Leonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-Seydlitz.

Russia of yesterday and to-morrow online

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German characteristics, and demanded that the
statue be changed, thus cutting off some of the
power and will. It was a dramatic moment when
the modified bronze group was again carried to

the roof.

185



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

All this happened one year before the outbreak
of the Great War. In their amazement the Rus-
sian people were for the first time made aware
that an embassy needed to demonstrate the char-
acteristics of the people represented. The affair
gave occasion for the most humorous comments,
accompanied by suggestions of ways that other
nations might demonstrate their characteristics.
On Sundays the population of St. Petersburg
wandered to the Isaacs Plaza and looked with
astonished glances up to the roof, while they ex-
pressed their opinions about the mightiness of
the Germans. They suddenly noticed Germany ;
they had never noticed her before. Germans
came to Russia because Russia was a great em-
pire where they found room and were needed,
with other practical things imported into Russia.
The Russians knew what German industries
meant; they personally knew the Germans from
having sometimes worked in the factories with
them ; they knew that they loved work and never
drank vodka; that day by day, morning and
night, they labored silently, seriously, soberly.

The efficiency of the Germans had never both-
ered the Russians. Germans were Germans, and

186



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

did not know better. The German salesman was
a popular figure in the little villages, where he
was always anxiously awaited for the ready-made
articles he carried. He knew exactly what the
people wanted ; he was a good man to deal with ;
he cheated less than the Jews, and gave credit.
It was the same in the big cities, where the Ger-
mans imported French and even American
goods, and it was the same in the industries,
where German technical efficiency worked out
astonishing results from Russian inventive
genius.

Peter the Great employed Germans in his navy
yards when he needed workmen who did not re-
main drunk for a week at a time. Catharine the
Great offered lands on the Dnieper and the Volga
to Germans made destitute by the Seven Years'
War, and Alexander I colonized weavers of
Saxony and Silesia on the Black Sea, in the
Taurida Provinces, to improve the wool industry.
The Germans of the time of Peter the Great be-
came the engineers and contractors of Russia,
and built ports and cities. On the Volga a won-
derful fertility blessed the banks of the river, and
the red-roofed, friendly little houses developed

187



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

into communities, and the communities grew into
villages and towns with model adminstration.

When the fleet of Catharine moved up the
Volga, the empress stopped at those green, blos-
soming borders, enthusiastically cheered by the
people of her native country. The kind, im-
perial woman, who, mother-like, protected and
loved the clean, industrious men and women,
granted them the privilege of retaining their lan-
guage, their customs, and their religious faith.
In the heart of Russia, on the Dnieper, the Men-
nonites, persecuted in their own country, lived
their sober, active lives unmolested, maintaining
their sectarianism. No one saw any harm in the
idyllic life of German colonists, who kept the
privileges of former times, never abusing them,
never taking advantage of the Russians. The
German ants were a curiosity to their Russian
neighbors, who on Sundays used to drive over to
the little villages to look at the spotless streets,
clean houses, and little flower gardens, as chil-
dren look at a picture-book.

In time the Saxons on the Black Sea became
the kings of the steppes, became Russian sub-
jects, and, in the third generation Russians in

188



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

flesh and blood, their model estates and their
names alone recalling their German descent.
One of these landowners could indulge the royal
mood of devoting twenty thousand acres of land
to the purpose of acclimatizing species of animals
that never before had lived in Russia. For
hours and hom's one can drive in these enchanted
gardens over land where twenty years ago grew
only sod for sheep-grazing; now the rarest trees,
shrubs, and flowers spread shade and coolness
and beauty. All kinds of birds fly about in ap-
parent freedom in immense aviaries, the wires of
which are artistically hidden in foliage. Big and
little houses are built to protect the antelopes
and other animals not used to winter weather,
which are of short duration in this semi-tropical
part of Russia.

The owner lives as a Russian patriarch among
the peasants, in the simple house of his ancestors,
where the white wooden floors are scrubbed every
morning, where he shares tschi and bortsch with
his people. Around his dwelling are erected
hundreds of clean little houses for his peasants,
who take care of the grounds and of half a mil-
lion sheep. All of them are the Little Russians

189



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

of the southern provinces, and they lived peace-
fully and gladly under the direction of German
efficiency, which is too deep-rooted in this King
of the Steppes to be subjugated by Russian in-
dolence.

In May, 1914, the czar went to visit the owner
of the gardens, and passed the night in one of
the spotless guest-rooms of the private house ; for
there is a separate dwelling where less intimate
visitors are lodged and received with the largest
hospitality, never intruding on the privacy of the
owner. He has become too much of a Russian
for that. After the czar's visit this King of the
Steppes was ennobled, and he dedicated to the
czarevitch the Acclimatization Gardens, a really
royal present.

Less idyllic in surroundings, but tirelessly in
factories, German directors, managers, and work-
men labored for the Russian state. Wonderful
things were accomplished, and no one had in.
mind that this working hand in hand could grow
into a bad influence, a Germanizing of the Rus-
sians. There was nothing but the serious work
of serious men who labored in common, the Rus-
sians in their lines, the Germans in theirs, and

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THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

neither interfering with the other or creating ill
will. The Germans naturally took up the work
which did not lie in the field of Russian activity.
The Germans living in Russia loved Russia;
their hard home training relaxed in the mild dis-
cipline, and life itself revealed more of its beauty
and enjoyment to them, their sense of duty not
being overstrained, as in Germany. Their lik-
ing for titles and decorations w^as easily satisfied,
and they were the last who would have changed
the situation by mixing in Russian politics. No
one spoke about "influence."

From time to time chauviniste newspapers or
fanatics would start a Panslavistic demonstra-
tion against the Germans. This came and went
sporadically without arousing special attention.
Foreign societies and corporations were required
to change their names into Russian, to have Rus-
sian directors on their boards, and the Germans
gladly conformed to this regulation, never refus-
ing this absolutely just demand.

Around the Russian throne history shows po-
Htical intrigues in which Germans were con-
cerned. The Empress Anna raised her favorite
Byron, secretary to the Polish King Maurice of

193



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

Saxony, to the dukedom of Courland. Peter
II, her successor to the throne, exiled Byron to
Siberia; and after his short reign, the Empress
EHzabeth supported Maria Theresa in her Seven
Years' War against Frederick II of Prussia,
The nephew of Empress EHzabeth, the idiotic
Peter III, protected German interests, and it
was the greatest thought of his wife, the Princess
of Anhalt-Zerbst, later the Great Catharine, that,
despite her own German descent, she conspired
with the Russians against the German intruding
spirit and dethroned her husband. Catharine
the Great did not quarrel with Frederick II, but
she never let his politics interfere with her Rus-
sian policy, only enjoying a bel esprit correspond-
ence with the Voltairean philosopher.

Catharine was dear to the heart of Frederick,
and the court tongues tried to spin a story of her
mother's tender relations with him before Cath-
arine was born. Catharine's mother lived and
intrigued at the court of Frederick whenever she
could, but her daughter never permitted her to
go to Russia.

German princesses married Romanoffs. One
of them, the Grand Duchess Helene, a Princess

194i



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

of Wiirtemburg, gathered German spirit, art,
and music about her, and German diplomacy.
Bismarck was then ambassador at St. Peters-
burg. The pohtical giant had a penchant for
Russia, and understood how to stroke the Rus-
sian bear behind the ears. He wanted the
powerful neighbor to be on most friendly terms
with Germany, knowing how deeply German in-
terests lay in Russian soil. Bismarck's warning
not to provoke Russia might ring in many Ger-
man ears to-day. His policy was repudiated by
the "new course" and his fundamental wisdom by
empty words.

The first of August, 1914, dawned and Rus-
sia was one of the arenas into which alien nations
were thrown before the hberated bestiality of
man. Germans, petrified, looked on the friends
of yesterday, who had become the persecutors of
to-day. The Russian mobs, inflamed by vodka
and bribes to a mad fervor of patriotism, marched
to the German embassy in Petrograd, looted the
palace, killed the last German official, and rushed
to the roof, from which they threw down the enor-
mous bronze group, representing force and will,
dragging it to the Moika, a little river near

195



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

by, into which they flung it with much howHng
and cursing.

Under the blinding and infuriating spirit of
war everything that was German or of German
origin was driven out pitilessly. The high-
placed directors and managers of state plants,
factories, and banks, the master workers, the
laborers, most of them naturalized or Russian
born, were chained together like criminals with-
out any regard to age or position or titles and
sent to Siberia. The people reveled in vandalism
and would have robbed and pillaged the houses
of their kinsmen, without consulting their feel-
ings, if the word had been given, just to satisfy
the lust of the hour. Excellencies of yesterday
were arrested and shot, if denounced by a muzhik.
Germans were free game in those days ; but who
would imagine that the red-flamed war hyena
would seek the peaceful little spots on the Volga
and the Dnieper? In the warm ripeness of those
August days, when the flowers blossomed in the
little gardens, when the fields waited for the harv-
est in their golden fertility, when the red-roofed
houses seemed to slumber in the quiet of midsum-
mer warmth, the bloodthirsty beast dragged the

196



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

people to icy regions as prisoners. They are
gone forever, those blessed colonies which Cath-
arine loved, their happiness buried, and the
results of century-long industry obliterated. In
their blind rage the Russians have hurt the mem-
ory of their greatest empress and benefactress.
And in the Taurida Provinces, where from an en-
nobled Russian of German descent the czar had
accepted a princely present, the police hunted
for the landowner's brother, a naturalized Ger-
man who had gone to the Black Sea to pass the
summer in the home of his old mother.

After German interests, German vitality had
been crushed, suddenly, like a ghost, invisible, but
surely felt, roamed a German party which ad-
vocated a separate peace. It was said that the
trail of this party led to the throne, the czarina
being a German princess. Whenever the czar-
ina had an attachment to her native country, it
was drowned in the strong current of Russia's
moral influence. As Empress of Russia she had
to give up her own self, in truth and in faith, to
Russian interests in church and state. It may
be that the czarina was suffering in the depths of
her heart through this war which has put her

197



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

brother and sister in the ranks of the enemy, —
this was her holy right, — but first of all she was
the sovereign, the mother of her country, the
mother of the future czar. Why should the czar-
ina, who never had mixed in state affairs, sud-
denly excel in INIachiavellianism, and why should
Rasputin, who was illiterate, whose conception
did not cross the spiritual borders of Russia, have
been her instrument ? Was there no minister, no
statesman who could represent the czarina's in-
trigue ?

The czar's great longing for peace was never
a secret, and when he saw that military disasters
were irreparable, when, after Gallipoli, he saw
that the promise of the Dardanelles was post-
poned indefinitely, the desire filled his heart to
see the war tragedy end. Rasputin spoke the
language of the people, — no people wants war, —
and he strengthened the czar in his desire.
Though Rasputin possessed the great power of
the ignorant, he had learned enough to know that
the desire of a czar is a delicate thing, which can
not be prematurely exposed to political discus-
sion. The people were not permitted to speak
peace, to think peace ; their energies were directed

198



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

to war. Less and less the people who reflected
could find out the reasons for the continuation of
the struggle, and when every hope for their own
gain was gone, they were merely allies, merely
men to die for the policy of the Entente, which
they did not understand.

Then the revolution came. The people awak-
ened to the real sense of this war, to the war with-
out victory, as the President of the mother de-
mocracy of the United States declared, to the
war for the people's holiest rights, their Hberation
from gray autocratic despotism. But why
should the Russian suddenly seek the German
influence in the misery of the country, in its fail-
ure? The Russian army lacked the same spirit
in the Russo-Japanese War and suffered under
the same conditions.

There are no longer Germans living in Rus-
sia who have not been interned; therefore the
German influence must come from the Baltic
Provinces. The Baltic Provinces — that is an en-
tirely different question, a question by itself. It
was in the thirteenth century that German
knights first entered the land on the Baltic Sea,
— Livonia and Esthonia, for Courland then be-

199



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

longed to the Kingdom of Poland, — conquered
the inhabitants, and forced the Christian religion
on them. To-day the people of the Baltic Prov-
inces are mostly Lutheran. The knights took
possession of the land, obtaining their rights first
from Sweden, under which sovereignty they lived
until Peter the Great conquered the provinces
and granted them the same rights from Russia.
They remained German, kept their language,
and brought the Baltic Provinces to high culture.
They reigned on their estates like dukes, keeping
the original people, the Esthonians and Letts, in
a serf-like condition. They fortified their castles,
built cities with German administrations, and
were recognized as a free people, with their own
laws and privileges.

Beside the knights who developed into the
haughty Baltic barons that sat above all in the
councils there was evolved a class of German
patricians like those of medieval Geraiany.
These patricians were strictly classified as burgh-
ers, who under certain rules admitted the peo-
ple into their guilds and thus into their profes-
sions.

The Baltic Provinces flourished. Agricul-

^00



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

ture, industries, and commerce extended widely,
and science had its home at the famous university
in Dorpat. The Baltics belonged to Germans of
the highest type.

Their rights were respected by Peter the Great
and renewed by Catharine, who made courtiers of
her German subjects. Baltic noblemen were
called into Russian governmental and court af-
fairs. They were known and esteemed by all the
czars as the most loyal and trustworthy subjects.

The Baltics remained unmolested until 1880.
The divergences between the Russians and the
Baltics broke out as a natural result of different
opinions in regard to their duties in official posi-
tions. The Baltic was not pliable, a hard, but
just, administrator, and could not adapt himself
to the earlier standards which implied a flourish-
ing system of graft in the Government. Under
the reign of Alexander II the tension between the
Russians and the Baltics became unbearable, and
when among the growing anarchism of the Rus-
sian youth the searching police discovered a Bal-
tic, the treachery of the German-speaking sub-
ject was exploited. Prince Shahavskoy, the
Governor of Esthonia, after having been de-

201



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

nounced by Baltic aristocrats for bribery and
protection in railroad affairs, avenged him-
self, and a terrible period of suppression of
everything Baltic began. The Baltics were no
longer tolerated as German subjects under
the sovereignty of the Russian czar; they had
to declare themselves entirely Russian. Their
mother-tongue, in which their children had
been taught, was suddenly prohibited. A ter-
rible confusion began to take place. Officials
of the German city administrations were re-
placed by Russian bureaucrats. The street
names appeared in signs, which neither Estho-
nians nor Letts nor Germans could decipher.
The Baltics were shadowed constantly, and the
slightest opposition was exaggerated to a state
crime. Spies of the Government and of the
police hved unsuspected in harmless famihes, sat
among the children in school-rooms, sat in the
church pews, sat among the university students.
The victims of this terrorizing system were
seized, taken to the fortresses, and often disap-
peared, without any trial, into the darkness of
Russian prisons or were deported to Siberia.
The system did not help to make the Baltics more

202



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

loyal. The spirit of opposition grew among the
intelligent until it became open revolt.

Alexander II had no power, being himself re-
strained by the system which he hated. He
could not free himself, and was helpless to pre-
vent the inforcement of the new laws that the
Russian Government imposed upon this free peo-
ple. Among clergymen, teachers and students
the ochrana operated mercilessly. To be de-
nounced by a peasant, whose word in Russia
would have been less than the barking of a dog,
was sufficient cause for the arrest, without ques-
tion, of a Baltic. Sometimes it took years for
the desperate family to find out where the fa-
ther, son, or husband lived, or whether he had
been simply executed. This was the great Bal-
tic tragedy.

One of the greatest of Baltic physicians was
put to trial because a Russian workman accused
him of having declined to attend the peasant's
wife in childbirth. In this case the police feared
to arrest the physician because of his popularity,
and he was permitted to give a reason for his
failure to go to the woman. The doctor remem-
bered the call of the man, and remembered also

203



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

that he had a strong reason for sending the man
to his assistant, who unfortunately could not be
found, but he could not recall exactly what that
reason was. The whole city was in an uproar,
and a kind of revolution was expected. The
Germans and even the Letts had decided to re-
volt against the arbitrary system of the police,
but the police merely sneered at the possible up-
rising and decided to make a good capture on the
day of the trial.

The wife of the physician, in deepest distress,
stood at the window gazing out into the damp-
ness of the November day when suddenly a
young woman in the street looked up and greeted
her laughingly. The face seemed to the wife a
godsend, and she rushed down-stairs to ask the
young woman into the house. Yes, it was she
who had been ill of childbirth fever and who had
been nursed, through the kindness of the doctor,
day and night. She remembered well enough
the kind wife who had come to her, bringing re-
freshments. Suddenly the physician's wife
knew why her husband could not help another,
whj^ he had to send away the man just as he was
entering the carriage to drive to the suburb

204



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

where he had saved the life of the little mother
ill of childbirth fever.

The young woman, a real Russian and the wife
of a small government official, gladly appeared
at the trial, and her testimony freed the physi-
cian, who had been for a long time on the black-
list and would have been just the right person to
use as an example.

The Baltics breathed heavily under the strang-
gling of their freedom. When Alexander II
was murdered, his son, Alexander III, disdain-
fully scratched out with one penstroke the old
privileges of the Baltics. It was then, that hun-
dreds of Baltic noblemen left the provinces, to
become again, what their ancestors had been,
German subjects. Those whose interests were
buried in Russian soil and who could not leave
the country submitted to the new regime with
teeth set together.

Their rights, their laws, their language, and
their university were taken from them. They
had to be Russian; their children had to be un-
true to their own blood. Their existence became
a lie; they sinned against the holy law of race.
A nation never can love what its ancestors hated.

205



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

A nation can not build peace and happiness on
old distresses.

Despite the submission of the Baltics to the
new conditions, those who had been deported
were not pardoned, but their fainihes were per-
mitted to share their exile. The Baltics suffered
silently. They accepted the terrible change with
the dignity of a cultivated people. They en-
tered the Russian state service and became loyal
subjects of the czar. His personal bodyguard
was composed of Baltics, whom he knew he could
trust, for a Baltic never broke his oath. The
Baltics became the most able officials in the Gov-
ernment and the best officers in the Russian army.
But these Baltics, who became more Russian than
the Russians, denied their own souls, and what
they had suffered in the surrender of their own
freedom they made their Esthonian and Lett
subordinates suffer. They never had been mild
masters, and had treated the natives of the coun-
try which they had conquered and oppressed as
the Russian treated his serfs or even worse. The
Russian had always had a patriarchal feeling for
his serfs, was kind and condescending, and the

206



THE GERMAN INFLUENCE IN RUSSIA

serfs were devoted to the house to which they be-
longed.

Beneath their cringing subordination the
Esthonians and Letts hated the haughty Bal-
tics, who stepped over them as if they were in-
sects, who never took the slightest interest in
their well-being, and who looked at them as they
looked at the animals belonging to their estates.
Like the animals, they had their stables ; they had
food, they even had schools, but they had no
love. In the cold repudiation of them as a hu-
man class they suffered from a terrible hopeless-
ness. Childlike, undeveloped, and frightened,
these people were always on the defensive.
When it was brought to the attention of the Bal-
tic barons that in these watching serfs slumbered
a terrible latent danger ready to break out at any
opportunity, they laughed disdainfully. Those
animals, those cowards, who for centuries had
been trampled under foot, had lost the courage
to stand up against their masters.

The Baltics did not see the looks of hatred
which flashed in the narrow little eyes when, in
the middle of the night, the Lett servants were

207



RUSSIA OF YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW

awakened out of heavy sleep after a hard day's
work to harness sleighs and to drive the barons,
the junker's gay parties, through the icy, glim-
mering woods. On the sleighs, which were har-
nessed as the Russian troika, the footman had to
stand behind the seats with crossed arms. Drunk
with weariness, the icy air striking their faces,
the poor boys were often overcome with sleep
and fell from the sleighs speeding over the frozen
snow. No one would notice that a footman was


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Online LibraryLeonie Ida Philipovna Souiny-SeydlitzRussia of yesterday and to-morrow → online text (page 9 of 17)