Vladislas died, and the Diet elected his brother John Casimir. He tried to reduce the very serious rebellion by promises, but there was too deep a hatred between the two churches. Meanwhile order had been restored in Russia, when the people of Lithuania wrote to the czar begging him to take them under his protection. Alexis convoked the Estates, told them that he had been insulted by Poland, and that the Poles were persecuting the members of the Greek Church. They declared in favor of war, and a boyard was sent to Kief to receive the oath of allegiance. The people were willing provided their liberties would be respected. This the czar promised. He declared that the privileges of the Assembly and of the towns would be maintained, that only natives would be employed in the administration and in taxation.
Poland was now sorely pressed. Charles X of Sweden invaded the (p. 143) kingdom and took two of its capitals. The Cossack and Lithuanians entered it from the south, and the Czar Alexis at the head of his own army attacked it on the east. He maintained strict discipline so that the Polish Governors said, "Moscow makes war in quite a new way, and conquers the people by the clemency and good-nature of the czar." The towns of White Russia opened their gates to his army, and Smolensk surrendered after a five weeks' siege. The Swedes captured Warsaw, the last capital of the misruled kingdom.
It was the jealousy of its enemies that saved Poland this time. Alexis entered into a truce and attacked Sweden. This war was carried on from 1656 until 1661, and ended by the peace of Cardis whereby neither country gained any advantage. The Poles, seeing the danger they had incurred, rallied, and once again war broke out with Russia. It was carried on with various success until both countries were exhausted. In 1661, a thirteen years' truce was concluded, whereby Russia restored Lithuania, but kept Little Russia on the left bank of the Dnieper, together with Kief and Smolensk.
In 1668, a revolt was organized by the Metropolitan of Kief, who preferred the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople to that of Moscow. As a result, Little Russia was subject to all the horrors of war, but the Russian power prevailed in the end. Then the Cossacks of the Don broke out, and until 1671 the territory between that river and the Volga suffered terribly.
Alexis' reign was remarkable for the introduction of so-called "reforms" in the Church, which were confined wholly to ceremonies (p. 144) and externals. The czar supported the "reformer" Nicon, and those who did not agree with him were called religious madmen and suffered persecution. The monasteries near Archangel rebelled and troops were sent against them; but it was eight months before the sturdy monks capitulated.
Alexis continued his father's efforts to reestablish intercourse with Western Europe. But the West was only recovering from the terrible Thirty Years' War, so that little interest was shown.
Alexis had married twice. From the first marriage he had two sons Feodor and Ivan, and six daughters; by his second wife he had one son, Peter, and two daughters. When he died, in 1676, he was succeeded by his eldest son Feodor.
Feodor Alexievitch, the third czar of the Romanof family, reigned only six years, from 1676 to 1682. It was under his reign that a truce for twenty years with Turkey, restored peace to White Russia.
Hitherto Russia had suffered from the rivalry resulting from disputes caused by precedence of birth; generals had lost battles, because they refused to serve under men whom they looked upon as inferiors. At an assembly of the higher clergy, it was resolved to burn the Book of Rank, and the czar made a law that any one disputing about his rank, should lose it as well as his property.
To protect the Greek Church from dividing into sects, an academy was founded at Moscow where the Slav, Latin, and Greek languages were taught.
XVII—EARLY YEARS OF PETER THE GREAT (PETER ALEXIEVITCH). (p. 145)
Feodor died childless, and should have been succeeded by his little brother Ivan, but the child was of unsound mind. The other son of Alexis, Peter, was the child of his last wife, and nine years old at the time. The question about the succession was discussed in the Council, and decided in Peter's favor, and his mother Natalia became Regent. Among Peter's half sisters was one, Sophia, twenty-five years old, who did not propose to submit to this decision. She took part in Feodor's funeral, in defiance of the law which forbade women to appear in public, and after it schemed and plotted to form a party in her favor. A rumor was spread that the czarina's brother had seized the throne and that Ivan had been murdered. The people of Moscow rose, and the streltsi marched to the kremlin where the appearance of Natalia with the two children made the mob hesitate. Unfortunately Prince Dolgorouki addressed the men in violent language; they seized him on their pikes and killed him. They then stabbed the czarina's foster father, Matveef, in her presence, and sacked the palace, murdering many of its inmates. One of Natalia's brothers was thrown out of a window and caught on the points of the lances of the streltsi who (p. 146) were waiting below. Natalia's father and brother were taken from her; Cyril, the father, was sent to a monastery and her brother Ivan was tortured and cut to pieces, although the czarina went on her knees begging for his life. The streltsi acted under authority from Sophia when they committed these outrages. After this rioting had continued seven days, the streltsi sent their commandant Khovanski to the douma, to demand that there should be two czars, Ivan, with Peter as his assistant. The douma did not fancy the idea,—but there were the streltsi with their pikes, and they carried the day.
From this time it was Sophia who was the real czar. She reigned in name of the two half-brothers, and showed herself in public, insisting upon being present on every occasion. The Russians as a rule are not fond of new fashions; they did not like this, and objected so strongly that Sophia was forced to give way. Thereafter the two young czars sat in public on the throne, but it was constructed in such a manner that Sophia could hear and see without being visible.
She shocked every Russian by her manners until the streltsi began to speak of her as "the scandalous person." They hated her when she persecuted the raskolnik or Old Believers, that is, the men who objected to the reforms of Nicon. At last she thought that it was not safe for her to remain at Moscow; she fled to the strong convent at Troitsa, taking with her the czarina and the two little tsars, and there summoned the men-at-arms whom she could trust. Khovanski, the commandant of the streltsi, was summoned before her; he was arrested on the way, and put to death with his son. The streltsi were (p. 147) considering another revolt, when they were seized with a panic; instead of marching upon Troitsa, they went there to beg her pardon. Sophia forgave them, but their leaders were executed.
Sophia trusted the government to two favorites, Prince Galitsyne who was at the head of Foreign Affairs, and Chaklovity whom she made commandant of the streltsi. Galitsyne tried hard to form an alliance among the Christian powers against the Turks and Tartars. His scheme failed because Louis XIV of France kept the whole of Western Europe in turmoil by his constant wars with the House of Austria, and the Christian princes had to look after their own interests. He was more fortunate in Poland where John Sobieski was king. A treaty of "perpetual" peace was concluded between Russia and Poland at Androussovo, in 1686, and an alliance was entered into against the Turks.
In 1687, an army of 100,000 Russians and 50,000 Cossacks marched against the Crimea. The Tartars had burned the steppes, and the Russians suffered such severe hardships that they were forced to retreat. The hetman of the Cossacks was accused of treachery, and deported to Siberia, when Mazeppa, who had been his secretary, was appointed hetman. In the spring of 1689, the Russians under Galitsyne and the Cossacks under Mazeppa started again for the Crimea, but they had no better success than before.
Peter, who was born in 1673, was then sixteen years old, but being tall and strongly built, he looked much older. He was bright and anxious to learn, and at an early age had shown that he possessed (p. 148) a will of his own. He had read much, but his tutor, a man named Zorof, had allowed him to have his own way, and when the boy grew up to be a man, he made that tutor "the arch-priest of fools." When the boy was tired, Zorof would allow him to put his work aside, and would read to him about the great deeds of his father Alexis, and of those of Ivan the Terrible, their campaigns, battles, and sieges; how they endured privations better than the common soldiers, and how they added other territory to Russia. He also learned Latin, German, and Dutch. He afterwards complained that his education was neglected, because he was allowed to do as he pleased. He chose his own companions, and as he did not like to be confined within the palace grounds, he roamed in the streets and often became acquainted with men whom he would not have met in the palace, Russians, Dutch, Swiss, English, and Germans. His usual attendants were Boris Galitsyne and other young nobles with whom he played at soldier. He pressed the palace servants into the ranks and had them drilled in European tactics. Peter took lessons in geometry and fortification; he constructed small forts which were besieged and defended by the young players. Sometimes the game became earnest; blows were given and received, when Peter took his share without a murmur, even when he was wounded as sometimes happened.
At first Peter did not like the water; no Russian does; but he mastered his dislike. Once, when he saw a stranded English boat, he sent for a boatbuilder to make him a sailboat and to teach him how to manage it. He took a great fancy to sailing, and often took his (p. 149) boat on the Yaousa, and afterwards on Lake Pereiaslaf, to the terror of his mother. Thus Peter grew up, healthy in body and strong of mind, until his ambitious half-sister Sophia began to think what would become of her when the boy should be czar. She had styled herself Autocrat of all the Russias and did not like the idea of surrendering the title. For some time she was appeased when her courtiers told her that the boy cared for nothing except to amuse himself.
When he was sixteen years old, Peter asserted himself. Sophia had ordered a triumphal entry for Prince Galitsyne and the army of the Crimea, when Peter forbade her to leave the palace. She paid no attention to his orders, but headed the procession of the returned army. Peter saw that this meant war to the knife, and left for Preobajenskoe.
As soon as she heard of this, Sophia determined to seize the throne. She intended to attack the palace, kill Peter's friends and arrest his mother, and after that to deal with the young czar as circumstances demanded. She sent for the commandant of the streltsi who agreed to sound the men. He told them that Sophia's life was in danger, and that she had fled to a convent. The latter part of the story was true, as she had in fact retreated to such a place, from which she sent letters to the streltsi to come to her rescue. The commandant failed to secure more than 500 men; the other streltsi told him that there should be an investigation.
Two of the streltsi went to Peter and reported to him what was going on, whereupon he moved to the famous Troitsa monastery. The (p. 150) Patriarch, foreign officers serving in the army, his playmates, and even a regiment of streltsi came to him to offer their services. Peter issued orders for the arrest of Sophia's favorite, the commandant of the militia. She begged the Patriarch to interfere but met with a refusal. The commandant under torture confessed the plot, and was beheaded. Sophia's other friends were arrested; some were executed while others were sent to prison; she herself was confined in the convent where she had found a retreat. Peter was now the czar, although he conducted the government in his own name and in that of his weak-minded brother Ivan.
If Sophia had shocked the Russians by leaving the seclusion of the women's apartments, Peter's acts were likely to astonish them still more and to give offense. Rowing in a boat, instead of sitting in it surrounded by his grandees; working like a carpenter, instead of merely giving his orders through a courtier, and fighting with foreigners and grooms, were acts so unlike to what a czar should do, that Peter made a host of enemies. Little did he care! No sooner was he free to do as he pleased, than he rushed off to Archangel, the only port Russia could call her own, and there he saw salt water for the first time. He mingled freely with captains of the foreign merchant vessels and went out in their boats. On one occasion, he was out in a storm and came near being drowned; but this did not prevent "Skipper Peter Alexievitch," from putting out to sea again. Once he piloted three Dutch vessels. The young czar gave orders to construct a dockyard and to have boats built.
Peter longed for ports on an open sea, a sea that would not freeze (p. 151) in winter. There were three which Russia might reasonably hope to own some day, the Baltic, the Black, and the Caspian Sea. The Baltic belonged to Sweden, and Peter feared difficulties in that direction; but the Black Sea belonged to the Turks, and Peter quite understood that a war with the infidels would be popular in Russia. He wished to visit Western Europe; to see for himself the wonders of which he had heard foreigners speak; but he made up his mind not to go until he could appear as a victorious general.
Thus Peter made preparations for war with the Khan of the Crimea. He did not command his army; what he wanted, was to learn, and therefore he went as the gunner Peter Alexievitch. That did not prevent him from keeping a sharp eye on his generals. Chief-engineer Jansen received a sound whipping from him and deserted to the enemy. For this and other causes he was compelled to raise the siege of Azof and to fall back to Russia. His mother died in 1694. He returned to Russia in 1695, and notwithstanding his defeat, he ordered a triumphal entry into Moscow; but he felt very sore. The following year, 1696, his half-brother Ivan died, and Peter was the sole Autocrat of all the Russias.
XVIII—PETER THE GREAT AND HIS REIGN. (p. 153)
Far from being discouraged by his defeat, Peter was more than ever resolved to have a port on the Black Sea. He introduced reforms in the army, and while doing this, he ordered a fleet of boats to be built on the Don, and set 26,000 men to work on them. He also sent to Holland and other parts of Europe for officers and gunners, and superintended everything. It was at this time that he wrote to Moscow that, "following the command God gave Adam, he was earning his bread by the sweat of his brow." When he was ready, the army and the boats went down the Don; Azof was blockaded by sea and by land, and forced to capitulate. When the news arrived at Moscow, there was general rejoicing, and even at Warsaw in Poland the people cheered for the czar. The army returned to Moscow under triumphal arches, the generals seated in magnificent sledges. A young officer, Peter Alexievitch, recently promoted to captain, was marching in the ranks.
Peter wished to make of Azof a Russian town in the shortest time possible. He secured from the douma an order by which three thousand families were moved to that port, and streltsi were dispatched to garrison it. The czar wanted a naval force, and moved by his energy, the Patriarch, the prelates, and the monasteries offered to give (p. 154) one ship for every 5,000 serfs owned by them. This example was followed by nobles, officials, and merchants, and once more Peter sent to the west for competent men to help build them. At the same time fifty young nobles were dispatched to Venice to learn shipbuilding.
When he was seventeen years old, Peter had married Eudoxia Lapoukine, whose relatives abhorred all that was new; Peter's wife shared their sentiments, so that his home life was far from happy. He had a son by her, named Alexis; after the fall of Azof, Peter secured a divorce, an act unheard of in Russia, where she remained czarina in the eyes of the people. Busy as he was, Peter left his son and heir in charge of his divorced wife, while he was making preparations for the long expected visit to the west of Europe.
He determined that an embassy should be sent, and that it should be worthy of Russia. Accordingly he appointed the Swiss Lafort and two Russian generals "the great Ambassadors of the Czar." Among their retinue composed of two hundred and seventy persons, was a young man Peter Mikhailof, better known as Peter Alexievitch. When the embassy came to Riga, that young man was insulted by the governor. Peter said nothing, but made a note of it for future use. At Koenigsberg, "Mr. Peter Mikhailof" was appointed master of artillery by the Prussian Colonel Sternfeld. The progress of the embassy was too slow for Peter who had an object in view. He went ahead to Holland where he hired a room from a blacksmith at Zaandam, bought a workman's suit, and (p. 155) went to work in a dockyard. He often visited Amsterdam where his good nature and passion to learn gained him the good-will of the people. Peter then crossed over to London where he spent three months. Competent men of every profession and trade were engaged by him everywhere. Returning to Holland, his ship was caught in a violent gale, which frightened even the sailors. Peter kept cool, and, smiling, asked them if they "had ever heard of a Czar of Russia who was drowned in the North Sea?"
Peter did not forget Russia's political interests. He talked with William of Orange, the great opponent of Louis XIV, and with other influential men, but he did not visit the court of France. After satisfying his curiosity, he went to Vienna where he intended to study strategy; but his stay was cut short by bad news from home.
Peter had met with a sullen, obstinate opposition in Russia. It was led by the priests who said, and perhaps believed, that Peter was the anti-Christ. It was a cause for complaint that Peter often wore clothes of a German fashion; was the Russian costume not good enough for him? Again, why did he not devote his time to war, as the other czars had done? He had made a bargain with British merchants to import tobacco into Russia; what did the Russians want with this "sacrilegious smell?" But the climax was that a Czar of the Russias should leave Holy Russia to go among heretics and heathens. Geography was not studied in the czar's empire, and all nations on earth were thought to belong to either of the two classes.
The trouble began among the streltsi who had been sent to Azof. (p. 156) These citizen soldiers looked upon their destination at the other end of the empire as an exile,—which it may have been. Two hundred deserted and made their way back to Moscow and their families; they were promptly hunted down. When they returned to their regiments, they brought with them a secret proclamation from Sophia. "You suffer," she declared, "but it will grow worse still. March on Moscow! What are you waiting for? There is no news of the czar!" There was a rumor that Peter was dead and that his son Alexis had been murdered by the boyards. Four regiments revolted and left the ranks. Generals Gordon and Schein went after them with the regular troops, and after overtaking the mutineers, tried to bring them to reason. In reply they stated their grievances and persisted in their determination not to return to duty. The government troops then fired and scattered the streltsi. A number of them were arrested, tortured, and executed.
At this time Peter returned, furious at what had happened. He was determined to strike at the head of the opposition, the Russians who openly denounced innovations. He ordered that the face must be shaved. This was hitting every adult Russian in a tender spot, because the shaving of the face was considered in the light of a blasphemy. He began to enforce his orders at his court, sometimes acting as a barber himself, when he was none too gentle. A number of gibbets erected on the Red Square, reminded the bearded noble that the choice lay between losing the beard or the head. The Patriarch appealed to Peter, a (p. 157) holy eikon of the Virgin in his hand. "Why did you bring out the holy eikon?" asked the czar. "Withdraw and restore it to its place. Know that I venerate God and His mother as much as you do, but know also that it is my duty to protect the people and to punish the rebels."
The gibbets did not stand as an idle threat. The Austrian Minister Korb was a witness of the executions, which he describes thus: "Five rebel heads had been sent into the dust by blows from an ax wielded by the noblest hand in Russia." Thus Peter did not hesitate to be his own executioner. It was like him to do his own work, regardless of what the people might think. A thousand men were sent to a gory grave, by the highest officers of the court; the executions lasted a week. The funeral of the executed was forbidden. Bodies were seen dangling from the walls of the kremlin for five months, and for the same length of time, the corpses of some of the streltsi hung from the bars of Sophia's prison, clutching the secret proclamation. Peter's divorced wife had joined Sophia's party; the two ladies had their head shaved and were confined in convents. The streltsi were dissolved and replaced by regular troops.
Peter then turned upon the Cossacks of the Don, who had shown greater independence than pleased him. Prince Dolgorouki to whom the task was confided of bringing them to order, wrote to the czar after he had destroyed the Cossack camp: "The chief rebels and traitors have been hung; of the others, one out of every ten; and all these dead malefactors have been laid on rafts, and turned into the river, to (p. 158) strike terror into the hearts of the Don people and to cause them to repent."
Mazeppa, as we have seen, was at this time hetman of the Cossacks of Little Russia. In his youth he had been a page of John Casimir, king of Poland; it was then that he had that terrible adventure which is connected indelibly with his name. After he was cut loose from the back of the unbroken horse that had carried him in the steppes, he entered among the Cossacks, and rose from the ranks by betraying every chief who helped him. Although it was Sophia who made him hetman, he was among the first to declare for Peter. His enemies, of whom he had many, accused him before the czar, but Peter admired him, and delivered his accusers up to him; they did not live long after Mazeppa had them in his power.
It was Mazeppa's scheme to establish an independent kingdom, he had the support of the Cossacks who did not care to work but preferred to be supported by the people. The industrious classes longed to get rid of this burden, and looked toward the czar to set them free. The tribute which Little Russia paid to Moscow was quite heavy, and when it was rumored that Peter was going to war with Sweden, Mazeppa thought this was an opportunity to carry out his scheme. He entered into negotiations with Stanislas Lecszinski whom Swedish influence had placed upon the throne of Poland. Peter was informed of this in detail, but he did not credit it, beheaded one of his informants, and the others, were tortured and sent to Siberia.
The war broke out, Charles XII, the romantic king of Sweden (p. 159) arrived in the neighborhood of Little Russia, and Peter called on Mazeppa to join the Russian army with his Cossacks. He pretended to be dying, but when the two hostile armies were drawing close, he crossed the Desna with his most trusted Cossacks to join the Swedes. Peter's eyes were opened; he gave orders to his general Menzikoff to take and sack Mazeppa's capital. This was done and Mazeppa's friends, who had remained behind, were executed. Mazeppa himself reached the Swedish camp. He was compelled to seek safety in Turkey, where he died miserably at Bender. His territory was annexed to Russia, the Cossacks lost all their privileges, and 1,200 of them were set to work on the Ladoga canal.
It was in 1700 that Peter, after concluding an alliance with Poland, determined to declare war against Sweden where young Charles XII had recently succeeded to the throne. Attacked at the same time by Russia, Poland, and Denmark, this young hero invaded the last-named country and compelled its king to conclude peace. After relieving Riga, Charles marched into Russia at the head of 8,500 men, and on the 30th of November defeated a Russian army of 63,000 men. This victory proved a misfortune, because it inspired the King of Sweden with contempt for Russian soldiers and made him careless, whereas Peter worked cheerfully and hard to profit from the lesson. While Charles was absent in Poland, his army was twice defeated.
Each of the two antagonists was worthy of the other's steel. Both were brave, but Charles was impetuous, whereas Peter acted upon cool judgment. The war continued until 1709 when Charles found himself (p. 160) in Little Russia, far away from supplies and reinforcements, in a Russian winter which happened to be exceptionally severe. In the spring he laid siege to Pultowa. The czar arrived on the 15th of June with 60,000 men; Charles had 29,000. On July 8, 1709, the battle of Pultowa was fought and Charles was defeated; he narrowly escaped being captured. With Mazeppa and the Pole Poniatowski, he made his way across the Turkish frontier, and remained until 1713, in the territory of the Sultan, whom he finally induced to declare war against Peter. This victory gave Peter the longed-for port on the Baltic, since Sweden was no longer in a condition to stop him.
What induced Sultan Ahmed III to risk war with Russia, was the hope of regaining Azof. Peter, on the other hand, hoped for an opportunity to capture Constantinople, the Czargrad of former times. He knew that he had the sympathy of the many Christians of the Greek Church, who were suffering under the yoke of the Turk. Trusting upon their support, Peter arrived on the bank of the Pruth with 38,000 exhausted soldiers. There he found himself surrounded by 200,000 Turks and Tartars. Peter gained a slight success, but not of sufficient importance to extricate or relieve him. Fearing an overwhelming calamity, Peter was prepared to make immense sacrifices in return for peace, and even to surrender Azof and the territory taken from Sweden, when his second wife Catherine had a happy thought. She collected all the money and jewels in the Russian camp, and sent them as a present to the Grand Vizier in command of the enemy, asking at the same time, what terms he would (p. 161) make. They were found unexpectedly reasonable: the surrender of Azof, the razing of the Russian forts erected on Turkish territory, and that Charles XII should be free to return to Sweden. Peter accepted eagerly, much as he regretted the loss of Azof and the failure of his schemes.
In 1713, a Russian fleet under Admiral Apraxine, with Peter serving under him as vice-admiral, captured several cities on the Baltic, and a Russian force entered north Germany. An alliance was formed against him and Peter decided to make an attempt at an alliance with France. In 1718, just as peace was being concluded with Charles XII, the King of Sweden, died and war broke out anew, lasting until 1721, when, by the Peace of Nystad, Sweden surrendered to Russia Livonia, Esthonia, and part of Finland. Peter had his way: Russia had open ports.
Peter was greatly pleased, and Russia rejoiced with him. The senate and Holy Synod conferred upon him the titles of "the Great, the Father of his country, and Emperor of all the Russias." In 1722, Peter led an expedition to the Caspian Sea. He captured Baku and five other important towns. He died three years later, in 1725.
XIX—PETER THE GREAT AND HIS TIME. (p. 162)
Before judging Peter the Great, the time in which he lived, and the conditions which prevailed should receive careful consideration. Throughout Western Europe, in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, in parliamentary England and republican Holland, the people, that is the masses, toiled early and late for the privilege of paying the taxes; all immunities were reserved for the favored few composing the aristocracy.
There was no education among the people, with the exception perhaps of Holland, then still a power of the first rank. The principle was that the interests of the individual were unworthy of consideration by the side of those of the State. That was the case in France as well as in Russia. Peter inherited the idea of autocratic power, and his travels in Europe conveyed to him nothing to upset or contradict that idea. He cannot, therefore, be considered in the light of a tyrant. He acted, so far as he could know, within his prerogative, and did his duty as he saw it.
Russia, with a thin and scattered population largely engaged in agriculture, felt no impulse toward progress. The moujik lived as his father had lived. He never came in contact with people of a superior civilization who, by introducing new wants, could make him (p. 163) discontented with his lot. Knowing no desire but to satisfy his physical craving, he bore the extremes of heat and cold with equal fortitude; the soil and his labor provided for his subsistence. A life so sordid must either brutalize man or feed his imagination with the unknown and dreaded forces of nature; superstition, deep and strong, became part of the peasant's existence. It is generations before a traditional and deep-rooted belief can be eradicated.
But Peter the Great gave as little thought to the moujik as did Louis XIV to the peasants of France. His influence was exerted upon the boyards, and among them the opposition was the stronger as they had been imbued with Asiatic ideas under the Tartar yoke. Here the great muscular strength of Peter rendered him great service. He did not hesitate to use a stick upon the highest officials any more than Ivan the Terrible had used his iron-tipped staff. Even Menzikoff was chastized in this manner. Frederick the Great of Prussia did the same afterwards. Nor was this method of punishing without its use. One day when Peter was looking over the accounts of one of his nobles, he proved to him that, whereas the boyard had been robbing the government, he in turn had been robbed by his steward. The czar took the noble by the collar and applied the stick with a muscular arm and great vigor. After he had punished him to his heart's content, he let him go, saying, "Now you had better go find your steward and settle accounts with him."
It was Peter's purpose to make the Russians again into Europeans. (p. 164) He rightly deemed it best to begin with externals, because they are the object lessons of changes. The Russian boyard was attached to the long caftan or tunic adopted from the Tartars, but above all he was devoted to the hair on his face. The beard was doomed by the czar. He could not play barber to all his subjects, but he imposed a heavy tax upon unshaven faces. Owners of beards paid from thirty to one hundred rubles, and moujiks had to pay two pence for theirs every time they entered a city or town.
The reform which had the most lasting influence upon Russia, was the abolition of the landed nobility as a separate class. They would be known as "tchin" or gentlemen, and any one who entered the service of the government, regardless of birth, was at once entitled to be classed among the tchinovnik. From that time the terms gentleman and officer, became synonymous. Every service, civil, military, naval, or ecclesiastic, was divided into fourteen grades. The lowest grade in the civil service was held by the registrar of a college, the highest by the Chancellor of the Empire; the cornet was at the bottom, the field marshal at the top in the army; and the deacon in a church was fourteen degrees removed from the Patriarch,—but all were tchin.
When, in 1700, the Patriarch Adrian died, the dignity was abolished by Peter who did not relish the idea of a rival power in the State. Instead he created the Holy Synod together with the office of Superintendent of the Patriarchal Throne. He gives his reasons in the ukase wherein the change is announced. "The simple people," this document reads, "are not quick to seize the distinction between (p. 165) the spiritual and imperial power; struck with the virtue and the splendor of the supreme pastor of the Church, they imagine that he is a second sovereign, equal and even superior in power to the Autocrat."
The Holy Synod consisted of bishops and a Procurator-general who represented the czar and as such could veto any resolution. This official was often a general. Every bishop had to keep a school in his palace, and the sons of priests who refused to attend were taken as soldiers. Autocrat though he was, Peter dared not confiscate the property of the monasteries, but he forbade any person to enter a convent before his thirtieth year. The monks were ordered to work at some trade, or to teach in the schools and colleges. At this time, the Protestant and Catholic churches of the West tried to make converts, and the raskols were hostile to the national church. As a rule Peter did not favor persecution; so long as the church did not interfere with his authority, there was nothing to fear from him; but upon the slightest suspicion his heavy hand was felt. Thus, in 1710, he suddenly ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits. He used to say: "God has given the czar power over the nations, but Christ alone has power over the conscience of man." This did not prevent him from exacting a double tax from the raskols in Moscow, nor from punishing cruelly any Russian converted to one of the western churches.
The great mass of the people suffered severely by Peter's reforms. The peasants as tenants of the large landowners had enjoyed some liberty and were legally free men; they were by him assigned to the soil, which they were not permitted to leave. Thus they, too, passed into serfdom. If the proprietor sold the estate, the rural population (p. 166) went with it. The owners paid a poll-tax for their serfs. These unfortunates could also be sold without the land, but the czar made a law that "If the sale cannot be abolished completely, serfs must be sold by families without separating husbands from wives, parents from children, and no longer like cattle, a thing unheard of in the whole world."
The citizens of towns were divided into three classes; to the first class belonged bankers, manufacturers, rich merchants, physicians, chemists, capitalists, jewelers, workers in metal, and artists; storekeepers and master mechanics were in the second; all other people belonged to the third. Foreigners could engage in business, acquire real estate; but they could not depart from the country without paying to the government one tenth of all they possessed.
Cities and towns were administered by burgomasters elected by the citizens; this board selected its own president or mayor. If an important question arose, representatives of the first two classes were summoned for consultation. All the mayors of Russia were subject to a magistrate selected from the Council of St. Petersburg, and appointed by the czar. This official watched over the interests of commerce and agriculture, settled disputes between citizens and burgomasters, confirmed local elections, authorized executions when a death sentence was pronounced by provincial authorities, and made reports to the tsar.
The voievodes or governors of a province directed all the affairs of their jurisdiction and disbursed the revenues as they thought (p. 167) best. "Help yourself first!" was the unwritten law, and it was universally obeyed. Peter divided his empire into forty-three provinces, forming twelve governments each under a viceroy and deputy, who were assisted by a council elected by the nobles.
The courts were crude and mediaeval, but not more so than in the west of Europe. Justice, such as it was, was administered by the General Police Inspector, and in large cities there was a police officer for every ten houses. Servants who failed to keep the house front clean were punished with the knout. Peter created the Bureau of Information, a court of secret police, and thus inaugurated the terrible spy system which still disgraces Russia.
The douma was abolished, and in its stead Peter created a "Directory Senate," which could meet only in presence of the czar. It was originally composed of nine members, but it was afterwards increased and at last embraced the duties of the Grand Council, the High Finance Committee, and the Supreme Court. A fair idea of the moral and mental condition of Russia's high aristocracy, may be had from a rule made by Peter, forbidding the Senators under severe penalties, while in session "to cry out, to beat each other, or to call one another thieves."
Peter's visits to the west, taught him the value of factories. He gave every possible inducement to foreign capital and skill to come to Russia, and patronized home industry wherever he could, as by purchasing the uniforms for army and navy from recently established mills. Some of his methods appear strange, as, for instance, when he ordered every town in Russia to send a stipulated number of shoemakers to Moscow, to learn their trade. Those who continued to work in (p. 168) the old fashion, were severely punished. The czar would have met with greater success, if he had not been hampered by the cupidity of the officials, who found means to secure the lion's share of the profits.
Peter discarded the old Slavonic alphabet and introduced the one used at present. St. Petersburg had four printing presses, Moscow two, and there were also some at Novgorod, Tchernigof, and other large places. The first newspaper in Russia, the St. Petersburg Gazette, was founded by him. He established, in 1724, the Academy of Sciences, in imitation of the institution of that name of Paris.
St. Petersburg was founded in 1703. It was far from a promising site for a new capital, the dreary wastes, dark forests, and marshes where wild ducks and geese found a favorite feeding place. It was exposed to frequent floods, and piles were needed before a building could be erected. But when this autocrat had made up his mind, objections were brushed aside. Peter collected 40,000 men, soldiers, Cossacks, Kalmucks, Tartars and such natives as could be found, and put them to work. At first he provided neither tools nor shelter, and food was often scarce. Thousands of workmen died;—what did he care? Others were compelled to take their place. The fortress of St. Peter and Paul arose first; the czar himself was watching the progress from a little wooden house on the right bank of the Neva. Men of means were forced to build stone houses in the new capital. Swedish prisoners and merchants from Novgorod were invited to move to St. Petersburg, and no excuse was admitted. Goods could be brought only by boat, and no (p. 169) boat was allowed to land unless it carried a certain number of white stones to be used as building material. He erected churches, and ordered that he should be buried in the Church of St. Peter and Paul.
Peter's domestic life, as we have seen, was not happy. After his divorce from his first wife, he married Catherine who, in 1702, had been made prisoner at Marienburg. It is not known where she was born, but she was probably a native of Livonia, and was a servant in the family of Pastor Glueck and engaged to be married to a Swedish dragoon. She became the property of Menzikoff who gave her to the czar. There was a secret marriage which was confirmed by a public ceremony in 1712, in reward for her services at Pultowa. Peter also instituted the Order "For Love and Fidelity," in her honor. A German princess describes her thus:—"The czarina was small and clumsily made, very much tanned, and without grace or air of distinction. You had only to see her to know that she was lowborn. From her usual costume you would have taken her for a German comedian. Her dress had been bought at a secondhand shop; it was very old-fashioned, and covered with silver and dirt. She had a dozen orders, and as many portraits of saints or relics, fastened all down her dress, in such a way that when she walked you would have thought by the jingling that a mule was passing." She could neither read nor write, but she was sharp, had natural wit, and obtained great influence over Peter. They had two sons, Peter and Paul, who died in childhood, and two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth. The former married the Duke of Holstein.
Alexis, the son by his first wife, was Peter's heir. He had grown (p. 170) to be a young man before Peter realized that the result of all his efforts depended upon his successor, and the czar began to pay attention to his son's education when it was too late, when habits had been formed. The czarevitch had imbibed the prejudices of his mother; he was narrow-minded, lazy, weak, and obstinate, and associated with people to whom Old Russia was Holy Russia, who abhorred reforms of every kind. Peter sent him to travel in Germany, but the prince would learn nothing. His father warned him in very plain terms. "Disquiet for the future," he wrote to Alexis, "destroys the joy caused by my present successes. I see that you despise everything that can make you worthy to reign after me. What you call inability, I call rebellion, for you cannot excuse yourself on the ground of the weakness of your mind and the state of your health. We have struggled from obscurity through the toil of war, which has taught other nations to know and respect us, and yet you will not even hear of military exercises. If you do not alter your conduct, know that I shall deprive you of my succession. I have not spared, and I shall not spare, my own life for my country; do you think that I shall spare yours? I would rather have a stranger who is worthy for my heir, than a good-for-nothing member of my own family."
Alexis should have known that his father was in terrible earnest, yet he did not heed the warning. When Peter was traveling in Western Europe, his son fled to Vienna, where he thought that he should be safe. Finding that this was not so, he went to the Tyrol and afterwards to Naples, but his father's agents traced him and one (p. 171) of them, Tolstoi, secured an interview in which he assured the prince of his father's pardon, and finally persuaded him to return to Moscow. As soon as he arrived there, he was arrested. The czar convoked the three Estates before whom he accused the czarevitch. Alexis was forced to sign his resignation of the Crown. When he was being examined, probably under torture, a widespread conspiracy was revealed. Peter learned also that his son had begged the Emperor of Austria for armed intervention, that he had negotiated with Sweden and that he had encouraged a mutiny of the army in Germany. It was shown that his divorced wife and several prelates were in the plot. Peter crushed his enemies. Most of the persons involved suffered a cruel death, and Alexis himself, after being punished with the knout, was sentenced to die. Two days later his death was announced. It appears that on that day, the heir to the throne was brought before a court composed of nine men of the highest rank in Russia and that he was beaten with a knout to secure further confessions, and that he expired under the torture. Those present were sworn to secrecy, and kept the oath.
Peter, therefore, had no male heir. Alexis, however, had left a son Peter by Charlotte of Brunswick whom he married against his will. In 1723 the czar ordered Catherine to be crowned as Empress. He had established the right to select his successor but failed to do so, owing to his sudden death.
The following description of Peter the Great at the age of forty, is given by a Frenchman; "He was a very tall man, well made though (p. 172) rather thin, his face somewhat round, with a broad forehead, beautiful eyebrows, a short nose, thick at the end; his lips were rather thick, his skin was brown and ruddy. He had splendid eyes, large, black, piercing, and well-opened; his expression was dignified and gracious when he liked, but often wild and stern, and his eyes, and indeed his whole face, were distorted by an occasional twitch that was very unpleasant. It lasted only a moment, and gave him a wandering and terrible look, when he was himself again. His air expressed intellect, thoughtfulness, and greatness, and had a certain grace about it. He wore a linen collar, a round wig, brown and unpowdered, which did not reach his shoulders; a brown, tight-fitting coat with gold buttons, a vest, trousers, and stockings, and neither gloves nor cuffs; the star of his order on his coat, and the ribbon underneath it; his coat was often unbuttoned, his hat lay on the table, and was never on his head, even out of doors. In this simplicity, however shabby might be his carriage or scanty his suit, his natural greatness could not be mistaken."
XX—THE SUCCESSORS OF PETER THE GREAT. (p. 173)
Peter's strong hand had stifled the opposition to his reforms, but with his death it reappeared. There were, therefore, two parties in Russia: the men who had assisted the dead czar, Menzikoff, Apraxine, Tolstoi, and others, such as the members of the secret Court who had witnessed the violent death of Peter's only son. They dreaded the succession of Peter's grandson, the boy who, although only twelve years old, might order an investigation of his father's death. These men held the power and decided that, since Catherine had been crowned as Empress, it was she who should succeed. Thus the former maid servant, not even a native Russian, became Empress of all the Russias. There were some protests in favor of Peter's grandson, but they were disregarded.
Menzikoff who was the cause of Catherine's rise, fancied himself all-powerful, and there was jealousy among Peter's associates. Menzikoff sent one of them, Tolstoi, to Siberia, but Catherine would not consent to the punishment of the other friends of the late czar. She was honest in carrying out Peter's unfinished projects. He had planned the marriage of his daughter Anne to the Duke of Holstein: the wedding took place; he intended to send an exploring expedition to Kamtschatka; she engaged the services of a Danish captain, Bering, (p. 174) who discovered the sea and strait named after him. The Academy of Sciences was opened in 1726. She, however, changed the Senate into a Secret High Council, which met under the presidency of the empress.
Catherine died in 1727, and on her deathbed appointed Peter's grandson, then fourteen years old, as her successor. In case of his death, the throne would go to Anne, and next to Elizabeth. During his minority these two daughters assisted by the Duke of Holstein, Menzikoff, and some other high officers, would constitute a Board of Regents.
Menzikoff had taken precautions. He had obtained her consent that the young heir, Peter II, should marry one of his daughters, a young lady two years older than the boy. He showed, in his letters to Peter, that he looked upon him as his son. He also intended his own son to marry the boy's sister Natalia. There was one member of Peter the Great's family who did not approve of Menzikoff's schemes, Elizabeth, the young czar's aunt, then seventeen years old. Not long after Catherine's death, Menzikoff fell ill; he was compelled to keep to his rooms, and in that time Elizabeth roused her nephew's suspicions. Peter left Menzikoff's palace and when Catherine's favorite tried to resume his authority, he was arrested and exiled to his estates. Soon after he was sent to Siberia, where he died two years later, in 1729.
The Dolgorouki family succeeded, but its head committed the same mistakes, besides showing a tendency to undo the work of Peter the Great. The young czar was growing weary of the Dolgorouki when, in (p. 175) January 1730, he caught cold and died after a brief illness.
It was during his short reign that Prussia, Austria, and Russia, first seriously discussed the partition of Poland. A treaty was signed between Prussia and Russia whereby the two powers agreed to select and support a candidate for the throne of that kingdom which was to illustrate the truth that "a kingdom divided against itself cannot exist."
Peter's death left Russia without a male heir. There were, as we have seen, two daughters from his marriage with Catherine. Anne, who had married the Duke of Holstein, had died in 1728, leaving a son also named Peter. Elizabeth, the other daughter, was in St. Petersburg, quietly engaged in establishing a party of her own. There were, besides, two other parties having claims upon the throne. Ivan, the weak-minded half-brother of Peter the Great, had been married and had left two daughters, Anne, Duchess of Courland, and Catherine, Duchess of Mecklenburg.
The decision rested with the Secret High Council. Dolgorouki's claim, that Peter II had made a secret will leaving the throne to his bride, was laughed to scorn. The members of the High Council saw an opportunity to secure most of the autocratic power for themselves, and resolved to offer the throne to Anne of Courland, provided that she subscribed to the following conditions: That the Secret High Council should always consist of eight members, all vacancies to be filled by themselves; that she could make neither war nor peace, nor appoint an officer above the rank of colonel, without the consent of the (p. 176) Council; that she could not condemn a noble to death, nor confiscate his property, without a trial; and that she could neither appoint a successor, nor marry again without the approval of the Council. She was also to sign an agreement whereby she would forfeit the crown "in case of my ceasing to observe these engagements." The Council also decided upon moving the capital back to Moscow.
This might have been the beginning of a more liberal government for Russia, since it diminished the power of the czar and the people would have benefited by the increased rights of the nobles, as was the case in England. It was the nobility who objected, from fear that the power might be absorbed in the families of the Council members. Anne of Courland accepted the conditions and came to Moscow. There she received letters from the enemies of the Council imploring her to disregard her promises. On the 25th of February, 1731, the Council was in session when an officer appeared summoning them before the czarina. Upon arrival in the apartment, they found about eight hundred persons presenting a petition that Anne might restore autocracy. She read it and seemed astonished: "What!" she exclaimed, "the conditions sent to me at Mittau were not the will of the people?" There was a shout of "No! no!" "Then," she said, addressing the Council, "you have deceived me!" Anne was a true daughter of the czars. She began by exiling the principal members of the Council to their estates; when she saw that there was no opposition, they were sent to Siberia; and when no one remonstrated, other members were condemned to a cruel death.
Anne was thirty-five years old when she was crowned as czarina. (p. 177) She had been in Germany so long that she preferred to surround herself with Germans who did serve her well, but they naturally aroused the jealousy and hatred of the Russian nobles. In 1733, Augustus II, King of Poland, died. Russia, Prussia, and France, each had a candidate. Austria and Russia favored Augustus III of Saxony, and Louis XV of France supported his father-in-law Stanislas Lecszinski.
This candidate secretly proceeded to Warsaw, where he was elected by a vote of 60,000 against 4,000. A Russian army crossed the frontier, whereupon Stanislas withdrew to Dantzig and the Russians proclaimed Augustus III. The war spread and a Russian army of 20,000 men advanced as far as Heidelberg in Baden. It ended in 1735, by the Peace of Vienna, but Russia became involved in a war with Turkey, as an ally of Austria.
In 1736, the Russians took Azof and ravaged the western Crimea. In the following year they laid waste its eastern part, and in 1739 they gained a great victory at Savoutchani. Austria was not anxious to have Russia as a close neighbor, and arranged the Peace of Belgrade. (1739.) Russia surrendered all the conquests, except a small tongue of land between the Dnieper and the Bug. Sweden threatened war, but it was averted. The following year, 1740, Anne died, leaving the throne to her infant son, Ivan of Brunswick.
Anne Ivanovna introduced western luxury into Russia. Prior to her arrival, fashions were unknown, and people used to wear their clothes until they were worn out. Soon after restoring autocracy, she (p. 178) returned to St. Petersburg where she endeavored to establish a court in imitation of that of France. She could compel her nobles to appear in the costume of the west, and, unless they were very wealthy, make them sacrifice estates and serfs to pay his increased expenses, but of the refinement which creates fashion, there was none. One of her guests, a procurator-general was so intoxicated at one of her receptions that he insulted one of Anne's most trusted advisers; she was a witness, but only laughed heartily.
The young nobles benefited by the German influence at Court, since they received a better education. A law was made requiring them to study from their seventh to their twentieth year, and to serve the government from that age until they were forty-five. Between the age of twelve and sixteen they were made to appear before an examining board, and any one failing to pass the second time in catechism, arithmetic, and geometry, was put into the navy. In the schools for young nobles,—the serfs received no instruction of any kind,—the course of studies was enlarged after the German system.
Anne's infant son, Ivan, was three months old, when he succeeded to the throne as Ivan VI. Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine, was twenty-eight years old; tall and masculine, bright and bold, daring on horseback as well as on the water, she had made a host of friends among the high officials and the Guards. She found an able adviser in the French Minister at St. Petersburg who was anxious to destroy the influence of Germany. The Swedes went so far as to begin a war, proclaiming the desire to deliver "the glorious Russian (p. 179) nation" from the German yoke. Elizabeth decided that the time had come to act, when the regiments devoted to her were ordered to the frontier. In the night of October 25, 1741, she went with three friends to the barracks. "Boys," she said to the men, "you know whose daughter I am?" "Matuska," (little mother), they replied, "we are ready; we will kill all of them." She said that she did not wish any blood to be shed, and added: "I swear to die for you; will you swear to die for me?" They made the oath. When she returned to the palace, the regent, the infant czar, and the German members of the Government were arrested. Ivan VI was sent to a fortress near the Swedish frontier. The Germans were brought before a court and condemned to death, but Elizabeth commuted the sentence to exile. After this she went to Moscow, where she was crowned as czarina. Her next act was to send for her nephew, Peter, the son of her sister Anne of Holstein. He came and entered the Greek Church, when he was proclaimed as heir to the throne as Peter Feodorovitch.
Sweden demanded the cession of the territory conquered by Peter the Great, and, since Elizabeth refused, the war continued. But Sweden was no longer the kingdom of Charles XII; the Russians were everywhere victorious, and by the Peace of Abo, in 1743, Sweden ceded South Finland and agreed to elect Elizabeth's ally, Adolphus of Holstein, as heir to the throne.
In 1740 the Emperor of Germany died, after obtaining from the powers the consent to set aside the Salic Law of succession, in favor of his daughter. This law restricted the right of succession to male (p. 180) heirs exclusively. In violation of the pledged word, several claimants appeared to contest the claim of his daughter Maria Theresa, and since almost every nation took sides, it was important to know what Russia would do. Elizabeth was undecided; at least, she played with both sides until 1746, when she entered into an alliance with Maria Theresa, while England promised subsidies in money. It was, however, 1748 before a Russian army of 30,000 men passed through Germany and took up a position on the Rhine. In the same year the war was ended by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, without the Russians having been under fire.
Elizabeth hated Frederick the Great of Prussia. She claimed that "The King of Prussia is certainly a bad prince who has no fear of God before his eyes; he turns holy things into ridicule, and he never goes to church." The real reason was that Frederick had expressed his opinion about Elizabeth's private life, and she was not the woman to forgive his remarks. Then again, Frederick had an excellent army of 200,000 men; Elizabeth's chancellor, on that account, called Prussia "the most dangerous of neighbors, whose power it was necessary to break."
Russia, Austria, France, and Saxony, entered into a secret alliance against Prussia. Frederick found it out, and in 1756, began the famous Seven Years' War. The same year, 83,000 Russians under Apraxine crossed the frontier and seized East Prussia. A battle was fought; the Russians were the victors, but Apraxine fell back across the Niemen. France and Austria suspected treachery; Apraxine was arrested and the chancellor was dismissed and exiled. Fermor was appointed (p. 181) commander-in-chief.
The Russian army recrossed the frontier in 1758, took Koenigsberg and bombarded Kuestrin on the Oder. Frederick with 32,000 men attacked the Russian army 89,000 strong at Zorndorf. The Russians fought stubbornly but were defeated with a loss of 20,000 men. Fermor was recalled, and succeeded by Soltykof who, in 1759, entered Frankfort on the Oder. Another battle was fought and Frederick was defeated by greatly superior numbers. He lost 8,000 men. Prussia was exhausted, but his enemies, too, began to feel the expense of the war. Elizabeth, however, was determined to humble the outspoken King when she died suddenly in 1761. She was succeeded by her nephew Peter Feodorovitch under the name of Peter III.
Elizabeth, although careless in her mode of living, was a stout supporter of the Greek Church. In 1742, she agreed with the Holy Synod to suppress all other churches, as well as the Mosques or Mahomedan temples in the south. This caused a revolt of the Mahomedans. The Jews were also expelled in some parts of the empire. A fever of fanaticism broke out; fifty-three raskolnik in Russia, and one hundred and seventy-two in Siberia, burned themselves to death.
Count Ivan Schouvalof, one of Elizabeth's friends, believed in education and was given a free hand. He ordered that the priests and their children should attend school, on penalty of being whipped. He founded the University of Moscow, which has educated many learned Russians. To induce students to enter, he induced Elizabeth to (p. 182) make a law that all students should be tchins of the tenth grade, and the professors hold the eighth grade. He sent young men abroad to study and established higher schools in every Government. Schouvalof was also the founder of the Academy of Fine Arts at St. Petersburg.
That capital was growing; its population was 74,000 under Elizabeth. She built the Winter Palace and saw the plans for Tsarskoe Selo, the magnificent retreat of the Russian emperors. She reestablished the Senate, as organized by Peter the Great.
XXI—RUSSIA UNDER CATHERINE II (THE GREAT). (p. 183)
Peter III was thirty-four years old when he succeeded to the throne. Although it was twenty years since his aunt Elizabeth sent for him from Holstein, he was more of a German than a Russian, and had an intense admiration for Frederick the Great. He at once reversed Russia's policy, ordered the commander-in-chief of the Russian armies to leave his Austrian allies, and made peace with the King of Prussia to whom he restored all Russia's conquests. Then he entered into an alliance with Frederick, which was the means of saving Prussia.
Peter relieved the nobles of the duty of serving the state, for which they were so grateful that they proposed to erect his statue in gold; he heard of it, and forbade their doing so. He abolished the Secret Court of Police, and showed great kindness to the raskols and permitted many of them to return from Siberia. A host of other exiles were recalled, and he thought of relieving the hard lot of the moujiks.
For all this, he was unpopular and disliked. His disregard for old Russian customs and his mode of life gave deep offense. He was married to Sophia of Anhalt, who had assumed the name of Catherine; she (p. 184) was a woman of decided ability and strong character. Peter wanted a divorce. She heard of it and contrived a conspiracy among the high nobles and officers of the army and navy. Peter had no thought of danger, when he ordered the arrest of Passek, a young officer and favorite of Catherine. Thinking that the conspiracy had been discovered, she left her palace in the outskirts and came to St. Petersburg where the three regiments of Foot Guards declared in her favor, and Peter's uncle was arrested by his own regiment of Horse Guards. When Catherine entered the Winter Palace, she was sure of the army and navy; Cronstadt was seized by her supporters, and she issued a proclamation assuming the government. At the head of 20,000 men, she marched upon the Palace, where the czar, her husband, was residing.
Peter fled to Cronstadt and sought the Admiral. "I am the czar," he said. "There is no longer a czar," was the reply, and all Peter could do was to return to his palace, where he abdicated "like a child being sent to sleep," as Frederick the Great expressed it. He then called on his wife, "after which," Catherine tells us, "I sent the deposed emperor, under the command of Alexis Orlof accompanied by four officers and a detachment of gentle and reasonable men, to a place called Ropcha, fifteen miles from Peterhof, a secluded spot, but very pleasant." Four days later Peter III was dead. Catherine declared that he died of colic "with the blood flying to the brains."
But one was living with just and strong claims to the throne. Ivan VI, the infant czar sent to prison by Elizabeth in 1741, was now (p. 186) twenty-one years old. It was reported that he had lost his reason, which may have been true or false. Catherine disposed of him. She said: "It is my opinion that he should not be allowed to escape, so as to place him beyond the power of doing harm. It would be best to tonsure him (that is, to make a monk of him), and to transfer him to some monastery, neither too near nor too far off; it will suffice if it does not become a shrine." She did not desire that the people should make a martyr of a descendant of Peter the Great, while she, a foreign woman, was occupying the throne. Poor Ivan was murdered by his keepers two years later, when a lieutenant of the Guards was trying to effect his escape. After that, Catherine had no rival for the crown, except her son Paul, whom she disliked.
At first it seemed as if Catherine would reverse her husband's policy with regard to Prussia. She gave orders to the army to leave the Prussian camp, but she did not command active hostilities; since the parties felt the exhaustion of a seven years' struggle, peace negotiations were begun and concluded successfully.
Catherine made Russia a party to the System of the North; that is, she entered into an alliance with England, Prussia, and Denmark, as against France and Austria. Nearly all Europe was deeply interested in the severe illness of the King of Poland, because of the election which must follow his death. Unhappy Poland was bringing destruction upon itself. A lawless nobility kept the country in anarchy, and religious persecution, which had disappeared elsewhere, was still rampant. It was the gold distributed by interested powers, that controlled the vote of the Diet, and since it was merely a (p. 187) question of the highest bidder, Frederick the Great and Catherine came to an understanding. They decided to elect Stanislas Poniatowski, a Polish noble. France and Austria supported the Prince of Saxony, who was also the choice of the Court party. After the death of Augustus III, the Diet assembled and elected the French and Austrian candidate. Members of the Diet asked for Russian intervention and, supported by Catherine's army, Poniatowski was placed on the throne.
Russia and Prussia were not satisfied; they wanted part of the kingdom and the prevailing anarchy on their frontiers justified them. But Catherine made a pretext out of Poland's religious intolerance,—although the same existed in Russia. In 1765, Koninski, the Bishop of the Greek Church presented to the King a petition asking redress for a number of grievances which he enumerated. The King promised relief and submitted the matter to the Diet of 1766. The majority would not hear of any tolerance, although Russia had on the frontier an army of 80,000 men ready to invade Poland. The Diet of 1767 showed the same foolish spirit, but it was broken when two of its members, both Catholic bishops, were arrested under Russian orders, and carried into Russian territory. The Diet did not appear to resent this violation of a friendly territory but entered in 1768 into a treaty with Russia, in which it was agreed that Poland would make no change in its constitution without Russia's consent. The Russian army was withdrawn from Warsaw, and a deputation from the Diet was sent to St. Petersburg to thank Catherine.
Two hostile parties soon appeared in arms. The Catholics raised (p. 188) the banner "Pro religione et libertate!"—as if they understood what liberty meant! France helped with money, and urged the Sultan of Turkey to declare war against Russia, so that Catherine would be compelled to withdraw her troops. Russia was inciting those of the Greek and Protestant religions to whom assistance was promised.
In the winter of 1768, the Tartars of the Crimea, aided by the Turks, invaded Russia, and Catherine dispatched an army of 30,000 men,—all she could spare. In the following year, the Russians attacked and defeated the enemy 100,000 strong at Khotin on the Dnieper, and in 1770 the Khan of the Crimea met the same fate. In the same year at the battle of Kagul, 17,000 Russians defeated 150,000 Turks commanded by the Grand Vizier. In the same year the Russians destroyed the Turkish fleet in the port of Chesme. In 1771, the Tartars of the Crimea were put to rout, and the Russians took Bessarabia and some forts on the Danube. They were, however, too late to take possession of the Dardanelles, which the Turks had put into a state of defense.
Austria was becoming alarmed at Russia's victories, and lent a willing ear to the suggestion of Frederick the Great that it would be safer to permit Russia to gain territory belonging to Poland, provided Austria and Prussia should receive their share. On February 17, 1771, a treaty was concluded between Russia and Prussia, and accepted by Austria in April, whereby Poland was deprived of a good part of its territory. Catherine, secured White Russia with a population of 1,600,000; Frederick the Great took West Prussia with 900,000 inhabitants, (p. 189) and Austria received Western Gallicia and Red Russia with 2,500,000 people. This was the beginning of the end of Poland.
The peace negotiations with Turkey were broken off, and war was resumed. Being busy elsewhere, Catherine could not prevent a coup d'etat in Sweden, which saved that country from the fate of Poland. Besides suffering from these constant wars, Russia was visited by the plague, which in July and August, 1771, daily carried off a thousand victims in Moscow alone. The Archbishop, an enlightened man, was put to death by a mob for ordering the streets to be fumigated. Troops were necessary to restore order.
The condition of the country was dreadful. Alexander Bibikof was sent to suppress a dangerous insurrection, he wrote to his wife after arriving on the spot, that the general discontent was frightful. It was for this reason that Catherine concluded peace with the sultan in 1774; besides an indemnity, she received Azof on the Don and all the strong places in the Crimea, and was recognized as the protector of the sultan's Christian subjects. In 1775, she finally broke the power of the Cossacks.
Through the mediation of France and Russia, a war between Prussia and Austria concerning the succession in Bavaria, was narrowly averted. During the American War of Independence, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, and Portugal, proclaimed armed neutrality, and Holland declared war, because British warships caused endless trouble to vessels under neutral flags. This celebrated act declared "that contraband goods" included only arms and ammunition. Most countries agreed (p. 190) to this, with the exception of England.
In 1775 Catherine annexed the Crimea, on the plea that anarchy prevailed. Turkey protested and threatened war but France meditated and the sultan recognized the annexation by the Treaty of Constantinople in 1783.
In 1787, a remarkable secret agreement was signed between Russia and Austria. It is known as the Greek Project, and was nothing less than a scheme to divide Turkey between the two powers. The plot as proposed by Russia, was to create an independent state under the name of Dacia, to embrace Moldavia, Wallachia, and Bessarabia, with a prince belonging to the Greek Church at the head. Russia was to receive Otchakof, the shore between the Bug and the Dnieper, and some islands in the Archipelago, and Austria would annex the Turkish province adjoining its territory. If the Turk should be expelled from Europe, the old Byzantine Empire was to be reestablished, and the throne occupied by Catherine's grandson Constantine, "who would renounce all his claims to Russia, so that the two empires might never be united under the same scepter." Austria agreed on condition that she should also receive the Venetian possessions in Moldavia, when Venice would be indemnified by part of Greece.
Soon after this the sultan declared war against Russia. This took Catherine by surprise. Other enemies sprang up: the King of Prussia wanted Dantzig, the King of Sweden, South Finland. The latter invaded Russia and might have marched upon St. Petersburg, for all Catherine could collect was an army of 12,000 men. A mutiny in the camp of (p. 191) Gustavus III, compelled him to return to Stockholm, and the opportunity was lost. He defeated the Russians in the naval battle of Svenska Sund, but a second engagement was to the advantage of Russia. The French Revolution caused him to make peace, and to enter into an alliance with Russia against the French.
In the south Russian arms were more fortunate. The Turks were defeated in 1789, and 1790, on which occasions a young general named Souvorof distinguished himself. Upon the death of Joseph II of Austria, his successor Leopold made peace with Turkey at Sistova. (1791.) It was the French revolution, which seriously alarmed every crowned head in Europe, and which induced Catherine to follow Leopold's example at Jassy, in January, 1792, Russia kept only Otchakof and the shore between the Bug and the Dniester.
Poland, meanwhile, had made an earnest effort at reform. Thaddeus Kosciusko had returned from the United States, where he had fought for liberty and was trying to save his own country. Born in 1752, he entered a military school founded by the Czartoryskis at the age of twelve, and distinguished himself by attention to his studies and duties. His father was assassinated by exasperated peasants, and he himself was scornfully ejected by a powerful noble whose daughter he was courting. Attracted by the struggle of a handful of colonists against powerful England, he went to America and served with distinction in the War of the Revolution. After seeing Great Britain humbled and a new republic established in the New World, he came back to Poland and was soon among the foremost reformers,—a man in (p. 192) whom the patriotic Poles justly trusted. But traitors were found to accept Russian bribes, and for the second time Poland was despoiled. Russia annexed the eastern provinces with 3,000,000 inhabitants, and Prussia took Dantzig and Thorn. Austria was told that she might take from the French Republic as much as she wished,—or could.
Manfully and indefatigably did Kosciusko labor to stem the tide of his country's ruin. His patriotism aroused even that of the poor, down-trodden serfs, who had no interests to defend, yet stood by him in battle when the nobles on horseback fled, and wrenched a victory out of defeat. Well might Kosciusko thereafter dress in the garb of a peasant; a gentleman's dress was a badge of dishonor.
It was in 1794, that this battle took place and gave the signal, too, for an effort to restore Poland. But Austria, Prussia, and Russia combined, and Poland was lost. Heroic children were made to pay for the sins of their fathers. Poland expired in 1795. Prussia took Eastern Poland, including Warsaw; Austria annexed Cracow, Sandomir, Lublin, and Selm, and Russia took what remained. The patriots dispersed; most of them took service with the French, hoping for an opportunity to revive their country.
Catherine took especial pains to prevent the ideas, which alone made the French revolution possible, from entering into Russia. There was no occasion for this prudence. The great majority of the Russian people did not know of any world beyond Russia; most of them knew (p. 193) nothing beyond the narrow horizon of their own village, and could neither read nor write. The harrowing tales brought by the fugitive French nobles did not tend toward inspiring the Russian aristocracy with sympathy for Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
Satisfied that Russia was beyond the sphere of what she regarded as pernicious doctrines, Catherine determined to make the greatest possible profit out of the disturbed condition of Europe. She never ceased to incite Prussia and Austria against the French Republic, but carefully refrained from spending a dollar or risking a man. She pleaded first her war with Turkey, and afterwards the Polish insurrection. She said to Osterman, one of her ministers: "Am I wrong? For reasons that I cannot give to the Courts of Berlin and Vienna, I wish to involve them in these affairs, so that I may have my hands free. Many of my enterprises are still unfinished, and they must be so occupied as to leave me unfettered."
While Europe was engaged in the hopeless task of establishing and maintaining the divine rights of kings, Catherine began a war with Persia. One of her "unfinished enterprises" was interrupted by her death in November, 1796, at the age of sixty-seven. She left the throne to her son Paul.
XXII—RUSSIA DURING THE WARS OF NAPOLEON. (p. 194)
Paul was forty-two years old when he succeeded to the throne. His youth and early manhood had been far from pleasant. His mother had never shown any love for him, and Paul had not forgotten his father's sudden death. He was held in absolute submission, and was not permitted to share in the government; he had not even a voice in the education of his children. The courtiers, in order to please his mother, showed him scant courtesy; this is probably the reason of his sensitiveness after he came to the throne. He ordered men and women to kneel down in the street when he was passing, and those who drove in carriages had to halt. It is also shown in this remark, "Know that the only person of consideration in Russia is the person whom I address, at the moment that I am addressing him." It was justice, but it reflected upon his mother's memory when, immediately after her death, Paul ordered his father's remains to be exhumed, to be buried at the same time and with the same pomp as those of Catherine.
Such a man could have no sympathy with the French revolution which was shaking the foundations of Old Europe. He forbade the use of any word that might be construed to refer to it. He ordered the army to (p. 195) adopt the Russian uniform, including the powdered pigtails of that time. Souvorof fell in disgrace because he was reported to have said: "There is powder and powder. Shoe buckles are not gun carriages, nor pigtails bayonets; we are not Prussians but Russians."
Paul pardoned a number of exiled Poles, and brought the last king, Stanislas Poniatowski, to St. Petersburg. He discontinued the war with Persia, and instructed his ambassadors to announce that since Russia, and Russia alone, had been at war since 1756, "the humanity of the Emperor did not allow him to refuse his beloved subjects the peace for which they sighed."
Nevertheless, Russia was drawn into Napoleon's gigantic wars. Uneasy at the plans of the French Republic, Paul entered into an alliance with England, Austria, Naples, and Turkey. He furnished troops for England's descent upon Holland, and recalled Souvorof to take command of the Russian forces cooperating with those of Austria. The British expedition proved a failure, but Souvorof's strategy and indomitable courage shed glory upon the Russian army.
When Souvorof arrived at Vienna, he took command of the allied forces consisting of 90,000 men. On April 28, 1799, he surprised Moreau at Cassano and took 3,000 prisoners. He entered Milan, and soon after laid siege to Mantua, Alessandria, and Turin. On June 17, Souvorof was attacked on the Trebia; the battle lasted three days, leaving the victory to the Russians. After the victory at Novi, on the 15th of August, the French were forced to evacuate Italy.
Souvorof had divided his force of 80,000 Russians into two corps, (p. 196) one to operate in Switzerland, the other under his own command, to conduct the campaign in Italy. His great success brought upon him the envy of the Austrian generals, by whom his movements were constantly hampered. He therefore resolved to effect a junction with the forces in Switzerland, who, on the 26th of September, had been defeated at Zurich with a loss of 6,000 men. Souvorof did not know this. He reached the St. Gothard on the 21st and crossed it under unheard-of difficulties. "In this kingdom of terrors," he writes to Paul, "abysses open beside us at every step, like tombs awaiting our arrival. Nights spent among the clouds, thunder that never ceases, rain, fog, the noise of cataracts, the breaking of avalanches, enormous masses of rocks and ice which fall from the heights, torrents which sometimes carry men and horses down the precipices, the St. Gothard, that colossus who sees the mists pass under him,—we have surmounted all, and in these inaccessible spots the enemy has been forced to give way before us. Words fail to describe the horrors we have seen, and in the midst of which Providence has preserved us." "The Russian, inhabitant of the plain, was awestruck by the grandeur of this mountain scenery."
Souvorof brushed the French out of his way until, on the 26th, he arrived at Altdorf with the loss of only 2,000 men. Here he received information of the defeat at Zurich, and saw that he was surrounded on all sides by superior forces. His retreat showed the highest military skill, as well as the man's indomitable energy. Over untrodden mountains, and snow at one place five feet deep, he guided the (p. 197) remains of his army to a lower altitude, and went into winter quarters between the Iler and the Lech.
Souvorof complained bitterly to the czar of the Austrian generals, who had given him ample reason. At about this time Napoleon had returned from his fruitless campaign in Egypt, and at Marengo defeated the Austrians, whereby the results of Souvorof's campaign were lost. Paul was angry at Austria and Great Britain. Napoleon, shrewdly guessed the czar's feelings, released the Russian prisoners, after equipping them anew. Paul satisfied that Napoleon was an enemy of republican institutions, conceived an intense admiration for his military genius, and came to an understanding with him to overthrow British rule in India. The czar at once commenced to prepare its execution. Two armies were formed; one was to march on the Upper Indus by way of Khiva and Bokhara, while the Cossacks under their hetman Denisof would go by Orenburg. He was confident that the gigantic task could be accomplished, and sent daily instructions to the hetman.
Napoleon had a far better idea of the difficulties, but he did not consider the expedition as hopeless. But even if it failed, he would be the winner, because England would be compelled to send most of her navy to India, while Russia would be too fully occupied, to interfere with his projects in Europe. The Cossacks started on their long journey, by crossing the Volga on the floating ice when, on the 24th of March, 1801, Paul was assassinated in his palace.
There was no doubt as to the guilty men, but Paul's son, Alexander, who succeeded him, did not order an investigation. Pahlen, Panine, (p. 198) Zoubof, and others, known as the "men of the 24th of March," were removed from office, but that was their only punishment. Paul's mother had alienated her grandchildren from the father, and Alexander always showed greater affection for Catherine than for Paul. The greatest sufferer was Napoleon, who saw his grand schemes go up in smoke. Alexander reversed his father's policy, both at home and abroad. He came to an understanding with England. Napoleon tried earnestly to secure the new czar's friendship. He wanted a free hand in Europe and in return offered the same privilege in Asia, but Alexander mistrusted the First Consul. The murder of the Duke of Enghien, who, by Napoleon's order, was kidnaped in a neutral territory and shot,—still further alienated the czar.
After Napoleon's coronation as emperor, Alexander entered into an alliance with England, whereby he would receive six million dollars for every 100,000 men Russia placed in the field. The Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia joined, but the Austrians, whose generals seemed unable to learn by experience, were defeated before the Russian army could reach the Tyrol. Once again the Russians covered themselves with glory by Koutouzof's masterly retreat to the north, and Bagration's heroic self-sacrifice. At Olmutz, in the presence of Alexander, the Russo-Austrian army, 80,000 strong, was attacked by Napoleon with 70,000 men. The Austrians had induced the czar to adopt their plan of battle, and it met with the usual result. Alexander escaped, escorted by his physician, two Cossacks, and a company of the Guards. (Dec. 2., 1805.) Twenty-four days later Alexander concluded peace with France by the Treaty of Presburg. (p. 199)
The growing power of Napoleon induced Alexander to enter into a new coalition with England, Prussia, and Sweden. Russia bore the brunt of the war, after Prussia had been rendered harmless after the battles of Jena and Auerstadt. The Russians withdrew from Prussian Poland; they suddenly left their winter quarters and attacked the French. On the 8th of February, one of the bloodiest battles was fought at Eylau; the French claimed the victory, but it was barren of results.
Napoleon dreaded Russia. He persuaded the Sultan of Turkey and the Shah of Persia to declare war, so as to occupy Alexander elsewhere. The czar, however, was loyal to his allies until, on the 14th of June, his army was almost annihilated at Friedland. This loss compelled him to enter into negotiations. On June 25, 1807, the two emperors met on a raft at Tilsit. Napoleon was prepared to do almost anything that would induce Alexander to cease interfering in Europe. An offensive-defensive alliance was concluded, whereby Napoleon agreed not to oppose the expulsion of the Turk or Russia's conquest of Constantinople. The czar meant to carry out the treaty in letter and in spirit, but he soon saw that Napoleon's ambition was limitless, and that he was playing with his ally. This was evident by the proposed partition of Turkey: nothing came of it. Still he accepted Napoleon's invitation to a conference at Erfurt, where he was received by the French Emperor amid a court composed of sovereigns and princes. A convention was signed on the 12th of October, 1808, whereby Alexander promised Napoleon a free hand, in return for the annexation by (p. 200) Russia of Finland and the Turkish provinces on the Danube.
This led to a war with Great Britain, Sweden, and Austria, not including Turkey and Persia. Russia acquired Finland, when Alexander, after convoking the Diet, guaranteed its constitution, privileges, and university. In 1809, war again broke out between Austria and France. By the terms of the alliance, Russia had agreed to furnish troops, but they showed that they did not relish fighting with the French. There were two engagements; in one of these, the casualties were one Russian killed and two wounded. By an oversight of Napoleon the Poles serving under him were to cooperate with the Russians, and, far from doing so, they often came to blows. The Russian general constantly sent complaints to the czar. Napoleon made a great effort to appease Alexander by assigning to Russia Eastern Gallicia with a population of 400,000. Alexander declined to be represented in the peace negotiations at Vienna. Napoleon's creation of the Grand Dukedom of Warsaw was a constant menace to Russia.
Meanwhile the Russians were uniformly victorious in Turkey; the czar concluded peace only when it was evident that war with France was unavoidable, and that Russia would need every man. It was on this account that he gave easy terms to the hard-pressed Sultan. Russia annexed Bessarabia, part of Roumania, Ismail, and Kilia on the Lower Danube.
The time for the momentous struggle had arrived. Napoleon, the master of Continental Europe, thought that he was more than a match for serf-ridden Russia. He reckoned upon the echo which the words (p. 201) liberty, equality, and fraternity, would awaken in the hearts of the moujik, and forgot that they were abstract ideas which to the serf, struggling for enough black bread to allay the cravings of hunger, were so many empty sounds. He tried to arouse Europe's suspicions of Russia's designs, not thinking that any yoke, even that of the Tartars, would be a welcome relief to nations mourning for the slaughter of their sons.
Napoleon left Paris for Dresden on the 9th of May, 1812; on the first of June an army of 678,000 men, including 60,000 Poles, stood ready to invade Russia. Alexander had only 150,000 men under Bagration and Barclay de Tolly, 90,000 posted on the Niemen, and 60,000 on the Vistula; but he issued a proclamation announcing a Holy War. "Rise all of you!" he urged, "With the Cross in your hearts and arms in your hands, no human force can prevail against you!"
Napoleon advanced clutching shadows. After his army left Wilna, leaving dead desolation in its wake, the time soon came when retreat was no longer possible. Russian patriotism clamored for battle and Russian prudence had to give way to it. All of Koutouzof's remarkable influence was required to restrain his men under the retreat which foretold victory, because every step forward sealed Napoleon's doom. The Corsican knew it but, with the superstition born in him, trusted to his star. Finally he drew near Moscow, the Holy City, where Count Rostopchine, the governor, was preparing the grand climax of the drama, while pacifying Russian patriotism by a series of hardy falsehoods. "I have resolved," he explained, "at every disagreeable piece of (p. 202) news to raise doubts as to its truth; by this means, I shall weaken the first impression, and before there is time to verify it, others will come which will require investigation." The people implicitly believed his most daring inventions. When he evacuated Moscow, he ordered all prisons to be opened, and the guns in the arsenal to be distributed among the people; he also had the pumps removed and finally gave instructions to set fire to the stores of vodka and the boats loaded with alcohol.
Napoleon arrived at the Kremlin on the 14th of September. Short as was his sojourn, it was with difficulty that he escaped through the flames and found refuge in a park. Why did he waste thirty-five days in the charred capital? Was it belief in his star, or was it despair at the ruin of his prospects? On the 13th of October, the remnant of the Grand Army started on its long journey over the desert it had left behind, because all other roads were closed to it. The retreat has been described by many writers; but what pen shall do justice to the suffering caused by the unusually severe winter, the snow, the ice, the hunger, and the thirst? And how many hearts were rent, when the news came of the dead, the wounded, and the missing? Napoleon's campaign in Russia was the most impressive sermon against war, but it fell upon heedless ears.
After the Battle of the Berezina, Napoleon left the army and hurried home. All his thoughts were on the effect of the disastrous defeat,—not upon the hundred thousand desolate homes, but upon his own fortunes. He arrived in Paris where he gathered 450,000 men, many of them mere youths, to support him with their blood. But (p. 203) Europe was weary of slaughter. Kings might tremble for their crowns, it was the people, aroused to frenzy, that impelled them to action. On Napoleon's heels, besides, there was a bloodhound whom nobler instincts than mere self-preservation inspired to ceaseless pursuit. Alexander I, at this time, earned and deserved the glorious surname of The Well-beloved. Not a thought of self-glory or personal aggrandizement sullied the relentless chase. Emperors and kings dreading the awakened conscience of the people would have made peace, and they could have done so with security for themselves, but Alexander said, "No!" Under fire at the four days' battle of Leipzig, he personally directed reenforcements where they were required. And when, at last, the host of invaders stepped on the soil whose people during twenty years had committed outrages in almost every known country of Europe, they were noble words which the Autocrat addressed to his troops whom he had brought so far away from home. "By invading our empire," he says, "the enemy has done us much harm, and has therefore been subjected to a terrible chastisement. The anger of God has overthrown him. Do not let us imitate him. The merciful God does not love cruel and inhuman men. Let us forget the evil he has wrought; let us carry to our foes, not vengeance and hate, but friendship, and a hand extended in peace."