S. D. (Sergiei Dmitrievich) Urusov.

Memoirs of a Russian governor online

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one another to avail themselves of free transportation, and I
knew of instances where officials thus came to Kishinev from the
most remote districts. Thanks to this quite illegal method of
procedure, every township is compelled to maintain twenty,
forty, or even sixty horses, taxing every family from one ruble
seventy-five kopecks to two rubles fifty kopecks annually. The
aggregate transportation tax in the five districts of the province,
according to my calculation, amounted to about three hundred
and sixty thousand rubles a year, all of it levied on the peasantry
without the least aid from the other tax-payers in the district.

When I first visited one of the district cities in the province,
thence continuing my journey through the district, with stops at
the township offices, I was accompanied by ten local officials.
To each two persons was assigned a carriage and four horses.
It was then that I found out the system just described. In
response to my expression of surprise, I was informed that it was
immaterial to the peasants how many horses were to be used,
or by whom they were to be used, since they had already made
their agreement with the contractor. It was useless to waste
pity on the latter, for he had the horses, and to keep them stand-
ing* in the stable brought him no extra profit. When I ordered
payment for the use of my conveyance everybody was surprised
— among others, the contractor, whom my private adjutant could
hardly persuade to accept the money.

I did not succeed, during my sojourn in Bessarabia, in abolish-
ing these abuses. I collected the necessary materials, asked for
the information relative to the subject, and left it to the Zemstvos
to deal in their own way with the policy of unjustly -burdening



the rural population with so archaic a tax. Recently I learned,
with much pleasure, that all of the Zemstvos in question have
changed their method of providing transportation for officials,
charging all of the travelling expenses against the general Zems-
tvos fund.

I wish to cite the following as a final example of the peculiari-
ties of Bessarabia, which make it unique in the relations of its
various social elements. It was there that I first became ac-
quainted with the landlords' assumption of special right to im-
pose duties on produce brought into villages established on their
lands. The house - owners and leaseholders, and, in general,
all the inhabitants of such villages, were obliged to pay to the
landlord (proprietor of the ground) a tax on grain, wine, and
other produce of various description. The tax was collected by
a special guard, with the co-operation, in cases of misunder-
standing, of the general police, and also the local township and
village authorities. Such was the accepted custom for time out
of mind. In some way, however, the question as to the right
of the landlords to collect this tax was brought before the courts,
was appealed and reappealed up to the Senate, which finally
decided the case against the landlords. It declared that objects
of the first necessity could not be taxed either on the basis of
private agreement or on that of ancient custom. The peaceful
collection of taxes was henceforth interrupted. Meeting every-
where protests and refusals to pay, the majority of the land-
lords found themselves obliged to give up their incomes from
these imposts. A few of them, more stubborn than the rest,
did not give in, and continued to insist on their fictitious rights.
The most ingenious of these. Landlord В , of Ungeni, con-
tinued to collect dues from his tenants even in my time. He
depended upon the co-operation of the police authorities, which
he could command, thanks to his acquaintance with my pred-
ecessor and his intimacy with an unsuccessful musician but
successful card-player, P , who lived in the house of Gen-
eral Raaben in the capacity of a friend. The ancestry and an-
tecedents of this person were known to no one, yet he was a

welcome guest everywhere in Kishinev. This man, P , went

out to Ungeni at the request of his friend, and personally super-
intended the activities of the police and the pacification of the
refractory inhabitants of the village, who had become encouraged
* 39


in their hopes by the judicial decisions. They were now shown
whom they were to beheve and whom they were to obey, and
this so effectively that the collections from Ungeni continued to
pass into the treasury of the landlord even after the departure
of Raaben. The trick in the entire affair was made possible by
the fact that no receipt was given for the money collected, and
consequently no claim could be made for the return of the
money, and here the co-operation of the authorities was needed.
Information concerning these acts reached me through a com-
plaint handed to me, which I myself verified. In this complaint
one of the householders in the village stated the following : On
approaching the village with a load of flour he counted out the
necessary money, and asked the guard to accept it in return for
a receipt. The guard refused to issue a receipt, and held the
wagon. The householder then went to the offices of the town
administration and submitted the money, with a statement con-
cerning its application. The elder refused the money, and sug-
gested that it be turned over to the guard. The householder,
who wanted a receipt or a witness to the offered payment, sud-
denly conceived the idea of leaving the money on the table in
the township office. He did that, and ran away as fast he could,
notwithstanding the shouts and protests of the elder. This
marked the most interesting and significant moment of the en-
tire incident. The township office made out a protocol con-
cerning the failure of the hapless householder to comply with
the legal demands of the authorities. The protocol was trans-
mitted to the township court, and a copy of the court's decision,
imposing a heavy fine on the defendant, was submitted to me
by the latter. Having learned from the County Police Marshal
all the details of the case and the history of the special tax, I
also became convinced that the police were quite ready to with-
draw their support from the landlord in his illegal requisitions.
The Marshal declared that they were all annoyed by В 's pre-
tensions, and that even the police subalterns would be glad if
they could, with impunity, decline to perform this special cus-
tom - house service. Indemnity was granted them, and the
requisitions were, indeed, abolished. This, according to his own

statement, entirely ruined Landlord В , who had levied an

annual tax of ten thousand rubles for the right of importing

produce into Ungeni. В saw me more than once in ref-



erence to this case, until he finally reconciled himself to the loss
of his revenue. He never forgave me my interference with his
affairs. I must state here that in general the Bessarabian land-
lords always took good-naturedly my efforts to abolish some of
their antiquated customs. With the majority of them I es-
tablished the best relations, and all in all I love Bessarabia
much, and recall with pleasure the time passed there.


Threat of massacres of the Jews (pogroms) — Arrival of an English
diplomatist and of an American correspondent — Pogrom-feeling and
the efforts to suppress it — Pronin and Krushevan — Dangerous symp-
toms — Dr. Kohan — Attitude of the Jews — Jewish self-defence —
Temper of the police.

I EXPERIENCED at Kishinev many new impressions. These
came as a result of the April massacre or in anticipation of
new disorders due to the same causes.

The foreign press, especially the English and American, con-
tinued to comment in various ways upon the Kishinev pogrom.
Then, as now, the Jews were credited with great influence in the
press of West Europe and America. But the interest mani-
fested at that time towards Kishinev by the English Parliament
and American statesmen can scarcely be explained by attrib-
uting it to Jewish efforts alone. The great uneasiness called
forth in St. Petersburg in the summer of 1903 by the news of
the expected interpolation in the British Parliament concerning
the relations of the Russian government to the pogrom, and the
diplomatic actions that became necessary with America, in order
to relieve the Czar from receiving the grandiose address of the
Americans requesting his protection of the Jews from further
massacres, showed clearly that, outside of Russia, large groups of
the population, and even the governments of the great powers,
found it impossible to acquiesce in the antiquated methods of
settling old scores with a hated race as manifested in Kishinev,
and also that foreign opinion opposed the attitude towards the
pogrom which was reflected in the Russian anti-Jewish press
— an attitude regarded as almost obligatory by the Russian

Now, for the first time, a malevolent attitude towards the
Jews was manifested in the highest court circles. Until then
only the Grand-Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the Governor- General



of Moscow, had the reputation of being an implacable enemy
of the Jews. But after 1903 it became apparent to everybody
that a hostile feeling towards the Jews was also entertained by
the Czar's immediate family. All efforts to induce the latter to
express some condemnation of the pogroms, or even to give vent
to some sympathy for the sufferers by granting them any ma-
terial aid, met with complete failure; yet a single authoritative
word or action in this direction would have helped immeasurably
the maintenance of order in the provinces of the Pale. This
would have destroyed the firm conviction of many, made stronger
by the pogrom, that such methods of the population in evening
up with their ancient enemies was, from the government stand-
point, a useful policy, and acceptable to the authorities. At all
events, the position of the Bessarabian Governor in 1903 was
peculiar. The head-lines as to the "Kishinev pogrom" did not
disappear from the pages of the newspapers, and were constantly
repeated far and wide — now in the form of a reminder, now as a
warning or note of apprehension.

During one of my reception hours there came to me an English-
man who spoke fairly good French, but who, of course, did not
utter a single Russian word. He presented himself as a tourist
who had come to Odessa, and handed me a letter of recommenda-
tion from the British Consul in that city. Notwithstanding his
reservations and his guarded manner of speech, it soon became
apparent that he had a burning desire thoroughly to acquaint
himself with the conditions of the Jews in Kishinev. He also
wanted to know, especially, the results of the preliminary in-
vestigations into the late disorders. I directed the Englishman
to our District Attorney, and gave him the addresses of some
Kishinev Jews. I also promised to notify the Chief of Police
that no obstacles be put in the way of the stranger should he
desire to visit the Jewish quarters for information. But the
Englishman seemed particularly delighted with my suggestion
that he accompany me at once to the prison which I had to
visit that day. At first he was surprised that the rioters were
put into prison (about three hundred of them were there) ; also,
he couldn't apparently believe that a formal investigation of the
April affair was to be instituted. These doubts were removed
on the following day by the District Attorney, and finally he was
delighted with the thought of seeing the rioters in prison, of



talking to them, and even of having an opportunity to visit a
Russian prison. We drove over to the prison and began to
make the rounds of the cells. I addressed a large group of
prisoners, and told them how famous they had become through
their heroic deeds; that the Englishmen had sent over their
official to behold them! My companion began to question the
prisoners through me. He asked them a number of questions
about the causes which called forth the pogrom: what led them to
massacre the Jews; what harm the Jews had done to them, etc.
The Englishman seemed astonished at the replies of the prisoners,
which I interpreted for him. In the first place, they manifested
such good-nature and joviality, exchanged playful jokes, and
admitted naively that they had sinned a little, but of murder —
"God forbid!" — they were innocent of that! They assured him
that the Jews are a nice people ; that they lived with them in
peace; that everything may happen; that sometimes a Greek
Orthodox Russian is worse than a Jew. They added, however,
that the Jews were much affronted by the pogrom, and are now
vexing them by false evidence, attributing to many of them
crimes which they had not committed. I went to the window
to talk with the warden of the prison. When I finished my con-
versation with him I was astonished. My companion, closely
approaching the prisoners, examined them animatedly in Rus-
sian, shook his head, and almost choked himself in his eagerness
to satisfy his curiosity. I went still farther away, giving the
Englishman a chance to talk freely with the prisoners. He over-
took me as I reached the second ward.

Two days later the EngHshman came to take leave of me; he
was delighted with the prisoners, with the District Attorney,
with myself, with the Jews, and, in general, with everything he
had seen. He told me that in England they have a wrong idea
about matters in Bessarabia; that he had convinced himself of
the correct administration of justice in Russia; of the loyalty of
the officials; of the impartiality and high standard of the pro-
curator's office; that the civil order in the city appeared to be
model; and that all the rumors of the destruction of the town,
and of the stagnation and decay into which commerce had fallen,
were false. He spoke of many other things which I do not now

Two months later I received from the British Consul in Odessa



a pamphlet — a report of the condition of the city of Kishinev
after the pogrom — presented by the British Foreign Secretary to
both Houses of Parhament by his Majesty's order. The report
ended with the assurance that all is well in Kishinev.

This case serves as a good example for the need of independence
in the Governor — that he should avoid, as much as possible, com-
munication with the St. Petersburg authorities. Imagine what
a farce the investigation of the English diplomat would have
become if it had been regulated by instructions from St. Peters-
burg. It may be stated with certainty that such a report of the
condition at Kishinev, which was of great value to the Russian
Government, would undoubtedly never have appeared.

A real surprise came to me from America. Before Christmas,
1903, rumors of imminent disorders increased, as usual. During
the holidays an elderly, portly gentleman came to me, styling
himself a correspondent of a New York paper. He said that he
was sent to watch the Christmas pogrom, and after five days of
sojourn in Kishinev he was beginning to realize that his com-
ing to Kishinev was evidently useless. On assuring him that he
would not have a chance to see any disorders, I noticed in his
face a certain disappointment. After a short meditation he
asked me whether I authorized him to state in his paper that he
left Kishinev only after my categorical assurances of the futility
of his further stay here. I gave him the requested authorization,
and the correspondent departed.

Christmas, indeed, passed without disturbances, and only a
certain apprehension led me to hold myself ready during the
first three days, that I might not be unprepared in the event of
disorders. Besides, it was a cold Christmas; all kinds of prom-
enades, dances, and gatherings of the suburban inhabitants of
Kishinev were therefore limited.

The following Easter, however, in the spring of 1904, public
sentiment had changed materially. Symptoms appeared, show-
ing that the bacilli of fear on one side and of hatred on the
other were still alive in the city, and were capable of multipli-

With the first swallows of spring, and the awakening of the
half - forgotten fears and the latent hatred, there appeared in
Kishinev two individuals — Pronin and Krushevan — who played
a very significant role in the pogrom movement of 1903 and



1905. Both had somewhat qtiieted down after the Kishinev
massacres of 1903. Krushevan had removed to St. Petersburg,
where he started a kind of patriotic paper, Bessarabetz, in charge
of a trustworthy man. Pronin, who remained in Kishinev, was
much agitated in expectation of being changed from a witness
into a defendant at the investigations preHminary to the trial
of the rioters. Pronin was a few times very near indictment,
a position that, indeed, restrained his activity, and induced him
from time to time to come to me to develop his ideas of a peace-
ful struggle with the Jews. Since the beginning of the Japanese
War, however, in February, 1904, both patriots raised their
heads again. Krushevan had found a new theme for his paper
about the aid given the Japanese by the Jews, and Pronin began
to interpret his theme into the popular language of the masses.
The police again began to report nightly sessions in the back
room of one of the market - place taverns. Again the pubHc
bazaars and tea-houses were flooded with leaflets enhghtening
the people as to the treachery, and the heavy sins of the Jews.
The Jews also became agitated in anticipation of danger.

Let some one else tell in his memoirs about Krushevan. I
do not care to express an opinion of a man whom I have never
seen, and of whom I have heard so many diverse views that his
moral physiognomy is not clear to my mind. Moreover, I was
informed that he nourished an irreconcilable animosity towards
me. This went so far that he ascribed to me all kinds of im-
possible misdemeanors, and endeavored to explain my philo-
Semitism by imputing to me the most ignoble motives. I shall,
therefore, permit myself to pass over this original Moldavian
celebrity. I may say of him, however, that his literary pro-
ductions and newspaper articles which came under my observa-
tion manifest some talent and the love of their author for his
native province. Pronin I could understand more clearly, since
he represented the well-known type of a Great Russian con-
tractor with a tight-fisted hand, who had arisen from a common
burgher to a merchant; who had enriched himself with all sorts
of government contracts, and had oppressed his workmen, with
whom he was constantly engaged in lawsuits about money mat-
ters. A shrewd emigrant from Orel, Pronin quickly made a fort-
une at Kishinev, thanks to the ignorance of the Moldavians and
the easy-going ways of the Bessarabians. He acquired land,



a house, and considerable capital. The Jews, however, limited
the growth of his wealth by competing in the city contracts, and
reducing prices to such an extent that there was no more room
for the Great Russian to expand. Pronin reduced his business
transactions, and began to occupy himself with public affairs.
He became director of the Kishinev prison committee, a repre-
sentative of some Persian interests in Kishinev, and began to
wear a frock-coat with Persian medal attached. He even at-
tempted to write poetry, imitating Koltzov, and forced the un-
fortunate Bessarabetz to publish it, for the paper was heavily in-
debted to him, and feared that Pronin would present his notes
for collection.

Moreover, I was interested in another aspect of this many-
sided gentleman. Willy-nilly, I was forced to look into the dark
comers of Pronin's character, where lurked the instincts of a
demagogue of the lowest stamp. Pronin often liked to play the
role of a protector and leader of the poor working-man, and did
not hesitate to spend money to gain influence in labor circles.
Posing in the double гб1е of a protector of the Greek Orthodox
people from the Jews and of a true Russian patriot, the shield
of autocracy, Pronin had some connections in St. Petersburg
and with the local gendarmerie. Finding in me a man who was
prejudiced against his past career, and annoyed at my ignoring
his attempts to ingratiate himself with me, Pronin repeatedly
hinted at his close relations with the Minister of the Interior,
relating to me his conversations with Plehve, how the Minister
received him in private, and how he had long talks with him.
Among other things, Pronin told that at the conclusion of one
such talk he had said to the Minister, "Your Excellency, there
are only two true Russians in Russia devoted to the Czar and the
fatherland — you and I." After which the Minister — supposedly
— smiled, and heartily shook his hand.

During Lent, I began to receive information that Pronin was
zealously trying to agitate the working-people of Kishinev, mak-
ing use of Krushevan's articles, distributing them, and announc-
ing that he had subscribed to suitable newspapers — with the
aim of starting an anti- Jewish propaganda — and while visiting
the prisons he endeavored to interview the imprisoned rioters,
instructing them how to defend themselves in court. I succeed-
ed in removing Pronin from among the directors of the prison



committee, after which he fortunately ceased to annoy me with
his visits.

Soon afterwards the news spread through the city that the
Jews were trying to get Christian blood for ritual purposes.
The first case which excited such rumors occurred in the coal-
yard of a Jew, to whom a Christian boy was sent for coal. The
Jew took a knife in his hand, and the frightened boy ran away.
Talk began immediately about the unsuccessful attempt at
ritual murder. Pronin drove to the Police Department, and
arranged that the boy's parents report to the police. But
the matter came to nothing, because Christian witnesses present
at the coal-yard declared that the knife was taken for the pur-
pose of cutting the unopened bag of coal. The presence of dis-
interested parties must evidently exclude the probability of an
attempt at murder. But not long after a three-year-old girl
disappeared in the outskirts of the town. A few hours later the
police found a mob in front of the house of the girl's parents.
Already loud voices were heard accusing the Jews of kidnapping
the child. Outcries and threats began to be heard. The excite-
ment grew, and the child's mother persistently demanded a search
and a reckoning with the kidnappers. Fortunately, just then
some relatives, on whom she had been calling, appeared with the
little girl. The strange side of the above incident lies in this:
that the girl's mother apparently did not rejoice in her return.
She had so positively accused the Jews of the kidnapping of her
child that she felt something akin to disappointment at her re-
appearance. Roughly snatching the girl by the arms, she forced
her ii^to the house, and in every way showed anger more than
joy. The last case that roused much town talk happened just
before Easter — I think on the Wednesday of Passion week. A
young Christian girl who lived as th6 servant of a Jew — a drug-
store clerk — was brought to the hospital suffering from severe
bums about her body. The patient soon died without having
regained consciousness. The betrothed of the deceased began
to threaten the pharmacist, accusing him of being the cause
of her death. Pronin immediately interposed, and began his
investigations, going from the family of the deceased to her
betrothed, and from the hospital to the police bureau. In the
evening, at the club, he told the tale: how a depraved Jew,
having poured kerosene over a virtuous Christian girl, burned



her because she resisted his attentions. This time the threats
of the girl's betrothed, the outcries of the parents, and the
agitation of Pronin excited the populace to the highest pitch.
The burned girl became the heroine of the city. The police re-
ported that they were unable to restrain the indignant Christian
Orthodox masses. Riots were expected at once. I had to make
use of my rights as Governor, in time of disturbances, so far as to
send Pronin out of Kishinev, by administrative order, until the
holidays were over.

The effect of this expulsion was excellent. I think that the

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