Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

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and nobody was permitted to disturb its secret
meetings. No word penetrated to the outer
world, but every few minutes the man who had
submitted the contract received the telephoned

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

result of the pourparlers from some supernatural
spirit, and from the same spirit the report, which
was kept strictly confidential, could be bought for
a hundred dollars as soon as the commission
adjourned.

No wonder that the congestion in ports and
at the frontiers grew into nightmares. The
goods to be transported covered the ground for
miles and miles in the open air, without any pro-
tection against rain and snow. At Vladivostok
and Archangel, on the Siberian and Finnish rail-
roads, affairs were in complete disorder, and no-
body could imagine how this chaos in transpor-
tation ever would be cleared. In the meantime
soldiers and leaders at the front waited in anxiety
for supplies that would enable them to be at
least on the defensive instead of being shot down
like poor animals.

In September, 1915, the czar, more and more
inclined to the peace suggestions floating about
him, let Goremykin change the hard seat of the
prime minister for the restful grandfather's
chair, and Sturmer appeared as a demonstration
of the new system. He also was a substitute, a
figure of indistinguishable political tints, a poli-

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

tician without any resonance, a puppet with some
power behind him. Thus the statesmen in Rus-
sia drove their personal ambitions in different
directions, neglecting criminally the vital policy
for the country, a clean and good administration.
Nothing was accomplished.

Military operations were completely aban-
doned, and the public looked with painful amaze-
ment and faint revolt on this laissez-aller, laissez-
faire.

Stiirmer had to disappear into the anonymity
whence he emerged, and the new prime minister,
Trepof, sprang up. This man Trepof was an
unfortunate choice. In the eyes of the world
and among the Russian people his name was the
personification of darkest Russia, of the "sys-
tem," of the searching ochrana (the secret serv-
ice), the most frightful terroristic and nihilistic
era. It brought back the martyrs, the hanged
and buried-alive martyrs, and all this in a time
when the people needed to see beams of hope
through their political leaders.

Again and again the world was assured by
printed and spoken words that Trepof had a most
liberal mind, and that he was quite the contrary

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

of what his father, the dark governor of St.
Petersburg, had been. All in vain. The curse
stuck to his name, and his removal soon followed.

The czar, tired of selecting ministers, hazard-
ously nominated Prince Golitzin as the fourth
prime minister. Prince Golitzin was a political
blank, and no time was given him to develop.

In the gravity of the situation the czar found
himself isolated. He was frightened by the
weight which pressed upon him. Governmental
errors were exposed by the horrors of the war.
Like enormous wings, gray hopelessness spread
about him. The flattering tongues became
speechless, hesitating, and stammering; the sov-
ereign descended from his throne and attempted
to be a man among men.

The czar sought his people; he sought the
Duma. He opened the assembly for the first
time in its existence, thus at last giving it his
official recognition. The people cheered the czar ;
they embraced one another with tears of joy in
their eyes. The czar, the "Little Father," was
in the midst of those who represented the de-
mands of the country. He would listen, he
would understand. The spoken word would

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

reach his ears, and never again would be mis-
interpreted by the scoundrelly intermediaries who
always had had their own interests first in mind.

The progressives in the Duma triumphed.
Speaking with new-found fearlessness, they
forged plans for the present and spun dreams for
the future.

At this time the czar, without political sup-
port, without an adviser, desiring one thing, do-
ing another, himself unbalanced, hoped to find
refuge with the Duma. The Duma saw in the
apparent insignificance of Stiirmer, then prime
minister, its great opportunity to choose from
its members the man of the hour.

The Duma was disappointed in its hopeful en-
thusiasm. It was no more than an imperial
mood, a moment of distress or loneliness and
perhaps curiosity, that made the czar drive to
the Tauritzky Palace, where the Duma sits — the
little piece of sugar in the hand of a sovereign to
beguile the men of the people.

The Duma was offended, and split into fac-
tions, distrusting one another, accusing one an-
other. Everywhere mystifications clouded the
political sky, and around live questions again and

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

again were spun intrigues of personal influence.

The Duma was still like a child strugghng
through infantile diseases, and found it hard to
grow up in a state family of old prejudices and
bad principles.

It seemed impossible that the century-old in-
dividual power governing Russia could be
scratched out with a pen-stroke. The Duma did
not yet represent for the people the invincible
rock of security. They were not quite famihar
with the idea that a body of men could be united
to benefit them. In this one body were too many
souls, and each of those souls lived in a separate
body and had separate ambitions. The Russian
believes in the individual man, whom he worships
or whom he curses. A whole body, a corpora-
tion, means nothing to his imagination. The
Duma was an eternal contradiction when it be-
came a constitutional foundation in an autocratic
state.

But it was only an official call that the czar
made on the Duma, and all efforts on both sides
never would have developed a mutual understand-
ing, as the czar found no response to his peace
ideas. The Duma could not comprehend that

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

this idea had always been the real part of him-
self. The czar had not the nature of a con-
queror; he suffered physically under the stress
of battle, and the sight of blood gave him nau-
sea.

The presidents of the Duma were subjected to
the same surprising changes as the ministry.
How many presidents were elected and rejected
after the war began! The Duma and the gov-
ernment of the czar were always quarrelsome
brothers. With crafty efforts the Government
tried to conceal its state affairs, and the Duma
was like a battle-field from which the members
were alwaj^s forced to retreat. The imperial
Government, with its frightful disorder, its ever-
flourishing graft system, was the terrible ob-
stacle in the way of providing for the necessities
of the men at the front and the people at home.
None of the last unhappy ministers should be
held personally responsible for a system that had
lasted more than a century. The imperial Gov-
ernment was an old, crumbling body, and it was
known that firm decision could crush it. That
this decision would come from the men of the
Duma was not doubted.

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

In 1916, Russia looked with longing eyes to
Protopopof, who then, as president of the Duma,
seemed to take state affairs away from a rotten
Government. But at that time the Duma itself
was a quarreling, disorganized body, its members
jealous and envious of one another's powers.
When Protopopof was nominated minister of the
interior, it seemed a triumph for the Duma. But
it has been very rare for a man not to lose his
head as minister of Russia. On the one side he
was offered mountains of gold if he would let the
cobweb of protectionism remain untouched; on
the other hand, his political position always was
threatened by a party.

As usual, the ministers — and Protopopof, too
— worked for the party that they hoped would
become the most powerful in Russia. This time
Protopopof was on the wrong side, and blinded
by his influence over the czar, he had not the fore-
sight to suspect, in the Duma's consequent op-
position to everything he proposed, the bigger
forces behind the Duma, which caused its last
adjournment.

Russia is the country where everything has
been begun wonderfully and never has been fin-

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

ished. The sense of time and economy does not
belong to the Russian character. There is lav-
ishness, a squandering of time, words, and money,
which leads to no practical result. It will re-
quire years to separate the wheat from the chaff.
From the Russian point of view it is not aston-
ishing that a prominent member of the Duma
who attended the sessions for only a few weeks
every year kept a sumptuous apartment in a first-
class hotel of the capital, merely because he could
not decide to pack his trunks. Life is too short
for decision, and his valet was of the same opin-
ion. The room filled with an ever-increasing col-
lection of clothing, boots, and hats. The tables
were covered with bottles, jars, boxes, perfumes,
and medicines, papers and books, cigarettes,
everything, as if a large family were on the point
of moving. Nobody was ever permitted to touch
a thing or to clean up the place, and it was a
puzzle how the occupant ever managed to climb
over all the obstacles and into his bed. During
the sessions he lived in that atmosphere of "com-
fort," where he was able to stretch out his hand
to secure at once whatever he needed. There he
gathered his friends about the ever-ready sam-

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

ovar, losing all account of time, arguing until
the new day shone through the windows.

The Russian never knows exactly what he
possesses or what he owes. He is not ashamed
to borrow, because he himself lends freely. His
is in a paradisic state of unconcern; but if this
unconcern is to extend to the vital questions of
politics that involve other races who are exact-
ing about keeping their affairs in order, Russians
must first conquer themselves before conquering
the world.

These characteristics of the individual Russian,
the inconsistencies and contradictions in his na-
ture, make him appear mysterious to more con-
ventional nations. One could look with amazed
interest on the habits of the soft-hearted, easy-
going Russians and on their unbalanced politics
if in the development of those qualities did not
slumber an ever-present danger for the world
outside of Russia — a danger which in new Rus-
sia will pass away, because liberty will give self-
control and self-respect. Russians will cease to
be a servile people, who humble themselves like
slaves, and are kept obedient by the cruelty of
their rulers.

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

The new provisional Government is so fan-
tastically composed that it is imaginable only for
Russia. Five heroes went into this adventure
with wonderful courage — the courage that naive,
strong people have. They are victorious, but
if they are not following a plan clearly outlined
for them by a friendly, experienced ally, no one
can f orsee how they will make the enormous body
of Russia move organically.

Prince Lvoff, the president of the ministry, is
the only one who has the repose of official tradi-
tion. The honor came to him not because he
forced the czar to abdicate ; the honor was alwavs
his. He had worked practically, progressively,
and honestly. He had accomplished wonders in
the zemstvos, which to outsiders always appeared
to be peasant organizations, but which really
were the organizations of the nobility that pro-
tected the interests of the peasants because they
were its own. The peasant depended on the
noble landowner, and to enjoy the blessings of
the zemstvos, he had to submit to the decisions
made by the nobles. That was to a certain ex-
tent profitable for the peasant, who was too child-
like to dispose of his harvests in an advantageous

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

way, who had not the money to buy machinery
or to pay laborers, and who was shielded from
exploitation by money-lenders. The zemstvos
freed the peasant from the persecution of scoun-
drelly provincial governors, who before the zemst-
vos existed kept him in a serf-like oppression;
freed him from the district police, who nagged
him and took away his little money for imaginary
misdeeds ; freed him in a certain degree from the
despotic superintendents of the estates of nobles,
who enforced an arbitrary system.

In former years there was a patriarchal system
in the zemstvos. The Russian preferred to have
his own autocrat, whom he could approach per-
sonally, whose voice he could hear; even if he
profited not at all, it was good to speak to the
natschalnik, who was the zemstvo's chief of the
district. Then, too, it was always a change for
the peasant, an excuse for a little journey, for
getting away from the village to bring home new
experiences and prestige.

The natschalnik had to be eliminated because
he had too good an opportunity to rob the peasant
and to conceal conditions which should be re-
vealed; for the natschalnik was not a saint, and

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

wished to make more money than his position
paid him. Then the affairs of the peasants were
confided to the judges of the zemstvos. The re-
lation ceased to be personal, and petitions and
complaints had to be made on proper papers and
in proper writing. This was a new embarrass-
ment for the peasant, who despised documents,
which he could not read, and who was suspicious
when another person read a paper for him. He
was never sure that he was told the right thing.
He thought that it would make hfe simple
to school his children, but the children were not
eager to learn. Why should they study books?
They knew everything about animals and what
grew in the fields from their parents, who had
learned from their parents. The Russian peas-
ant has a wonderful instinct for plants and herbs.
The schools that the zemstvos provided were
hopeless institutions, for the teachers understood
how to adapt themselves more to the good-will
of the peasants than to their own duties. The
teachers waited for the boys to come to school,
but there was always some work to keep the chil-
dren at home. And when the zemstvo sent a
commission to inspect the schools, there was sud-

85



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

den calamity unless the visit had been announced.
Then everything was prepared ; the children were
present and clean, and the parents made a holiday
of the inspection, inviting the commission to eat
and drink. Afterward, parents and commission-
ers, in happy mood, walked to the school. The
report was astonishingly encouraging.

That the zemstvos were not only necessary for
agriculture, but a blessing, was shown by their
attitude at the beginning of the war. Here the
great personal work of Prince Lvoff came in.
He, as a really grand seigniour, devoted all his
powers to the aid of his country. It was not a
mystery how the business of war had always been
managed in Russia. Prince Lvoff, with the aid
of the brave, tireless, and practical zemstvo mem-
bers, started the private purchase of supplies for
the people and the army with the zemstvos'
funds. Without the zemstvos and their work the
war could not have been carried on, and the work
of recruiting in remote Russia would have been
impossible.

After the first year of the war the people in
the south of Russia revolted against recruiting,
against the war. The peasants had to be chained

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

before they could be taken away from their homes.
And they had not even vodka to make their de-
parture more cheerful. Their treatment was so
brutal and so cruel that with cries and screams
they protested against fighting and dying. The
zemstvos regulated conditions, giving generously
to the state, and having a free hand for the peo-
ple in the provinces.

The good practical machinery of the zemstvos,
once regulated, worked marvelously for the war,
and Prince Lvoff could look with satisfaction
upon it, for young Russia is one of its products.
Prince Lvoff became the head of a democracy by
chance, but he was the right man.

Most amazing was the selection of Alexander
Guschkoff as minister of war, or, better to ex-
press it, the minister for providing the soldiers.
Nothing could be less warrior-hke than this min-
ister of war, and it is certain that he had never
been familiar with military strategy. In his
earlier activities he had known much about cotton
and its manufacture, and had some knowledge of
sanitation. The contract for a new system of
waterworks from Lake Ladoga to Petrograd
was awarded through him, but not without oppo-

87



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

sition from great experts, who thought his ideas
wrong and fought his schemes in the Duma of
1914. He is a great admirer of America and a
Pan-SIavist through and through, which is a con-
tradiction. He is one of the Russians who are
gifted in gathering experiences from which to
form absolute opinions without digesting the ex-
periences. He is a sound money-maker, unfor-
giving when once offended, never able to bear
criticism, and ready to avenge bitterly any griev-
ance from the men who were in power during the
former regime.

Professor Paul Miliukoff, the foreign min-
ister, is a personality, and has a right to be proud
of his achievements; and he is proud. Known,
respected, but not loved, he remembers how ter-
ror looks, and he will realize that to a certain ex-
tent it must reign in Russia. He will have to
use it despite his theoretical point of view of un-
restricted freedom. The triumph of the first
days of the revolution sustained the high tension
in which Miliukoff had lived for years. In for-
tunate circumstances he will be steadfast, but
with the first little mistake, the first sign of dis-
organization, he may lose the beautiful equili-

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UNBALANCED POLICIES

briuin with which it is necessary to balance the
state affairs of young Russia.

Rodzianko, the last president of the Duma, is
also a personality, physically and mentally. He
is good-natured and not much of a republican.
He knows that Russia must have a figurehead,
and that this figurehead must be crowned; that,
like old Russia, young Russia needs a "Little
Father"; that there is not a great difference be-
tween yesterday and to-morrow; that Russians,
to be contented, must have their distractions, their
jojSf and their fears. He is fanatical enough to
swear fealty to the flag of Pan-Slavism and to
save Russia from all her foster-fathers.

Kerensky, the minister of justice, is popular,
strong, and suggestive. He is a simple, impres-
sive speaker, and he has the most difficult task:
he must be just not only to young Russia, but to
the unhappy supporters of the unbalanced old
regime.



89



CHAPTER IV

THE RUSSIAN COURT

The great Catherine had endured for seven-
teen years the domination of the senile Czarina
Ehzabeth. As the wife of an idiotic husband she
had hved under unspeakable conditions, in a
country where not only nature sleeps most of the
year, but where the people were scarcely awak-
ened to the daylight, in the midst of a court of
most ridiculous intrigues, of little and big cruel-
ties, and of the most barbaric scenes. After the
death of the empress, by the force of her per-
sonality she had broken the chains of an enslaved
czarina, and had shaken off the suspicion and
superstition that the court and the Government
— the people did not count at that time — at-
tached to her. She was proclaimed empress.
With the jubilant cheerings of the people in her
ears, she made her entry into the Winter Palace,
accompanied by one of the three Orloff brothers,
while the others interned her husband the miser-
able Czar Peter in Schliisselburg.

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THE RUSSIAN COURT

Catherine now breathed freely for the first time
in her hfe. The httle incident — the stranghng
of her husband — the hght cloud on her new
glory, soon disappeared, and life became gay
and peaceful about her. Dark Russia lay be-
hind her, a curtain that she kept carefully
closed.

In constant correspondence with the artists
and philosophers of Europe, she dreamed dreams
of beauty, of freedom, and of the happy evolu-
tion of her people. In reality she did not press
her new ideas upon them. She knew the country
of her adoption, and she had learned from Peter
the Great, who, in trying to move the sleepy co-
lossus to a new culture, used the most barbaric
weapons and was true to his motto: "The stick,
though dumb, can teach."

Catherine needed space for her wide lungs,
thirsty for fresh air; she needed the consolation
of art and science for the hunger of her soul ; and
she needed the imperial pomp of her court to
demon^rate her will nower to her primitive sub-
jects.

She completed the Winter Palace and built the
Hermitage, the gallery of art wonders. When

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

one enters through the spacious arch into the im-
mense square, with the Winter Palace in all its
warm tints, in the background, one can imagine
Catherine standing on the balcony overlooking
the parades of her beloved regiments. The front
of this palace faces the Neva, a stream of strongly
flowing water broad enough to make the tear-
bathed fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, on the
distant side of the river, appear as a vision of
hills on the top of which the golden spires of a
church tower reflect the sunbeams. Over this
fortress there is always a fine, consoling fog,
created by the dampness which emerges, like veils,
from the Neva.

In Catharine's time the vast, magnificent rooms
were filled with her spirit and with the joy of
life that she preserved in her sound body. To-
day the Winter Palace is a dead splendor, and
sad with the memories of all the tragedies, crimes,
and terrors that sigh from every corner.

Every historic spot is kept untouched: the
rooms where Nicholas I brooded in deep melan-
choly, in eternal fear of being strangled like his
predecessors; the basement where the czar hid
himself to take the relieving poison; the bottle

92



THE RUSSIAN COURT

which contained the fatal medicine, and even the
spoon.

The apartments of Alexander are left intact,
still breathing an incredible warmth of life from
this amiable sovereign. Here are the pen he
used for the last time, the half-smoked cigarette,
the chair pushed back as he left the room to at-
tend the parade from which he was brought back,
a poor, mutilated body, to expire on a small bed
behind two columns and a portiere.

With the assassination of this most European
of all the czars gaiety and life were extinguished
from the Winter Palace. Gaiety did not mark
the reign of Alexander III. Shadows of pale
fear followed the heavy czar and obscured his life
and that of Maria Feodorovna, the Danish
princess whose warm blood froze in the sad-
ness of the court. Her whole hope was in the
future, and, with the atavism of queens who
mixed poisons for their husbands, she dreamed
of her own autocracy, the unbounded expansion
of herself to the great independence attained by
Catherine. Her sons were frail little boys with
all kinds of inherited diseases. The czarevitch,
the stubborn little Nicholas, who was never ap-

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RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

proachable by reason, was not an obstacle to her.
Perhaps, she thought, she could educate Nicholas,
who was timid and not at all an imperial child, to
renounce the throne in favor of his younger
brother Michael, nearer to her heart. It served
her purpose that Michael, who showed signs of
consumption, had to live out of Russia most of
the year.

With the terrible ambition of ruling Russia in
her mind, the czarina did not prevent her husband
from heavy drinking, though knowing that his
constitution was shaken by alcohol. The giant's
heart was weak, and his days seemed numbered.
Circumstances favored the hopes of Maria
Feodorovna. Secretly she formed her party,
the camarilla of Maria Feodorovna, which
worked feverishly to carry out her purposes.
Her sons became men, and Alexander, notwith-
standing his heart disease, lived longer than the
physicians prophesied. Maria Feodorovna be-
came restless. The czarevitch returned from
his constant journeyings about the world, bring-
ing back only his improved health and an eternal
discontent. He was a poor, lonesome boy. He
was never gay, and his debauches were not the

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THE RUSSIAN COURT

outlet of an over-sparkling youth, but the result
of the cynicism of a life without deep motive.


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Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 4 of 17)