Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

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fangs. A time of hope freed her mind. The



czarina then loved the sea, and she passed weeks
on the imperial yacht, the Standard, with only
a small suite, the persons nearest her heart.
Among them was Count Orloff .

The most discouraging war news could not
depress the czarina. She lived on the Standard
with her little girls, her boy, and her romance, and
she lived untroubled, young, and happy. Then
the fleet that she had sent out with her blessings,
and which in thought she accompanied through
all its voyage, met the fleet of Admiral Togo, and
was destroyed.

The czarina was thrown back into deep mel-
ancholy. Even the innocent blessing of the
czarevitch had failed to save the fleet from dis-
aster !

The Russo-Japanese War ended. The czar
was forced to accept the so-called constitutional
government. He himself was hidden behind
Witte, then the mighty premier. The czar was
remote from state affairs, and the next few years
passed in the uncertainty of fears and the nag-
ging threatenings of plots. What happened to
Russia was accidental. As the cards fall in a
game, ministers were chosen and thrown away.



Despite the moral crumbling of his imperial
hfe the czar longed, in the weariness of his heart,
for something great; and if the backbone of his
principles had not been so terribly injured by
the demorahzation of those around him, he could
have saved the world from its greatest curse — war
among nations. He not only dreamed of disarm-
ament; he spoke of it. Russia's politics let him
speak and apparently supported his moral rise,
his utterly European conception of the world.
Again an amazing episode was staged to make
the nations believe that Russia, despite Siberia,
despite the horrors that were known and the
rumors of corruption that were wide-spread,
made a noble gesture of peace.

As always in Russia grandiose ideas contra-
dict the seriousness of achievements. The czar
had the enlightenment of a supreme duty; it was
the enlightenment of an hour, and the idea was
extinguished in a moment when it should have
been translated into an act. He suddenly
became afraid of the enormous consequences of
his great idea — the revision of Russia herself, the
elimination of the Jewish problem, the education
of the people, the pohtical changes. The min-



isters wrung their hands over the czar's sudden
awakening, and the church worked with the
ochrana to put into effect plots for more pohtical
assassinations. The czar's sovereign courage
sank back into letharg}^ and he became again a
supine puppet moved by his creatures.

The disgraceful end of the war with Japan
had crushed the popularity of the czarina-mother.
Maria Feodorovna preferred to live outside of
Russia for a while until the people could forget
all the basenesses which had been committed un-
der the flag of the camarilla. This camarilla had
become very shabby, and in order to clothe it
anew she went to England where she played
Russia's interests into the hands of King Edward
VII, encouraging his scheme for the political
isolation of Germany, undermining and discredit-
ing German influence in Russia.

Court life in Tsarsko-Sselo was reduced to the
interests of the nursery. Despite their unwel-
come entrance into the world, the four little prin-
cesses became sunbeams in the gloomy seclusion
of their parents. Not the slightest shadow ever
rested upon the sweet maidenhood of the girls.
They were kept totally ignorant of the tragedies



of the Russian court. The czarina did not wish
her daughters to be erudite; she desired them to
be happy and free, and let them pass their days
in the fresh air of the gardens, in the healthful
pleasures of outdoor sports. As they grew older
they became the faithful companions of their
beloved father whenever he appeared publicly.
It was as if the young, beautiful princesses should
protect the ever-threatened czar, and they did
protect him.

The czarevitch, the child of his mother's heart,
enjoyed his httle life, horseback-riding on his big
nurse, a Cossack of the bodyguard. He was tire-
lessly watched by the giant, who was the only
person who could bend the iron will of the wide-
awake, unusually intelligent child. As time
went on the czarevitch embarrassed his teachers
in arguing with them, as it is difficult to convince
him to the contrary when once he has an idea in
his head. His delicate health was a source of
never-ceasing anxiety to the czarina. What
would become of her if an ever-envious fate again
should strike her? And the envious fate was not

It was in August, 1912, in Poland, in the hunt-



ing-castle of the czar, that the czarevitch, making
a false step, dislocated his hip and caused a severe
rupture. A slight operation would have cured
him in a short time, but a peculiar hereditary
disease, which makes every wound bleed con-
stantly, rendered a surgical incision impossible.
The dislocation developed a tubercular tendency,
and the czarina faced the possibility that her son
would be an invahd for life. Of all her tragic
moments this was the most tragic. That the poor
imperial woman did not lose her mind in this new
trial, which the people again attributed to her
black fate, was due to the consolation of a woman,
of her soul-friend, the last of the intimate group
belonging to the happy days on the yacht
Standard, Count Orloff had died of tuberculosis
in Egypt.

Mme. Anna Wiribouwa had divorced her hus-
band, who was an officer on the Standard. Since
then she had lived in strict privacy in her house in
Tsarsko-Sselo, which was connected with the
czarina's apartments in the imperial castle. Her
influence never touched her sovereign's external
life, and in this perhaps lay her great power.
She never sought the czarina ; the czarina sought



her. It was Mme. Wiribouwa who brought Ras-
putin to the court. In Russia, where nature,
chmate, and a predisposition to the mystical
work together, psychic forces are often found
among persons of the humble classes. Mme.
Wiribouwa knew of Rasputin tramping as a
simple peasant over the country, comforting the
poor, reheving the sick. Rasputin entered the
gate of the palace.

When the peasant was brought before the
czarina to heal her son she received this humble
man as the redeemer sent to her by the super-
natural powers she believed in. Her faith was
not deceived. Despite the physicians' diagnosis,
the czarevitch improved. The little life in him
was strengthened by the hope he saw in the
glances of his mother. He felt the sound power
of the simple peasant who spoke of things that
other men scarcely dared to think, of likes and

When the peasant appeared, the dark priests
smiled indulgently as on a new hysterical mood
of the czarina, and ridiculed the words of the man
whom they feared in the depths of their black
hearts ; but before they were aware of it, Rasputin



aired the murky atmosphere of the imperial
prison. He freed the souls of the jailed imperial
couple; he gave them back their self-confidence.
The sovereigns suddenly moved about as other
human beings moved, fearlessly among their
people. For the first time the Russians shared
in the hopes and anxieties for their beloved little
czarevitch. The whole country took part in this
wonder-healing, and Rasputin was the great man
of the hour; he had brought back the czar to his
people and the people to the czar. His radiant
eyes shone fearlessly through falsehood, and he
saw the rich fatten themselves by the sweat of the
poor. He destroyed the camarilla, and chased
the false priests from the court. No murders
were committed in his name, for he himself loved
life dearly. He lived close to the imperial couple,
because the sovereigns could not live in a hut in
his home village. He was simple and natural
enough to adapt himself to the customs of court
life, and did not accentuate the unwashed appear-
ance of the poor peasant to make his impression
stronger. He changed his linen shirt to the
purple silk of the Russian national costume, and
instead of walking on bare feet, he wore shining



high boots. He even enjoyed the refinements of
life, which did not emasculate him. He hstened
to every one who sought him, and they did seek
him. From far and near people of every class
traveled to see him, and waited for hours in the
hall of the house at the Quai Anglais, where he
lived when he was in Petrograd. Automobiles
and carriages, elegant and humble, stood in line
before the house, and one after another men and
women were received, spoke to Rasputin, and
went away comforted by a few good words and
the unforgetable impression of his face. He did
not know more than the ten commandments
require of men, and he never argued. He made
no compromises, no comments; but he fought
mercilessly courtiers or priests or ministers who
in politics or mysticism circumvented the Biblical

Rasputin, with the tenacity and force of a
child, attained whatever he had in his mind. He
desired that his brethren might be freed from the
scourge of alcohol. He saw in vodka the black
devil which had the people in its grip, to fog their
spirits and to change the sound forces of the Rus-
sian into vice and slavery which made the people



the victims of the sinners above them. He abol-
ished the use of vodka in Russia ; the czar ordered
prohibition. Rasputin wanted peace with the
same tenacity, and he was murdered by those w^ho
made the war.

Rasputin is dead. His death was the only
mysticism in his hf e. He died a martyr ; martyr-
dom was the natural end of his life.

That he found a place in the Russian court is
not mere accident ; it will seem natural when it is
known how the crowned heads longed for all
which was not of the court, not dark. He was
the result of mystical desires, and all desires are
more or less mystical. He brought the earthly
flavor to the court ; he was the hght in contrast to
the darkness that then was in power. He had
the courage of the illiterate; he found words for
thoughts which every one has, but in the entangle-
ment of time and custom simply has lost. He
was a contrast to the ochrana, covering thousands
of crimes committed bv men who lived as cowards
under the shelter of this terrible name; he was a
contrast to the mystical priests who heard the
confessions of the distressed hearts of the sov-
ereigns, to make later a flourishing commerce of



those confessions. He walked unafraid through
the world, preaching practical Christianity, which
is the rehgion of children, and he did not pretend
to be sent from God. He was a man with all the
simplicity of a man, with the faults of a man ; and
his influence was greater for this reason.

Many have described Rasputin ; few could ex-
plain him. It was not he who sought influence
in political affairs with the czar. The ministers,
uncertain in their own positions, and insincere in
their ambitions, were responsible for the influence
of Rasputin.

Rasputin lost the sense of proportion, as any
man would have lost it who saw the whole court
circling around him. He could not explain his
wonder force, but he finally believed in it, and
thought that he was sent by a supernatural spirit
to command the world. He abused his power,
and whoever, being of flesh and blood, has not
done so? With his increasing might in the
world, the czarina saw the faith she had in Ras-
putin justified, and so the peasant became om-
nipotent and unshakable. It was no longer the
question what his religion was, and if he had been
a Roman Catholic, he might have been another



Richelieu; then his natural force, badly used,
would have been directed.

The czarina could make him understood. She
who was reared and educated in England, the
graduate of a university; she who knew and dis-
cussed all the philosophers and their systems, she
must have found intellectual and religious re-
sources in him. Her gratitude to him when the
little czarevitch improved in health, and her fixed
idea that with Rasputin's removal her son would
be in danger again, were perhaps reasons why
she should protect him for a short time, but not
for years, not after his death, which was shame-
ful and full of horror. It is disquieting that
Rasputin could be assassinated without making
an end of him; he exercises his spell beyond the
grave. He still puzzles the world, and he will
represent in his memory the greatest mystical
idea of his time of former Russia.

In any democracy Rasputin would have been
either a great socialist or a great healer. He
was no more than the illumined figure of a La
Salle or the strong magnet of a Billy Sunday.
The murder of Rasputin, with its frightful
details, leads back to the diabolic spirit of the



czarina-mother's creatures. Maria Feodorovna
hated Rasputin for interfering with her cherished
plans; she hated him for having brought peace
and calm to the persecuted souls of the czar and
czarina; and she hated him most for his new
influence in political affairs, and for sustaining
the czar in his peace ideas.

When the war broke out the czarina-mother,
by an irony of fate, found herself in Berlin.
Instead of being interned for all her mis-
chievous deeds, she was treated very cour-
teously, and even in this time of confusion and
excitement a separate car for her and her suite
was attached to the train for the Danish frontier.
That the kaiser ignored her presence at the Hotel
Bristol seemed to her the essence of brutality,
which, once in a place of safety, with the German
frontier at her back, she exaggerated into stories
of infamous treatment. After her arrival in
Petrograd she added fanatically to the persecu-
tions of the German element. She accentuated,
whenever she could, the German descent of the
czarina, and accused her of heading the peace
party at the court as a German agent. Even the
great tragedy of the country, of Europe, did not



prevent her evil spirit from inciting the most
extraordinary intrigues. The only man she could
not shake in his firm position was Rasputin, and
when finally it was said that Rasputin had been
murdered by Prince Yusupoff, who is married to
the granddaughter of the czarina-mother, it was
no longer a puzzle as to who had played the lead-
ing hand in this foul game.

There are heavy, solemn times in Russia.
With a great, simple gesture the representatives
of the people dethroned the czar. With pitiless
severity they will judge the men who were around
the czar, not his creatures, but his oppressors, who
made him a constant victim. It was easy for the
world to say that the czar was a nonentity on the
Russian throne. The world did not realize how
much force it required to be even a nonentity on
the Russian throne, to have borne for more than
twenty years a burden that would have crushed
any man. The czar had in his frail body the
quahty of superhuman endurance; he never
lived in the present. How could he? He lived
in the hope of the morrow. His imprisonment
was not a great change in his condition. He
always lived as a man condemned for life to



imprisonment, a man who looked out every day
to catch a ghmpse of the heaven to convince him-
self that heaven still existed. Joys were few in
his imperial Hfe. He had a vast fund of child-
like faith ; he had the passive heroism of a martyr
to endure long years in his imperial jail. Noth-
ing has changed for him. To-day he is the
prisoner of the people, from whom he was remote
through the absolutism of his entourage. The
day when he signed the declaration of war he
dropped his majesty. He slipped out of the
disguise of crown and ermine, which had hidden
his little, modest body and his face, and he put
on the gray coat of the soldier, and was a simple
figure behind the lines. The only sign of courage
that he gave was to talk peace again in a time of
wholesale hatred, and if he had not been unlucky
in the choice of men around him, perhaps the
world w^ould have listened to his plea. As he
lacked ambition and a consciousness of his exalted
place in life, he will be relieved to be a prisoner of
the people instead of the prisoner of the poisoned
system which had threatened his hfe ever since he
took the throne.

These are not the times of boundless passions



that put Louis XVI on the scaffold to make him
pay for his weaknesses with his head. The czar
is officially jailed by his people, and that is enough
to abolish forever czarism in Russia.

In the future history of Russia perhaps there
will be no longer a so-called court life. The
people have hoisted the red flag on the Winter
Palace. The long-untouched historic rooms will
be emptied of their musty imperial relics, which
will be sent to a museum. Those fascinating
remnants of barbarism may fall to dust with the
democracy of the new times.





Silent, strong, and inspiring, Russian women
always have been the support of their men
in every political and social movement. The
change in Russia's political organization and the
overthrow of the former rulers could not have
been executed if the way had not been prepared
with the tireless help of women.

The Russian woman is wonderful. She is the
source of sparkling life, joy, and hope. She is
also a source of delicate wisdom, of vast tender-
ness, of patience and forgiveness. No other
woman can smile as the Russian smiles, no other
woman has tears so hot and so sincere, and no
other woman can hate so strongly and endure so
silently what she endures for her man.

In former Russia, at the time when every house
throughout the country was undermined by the
passions of anarchism, involving sisters, mothers,



and daughters, secret meetings were held in the
palaces of high officials as well as in the poor
dwellings of students. The woman-flower of
the aristocracy, violently inflamed by human
tragedies, threw bombs, was sentenced, and was
tortured the same as the simple girl of the people.

Russian society was then in a paroxysm of
terror and fright. A whole world stared breath-
lessly at the women and their sacrifices, their
fanatical help, their speechless devotion to their
men's cause. To-day, when the cause is perhaps
victorious over that sinister control, the dark
despotism of a secret police, a single leaf out of
the book of woman's martyrdom during that
terrible political era should flutter into the world.

The night of the assassination of one of the
most feared governors of former St. Petersburg
a dinner party was given in the house of a general
in the suite of Czar Nicholas II to honor the
arrival of a new French envoy. The daughter of
the house, young and charming, sat beside the
distinguished guest, and conversed in the wonder-
ful, animated way of Russian women. As the
guests rose the young lady dropped her fan.
The diplomat picked it up, and at that moment



the girl bent to whisper into the surprised gentle-
man's ear that she desired him to wait for her in
his closed coach at the back of the house. Know-
ing something about the strange world in which
he lived, the envoy, greatly agitated, anxiously
watched the moment when he could leave the

The heavily veiled young woman slipped into
his coach, and told him to take her to his private
hotel. The diplomat became a little uneasy when
this daughter of a general in the suite of the czar
asked a rendezvous with him alone. Flattered
by her attention, he had merely thought to take
her to a cabaret where society women never are
seen publicly.

The young woman leaned back silently in her
corner until the carriage turned into a certain
street; then she looked out of the window. She
stopped the carriage, to leave a message with
friends, she said. The diplomat saw her disap-
pear into one of the uniform red-brick houses of
the rather poor quarter. "Returning after a few
moments, she smiled happily. The diplomat
asked her if something specially nice had hap-
pened to her. She nodded, and slipped her cool



fingers into the hand of the elderly gentleman as
if to distract his attention from the little incident.
Once in his room, she was gay, witty, amusing.
She smoked, drank champagne, and gracefully
accepted the gallantries of her host. Suddenly
he saw her glancing feverishly at the clock, and
counting absent-mindedly the strokes of the hour.
At the last stroke an explosion was heard, as if
in the distance an automobile tire had blown out.
She covered her face, and after a moment jumped
up, opened the window, and, leaning out, sup-
pressed a cry of jo3\

The diplomat followed excitedly, stood beside
her, and saw a handkerchief swaying in the air
like a little white flag. The girl closed the win-
dow slowly, turned to the elderly gentleman,
kissed him cheerfully on both cheeks, and said
sweetly :

*' Thank you for your hospitality. It is done.
Our man is dead, and you must know that you
saved me from certain death, and perhaps you
saved my country, too." Looking at the per-
plexed diplomat, who unwittingly had helped kill
the man, she smiled charmingly and offered him
her glass of champagne. "Drink this," she said,



"and I will drink from your glass. It is the
greatest honor a woman can pay a man in this
comitry." The French cavalier could not refuse
despite his hurt vanity, now understanding per-
fectly well why she had chosen him for the adven-
ture. Thus she established an alibi and made the
French embassy protect her! No other alibi
w^ould have been strong enough to save her from
the searching Ochrana which knew her to be in the
plot. To-day she was safe, but to-morrow she
might be among those taken chained in the
Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Whose heart does not contract with emotion on
learning that a young girl fourteen years old was
put into prison and left there twenty years for
having hidden her brother's anarchistic doc-
uments? She had no part in his life; she was
too young to be an anarchist. She had only
understood the danger, and had saved him by
sacrificing herself. Later, when she came back
to the daylight, she was an anarchist, and was
hanged in place of her betrothed, who had thrown
a bomb.

The wife of one of the most despotic governors
of this time was kno^\Ti as the angel of the stu-



dents about to be executed. When only seven-
teen, to free her father from Siberia, she had been
married to the old tyrant, and crucifj^ing her
young womanhood to buy mercy for his victims,
she endured with the stoicism of a martyr her life
with him.

Young aristocrats left behind them the
splendor and luxury of their life, with its warm
protection, to share the misery and exile of the
anarchists who had won them to the cause.
These women anarchists, students of the univer-
sities of Switzerland and of the Sorbonne in
Paris, many of them princesses by birth, lived
amidst the greatest hardships, doing needlework
or laundering to support themselves and their
male associates. Deserted by their families in
most cases, they starved, too proud, too haughty,
to permit any one to catch a glimpse of their
private lives. Unforgetable was the funeral of
such a silent victim, who, having lived on ten cents
a day, faded away like a poor flower. To these
women, who had no independent influence, but
were a great help to the cause of their men, —
husbands, brothers, sons, — should be erected a
memorial, for. they were no less heroic than the



men who are buried in the swamps of Ma-

Emotion is the great motive power in the Rus-
sian woman's hfe. Latent or awakened, it is
never to be known whence it will come or whither
it will drive. Nothing has changed. Conditions
have always been the same for women in Russia.
Centuries ago the noble woman, the woman
hoyare, lived in her castle, with all the power of
the original landed aristocrats, in her environ-
ment of warm comfort, and unaware of the sordid

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Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 6 of 17)