because he is an officer.

Perhaps beneath the surface there was a deep
meaning in this frivolity on the part of Rus-
sia's army men. Perhaps they had a premoni-
tion of the tragedy to come. The play became
bitter reality. Alas! all those who lived and
waltzed in buoyancy and superabundance of
spirits, alert and slim in their regimentals, are
dead! The same trumpets that once blared the
polonaise now play for them the Danse Macabre.

On reflection, it is as if a new military idea was
behind that pomp and glitter; as if a new con-
sciousness was born in the youth of the country,
who felt the responsibility of the debt they owed
their native land — a debt contracted in the Russo-
Japanese War, lost through the ridiculous
arrogance of its leaders.

They went forth arbitrarily, every man a gen-
eral, convinced that the little yellow men of the
little antiquated island would furnish them game
for a hunting-trip, to be brought back like bears.
They even formed regiments independently.
Like ancient highwaymen, getting permission
from the czar, they went down to the River Don,



where the Cossacks lived, and equipped their men
fantastically, and adventurously started forth.
All the distractions of the capital followed;
Mukden and Port Arthur became a kind of
Coney Island.

Incredible as it seems, even the grandes dames
were allured by the adventure, following with
their servants, building amateur hospitals, and
hampering the Red Cross by good-natured con-
fusion, by their dilettantism and unfitness for the
serious task.

The provisions sent to the front never reached
their destination. The story of the Grand
Duchess Maria Pavlovna, who collected half a
million rubles to buy boots for the soldiers, was
one of the most notorious. The official to whom
the train carrying those longed-for articles was
confided held auction-sales at every big station!
From far and near people came to profit by this
rare occasion to buy cheap boots, till, when the
train finally reached Mukden, the soldiers,
eagerly opening those cars, found only empty
boxes !

Ah! the unpardonable sins of Port Arthur!

Instead of bagging their game, the Russians



put their feet into the wolf -traps of efficiency that
the Japanese had set in their strong, mathemati-
cal, modern warfare. Port Arthur was encir-
cled, starved; the hunters took the next Siberian
express home, deserting their men.

Russia's youth learned that the Japanese War
was the blackest spot in the military history of
the nation. They felt that they must wash it
clean when the next occasion arose.

A military spirit haunted the young officers;
the military party was its result, started first by
a few whose ambitions were awakened, and who
had learned that the time was past when other
nations could be frightened by the acrobatic
ability and the wild aspect of the Cossacks. The
military party grew and grew and became
mighty. The Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaie-
vitch headed it. From Bulgaria he brought
Radka Dimitrieff , a general who was his adviser
in the modern training of the army. And as no
party ever was created without becoming hungry
for deeds and losing its sense of proportion, it not
only "prepared," but longingly and fanatically
sought an opportunity for action.

Nicholas's first army act was to gather masses



of soldiers at the Austrian border, apparently not
for a short manoeuver, but as a permanent insti-
tution. The soldiers irritated and provoked with
their idle observation the Austrian soldiers who
were at the frontier in pursuance of duty.

This was in September, 1913. Critical days
followed. A clash with Austro-Hungary seemed
inevitable, especially in the light of the unsettled
Balkan questions. The news was alarming.

Nicholas passionately worked upon the czar
to declare war against Austria; but the czar,
thanks to the president of the ministry, Kokow-
zow, a peace man, who had not much faith in
Nicholas's organization, and to Rasputin, stood
steadfast. By special messenger the old Em-
peror of Austria sent a letter in his own hand-
writing to the czar imploring him to prevent war
between the two nations.

Every one was convinced that the dangerous
tension was past. Life went daily on its accus-
tomed course; on the surface all seemed serene.
Behind the scenes, however, feverish preparations
began. Nicholas secretly worked his machina-
tions. He paid visits to the Balkans, where his
father-in-law, the King of Montenegro, who was



always delighted to fish in troubled waters,
inflamed his ambitions for the Russian throne.
But the Russian crown was not to be gained
by Nicholas even through a cleverly plotted
assassination of the czar. There were other pre-
tenders. The King of Montenegro slyly sug-
gested that the only road to an overpowering
popularity for his son-in-law was to become a war
hero! The secret heart's desire of the grand
duke was fed by Mr. Iswolsky, the Russian am-
bassador in Paris. It was the same Iswolsky
about whom the representatives of other powers
said that it was repugnant to sit at the same
table with him. He longed to revenge a personal
matter that went back to the time when he led the
foreign affairs in Austria. Despite his resist-
ance and the interposed interests of Russia,
Count Berchthold, the former Austrian prime
minister, made a coup d'etat by the annexation of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, which Austria fostered for
more than twenty years. Iswolsky was dis-
missed for the failure of his mission, and made a
vow to revenge this incident and his personal
offended vanity.

He stirred up the fire of continuing and in-



creasing misunderstandings between the nations
when the Balkan questions were discussed
in Paris, and awoke in every diplomat the
unpleasant dread of a poison spider which is only
waiting for the proper moment to throw the cob-
webs of its miserable intrigues over Europe.
And so it was. How far his personal influence
went in the plot of Serajewo history perhaps will
reveal. Rubbing his hands, with a wide smile on
his broad, unpleasant face, he exclaimed when the
declaration of war was made public in Paris,
^'That's my little war!"

Promenading in the sunshine of Bordeaux,
enjoying life, he proudly entertained whoever
cared to listen with a recitation of the result of
his diplomatic slyness, while his brothers were
slaughtered by the milhon for the trick he played
on Austria.

The earth was prepared ; the seed was planted.
It was easy enough to accelerate events which
would shake Austria to action; to buy subjects in
Serbia, to murder the Crown Prince of Austria.
The first blood was shed, and its odor was as a
contagion, poisoning the excited minds of the
people. War was in the air ; everything breathed

r -




forth war. Nicholas Nicolaievitch became the
hero of the hour.

He changed the whole system in one day. He,
the general-in-chief of the army, commanded
everything, everywhere. No longer was there
the ministerial power of yesterday; the Duma's
opinion no longer counted. There was only
Nicholas. With him or against him? To be
against him was to be summarily executed. He
commanded the palace of the czar. The czar
himself was considered only a necessary figure-
head. He was locked up in the palace without
being allowed to see one of his old advisers. The
document, the declaration of war, lay on his desk
for him to sign. In his heart's depression he
stipulated with Nicholas to see Prince Schere-
metzeff, his oldest and most sincere friend, after
which he would sign the fateful paper.

On the morning of July 31 he sent for his old
friend, the prince. The czar's message never
reached the prince; that very morning he was
found dead in his bed.

The czar was broken by this news. He saw
not only his power strangled, but his own person.
When the grand duke entered with the ministers



and the generals of the great staff, the czar stood
erect, deadly pale, and set his name upon the
death-sentence of the people for the second time
during his reign. Nicholas Nicolaievitch had
triumphed. The excitement of the people was
tremendous. Vodka flowed in streams for the
lower classes, and champagne for the higher.
There followed a week-long madness and in-
toxication. The sight of the grand duke
brought about an artificially heightened enthu-
siasm amounting to a paroxysm. The day was

He returned to his palace and summoned the
generals, and they sped in gala attire to pay their
tribute to the victor to be. The entire staff
waited in the imposing reception-room; the sun-
light floated through the high windows, reflecting
prism-like the gold-and-be jeweled uniforms of
those representatives of the high Russian war
council. Imposing in their appearance, con-
vinced of their own greatness and indispensabil-
ity, they stood in rows, expectancy on their faces
and in their hearts, hoping that in the next room a
rich buffet would reward them for their heavy



The door flew open, and the grand duke
entered, tall and slim, towering over all others.
He glanced at them with haughtiness, cold reso-
lution in his eyes. He was accompanied by his
private adviser, the Bulgarian general. He
paused in front of the assembled staff and said in
a voice which whistled through the air like a

"I merely wish to say to you that any one who
steals will be hanged."

Thus he spoke, then turned, and left the room,
the lobster-red generals remaining behind. The
audience was over. Nicholas had in his generals
eighteen bitter enemies the more, who, instead of
being his supporters, were to become his curse.

Why will the Russians never be victorious?
A little incident like this, with its overbearing
impertinence and conceit of the born autocrat,
will forever disturb Russia's path to conquest.
What Nicholas did to his direct subordinates each
does to those beneath him in revenge for his own
humiliation, and to exercise his power over others.
So on down to the lowest soldier, the higher
always uses the whip over the lower, while he
cringes before his own superior.



It is the eternally vicious circle. Every one
studies the weak points of the man above him,
and plays upon them with bribes of every variety.
With a few exceptions all are selfish egotists, not
working for the national cause, but for their own

Nicholas thought that his iron fist could
enforce discipline. He punished pitilessly the
smallest mistakes. His flatterers made capital
out of this, and sought out other men's errors and
reported them to him. Without any distinction
as to rank he punished, whipping with his own
hands generals who had lost battles. And they
lost, lost constantly. He dismissed the serious
ones, putting new, unfit, and inexperienced men
into high positions as leaders. Never did he alter
his own omnipotent ideas, but regarded himself
as a war god, sacrificing to his own stubborn
belief in his infalhbihty the best blood of the

They were well prepared, the proudest regi-
ments imaginable. The flower of Russian youth
had rushed into the first battles with high enthu-
siasm, and with the determination to show to the
world how the youth of Russia would win the



war. All are buried in the swampy lakes of
Masuren, the hope, the pride of their country.

All of the young, trained officers were killed,
and there were no others to replace them. The
officers of the reserve, who had had only one year
of training, were put into places of responsibihty
and sent to the front as leaders. After six
weeks' training students were given rank and
sent to lead the soldiers.

What were the consequences of this military
hodge-podge? Generals were dismissed, and
some of them were sent to Siberia; others com-
mitted suicide, and the grand duke himself was
shot at by two officers. General Sievers shot at
him when he raised his famous whip, but failed.
Another young officer, the adjutant of the gen-
eral who lost the fortress at Brest-Litovski, in
bringing the news to the grand duke was slapped
in his face. Not willing to endure this humilia-
tion, he took his revolver, and wounded the grand
duke in his arm. With a second bullet he killed


Instead of acknowledging those terrible mis-
takes, Nicholas hissed and with each lost battle
saw only the vanishing of his personal ambition.



Nevertheless he still remained the war god for
those at home. They dreamed of Russia's
unlimited extension. They had only to cross the
Black Sea to Constantinople, and capture Aus-
tria and Hungary, to open the door to the Bal-
kans from the other side. On the day when the
fortress Przemysl was taken the Russian capital
prepared a celebration for Nicholas, as if the
war's decision had already rung for victorious

In the procession after the solemn service at
the cathedral, under the shadow of the conquered
flags, Nicholas marched alone, triumphant. In
front of him marched the slim little czar, who,
serious and worried, glanced at the cheering
people. His poor people! He bent his head,
and let Nicholas have all the credit. He knew
better; he knew the inside history, and at what a
price this single victory had been bought, and he
decided that very day to remove this pitiless,
aspiring figure, his uncle Nicholas Nicolaievitch.

Still unaware, Nicholas returned to head-
quarters. The enemy prepared the great drive
into Poland, chasing the grand duke's soldiers
before them. Nicholas's star grew paler and


paler, and was extinguished forever when the
immense fraud of one of his creatures, Sukhom-
Hnoff, the minister of war, was revealed to the


In the first year of the war vast stores of
ammunition and equipment were squandered,
and the regiments were deprived of the necessi-
ties for continuing the fighting. In blind rage
Nicholas ordered the unspeakable stratagem of
throwing the weaponless soldiers into the first
firing-line. There is no other war in history in
which such cold-blooded cruelties were commit-
ted as those that the grand duke forced on the
Russian people.

With his medieval conceptions, he built his
false sovereignty on top of the writhing bodies of
men; but it was washed away by the floods of the
shamelessly shed blood and the tears of all the
mothers who sent their sons to fight for the
beloved country.

The czar dismissed Nicholas as the general-in-
chief of all the armies, appointing himself to this
position, and sent Nicholas to the obscurity of the
Caucasus. There he will have time and leisure
to awake from his dream to the consciousness of



his sins, for which he will have to answer before
the High Judge, not having been sentenced on

The spy and traitor stories which every war
brings forth are nowhere so exciting, so incredible,
and so tragic as in Russia. Traitors are always
found in high positions, with no other aim than
greed for money. Plans worked out in the Rus-
sian general staff brought one of the greatest vic-
tories to the enemy wholly on the basis of those
plans. This gave to the enemy the greatest
advantage. The investigation was confided to

Colonel D , who was one of the most reliable

men in the whole army. He was for many years
a colonel at the German-Russian frontier, and
was well known and decorated for his tact, his
discipline and his clever knowledge of German
activities. It was he who helped the army cross
the frontier at a point where the Germans never
expected it. It was he who directed the first
little invasions into East Prussia; and it was he
who was also courteously asked by the Germans
not to destroy the kaiser's hunting-lodge, Romin-
ten, where before the war he had often been the
kaiser's guest.


It was amazing; nobody could explain it.
How could the enemy get hold of those plans,
elaborated to the last detail?

It is the eternal psychology of overdoing
cleverness and of sleeping surety. The colonel
felt himself so safe that he neglected prudence;
suspicion turned on him. He was called to head-
quarters, which did not disquiet him, as that
happened often enough, and without the least
presentiment he entered the room of the grand
duke. He was arrested on the spot in so brutal a
manner that he lost his exterior calmness, marvel-
ously guarded for years, and falling on his knees,
he cried for mercy, promising to deliver all the
officers who took part in the immense intrigue
that betrayed the country and caused a great loss
of life.

Grace was promised him, and he named the
young officers, all his subordinates. Thirty were

In his trial he protested against his arrest,
because he fooled the enemy in selling antiquated
plans, never practicable for the Russians, because
the Germans had entirely changed the roads, one
of Hindenburg's tricks.



Nevertheless he was hanged, with his thirty
poor subordinates. All those who have passed
the frontier will remember the elegant, polite
man, liked by every one. The man and the
frontier have disappeared forever.

After the dismissal of Nicholas, the czar
showed a personal activity and an intrepidity
which deeply impressed his people. Recruits
drawn from the remotest parts of Russia, who
had imagined their czar, but never personified
this holiest of their fictions, were presented to him
as his troops, and heard his voice, really a simple
human voice, which spoke fatherly words to them
and blessed them. In such an hour the Russian
people were willing to be cut in two for their
"Little Father."

Despite mismanagement and demoralization
on the part of the leaders, the soldiers have
accomplished wonders in bravery and self-sacri-
fice. Here and there a military light has shone
through the darkness of ignorance and con-
sciencelessness, and thus far conditions have been
far better under the czar's own command. A
fine man like General Brusiloff had been sup-
pressed in the first period of the war. But what



can the finest mind achieve in the field when
everything in the background is inefiiciency?
Although the administration started with the
best intentions, as in the other fighting countries,
to organize ammunition plans and offices for
emergencies and investigations, thorough disor-
ganization resulted. The officials were unfit,
lazy, and without any comprehension of the tre-
mendous fact that the big wheel of state must
stop if the least tiny bit of machinery slips a cog.
They always supposed that the loosening of a
small screw would never be noticed, and when
the whole mechanism suddenly stopped no one
could find where the difficulty lay.

The same naivete of perception regarding the
needs of the soldiers was obvious when the word
was given out that the men badly needed under-
wear. A great collection was arranged by the
women, and the articles freely and generously
contributed included innumerable silk, lace-
trimmed nightgowns and underwear — elegant
women's trousseaux!

For years the leaders have prepared minutely
at the green table the most exact plans and maps
for war. They could not fail, for the reckoning



was right. Their reigments really were wonder-

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Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 2 of 17)