These were not mere words; Alexander the Well-beloved was sincere. But it was he who refused to receive Napoleon's envoy at Freiburg, and it was he who, when Napoleon, fighting like a tiger at bay, was defeating the separated armies, so that the British envoy urged to (p. 204) come to terms with him, answered, "It would not be a peace but a truce. I cannot come four hundred leagues to your assistance every day. No peace, so long as Napoleon is on the throne!" By his direction the united armies rolled like an avalanche upon Paris,—and Napoleon gave up the struggle by abdicating.
Again it was Alexander the Well-beloved who intervened when other powers would have overwhelmed the fallen colossus. It was Alexander who procured for his enemy the sovereignty of the island of Elba, and commissioned Count Schouvalof to escort him. "I confide to you a great mission;" he said; "you will answer to me with your head for a single hair which falls from the head of Napoleon."
At the Congress of Vienna assembled the statesmen to dispose of nations and peoples, as their own ambition prompted. Alexander desired to unite Poland to his crown, but separate from Russia; but was opposed by Austria, Great Britain, and France, who entered into a secret alliance against him. Had Napoleon waited two hundred days instead of half that time, who knows that he might not yet have been the arbiter of Europe? His descent united all factions, and Alexander declared that he would pursue Napoleon "down to his last man and his last ruble."
Once again armies were set in motion, and once again Napoleon resorted to his well-known tactics of destroying his enemies one by one. He failed at Waterloo. (June 17, 1815.) Again the allies re-entered Paris, the Prussians first but closely followed by the czar and his army.
"Justice, but no revenge!" proclaimed Alexander when Bluecher would (p. 205) have followed Napoleon's example of robbing a country of its works of art. The czar stood the friend of France when Prussia demanded a frontier which would render her safe from French invasion; but he said frankly that he "wished to allow some danger to exist on that side, so that Germany, having need of Russia, might remain dependent," He was in favor of allowing the French to select their own government, but was overruled. At last the allies came to an understanding, and Poland was joined to the Russian Crown.
The Polish soldiers who had fought so bravely under Napoleon, placed themselves at the czar's service, hoping and trusting that their country would revive under a Russian king. Alexander's promises at Vienna had been vague, but recent events had made a deep impression upon him. In this frame of mind, he directed that Poland be restored. This was announced on the 21st of June, at Warsaw amid the roar of cannon. Constantine, Alexander's brother, was made King, and a legislative body, composed of a senate and house of representatives, was formed under a constitution which also guaranteed the freedom of the press.
Thus Alexander returned to Russia. Soon after that he gave evidence that strong emotions were required to subdue the inborn prejudice in favor of autocracy. Russia, of necessity, had acquired an overwhelming influence in Europe. This showed at the several Congresses, at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, at Carlsbad in 1819, at Troppau in 1820, and at Verona in 1822. The crowned heads of Europe appeared unable to comprehend that the French revolution, with its orgies of blood (p. 206) and tears, had produced an impassable abyss between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They wished to return to the conditions prevailing before the revolution, which caused the success of that upheaval; but the people, the masses, had quaffed of the cup of liberty, and the taste lingered. The Holy Alliance with its unholy aims might ordain what it pleased, the people obstinately refused to resume the place of beasts of burden for the benefit of the State. Thus a spirit of unrest was perceptible, and when Alexander learned that his "I, the czar, will it!" was not able to restore quiet, he joined the other crowned heads in their struggle against more liberal ideas. From that time his conduct changed.
There was evidence of this in the events occurring in the south. The majority of the inhabitants of the Balkan provinces of Turkey belonged to the Greek Church, and looked to Alexander for relief from the oppressive Mahomedan yoke. The Servians took up arms, the people of Greece did the same. On Easter day, 1821, the Patriarch of the Greek Church at Constantinople was seized at the altar, and hung in his vestment at the door of the church. Three metropolitans and eight bishops were also murdered. The news caused deep indignation in Russia, but Alexander moved not. He believed in the theory that no people should be encouraged in rising against its ordained masters. In Russia all liberal ideas were rigidly suppressed.
In 1825, Alexander left St. Petersburg for the south where he intended to spend some time. He was full of gloomy forebodings and gave further evidence of an unsound mind by having a mass for the dead sung in (p. 207) his presence in broad daylight. While in the Crimea he was heard to repeat: "They may say what they like of me, but I have lived and will die a republican." He died on the 19th of November, 1825, while on his journey.
He left no sons. His brother Constantine had renounced the crown when he became King of Poland, and in 1823, Alexander had made his next brother Nicholas his successor. Alexander's reign marked a new era for Russia inasmuch as it was brought into closer contact with Europe, and promised to change in thought and impulse, from an Asiatic into a European nation. The necessity of securing the help of the masses against Napoleon's invasion created newspapers, and writers of unusual ability expressed their patriotic thoughts in prose and poetry. In 1814, the Imperial Library was opened to the public at St. Petersburg. It contained at that time 242,000 volumes, and about 10,000 manuscripts.
In 1803, Captains Krusenstern and Lisianski made the first Russian voyage around the world in the Nadejda (the Hope), and the Neva. It was on this occasion that Russia entered into relations with the United States.
XXIII—AN EVENTFUL PERIOD. (p. 208)
Alexander's will came as a surprise upon Nicholas, but Constantine was loyal to his promise and after a brief but generous contest, Nicholas was crowned at Moscow. Twenty-three days had elapsed since Alexander's death, long enough to show that the spirit of unrest had penetrated into Russia. On the 26th of December there were some disturbances at Moscow, but they were suppressed without great trouble. The secret police hunted down the leaders, many of whom were known in art or literature, but they suffered death. Nicholas, a man of colossal stature, commanding appearance, iron will, passion for a military life, of simple and correct habits, was a true champion of the right divine of kings. He had neither sympathy nor patience with any movement tending toward greater liberty for the people. Nevertheless Nicholas was much more popular than Alexander had been, because he was the type of the Russian czars, who had increased Russia's power and territory.
Not many days after his coronation, Nicholas became involved in a quarrel with the Shah of Persia. In vain did the shah call upon Great Britain for help; the Persians were twice defeated in 1826, and the Russians were on the road to Teheran when the shah preferred to (p. 209) save his capital by ceding two provinces, and paying a heavy indemnity in 1828. The following year, the Russian Minister at Teheran was murdered, but Persia escaped with a humble apology.
Turkey, too, was made to feel Nicholas' heavy hand; urged by other powers the sultan submitted to the loss of territory in Asia, which had been in dispute, and permitted the free passage of Russian vessels between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. (Convention of Akkerman, Oct. 8, 1826.) The czar, after this, took up the Greek question, and entered into an agreement with England and France. In vain did the sultan offer the plea which had been successful with Alexander, that the Greeks "violated the passive obedience owed by subjects to their legitimate sovereigns." Nicholas wanted Turkey for himself, and proposed to leave no stone unturned to secure possession of Constantinople.
After the battle of Navarino, on the 20th of October, 1827, where the allied forces destroyed the Turkish fleet. England withdrew, suspicious of Nicholas' schemes; but France and Russia continued the war until by the Peace of Adrianople, the sultan recognized the independence of Greece,—and ceded to Russia four fortresses in Asia and the islands in the delta of the Danube. Russia was thus in possession of the whole southern slope of the Caucasus, besides holding part of its northern front. The czar began war upon the tribes dwelling in the mountains, but found that he had engaged in a very difficult enterprise. A soldier-priest named Schamyl defied the power of Russia for a quarter of a century. It cost Nicholas more in men (p. 210) and money to subdue the liberty-loving mountaineer, than all the wars he waged in Asia.
The year 1830, was one of great unrest in Europe. Nicholas was deeply angered when his friend Charles X of France was expelled. The revolution in Paris was the signal for a similar movement in the capital of Poland. Owing to the independent expression of opinion in the Diet, Alexander had adjourned that body indefinitely in 1822. At the same time the liberty of the press was revoked and the police assumed a power in defiance of the law. The Grand Duke Constantine was really a friend of Poland, but he was eccentric and impetuous and often unconsciously gave offense. In 1830, Nicholas came to Warsaw to open the Diet, when its members made demands which he could not grant. Both sides were angry when Nicholas returned to St. Petersburg.
As soon as the French tricolor was raised above the consulate at Warsaw, the trouble commenced. Taken unprepared, Constantine withdrew with his troops. Again the Poles were divided; the patriots advised reconciliation with Russia, while hotheads demanded the abdication of the Romanofs. The first party sent a deputation to St. Petersburg and another to Paris and London, to secure mediation. The czar's answer was decisive; he absolutely refused to "make concessions (to the revolutionists), as the price of their crimes." Again, too, there was discord among the leaders as they entered upon a life or death struggle. Poland appealed to Europe. The people were sympathetic, but the governments, rejoicing at seeing a revolutionary movement suppressed, refused to interfere.
In February, 1831, a Russian army of 130,000 men invaded Poland. (p. 211) The Poles showed a heroism which appealed to the people of Europe, but more than sympathy was needed to arrest the irresistible Russian advance upon Warsaw. Constantine and the Russian commander-in-chief fell the victims of cholera, but an epidemic of discord struck Poland and sealed its fate. On the 6th of September, Warsaw was invested. The capital was forced to surrender. "Warsaw is at your feet," wrote the commander-in-chief to the czar, who lost no time in trampling upon the conquered. The constitution was abrogated, the Diet, a thing of the past. Poland was no more. Where it had stood, was a Russian province. Russian officials introduced Russian taxes, Russian coinage, and Russian justice such as it was. The Poles saw samples of it when thousands were arrested without process of law, and were sent to prison or to Siberia, while other thousands lost their property by confiscation. In White Russia and Lithuania the use of the Polish language was prohibited and the Catholic Clergy were forced to "ask" admittance to the bosom of the Greek Church. It must be admitted that the Polish peasants benefited by the change. With a view of reducing the influence of the nobles, the government issued regulations protecting the laborer against the landowner.
The Polish revolution caused the reorganization of European policies. Austria and Prussia, each in possession of territory that formerly belonged to Poland, entered into friendly relations with Russia, whereas England and France, where public opinion could not be ignored, drew more closely together. Nicholas was posing as the arbiter of (p. 212) Europe and the champion of kings. He assumed the right to command, but would soon find his will contested.
This was brought home to him in 1832, when trouble broke out between Turkey and Egypt. The Egyptian army was victorious and threatened Constantinople, when the sultan appealed to the powers. Russia responded at once by sending two armies, but a strong protest from England and France caused the withdrawal of the troops of Russia as well as those of Egypt. Baffled, Nicholas on June 3, 1833, entered into an offensive-defensive alliance with the sultan, which really placed Turkey and with it Constantinople in Russia's power. Another sharp protest from England and France prevented the consummation of the alliance.
In 1839 the trouble between Turkey and Egypt recommenced when Great Britain, anxious to preserve Turkey's integrity, entered into an agreement with Russia, Austria and Prussia, which was signed at London in July, 1840. There was some danger of a war with France but England, fearing Russia's designs, returned to her former ally. By the Convention of July 13, 1841, Russia's designs upon old Czargrad were postponed until a more favorable opportunity. In 1844, Nicholas visited England, but his reception in London was cool. He, however, entered into an agreement whereby the Khanates of Central Asia should remain neutral ground between Russia and India.
In 1846, trouble broke out in Gallicia, where the Poles rose against Austria; but as the nobles had to subdue a revolt of their own (p. 213) peasants, order was quickly restored. The free city Cracow was the resort of the Poles. Russia, Austria, and Prussia sent troops against it, and Cracow was annexed by Austria notwithstanding a protest from England and France.
The year 1848 will long be remembered for the blows bestowed upon the divine right of kings, and the privileges which the sovereigns were compelled to concede to the people. The Emperor Ferdinand of Austria was expelled from his capital, and the King of Prussia was subjected to humiliation by his own people. France proclaimed the republic, and Nicholas proclaimed himself the champion of the right divine. He dispatched an army into Hungary, which was soon "at the feet of your Majesty," and felt the wrath of the frightened Ferdinand.
Notwithstanding this cooperation, the understanding among the three powers, Russia, Austria and Prussia, was giving way before individual interests. When, in 1852, Prussia attempted to seize the German provinces of Denmark, it was Nicholas who compelled her to withdraw. On the 8th of May of that year, the independence and integrity of Denmark were recognized by the Treaty of London.
In the same year Louis Napoleon made an end to the French Republic by the notorious Coup d'Etat. This gave great satisfaction to the czar who was heard to remark: "France has set an evil example; she will now set a good one. I have faith in the conduct of Louis Napoleon." The new emperor of France did not seem to appreciate this condescension, or else he showed gross ingratitude when France and Austria, (p. 214) without even consulting Nicholas, settled some troubles in Turkey. The czar sent Menzikoff as special envoy to Constantinople to demand a new treaty whereby Russia's rights as Protector of the Greek Christians should be recognized. Supported as he was by France, the sultan refused. Nicholas then had a plain talk with Sir Hamilton Seymour, the British Minister at St. Petersburg, wherein he revealed his designs upon Turkey. As to Constantinople, he said, he might establish himself there as a trustee, but not as a proprietor. Sir Hamilton, as in duty bound, notified his government, and England hastened to join France in opposing Russia.
Pretending that all he wanted was a recognition of his rights, Nicholas, on the 3d of July, 1853, sent an army under Gortchakof across the Pruth. At this an allied British-French fleet took up a position near the threatened point, but did not cross the Straits, which would have been a violation of the treaty. Nicholas stormed; he declared that "This was a threat" and would lead to complications. Austria proposed a conference at which Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria and Prussia assisted. It seemed as if peace would be secured, when the sultan demanded that the Russian forces should withdraw, whereupon Admiral Nakhimof, on the 30th of November, 1853, destroyed the Turkish fleet at Sinope. The British-French fleet then sailed into the Black Sea, and the Russian ships sought shelter in the ports.
In January, 1854, Napoleon III made a last attempt at maintaining peace, but Nicholas was thoroughly angry at the publication of Seymour's dispatches, claiming that the conversation with the (p. 215) British Minister was entitled to secrecy as between "a friend and a gentleman." Austria and Prussia resented the contempt which the czar had expressed for them, and on the 10th of April England and France entered into an offensive-defensive alliance. Ten days later Austria and Prussia arrived at a written agreement providing for the possibility that the Russians should attack Austria or cross the Balkans. Nicholas had aroused all Europe against him.
The Russian fleet was unable to cope with that of the allies, and thus condemned to inactivity in the ports. After heroic efforts, the Russians were compelled to raise the siege of Silistria, and to retire from the Danube, while Austria occupied the evacuated territory. But Nicholas was dismayed when, after a conference on July 21, 1854, the allied commanders resolved to attack the Crimea. Russia was unprepared. It was the assault upon Russia's vaunted "holy soil," which gave a severe blow to the arbiter of Europe, at home as well as abroad. Still with clogged energy the Russians worked to construct defenses. On the 14th of September 500 troopships landed the allied armies, and on the 20th, the Battle of the Alma opened the road to Sebastopol. The port of Balaclava was captured by the allies, and three bloody battles were fought, at Balaclava on the 25th of October, at Inkermann on the 5th of November, and at Eupatoria on the 17th of February, 1855.
It seemed as if the knowledge that an enemy was in Russia, aroused the Russians from a torpor. Pamphlets and other publications denouncing the government in withering terms, seemed to spring up from the pavement. "Arise, Oh Russia!" says one unknown writer, "Devoured (p. 216) by enemies, ruined by slavery, shamefully oppressed by the stupidity of tchinovnik and spies, awaken from thy long sleep of ignorance and apathy! We have been kept in bondage long enough by the successors of the Tartar khans. Arise! and stand erect and calm before the throne of the despot; demand of him a reckoning for the national misfortunes. Tell him boldly that his throne is not the altar of God, and that God has not condemned us to be slaves forever."
The feeling among his people was not unknown to Nicholas. Whatever may be said of him, he was not weakling, fool, or hypocrite, and it was no disgrace that he felt as if the ground were giving way under his feet. He was upright and sincere, and had lived up to his convictions. There is no doubt that when these convictions grew dim, his strength vanished. He was heard to exclaim "My successor may do what he will: I cannot change." The sincerity of this man of iron showed in his losing his courage when doubts arose. Life ceased to have any value for him. One day, in February, 1855, while suffering from a severe cold, he went out without his overcoat. To the physician who tried to restrain him, he said: "You have done your duty; now let me do mine!" A serious illness followed, and he sent for his successor to whom he gave some instructions. As a message to his people, and a last cry for sympathy, he dictated the dispatch "The emperor is dying," which was sent to all the large towns of Russia. On the 19th of March, 1855, Nicholas I was dead.
Under his directions wealthy merchants were classified as "chief (p. 217) citizens," which procured for them exemption from poll-tax, conscription, and corporal punishment. They might take part in the assessment of real estate, and were eligible to the offices to which members of the first class were entitled. The same privilege was extended to all who were entitled to the degree of Master of Arts, and free-born and qualified artists. It was he who built the first railway in Russia, by drawing a straight line between Moscow and St. Petersburg. He also joined the Volga and the Don by a canal. His reign is also noted for the progress of Russian literature. The works of Ivan Tourguenief are known throughout the civilized world.
XXIV—ALEXANDER II, THE LIBERATOR. (p. 219)
Alexander II was thirty-seven years old when he succeeded to the throne. The war oppressed Russia, and he felt that peace must be concluded. But Russian diplomacy loves the tortuous path. The first proclamation of the czar announced that he promised "to accomplish the plans and desires of our illustrious predecessors, Peter, Catherine, Alexander the Well-beloved, and our father of imperishable memory." It was hoped that this would cause the other powers to propose peace, on account of the expense of the war. Indeed, a conference was proposed and took place at Vienna, but the demands of the allies were not so modest as Russia expected; hence the war continued, and with it the siege of Sebastopol.
The Danube territory was lost to Russia since, on the 2d December 1854, Austria had undertaken to defend it, and Prussia had agreed to help Austria. But Sebastopol was stubbornly defended. In the latter part of August 1855, 874 guns vomited death and destruction upon the doomed city where the Russians lost 18,000 men. The French had dug fifty miles of trenches during the 366 days of the siege, and 4,100 feet of mines before a single bastion. In one day 70,000 bombs and shells were fired into the town. On the 8th of September the (p. 220) assault was ordered, and Sebastopol fell.
Again Russia tried what boasting would effect. Gortchakof declared to whoever chose to believe him that he would not voluntarily abandon the country where Saint Vladimir had received baptism, and the official newspaper announced that the war was now becoming serious, and that Sebastopol being destroyed, a stronger fortress would be built. This meant that Russia was anxious to secure favorable terms. The war had cost 250,000 men, and Russia's credit at home was in a bad condition. Austria offered the basis of an agreement which was accepted by Russia, and on the 25th of February, 1856, a Congress met at Paris. Five days later the Treaty of Paris was signed. Russia renounced the right of protecting the Christians in the Danubian principalities, and restored the delta of that river. The Black Sea was opened to merchant vessels of all nations, but closed to all warships, and no arsenals were to be constructed on its shores. The sultan agreed to renew the privileges of his Christian subjects, but with the understanding that the powers should not find cause to interfere. It was a hard blow to Russia's prestige, and indefinitely postponed the execution of making of Russia the restored Eastern Roman Empire.
Alexander, in many respects, was the opposite of his father; he seemed more like his uncle in his younger days when he earned the surname of Well-beloved. It may be, however, that Alexander was but the executor of his father's instructions, after doubt began to torture him. It is known that Nicholas had seriously considered the emancipation of (p. 221) the serfs. Alexander took it up in earnest. There were two serious difficulties, namely, the compensation to be allowed to the serf owners, and the extent of the soil to be allotted to the serfs. It must be remembered that, although the peasant had become resigned to serve the landowner, his proverb: "Our backs are the owner's, but the soil is our own," showed how stubbornly he held to the conviction that it was his own land which he cultivated, however little profit he derived from his toil. For once the tchinovnik dared not interfere; public opinion had so strongly condemned their incompetence and dishonesty that the Russian official was glad to efface himself; the landowners, on the other hand, showed little enthusiasm. They knew what their revenues were, but not what they would be under altered circumstances.
Soon after the Treaty of Paris had restored peace, Alexander addressed his "faithful nobles" at Moscow, inviting them to consult about the proper measures to be taken with the view to emancipation. When this produced no results, he appointed a Committee, "for the amelioration of the condition of the peasants." The nobles of Poland, seeing what was coming, declared themselves ready to emancipate their serfs. The czar gave his consent and the ukase containing it was sent to all the governors and marshals of the nobility "for your information," and also "for your instruction if the nobles under your administration should express the same intention as those of the three Lithuanian governments."
The press supported the czar, and for that reason was allowed an unusual freedom of expression. The plan was formed to reconstruct (p. 222) and strengthen the national mir. This was favored by a number of large landowners who saw in this plan the beginning of constitutional liberty. The czar directed that committees be appointed to examine the scheme.
There were at this time 47,000,000 serfs, of whom 21,000,000 belonged to private landowners, 1,400,000 were domestic servants, and the rest Crown peasants who possessed greater privileges and enjoyed some degree of self-government. Their local affairs were administered by the mir and an elected council with an elder as executive. They were judged by elected courts, that is juries, either in the mir court or in that of the volost (district).
Forty-six committees composed of 1,336 land and serf-owners, assembled to discuss the future of 22,500,000 serfs and of 120,000 owners. These committees declared in favor of emancipation, but could not agree upon the allowance of acreage or the indemnity to the owners. Another committee of twelve was appointed, presided over by the czar, but there Alexander met considerable passive opposition. The czar made a journey through the provinces, where he appealed to the nobles, warning them that "reforms came better from above than below." After his return another committee superior in authority to the one existing and composed of friends of emancipation was called. Its members, inspired by the czar, drafted laws whereby emancipation was to proceed at once, and stringent laws were made to prevent the free peasant from again becoming a serf, and to make of him a proprietor upon payment of an indemnity. On the 3d of March, 1861, the emancipation ukase was published.
The scheme, as is evident, was fraught with difficulty. A stroke (p. 223) of the pen by the hand of the czar could set free millions of serfs, but all the czar's power stopped short of endowing the serf with the dignity and responsibility, which are the freeman's birthright. For more than a century and a half, the moujik had been a beast of burden, toiling as he was bid, and finding recreation only in besotting himself with strong drink whenever he could find the means to indulge. Mental faculties, save such as are inseparable from animal instinct, had lain dormant; moral perception was limited between the knout on one side, and gross superstition on the other. Could such a being be intrusted with life and property? When the serf, brutalized by generations of oppression, should come to understand that he was free to do as he pleased, and that the hovel where he and his brood were styed was his to do with as he pleased, what could he be expected to do? Would he not seize the opportunity to indulge in his favorite craving, and, having sold his property, swell the army of homeless vagabonds?
The mir was the only means to prevent this, and mir meant serfdom under another name. The landowners disposed of their land, or of so much as was required to support the peasants, not to individuals but to the mir. To indemnify the owners, the mir could secure a loan whereby the debt was transferred from the owner to the government, and the mir was responsible for its payment as well as for the taxes. The moujik, as part of the mir, was responsible to the community for his share of the debt, and was not allowed to leave his village without a written permission from the starost or elder. He was, therefore, (p. 224) in a worse position than before the emancipation because in time of distress it was his lord's interest to support him, whereas after it he had to deal with a soulless government that demanded the taxes regardless of circumstances. The mir might succeed so long as the peasant remained in a state of tutelage; education only could lift him out of this,—but this means was not considered by the government.
But whatever may have been Alexander's intentions, the men charged with their execution had no sympathy with the moujik. The question never occurred to them: How shall we raise the peasant from his degradation? The problem before them was, how he should be made to support the State, as he had done before. The Russian statesmen had no conception of the truth that the wealth of a State is gauged by the prosperity of the people.
As to the serf, he did not consider that a boon had been bestowed upon him. The soil and the hovel were his, descended to him from his forbears! Why, then, should he pay for them? He clung to this idea with all the stubbornness implanted by a sense of justice upon a limited intelligence. It had been hammered into his head that the Little Father at St. Petersburg was conferring a favor upon him, and this was within his limited conception; but when he heard what the favor was, the only solution which his cunning brain could devise was that the nobles had cheated the czar, or that there had been some juggling with the ukase. Thus grave disturbances occurred. In one district, that of Kazan, 10,000 men rose at the call of the moujik Petrof, who promised them the real article of liberty. Troops were called out and a hundred peasants besides Petrof were shot. (p. 225) Similar disturbances occurred in other provinces. The poor moujik did not know that he was saddled with a debt which neither he nor his children could hope to pay; but he did know that he was charged with a debt which he had not incurred.
Nevertheless, the emancipation was a step forward. Under the liberal impulse then rushing irresistibly over Russia's broad level the upper classes clamored for reforms. They asked for the re-establishment of the douma as the beginning of a constitutional government, but the czar was not prepared to grant this, and he was right because under existing circumstances the peasants would have to be disfranchized,—and there is small choice between an autocracy and an oligarchy.
It is to be regretted that the reforms in the judicial system, introduced by Alexander in the ukases of 1862 to 1865, have since been rescinded. Secret examinations were displaced by open sessions of the courts, and criminal cases were decided by juries; the police was forbidden to examine the accused, which duty was placed into the hands of a qualified judge. Appeals could be taken to a higher court, and the Senate acted as a Supreme Court in the last resort. Apart from this system was the justice of the peace who adjudged ordinary police cases, acted as an arbitrator, and decided civil suits when the amount involved did not exceed 500 rubles ($250). No appeal could be taken in cases involving less than thirty rubles in civil suits, or fifteen rubles or three days' prison in police offenses. If an appeal was taken the case was brought, not before a higher court, but before the collective justices of the peace of the district, whose verdict (p. 226) could be set aside only by the Senate.
The Russian goubernii, governments, were divided into districts (ouiezdi). The imperial ukase of 1864, created zemstvos or district assemblies composed of representatives of the landed proprietors or gentlemen; or rural communes or mirs, and of the towns. These representatives were elected every three years. The assembly appointed an executive committee which is in permanent session, but the zemstvo assembles once a year. Its duties are strictly limited to local affairs, such as keeping roads and bridges in repair; to watch over education and sanitation, to report on the condition of the harvest, and to guard against the occurrence of famine. Above the district zemstvo is the goubernkoe zemstvo or provincial assembly, whose members are elected from the district zemstvos. Its duties embrace the estimate of the provincial budget, and a general supervision over the districts.
Alexander was kindly disposed and meant to do well. He showed it by removing the barriers erected by his father between Russia and western Europe. Foreigners in Russia were granted civil rights, and Russians were allowed to travel abroad. The universities were relieved of restraints and Jews who had learned a trade could settle where they pleased. All these reforms were so many promises of a new era for Russia.
Alexander soon found out that his concessions only served to create demands for more. The trouble began in Poland, where the news of Nicholas' death was received with relief, if not with joy. Great hopes were entertained from the new czar; besides, the Europe of 1855 (p. 227) was very different from that of 1825: monarchs had learned the lesson that the people possessed inalienable rights. Italy had shaken off the encumbrance of a number of princelings,—and was the better for it; Austria had been compelled to grant self-government to its Hungarian subjects; why, then, should Poland despair of recovering its independence?
It was Poland's greatest misfortune that her best sons were always divided in opinion; many of them, moreover, thought that Poland's cause should command the sacrifices of every people. They forgot that their country owed its downfall to itself and that, whereas people might express their sympathy, it cannot be expected that they shall neglect their own business for the sake of other people. Some of the leaders expected that the czar would grant them self-government, and Alexander might have done so after some time; but others demanded not only independence but that Russia should restore the parts which she had owned for so many years that they had become parts of the empire. The czar dared not grant such a request, because it would have produced a revolution in Russia, besides a war with Austria and Prussia, since those powers owned part of Poland. He was, however, willing to grant important concessions and did so. In February 1863, an insurrection broke out, and Russian troops were dispatched to subdue it. The Russians acted with great cruelty, so that England, France, and Austria protested on the 17th of June. Russia, knowing that Prussia would come to her assistance paid no attention, and in 1866, Russian Poland became a part of Russia. The Russian language (p. 228) displaced the Polish, and Poland is no longer even a name; it is a memory and a warning,—nothing more.
Quite different was Alexander's treatment of Finland. In 1863, he convoked the Diet of that grand dukedom, where nobility and people appreciated the degree of liberty which they enjoyed. The government did not interfere with the national language or religion, but took measures that neither should spread in Russia.
Alexander's concessions raised the expectation of a constitution among those who knew what the word implies, including the students at the universities. These institutions were closed. The provincial zemstvos exceeded their authority. That of Tver demanded the convocation of the three Estates; that at Toula discussed a national assembly. Was it Alexander or his court and ministers who bore the responsibility for the suppressive means that were employed? It may be that the attempts upon his life, by Karakozof in 1866, and by the Pole Berezofski at Paris in 1867, embittered him. But his kindly feeling and love for his people, taken in conjunction with a later event, warrant the belief that he was ignorant.
XXV—GREAT EVENTS DURING ALEXANDER'S REIGN. (p. 229)
Prussia's behavior during the Polish insurrection brought her into a close friendship with Russia. The result was seen when Austria and Prussia, in 1864, invaded the German provinces of Denmark, when Russia prevented intervention, and Denmark lost the two provinces by the Treaty of Vienna, October 30, 1864. Soon after Prussia and Austria quarreled about the spoils. The countries of South Germany supported Austria. War began on June 18, 1866, and little over two months later, on August 23, 1866, it ended by the Peace of Prague, which gave to Prussia Hanover, Schleswig-Holstein, Hesse, Nassau, and the city of Frankfort. Prussia did not annex Wurtemburg in compliment to the czar, who was related to its king by marriage.
If Russia looked carelessly upon Prussia's growth, not so Napoleon III of France. He saw in it a threat, and to offset Prussia's increase of power, tried to secure other territory. It was evident that nothing but a pretext was needed to bring on war. It was found, and Napoleon declared war on July 15, 1870. Once again it was Alexander who protected Prussia on the east, by threatening Austria which would gladly have seized the opportunity to avenge 1866. As a consequence France (p. 230) had to fight the whole of Germany; and Russia seized the opportunity for repudiating the treaty of Paris of 1856, which forbade the construction of arsenals on the coast of the Black Sea and did not permit any war vessels in it. None of the powers felt any inclination to fight Russia single-handed, but Prussia proposed a conference, which was held at London. The result was that Russia was left free in the Black Sea, but the sultan has the right to close the Dardanelles to warships.
On January 18, 1871, the King of Prussia became German Emperor, and in the following year the Emperor of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, and the German Emperor met at Vienna, with the result that an alliance was concluded among the three powers.
In 1867 Russia resolved to dispose of its possessions on the western hemisphere by selling Alaska, a territory covering 590,884 square miles, to the United States. In the same year a Slavophil Congress was held at Moscow with the czar's approval. The object was said to be to unite all the nations of Slav origin by a bond of friendship; but the real purpose was to bring them under the rule of the czar. This was apparent when it was resolved to send emissaries among the Slavs under Turkish rule. They met with encouragement in Montenegro, Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. General Ignatieff, the Russian ambassador at Constantinople, thought that this might be the means to bring about the longed-for annexation of the old Czargrad. He worked upon the Turkish subjects belonging to the Greek Church, but showed his hand when, under his decision, the Bulgarians were released from the (p. 231) authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1875, the Bulgarian Christians rose against the Turkish tax-farmers. The revolt was fanned by the Russian emissaries, and it spread to Servia and Montenegro. Ignatieff did not think that the time was ripe and interfered; but he threatened the Sultan with European intervention and Abdul Aziz granted the insurgents the privileges enjoyed by the Christians in Turkey.
Austria looked with apprehension upon the increasing influence of Russia in Turkey, and suggested drastic reforms in a note addressed to the powers on December 30, 1875. It was approved and presented to the sultan by the five great European powers. Abdul Aziz quietly accepted it. This was not what the Russian Slavophils expected, and they incited the Servians to revolt. A religious insurrection followed which was put down by the Turks with such cruelty that it aroused universal indignation in Europe, especially in Russia. In Constantinople the Turks were indignant at the sultan's evident fear of Ignatieff. The situation became so alarming that Great Britain assembled a fleet in Besika Bay. The triple alliance, Russia, Austria and Prussia, demanded of the sultan an armistice and the execution of reforms under foreign supervision. The situation changed by a revolution in Turkey on May 29, 1876, when Abdul Aziz was assassinated and succeeded by his nephew Murad V.
Russia felt that war was inevitable and approached Austria with proposals to take joint action. The reply was that Austria could not permit the creation of a Slav state on the frontier and that, if any changes were made in the Balkans, Austria must receive compensation. This was (p. 232) admitted by Russia. A number of Russian officers took service in Servia, among them General Chernaiev, who had gained distinction in Central Asia. Montenegro declared war against Turkey on July 2, 1876.
On the 31st of August, of the same year, Sultan Murad V was deposed, and his half-brother became sultan as Abdul Hamid II. Meanwhile the Turks were victorious, and on September, 17, the Servians asked for an armistice.
The reports of Turkish atrocities aroused great indignation in Great Britain; its government was forced to join the other great powers in a note to the sultan demanding reforms. Abdul Hamid made vague promises but when the Servians, trusting to intervention, again took up arms, they were badly defeated and a great number of Russian officers were killed. The czar was forced to interfere. On October 31, he demanded an armistice of six weeks, to which Abdul Hamid replied that he would make it six months. This was declined because it would keep the Servians too long in suspense, and the war continued. In the beginning of November Chernaiev admitted that the Slav cause was lost unless foreign help came.
Alexander was really concerned in seeking a peaceable solution, but his high officers were equally earnest in preventing it. Ignatieff, at Constantinople, was especially active with every means at his disposal. Alexander suggested a European conference but before it assembled he declared publicly at Moscow (Nov. 10), that, anxious as he was to avoid the shedding of Russian blood, he would act alone (p. 233) to support his brethren in race and religion unless the conference brought relief.
The representatives of the powers met at Constantinople on the 5th of December, 1876. The sultan, a man of rare ability and cunning, knew that Turkey's disintegration was discussed in its own capital. He did not object, but made one of the reform party his Grand Vizier, and astonished the world by proclaiming a constitution on December 25.
The conference concluded its deliberations, and presented its conclusions to the sultan who agreed to submit them to the National Assembly, which was to meet in March, 1877. Abdul Hamid was wise. He made the first legislature Turkey ever had,—and he had firmly resolved that it should also be the last,—responsible for whatever might happen. The session was brief, but long enough to refuse the conditions imposed by the powers.
Alexander demanded that the sultan make peace with Montenegro which was declined. On the 24th of April the czar declared war. England protested against Russia's independent action, but 250,000 men crossed the Turkish frontier. The principal incident was the siege and fall of Plevna (July 20—Dec. 10, 1877), under Osman Pasha. The surrender of this brave Turk alarmed England, which, however, did not grant Turkey's appeal for intervention. It was at the battle of Senova, Jan. 9, 1878, when he captured 27,000 prisoners and 43 Krupp guns, that Skobelef won fame. On January 23, Constantinople was at the czar's mercy.
But this awoke England. On February 13, the British fleet passed (p. 234) through the Dardanelles without obtaining the sultan's consent, and thereby ruined Russia's schemes. In vain did its government complain of the violation of the Treaty of Paris; before the czar could make good his threat that he would occupy Constantinople,—the object of the Russian's most fervid hope,—a fleet of British ironclads prevented its consummation.
Peace negotiations were opened at San Stefano, when Russia imposed exaggerated demands which the cunning sultan hastened to grant, convinced that the other powers would prevent their execution. He was right. Great Britain, Austria, and Turkey entered into an alliance. England sent for Indian troops to occupy Malta, and called out the reserves. The war had cost Russia $600,000,000 and 90,000 men, and she was not in a condition to fight the three powers. Thus, for the second time, Czargrad slipped out of Russia's clutches, and each time she owed the disappointment to Great Britain.
The Balkan question was settled at the Congress at Berlin which opened on June 13, 1878, and finished its sessions a month later. Turkey ceded to Russia a part of Bessarabia, and in Asia, Kars, Ardahan, and Batoum. This ending of the war, so different from what was expected by the Slavophils, caused great dissatisfaction in Russia, and the czar dissolved all Slavophil committees. This gained him the dislike of the high officers and of the tchinovnik.
The absurd and dangerous doctrine of nihilism, that is, the destruction of everything that constitutes society, penetrated into Russia by way of Germany. At first it was nothing but a theory, fascinating for (p. 235) young and inexperienced people such as students of the universities who, unless properly guided, are apt to adopt any idea that appeals to the generous sentiments of youth. In 1864, an exile named Bakunin escaped from Siberia, and made his way to London where he secured employment on the Kolokol or "Bell," a revolutionary paper published in Russia which was smuggled over the frontier and scattered broadcast in the czar's domains. Under Bakunin's influence this paper became hostile to society, and preached nihilism. In 1869, a Congress of Nihilists was held at Basel, Switzerland; Bakunin proposed to create an International Committee of active workers.
Soon unmistakable signs of trouble appeared in Russia, but the government was on the alert and took strong means of suppression. Nicholas I, the man with the iron will, had sent an average number of 9,000 persons annually to Siberia; this number under Alexander the Liberator increased to from 16,000 to 20,000. Bakunin urged his followers to "go among the people," and a host of young persons, male and female, many of them belonging to the wealthy classes, adopted the life of the moujik in the villages. But the Russian peasant possesses a degree of cunning which shows his dormant intelligence, and suspected the motives of those who said they wanted to benefit him, and this, added to his real affection for the czar, rendered the attempt of the nihilists a failure. The Russian peasant dreads a change in his condition, because experience has taught him that it will end to his disadvantage. In 1876 there were still 2,000,000 peasants who preferred serfdom.
The Turkish war, when the government was occupied elsewhere, (p. 236) afforded an opportunity which was not neglected by the nihilists. On a July night of the year 1877, fifteen young men met in the forest near Litepsk, and formed a conspiracy against all existing institutions. Two papers, The Popular Will and The Black Partition advised assassination as the means to gain their object. We may judge of conditions in Russia from knowing that many good and wealthy people made contributions, well aware that arrest and punishment would follow if the secret police should hear of it. In October, 1877, 253 nihilists were arrested, and 160 were convicted at the trial. In February, 1878, General Trepof, Governor of St. Petersburg was openly accused in the papers of gross cruelty toward a prisoner, and Vera Zazulich, a young woman, sought to kill him. She was arrested, tried,—and acquitted, much to the disgust of the authorities who made every effort to re-arrest her. Then began a reign of terror. Officials were condemned to death by an "Executive Committee," composed of members whose names were unknown. The police did not know whom to suspect, and therefore suspected everybody, and no one was safe. Often the condemned officer was warned of his doom by letter or paper, but the messenger could not be found. In April, the president of the Kief University was dangerously wounded, and a police officer was stabbed in public. In August, General Mezensof, Chief of the dreaded Secret Police, was killed, and when the government abolished trial by jury in favor of a military court, it seemed as if the public took the part of the terrorists. These men grew bolder. On the 22d of February, (p. 237) 1878, Prince Krapotkine, the Governor of Kharkof, was shot, and his death sentence was found posted in many cities. On the following 7th of March, Colonel Knoop of the Odessa police, was killed, and as a climax, on the 14th of April a school-teacher named Solovief fired a pistol at the czar. Not satisfied with assassination, the terrorists resorted to incendiarism at Moscow, Nishni Novgorod, and other cities, and there were riots at Rostof. In April, 1878, the government proclaimed martial law, and the most renowned generals, Melikof, Gourko, Todleben, and others were appointed governors with unlimited authority. At St. Petersburg the dvorniks or house janitors were directed to spy upon the residents and to report their movements to the secret police. Executions, imprisonment, and exile multiplied until it seemed as if the government wished to terrify the terrorists.
Still the situation went from bad to worse. On December 1, 1879, as the imperial train was entering Moscow, it was wrecked by a mine. Alexander escaped because he had traveled in an earlier section. Three days later the "Executive Committee" issued a proclamation excusing the attempt and announcing that the czar had been condemned to death. On February 17, 1880, an explosion of dynamite in the guard room of the Winter Palace, just beneath the imperial dining-room, killed and maimed a large number of soldiers, but the imperial family escaped by a hair's breadth, as the czar had not entered the room. On the 24th of the same month Louis Melikof was placed in charge of the city of St. Petersburg, and eight days later there was an attempt upon his life. There was a panic in the capital, when a nihilist proclamation (p. 238) announced that these attempts would cease, provided the czar would renounce his autocracy and "leave the task of establishing social reforms to an assembly representing the entire Russian people."
Whatever may have been his motive, Melikof urged the czar to try what conciliation would effect. Upon his advice, a large number of exiles in Siberia were pardoned, and persons imprisoned for political offenses were released. About 2,000 students expelled from the universities were readmitted, and in several cases the death sentence pronounced against nihilists was commuted. Only two men out of the sixteen convicted of the attempt to blow up the Winter Palace, were executed. The effect of this new policy was so satisfactory, that on the 18th of August, 1880, the czar revoked the ukase of February 24, and Melikof was appointed as Minister of the Interior. He advised the czar to grant a constitution, and in February 1881, placed before Alexander a plan to effect this important change gradually. It was discussed in the Council of State. The majority approved, but a bitter opposition was manifested by the other members. The czar himself was in favor of it, but the persons with whom he came into daily contact caused him to hesitate. He told Melikof that he would give his final decision on March 12.
On that day he had not made up his mind, but on the 13th, he ordered that Melikof's scheme should become a law, and that it be published in the Official Gazette. That afternoon, as he was returning from his usual drive, and his carriage was passing between the Catherine Canal and Michael's Garden, a bomb was thrown under his carriage and (p. 239) exploded, killing or wounding a number of the guard, but Alexander was unhurt. He was hurrying to assist the wounded, when another bomb exploded near him and he was dreadfully mangled. He regained consciousness for a moment while his attendants were bearing him to the palace, but died at 3.30 P.M., without having spoken a word.
A man named Rissakof, said to be a nihilist, was arrested for throwing the bomb; but there were ugly rumors that the assassination was committed under the direction of parties interested in maintaining an autocratic government at all risks. Owing to the secret proceedings in Russian courts, the murder of Alexander the Liberator still remains a mystery.
XXVI—ALEXANDER III, THE PEASANTS' FRIEND. (p. 241)
The atrocious death of The Liberator gave the throne to his son, who succeeded as Alexander III. The new czar was thirty-six years old. Nicholas, the eldest son of Alexander II, had died of consumption in 1865, and, since he had been the heir, his younger brother had not received any special training. His principal tutor had been Pobiedonostzeff, a man who believed in autocracy. He had imbued his pupil with a deeply religious feeling, and imparted to him a thorough knowledge of Russia's history. Alexander III was of powerful build and possessed unusual strength. He was loyal to his word, and tenacious in his likes and dislikes. Married to Princess Dagmar of Denmark, he was a model husband and father. His education made him a firm believer in autocracy.
The sudden and tragic death of his father moved him so deeply that he gave orders that the last wishes of the late czar should be respected. "Change nothing in my father's orders;" he said to Melikof; "they are his last will and testament." He issued two proclamations; in the first he announced that he would strengthen the bond with Poland and Finland, and thus gained the support of the Slavophils; and in the second, he reminded the peasants of the freedom given to them by (p. 242) his father, and ordered them to swear allegiance to himself and his heir. Six men and a woman implicated in the murder of the late czar were arrested, tried, condemned to death, and, with the exception of the woman, they were executed on April 15. The czar appointed his former tutor as Procurator of the Holy Synod. Pobiedonostzeff persuaded his pupil that this was not the time to make concessions. On the 11th of May, 1881, Alexander issued a proclamation in which he declared his intention to maintain the absolute power. Melikof resigned as Minister of the Interior and was replaced by Ignatieff, the former Russian Minister at Constantinople.
Shortly after his succession to the throne, Alexander made a journey to Moscow, and was everywhere received with unmistakable tokens of loyalty and affection. This confirmed his opinion that the great bulk of the population was satisfied with the form of government, and strengthened his determination to defend it.
In 1881, an anti-semitic movement was felt in Germany; that is, an outburst of hatred for the Jews broke out, which spread to Russia. It is not generally known that of all the Jews in the world, four fifths live in Russia in the southwest, in an area of 356,681 square miles. This is sometimes mentioned as the Jewish territory. Few of these people engage in agriculture; they are sometimes mechanics, but more often peddlers, storekeepers, bankers and moneylenders. The principal objection to them was that they succeed where others fail. In May, 1881, there were anti-Jewish riots at Kief and other places. Pobiedonostzeff's motto was, "One Russia, One Religion, One Czar;" (p. 243) prompted by him, Alexander did not take any energetic measures to suppress the disorder, for he, too, disliked to see in Russia a people differing in religion, language, and outward appearance. Ignatieff began a system of persecution by removing the Jews who had profited by the late czar's permission to settle anywhere, and when the act which recalled the Middle Ages was hotly condemned by the foreign press, even the Slavophils said that Ignatieff had gone too far. The persecution died out until 1884, when the Jews were deprived of their civil rights, and an attempt was made to compel them to enter the Greek Church. But the Jew is steadfast under persecution, and the only result was that some of them heartily joined the nihilists.
The public condemnation which followed these acts, induced Ignatieff to advise the czar to adopt Melikof's scheme of a constitution. Alexander did not understand this change of views and when de Giers was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ignatieff resigned. He was succeeded by D. Tolstoi.
Misunderstandings and the clashing of interests were dissolving the triple alliance of Russia, Austria, and Germany. This was apparent in the Balkan States which had been formed after the last Russo-Turkish war. Charles I, King of Roumania, was a German prince who mistrusted Russia's schemes. In March, 1882, Prince Milan Obrenovitch of Servia assumed the title of king, and the czar offered no objection. The ruler of Bulgaria was Alexander of Battenberg who was a relative of the czar and had served in the Russian army, which may have been the reason of his appointment. The Russian Minister at his court was (p. 244) evidently of the opinion that his word, as representative of the czar, was law, and when he found out that his orders were set at naught, he withdrew from his post, whereupon the Russian officers serving in the Bulgarian army, were dismissed. This gave grave offense at St. Petersburg, but the affair was arranged, and the Russian Minister returned. In September, 1885, there was a revolution in Sofia, the capital of Eastern Roumelia, when the crown was offered to Alexander of Battenberg, who accepted. He hastened to inform the czar, who was too angry to pay any attention to letters or telegrams.
Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia, although united under one prince, sent deputations to St. Petersburg to appease the czar, but were informed that their future would be decided by the great powers. Soon after Servia declared war against Bulgaria; after a few unimportant skirmishes, they were driven back by Prince Alexander, who would have captured the capital Belgrad, if he had not been stopped by Austria's intervention. Alexander, after another fruitless attempt to mollify the czar, applied to the sultan, who appointed him as Governor-general over Eastern Roumelia for five years. The czar protested and invited the powers to a conference which was held at Constantinople on April 5, 1886. To the infinite disgust of the czar, the dispute was decided in favor of Prince Alexander.
Russia, however, had a pro-Russian party in Bulgaria. On August 21, 1886, Prince Alexander was kidnaped and carried across the Danube, after being compelled to abdicate. At Lemberg, in Austrian territory he was set free. The Bulgarians rallied under the President of the (p. 245) National Assembly and forced the pro-Russians to flee, after which Prince Alexander returned on the 3d of September. Once more he made an attempt to pacify the czar, but when his telegram remained unanswered, he abdicated three days later, rather than involve the country in a war with Russia. He left on the same day, to the sorrow of the people.
The czar was angry. He knew that Austria would not have dared oppose him unless assured of the support of Germany. The feeling in Russia grew more bitter when the election in Bulgaria showed a total defeat of the pro-Russian party, and the crown was offered to Prince Waldemar of Denmark, who declined at the instance of the czar. The Bulgarians then made an offer to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, who accepted, and in August made his formal entry in Tirnova. Alexander once more protested to the powers, but it passed unheeded and he urged the sultan to expel Ferdinand. Abdul Hamid declined with thanks, preferring to have as neighbor a small independent country to Russia. Alexander then demanded payment of the war indemnity due since the Treaty of San Stefano, but could obtain nothing except a profusion of excuses and apologies. Soon after the sultan had trouble in Armenia, which was Russia's latest resort to arouse public opinion against the Turk.
This is the age of colossal enterprises and combinations in every direction, in politics as well as in other branches of human activity. In Russia Slavophilism, gave way to Panslavism, that is, the scheme to unite all Slav nations. Germany was quick to respond with Pan (p. 246) Germanism, that is, to bring all German-speaking nations under one scepter. The czar, obeying this impulse, made every effort to convert the Baltic provinces,—which Germany called the German Provinces,—into Slavs by making the Russian language the only language that was taught in the schools; and Germany retaliated in the Polish provinces. Under these circumstances friendship ceased. Russia established a protective tariff, which was a rude blow to Germany's commerce; and that country replied by refusing to loan Russia any more money. The czar's government applied to France which responded with unexpected generosity. From that time Russia's internal improvements have been made with French capital.
Prudent as he was, Alexander allowed his anger and dislike to master him, when Prince Alexander of Battenberg was accepted as suitor to a daughter of Queen Victoria. Troops were hurried from the Caucasus into Poland, but Germany averted war by having the match broken off. When the present German emperor, William II, succeeded to the throne, he attempted to make friends with the czar by dismissing Prince Bismarck, in 1890, but Alexander could neither forgive nor forget. It was chiefly owing to this that Russia and France drew closer together until it ended in an alliance.
Strong, self-willed, and masterful, Alexander did love his people in his own way. In January, 1884, he ordered the poll-tax to be abolished, and thereby relieved the peasants of a heavy burden; he also compelled the landowners to sell to their former serfs the land cultivated by them. Since the price was payable in installments (p. 247) and the owners needed the money, the government assumed the position of creditor, but Alexander reduced the total indebtedness by 12,000,000 rubles, and granted 5,000,000 rubles for the relief of overburdened villages. He calculated that the land would be paid for in 1930, when the title will be vested in the mir,—unless one of his successors should please to appropriate the past payments for other purposes.
In the black earth belt the allotments had been according to the needs of the population, but the increase among the people rendered them too small and several severe famines followed. The government tried to induce the surplus population to emigrate to Siberia, but the Russian peasant lacks education and has been held in tutelage so long that he is not fit for the life of a pioneer settler. Transportation facilities increased by the aid of French capital, and added to the prosperity of merchants and speculators, but did not help the moujik who did not know how to profit by them.
Alexander, as autocrat of all the Russias, did not suffer any authority but his own. The zemstvos, volosts, and mirs, were all placed under officials appointed by him. Every shadow of self-government was destroyed. This demanded a reorganization of the army, which was increased by 900,000 men. The reserves were called out once a year, and drilled as in actual war. Strategic railways were built for the speedy transportation of troops. Coast defenses were constructed and the navy was increased. In 1884, Batoum was closed as a port and converted into a naval base, and when England protested, claiming that this was in violation of the Treaty of Berlin,—as (p. 248) it was,—Russia, referring to the changes in the Balkan, inquired if the duty of observing the treaties was reserved exclusively for Russia.
Alexander's reign was especially discouraging for the Poles who still hoped for the revival of their country. Poles were made into Russians; but Panslavism demanded that the German should be banished. In 1887, Alexander ordered that, when a foreign landowner in Poland died, his estate must be sold unless his heirs had been residents of Poland before this order was published. Germany, suffering from Pan-Germanism, collected several thousand Russian Poles who had settled in Germany, and put them across the frontier. Russia replied by making a law in the Baltic provinces that nothing but Russian could be taught in any school, and that no more Lutheran churches could be built without the permission of the Holy Synod.
Then came Finland's turn. In 1890, Russian money, Russian stamps, and worse than that, Russian taxes were introduced. There were loud protests, which received courteous answers, but the process continued. In 1891, the Finnish Committee at St. Petersburg, which had directed the affairs of Finland, was abolished, and Russian censorship abolished the free press. The Russian language was made obligatory, and the Finns who could afford it emigrated to the United States and settled in the northwest.
In 1890, Alexander ordered the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway, of which more will be said in the chapter on Asiatic Russia.
All these years Alexander had battled with nihilism and (p. 249) revolution. His policy neither gave nor asked for quarter. In May, 1888, an army officer named Timovief made an attempt upon the czar's life. On October 29th of the same year, as he was traveling in southern Russia an accident occurred in which twenty-one were killed and many injured; it was ascribed to nihilists, but may have been caused by defects. Be that as it may, Alexander never recovered from the shock. In March, 1890, another plot against his life was discovered. In November, 1891, the secret police came on the scent of a conspiracy at Moscow, and in April, 1894, they learned of one at St. Petersburg. In constant fear of assassination, Alexander resided at Gatschina, twenty-five miles south of St. Petersburg, as in an armed fortress. The never-ceasing tension wore out the strong man. He caught cold and suffering from inflammation of the kidneys he went south, but experienced no relief. He died on the 1st of November, 1894.
In his private life he was essentially a good man; as czar, he acted according to his convictions. He gave much thought to the welfare of the peasants and as such deserved the surname of The Peasants' Friend.
XXVII—RUSSIA UNDER THE PRESENT CZAR. (p. 251)
"Neglect nothing that can make my son truly a man!" This was the instruction given by Alexander to the tutors of his son. Consequently, Nicholas in his youth was allowed to indulge in manly exercises and sports, while special tutors taught him mathematics, natural philosophy, history, political economy, English, French, and German, besides his native language. Destined for the throne, he began his military career at the age of thirteen as hetman of the Cossacks, and passed successively through the different grades. In 1889, at the age of twenty-one, he was appointed president of a committee to prepare plans for the Trans-Siberian railway, and the following year he made a tour in the Far East, visiting China and Japan. In the last-named country he was attacked and wounded by a police officer who had been brooding over the wrongs which his country had suffered at the hands of Russia. Nicholas recovered and proceeded to Vladivostok, where he initiated the building of the great continental line. He returned to St. Petersburg by way of Siberia and Moscow, and was the first czar who had ever visited his Asiatic empire.
Born on May 18, 1868, he was twenty-six years old when he was (p. 252) called to the throne. He announced that he would "promote the progress and peaceful glory of our beloved Russia, and the happiness of all our faithful subjects." On the 26th of November, 1894, the czar married Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who, on entering the Greek Church, received the name of Alexandra Feodorofna. The czar retained his father's ministers, except that Prince Khilkof, who had learned practical railroading in the United States, was appointed Minister of Public Works. Pobiedonostzeff continued as Procurator of the Holy Synod.
Nicholas showed greater leniency toward Poland and Finland than his father had done. He revoked several of his father's ukases and seemed to be willing to treat them fairly. Finland's forests are a source of great prosperity and the Russian officials have long been anxious to secure a share. When the Secretary of State for Finland resigned, General Kuropatkin became Minister of War, and he wished to introduce Russia's military system. General Bobrikof, a brusque and haughty man, was appointed Governor-general with instructions to proceed with the conversion of the Finns into Slavs. He convoked an extraordinary session of the Diet, January 24, 1899, and submitted Kuropatkin's scheme, with a strong hint that it must pass. The Diet ignored the hint and rejected the scheme, whereupon Bobrikof ignored the Diet and published it as a law to go into effect in 1903. An imperial ukase of February 15, 1899, reorganized the Diet according to a plan drawn up by Pobiedonostzeff. Bobrikof increased the rigor of the press censorship, but the Finns remained within the law. A petition was (p. 253) circulated which in ten days secured 500,000 signatures, and a delegation was sent to St. Petersburg to present it. The delegation was not admitted.
In January, 1895, the czar received a deputation of all classes of his subjects who hinted that the zemstvos might be used as the germ of a constitutional government. He replied that he believed in autocracy and that he intended to maintain it as his predecessors had done. On the 26th of May, 1896, he was crowned at Moscow with more than usual splendor, and in the same year he and the czarina made a tour through Europe. After visiting the German Emperor and Queen Victoria, they went to Paris where the czar, after reviewing 100,000 soldiers declared that the Empire and the Republic were united in indissoluble friendship. The visit was returned by the President of the French Republic, M. Faure, in August, 1897. On this occasion the world received notice that an alliance existed between the two powers, and that, if one of them was attacked by more than one power, the other would assist with the whole of its military and naval strength, and peace could be concluded only in concert between the allies.
Two great reforms are noticeable under the present reign. The sale of spirits has greatly decreased since the government took the monopoly of the manufacture and sale of liquor. The French loans made the establishment of the gold standard possible and speculation in Russian paper money ceased.
The completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway aroused great expectation for the future of Russia's commerce. The war with Japan has (p. 254) prevented the possibility of estimating the effect it will have upon oceanic trade. But Russia's manufactures have had a wonderful increase; its effect is shown in the population of the cities. In 1870, Russia contained only six cities with a population of over 100,000; their number was doubled in 1897. Warsaw, the old capital of Poland, had 243,000 inhabitants in 1865; in 1897, they had increased to 615,000. Lotz, also in Poland, rose from 12,000 to 315,000. This cannot fail to exert a powerful influence upon the future of the empire; first, on account of the creation of a middle class which, even at this early day, numbers nine per cent of the population; and next, because the mechanics and factory hands are recruited from among the peasants, who thus are brought into daily contact with more intelligent people, and acquire new ideas and new necessities. The official class is bitterly opposed to this new departure, because it foreshadows the day when the drag upon Russia will be cast off.
Nicholas seems to have reversed his father's policy in the Balkan States. He also acted in concert with Europe in 1896, when trouble arose between Turkey and Greece. It began in Crete, where Turk and Christian could not agree. Stories of massacres infuriated the Greeks and the king had to choose between a revolution and a declaration of war. In April, 1897, an army of 80,000 men under Prince George crossed into Thessaly, but was driven back by a Turkish army of 150,000 men. Prince George had invaded Crete in February, but the powers compelled him to evacuate the island. The czar interceded with the sultan, and the absurd war was ended.
The Slavophils, after their failure in the Balkan provinces had (p. 255) excited the Armenians in the provinces near the Russian Caucasus. They attacked the Kurds, a nomadic tribe of Mussulmans, when the Turks took the side of their co-religionists and treated the Armenians with no soft hand. The Panslavists demanded autonomy for Armenia, but this did not suit Prince Lobanof, who had succeeded de Giers as Minister of Foreign Affairs, because he feared trouble in the Caucasus. In 1895, Russia, France, and England, presented a note to the sultan, suggesting the appointment of a high commissioner, the abolition of torture, and reforms in taxation. Turkey agreed, but Shakir Pasha, the high commissioner, failed to restore order and the disorder threatened to become a revolt. Even in Constantinople a condition of anarchy prevailed.
The atrocities committed by the Turks aroused indignation everywhere, when the Armenians seized the Ottoman Bank, but the conspirators were forced to flee from the building and to seek refuge on an English yacht. The Turks were furious and killed more than 5,000 Armenians. Again the powers remonstrated; but at this time it began to dawn upon the public that the Armenians were a least quite as much to blame as the Turks, and the interest subsided. Russia had discovered that the Armenians are undesirable citizens, and sent back some 40,000 of them who had settled in the Russian Caucasus. Germany, intent upon securing concessions from Turkey, left the sultan a free hand; meanwhile the British public was engrossed by the Boer war, and the Armenians, seeing that they were left to their own devices, subsided.
The civilized world was startled when, on August 24, 1898, Russia (p. 256) issued a note to the powers, declaring that "military and naval budgets attack public prosperity at its very source, and divert national energies from useful aims," and suggesting a conference to discuss the subject of displacing war by an International Court.
The note received generous applause, especially in the United States and Great Britain, the two foremost nations devoted to the arts of peace. The several governments agreed to participate in the proposed conference. The place selected was The Hague, the capital of the Netherlands, where the sessions opened on May 18, 1899.
Of all the great powers, the United States was the only one unreservedly in favor of an arrangement whereby war would be prevented. Most of the other powers looked upon an International Court as visionary, and so far as the ostensible purpose is concerned, the conference was a failure. Still, it bore fruit in defining and adding strength to international law. Among its most important results is the clause that "When a conflict seems imminent, one or several powers shall have the right to offer mediation, and its exercise shall not be regarded as an unfriendly act." A permanent Court of Arbitration was established at The Hague. It is composed of judges selected from a list on which every country is represented. On the 29th of July, the delegates of sixteen nations signed the protocol embodying the conclusions; it was afterwards signed by sixteen more. It remained, however, with the United States, to give vitality to an institution which was looked upon with ill favor by many governments.
Although the reign of terror from the nihilists has passed, (p. 257) political murder is still rampant in Russia, and recent events in the Far East have caused a renewal of the agitation for reforms. In 1904, the Governor-general of Finland was assassinated, and soon afterwards, the hated and dreaded Minister of the Interior de Plehve shared that fate. His successor seems to be anxious to grant greater liberties to the people. The united action of the zemstvos, and the final issue of the war in the Far East, may have important results. Nicholas II, amid all his perplexities, was made glad by the birth of a son and heir, who received the name of Alexis.
XXVIII—THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF THE ASIATIC EMPIRE. (p. 259)
A close study of the history of Asiatic Russia reveals the fact that, until within a comparatively recent date, the Russian government had no fixed policy in or toward Asia. There was a national instinct which impelled Russia eastward. Twice had Europe been invaded by Asiatic hordes, and, owing to its position, Russia was doomed to bear the brunt of the onset. Russia's history points out a ceaseless desire to be a European nation, to share with Europe its progress and its burdens. It is within a few years that the heir to the throne first visited the extensive Asiatic dominions. No czar had ever put foot in them. Until the reign of Nicholas I (1825-1855), the Russian Empire spread eastward much as the United States expanded westward, by individual effort.
The movement began in 1558, when Ivan the Terrible granted to Gregory Strogonof ninety-two miles of waste land on the banks of the Kama. The new owner explored the mineral resources of the Urals, crossed the mountains, and found himself in the kingdom of Sibir. Strogonof had become acquainted with one Yermak or Irmak, a Cossack and captain of a robber band known as the Good Companions of the Don. He had been (p. 260) condemned to death, if the government could lay hands on him, which, on account of the sparsity of the population, was exceedingly doubtful. Strogonof discussed with him a raid into Sibir, and the Cossack consented, provided his pardon could be secured. Strogonof went to Moscow and submitted his scheme to Ivan who gave his approval. Upon his return to the Urals, Strogonof found that he had 850 men, Russians, Cossacks, Tartars, and German and Polish prisoners of war, all hardy adventurers. They marched east terrifying the natives with their firelocks, and levying tribute, that is, taking whatever was worth the trouble. They defeated the khan, and took his capital, Sibir, on the Irtish. Yermak then visited Moscow, where he was the hero of the day. Had he not struck at the very heart of the mysterious continent whence so much trouble and disgrace had come upon Russia? And had he not exacted tribute from the very people who not very long ago held Russia under tribute.
Yermak was therefore praised and entertained and graciously told to go ahead, Ivan had neither men nor money to spare, but he was quite willing that these adventurers should despoil the Asiatics, instead of holding up Russian travelers and traders. Ivan gave him a suit of armor as a token of good will. After Yermak's return to Siberia, he was surprised by the natives and drowned by the weight of his armor as he was trying to escape by swimming the Irtish. (1584.) Other Cossacks had heard of his success and followed his example. In 1587, Tobolsk was founded on the Irtish, ten miles below Sibir.
There was little or no communication between Siberia and Moscow, (p. 261) owing to the distance separating them, and the successors of Ivan had ample trouble on their hands. It was, therefore, left to the Cossacks to make such explorations and conquests as they could. In 1619, Tomsk was founded. Farther and farther did the Cossacks advance among the isolated tribes. In 1632, a log fort was built where Yakoutsk now stands, and six years later they gazed upon the broad waters of the Pacific and planted the czar's flag on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk.
It was a congenial occupation for the Cossack, to roam where he pleased and to take what suited his fancy, and he did not lack either the skill or the courage needed by the explorer. In 1639, a party of Cossacks under Max Perfirief, discovered the Upper Amoor, and heard tales of such vast wealth that they hastened to Yakoutsk and placed their discovery before Peter Petrovitch, the first Russian Governor.
Men and money were scarce, but the governor, after many efforts managed to collect 132 men whom he placed in command of Vassili Poyarkof, with instructions to do the best he could. The party started on the 15th of July, 1643, and followed the usual course with the natives with the result that he returned to Yakoutsk in June 1646, having lost most of his men in attacks by infuriated and outraged natives, but in possession of a fund of information, and some skins as tribute.
During the reign of Alexis Michaelovitch (1645-1676), explorations of the Amoor regions were pursued vigorously. A young officer of considerable wealth, named Khabarof, offered to conduct an (p. 262) expedition at his own expense. This was gladly accepted, and he left Yakoutsk in 1649. He reached the Amoor and formed a line of forts, and met a small party among whom was the khan, who asked what his object was. Khabarof replied that he had come to trade, but that the czar would probably take the khan under his powerful protection in return for a small annual tribute. The khan did not answer, and Khabarof after burning most of the forts and leaving some of his men in another, returned to Yakoutsk to report.
In June, 1651, he was on the way back to the Amoor, where he came in conflict with the Manchus. He, however, forced his way, and gained for the Russians the reputation that they were "devils, who would make gridirons of the parents to roast the children on." At this time a report that the Amoor region contained untold wealth reached Moscow, where it produced an effect very similar to that felt in Spain after the return of Columbus.
Alexis intended to send an expedition of 3,000 men to occupy and hold this treasure grove, but he was prudent enough to dispatch an officer to order Khabarof to Moscow, so that he might learn the facts. This officer, Simovief left Moscow in March, 1652, and met Khabarof in August of the following year. Leaving the command to his lieutenant Stepanof, Khabarof obeyed the czar's call. He arrived at Moscow and after the czar had heard his report, the expedition was given up, but Alexis wrote to Stepanof, upon whom he conferred some honors, and told him to continue the good work.
The interest manifested by the czar inaugurated an exploration (p. 263) fever among the Russian authorities. Pashkof, the Governor of Yeniseisk started on the 18th of July, 1656, for the Amoor at the head of 400 Cossacks; in 1658, he built a fort which was the beginning of Nerchinsk. It was 1662 before he returned to Yeniseisk.
Unfortunately the Russians came into a clash with the Manchus, at that time in full vigor; they had made themselves masters of China, and their emperor, Kang-hi, was an exceptionably able and strong man. He did not want war, but on the other hand he did not intend to suffer an injustice.
When the government at Moscow became aware that further encroachment would entail a war with China an ambassador, Feodor Golovin, was dispatched to come to an understanding. He left Moscow on January 20, 1686, but took his time. Kang-hi had been notified, and ambassadors were sent from Peking to meet Golovin. The Russian met the Chinese at Nerchinsk on the 22d August, 1689, and on the 27th the terms of a treaty were agreed upon. Two days later the treaty was exchanged. Russia was compelled to withdraw from the Amoor. After this no changes in the boundary line occurred until after the year 1847.
In 1707, Kamtschatka was annexed to Russia, and two years later the first prisoners were sent to Siberia. They were prisoners of war and natives of conquered European provinces who objected to Muscovite rule. About 14,000 persons were sent the first year, but many died from the hardships suffered on the road.
Besides Siberia, Russia in Asia consists of:
I. The Caucasus. It was Peter the Great who, in 1722, invaded (p. 264) Dagestan and seized the greater part of this territory. We have seen how the mountaineers defended their liberty under Schamyl, and it was left to his son Alexander to annex it and make it part of the Russian Empire. Including Trans Caucasia, it covers an area of 180,843 square miles,—or about that of Colorado and Utah, and contains a population of 8,350,000.
[Footnote 11: See p. 209]
II. The Kirghiz Steppe. This is a country of plains, unfit for agriculture and still inhabited by nomads who live in tents and wander with their flocks over the 755,793 square miles of territory. They are divided into three hordes or families, one of which surrendered to Anne Ivanovna in 1734. In 1869 the Kirghiz, together with the Cossacks of the Don, revolted, but in the autumn of 1870, order was restored. For administrative purposes, it is divided into:
III. Transcaspia, which, as the name indicates, includes the region east of the Caspian Sea. It contains an area of 383,618 square miles with a population estimated at 352,000. Like the Kirghiz Steppe, it is unfit for agriculture, although it contains several oases. It was formed into a province by Alexander III. in 1881.
IV. Turkestan contains 409,414 square miles with a population of 3,341,000. The valleys of the Oxus and Jaxartes are very fertile, but the rest of the extensive province is almost a desert. The Oxus or Amu Daria once formed the boundary of the empires of Cyrus and Alexander. It was conquered step by step, and after many struggles with the (p. 265) Turkomans and Kirghiz to whom it originally belonged.
V. The Khanates, so called because they once formed the territory of the Khans of Khiva and Bokhara. This province embraces 114,320 square miles with a population of 3,200,000. Both are recent acquisitions. It was the war with Khiva, in 1872, which first drew the attention of Europe to Russia's expansion in Central Asia. There had been some doubts as to the wisdom of permitting Russia to add more territory to her already enormous domain, but they had been allayed by a circular note to the powers, issued by Prince Gortchakof, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on November 21, 1864. He declared that Russia had been brought into contact with a number of half-savage tribes who proved a constant menace to the security of the Empire, and that the only means of maintaining order on the frontier, was to bring them under submission. This, he said, had been done by the United States, and was nothing but a measure necessary for self-defense.