Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

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fully trained and of wonderful physique; their
military storehouses were filled with the best and
richest war material. All was done in the best
style possible; nowhere were there petty econo-
mies ; whatever modern warfare had invented was
bought up by the Russians ; and they went to the
front a proud train of fully equipped, self-con-
scious, and brave men. The men are artists in
building trenches and fortifications. They are
blindly obedient, they are patient, and they are
sober. They are healthy and can endure hard-

The decisive moment arrives, and they fail;
the machine does not work. How explain this?
And how is it that when the failure is often
explained and made clear, the mistakes are com-
mitted over and over again?

Imagine the legions of men who were conse-
crated to help make Russia victorious in this cam-
paign! The enemy, when numerically exhausted,
was sometimes forced to yield and withdraw
before this wall of human bodies. All in vain.
In the end they lost their position.

"Misfortune," they sighed in Archangel,



**blew up all the ammunition just arrived from
America." In America ''bad luck" blew up the
immense factories that were molding their guns.
Was it also misfortune that in an American fac-
tory fifty million cartridges ordered by a Russian
commissioner after a special design, when virtu-
ally ready for dehvery, were discovered by an-
other Russian inspector to be unfit for Russian
rifles and to be made after a German pattern?
The cartridges would have found their way
over Russia into German rifles if circumstances
had not led to the commissioner's removal.
American genius invented a machine to destroy
the cartridges, and after the necessary delay
caused by the criminal official they were made
over for use by the Russians. The railroad from
Archangel is not yet ready in the third year of
war, and whole trains of ammunition simply dis-
appear en route, never arriving at all. The staff
sit in their headquarters and paint battles on the
maps, while the poor devils of soldiers have to
face the bullets of their adversaries.

Of what use the military spirit, the military
party? Words!

When the drawing-card of the mihtary party



failed, they spread the idea of a rebirth of the
time of Napoleon, and told to the people that
the enemy had been let into the gates of Russia,
to be caught at the decisive moment, as was
Napoleon's great army before Moscow. When
this moment would arrive naturally no one could
know. After this fiction became outworn, the
fata Morgana of the Dardanelles in the blue dis-
tance, was shown the people ; and, as the piece de
resistance J the Turks would be swallowed by Rus-
sia's immensity.

It was evident that the Russian is a conqueror
and not a soldier, that preparedness and military
parties never will make one of him. The famous
cossack is nowadays a vanquished glory. He is
lost in modern warfare, being used only to bring
about terror and fright among the inhabitants of
occupied places. The Russian's whole nature
struggles against militar}^ discipline; he is a
fanatic, he is courageous, and he is fatalistic, and
he loves to gamble with his life. He invented the
spectacle of the alluring war-play, the daring
races and horseback riding, to tame the wildness
which from time to time boiled in his blood and
cried for an outlet.



The fairy-tale of an inexhaustible supply of
men still prevails, without any reahzation of the
crude truth that mere men, without thoroughly
trained officers, are a phantasmagory ; and that
the more men taken, the fewer are left at
home for providing for those who are in the

The Government of old Russia sat in a terrible
network of inconsistencies, and as the ministers
saw that the people at home, who had given their
strong, healthy youngsters, were awaking from
their dull obedience to the point of asking why
and were beginning to revolt, they hurried the
czar to the conviction that he must make a sep-
arate peace. They used the influence of Ras-
putin, who preached against war, and the czar,
finding himself weakened, grasped the idea and
lent his ear to the propositions which were
brought before him by his own ministers, who
may have been back of the peace appeal of the
kaiser, made known in 1916. But those who are
to-day the leaders of young Russia were in the
opposition and strongly at work, and so strongly
and so cleverly that the main points of the peace
overtures were never discussed before the Duma,



because of the accusations that the members
hurled at the head of the Government. Bhnded,
the ministers thought first of their own safe re-
treat, and no one was diplomatic enough to dis-
cover what lay behind the military inactivity.

When the czar, arrested, uttered the exclama-
tion that he was betrayed, he spoke the truth.
He was betrayed. The generals who had sur-
rounded him were alUed with the democratic
party, and the warnings of the various grand
dukes had never made any impression on him, be-
cause he knew that each of them would have
taken the opportunity to become the autocrat of
all the Russias. The czar was a Romanoff and
knew all about the Romanoffs. He was long de-
throned before the actual physical removal. It
did not best serve the outcome of the war that
Russia should suddenly walk her own way toward
peace, and it could not be the moral result of the
war, which has swallowed so much of the best
of all countries, that there could be a separate
understanding, which would be only a latent

Humanity cried for peace, but humanity had
to save mankind from future disasters. The war



had gone too far; it was no longer the question
of a nation. It was a cataclysm that shook the
world, and the end had to be logically annihilat-
ing for one side or the other. It was no longer
the war party; it was no longer Mr. Iswolsky who
held the fate of the Russians in hand. It was the
highest ethical command that had to save Russia
and the world from further medieval enterprises
of ennobled highwaymen. It was autocracy in
every form, which had to be uprooted through the
war, and then all the dead, all the martyrs, all
the greatness of the people's sacrifice, would be

With young Russia are the iron will and the
good faith that will perhaps take the place of
skill and training. The enemy is on the soil,
deep in Russian territory, and he will make fur-
ther advance; he will threaten the capital. All
this perhaps will happen because the enemy still
believes that the war must end in his own military

It is to the highest credit of the Russians that
they are not soldiers by nature, and that they will
be the first to help to annihilate a profession which
brings about the destruction of mankind.



Let them return to the conquests of more
peaceful achievements; let them discover their
own country. What space for the wildest sport,
activity, and self -sacrifice 1




The five heroes of new Russia who restored
the country from sickening conditions of state
and court corruption to the sound healthiness of
a clean democracy discharged not only the czar,
the passive cause of all the unhappiness and
misery in Russia, but discharged every man con-
nected with the old regime. They filled the
prisons, from which the political prisoners of
former Russia were released, with ministers and
courtiers whom they regarded as offenders
against the people.

The shadow of Stolypin, the reactionary prime
minister who succeeded Witte, appears as intro-
ducing the last political tragedies which led up
to war and to the victorious entry of young Rus-

After Stolypin, assassinated, had expired in
his arms in the foyer of the grand opera house in
Kieff, Kokovtsoff, who then was the minister of
finance, took up the labor of prime minister.



In January, 1914, Kokovtsoff was to celebrate
his tenth anniversary as minister of finance. The
invitations to the banquet were sent out, the com-
memoration medal was ordered, when, without
warning, the prime minister received the ominous
imperial letter, in which the czar gracefully
accepted Kokovtsoff' s resignation, indispensable
to the recovery of his health ! The title of count
was bestowed on him as a little balm for his
wounds, and he was offered three hundred thou-
sand rubles from the imperial treasure, which
Kokovtsoff "gratefully" refused. Kokovtsoff
was petrified, and with him all those who under-
stood the meaning of this indication of a new
undercurrent, the mihtary party. What might
not have been prevented if Kokovtsoff, the fine,
scholarly man, with his sensibihty and kindhness,
with his inflexibility toward all flatterers, and
with his clean record, had retained the leadership
both as premier and minister of finance !

An atmosphere of peace and slow, systematic
progress was about him. There was no disturb-
ance when Kokovtsoff had any matter of business
in his hands; there was a quiet certainty that he
would always drive the state carriage back to its



right track. Russia's often depressing political
anxieties were moored to rest in the calm port of
his conscientiousness. It was simply marvelous
what this man accomplished. His task included,
besides the national finances, which worked like
well-oiled machinery with Davidoff as chief
engineer, the great political burden of being
premier, the crux of all Russian statesmanship,
and the supervision of the department of customs.

During the ten years of his service he improved
the Russian finances to a point of amazing stabil-
ity. He cleared the Augean stable of irregular-
ities, and discarded relentlessly the officials who
had established a flourishing trade in concessions
and claims, which legally only the prime minister
could confer. Most of the high functionaries had
hated Kokovtsoff for his stubborn deafness to the
usual custom of granting opportunities to all
kinds of high-place corruptionists, and his dis-
missal was greeted in certain circles as a relief,
and aroused the hope that the good old times
when the ministers closed one eye, and in excep-
tional cases both, would come again.

Public opinion attributed the minister's down-
fall to his financial system, which was funda-



mentally wrong. The state's cash-box had been
filled by the abuse of the people's preference for
vodka. The Government held the monopoly of
all the vodka distilleries, so of course the state did
not interfere with the appetites of the people.
As it was sanctioned by the Government, the peo-
ple would not believe that vodka was their curse,
their certain ruin, and the state profited by
the drunkenness of her misled children. Public
opinion forgot that Kokovtsoff , in selling vodka,
did not create a new situation; that he simply
took the monopoly out of the hands of private
persons, who had enriched themselves through
the people's scourge.

This was the reproach and criticism of Ko-
kovtsoff at a time when Rasputin intrigued
against the prime minister. Rasputin never for-
gave Kokovtsoff for energetically protesting
against his meddling in governmental affairs.
On the other hand, Rasputin was the instrument
used by the military party to get rid of Kokovt-
soff, who was determined to preserve peace and
tr maintain friendly relations with Germany.

Kokovtsoff retired to private life, and Russia's
new regime, instead of seeking counsel of the lit-



tie man with the intelligent face and mild expres-
sion on his noble features who had been able to
give the Government a temporary equilibrium,
put him in jail.

The man who had helped to undermine Ko-
kovtsoff's position in 1914 was Count Witte.
He hoped that his hour had again come to re-
place the prime minister or in any case, to pre-
vent the choice of a new man. He was strongly
with the party of the Grand Duke Nicholas;
but he forgot those who at that moment wanted
no minister's influence in the czar's environment.

As a fallen star. Count Witte, thrown from
the sky of political constellations, roamed rest-
less in Russia's politics. The people looked with
a kind of amazed enmity at this ghost of a time
of Russia's rapid development вАФ a development
which had proved to be only a card-house built
by Witte and blown down by the Russo-Japanese
War. Over-anxious to regain the czar's favor,
his unremitting efforts to play the general ad-
viser in actual politics always split on the fact
that he had sold Russia to Germany in those un-
fortunate commercial treaties of 1907. Those
treaties were like an abyss along which all the



ministers trod, afraid to look into its depths,
each of them knowing that it would never be
spanned without victims. The renewal of the
treaties before the outbreak of the war was a
source of ever-present apprehension.

The great national events of the end of July,
1914, the beginning of the war, caused the Rus-
sians to forget old animosities for a while.
Count Witte breathed more freely; again the
time had come when he was heard and his in-
fluence was felt.

After the disaster of Poland, after the failure
of Gallipoli, Witte worked feverishly to bring
about a separate peace, knowing that it was the
secret desire of the czar, who was shaken by the
loss of his best regiments and near relatives.

The military party saw itself in danger, and
decided that Count Witte's earthly existence was
no longer desirable. He died suddenly.

The hfe of Count Witte is a strange story of
justified ambition and back-stairs romance, a
genuine Russian story conceived in the brain of
a woman.

Matilda, later his wife, was first married to a
subordinate oflBicial of the ministry. Her house



was open not only to the comrades of her hus-
band, but especially to the aristocratic set, which
through family ties and duties was close to the
court. Matilda was equipped with the penetrat-
ing intellect of the Russian Jewess and was the
center of this famous coterie. One simply went
to Matilda. There was a coming and going with-
out formahty; a free intoxication, with no dis-
guise of human weaknesses. There was no se-
cret, no political or court gossip, that was not
brought to her.

Stronger than any man, with an iron will in
a slim, small body, she drank her guests all under
the table, yet never became drunk herself. Her
drinking had a distinct purpose. She was de-
voured by ambition, first for herself, and then for
the man of her heart. Witte, then a small offi-
cial in the ministry, was a daily guest in her
house. He was a dangerous mixture of the Bal-
tic German and the Russian, with an overpower-
ing physical appearance. He was modest in this
circle, where Russia's highest aristocracy felt
wholly at home without any restrictions. He
hstened smilingly to the weaving of intrigues
about the czar. No Duma existed at that time;



there were only the czar and his imperial brutes,
or his servile creatures good and bad, and the
"almightiness" of the police, with their reign of
terror. It was a time in which it was easy to
rise, a time when a young czar, afraid before his
own country, before his own sovereignty, grasped
at every strong plank to keep him above water.

Matilda brewed Witte's career out of her in-
timate knowledge of politics and society. Dar-
ingly she used all the little and big influences
until Witte, with intellectual superiority and vast
working power, jumped from the position of an
obscure official in the ministry to that of a po-
litical factor who was heard and noticed.

Witte was wise enough to realize that his driv-
ing force was Matilda, that without her he never
could maintain this new position or reach the
heights of their mutual dreams.

She was still the wife of another, to divorce
whom would be to stir up a hornets'-nest of dis-
reputable affairs, exposing her aristocratic pa-
trons and her compromised past. The enemies
of the coming man gladly enough would utilize
the scandal to crush him before he started.

The darkest hour for Witte and Matilda











dawned. It was imperative for the realization
of their schemes to get rid of the husband.
Witte's career was in danger, and Matilda was
not willing to forego her own share in the glory
due to her efforts.

Then Matilda suddenly became a widow.
Witte married her, and they remained to the last
an inseparable couple.

Witte rose to the dreamed-of glory. The day
when the "Countess" Witte, the Jewess of the
doubtful and miry past, was admitted among the
ladies presented to the czarina crowned her am-
bitions, and her heart began to tremble for the
stabihty of her great man's happiness. She was
made of the same material as the women of the
Renaissance, who walked cold-bloodedly over
corpses to their magnificence. The shadow of
her under-world life may have been haunting her
when the sun set on the glory of her idol. She,
with her piercing intellect, knew that the logical
end of Witte's career led to his downfall, and
she was prepared for it. To the external world
she played the most interesting role throughout
Witte's hfe. She was the dignified, tactful, and
inspiring companion of the great man; she was



the tragic, silent Muse when Witte was wrecked.
It was the greatest homage for her that all the
young boys of her former circle, when ripened to
* 'excellencies," retained an admiring remem-
brance of her strong personality, of her kindness
and intelligence.

Count Witte was a statesman by adventure
and not by tradition, and for that reason he could
never be an educator for a young czar. He
feared too much for his own position, sometimes
overstretching his authority, and sometimes yield-
ing in servility to the moods of his sovereign.
The czar had to look up to Witte, to the physical
Witte ; he respected muscles which he himself did
not possess, and Witte's firm fist always imposed
on him in the instability of his own indecisive

Witte loved to be compared with Peter the
Great. He forgot that Peter's greatness was
the sincerity of his barbarism, the most extreme
goodness or the most extreme evil, while Witte
fluctuated unbalanced between both.

Above all parties, but sharply antagonizing
the efforts toward bringing about a separate
peace, the minister of foreign affairs, Sazonoff,



strictly followed his own political course. He
had nothing in common with the fanaticism of
the Pan-Slavists, nothing with the ambitions of
the grand-duke's party. In his red palace on the
Moika, behind the impenetrable quiet of the
foreign ministry, Sazonoff had for many years
been working out logically to an end a scheme
of foreign policy. This policy could not be a
success because it was far too advanced for Rus-
sia. His was the natural mistake of the culti-
vated mind, educated in countries where the
subtle filigree-work of the ancient diplomacy is
perhaps still applicable, to follow the precepts
of other nations. Sazonoff was in love with Eng-
land. He saw through England's eyes, and was
of the sincere conviction that from that side might
come the great salvation, the "awakening" of
Russia. Twice in three years Monsieur Poin-
care, the President of France, made a triumphal
trip to Petrograd to popularize Sazonoff's pol-
icies. England wished to emphasize the idea of
the Triple Alhance for the purpose of frighten-
ing Germany, of keeping in the background the
eternal menace.

Sazonoff's work expressed this menace. He



harnessed Russia to the interests of England in
the far East, Russia's long-tailed, capricious,
untamed horse to the heavy, well-bred, steady-
going steed of Great Britain. England made
large promises for the coupling of this badly
matched team, whispering into Sazonoff' s willing
ear the alluring word "Dardanelles!"

When the fata Morgana of Constantinople
paled on the horizon of the Allies' military opera-
tions in the Orient, Sazonoff found his pohcy
crippled, and then he joined in the blind fury
against Germany, whose stubborn endurance pre-
vented him from giving to his country the result
of his policy, the long-coveted warm-water port.

Sazonoff, a human enigma, with a head of a
pleasant ugliness, a Slav through and through,
with all the refinement of the Western culture,
with a calculated reserve, a sophisticated spirit,
and analytical mind, would have been a natm^al
diplomat to Louis XIV, but never to a Russian
czar or to a democracy. He was appointed am-
bassador to London.

There was no transparency in Russia's pol-
itics. Behind them was always the man who
made the policies, and he was a Russian; he was



mysterious. He promised, but he never kept
his word, though not because he did not wish to
keep it. It was not his fault; it was yours, for
you should know that he gave his word to be
pleasant to you without realizing that it would
entail an inconvenience to him to-morrow. It
was the psychological mistake of Sazonoff to com-
press the economic interests that Russia had with
her allies into blood treaties. Former Russia
would have deceived her allies sooner or later, not
from wickedness, but simply because she never
could endure the supervision of an outsider or
could be forced to show her books. It would
have meant an absolute contradiction of her own
nature ; it would have delivered too much of Rus-
sia to the cold criticism of the world; or, what
the old regime feared most, it would have put
upon the Government such responsibility as
other governments sustain, and that meant a pro-
found revolution of Russia's self.

To-day the new rulers are trying to destroy
the different arbitrary systems which menaced
the security of the people. Russia had four
prime ministers after the outbreak of the war.
Goremykin temporarily took the portfolio after



the dismissal of Kokovtsoff, and so it happened
that Russia had in the hour of her fate a substi-
tute leader at the head of a department where the
most extensive efficiency, the most intense state
wisdom, and the most capable mind were de-
manded. Poor old Goremykin always had been
the substitute housekeeper of Russia. This was
the second time that he had been called in. He
was too old, too tired to face the immense task,
the gigantic responsibility, and he had nothing to
say in an hour when the world had its head under
the guillotine of national hostilities, and lost its

The military system wanted him just as he was,
colorless, without any influence on the czar, just
a political marionette. After a year-long war, in
the autumn of 1915, Russian politics were again
in sad confusion. The Government's control, an
utter failure, ended with a clash. The situation
was hopeless in its mismanagement. The most
unspeakable bribes hampered the filling of con-
tracts and the delivering of all kinds of indis-
pensable material. Russia's industries were
crippled through the hurrying away of all Ger-
man directors, technical and mechanical artisans ;



untrained Russians had to replace them. Amer-
ican commercial representatives who were ready
to accept orders were kept waiting months and
months before their propositions were submitted
to the ministers. As a minister himself never
decided, but appointed the famous "commission,"
consisting of a certain number of other officials,
he escaped all responsibility. For ever}i:hing
that had to be decided a commission was formed,
over which sat another commission to supervise
it; so, if mistakes were made, every man was
saved. Ouv" by one the members of a commission
studied the terms of every contract in minute de-
tail. The official most interested in deriving
profits made the most ridiculous objections,
which inevitably aroused the opposition of the
others; and when the decision was favorable, he
added a foot-note to the report, stating that he
joined the minority. So he never was suspected
by the official higher up. The commission acted
mysteriously. It shut itself behind closed doors,

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Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 3 of 17)