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IN view of the recent social and industrial up- 
heaval in Russia, and the widespread interest that 
is being taken by the British and American public 
in the progress of the Russian working classes 
towards liberty, the publishers have thought it 
desirable to issue this popular edition of the late 
Mr. Stepniak's chief work, by arrangement with 
its original publishers, Messrs. Swan Sonnenschein 
& Co., Limited. Owing to the lamented death 
of the author, it has been impossible to bring the 
work quite down to date, but the Russia of to-day 
remains the same as that of ten years ago. 

Mr. Percy Addleshaw's epitaph on the author, 
which appeared in The Academy shortly after his 
death on 23rd December, 1895, mav be worth 
permanent preservation here. 

One man there was ignored a tyrant's will, 

One resolute voice that thundered o'er the fight ; 

The valiant heart, though dead, is living still, 
Lo ! the sun rises while we wail ' Good-night ! ' 

G. R. & S., L. 


IN all European countries the agrarian question 
is of great moment, but in none does it possess 
the same interest and importance as in Russia. 
Here the agricultural class constitutes eighty-two 
per cent, of the entire population, equal for Euro- 
pean Russia, exclusive of Finland and Poland, 
to about sixty-three million souls. Ireland alone, 
with seventy-three per cent, of her population 
engaged in husbandry, approaches, at some 
distance, this figure. Russia is, and must un- 
doubtedly for many years remain, a peasant State 
in the fullest acceptation of the term. With us, 
therefore, the agrarian question is the national 
question, and agrarian concerns are national con- 
cerns, all others being dependent on and sub- 
servient to them. The tillers of the soil our 
moujiks must of necessity become the chief 
figures in our social and political life. On the 
moujik rests the financial, military, and political 
power of the State, as well as its interior cohesion 


and prosperity. The inclinations, ideals, and 
aspirations of the moujiks will also play the 
principal part in the remoulding of Russia's future. 
For all interested in politics statesmen and ad- 
ministrators, writers and scholars the moujik 
must be the prime object of study, observation, 
and investigation, as well as of practical manipu- 

For the same reasons the Russian moujik has 
always attracted the attention of observant 
travellers who have desired to make known to 
English-speaking readers the agrarian conditions 
of this strange country, ol which so mucn is said 
and so little known. There are few among 
educated foreigners who have not heard of 
the self-governing, semi-republican mir and the 
somewhat communistic Russian system of land 
tenure, with its periodical equalizations and divi- 
sions. Much less attention has been given by the 
European public to the modern phases of Russian 
agrarian life, albeit this side of the question is 
perhaps the most interesting and instructive. 

The Emancipation Act of February iQth, 1861, 
enfranchising and settling the economical con- 
ditions of one-half of our rural population, the 
former serfs of the nobility, followed in 1866 by 


a second Act, settling the condition of the other 
half, the former State peasants, were by far the 
most extensive experiments in the way of agrarian 
legislation the world has yet seen. The peculi- 
arities of our traditional system of land tenure, 
sanctioned to a great extent by the Emancipation 
Act, imparted to this experiment an additional 

That these experiments have not proved a 
success no competent person can now deny. 
Emancipation has utterly failed to realize the 
ardent expectations of its advocates and pro- 
moters. The great benefit of the measure was 
purely moral. It has failed to improve the 
material condition of the former serfs, who on the 
whole are worse off than they were before the 
Emancipation. The bulk of our peasantry is in 
a condition not far removed from actual starva- 
tion, a fact which can neither be denied nor 
concealed even by the official Press. 

The frightful and continually increasing misery 
of the toiling millions of our country is the most 
terrible count in the indictment against the 
Russian Government, and the paramount cause 
and justification of the rebellion against it. It 
would be a gross injustice to affirm that the 


Government has directly ruined or purposely 
injured the peasantry. Why should it act with 
such foolish and wanton wickedness ? We can 
well understand that a despotic Government, 
caring only for its own selfish interests, should 
object to the commonalty being educated. But it 
is to the Government's own material advantage 
to have well-to-do tax-payers rather than the 
beggarly ones it has now. I admit willingly 
that the central Government quite sincerely in- 
tended to benefit the peasants, not only morally, 
but economically, by the agrarian arrangement 
of 1861. Still more so by that of 1866, which 
is better than its predecessor in every respect ; 
the Government in the latter case not having 
been hampered by a desire to conform to the 
wishes of the nobility. 

Leaving out of the question the immaterial 
point of intentions, I am ready to go the length 
of acknowledging that it would be incorrect to 
maintain that to the Government's unintentional 
blunders should be ascribed the ruin which has 
overtaken the peasants. The new agrarian ar- 
rangement is very unsatisfactory, and the system 
of taxation is simply monstrous. I shall presently 
show how far both these elements contributed 


towards reducing the peasants to their present 
condition. But still it was not the Government's 
direct doing. There is one consideration which 
clearly proves this. Since the Emancipation the 
yield from the direct taxes imposed on the pea- 
sants has increased. But until 1879 their burdens 
had increased twelve per cent. only. Since that 
time they have remained stationary, and of late 
years there is even a slight decrease in the direct 
taxes very slight, yet still a decrease. As to 
the impoverishment of the masses, measured by 
the reduced consumption of food and the increase 
in the rate of mortality, it is frightful and intense, 
and shows no sign of abatement whatever. This 
is proof to demonstration that there must be at 
work another corrosive influence more inexorable 
and fatal and less under control even than the 
actions of the uncontrollable bureaucracy. 

This influence lies in the new economical system, 
quite opposed to the traditions and ideals of the 
Russian peasantry, and which has been forced on 
them by the Act of Emancipation. In these few 
pages I purpose to present a brief, yet as far 
as possible complete, account of the results of 
the Russian agrarian experiment, derived from 
the numerous and painstaking reports on the 


subject in which modern Russian literature is so 

But what constitutes the basis of the traditional 
economic conceptions of our agricultural classes ? 
The communal system of land tenure, the reader 
may suggest, is its most original and striking 
feature. On this, however, I shall not dwell. 
First, because it was affected but slightly by the 
Emancipation Act of 1861, which gave each 
village commune the option either of breaking 
up their land into private allotments and distribut- 
ing it among independent families, or keeping 
it as common property. Secondly, because the 
communal land tenure, though accepted by 
seventy-three per cent, of our peasantry, is only 
exceptional among the Ruthenians, who form the 
remainder of our rural population. The evil 
inflicted by the Emancipation Act is of a much 
wider reach and greater importance ; it arises not 
from the way in which occupying owners divide 
their properties among themselves, but from the 
fact that they are fast being divorced from the 
soil which they till. 

The Russian popular conceptions of land tenure, 
though they may seem somewhat heterodox to 
a Western lawyer or modern economist, are ex- 


actly the same as those which in past times pre- 
vailed among all European nations before they 
happened to fall victims to somebody's conquest. 
Russian peasants hold that land, being an article 
of universal need, made by nobody, ought not 
to become property in the usual sense of the 
word. It naturally belongs to, or, more exactly, 
it should remain in the undisturbed possession of, 
those by whom, for the time being, it is culti- 
vated. If the husbandman discontinues the culti- 
vation of his holding he has no more right over 
it than the fisher over the sea where he has 
fished, or the shepherd over the meadow where 
he has once pastured his flock. 

This does not, however, imply any question 
as to the right of the worker over the product 
of his labour. In Russia a peasant who has 
improved and brought under tillage new land 
always obtains from the mir a right of undis- 
turbed possession for a number of years, varying 
in its maximum, in divers provinces, from twelve 
to forty years, but strictly conforming in each 
case to the amount of labour which had been 
bestowed on it by the peasant and his family. 
During this period the occupier possesses the full 
right of alienating his holding by gift or sale. 


But when the husbandman is supposed to have 
been fully remunerated for his work, all personal 
prescriptive right ceases. 

These notions cannot be called exclusively 
Russian. They are deeply rooted throughout 
the Slavonic world, save among the few tribes 
who have been long subjected to Western influ- 
ences and overdrilled by the feudal regime. The 
Turkish domination proved in this respect much 
more tolerant. The customs which prevail 
among the Balkan slavs are almost identical 
with those commonly accepted in Russia. Here, 
according to Bohishitch, the people do not recog- 
nize a right of property in virgin land. When 
cultivated, it becomes the rightful property of its 
occupier, and remains his so long as he continues 
to improve it with the work of his own hands. 
A tenant who has cultivated for ten years without 
interruption another man's land becomes ipso 
facto its legitimate proprietor and ceases to pay 
rent, on the ground that he has bought up, by 
his ten years' payments, the claims which the 
former landlord might have acquired. In Bul- 
garia, according to the same authority, the 
principle is pushed still further. Here simple 
wage labourers acquire the right of ownership 


over the land on which they have been employed 
without interruption for the ten years' period, so 
that farmers, in order to avoid being expropri- 
ated, change their labourers at least once before 
the expiration of every ten years. 

In Russia, until its close alliance with Western 
countries in Peter the Great's time, the popular 
notions as to land tenure were common to all 
classes, the Government included. " There is 
no country," says Prince Wassiltchikoff, in con- 
cluding his careful study of the history of our 
agrarian legislation, " in which the idea of pro- 
perty in land was so vague and unsteady as it 
was until very recently with us, not only in the 
minds of the peasants, but also of the representa- 
tives and heads of the State. The right of use, 
of possession, of the occupation of land has, on 
the contrary, been very clearly and firmly under- 
stood and determined from time immemorial. 
The very word ' property,' as applied to land, 
hardly existed in ancient Russia. No equivalent 
to this neologism is to be found in old archives, 
charters, or patents. On the other hand, we 
meet at every step with rights acquired by use 
and occupation. The land is recognized as being 
the natural possession of the husbandman, the 


fisher, or the hunter, of him who ' sits upon it.' ' 
In the living language of peasants of modern 
times, there is no term which expresses the idea 
of property over the land in the usual sense of 
the word. The expression " our land " in the 
mouth of a peasant includes indiscriminately the 
whole land he occupies for the time being, the 
land which is his private property (under recent 
legislation), the land held in common by the 
village (which is, therefore, only in the temporary 
possession of each household), and also the land 
rented by the village from neighbouring landlords. 
Here we see once more the fact of working 
the land identified with rights of ownership. 

When serfdom was introduced, and one half of 
the arable land, with the twenty-three millions of 
human beings who lived thereon, gradually be- 
came the property of the nobility, the newly 
enslaved peasants found less difficulty in realizing 
the fact of their slavery than in understanding 
the law which allotted the land to those by whom 
it was not tilled. " We are yours," they said to 
their masters, " but the land is ours." " My 
vashi, zemlia nasha" this stereotyped, hundred 
times quoted phrase, vividly sums up the Russian 
peasant's conception of serfdom. 


When, after so many years of expectation, dis- 
appointment, and delusive hopes, the longed-for 
day of emancipation came for the down-trodden 
serfs, the idea of the impending enfranchisement 
assumed in the rural mind only one and the same 
shape through all the empire that when once 
restored to freedom they would not be despoiled 
of that which they had possessed as slaves their 
land. The universal expectation, as proved by 
the universal disappointment, was that the freed 
peasants would have all the land which they had 
previously tilled. As to the nobles, their former 
masters, the Czar would keep them, they thought, 
henceforward "on salary, as he kept his gene- 
rals." This was the ingenuous and naive expres- 
sion of a very clear and practical idea that of 
the State buying out the landlords by means of 
a vast financial operation. This was precisely 
the measure advocated by Tchernyshevszy and 
the Sovremennik party as the best and most 
convenient solution of the Russian agrarian 

The Government, as might well be expected, 
was loth to adopt a course which seemed so 
hazardous and new. Fortunately for itself, it 
did not follow the opposite course, which would 


have been the signal for a tremendous popular 
rising the enfranchisement of the peasants with- 
out any land at all, as suggested by the reaction- 
ary anti-abolitionist party. The freed peasants 
were endowed with small parcels of land, carved 
out of the estates of their masters, who retained, 
however, the greater part of their properties. 
The idea of the Government was to keep up the 
system of great landlords, while creating around 
them a class of resident owners. 

This may have seemed a fair compromise, but 
in reality it was not so. In the preamble of the 
Emancipation Act the intention of the Govern- 
ment was clearly defined. " To provide the 
peasants," it ran, "with means to satisfy their 
needs, and enable them to meet their obligations to 
the State (payment of taxes), the peasants will re- 
ceive in permanent possession allotments of arable 
land and other appendages, as shall be deter- 
mined by the Act." Hence, a small proprietor 
according to the Government's own definition, is a 
husbandman having a piece of land on which he 
can live, however poorly, and pay his taxes a 
definition which economists will readily accept. 
A peasant in this position is, indeed, a regular 
"small proprietor," or resident owner. If, how- 


ever, a man possess a patch of land of a few square 
yards, on which he can grow a bushel of potatoes, 
he is a "proprietor" all the same, but only from 
a juridical point of view. In the eyes of an 
economist he is a pure proletarian, amenable to 
the economical laws regulating the conditions 
of this and not the other class. 

Now to which of these two categories do the 
enfranchised Russian peasants belong ? Certainly 
not to that of small proprietors, in the economical 
sense. Neither are they pure proletarians. They 
partake of both characters, in what proportion 
we shall see further on. Let it here suffice to 
say that the land was so parsimoniously appor- 
tioned that the enfranchised peasants were utterly 
unable to provide themselves with the first 
necessaries of life. With few exceptions, the 
bulk of our peasantry are compelled to look to 
wage labour, mostly agricultural, on their former 
masters' estates and elsewhere, as an essential, 
and often the chief, source of their livelihood. 

Thus, the Act of Emancipation did not, as its 
promoters intended, create side by side small 
and large landowners who could live and labour 
and thrive independently, without obstructing and 
damaging each other's work. The peasants were 


not independent of the landlords. The landlords 
were not independent of the peasants. There 
existed in Russia at the time of the Emancipation 
no agrarian proletariat whatever. The landlords 
could nowhere find regular wage labourers by 
whom they might replace their enfranchised serfs. 
The cultivation of the landlords' vast estates 
had either to be entirely dropped or their serfs 
compelled to till them for hire. 

This was the new principle on which Russian 
rural economy had thenceforward to be based. 
It was decidedly opposed to our national and 
inveterate traditions, as I have just shown. It 
was borrowed from Western countries. I do 
not say that it was not better than serfdom. It 
certainly was better. Neither do I affirm that 
those who introduced it had the slightest sus- 
picion of the havoc which in one generation it 
was destined to produce. I am simply stating 
a sad but undeniable fact. In social and political 
life, as well as in the domain of art and fiction, 
imitations seem always to bear the same original 
sin : while reproducing with great fidelity the 
drawbacks, imitators ignore and forget the merits 
of their exemplars. Thus the Capitalist order 
came to us without any of the free elements of 


polity which were its outcome in the countries 
of its birth. All the advantages in the impending 
struggle were therefore on one side. The masses 
were left with no means of defence, and the 
Government threw the enormous weight of its 
material and political power into the scale of 
wealth and against labour. The victory of tb* 
protected few over the helpless many was thence- 
forth assured. It was also complete and fright- 
fully rapid. 

In the following chapters I propose to describe 
the ways and means whereby this victory has 
been gained and the consequences which it has 
entailed. As yet Russia is an enormous, albeit 
a comparatively simple, economical organism. 
Through the puzzling and disorderly complication 
of private economical operations we shall discover 
a striking unity of cause. It is a huge economical 
mechanism, combined upon one leading principle 
and having one consistent end. I shall begin by 
describing its central organs, those which impart 
movement and life to the whole, the banking 
and credit system, circulation of money, and the 


FOR obtaining full control of the resources of 
the country, Russian capitalists made use of two 
seemingly innocent means the railways and 
credit. The construction of the railways was 
undertaken in the first instance by the Govern- 
ment itself. Very soon, however, the business 
was transferred to private companies, which the 
State supplied with capital, since at that time 
no private enterprise could raise such enormous 
sums as were involved in the construction of the 
railways. Up to January 1883, 13,500 miles of 
permanent way had been laid in Russia proper, 
and the total amount of shares issued by the 
various companies was 2,210,000,000 roubles 
(about ,22,000,000 sterling). Of this sum the 
Government supplied directly fifty-four per cent. 
i.e., more than half the money being raised 
by several loans, chiefly foreign, the interest of 
which (four, four and a half, and five per cent.) 
is, of course, debited to the railway companies in 


their accounts with the State. In order to enable 
the companies to raise the remaining forty-six 
per cent, the Government guaranteed a minimum 
revenue, and undertook to make good out of the 
public funds any deficit that might arise. Nor 
is this all ; in cases of emergency the Government 
still continues to make supplementary grants to 
these companies, which have already been so 
generously subsidized from the national exchequer. 

With the public finances always in an unsatis- 
factory condition, this lavishness must needs be 
a grievous burden on the budget. In 1869 the 
national debt amounted to 1,907*5 millions of 
roubles, of which only 10*6 per cent, fell to the 
share of the railways. In January 1883 the national 
debt had increased to 3,267 millions of roubles, of 
which fully 28*3 per cent, had been contracted for 
the construction of railways. Thus the railway 
debt increased in this period absolutely fivefold, and 
at three times the rate of the national debt itself. 

These outlays, it is true, figure in the budget 
as debts owing by the railway companies to the 
State temporary loans which in due time will be 
repaid to the exchequer. But this is a mere 
fiction. The indebtedness of the railways to the 
State is continually increasing in each category 


under which the advances are made viz., direct 
subsidies, guarantees, and interest on obligations. 
In 1877 the deficit in the annual payment due 
from the railways to the State amounted to 450*5 
millions of roubles, while those of all the other 
debtors of the State (the peasants included) totaled 
up to only 154*7 millions, the railway companies 
thus engrossing seventy-four per cent, of the famous 
" arrears " (nedoimki] which are the plague of our 
finances. In the following year the railway debts 
had increased to seventy-seven per cent, of the 
total arrears, and rose subsequently to eighty per 
cent. In 1884 the total amount of railway debts 
was stated to be 886,000,000 roubles. In reality, 
however, it was more, because the Ministry 
passed a resolution to strike out of the list forty 
millions as " perfectly hopeless." Thus the total 
of railway debts in 1884 was about one and a-half 
times as much as the entire revenue of the State 
(Russian Almanac, 1886, p. 192). 

It might appear from this that the railways are 
the most disastrous of the many ruinous Russian 
State enterprises, and that the companies are 
running the country towards the verge of bank- 
ruptcy. In reality, however, it is not so. The 
prospects of the railways are as bright as anything 


can be in Russia, The railways are, on the whole, 
very prosperous. They are extending rapidly, 
and the profits of the companies are increasing 
both absolutely and as compared with former 
years. In the period from 1870 to 1877 each 
mile earned in gross receipts on an average four 
teen per cent, more than in the preceding period. 
The expenses having in the same time augmented 
considerably, the net increase is not so great, 
being three per cent, per mile. In the following 
five years the increase of the gross receipts 
was ten per cent, for each mile. The dividends 
received by the shareholders in 1870 amounted 
to 32*5 millions of roubles ; in 1877 they were 
717 millions, an increase of 2*5. Nevertheless, 
the indebtedness of the railways to the State 
shows for the same period an increase of one 
hundred and fifty per cent. 

This seems contradictory and rather puzzling. 
The explanation of the riddle is, however, very 
simple. The various railway lines are not equally 
profitable, and the Government, while leaving the 
extra profits of the best lines to their respective 
shareholders, has to make up the deficiency of 
the remainder. 

It comes practically to this : The State, which 


has supplied the railway companies either directly 
or indirectly with all their funds, surrenders the 
profits of the enterprise to individual capitalists, 
taking for itself only the losses. In other words, 
the peasants (for as they contribute eighty-three 
per cent, of the whole budget they are the real 
paymasters) are paying a group of individual 
capitalists a tribute amounting from 1878 to 1882 
to an average of forty-six millions of roubles a year. 

Let us now ascertain what are the normal use 
and functions of this network of railways so dearly 
bought by the peasants. The railways transport 
freight and passengers, and statistics show that in 
Russia both are chiefly of rural origin. 

The passengers first. We have to observe 
before anything else that passengers of the third 
class make eighty-three per cent, of the whole 
and pay sixty-seven per cent, of all the receipts 
for fares. Thus even here, as everywhere else, 
the peasant is the main prop of the business. 
Why do our peasants travel so much ? Not, of 
course, for pleasure or for health, but in search of 
work. The traffic returns are very significant as 
to the extent to which the receipts are derived 
from the agricultural classes. During the winter 
months the passenger traffic is at its lowest ebb. 


In March, when field labour begins in the vast 
southern region of the empire, we observe, on the 
other hand, a sudden increase of 19*5 per cent. 
In April, when field labour extends to the central 
zones, there is a still greater increase twenty-four 
per cent, over the previous month. In the fol- 
lowing months the increase continues, though less 
rapidly ; the workers are at their posts busy with 
their work. In August the number of passengers 
attains its maximum ; the workers have done, 
and return after the harvest to their homes, in a 
body. In September the passenger traffic drops 
suddenly to 33*74 per cent., and goes on de- 
creasing until the following March. 

The passenger traffic, in fact, corresponds with 
the cycle of agricultural work. It is represented 
by a single wave, having its greatest amplitude 
in the autumn and its lowest in the winter. This 
is an indirect but striking confirmation of Mr. 
Tchaslavsky's calculations that even in the out- 
door employment of our peasantry the agricultural 
branch has an overwhelming preponderance over 
the industrial. 

The fluctuations in the passenger traffic show 
that they are the natural corollary of the periodical 
migrations of the tillers of the soil. The month 


of August, when the workers are returning whole- 
sale to their penates, leaving behind them the 
produce they have harvested, presents, as we 
have seen, the greatest amplitude of the migratory 
wave. The same month gives the lowest returns 
for heavy freights carried at low speeds. Time is 
required for the collection of the produce by the 
hands which forward it to its destination. But 
in September the heavy traffic returns show a rise 
of 19*46 per cent, and the rise continues in 
October. But in November there is a sudden 
drop of 20*5 per cent. What does it mean ? 
The hard winter has frozen the rivers, thus 
hindering the carriage of corn and other agricul- 
tural products to the railway stations by water, 
the usual method, the transport by horses and 
oxen and carriages being too expensive. During 
the winter months there is little shipping of 
produce. But in March, when the rivers of the 
southern provinces are reopened to navigation, 
traffic increases 14*57 P er cent - I* 1 May, when 
the navigation is open throughout Russia, the 
increase is 40*27 per cent., the same high rate 
being maintained in June. The pressure is then 
over, heavy traffic diminishes, and the diminution 
goes on until the following September. Goods 


traffic, in fact, like the passenger traffic, corre- 
sponds with the cycle of the agricultural year, 
with this difference that while the shipping of 
merchandise, owing to climatic conditions, is 
divided into two pulsations, the movement of 
passengers has but one. 

Now let us consider the other part of the 
mechanism first, the all-powerful agent which 
sets in motion all this vast machinery money. 
Ordinary banks were first introduced into Russia 
in 1864. Before that time the " Bank of the 
State " the official bank of the Empire was 
practically the sole institution of the sort in Russia. 
In 1864 its capital amounted to fifteen millions of 
roubles, with 2627 millions of private deposits. 
Of this sum forty-two millions only were used 
for commercial purposes by way of advances on 
mercantile paper. In 1877 the capital of all the 
banks amounted to 167-8 millions, the deposits 
to 707-5 millions of roubles. In these thirteen 
years banking capital was increased more than 
eleven-fold, and the deposits more than three- 
fold (3^). At the same time the method of 
employing banking capital underwent a thorough 
change. In 1864 only fifteen per cent, of the 
capital was, as we have seen, employed in dis- 


counts. In 1877 almost the whole ninety-six 
per cent. was used in this way. Loans and 
discounts for business purposes show a still more 
rapid increase. From 237 millions in 1864 the 
bills under discount rose to five hundred millions 
of roubles, more than twenty-one times as much. 
With the enormous increase in banking capital the 
rapidity of its circulation has moreover doubled. 
In 1863 the entire deposits were turned over 
about twice in a twelvemonth (1*85). Thirteen 
years later they were turned over nearly five 
times in the same period. 

The increase of money power has been 
enormous, the progress of commerce almost febrile 
in its intensity. Now, what are its objects and 
character ? Banking statistics give a peremptory 
answer. Its chief object is the manipulation of 
raw agricultural produce. 

It must be observed, by way of explanation, 
that, notwithstanding the great development of 
banking facilities, the vast majority of commer- 
cial transactions are settled with ready money. 
According to the accounts of the Bank of the 
State, of all the bills discounted by the Bank and 
its branches only fourteen per cent, are not liqui- 
dated where they are drawn. The ready money 


thus obtained is used for the payment for grain 
and other produce. 

Let us examine how this transfer of money 
varies during the year. The circulation of money 
is at its lowest ebb twice a year. Its active period 
begins about the end of harvest time, in July ; 
but very slowly at first, the rise being only i - o6 
per cent. In August it makes a sudden leap 
of 1 9*31 per cent. In September the increase is 
still greater 38-03 per cent. and it remains at 
the same figure during October. November is 
marked by a decrease of 46*44 per cent., and at 
this level it remains until February. Then in the 
spring it begins to rise once more, showing in 
May a total incease of 47-8 per cent. Thus the 
double pulsation of money exactly corresponds 
with the fluctuations of railway traffic receipts, 
which, as we have seen, are at their highest 
in September and May. In the centre of our 
financial system, St. Petersburg, the streaming 
out of money somewhat precedes the influx of 
corn. The money which leaves St. Petersburg 
accumulates for a short time in the provincial 
banks, whence it flows to the various local 
corn markets, where the produce is stored in 
September and in May. 


The two waves which represent the yearly 
pulsation of money the autumn wave and the 
spring wave though quite similar as to their 
exterior form, differ greatly as to their object 
and significance. 

The produce sold in the spring is that of the 
previous year, which, owing to the freezing of the 
rivers, could not be moved sooner. The money 
remitted from the centres to the provinces during 
the spring season is used solely for speculative 
purposes. The grain passes from one buyer to 
another, and capitalists now begin to struggle 
among themselves. 

The September circulation of money is of quite 
a different nature. It signifies that the capitalists 
are coming into direct contact with the producers. 
Now not only the corn stores but the granaries 
of the millions of peasants are filled with as much 
grain as they are allowed by the fates to possess. 
The smallest village becomes during this season 
a little corn market. The quantity of potential 
bread which the farmer sells or keeps for his own 
consumption is not yet settled, his need of money 
contending with his desire for food. The greater 
the amount of money thrown on the market the 
greater will be the victory of the capitalist over 


the producer. The capitalists, therefore, strain 
every nerve to have the best of the battle. The 
cash reserves of the banks State as well as 
private are heavily drawn upon. Private de- 
posits are also utilized for the same purpose. 
The September deposits sink to 0*35 per cent, 
of their yearly average. All the disposable 
capital of the Empire finds its way into the hands 
of the corn merchants, whose agents traverse the 
country far and wide, doing their utmost to obtain 
from the peasants as much of their yearly harvest, 
and leave them as little, as they can, because it is 
on the success of these operations that depends 
their profit for the year. 

Finally, in this critical moment of the struggle 
between the purses of the merchants and the 
stomachs of the peasants, the State intervenes 
in favour of capital by making a new issue of 
paper money. 

It must be remembered that in Russia, "money," 
so far as interior markets are concerned, means 
exclusively paper money. Silver and copper 
coin is used for small change only. Commercial 
transactions are carried on by " credit roubles," 
which are nominally convertible into gold and 
silver, but in reality are not convertible at all, 


but only saleable at their effective value, which 
fluctuates between sixty and sixty-five per cent. 
of their nominal value. 

The abuse of this privilege of issuing paper 
money is one of the many causes of the miserable 
condition of our finances. But in the regular 
course of affairs this potent means of influencing 
the market is altogether subservient to the in- 
terests of the capitalists. 

Paper money is subject during the year to a 
double process the periodical issues and with- 
drawals, apart from the mere substitution of new 
for worn notes. The regular issues (omitting 
exceptional cases) begin at the end of summer, 
" to reinforce the branches," precisely when the 
money begins to stream rapidly from St. Peters- 
burg to the provinces. The issues are increased 
as the demand for money increases on the corn 
market. In July it is twenty-one per cent, of the 
whole yearly issue, in August nine per cent. ; in 
September, when the demand reaches fever heat, 
56*54 per cent. that is to say, more than one-half 
of the whole issue for the remainder of the year. 
And in the three months of the autumn market 
season the Exchequer issues eighty-six per cent, 
of the paper money of the year, whereby is caused 


a depreciation of the credit rouble, which in this 
season can be obtained at its lowest price both 
in the world's money markets and in all Russian 
financial centres. But the cost of the operation 
is borne by the moujiks. The wave of deprecia- 
tion of the paper rouble does not reach the green 
fields of Russia, the villages and hamlets where 
the bargain is struck. Here the enormous mass 
of paper money advanced by the State and the 
banks to the traders keeps all its buying power, 
and takes from the producers the corresponding 
quantity of their produce. 

The peasants receive the money. The autumn 
is the only time of the year when they have the 
pleasure of holding in their hands the yellow, 
green, and blue painted strips of paper called 
money. But they do not keep it long just long 
enough to dirty it. They return it faithfully in 
the form of taxes to the State, in order that it 
may next year repeat the same operation with 
the same results. Paper money returns to the 
Exchequer, which can then proceed to withdraw 
it from circulation. This operation is effected 
chiefly during the winter season, the old paper 
money being burnt in a furnace in the courtyard 
of the " Bank of the State," to the great consterna- 


tion and excitement of the St. Petersburg roughs, 
who always gather round to stare at such a 
strange and incomprehensible spectacle. 

This brief and dry sketch shows clearly that 
the whole economical life of this colossal Empire 
railways, banks, finances so far as interior 
policy goes, is concerned with the manipulation of 
the agricultural produce, which, ready in August, 
is sold in September, and carried by the railways 
in the autumn and the following spring. 

It remains only to indicate the end and result 
of this comprehensive operation. Whither is 
all this grain conveyed ? To the great foreign 
markets, in order to extract from them as much 
gold as they can be made to yield. The interior 
exchange has no interest for us, since produce 
and money alike remain in the country. 

The export of Russian corn since the Eman- 
cipation has increased with wonderful rapidity. In 
1860-4 we exported nine million quarters. In the 
following five years the export increased to ten 
millions, then to twenty-one millions, and finally, 
1875-79, reached its highest point an average 
of thirty-three millions. The following five years, 
1880-85, exhibit a sudden stoppage to this rapid 
progress. The export is maintained at the same 


high standard of thirty-three millions a year without 
any further increase. We shall presently see the 
real significance of this ominous hitch. Still on 
the whole things seem to be very satisfactory. 
In a score of years the value of our corn exports 
increased sevenfold, and became the leading article 
of our foreign trade, the proportion being sixty- 
two per cent., as compared with thirty-three per 
cent, in previous years. In the three triennial 
periods from 1870 to 1879, the taxes were in- 
creased first 6-24 per cent., then 3'89, and finally 
3*69 per cent. It shows that the State, on its 
part, took care to profit by this apparent prosperity. 
As for the capitalists, they are simply rolling in 
wealth. In the same period their profits, as 
shown by the sums deposited by them in the 
banks, increased thirty-three per cent., then thirty- 
eight per cent., and finally fifty per cent. It looks 
splendid ! 

The fact which puts this capitalist splendour in 
quite another light is that, according to official 
statistics, our agriculture for the last fifteen years 
has been in a state of almost utter stagnation. 
There is a wide difference, of course, between the 
harvests of two consecutive years, the minimum 
(1876) being 156^ millions of quarters, the maxi- 


mum 23 if millions, or forty-two per cent. more. 
But if we divide the period 1871-1882 into three 
periods, the fluctuations are seen to be insignificant 
(1*80 per cent.) in point of fact, nil. As, more- 
over, in this time the quantity of corn sown 
increased 2*1 per cent., it results that the 
productiveness of agriculture even slightly dimi- 
nished (0*3 per cent.). The growth of our foreign 
corn trade has, therefore, been forced to the 
detriment of the people. It has lessened the 
quantity of bread left for their maintenance. The 
population in the meantime has continually 
increased. In the absence of additional supplies 
of bread the new-comers must take what they 
require from the share of their elders. By com- 
paring the increase of the population (six per 
cent.) with the increase of the corn export, we 
find that the cereal food supply available for our 
peasant families has fallen off on an average 
fourteen per cent. In other words, a Russian 
peasant consumes one-seventh less bread than he 
did fifteen years ago. Nor is this all. His food, 
besides being diminished in quantity, has dete- 
riorated in quality. The best wheat (seventy- 
eight per cent, of the entire crop) is naturally 
taken for export. Practically this means the 


whole, as something must needs be left for seed 
and the consumption of the well-to-do. The 
wheat flour once used by the peasants on holidays 
and for their children's food they can no longer 
afford. And now rye, their daily bread, and the 
oats which they require for their cattle, are also 
becoming large articles of export. 

It has fared no better with the live stock, 
which form the peasants' working power and 
occasional food. From 1864 to 1883 the export 
of cattle increased thirteen-fold, with the result 
that cattle have greatly diminished in number in 
all the provinces of Russia Proper, to the great 
injury both of the health of the people and the 
productiveness of the soil. 

Thus the whole economical arrangement is 
doing its part admirably. All the parts of the 
colossal machine work into one another like the 
toothed wheels in clock-work. Its mainspring, 
which imparts life and activity to the whole con- 
cern, is money, or, to be exact, the inconvertible 
paper money issued by the State and put into cir- 
culation by the banks. Paper money has been 
issued by the Government in such enormous 
quantities that the credit rouble, always falling, 
lost between 1864 and 1882 twenty-nine per cent. 


of its buying power in the world's markets. Yet 
in the interior markets, especially in the villages, 
it has hardly depreciated at all. We are without 
statistics as to the prices at which corn is bought 
from the peasants in their own villages by the 
local or travelling agents of capitalists. It is 
doubtful whether we shall for a long time have 
such statistics, owing to the character of the 
transactions in question, concerning which I shall 
say something further on. The only figures we 
possess refer to the prices in the markets whither 
the corn is conveyed after being bought from the 

Now, these prices, which are obviously higher 
than those ruling in the smaller markets, show a 
rise, it is true, but only about a third of what it 
should be as compared with the depreciation of 
the credit rouble, which points to the conclusion 
that in the interior of Russia the average value of 
corn has undergone little, if any, change. This is 
the crux of the question. The enormous issues 
of paper money have so augmented the buying 
power of capitalists as to give them more and 
more the control of agricultural produce, a result 
to which the action of the banks has largely con- 
tributed, chiefly by stimulating the circulation 


of capital. In the fourteen years' period during 
which the State increased the mass of paper 
money thirty-one per cent., the turnover of the 
banks increased by nearly seventy per cent. 
They have thus done twice as much for capital- 
ists as the Exchequer has done, for by halving 
the time during which each rouble formerly lay 
dormant they have doubled its effective power. 
As the use of cheques and clearing offices is 
rapidly extending, this process is likely to be 
carried still further. The banks, moreover, now 
absorb much of the floating capital of the country, 
the greater part of which is placed at the disposal 
of corn factors exactly at the time when they are 
doing their utmost to take from the impoverished 
peasant all the produce he can be induced to sell. 
The railway network, which, from nine 
hundred and ninety-three miles at the time of 
Emancipation extended in the following twenty- 
two years to 16,155 miles (for the whole Empire), 
and is still extending at the rate of about eight 
hundred miles each year, serves to widen and 
extend this activity over new districts and pro- 
vinces, the chief work of the railways being, as 
we have seen, the transport of agricultural pro- 
ducts and agricultural producers. 


All is well combined, and the whole acts like a 
colossal hydraulic press, which squeezes from the 
peasants an ever-increasing part of their daily 
bread. In about fifteen years it has squeezed 
from them just one-seventh. From manuals of 
political economy we learn that when the supply 
of corn is diminished to the extent of a sixth of 
its ordinary amount the value of it rises to famine 
rates. Russian peasants are, however, unable to 
obtain higher prices ; for the want of merchandize 
on the one hand, and possession of money on the 
other, are the sole factors which influence the 
markets. The fact remains, that, as the peasants 
have been compelled to sacrifice a seventh of 
their food supply, starvation has become their 
permanent condition. The economic machine 
has done wonders. 

But how can such a miracle have come to pass ? 
How can the peasants have been induced to give 
up voluntarily (because there is no compulsion on 
the market) that which is absolutely necessary 
for their own sustenance ? We can well under- 
stand that a considerable rise in prices might 
tempt the farmers of the most prosperous country 
to part with a greater quantity of their produce 
than strict prudence would justify. But this has 


not been the case in Russia. The spoliation of 
our peasants has been effected, not by an artifi- 
cial rise in prices, but simply by an increased 
amount of money. Every fresh issue of roubles 
withdraws a corresponding quantity of bread, just 
as a heavy body thrown into the water displaces 
some of the liquid. There must, therefore, be 
something peculiar in Russia which diminishes the 
usually strong natural clinging of the cultivator 
to the fruit of his industry, to a surprising extent. 
Russian peasants, who work with relentless 
assiduity and pluck, on the State and capitalist 
treadmill, would seem to have no hold whatever 
over the increase which the earth yields to their 
labour and presumably for their advantage. 

To account for such a strange state of things 
we must leave the higher spheres of political 
economy and administrative mechanism and 
observe what may be described as the molecular 
action of the system. We must descend to a 
Russian village, such as it has become since the 
Emancipation, and look into the normal economy 
of the peasant households of which it is composed. 


RUSSIAN peasants, as I have shown, cannot be 
regarded as ordinary resident owners, and herein 
lies the gist of our agrarian question. Let us 
consider more closely the how and the why of 
this important fact. 

Serfdom, as established in Russia by law and 
custom, took, in the regions where it struck root, 
a form peculiar to itself. The landlords allotted 
to each peasant household a certain quantity of 
land, and allowed them to give to its cultivation, 
for their own benefit, a certain proportion of their 
time. For the rest of their time they laboured on 
their master's land for his sole benefit, receiving 
therefor neither food nor pay. Few were the 
cases when, for instance, the master was a 
manufacturer where the serfs worked for him 
throughout the week and were boarded and 
lodged at his expense. 

The allotment system of land prevailed every- 


where, and the Government attempted to regulate 
the economical relations between serf and master 
by a law prescribing three days as the normal 
proportion of gratuitous work in the landlord's 
fields and three days in the peasant's. This 
law was, however, never strictly enforced. Rapa- 
cious masters could make their peasants work as 
long as they thought fit. Many kept the serfs 
four or five, some it was rumoured six days, out 
of the seven, leaving only Sunday for the culti- 
vation of their own holdings. It was evident that 
this state of things could not last. The econo- 
mical law, that the producer's remuneration cannot 
fall below the minimum necessary for keeping him 
alive and enabling him to rear children, operates 
quickly and peremptorily in every slave-owning 
community. The master cannot change his 
slaves for an equal number of fresh ones after 
having worn them out. The improvident seig- 
neur is inevitably ruined, and stern necessity im- 
posed the three days' rule as being the only one 
which sufficed to keep the human cattle in good 
health and strength. It prevailed generally 
throughout the country. The peasants gave up 
to their masters three days a week, or, to speak 
more exactly, one half of their labour (men, 


women, and horses), and kept the remainder 
for themselves. 

The Emancipation Committees, in making 
forecasts of the proposed Act, took for their basis 
the existing apportionment of the peasant's time. 
Since there was every reason to suppose that the 
former masters had given to their serfs rather less 
land than was strictly necessary, it was at first 
agreed, and very wisely, that the enfranchised 
peasants should not be allotted smaller allotments 
than they had previously possessed. In carrying 
out the Emancipation Act this principle was, 
however, forgotten, altered, and mutilated. The 
enfranchised peasants received much less than 
they had previously enjoyed. I will not dwell on 
the legal tricks by which this purpose was effected ; 
the clause of the maximum allowing the spolia- 
tion of the serfs of the smaller nobility ; nor the 
paragraphs about "orphan shares," which per- 
mitted the creation of 700,000 downright pro- 
letarians. Neither shall I do more than allude to 
the blunders in the Emancipation Act concerning 
the pasture and forest arrangements, nor to the 
abuses in the settlement of agrarian matters since 
made by the executive, which in 1863 became 
decidedly reactionary, always favouring the land- 


lords to the prejudice of their former serfs. All 
these details can have little interest for foreigners. 
Suffice it to say that the three or four dessiatines 
which the former serfs have on an average 
received, are quite inadequate to provide them 
with bread. In the central provinces they only 
have bread for two hundred days in a year, often 
only for one hundred and eighty, or even one 
hundred. The agrarian arrangement, made for 
the benefit of the former State peasants in 1 866, 
was far more satisfactory than that made in con- 
nexion with the enfranchisement of the former 
serfs of the nobility. The State peasants were 
provided with twice as much land as the former 
serfs : a quantity sufficient on the whole to provide 
them with bread all the year round, supposing 
they had no other outgoings. 

But, besides feeding themselves and their 
families, the peasants have to make another out- 
lay as peremptory as eating, while possessing 
none of the marvellous elasticity which dis- 
tinguishes human wants in general and those of 
Russian peasants in particular. They must pay 
the taxes, which, as the reader will presently 
learn, are rather heavy ! In 1871, ten years after 
the Emancipation, when the first alarming symp- 


toms of impoverishment among the peasants 
appeared, the Government appointed an Imperial 
Commission to inquire into the condition of the 
peasantry. These inquiries brought to light the 
fact that in the thirty-seven provinces of European 
Russia the class of former State peasants pay in 
taxes of every description no less than 92*75 per 
cent, of the average net produce of their land. 
As for the former serfs, being, as we have said, 
much worse off than their brethren, the State 
peasants, they have to pay a total taxation 
amounting on an average to 198-25 per cent, of 
the net produce of their land. 

Thus one half of our peasantry, the former 
State peasants, have to give up to the State 
almost all that the land granted to them is capable 
of producing. The other moiety the former 
serfs pay away almost twice as much as the 
yield of their holdings. These are average figures, 
and, of course, not applicable to many particular 
cases. There are State peasants paying only 
Irom thirty to forty per cent., but there are also 
others who pay about one hundred and fifty per 
cent. (Smolensk, Kostroma, Vladimir provinces.) 
There are former serfs paying from seventy-six to 
one hundred per cent. (Petersburg province) ; but 


there are others who pay two hundred and fifty 
per cent. (Tver, Vladimir provinces), or three 
hundred per cent. (Kazan province), and more. 
In the province of Novgorod, according to the 
official statement, there is a class of peasants who 
pay five hundred and sixty-five per cent (Janson, 
" Essay on Allotment," pp. 35, 36, and following). 
This will seem not merely exorbitant, but alto- 
gether absurd. How, it may be asked, can a 
farmer pay in taxes the whole amount or even 
twice or thrice as much as he gets from his 
land and yet live ? 

The solution of the enigma lies in the smallness 
of the allotments. Being insufficient to furnish 
the peasants and their families with bread, they 
do not engross the whole of their working time. 
With our climate and our system of husbandry a 
peasant family, averaging seven to eight members, 
can cultivate fifty-four acres. Our peasants have 
only about a fourth of this, and the smaller their 
holdings the heavier relatively they are taxed. 
Former serfs, who spend on their diminutive 
allotments a fourth of their working time, and 
State peasants, who spend on theirs a little more 
than a third of their time, therefore pay to the 
State a half and a third respectively, because as 


touching the remainder of their work they are 
hardly taxed at all. These are heavy burdens. 
What would an English taxpayer say if he had to 
give up a third or a half of his income, however 
small it might be ? But the thing is comprehen- 
sible and clear. 

It is equally clear that our peasants, though 
" landed proprietors " in the eyes of the law, would 
not be so considered by an economist. Neither, 
on the other hand, could he classify them as agri- 
cultural proletarians. They stand between the two. 
On the average, our peasants of both classes can 
get from their land only about one-third of their 
livelihood, taxes included, hence the remaining 
two-thirds must be obtained by out-door work, 
and they are constrained to seek occupation as 
day labourers, home artisans, metayers, and so 
forth. They stand, in fact, one-third above the 
downright agrarian proletarian and two-thirds 
below the ordinary small resident owner. 

We shall, however, fail to realize the condition 
of our agricultural classes if we do not take 
into account the fluctuations of harvests. Were 
harvests always the same, our peasants would 
have to devote to their land exactly the same 
amount of time every year, and every year there 


would be the same supply of labour in the labour 
market. The position would then be clear and 
constant for both parties employers and em- 
ployed. But it is not so in reality. Far from 
being constant, the harvest in Russia shows the 
widest fluctuations, depending, as it needs must 
in a country where agriculture is so primitive 
and backward, altogether on the caprices of nature 
and climate. The normal yield of grain is very 
low only 2*9 for one (seed excluded) is the 
average for the whole Empire. But it varies 
greatly from year to year. In the fertile south- 
eastern and southern provinces, where agriculture 
is technically the worst, the fluctuations are the 
greatest. In the Middle Volga provinces in an 
average bad year the land yields three for one ; 
in an average good year twelve for one ; in a 
middling, six for one ; in an exceptionally good 
year twenty to twenty-five for one. For Southern 
Russia in general the variations of the harvest are 
eighty-seven per cent In the central provinces, 
where the system of culture is technically some- 
what better, the difference between the yearly 
harvests is not so great, reaching, however, 
forty-nine, forty-seven, and twenty-one per 
cent. (Janson). 


This state of things materially affects the 
mutual relations of landlords and peasants, and 
prevents any approach to regularity in the annual 
supply of labour. In an average year labourers 
in plenty can be obtained at average rates. In 
a bad year the peasants are in sore trouble and 
distress. They run after work in all directions 
and take it at starvation wages. In an excep- 
tionally good year the position is reversed. The 
bulk of the peasants have plenty of work in 
harvesting their own crops, which they will never 
abandon for ordinary wages. Working on their 
own land they earn at the same time wages, rent, 
and the profit on capital. A day's labour for him- 
self brings the peasant in as much as the wages of 
three days' work. So it conies to pass that there 
is a dearth of labour at the very moment when 
the landlords are most in need of hands to gather 
an abundant harvest. Under these circumstances 
it is not surprising that wages vary enormously. 
In bad years the wages in the Middle Volga 
provinces are from seventy to a hundred per cent, 
lower than in good years. In years of exceptional 
abundance wages are so high in the south-eastern 
provinces, the Russian granary, that it does not 
pay to reap the harvest unless 4,000 Ibs. of wheat t 


or thirteen to one, are expected from a dessiatine. 
The field which does not promise thus much 
is left unharvested, and the ripe grain perishes 
under the burning sun. 

Letting alone exceptional cases, it may be said 
that every change in the harvest reacts in a con- 
trary sense, but in much greater proportion, on 
the prices paid for agricultural work. The widely 
differing condition of the peasants, consequent on 
the varying size of their holdings, causes every 
change in the harvest to throw in or out of the 
labour market a varying quantity of hands. 

Nothing can be more absurd or disastrous for 
both parties and for the country in general than 
such a system as this. Professor Enghelhart, 
writing from the Smolensk province, truly 
observes that very high wages would be better 
for the landlords than these perpetual variations. 
A fixed rent for land and a fixed interest on 
capital invested in agriculture should once for 
all be established. As things are, every year 
takes its chance, and all is based on speculation. 
M. Giliaransky, writing about the opposite 
: extremity of the Empire, the region of the 
i enormous cereal plantations of the Middle Volga, 
! comes to the same conclusion, and vividly ex- 



presses it by saying that in his country pro- 
fessional usurers and landlords holding 150,000 
acres are the only members of the community 
whose solvency is not open to doubt. The 
smaller fry know not whether in another year 
they will be utterly ruined or rolling in wealth. 

There could be only one issue from this in- 
describable economical chaos. The landlords, 
certainly the stronger of the two contending 
parties, being unable to secure a regular supply 
of low-priced labour by means of economic 
compulsion, have had to resort to a more direct 
and brutal form of constraint. 

This they have found in the new system of 
bondage, or, to use the Russian word, the kabala, 
which has become an important and continually 
increasing influence in Russian rural life, and is 
in effect a simple revival, in a somewhat milder 
form, of the ancient serfdom. 


THE word kabala is very ancient. In old annals 
and juridical records it was used to designate 
the document by which a destitute but free 
man sold himself to some rich man as his 
slave. Later on it was used colloquially to 
signify the state of slavery. One would have 
thought that after emancipation there should have 
been no further occasion for this ill-omened word, 
that it should have become obsolete. But it was 
not allowed to die, and is now used by Russian 
peasants to denote that dependency of the 
labourer on his employer which arises from the 
former's irretrievable indebtedness and impe- 

That a modern Russian peasant is always liable 
to fall deeply into debt is unfortunately too easily 
demonstrated. The ordinary peasant household, 
taking peasants of every class, has to give up in 
taxes of all descriptions forty-five per cent of 
its whole income (industrial work included), or in 


other terms about three days' work in a week. 
This is rather heavy, of course. The old demo- 
crat Ogareff, co-editor with Herzen of the 
London Kolokol (Bell), was quite right in stig- 
matizing the agrarian arrangement of 1861 as 
a new sort of serfdom, in which the State was 
substituted for the former seigneurs. Having 
only three days' in the week, or, what is the same, 
one-half of the family's working force for their 
own behoof, it follows that in order to make both 
ends meet to live and pay taxes the peasants 
must contrive never to be out of work. 

Now all the employments open to them are 
very uncertain. The rent of land, hired from 
neighbouring lords for short terms, generally 
a year, is very heavy, owing to the fierce com- 
petition of the whole body of peasants. In the 
thickly-populated black earth region, the rent has 
risen since the Emancipation three and four fol 
in twenty years. On the character of the harves 
depends entirely the peasants' chance of profit 
if there be any. Agricultural work for wages is still 
more precarious. If in the far distant provinces, 
whither the peasants rush in swarms from the 
thickly-populated centres, the crops are good, the 
local people keep to their own fields, wages run 


d . 


high, the new-comers find employment readily, 
and return to their homes with money in their 
pockets. If, however, the harvest be bad they 
earn nothing, and have to make their way back 
barefoot and penniless, begging, in Christ's name, 
a crust of bread to keep themselves alive. 

The indoor industries, in which the majority 
of Great Russian (Central) peasants are mostly 
engaged, are less remunerative than formerly, 
owing to the competition of the great manufac- 
tories on the one hand, and the gangrene of 
usury, to which all these home-working artisans 
are more and more exposed, on the other. 

Work in manufactories is naturally the most 
certain. But it requires a special training, and 
occupies less than a million hands, one half of 
whom are ordinary town proletarians. Thus 
the economical position of our peasants is most 
strained and precarious. Notwithstanding their 
surprising industry and courage, their future is 
never sure. A deficit in their yearly budget is 
always possible, and indeed of frequent occurrence, 
leaving them no alternative save insolvency at 
the hands of the Government, or, a diminished 
consumption of food. These expedients, however, 
cannot be adopted indefinitely. The patience of 


tax-collectors is very short, and when exhausted 
is quickly followed by severe floggings and the 
forced sale of the insolvent's belongings. 

The power of self-restraint is very great with 
our peasants, and the elasticity of their stomachs 
is simply surprising. But even these qualities 
have their limits. Both children and adults, when 
the last crust of bread is consumed, will ask for 
more, and the cattle, which with Russian peasants 
is an object of even greater solicitude than their chil- 
dren, cannot be left to starve. The peasant makes 
up his mind and looks around for some "benefactor" 
from whom he can borrow something. 

Here we must pause. We are now at the 
turning-point of our social life, and the new 
figure which has to play the most prominent 
part therein is stepping on to the stage we 
mean the "benefactor" or usurer. He is of two 
strongly marked types. The more numerous, and 
by far the more important of the class, socially 
and politically, are those who have themselves 
sprung from the ranks of the peasants. These 
are koulaks, or wzV-eaters, as our people call them. 
They make a class apart the aristocracy, or 
rather the plutocracy, of our villages. Every 
village commune has always three or four regular 


koulaks, as also some half-dozen smaller fry of the 
same kidney. The koulaks are peasants who, by 
good luck or individual ability, have saved money 
and raised themselves above the common herd. 
This done, the way to further advancement is 
easy and rapid. They want neither skill nor 
industry, only promptitude to turn to their profit 
the needs, the sorrows, the sufferings, and the 
misfortunes of others. 

The great advantage the koulaks possess over 
their numerous competitors in the plundering of 
the peasants, lies in the fact that they are members, 
generally very influential members, of the village 
commune. This often enables them to use for 
their private ends the great political power which 
the self-governing mir exercises over each indi- 
vidual member. The distinctive characteristics 
of this class are very unpleasant. It is the hard, 
unflinching cruelty of a thoroughly uneducated 
man who has made his way from poverty to 
wealth, and has come to consider money-making, 
by whatever means, as the only pursuit to which 
a rational being should devote himself. Koulaks, 
as a rule, are by no means devoid of natural 
intelligence and practical good sense, and may 
be considered as fair samples of that rapacious 


and plundering stage of economic development 
which occupies a place analogous to that of the 
middle ages in political history. 

The regular landlords, remnants of the old 
nobility, or new men, who have bought their land 
and stepped into their shoes, also play a very 
conspicuous part in the operations of rural credit, 
though, being total strangers in the communes, 
they are naturally less directly responsible for the 
interior decomposition of our village life. Acting 
as a rule through their managers and agents, who 
have no personal interests to serve, these large 
proprietors are in reality the least exacting of 
the gang. Yet when in difficulty the peasant will 
always try the koulaks first, who are peasants 
like himself. He dreads the formalities, the 
documents, the legal tricks and cavils which the 
big people have in store for a "benighted " man. 

In the extensive operations of rural credit, 
consisting chiefly of small advances, but amount- 
ing in the aggregate to many millions of roubles 
yearly, the koulaks and rural usurers generally gain 
a far greater profit than do the landlords proper. 

The petty capitalists who settle in the villages 
for business purposes, small shopkeepers, wine 
dealers, merchants, who always combine their 


special trade with more or less extensive land 
culture, occupy an intermediary position between 
that of the koulaks and the big landlords. They 
are outsiders like the latter, having by our laws 
no share in the administration of the commune, 
which is exclusively controlled by born or 
naturalized peasants. But by their education (or 
better, absence of education) and general tenor 
of life they are as near to the peasants as the 
koulaks, and by no means inferior to the latter in 
knowledge of local conditions, or in pluck, rough- 
ness, and cruelty. 

Such are the classes who control rural credit. 
Whatever be its individual source in each par- 
ticular case, it is based on the same principle 
and produces the same social results. I shall 
therefore analyze its forms and influence 

Regular credit i.e., advance of money to be 
returned in money, with the addition of interest 
is very rare in our villages, unless it refers to 
trifling sums advanced by rural pawnbrokers. 
Peasants receive too little ready money to be able 
to depend on it for the discharge of their obliga- 
tions. Loans are generally made only to whole 
villages or to peasants' associations under the 


guarantee and responsibility of the mir. As to 
the interest required, and the general character of 
these loans, they remind us rather of Shylock's 
bond than of ordinary business transactions. 

In January 1880, a large village of the Samara 
province, Soloturn, borrowed from a merchant 
of the name of Jaroff the sum of ,600, interest 
being paid in advance, and bought from Jaroff's 
stock 1 5,000 puds of hay for their starving cattle. 
Repayment was to be made on October ist, 1880, 
under the condition that ^5 should be added for 
every day's delay. When the time of payment 
arrived the peasants brought ^200 on account of 
their debt to Jaroff, who made not the slightest 
objection to waiting for the balance. For eleven 
months thereafter he kept quiet. But in Septem- 
ber 1 88 1 he brought an action against the village 
for ^1,500. The magistrate before whom the 
case was tried, being evidently in a frame of 
mind not unlike that of Antonio's judges, decided 
against the plaintiff. But Jaroff was not much 
discouraged thereby. Confident in his right, he 
appealed to a higher court and won his case. 
And as this proceeding caused further delay the 
claim, by accumulation of interest, had doubled, and 
Jaroff got judgment for .3,000 in satisfaction 


of a debt of ^600, of which ^"200 had been 
repaid! (Annals, No. 272.) 

In the Novousen district of the same province 
the peasants of the village of Shendorf, being in 
great distress during the winter of 1880, borrowed 
from a clergyman named K 700, under- 
taking to pay him in eight months ,1,050 (i.e., 
fifty per cent, for eight months), on condition 
that in case of default they should give Mr. 

K , pending repayment, 3,500 dessiatines 

of their arable land at an annual rent of ten 
copecks per dessiatine. As the peasants were 

unable to fulfil their engagement, Mr. K 

received the 3,500 dessiatines for 350 roubles, 
and forthwith re-let the land to the peasants them- 
selves at the normal rent, which in this province is 
about five roubles (los.) per dessiatine. Thus he 
obtained ,1,715 on a capital of ,700, or interest 
at the rate of about 2^o/ o a year. (Idem.) 

I have quoted these examples because they 
possess much of what the French call couleur 
locale, and are eminently suggestive of the spirit 
and flavour of the financial transactions practised 
in our villages. They give also an idea of the 
great distress which prevails among peasants 
during the winter months, because nobody, unless 


on the verge of starvation, would enter into such 
engagements as those I have described. 

The winter is, indeed, the hardest season of 
the year for our peasantry. The spring, too, has 
its difficulties, but by then field work is beginning 
on the neighbouring landlords' estates, and the 
peasants have a chance of earning a trifle. In 
the winter their resources are at their lowest ebb, 
for in September the corn was sold to pay the 
autumn taxes, whilst others fall due in the spring. 
If the household be not well off it generally has 
some arrears to make up, which are " flogged 
out " in winter. In a word, and to use their own 
expression, calamities beset the poor peasants 
from every quarter, "like snow on their heads," 
and they cannot avoid turning towards their 
" benefactors," and consenting to the most Shy- 
lockian conditions. 

Regular money credit, even at the heaviest 
interest, is, as I have said, exceptional. Individual 
peasants never obtain it from a rich man, because 
he will not trust them without good security. 
Credit is mostly given on the security of the 
peasants' work, their hands being their most 
valuable possession. It assumes the form of 
payment in anticipation for work to be done in 


the next season a sort of hypothecation of work, 
to be performed several months thereafter. 

Agreements of this kind are always legalised 
at the communal offices, and often copied in their 
register books ; it is very easy therefore to obtain 
a fair idea of their character. Investigators of 
various branches of our agrarian work have pre- 
served for us these interesting documents. 

I now have before me three such deeds one 
referring to the beetroot sugar plantations ot the 
south-west ; a second to the rafting of wood and 
timber down the rivers, an occupation in which 
the peasants of the northern sylvan regions find 
their chief livelihood ; and a third, which refers 
to purely agricultural work. In two the terms 
are almost identical, and even in the third the 
difference is but slight. Mr. Tchervinsky says 
that in his province there are special scribblers, 
who, having learnt the wording of these documents 
by heart, make their living by rewriting them 
for each occasion, changing only the names. Mr. 
Giliaransky transcribes the form of agreement for 
agricultural work from a printed original. I will 
give here a summary of the latter, as being the 
most important and characteristic, and as affording 
a fair idea of the others. 


These agreements always begin by setting forth 
in great detail the work to be done, and fixing 
the number of dessiatines to be sown, ploughed, 
or harvested. Then follow a series of paragraphs 
intended to secure due observance of the conditions 
on the part of the peasant : 

" I, the undersigned, agree to submit myself to all the 
rules and customs in force on the estates of N. N. During 
the period of work I will be perfectly obedient to N. N.'s 
managers, and will not refuse to work at nights, not only 
such work as I have undertaken to do, as set forth above, 
but any other work that may be required of me. More- 
over, I have no right to keep Sundays and holidays." 

For securing good work the imposition of heavy 
penalties is agreed to beforehand by the subscriber, 
generally four or five times in excess of any 
damage his negligence can occasion, thereby 
affording a hundred pretexts for malversations, 
and yet quite failing in preventing the work from 
being on the whole very badly done. 

A very important proviso remains to be noticed. 
The agreement never omits to mention that it 
retains its binding power for an indefinite number 
of years. Thus, if the landlord should not require 
his debtor to work in the immediately following 
summer (as might happen were the harvest de- 


ficient, and labour cheap and easily obtainable) 
he is free to call on him to liquidate his debt in 
the following year, or even the year after, thus 
securing for himself cheap labour at the time 
when wages are likely to be at their maximum. 

The concluding paragraph is to the same effect. 
It states that should tJie debtor be unable or un- 
willing to discharge his debt, or a part of it, in 
work, and desire to discharge it in ready money, 
he must pay a prescription amounting to four or 
five times tJie original loan. 

The reader will perceive that the peasants do 
no violence to the exact etymological value of the 
word in calling the winter agreement kabala, or 

As to the purely economical side of the question 
the rate of usury enforced under this system of 
anticipated payment of wages we have only to 
compare the difference between the average wage 
of the labourer hired in summer and that of the 
unfortunates who are compelled to give them- 
selves " in bondage " during the lean months of 

Here I quote a few well authenticated state- 
ments referring to the entire agricultural zone 
of the Empire. According to Mr. Trirogoff, the 


harvesting of one dessiatine in the province of 
Saratoff costs on an average eight roubles if carried 
by labourers engaged in the summer at market 
rates, whilst the labourer engaged in the winter 
receives three or four roubles for the same work. 
It is no uncommon thing, he adds, to see labourers 
of each class working side by side, the one for ten 
the other for three and a half roubles per dessia- 
tine. Mr. Giliaransky states that in the Samara 
province the whole rotation of agricultural work for 
a dessiatine of land costs fifteen to twenty roubles 
at ordinary rates. But those labourers who are 
engaged in the winter are on an average only paid 
five roubles. In the Tarn boff province, according 
to Mr. Ertel, free labourers receive from nine 
to eleven roubles, while the " bondage " (winter 
engaged) labourers are paid only from four to five. 
In the Kieff province, on the beetroot plantations, 
the free workers receive eight roubles and upwards 
for fifteen days' work, the bondage labourers only 
three. In the Kamenez-Podolsk province (south- 
west) the daily wage of free labourers is forty-five 
copecks in the spring and sixty copecks in 
summer, while the bondage labourers are paid in 
the same season fifteen and twenty copecks. 
Thus in the Samara province the money-lenders 


exact an interest equal to three hundred per 
cent., in Saratoff two hundred per cent., in 
Tamboff one hundred and eight, in Kieff one 
hundred and sixty-six, in the Kamenez-Podolsk 
two hundred per cent, on their capital, lent 
for a period generally not exceeding nine 

This looks very ugly. But if the reader thinks 
these are exceptional extortions, of which a few 
greedy usurers alone are guilty, he is mistaken. 
There is no lack of exceptions, but they present 
an even blacker picture. In November and 
December 1881 the judge of the Valuj district 
(Voronej Province) had to give judgment upon 
forty-five suits against as many groups of peasants 
for failure to fulfil their engagement with their 
landlord J. The facts were that during the 
winter months of 1881 the latter advanced to the 
peasants of several surrounding villages a quantity 
of straw, wherewith to feed their cattle. The 
peasants had promised, as usual, to harvest for 
him a fixed number of dessiatines, but many in 
all forty-five groups had failed to observe the 
conditions agreed upon. To give an idea of 
these conditions I may mention that one of the 
groups, in a moment of sore distress, had engaged 



to harvest, in return for twelve cubic yards of 
straw advanced to them, no less than thirty-five 
dessiatines of corn. They harvested twenty-one 
dessiatines, which represented at current prices 
one hundred and five roubles, but being unable 
to harvest the remaining fourteen dessiatines 
they had to pay one hundred and thirty roubles 
more. Thus two hundred and thirty-five roubles 
were demanded for about five roubles' worth of 
straw. I leave the reader to calculate how much 
per cent, such usury denotes. 

In the Oufa Province there are two great 
villages called Usman and Karmaly, with about 
1,200 inhabitants. The peasants hold in common 
3,890 dessiatines of land. In 1880 they borrowed 
from a clerk named Rvanzeff 1,019 roubles 
wherewith to pay their taxes. For this loan they 
agreed to let to him all their 3,890 dessiatines 
of land for three years at two roubles a dessiatine, 
whereas the minimum rent in this district is six 
to seven roubles. In 1881 the peasants, now left 
without land, rented their own holdings from 
Rvanzeff at seven to eight roubles a dessiatine, 
thus giving this gentleman a profit of 20,895 
roubles, or an interest of 2,000 per cent, for the 
first year, and three times that amount if all the 


three years are taken together, on a capital of 
1,019 roubles. (Golos, 1882, No. 113.) 

Here is another instance, which is not confined 
to a few groups of individual peasants. In 1879, 
in the Province of Oufa, the whole harvest was 
bought from the Bashkir peasants for an advance 
of twenty kopecks per poud (4olb.) made during 
the winter. The next autumn it was resold to 
the same Bashkirs for one rouble twenty kopecks 
(120 kopecks) per poud, making an interest of 
500 per cent, for about eight months. 

This is really exceptional, though many pages 
could be filled with similar examples, which each 
year brings to light It is what is called in 
Russia " usury." The transactions as to which 
I have calculated the approximate interest in 
various provinces are not considered usurious at 
all. They are only " private winter engagements," 
which are imposed every year on millions of 
peasants in every region of the empire in the 
agricultural and in the industrial as well as in 
the sylvan. Far from considering it as something 
to be ashamed of, the money-lenders always pose 
as the peasants' " benefactors," in that they have 
consented to lend them money on such easy 


Whatever be the name we give to it, usury 
always remains usury, and everywhere possesses 
the attribute of gradually swallowing up all those 
who have the misfortune to step within its bounds, 
like a quaking bog. After discharging out of his 
very modest and strained resources such exorbi- 
tant claims as I have described (no matter what 
form the usury takes), the peasant will, generally 
speaking, be worse off the next autumn than 
he was the year before. He will have greater 
difficulty in defraying the taxes and in providing 
for his own wants. Unless unusually good luck 
befall him, he will be obliged during the winter 
to apply once more, and probably for a larger 
advance, to his " benefactor." Very often he will 
have been unable to execute all the heavy obliga- 
tions previously undertaken. Some arrears will 
still remain to be added, with accumulated 
interest, to his debt of work, a debt from which 
he can never, except by the help of some windfall 
or God-send, escape. 

Only very large families, which are becoming 
less common, are able to extricate themselves 
from the usurer's net in which they have been 
by dire misfortune entangled. When the liability 
is divided amongst twelve or more adults they 


may compensate for the absence of one or two 
of their number " given in bondage " by increased 
diligence on the part of those that remain. But 
small families almost inevitably succumb. Mr. 
Trirogoff tells us that the peasants themselves 
are convinced that when a man has once been 
caught by the rural usurer he must remain " in 
bondage " to the end of his days. And in nine 
cases out of ten this proves true. 

Thus the new economical regime which has 
struck root in Russia is not only extending but 
acquiring a permanent force. "In the Saratoff 
Province whole districts are in a state of bondage" 
(Trirogoff). "In the Samara Province there are 
many villages, small and great, which have the 
bulk of their working strength pawned, or given 
in bondage, to use the peasant's expression, for 
many years to come, to sundry large corn 
growers " (Giliaransky). In the Ousman district 
alone (Tamboff Province), according to Mr. Ertel's 
very moderate estimate, the winter engagements 
amount to 240,000 roubles, equal to about 500,000 
roubles a year at market value. There is no 
Province, no district, in which the system does 
not extensively obtain. 

In some provinces it becomes from the first 


a permanent bondage without the money-lender 
having the trouble and expense of rebinding his 
client every year, or of involving him in the net 
of accumulated interest. One of the experts for 
the Kherson Province made the following state- 
ment before the official inquiry commission, as 
registered in its official records : "With us," he 
said, "there exists another mode of harvesting, 
extremely ruinous for the peasants. They receive 
from some landlord a loan of ten roubles ( i ), and 
in return are under the obligation of harvesting, 
in lieu of interest, one dessiatine of corn and two 
dessiatines of hay, and of refunding the capital 
sum in the autumn. If, however, the money is 
not refunded, the same agreement holds good for 
the next year, and so on. New loans are not 
refused, but are made under the same conditions. 
Thus the peasants gradually fall into a state of 
bondage worse than was the old serfdom, for 
they are generally unable to refund the capital, 
and obliged to work from year to year quite 

In the Province of Kieff yet another form 
of bondage obtains which approaches still more 
nearly the form of the old serfdom. Here the 
landlord advances eighteen roubles, for which 


sum he is entitled to receive in lieu of interest two 
days' work per week, i.e., one hundred and four 
days a year. The women have to do similar slave 
work as interest for an advance of twelve roubles. 
The advance of one-half of these sums entitles 
the landlord to one day a week. If the peasant 
misses a day he is mulcted in fifty kopecks (a 
woman thirty-five kopecks) a day, the amount 
being put to his debit. When these mulcts reach 
the sum of nine roubles for a man and six for a 
woman, another day a week is added by way 
of interest to their debt. (Kieff Telegraph, 1875, 
No. 52.) 

At this point, however, exploitation of the 
peasant's labours receives a self-acting check. 
Credit on the hypothecation of future earnings 
is limited by the amount of work which it is 
physically possible for the debtor to perform. In 
the fertile steppes of the south-western region, so 
highly favoured by nature and the Emancipation 
Act, which gave them the largest allotments, and 
in isolated districts where the peasants are ex- 
ceptionally well off, the struggle between landlords 
and peasants has ended in the subjugation of the 
latter in the way I have described, but has gone 
no further. In all these places credit assumes 


chiefly the form of the hypothecation of future 

But in less favoured regions, and especially in 
the densely populated central provinces of the 
empire, other and more desperate and ruinous 
forms of credit are being developed with alarming 
rapidity. Potential property, labour, ceases to 
be a sufficient guarantee for the money-lenders. 
The impoverished peasants, driven to despair by 
famine or by fear of a forced sale of their effects, 
borrow money right and left, undertaking to give 
the lenders three times more work than they 
are physically able to perform. To avoid dis- 
appointment and the troubles of litigation, the 
usurers demand as security substantial property 
the very implements of agricultural work, the 
cattle and the land. Both produce identical and 
almost equally rapid results. Deprivation of 
cattle and loss of land go on simultaneously. 

The peasant's indispensable instruments of 
labour, the cattle, are sold in enormous quantities. 
The sales are made during the winter months and 
in the spring, chiefly at the time when the taxes 
and arrears are " flogged out." This accounts for 
the curious fact that in the provincial towns a 
pound of meat is sometimes cheaper than a pound 


of bread. Exports of cattle have increased for 
the same reason enormously ; the increase since 
1864 is equal to 1,335 P er cent. 

Statistics likewise disclose, in the thirteen 
Provinces of Central Russia, a decrease of 17*6 
per cent, in large cattle and a reduction of 27*8 
per cent, in the quantity of harvested corn, not- 
withstanding the increase (6*6 per cent.) of the 
population since 1864 ; the inventory of horses 
taken in 1882 for military purposes shows that 
one fourth of the peasant households no longer 
possess horses at all (Janson). 

A peasant who has lost his cattle can no longer 
be considered a tiller of the soil. His imprescrip- 
tible right as the member of a village community 
to a share in the land becomes purely nominal 
and practically void. Yet, though he may give up 
agricultural work in his allotment, and can no 
longer in any way turn it to account, he still 
remains liable for the taxes. 

Very often the peasant's road to ruin is re- 
versed ; the sale of his cattle not sufficing to meet 
his engagements, he is obliged to part, bit by bit, 
with his land. True, the laws in force do not 
permit peasants to sell their allotments for which 
the price of redemption payment for which in 


most cases extends over forty-nine years from 
1861 has not been provided. But the law in 
this regard is evaded by the expedient of long 
leases. The letting of land by peasants to capi- 
talists of the upper classes burghers, clergymen, 
or nobles is exceptional. It is done wholesale 
by entire mirs, and generally for short periods. 
Letting to koulaks, or peasant capitalists, is, on 
the contrary, quite common and much in vogue. 
It is done wholesale and retail both by groups 
and by individual peasants. The law cannot 
interfere with the mutual relations of members of 
the same community. At the present time, the 
new peasant bourgeoisie, the koulaks, legally have 
got into their hands vast quantities of inalienable 
communal land under the form of long leases, 
which they will hold until the " next redistribu- 
tion." The peasants, the nominal proprietors, 
work on it meanwhile as agrarian proletarians. 

There are no complete estimates as to the area 
of land engrossed by this new rural aristocracy, 
but isolated inquiries in the central Provinces, 
where the process of social fermentation has been 
the most marked, prove it to be very considerable. 
Writing about one of the Tamboff districts, which 
are rather favoured by the agrarian settlement 


the Ousman district, where the majority of the 
population were formerly State peasants Mr. 
Ertel states that in an average and rather prosper- 
ous district, which he selected for investigation, 
25,258 peasants' households (one-third) pawned 
some of their land every year. The total area of 
land pawned to the koulaks was 8,419 dessiatines 
a year in the mean. 

Mr. Tereshkevitch, Chairman of the Statistical 
Board of the Poltava Province, in a work to 
which was awarded the great gold medal of 
the St. Petersburg Geographical Society, shows 
that in the Poltava Province, the land of the 
former Cossacks, inalienable by law, is con- 
centrated, to the extent of 24 to 32*6 per cent, 
of the total area, in the hands of rich koulaks. 
Here i6'5 to 29^8 per cent, of the population are 
downright landless proletarians. Nearly one-half 
(forty-three to forty-nine per cent.) have their 
land curtailed, sometimes to one-fourth, one-fifth, 
and one-sixteenth of a dessiatine ; so that, accord- 
ing to the peasant's graphic expression, " the rain 
falls from your own roof on to your neighbour's 
land." The koulaks, however, who constitute 
5 '4 per cent, of the population, have twenty 
dessiatines (54 acres) and upwards per household, 


and among them are many who hold 100 dessia- 
tines (270 acres), sometimes 300 dessiatines (810 
acres), of the richest black soil, per household. 
(Report of the Geographical Society for 1885.) 

Having no positive figures for the whole 
empire, I shall not venture to estimate, even 
approximately, how great a proportion of the 
peasants' land the wzV-eaters, or koulaks, have 
already devoured. But we can gauge the havoc 
they have wrought in another way by the 
number of agricultural proletarians, landless and 
homeless, that modern Russia possesses. 

In the epoch of Emancipation Russia had no 
agricultural proletariat whatever. It was expected 
that our traditional system of land tenure, with 
periodical redistributions, would preserve Russia 
for ever from this drawback of old civilizations. 
Some ten years later, however, it was discovered 
that agrarian proletarianism had already come to 
be a fact. In 1871, according to the calculations 
of Prince Vasltchikoff, districts existed in Russia 
where five, ten, and even fifteen per cent, of the 
rural population had become downright prole- 
tarians. " Since that time " (I am quoting the 
words of so unimpeachable an authority as the 
chairman of the St. Petersburg Congress of 


Russian Farmers, held on the 4th March, 1886), 
" Since that time, the agrarian proletariat has 
increased with alarming rapidity. From the 
statistical investigations of the Moscow and other 
zemstvos, we are able to affirm that the number 
of proletarians has increased at least from fifteen 
to twenty-five per cent. This shows that one- 
fifth of the whole population of the empire (one- 
third of the rural population of Russia Proper), 
or about twenty millions of souls, are agrarian 
proletarians. Thus the number of proletarians 
we have at present is equal to the number of 
serfs Russia possessed before the Emancipation. 
And I will not venture to judge how far the life 
of our modern agrarian proletarian is preferable 
to that of the former serfs." 

Further on in the same speech the causes of 
this devastation and miserable condition of our 
agriculture are pointed out : 

" Thriving estates are those where the pro- 
prietors use ' bondage ' (kabala] labour wzV-eaters 
and usurious landlords (practising the winter 
engagement system) and perhaps that of peasants 
with large families. For all the rest, agriculture 
has become a risky and not very profitable 
business. The ' bondage ' labour, which is 


chiefly used by the landlords, is a labour of the 
lowest quality, much inferior to that of the former 
serfs ; while the ' bondage ' peasants themselves, 
wasting an enormous quantity of their working 
time on the landlords' estates, are unable to culti- 
vate their own land even tolerably, and must 
drop husbandry altogether." 


THE results of emancipation, a measure from 
which so much was expected, must needs greatly 
disappoint all who are in favour of peasant owner- 
ship, especially if they have likewise put some 
trust in the Russian communal system of land 
tenure. But those who hold the opposite view 
will probably conclude that the process of peasant 
spoliation, though a painful process, and an 
unavoidable evil, is yet in some sort an advan- 
tage, since it may be the beginning of a new 
development of agriculture which will eventually 
put Russia on a level with Western countries and 
force on it the same system of land tenure. 

It is quite evident that Russia is marching in 
this direction. If nothing happens to check or 
hinder the process of interior disintegration in 
our villages, in another generation we shall have 
on one side an agricultural proletariat of sixty to 

k seventy millions, and on the other a few thousand 
landlords, mostly former koulaks and wz>-eaters, 


in possession of all the land. When starvation 
has depleted the market of some ten or fifteen 
millions of superfluous agricultural proletarians, the 
landlords will doubtless introduce an improved 
system of agriculture of the regular European 
type, and the remainder of our rural population 
will become common wage-labourers. Then, and 
only then, will there begin true agricultural 
progress in Russia. In the present transitory 
stage, however, the landlord system is technically 
as bad as it well can be. It is chiefly based on 
bondage labour, which is cheaper than any other ; 
cheaper than machinery, cheaper than that of 
the worst paid common labourers, who must be 
nourished after all at their master's expense, and 
get something (from ,4 to ^"5 a year) for taxes 
and clothing. As to bondage labour, it can be 
got for next to nothing after the first payment. 
Then the work done merely represents the 
exorbitant interest on the trifling sums advanced 
years before, to which may have been added, out 
of pity, a few sums equally trifling. 

But the peasant, enslaved by usury, has repaid 
his extortioners in another way by the utter 
negligence, slovenliness, and dirtiness of his 
work. He is bound to labour on the landlord- 


creditor's land, and ostensibly conforms to the 
conditions of his bond. No power on earth, 
however, can prevent his working as hastily and 
as badly as he is able from doing his " level 
worst," as an American would say. No amount 
of superintendence can compel diligence, unless, 
indeed, the landlord has one superintendent for 
every bondsman. These men cannot be terror- 
ized and beaten into carefulness and industry 
as were the former serfs. On the other hand, 
neither is he in the least impressed, as the free 
wage-labourer is, by dread of dismissal. He 
has, in a word, no motive whatever to work well, 
and every reason on earth to get rid of his 
ungrateful task as quickly as may be. The work 
supplied by the bondage system is of the worst 
possible description. M. Gilaransky says : 

" Where the free peasants harvest five stacks, 
the bondage people harvest only four or three 
and a half. In the field you recognise at first 
sight the work done by bondage people and by 
free labourers. With the latter the freshly-mown 
field presents a nice, even surface, showing no 
trace of former vegetation, while the bondage 
labourers always leave long strips of grass 
unmown. In the fields of well-to-do peasants 



you will find not a handful of spikes or straw, the 
closely-cut stubble field extends even and uniform 
like a hair-brush on every side. But the fields 
of the big landlords, after the bondage people's 
harvesting, are pictures of haste and dirt. Here 
and there you see black spots as if swine had 
been grubbing ; these are places where the 
children, in helping their elders, have uprooted 
the crops with their hands. Great clumps of 
unreaped grain are left behind, and the whole 
field, covered with scattered spikes and straw, 
seems rather creased and trampled than mown." 

With such methods as these no improvement 
in husbandry can be thought of. Scientific 
culture is impossible. The cereal planters under- 
stand all this only too well, and, taking the 
bondage work as it is, make splendid profits by 
speculating on the enormous extension of tillage, 
thus compensating by the extent of land culti- 
vated for the very low technical quality of the 

Such few estates as are in a satisfactory, 
sometimes even a model state of cultivation, are 
those where the proprieters have adopted the 
heroic resolution of keeping an adequate number 
of permanent labourers, and paying them fair 


wa g es in other words, of investing considerable 
capital and getting for it small, though regular, 
returns. Such capitalist heroism is, however, 
necessarily exceptional. The great majority of 
capitalists find it much more advantageous to 
spend as little as possible on each acre, keeping 
only a small staff of managers on permanent 
wages, speculating on the extreme cheapness of 
labour, and avoiding the costly luxury of scientific 

The koulaks and aw/r-eaters, the new land 
forestallers of peasant origin, are in a much better 
position as touching bondage work than are 
their fellow loanmongers of the upper crust. 
These rural Crassuses very often wield the same 
influence in their diminutive village republics, 
as their protagonist, the famous Roman usurer, 
wielded in Rome, and for the same reasons ; a 
koulak is not to be trifled with, and a poor 
peasant, his debtor, will think twice before 
cheating him as he would cheat a landlord. He 
well knows that the koulak will find a thousand 
occasions for revenge. Moreover, the koulak 
and all the members of his family work together 
on the same fields as their bondsmen, keeping 
constant watch over them. 


On the whole, the koulaks and wzV-eaters, as 
all observers agree, obtain by the bondage 
system tolerably good work. Working for a 
koulak exhausts the peasant's strength, while 
work on a landlord's estate is little more than 
a waste of time. Employing a much greater 
proportion of bondage work relatively to their 
capital than the regular landlords, and possessing 
the above-mentioned advantages, the koulaks and 
wzV-eaters grow in numbers, riches, and power 
with startling rapidity. But being in so advan- 
tageous a position, the koulaks have even less 
inducement than the regular landlords to change 
their tactics and waste money on any permanent 
improvements. So long as there is a crowd of 
people on whom they can impose their yoke so 
cheaply and easily, their culture will continue to 
be as loose and predatory as it has hitherto been ; 
only, instead of exhausting the land, as the 
regular landlords are doing, they are exhausting 
the labourer. 

Thus the concentration of land in the hands 
of individual proprietors has imparted, as yet, 
neither order nor progress to our agriculture. 
The process of land concentration, if not stopped, 
will, doubtless, achieve in time both these results, 


but in another way by starving out an adequate 
part of our rural population. It may be added 
that this charitable work is going on with the 
greatest success. I will not go into details, 
neither will I harrow the reader by sensational 
pictures. I shall only quote figures, some statis- 
tical, which speak for themselves. 

The rate of mortality in the whole of Russia is 
very high, fluctuating between 35-4 and 37^3 per 
thousand. Taking thirty-six as the mean, we find 
that in Russia, with its thin population and a climate 
as healthy as that of Norway and Sweden, the 
mortality is one hundred per cent, greater than in 
the latter, and one hundred and twelve per cent, 
greater than in the former of those countries. It is 
sixty-four per cent, greater than in Great Britain ; 
thirty-seven per cent, greater than in Germany ; 
and thirty-nine per cent, greater than in France. 

According to Dr. Fair, a mortality exceeding 
seventeen per thousand is an abnormal mortality,' 
due to some preventable cause. This standard 
is reached in Norway, and approached very 
nearly in Sweden, and in the rural districts 
of England (where it is eighteen per thousand), 
and even in several large centres of popu- 
lation in the United States. In England, when- 


ever the death-rate rises to twenty-three per 
thousand a medical and sanitary inquiry of the 
district is prescribed by law, this mortality being 
considered due to some preventable cause. It 
cannot be otherwise in Russia with a death-rate 
of between 35-4 and 37*3. And it is not at all 
difficult to discover that this preventable cause 
lies in the misery of the unhappy country. The 
Congress of the Society of Russian Surgeons 
expressed exactly the same opinion at their last 
annual meeting, held on the i8th of December, 
1 885, under the presidency of M. S. P. Botkin, 
body-surgeon to the Emperor. After ascertain- 
ing the exact death-rate, they expressed the 
opinion that the primary cause of this frightful 
mortality is deficiency of food (bread). It is 
thus obvious that the reduction of one-seventh 
in the peasants' consumption of bread during the 
last twenty years, as is shown by the computation 
of corn exports and corn production, has not 
come out of the people's superfluities, but is 
literally wrung from their necessities. 

The Congress of Russian Surgeons of 
December 1885 brought to light some other very 
suggestive facts. This high rate of mortality is 
not uniform throughout the Empire ; it is much 


greater in its central than in its peripheral 
regions. The high birth-rate in Russia, due 
to the very early marriages of our agricultural 
population, atones in part for the devastation 
produced by untimely deaths. Statistics show 
an average yearly increase of 1*1 per cent, (or 
about 1,200,000) in the number of the unfor- 
tunate subjects of the Czar. But there is no 
such increase in the central provinces, where the 
population is more dense, and the ruin of the 
masses proceeds with the greatest rapidity. 

In the thirteen provinces that is to say, the 
whole of Central Russia the mortality, always 
on the increase, reached when the last census was 
taken (1882) sixty -two per thousand per annum. 
Nothing approaching this prevails in any other 
part of Europe. It would be incredible were it 
not officially attested. The birth-rate in these 
provinces being forty-five (the normal rate for 
the whole Empire), this is equal to a decrease of 
seventeen per thousand per year. In the heart 
of Russia the population is being starved out. 

The medical report, moreover, notices that 
the provinces where the mortality is greatest are 
those where the land produces a full supply of 
bread, The starving out of the peasants who till 


it is, therefore, the work of " art," as I have just 
described, and not of nature. 

Another most suggestive fact which points to 
the same conclusion is that Russia is the only 
country in the world where the mortality over a 
large area of open country is greater than that in 
the towns. In all countries possessing statistical 
records it is the reverse, the hygienic conditions 
of life and work in the open air being all in 
favour of the rural population. In England, for 
instance, the mortality is 38-8 per cent, higher in 
towns than in the country ; in France, twenty- 
four per cent ; and in Sweden, thirty-seven per 
cent. In Prussia the difference is less than in 
any other part of Western Europe 7'i per 
cent. ; yet even there it is in favour of the 
villages. In Russia there are fourteen provinces, 
with a population as great as that of the Austrian 
Empire, and an area three times as large, in which 
the death-rate of the villages is higher than that 
of the largest towns. In the villages of the pro- 
vince of Moscow, the mortality is 33-1 higher 
than in Moscow city ; in the province of St. 
Petersburg the difference is 17*5 ; in Kazan and 
Kieff, with more than 100,000 inhabitants each, 
the mortality is less by twenty-seven and thirty 


per cent, than in the villages of their respective 
provinces (Professor Janson's Statistics, Vol. I., 
p. 264). 

I hardly need to add that such a striking 
anomaly can in nowise be put to the credit of 
the exceptional perfection of the hygienic arrange- 
ments of our big cities. The largest, the two 
capitals included, are in this respect much more 
nearly allied to Asiatic than to European towns. 

Another startling fact is, that the official returns 
relating to recruits for the period from 1874 to 
1887, published in 1886 by the central Statistical 
Board, show that the number of able-bodied 
young men decreases every year with appalling 
regularity. In 1874, when the law of universal 
military service was for the first time put in 
action, out of the total number of young people 
tested by the recruiting commissioners seventy 
and a half per cent, were accepted as able- 
bodied. The next year showed even a some- 
what higher rate seventy-one and a half per 
cent, of able-bodied. But since that date the 
decrease has gone on uninterruptedly. It was 
69-4 in 1876. Then 69, 68'8, 67-8, 677, 65-8, 
59-1, and finally, in 1883, fifty-nine per cent. This 
means a decrease of twelve and a half per cent, in 


nine years in the number of able-bodied people 
among the flower of the nation, that is, the youth 
of twenty years of age, of whom eighty-five and a 
quarter per cent, come from the peasantry. 

These facts need no comment. They admit of 
only one explanation ; hunger and poverty have 
wrought fearful havoc among our rural popula- 
tion. This is the last work of our present regime. 
It is to this we have come after twenty-five years 
of incessant " progress," and the worst of it all is, 
that under the present regime the work of ruin 
and devastation must go on uninterruptedly, fatally, 
rather increasing in its rapidity than diminishing. 

For what are the chief causes of peasant de- 
gradation ? Usury on the one hand and taxes 
on the other. The first of these causes, in the 
material ills which it produces, is by far the more 
powerful and fatal of the two. But the koulaks, 
wzV-eaters, and usurers of all sorts would never 
have been able to lay hold of and re-enslave the 
recently enfranchised agrarian population with- 
out the aid of the tax-gatherer and his satellities. 
What is it that constrains the peasants to sell in 
September corn which they know they will be in 
desperate need of a few months later on ? The 
imperious necessity of paying their taxes. 


The ideal of each peasant's household is to eat 
the bread from their own fields, providing for the 
taxes by outdoor work or by some home industry. 
But few are able to realize their ideal. The vast 
majority, as I have already shown, sell a consider- 
able proportion of their harvest in September, 
only to buy it back in the winter or the spring, 
always losing heavily thereby, because corn is 
cheap in September and from thirty to fifty per 
cent, dearer in the winter and spring. Never- 
theless they commit each year this economical 
absurdity, which they thoroughly understand. 
They risk hunger, knowing well how hard it is 
to make money in winter. They are aware that 
in such cases they will have no other resource 
than to " give themselves in bondage " to some 
koulak, or landlord, and fully comprehend how 
disastrous such a step will be. But a peasant 
always counts on his luck. He thinks he can 
scrape up a little money and thus escape usurers 
altogether. And even when compelled to appeal 
to their ruinous assistance, the peasant lulls his 
fears to rest with the hope that some pitying fate 
will at the last moment befriend him. In any 
case, times moves slowly, and ruin is as yet far 


From the taxes there is no escape, and the 
reckoning day comes quickly. The administra- 
tion is very exacting as to arrears, for punctuality 
in collecting taxes constitutes the tax-gatherer's 
best claim for promotion and the approval 
of his superiors. No excuse is admitted. 
Even in times of famine payment of arrears is 
enforced by the stanovois and ispravniks. When 
there is neither corn nor cattle to seize in insolvent 
villages the police sell houses and storehouses, 
ploughs and harrows, by auction. 

But such drastic measures as these can be 
resorted to but once in each village ; the dis- 
possessed peasants are turned into beggars, and 
can thenceforth pay nothing more. Adminis- 
trators who are wise prefer other means, which, 
while of considerable efficacy, have no disastrous 
economical consequences, and may, therefore, 
be repeated every year and to any extent. This 
is flogging. Insolvent peasants are flogged in a 
body, in crowds and alone. To show how exten- 
sively this forcible administrative method is used 
in modern Russia, I may mention that during the 
winter of 1885-6, a tax-inspector of Novgorod 
province reported that in one district alone 1,500 
peasants were condemned to be flogged for non- 


payment of taxes. Of these, 550 had then been 
flogged. The remainder were awaiting their 
turn, and the charitable inspector interceded with 
the Ministry to procure them a respite. 

It is, indeed, open to doubt whether even on 
the old slave-owners' estates there was ever so 
extensive an application of the rod as there now 
is in modern Russia, twenty-five years after the 

It will thus be seen that that old ingredient in 
Russian life, the rod, still plays a very important 
part in the lives of the peasants. It is at the 
bottom of the whole system of spoliation, for the 
tax-collector's rod and nothing else is driving 
the peasantry under the wheels of the despoiler's 
machine, which has for its working or peripheral 
tools the koidaks, wzr-eaters, and usurious land- 

In the foregoing pages I have described 
the central or directing organs of the same 
machine, with its complicated economical network 
of banks, railways, paper money, and the rest. 
I have shown, as the reader may remember, that 
the mainspring of this colossal mechanism, and 
the final instrument in the abstraction of corn 
from the mouths of its producers, is the paper 


money issued by the Government. Put in febrile 
motion by the banks, and concentrated in the 
hands of the corn merchants, this money over- 
flows the country in September, and sweeps away 
with irresistible power the peasants' provision of 

Thus both keys to the machine are held by 
the Government. In both cases its action is 
subservient to that of the capitalists, but in both 
it works in their favour, giving them the necessary 
power over the objects, or, let us say, the victims 
of their manipulations the peasants. While 
lending to the capitalists and the higher-class 
koulaks millions of paper money with one hand, 
the Government with the other hand flogs the 
peasants into submission to the rural agents and 
representatives of these capitalists the koulaks, 
mir-eaters, and usurers of every description. 

The terrible machine must and will do its 
work. With the impoverishment of the masses, 
the drastic measures for extorting taxes will 
rather become intensified than subside. Having 
to sustain itself more or less on a level with its 
powerful Western neighbours, the Empire can 
neither diminish its expenditure nor arrest the 
continual increment of the public debt. On the 


other hand, the more the koulaks and mir- eaters 
succeed in their work of devastation the richer 
they become, and the more are they able to 
extend their operations. They never have any 
difficulty in finding investments for their capital 
in the villages ; they have no need to seek 
candidates for loans. On the contrary, each 
winter as the taxes fall due, all these village 
usurers are besieged with suppliants who, implor- 
ing their help, submit to every humiliation which 
a self-satisfied and brutal upstart can inflict, if 
haply they may obtain from him a loan at cent, 
per cent. 

There is no chance of the havoc being arrested. 
Even at the present day one-third of our 
formerly independent peasants are reduced to 
the state of homeless, down-trodden beggarly 
batraks, and in thirteen provinces the population 
is literally being starved out at the rate of seven- 
teen per thousand a year. If no change is 
brought about, we may affirm that in another 
fifteen years the rate ot this descensus Averni 
will be doubled. 

But, the reader may well ask, is there no 
remedy for these heart-sickening horrors ? For 
unless the Opposition can bring forth some 


practical and acceptable proposals of reform, 
some scheme for ameliorating the deep-rooted 
evils here described, their exposition, though it 
may deepen the shadows and intensify the sorrows 
of this vale of tears, can serve no useful purpose. 
The question, therefore, is whether any of the 
parties forming the Opposition have brought 
forward some acceptable plan capable of im- 
mediate application for the solution of Russian 
agrarian which is equal to saying social 

Yes, there is such a solution a solution which 
has been pointed out not by one, but by every 
section of the Opposition, by all the thinking 
men of the country who have studied the ques- 
tion, and, what is more important still, one which 
is supported unanimously, the koulaks alone dis- 
senting, and which enjoys the good wishes of 
the whole of our agrarian class. Moreover, the 
peasants' natural good sense has suggested the 
very same solution of the problem to which men 
of science have been led by their studies. The 
peasants must have the land. From sham 
owners they must be transformed into real 
proprietors, able to live by their land, pay their 
taxes, and put something aside for the unforeseen 


casualties of agrarian life, and for the gradual 
improvement of the cultivation of the land 
according to the best methods of science and 
the teachings of Western experience. 

Is Russia sufficiently rich in land to afford 
the material possibility for such a reform ? The 
question hardly needs answering. Less than one- 
third (twenty-seven per cent.) of the land capable 
of cultivation is held by the peasantry : the 
remaining two-thirds lie as dead capital in the 
hands of the government or are wasted by the 
landlords, who either do not cultivate it at all 
or convert it into an instrument of most reckless 
extortion. The kabala or " bondage " culture 
we have just described is the only one which 
exists or can exist on an extensive scale on the 
landlords' estates in the Russia of to-day. Now 
though this may be profitable to private 
individuals, it is absolutely ruinous to the 
community at large. It destroys a hundred times 
more wealth on the side of the peasants than it 
creates on that of the landlords. Neither are our 
landlords prospering, as I have shown by statistics 
in an earlier work (" Russian Storm Cloud," p. 57). 
If transferred to the peasants, this land, or even 
only a considerable part of it, would more than 



suffice to set them on a firm footing at once, 
without requiring either any particular outlay 
or any additional technical knowledge. 

Every average peasant family can, provided it 
preserve its implements of labour in good repair 
and the normal number of cattle, cultivate unaided 
fifty-four acres of land, and can earn its own living 
and pay its taxes with ease. The prevailing " three 
fields " system of culture is undoubtedly the clum- 
siest of its kind ; under it only two-thirds of the 
arable land are utilised at a time, the remaining 
third being kept fallow in order to restore its 
fertility. The average return yielded by crops 
over the whole of Russia is moreover only 2*9 to 
one grain sown (excluding the seed). This is 
almost the minimum, below which regular agricul- 
ture would hardly be possible. But the "three 
fields " system of rotation is the cheapest form of 
cultivation, requiring a minimum outlay in imple- 
ments and the smallest quantity of manure ; and in 
the fertile regions of black soil no manure at all. 
It is the only system possible at the outset. But 
our agriculture admits of an almost unlimited im- 
provement. Were the Russian (European) fields 
cultivated as are those of Great Britain, says E. 
Reilus, Russia would prodiice, instead of six hun- 


dred and fifty million hectolitres of corn annually, 
about five milliards, which would be sufficient 
to feed a population of five hundred million souls. 
(" Geographic Universelle," vol. v., p. 859.) Add 
to this the fact that an enormous residue of land 
is laying in store for future generations. In 
European Russia the cultivated land is but 
twenty-one per cent, of the whole area, while it 
is sixty-one per cent, in Great Britain and eighty- 
three per cent, in France. * 

The wealth of Russia in land is enormous, and 
amply sufficient to transform it from a country of 
beggars into a land of plenty. The poverty of its 
husbandmen, compelled to sit on their " cat's 
plot," whilst enormous tracts of land lie waste 
around them, is a monstrous crime against 
nature as well as against humanity. A simple 
reorganization of our absurd agrarian system will 
put an end to this, and enable the peasants to start 
on the work of economical progress and emulation. 

The urgency of this reform, the impossibility of 
going on without it, and the universal desire for it, 
are guarantees that, were Russia free to assert 
her will and manage her own affairs, it would 
speedily be realized. But it is evident that only 
a free Russia can and will undertake so radical a 


reform. The decrepit autocracy has neither the 
moral strength to risk it nor the material means 
necessary for its accomplishment. All the Govern- 
ment has done by way of satisfying the despairing 
cry for more land and of silencing the clamour 
made about it by the democratic part of the press, 
was the foundation, in May 1882, of the so-called 
" peasants' land bank," for facilitating the 
acquisition by peasants of saleable land. The 
means placed at the disposal of this bank were, 
however, so small (only five million roubles a year, 
while the Government pays to the railway share- 
holders alone an annual tribute of forty-six 
millions) that the bank is unable to supply even 
the yearly increase of population with land ; and 
its statutory arrangements are such that it can 
advance money only to those who already possess 
something the koulaks and groups of well-to-do 
peasants, and not the destitute thus increasing 
the segregation and concentration of land into a 
few hands instead of distributing it more widely. 
Nothing better, indeed, could be expected from 
our Government. 

But let us suppose, for argument's sake, the 
Autocrat of Russia, head of the privileged of every 
class let us suppose him transformed into a Czar- 


Democrat such as some foolish narodniks have 
imagined. I affirm that the most radical agrarian 
reform initiated by him without the abolition of 
the present political organization would be quite 
inadequate to permanently improve the condition 
of our peasantry. 

The mischief already wrought by the present 
system is too deeply seated to be remedied by 
mere grants of land. Many of the peasants, no 
ewer than twenty millions, are unable to cultivate 
.he little land they already possess for lack of 
:attle and implements that is, in two words 
ndustrial capital. After the grant of new land 
.hey can neither start afresh nor rise to material 
sase without enjoying for a certain time the 
Benefit of cheap credit. Without this aid they 
would have to apply once more to the koulaks, 
who would demand their two hundred and three 
lundred per cent., and thus repeat the same 
process of enslavement and spoliation, only on 
a larger scale than before. 

The reliance placed by our peasants on their 
collective strength, educated as they are in the 
traditions of their mir, together with the re- 
narkable honesty, fairness, and sense of duty 
displayed by these mirs in their dealings when 


they are really independent greatly facilitate 
such operations as those in question. The 
union of the peasants of one village offers a far 
greater security than any individual landlord can 
give, always provided, of course, that the mir has 
real and full control over its affairs. A mir is, 
moreover, a natural and permanent assurance 
company for all its members in case of unforeseen 
misfortune, acting thus as preserver of the other- 
wise unstable economical equilibrium. 

Under the present regime the mir plays this 
part only in exceptional cases, where the commune 
is not totally destitute. It is generally composed 
of a mass of beggars, who cannot afford the 
assistance they would otherwise give, and of a few 
koulaks and wzV-eaters, who sell their help at the 
price I have named. Still less can the modern 
bureaucratic mir be trusted with any money, be 
the amount great or small. 

The modern mir is completely subject to the 
local police and the administration, which allow 
it the free exercise of its powers of self-govern- 
ment only when there is no inducement for officials 
to interfere. Whenever any profit is to be made 
the stanovoi and ispravniks are always at hand, 
using every means in their power, from threats 


and ear-boxing to flogging, to enforce their will. 
The abuse of authority on the part of inferior 
police agents and administrators, and their cruel 
treatment of the helpless peasantry, form one of 
the most sickening and bloody chapters in the 
annals of Russian autocracy. 

The common and unfailing expedient used by 
these officers for getting their fingers into the 
pie is to get one of their minions nominated to 
the post of " head-man " (volost) and manager 
of the communal finances, of some koiilak or 
wz>-eater who will repay their support by giving 
them a share in the booty. 

The embezzlement of peasants' money by ad- 
ministrators of this stamp goes on as impudently 
here as in the Czar's Government generally. 
It is certainly practised on a more extensive 
scale in these cases than in the higher walks 
of political life, which are necessarily under better 
control. The illiterate peasants are quite defence- 
less, and should some educated man try to inter- 
fere on their behalf he is sure to get into serious 
trouble, for sympathy with the peasants is always 
considered in high circles as identical with sub- 
versive ideas. Robbery goes on unchecked, 
hardly concealed by even the forms of decency. 


It not infrequently happens that the money paid 
for taxes is embezzled, the peasant in this case 
being compelled to pay a second time. The sums 
sent by the zemstvos for the relief of the hungry 
are embezzled ; the funds advanced for the 
purchase of seed corn are seized ; the very corn 
which is stored in communal granaries as a 
provision for times of scarcity is stolen. Each 
year brings heaps of such cases to light. All that 
can be plundered is plundered. 

On what ground, then, can we hope that 
" cheap credit " institutions would escape ? We 
know by experience how these so-called " peasants' 
loans and savings banks " are managed, which 
for a time were the hobby of the zemstvos and 
of the liberal officials. They received a consider- 
able development, their capital amounting in 1883 
to thirteen million roubles on paper, at least. 
To show what these banks were I need only quote 
from the Novoe Vremya, the organ of the high- 
class koulaks, which admitted that "in an 
enormous majority of instances the banks 
benefited the bulk of the peasants nothing what- 
ever, having become instruments of usury in the 
hands of rural koulaks and swindlers." The 
managers, communal clerks, koulaks, parish 


beadles, and other rural notabilities " borrowed 
money from the banks to re-lend at usurious 
interest to needy peasants." (No. 2532.) 

Several revisions, undertaken on some occasions 
by the Governors-General in entire provinces, as for 
instance in those of the eight districts of Tchernigoff 
Province and the whole Penza province (1882), 
have shown that the money was principally " bor- 
rowed " by a few persons when the banks first 
started, some ten or twelve years ago, and has not 
yet been refunded. To use plain English, it was 
simply stolen. For formality's sake, a new book 
was bought every January, and the old debtors' 
names re-entered from year to year, as if the 
amounts standing to their debit had been only just 
advanced. Exactly the same trick was used by 
Rykoff, Youkhanzeff, and other high-class robbers 
who stole millions, a fact which only goes to 
prove yet once again that les beaux esprits se 

Enough of this. From these cursory remarks 
the reader can well realize that the second of the 
great measures indispensable for extricating the 
peasants from the grasp of usury cheap credit 
would be a rather risky proceeding under the 
present political regime. 


The third indispensable requirement for ren- 
dering the acquisition, by the people, of the 
material means of work, of any avail is the spread 
of both elementary and professional education 
among the rural classes. A large and wide 
diffusion of knowledge among them would in- 
crease tenfold the productiveness of labour, and 
open out an unlimited field for further progress 
in its social and economical life. But here, once 
more, we stumble against the autocracy, which 
cannot tolerate the idea of an educated peasantry, 
and which does not recoil from the most bare- 
faced obstructions and shameful subterfuges for 
hindering the diffusion of primary education, 
impeding the foundation of new schools, and 
blocking the wheels of the old ones. 

To conclude. There is a means for extricating 
our people from the deadlock to which Russia has 
been brought ; but it implies as a conditio sine qua 
non the abolition of the bureaucratic despotism 
and the transformation of the autocratic Empire 
into a free constitutional State of the European 
type. Of all the series of measures which only 
in their totality would suffice to reduce to order 
the present economical, social, and political chaos, 
not one can be adopted by the existing regime. 


Each implies or necessitates the breaking up of 
the present system. And every step that makes 
for the redemption of the masses involves danger 
to the supremacy of the Czar and his satellites. 

Our Government, caring above all things for 
its own interests and privileges, and putting all 
else in the background, acts according to the 
dictates of the grossest selfishness. It did not 
object to reforms in favour of the peasants so long 
as the reforms could be effected at the expense of 
the serf-owning nobility. This was very wise and 
perspicacious, and for a time won the Emperor 
Alexander II. great popularity, even among 
extreme Radicals and Socialists. But from the 
moment when this was found insufficient, and a 
demand was made for the cessation of absolute 
power, the Government made up its mind and 
took the opposite course. 

The whole home policy of the two last reigns 
since the Emancipation, is nothing but a constant 
fostering of the interests of the privileged classes at 
the expense of the masses. Hundreds of millions 
milliards of money exacted from the peasants 
are spent in " supporting the nobility " or the 
"landlords," or in subsidizing great manufac- 
turers. For the sake of augmenting the profits 


of the favoured trades, prohibitive tariffs are 
levied, wars of conquest are undertaken, and 
conquered provinces cut off by cordons of custom- 
houses of the interior. And when, in 1871, the 
more enlightened and liberal part of the privileged 
classes the zemstvos of all the thirty-four 
provinces where the zemstvos existed unani- 
mously condemned the injustice of the present 
fiscal system and petitioned for the introduction 
of a progressive income-tax, equitable for all, the 
Czar Alexander II. pronounced the measure to be 
too democratic and subversive too likely to injure 
and alienate the koulaks, the usurers, the sharpers 
and the swindlers of every sort. In its selfish 
fear autocracy appeals to the worst instincts and 
the basest elements of human nature, for selfish- 
ness and greed is its best support. 

Connivance is secured by dividing the booty, 
and attempts to improve the condition of the 
masses are regarded as acts of overt sedition. 
They are opposed by the combined forces of the 
censorship of the Press and the police. The 
people's friends are not even allowed to denounce 
the horrors which are passing under their eyes. 
The democratic monthlies, such as the Annales, 
the Slovo, and the Dtelo, are suppressed under 


the pretext that they are organs of " revolution " 
a nonsensical accusation against periodicals that 
had been published for fifteen or eighteen years 
in the Czar's capital. Their real offence was 
that they made the investigation of the condition 
of our peasantry the chief object of their efforts, 
and continually held the light of truth and science 
over this abyss of popular suffering. 

Whenever some fact or some rumour brings 
the agrarian question forcibly before the public, 
the press invariably receives secret orders, like 
those of June i2th, 1881, and June 26th, 1882, 
forbidding, " in order not to excite public opinion," 
the publication of anything referring to the sen- 
sational affair of Count Bobrinsky and Prince 
Scherbatoff, showing such an amount of cruelty, 
cheating, and malversation on the part of these 
gentlemen towards the peasantry as to be ex- 
ceptional and revolting even for Russia. Or the 
orders are more sweeping, as on March i7th, 
1882: "It is absolutely forbidden to publish 
anything referring to the rumours going on 
among peasants as to the redistribution of land, 
as well as articles alleging the necessity or the 
justice of making any alteration in the agrarian 
condition of the peasants." Or on September 


1 8th, 1885: "Forbidding absolutely the com- 
memoration in any form of the coming (February 
1 9th, 1886) twenty-fifth anniversary of the eman- 
cipation of the peasants," lest some allusion to 
their present evil plight might perchance escape 
the speakers. 

This is our position. It is not the Imperial 
Government that materially or purposely ruins 
the peasants, which is equivalent to saying the 
nation ; but the Government, out of regard for 
its mere selfish interests, purposely and deli- 
berately supports and assists those who are 
ruining it, whilst, for the same reason, suppressing 
every influence and force likely to produce a dif- 
ferent result. The Government of the two Alex- 
anders is, therefore, fully and entirely responsible 
for the present sufferings of the Russian masses. 
This is the chief, the most terrible and over- 
whelming count in the indictment against our 

Great are the wrongs, bitter the abuses and 
sufferings inflicted by this despotism on the whole 
of educated Rusia arbitrary arrests, detentions, 
exiles without any trial whatever, the trampling 
down of all sacred human rights, suppression of 
freedom of speech and of the press, violation of 


the hearth and prevention of the right to work, 
whereby the lives of thousands of intelligent, 
well-intentioned, and innocent men and women 
are either wasted or made miserable. But what 
are their sufferings compared with those of the 
dumb millions of our peasantry ? What an ocean 
of sorrow, tears, despair, and degradation is re- 
flected in these dry figures, which prove that 
households have by hundreds of thousands been 
forced to sell by auction all their poor posses- 
sions ; that millions of peasants who were at one 
time independent have been turned into batraks, 
driven from their homes, have had their families 
destroyed, their children sold into bondage, and 
their daughters given to prostitution ; and untold 
numbers of full-grown, nay even gray-haired, 
respectable labourers, have been shamefully 
flogged to extort taxes. Then think on these 
frightful figures of mortality sixty-two a year 
per thousand in thirteen provinces. This means 
nothing less than half a million a year virtually 
dying of hunger, starved to death in a twelve- 
month, with the probability that before long 
the proportion will be doubled. 

Verily, it is here, and not so much in the 
cruelties inflicted on political offenders, that we 


must look for the cause of the fierce, implacable 
hatred of the revolutionists against their Govern- 

Herein lies the peremptory cause, the perma- 
nent stimulant and the highest justification of the 
Russian revolution and of Russian conspiracies. 
Life is not worth living when your eyes con- 
stantly behold such miseries as these inflicted on 
a people whom you love. It would be a shame to 
bear the name of a Russian had these unutterable 
sufferings of the masses called forth no respon- 
sive and boundless devotion to the people's cause ; 
a devotion which glows in the hearts of all those 
thousands of Russia's sons and daughters who 
risk life, freedom, domestic happiness, all which 
is most dear to our common nature, in the effort to 
free their country from a Government which is 
the mainspring of all these woes. 

But, we are sometimes told, the Nihilists have 
no right to set themselves up as champions of 
the peasants against the autocracy, for the rural 
masses are loyal and devoted to the Czar. 

If to label aspirations which, in their very 
essence, are hostile to the Czardom with the 
name of the Czar can in truth be called loyalty, 
why then a vast majority of our peasants are most 


assuredly very loyal indeed. In this case, how- 
ever, it is strange that the Imperial Government 
and the Czar himself place so little trust in this 
loyalty as to tremble at the thought of putting it 
to the test. The prospect of perpetual Nihilist 
attempts, which make the present life of the 
Gatschina prisoner a burden and the future a 
terror, seem to the Government preferable to 
the chances of a popular vote. For have not 
the Nihilists repeatedly declared that they would 
desist from hostilities towards their paternal 
government from the first moment that it obtained 
the sanction of the freely expressed voice of the 
people ? 

The fact is that the peasants are as dissatisfied 
with the working of the present institutions as the 
Nihilists themselves certainly more dissatisfied 
than are the educated and privileged classes as 
a whole. And the reader will certainly admit that 
for this discontent they have ample cause. The 
only difference between the middle-class opposition 
and the peasantry is, that the peasantry think the 
autocracy has no share whatever in bringing on 
them the calamities from which they suffer, and 
that the Czar is as much dissatisfied as the 
peasants themselves with the present order of 



things, which they attribute to the wickedness 
and cunning of the " nobility." It is doubtful 
whether the peasants will stick for ever, or for 
long, to this nonsensical idea. But I frankly 
confess that, even as matters now stand, I take a 
totally different view as to this would-be sanction. 
I think that if there be anything which deprives 
our Government of all claim to respect ; if there 
be anything which can lower it in the eyes of 
mankind, and which will remain as a stain on its 
escutcheon for evermore, it is just the foul perfidy 
involved in the abuse of this touching, child-like 
confidence reposed in it by the simple-hearted 
millions of our Russian peasantry. 



WHEN, about a score of years before the Emanci- 
pation, the Russian democrats for the first time 
came into close contact with the peasants, with 
the view of becoming better acquainted with 
their down-trodden brothers, they were amazed 
at their discoveries. The moujiks proved to be 
an entirely different race from what pitying 
people amongst their " elder brothers " expected 
them to be. 

Far from being degraded and brutalised by 
slavery, the peasants, united in their semi-patri- 
archal, semi-republican village communes, ex- 
hibited a great share of self-respect, and even 
capacity to stand boldly by their rights, where 
the whole of the commune was concerned. 
Diffident in their dealings with strangers, they 
showed a remarkable truthfulness and frankness 
in their dealings among themselves, and a sense 
of duty and loyalty and unselfish devotion to 
their little communes, which contrasted strikingly 


with the shameful corruption and depravity of 
the official classes. 

They had not the slightest notion of the pro- 
gress made by the sciences, and believed that 
the earth rested on three whales, swimming on 
the Ocean ; but in their traditional morality they 
sometimes showed such deep humanity and 
wisdom as to strike their educated observers 
with wonder and admiration. 

These pioneer democrats, men of great talent 
and enormous erudition, such as Yakushkin, Dal, 
and Kireevsky, in propagating among the bulk 
of the reading public the results of their long 
years of study, laid the base of that democratic 
feeling which has never since died out in Russia. 

From that time forth the momentous rush of 
the educated people " amongst the peasants," and 
the study of the various sides of peasant life, 
has been constantly on the increase. No country 
possesses such a literature on the subject as 
Russia ; but the tone of the writers of these 
latter times men of the same stamp as 
Yakushkin and Kireevsky is no longer that of 
unmixed admiration. Whether you embark on 
the sea of statistical and ethnographical lore 
collected for posterity by the untiring zeal of the 


late Orloff and his followers, or whether you are 
lost in admiration of the artistic sketches of 
peasant life drawn by Uspensky, or whether 
you are perusing the works of no less trustworthy 
though less gifted essayists of the same school, 
such as Zlatovratsky and Zassodimsky, you will 
invariably be brought to recognise a great 
breaking up of the traditional groundwork of 
the social and moral life of our peasantry. 

Something harsh, cruel, cynically egotistical, is 
worming itself into the hearts of the Russian 
agricultural population, where formerly all was 
simplicity, peace, and goodwill unto men. Thus 
the grey-bearded grandfathers are not alone in 
modern Russia in lamenting the good old times. 
Some of our young and popular writers are, 
strangely enough, striking the same wailing 
chords. It is evident that in the terrible straits 
through which our people are passing, not only 
their material condition but their very souls have 
suffered grave injuries. 

Yet it is not all lamentation about the past 
in the tidings which reach us from our villages. 
The good produced by the progress of culture is, 
in spite of its drawbacks, according to our modest 
opinion, full compensation for the impairing 


of the almost unconscious virtues of the old 
patriarchal period. 

Freed from the yoke of serfdom, and put 
before the tribunals on an equal tooting with 
other citizens, their former masters included, the 
peasants, too, are beginning to feel themselves 
to be citizens. A new generation, which has 
not known slavery, has had time to grow up. 
Their aspiration after independence has not as 
yet directed itself against political despotism, save 
in isolated cases; but in the meantime it has 
almost triumphed in the struggle against the 
more intimate and trying domestic despotism of 
the bolshak, the head of the household. A very 
important and thoroughgoing change has taken 
place in the family relations of the great Russian 
rural population. The children, as soon as they 
are grown up and have married, will no longer 
submit to the bolshaKs whimsical rule. They 
rebel, and if imposed upon, separate and found 
new households, where they become masters of 
their own actions. These separations have grown 
so frequent that the number of independent house- 
holds in the period from 1858-1881 increased 
from thirty-two per cent, to seventy-one per cent, 
of the whole provincial population. 


It is worthy of remark that the rebellion among 
the educated classes also first began in the circle 
of domestic life, before stepping into the larger 
arena of political action. 

Elementary education, however hampered and 
obstructed by the Government, is spreading 
among the rural classes. In 1868, of a hundred 
recruits of peasant origin there were only eight 
who could read and write. In 1882 the propor- 
tion of literate people among the same number 
was twenty. This is little compared with what 
might have been done, but it is a great success if 
we remember the hindrances the peasant has had 
to overcome. 

Reading, which a score of years ago was con- 
fined exclusively to the upper classes, is now 
spreading among the moujiks. Popular literature 
of all kinds has received an unprecedented 
development in the last ten or fifteen years. 
Popular books run through dozens of editions, 
and are selling by scores of thousands of copies. 

Religion is the language in which the human 
spirit lisps its first conceptions of right and gives 
vent to its first aspirations. The awakening of 
the popular intelligence and moral consciousness 
has found its expression in dozens of new religi- 


ous sects, a remarkable and suggestive phenome- 
non of modern popular life in Russia. Differing 
entirely from the old ritualistic sectarianism, which 
was more of a rebellion against ecclesiastical 
arrangements than against orthodoxy, these new 
sects of rationalistic and Protestant type have 
acquired in about ten or twelve years hundreds 
of thousands, nay millions, of proselytes. 

This movement of thought, both by its exalt- 
ation and the general tendency of its doctrines, 
can be compared with the great Protestant 
movement of the sixteenth century. The only 
difference consists in its being confined in Russia 
exclusively to the rural and working classes, with- 
out being in the least shared by the educated 
people. The sources of religious enthusiasm are 
dried up, we think for ever, in the Russian in- 
tellectual classes, their enthusiasm and exaltation 
having found quite another vent. For nobody 
can seriously consider the few drawing-room 
attempts to found some new creed, of which we 
have now and then heard of late. But it is 
beyond doubt that the genuine and earnest deve- 
lopment of religious thoughts and feelings, which 
we are witnessing among our masses, will play 
an important part in our people's near future. 


In whatever direction we look, everything 
proves that under the apparent calm there is a 
great movement in the minds of our rural popula- 
tion. The great social and political crisis, through 
which Russia is passing, is not confined to the 
upper classes alone. The process of demolition, 
slower but vaster, is going on among the masses 
too. There all is tottering to its fall orthodoxy, 
custom, traditional forms of life. The European 
public only takes notice of the upper stratum of 
the crisis, of that which is going on among the 
educated, because of its dramatic manifestations ; 
but the crisis among our agricultural classes, 
wrought by the combined efforts of civilisation on 
the one hand and of economical ruin on the other, 
is no less real, and certainly no less interesting and 
worthy of study than the former. 

In what does this crisis consist ? How far and 
in what direction have the changes in the social 
and ethical ideals, the traditional morality and the 
character of the moujik, the tiller and guardian of 
our native land, gone ? It would seem presump- 
tion to answer, or even to attempt to answer, in 
the space of a few pages such questions in refer- 
ence to an enormous rural population like the 
Russian. I hasten, therefore, to mention one 


thing which renders such an attempt partial at 
least justifiable. 

A Russian moujik presents of course as many 
varieties as there are tribes and regions in the 
vast empire. There is a wide difference between 
the peculiarly sociable, open-hearted Great 
Russian peasant, brisk in mind and speech, quick 
to love and quick to forget, and the dreamy and 
reserved Ruthenian ; or between the practical, 
extremely versatile and independent Siberian, 
who never knew slavery, and the timid Beloruss 
(White Russian), who has borne three yokes. 
But through all the varieties of types, tribes, 
and past history, the millions of our rural 
population present a remarkable uniformity in 
those higher general, ethical, and social concep- 
tions which the educated draw from divers social 
and political sciences, and the uneducated from 
their traditions, which are the depositories of 
the collective wisdom of past generations. 

This seemingly strange uniformity in our 
peasants' moral physiognomy is to be accounted 
for by two causes : the perfect identity of our 
people's daily occupation, which is almost 
exclusively pure husbandry, and the great simili- 
tude of those peculiar self-governing associations, 


village communes, in which the whole of our rural 
population, without distinction of tribe or place, 
have lived from time immemorial. 

No occupation is fitter to develop a morally as 
well as physically healthy race than husbandry. 
We mean genuine husbandry, where the tiller of 
the soil is at the same time its owner. We need 
not dwell on the proofs. Poets, historians, and 
philosophers alike have done their best to bring 
home to us, corrupted children of the towns, the 
charms of the simple virtues which hold sway 
amidst the populations of staunch ploughmen. 

In Russia, until the " economic progress " of 
the last twenty-five years turned twenty millions 
of our peasants into landless proletarians, they 
were all landowners. Even the scourge of serf- 
dom could not depose them from that dignity. 
The serfs, who gratuitously tilled the manorial 
land, had each of them pieces of freehold land 
which they cultivated on their own account. 
Nominally it was the property of the landlords. 
But so strong was tradition and custom that the 
landlords themselves had almost forgotten that 
they had a right to it. So much was this the 
case that Professor Engelhardt (" Letters from 
a Village"), tells us that many of the former 


seigneurs only learned from the Act of Emancipa- 
tion of 1 86 1 that the land on which the peasants 
dwelt also belonged to them. 

Gleb Uspensky, in discussing the causes of 
the wonderful preservation of the. purity of the 
moral character of the Russian people through 
such a terrible ordeal as three centuries of 
slavery, which passed over without ingrafting 
into it any of the vice of slavery, can find no 
other explanation than this : the peasant was 
never separated from the ploughshare, from 
the all-absorbing cares and the poetry of 
agricultural work. 

Our peasants could, however, do something 
more than preserve their individuality. They 
could give a more lasting proof and testimony as 
to their collective dispositions and aspirations. A 
Russian village has never been a mere aggrega- 
tion of individuals, but a very intimate association, 
having much work and life in common. These 
associations are called mirs among the Great 
and White Russians, hromadas among the 

Up to the present time the law has allowed 
them a considerable amount of self-government. 
They are free to manage all their economical con- 


cerns in common : the land, if they hold it as 
common property which is the case everywhere 
save in the Ruthenian provinces the forests, the 
fisheries, the renting of public-houses standing on 
their territory, etc. They distribute among them- 
selves as they choose, the taxes falling to the 
share of the commune according to the Govern- 
ment schedules. They elect the rural executive 
administration Starost and Starshinas who are 
(nominally at least) under their permanent control. 

Another very important privilege which they 
possess is that they, the village communes com- 
posing the Volost, in general meeting assembled, 
elect the ten judges of the Volost. All these 
must be peasants, members of some village 
commune. The jurisdiction of the peasants' tri- 
bunal is very extensive ; all the civil, and a good 
many criminal offences (save the capital ones), in 
which one of the parties, at least, is a peasant of 
the district, are amenable to it The peasants 
sitting as judges are not bound to abide in their 
verdicts by the official code of law. They 
administer justice according to the customary 
laws and traditions of the local peasantry. 

The records of these tribunals, published by an 
official commission, at once afford us an insight 


into the peasants' original notions as to juridical 
questions. We pass over the verdicts illustrating 
the popular idea as to land tenure, which has been 
expounded above. We will rather try to elicit the 
other side of the question : the peasants' views 
on movable property, the right of bequest, of in- 
heritance, and their civil code in general, which 
presents some curious and unexpected peculiarities. 
The fact which strikes us most in it is, that 
among the peasants where the patriarchal principle 
is as yet so strong and the ties of blood are held 
so sacred, kinship gives no right to property. 
The only rightful claim to it is given by work. 
Whenever the two interests clash, it is to the 
right of labour that the popular conscience gives 
the preference. The father cannot disinherit one 
son or diminish his share for the benefit of his 
favourite. Notwithstanding the religious respect 
in which the last will of a dying man is held, 
both the mir and the tribunal will annul it at the 
complaint of the wronged man, if the latter is 
known to be a good and diligent worker. The 
fathers themselves know this well. Whenever 
they attempt to prejudice one of their children in 
their wills they always adduce as motive that he 
has been a sluggard or a spendthrift and has 


already dissipated his share. The favourite, on 
the other hand, is mentioned as " having worked 
hard for the family." 

Kinship has no influence whatever in the 
distribution and proportioning of shares at any 
division of property. It is determined by the 
quantity of work each has given to the family. 
The brother who has lived and worked with the 
family for the longer time will receive most, no 
matter whether he be the elder or the younger. 
He will be excluded from the inheritance alto- 
gether if he has been living somewhere else and 
has not contributed in some way to the common 
expenses. The same principle is observed in 
settling the differences between the other grades 
of kinsfolk. The cases of sons-in-law, step-sons, 
and adopted children are very characteristic. If 
they have remained a sufficient time ten or 
more years with the family, they receive, though 
strangers, all the rights of legitimate children, 
whilst the legitimate son is excluded if he have 
not taken part in the common work. 

This is in flagrant contradiction to the civil 
code of Russia, as well as of other European 
countries. The same contradiction is observable 
in the question of women's rights. The Russian 



law entitles women legitimate wives and daugh- 
ters to one-fourteenth only of the family inherit- 
ance. The peasants' customary law requires no 
such limitation. The women are in all respects 
dealt with on an equal footing with the men. 
They share in the property in proportion to their 
share in the work. Sisters, as a rule, do not 
inherit from brothers, because in marrying they 
go to another family, and take with them as 
dowry the reward of their domestic work. But 
a spinster sister, or a widow who returns to live 
with her brothers, will always receive or obtain 
from the tribunal her share. 

The right to inheritance being founded on 
work alone, no distinction is made by the 
peasants' customary law between legitimate wives 
and concubines. 

It is interesting to note that the husband, too, 
inherits the wife's property (if she has brought 
him any) only when they have lived together 
sufficiently long above ten years ; otherwise the 
deceased wife's property is returned to her parents. 

The principle ruling the order of inheritance 
is evidently the basis for the verdicts in all sorts 
of litigation. Labour is always recognized as 
giving an indefeasible right to property. Accord- 


ing to common jurisprudence, if one man has 
sown a field belonging to another especially if 
he has done it knowingly the court of justice 
will unhesitatingly deny the offender any right to 
the eventual product. Our peasants are as strict 
in their observance of boundaries, when once 
traced, as are any other agricultural folk. But 
labour has its imprescriptible rights. The 
customary law prescribes a remuneration for the 
work executed in botk of the above mentioned 
cases in the case of unintentional as well as in 
the case of premeditated violation of property. 
Only, in the first instance, the offender, who 
retains all the product, is simply compelled to pay 
to the owner the rent of the piece of land he 
has sown, according to current prices, with some 
trifling additional present ; whilst in the case of 
violation knowingly done, the product is left to 
the owner of the land, who is bound, nevertheless, 
to return to the offender the seed, and to pay him 
a labourer's wages for the work he has done. 

If a peasant has cut wood in a forest belonging 
to another peasant, the tribunal settles the matter 
in a similar way. In all these cases the common 
law would have been wholly against the offender, 
the abstract right of property reigning supreme. 


In the vast practice of the many thousands of 
peasants' tribunals, there are certainly instances 
of verdicts being given on other principles than 
these, or contrary to any principle whatever. 
Remembering the very numerous influences to 
which a modern village is subjected in these 
critical times, it would have been surprising were 
it otherwise. Moreover, the peasants' tribunal 
has by its side the pissar, the communal clerk, 
a stranger to the village and its customs. This 
important person is the champion and propagator 
of official views and of the official code. His in- 
fluence on the decisions of the peasants' courts is 
considerable, as is well known. The rarity of the ex- 
ceptions, however, makes the rule the more salient. 

The peasants have applied their collective 
intelligence not to material questions alone, nor 
within the domain apportioned to them by law, 
The mir recognises no restraint on its autonomy. 
In the opinion of the peasants themselves, the 
mirs authority embraces, indeed, all domains and 
branches of peasant life. Unless the police and 
the local officers are at hand to prevent what 
is considered an abuse of power, the peasants' 
mir is always likely to exceed its authority. 


Here is a curious illustration. In the autumn 
of 1 884, according to the Russian Courier of the 
1 2th November, 1884, a peasants' mir in the 
district of Radomysl had to pronounce upon the 
following delicate petition : One of their fellow- 
villagers, Theodor P., whose wife had run away 
from him several years before, and s who was 
living as housemaid in some private house, 
wanted to marry another woman from a neigh- 
bouring village. He accordingly asked the mir 
to accept his bride as a female member of their 
commune. Having heard and discussed this 
original demand, the mir unanimously passed 
the following resolution : " Taking into consider- 
ation that the peasant Theodor P., living for 
several years without his legitimate wife by the 
fault of the latter, is now in great need of a 
woman (!), his marriage with the former wife 
is dissolved. In accordance with which, after 
being thrice questioned by the elder (mayor) 
of our village as to whether we will permit 
Theodor P. to receive into his house as wife the 

peasant woman N , we give our full consent 

thereto. And if, moreover, Theodor P. shall 
have children by his second wife, we will recognise 
them as legitimate and as heirs to their father's 


property, the freehold and the communal land 

This resolution, duly put on paper and 
signed by all the householders and by the elder 
of the village, was delivered as certificate of 
marriage to the happy couple, no one sus- 
pecting that the mir had overstepped its 

In the olden times, as late as the sixteenth 
century, it was the mir who elected the parson 
(as the dissenting villages are doing nowadays), 
the bishops only imposing hands on the mirs 
nominees. The orthodox peasants have quite 
forgotten this historical right of theirs ; but the 
natural right of the mir allows it to deal even 
with subjects referring to religion. 

The conversion to dissenting creeds of whole 
villages in a lump, is of very common occurrence 
in the history of modern sects. A dissenting 
preacher comes to a village and makes a few 
converts. For a time they zealously preach, 
their doctrines to their fellow-villagers. Then, 
when they consider the harvest ripe, they 
bring the matter before the mir, and often that 
assembly, after discussing the question, passes a 
resolution in favour of the acceptance of the 


new creed. The whole village turns "shaloput"' 
or " evangelical," changing creeds as small states 
did in the times of the Reformation. 

To a Russian peasant it seems the most natural 
thing in the world that the mir should do this 
whenever it chooses. In my wanderings among 
the peasants, I remember having met near 
Riazan with a peasant who amused me much by 
telling how they succeeded in putting a check on 
the cupidity and extortion of the pop of their 
village. " When we could no longer bear it we 
assembled and said to him, ' Take care, batka 
(father) ; if you won't be reasonable, we, all the 
mir, will give up orthodoxy altogether, and will 
elect a pop from among ourselves.' ' And the 
pop then became " tender as silk," for he knew 
his flock would not hesitate to put their threat 
into effect. 

The mir forms indeed a microcosm, a small 
world of its own. The people living in it have 
to exercise their judgment on everything, on 
the moral side of man's life as on the material, 
shaping it so as to afford to their small com- 
munities as much peace and happiness as is 
possible under their very arduous circumstances. 


Have these uneducated people been able to 
achieve anything in the high domain of public 
morality ? 

Yes, they have, though what they have done 
cannot be registered in volumes like the verdicts 
of their tribunals. They have maintained througn 
centuries, and improved, the old Russian principle 
of governing without oppression. To settle all 
public questions by unanimous vote, never by 
mere majority, is a wise rule, for a body of 
people living on such close terms. This system, 
however, could only be rendered practicable, 
amongst people of all sorts of tempers and diverse 
moral qualities, by a high development of the 
sentiments of justice, equanimity, and concili- 

Our peasants lay no claim to being a race of 
Arcadian pastors. Their present and their past 
alike has been and still is too hard to make it 
possible for them ever to forget that charity 
begins at home. In the bitter struggle for a 
bare existence which they have had to sustain, 
each has had to consider his own skin first. In 
their every day life and intercourse they are as 
egotistical as any other set of people, each man 
trying to make the best of his opportunities. 


" Each for himself," say they " but God and 
the mir for all." The mir is no egotist ; it 
pities everybody alike, and should it have to 
settle any difference it does not look to the 
numerical strength or respective influence of the 
contending parties, but to the absolute justice 
of the cause. 

But is not the mir composed of the selfsame 
individuals who outside of its charmed circle are 
pursuing each his personal ends and interests ? 
If they are able to forget themselves when at the 
mir, and can elevate their minds and hearts to 
the exercise of perfect justice and impartiality, 
they must also be equal to doing the same out- 
side of the mir, in those solemn moments when 
daily cares and anxieties are cast on one side 
and their higher nature has free play. The mir s 
morality gives its tone to, and shapes according 
to its image, the morality of the individual 

Hence that wide tolerance which characterises 
our peasants ; that somewhat gregarious benevo- 
lence embracing all men, almost to the prejudice 
of intensity of personal attachment, but which 
excludes nobody from its pale. The Russian 
moujik is proverbially benevolent towards strangers 


of his own race. He is accustomed to feel 
something like family attachment to most, or to 
very many, of the members of his mir. It is 
easy for him to admit a new member into so 
large a family. When difference of religion and 
of language do not allow of the full benefit of 
adoption he will still recognise in the stranger 
a man like himself. 

There is no people on the face of the earth 
who treat aliens so kindly as do the Russian 
moujiks. They live peacefully side by side with 
hundreds of tribes, differing in race and religion 
Tartars, Circassians, Bouriats, and German 
colonists. (The outburst against the Jews sprang 
from economical causes, and not from racial 
antipathy.) During the last Turkish war, whilst 
the burghers and the shop-boys of the towns 
were casting stones and mud at the poor Turkish 
prisoners of war, as they passed along the streets, 
until the police had to intervene, the moujiks 
offered them bread and coppers, and in some 
cases even took them home to their villages as 
paid labourers. They were greatly perplexed, it 
is true, as to whether they could invite them to 
share their meals, being " infidels," but they 
generally ended by conquering their prejudices ; 


and they, the representatives of two belligerent 
nations, might be seen amicably eating at the 
same table (Zlatovratsey). 

The mir in the management of its affairs recog- 
nises no permanent laws restricting or guiding its 
decisions. It is the personification of the living 
law, speaking through the collective voice of the 
commune. Every case brought before the mir 
is judged on its own merits, according to the 
endless variety of its peculiar circumstances. In 
foreign lands, too, the laws tacitly acknowledge 
the necessity for making a considerable allowance 
for the voice of pure conscience in the more 
delicate questions of society as to the culpability 
or innocence of its members. But by the side 
of the jury sits the judge, the representative of 
the written law, one of whose duties it is to 
control and keep them within their strictly defined 
limits i.e,, to the mere verdict as to the facts of 
the case. With a Russian mir the law is nowhere, 
the "conscience" everywhere. Not merely the 
fact of the criminal offence, but every disputed 
point is settled according to the individual justice 
of the case, no regard being paid to the category 
of crime to which it may chance to belong. 


These villagers have to deal with living men 
whom they know and love, and it is deeply 
repugnant to them to overshoot the mark by so 
much as a hair's breadth for the sake of a dead 
abstraction the law. 

This bent of mind is not confined to the 
peasantry, it is national. 

I have frequently observed, and I believe that 
all who have given any attention to the subject 
will agree with me, that the abstract idea of 
" law," as a something which is to be obeyed to 
the letter under all circumstances, even when the 
peculiar circumstances of a case make it unjust, 
is grasped with the greatest difficulty, even by 
the most cultured Russians. 

There are few among our countrymen who will 
not give the preference to the dictates of con- 
science tempered by a fair and impartial mind. 
They are in this respect a perfect contrast to 
the people of English origin. In our great poet 
Pushkin this feeling was so strong as to make 
him an upholder of the principle of absolute 
monarchy. " Why," he said, " is it necessary that 
one of us should be put above all the rest, and even 
above the laws? Because the law is a wooden 
thing. In the law the man feels something hard, 


unbrotherly. With a literal application of the 
law you cannot do much. But at the same time 
nobody may take upon himself to transgress or 
disregard the law. Hence it is necessary that 
there should be a supreme clemency to temper 
the laws, and this can only be embodied in the 
autocratic monarch." 

Out of respect to the memory of our great 
national teacher of art, I will not here discuss the 
antiquated conception of a monarch as a dispenser 
of justice, and not as an administrator, bound to 
know all, to see all, to understand all, under 
penalty of being befooled and made a tool of at 
every turn. I simply mention it as a good illus- 
tration of the peculiar bent of the Russian mind. 

Much of this is to be ascribed to the lack of 
political education, and to the feeble development 
of the proud and powerful sense of individuality 
which is the one quality we most envy our 
Western neighbours. To a truly independent 
man even a hard law, because abstract and dis- 
passionate, and known to him beforehand, is a 
better thing than the most benignant despotism. 
That which is the most abhorrent to him is the 
sense that he is dependent on the good pleasure 
cf another be it the benevolent despotism of 


one master or even the still more benevolent 
despotism of a friendly crowd. 

Nevertheless we must not forget that on the 
other hand we have been spared the habit of not 
looking or caring to look beyond the mere legal 
aspect and established rule as to human conduct. 

In constantly striving after individual justice, 
both in practice, as with the peasants, and in theory, 
as with the educated classes, our people have not 
been able to rest satisfied with mere appearances, 
nor to consider the question solved as soon as 
they discovered under which section of the 
criminal or any other code the trespass fell. 
They have had to look into the very innermost 
recesses of the human heart, to discover all its 
hidden promptings, and to subject them to an 
impartial, dispassionate examination, all which 
must needs have educated our people in a spirit 
of the highest tolerance. "To understand every- 
thing is to forgive everything," is the deepest of 
human sayings. 

Hence that "pity for all" which extends, not 
merely to the weak, but to the fallen, to the de- 
graded, to the outcast. Just observe how our 
moujiks behave towards criminals. All, without 
distinction, are designated under the generic term 


of ' unhappy," and are treated as such. No 
contempt, no harshness can be detected in the 
demeanour of the crowd of peasants, who meet 
(bearing alms in their hands) a body of convicts 
being escorted to Siberia. They know that many 
of them must be innocent of any real offence. 
But there is something deeper than this in their 
humanity. Gogol, who excelled all other writers 
in the insight he possessed as to the workings of 
the Russian mind, observes that " of all nations 
the Russian alone is convinced that there exists 
no man who is absolutely guilty, as there exists 
no man who is absolutely innocent." Is it not 
this same idea which permeates Dostoievsky's 
masterpiece, " Buried Alive" ? Is not this "pity 
for all " apparent throughout the works of all our 
great masters, from Gogol to Gonciaroff and 
Ostrovsky ? Herein lies yet one more proof that 
in the moral qualities of the two extreme sections 
of the Russian nation the peasantry, who are at 
the bottom of the social scale, and the educated, 
wno are at the top there are some striking 
resemblances which cannot be purely accidental. 
Many foreign writers have been struck by the 
peculiar ardour which animates the Russians of 
all classes in their devotion to their country. 


Well, I do not know whether this is due to 
the emotional character of our people, or whether 
it is merely a reflection of what is intensely de- 
veloped under another name within our masses. 
Among the peasantry, in whose eyes their mir is 
their country, the devotion of each individual to 
the mir has been made the keynote of social 
morality. They have learned to exercise self- 
restraint in petty everyday concessions and 
services to the mir, and have risen to the sub- 
limity of heroism in their acts of self-sacrifice 
for its good. Examples of this are frequent. 
To " suffer for the mir ; " to be put in chains and 
to be thrown into prison as the mirs khodok or 
messenger, " sent to the Czar " with the mirs 
grievances ; to be beaten, exiled to Siberia 
or to the mines, for having stood up boldly for 
the rights of the mir against some powerful 
oppressor, such are the forms of heroism to 
which an enthusiastic peasant aspires, and which 
the people extol. 

The orthodox Church has no hold over the 
souls of the masses. The pop or priest is but an 
official of the bureaucracy and depredator of the 
commune. But we hardly need to say that the 
high ethics of Christianity, the appeal to brotherly 


love, to forgiveness, to self-sacrifice for the good 
of others, yet have always found an echo in the 
responsive chords of our people's hearts. " The 
type of a saint, as conceived by our peasants," 
says Uspensky, " is not that of an anchorite, 
timidly secluded from the world, lest some part of 
the treasure he is accumulating in heaven might 
get damaged. Our popular saint is a man of the 
mir, a man of practical piety, a teacher and 
benefactor of the people." In AthanasiefFs col- 
lection of popular legends we find an illustration 
of this idea. Two saints St. Cassian and St. 
Nicolas have come before the face of the Lord. 

' What hast thou seen on the earth ? " asks the 
Lord of St. Cassian, who first approached. " 1 
have seen a moujik foundering with his car in 
a marsh by the wayside." 

" Why hast thou not helped him ? " " Because 
I was coming into Thy presence, and was afraid 
of spoiling my bright clothes." 

The turn of St. Nicolas comes, who approaches 
with his dress all besmeared. 

" Why comest thou so dirty into my presence ? ' 
asks the Lord. " Because I was following St 
Cassian, and, seeing the moujik of whom he just 
spoke, I have helped him out of the marsh." 



"Well," said the Lord, "because them, Cassian, 
hast cared so much about thy dress and so little 
about thy brother, 1 will give thee thy saint's 
day only once in four years. And to thee, 
Nicolas, for having acted as thou didst, I will 
give four saint's days each year." 

That is why St. Cassian's Day falls on the 29th 
of February, in leap year, and St, Nicolas has a 
saint's day each quarter. 

Such is the peasant's interpretation of Christian 
morality. And is it not suggestive that the 
greatest novelist of our time, and a man of such 
vast intelligence as Count Leo Tolstoi, in making 
his attempt to found a purely ethical religion, 
formulates his views by referring the educated 
classes to the gospel as it is understood by the 
moujik ? 

Since I do not in the least presume to sketch 
anything like a full picture of our people's moral 
physiognomy, I shall stop here. My sole object 
has been to show that our peasantry, on the whole, 
as it has entered into political life and freedom 
after centuries of internal growth, presents a race 
with highly developed social instincts and many 
elements promising further progress ; and that the 
feelings of deep respect, sometimes of enthusiastic 


admiration, which the Russian democrats feel 
for the peasantry, are not devoid of foundation. 

These feelings may often have been exag- 
gerated, especially of old, when the two classes for 
the first time came into close contact. But excess 
of idealisation and sentimentality have become 
matters of history. They were destroyed by the 
rough touch of reality ; and the mighty figure of 
the hero of the plough has lost nothing by being 
stripped of tinsel. Hewn in unpolished stone, he 
looks better than when robed in marble. The 
charm of his strength, dauntless courage, and 
his moral character is strengthened by the 
thrilling voice of pity for the overwhelming, the 
indescribable sufferings of this childlike giant. 
A passion for Equality and Fraternity is and 
will ever be the strongest, we may say the only 
strong social feeling in Russia. It is by no 
means the privilege of " Nihilists," or advanced 
parties of any kind ; it is shared by the enormous 
majority of our educated classes. 

Man is a sociable being. He yearns to attach 
himself to something vaster than a family, having 
a longer existence than his immediate sur- 
roundings. The feeling in which this yearning 
finds its commonest and easiest expression is 


patriotism, embracing the whole of the nation, 
the State and the people being blended into one. 
For us Russians, no such blending is possible. 
The crimes, the cruelties, equalled only by the 
folly, of those who are representing Russia as a 
State, stand there to prevent it. 

No, no true Russian can ever wish Godspeed 
to the Government of his country. And yet we 
Russians are most ardent patriots. We have no 
attachment to our birthplace or any particular 
locality. But we love our people, our race, as 
intensely and organically as the Jews. And we 
are almost as incapable of getting thoroughly 
acclimatised in any other nation. In describing 
Russia's real and not fictitious glories, in speak- 
ing when in an expansive mood about his 
country's probable future and the service she 
is likely to render to mankind, a Russian can 
startle a Chauviniste of the grande nation. Yes, 
we are certainly patriotic. Only our patriotism 
runs entirely towards the realisation of the 
democratic ideal. The idea of country is em- 
bodied for us not in our State but in our people, 
in the moujiks and in those various elements 
which make the 'moujiks' cause our own. Our 
hopes, our devotion, our love, and that irresistible 


idealism which stimulates to great labour, all that 
constitutes the essence of patriotism, with us is 

In the following chapters I will relate how our 
popular notions of morality and justice bore the 
test of adversity ; what was the form assumed in 
villages by the corrosive elements, and how the 
people defended their traditional ideals of life. 

We will begin by briefly sketching the ten- 
dencies of the purely political elements newly 
introduced into Russian village life, as they are 
more circumscribed in their action and far less 
widespread than the economical. 



As soon as the government had earnestly set its 
mind on the emancipation of the serfs, the all- 
important questions had to be faced, as to how 
all these millions of newly-made citizens should 
be managed and kept in order ; and how they 
should be made to pay the price of their re- 
demption to the lords of the manors, and the 
taxes to the State ? The bureaucratic commission 
appointed for the settlement of this great problem 
of the Emancipation, with usual bureaucratic fore- 
sight and profundity, at first proposed that to the 
former seigneurs should be entrusted the admini- 
stration, the justice, and the police of the rural 

This would have been neither more nor less 
than a re-instatement, only in another form, of 
serfdom a joke made all the more dangerous in 
that there was but too much reason to anticipate 
bitter disappointments on the part of the people 
on many other points connected with their libera- 


tion. Fortunately for itself, the Government 
listened to wiser counsel, offered by local commit- 
tees, and the press, which pointed to the village 
communes as to natural and long-established insti- 
tutions standing ready to their hand and existing 
throughout the country. The village commune 
was preserved. The open-air meetings of all the 
peasants, the mir, were acknowledged as the chief 
authority both in the village commune and in the 
rural volost or district, an administrative unit 
embracing a few village communes. 

But here most puzzling questions of detail 
presented themselves to the minds of the St. 
Petersburg legislators. Notwithstanding the 
benevolent regard for the peasants which pre- 
vailed at this epoch in the highest governmental 
circles, our lawgivers could not admit that the 
mir might be left just as they found it. It was 
more than the most refined bureaucratic mind 
could digest the mir and the tchin I It was 
as though two cultures, two different worlds, we 
may almost say two different types of human 
nature, as strongly individualized as they were 
antipathetic, had suddenly been brought face to face. 

What is a tchtnovnik? It is a man convinced 
that were it not for his " prescriptions," " instruc- 


tions," and " enjoinments " the world would go 
all askew, and the people would suddenly begin 
to drink ink instead of water, to put their breeches 
on their heads instead of on their legs, and to 
commit all sorts of other incongruities. As all 
his life is passed from his most tender youth 
upward in offices, amidst heaps of scribbled papers, 
in complete isolation from any touch with real 
life, the tchinovnik understands nothing, has 
faith in nothing but these papers. He is as 
desperately sceptical as regards human nature as 
a monk, and does not trust one atom to men's 
virtue, honesty, or truthfulness. There is nothing 
in the world which can be relied upon but 
scribbled papers, and he is their votary. 

Such an institution as the mir a self-governing 
body with no trace of hierarchy or distinction of 
ranks, wielding an authority so extensive that in 
its own sphere of action it might be called un- 
limited, and at the same time wishing for no 
record of its proceedings, confiding in people's 
good faith and the infallible guidance of such a 
thing as collective conscience and wisdom such 
an institution as the mir, to the mind of a 
tchinovmk, must have appeared incoherent, in- 
comprehensible, almost contrary to the laws of 


nature. It was his most sacred duty to bring 
order into this chaos. 

Every Russian village commune elects its elder 
or mayor, who is by virtue of his office its 
spokesman and delegate before the authorities. 
In the village itself the elder is neither the chief 
nor even the primus inter pares, but simply the 
trusted servant and executor of the orders of the 
mir. The mir discusses and regulates every- 
thing that falls within its narrow and simple 
sphere of action, leaving hardly anything to the 
discrimination and judgment of its agent. So 
simple and subordinate are the elder's duties, that 
any peasant, provided he be neither a drunkard 
nor a thief, is eligible for the post. In many 
villages, in order to avoid discussion, the office of 
elder is filled in turn by all the members of the 
mir. As the eldership brings the peasant into 
frequent, almost daily, contact with the adminis- 
tration, which involves him in endless trouble and 
annoyance, peasants show very little ambition 
to fill the office. Much persuasion, sometimes 
remonstrance and abuse, are necessary before an 
honest peasant, who has not the feathering of his 
nest in view at the expense of the commune, can 
be induced to accept this post of honour. 


Some writers Mr. Mackenzie Wallace among 
them in describing Russian village life, wonder 
at this strange lack of political ambition. I think 
it only too natural : our moujiks have not studied 
the history of Rome, Athens, and other republics, 
nor do they so much as suspect the existence 
of great municipalities such as London, Paris, 
or New York. No obsequious imagination 
suggests to them flattering analogies, and they 
cannot see that the proffered dignity is anything 
but a double servitude to the mir on the one 
hand and to the administration on the other 
with no room whatever for the proud self-assertion 
which gives the charm of office to the gifted ; a 
burden and a public work, differing from those of 
mending the roads, digging wells, or transporting 
Government freights only in so far that it is 
more trying and more troublesome. 

Now, in modifying the system of rural self- 
government the St. Petersburg tchinovniks were 
inspired to transform this very modest and 
humble village elder into a diminutive tchinovnik, 
created in their own image and likeness. The 
task was not without its difficulties. The elder 
was as a rule deficient in the most essential 
qualification for his profession he could not 


write! It was therefore necessary that he should 
be provided with a secretary, who could inscribe 
the paper to which he should affix his seal or his 
cross. This important person, the clerk, was 
generally a perfect stranger to the village, a man 
picked up from the streets. As the law must 
needs give him extensive powers, it was all the 
more desirable that he should be easily controlled. 
Our legislators proved equal to their task ; for 
they blessed our villagers with a system of law- 
court proceedings which would do honour to 
much bigger places. To give some idea of their 
method, suffice it to say that the clerk of the 
volost is bound to supply his office with no less 
than sixty-five different registers, wherein to keep 
a record of the sixty-five various papers he has 
to issue daily, monthly, or quarterly. This was 
pushing their solicitude for the welfare of the 
countrymen rather too far, and taxing the clerk's 
powers rather too highly. In some of the larger 
volosts one man does not suffice for the task, and 
the peasants are compelled to maintain two, nay, 
even three clerks. It is needless to add that such 
a complication of legal business can in no way 
keep an adroit clerk in check nor prevent the 
abuse of his power. The opposite is rather the 


case. The figure cut by the pissar or clerk in the 
annals of our new rural local government is a 
most unseemly one indeed. In its earlier period 
it was decidedly its blackest point. 

The Government has undoubtedly had a hand 
in making the pissar such a disreputable character, 
by expressly prohibiting the engagement for this 
office of men of good education, for fear of a 
revolution. All who have completed their studies 
at a gymnasium (college), much more those who 
have attended a high school, are precluded from 
filling this post. Only the more ignorant, those 
who have been expelled from college or who 
have never passed farther than through a primary 
school, have been trusted to approach the pea- 
santry at such close quarters. Being generally 
self-seekers, and not particularly high-minded, 
they easily turned the peculiar position in which 
they were placed to their own advantage. The 
pissar, the interpreter of the law, and, more often 
than not, the only literate man in the district, 
could practically do whatever he chose. The 
elder, his nominal chief, in whom the word law 
inspired the same panic that it did in the breast 
of every other peasant, and who was quite 
bewildered by the bureaucratic complication of his 


new administrative duties, was absolutely helpless 
in thzflissar's hands. 

The elders could, however, find ample com- 
pensation for this kind of involuntary dependence, 
in the consciousness of the power they wielded 
over the rest of the villagers. At the present 
day they are really chiefs and masters. To the 
elders of both grades was granted the right of 
imposing fines, to the extent of one rouble at 
a time ; also the right to imprison or to impose 
compulsory labour, for a period not exceeding two 
days, on any member of their respective communes 
or volost. This " at their own discretion and 
without appeal," for any word, or act, or slight 
which they might consider derogatory to their 
dignity, such as omission to take off a hat before 
them, etc., of which there have been instances in 
recent times. 

Neither with regard to the mir as a whole, 
may the elder's rights be lightly trifled with. In 
them is vested the exclusive right of convening 
meetings of the commune or the volost. A 
meeting assembled without their authorization is 
declared illegal, its resolutions void, and its con- 
veners liable to severe penalties. By withdrawing 
from a meeting the elder can break it up when- 


ever he considers that the debate is taking an 
unlawful turn. Thus the elder, though elected by 
popular vote, when once confirmed in his office 
becomes, for all practical purposes, the master of 
the body which elected him. A strange sort of 
local government cejtainly, though by no means 
an exceptional one under an autocracy. The 
local governments granted to our provinces in 
1864, and to our towns in 1871, are modelled 
on exactly the same pattern. In both the chair- 
man has more power than the body he presides 
over ; an arrangement which has, as is well 
known, deprived both the provincial and the 
municipal governments of all vitality. 

It is interesting to observe that in the villages 
the same trick did not produce this same effect. 
There the legislation met with an ancient custom 
of collective communal life and local government 
which no ukaz could uproot. True that in the 
last twenty years great corruption had crept in, 
even in the case of village government. But this 
was due to the internal economical decomposition 
of the village commune, which divided the inhabi- 
tants into two camps, the one composed of a 
knot of rich people, and the other of a mass of 
proletarians and beggars. The law then became 



a ready-made channel for the manifestations of 
the new anti-social elements, but not its direct 

So long as the process of the economical dis- 
integration of the peasantry remains in an inci- 
pient state, as also in the thousands of communes 
which have until the present time preserved their 
original economical character, the bureaucratic 
prescriptions of the law remain a dead letter. 
The mir keeps to the traditional forms of local 
government. The elders, too, imbued with these 
traditions just as much as are their fellow-peasants, 
never think of making use of the strange powers 
reposed in them by the State. They remain in 
the subordinate and modest position formerly 
assigned to them the " mirs men," to use our 
people's own expression. 

It fared far worse with the other series of 
manipulations introduced into rural government, 
and which formed the natural supplement to 
those just dealt with. 

Local village government had as yet to be 
linked in hierarchical order with the whole of 
the administrative machine of the State. After 
having created, in the midst of the once demo- 
cratic villages, a sort of tchin t it was necessary to 


discover another tchin to which to subject the 
newly-founded one. 

The government, in the honeymoon of its 
liberalism, acted with sense and discretion in 
entrusting this function to the mediators, officers 
nominated conjointly by the ministry and by the 
election of the citizens. These mediators, elected 
from among the liberal and really well-intentioned 
part of the nobility, exercised their authority with 
moderation and wisdom, not so much as regarded 
subjection to the control of the mir, which was 
perfectly equal to its task, but to protect it from 
the abuses and malversations of the local police 
and its pissars. 

Since 1863, the year of the Polish Insurrection, 
which marks the point at which our Government 
adopted a policy of reaction, the state of things 
has changed considerably. The Government then 
threw all the weight of its authority into the scale 
with the party of the " planters," as the obdurate 
advocates of serfdom were, in 1861, christened. 
The whole administration changed sides, and 
Russia has since seen mediators who have used 
their powers in order to compel the peasants to 
gratuitously do all sorts of work on their estates ; 
who have publicly flogged the elders mocking 


at the law, which exempted them from corporal 
punishment, by first degrading them from their 
office, and then restoring to them the attributes 
of their dignity after they have been flogged. 

The regular bondage of the mir began, how- 
ever, a few years later. From 1868 down to 1874, 
when the office of the mediators was entirely 
suppressed, the mir gradually passed under the 
supreme command of the ispravnik, i.e., the 
superintendents of the local police. 

The peasants' bitterest enemy could not have 
made a worse choice. 

A police officer we are speaking now of the 
common police, charged with the general mainten- 
ance of order and the putting down of common 
offenders is a tchin in the administrative 
hierarchy like all the others. But between him 
and a paper-scribbling tchin of the innumerable 
Government offices, there is as wide a difference 
as between a decent, peaceful Chinese, votary of 
his ten thousand commandments, and a brutal 
and fierce Mogul of Jenghiz though both have 
beardless faces and oblique eyes. A police tchin 
is our man of action. With him the instrument 
of command is not the pen, but the fist, the rod, 
and the stick. He breaks more teeth and flays 


more backs than he issues papers. As regards 
other people's property, tchins of all denomina- 
tions hold the same somewhat strange views. But 
whilst the scribbling tchin cheat and swindle, the 
police tchin ransack and extort like Oriental 

In the villages, amongst the moujiks, who will 
suffer to the uttermost before "going to law,' 1 
the police can afford to go to any extreme short 
of open homicide and arson. The function of 
tax collector alone, which, after the Emancipation, 
was entrusted to the police, offered a vast field for 
interference, abuse, and oppression, and of these 
the early zemstvos often complain. When the 
ispravniks were charged with the chief control 
of the rural administration, and could at their 
pleasure, and by way of disciplinary punishment, 
indict, fine, and imprison both the district and 
commual elders, self-government by the peasants, 
as such, was practially abolished. It could exist 
only as far and in so much as the police chose 
to tolerate it. " The ispravniks, thanks to the 
powers they have received, have transformed 
the elected officers of the rural government, the 
elders, into their submissive servants, who are 
more dependent on them than are even the 


soldiers of the police-stations," that is the state- 
ment made by the most competent authorities 
on the subject, the members of the zemstvos. 
(Russian Courier, Nov. 8th, 1884.) 

The village communes have become for the 
country police a permanent source of income, 
often levied in a way which reminds one forcibly 
of the good old days of serfdom. Thus, in the 
circular issued by the Minister of the Interior on 
March 29th, 1880, we find the significant confession 
that, "according to the reports accumulated in 
the offices of the ministry," the country police 
officers, profiting by their right to have one 
orderly to run their errands, were in the habit of 
taking from forty to fifty such orderlies from the 
communes under their command, whom they 
used as their house and fee Id labourers. In some 
cases the communes, instead of this tribute of 
gratuitous labour, paid a regular tribute of money 
(called obror by former serfs), amounting in 
some provinces, according to the same authority, 
to from forty thousand to sixty thousand roubles 
a year per province. 


THE stanovois and ispravniks are the menials 
of the provincial administration. Set over them 
are the Governors of the Provinces, with the 
Governors-General of regions containing several 
Provinces, both surrounded by a swarm of 
tchinovniks, attached to their persons, or grouped 
on "boards," "chambers," or "courts of justice " 
of various denominations. They do not come 
into direct contact with the moujiks, unless in 
exceptional cases, and by means of a few special 

In these higher grades of the administration, 
the chief means possessed by the servants of the 
public for enriching themselves at the expense of 
the peasantry assume a more refined form than 
that of petty bribery, and are at the same time 
far more profitable. They are the embezzlement 
of land. 

I will pass over all the common everyday 
malversations of which the peasants are victims. 


Those I will take as a matter of course ; but I 
will devote a few pages to describing this peculiar 
mode of plunder because it is practised on the 
largest scale by the whole of the Russian official 
world, from petty clerks up to the Governors, 
Governors-General, Ministers, and courtiers, both 
male and female. 

The Provinces of those vast oriental regions 
bordered by the steppes of Central Asia have 
grown particularly famous of late, by reason of 
the extensive and bare-faced embezzlement of the 
land. The land there is plentiful ; the bulk of the 
population consists of alien tribes, who know next 
to nothing of Russian law or even of the Russian 
tongue, Russian being nevertheless the language 
in which all official documents are drawn up. 

The tchinovniks are all-powerful here, and 
practically beyond control, so enormous are the 
distances from the Central Government. They 
can and they do profit by these opportunities, and 
permanently improve their private fortunes by 
robbing the people of the land, their sole valuable 

For the edification of those who indulge in 
singing paeans to Russia's mission of civilization 
to the barbaric tribes of Asia, it must be observed 


that these services are not without their draw- 
backs. The Russian advance in these regions 
presents two markedly different stages. The 
first, which follows immediately upon the conquest 
or the peaceful annexation, shows the Russian 
rule in a most favourable light. Order is 
established, slavery and brigandage disappear, 
as do also the distinctions of race ; laws are made 
equal for all, and respect to them enforced with 
severity tempered by justice. The best men of 
the Empire, such as Count Perovsky, Mouravieff 
of the Amour, Tcherniaeff, Kaufmann, in all of 
whom ambition is stronger than cupidity, are sent 
to administer the newly-annexed territories. 
They generally defend the natives as far as they 
can even against Russian officials, and the hosts 
of adventurers and swindlers who follow in the 
rear of a conquering army. 

During this period the Russian settlers are 
almost exclusively peasants, who are invited and 
encouraged to migrate into the newly-acquired 
country, in order to give Russia a stronger 
footing there. The Russian moujiks never fail 
to answer to such an appeal. The word " free 
land " produces a magic effect on them, and they 
constantly stream in all directions where such 


treasure is to be found. Thousands of Russian 
villages have quite recently been founded on the 
Amour, on the enormous plains of Southern 
Siberia, among the Bashkirs, Khirghis, and 
Kalmuks of the Unfa, Orenburgh, and Samara 
Provinces, of which we shall shortly have to 
speak. Often the colonists precede the con- 
querors, penetrating into neighbouring countries 
scores of years before the armies. The annexa- 
tion merely increases this movement. But in 
these parts land is plentiful nobody suffers from 
the intrusion. The peasants take only so much 
land as they can till with their own hands, never 
appropriating one acre more. Furthermore, they 
rarely decline to enter into a friendly compromise 
with the natives. 

Whilst the government of Siberia had to resort 
to the most drastic measures, such as the knout 
and hard labour, to prevent the nobility and rich 
merchants from converting the natives into slaves, 
the peasants of the Provinces of Astrakhan or 
Samara or Orenburg often paid a yearly tribute in 
money or in goods to the nomads whose lands 
they had appropriated. The rent in these districts 
is, however, so low, and the chances of receiving 
it so small, that neither the tchinovnik nor the 


capitalists feel tempted to acquire estates. The 
husbandmen of both nationalities have thus 
plenty of land for tillage. 

The position changes when the increase of 
population has considerably raised the value of 
land and diminished the amount to be disposed of. 
By this time the province has become solidly 
incorporated with the rest of the Empire, re- 
quiring neither particular ability nor care in its 
administration. The men of talent, ambition, and 
energy are attracted to other fields. Their posts 
are filled by commonplace tchinovniks, who start 
a new mode of " Russifying " and " benefiting " 
the country by taking the land from both the 
natives and their own countrymen, the Russian 
colonists, with perfect impartiality. 

This spoliation of land is going on everywhere, 
even in Siberia. For this we have the testimony 
of Yadrinzeff, who is our best authority on 
Siberian matters ; though in this enormous desert, 
covered with ice and marshes and impenetrable 
brush-wood, the plunder is of necessity confined 
to those few districts more thickly populated than 
the rest. On the Siberian main, with its one 
inhabitant to every three square kilometers two 
square miles (English) the land is as yet free. 


The peasantry know of neither rent nor communal 
property : each husbandman takes as much land 
as he can find and can cultivate. But in other 
colonies and regions more favoured by nature the 
robbery of land is perpetrated on a very large, 
sometimes gigantic scale, and is the chief specula- 
tion of the tchiiiovniks, their relatives, and their 
hangers-on, as well as of their St. Petersburg 

Thus in the vast provinces of Uffa and Oren- 
burg, which together cover an area equal to that 
of the United Kingdom the officials with their 
numerous retinue have, in the period between 
1873 to 1879, by force and fraud embezzled no 
less than five million acres of the best arable 
land and timber wood of those districts. 

The whole operation was carried out with all 
the appearance of legality, and was screened 
behind the plausible pretext of the " Russifica- 
tion " of the Provinces and " the improvement 
of their industries." With this object in view 
the officials asked and obtained permission to 
sell the land " unoccupied by peasants of any 
race," "on easy terms," to officials "who have 
merited such favour by their faithful services to 
the State." 


As a matter of fact, only one item of that fable 
was true : the terms were the easiest imaginable, 
as excellent arable land, besides timber wood, 
which in these parts costs from fifty to one 
hundred roubles (a rouble is worth about two 
shillings) a dessiatine, were sold to the officials 
for merely nominal prices, varying from eight 
shillings down to tenpence a dessiatine, payable 
over long periods, varying from ten up to thirty- 
seven years. All the rest of the tale was an 
impudent falsehood and farce. 

The land officially designated as free for 
occupation had generally been owned for gene- 
rations, either by native Bashkir villagers or by 
Russians who had migrated years ago from the 
interior Provinces. It was precisely this fact 
which made these estates particularly attractive 
to the officials, as it enabled them to turn an 
honest penny. A certain Yusefovitch bought 
an estate of 1,017 dessiatines (a dessiatine is equal 
to 2 "] acres) for 4,804 roubles, and resold it to 
the peasants for 25,000 roubles. Another 
estate, for which 506 roubles were paid to the 
crown, was resold a few days later to the resident 
peasants for 15,000 roubles. A third Govern- 
ment official bought an estate for two roubles per 


dessiatine, and immediately let it to its occupants, 
at a rental of twelve roubles a year per dessiatine! 

Of course but few of the peasants were able 
to pay such a heavy ransom for their own land. 
And for those who could not pay there was the 
sole alternative : either to be evicted or to accept 
a sort of serfdom, i.e., to work gratuitously on the 
estates of their new landlords as remuneration for 
that small portion of land which he vouchsafed 
to leave in their hands. Thus was the bulk of 
the rural population of these Provinces almost 
totally ruined, reduced to beggary and indigence, 
and decimated by hunger. 

In distributing these iniquitous gifts, the 
administration in most cases could not even 
put forward any services rendered to the State 
(i.e., useless scribbling for regularly paid salaries) 
as a pretext. A private person, a teacher, who 
was not so much as a member of the civil service, 
paid nine hundred roubles for an estate which he 
immediately resold for 15,000. Two gymnasts 
bought each an estate of 1,000 dessiatines for 
2,000 roubles, to be paid over thirty -seven years, 
whilst both relet their land at once for 900 
roubles per year. 

There was no limit to the favouritism shown 


by the uncontrollable administration. A father 
received an estate of 6,000 dessiatines ; whilst to 
his daughters 1,000 each were allotted, and to 
his sons 2,000 each. The son married ; his wife's 
relatives were endowed with an estate. The 
next to marry was a daughter her husband 
received an estate, and his family another. 

The contagion of this land hunger spread 
far beyond the sphere of Uffa and Orenburg 
officialdom. Scores of tckinovniks flocked from 
St Petersburg and other quarters, probably 
armed with good introductions, and, after having 
" served " in the Provinces two or three years 
received their rewards in the form of splendid 
estates of from two to three thousand dessiatines 
and upwards, in the most fertile parts of the 
country, on the shores of big, navigable rivers. 

The Ministry of the Interior, then presided over 
by Count Valueff, at last grew jealous of the 
privileges enjoyed by the Governor-General who 
had such an Eldorado to dispose of, and ended by 
distributing estates on its own account to its own 
favourites. When the senatorial revision of 
1879, called forth by all these scandalous corrup- 
tions, began its investigations, several of the 
highest officers of the imperial court and Govern- 


merit hastened to voluntarily resign their ill-gotten 
riches in order to avoid judicial proceedings. 

It was rumoured that even the Minister of the 
Interior, Valueff, had had a finger in the pie. 
The reporters of German and English newspapers 
communicated news to that effect abroad, and the 
minister was indeed dismissed shortly after. The 
Russian press, however, in spite of this, received 
the following significant secret order, dated 4th 
October, 1881 : " In some foreign periodicals it 
has been stated that Count P. A. Valueff has been 
implicated in the prosecutions now proceeding for 
misappropriation of land in the Orenburg region. 
The head board of management of the press depart- 
ment requests that the papers will not circulate, 
nor so much as mention these reports." Thus 
were these rumours suppressed without being so 
much as denied. 

A no less conspicuous part in the wholesale 
peculation of land in the Uffa and Orenburg Pro- 
vinces was played by the forcible or fraudulent 
" purchase " of land from the natives by the 
officials themselves, or with their active conni- 
vance. To show to what an impudent extent 
this legalized robbery was pushed one illustration 
will suffice. 


In 1873 f ur l ca l capitalists joined in purchas- 
ing from the Bashkir peasants 30,000 dessiatines 
of land, lying on the shores of the Uffa river, for 
the sum of 21,000 roubles, on condition that if it 
were afterwards found that there was more land in 
the estate than was specified in the agreement, they, 
the buyers, should have no further sum to pay. 

(Such strange clauses as this are to be found in 
most agreements of this description, because the 
Bashkirs are easily cheated in the measurement 
of land.) 

This agreement was, as usual, guaranteed by 
an enormous fine of 150,000 roubles. It was 
presented, as prescribed by law, for examination 
to the mediator, the immediate chief and pro- 
tector of the peasants of his district, who approved 
of it and handed it on to head quarters, the Civil 
Board of Uffa, for registration. It was duly 
registered, and the four sharks formally invested 
with the right of ownership. 

But at this point the Bashkirs "rebelled," and 
refused to fulfil their part of the engagement, and 
sent their men to lodge complaints in various 
quarters. After a "long series of charges," the 
Governor-General resolved to send a special 
Inspector to the spot to enquire into the case. 



This Inspector chanced to be an honest man, 
who investigated the matter fairly, and reported : 
first, that the estate purchased comprised full 
70,000 dessiatines ; and secondly that it included 
splendid timber wood, which in these parts was 
worth no less than one hundred roubles a dessia- 
tine. He discovered, moreover, as was natural, 
that the Bashkirs were quite unwilling to part 
with their property on such terms, and that the 
agreement to sell it had been extorted from them 
by threats, and under compulsion. 

The mediator, their immediate superior, and the 
magistrate of the district, had ordered them to 
sign it, and had also arrested and removed from 
the village, "for disobedience and calumny against 
men in office," the twenty-four householders who 
had protested and absolutely declined to put their 
hands to the agreement. In conclusion, the 
Inspector reported that in acknowledgment of 
their services both the mediator and the magis- 
trate had received small estates from their grateful 

The mediators and the magistrates were not 
the only officials who lent themselves to these 
disgraceful practices. Persons who held higher 
berths in the provincial government did the same. 


Members of the Governor- General's Privy Coun- 
cil, who enjoyed the full confidence of the chief 
of the department, and through him held command 
over the police, " persuaded " the Bashkirs to sell 
their land to various persons on terms similar to 
those quoted above, and acquired on their own 
account about 30,000 dessiatines of land, mostly 
rich in timber wood. 

A certain Shott, father-in-law of Cholodkovsky, 
chief of the Civil Service Department, acquired 
by similar " purchases " 50,000 dessiatines of 
land. Threats, extortions, imprisonment, and 
open violence were resorted to for crushing 
obstinate resistance. The officers most directly 
responsible for the protection of the peasantry 
from malversation and injustice, the mediators 
and the members of the Peasants' Court of Justice, 
had the largest share in this wholesale plunder. 

A special commissioner, a General and chamber- 
lain to the Emperor, Burnasheff, was sent from 
St. Petersburg in 1874 for the purpose of 
revising the Uffa Civil Board. He reported 
that everything was as it should be there. But 
it was afterwards discovered that he had himself 
"purchased" an estate of 20,000 dessiatines for 
40,000 roubles in the Belebeef district, with the 


usual prescription of 80,000 roubles in case of 
the non-fulfilment of the agreement. This trans- 
action was, however, annulled by the Senate in 

The total number of agreements of this com- 
plexion registered by the Uffa Civil Board up to 
the time of the arrival of the Senatorial Inquiry 
Commission was one hundred and twelve ; and 
the area of land covered by them was nothing less 
than one million dessiatines, or 2,700,000 acres. 

The Senatorial Inquiry Commission sent into 
these Provinces by special order of the Emperor 
annulled some of the most scandalous of these 
legalized robberies, whilst some of the highest 
officials returned to the crown the estates they 
had received, declaring their ignorance of the 
injustice done to the peasantry who had pre- 
viously held it. But the enormous majority of 
these land-robbers were not so sensitive about 
their reputations, and contrived to keep their 
booty. This has been revealed by the agrarian 
disturbances which occurred in these Provinces 
some three years later, in 1882, and which ex- 
tended over four districts. 

The Bashkirs of the Province of Uffa have 
been despoiled of their land definitely and irre- 


trievably. The Governor-General, Kryshanovsky, 
who had headed the band of robbers, was dis- 
missed; other officials got off with a "reprimand;" 
no one was indicted before a regular tribunal. 
Even this rebuke, however mild, was caused by 
the absolute want of discretion and moderation 
shown on the part of the robbers themselves, 
who in the fever of greed forgot all moderation 
and caution ; and made the Uffa malversations 
a byword to the whole Russian Press. 

In the neighbouring province of Samara, which 
lies on the left shore of the Middle Volga, and 
covers an area three times as large as Switzerland, 
the Administration has done exactly the same 
thing, without incurring any annoyance. The 
ethnographical and economical conditions of these 
two contiguous regions are pretty much the 
same, the northern part of the Samara plain, 
the Bagulminsk district, being chiefly populated by 
Bashkirs, the southern by Russian colonists, with 
a sprinkling of native Mordvas and Kalmuks, 
the latter mostly keeping to a nomadic state. 

Twenty years ago the land was so plentiful 
in these parts that the peasants could rent from 
the crown or from the native nomads as much 
as they chose for from ten to fifteen kopecks a 


dessiatine. During the last twenty to twenty-five 
years things have gradually changed. The land 
was despoiled by officials and the private indivi- 
duals whom they favoured. Up to 1881 the 
total amount of land thus abstracted from the 
Russian settlers amounted to about 700,000 
dessiatines, or 1,890,000 acres. Enormous tracts 
of land were taken from the Kalmuks by means 
of sham purchases, more vile even than those 
practised upon the agricultural Bashkirs. The 
spoliation was effected gradually and cautiously, 
but the final result was the same. The Samara 
peasantry, prosperous in bygone days, is now 
one of the most wretched and hunger-stricken. 
Famine is of constant recurrence in this Pro- 
vince, the most terrible being those of 1878 and 
1 88 1, when, in some villages, one- fourth of the 
whole population died from starvation. In the 
same years millions of puds of corn were ex- 
ported from the Province by the landlords, who 
battened on the land which had been robbed from 
the people. 

If we skip the Province of Astrakhan, composed 
mostly of saline sands, where nothing can be 
got to grow and which are not worth robbing, 
we shall find ourselves in the Caucasus the gem 


of nature, the country which disputes with the 
valley of the Euphrates the glory of having 
been the place chosen for the earthly Paradise 
of tradition. Our great poets and novelists, 
Pushkin, Lermontoff, Tolstoi, owe many of their 
best inspirations to the snowclad Caucasus, and 
they have all contributed to render familiar and 
dear to the Russians its sumptuous, grand, and 
grim character, as well as its noble, simple, and 
chivalrous inhabitants. 

Nowadays, though as poetical as ever, the 
Caucasus has ceased to be the country of romance. 
Its warlike mountaineers are subdued; the country 
is peaceful ; the Hadji Abrecks, the Kazbitchs, 
the Ismail Beys, the Abrecks, the terror of the 
valleys, are no longer to be met with there in living 
flesh and blood. These heroes of the ( poniard 
and scimitar have disappeared under forty years 
of uncontested Russian rule, and in the natural 
course of things have been supplanted by robbers, 
who may very possibly be as mischievous as they, 
but who certainly have nothing of romance or 
poetry left about them. The plunder of the State 
and of the people as regards their landed wealth 
(we will confine ourselves to this question here), 
by the Caucasian Administration and its proteges. 


combines the characteristics of both the Uffa 
and the Samara robberies. 

It is as extensive and bare-faced as in the first- 
named Province, and as safe as in the last. 
The Caucasus is administered, not by a simple 
Governor-General but by a grandee of a much 
higher grade, a lieutenant who is, with rare ex- 
ceptions, a Grand Duke, brother or uncle of 
the Czar. Nothing need be feared behind such 
a screen. Moreover, the dangers and difficulties 
of the conquest of the Caucasus, though they 
ceased to exist some thirty-eight years ago, still 
furnish a good pretext for the distribution of 

In this fabulously rich country the Government 
owns vast tracts of land, forests, mines of priceless 
value, and mineral springs classed under four 
hundred and eleven "heads" in the official list, 
which, however, bring to the exchequer next to 
nothing at the outside an average of seventy- 
three roubles per estate. The reason for this is 
very simple : the greatest number, two hundred 
and fifty-five out of four hundred and eleven, are 
given to tchinovniks almost free of charge. In 
the Province of Kutais an estate comprising 2,000 
dessiatines of arable land was let to a tchinovnik for 


ten roubles or, 1, a year. In the Viliet district 
of the same Province, 1,000 dessiatines of arable 
land were let to another man at a rental of 
twenty-five roubles per annum ; and so on. 
(Slovo 1880, VII.) 

During the same period, from 1866 to 1875, tne 
administration disposed of about 100,000 dessia- 
tines of land, from which its former inhabitants, 
the Circassians, had been expelled with fire and 
sword. Of this, 23,000 dessiatines were distributed 
amongst the military, and 26,000 amongst mem- 
bers of the Civil Service, whilst 50,000 were sold 
at merely nominal prices to a lot of speculators 
who obtained the protection of the administration. 

In the vicinity of Baku lies the land containing 
the petroleum springs, which is valued at from 
25,000 to 60,000 roubles a dessiatine. After the 
abolition of the power of sale by auction of some 
of the State revenue, this land was declared 
inalienable. Yet General Staroselsky, Prince 
Withenstein, and Prince Amilakhvary were each 
presented with ten dessiatines of this most valua- 
ble land. The Princess of Gagarine, wife of the 
Governor of the Province of Kutais, received five 
dessiatines of petroleum land, which she exchanged 
for 7,000 dessiatines of ordinary arable land in the 


Province ot Stavropol. Other five dessiatines of 
this same land were granted to the Princess 
Orbeliany. Full forty-five dessiatines were pre- 
sented to the members of the Caucasian Civil 
Service for their relief fund. At the time to 
which all these statements refer, the short liberal 
respite of 1881, when the press was permitted to 
allude to such subjects, it was proposed to dis- 
tribute the greater part of the forest covering the 
shores of the Black Sea in Abkhasia amongst the 
members of the Civil Service. 

Our story will never draw to a close if we 
attempt to mention all that came to light in this 
question of land-robbery in the border provinces 

And how about the central provinces ? Are 
the peasants dwelling there guaranteed at least 
against this form of oppression ? Not quite, 
though of course nothing like the wholesale theft 
going on in the border lands is possible here. 
In the interior, land is taken by instalments, a bit 
here and a bit there. The chief means employed 
to this end are legal chicanery and litigations, in 
which all the advantages are on the side of the 
great people, especially if they are members 
of the local administration. Since the Emanci- 


pation, hundreds of thousands of dessiatines 
have been niched from the peasantry by means 
of thousands of these lawsuits, which differ 
from open robbery only in name. The highest 
dignitary of the empire and the noble aristocrats 
themselves have not recoiled before such methods 
of enrichment. Count Dmitry Tolstoy, the 
minister, has despoiled the peasants on his Riazan 
possessions of their land ; Count Sheremeteff is 
doing the same thing with the forty-two villages 
of the Gorbatov district, the inhabitants of which, 
to the number of 8,000 souls, were formerly his 

The Tartars of the Crimea are still struggling 
for their strip of land with Count Mordvinoff. 
It is no uncommon thing for the despotic powers 
of the administration to be called upon to 
facilitate the success of these lawsuits. Thus, 
for instance, in No. 163 of the Russian Courier 
for 1 88 1 we read that a peasant named Mikhailoff 
of Novosilka, a village in the Birutch district, 
Province Voroneje, was exiled by order of the 
administration to the province of Archangel. 
The offence alleged against him was that he 
incited his fellow-villagers not to pay their taxes. 
But the real facts of the case were as follows ; 


the peasants of the villages of Novosilka, 
Podleska, and several others, had a lawsuit about 
some land with the neighbouring landlords, 
Sheglov, Sinelnikoff, and others. The peasant 
Mikhailoff was chosen by the joint village mirs 
as their delegate. He commenced operations 
with great activity, and discovered documents 
proving the injustice of the landlords' claims. 
They thought it advisable to have him removed. 
Cases of downright robbery are not wanting 
either. The method generally adopted is, to forge 
resolutions of the mir, ordering that the coveted 
piece of land shall be yielded up. In No. 142 
of the Russkia Vedomosty for 1881 the follow- 
ing curious incident is recorded. In the Fatej 
district of the Province of Kursk a certain lady, 
Nikitina, sold to various persons eighty-three 
dessiatines of land, which she of course stated to 
be her own, for two hundred and fifteen roubles 
a dessiatine. But when the new owners came to 
take possession of their property, they found it 
was occupied by the peasants of the village, 
Archangelskoie, who on hearing the claims of 
the new comers expressed the greatest surprise, 
and, flatly refusing to yield the land, drove away 
the intruders. At this Madame Nikitina applied 


to the ispravnik, who sent the stanovoi to the 
spot. This gentleman arrived at Archangelskoie 
and having convened the peasants' mir began to 
admonish them not to offer rebellious resistance. 
The peasants answered unanimously that they had 
no desire to rebel against anybody, but that they 
would not give up the land, because it was their 
own, and they had never sold it to Nikitina, nor 
to anybody else, and knew nothing about the 

An agreement to that purport existed, how- 
ever, dated i$th September, 1878, and was 
witnessed by a member of the Peasants' Court, 
who gave testimony to the effect that he had 
read this agreement before the mir, and was 
told that everything was correct, after which the 
deed was approved by the Peasants' Court, on 
3Oth January, 1881, though it bore on the face of 
it the evidence of being a forgery. It did not 
bear the seal of the Archangelskoie mir, and it 
was signed by a total stranger to the village 
the coachman of the member in question and 
was witnessed as genuine by three servants 
of Madame Nikitina. 

The Golos for the same year reported 
several similar cases as having occurred in the 


district of Balta, Province of Podolsk. Here the 
very men in office actually appropriated a good 
deal of peasants' land, by means of forged agree- 
ments, which the communal clerks drew up in the 
name of the mir by order of the mediators. One 
of the mediators, in virtue of such an agreement, 
received from the peasants as a Present three 
hundred dessiatines of land, which constituted the 
only means of subsistence for a whole village. 
"It is easy to imagine," adds the correspondent, 
" the despair of the peasants when they were told 
that they had ' presented ' the mediator with the 
only piece of arable land which they possessed." 

Instances of such shameless abuses as these 
are, according to the Golos, numerous in the 
Province of Podolsk. 

In other places, according to Novoe Vremya, 
the communal clerks drew up fraudulent agree- 
ments of this nature for their own benefit. In 
the Starobelsk district, in 1881, the Novoaidarsk 
Commune brought an action against their elder, 
Russenoff, for appropriating 1,000 dessiatines of 
communal land by means of a forged agreement 
(Golos, 1881). 

These are a few specimens selected from among 
a heap of facts which the temporary relaxation 


of the censorship of the press has enabled the 
Russian newspapers to publish. Since 1882 we 
have heard no more of them, this class of 
publications being prohibited as inflammatory, and 
calculated to " disturb the public mind." They 
are considered seditious, and would involve severe 
punishment by the censorship. 

With regard to the misappropriation of land, 
this is certainly not likely to diminish by the 
withdrawal of even this slight check. 

The peasants are pretty nearly defenceless 
against the coalition of robbers. The official 
control is little more than a mere fiction. The 
central government depends necessarily on the in- 
formation it receives from the tchinovniks, i.e., the 
very accomplices or perpetrators of the robberies. 
And when some tchinovnik of good position, 
head of some board or governor of some province, 
is not actively compromised by the misdeeds of 
his subordinates, he screens them and conceals 
their actions none the less when once committed, 
because he is personally responsible to his 
superiors for all which happens within his juris- 
diction. The all-directing, all-controlling Auto- 
cracy is a myth. The real Autocracy has long 
been broken up into a series of petty despotisms 


a sort of feudalism, which reproduces in modern 
Russia the same phenomenon discovered by the 
historical school of economists as existing in 
Western Europe in the middle ages, the con- 
version of political power into economical pre- 
dominance, of which the robbery of the land from 
the people is the most striking feature. 

At the base of these operations, wherever 
committed, lies brute force. The Russian 
tchinovniks have at their disposal the military 
forces of the State, which they are free to use 
themselves, or to lend to any private person when 
needed, to put down any resistance which the 
peasants may offer to the appropriation of their 
land by any one of the methods described above. 
Rebellions of the peasantry, followed by " mili- 
tary executions," having their origin in the 
embezzlement of land, can be counted by the 
score, though these events are rarely honoured 
with more than a short and dry notice in the 
newspaper chronicles of the day. Exceeding few 
are allowed to be thoroughly investigated and 
discussed. When some particularly gross abuse 
committed against the peasants forces itself upon 
the public notice and that of the higher ministerial 
circles, it is the deliberate policy of the govern 


ment, ministers and Czar included, to hush the 
matter up as much and for as long as possible, 
because, taking the Russian reading and thinking 
public as it now is, nothing stirs it half so deeply 
as do affairs of this nature. 

Among dozens of scandalous trials for bribery, 
embezzlement of the public funds, plunder in the 
Ordnance Department, etc., which the Govern- 
ment allowed to be heard in public, we remember 
only one important case that of the Governor 
of the Province of Minsk, General Tokareff. 
and the man associated with him, in which the 
prosecution, followed by a public trial, was due to 
the initiative of the Government. Other famous 
" peasant cases," such as Count Bobrinsky's, 
Prince Sherbatoffs, etc., only came to light owing 
to some outrages committed by the peasants, who 
appeared as the prosecuted party, the Govern- 
ment exercising to the full its power over the 
press to prevent these affairs from being well 
thrashed out. 

The Tokareff affair is a very instructive one. and 
is well worth studying for more reasons than one. 
It was tried before the fifth department of the 
Senate in November 1881, though the offence 
was committed in 1874. It took seven years 



to make its circuitous way to the court, and it 
was by a mere accident that it was not altogether 
swamped on the way. The trial only began 
in 1878, four years after the commission of the 
crime. The chief offender, General Tokareff, 
had by that time been promoted from the 
governorship of the Province of Minsk to 
the post of Special Commissioner of the Red 
Cross in Bulgaria, and was, together with his 
accomplice General Loshkareff, a member of the 
Ministerial Council. The third hero in the 
Loghishino affair, Colonel Kapger, had been 
created Knight of the Order of Vladimir, and 
he too was pursuing his noble career elsewhere. 
The trio would probably have been left un- 
molested to the present day had not two hostile 
parties at the court of St. Petersburg broken 
out into open strife. 

The Trepoff-Shouvaloff-Potapoff Coalition, all- 
powerful at the court before 1877, received a 
severe blow by the Zassoulitch trial, which revealed 
Trepoffs infamous brutalities. His numerous 
opponents thought the moment most opportune 
for entirely crushing the coalition by a new blow 
and resolved to disinter the Loghishino affair, 
which would compromise several of the gang 


Four years previously Potapoff, then Governor- 
General of the Lithuanian Provinces, had allowed 
his follower and subordinate Tbkareff, then Gov- 
ernor of the Province of Minsk, to take several 
thousand dessiatines of land from the peasants of 
Loghishino. The act was committed under pecu- 
liarly aggravating circumstances, as the peasants 
struggled hard for their property. They " re- 
belled " several times, and were put down by a 
liberal allowance of flogging, but did not give up 
the fight. They lodged their complaint with the 
Senate, and after two years of litigation succeeded 
in 1876 in gaining their suit. 

The Loghishino peasants, in so far as they re- 
covered their property, were much more fortunate 
than most of their fellow-victims. They never 
thought, however, of taking further action against 
their former Governor for his past offences. But 
on this occasion Potapoffs adversaries, then in 
the majority in the ministry, became unusually 
alive to the people's wrongs. They brought the 
matter before the first department of the Senate. 
They fared badly in this, their first attack. The 
Senate, where Potapoffs party was probably well 
represented, opined thai the affair ought to be 
concluded by a " reprimand " to Tokareff and 


his accomplices. Then the ministers discussed 
the matter at a cabinet council, and resolved to 
report the affair to the Emperor. The document 
wound up with the following remarkably bold and 
novel truth : " We consider it to be the duty of 
the Government to take severe and impartial 
legal action in cases such as this, of misde- 
meanour on the part of men in office." The 
Emperor's hand traced the word " certainly " 
opposite this sentence. Nevertheless the Potapoff 
party for three years succeeded in preventing 
the fulfilment of the Emperor's resolution. The 
affair was not adjudicated until 1881. 

It was not in vain that the two hostile parties 
contended so bitterly the one to bring it before 
the public, the other to hush it up. The details 
of the affair were sufficiently revolting to make it 
an ideal battering-ram. The Province of Minsk, of 
which Tokareff was Governor, forms a part of the 
vast region to which converged the greed of the 
Russian tchinovniks, until they discovered still 
richer prey in the enormous eastern outskirts of 
the empire. After the suppression of the Polish 
insurrection of 1863-64, the Government confis- 
cated a total area of 60,914 dessiatines of land 
belonging to such landlords as had been implicated 


in patriotic conspiracies. These spoils of the 
vanquished the Government threw as prey to its 
officials, and especially to the bloodhounds who had 
helped to quench the insurrection, as the hunter 
throws the remains of the skinned beast to his dogs. 

This rich booty did not suffice to satisfy 
the appetites of the crew When the best of the 
landed property had been appropriated amongst 
them, the tchinovniks began to plunder the peasants, 
according to the common methods as practised 
elsewhere. One of these tchinovniks was the 
Governor of the Province of Minsk himself, 
General Tokareff, who obtained from the Gover- 
nor-General of the region, Potapoff, an estate of 
3,000 dessiatines, yielding an income of about 
9,000 roubles a year, for the sum of 14,000 roubles, 
payable over twenty years. Tokareff 's vassal, 
Sevastianoff, chairman of the Local Board of Minsk, 
carved out this estate for him from the land which 
belonged by right to the peasants of Loghishino. 

It is evident that both Sevastianoff and 
Tokareff committed this act of flagrant robbery 
in full cognizance of the fact, though they denied 
it before the tribunal. The Loghishino peasants 
had been in possession of the land claimed by 
Tokareff from time immemorial, and had never 


paid an iota of rent to the Local Board. This 
could hardly be ignored by the Chairman of the 
Local Board, more especially as Loghishino 
is only twenty-five miles distant from Minsk. 
In addition to this, the peasants could show 
ample documental evidence in support of their 
rights, the best proof of which is the eventual 
success of their suit before the Senate in 1876: 
a charter from the King of Poland, and an 
ukaz confirming their rights from the Russian 
Senate. On being apprised of the impending 
transfer of their land to their Governor, they sent 
their deputies to the latter to explain to him 
how the matter stood, and at the same time 
forwarded the senatorial ukaz to SevastianofI 
The Governor, however, refused to listen to any- 
thing. As to the ukaz sent to Sevastianoff, it 
mysteriously " disappeared " at the office, and 
could never be recovered : in other words, it was 
stolen either by Sevastianoff on behalf of the 
Governor, or by his direction. When the Ministry 
to which the Loghishino peasants appealed, upon 
the failure of their applications at Minsk, applied 
for information at Minsk upon the subject, to 
the Minsk Local Government Board, Sevastianoff 
replied that the peasants' claims were void of any 


foundation, and that the land was unquestionably 
State property, and that therefore there could 
be no legal obstacle to its transfer. 

The Governor-General himself did not lie idle. 
On learning that five peasants had been deputed 
to St. Petersburg to push forward the Loghishino 
suit, Tokareff reported to the ministry that these 
deputies were revolutionary agitators. They 
were accordingly at once locked up, and without 
further trial exiled to the northern Littoral, as is 
the custom in such cases with our Administration. 

Having thus removed all obstacles, Tokareff 
was in 1874 formally invested with the rights 
of ownership over the Loghishino estate. But 
when he sent his agents to collect the rents the 
peasants refused to pay, and drove away the 
police. Twenty-six peasants were arrested and 
thrown into the Minsk prison. Tokareff's next 
move was to send small detachments of troops 
against the village to compel obedience and levy 
the money. The peasants, however, persisted 
in their refusal. When the troops were drawn 
up before them, they tried to force the line, but 
were driven back at the butt-end of the musket. 
The soldiers then fired a volley with blank 
cartridges, and withdrew without resorting to more 


drastic measures, the officer in command not being 
anxious probably to obtain a cross or promotion 
for the putting down of " civil enemies." 

On the first news of the failure of the ex- 
pedition -four days before the official report 
reached him Tokareff hastened to telegraph to 
St. Petersburg that the Loghishino peasants had 
broken out into open rebellion and had repulsed 
the troops. Such a grave emergency requiring 
strong and prompt measures, the ministry sent 
a special commissioner from St. Petersburg, 
General Loshkareff, with most extensive powers. 
On October 25th, 1874, the General arrived at 
Minsk, received from Tokareff one battalion of 
soldiers, with 250 Cossacks, and marched against 
the " rebels." 

In the subsequent, most revolting, part of the 
proceedings, the leading actor is Colonel Kapger, 
the ispravnik of Minsk, whom Tokareff attached 
to the expedition quite unlawfully. The duty of 
assisting the military in compelling obedience 
from the peasantry belonged of right to the 
ispravnik of Pinsk, Zolotnizky, because the 
Loghishino commune was in his district. 
Tokareff did not want to trust an affair of such 
personal interest to himself to the local police. 


Kapger was under the circumstances a much 
fitter person, and was therefore attached to the 
expedition "as an experienced and capable police 
officer, to try and persuade the peasants to submit 
to the law," as the mealy-mouthed Governor 
explained in his own justification. 

Kapger did not disappoint the expectations of 
his chief. His first precaution was to stow away in 
the Loghishino police-station (stan) several can- 
loads of birch rods. When this order had been 
executed, he arrived on the 3ist October at 
about mid-day at the village, and appeared before 
the peasants in the public square escorted by two 
policemen. He then began to abuse and vilify 
the villagers for their ill-behaviour, and announced 
that " an army was advancing on them, with a 
General who was authorized to bury them alive, 
to flog them to death, to shoot them, to do with 
them as he would with rebels, anything he 
chose, if they would not at once submit." 

The frightened people said they would submit, 
and hastened to send three deputies forward to 
meet and propitiate the terrible General. They 
met him at a few miles' distance from the village, 
and said that they submitted and would pay rent 
to General Tokareff. This did not. however, stav 


the advance of Loshkareff, who entered Loghi- 
shino at the head of his troops at night time, and 
immediately ordered the Cossacks to invest the 
village from all parts, "lest anyone might escape." 
A second deputation then came before him, bring- 
ing the traditional "bread and salt," in token of 
welcome and obedience. But the General said he 
would not accept these offerings from "rebels," 
until they had repented and fulfilled the claims of 
their landlord, who demanded about 50x3 roubles 
as a part of the rent for 1874, and 5,000 for the 
arrears owing to him for 1873. 

This claim was a most impudent extortion. 
Tokareff had only been invested with the right of 
ownership in 1874. Any claim on the rent for 
the previous year was therefore absolutely illegal. 
On being questioned on this point by the tribunal, 
Tokareff explained that though he was formally 
invested with the right of ownership in 1874, still 
it had been reported to the chairman of the 
Local Board (his friend and accomplice Sevas- 
tianoff) that the Loghishino peasants were in- 
formed a year before by a tchinovnik of the Minsk 
courts of justice (who had neither juridical nor 
even administrative powers over them) that they 
must hand over one third of the harvest to 


Tokareff. Then Stanovoi Trikovsky made a 
valuation, unassisted even by the local surveyor, 
and most generously adjudicated full 12,000 
roubles to his chief, who reduced the sum to 
5,500 roubles. Thus were the Loghishino 
peasants not merely robbed of their land, but 
had to present Tokareff with the capital which 
he had to disburse in the transaction ! 

The poor people could not, however, afford to 
ponder on the injustice of their case in the face of 
this array of bayonets and Cossacks. They sub- 
mitted, pleading only for a short respite in which 
to sell some of their goods in order to make up 
the required sum. No respite was granted them. 
The General told them in firm but moderate lan- 
guage, as became so high an official, that they 
must collect and deposit in his hands the sum of 
5,500 roubles within forty-eight hours, otherwise 
he would compel them to pay the whole sum 
of 12,000 roubles. 

On this he retired, and shut himself up in the 
house assigned to him, leaving the command to 
the ispravnik Kapger. This officer went at once 
to the root of the matter, and showed to the full 
extent how " experienced " and " capable " he was 
in fulfilling the mission assigned to him by the 


Governor. He refused to wait for the money 
even until the next morning. He rushed upon the 
peasants as one possessed, abusing them, calling 
them names, stamping his foot, boxing them on 
the ears, and shouting, " The rods, bring the rods ! 
I will flog you to death ! I will flay you alive ! " 
He did not want the peasants to distribute 
the contribution demanded, according to their 
means. He made short work of all these forma- 
lities by assigning twenty-five roubles as the 
amount to be paid by each of the 233 households. 
Those who said they had not the money and 
could not pay at once were sent to the police 
station, and there flogged until they promised to 
find the money, selling their goods to the Jews of 
the village for a song, or borrowing from them 
the money at an interest of from one and a half 
to three per cent, a week. As the Loghishino 
peasants were poor people, according to the 
statements of the policemen themselves, many 
suffered very severely. One of the witnesses, the 
deputy Korolevitch, testified that the peasant 
Malokhovsky was beaten so savagely that he 
had never since fully recovered. He was a non- 
commissioned officer, and had only just returned 
from his regiment. He had had no time to get 


settled in his home, and was very poor. When 
summoned before Kapger, who was sitting at the 
police-station, he gave him full particulars as to 
why he was unable to pay the twenty-five roubles. 
He was conducted to the execution-chamber, 
and there flogged by two policemen under the 
personal superintendence of Kapger. After some 
time Kapger stopped the flogging, and asked 
whether he would bring the money or not On 
receiving the same answer as before, he ordered 
the men to flog him once more. When he was 
again released, he said to Kapger that " whilst in 
the Czar's service he had never undergone the 
shame of corporal punishment." For this " imper- 
tinence " Kapger ordered him to be flogged for 
the third time. But even after that Malokhovsky 
brought no money, which was paid for him by 
the mir. 

Lukashevitch, an old man of sixty-nine 
years, begged the ispravnik to give him a short 
respite, but the latter struck him in the face twice 
so violently that he could not keep his feet. 
Then he ordered him to the flogging-room, where 
he was flogged three times, Kapger telling his 
men to strike more heavily, and asking the victim 
whether he would bring the money now ? 


Many fainted under the ordeal. Kapger him- 
self superintended the execution of the sentences, 
giving his men instructions as to how to use 
the rods so as to cause the victims to suffer 
more acutely. None were spared. The deputy 
Korolevitch testified to the fact that Kapger 
demanded the money even from a blind old 
beggar, Adam Tatarevitch, and when he said he 
had no money Kapger struck the poor fellow in 
the face, and was about to have him flogged ; but 
Tatarevitch went to the village, and came back 
with ten roubles he had collected in Christ's name 
from his fellow-villagers. 

The subordinates treated the people with the 
bestial brutality of invaders. A retired soldier, 
Chechotka by name, stated on oath that the 
ispravnitts men came to fetch him to the police- 
station in the dead of night, about twelve o'clock ; 
that whilst he was dressing himself one Cossack 
struck his pregnant wife on the back with his 
horsewhip so cruelly that she fainted, and the 
next day miscarried. 

By such means as these Kapger levied in two 
days the whole sum of 5,500 roubles, which were 
duly forwarded to the Governor. The troops 
retired, and General Loshkareff returned to St. 


Petersburg, to report to the Emperor that order 
was restored in Loghishino, and that the rebellion 
had been put down without the use of fire-arms 
or any violence, thanks to the courage and ability 
of the ispravtiik, Kapger, who had succeeded in 
persuading the mob to submit to the just claims 
of their landlord ! Loshkareff was rewarded by 
the thanks of the Emperor, whilst Kapger was 
decorated with one of the highest military orders. 
(Poriadoc, 1881, No. 330-340.) 

This is a fair sample of the truthfulness of the 
official reports, and the whole affair is typical of 
the style in which the military carried the law 
into effect Of course such utter scamps as 
Colonel Kapger are rare, even in the ranks of the 
Russian police. Few ispravniks would strike a 
blind old man in the face, or take actual pleasure 
in the operation of flogging. But out of the 
seven hundred ispravniks and the two thousand 
stanovois of the Empire, there are hardly a dozen 
who during their term of service have not had to 
" put down " several of these " rebellions " amongst 

* o 

the peasantry, generated by the same feelings of 

despair, and subdued by the same methods of 

military pressure and wholesale flogging, as in 
the examples cited above. 


AFTER the beasts of prey the vermin. Natura- 
lists say that the most mischievous enemies of 
unprotected and primitive man are not the big 
carnivora with whom he has to fight now and then 
on unequal terms, but the lower forms of creation, 
the insects, the mice, rats, wild birds, and other 
small pilferers, which overwhelm him by their 
numbers and omnipresence. 

I will not venture to say that the same holds 
good with respect to the two classes of parasites 
which our paternal government has set on the 
moujiks. It is beyond doubt that both are 
extremely obnoxious. As to the question which 
of the two is the most so, it is rather difficult to 
give a positive answer. 

The upper police and administrative officials 
the tchinovniks unquestionably commit enormous 
material damage among the people. But as 
they come into immediate contact with the 
peasantry on comparatively rare occasions, they 


cannot have much effect upon the moral side of 
the people's life. With the inferior police the 
reverse is the case. It must be granted that 
even as a question of finance they are a very- 
heavy additional burden to the people. The 
5744 uriadniks (rural constables) created in 1878, 
and constantly added to since, represent an 
outlay of 2,600,000 roubles a year, or about 
twice the sum the State Exchequer spends on 
primary education. 

As every uriadnik extracts from the rural 
population subjected to him, by bribes, blackmail, 
and other devices, on an average at least twice 
as much as he receives in salary, the total 
cost of this amiable institution represents a good 
round sum, for which a much better use might be 
found than the support of this horde of black- 
guards. But monetary damages become almost 
trivialities by the side of the vexations, insults, 
petty everyday tyranny, and demoralisation which 
are poured into our villages by these guardians of 
the peace unique of their kind. 

To give the ring of truth to these strange 
statements, we have only to draw a sketch 
of these uriadniks^ and how they came to 


When the Nihilist rebellion first burst forth, 
it assumed, as is well known, the aspect of 
a vast agrarian agitation in favour of the resti- 
tution of the land to its tillers. As the 
same aspirations, though obscured by the mists 
of monarchical superstitions, were smouldering 
among the whole of our agricultural class, 
the Government at once took the greatest 

The fierce hunting of the Nihilist began through 
all Russia. The peasants did not rise in arms at 
the voice of the agitators, perplexed, bewildered 
by the unheard of appeal. But in the relentless 
chase after the Nihilists they kept aloof, and often 
assisted the propagandists to escape from the 
hands of their persecutors. The active part in 
the drama was played by the local officers of the 
State, the police, the stanovois, the ispravniks, 
and the volunteer spies, who were furnished by 
the newly-born class of rural usurers, plunderers 
of the people and upstarts, who had fished in 
troubled waters. But in a well-regulated autocracy 
nothing can be left to private enterprise, least 
of all the craft of a spy. As to the local agents 
of the State police, they were so surcharged with 
so many other duties, and had under their super- 


vision districts so vast, as to render an effective 
and minute survey impossible. 

In 1878 a force of rural constabulary was 
created, and from that moment commenced the 
Babylonian captivity of the Russian peasantry 
to the police. 

The uriadniks were created in order to streng- 
then the hands of the rural police, headed by 
the ispravniks and their assistants the stanovois. 
The uriadniks are therefore under the command 
of these officers, in their quality of general police 
agents. But like the gendarmerie created by the 
Emperor Nicholas I. for the benefit of the towns- 
people, their rural brothers are placed in a 
peculiar position. 

The duties of the uriadniks are extensive and 
manifold. They are the masters of the village 
communes in the same sense as the governors 
are called the masters of their respective Provinces. 
Besides the function of chief of the communal 
police, they unite in their persons those of sanitary 
inspectors, inspectors of roads and buildings, and 
statistical agents, etc. They poke their noses 
into everything, prying into private households, 
and enforcing various prescriptions intended 
by the idle bureaucratic imagination for the 


benefit of the moujiks. Thus forsooth they must 
see that the peasant's house be ventilated and the 
windows opened, even during the winter time, 
when people have hardly fuel enough to keep the 
hard frost out of the door. To secure purity of 
air they are bound to prevent the keeping of 
manure in open courts near the houses, when in 
the whole of Russia not a single peasant, save 
a few German settlers, has an artificial dung-pit. 
The same solicitude for the stupid moujiks, who 
cannot feel the disadvantage of keeping cattle 
within their dwellings, inspired the prohibition of 
that bad practice, though the young cattle would 
otherwise be frozen in the courts, as the peasants 
have no warm stables. 

Neither is the exterior of the village neglected. 
The uriadnik must see that the streets be kept 
clean, though in the villages there is no trace of a 
pavement, and the streets during the spring and 
the autumn, six months out of the twelve, are 
knee deep in mud. A lot of other equally bene- 
volent and equally stupid prescriptions exist, re- 
lating to food, the construction of the houses, 
gardening, etc., all of which are fair examples of 
bureaucratic perspicacity and knowledge of the 
things with which they have to deal. 


All this is amusing, but to an outsider only. 
To the peasants it is a very serious matter. The 
more absurd the order is, the easier is it for an 
uriadnik to convert it into a means of extortion 
and a source of abuse, owing to the exorbitant, 
the monstrous powers with which the uriadniks are 
armed in their quality of political bloodhounds. 

Only a despotic government fully conscious of 
its many sins could in a fit of well-grounded fear 
put such powers into the hands of subordinate 
agents. They can enter anybody's house at any 
time of the day or of the night, examine every- 
thing, and question anybody as to any actions 
and purposes which may seem to them suspicious. 
They have the right of arresting and taking into 
custody any citizen of the district at their own dis- 
cretion, without first obtaining any special warrant 
or authorization. The elders and the communal 
police are bound to arrest and to march off any 
prisoner at the bidding of the uriadniks. 

Now let us ask, What are the moral and in- 
tellectual guarantees offered by these people, 
entrusted with such extensive powers over the 
liberty, honour, and property of their fellow- 
citizens ? Whence does this horde of village 
proconsuls spring ? 


An uriadnik receives a salary of 20 a year, 
which, taking into account the cheapness of living 
in a Russian village, would represent from ^40 to 
50 at the English rate of value. We cannot 
therefore expect to see well-educated people in 
their ranks, quite apart from the aversion felt in 
Russia by all men of self-respect to the accept- 
ance of any post connected with the police. 
Moreover, the considerable amount of physical 
exertion required from the uriadniks as a rule 
excludes the petty tchtnovniks. 

But as the uriadnik 's duties imply a consider- 
able amount of legal chicanery, they cannot be 
recruited at random from among simple folk, 
such as retired soldiers or non-commissioned 
officers. The uriadniks are chiefly picked up 
from among the dregs of the Government servants 
of the towns, and the outcasts of the intellectual 
professions : scribes out of employment, petty 
police-officers turned out of their posts for bribery 
or drunkenness, and so forth. In spite of this, this 
rabble, which had to be watched and watched like 
a host of pickpockets in a crowded room, were 
exempted by the Czar's government, to a quite 
exceptional degree, from any control whatever. 
The Russian press, as is well known, is not 


allowed to indulge over much in the exposure of 
the abuses and misdeeds of any of the members 
Df the official hierarchy ; but to attack a gendarme, 
a political spy, any officer connected with the 
defence of the autocracy against its civil enemies, 
is considered almost as a personal insult to the 

The uriadniks, in their capacity of rural gen- 
darmes, were on their creation granted the 
same immunity. The press was strictly prohibited 
from publishing any exposure of their vices. 
This fact, however strange it may sound, was 
publicly disclosed three years later by several 
Russian newspapers. 

In the Zemstro newspaper of December 
3ist, 1880, the following details are explicitly 
given by the responsible editors : " At the 
founding of the uriadniks all possible care was 
taken to present them in the most favourable 
light to the public. To this end the Official 
Messenger and the official papers, which exist 
in every province, published, by order of 
the Minister, a number of reports tending to 
show their activity, sometimes put into the form 
of special narratives, sometimes in the form of 
statistical tables. Whilst, on the other hand, 


shortly after the law of 9th June, 1878 (institut- 
ing the uriadniks), had received due attention, 
namely, in September of the same year, the 
editors of all the newspapers and periodicals 
were ordered not to allow any censure of the 
activity of the police to appear in their respec- 
tive columns, nor to ' discredit it,' by expos- 
ing any of its abuses. In case of the trans- 
gression of this order the delinquents were 
threatened with most stringent penalties. Thus 
did the uriadniks become quite inviolable to 
the press." 

It may be added that the government defended 
these its Benjamins, charged with protecting it 
against agrarian revolution even against their 
immediate superiors in office, the stanovois and 

When this herd of 5,744 brutal invaders, 
scattered amongst the Russian villages, began 
their exploits, even the not particularly scrupu- 
lous law-abiding gentlemen of the police felt that 
they were bound to interfere. Numbers of 
uriadniks were turned out, or at least driven 
from one district to another, by way of dis- 
ciplinary punishment. In order to suppress this 
flagrant proof of their worthlessness, the Minister 


of the Interior, General Makoff, expressed marked 
disapprobation to the police authorities wherever 
there had been frequent expulsions, " calculated 
to diminish the prestige of the uriadniks in 
the eyes of the peasantry." No wonder that 
the uriadniks grew so conceited with their 
self-importance that in the Province of Poltava, 
when one of them was fined eleven roubles 
by the magistrate, he flew into such a passion 
as to inveigh against the magistrate in open 
court, and to threaten him with a " protocol." 

We have dwelt on these details at the risk 
of wearying our reader, because they prove to 
demonstration the fallacy of a very common 
prejudice concerning the Russian government. 
It is supposed that the educated class only are 
subjected to police tyranny. This is not so. 
Our government is free from any taint of par- 
tiality. Whenever it smells some danger to its 
own skin, all " the dear children," both peasants 
and the well-to-do, are dealt with on exactly the 
same footing. 

The quite anomalous position created for these 
guardians of the public safety could lead to only 
one consequence. The uriadniks became the 
scourge of our villages, the terror of the peasants, 


the chief perpetrators of such violence and 
extortion as had never been heard of before. 
" Being perfect strangers to the village," says 
the Zemstro newspaper, " they despise the 
peasantry, as all upstarts do. They look on 
the rustics subjected to their control as invaders 
do upon a conquered people, on whom they may 
work their will. The extortions of the uriadniks 
in their insolence recall the rapacity of the 
soldiery. Not only are private individuals com- 
pelled to propitiate these uriadniks with bribes, 
but whole communes are saddled with illegal 
tribute. And such things happen not only in 
the remote corners of the vast Empire, but in 
the neighbourhood of St. Petersburg itself." 

In view of these experiences, the Zemstvos 
have repeatedly petitioned for the abolition of the 
uriadniks. At the sitting of the St. Petersburg 
Zemstvo on i7th January, 1881, the deputies 
expressed their opinion in the following strong 
terms : " the magistrates Volkoff and Shakeef 
do affirm most positively that the uriadniks are 
simply a nuisance to the people. They are 
doing no good, and are unable to do any good, 
being chiefly recruited from amongst half-illiterate 
clerks who are out of employment, and who 


take a distorted view of their duties." Baron 
Korf spoke to the same effect. 

During the short Liberal respite of 1881 there 
was hardly one periodical, save Mr. Katkoffs 
Moscow Gazette, which did not pour out before 
its readers whole volumes of accumulated facts 
about the exploits of the unadniks, varying in 
their nature from the too free use of the fist or 
whip to the most heinous and revolting crimes. 

We will first open a page in the public career 
of a certain Makoorine, uriadnik of the Province 
of Samara, a jolly fellow, though somewhat 
excited and rough when in his cups. One fine 
morning, in the autumn of 1881, he arrived at the 
village of Vorony Kust, where a meeting was 
being held in the public hall. Here all his friends 
were met together, and amongst them Chaibool 
the Rich, a Tartar peasant. Having some 
business to transact with the uriadnik, Chaibool 
invited him, together with several common 
friends, to take a glass in his house. The meet- 
ing over, therefore, they left the hall in several 
cars. In opening the gate they let out a pig. 
The pig took it into its head to run after the 
uriadnik, though " Chaibool did his best to call 
it back." They crossed the village and reached 


the fields, the pig still running after the uriadnik's 
car, with the evident intention of escorting him 
up to the house of his host. The rural magnate 
took it as a malicious insult to his dignity on the 
part of the beast, and shot the pig dead. 

After having taken their refreshment with 
Chaibool the Rich they returned back to the 
village a little elevated. There they met with 
a publican, the owner of the killed pig, who asked 
the uriadnik to pay for the beast. 

At such audacity Makoorine lost his temper, 
swore, boasted of his official importance, and, 
according to the unanimous testimony of all the 
witnesses, said that " he, the uriadnik, had the 
right to shoot not only pigs, but men too, there 
being a law to that effect." A retired soldier, 
John Kirilow, who was present, observed that he 
also had served the Czar, but had never heard of 
such a law. 

Without wasting words on his adversary, the 
uriadnik flew on Kirilow, knocked him down, and 
then dragged him into the court, and, calling his 
coachman to his assistance, struck Kirilow again. 

The guardian of public order was, for this 
breach of the peace, condemned to six weeks' 
imprisonment ; but as it was discovered that there 


were no less than fifteen similar suits pending 
against him, he was put under police supervision 
until such time as the verdict was pronounced on 
his accumulated offences. 

Another uriadnik, that of Malo-Archangelsk, 
at the time of the Carnival arrived in the village, 
" drunk as a fiddler." On entering the public 
hall he behaved with gross impropriety. He 
cut the tablecloth to pieces with his sabre, and 
reviled the members with most opprobrious names. 
When some persons tried to get him to listen to 
reason he flew at them, brandishing his sabre, and 
drove them all, both guests and owners, out of 
the building. 

In Ivanovka the uriadnik, on entering the 
house of a peasant to make an inspection as to 
whether it was kept clean, saw a young calf tied 
to a table leg in the kitchen. At such slovenli- 
ness the uriadnik lost his temper, and after having 
reviled the women who were spinning in the 
other room, as best he could, he drew his sabre 
and cut the calf to pieces. 

In Poroobejka an uriadnik came upon a woman 
making dough. She was in a hurry to make the 
bread for her household, and had left the floor 
unswept. Exasperated by this negligence, the 


uriadnik, after giving the woman a severe scold- 
ing, overthrew the kneading-trough before the 
woman's eyes, and upset the dough on to the 
dirty floor. 

In Dmitrovka the uriadnik Lastochkin met a 
wedding procession, going with songs, according 
to custom, from one relative of the newly-married 
couple to another. He ordered them to disperse 
at once, though the elder of the village was 
amongst them. One of the guests, Easily Kareff, 
remonstrated against such interference, explaining 
that they were celebrating a wedding. The 
uriadnik as his only answer struck Kareff twice 
with his whip. 

The crowd got into a rage ; they flew at the 
uriadnik and handled him roughly. He would, 
perhaps, have fared yet worse had he not taken 
refuge in the parson's house. 

On hearing of the disturbance the whole village 
assembled round the parsonage, clamouring to 
have the uriadnik delivered up to them, and it 
was only thanks to the soothing influence of the 
parson that the uriadnik escaped lynching A 
protocol was drawn up about the " insult offered 
to the uriadnik'' and Kareff was condemned to 
seven days' imprisonment. 


All these examples, given by eye-witnesses to 
a correspondent of the Zemstro newspaper, refer 
to one small district alone. None of them are 
of any particular importance, but they contain 
much local colouring, and convey a pretty fair idea 
as to the moral physiognomy and distinctive attri- 
butes of the new type of our village magnates. 

In one place the uriadnik fired into a crowd of 
unarmed people ; in another charged a crowd 
busied in quenching a fire, on horseback, with 
sword and whip. In a third case, a freshly built 
peasant's house was demolished, under the pretext 
that it was not constructed "according to the 
regulations." In a fourth, the uriudnik assaulted 
and inflicted severe bodily injuries on a church- 
warden, for not having appeared before him with 
sufficient alacrity when sent for. 

In the Bogorodsk district the uriadnik was in 
the habit of stealing the peasants' oats for his own 
horse by night. When caught on one occasion 
in the act, so far was he from being put out of 
countenance that he threatened the owners with 
imprisonment, and then, having sent his errand- 
boy to fetch his sabre and revolver, declared 
himself to be engaged " in the execution of his 
duty, 1 ' and triumphantly made his way through 


the assembled throng. The ispravnik, on receiv- 
ing complaints from the peasants, ordered the 
stanovoi to investigate the case. The accusation 
proved true, but the uriadnik was not even dis- 
charged, and continued to hold his office as 
guardian of the public safety in peace. 

In one of the towns of the Province of Poltava, 
during fair time, the uriadniks formed themselves 
into a body, which wandered through the town, 
and amused themselves by tearing off the earrings 
and necklaces of the peasant women who came 
to the fair adorned in their best national attire, 
alleging that the national costume had been 
prohibited by the Czarina's ukaz. 

We will close this list, which might be pro- 
longed ad libitum, by mentioning some of those 
cases where these rural despots, accustomed to 
impunity, have given vent to their low instincts 
in acts which recall the worst features of the days 
of serfdom. 

In the Mogilev district of the Province of Podol, 
Daniel Yasitsky, the uriadnik of the village 
Chemeris, after having for a long time and with 
impunity distinguished himself by the extortion 
of money from the innocent, and blackmail from 
such thieves as were caught in the act, whom he 


was in the habit of setting free by his own 
authority, this Daniel Yasitsky indulged in the 
following practical joke. 

By threats and blows he compelled two of his 
subordinates, peasants' " decurions," to harness 
themselves into a car and drag him to the town 
of Bar, distant about four miles. Yasitsky was 
simply dismissed. 

Another still more revolting case was tried 
before the St. Petersburg tribunal, April 23rd, 1886. 

Gerassimoff, the nriadnik of the village Borki, 
in the Peterhof district, was convicted of having 
subjected several peasants to the torture in order 
to extort from them confessions about a robbery 
committed by unknown persons. A peasant 
named Marakine, and two brothers of the name 
of Antonoff, were all three kept hanging for 
several hours on a sort of improvised strappado. 
Stripped of their clothes, and barefoot, their hands 
were tied behind their backs by a rope, which 
was then passed over a rail, fixed high up in the 
wall of an ice cellar. The bodies of these unfor- 
tunate men were then raised above the level of 
the ice ground, which they could hardly touch 
with the tips of their toes. 

The uriadnik now and then appeared, request- 



ing them to confess, and dealing them blows on 
the head on their refusal to comply with his 
wishes. One of the three victims, the peasant 
Marakine, on the way to the torture-chamber was 
subjected to other treatment no less infamous. 
The testimony of the elder of the village is par- 
ticularly characteristic. "Gerassimoff the uriadnik 
came to me and asked whether I could lend him 
thirty men. ' For what purpose do you need so 
many ? ' I asked. Then he answered, pointing to 
Marakine, ' I mean to make this fellow run the 
gauntlet.' ' To this the witness made reply that 
he would never permit such things to be done to 
the peasants of his commune. Then Marakine's 
hands and legs were tied, and he was fastened by 
the legs to the back of the car, his body on the 
ground. The horse was then made to run, and 
Marakine was dragged in the mud for about ten 
yards. Then Gerassimoff said to the elder, 
" Bring me some straw, we will burn him a 
little," but witness refused to bring it to him. 

Gerassimoff was found guilty, and sentenced 
to one years penal servitude. So lenient is the 
Russian law towards crimes against humanity, 
reserving its ferocity for those who are working 
on behalf of humanity. 


Such barbarities, which, had they been com 
mitted by a Turkish officer, would have set 
European diplomacy on fire, are of course ex- 
ceptional, though it would be illogical to suppose 
them unique. 

From the opposite end of the Empire we hear 
of things which are no better, indeed, if anything, 
rather worse. It was proved by judicial inquiry 
before the Kisheneff tribunal, that in the Orgheef 
district the unadnik and the communal authori- 
ties had for a long time used various instruments 
of torture in their judicial proceedings. One 
of these, called butuk, figured on the table of 
"material evidences" in the court. It is a 
wooden instrument, composed of two sliding 
beams, which serve for screwing the feet of the 
culprit between them. These abominations were 
not unknown to the police. The matter was, 
however, only brought before the tribunal because 
the authorities arrested the wrong man, on whom 
they used the butuk with such cruelty that the 
victim was crippled for life. 

The patience of our people is great ; too great, 
indeed, but not unlimited. Since the uriadniks 
have been introduced the number of so-called 
offences against officials in the execution of their 


duty has considerably increased amongst the 
rural classes. The first official statistics bearing 
upon the subject show, for instance, that in 
1877-81, in the district included under the St. 
Petersburg jurisdiction (embracing several pro- 
vinces), the peasants form 93 per cent, of such 
offenders, whilst the privileged classes supply 
only 7 per cent. In the Kharkon region the 
former furnish 96 per cent., the latter only 4 per 
cent, in the rural districts, of such offences ; all 
refer to the uriadniks or to the rural stanovois. 
Thus, to the lawlessness of the police must be 
accorded at least the merit of instructing our 
peasants a little in the art of taking the laws into 
their own hands, which may, perhaps, ultimately 
serve some useful purpose. 



THE outcry for more land was the first sound the 
ears of educated Russians were able to catch, 
in the confused din of voices which rose from the 
masses below. Our moujiks were never tired of 
repeating the same requests again and again. 

It was in vain that the Government, in order to 
satisfy their greed after land, offered them various 
cheap makeshifts. The moujiks displayed a 
stoical indifference to these advances, and went 
on endlessly repeating the same refrain about 

What could be supposed to satisfy the peasants 
more than the condonation of the arrears in the 
taxes ? or the reduction of one rouble per head 
of the annual land-purchase payments ? But even 
to these offers the peasants turned a deaf ear. 
When spoken to about the condonation of the 
arrears, says Enghelhardt, they would answer : 
" The solvent payers will only regret their 
former punctuality that is all. Condonation or 


no condonation, those who have nothing can pay 
nothing. The present arrears condoned, fresh 
ones will be made next year, since they cannot 
pay." They will point to such and such villages 
which are not in arrears and are in no need of 
condonation, " because they were not wronged 
with regard to their land." 

As regards the reduction of the land-purchase 
money, they showed the same wooden insensi- 
bility. " One rouble per head," they said, 
"mounts up to a large sum of money to the crown, 
but to us separately it is a trifle, hardly perceptible 
at all. We moujiks are quite ready to pay our 
dues, if only we can have more of our dear 

The land is the object of the peasant's day- 
dreams and longings, as well as of a touching, 
almost filial respect and devotion. In the 
peasant's songs and in their ordinary speeches 
the usual epithet applied to it is " mother," or 
"little mother." The whole tenor of peasant 
life in Russia suggests the idea that the chief 
aim of their existence is to serve the land, and 
not to use it for their own advantage. 

The Russian moujiks are, as a rule, quite un- 
concerned as to what is called "comfort." They 


seem to consider a Spartan mode of life, and 
indifference to hardships, a good deal in the light 
of an attribute of man. In Eastern Russia and 
the Volga Provinces they scoff at their neigh- 
bours, the peasants of Tartar origin, who are fond 
of soft bedding and dainties, and who ride in long- 
shafted buggies, which rock them as a cradle 
might, instead of suffering their bowels to be 
jolted out in the traditional Russian telegite. I 
will not cite as an example the life of the poorer 
class of peasants. Amongst them privations 
are unavoidable. That which bears particularly 
on our present object is the life of such peasants 
as could afford to live quite comfortably if they 

If you enter the house of a notoriously rich 
peasant, whose granary is brimful of corn, who 
keeps half-a-dozen horses in his stables, and 
who has probably in some remote corner under 
the floor a jugful of bright silver roubles, laid 
aside against a rainy day, you will be surprised 
at the extreme simplicity, nay squalor, of his 
household arrangements. All peasants, the rich 
as well as the poor, live, with very few exceptions, 
in the same narrow peasant's izba; these home- 
steads presenting a square of fifteen to twenty 


feet in length and width. Into this space, divided 
into one or two rooms, both children and grown- 
up people are all huddled together. The quantity 
of air afforded for respiration is so puzzlingly 
small that our hygienists are forced to admit the 
endosmical action of the walls as the only hypo- 
thesis which will account for the fact that these 
people are not literally suffocated. 

" Furniture " is a word which can be used only 
in its broad philosophical sense when applied to 
the dwellings of these people. They really have 
no furniture beyond a big unpolished table of 
the simplest pattern, which stands in the place of 
honour, in a corner under the ikons or images 
of saints ; and some long wooden benches, about 
two feet deep, running all along the walls. 
These benches are used for sitting on in the 
daytime and for sleeping on at night. When 
the family is a large one, some of its members, 
at bed time, mount on to the upper tier of these 
shelves, which run all along the upper part 
of the wall, like hammocks in a ship's cabin. 
Nothing bearing the likeness of a mattress is to be 
seen ; a few worn-out rugs are thinly spread ovei 
the bare wood of the benches or on the floor, 
and that is all. The everyday coat, just takei 


off, serves as a blanket. Beds are a luxury 
hardly known, and very little appreciated by the 
Russian moujiks. Even in the peasants' hotels, 
the dvors on the chief commercial highways of the 
interior, frequented by the rich freight-carriers, a 
plentiful and luxurious table is kept, but nothing 
but bare benches in the way of beds are to be 
found. In the winter the large top of the stone 
oven is the favourite sleeping-place, and generally 
reserved for the elders, so that they may keep 
their old bones warm. 

All the peasants dress in pretty much the same 
manner, which is extremely simple, no under- 
garment ; a shirt of homespun tick or of chintz, 
sometimes of red fustian this last is very much 
appreciated and light cotton or linen trousers. 
The richest wear boots, which are used by the 
poorer sort only on great occasions. The " bast " 
shoes, which were used in the middle ages in 
Europe, and have since disappeared, are in com- 
mon use among the bulk of the Great Russian 
peasants. In the winter, a kind of home-made 
woollen boot is preferred, and the long woollen 
homespun coat is replaced by a sheepskin over- 
coat, by rich and poor alike. The peasants wear 
this fur dress the whole year round, rarely 


taking it off unless when at work or asleep. 
Being so seldom changed, the peasants' clothes 
are not a model of cleanliness, but both men and 
women, as a rule, keep their bodies very clean. 
Every family which is not totally destitute has 
its hot steam-bath, where all wash, on the eve of 
every holiday, with great punctiliousness. The 
poorer amongst them, who have no bath of their 
own, use the family oven for this purpose, just after 
the removal of the coal. This is a real martyr- 
dom, as the first sensation of a man unaccustomed 
to such exploits is that of being roasted alive. 

As to the food, which forms the chief item 
of expenditure to people living in a simple way, 
and which presents the greatest scale of variation 
among peasant families, the allowance which has 
to be made for wealth is exceedingly modest. 

Those peasant families which can be classed 
as rich or well-to-do use wholemeal bread and 
gruel all the year round, and eat it to satisfaction. 
But as long as they keep to the " peasant's state" 
in other terms, as long as they are living from 
the land and tilling it with their own hands 
the Russians do not depart from the chiefly 
vegetarian and extremely simple system of diet 
common to the average peasant. They eat meat 


on Sundays, and occasionally on a week-day, 
never every day. It is a general maxim amongst 
all peasant households not to spend anything on 
themselves if they can help it that is not 
" home-made," home-grown, or reared on their 
own premises. As no family, living by husbandry 
alone, can rear on its own premises a sufficient 
number of cattle to supply it with meat every 
day, it, as a matter of course, adopts the above- 
mentioned custom. 

It does not spring from stinginess. The 
same families, when moving to a town and 
engaged in business, spend just as much and 
live in just the same style as the well-to-do 
merchants and townspeople. But, so long as 
their ties to the land remain unbroken, the 
land is their first care. Very close-fisted in his 
household expenditure, the rich peasant will yet 
spend generously for the extension of his agri- 
culture, the improvement of his working imple- 
1 ments, or the augmentation of the number of his 
cattle. He expects a good return for his outlay, 
as the contrary would be proof of a blunder on 
his part. But money is not the only thing he 
has in view : he is heart-sick at the sieht of bad 


crops, without in the least thinking of the possible 


pecuniary losses. If quite well off he will none the 
less overwork himself at the hay-harvest, just as 
much as will the poorest man in the village. 

There is, indeed, a good deal of unselfishness in 
the intense love borne by the peasants to the soil, 
which we townspeople, living in almost complete 
estrangement from nature, can hardly realise, but 
which is deep-rooted in the heart of every moujik 
nay, of every husbandman without distinction 
of nationality. The same feeling as that which 
inspires our peasants' poetry, breathes in the 
monologue of Alexander I den, squire of Kent, 
overlooking his garden before John Cade drops 
in. Michelet, in his well-known prose poems, has 
sung the ardent love of the French peasant for 

his " mistress " the land.* 

* I quote this beautiful passage as translated by John Stuart 
Mill (Pol. EC., p. 172). 

" If we would know the inmost thought, the passion, of the 
French peasant, it is very easy. Let us walk out on Sunday 
into the country and follow him. ... I perceive that he is going 
to visit his mistress. 

" What mistress ? His land. 

" I do not say he goes straight to it. No ; he is free to-day, 
and may either go or not. Does he not go every day in the 
week? Accordingly, he turns aside, he goes another way, he 
has business elsewhere. And yet he goes. 

" It is true, he was passing close by ; it was an opportunity. 
He looks, but apparently he will not go in ; what for ? And 
yet he enters. 


Yet everything in men bears a national stamp, 
which reflects the historical and social peculiarities 
of their native countries. Alexander Iden a man 
living amidst the turmoil of feudal struggles, who 
has found on his small estate a safe refuge, alike 
from the necessity of being an oppressor and the 
wretchedness of being oppressed experiences 
in the fact of possession a quite different enjoy- 
ment from that of the peasant painted by Michelet, 
who, an owner above all things else, has recently 
come into the possession of a freehold estate into 
the bargain. It is yet another thing among our 
moujiks, with their perfect abhorrence of the idea 
of private property in land, and the peculiar 
agrarian arrangements which are the result of this 

" At least, it is probable that he will not work ; he is in his 
Sunday dress: he has a clean shirt and blouse. Still there 
is no harm in plucking up this weed and throwing out that 
stone. There is a stump, too, which is in the way ; but he 
has not his tools with him, he will do it to-morrow. 

"Then he folds his arms and gazes, serious and careful. 
He gives a long, very long, look, and seems lost in thought. 
At last, if he thinks himself observed, if he sees a passer-by, 
he moves slowly away. Thirty paces off he stops, turns round, 
and casts on his land a last look, sombre and profound, but 
to those who can see it, the look is full of passion, of heart, 
of devotion." (The Ptople, by J. Michelet). 


There is no strip of land in Russia save, 
perhaps, that whereon the peasant's house stands 
which the peasant can call his own in the same 
sense as a continental peasant proprietor or 
English freeholder can claim land. To-day he 
holds one piece of land by to-morrow a redistri- 
bution is voted for by the mir, and he receives 
another piece, which may be larger or may be 
smaller than the first, according as to whether his 
family has increased or decreased in number, but 
which certainly will lie in some other part or 
better, parts of the common field. We say parts 
because the families never receive their allotment 
of land in one whole block, but in a number of 
small plots and strips, scattered sometimes over 
ten, fifteen, or even more, localities, and changed 
every two or three years. This plan has its in- 
conveniences ; but the peasants prefer such an 
arrangement. It affords room for perfect fairness 
in the distribution of this most precious com- 
modity the land which always presents great 
variety as to the quality of the soil, and it 
position with respect to the roads, the village, 
the water, etc. 

Under such an arrangement there was no rooi 
for the development of the jealous and exclusive 


passion of ownership, so characteristic of small 
holders, and little room indeed, if any, for attach- 
ment to the communal field as a whole, where 
each peasant wanders with his own plough and 
scythe. The cohesion between the men always 
proves stronger than their attachment to the soil. 

Thus our peasants have no difficulty whatever 
in migrating to new places, provided they may 
start there on the same work and in the same 
mode of life which has proved itself congenial 
to them in their old homes. It may be said, 
without exaggeration, that most of the peasants 
in the thickly populated central provinces of 
Russia are permanently on the look-out for some 
new settlement. As a rule, before moving, the 
peasants send forward their explorers the 
khodoks, or "pedestrians/' and await their report 
about the new country. 

Not rarely it happens, however, that vague 
rumours about the fertility and abundance of free 
land in some far-distant province set dozens of 
villages in motion, which sell their goods, put 
what can be transported into cars, and start on 
their journey without any further inquiry, and 
generally end by paying dearly for their childish 
rashness. On the other hand, it must be 



mentioned that in no case do the peasants migrate 
by isolated households, as do the American settlers 
in the West. A peasant never detaches himself, 
unless compelled by main force, from his village 
and his mir. Whether well pondered or not, 
the migrations are always made, either by whole 
villages or by parts of villages, considerable enough 
to form a new village commune, a new mir, at the 
new place. Of the many thousands of peasants 
who, on being compelled to abandon the plough- 
share for a time, find regular and tolerably 
remunerative employment in the towns, nine out 
of ten return to " their villages " and the hard- 
ships of a peasant's life so soon as they have 
amassed a sum of money sufficient for the purchase 
of a new instalment. 

In our peasant's longing after land there is 
more of the love of a labourer for a certain kind 
of work which is congenial to him than of con- 
crete attachment of an owner to a thing possessed. 
A moujik will survey with great complacency 
the furrow his plough and his faithful friend his 
horse have traced. At the sight of a golden corn- 
field his heart will be filled with exultant joy ; he 
will delight, strong man as he is, in the powerful 
exertion of mowing. But to fallow land, the land 


which is no more an active participator in agri- 
cultural labour, he will probably be quite indifferent. 
Certain it is, that he will not, like Michelet's 
peasant, covet such land with wistful, passionate 
eyes on his Sundays, when he has to abstain 
from working on it ; nor would he, in going off, 
turn round to throw at his mistress "a look full 
of passion." 

Moreover, if his neighbour has little land and 
a big family he will, at the mirs bidding, give 
up a part of his land for his neighbour's sake, 
without in the least feeling as if a part of his 
own flesh were cut from off his body. 

It is not exactly the land, the given con- 
crete piece of land, which a moujik loves it is 
the mode of life which the possession of land 
allows him to live, and which blends into one 
inseparable whole both the work and the men 
in whose company he is accustomed to toil. 
This feeling, because it is less individualised and 
more complicated, is none the less intense; perhaps 
the reverse is rather the case. A Russian moujik 
probably feels much more grieved and down- 
hearted at being separated from his furrow than 
does a husbandman of any other nationality. 

Uspensky, in one of the many sketches drawn 


from life which we owe to his powerful pencil, 
has well caught this double characteristic of our 
peasants' longing after their land. In his " Ivan 
Afanasieff " he shows us a peasant in whom, as 
we shall see, this feeling developed to an almost 
morbid intensity, and the tragedy of whose life 
consists in the necessity for constantly violating it. 

" Ivan Afanasieff, peasant of Slepoe Litvinovo, 
in the province of Novgorod, is a sterling example 
of a genuine husbandman, indissolubly bound to 
the soil both in mind and in heart. The land 
was in his conception his real foster-mother and 
benefactress, the source of all his joys and sorrows, 
and the object of his daily prayers and thanks- 
givings to God. 

"Agricultural work, with its cares, anxieties, 
and pleasures, was so congenial to him, and filled 
up his inner life so completely, as to exclude even 
the idea that husbandry might be exchanged for 
something else for another and more profitable 
employment. Though Ivan Afanasieff is by no 
means enamoured of the land, as the reader might 
have concluded, he is yet so closely united to it, 
and to all the mutations which the land under- 
goes in the course of the year, that he and the 
land are almost living as parts of the same whole- 


" Nevertheless, Ivan Afanasieff does not feel in 
the least like a bondsman, chained to the soil ; on 
the contrary, the union between the man and 
the object of his cares has nothing compulsory in 
it. It is free and pure because springing spon- 
taneously from the unmixed and evident good the 
land is bestowing on the man. Quite independ- 
ently of any selfish incentive, the man begins to 
feel convinced that for this good received he 
must repay the land his benefactress with care 
and labour. 

" With these pure, conscientious principles to 
form the base of the whole existence of a genuine, 
unsophisticated peasant family, the germ of a 
wonderfully high moral standard of life might 
have been sown amongst them had they been 
allowed to thoroughly develop these fruitful 
ideals of free unconstrained union, based on the 
unshaken conviction that good must be earned 
by good. But alas ! though Ivan Afanasieff 
and his foster-mother the land are doing their 
respective duties with most scrupulous conscien- 
tiousness, times have come which seem to set no 
value on either the purity of these relations, or on 
the fact that they form the backbone of the moral 
strength of the whole Russian peasantry. 


" 'Money !' roar the new times, granting neither 
exemption nor respite. ' But for pity's sake ! how 
can I leave the land?' supplicates Ivan Afanasieff. 
4 Suppose I go and seek some other employment 
for the sake of earning money, why then the land 
will be neglected, and we have lived all our lives 
by the land ! ' 

" Ivan Afanasieff is so devoted to husbandry, is 
so genuine a moujik, that the highest salary he 
might obtain would not allay his craving after 
land, after the various sensations and appearances 
which surround the labours of the husbandman, 
and connect his soul and his mind with the sky 
and the earth, with the bright sun and the gor- 
geous dawns, with the storms and the rains, the 
snowdrifts, the frost, the thaw with all God's 
Creation, with all the wonders of God's Universe. 

" ' Money ! ' roar the new times, and willing or 
not Ivan Afanasieff begins to struggle to scrape 
together some roubles ? " 

As Ivan Afanasieff had a horse, which, accord- 
ing to his own account, " though a poor, spare jade, 
dragged its feet along nevertheless," and an uncle 
whom, by dint of prayers and supplications, he 
induced to lend him ten roubles for three months, 
he resolved to try his luck in trade, 


He did not prove a success in this, his new 
calling, because he had not the hawker's stuff in 
him ; he was unable to swear that his wares had 
cost him three times as much as they had done, 
calling God and all the ikons of the Virgin Mary 
to witness to his truthfulness ; nor did he know 
any of the tricks by which to preserve himself 
from dangerous competition. 

After a lot of trouble and much anxiety, Ivan 
Afanasieff was happy to be able to return what 
he had borrowed from his uncle. " From this 
time forth no God forbid ! Never will I try 
commerce again. When I returned to my uncle 
the money he had lent, I felt relieved as from a 
heavy burden. No ! let us not meddle with this 
commerce. It is no business for us peasants." 

The whole last ten years of Ivan AfanasiefFs 
life is fraught with similar incidents. Being quite 
devoid of cunning and craft for agricultural 
labour teaches no such lessons Ivan Afanasieff 
fails in all enterprises which have money-making 
as their aim. 

" A relative of his," we resume the quotation, 
"employed as a nurse in St. Petersburg, pro- 
cured him a situation as a dvomik (porter) in a 
house. He spent all his money on his railway 


ticket and arrived at St. Petersburg. But he 
was as frightened as a child at the sight of 
the ant-hill of ' strangers ' which he beheld 
around him. He was frightened, too, at his dry, 
uninteresting work, done for the sake of money ; 
he found it hard, too, to work, away from ' his 
own people.' He lost his place owing to his 
half-heartedness, and had to make his way home 
again on foot, penniless, begging in Christ's name, 
until, half-starved, he reached his native village, 
distant three hundred versts from the capital. 

"'Then I could repose at last to my heart's 
content,' he said. ' Leave all these places alone ! 
Henceforth will I prefer to live on dry bread so 
long as it is in my own home.' 

" On his return to his nest after every such 
absence, Ivan Afanasieff feels an almost childish 
joy, though he is always worse off than when he 
started. He is glad to have a crust of bread, 
provided it is home-made, and that he is allowed 
to live amidst his own home surroundings, and 
with people whom he knows and loves. 

" ' Money, money ! ' roar the new times, and Ivan 
Afanasieff, who has none, is entrapped once more 
in some financial enterprise. He is engaged to 
dig a canal near Lake Ladoga. They give him 


ten roubles in advance, and promise more, besides 
board and lodging. Ivan Afanasieff could not 
but accept ; but lo ! at the close of some six 
months he returns home again without money, 
without health, without clothes. It turned out 
that he and his companions had to sleep on the 
snow, that they were fed on carrion, and cheated 
most shamefully as to wages ; that a multitude 
died from various diseases, and were buried in 
hot haste anywhere. After having passed through 
all these ordeals and seen the heart-sickening 
sufferings of others, Ivan Afanasieff is glad to run 
away, with his passport as his sole remuneration. 
And how pleased he is with his thatched roof, his 
big stove, and his diluted acidulous ' home-made ' 
kvas ! 

" However exhausted and toil-worn he may be, 
the life in ' his country,' and especially the return 
' to the peasant state ' and to agricultural labour, 
speedily wipe out all traces of illness, of sorrow, 
and indignation from his face, which once more 
looks calm, noble, benevolent." (Uspensky, 
Vol. vii.) 


No greater misfortune can befall a peasant than 
to become a landless batrak, compelled to hire 
himself out to landlords or to his rich fellow 
peasants. The moujiks make, indeed, but a 
slight distinction between the state of a slave 
and that of a hireling. " To hire yourself out is 
to sell yourself," they say ; and they feel the same 
abhorrence for the state of a hireling as a freeman 
feels for the state of slavery. There is no name 
more opprobrious for a peasant than that of 

" Oh, they live in clover," these hen poachers 
(popular sobriquet for the policemen) said to Eng- 
helhardt a moujik friend of his, a genuine, pas- 
sionate husbandman of enormous physical strength, 
and cleverness and ability in the management of 
his farm. 

" Why, would you take such a place your- 

" I take such a place ? " 



" No, God forbid ! I would not be a batrak." 

Another day several peasants from a neighbour- 
ing village came to his stores to buy some bushels 
of corn. 

" Why do you not buy it from your landlord ? " 
he asked. 

" Our landlord ! " they exclaimed. " What 
kind of corn can you expect him to have when 
he is a batrak himself?" 

"And what contempt there was in these 
words ! " adds Enghelhardt. The landlord being 
a poor man served as steward to the estates of 
his rich neighbour. 

It must be observed, however, that these same 
moujiks never neglect an opportunity of turning 
an honest penny by their labour, if it in no way 
implies permanent dependence. Even the rich 
nwujiks, who have plenty of food and everything 
they require in their homes, after they have 
harvested their own crops, and during the winter 
months, when there is no field work, most willingly 
accept any work they can get on the landlord's 
fields or farms. They do not in the least con- 
sider it to be derogatory, nor would they call them- 
selves on that account either batraks or "hire- 


lings." They hate permanent engagements only 
as implying dependence on the pleasure of a 
master, because a moujik, even though he be 
poor, provided he lives by the labour of his 
hands, on his own bit of land, without applying 
to anybody for assistance, is an independent, 
self-confident man, enjoying his ample share of 
human dignity and self-respect. 

It stands to reason that the ideas of personal 
dignity held by our moujiks are not the same as 
those held by the people of the civilised countries 
of Europe. When meeting a " gentleman " or an 
official, no matter of what grade, the peasant will 
take off his hat and stand bareheaded when 
spoken to. If anxious to express extreme grati- 
tude to any one, he may perchance bow down to 
the ground, as grown-up children bowed to their 
parents in the families of the middle classes up 
to the present generation. The moujtks do not 
consider any of these acts to be humiliating, hold- 
ing still in this respect to the same standards of 
ideas as have prevailed in all countries, modern 
and ancient, when just emerging from the patri- 
archal state. Yet they possess in a high degree 
one qualification which in all centuries and in all 
lands has constituted the very essence of human 


dignity they are truthful. There is neither false 
hood nor deceit in their lives. In their families, 
and in all their mutual relations, everything is 
clear, genuine, frank ; this is true, even as regards 
egotism and brutal oppression. There is much 
harshness in the everyday life of the peasant, 
but millions of our people have lived from 
generation to generation without knowing or 
suffering a lie. 

" That which struck me most," says Enghel- 
hardt, " when I was listening to the peasant's 
discussions at the village meetings, was the 
freedom of speech the moujiks granted to them- 
selves. We " (he means the well-to-do, the upper 
classes), " when discussing anything, always look 
suspiciously around, hesitating whether such or 
such things may safely be uttered or not, tremb- 
ling lest we should be collared and taken before 
some one in authority. As to the moujik, he fears 
nothing ; publicly, in the street, before the whole 
village, he discusses all kinds of political and 
social questions, always freely and frankly speaking 
his mind about everything. A moujik, ' when not 
in disgrace with his landlord or with the Tzar,' 
which means that he has paid all his taxes to 
both, is afraid of nobody. ... He may stand bare- 


headed before you ; but you feel that you have to 
deal with an independent, plainspoken man, who is 
not at all inclined to be obsequious to you or to 
take his tone from you." 

Rural Russia fought bravely and pluckily for 
the preservation and freedom of its husbandmen, 
endeared to it for so many reasons. 

From the first, however, it was quite evident 
that all the odds were absolutely against the 
peasants. With plots of land so small that the 
best-conditioned half of our rural population 
(originally " State peasants") could only win from 
them sufficient to supply one-half of their yearly 
income, whilst their poorer brethren (former serfs) 
could only gain from one-fifth to one-third of 
the amount absolutely needed for food and taxes ; 
with a burden of taxes for the State peasants 
equal in amount to 9275 of the entire value 
of the annual produce of their allotments, and for 
the former serfs about double that proportion 
198*25, I say, that with such an arrangement 
as this, for the peasants to live on the profits of 
their land was an arithmetical impossibility. 

The State peasants had to provide, as we have 
seen, for about 40% of their annual expenditure by 
some other means, whilst the former serfs had to 


find, some two-thirds, others four-fifths, of their 
yearly income from outside sources. In cases 
where this is found to be feasible, the taxes im- 
posed on them would absorb, as we have seen 
in a former chapter, about one-half (45%) of the 
yearly gains of the people on their land and else- 
where, kindly leaving for their subsistence the 
larger half (55%). This is practically a permanent 
corvee of about three days a week paid in money. 
To call this a "tax " is a flagrant abuse of the term ; 
but our peasants would not quibble about that, for 
these moujiks are wonderfully ready tax-payers. 

They would freely give up three days of their 
week without a murmur, or so much as asking 
for an account, and would go merrily on their 
way with the remaining three, if only they might 
employ them also on the land. In other words, 
if they had their plots of land enlarged, so as to be 
able to draw from them the whole of their exceed- 
ingly modest revenue, they would be content. As, 
however, their bitter outcry for more land was never 
listened to, they have had to make the best shift 
they could. With their peculiar adaptability, which 
never despairs and which puts a good face upon 
all difficulties that cannot be avoided, they left 
no stone unturned in the endeavour to make both 


ends meet. They applied for whatever work they 
could hope to get, and adapted themselves to any 
they could find : in the factories, at the railways, at 
the wharves, in the thousands of petty trades which 
congregate in towns. 

The whole of the peasantry being in extreme 
need of extra earnings, it is a difficult matter to 
find employment for all in a non-industrial country 
like Russia. Every trade is overcrowded. 

The sums realised by " outside " (i.e., non-agri- 
cultural) employments are very considerable. In 
the Provinces of Novgorod one-third of the pea- 
sants are permanently engaged in various outside 
industries, their wages amounting to about nine 
and a half millions of roubles a year, whilst from 
their land they receive only two and a half millions. 
Out of this total of twelve millions the Novgorod 
moujiks pay 65 per cent, in taxes. In the 
Province of Yaroslav, where about half of the 
whole population is engaged in outside employ- 
ments, the non-agricultural revenue brings in 
eleven and a half millions of roubles a year ; in 
the districts of the Province of Tver the peasants 
earn on an average about eight roubles a head by 
extra work, or about one and a half millions a year. 
The losses, too, are enormous, especially in the 


agricultural branches of the " migratory employ- 
ments " the most important of all. There is 
neither system nor order ; and there can be none 
in these wholesale wanderings of people in search 
of employment. 

The peasants of the Province of Viatka rush to 
Samara, whilst those of Samara try their luck in 
Viatka, and both Samara and Viatka send batches 
of their men to the Black Sea steppes, which return 
them a Roland for their Oliver, The travelling 
expenses, and the losses occasioned by the hun- 
dreds of thousands of failures, amount to scores 
of millions of roubles every year, and are a 
direct loss in the popular economy, acting on the 
peasants as a dead weight, which drags them 

To atone for these constant and unavoidable 
losses our people have but one expedient increase 
of work. They have reduced to the extreme 
limit the number of able-bodied labourers kept 
on the land so as to set a greater number free 
for the chances of " outside earnings." 

The petty trades carried on by artisans, who 
work at home kustary have flourished from of 
old in the villages of Great Russia, as a supple- 
ment to agricultural work. 



At the present day the hard exigencies of com- 
merce have gradually compelled a considerable 
number of these artisans husbandmen to give 
up husbandry altogether and to devote themselves 
exclusively to their trade. But the bulk of them 
are still tillers of the soil, dedicating only the 
winter months to their trade. They make all 
kinds of goods which do not require expensive 
machinery for their manufacture: earthen, steel, 
iron, leathern wares, woollen, cotton, and linen 
stuffs, carts and harness, hats, furniture, mats, 
carpets, lithographs and ikons, ropes, musical 
instruments, candles, soap, glass, beads, bronze, 
and silver finger and ear rings ; they bring up 
singing birds, they knit laces, they hew grind- 
stones, they do everything which a ready mind, 
coupled with a hungry stomach, can suggest. In- 
vention and ability make good the extreme 
deficiency of tools, as well as the complete absence 
of any assistance from scientific technology. 

In the finest specimens of these wares the 
workmanship is brought to remarkable perfection. 

The Inquiry Commission mentions that most 
of the goods of some of the best commercial 
houses of Moscow, trading in Parisian silk hats 
and Viennese furniture, are manufactured by these 


kustary peasants in their villages. The Podolsk 
laces, and the linen of Kostroma, belong to the 
best specimens of these articles. The crushing 
competition of large factories working with 
machinery, and the swarms of usurious jobbers, 
have together, by steadily cheapening the products, 
driven these small artisans to lengthen their hours 
of labour to a frightful extent 

Amongst weavers, lace-makers, rope-twisters, 
fur-dressers, and locksmiths, it is a common thing 
for men to work for seventeen hours a day ; 
sometimes more. 

The mat-makers an extensive trade, by the 
way, carried on in four hundred villages of twenty- 
six provinces, and returning two millions of roubles 
yearly have to work such appallingly long hours 
that they invented a sort of relay system which, 
as far as we know, is quite unique of its kind. 
They sleep three times in the twenty-four hours at 
about equal intervals : first at dark, until 10 P.M., 
when they awaken for their night's work ; then 
after the early breakfast at dawn, and again after 
the dinner-hour. As they work, eat, and sleep in 
the same dusty workshop, and certainly fall asleep 
as soon as they drop on the floor, they contrive to 
squeeze out of themselves nineteen hours of work 


a day, and sometimes twenty-one ! " When the 
work is very pressing," says the report of the 
Commission, " the mat-makers do not sleep more 
than three hours " one hour at a time. 

Among all these trades, in which millions of 
people men, women, and small children are 
engaged,' there are few in which the working time 
is less than sixteen hours a day. The result 
of all this fearful toil, which absorbs every hour 
unoccupied by field labour i.e., the whole of the 
winter and part of the autumn is, that they barely 
manage to pay their taxes, and do not starve. 
This is what is meant by " peasants making both 
ends meet." 

After such horrors, field labour may well assume 
the guise of recreation. Yet the peasants when 
ploughing "at their leisure," because this is not 
pressing work, rise before the sun and do not go 
to rest until it is dark, reposing but for a short 
time during our very long northern day. As to 
the harvest-time, it is not without cause that 
in our peasants' idiom it is called strada, or 

Strange ! the medical inspectors say, about most 
of our factories, that the hygienic conditions under 
which the "hands" work are so bad, and the 


hours so long, that the only thing which prevents 
their being slaughtered in a mass is the fact that 
they return to their villages for the summer 
months, and are there able to recuperate their 
strength. Exactly the same conclusion was come 
to by the Commissioners concerning many of the 
kustary mat-makers, fur-dressers, and others : they 
are able to go on, solely because it is only during 
the winter months that they work under such 
fearful pressure, and till their plots of land in the 

At the same time all those who have written 
about Russian village life nay, all who have ever 
spent a few holiday months in a Russian village 
know that it is difficult to conceive of more 
exhausting work than that which is performed by 
the peasants during the " sufferance time." 

When mowing the hay (on their own land, of 
course) the peasants do not allow themselves more 
than six hours' rest out of the twenty-four. To- 
wards the close of the harvest season the peasant 
gets thin, and his face grows dark and emaciated 
from overwork. " They get so exhausted that. 
if the fine weather lasts for a long time, the 
peasant will in his secret heart pray to God for 
rain, that he may have a day of rest. In fine 


weather the peasant, however weary, will never 
desist from his labours. He would feel ashamed.' 

Of course I do not say this as disproving the 
surgeon's opinion as to the strengthening effects of 
agricultural labour. Certainly it is the healthiest 
of all occupations, provided only that the labourer 
has food enough to make up for the great 
physical exertions this work entails. I only wish to 
show that our peasants do not spare themselves, 
either behind the kustars stand and the factory 
loom, or on their land ; that their capacity for work 
is at least equal to their power of endurance ; and 
that they really do their utmost in the terrible 
struggle for life and independence which they have 
been waging under such unfavourable conditions 
for the last twenty-six years. 

It cannot be said of them that they have 
won the battle ; yet neither are they defeated. 
Certainly they have saved their "honour" and 
something more. 

The bulk of our peasantry, that is to say, about 
two-thirds of it, have preserved the land and the 
position of independent husbandmen to which 
they are so passionately attached ; and for its pos- 
session they continue to pay, in some cases, the 


whole, in others twice the value of what it yields 
in taxes, twisting themselves with miraculous 
dexterity out of the clutches of usury, and from 
under the hammer of the tax-collector. But 
in spite of this they are gradually giving way. 
Slowly, it is true, obstinately defending every 
inch of the ground ; sometimes retrieving in a 
good year that which they lost in a bad one ; 
but, on the whole, losing their foothold unmistak- 
ably, fatally. 

Those frightful figures, showing the increase of 
general mortality, are there in all their barren 
eloquence to attest this fact. The Government 
returns regarding recruits prove that insufficiency 
of food, combined with over-work, begins to pro- 
duce its baleful effect on the health of the rising 
generation. The peasantry, as a whole, lives in 
greater want than it lived ten nay, fifteen years 

The scientific study of the daily fare of ordinary 
peasants which means those who are rather badly 
off would, in all probability, prove a no less 
puzzling problem than to calculate the average 
quantity of respirable air inhaled by each, and 
would inspire a high opinion as to the marvellous 
adjustability of the human stomach. 


When in 1878 some people brought samples of 
bread from the Province of Samara, nobody in 
the Geographical Society would believe that it was 
intended for the consumption of man. It looked 
like a brownish, sandy coal of inferior quality, or 
like dried manure ; and it fell to pieces when 
pressed between the fingers, so great was the 
quantity of non-nutritive ingredients mixed with 
the flour. This, of course, is exceptional ; but the 
average peasant family in our villages leads a 
life of privation and fasting, which would do 
honour to a convent of Trappists. They hardly 
ever taste meat. Whole-meal rye bread, and 
whole buckwheat, and gruel made of grits, are 
dainties which they only taste during the few 
months, sometimes weeks, which immediately 
follow the harvest. 

Children from these families, when placed in 
situations in town as domestic servants, in well- 
to-do households, at first literally over-eat them- 
selves on ordinary sifted rye bread, as other 
children might do on cakes. 

In the prisons the convicts banter and tease 
one another. " You rogue, you ! Look how you 
have fattened on the Crown's chistiak ! " which 
means whole-meal bread ; because in the prisons 


rye bread, though of inferior quality, is dealt out 
without any extraneous admixture, whilst the 
ordinary run of villagers, during eight months 
out of the twelve, eat bread mixed with husks, 
pounded straw, or birch bark. 

It is when reduced to such extremities as these 
that the peasant "puts himself in harness," to 
use the moujiks* colloquial term, for applying to 
the ruinous assistance of the local usurer. He 
cannot help it if his children cry for bread. 
4< They are not like cattle, the children," said one 
peasant, apologising for his insolvency. " You 
cannot cut their throats and eat them when there 
/s no forage for them. Willing or unwilling, you 
must feed them." And the peasant then steps 
on to the slippery declivity, at the foot of which 
yawns the abyss of misery and degradation, which 
is summed up for our rural population in the one 
word " batrak' 1 A whole third of our peasantry 
has slipped down this descent since 1861, and is 
now at the bottom. There are twenty millions 
of landless rural proletarians in modern Russia. 
Among the remaining forty millions, who still 
hold their land, there are yet other millions who 
will join the ranks of the ruined to-morrow if not 
to-day. Here is an extract from the reports of 


a Commission of Inquiry, giving a detailed and 
graphic account of the economical position of such 
peasants as are on the high road to become 
batraks, though nominally they are still land- 
holders. I translate literally, in the endeavour 
to preserve the ingenuous tone and style of the 

" Pankrat Horev and wife have a family of 
six daughters and one son, all under age. He is 
the only full-grown workman in the house. He 
pays taxes for two souls i.e., two shares of land. 
His property : ' one cow, one horse, two sheep. ' 
Their means of subsistence : ' know no trade. 
Have ground their last sack of oats.' 

" Ivan Jdanov. Family of five people, with one 
full-grown workman. His property : one cow, 
one horse, one sheep. Means of subsistence : 
' no bread since the autumn. Begs with his 
children. In order to pay off the second instal- 
ment of his taxes has sold his hay.' 

" Fedor Kazakovzev. Family of six people, 
with one full-grown workman. Pays for one and 
a half souls (share of land). His property : one 
cow ; no horse. Means of subsistence : no trade, 
goes begging. To pay the taxes has sold his 


" Emelian Jdanov. A family of ten people, of 
which only one is a full-grown workman. Pays 
for one and a half souls. His property : no cow, 
no horse, the house in ruins uninhabitable. 
Means of subsistence : begging. To pay the 
taxes has sold his last horse. 

" Efrem Tarasov. A family of six people, with 
one full-grown workman. Pays for two souls. 
His property: one horse, old and lean, one sheep. 
Means of subsistence : no bread, are begging. 

" Evsignei Usskov\\zs> a family of six. Pays for 
two souls. His property : one horse, one calf. 
Means of subsistence : are eating their last oat 
bread. To pay the taxes has sold his pig. 

" Prod Jdanov. A family of seven people, with 
only one full-grown workman. Pays for three 
souls. His property : one horse. Means of 
subsistence : to pay the taxes has sold his house ; 
to buy bread, his cow. This they have already 
eaten, and now are begging. 

" Andreian Zaushnitzin. A family of seven 
people, with one full-grown workman. Pays for 
two souls. His property : no horse, no cow, 
two sheep. Means of subsistence : to pay the 
taxes has sold his horse and his cow. No bread, 
are begging. And so forth, and so forth. . . . ' 


(" Records of the Zemstvo of Orloff District in 
the Province of Viatka," 1875, page 254). 

For peasants in such an evil plight, whose 
name is legion, to be converted into downright 
batraks would be to a certain extent a deliver- 
ance. They would no longer be worried about 
the taxes, and their position would be clear once 
and for ever. That which makes them cleave 
so tenaciously to the land is the hope, but rarely 
realised, that " perhaps " by some lucky chance 
they may be able to struggle through their 
present straits, rear their children, and then, when 
the household numbers several workmen, all will 
be well again, and they become " real moujiks " 
once more. 

Hundreds of thousands of peasants, when once 
compelled to resign the land, leave the country 
altogether, swelling the masses of our town pro- 
letarians, paupers, and tramps. The bulk of the 
landless peasants do not, however, leave their 
native villages. They seek employment as 
batraks in the village or neighbourhood, and 
wander as day labourers from one master to 
another. Their families live in the village, in the 
izba (cottage) they have retained, and to which 
the father returns when out of employment. 


If the commune is not very hard up, no taxes 
or duties are imposed on these bobyls and bobylkas, 
as the male and female landless householders are 
called. In such communes as are in distressed 
circumstances, and which cannot afford to exempt 
any, they have to bear their share of the common 
burdens, such as the digging of wells, the con- 
struction of bridges, or, if they keep any cattle 
themselves, the hiring of the communal shepherd. 

But, whether they pay anything or not, whether 
they work or beg, the bobyls and bobylkas retain 
their full voice in public affairs and their place at 
the communal meetings of the mir. There is not 
a single case on record of any attempt on the part 
of a mir to curtail these rights, which, in their 
opinion, is due to manhood and not to property. 
It is not, however, to this class, which is so 
absolutely dependent on the koulaks, and so easily 
cowed by them, that the mir can look for an 
active support in its struggle for freedom against 
its chief enemies and oppressors. 

There are few rural districts which enjoy real 
and genuine self-government. In most of them 
the Government appointments are monopolised by 
koulaks and wz'r-eaters pure and simple. An honest 
peasant, a mirs man, anxious to protect the mirs 


interests against the village koulaks as well as the 
police superintendents, stands but a poor chance 
against one of the koulaks, supported, as they 
are, by the police and local administration. To 
obtain the post of starshina for their own man, or 
to overthrow some notorious swindler hated by 
all, who may chance to fill it for the time being, 
the peasants have to resort to no end of canvass- 
ing, agitation, and diplomacy, in order to detach 
from the koulak who opposes them some influential 
supporter of his own set, to inspire the timid with 
courage, and persuade them to firmly resist the 
threats of the " stanovoi" the " ispravnik" and 
the " member." 

More often than not these efforts are not 
crowned with success, and hence the fact that 
there are few districts in which there is no under- 
hand contest going on between the commonalty 
and the board of officials. But in a prosperous 
and truly agricultural commune which is tanta- 
mount to saying in a strongly united commune 
the koulak, even when accepted as the head of 
the administration, will think twice before com- 
mitting a gross injury to a member of the mir, or 
before plunging his grasping hand too deeply 
into the communal cash-box. For a flourishing 


agricultural commune, not in "arrear" with its 
taxes, even the police has no overpowering terrors, 
and the mir grows very obstinate when provoked 
beyond a certain limit. 

We gaze on another picture when we look at 
poor half-ruined villages, swamped by "arrears," 
overcrowded by bobyls indebted almost to a man 
to the koulak, and dependent on his kindness 
and mercy. Here the koulak reigns supreme. 
Whether in office or not he is absolute master 
of the position, because he is able to sway the 
mirs vote at his pleasure. Both elders and 
judges, who among other powers have the right 
to inflict corporal punishment on the peasants of 
their district, are the tools, friends, dependents, 
obedient to his biddings. In such communities 
the koulaks verily are absolute masters. The 
very vastness of the powers wielded by the mir 
makes it extremely dangerous to resist the koulak ; 
should there be no rivalry among the set, almost 

Thus are the koulaks not merely instrumental in 
the material ruin of our peasantry ; they are the 
chief agents in the demoralisation and perversion 
of our people's public spirit, and of those demo- 
cratic communal institutions which first fostered 


it. At the same time the koulaks serve as a 
channel by which the demoralising influences, 
which come from the police and the adminis- 
tration, are infiltrated into the hearts of the 


BETWEEN these two classes the rural proletarians 
on the one hand and the rural plutocracy on the 
other stands a third, that of the " grey " moujik. 
In their ranks we place all peasants who, without 
being necessarily free from debt to the koulak or 
to the State, have, nevertheless, preserved their 
land, their agricultural implements, and their 
cattle in good working condition, so as to have 
a reasonable hope of retrieving their position 
within an appreciable time. Excluding all such 
merely nominal land-holders, who have no cattle 
wherewith to till their land, we shall still find this 
to be a sufficiently numerous class. At the 
present time it counts among its numbers 
certainly more than one-half of our rural popu- 
lation, though it is constantly on the decrease. 
The upper stratum melts into the rural pluto- 
cracy, the lower swells the ranks of rural 

This is the class which forms the backbone 



of Russian strength ; it intervenes between the 
State and bankruptcy ; it upholds the great 
popular principles of social and economical life, 
and struggles undaunted against the police and 
the tax-gatherer ; ic withstands the heavy pressure 
of the rural plutocracy ; it resists the downward 
influence of the proletariats. 

It must be in fairness admitted that in defend- 
ing their political and social principles our 
peasants, the " grey moujiks " at their head, have 
shown the same tenacity and obstinacy as they 
showed in the protection of their favourite 
economical status. Indeed, they have succeeded 
in preserving in absolute integrity the funda- 
mental axiom that there shall be no such thing 
as personal proprietorship in land or in any 
other source of wealth which is provided by 
nature. Notwithstanding the many influences 
working in an opposite direction, they still hold, 
with a few unimportant exceptions, to the principle 
that a man has a right of ownership in a thing 
only in so much and in so far as it embodies his 
labour. In politics they stick to the idea of the 
supreme authority of the mir and of the perfect 
equality of its members, considering the many 
violations of these principles as abuses ; and 


against them the popular conscience never ceases 
to protest. 

There is certainly a far greater uniformity in 
the popular mind as to these two fundamental 
points than might have been anticipated from the 
diversity in the social condition of the people. 

The very koulaks and wzr-eaters who misapply 
them to their own ends will generally recognise 
them in the abstract. That which in our social 
organisation had become damaged, vitiated, cor- 
rupted, is the interior relations between the 
members of the commune, affecting the opinions 
held as to a man's moral conduct and his obliga- 
tions towards his fellow men. This ideal of 
"unity," then, which we have endeavoured to set 
forth in one of our former chapters, was the 
natural outcome of the material and social equili- 
brium existing at one time in Russia, but which is 
now gradually disappearing from our village com- 

The village in its natural state as it was in by- 
gone days, and could yet be under a more rational 
agrarian arrangement may be best described as 
an association of labourers, amongst whom there 
are no connecting interests to check or mar that 
sentiment of mutual good-will which is inherent 


in all men as social beings. Friendliness amongst 
these peasants was assured by their not being in 
any sense competitors : that which in other branches 
of industry can be attained only by means of a 
complicated social arrangement is obtained in 
agriculture by itself. I mean independence of 
the market. Each lives by the fruit of his labour, 
not from the profits he might or might not get 
by selling to somebody else. Two husbandmen 
tilling their fields side by side are not rivals, 
unless in the noble and artistic emulation that 
may be felt by two labourers delighting in their 
work. The failure of the one can in no way be 
considered by the other as a windfall for himself. 
Nor could one feel grieved, or in the least alarmed, 
if the other, being stronger or abler, or simply 
luckier, earned more 

Differences in wealth always existed among 
our peasants. In each village there have always 
been rich families, poor families, and those of 
moderate means, a difference regulated by their 
respective ability and industry, and particularly 
by the number and age of the members which 
formed each household. Large families, composed 
of five, six, and even more full-grown workers, 
and " rich families " are synonymous terms even 


now. But as for every pair of willing hands 
there was land waiting to be tilled, a diligent 
peasant could well afford to be indifferent to the 
question as to how many silver coins his neigh- 
bour had hidden away in his strong-box. He was 
in no need of it ; and in the next generation the 
chances of birth and death might make his family 
a large one, and make him in his turn a " rich " 
man. Labour was the certain source of prosperity 
and independence. It was also an all-sufficient 
ground for self-respect and for considerate treat- 
ment from his fellow-men. Labour became, to 
a certain extent, sanctified in the eyes of the 

"God loves labour," say our people, though 
nowadays there are few who attach more signifi- 
cance to these words than to many other virtuous 
precepts handed down by popular tradition. Men 
belonging to the type of unselfish workers are 
rare in our time. Lukian, for example, " the 
batrak of Ivan Ermolaeff, with whom even his 
exacting master was satisfied, was an exceptional 
man." He believed labour to be meritorious 
before the face of God. "God loves labour," 
he often said, and believed it firmly. With a 
view to future beatitude, he moved logs and 


carried beams, rolled stones, and over-taxed his 
strength over the most back-breaking efforts, not 
only without a grumble or any feelings of spite, 
but with an unshaken belief that all this was 
agreeable to God. " He likes it ! " said Lukian, 
whilst, red as a turkey cock and dripping with 
perspiration, he was pulling up an enormous 
stake sticking in the bed of the river under the 
direction of Ivan Ermolaeff. He was all wet, he 
was sighing and groaning from the strain ; but 
God saw these efforts and approved of Lukian. 
The stake creaked and splashed as it was pulled 
out of the deep mire of the river's channel, and 
Lukian then knew for certain that " God had seen 
his efforts and had added a new mark to the 
many he had already gained by his labours." 

In losing the power to secure the satisfaction 
of the people's needs, labour lost much of its 
dignity, scope, and attractiveness. The only 
thing which is appreciated now, and which alone 
can secure to the peasant peace, safety, and 
respect, is money. But from daily observation and 
experience he soon learns that money cannot be 
viewed in the same light as the product of the 
land. The people who succeed in making the 
most money are not always those who work the 


hardest, but in many cases those who do not 
work at all, and are only the more respected for 
being idle, both in the wide world outside, of 
which the moujik catches occasional glimpses, and 
in the village where he lives. The koulak, whose 
motto is " Only fools work," is certainly the man 
whose position is the most enviable. Nobody 
would dare to lay a finger on him. To him not 
only the small fry starshina, pissars, uriadniks 
but the stanovoi himself are kind and consider- 
ate. The ' ' grey " moujik cannot help feeling 
tired and disgusted with his eternal drudgery 
over his " cat's plot," which brings him in such 
a pittance. He also longs to be safe, and not 
to live in momentary dread of a flogging ; he, 
too, wishes to be respected, and would not in 
the least object to being courted. The greed 
for money now permeates the whole rural popula- 
tion ; they all join in the mad chase after roubles, 
a chase which moreover diminishes their attach- 
ment both to the land and to the village. 

On the land a household works together ; the 
>roduct is the result of common labour, and is 
considered as common property. The mir as a 
whole plays an all-important part in the cycle of 
agricultural life, as guardian of the land, meadows, 


and forests, controlling their fair distribution 
amongst the people, and directing the common 
work. When making money in towns, everybody 
depends on his own personal ability and indus- 
try. The village does not in any way assist or 
protect him, and the household very rarely does. 
His duties towards the mir become a burden to 
him, and he is much tempted to resent the con- 
stant drain on his resources made by his own 

This is one of the chief causes of the breaking 
up of the large patriarchal families, which flourished 
among the Russian peasants in olden times. 
" The Gorshkovs," says Uspensky, " were one of 
the richest and largest families in Slepoe Litvinovo ; 
in proof of which I may state, that up to the 
present moment they have always lived under 
the same roof. I called on them pretty often ; and 
whatever the hour of my visits early morning 
or mid-day or evening I invariably found all the 
members of the family not engaged upon some 
work men, women, and children seated round 
a big samovar sipping their weak tea. They 
always asked me to partake of their refreshment, 
and they were exceedingly polite and obliging ; 
but, nevertheless, I did not feel at my ease among 


them. In the mutual relations of the members 
of the family there was a certain constraint and 
insincerity. It seemed not only as if I were 
a stranger amongst them, but that they were 
all strangers to one another. When I became 
better acquainted with this family, and with the 
general conditions of peasant life, I was convinced 
that my presentiments had not deceived me. 
There was deep-seated, internal discord in the 
family, which was only held together partly by the 
skill of the clever and robust old grandmother, 
whom all were accustomed to obey, and especially 
by the unwillingness of each one ' to be the first 
to begin the row/ It seemed as though each 
one expected that one of the others should be 
the first to ' rebel.' 

" This discord was of ancient date. It had 
been worming itself gradually into the heart of 
the family almost ever since the time when the 
necessity for earning something extra first became 
manifest. One of the brothers went to St. 
Petersburg during the winter months as a cab- 
man, whilst another engaged himself as a forester ; 
but the inequality of their earnings had disturbed 
the economical harmony of the household. In 
five months the cabman sent one hundred roubles 


home to the family, whilst the forester had only 
earned twenty-five roubles. Now, the question 
was, Why should he (the forester) consume with 
such avidity the tea and sugar dearly purchased 
with the cabman's money ? And in general : Why 
should this tea be absorbed with such greediness 
by all the numerous members of the household 
by the elder brother, for instance, who alone drank 
something like eighty cups a day (the whole family 
consumed about nine hundred cups per diem), 
whilst he did not move a finger towards earning 
all this tea and sugar ? Whilst the cabman was 
freezing in the cold night air, or busying himself 
with some drunken passenger, or was being 
abused and beaten by a policeman on duty near 
some theatre, this elder brother was comfortably 
stretched upon his belly, on the warm family oven, 
pouring out some nonsense about twenty-seven 
bears whom he had seen rambling through the 
country with their whelps, in search of new land for 
settlement. True his (the cabman's) children were 
fed in the family whilst he was in town ; in the 
summer he was, however, at home, and worked 
upon their common land with the rest. His 
children had a right to their bread. The only 
thing which made him tolerate his dependency 


was that the horse and the carriage, which he 
drove when in town, had been purchased out 
of the common funds. But his endurance did not 
promise to hold out much longer. 

" For two years he had kept silence ; but his 
people were well aware that he tried to ' conceal ' 
a part of his earnings, so that his contribution 
towards the family income should be pretty much 
the same as that furnished by the other brothers. 
When his daughter, a little girl, succeeded in 
earning fifteen roubles for the family by selling 
wood-berries, he tried to deduct that amount 
from his cabman's fees for his own private use. 
The grandmother would not, however, permit 

" The next brother (the forester) also began to 
ponder and to calculate as to how much of his 
money was ' engrossed ' by the eldest brother 
and his children. A dress for Paranka had been 
purchased from a pedlar with his money. Now, 
Paranka was the eldest brother's daughter, and 
able to earn fifty roubles at work among the osiers, 
which she appropriated to her own private uses. 
The forester was very vexed and irritated about 
the dress bought of the pedlar. As the grand- 
mother took Paranka's side in the dispute, Alexis 


(the forester) took his next month's salary to the 
public-house and spent it all in drink. 

" It is impossible to describe all these domestic 
dissensions. The notions as to ' mine ' and 
' yours,' which disturbed these people's peace of 
mind, were felt in every trifle in every lump of 
sugar, cup of tea, or cotton handkerchief. Nicolas 
(the cabman) looked at Alexis, thinking. ' You are 
eating of that which is mine,' conscious, all the 
while, that at times he, too, had eaten of something 
belonging to his younger brothers. Alexis, in his 
turn, could not feel himself quite at his ease. It 
was all very well for him to hiccough freely after 
drenching himself with as much tea as he could 
hold, in sign of his being well pleased and satisfied 
with himself, after having partaken of tea which 
was his own, but he was not sincere. A misgiv- 
ing lurked in his heart, that either in this tea, or in 
that sugar, or in the white bread, or which was 
most certain, and by far the most disagreeable of 
all in his own stomach, there was something 
belonging to somebody else. 

"It was exactly this ' mine, thine,' peeping out 
from every mouthful and from every gulp, which 
drove me from the Gorshkovs' table, all their 
obliging invitations to take a cup of tea with them 


notwithstanding. They drank their tea solemnly 
and silently, looking steadily into their cups ; but 
it always seemed to me that they were all trying 
to drink the same quantity, noting, under the 
rose, whether any one had out-eaten or out-drunk 
the others. 

" At all events, the sidelong glances they threw 
upon one another and the children were very bad 
looks indeed. It was the same in everything. If 
you hired some horses of one of the brothers for a 
drive into town, the others, on meeting you, would 
try to find out how much you had paid him. If 
you paid one of the brothers his fees the others 
were sure to stare at your purse and at their 
brother's hands. Of course such relations could 
not be maintained for long. 

"It so happened that the first to rebel was 
Paranka. She took it into her head that she 
could not do without a regular woollen, town-made 
dress. All the men resisted this whim, for about 
eighteen months, with resolute energy. A million 
of times, at least, it was proved to them by the 
grandmother and the other women, as well as by 
Paranka herself, who wept bitterly through a 
number of winter evenings, that no less than a 
hundred roubles of Paranka's money had been 


spent upon the family. The men resisted with a 
truly bull- like stubbornness. Finally, the grand- 
mother herself began to wail, and then the men 
gave way, and it was resolved that a dress should 
be made. 

"The eldest brother was commissioned to 
inquire about the prices and everything appertain- 
ing to the matter. He resolved to go to the next 
port, distant about fifteen miles, and to make his 
inquiries there. He took a provision of oats and 
hay for the horses, spent two days on the trip, and, 
having consulted with the smith, the farrier, and 
several merchants, returned home not one whit 
the wiser. He did not know how to broach the 
subject. In order not to allow the brothers to 
cool down, Paranka had begun to wail incessantly 
from the very day the resolution as to her dress 
had been passed at the family council. By dint 
of these tears she moved the reluctant men to 
take active steps. The two next brothers put 
horses into the cart and also went to the port, for 
there was a saw-mill there, and, in consequence, 
a large number of people. They were no more 
fortunate than the elder brother, and came home 
with the conviction that the women must be sent, 
for Paranka gave them no peace with her wailings. 


The women went and returned perfectly horrified : 
nobody would think of making a dress such as 
Paranka wanted for less than forty roubles. Here 
all the brothers, their wives, and even Paranka 
herself, seemed to understand that the matter was 
at an end ; but God saved Paranka. A soldier 
who happened to be at the port heard about the 
inquiries of the Gorshkov women, and sent word to 
the headquarters of a cavalry regiment stationed 
near Novgorod, some thirty miles off. At these 
headquarters there was a dressmaker who, profit- 
ing by a lucky chance (an officer was transporting 
a piano to St. Petersburg), begged permission from 
the carrier to accompany him, and thus arrived at 
Paranka's village sitting upon the piano. She 
persuaded the family that all could be well and 
cheaply arranged. 

" But when the brothers counted up everything 
that had been spent on the dressmaker during the 
six weeks that she stitched and unstitched the 
dress, they found that it represented a sum equal 
in value to the framework of two peasants' houses. 

" The dressmaker stole some pieces of stuff, 
and they had to incur extra expense in recovering 
them. And worst of all the dress was quite 
unwearable. Later on, thanks to unremitting toil, 


and particularly to ' concealment ' of money. 
Paranka succeeding in paying herself for a silk 
dress by a Novgorod dressmaker, besides a jacket 
and a paletot. All these treasures she kept hidden 
in the house of a friend. 

" The next after Paranka to squabble was 
Nicolas, the cabman. He began to urge that he 
had long since redeemed the carriage and the horse ; 
but the first to break away from the family, and to 
separate in real earnest, was Alexis, the forester, 
probably because he felt more sincerely and 
oftener than the others did the burden of being 
indebted to others. That part of his own earnings 
which he considered to be an extra he faithfully 
spent in drink, that it might fall to nobody's share ; 
he did not, like Nicolas, secrete it. When sober, 
however, he could not help feeling that he at 
times ate that which he had not earned. To screw 
his courage up to break with his family he gave 
himself up to reckless drinking ; he squandered 
seventy roubles that is a whole year's salary 
at the public-house, and drank himself mad. 
By this means he was able to tear himself from 
his own people. In a sober state he would never 
have haa the heart to take his children from the. 
paternal root- tree, to lead away the cow and the 


horse, or to pull the slits. He took possession of 
a small house, built by the Gorshkovs some ten 
years previously, after a fire, and there he and 
his family lived whilst a new house was being 

The ultimate complete dissolution of the Gorsh- 
kov household is merely a question of time. Thus 
far there has been no harm in it. The vigour of 
the big patriarchal families is sapped by the lowest 
instincts as well as by the loftiest aspirations 
developed by modern times. They are incompati- 
ble with individual independence. Amongst the 
Southern Russians, with whom the sentiment of 
individuality is much stronger than among the 
Great Russians, these composite families are 
unknown. Their rapid dissolution among the 
Russians would have been an unmitigated good 
if it were not accompanied by the general relaxa- 
tion of social ties between all the members of the 
village Community. 


FOR a community of labourers mutual assistance 
is only another name for mutual insurance. The 
danger of falling ill or lame, of remaining without 
support in old age, or of having a " visitation " 
in the form of fire or murrain, is pretty well 
equally shared by all. In mutually assisting each 
other they are doing that which it is to their 
obvious interest to do ; giving the same as they 
expect in their turn to receive. There is nothing 
particularly generous in it ; nor do they them- 
selves consider it to be anything very meritorious 
or laudable on their part. Zlatovratsky, in his 
" Derevenskie Budni " (sketches of every-day 
village life), describing one of the " old-fashioned " 
villages, observes how easy it is for an outsider to 
be led into error if he takes the peasants' state- 
ments in a literal sense without observing and 
investigating for himself. 

If, for instance, you were to ask the peasants 
whether they assist the poor, they would certainly 


answer. " Oh dear me, no ! We are too hard-up 
ourselves. We throw a Kopeck, or a piece of bread, 
to the poor who knock at our window, that is all." 
But, if you take the trouble to observe more 
closely, you are surprised to discover the existence 
of a vast system of co-operative assistance given 
to the aged, the orphaned, and the sick, both 
in field work and in household labour ; only the 
peasants do not look upon this as charity. It is 
a simple fulfilment of the obligations of their 
" daily life." The old man, whose corn the 
whole mir turns out to carry on a Sunday 
afternoon, receives only what is his due as a mirs 
labourer and tax- payer of several score of years' 
standing. The orphan receives but a benefit on 
account of labours to come. 

The present increase in the number of purely 
industrial occupations, which now largely pre- 
dominate over the agricultural, has made the 
necessity for this reciprocity less self-evident, and 
general impoverishment has made its practice 
hardly possible, even with the best-intentioned. 
People who live from hand to mouth, and who 
are compelled to put into requisition every 
working hour of the day on their own account 
in order to avert or to postpone their own ruin. 


cannot afford to be solicitous over any needs 
but their own. Such considerate mutual assist- 
ance, the humanity of which is enhanced by the 
delicacy with which it is offered, is becoming 
rarer and rarer. Charity for our people are still 
very charitable is the meagre wraith of the once 
high conception of co-operative assistance ten- 
dered as a duty on the one hand, and accepted 
as a right on the other. 

Enghelhardt gives an exceedingly interesting 
account of the practice of almsgiving among the 
peasants of North- Western Russia (White 
Russian), which under other guises exists in 
nearly every district of the empire. 

" There is no regular distribution by weight of 
baked bread to beggars, as is, or rather was, the 
custom in times of yore in the manor-houses. 
In my house the cook simply gives those who 
ask ' the morsels,' or small pieces of rye bread, 
as do all peasants. As long as a moujik has one 
loaf of bread left in his house his wife will give 
' morsels.' I gave no orders as to the 
' morsels/ and knew nothing about the custom. 
The cook decided on her own responsibility that 
'we' must give 'morsels,' and she accordingly 
does it. 


" In our Province, even after a good season, few 
peasants are able to make their own bread last 
until harvest-time comes round again. Almost 
every family has to buy bread to some extent ; 
and when there is no money for it, the head 
of the household sends the children, the old 
men and women ' for morsels.' This year, for 
instance, the crops were very bad : there was 
neither bread for the people nor, worse still, 
forage for the cattle. A man may find food for 
himself among the people by means of these 
' morsels ; ' but how is he to feed a horse ? It 
cannot be sent from door to door in search of 
' morsels.' The outlook is bad, so bad that it 
cannot well be worse. Most of the children were 
sent ' for morsels ' before St. Cossma and 
Damian. (ist November: the peasants count 
the time by the saints' days.) The cold ' St. 
George ' (26th November) in this year proved a 
hungry one too. There are two ' St. George's ' 
days in the year ; the cold 26th November 
and the hungry 23rd April, which, falling 
as it does in the spring, is at a very hungry 
time of the year. The peasants began to 
buy bread long before ' St. Nicolas,' which 
shows that they had not a grain of home-grown 


corn in the house. For the peasant will never 
buy any bread until the last pound of flour is 
kneaded. By the end of December about thirty 
couples came every day and begged ' for 
morsels.' Among them were children and old 
people, also strong lads and maidens. Hunger 
is a hard master ; a fasting man will sell the very 
saints, say the moujiks. A young man or girl 
feels reluctant and ashamed to beg, but there 
is no help for it. There is nothing, literally 
nothing, to eat at home. To-day they have eaten 
the last loaf of bread, from which they yesterday 
cut ' morsels ' for those who knocked at their 
door. No bread, no work. Everybody would be 
happy to work for bare food ; but work why, 
there is none. A man who seeks ' for morsels ' 
and a regular ' beggar ' belong to two entirely 
different types of people. A beggar is a pro- 
fessional man ; begging is his trade. A beggar 
has no land, no house, no permanent abiding 
place, for he is constantly wandering from one 
place to another, collecting bread, eggs, and 
money : he straightway converts everything he 
receives in kind corn, eggs, flour, etc. into 
ready money. He is generally a cripple, a sickly 
man incapable of work, a feeble old man, or a fool : 


he is clad in rags, and begs in a loud voice, some- 
times in an importunate way, and is not ashamed 
of his calling. A beggar is God's man. He 
rarely wanders amongst the moujiks, and prefers 
to haunt towns, fairs, and busy places, where 
gentlemen and merchants congregate. Pro- 
fessional beggars are rare in the villages ; there 
they would have little to expect. 

" A man, however, who asks ' for morsels ' is 
of quite another class. He is a peasant from the 
neighbourhood. He is clothed like all his brother 
peasants, sometimes in a new arnnak; a linen sack 
slung over his shoulder is his only distinguishing 
mark. If he belongs to the immediate neighbour- 
hood even the sack will be missing, for he is 
ashamed to wear it He enters the house as if by 
accident, and on no particular business beyond 
warming himself a little ; and the mistress of the 
house, so as not to offend his modesty, will give 
him ' the morsel ' incidentally, and ' unawares.' 
If the man comes at dinner time he is invited 
to table. The moujik is very delicate in the 
management of such matters, because he knows 
that some day he, too, may perhaps have to seek 
1 morsels ' on his own account. 

" * No man can forswear either the prison or the 


sack,' say the peasants. The man who calls 
for a ' morsel ' is ashamed to beg. On entering 
the izba he makes the sign of the cross and stops 
on the threshold in silence, or mutters in a low 
voice, ' Give in Christ's name.' Nobody pays 
any attention to him ; all go on with their business, 
and chat or laugh as if nobody were there. Only 
the mistress approaches the table, picks up a piece 
of bread from three to four square inches in size, 
and gives it to her visitor. He makes the sign of 
the cross and goes. All the pieces given are of 
the same size. If any of the slices given are 
three square inches in size, all are three square 
inches. If two people come together (they 
generally work in couples) the mistress puts the 
question, 'Are you collecting together?' If the 
answer is ' Yes,' she gives them a piece of six 
square inches ; if separately, she cuts the piece 
in two.' ' 

The man who tramps the neighbourhood thus 
owns a house, and enjoys his allotted share ot 
land ; he is the owner of horses, cows, sheep, 
clothes, only for the moment he has no bread. 
When in ten months' time he carries his crops, 
he will not merely cease begging, but will himself 
be the giver of bread to others ; if by means of 


the aid now afforded him he weathers the storm 
and succeeds in finding work, he will with the 
money he earns at once buy bread, and himself 
help those who have none. This system of 
asking for help " in kind" serves as a make-shift 
to avoid the irretrievable ruin which would follow 
the selling off of his cattle and other property. 
It is a painful expedient, to which the peasants 
only resort when all others have failed. 

"In the autumn " we resume the quotation 
" when the crops are just gathered, practically all 
these peasants eat wholemeal rye bread until their 
hunger is satisfied. Just a few exceptionally 
prudent families do add husks to their flour even 
at this season of the year, but such foresight is 
rare. When, after a time, the head of the family 
notices that bread is running short, the family has 
to begin to eat less perhaps twice a day instead 
of three times, then only once ; the next step is to 
add husks to the flour. If there is any money left 
after the taxes are paid, bread is bought ; but if 
there is no money in the house, the head of the 
household tries to borrow, and pays an enormous 
interest on any accommodation he gets. Then, 
when all other means are exhausted, and the last 
bread has been eaten, the children and the old 


people swing the sacks over their shoulders and 
tramp to the neighbouring villages asking help. 
Whilst the children generally return to sleep at 
home, their elders go to more remote parts of the 
country, and return home only after they have 
collected a considerable number of morsels. On 
these the family dines, and if there are any left 
they are first dried in the oven, and then stored 
away for future use. In the meantime the father 
is struggling to find work, or to borrow bread, 
and the mistress is looking after the cattle, and 
cannot leave the house. The grown-up young 
people are eager for any employment that will 
bring in food. 

" The father has perhaps succeeded in procuring 
a few bushels of corn, and in that case the children 
no longer go to the mir and beg from door to door, 
and the mistress once more distributes ' morsels ' 
to those who knock at theirs. If, on the other 
hand, the father has failed to procure corn, the 
children are followed in their piteous quest by 
the grown-up members of the family, and, finally, 
by the father himself, who does not go on foot, 
but with his cart and horse, his wife remaining 
alone in the house to look after the cattle. The 
advantage of driving is that the needy men can 


thus penetrate much further into the country, 
often even beyond the borders of their Province. 

" This winter it has been common enough to 
meet a cart full of sacks with ' morsels ' on the 
road, and on the cart a moujik, a girl, and a boy. 
Such peasants do not return home before they 
have collected a considerable supply of bread, 
which they dry in the oven when stopping to 
sleep in some village. The family feed on these 
biscuits, while the father works about the house 
or seeks for employment somewhere else. When 
the stock of ' morsels ' begins to be exhausted, 
the horse is once more put into the cart, and they 
go again on their weary round. Many families 
provide themselves with food in this way all the 
winter, and even during a part of the spring ; 
and sometimes, when there is a good supply of 
these ' morsels ' in the house, they are distributed 
to those who come to beg. 

" All this clearly proves that these men are not 
professional beggars. To them people do not 
say, when unwilling to give anything themselves, 
' God will give you in our stead,' as they do to 
a regular beggar ; but, ' We have nothing to give ; 
we are going to solicit morsels for ourselves.' 
Another distinction to be drawn between the two 


classes of beggars is that whereas, as has before 
been stated, the peasant gives to those in need 
as soon as he is able, the professional beggar 
never gives anything to any one. 

" Not to give a ' morsel ' when there is bread in 
the house is a sin. That is why my cook gave 
them without first asking for my permission. Had 
I forbidden her to do so she would most likely 
have rebuked me, and in all probability have flatly 
declined to remain in my service." 

In addition to this remarkable development of 
public-spirited self-sacrifice amongst our peasants, 
instances occur of yet higher manifestations of 
the feeling of human brotherhood. 

Potanin, in writing of a commune in the Nicolsk 
district, Province of Vologda, which depended for 
its support on the work supplied by a salt-house 
in the neighbourhood, mentions how, in 1878, the 
firm began to lose ground, and was compelled 
to reduce the number of the men employed, by 
one-half. The community, brought face to face 
with the necessity of seeing one-half of its mem- 
bers condemned to starvation, passed the resolu- 
tion that each peasant should work only three 
days in the week instead of six, as heretofore. 

It was an heroic impulse which decided these 


men to suffer gradually, but together, rather than 
to snatch the bread from one another's mouths. 

As a rule, in all similar cases it has been found 
that the strongest will outbid the feeblest, and the 
whole community will look with perfect composure 
on the ruin of its weaker members. 

This power of self-restraint on behalf of the 
community, has now given place to that cold- 
blooded indifference to others' woes, to that animal 
egotism, indicative of a universal breaking up, 
which has struck with awe many of the observers 
of modern village life. 

There is no secret between fellow villagers 
concerning their material prosperity. Every 
peasant knows the exact number of acres tilled 
by each one of his companions, the number of 
sacks of grain he has sold, and the number he has 
kept, and could give an inventory of each house- 
hold in turn, by heart. If some ill luck befall 
a family, the village knows exactly what will 
be the outcome of it. The ruin is foreseen, pre- 
dicted, expected, with fatal certainty, and takes 
nobody by surprise. 

Here is an excellent peasant family a husband, 
wife, two boys, and a girl. It is hard work for the 
father to feed them all, but he has good help- 


mates an industrious, clever wife, and a daughter 
who has entered upon her sixteenth year. They 
make both ends meet. The father wishes to find 
a son-in-law who would consent to live with them, 
and is looking out for a suitable match for the 
girl ; then the household would be complete. 
But it chances that the father hurts his leg, and has 
to keep his bed. This misfortune occurs at the 
season when work is most pressing, in the spring. 
The neighbours who have no such affliction to 
bear, on seeing the piece of ill luck which has 
befallen the family, cry, " Oh ! what a pity, what 
a pity ! Nothing could be worse than to be laid 
by at the season when work is heaviest. They 
will now have to sell their two calves to enable 
them to hire a labourer, and they will be 
unable to marry their Mariushka." 

All this proves true to a fraction. The two 
calves, destined to defray the expenses of the 
wedding, are sold, and Mariushka's marriage is 
postponed. The batrak has done his trashy work, 
and has gone, but the master still remains lying in 
his bed. An old woman treats him with various 
home-made medicaments, but the leg grows worse 
and worse. 

In the meantime the mowing season has com- 


menced. Now there is nothing left to sell, to pay 
for the hiring of a batrak. The father makes an 
effort, rises from his sick bed, sets his scythe, 
and goes to the field. He mows the hay, but 
irritates his wounded leg so badly that he falls 
quite ill, and at about the middle of the harvest 
time breathes his last. 

" Now, say the neighbours, Mariushka must 
go to town as a servant, to earn money for 
her mother. There is no use in her remaining 
at home nobody will marry her now, poor 
soul ! " 

And once more everything happens exactly 
as had been predicted. Nobody will marry 
Mariushka, for she cannot leave her family, and 
no young man will venture to enter into the 
household as one of its members with so many 
mouths to feed two brothers under age, the 
mother, and his own children into the bargain. 
So the family remains without a man. But the 
taxes must be paid for the land, so they resolve 
to engage a permanent batrak. Mariushka goes 
to town to service to make up enough money for 
his wages, but she has everything to learn before 
she can be engaged as a trained servant. Many 
months pass before she is able to buy herself fitting 


dresses to wear when she shall have found employ- 
ment in a " respectable " house. To these diffi- 
culties must be added the numberless uncertainties 
and temptations besetting a young girl in a town. 
She may be seduced, and return with a baby 
to the village, and a life of eternal shame. A mere 
accident : the gentleman in whose family she was 
engaged as servant has lost his employment, and 
for three months is unable to pay her her wages, 
so that Mariushka cannot send a penny home to 
her mother just at the time when money is the 
most urgently needed. Arrears in the taxes 
accumulate upon the arrears of the wages due to 
the batrak. 

The land is taken from the mother, and her cow 
is sold to pay the batrak. What could the poor 
woman do in this extremity ? She has two boys 
to bring up, one of ten the other of eleven years 
of age. They are not workers as yet, but they 
need to be fed, and the mother has nothing to give 
them. Her only expedient is to send them also 
to town to Mariushka, who is glad to find them 
employment with a publican. 

The mother remains alone. She is sick at 
heart, weary of this life of suffering and wretched- 
ness. She sells the. house and goes away, a sack 


on her shoulders, to the shrine of some saint, there 
to pray for the soul of her deceased husband, and 
for the two boys who are pining away in the 
tavern, and for Mariushka too, of whom nothing 
whatever has been heard. " Oh, poor creature ! >! 
say the neighbours pityingly, as they see the 
owner of the ruined nest off; and a week later 
they welcome the new proprietors of the house. 
The recent drama is forgotten. 

Or another case two brothers. The elder, 
Nicolas, is a hard-working, indefatigable moujik, 
but he can hardly keep body and soul together, 
and is gnawing his heart out in vain efforts to 
improve his condition. Opposite him lives his 
brother Aleshka, a bumpkin, who never yet suc- 
ceeded in anything. This Aleshka was employed 
as a forest surveyor, at seven roubles per month. 
Nicolas has ousted him. Aleshka occasionally 
takes a drop too much, whilst Nicolas is a total 
abstainer. " It is just the same to Aleshka whether 
he earns money or not," he said. 

Ousted from this employment, Aleshka tries 
the wood trade, and delivers fire-wood at certain 
places. Nicolas " finds out " the wood-yard, 
offers his services at a lower price, and ousts his 
brother again. "What right has he to grumble?" 



he asked ; " I do not hinder him from offering his 
services at a yet cheaper rate." 

And what of their fellow-villagers, the mir? 
What are they doing ? They look on with perfect 
equanimity, merely stating the facts "John must 
go begging." "Peter will flourish." "Andrew 
will have to starve," and so on. 

When Nicolas turned his brother out of his 
situation in the forest, " Seven roubles a month 
will be a God-send to Nicolas ! " remarked the 
neighbours. " Now he will thrive apace." When 
Aleshka was ousted by his brother from the wood 
trade, and shortly afterwards lost to him a small 
meadow, rented from a landlord, the neighbours 
said, "Now Aleshka is lost, he must come to 
downright ruin." And Aleshka could not help 
ratifying their prognostication. He has a lot of 
children, one under another, and a sickly wife, 
unfortunately endowed with great fecundity. 
Aleshka, on seeing ruin and desolation creeping 
over him, gave himself up to drinking, and began 
to beat his wife furiously, in the hope that it might 
subdue her untoward fecundity, and bring it to 
a level with his miserable means. In this he did 
not succeed, and then threw the heft after the 
hatchet by drinking more than ever. On seeing 


him stretched in the mud in the gutter, face 
downwards, motionless as a log, people predicted, 
" He will be found thus some day, dead." Aleshka, 
however, escaped death, and a new and terrible 
misfortune overtook him. 

One day the news spread through the village 
that Aleshka's three daughters, left by the mother 
to the care of their elder brother, a boy of 
nine (the father was absent also, stealing wood 
from the landlord's forest), had, in playing, upset 
a boiling samovar, and had scalded themselves 
from head to foot, "In a few hours they will 
probably be dead," prophesied the village experts. 
As, however, in villages everything is known and 
so very many things foreseen, this prophecy was 
accompanied by another. " Why ! perhaps now 
Aleshka may improve his position. Certainly it 
is hard upon him to have to bear such a blow, 
for who does not pity his own flesh and blood ? 

: But, on the other hand, nobody can pry into 
God's designs. Who knows but what God in 

his wisdom At all events Aleshka will have 

a chance ; certainly his prospects may improve." 
As a matter of fact the children did die, and, 

i as a matter of fact also, Aleshka did begin to 

i improve. 


Such are the incidents which sometimes "save" 
a peasant from inevitable ruin ! Each for him- 
self. Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin. 
The commune has been transformed into a pack 
of galley slaves, each of whom endeavours to 
minimise his share of the burden and responsi- 

The commune asks for an advance from the 
zemstvo. The zemstvo accedes to the demand, 
and sends in a subsidy only sufficient, as a matter 
of course, to assist the needy families. In a 
village composed of some twenty households 
there are, let us say, five families which are 
destitute. The money, or the provision of corn, 
sent by the zemstvo is accordingly sufficient to 
relieve only these five families. But the subsidy 
is advanced to the mir as a whole, under its 
collective responsibility. The zemstvo cannot 
have dealings with, or rely upon the solvency of, 
Peter or of John, and other private individuals 
who may be soliciting its assistance. Now, as 
the whole village is answerable for the cost of 
the supplies sent, the peasants say, " If I shall 
have to pay, let me have my share too." It is 
resolved, therefore, at the mirs meeting that the 
subsidy shall be divided amongst all, apportion- 


ing, moreover, the shares according to the number 
of " souls " in each household. The " soul " which 
is the unit for measuring the working capacities of 
each household (as well as the amount of land 
apportioned to it), at the same time represents 
the liability of each household with regard to 
all those taxes and payments and duties of any 
kind, which fall on the commune in a lump. 

Thus, in the distribution of the zemstvd 's subsidy, 
the richest family, which represents five "souls," 
and has five shares of land, will receive most 
of the corn ; the medium-sized, representing three 
souls, will have three shares. As to the landless 
bobyl, who is economically a cipher, because he 
does not stand even for a fraction of a " soul," 
he receives nothing at all, though he may have 
the largest family and be the most needy. 
People do not want to be answerable for him. 
If he is reluctant to resort to the usual expedient 
of " going for morsels," he must re- borrow the 
subsidy at its full valuation, and upon his own 
responsibility, from his well-to-do neighbours, who 
have received it without any individual payment. 

No wonder that the barefooted horde in its 
turn shows no particular goodwill to its well-to-do 


Ivan Ermolaeff grumbles. He is a typical 
"grey moujik" this Ivan Ermolaeff. Though 
with a slight leaning towards the koulaks, he 
retains all the traditions and tastes of a genuine 
peasant in their full intensity, and hates and 
despises all non-agricultural profits as unbecoming 
a moujik. He is far cleverer than another "grey 
moujik" of our acquaintance, Ivan Afanasieff, 
whom we introduced to the reader in a former 

Whilst puny Ivan Afanasieff, with all his dili- 
gence and ardent love for the land, is unmistakably 
on the high road to become a landless batrak, 
energetic and ready-witted Ivan Ermolaeff will 
certainly hold his own, at all events for many 
years to come. 

Working all the year round like a galley slave, 
Ivan Ermolaeff makes both ends meet, and " does 
not suffer from hunger," which is the beau ideal 
of a grey moujik. 

Yet he grumbles. He grumbles, not against 
his hard lot, which he supports with stoical endur- 
ance, but against the people, against his fellow- 

" You try to improve your position, and your 
neighbours do their best to ruin you." 


" How can that be ? Why should they do 

" I do not know ; since they do do it, they must 
certainly have some reason. 'You are doing well, 
I am doing badly.' ' Well, let us so arrange 
matters that you shall do badly too.' ' It will 
put all upon the same level. 1 ' Judge for yourself. 
We have here a forest belonging to the Com- 
mune. Everybody receives a part of it for his 
own personal use. Well, I have hewn my wood, 
grubbed up the ground, have generally improved 
it, and transformed it into arable land. As soon 
as I have by my own labour obtained more 
land, they shout, ' Let us have a redistribution ! 
You hold more land than those who pay for 
the same number of souls. The quantity of 
communal land has increased ; let us have a 
redistribution ! ' 

" But is not everybody free to reclaim his part 
of the waste land ? ' ' 

" Yes, but everybody is not willing to do it. 
Herein lies the difference some are not strong 
enough, others are too lazy. I am up before the 
dawn, I work in the sweat of my brow, I harvest 
more crops. Oh ! they will take it from me, you 
may depend upon it. " And do you think it 


will be of any great advantage to them ? " "Not 
at all. Each will receive a bagatelle, a mere 
strip, a narrow slip of land. They have twice 
played me this same trick. It is useless to try 
to improve my position." 

" And are there many people in your village 
who are thus hindering you ? " 

" Certainly, many. The rich bar my way, and 
the poor bar my way likewise." 

A new stream of feeling, which is anything 
but benevolent, is springing up in the villages 
amongst the disinherited " victims " of the social 
struggle, which bodes evil both to social order 
and to their victorious brethren. 

Formerly the peasants used to hate their 
masters, the nobles, and the tchinovniks, who, 
rod in hand, managed the manorial estates. This 
hatred, however bitter, fell on outsiders, who 
formed a small body of people, who were allowed 
to oppress and torture the peasants by the Tzar's 
sufferance, not by any power of their own. 

At the present day the bitterest enemies to the 
people are singled out from among their own 
ranks. They form a detached and numerous class, 
which has its adherents, and agents, and sup- 
porters. The hatred they inspire in millions of 


the peasants is as legitimate as that inspired by the 
slave-owning nobility in times of yore. Modern 
hatred assumes the character of class-hatred, and 
extends to the whole social system, of which the 
rural plutocracy is the necessary outcome. 


" EVERY time I happen to meet or to speak to 
the peasant Havrila Volkov," says Uspensky, " I 
invariably think how dreadful it will be to witness 
the time when this Volkov shall let loose the fierce 
hatred and rage which lie hidden in the depths 
of his heart, and are at present only discovered in 
the cruel expression of his eyes and mouth, and 
by the harsh tones of his voice. For when the 
outward pressure which holds him down shall be 
removed, his hidden passions will immediately 
assume the form of a powerful, revengeful, and 
pitiless giant, raising an enormous cudgel against 
everything and everybody. 

" A man of herculean strength, Havrila Volkov 
is also undoubtedly endowed with great mental 
energy. But the transition period through which 
we are passing, though already protracted to such 
an abnormally long time, has provided no solid 
food for the popular intelligence to digest ; indeed, 
hardly any food at all, because during all this 


time nothing has been so thwarted and obstructed 
as the influences which might have resulted in 
a sound development of the popular intelligence. 
Owing to this, Havrila's mind is only distorted, 
disconcerted, unhealthily excited by vague rumours 
and hopes, and as unhealthily depressed by other 
rumours of an opposite nature. ' Money ' this 
is the only immutably solid thing amidst all the 
contradictions and uncertainties of life. 

" Havrila is now about forty years of age. He 
was born, and grew into young manhood, in the 
days of serfdom, though people were already 
talking about the coming Emanicipation. 

" These rumours grew more persistent, and with 
them the hopes for the future grew stronger and 
brighter. Serfdom was at last abolished. Their 
lord, whom Havrila's parent served, mortgaged 
his estate and disappeared. The manor house 
stood deserted and locked up. The hateful past 
seemed to be blotted out for ever. Yet people 
had to work harder than before, because the 
peasants' land had been curtailed and their ex- 
penses had increased. They could not live by 
the land alone, and were forced to go to town 
to seek work there. Havrila's family, however, 
ruled by a hard and despotic father, preserved 


a comparative affluence, because kept together 
by the strong hand of its head ; but it was trying 
to have to bear his despotism. He took all the 
money earned by his sons. One brother earned 
more, another less, for equal skill was not required 
for their respective work. 

" They were all put on an equal footing by the 
absolute rule of their father, which appeared to 
Havrila to be nothing less than wanton tyranny. 
To become rich through husbandry had gone out 
of fashion. The method which had come to be 
much in vogue was to gain wealth by speculation 
and by usury. A constant rage was gnawing at 
Havrila's heart : the family had eaten up such 
a lot of his own earnings, that, if he had used 
it in speculative ventures, he might by that time 
have been as rich and as respected as their neigh- 
bour Cheremukhin, who had started in business 
with a solitary sixpence in his pocket. Domestic 
despotism oppressed him to no purpose. By 
agricultural work, however hard, it was futile to 
try to match Cheremukhin's profits. 

As time moved on, the despotic habits of the 
father, instead of taming down, became daily more 
oppressive. Taxes were increasing, the family 
stood in need of more money ergo, the work grew 



heavier and heavier, otherwise the greater expen- 
diture could not be met, and Cheremukhin would 
swallow them up. All this only stirred up 
Havrila's rage the more. His father ought to let 
him live by himself on his own earnings, and 
after what fashion he liked. But the old man 
would not hear of it, and squeezed him ever 
closer in the effort to make both ends meet. 

"Yet all this relentless work notwithstanding, 
ruin was always imminent. If by ill luck the 
horse should one day perish, they would be com- 
pelled to implore Cheremukhin's assistance, and 
it would be all over with their independence. 
But just look at Cheremukhin ; he could impose 
his yoke on everybody, whilst nobody could im- 
pose a yoke on him, and he was a stranger to 
poverty and hard labour. 

" To what purpose all this ? Wherefore this 
eternal drudgery, which gave neither ease nor 
independence in return? Havrilaand his brothers 
had on several occasions tried to rebel against 
their father's despotism, but had learned that this 
despotism was strong, and had moreover the sup- 
port of the mir, who could flog the irreverent sons. 
Rancour brooded in Havrila's heart, rancour 
against his father, against work, and against taxa- 


tion, resentment towards Cheremukhin, and envy 
of his easily-won wealth ; indignation at the 
paucity of land, and the multitude of rates and 
taxes imposed upon the peasants. For ever 
working, for ever paying, without any profit for 
yourself or for the household. There was only 
one thing that Havrila understood with perfect 
clearness, i.e., that money was the solution of all 
problems, and the means wherewith all difficulties 
might be settled. One needed only to make 
money. With money you were free as a bird ; you 
could buy everything, sell it, and buy it back again. 
" At last the despotic father died. Havrila 
immediately separated from the others, and he 
and his wife started a new household. He had 
no faith left in agriculture, which had become 
hateful to him ; yet he was still compelled to live 
by this work, and under far more distressing con- 
ditions than before. Thenceforth he was the only 
full-grown labourer in the household. Instead of 
rising to it, as he had expected, he sank im- 
measurably below the level of his ideal, Chere- 
mukhin. After his separation he could hardly 
keep the wolf from the door. All the year round 
he dwelt in dirt, in poverty, and in interminable, 
ungrateful work, without hope or respite. 


" A passionate desire to make their way in the 
world absorbed all the thoughts of Havrila and 
his wife, an energetic and stern woman. They 
must have money, no matter by what means. 
No kind of swindling came amiss to Havrila 
provided it promised to forward his aim wealth. 
He had heard that Cheremukhin pressed hay and 
sold it at a profit in St. Petersburg. He was also 
told that damaged hay often passed undetected 
amongst the good who can see what is put into 
the middle of a bundle of hay ? Havrila com- 
menced to speculate in rotten hay. He found 
customers, and at first sold -them several cart-loads 
of sound hay, then palmed off a lot of spoilt stuff 
all in one consignment, and then disappeared. 
He repeated this operation successfully with 
several people in different parts of St. Petersburg, 
and had begun to make a little money, though 
the amount was very small as yet, when one day- 
he was caught in the act, dragged to the Police 
Station, and indicted before a Magistrate. He 
lied and prevaricated like any conjurer, but 
could not exculpate himself, and was locked up, 
and lost both hay and money. 

" Swindling had proved a failure, though he 
knew by many examples that this was not always 


so. Exasperated by his losses and his humiliation, 
Havrila applied his mind with redoubled energy 
to the discovery of some new means whereby he 
might retrieve his fortunes. He eagerly caught 
at any information which bore in any way upon 
money-making. Events at St. Petersburg (i.e., 
the attempt against the Emperor's life) gave rise 
to a great many vague and irritating rumours 
amongst the masses. One day, on passing by a 
manorial wood, Havrila met a gentleman in a gig, 
a gun slung behind his shoulders, and a wild duck, 
just shot, lying at the foot of the box. With one 
flash all the wickedness and spite which lay 
fermenting in Havrila's head and soul broke forth 
into a brutal desire ' to catch the gentleman and 
hand him over to justice. It is all the work of 
gentlemen (i.e. these attempts) who are set against 
the Tzar. I will earn a reward. . . . Poaching in 
the Tzar's woods . . . first-rate chance ... a reward ! ' 
And Havrila, though perfectly indifferent to the 
interests of the Crown, forthwith flew at the 
gentleman, like a robber, snatched at his gun and 
the duck, climbed into the gig, and, seizing the 
reins, drove him as a prisoner at full speed to 
the village. . . ' A gentleman without a pass- 
port . . . caught by me in the Tzar's woods 


identify him ! ' shouted Havrila, with the evident 
desire of making as much noise and scandal as 

"When the superintendent officer had listened to 
Havrila's exultant report of his exploit he warned 
him : ' I shall advise this gentleman to take an 
action out against you for violent assault. Out of 
my sight, you idiot ! ' Havrila did as a matter of 
fact have to appear before the magistrate, but fhe 
gentleman spared him, and he therefore bowed 
low to him, craving his pardon, whilst in his 
breast he was boiling over with rage against the 
gentleman, the authorities, and his own stupidity. 

" ' No,' he secretly resolved, ' one must rob. 
There is nothing for it but to rob.' 

" An intense desire to appropriate things be- 
longing to others, particularly money, assumed 
in him the strength of a devouring passion. 
Side by side with this covetousness there grew 
upon Havrila and his wife, who understood her 
husband's wishes at a glance, a kind of austere 
avarice. They had never spent a penny on tea 
or sugar ; since Havrila had separated from his 
relatives he had not smoked one ounce of tobacco 
\ nor drunk one glass of brandy. Never did he 
exchange a friendly word with anybody, unless 



expecting to reap some profit by it. If he had 
called on you he would have squeezed something 
out of you in some way or other before he left, on 
that you might depend. He would literally com- 
pel you to submit to the necessity of being 
cheated by him. His object once attained, he 
would not stop at your house one minute longer ; 
but in case of failure he would drink three 
samovars, and sit for five hours as dumb as an 
idol, until he had contrived to gain at least some 
of his ends. 

" If he had nothing to expect from you he would 
pay you no attention, perhaps not recognise you 
at all. On looking at his cruel face and harsh 
eyes, which made every attempt to smile ' like a 
peasant ' simply pitiful, one felt that a reserve of 
strength that boded no good, lay hidden in this 
dark soul. 

" A dark night, a deserted, out-of-the-way 
thoroughfare, a drunken wayfarer with a bundle 
of banknotes in his pocket, and a blow with an 
iron pole-axe on the temple, must have often 
flashed through this energetic but benighted 
brain as the 'real thing,' the only solution to 
all difficulties. 

" Cherishing such ideas and such feelings as 


these in his breast, Havrila was nevertheless com- 
pelled to drudge away at the land. He had three 
children, all under age, and he worked briskly 
and vigorously, though sullenly. He kept down 
the bile and spite and rage which were devouring 
him, but he gnawed at the bit. When his 
opportunity came he would give rein to his re- 
bellious temper, and would take a frightful revenge 
for the enforced submissiveness of years, and for 
the trampling down of his own natural feelings, 
for the slow murder of his two ' superfluous ' 
children, dispatched by himself and his wife to 
the other world as untoward obstacles ; for the 
humiliations of poverty, and for the galling 
drudgery of hateful toil." 

Another interesting character in Uspensky's 
gallery, Ivan Bosykh, is a person of totally 
different temper and nature. He is, indeed, the 
kindest and the most benevolent of men. But he 
is one of the regular " victims " in the economical 
struggle, and the trying circumstances of his 
position have exasperated him to such an extent 
as to have converted him into certainly quite as 
dangerous a character as Havrila. 

" Ivan Bosykh belongs," says Uspensky, " to 
that useless and miserable class of beings whose 


existence is incomprehensible, even disgraceful in 
a country like Russia, but who nevertheless do 
exist, and during the last twenty years have been 
constantly on the increase, a class which, willingly 
or unwillingly, must be designated as 'rural 

" Bosykh, when sober, is the kindest of men and 
an excellent worker, having ' golden hands,' as 
the peasants say nowadays. However, he is 
rarely seen to advantage. Only a few years ago 
it was otherwise. Then Ivan Bosykh was in 
all respects an exemplary moujik, and his house- 
hold, though not rich, was united and orderly 
' pleasant to behold/ to use his fellow- villagers' 
expression. Now he is the poorest batrak in 
the village. His cottage is fallen into decay. 
The window-panes are broken, and the gaps 
stopped up with dirty rags. He beats his wife, a 
clever, industrious woman, and remarkably beau- 
tiful, whom he married for love. She took a 
summons out against him. His three ragged 
children wander about the village all day long, 
cared for by nobody, and hungry. If you mak< 
enquiries about him in the village you will receive 
the most unfavourable references. He has sole 
the same hay three times over to three different 

HARD TIMES. 3 2 5 

persons, and spent all the money in drink. He 
borrowed money on his heifer in three different 
shops, but paid it over to none of them, having 
sold it meanwhile to a fourth and spent the 
money, as usual, in drink. 

The history of Ivan Bosykh's ruin and moral 
degradation is instructive because it is so common- 
place hundreds of thousands of Ivan Bosykhs 
have been ruined in exactly the same manner. If 
Bosykh fell lower than some, it was merely be- 
cause, being more sensitive, he was more subject 
to despair. 

The chief instruments of his ruin were as usual 
the village usurers, the koulaks. It began slowly 
at first. To begin with, his land was curtailed, 
the meadow and pasture lands were retained by 
the landlord, whilst the taxes in the meantime were 
increased, a common, oft-repeated story. With a 
young family like his, Ivan Bosykh could not avoid 
the necessity of now and then applying for small 
loans to fill up the gaps in his balance sheet. 

" ' Then,' he explains, ' one creditor bothers you 
for one rouble, another for two. You make shift 
and pay with interest. Interest here, interest 
there and lo ! there is a new gap which you had 
not noticed before.' 


For a long time Ivan Bosykh struggled bravely 
against heavy odds, which he thought would be 
only temporary, and kept himself more or less 
above water, when a ' sudden visitation ' overtook 
him and felled him to the ground. His two 
horses and his cow were killed by the murrain. 
In this desperate position Ivan Bosykh applied to 
a regular koulak, his brother-in-law. By dint of 
supplication and the intercession of his sister Ivan 
Bosykh bought a horse from his brother-in-law, 
on credit, for thirty-five roubles, to be paid in the 
spring, though the beast had cost the koulak no 
more than fifteen roubles. But Ivan accepted 
this deliverance even at that price, and thanked 
his kinsman most humbly for his kindness. 

As he had only one horse to feed, his brother-in- 
law offered to buy his hay. Ivan Bosykh, greatly 
pressed for money as he was, agreed to part with 
his hay for five kopecks per stone. Soon after he 
had to dispose of his heifer, as he could not feed 
it well after the death of his cow. His brother- 
in-law bought it for five roubles, and a few weeks 
later Bosykh learned that he had resold it for 
twenty-five roubles. He also learned that the 
hay he had parted with at five kopecks per stone 
had been resold in the town for twenty kopecks, 


his brother-in-law making a net profit of full 
eleven kopecks per stone. 

When Bosykh, after having delivered a lot of 
hay to his brother-in-law, tried to get rid of him, 
as he had a perfect right to do, and found another 
hay merchant, willing to pay him a more reasonable 
price ten kopecks per stone his brother-in-law 
grew furious, and charged him with base ingrati- 
tude. Another koulak, Parfenoff by name, the 
man who had packed Bosykh's hay, and whom in 
hanging his customer Bosykh had ' robbed ' of a 
part of his profits, made common cause with his 
brother-in-law. Together they tried to enforce 
obedience on their common victim. 

As Bosykh refused to sell for five kopecks 
what he could sell for ten, they resolved to take the 
horse from him ; without a horse he would be 
altogether prevented from working his farm. 
The brother-in-law and Parfenoff tried to lead off 
the horse from Bosykh's house by force. A 
scuffle ensued, in which Bosykh proved to be the 
strongest. Upon this the brother-in-law lodged 
a complaint against Bosykh before the village 
tribunal. Here Parfenoff was one of the judges, 
and the other judges were his friends. A glass 
of wine here, a bottle of beer there the verdict 


was : to take the horse from the defendant, and 
to give him twenty strokes with the rod for 
having boxed ParfenofT and his own brother-in- 
law on the ears. 

" ' I was not present at the trial,* said Ivan 
Bosykh. ' After the verdict a policeman was 
sent to my house : "You must go to the volost" 
he said. " What for ? " " You are to be 
flogged.*' " Oh, no, not I." " Yes, you are, 
though." "No, I won't. Tell them to flog 
somebody else, if they like." I grew quite 
furious,' he continued. How is this ? ' said I to 
myself ; ' our lords flogged us when we were serfs, 
and now, when that is over, a simple moujik 
like myself can flog me because I will not 
voluntarily allow him to rob me of my own ! I 
gave this scoundrel (brother-in-law) one hundred 
roubles' worth of my toil, but he requires more, 
and means to flog me into obedience." 

Bosykh resolved to make a firm stand for his 
rights. The horse was his rightful property by 
the terms of his agreement, whereby payment for 
it became due in the following spring, six months 
hence. He appealed against the judgment of 
che village Court, and declared that he would not 
give up the beast. But it was easier to come to 


this resolution than to keep it. A few days 
later the brother-in-law, Parfenoff, and the village 
elder, who was also a koulak of the same stamp, 
entered his house, breaking the door of the house 
open with an improvised battering-ram, as well 
as those of the stable, where the horse lay hidden, 
and led it away in triumph. 

" ' You expected that we should await the 
decision of the Court?' said the elder, who led 
the band. ' No ! with such knaves as you we 
conduct things in a more speedy fashion mind 
that ! And you will be flogged into the bargain, 
take my word for it. Perhaps you want to lodge 
a complaint against me ? Please try it. We 
have sentenced you to twenty lashes now ; after 
that you will receive a hundred and twenty.' 
On this they retired. 

" Thus,' says Bosykh, ' I was left without my 
horse, and such a rage took possession of me 
that it seemed as though the very devil had 
entered into my body. My wife began to weep 
over our ruin ; I flew at her like a madman. 
By God ! I do not know how I could have had 
the heart to raise my hand against her. She 
began to cry, and this only increased my fury. 
I left her at last and ran straight to the tavern. 


Here I promised the inn-keeper to sell him my 
hay, at two kopecks a stone, provided he would 
give me wine, and I drank and drank till I lost 
my senses. I could not reach my house, but 
stumbled into a ditch, with my face in the mud, 
and fell asleep. How long I lay there I do not 
know. The cold awakened me, and I opened 
my eyes. The moon was up ; in the village the 
girls were singing their songs. I arose. In 
passing by Parfenoft's house I saw the whole 
party through the window, the elder and my 
brother-in-law among them, grouped round the 
table, on which stood a boiling samovar and 
a bottle of wine. They were celebrating their 
triumph. All my fury returned at once. I rushed 
into Parfenoft's house just as I was, besmeared 
with mud, and barefoot, because I had left my 
boots at the tavern in exchange for drink. I 
went straight up to the elder, and treated him to 
a sound rap on the snout ; then I did the same to 
Parfenoff, and then to my brother-in-law. They 
rushed at me. But no ! I was quite in earnest this 
time. " I will kill you, you damned scoundrels ! " 
1 shouted. " Give me wine, you rascals ! " All 
my strength returned to me at this moment. I 
should have crushed, with one blow, the first who 


had dared to approach me, and they knew it, too, 
for they left me alone and sent for help. I sat 
at the table, drank up the wine, and then with 
the empty bottle struck the looking-glass, which 
fell to pieces, and in its descent knocked the 
tea-tray on to the floor. 

" ' In the meantime help had arrived. They 
knocked me down, bound my hands, and put me 
under lock and key. All three sent in their com- 
plaints against me. I was summoned to appear 
before the tribunal, but I would not go, and went 
to the tavern instead. They passed a verdict of 
" contumacy " against me, and sentenced me to be 
flogged. They summoned me for the execution 
of the sentence. I would not go. They sent for 
me three times. I spat in their messenger's face 
and told him that I would not go. In defence of 
their three snouts they sentenced me to upwards 
of one hundred strokes. I held fast to my resolu- 
tion not to submit. Thank God there were other 
good people in the village to support me. Thus 
I succeeded in escaping from their clutches up to 
Lady Day, my chief consolation in the meanwhile 
being the tavern. By this time my new friend, 
the merchant to whom I had agreed to deliver 
the hay, began to threaten me with a writ. But 


how could I bring my hay into the town when 
I had no horse ? Besides which the tavern-keeper 
required the same hay, because I owed it to him 
for drink. I could not look people in the face 
for very shame. 

" When Lady Day had passed I heard the tink- 
ling of little bells, and saw three troikas (carriages 
driven by three horses) running into the village. 
It was the elder, the judges, and the stanovoi. My 
heart sank within me at the sight. They stopped 
just before my gate, entered my house, and called 
a village meeting. "The taxes!" No means to 
escape was left me. People began to bring their 
taxes, and the elder approached the stanovoi^ and 
pointing to me said, " This peasant, your Excel- 
lency, was four times sentenced by the tribunal 
for having insulted, first his brother-in-law, then 
me, then Parfenoff, and then his brother-in-law 
again. He was twenty times summoned to attend 
at the volost, but he will not obey and offers resist- 
ance. Moreover he does not pay his taxes. Will 
you permit us to execute the verdict at once ? " 

" ' It was then that they laid me down. It was 
then that I lost my reason, and my shame, and 
my conscience. I lay on the ground like a log, 
and they lashed me, and lashed me again, in 


virtue of all four resolutions. I lay there, and, 
will you believe it ? I was frightened of myself ! 
By God, yes ! frightened of myself, frightened to 
jump to my feet, frightened to move, lest I should 
slay the first whom my hand could reach. 

" ' At last I perceived that the hounds had taken 
rather a liking to the operation. 

" ' Enough ! ' I cried, and in such a voice 
that they stopped at once, the damned scoun- 
drels ! 

" ' Well, from that time forth I was a lost man. 
Lost absolutely lost ! Everything became dis- 
gusting to me, the work, the house, the light of 
day. The tavern grew to be my only consolation. 
I began even to steal ! Everything went from 
bad to worse, and I doubt now whether there will 
ever again be any chance for me to retrieve my- 
self. Something dreadful will happen, I am sure. 
I am quite beside myself from exasperation. A 
mortal anguish is gnawing at my heart. The 
evil one is whispering in my ear. Oh ! he will 
incite me to something horrible. I shall end in 
the galleys, take my word for it.' ' 

Ivan Bosykh is one sample drawn from a 
number, an illustration of the feelings which are 
surging in the hearts of our toiling millions. This 


state of things must naturally lead to some prac- 
tical manifestation on the part of the disinherited. 
The " red cock," or wilful arson of another 
man's property, this favourite means of revenge 
within the power of the weak of heart, is no rare 
guest in modern Russian villages. Our meek 
and patient peasantry are, however, beginning to 
learn even fiercer methods of retaliation. There 
is ample evidence in the reports of foreign corre- 
spondents (Russian papers are not allowed to 
mention such delicate subjects) that agrarian 
crimes like those at one time of such frequent 
occurrence in Ireland are beginning to strike root 
upon Russian soil. Sometimes they assume the 
character of a solemn public execution. The most 
striking so far, has been that recently perpetrated 
by the peasants of a village in the Insar district 
(Province of Pensa), who at their public meeting 
passed a resolution to put the land-agent of their 
landlord to death, and went in a body and carried 
this resolution into effect. For this offence four- 
teen peasants were sentenced to death in October 
1887 by a Court Martial, and two were actually 
hanged on November 24th, a drastic sentence, 
and a drastic proceeding, evidently intended to 
strike terror into the peasantry, because according 


to Russian law and every day practice, all crimes, 
save political ones, are tried before a jury, and 
there is no capital punishment for any common 

Still, if we take into consideration the enormity 
of the popular sufferings, and the paucity of 
agrarian crime and agrarian disturbance of any 
kind, we must admit that the Russian peasants 
practically keep very quiet. 

Where lies the source of this phenomenal en- 
durance displayed by a mass of several scores 
of millions of people, whose bitter dissatisfaction 
with their lot admits of no shadow of doubt ? 

In the character of our race ? In our people's 
past history or present political superstitions ? 
Each of these causes must certainly have had its 
share of influence, though they are but secondary 
ones, which cannot explain this strange fact satis- 
factorily. We, for our part, think that the main 
cause of it lies elsewhere, and is this : the moral, 
political, and social discontent seething in the 
heart of the rural population of Russia has found 
a sort of safety-valve in the new evolution of 
religious thought which nowadays covers almost 
the whole field of the intellectual activity of the 
Russian labouring classes. Almost the whole 


moral and intellectual force produced by the 
modern Russian peasantry runs in the channel of 
religion ; religion engrosses the leading minority 
of the people who understand most thoroughly 
and feel most keenly the evils of the day, and who 
alone would be able to put themselves at the head 
of any vast popular movement. That religion 
should play this part of intercessor between popu- 
lar discontent and its logical outcome open rebel- 
lion is all the more natural and unavoidable 
inasmuch as our new popular religions are not 
merely a protest against, but to some extent a 
cure to, the evils against which the popular con- 
science is the most indignant. The religious en- 
thusiasm proper to all new sects has re-established 
for a time at least more fraternal relations 
between those men who adhere to them, and has 
subdued the fierce and cynical struggle for eco- 
nomical predominance which is raging in our 

This interesting process we will endeavour to 
investigate in its fulness in the following studies 
upon popular religion. 




ARE the Russian peasants so very religious ? 

This question, of the highest importance, both 
in the present and for the future, has attracted a 
good deal of attention, Russians and foreigners, 
travellers and scholars, journalists and folk-lorists, 
historians and ethnographers, have dealt with it 
more or less exhaustively. 

The prevailing opinion among foreigners is, 
that the Russian peasants, though imbued with 
many superstitions, are nevertheless a very re- 
ligious race. Amongst those Russian observers 
and scholars who are recognised as the best 
authorities on the subject, the contrary opinion 
predominates, though it is far from being 

Thus, the most prominent of our historians, 
N. Kostomarov, who unites to his vast erudition 
an unrivalled historical insight, is of opinion that 
the modern orthodox peasants of whom alone 
we are speaking here are at much the same 


standpoint as were their forefathers, the Musco- 
vites, of the seventeenth century, and they, 
according to Kostomarov, " were remarkable for 
a state of such complete religious indifference as 
to be without a parallel in the annals of Chris- 
tian nations." Another historian, S. M. Solovieff, 
of Moscow, draws from the same facts a different 
conclusion, extolling throughout his work the 
" deep devotion " of the Russians to their 

A numerous group of young scholars, whc 
make the study of popular religions their speci- 
ality, such as Yousoff, Abramov, Prugavin, and 
others, adhere entirely to the opinion of Kosto- 
marov ; whilst the whole body of the Slavophils, 
amongst whom are men of undoubted sincerity 
and learning, will swear by all they hold sacred 
that there never was nor will be another people 
so pious as the Russians. The great novelist, 
Count Leo Tolstoi, is pretty much of the same 

opinion, though with him it springs from an 


entirely different source. 

We do not in the least intend to imply by all 
this that the question we are about to consider 
is insoluble. To the best of our comprehension 
it is not only soluble, but already solved, with 


as ample an array of documentary proof as ques- 
tions of this class admit of. It is, however, quite 
evident that it must by its very nature remain 
a complicated and tangled problem. 

To completely unravel it is an impossible task. 
Many of these discrepancies have their origin in 
the preconceived ideas of the observers, who are 
quite capable of seeing white where it is really 
black. Discrepancies in the bare statements of 
impressions and facts admit of no reconciliation, 
and must be left to the judgment of those who 
may care to investigate for themselves. Much, 
however, depends also on the light in which 
different persons view the same facts and the 
various manifestations of the spiritual life of our 
people. With regard to this much may be done 
towards both explaining and removing miscon- 
ceptions and misunderstandings. 

If we follow the peasants in their everyday life 
we shall hear God's name uttered at every step. 
The will and biddings of God are constantly 
mentioned as the base of the moral and social 

A peasant in the act of engaging himself, in 
some time of distress, to work on the estate of his 
well-to-do neighbour is unwilling perhaps to enter 


into a formal agreement at the communal office. 
" Never mind," he says to his employer, " I 
know you will settle with me in a godly way " 
which means, fairly, without taking advantage 
of his present helplessness. 

Two sons of a deceased father are mayhap 
quarrelling about their inheritance, each thinking 
that he has claims to a larger share than the other 
is inclined to admit. They will go and choose an 
old man as arbiter, and they will say, "Judge 
between us in a godly way " which means, 
according to the highest standard of his moral 
consciousness, which is supposed to be superior 
to the laws of common justice. The old man 
w r ill thereupon divide the money and the other 
property, for instance, according to the individual 
claims of each, calculated, let us say, upon the 
basis of the number of years they have been 
workers in the family (which is common law) ; 
but the stock of corn left in the granary he will 
divide equally between the two. That is more 
godly, according to his notion. The assistance 
given to the sick and the destitute is a " godly 
act " ; disobedience to parents, injustice to an 
orphan, is a sin which God will punish. The 
name of God is constantly on the peasant's lips. 


God's will is the source and sanction for every- 
thing which is just, kind, humane. 

"Why, then," the reader will ask, "does not 
this all mean that these people are very religious 
indeed ? " 

A disciple of Count Leo Tolstoi will certainly 
answer with an emphatic affirmative. And he 
will be quite right from his dogmatic point of 
view. If we choose to apply the name of religion 
to a social philosophy, which is based on a system 
of pure ethics, with no admixture of theology, 
these people may certainly be called religious. 

Baron Haxthausen represents the opposite ex- 
treme when he extols the extraordinary religious- 
ness of the Russian peasants after having witnessed 
how fervently whole crowds of them prostrate 
themselves before the ikons ; and he too is quite 
right from his particular point of view. 

A savage extending his arms towards an idol, 
or bowing in wonder and admiration before the 
glorious vision of the morning sun, is certainly 
under the spell of religious emotion. 

Religious feeling is a complicated one, which 
we do not propose to analyse here. Our object 
is a purely practical one. Religion in the common 
acceptation of the term, such as universal history 


has made it, is neither pure ethics nor pure theo- 
sophy. For us it implies a certain union of the 
two of the ethical and theological, of the natural 
and supernatural. We all, Freethinkers and Chris- 
tians alike, agree, moreover, in associating with the 
name of religion, the idea of a great, sometimes 
an overwhelming, impulsive force of its own. 

This is indeed the reason why the study of 
religion has for us, as a rule, such an absorbing 

But how is it possible to gauge the potential 
force of this agent in a given community the 
Russian, for example ? Where lies the main 
source of the impulsive power of religion ? What 
are the symptoms of its presence ? 

Disagreement on these points would necessarily 
lead to confusion and misunderstanding. In 
order, therefore, to avoid all possible misappre- 
hension we will in a few words explain our 
general standpoint. 

First of all we take for granted the absolute 
independence of pure ethics from any religious 
doctrines. Human ethics, the moral principles 
which regulate the relations between man and 
man, have a much broader basis than the doc- 
trines of Christianity, or any religion whatsoever. 


They spring from the human heart, from man's 
social nature, and are manifested wherever men 
are thrown peacefully together. When tribes 
first broke up into families, their founders learnt, 
from the very nature of this new institution, the 
first lessons of morality, and at once grasped 
the necessity of putting the common good before 
their private benefit. They learnt to suppress 
their narrow and selfish interests for the sake of 
wider and far-reaching ones ; the needs of the 
family ranked before those of the individual. 
The extension of the principles of morality, 
which are the result of association, over large 
bodies of people was the one vital condition of 
the survival and progress of all tribes as they 
issued from the woods ; and such of the older 
communities as have left any record of themselves 
at all, were able to formulate principles of morality 
to which centuries of culture have not been able 
to add an iota. 

But civilisation has performed a more difficult 
task, in constantly enlarging the circle which is 
comprised of those to whom morality is binding 
and transgression to its laws blameworthy. In 
the days of the Seven Sages this circle was 
co-extensive with the walls of each town. In 


Italy, when Alighieri was giving vent to his 
sublime indignation, and much later even than 
that, it was so still. The Middle Ages, with 
all their Madonnas, saints, and legions of priests 
and monks accredited preachers on the theme 
of Christian brotherhood and equality had a 
code of morals whose benefits were confined to 
the mutual intercourse of the privileged classes 
amongst themselves. The "villeins" were ex- 
cluded from its protection as completely as were 
the "barbarians" of antiquity. 

Civilisation has broken up these caste distinc- 
tions within the nationalities. The dominion of 
human ethics has been extended, we will not say 
over the whole of the human race, because the 
coloured races are evidently outside its pale as 
yet, but we may, with the aid of a good deal of 
charity, say over the whole family of the white 
nations. Here the violation of the first principles 
of morality, though still only too common, is 
always reproved by the public conscience with 
an earnestness which certainly increases with 
each succeeding generation. 

This widening of the spheres of human sympathy, 
which is the best result of the incipient fruits of 
civilization, was not the result of preaching or 


teaching or speculation. Sympathy, in any of its 
innumerable degrees, must be spontaneously felt. 
People who do not instinctively care about one 
another can hardly be induced to do so by the 
persuasion, entreaty, or command of some superior 

Neither could the growth of knowledge, nor 
the spread of culture, as such, bring this about. 
But civilization has indirectly done it all by the 
marvellous broadening of the intellectual horizon 
of modern man, by introducing to him in spirit, 
myriads of people who did not exist for his fore- 
fathers, and in holding before his mental vision 
that which is loftiest and noblest in all humanity. 
Civilisation has, as yet, only to a very slight 
extent weakened the barriers of class institutions, 
but it has overthrown the barriers created by 
many prejudices, and it has destroyed the barriers 
of space ; and herein lies the real cause of the 
spread of the idea of human brotherhood among 
men, which is now assuming an earnestness of 
purpose unknown to the world two, nay, even 
one short century ago. 

The instinct of sympathy, innate in man, is 
the source and creative principle of all which has 
life in human communities, as the sun's heat in 


the world of organic nature. And, like the sun's 
heat, it asserts its creative force on the removal 
of the material obstacles which screen its vivifying 

And what of religions ? We mean the great 
monotheistic religions, which have played so 
mighty a part in shaping the destinies of mankind. 
These religions are the fairy daughters of these 
same sympathetic instincts, which they may be 
said to condense and absorb in enormous quan- 
tities, converting them into moving force. 

The founders of all the great historical religions 
were, above all, moral teachers, and gave ex- 
pression to the broadest conception of morals to 
which their century and nation had attained ; and 
amongst these none laid more stress on human 
ethics, nor, in advocating the principle of love, 
gave utterance to words so deep and true and 
heart-reaching, as the great Galilean. Jesus of 
Nazareth certainly taught men to love one 
another. But the gospels written about him, and 
the superstructure of religion bearing his name, 
enjoin us to love Christ, which is something very 

In all those religions of which we are speaking, 
the personal, human charm of the Founder, and 


the poetry of his life, have been the chief power 
wherewith the high, devotional, altruistic instincts 
of men have been stirred and riveted upon God. 
But Jesus, martyr upon earth and God in heaven ; 
Jesus, shedding his blood and giving his life 
out of love for mankind, and for each man in- 
dividually ; ever present to each one of his 
disciples as a living person ; standing ready to be 
the recipient of transports of gratitude and love 
in this world, and to pass them on in the world 
to come has obtained an unique, an unparalleled 
command over the emotional side of human nature. 
This it is which gave to his religion the power 
to conquer the world. But by the same policy 
the educational, the humanizing elements, so 
prominent in the original doctrine of the Founder 
of Christianity, were pushed entirely into the 
background. The God Jesus absorbed and de- 
tached his worshippers from humanity, and 
monopolized them completely for himself. In 
other words, his figure was so enormously magni- 
fied in the eyes of his worshippers as to render 
men and mankind, with all their petty cares, 
very insignificant objects of interest when com- 
pared with him. The only valuable service 
which a man full of love for his fellow-men could 


render to them was to convert them to the same 
faith, thus persuading them likewise to forget as 
much as was possible everything for which they 
were naturally most inclined to care. Indifference 
to all which lay outside the pale of spiritual 
pursuits grew to be the essential characteristic 
of the religion of Jesus. The beauty of his 
doctrine and life were lost as a moral lesson and 
an example for men, and served only to facilitate 
the access to heaven by increasing the fervour 
of adoration, and by enhancing the fascination 
of his person. 

When the public mind is in its natural and 
ordinary state, the human love, pity, and en- 
thusiasm called forth by Christianity only add 
to the spiritual enjoyments furnished by religion. 
And when in a man or in a nation religious 
emotions rise to their highest pitch and become 
vehement, gushing, irrepressible stimulants for 
action, these actions are self-centered ; their ten- 
dency always is to serve God and not humanity, 
and woe unto humanity when the thing of God 
clashes with the thing of man ! 

But what is the thing of God ? What does 
God command ? What will redound to the glory 
of God's name, what to its abasement ? 


Every century, every epoch gives a different 
answer to these questions, creating its God after 
its own image. Thus it has come to pass that 
the Christian's heaven is peopled with as many 
different Christs as there have been generations 
of Christians. In our own noble and truly philan- 
thropic century, we see Christ teach his followers 
the doctrine of Christian socialism. During the 
epoch of the great English revolution, when the 
English middle class first awakened to a sense of 
its strength and independence, it was Christ who 
led Cromwell's battalions in those glorious fights 
for freedom ; it was Christ who sustained the 
civil courage of President Bradshaw ; it was he 
who guided the hand which wrote the Defence 
of the English people and the revindication of 
the freedom of the press. But Christ likewise 
ordered the Smithfield executions, the massacres 
of St. Bartholomew, and the Spanish Inquisition. 
There is not a thing, however sublime, not a 
thing, however abominable, which, in some time 
or place, religion in the name of Christ has not 
countenanced and peremptorily ordered. But 
whatever the difference in the moral and social 
value of these acts inspired by religion may be, 
they all exhibit the same characteristics of in- 


domitable energy, straightforwardness, and intense 
exaltation, which measure neither the sufferings to 
be undergone nor those to be inflicted on others. 
Religion as a direct agent in social life is an 
enormous but a neutral force, intensifying what- 
ever it touches without creating any inner change. 
The really great and positive service rendered 
by religion to the cause of human progress has 
been an indirect one, and lies in the intellectual 
domain. Having by its very nature access to 
the most primitive intellects, those intellects 
which are absolutely proof against any other 
spiritual influence, the promptings of religion 
rapidly permeated almost every particle of the 
body social, sometimes culminating in one of those 
moral tempests which will fill remotest posterity 
with awe and consternation. They shook the 
firm rock of popular intellectual apathy and 
stagnation to its foundations, and awakened the 
people, as with an Archangel's trumpet, from the 
torpor and smallness of narrow, everyday cares. 
They stirred millions, physically and morally, and 
roused them into taking part in some kind of 
intellectual pursuit. It is doubtful indeed 
whether any other force than religion could 
have done this to the same extent ; and this is 


why the epochs of great religious excitement 
were those wherein the human mind made its 
most astonishing advances. 

In this attempt to sketch the state of religious 
feeling amongst the bulk of the Russian peasantry, 
we will consider religion exclusively from the 
above-named historical point of view, as an 
active or potential mover of the masses. We 
cannot, therefore, dismiss the question by merely 
inquiring how far our peasants are Christians in 
their ethical conceptions, or even their practical 

Milton's Satan, in speaking to the young Son 
of Mary about the Athenian Philosophy, observes 
very pertinently that 

" All knowledge is not couch'd in Moses' law, 
The Pentateuch, or what the Prophets wrote ; 
The Gentiles also know, and write, and teach 
To admiration, led by Nature's light" 

The social conditions under which our peasantry 
lived for centuries have been favourable to the 
spontaneous development among them of such 
" pan-human " morals. They are Christ-like as 
a matter of course. The infiltration of actua 
Christian ethics amongst them is very probable, 
nay certain, given such favourable ground ; but 



whether this be so to a great or only to a small 
extent, this does not in the least imply that 
Christianity as a religion has a strong hold over 
them. Furthermore, the fact that our people dub 
their whole system of morality with the name of 
religion is equally inconclusive. The question we 
have to investigate is, how far the channel between 
the natural and the supernatural is open with them, 
and how far they have the element of the super- 
natural stored up in their minds. We mean che 
supernaturalism of Christianity, because that of 
fetishism and paganism has no motive force in it. 


IT has been admitted that Christianity, as far as 
its ethics are concerned, must have actually filtered 
down to our peasantry. Eight centuries of official 
Christianity could not pass over their heads with- 
out leaving some trace behind. But as in the 
Christian Religion the theological doctrine goes 
hand in hand with the ethical, we are bound to 
admit that in the process of infiltration the people's 
natural predispositions have operated as a kind 
of endosmic disintegration of the religion : whilst 
they accepted one part of the doctrine offered to 
them, they remained completely deaf to the other. 
It is undeniable that the bulk of our population 
has, up to the present day even, a very faint con- 
ception of the framework, as a whole, upon 
which the religion to which they officially belong, 

is based. 

The Russian peasantry is still wallowing in 

superstitions. There is hardly a nation in Chris- 
tendom which has a demonology a remnant o 


ancient paganism so well elaborated and so 

fj deeply rooted as is that of the Russian peasants. 

A Their apocryphal mythology can indeed vie with 

^ that of the Ancients in the number of its deities, if 

^ not in their poetry.^ There are sylvan spirits and 

river spirits, both male and female, the naiades, 

and the river-gods, and household spirits, lares 

and penates, in whose existence and occasional 

apparition, and frequent interference in their 

household affairs, the peasants have an unshaken 

. belief. 

x^"With the advent of Christianity the heathen 
sgods and goddesses were not annihilated, but 
Jonly driven from heaven into hell. To have 
V .^declared the gods which had reigned over the 
md for so many generations to be a mere fiction 
' would have seemed a perfect absurdity, but it was 
only too natural that the dethroned powers should 
resent the desertion of, and try to punish and 
worry, their former worshippers. Thus, in the 
eyes of the people they necessarily assumed the 
character of malignant spirits, waging constant 
war against them, and compelling them to be 
always on their guard. Our forefathers, however, 
as well as the Russian peasants of to-day, were a 
peaceful and a cautious people. That which they 


most wished for was to be left to themselves by 
both the contending parties. They found it more 
expedient to buy their peace by bribing both, than 
to resolutely side with one party against the other. 

Christianity met with scarcely any resistance in 
taking possession of the country of St. Wladimir 
and his progeny, but many generations, nay, 
many centuries, after their conversion, professing 
Christians continued to worship their old heathen 
gods, according to their ancient rites, making 
sacrifices and offerings to them by the side of the 
water and at the foot of the trees, as the chroni- 
clers and bishops complained throughout the 
Middle Ages. The worship of a heathen goddess 
known as Holy Friday was still prevalent in the 
seventeenth century. The Tzar Peter the Great 
issued an ukaz against those who took part in 
these rites. 

Nowadays no formal worship of this goddess 
takes place, though she still retains a very pro- 
minent place in the popular Olympus, and, as 
" Holy Friday," plays an important part in many 
apocryphal legends relating to Hell and Paradise. 
Thousands of customs and observances of fla- 
grantly pagan origin are, however, faithfully 
preserved by our people. Fishermen still offer 


small propitiatory sacrifices to the river-gods, and 
each family does the same, so as to keep on 
good terms with its household deities. Sorcerers, 
who are the priests of these malignant spirits, 
hold their own in the face of the pop, accredited 
minister though he be of the dominant creed, 
and are eagerly applied to as magicians and 
advisers. The/0/ is held in the most reverence, 
but the sorcerer is certainly more feared. The 
safest plan is to keep aloof from both, because 
even the pop is not always welcome either. He 
is all very well in church, at harvest festivals, 
at weddings, at christenings, and at the perform- 
ance of any other regular function of his office ; 
but if you are ill-advised enough to take a pop 
on board your ship you will of a surety encounter 
a storm. If you meet him on the way you must 
expect some mishap to befall either yourself or 
your beasts. 

A dread of these chance meetings and dealings 
with the pop is shared by all the Russian peasantry. 
The official explanation as to the source of this 
not very flattering superstition is, that the 
peasants in past times were in the habit of beinj 
rebuked by their clergy for their heathenisl 
practices. Is not, however, a more simple am 


more rational answer to the problem, and one 
which coincides better with the character of this 
superstition, to be found in the dread felt by the 
peasants, lest the inferior, malignant deities which 
sway the elements should be provoked to wrath 
and revenge by the evidence of any close con- 
nection between their enemy and the peasants ? 

Another instance of that sly wariness cha- 
racteristic of uncertain minds is afforded by 
the evident transfer of _the worship at one time 
accorded to the chief heathen gods, to genuine, 
canonized saints of the Greek calendar. The 
Prophet Elias, for instance, owing probably to his 
extraordinary aeronautical experience recorded in 
the Bible, was invested by the popular imagina- 
tion with the exclusive management of thunder 
and lightning. When it thunders our people say, 
It is Elias the Prophet, who is driving in his 
chariot on the clouds. The flashes of lightning 
are the arrows he throws to the earth. It is he 
who sends or withholds rain or hail, and it is to 
him that special prayers are addressed when the 
crops are threatened with drought. He is indeed 
none other than the well-known Perun, god of 
thunder, clad in the raiments of the noble and 
fierce Tishbite. 


St. Vlas, whose name suggests that of Volas 
or Veles, the god of cattle, of vegetation (perhaps 
the sun-god), was converted, by popular fancy, into 
a substitute of the ancient protector of flocks and 
herds. This saint, however, shares his dominion 
with gallant St. George, who slew the dragon, and 
on whom the people look as their especial pro- 
tector against wild beasts ; sometimes too as a 
sort of God's vicegerent, running his errands on 
his magnificent charger. 

Of all the saints, St. JNficolas is perhaps the 
most popular with the Russians. Half the 
heathen Zyrians worship him, and so do other 
savage aborigines of Siberia, and afford an 
interesting illustration of the gradual transforma- 
tion of Christianity into pure paganism. 

There is much that is 

worship of the saints in general. It is all very 
well for the orthodox catechism to declare that 
the worship of the ikons is a purely spiritual one, 
inasmuch as by it, through the power of the 
painter's brush, the memory of these holy men is 
kept fresh in the minds of the faithful. In the 
eyes of the people the ikon is a living thing ; 
the very body of the saint, whose spirit dwells 
in it as the man's soul inhabits his corporeal 


frame. They believe that the ikon feels pain 
and pleasure, resents insults, and is gratified by 
kind treatment, just as a living being would be. 
In one of the popular legends, entitled " The 
Greedy Pop," we are told how St. Nicolas inflicted 
severe trials on the pop of his chapel for having, 
in a fit of spite (brought on by the small receipts 
of the chapel), struck the ikon of its patron saint 
with a bunch of keys. On finally forgiving the 
delinquent, merciful St. Nicolas warns him : " Go, 
but take care not to strike me with the keys on 
my bald pate again. Look ! you have almost 
broken my skull " (Athanasieff Legends). 

These popular legends of ours, the outcome of 
the collective imagination of the illiterate peasantry, 
handed down by oral tradition from generation 
to generation, form documentary evidence of the 
greatest value. Indeed, in them we have the 
only genuine expression of the religious ideas of 
the masses. They give us some idea, too, as to 
many other articles of popular faith as it really 
is, and not as the orthodox Church wishes it to be. 

I may mention here that when the well- 
known folk-lorist, Athanasieff, in 1859 issued his 
volume of popular legends, its publication was 
peremptorily prohibited by the censors of the 


press. It is, of course, not easy to comprehend 
the wisdom of prohibiting the use in public 
libraries and by a few specialists, of matter which, 
in the form of oral tradition, is the common 
property of millions ; but we may infer thereby 
that popular theology, as seen in these tales, is 
not exactly in accord with the teachings of the 
orthodox Greek Church. What, for instance, 
could be more heretical than the idea of the devil 
as the junior brother of God and his co-partner 
in the creation of the universe ? Yet this is an 
exact account of what we find in the legend 
known as " Noe the Godly." 

The devil is a great favourite with the popular 
muse, and is treated with remarkable fairness. 
He is represented as the enemy of man, doing 
his best to drag him down into hell. But as 
this is his trade he cannot help it, and the people 
bear him no malice in return. He is a good 
devil after all. When treated kindly he is capable 
of unselfish attachment ; even when provoked he 
sometimes shows a most praiseworthy forbear- 
ance and moderation in taking his revenge. One 
curious legend, " The Devil and the Smith," 
relates how a smith took pity on the devil, whom 
all abused, and drew his portrait on the wall of 


his shop. Whenever he entered it he was wont 
to greet the devil's image thus : " How do you do, 
companion ? " For this kindly feeling the devil 
rewarded the smith by making him very skilful 
and prosperous in his trade. When, however, 
the smith died and his son succeeded to the 
business, the position of the devil was much 
changed for the worse. Instead of greeting him 
daily with a kind word, the young smith fell into 
the habit of dealing two or three blows with his 
hammer upon the devil's head, and every time he 
returned from church he spat in his face. For a 
long time the devil suffered this to go on, but at 
last he lost patience. " I have borne with these 
improprieties long enough," said he to himself. 
" I must take my revenge." He was as good as 
his word, and placed the young smith in a great 
predicament, the exact nature of which we will 
not record. But when the young man was already 
on his way to the scaffold, the devil suddenly 
appeared, and upon the promise being given that 
henceforth the young smith would treat him with 
the same respect as his father had shown before 
him, the devil saved him from an ignominious 
death, and set everything straight, to the satisfac- 
tion of all concerned. 


The whole bearing of the Christian theological 
system seems to be entirely lost upon the bulk of 
the people. God the Father and God the Son 
are two totally distinct persons, standing in the 
perfectly concrete relation towards one another of 
a father on the one hand and a son upon the 
other. The person of the Son is represented 
with great sympathy and uniform consideration. 
He is the champion of the people, always siding 
with the poor moujik against his rich neighbour. 
But we should look in vain for any trace of 
genuine religious inspiration in the treatment of 
this figure. There is nothing which reveals the 
touch of a living image upon a living soul. He 
is introduced rather as an onlooker in stories 
about others, to illustrate popular views on 
certain points, and to solve certain problems. 
There is as little life in him, or passion about 
him, as in a secondary character introduced for 
the purpose of giving utterance to moral views 
in some imaginary story. As to the person of 
God the Father, he appears in the popular legends 
very vaguely delineated as a hard taskmaster, 
and whenever introduced by the popular muse is 
treated with a certain amount of ill-feeling and 


In the encounters with the "retired soldier" 
(the wit of all these legends), God's orders are 
repeatedly baffled and set at naught by the 
cunning of the soldier, who stands before men 
defending them from death as long as he can. 

Most of these legends are, however, devoted to 
the adventures and exploits of the minor lights 
of the popular heaven the saints. It must be 
confessed that they are represented as a rather 
queer set. They quarrel among themselves, brag 
about their strength and achievements, some- 
times cheat one another, and when they want 
to play some trick scruple not to tell deliberate 

In the legend entitled "St. Elias and St. 
Nicolas" we are told the story of a moujik who 
was very devout towards St. Nicolas, but paid 
no attention whatever to St. Elias. 

One day the two saints passed by his fields, 
which were all green with sprouting vegetation. 

"What a rich harvest the man will gather!" 
exclaimed St. Nicolas, "and it is only fair that 
he should, for he is a good moujik, fearing God 
and respecting the saints. Wealth is coming to 
the right person." 

" Oh, well," answered St. Elias, " that still 


remains to be seen ; " and the wrathful saint then 
announced his intention of sending hail and storm 
on the field. 

On learning this, St. Nicolas ran to the moujik 
and advised him to immediately sell his growing 
crops to the pop of St. Elias's chapel. 

Some weeks later the two saints were once 
more passing the same way. 

" Look," said St. Elias, " how well I have 
belaboured the moujik 's fields. There is hardly 
one sheaf left." 

"Quite true," answered St. Nicolas, "only you 
have destroyed the crops belonging to the pop 
of your own chapel, and not those of the moujik, 
because he sold them to him a few weeks ago." 

" Never mind," said Elias, " I will reward my 
pop, and will make his fields twice as good as 

St. Nicolas ran to the moujik once more, and 
advised him to buy his crops back again, which 
the moujik did with great advantage to himself. 

So the naive story goes on St. Elias inveigh- 
ing, threatening, striking ; St. Nicolas forewarning 
his friend the moujik in time, and suggesting 
various tricks by which he might turn the intended 
punishment to his own advantage. 


"Oh, brother Nicolas," St. Elias at last ex- 
claimed, on seeing all his efforts frustrated, " I 
guess that you have reported all I told you to 
the moujik" 

"Nonsense!" exclaimed St. Nicolas; "how 
can you charge me with such a thing?" 

" Oh, well ! you may say what you like I am 
sure it is all your doing. But you may rely upon 
it, the moujik shall hear of me yet." 

" But what will you do to him ? " 

" That is my business, which I will not confide 
to you." 

St. Nicolas hastened to the moujik, and ordered 
him to buy two candles, one as thick as his wrist 
and worth a rouble, the second as thin as a straw 
and only worth one kopeck, and to be on the 
road at such and such a time and place. 

" Where are you going ? " asked the two saints 
who met him. 

" To the church to put this thick candle before 
St. Elias, my benefactor, who has been so generous 
to me." 

" And this thin one ? " 

"This thin one will do for St. Nicolas," said 
the moujik, and went his way. 

"What do you say to that, Elias?" said St. 


Nicolas. " You accused me of having reported 
all you said to the moujik. I hope you yourself 
now see that I did nothing of the kind." 

In the legend called "The Marvellous Thrashing 
of Corn," St. John the kind-hearted is described in 
a fashion which savours rather of the disrespectful. 
Once he was wandering with other apostles on 
the earth, when night overtook them in an 
open field. It was winter time, and the frost was 
bitter. It seemed hard to the saints to spend 
the night unsheltered. They accordingly knocked 
at the door of a moujik, who on seeing so large 
a company at first refused them admittance. He 
relented, however, when the wanderers promised 
to help him in the morning with his thrashing. 
When early in the morning the moujik called 
them, the apostles wanted to go to work, but 
St. John the kind-hearted persuaded them to 
sleep awhile longer. When, after a time, the 
moujik came once more to summon them, and 
saw they were still sleeping, he took a whip and 
administered a good flogging to the nearest 
sleeper, who happened to be St. John the kind- 

" Stop ! " cried St. John the kind-hearted, 
" we will follow you at once to the courtyard.'' 


The moujik believed him and went away. 
But as soon as the door closed behind him St. 
John the kind-hearted exclaimed, 

" Bah ! He has treated us roughly, and yet 
expects us to work for him. Let us sleep awhile 

The apostles, who had proposed to descend, 
allowed themselves to be over-persuaded, and 
resumed their rest, St. John the kind-hearted 
having slily taken the precaution of changing 
his place. 

When the moujik comes he will again apply 
his whip to the nearest sleeper, thought the saint, 
and accordingly stretched himself out at the 
opposite end of the room. 

The moujik came again, whip in hand, but said 
he to himself, " Why should I always beat the 
same man ? " and he applied his whip this time to 
the sleeper who lay the farthest from the door. 
Thus did St. John the kind-hearted have to bear 
the next thrashing too. 

The same promise given on the part of the 
belaboured saint, the same scene after their host 
had left them, followed by the same result for the 
unlucky saint, who had this time put himself in 
the middle. 



After his third thrashing St. John the kind- 
hearted found that it was more troublesome to 
sleep than to work, and urged his companions to 
descend in hot haste. 

That which is here worthy our attention is 
not, of course, the disagreement between all these 
legends and the canon of Scripture and the 
catechism, but their general tone. 

Our dissenters also have their religious poetry, 
"verses," or hymns, which are often at variance, 
not merely with the Bible but with good sense as 
well. Here is one illustration, the hymn about 
" Halleluiah's Wife." It tells how Mrs. Halleluiah 
(sic), her baby-child in her arms, stood before a 
blazing fire in her room, when Jesus entered. 
He told her that he was flying for life from the 
Jews, who were pursuing him closely, and bade 
her save him. Halleluiah's wife on hearing 
Jesus' summons, tore her baby-child from her 
breast and threw it into the blazing fire, and 
took Jesus to her breast in its stead. 

When the Jews broke into the room and 
demanded to know where Jesus was, Halleluiah's 
wife pointed to her baby burning in the oven, 
and said it was he. The Jews went away with- 


out having recognised Jesus, who was in her 

This song is perfectly apocryphal. The in- 
cident about baby Jesus coming by himself and 
speaking is strange ; and the conversion of the 
word Halleluiah into a living person, having a 
wife and a child, is quite absurd ; but the whole of 
this terrible song breathes the wild poetry of 
religious exaltation. It expresses in a powerful 
though somewhat clumsy form an intense feeling 
of devotion, and readiness for self-sacrifice for the 
sake of God. The funny, flippant stories of the 
orthodox peasants, however, whether canonical 
or not matters not, of which some samples are 
given, savour rather of amusement at the expense 
of orthodoxy than of expressions of earnest 
religious sentiment 


THERE is another test which may be applied to 
prove the intensity of the religious feelings of a 
community, more tangible, and therefore perhaps 
more convincing, than the former. This is the 
position held by the clergy. A strong, earnest 
religion means an influential and a respected 
clergy, and vice versd. A general contempt for 
the clergy is incompatible with great zeal for the 
religion which they profess. Religion is not like 
a positive science, where the personal feeling 
inspired by the exponent has nothing whatever 
to do with the acceptance or rejection of his 

Now there cannot be, and there is no divided 
opinion as to how matters stand between the 
Russian people and their clergy. To put it in 
the most charitable way possible, the pops are not 
respected by the moujiks. The orthodox clergy, as 
a body, have no moral influence over the masses, 
and enjoy no confidence among them. The 


extreme conservatives agree with the socialists as 
to this fact, though the latter consider it to be 
a great boon, constituting one of the few compen- 
sations for our unfortunate historical past ; whilst 
the former very justly see in it one of the heavy 
odds against them, and vainly seek to find a 
remedy for a malady past all cure. 

The relations between the moujiks and their 
pops have little, if anything, of the spiritual in 
them. Let us charitably admit as many individual 
exceptions as can be wished, it yet remains an 
undeniable fact that as a rule the pops are looked 
upon by their parishioners not as guides or 
advisers, but as a class of tradesmen, who have 
wholesale and retail dealings in sacraments. In 
Russia it is only the superior or black clergy (the 
monks) who are endowed with riches, and who 
receive stipends sufficient to maintain them in 
ease and opulence. For the white or inferior 
clergy, the married curates, there is fortunately 
no State endowment. In the rural districts they 
possess, it is true, some freehold land for farming 
purposes, but their chief source of revenue is the 
fees they receive for ministering at baptisms, 
burials, weddings, special masses, and private 
services such as every peasant's family desires to 


have performed on some occasions in their own 

The principle on which this arrangement is 
based is fair and equitable enough, since thereby 
the expenses for the maintenance of the clergy 
are distributed amongst those who desire their 
ministrations. Unfortunately the exceeding 
poverty of the peasants on the one hand, and on 
the other the exceeding greediness of the pops, 
who rarely care for anything beyond their own 
profits, make it a source of most shameless abuse 
and heartless extortions. The pops, as a matter of 
course, haggle over every penny in the price of 
their peculiar merchandise, and as they hold more- 
over a monopoly, can drive any of their spiritual 
sheep to the wall. 

The wedding, or the christening, or the burial 
cannot be put off indefinitely, nor can it be 
performed by another clergyman except by the 
special licence of the parson of the village. If 
the moujik is too poor, or the sum demanded 
too high, the pop does not scruple to flatly 
refuse to administer the sacrament. Many cases 
have been reported by the newspapers of pops 
having refused to bury the dead because they 
had not been able to come to terms with the 


relatives ; this certainly being the extreme point to 
which churlishness can attain. We hear the same 
story from every quarter, but will not waste space 
here on illustrations, of which it would be only 
too easy to find enough to cover many pages, 
nay, even to fill chapters. Our churches are not 
houses of prayer, but houses of plunder, as the 
dissenters say, and this is the chief cause of the 
deep-seated estrangement between the people 
and the orthodox clergy. 

The exceeding sensitiveness of the consciences 
of believers to the practical conduct of their reli- 
gious teachers is an accepted fact. Whenever 
there has been the slightest awakening of the 
religious sentiment in the masses, it has been 
the unworthiness of the vessel which has been 
first felt ; the turbidness of the contents was not 
discovered, or even looked for till afterwards. 
Theological subtleties are beyond the compre- 
hension of the uneducated, whilst on the other 
hand the moral inconsistencies and shocking 
practices of the men who represent the Church, 
wound the eyes of all, and cause their hearts to 
rise in indignation, wrath, and disgust, with the 
result that thousands turn a willing ear to the 
apostles of some new creed. 


Dissatisfaction on the part of the people 
with the clergy has played a very important part 
in stimulating, and particularly in widening, all 
great religious movements, and that in Russia is 
no exception to this common rule. Diatribes 
against the corruption of the orthodox clergy 
form the favourite themes of the dissenting 
prophets of our day. They are as virulent and 
effective as was the outcry raised by the leaders 
of the Reformation against the great parent 
Church. A closer study of the inner develop- 
ment and the propagation of Russian dissenting 
sects only proves that, their religious aspirations 
having once been awakened, the Russians can 
no more put up with the scandalous venality and 
extortions of our pops than could the Germans 
with the traffic in indulgences and other similar 
practices. But this fact only serves to throw into 
stronger relief the strange equanimity of the 
orthodox. They are as fully awake to the short- 
comings of their pops, and despise and ridicule 
them almost as willingly, as do the dissenters 
themselves. Yet they seem to be quite satisfied 
with what they have, and make no effort to get 
anything better. 

What can it all mean ? Why do the peasants 


care about such pops and their ministrations at 
all ? And if they do not value them, why do they 
pay them, poverty-stricken as they themselves 
are ? The heavy expenses incurred by the great 
bulk of the population for the satisfaction of their 
religious needs suffice alone to exclude any idea 
of levity. When we see a moujik bargaining 
eagerly with ^pop for a religious ceremony which 
he wishes performed, or a prayer which he wishes 
to have recited, and then go away in despair and 
return an hour later and reiterate every means 
of persuasion, entreaty, coaxing, and upbraiding 
to obtain an abatement of a few kopecks in the 
price demanded, and finally, when brought to 
bay, disbursing the money, with bitter complaints 
against the pop's covetousness, we cannot sup- 
pose that his feelings towards his spiritual father 
can still be very friendly or reverential. But at 
the same time we cannot help coming to the con- 
clusion that there must be something in \hz pop's 
ministrations for which the moujik must care very 
earnestly indeed ; he must put his faith in the 
outward form, if not in the inner virtue of the 
prayer or the ceremony, in the rite, if not in 
the religion. 

If we wish to find the cue to the strange state 


of our people's religious feelings, we must bear 
in mind the leaven of heathenism which up to 
the present day has permeated the rudimentary 
Christianity of our rural population. Time in 
its progress has so far influenced them in matters 

of religion as to cause them to drop the formal 

worship of Baal, buxfeith_the bulk of the people 

orthodoxy means little beyond a purely heathenish 

. " V| r ; . 

ritualism. iAn orthodox moujik believes in the 

virtue of the pop ' s ceremonies and recitals in 
pretty much the same sense as he believes in the 
efficacy of the perfectly incoherent and incom 
prehensible conjurations of the exorcists. Pro- 
vided the pop be trie right pop, and the words 
he utters be spoken in the right way and in the 
right place, they will have their due effect, what- 
ever be the attitude of mind of the speaker or 
his personal character, or whether he does it 
for love or for money. 

This standard of religion does not necessarily 
exclude a certain zeal in the observance of its 
claims, and in the fulfilment of religious duties. 
A pilgrim who trudges his weary way for thou- 
sands of miles to kiss the shrine of some saint ; 
a mother who allows her sick child to dwindle 
away for lack of substantial food rather than 


break the rigorous Lenten fast by giving it a sip 
of milk ; a penitent on his knees " hammering 
off" his thousandth bow on the stony floor of 
the church, all exhibit that kind of piety which 
is very common among the Russians. 

It springs as much from primitive heathenism 
as from the higher forms of monotheism. Religious 
feeling is, with them, so to speak, crumbled up 
into a number of disjointed fragments. Of the 
powerful integration which transforms it into an 
all-absorbing passion that carries all before it, the 
bulk of the orthodox peasantry knows nothing 
now, and never has known anything. 

This does not mean that the Russian peasants 
are by nature inclined to religious indifference. 
They have their full share of the human faculty 
for intense enthusiasm, which, in dealing with 
masses, is most readily converted into religious 
zeal. The history of our sects, old and new, is 
there to prove it. 

All we wish to point out is that with the 
orthodox Russian peasantry, which up to the 
present day has formed three-quarters of our 
rural population, religious feeling is almost entirely 
dormant. Fortunately for us, Byzantine ortho- 
doxy was unable to call forth, or to permanently 


hold, more than a quite insignificant quantity of 
this emotional force, a quantity so small that we 
may ignore it. , 

It has lain there, hidden in the breasts of the 
toiling millions, as an enormous potential force, 
which, however, may be awakened some day, and 
appear as a new and important agent of our 
national history. We, for our part, venture to 
express the opinion that here, in the presence of 
this latent force, which has never yet been tested, 
lies perhaps the greatest enigma of Russia's 

It is not at all improbable that Russia may 
never have a great religious movement of her 
own, like those which stand between the Middle 
Ages and the new centuries in Europe. The 
positive sciences have clipped the wings of the 
supernatural throughout the civilized world, and 
there is perhaps no country where the whole of 
the educated classes are so thoroughly imbued 
with the spirit of free thought as are the Russians. 
Now, it is quite impossible that this fact should 
have no influence over the popular mind. The 
intellectual barriers between the upper and lower 
classes are rapidly disappearing. Nowadays the 
most gifted among the peasants the future 


leaders of the masses can grope their way 
towards light and knowledge. Contact with 
modern civilisation must needs blunt the edge 
and destroy the freshness of the faith which can 
work miracles and move mountains only when 
in its full bloom. 

Russia may skip over this phase of social 
development, for which she has come too late ; 
she may gradually enter into that period wherein 
those precious and sublime faculties of man's soul, 
love and self-denial, will be spent directly on 
works of love and truth, ennobling and exalting 
human life, instead of being stored up and petrified 
in the region of ethereal skies. 

On the other hand, we see that our peasantry, 
in its intellectual awakening, shows a remarkable 
tendency to run into religious channels. Dumb 
and inert in the domain of politics, it is in the 
founding of religious sects that our peasantry has 
formulated its most cherished ideals and social 
aspirations. Here they exhibit, not only great 
intellectual activity, but also unlimited moral 
energy. With a wider and more energetic 
awakening of the popular intelligence, either 
before, or during, or even the day after our 
political crisis, the fervent genius of religion, 


stifled heretofore under the blankets of orthodox 
ritualism, may awaken likewise. 

No great national movement is possible unless 
the aspirations of the masses are shared by the 
educated classes. Yet even when confined to the 
masses, religion is capable of developing into 
issues of the greatest magnitude. 

One thing is however certain : whether ex- 
tensive or limited, primary or unimportant, the 
religious element, when it eventually steps to 
the front, will not do so under the auspices of 

The history of the awakening of the religious 
sentiment in various sections of the Russian 
people is, from this point of view, very instructive. 



IN the year 1659 Patriarch Nicon, then the head 
of the Russian Church, issued a new edition of 
the mass-book, or missal, revised and carefully 
corrected according to the old Slavonic and Greek 
originals. This was not the first occasion on 
which the Muscovite Tzars and Patriarchs had 
busied themselves with proof-reading. When the 
printing-press was introduced into Muscovy, and 
the publication of the sacred books was resolved 
upon, the Muscovite people discovered to their 
great mortification that the manuscript copies used 
in various dioceses presented many discrepancies, 
and sometimes even complete distortions of the 
original text. These errors were corrected as far as 
it lay in the power of the ignorant pops, appointed 
to superintend the printing business, to correct 

During the Patriarchate of Joseph, the pre- 
decessor of Nicon, a special commission was 
nominated for a new revision of the sacred books, 



Some of the eloquent and influential leaders in the 
future schism formed part of this commission 
Protopop, Avvakum, Neronoff, Login, and others. 
The result of their labour was a text which is said 
by connoisseurs to be a rine example of idiomatic 
Slavonian, though still but a poor performance as 
far as correctness went. 

Patriarch Nicon and Tzar Alexis resolved to 
crown the edifice, and bestow upon the Muscovite 
people a text and a ritual to which no exceptions 
could be taken. They proceeded with all the 
care and circumspection the importance of the 
work required. Learned scholars, both Russian 
and foreign, were summoned to Moscow ; the 
best and oldest manuscripts were procured from 
the libraries of Mount Athos and other Oriental 
monasteries and churches. The Patriarch superin- 
tended the work, ' and the Tzar, who took th< 
liveliest interest in it, warmly assisted him. No 
pains were spared to make the work good and 
authoritative. The revisers proved themselves 
thoroughly competent, and produced a' text 
which modern Russian philologists pronounce 
to be perfectly reliable. 

The chief corrections introduced into the text 
Ct the various scriptural books, gradually issued 


by the ecclesiastical authorities, need not detain 
us here. Of religion, the Russians of N icon's 
time knew nothing beyond that which they heard 
or saw in the churches, to which they trooped 
on great occasions. The schism was provoked by 
the changes introduced by Nicon in the mass- 
book. Let us now examine in what they consisted. 
The most important innovation, which after- 
wards became the symbol and the war-cry of the 
religious rebellion, referred to the position of the 
fingers in making the sign of the cross. The 
Russians of Nicon's time when they crossed them- 
selves held two fingers together, whilst the 
Oriental churches and the Greeks enjoined their 
adherents to cross themselves with three fingers 
united into one point. The two-fingered cross 
of the Muscovites was used in the Orient only for 
giving the priestly benediction. The ikons of the 
saints of clerical grade are usually represented 
in the act of conferring this benediction, which 
was doubtless the cause of the universal accept- 

i ance of this form of making the sign of the cross 
in Russia. 

Patriarch Nicon was anxious to return to 

j ancient traditions. Reserving the two-fingered 
cross for priestly benedictions only, he re-esta- 



blished the three-fingered Greek cross, or, as his 
opponents called it, "the pinch-of-snuff cross,' 
for the private act of devotion. 

Then, too, in certain cases, for instance in 
stamping the round wafers, he introduced the use 
of the equilateral, four-sided cross (similar to the 
Swiss or Crusader's cross), as the Greeks were 
wont to do, whilst the Russians of this time never 
departed from the original normal cross, modelled 
after that on which Christ was crucified a long 
stem with shorter transverse beams. 

The Russians celebrated the mass on seven 
wafers, whilst the Greeks and Orientals used only 

In the processions of the church, the Russians 
were in the habit of first turning their steps 
westward going with the sun ; the Greeks 
marched eastward against the sun. In all these 
points Patriarch N icon conformed to the traditions 
of the Greek Mother-Church. In conformity with 
this rule, moreover, he directed that the Halle- 
luiahs should be "trebled," or sung thrice, as with 
the Greeks, the Russians having up till then 
only " doubled " it, singing, instead of the third 
halleluiah, its Russian equivalent, " God be 
praised " Finally, or we should rather say above 


all, Nicon introduced a fresh spelling of the 
name of Jesus. The fact is that, probably in 
consequence of the Russian habit of abbreviating 
some of the commonest scriptural names, the 
second letter in the name Jesus had been dropped 
altogether ; it was simply spelt Jsus, without any 
sign of abbreviation. Patriarch Nicon corrected 
this orthographical error, replacing the missing 

Was this all ? Yes, this was all. As far as 
doctrinal matters were concerned nothing more 
serious was at stake in the great religious schism 
of the seventeenth century, known by the name 
of Rascol. 

And yet it was for these trifles a letter less in 
a name ; a finger more in a cross ; the doubling 
instead of the trebling of a word that thousands 
of people, both men and women, encountered 
death on the scaffold or at the stake. It was for 
these things that other scores of thousands under- 
went the horrible tortures of the knout, the 
strappado, the rack, or had their bodies mutilated, 
their tongues cut, their hands chopped off. 

Saddening, sickening sight, unredeemed and 
unsoothed by that mingled feeling of respect and 
thankfulness which we bring to the shrines of 


the martyrs and champions in the great cause of 
humanity! It seems impossible to discover what 
human or national interest could have been served 
by the numberless victims and heroes of the 
Rascol struggles, which read more like a bloody 
farce than a great historical tragedy. 

For a long time the Rascol remained a great 
and unsolved riddle to all the investigators of our 
national life. It puzzled by the fierce fanaticism 
and unlimited spirit of self-sacrifice which it roused 
for the sake of trifles so utterly irrelevant. It 
puzzled still more by the fact of its influence 
having been spread over a mass of from ten to 
fifteen millions of people, and by the extraordinary 
tenacity of its hold. Scholars could only marvel 
that a kind of mental craze should thus stand the 
test of two centuries, constantly gaining ground 
over the certainly more rational views of official 

The honour of throwing the light of science on 
this the darkest problem of our history, and of 
unravelling the standing enigma of the Rascol, 
belongs to the last twenty to twenty-five years, 
and is one of the most brilliant triumphs of 
modern Russian historiography. Attracted by 
the magnitude of this purely popular movement, 


some of our best historians Shchapov and 
Kostomarov at their head made the Rascol a 
special object of long and patient study. They 
threaded their way through the contradictions and 
perplexities of that strange and complicated move- 
ment ; and they have shown it to be, not an 
outburst of callous obscurantism and sordid 
reaction, but a striking illustration of the peculiar 
and crooked paths by which the human spirit 
sometimes marches from darkness into light. 
The common conclusion come to, as summed up by 
Kostomarov, is, that, " far from being a reaction- 
ary movement, the Rascol was an important 
step in the intellectual progress of our people " 
( ' Monograph," vol. viii.). 

Such words sound strange when applied to a 
rebellion in favour of the absolute immutability 
of ancient traditions, and absolute negation of the 
right to criticise even so much as the spelling of 
the Scriptures. But nevertheless so it is, and the 
seemingly strange views on the Rascol, advocated 
by the modern historical school, possess that 
quality of forcible persuasiveness which is proper 
to all really scientific discoveries. 

To begin with, there is one consideration which 
at once exonerates our Rascolniks from the charge 


of exceptional narrow-mindedness. We have 
only to reverse our position, and to look on 
the history of the Rascol from the opposite 
point of view. If it is strange that people should 
die for the sake of an orthographical blunder, 
is it not equally strange that their opponents, the 
dominant Church party, comprising all the best 
educated amongst the clergy and society, should 
burn, hang, and decapitate hundreds and thou- 
sands of their fellow-creatures, and ruin and 
devastate entire provinces for questions so utterly 
unimportant ? 

Indignation at disobedience accounted for much 
in these fierce persecutions. Despotism, both 
secular and ecclesiastical, was provoked by the 
impudence of benighted moujiks who dared to 
reason for themselves on questions of faith and 
Scripture. But though this might account for 
a few fitful acts of violence, it is not sufficient 
to account for half a century's uninterrupted 
struggle, which strained all the resources of 

OO ' 

the State, and which brought on the govern- 
ment incalculable harm. It is evident that the 
dominant Church party, with the Tzar and the 
Patriarch at its head, considered the corrections 
they had made just as essential to the interests 


of true religion as did the Rascolmks the main- 
tenance of the old forms. Where the two parties 
differed was, as to which really were the ancient 
and true rites and forms of orthodoxy. In their 
conception as to what actually constituted true 
religion both the contending parties were agreed. 
They both believed in the efficacy of the rite 
as such, and therefore were both firmly convinced 
that the slightest inaccuracy would render it null 
and void before the face of the Lord, a standard 
of religion which forcibly recalls that of the 
orthodox peasants of the present day, which we 
described in the previous chapter. 

The two forms of religion present an evident 
affinity. The study of the one is exceedingly useful 
towards a right understanding of the other. We 

realize the Rascol more vividly when we look at 

it through the medium of modern popular religion ; 

whilst on the other hand the study of the Rascol 
helps us to a better comprehension of the state 
of religious thought amongst our rural contem- 
poraries. With the moujiks this curious phase 
of the religious idea is still a living thing, a fact 
standing there in the full bloom of its reality. 
But it is confined exclusively to the class which 
tills the soil, illiterate people for the most part, 


who have neither the leisure nor the habit of mind 
to fit them for abstract speculation. They cannot 
think abstract questions out logically, and therefore 
cannot give them adequate expression. Besides, 
the peasantry of to-day is no longer intellectually 
on a uniform level. Groups and individuals, 
representing more advanced religious phases, are 
to be met with everywhere. Small in number, 
they yet are likely to attract the attention of 
an outsider, and would be apt to confound and 
mislead him in making his observations. In the 
seventeenth century Muscovites of all ranks and 
classes were as uniform in their religious ideas as 
only an uncultured nation can be. The documents 
referring to the ecclesiastical history of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, anterior to 
the grea ritualistic schism, supply us with 
perfec examples of this christianised fetishism 
crystallized as hard as granite, unyielding and 
ferocious, like all absolute religious convictions. 

Some of our scholars, Kostomarov among 
them, ascribe this uninspiring form of Christianity 
to a certain superficiality and formalism inborn in 
the Great Russians (Muscovites). 

It is an open question whether the Great 
Russians really have this tendency or not ; their 


social and political life shows a marked, nay, 
often an injudicious repugnance to any formalism 
whatever, whilst, as far as the domain of specula- 
tion is concerned, the Russians as a race certainly 
exhibit no peculiar proclivity for sticking to 
details and exterior forms. Then why should 
they be pronounced to be by nature narrow and 
formal in their religion ? It is always safer not to 
fall back upon a far-fetched hypothesis, when a 
thing can be accounted for as a simple stage in 
natural development. 

We must indeed upset all our ideas as to the 
natural and organic development of the human 
mind if we are to suppose that the wholesale 
conversion to Christianity, of tribes and nations 
can be anything but fictitious and superficial. 

Barbarians, whether they were the Franks 
under Clovis, or the Saxons under Alfred, or the 
Russians under Vladimir of Kieff, after having 
spent one short quarter of an hour in the water 
of a river, which may have washed a little dirt 
from their bodies, could not have had their minds 
cleansed from all the ideas acquired and inherited 
from centuries. Fetish-worshippers as they were, 
they could do nothing more than clothe their 
national fetishism in a Christian garb. And this 


they did The Popes of Rome issued dozens of 
bulls of excommunication against the observers 
of old heathen ceremonies. The chroniclers of 
the Middle Ages utter complaints against them. 
The same story was lived through in Western 
Europe as it had been in Eastern. 

These early conquests of the cross remind us 
of the solemnity of taking possession of the 
main, as practised by the Spaniards and other 
Europeans in the New World, rather than of 
real conversions. Then, under the protection of 
friendly standards, a stream of new ideas began 
to penetrate into the popular mind, side by side 
with the elements of general culture. So exceed- 
ing slow is the process that even now it is not 
perfected. In countries, which can count fifteen 
hundred years of official Christianity, there 
remain sections of the population which still retain 
many of the features of primitive christianised 

In Western Europe, however, as well as in the 
Ruthenian (Southern Russian) provinces, where 
the banner of Lithuania and Catholic Poland 
was followed, the authorized spokesmen of 
religion stood, intellectually, far above the 
masses. The Catholic priests and monks were 


acquainted with Latin, and preserved in part 
their inheritance of the high philosophy and 
culture of antiquity. Thus, in Europe generally, 
the theological efforts of the popular mind were 
kept in check and confined to their own spheres, 
and branded wholesale with the name of " super- 
stition," whilst in Russia they were converted 
into " orthodox Christianity." 

The Greek clergy, which did so much towards 
spreading Christianity over the Slavonic world, 
was likewise the bearer of the rudiments of 
culture. This culture very readily struck root 
among the Russians of the eleventh and twelfth 
centuries, but was swept away again by the inva- 
sion of the Asiatic nomads and the three centuries 
of desperate struggle which followed. 

By this struggle all intellectual pursuits were 
interrupted. The clergy gave up the study of 
Greek, which in those days was the vehicle of 
culture ; they even forgot old Slavonic, into which 
the Scriptures had been translated, and in which 
the Liturgy was celebrated. To know how to 
read grew to be a rare accomplishment, which 
most of the rural clergy did not possess, and they 
therefore learned the Liturgy from their prede- 
decessors by rote and from ear. Some of the 


cultivated Bishops felt much grieved at having to 
consecrate these illiterate men, sent to them by the 
village Communes, but they could find no substi- 
tutes, and had to decide between leaving the village 
without a minister at all or consecrating those who 
were unable to read one word of the Scriptures. 

Thus, whilst Western Europe steadily pro- 
gressed in her culture, emerging about the six- 
teenth century from the barbarity of the Middle 
Ages, Russia relapsed into a state of almost 
primitive savagery. Religion necessarily followed 
the same retrogressive movement. It relapsed 
into its primitive state, and would have been well 
suited to the intelligence of the converts made 
by St. Vladimir and his early followers. With 
this difference, however : Christianity was no 
longer a mere garb, donned to please a popular 
prince, and to be thrown off again whilst heathen- 
ism was resumed with perfect ease of mind, a 
proceeding of which there have been several 
examples in our early history. 

Orthodoxy gained ground in the nation, anc 
at last grew to be a part of its very flesh am 
bones. For six centuries orthodoxy was identi- 
fied with the life of the nation. In the most 
solemn and tragic moments of our history whei 


struggling desperately with the sword and by 
statecraft against the overwhelming power of the 
Tartars for the right of calling their bodies and 
goods their own, or when defending the State 
and the integrity of the Empire against the Poles 
and Swedes the Russians always had to face 
enemies of another creed, as well as of another 
nationality. Whenever they met on a peaceful 
footing with aliens, they found them different 
save a mere handful of Greeks in creed as well 
as in speech and race. Orthodoxy became con- 
bunded with the idea of nationality. 

"Russian" and " provoslavny" (orthodox) be- 
came synonyms, the latter priming the former. 
Jp to the present time orthodox peasants, 
amongst whom there happens to be a settlement 
of dissenters, will say, pointing out some group 
of houses or some village : " Such and such 
villages or families are Molokane or Dukhoborzy, 
and we are Russians," i.e.. orthodox. To give 
up orthodoxy means to forsake the Russian 
nationality, to cease to be a Russian. Many- 
dissenters concur in this view. They call the 
orthodox Church, the Russian Church, and the 
Drthodox, Russians, as if they themselves did 
lot belong to that nation. 


The old Muscovites were exceedingly sensitive 
to any wrong or disrepect shown towards ortho- 
doxy. Whenever it was threatened in any way, 
the people rose as one man, and achieved miracles 
to preserve undefiled what was to them the 
highest embodiment of their national self-con- 

Patriotism is a powerful feeling when called 
into action ; under ordinary circumstances, how- 
ever, this feeling of national self-love is a quiet 
sentiment, defensive rather than impulsive. 
Whatever be the national peculiarity on which it 
prides itself the most, be it religion, language, or 
constitution, it is roused to activity only when 
some danger threatens the thing cherished. 
When in the secure enjoyment of its idol it 
naturally keeps quiet and slumbers. The ancient 
Muscovites cleaved to all customs bequeathed 
to them by their forefathers : to the habit of 
wearing long beards, for example, which they 
held sacred. When Peter the Great ordered all 
beards to be shorn, this mandate produced an 
indignant and lasting opposition, which culmi- 
nated in 1 707 in a regular " beard insurrection " 
in Astrakhan. Before the issue of this ukaz, 
however, and so long as neither razor nor scissors 


threatened the luxuriant growth on men's chins, 
why should the Muscovites make more fuss about 
their beards than other people did ? 

Passing from small things to great, we may 
say that so it was with religion. It was felt to be 
an attribute of the whole nation, without being 
in any sense an individual impulse. Hence that 
seemingly strange contradiction, which was in 
reality no contradiction at all their striking 
readiness to stand by their religion to the last 
drop of their blood, and at the same time the 
no less striking religious indifference in their 
everyday life, and utter carelessness in the fulfil- 
ment of their religious duties facts abundantly 
proved by the records of the epoch. 

They did not observe the rites of the Church ; 
many among both laymen and clergymen were in 

e habit of living with women unwedded ; they 
did not attend at church, save at very great 
solemnities ; the churches stood empty, and the 
clergy, who were addicted to much drinking and 
bad living, sometimes did not celebrate the mass 
for months together. Preaching was dropped 
altogether, except that the Patriarch preached 
occasionally. The practice of preaching was not 
re-established among the inferior clergy until 

VOL. n. 26 


much later, in the time of Peter the Great, when 
the newcomers, the orthodox Ruthenian priests, 
resumed the practice. The service was conducted 
in a manner which well illustrated the people's 
indifference to it ; two or three different songs 
were sung at the same time, or several parts of 
the Liturgy read simultaneously, so that nothing 
could be understood. The congregation talked, 
laughed, and quarrelled during the service, and 
came and went freely, standing with their heads 
covered, and they kept neither fasts nor Sundays. 
When the great Boyar, Morosov, the confidant 
of Tzar Alexis, who was a great churchgoer, 
tried to compel his peasants to go regularly to 
church, and not to work on Sundays, he almost 
provoked a rebellion. The steward of his estate 
reported to him that " the peasants were secretly 
working at their own homes on Sundays, and 
refused to give up the habit, because in the 
neighbouring village of Alexeevka, and all around 
them, the people worked on Sundays. Neither 
would they go to church : on St. Peter's Day 
none of them attended at God's Temple." The 
Boyar made his injunctions more stringent, giving 
orders that those who remained obdurate should 
be fined and flogged. The steward reported that 


at the meeting convened to hear their master's 
message the peasants were quite angry with 
him, and shouted, " It is all your doing! It is 
you that have reported against us to our master, 
in order to compel us to pray often ! " And they 
began to assemble in large crowds and to look 
defiant, " and I fear," adds the unwilling propa- 
gator of piety, " they may be meditating my 


IT was a moment of severe trial to the Muscovites 
when the Patriarch Nicon sent his new missal 
with all its sweeping innovations to all the 
churches and chapels of the Empire. Tradi- 
tional ritualism and the no less traditional in- 
differentism came into collision with one another, 
and had to show which would prove the stronger 
of the two. Had the proposed reforms emanated 
from the outside, or had there been any ground 
for the suspicion that it had been borrowed from 
or suggested by foreigners, one tenth of the 
changes introduced would have sufficed to make 
the whole country rise in wrath and indignation, 
and eject both the Patriarch and his mass-book. 
N icon's enemies knew this, and exerted them- 
selves strenuously to prove that his " novelties " 
were pure Romish popery. But this trick would 
not hold water. 

There was no ground for suspecting the 
slightest treason to the national cause in a 


measure started under the auspices of a Tzar like 
Alexis, and a Patriarch like Nicon. Tzar Alexis 
Mikhailovitch was a model Tzar, to whom no 
exception could be taken ; * though Patriarch 
Nicon had many enemies amongst the clergy, 
partly owing to his great severity in exposing their 
evil conduct, and partly owing to his personal 
arrogance and cruelty. The bulk of the popula- 
tion, however, neither knew nor cared about these 
family quarrels. 

Nicon was by far the strongest and cleverest 
man who had occupied the ecclesiastical throne 
of the Moscow Patriarchate since its first 
creation. There was much to admire in his 
manly character, notwithstanding his obvious 
shortcomings, and he was vastly popular with 
the great mass of laymen. 

It must have seemed preposterous to suppose 
that such a man could become a traitor to the 
national cause, and a convert to popery, or any 
other foreign heresy. This patriotic feeling, 
so powerfully represented in Muscovite ortho- 
doxy, and constituting its impulsive element, 

* The intense popular sufferings, which gave rise to so many 
rebellions during this reign, were always attributed to the 
wickedness of the Tzar's officials. 


gave no response to the call ; whilst religious 
feeling as such, i.e., the attachment of the in- 
dividual to orthodoxy as an element of spiritual 
life, was at this period so feeble within the 
masses as to be hardly perceptible at all. If 
powerful religious emotions were to be called 
forth from the innermost recesses of men's 
hearts, some more potent spell would be needed 
than the contemplation ot the eight-pointed cross, 
or than listening to a nasal " double " halleluiah. 

The first apostles of this religious schism had 
to cry in a veritable wilderness, confronted with 
an absolute indifference on the part of all who 
surrounded them. 

At a distance of two centuries we have con- 
siderable difficulty in preserving the historical 
perspective. Events which happened at short 
but perfectly noticeable intervals of time, when 
viewed at close quarters, seem, when viewed from 
a distance, to cover one another like the visible 
objects on the verge of the horizon. 

The Rascol is usually represented as a stormy 
and widespread outburst of popular discontent at 
the sight of Niconian " innovations." It was not 
so in reality. To be convinced of this we have 
only to pay some attention to the dates, which in 


historical investigations are as important as in a 
Court of Justice. The fact is that the Niconian 
mass-book, with all its bold "innovations," was 
at first universally accepted. It was certainly 
exceedingly distasteful to almost the whole body 
of churchgoers, but they did not move a finger 
to protest against it, and quietly submitted to 
orders coming from Moscow, as was their wont. 

At the Moscow Council of 1654, convened to 
hear the new mass-book and to give it the 
official sanction of the Church, only two members 
dared to openly express their disapprobation. 
These two where the pop Avvacum and Paul of 
Kolomna. Outside the Council a handful of pops 
and monks joined them ; the laymen kept entirely 
out of the way. During the first twelve years 
after the promulgation of the new missal, that 
is, up to the Council of 1666-7, tne opposition 
to N icon's reforms was solely represented by a 
small body of monks and pops, with a very feeble 
following among the laymen. 

The Council of 1666-7 pushed the unsophis- 
ticated and simple-minded orthodox literally to 
the wall. At this solemn assembly, presided over 
by two Eastern Patriarchs those of Alexandria 
and of Antioch the advocates of two-fingered 


crossing, double halleluiahs, and old uncorrected 
missals were excommunicated and anathematised 
in a body " Their souls, in virtue of the power 
given to the Church by Jesus Christ, to be given 
up to eternal torments, together with the souls 
of the traitor Judas, and of the Jews by whom 
Jesus Christ was crucified." 

This was rather too strong even for those days 
of petty formalism. The famous Council, in the ex- 
cess of its zeal, had overstepped the mark, and had 
done the utmost that could be done in the domain 
of spiritual influence to trouble the consciences of 
the faithful, and to disseminate doubts about official 
orthodoxy, thus pushing the people into the Rascol. 

All the generations of the past, all the Saints, 
the holy Patriarchs, and the early Czars, had 
used the same books and the same rites as were 
now condemned as heretical. The deduction from 
this was obvious, and must have struck even the 
unsophisticated intellects of the people, if those 
who stuck to the unrevised missals were doomed 
to eternal damnation now, why, then the same 
fate must have befallen their forebears likewise. 
The Rascolniks repeatedly pointed out to their 
opponents and persecutors the following simple 
consideration, which must have suggested itself to 


everybody. " If you anathematise us," they said, 
"you likewise anathematise your own forefathers 
and all the holy men of the past." 

The number of those who were able to think 
for themselves was exceedingly small. To the 
bulk of the clergy and of the people it was a 
question of reliance on some authority. Now, in 
the choice between the whole of the past, with 
all its holiness, and the few clerks of the present, 
who quarrelled among themselves and deposed 
and cursed one another, no hesitation could be 
possible. Placed between the horns of this 
dilemma a common man, who took a lively in- 
terest in religious questions, could not help 
becoming a sympathiser and abettor of the 
Rascol. If he was endowed with a religious 
temperament he had the stuff in him of which 
its apostles and martyrs were made. Yet the 
Rascol was as slow to spread as fire over wood 
soaked in water, for there were so few in Russia 
who cared to think about religion at all. The 
rebels of the Solovezk monastery a body of 
three hundred clerks and two hundred laymen 
represented the main strength of the Rascol 
during the first quarter of a century after it 
had been officially proclaimed by the Niconians, 


In 1682-84, sixteen years after the meeting of 
the Council which rent the Church in twain, and 
about twenty-five years after the promulgation of 
the new mass-book, Moscow became the centre 
of great public troubles, which present to us the 
rare opportunity of gaining an insight into the 
genuine feelings and dispositions of the usually 
dumb masses. During the first tumultuous 
rising of the Strelzy, which occurred in 1682, 
the Rascolniks were nowhere. Among the many 
grievances which the Strelzy laid before the 
regents not a word was uttered as to religious 
persecution. It is very evident that the Rascol- 
niks were at that time too thinly disseminated 
among the bulk of the people to be represented 
at all in a spontaneous movement composed of 
elements taken at random from amongst the popu- 
lation of the Capital. They were active people, 
these early Rascolniks, keenly alive to the interests 
of their creed, and able to make all winds fill their 
sails. Profiting by a temporary lull in the perse- 
cutions directed against them, they began an 
active agitation among the Strelzy and the people 
of Moscow, and got up a petition and huge riotous 
demonstrations in their favour. But they made 
few converts. People who consented to back 


their cause were not in the least in sympathy with 
their creed. The Strelzy refused to sign the 
Rascolniks profession of faith. " Still," they said, 
" we will not permit the authorities to burn and 
torture people for adherence to the old creed," 
and all joined in the demonstration. They pitied 
the men, remaining the while quite indifferent to 
the question of old or new creed. 

The whole enterprise collapsed ; the crowd 
succeeded in obtaining a stormy and uproarious 
debate on religion, which resulted in nothing 
but mutual recrimination. Tzarevna Sophia had 
no difficulty in destroying the temporary alliance 
between the Rascolniks and the Strelzy. " Are 
you not ashamed," she said to the deputies of the 
Strelzy at a confidential meeting, "to desert us, 
the Tzar's children, for the sake of half-a-dozen 
monks ? " And the Strelzy felt ashamed, and 
gave the following characteristic answer: "We 
have nothing to do with the defence of the old 
faith, most gracious Tzarevna. That is the 
Patriarch's business, not ours." They were faith- 
ful representatives of the spirit of their comrades, 
who also considered religion to be " the business 
of the Patriarchs." The following day the more 
prominent among the Rascolniks were arrested, 


their leaders executed, and nobody moved. The 
Rascolniks were not a force even in Moscow. 
They knew this, and showed their discernment in 
the great moderation of the demands they formu- 
lated. All they asked for was a little toleration. 
There was not as yet, in the Rascolzs a body, any 
spirit of wild fanaticism and implacable hatred 
towards the dominant creed. They humbly 
petitioned that people should be suffered to save 
their souls with the aid of the same books and rites 
their forefathers and all the holy Patriarchs and 
Tzars of the past had used before them. Had 
these demands been conceded, even at this late 
hour, the growth of the Rascol would have been 
checked, and the spirit of religious rebellion would 
gradually have softened and melted away, swamped 
by the flood of general indifference. 

But neither the jealous, narrow-minded clergy 
of the orthodox Church nor the government 
were prepared to grant toleration. The Moscow 
riots well over, and the authority of the State 
re-established, Tzarevna Sophia initiated a per- 
secution against the rebels to the Church and 
to her authority, which may be compared to 
those of the pagan emperors against the early 


All the officers of the Administration and of 
the police, had orders, under pain of heavy punish- 
ment, to proceed to the discovery and extermina- 
tion of the Rascol. As soon, therefore, as these 
officials heard that in their respective districts 
there were people who did not attend mass, or 
who declined to admit the pops into their houses, 
or who absented themselves in any sense from 
the sacraments of the orthodox Church, they 
apprehended them, put them to the torture, and 
questioned them as to who had converted them 
to the Rascol, and as to who were their co- 
religionists. All those whose names were men- 
tioned during these investigations had to be put 
to the torture in their turn, and so forth. Those 
Rascolniks who proved obstinate and impenitent 
were burned alive. Those who recanted were 
knouted and set free ; but if they relapsed into 
heresy a second time no mercy might be shown 
them, and they were burnt, even though they 
recanted a second time. 

The extreme section of the Rascol the so- 
called " Re-baptists," who proclaimed the ineffi- 
ciency of the Baptism administered by the 
orthodox were placed in the same category as 
the recidivists ; they were consigned to the 


stake even if they repented. The avowedly 
orthodox, who showed little zeal in the cause of 
the Church, and did not apprehend the Rascolmks 
within their reach and deliver them up to the 
authorities, were knouted and fined according to 
the extent of their carelessness ; whilst those who 
had Rascolniks lodging under their roofs, even 
though unaware of the fact, were punished with 
fines. If a relative or a friend of an imprisoned 
Rascolnik brought him nourishment or inquired 
after him, he was arrested and knouted. 

This was a war of extermination, and in it the 
Rascolniks were pushed to the wall, and had to 
choose between the sacrifice of their faith and 
the sacrifice of their lives. Thousands perished ; 
others fled in all directions, seeking refuge for 
themselves and their creed in the wildest and 
most deserted parts of the country, on the extreme 
verge of the Empire, or in the vast tracts of 
uninhabited land in the interior. Some crossed 
the Ural Mountains and settled in Siberia ; others 
found new homes among foreigners, and esta- 
blished colonies in Sweden, in Poland, and in the 
Caucasus. The inclement north, the shores of 
the Frozen Ocean, and the region of the great 
seas of the North- West which now form the 


provinces of Archangelsk, Volo / w^g t h e 

were the places to which cc / -i-ac- 

^ / <L> 

stream of Rascolnik colonizati "S ^ 

In these vast wildernesses 
penetrable forests, infested w 
cut up by deep seas, rivers, an._ 
Rascolniks were better protected than anywu^ 
else. But even here their persecutors did not 
leave them in peace. 

The government started a regular chase after 
them, and in 1687 issued a special ukaz, command- 
ing the authorities of all the northern regions " to 
look to it carefully that the Rascolniks did not dwell 
in the woods, and that whenever they were heard 
of, a body of armed men should be despatched in 
pursuit, so that their refuges might be discovered 
and destroyed and their property confiscated, and 
every man, woman, and child apprehended, in 
order that their abominable heresy might be 
exterminated without any chance of revival." 

In 1689 this order was repeated in terms more 
stringent still, under the penalty of death for 

Special officers were appointed for superin- 
tending the hunt after Rascolniks. 

In 1693 there was issued another ukaz to the 



stake Affect, with an amendment with respect to 
ortK buildings and property : everything was to 
tte burned to the ground, " in order that their 
companions should nowhere find any refuge." 
This Draconian policy towards the Rascolniks 
was persisted in for more than thirty years with- 
out relaxation. Hunted down from one part of 
the country to another, the Rascolniks were scat- 
tered far and wide through the land and spread 
the seeds of their creed. 

The torpor of the people was broken. The 
impudent appeal to brute force in matters of such 
delicacy, and so dear to men's souls, began to 
produce its wonted effect. The masses began 
to stir ; the unprecedented persecution of men 
and women of unquestioned morality, who met 
their trials with such fortitude, began to tell 
even on the wooden nerves of their contempo- 
raries. The two fingers the emblem of the 
Rascolnik's cross and creed shown to the awe- 
struck crowd from amidst the flames of the stake, 
produced a stronger effect than the preaching or 
arguing of any number of Rascolniks could have 
done. Thus was the scarcely perceptible spark 
ol earnest religious exaltation in old Muscovy, in 
fifty years fanned into a huge conflagration. 


N. Kostomarov has preserved from among the 
judicial documents of the epoch a graphic ac- 
count of a case, in the reading of which we seem 
to be able to put our finger on the very root of 
the question, and to realize at once how and why 
the Rascol became so contagious. 

" It was in Tumen, a town in Western Siberia ; 
time, Sunday morning. The pops were cele- 
brating the mass in the cathedral on the lines of 
the new missals, as usual. The congregation was 
listening calmly to the service, when, at the 
moment of the solemn appearance of the conse- 
crated wafer, a female voice shouted, 'Orthodox! 
do not bow ! They carry a dead body the 
wafer is stamped with the unholy cross, the seal 
of Antichrist.' 

" The speaker was a female Rascolnik, accom- 
panied by a male co-religionist of hers, who thus 
interrupted the service. The man and woman were 
seized, knouted in the public square, and thrown 
into prison. But their act produced its effect. 
When another Rascolnik, the monk Danilo, shortly 
after appeared on the same spot and began to 
preach, an excited crowd at once gathered around 
him. His words affected his audience so deeply 
that girls and old women began to see the skies 



open above them, and the Virgin Mary with the 
angels holding a crown of glory over those who 
refused to pray as they were ordered by the 
authorities. Danilo persuaded them to flee into 
the wilderness for the sake of the true faith. 
Three hundred people, both men and women, 
joined him, but a strong body of armed men was 
sent in pursuit. They could not escape, and 
Danilo seized the moment to preach to them, and 
persuade them that the hour had come for all of 
them to receive ' the baptism of fire.' By this 
he meant they were to burn themselves alive. 
They accordingly locked themselves up in a big 
wooden shed, set fire to it, and perished in the 
flames all the three hundred with their leader." 

This awful instance of self-immolation was not 

Every Rascolnik who fell into the hands of 
the orthodox was doomed to the stake unless 
he abjured his faith. The majority, who were 
" Re-baptizers," had not even this base means of 
escape. It was better and nobler to die at once 
for the glory of the faith than to fall a prey to 
their enemies, and to die in passing through the 
long ordeal of frightful tortures. Religious ideas 
were blent together with the impulses of manly 


courage. Death at the stake was the baptism by 
fire which Christ bestowed on the faithful ; it was 
the Prophet's chariot of fire, which was to carry 
their souls straight to heaven. Overflowing reli- 
gious exaltation created a yearning after martyrdom. 
This is unmistakably shown by some of the more 
terrible self-inflicted auto-da-fe. 

On the Sea of Ladoga, on a small island, there 
stands an orthodox monastery, which bears the 
name of Paleostrovsky. The place was particularly 
hateful to the surrounding Rascolniks, because 
the monks who dwelt there, and who knew the 
locality thoroughly, always guided the invading 
parties to the Rascolnik settlements. In 1688, 
when the persecutions were at their height, and 
a party of the most fierce champions of the 
orthodox faith was devastating the Rascolnik 
settlements in the Onega district, a Rascolnik 
monk, Ignatius of Solovezk by name, conceived 
the idea of achieving a great holocaust for the 
glory of the true faith. At the head of a great 
crowd, armed with bludgeons and axes, he passed 
the frozen lake, drew off the Paleostrovsky monks, 
put Ensign Gleboff and his soldiers to precipitous 
flight, and took possession of the monastery. 

For several months the Rascolniks stood their 


ground. The troops, a battalion of infantry and 
guns, did not arrive from Novgorod, the head 
quarters of that region, until Lent. When the 
soldiers marched to the assault, the Rascolniks 
locked themselves up in the big wooden church, 
which they had previously filled with a great 
quantity of bituminous matter and very com- 
bustible wood. The windows, too, were carefully 
closed with thick boards, so that when the troops 
broke into the monastery and began to pick holes 
in the walls of their refuge, the Rascolniks set fire 
to it and burnt themselves to death. In all they 
numbered 2,700. The number has probably been 
magnified by Rascolnik historians. The orthodox 
authorities reduce the figures for this first Paleo- 
strovsky " locking up" to 1,500, 

The monastery was rebuilt, and the orthodox 
monks reinstalled in it ; but a few years later 
the Rascolniks were once more seized with the 
wild desire to repeat the same act of faith 
in this stronghold of the Niconians. In this 
second " locking up " the besieged Rascolniks 
challenged the Niconians to sham debates on 
religious questions, and used various other 
devices in order to gain time, and to receive 
into their midst those of the inhabitants of the 


surrounding villages who were also anxious " to 
win the martyr's diadem," but for some reason 
or other could not arrive in time for the "locking 
up." It is reported that the few whom the 
soldiers pulled out of the flames with boathooks 
showed themselves sorely aggrieved at their 
rescue. They regarded it as a proof that God 
considered them to be the greatest among sinners, 
and would not accept a sacrifice at their hands. 
The number of victims in this second Paleo- 
strovsky "locking up " was also about 1,500. 

Religious mania could go no further. About 
ten thousand people, men and women together, 
met their deaths in this terrible way in the 
North of Russia only, during this long period of 
persecution. The number of those who perished 
on the scaffold, or in the torture-chamber, or in 
dungeons, must have been still greater. 

But the Rascol was no longer extinguishable. 
Its members grew red-hot in their religious 
ardour, which carried them triumphantly through 
two centuries, and stood the test of fire and sword, 
as well as of the incredible hardships of every- 
day life, which these people had to endure for 
the sake of their faith. 

With all their zeal the authorities could not 


succeed in finding out the hiding-places of all the 
Rascolniks. The vastness of the country, its 
peculiar topography, the great sparseness of the 
population, and the absence of roads, all combined 
to paralyse their efforts. Modern investigators 
of the Rascol state that even nowadays there 
exist in the virgin forests of Perm and Viatka 
whole villages of Rascolniks who are totally 
unknown to the authorities, and who live perfectly 
independently, paying no taxes and furnishing 
no conscripts for the army. 

Two centuries ago such a state of things was 
yet easier to bring about. The Rascolnik settlers 
gathered together in these secluded hamlets were 
mostly destitute wanderers, without money, often 
only half clad, and but imperfectly provided with 
implements for work. They had to win a pre- 
carious livelihood from the ungrateful earth, 
struggling all the time with the severity of the 
Arctic winter and the wild beasts of the forest, 
with the constant additional anxiety of never 
feeling secure against their sudden discovery 
by the imperial soldiers and police. The noble 
courage and undaunted endurance displayed by 
the early Rascolnik pioneers is perhaps a more 
convincing, though less striking, illustration of 


their religious fervour than those outbursts of 
mixed frenzy and despair which resulted in self- 

The Rascolniks overcame everything. They 
established their small agricultural colonies on a 
permanent footing far and wide over the northern 
littoral, up to the woody slopes of the Urals. 

Many of their colonists crossed the mountains 
and founded colonies on the Siberian main, and 
even beyond the dominion of the Niconians. 
Others again found shelter in the enormous vir- 
gin forests of the interior Provinces, Tchernigov, 
Novgorod, Orel, and others. In short, the 
Rascol conquered for itself a vast though frag- 
mentary territory, and has never since lost it. 
This fact is of the greatest importance, and 
accounts for much in the whole history of the 
Rascol which would otherwise be perplexing, its 
great stability as well as the social and political 
influence exercised by it on orthodox or official 

From its very beginning, or rather from the 
moment when the Rascol was taken up by the 
peasantry, it was something more than an ex- 
clusively religious movement. There were only 
too many grievances, besides that of the compul- 


sory introduction of a new ritual, to burden 
the minds of the people in the middle of the 
seventeenth century. The gradual subjection of 
the people to the nobility ; the centralisation of 
ecclesiastical power in the hands of the Bishops, 
to the prejudice of the parishes, which had 
formerly elected and controlled their own curates ; 
a corresponding suppression of local franchise, 
and the increasing abuses of bureaucratic central- 
isation ; the unprecedented overburdening of the 
people with taxes, in order to meet the growing 
expenditure of the unwieldy Empire, all these 
evils were so many distinctive marks of the Tzar 
Alexis' reign. 

A peasant converted into an apostle of the 
Rascol, and throwing his whole soul into his 
creed, could not keep silence on the wrongs in- 
flicted on his kith and kin by the same hateful 
Niconians who had corrupted the faith, whilst 
the ill-treatment of the Christians was only one 
more proof of the apostasy of the so-called 
Orthodox. Thus did political and economical 
discontent walk hand in hand with religious 

The Rascol grew to be the embodiment of 
popular aspirations in their entirety, as opposed 


to those which the bureaucratic State and Church 
forced upon the people. This much increased its 
attractiveness to the masses. 

When the Rascolniks conquered a new terri- 
tory for themselves, they were as a matter of 
course able to put their ideas into practice, They 
at once established there, a social and political 
order in accordance with the popular ideas of 
freedom, equality, and autonomy. The more 
numerous the Rascolnik settlements became, the 
better were they able to protect themselves 
against the government, either by bribery, by 
craft, or by the imposing display of their forces. 

Up to quite recent times there have always 
been vast tracts of land, belonging to the Ras- 
colniks, over which, protected by distance and 
topographical position, the State has practically 
wielded no authority whatever. Serfs no longer 
able to bear the yoke of slavery, soldiers or con- 
scripts escaping from the rod of the drill-masters, 
criminals, insolvent tax-payers, all found a safe 
refuge in the RascoL settlements, lost to the out- 
side world in the depths of the trackless forests. 

In former ages the discontented had repaired 
to the free steppes which bordered the Empire. 
Here, in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, 


arose the powerful military Republic of the Don 
Cossacks, with affiliated branches on the rivers 
Yaik and Volga. Many of the first Rascolniks 
followed the same well-known track, and found 
a warm welcome and safety amongst this warlike 

It is a suggestive fact that nowhere else were 
the propagandists of the Rascol so successful as 
in these centres of social and political discontent. 
The Cossacks of the Don and Yaik sided in a 
body with the Rascol. Later on, under the leader- 
ship of Pugatchev, they fought its battles as well 
as those of the enslaved peasantry. 

This terrible insurrection, which imperilled the 
Empire of Catherine II., was planned and got up 
in the Rascolnik monasteries of the Irghis. The 
Pretender fought under the standard on which 
the Rascolnik cross, with eight points, was em- 
blazoned. In his proclamatious he announced that 
to his people were granted, " with the cross and 
with the beard, cheap salt and free land, meadows, 
and fisheries." This was the joint programme of 
the religious and social rebellion. 

Since the time of Peter the Great, the Cossacks, 
though maintaining their full autonomy, had no 
longer been allowed to receive fugitives from the 


inner provinces, in their midst. The hand of 
the Tzar had been laid heavily upon them since 
the bloody suppression of the Boulavin rising. 
The Rascol was the only outlet for the accumu- 
lated popular discontent excited by this tem- 
pestuous reign, which marks a new epoch in the 
history of the Rascol as in all other branches of 
our social and political life. 

The total remoulding of the State ; the long and 
heavy wars ; the building of new towns ; the con- 
struction of new roads and new canals, demanded 
enormous sacrifices in men, money, and gratuitous 
work. It was a colossal investment, of which 
posterity has reaped the benefits, but its burden 
was often too heavy for the shoulders of con- 
temporary men. Serfdom assumed a new and 
most hateful form ; the peasants, who had formerly 
"gone with" the soil, now became the private 
property of the masters. The conscription for 
the newly-created standing army was established. 
There were as many as forty levies during the 
reign of Peter the Great alone, five of which were 
throughout the country. Forty thousand people 
were ordered to come at their own expense to aid 
in the building of St. Petersburg, without count- 
ing those who dug the canals. The hated poll-tax 


was established, and the money collected with 
great cruelty. Peter, in one of his ukazes, repri- 
mands his officers for behaving so " coarsely " 
to the peasants that sometimes whole villages 
were dispersed. Indeed, they tortured their 
victims by the rope and by fire, and cast them 
out naked into the bitter frost. 

The townspeople fared no better. Endless 
suffering was inflicted on them by the Tzar's 
capricious ukazes about changing their national 
dresses, saddles, boots, etc., which were always 
accompanied by threats of " capital punishment 
and the confiscation of all goods in the event of 
disobedience," the usual refrain of all these 
proclamations, of the impatient Tzar. It is easy 
to realize what a field was opened to abuses 
and plunder on the part of the officials by 
such Draconian prescriptions, which were often 
absolutely unexecutable, and always most unsuit- 
able in our climate. 

In addition to all this, there was only too much 
in the work of reformation undertaken by the 
great Emperor that deeply wounded the feelings 
as well as injured the material interests of the 
people. In his fiery, almost frenzied energy he 
made allowance for nothing and respected nothing ; 


he trampled down inveterate habits and sacred 
traditions for the sake of a hobby with as little 
compunction as when a masterly piece of states- 
manship depended on it. He horrified the masses, 
who considered many of his orders to be nothing 
less than sacrilege. When Strelez Stepan, the 
prime mover in Boulavin's insurrection, arrived in 
Astrakhan from Moscow, he terrified the citizens 
by the report that the Tzar, who had recently 
returned from a visit to foreign countries, had 
ordered the people to "shave off their beards" 
(which was true), adding, by way of amplification, 
" and to bow down to idols." This latter man- 
date was, in the popular imagination, the natural 
outcome of the former. 

Since the council of 1666 had pronounced an 
anathema against the old faith, the Rascolniks 
had announced that the reign of Antichrist had 
begun. The date of the council, 1666, was held 
to be a most clear confirmation of this view ; for 
did it not combine the apocalyptical thousand 
years of Satan's bondage with the " number of 
the beast " ? The popular theologians had no 
doubt whatever about it, and announced, on the 
authority of the same book, that as the reign of 
Antichrist was to last over three years, the end 


of the world would therefore come in 1 669. They 
fixed even the date of this portentous event. 
Some declared it would come about on the eve of 
Whitsunday, others at the same hour on the eve 
of Quinquagesima Sunday. 

The discovery was striking enough to stir the 
popular imagination, and many took the bait. 
When, however, the fatal nights had passed over, 
and the whole of 1669 with them, and yet the 
world was left standing pretty much as before, the 
overbold prophets had to experience the usual meed 
of jokes and abuses from the disappointed people. 
Protopop Avvacum, the most prominent of the 
early Rascolniks, explained, as most unsuccessful 
oracles are wont to do, that his prophecy about 
the reign of Antichrist must be taken in a spiritual 
sense that Antichrist had not yet come in the 
flesh, but that he reigned in the spirit in the 
contaminated Church. 

With the advent to power of Peter the Great, 
the Rascol substituted for the spiritual Antichrist 
a living and strikingly concrete one in the person 
of the Tzar himself. A sovereign who strove to 
deprive the men of their likeness to God by 
taking off their beards ; who had numbered the 
people in defiance of a clear prohibition of the Lord ; 


who changed the times of the years and the days 
of the saints (introduction of the new calendar in 
place of the old one, which had begun the year 
on the ist September); who had married an un- 
christened heathen (a Protestant, Catherine I.), 
and had had her crowned as Empress in the 
Church ; who daily committed what was by the 
people regarded as sacrilege, could not be other 
than Antichrist himself. A certain Talizin, 
merchant by occupation and Rascolnik by creed, 
was the first to formulate these views in writing. 
He was arrested, tortured, and condemned to be 
suffocated to death by smoke. But the idea 
struck root it generated spontaneously in the 
minds of thousands. 

Panic-stricken by the dread of Antichrist, and 
driven on by the unbearable hardships of their 
lives, scores of thousands of the peasants and 
artisans of the towns fled to the RascoFs settle- 
ments in search of bodily and spiritual safety. 

During the first years of his reign, Tzar Peter 
persecuted the Rascolniks fiercely, seeing in them 
the mainstay of all his political opponents. But 
when he became convinced of their political 
harmlessness he left them alone. Religious 
intolerance was repugnant to his broad, secular 


mind. Provided the Rascolniks paid a double 
poll-tax, they might pray after which fashion they 

The long war of extermination waged against 
the Rascol came to a standstill. It was far from 
being a complete peace. But the Rascolniks were 
no longer hunted down by the Government. 
Thenceforth they were able to make permanent 
homes for themselves, and to devote themselves 
to the ordinary pursuits of life to business and 
to study. Their persecution became fitful, and 
was never carried to anything like the same 
excess as in former times. 

Thus does the epoch of Peter the Great mark 
both the definite constitution of the Rascol as 
a separate creed, and also the starting-point of 
that curious sort of popular culture which the 
Rascol has developed. 


THE vast movement of popular thought known 
by the name of Rascol, and which extended over 
two centuries, was not an uniform one. It was 
composed of very many differents currents of 
thought, and embodied many different sects, 
bitterly hostile to one another, and having in 
common only their hatred towards the dominant 

To describe and classify them is not an easy 
task. There were numberless "splits" among 
the Rascolniks of all denominations. Hundreds 
of sects were founded, destined sometimes to melt 
away again in a few years, sometimes to embrace 
some millions of adherents within their folds, and 
to give rise to further " splits " and sub-divisions.* 
Our moujiks, who are the most associative and 
orderly race of men, and combine together for all 

* In the eighteenth century, according to our ecclesiastical 
writers, the number of sects known to the authorities reached 
to upwards of two hundred. 



kinds of work almost as readily and naturally as do 
the bees for the construction of the honeycomb, 
seem to share with their brethen of the educated 
classes an absolute unruliness in the matter of 
speculative thought, that is, when they begin to 
have any at all. Orthodox peasants were wont 
to say that among the Rascolniks " every moujik 
formed a sect, and every baba (peasant women) 
a persuasion." It was not so bad as this, of 
course, but there was a grain of truth in the 
imputation, especially in the more extreme and 
thoroughgoing sects. 

The very earnestness of the people in their 
newly awakened yearning after religious truth, 
made it impossible that one mould should fit all. 
Their lights were scanty, but every man of strong 
individuality wished to grope his own way. 

Few of these self-taught theologians yielded 
to the weight of established opinion, and when 
they began to preach their own, they invariably 
found at least a few people willing to accept their 
doctrine, and ready to cause a split. The big 
Rascolnik sects must not be considered as homo- 
geneous bodies holding to one profession of faith, 
as do, for instance, the Western Protestant sects 
of various denominations. 


With reference to our Rascol, the word " sect " 
will always mean a more or less numerous group 
of distinct creeds, having some common cha- 
racteristics a current of thought, rather than 
definite articles of belief. 

We will not go into details, of course, and will 
only mention those few sects which tend to 
illustrate the Rascol as a whole, marking broadly 
some new departure in the history of their 
religious thought or religious emotions. We 
will begin with a few words about a very 
interesting group of mystic sects, which stand 
somewhat apart from the main current of the 

Whilst the newly-awakened religious enthusiasm 
of the masses found an outlet for its energies in 
the formation of the several branches of the 
ritualistic Rascol, a considerable fraction were 
gathered into sects having a far more exalted 
ideal, which left mere formal ritualism altogether 
behind. Their over-excited religious feelings 
longed for something more than the mere posses- 
sion of true books, true rites, true ikons. The 
hearts of the faithful yearned to come to closer 
quarters with the object of their passionate 
worship. They were unsatisfied alike by the 


records of past or the hope of future fellowship 
with God ; they spurned the distance which 
separates the earth and sky, and dreamed that 
it might be possible to bring back the days when 
they were joined. The obedient imagination is 
never slow to answer to aspirations and longings 
of such intensity. The spontaneous shooting up 
of mystic sects of various kinds, which is always 
one of the phenomena of periods of general 
religious excitement, is the natural outcome of 
such a state of the public mind. The higher 
or lower standard of culture prevailing among 
the people determines the more or less refined 
or gross form in which this mysticism finds its 
manifestation. No wonder, then, that with the 
Russian peasants of two centuries ago mysticism 
assumed the grossest form of belief in the living 
incarnation of God, Christ, and the Holy Virgin. 
There are indications in our ancient annals that 
erratic sects of this class have appeared sporadi- 
cally almost since the first introduction of Chris- 
tianity into Russia, but it is difficult to determine 
whether these are to be regarded as samples of 
Christian mysticism, or simply as the last refuge 
of some form of aboriginal or Finnish Shamanism, 
which had so strong an attraction for our people. 


At all events, the vast spread of mystic sects 
among the Russian peasantry sprang from the 
excitement consequent on the great schism of 
the seventeenth century. 

The founding of these sects is by regular 
tradition attributed to one Danilo Filipovitch, a 
peasant of the Province of Kostroma, who lived 
in the time of Nicon, and is represented as being 
a man of great piety. He spent many years in 
prayer in a cave near the Volga river, and in 
studying the old as well as the new missals. 
At last he put all of them into a sack and threw 
them into the river, declaring that " revelation 
came from the living God alone." 

At a public gathering, where Danilo Filipovitch 
was surrounded by his followers, God Sabaoth 
descended upon him, and thenceforth took up His 
abode in his body ; thus was Danilo Filipovitch 
God : s first incarnation. This man had many dis- 
ciples and worshippers who believed in him. 

At a later date these sects developed into a 
vast secret society, disseminated far and wide 
through all the big towns and many of the pro- 
vinces of the empire. They called themselves 
the Christs, but the orthodox derisively converted 
this name into Chlists, which in our language 


means Whips. The name was appropriate, as 
self-flagellation played an important part in their 
religious rites. It is under this name Chlists 
that the sects belonging to this class are known 
among our people and to ecclesiastical history. 
Their ramifications are the " Jumpers," " Dancers," 
" Shaloputs," the Skopzy, and others. Most 
of them remained undiscovered, as the greatest 
secrecy was observed by all of them, and their 
existence was only accidentally revealed. Their 
radenias, or nightly worship, consisted in various 
practices calculated to excite the nerves and to 
raise their religious enthusiasm to fever-heat by 
artificial means, such as by dancing round with 
their eyes fixed on their living Christs or Virgin 
Marys seated in their midst ; by singing the 
choruses of religious songs and verses ; by jump- 
ing, by spinning round like pegtops on their 
heels, by shaking their bodies from side to side, 
by flagellation. 

As the sexual instincts were also excited by 
these spiritual orgies, the radenias of the Chlists 
generally wound up in a svalny grek t or promis- 
cuous orgie, the lights being suddenly put out. 
It is an interesting fact that of all the dissenters 
the Chlists were the only ones who made converts 


among the " educated " elements of Russian 
society among officials, the military, and the 
landlords, of whom several appeared in the 
Chlist trials of the eighteenth and the beginning 
of the nineteenth centuries. 

The relations between the sexes present much 
irregularity among all the Chlistic sects. Some 
of them revive, by a sort of social Atavism, certain 
obsolete forms of family life, wherein the " head- 
ship" was accorded to women. Others admit 
polygamy and heterism ; whilst others again protest 
vehemently against family life under any form, 
preaching absolute abstinence and the mutilation 
of the body as the only means whereby man can 
attain to physical purity. These latter are the 
Skopzy o r Castrati, founded by Selivanov at the 
close of the eighteenth century. 

It must not be supposed, however, that there 
was nothing about these Chlists save these pro- 
miscuous orgies on the one hand and the mon- 
strosity of self-mutilation on the other. Time 
wrought its changes both in their religious views 
and in their practices. The Skopzy, who have 
been the most studied, and who are the wildest 
of all the Chlistic sects, offer an illustration of this 
gradual triumph of reason over the darkest 


regions of superstition. Nowadays the number 
of regular Skopzy is small. Most of them view the 
doctrine of abstinence as directed against excess, 
and accept the view that regular matrimony 
is the best aid to moral perfection. 

The fundamental doctrine of the Chlists that 
of repeated Incarnation offered ample latitude 
for the difference between gross idolatry and the 
simple belief in the personal presence. They, 
from the first, admitted their belief in a certain 
gradation of inspiration or incarnation, bestowed 
in varying degrees by the three Persons of the 
Trinity. God the Father, since the inspiration 
of the body of Danilo Filipovitch, the founder of 
the Chlists, has, they believe, only twice descended 
upon men, and both occasions were in times 
remote. God the Son has according to them 
appeared oftener, though still at long intervals. 
The Holy Ghost, on the contrary, very frequently 
descends on men : he permanently inspires the 
bodies of recognised prophets, and temporarily 
dwells in all the faithful during the hours of 
worship (radenias), when they are seized by religi- 
ous frenzy. 

The sobering influences of time, labour, and 
meditation have suppressed in some of their 


number the grossest forms of worship, and have 
reduced religious intoxication to a milder state, 
in which they no longer trammel the regular 
functions of the mind. The Chlistic sects, which 
entirely rejected the shackles imposed by the 
rites, as well as those of the letter of the Scripture, 
were the only ones in which religious thought had 
no obstacle to its boldest flight. We should not 
for our part wonder if it was some day discovered 
that the DukJwborzy, the most original and philo- 
sophical of our denominations, whose origin is 
unknown, had been cradled in some branch of 
the Chlistic Church. 

We cannot, however, dwell at any length on 
the sects which fall under this category. They 
are interesting on their own account, but they 
have had no great historical influence. The 
people, as a whole, shunned them, and kept aloof 
from them. Let us, therefore, pass on to the 
bigger sections of old nonconformity. 

The Rascol proper, the " Old Believers," who 
held stoutly to their ancient books and rites, 
split, at a very early stage, into two great 

I. The Popovzy, or sacerdotal section, and 

JI. The Beapopovsy, or priestless section 


The great point was, that when the split in 
the Church occurred, only one Bishop, Paul of 
Kolomna, sided with the Rascol. But he died 
soon after, without having ordained a successor. 
Now, according to the orthodox canons of Scrip- 
ture, only a Bishop can lawfully confer ordination 
on a priest. 

When, therefore, the Rascolnik pops, who had 
been ordained in bygone days, died out, in the 
ordinary course of nature, there was nobody to fill 
their places. In this perplexity some of the 
Rascolniks proposed to accept as rightful ministers 
the newly ordained orthodox (Niconian) pops, 
provided that they abjured Niconian fallacies and 
returned to the true faith (i.e., old books and rites). 
They admitted that, by the peculiar grace of God, 
the sanctity of the priesthood was preserved in 
the Niconian church, its apostacy notwithstanding. 

But the majority of the Rascolniks indignantly 
rejected such a compromise. They refused to 
recognise any value in the Niconian ordainment, 
whilst rejecting as worthless their Baptism, 
Eucharist, and all other ministrations. They 
accordingly remained without any pops at all. 
Thus did the two great branches of the ritualistic 
Rascol spring into existence. 


The former, the Popovzy, number at the present 
day about three to four millions. In the course 
of time they divided into four denominations, 
which differ only in their mode of obtaining 

The original Popovzy or Beglopopovzy, which, 
in olden times, formed the great majority, but 
now are confined to a few scattered Communes, 
received the renegade orthodox priesthood. 
With them the ecclesiastical practice resolved 
itself into this : 

They kept a keen eye on all the orthodox pops 
(vithin their ken, and when one of them was 
dismissed or likely to be dismissed by his Bishop 
for drunkenness or bad behaviour, or was eager 
to get a good living coupled with an easy life, 
some cunning emissary of the Popovzy was sent 
to him to try to win him over to the Rascal. 
A converted pop, before being allowed to offi- 
ciate, was re-baptized by his new parishioners, 
as was also the practice with every Niconian, 
only the pop had in this case to jump into the 
water in full clerical vestments as a precaution, 
lest the sacrament of the Holy Orders should not 
be washed off in the operation. 

Needless to say that the article thus procurable 


by the Rascolniks was not the best of its kind, 
especially as time passed, and the clergy became 
sufficiently literate to understand the ridiculous 
narrowness of the RascoL 

But the Popovzy did not care about their priests' 
morality. They wanted them, and they paid 
them liberally for performing certain rites in 
which they believed, a view which, in another 
form, is still shared by the bulk of their orthodox 

In 1800, the Government, advised by the 
Metropolitan of Moscow, Platon, resolved to take 
a step which it ought to have taken at least one 
hundred years earlier. The stupid excommunica- 
tion, launched by the Council of 1666 against those 
who adhered to the old books, was cancelled, the 
points of divergence declared irrelevant, and the 
Metropolitan of Moscow permitted to ordain men 
for the Rascolnik priesthood chosen by their own 
body and observing in the ceremony the old 
anti-Niconian rites, and authorizing them to use 
their old books. Had a similar course been 
adopted in time, there would have been no Rascol 
at all. Now it was too late. The Rascol, such as 
it was, had come to be " the creed of their fore- 
fathers." The Popovzy were suspicious lest these 


concessions might conceal some design to allure 
them into Niconianism altogether. The attempt 
at reconciliation practically collapsed. The total 
number of reunited Popovzy only amounted to a 
few hundreds of thousands, and there is little 
likelihood that they will ever noticeably increase : 
many have relapsed once more into the RascoL 

Their early suspicions were confirmed only 
too soon, the Edinoverzy have been gradually 
deprived of the right of choosing their own 
ministers, a right by which they set great store. 
Now their pops are nominated or removed by the 
Bishop's chapter, without the parishioners having 
any voice in the matter. So utterly unable is our 
Church to tolerate even the appearance of any 
shadow of independence. 

The bulk of the Popovzy tried to manage with 
their runaway priesthood as a makeshift, but as 
they were both scarce and expensive, a new and 
far more convenient mode of supplying the 
religious wants of the community was gradually 
introduced. Old men starik well read in the 
Scriptures and of good morals, were appointed by 
the parishes as the pops substitutes. They did 
not celebrate the mass, which is the privilege of 
those in Holy Orders, but they purchased from 


the neighbouring Popovzy Church a supply of 
consecrated wafers and oil, and administered it 
when needful. They confessed, conducted funerals, 
and performed a sort of provisory marriage 
ceremony. People got accustomed to being 
ministered to by these elected stariks, who were, 
moreover, always at hand, took no fees, and 
expected no revenue from their office, which they 
accepted as an honour. Thus did the starikovshina 
grow into existence. 

In 1844 ti& ^Popovzy, by a stroke of good 
fortune, obtained what they had vainly sought 
since their first secession, a Bishop of their own. 
Ambrosius of Bosnia quarrelled with the Patriarch 
of Constantinople, and after much hesitation 
consented to exchange his precarious position 
for that of the head of the three millions of 
Rascolniks, so at least he was promised by his 
tempters. He established his seat at Belo- 
Kriniza in Austria, as it would have been absurd 
for so precious a man to risk his life within the 
dominions of the Emperor Nicolas. The success 
of Ambrosius was very great indeed. He was 
acknowledged by most of the Popovzy, especially 
by those in big towns, and supplied them with 
as many/0/.y, and archpops, and Bishops as they 


required. A complete and independent ecclesi- 
astical hierarchy was thus established for all the 
Popovzy who desired it, but their religious ardour 
had by this time cooled down so much that a 
good many of them preferred to remain with their 
elected stariks, w r ho were much less exacting and 
more accommodating. A fraction, the Popovzy 
of the Province of Tula, stuck with strange per- 
sistency to the traditional " runaway priesthood." 
The same feeling prevailed amongst their fellow- 
worshippers in Siberia, 

As . a whole, the Popovzy offers one of many 
illustrations of the remarkable associative capacity 
of the Russian moujiks. Their organization, em- 
bracing several millions of people, with a permanent 
administrative Council, a number of vast public 
benevolent institutions, and an exchequer contain- 
ing upwards of ten millions of roubles (confiscated 
or simply robbed by the Emperor Nicolas I.), 
presents the most extensive example on record 
among similar popular organizations. For the 
rest, the Popovzy are the most backward and 
obtuse of all the members of our Rascol. Their 
opponents, the Bezpopovzy, or priestless, who 
form the larger section of the two, are also by far 
the more intellectually active. They number about 


eight or nine millions of adherents, but these are 
divided into no end of sects and persuasions, which 
may be grouped into four distinct branches. 

I. Pomorzy, or the sea-shore sects, so named 
from the place, the northern sea coast, where they 
founded their first settlements ; thence, later on, 
disseminating their tenets all over the Empire. 
This is the oldest and most moderate branch of 
the " priestless," and at the same time the most 
intellectual, numbering among its leaders the 
best educated and most clear-headed men of the 

II. The Fedoseevzy, who separated from the 
main body of the Pomorzy in the beginning of the 
eighteenth century. They form another powerful 
branch of the "priestless," vying in social and 
political importance with the Pomorzy, though 
standing considerably behind them intellectually. 
They are younger and more extreme in their 
views than the Pomorzy, but have preserved 
more of the wooden formalism of the old Rascol. 

III. The Beguny or Wanderers. This is the 
youngest branch of the " priestless," and by far 
the most extreme. Its numbers are small com- 
pared with the two former, but its influence is 
very considerable, as it has drawn within its 


fold the boldest and most passionate elements 
of dissent. 

IV. Finally come the Filipovzy (the middle of 
eighteenth century), which has much in common 
with the Fedoseevzy, though it is somewhat more 
extreme. The Filipovzy represent a tardy revival 
of the narrow fanaticism of the old Rascol. Their 
early followers went to the length of renewing, as 
an article of faith, the doctrine of " baptism by 
fire," or self-immolation. They cooled down 
after a time, but have not developed to the same 
extent, nor played so important a part in Russia, 
as the three above-named branches of the priest- 
less Rascol. 

Each of these sects, as well as each of their 
numberless sub-divisions, presents of course some 
point of difference in its doctrines. But these 
divergencies are quite irrelevant in themselves. 
True to the spirit of the Rascol, they refer to 
matters of exterior worship or symbolism. Thus, 
Theodosius of Fedosy, the founder of the great 
sect which bears his name, summed up his points 
of disagreement with the Pomorzy in nine theses, 
among which the following are to be found. 
"It is wrong and heretical to write the words 
'Jesus Christ, the King of Glory,' over the 



crucifix as the Pomorzy do. The crucifix should 
bear Pilate's inscription, ' Jesus of Nazareth King 
of the Jews.' ' In another thesis he strove to 
establish the doctrine that at the Easter service, 
when exclaiming " Christ is risen," the faithful 
should raise their hands. A third thesis pro- 
hibited men from bowing to the earth during all 
fast days save those of Lent. Only one of the 
nine theses deals with a matter which sounds 
like something more essential : whilst insisting 
on celibacy and abstinence for all the faithful, 
Fedosy forbade any of his disciples to assume 
the position and the name of " monk." 

The doctrinal divergences of the Filipovzy 
are of exactly the same stamp. 

As to the Beguuy, or Wanderers, they are not 
so advanced even as this implies, accepting with- 
out any noticeable modification the doctrine of 
the Fedoseevzy. 

The real difference between the various sects 
of the " priestless " Rascolniks refers to the 
emotional rather than to the doctrinal elements 
of their creed. They differ greatly in their mode 
of enunciating a doctrine on which, theoretically, 
all the " priestless " sects are agreed ; namely, 
that of the reign of Antichrist. All the " priest- 


less " started with admitting the real and bodily 
existence of Antichrist, in the person of the Tzar 
Peter, and then in the persons of his successors. 
The doctrine was not rejected by any of their 
sect, but it was considerably modified in the 
course of time. 

The Pomorzy broadened and " spiritualised " 
this idea, until so little of the essence of Anti- 
christ attached to the men in authority that it 
might be disregarded so small indeed was it 
that it could not even stand in the way of public 
prayers being offered for their head, the Tzar. 
They modified, it is true, the orthodox formula 
of the prayer, rejecting the laudatory epithets 
referring to religion. The compromise still 
proved to be unpalatable to a good many 

Fedosy, and afterwards Filip, gave expres- 
sion to these grovelling sentiments. This was 
at the bottom of their split, and also of their 
success. Both these sects vehemently denounced 
this practice of the Pomorzy as an abomination, 
reinstating the doctrine of the bodily presence of 
Antichrist in all its strength. 

Both the Fedoseevzy and Filipovzy were cruelly 
persecuted by the government, whom they obsti- 


nately vilified as the ministers of Antichrist. 
The Fedoseevzy admitted no prayers for the Tzar, 
even after, thanks to underhand influence, they 
had obtained a good deal of toleration, and had 
established their head-quarters at Moscow, where 
they owned a vast almshouse, large enough to hold 
several thousand inmates, a school, a board of 
administration, and a treasury, which all appeared 
in the police reports under the heading " burial 

When the Emperor Paul I. ascended the 
throne, most exaggerated rumours concerning his 
rashness and unruly temper were rife among such 
Russians as took any interest in politics. It was 
reported that he was particularly ill-disposed 
towards the Rascolniks, and wished to put them 
down at any price. The then spiritual leader of 
the Moscow Fedoseevzy, a certain Kovylin, a 
merchant of great wealth and not unexceptional 
morality, was seized with such a panic that he 
at once ordered that prayers for the Emperor 
should be introduced into the Liturgy, and even 
went so far as to add to the Emperor's name the 
epithet of "truly believing," which was a sort of 
covert denial of the Rascol and recognition of 
the dominant creed. 


After the Emperor Paul I. had been killed, and 
the tolerant Alexander I. filled his place, Kovylin 
wanted to drop the prayers for the Emperor from 
the Liturgy and to return to the old practice, 
but the cooling process was by that time so far 
advanced that he met with strong opposition. 
An influential Rascolnik preacher, Jacob Kholin, 
began to agitate among the Moscow Fedoseevzy in 
favour of " rendering unto Caesar the things which 
are Caesar's." For this purpose he visited the 
affiliated colonies of his sect in Yaroslav, Starodub, 
Riga, and St. Petersburg, and easily prevailed in 
inducing a considerable number of the Fedoseevzy 
parishes of their own free will to sanction that 
which Kovylin had done in a moment of panic. 

Here once more the old legacy of hatred was 
revived, probably for the last time, and certainly 
in the most furious and uncompromising form. 
In 1811 the authorities discovered in the Province 
of Tambov the existence of a new sect called 
Stranniky, or Beguny (Wanderers), who were at 
once declared to be "very dangerous," and accord- 
ingly knouted and transported to the Siberian 
mines. The Stranniky were an offshoot of the 
Fedoseevzy, their founder having been one of 
them, a certain Ephimius or Efim, the deserter. 


For a long time these people had their head- 
quarters in Sopelki, a village in the province of 
Yaroslav. The distinct characteristics of their 
sect consisted in the full development of the 
doctrine of the reign of Antichrist. 

The " wanderers " made this article of faith the 
keynote of their teaching. The Tzar is in their 
opinion the Prophet of the Beast ; the officials are 
his ministers ; the two-headed Imperial eagle is 
the seal of Antichrist, the sign of the dragon. 
Everyone who offers any kind of homage to the 
agents of Antichrist, or who pays taxes for their 
unholy purposes, or allows himself to be numbered 
and registered, or accepts a passport or any other 
document sealed with the Imperial emblem, ex- 
cludes himself from the book of the living, and 
is doomed to perdition, as Antichrist's servant and 

They look upon their co-religionists, who came 
to terms with the Beast, with the same disgust 
and abhorrence as they lavish on the Niconians. 

In describing " the renewing of Antichrist," as 
the" wanderers" call the Emperor's coronation, 
their founder Efim indulges in the following 
details. " Then there come to worship him, i.e., 
to offer him the oath of allegiance, those fierce 


fiends the Bishops, then the mock-pops (Satan's 
horses, who transport souls to hell, to their father 
the evil one) ; next follow the various foul apo- 
static sects the Niconians first, then the Old 
Believers (Popovs}}, the accursed Armenians, 
and the Pomorzy, who are hateful to God. " 

The faithful are warned to resist anything 
emanating from the Tzar, and, as they cannot do 
this successfully, that their only safety lies in flight. 
The most zealous of these sectarians carry out 
this principle to the letter. They spend their 
lives in wandering from place to place. They 
never remain for long together in the same 
locality, always living concealed in the houses of 
their hosts without the knowledge of the authori- 
ties. They pay no taxes, apply for no passports, 
give no bribes, and avoid all contact with the 
agents of Antichrist. Those who have not the 
courage or the worldly means wherewith to lead 
such an existence continue to live in the world, 
concealing those who have attained to a higher 
grade of perfection and purity than themselves. 
The houses of the settled adherents of the sect 
are always built after a peculiar plan, and 
ingeniously provided with hiding-places, undis- 
coverable by the uninitiated, wherein they lodge 


their guests. Each member of the sect, however, 
with but a few exceptions, towards the close of 
his life betakes himself to actual wandering, or 
secludes himself in some way from the world 
polluted by the presence of Antichrist, in order 
that he may have his soul cleansed through 
repentance before he lies on his death-bed. 

With the authorities the regular " wanderers " 
are even at the present time at daggers drawn. 
They are persecuted as " particularly dangerous," 
even when there is no offence to be laid to their 
charge. On their part, too, the " wanderers " 
make no concessions to the civil authorities, and 
are bitterly offended against such of their co- 
religionists who offer up prayers for their enemy 
the Tzar. 

" They (the other Rascolniks) meet in their 
churches and begin to offer prayers to God for 
him, the apostate Antichrist ! They sing and 
they read : ' God, preserve our reigning Tzar, 
and give him victory over those who stand up 
against him.' . . . But think, O you blasphemer, 
for which victory are you praying ! . . . The 
victory against those who in obedience to the 
Holy Word hide themselves in mountains and 
forests and in the caverns of the earth to avoid 


his face, and who will not swear allegiance to 
him, nor give their children up to him, nor pay 
him taxes, nor allow him to number their souls. 
What you are praying for is, that he should 
overcome them and make them his prisoners. 
O you servants of Antichrist, upholders of the 
devil, defenders of the seven-headed serpent ! " 
Yet notwithstanding all the intensity of feeling 
and singleness of mind displayed by this interest- 
ing sect, it has not been able to avoid undergoing 
the same transformation which the Old Believers, 
the Pomorzy and the Fedoseevzy, had experienced 
before them. Of the three chief ramifications of 
this sect, two, namely the Poshekhon Wanderers 
and the Pless Wanderers (so called after the 
name of their respective head-quarters), still 
adhere to the above described doctrine ; whilst 
the third, the Sopelky Wanderers, have changed 
their views. According to them, Antichrist reigns 
spiritually. By this is signified all deviation from 
the true faith. All heretics are in this sense 
Antichrists, and Antichrist was embodied in Tzar 
Peter more completely than in all others only 
because he held greater power in his hands. 
They preach the virtue of disobedience only to 
such orders of the government as are unchristian. 


They also decline to take passports, and con- 
tinue to lead a wandering life, but only because 
in the official passports delivered to sectarians 
they are designated as Rascolniks, and not as 
"orthodox Christians," as they believe them- 
selves to be. As to the " two-headed eagle " 
which embellishes the passports, this no longer 
scares them. 

Two other ramifications of the same sect have 
gone still further, and have stepped out of Rascol 
ritualism altogether. But of them hereafter. 

Thus, excluding some branches of the " wan- 
derers," and a few denominations belonging to 
intermediate sects, the whole of the ritualistic 
Rascol has cooled down as far as political opposi- 
tion goes. They have put up with the Tzar's 
habit of crossing himself with three fingers, 
smoking tobacco, and wearing a German overcoat. 
Even those among the Fedoseevzy and Filipovzy 
who do not pray for him are not the same class of 
men as those who fled into the wilderness in the 
first transports of a newly-revealed creed. The 
Rascol has become a commonplace religion. Its 
members received it as an inheritance they did 
not win it at the cost of inner struggles, doubts, 
and pains They can be earnest in religious 


matters, but nothing more. The warmer mani- 
festations of the religious feelings are the birth- 
right of new sects fresh from the toils of creation. 
It is worth noticing that most of the founders of 
new sects and authors of discord are themselves 
proselytes, newly converted to the RascoL from 
the orthodox Church. 

It is in the nature of all emotions to subside 
after a time, if the provocation ceases to be an 
active one. The Rascolmks are far from enjoying 
complete tolerance even now. The petty jealousy 
of the dominant Church still imposes on them 
humiliating restrictions, lest they should think 
themselves the equals of the orthodox. Thus, 
whilst foreign Christians and all the non-Christian 
creeds, Mohammedans, Jews, and idolaters, are 
permitted to freely worship after their own manner, 
the Rascolniks are expressly prohibited from 
giving any outward public sign of their worship. 
They may not give to their houses of prayer 
the exterior appearance of churches ; they are 
forbidden to form processions ; they may not 
announce their hours of prayer by the ringing of 

The position of the Rascolniks in the Russia 
of to-day is very much the same as that of the 


Christians in ancient times in Turkish and 
Saracen countries, where they were tolerated with 
the same vexatious restrictions. Of course, all 
this must be very irritating to the Rascolniks. 

And this is not the worst they have more 
serious grounds for discontent. The ancient laws 
of Nicolas I., which make "conversion of others" 
amenable to the criminal code, are not yet abro- 
gated. Every " non-registered " Rascolnik, which 
is tantamount to saying nine-tenths of them, is 
liable to prosecution in virtue of this law, if 
only the police or the administration choose to 
take the trouble. 

The common Rascolnik^ are rarely molested. 
But the cowardly uncertainty of the law makes 
it a terrible weapon against any prominent dis- 
senters whom somebody in power may have the 
stupidity to fear or the wickedness to hate. 

It will suffice us to mention the fate of three 
Popovzy Bishops, Cannon, Arcady, and Hennady, 
who were kept in the prison of Suzdal monastery 
from 1856 till 1 88 1, twenty-five years ! (the whole 
of the reign of Alexander II.), for no other offence 
than that they declined to renounce their ecclesi- 
astical grade as the price of their liberty, in 
compliance with a mean request of the orthodox 


consistory ; or the case of the unfortunate Adrian 
Pushkin, a merchant of Perm, who was possessed 
with the craze that he himself was a new incar- 
nation of Jesus Christ, and sent a paper and a 
synoptical picture to the Holv Synod to establish 
his claims. For this offence the unhappy man 
was kept in strictest solitary confinement for 
fifteen years, and was released when a broken 
old man, only to die a few months afterwards. 

These petty vexations and occasional acts of 
tyranny must of course keep alive amongst the 
Rascolniks, a certain amount of irritation of a 
political nature. There is, however, little pro- 
bability that the Government should so extend 
the persecutions of Ritualistic dissent at all 
events as to foolishly provoke a fresh outburst 
of what is called religious fanaticism. 


ALL the emotional force developed in the Rascol 
did not disappear without leaving any trace be- 
hind, by the mere fact of its exposure, to the 
cooling influences of life and time ; neither was 
it wasted in acts of self-immolation. A fraction 
of that living power was spent on the useful 
work of the inner regeneration of the social body 
which gave it birth. In stirring up thought, 
and inducing a number of people to exercise their 
sleeping intellectual faculties, the Rascol pro- 
duced certain intellectual habits, which remained 
as a permanent gain after religious excitement 
had subsided. 

The Rascol was set up in the name of absolute 
conservatism, and for the unconditional denial of 
the right of the human mind to criticise or investi- 
gate. The Niconians, on the other hand, appeared 
as the champions of progress, as compared with 
the obtuse Rascolniks. But the opponents soon 
changed their weapons. A Rascolnik wanted to 


think and to discover the truth for himself. He 
stuck to his ancient creed because he cared for it 
so much, and believed himself to be in the right, 
not because he was ordered by the superior to 
believe such and such a thing. His creed was of 
his own choice, the highest interest of his life, not 
the "business of the Patriarch," as was the case 
with his orthodox brethren. The knowledge of 
the Scriptures and of the history of the Church 
was essential to him, to remove his own doubts, 
to defend his creed against his opponents, and to 
spread it, if possible, among his enemies : it was a 
defensive and offensive weapon. Thus, whilst the 
orthodox peasants, with their well-revised and 
well-spelt books, remained utterly ignorant and 
careless about the religion into which they were 
born, the Rascolniks, from the first, spared no 
efforts to gain some rudiment of scriptural know- 

When they were allowed to found perma- 
nent settlements and to live peacefully on their 
patches of ground somewhere on the shores of 
the icy ocean, one of the chief cares of the 
Rascolniks was to provide for the regular educa- 
tion of the community. The first, and in many 
respects the most important, of these early settle- 


ments was the so-called Wygorezie, a series of 
villages on the River Wyg, which had for their 
centre the Wyg monastery. This association 
took the lead in the inner history of the Rascol, 
and may serve as a fair model of many similar 
institutions founded in various times by all the 
big sects of the " priestless " as well as the 
"priestly" Rascol. 

The Wyg settlement was founded, in 1696, by 
a small body of " priestless " dissenters, under the 
leadership of two brothers, Ignaty and Andrey 
(Andreas) Denisov. 

The elder, Ignaty, did not stop long with the 
Wyg people. He was a remnant of other and 
more fanatical days, which were drawing to a 
close. The author of the first " locking up " of 
the Paleostrovsky monastery, he perished in the 
flames " for the glory of the faith," with about 
fifteen hundred others his followers. Andrey 
Denisov lived to an advanced age, working with 
head and hands to build up the Wyg community, 
and to consolidate the Rascol Church, then 
scattered all over. the Empire. This remarkable 
man was a good representative of a long series 
of Rascolnik leaders, who united the exaltation 
peculiar to apostles of new creeds with the talents 


and shrewdness of men of business. As a writer 
and preacher he took an active part in the then 
pending controversy between the priestly and 
priestless Rascol, and was instrumental in giving 
definite shape and the decided victory to the 
priestless faction over their opponents. At the 
same time, by his example and eloquence he kept 
the Wyg people together, sustaining them amidst 
hardships which were trying even to Russian 

The colony was so badly provided with the 
means of subsistence that for several winters, 
which followed bad harvests, they had to feed on 
what they called " straw bread." The straw was 
pulverized on a mill and diluted flour added to it, 
in so small a quantity that when baked the loaves 
could not hold together ; the dough crumbled 
up on the bottom of the oven, and had to be 
swept out with a broom and eaten with spoons. 
Yet even this meagre diet was so scarce that it 
was only partaken of once a day. Even in the 
better years, agriculture in these high latitudes 
hardly supplied the colony with their daily bread. 

One generation saw the whole economical 
condition of the Wyg people improved past all 
recognition, thanks to their spirit of co-operation 



and to the remarkable business talents of their 
abbot, Andrey Denisov. He was the first to 
conceive and to apply the idea that the mutual 
confidence and trust existing between the members 
of his sect, scattered all over the country, might 
be made the base of extensive business relations. 
The Rascolniks of the Volga, of the Don, and 
of Moscow readily trusted the abbot of Wygorezie 
with their capital, and with unlimited credit, whilst 
on their side the Wyg people could place equal 
confidence in the representatives of the local 
congregations with regard to their commercial 
affairs. Without giving up agriculture altogether, 
the Wyg settlers nevertheless devoted most of 
their spare time to the manufacturing industries. 
They produced leathern wares, clothes, iron wares, 
and agricultural implements. Their most extensive 
and lucrative trade was in brass-casting. They 
discovered copper mines in the Province of 
Olonezk, where they extracted the metal and 
worked it to great advantage. They supplied, 
moreover, the whole Rascolnik world with ikons, 
crosses, and other sacred utensils, made strictly 
after the pattern of ancient orthodox samples. 

The production of these articles was carried 
on on the ordinary Russian co-operative principle, 


enriching both the monastery and the individual 
workers, who had their share in the profits. The 
capital thus realized was not left lying idle. It 
was chiefly invested in the corn trade, the most 
profitable in Russia up to the present time. The 
VVyg monastery had at its disposal vast sums of 
money of its own, and also money deposited with 
it by the Rascolnik communities of other towns. 
The traders of the monastery purchased corn in 
the southern Provinces and transported it by 
their own craft to the northern markets, and 
became after a time the chief purveyors to the 
new Capital. During Denisov's lifetime the 
Wyg monastery grew to be the wealthiest joint- 
stock company in the Empire. 

The death of Andrey Denisov changed nothing 
in the position of the Wyg community or its 
policy. The popular principle of communal self- 
government formed the base of all Rascolnik 
organizations. The abbot ruled in the monastery 
with the assistance of a body of directors ; all were 
elected, and transacted the business of the com- 
munity "in common," consulting it on all important 
occasions. The Wyg monastery ruled in the 
same spirit over the whole siizemok, or " land- 
union," as the little territory occupied by the 


Rascolnik settlers was called. There was little 
formality in this kind of administration, but still the 
control of all the business was in the hands of the 
community. Change of persons mattered little. 
This arrangement, reproduced in all Rascolnik 
organisations, accounts for their solidity and the 
good management of their public affairs. 

Regular educational institutions were started 
in the Wyg monastery as soon as the community 
could make both ends meet. The monastery had 
two regular schools, one for adults, another 
capable of holding several hundred children, both 
male and female, who were brought by their 
parents to the monastery from distant towns and 
Provinces. There were also a special body of 
scribes, who copied books ; a collection of old 
ikons, which served as models for their ikon 
painters, and a good library, furnished with ancient 
books and manuscripts for the use of the studious. 
Many of the future leaders and teachers of the 
Rascol, both male and female, received their 
education in the Wyg monastery. 

The participation by the women in the studies 
and activities usually confined to men is one of 
the most sympathetic peculiarities of the whole 
Rascol. The women, so completely subjugated and 


so often ill-treated amongst the Great Russian 
peasantry of the orthodox creed, recovered their 
dignity in the Rascol. The sects were the only 
bodies among the peasantry where intellectual 
gifts were valued highly, and formed the chief 
claim to respect and influence. Religion was to 
them the supreme interest, and such members of 
the community as showed the greatest spiritual 
gifts were naturally the most appreciated. Wealth 
and physical strength bowed reverentially before 
intelligence, eloquence, and devotion to the 
common creed. In the religious bodies the 
women took their place by the side of the men, 
as their birthright. They showed the same zeal 
for their faith and the same courage on the 
scaffold and in the torture chambers. They 
studied the Scriptures and preached the Gospel 
as well as the men. Sometimes they founded 
new sects. The names of Akuline Ivanovna, 
Marianna, Hania, and other women were much 
renowned among the Rascolniks of various per- 
suasions. Very often the posts of "readers, 
or unordained presbyters in various Rascolnik 
parishes, were filled by women. In one sect, 
the Ochislienzy (the Purified), every family had 
its own priestess. One of the girls --the one 


who seemed the most gifted was from her child- 
hood exempted from all household work, and 
devoted all her time to study and to the reading 
of the Scriptures. When she came of age, she 
was made the family chaplain, confessor, and 
general spiritual adviser. No important business 
was decided upon without her approbation. 

In all sects alike the women take the leading 
part in the work of education. A special class 
of women, who renounced marriage, the Belizy 
(White Ones), devoted themselves to the educa- 
tion of the Rascolnik children as a profession. 
Sometimes they wandered from village to village, 
sometimes they resided permanently in cloisters 
specially intended for females, to which girls were 
sent as to boarding-schools. 

All the sects of the Rascol, the "priestly " as 
well as the " priestless," the Pomorzy as well as 
the Fedoseevzy, spared no pains in order to supply 
their co-religionists with the means of education. 

Thus the Rascolniks had their regular popular 
schools a hundred years before the first official 
schools, for the benefit of the State peasants, were 
founded on paper, because until 1861 there were 
practically no popular schools for the orthodox 
peasantry to attend. Men who knew how to read 


and write were in those times a great rarity 
among the orthodox moujiks, whilst among the 
Rascolniks education was common among men 
and with many women. 

The Rascolnik schools, supported and managed 
by the people themselves, without any thievish 
tchinovnik to pocket the funds intended for them, 
worked tolerably well. The instruction the 
Rascolniks received there was not extensive, and 
had an exclusively religious tendency, but it 
satisfied the wants of the people for the time 

The splits which very soon occurred in the 
Rascol only increased this desire for instruction, 
as each sect had to defend its own position. 

The Rascolniks were exceedingly fond of reli- 
gious discussions, and were constantly arranging 
controversial conferences. Sometimes they de- 
bated with the orthodox, but this was neither 
safe nor particularly interesting. They preferred 
the debates arranged between representatives of 
various branches of the Rascol. Famous preachers 
and debaters met, coming from the farthest ex- 
tremities of the Empire to take part in, or to 
be present at, these tournaments, which made a 
stir all over the Rascctlnik world. 


The subjects of discussion were either general, 
the whole doctrine of the respective denomina- 
tions, or special. Sometimes questions of mere 
detail furnished the Rascolnik schoolmen with 
matter for discussion which lasted over several 
days. The thing was taken in great earnest. 
When three famous disputants of the Pomorzy 
sect came to Staraia Russa, to hold a disputation 
with Eusign Fedoseevitch (son of Fedosy, the 
founder of the sect), about "Pilate's Inscription," 
the latter imposed a fast of several days' duration 
on all his household, that he might obtain from 
God the needful inspiration for the contest. 

As a rule these disputations resulted only in 
the greater embitterment of the animosity between 
the sects, as none went to these meetings in a 
spirit of conciliation ; but it did not prevent the 
parties from meeting on the field again and again. 

After the debates, the chief disputants were 
wont to set down their views in writing in 
pamphlets and treatises, which were copied and 
widely circulated. The price of these manuscript 
volumes and pamphlets was very moderate, anc 
within reach of an average purchaser, owing t( 
the great competition between the numerous 
copyists. Thus a vast clandestine literature wa. 


gradually created, which, notwithstanding the 
narrow field of its speculations, sometimes exhibits 
remarkable subtlety and acuteness of mind. Mr. 
Mackenzie Wallace, who had an opportunity of 
perusing some of these pamphlets written by 
these self-taught moujiks, says that they were not 
inferior to the dissertations of the trained School- 
men of the Middle Ages. 

Such an amount of intellectual life must have 
appeared exuberant when compared with the 
dead stagnation in which the orthodox peasantry- 

" Orthodox peasants," says Ivan Axacoff, " en- 
dowed with spiritual gifts and anxious to exercise 
them in some intellectual pursuit, indifferent to 
orthodoxy and suspicious of the clergy and the 
government, generally went over to the Rascol, 
where they found the society of men who were in 
a certain sense highly cultured, libraries, readers, 
publishers, copyists, and every aid to a free inter- 
change of thought and opinion." 

Thus did the Rascol become the embodiment 
of a kind of moujik culture entirely different to, and 
perfectly independent of, that of the upper, or 
Europeanized Russians. The Rascolniks knew 
no foreign language, and for a long time shunned 


even Russian literature, because they considered 
the secular alphabet introduced by Peter the 
Great to be heretical. They only taught their 
children the Slavonic alphabet in which the 
Scriptures were printed. They lived, isolated 
by their religious prejudice, as completely apart 
from the world outside as if they were surrounded 
by impassable deserts. Still, they formed among 
the- in selves a nation of more than ten millions of 
men, in active intellectual interchange of thought. 
They could not relapse into utter stagnation. 

Rascolnik culture offers indeed unmistakable 
signs of progress in its particular domain. With 
the small intellectual capital they possessed, the 
actual progress was necessarily a very modest one, 
being confined to religious matters. Still, it is 
even now not devoid of interest, because so 
perfectly independent of any exterior influence, 
and entirely evolved from its own scanty materials. 

The Bible (the ancient unrevised edition, of 
course), with a few ecclesiastical books, some old 
translations from the Greek, formed the only 
intellectual food of the Rascol up to recent times. 

The first steps of the Rascol were exceedingly 
slow. For seventy years it floundered in the 
slough of ritualism from which it had. started. 


The Fedoseevzy doctrine mentioned in a former 
chapter is an illustration of this. People caused 
discord and quarrelled, and excommunicated one 
another, for differences in the mere detail of ex- 
terior worship. One denomination, for instance, 
seceded upon the question of the folding brass 
ikons, which they considered heretical, only ad- 
mitting as correct those that were solid, and 
formed from one piece of metal or wood. 

From the middle of the eighteenth century on- 
wards, questions of broader interest have been 
mixed up with those of ancient ritualism. The 
"priestless" take the lead in this movement, 
bringing the burning question of marriage, the 
stumbling-block of the sect, to the front. 

The " priestless " those who refused to ac- 
cept the runaway orthodox pops as ministers had 
a hard course to pursue. Strict observers of all 
the traditions and canons of the orthodox Church, 
they could perform for themselves only such 
rites as simple laymen are allowed to celebrate, 
i.e., baptise, hear confessions, and read certain 
parts of the mass. They could hold no com- 
munion service, and what was in practice more 
difficult to avoid no marriage ceremony. Ac- 
cording to the canons of the orthodox Church 


only ordained clergymen can perform this cere- 
mony. No clergy meant no wedlock. Monastic 
celibacy was imposed on all the adherents of the 
" priestless " Rascol as the only state free from 
sin and fitting a Christian. 

The leaders of the "priestless" Rascol tried 
hard to enforce this prescription both by preaching 
and by example. All their settlements were 
originally intended to be monasteries. The 
numbers of the faithful, however, of both sexes 
made the realisation of this intention exceedingly 
difficult. At the Wyg settlement that beacon 
of the True Faith the men and women were 
rigorously kept apart. They were lodged in two 
different groups of houses, and they never met in 
common rooms. In the chapel during the service 
each sex stood in a place specially assigned to 
it, and separated from the other by a double 
curtain of mats. Even the whole length of the 
passage which led from the women's lodgings 
to the door of the chapel was lined with mats, 
so as to render the fair sex invisible to the other. 
Private interviews were strictly prohibited. Rela- 
tives and fellow-villagers were allowed to meet 
in a common hall under the eyes of six elderly 
sisters of no less than sixty years of age, carefully ' 


chosen for this office by the Elder or Abbot of 
the Wygorezie. 

Needless to say that all these precautions 
proved of no avail against nature. The number 
of transgressors was so great that it was im- 
possible to deal harshly with them. They were 
excommunicated for a period, and had some 
penance imposed on them, after which they were 
readmitted into the Church, and as a rule after 
an interval had to undergo the same punishment a 
second time, by way of expiation and purification. 

When the once small colony had increased to 
many thousands of souls, mostly husbandmen, 
whose scattered farms covered vast tracts of land 
won by their labour from marshes and brush- 
wood, the separation of the sexes became quite 
impracticable. A moujik cannot cultivate his 
land without the constant assistance of his baba, 
to perform all the household work, to cook his 
dinner, and mind the cattle. The inhabitants of 
Pomorie as the whole of the Rascolnik territory 
was called naturally fell into two different classes 
the monks, who inhabited the centres of the 
settlement, such as the Wyg monastery, and 
formed some other minor religious societies and 
Chapels ; and the laymen, who lived scattered in 


small villages all around in regular peasant house- 
holds with their unwedded wives. They could 
condone the contraction of these unauthorised 
unions by r the performance of a penance, which 
varied in severity according to the austerity or 
mildness of the elected readers or informal pres- 
byters of their respective congregations. 

These anomalous conditions could not fail to 
give twinges of conscience to the Rascolniks, but 
from the point of view of strict ritualism they had 
no choice ; what they considered a transgression 
against morality was a venial sin when compared 
with a breach of the sacred ordinances of the 

About the middle of the eighteenth century 
the question of marriage began to be treated from 
another point of view. In 1750 a very popular 
writer of the Pomorzy sect, Anikin, boldly ap- 
proached the essential question of wedlock, main- 
taining that marriage is a sacred institution before 
God, independently of the Priest's benediction 
and the Church ceremony. 

His treatise made a great sensation, and excited 
a good deal of discussion. Among his followers 
was Basili Emelianov, the elder of the Moscow 
Pomorzy, who began to perform a sort of 


marriage ceremony in his Chapel. This pro- 
duced a scandal among his fellow-worshippers. 
The Abbot of the Wyg monastery, Archip 
Dementiev, the head of the whole Pomorzy sect, 
was strongly opposed to this innovation. A 
council was summoned, Emelianov was excom- 
municated, and, being a rather weak man, sub- 
mitted and made a hypocritical recantation. 
His case was, however, taken up by several 
popular writers and debaters of the sect, such as 
Krilov, Paul the Curious, Skachkov, and others. 
They advanced the thesis very sweeping for 
the Rascol that in the absence of a clergyman 
laymen can, by appointment of the Church, per- 
form certain rites proper to the ordained clergy. 
The Pomorzy Church became divided within itself. 
The Abbot of Wygorezie, Archip Dementiev, 
Grigory Ivanovitch, author of more than twenty 
works on various subjects, and Dolgy, a merchant, 
wrote and preached vehemently against those 
who married. 

The times were, however, ripe for a change, 
and the advocates of marriage gradually gained 
ground. Several of the former opponents of 
marriage passed over to the opposite side. In 
1795 Archip Dementiev, the Abbot, made the 


declaration, that, " fearing God he does not 
consider Emelianov a heretic, nor the couples 
united by him, adulterers." 

After Emelianov's death his successor, Habriel 
Skachkov, went to Wygorezie, whence he re- 
turned in 1798 to Moscow, with a declaration, 
signed by the united Pomorzy sects, to the effect 
that " marriage does not consist in the Church 
ceremony, which may or may not be performed, 
but in the eternal vows of the married couple." 
This was an important victory, and a marked 
proof of the broadening out of the Rascolmk 
mind. Religion had ceased for them to be a 
mere rite it had become a principle of conduct. 

When the Pomorzy tried to bring the other 
great sect, the Fedoseevzy, over to their views, 
they met, however, with fierce opposition. 
Kovylin brutally pushed the ancient principle 
(of the rite above all things) to its logical con- 
clusion, as follows : 

" Better to live as a Turk than to marry ; 
better to have ten illegitimate children than one 
wedded husband." His followers made a picture, 
in which a wedded couple was represented, and 
the devil with a poker putting the soul into the 
body of the baby. 


The example, nevertheless, spread among the 
Fedoseevzy too. The St. Petersburg elder of the 
sect began to unite some of his parishioners 
in matrimony. He was excommunicated. The 
St. Petersburg Fedoseevzy split off into two 
parties, and instituted a new persuasion, that of 
the Speshnevo. 

In 1876 the Government gave countenance to 
this movement by recognising the legality, in the 
eyes of the law, of the marriages registered in 
Rascolnik Chapels. 

Having thus settled according to the light of 
their individual reason and conscience one im- 
portant question, that of matrimony, the " priest- 
less " practically stepped out of the bonds of the 
RascoL In thus admitting the Protestant prin- 
ciple of freedom of interpretation, in one question, 
i they opened the way to its further conquests. 

This nineteenth century, especially the last 
twenty-five years, has been a period of very 
rapid progress towards rationalism in religion 
i among former Rascolniks. 

Ten years before the Emancipation, a teacher 
belonging to the Wanderers, Nicolas Kiseleff, 
'wrote against the spirit of obtuse conservatism 
: which characterised the Rascol, advocating the 


very opposite ideas of progress in religion. 
" You call yourselves ' Old Believers ' and ' wor- 
shippers of old rites,' and you are proud of 
these names, though they are against the very 
spirit of Christianity. The Christian creed has 
nothing old in it, but ever grows younger and 
Iresher, and for the believers in Christ there can 
be no other name than Christians." 

These new ideas produced a great stir in the 
Rascolnik world, and Kiseleff found many sym- 
pathisers and adherents. 

Another writer, a learned Rascolnik monk, 
Paul, in his book, Thz Kings Way, which had 
a very great sale, rejected the authority of some 
of the canonised Fathers of the Church. In 
another work of his he attacks the principle of 
an ecclesiastical hierarchy, proving on historical 
grounds that before Nicon's time, and up to 1685, 
there were in the Pskov Bishopric one hundred 
and sixty parishes in the hands of the peasants, 
who appointed presbyters without their having 
been ordained by the Bishop. 

Many prominent Rascolnik teachers attacked 
various other important dogmas of the orthodox 
Church. One man, Efim Blokhin, who wrote 
in 1840, rejected all the Sacraments ; other 


accepted Baptism but rejected the Eucharist, on 
the authority of St. John and St. Augustine, who 
said, " Believe, and thou hast eaten and hast 
partaken of the Eucharist." Very many reject 
three or four of the less important sacraments 
peculiar to the Greek Church. 

The leading spirits of the Rascol have long 
since relinquished the petty ritualistic hobbies of 
their forefathers. The questions as to crossing 
with two or with three fingers, or of the Greek 
versus the Latin form of the cross, are replaced 
by questions as to the binding force of the letter 
of Scripture, the amount of freedom of interpre- 
tation permissible, the authenticity of certain 
prophecies in the Old Testament, the reality of 
the miracles in the New. 

A vast intellectual work of transformation is 
evidently in progress within the old Rascol, of 
which the writings just mentioned are a symptom 
and an instrument. A noticeable change has been 
wrought during the last two generations in the 
spirit of our ritualistic dissent. The respective 
positions of the orthodox and the Rascolniks has 
been completely reversed. Fifty years ago the 
Orthodox reproached the Rascolniks with their 
narrowness, and their slavish adherence to the. 


letter, to the neglect of the spirit of religious 
doctrines. Now the Rascolniks levy the same 
reproaches against the Orthodox, whom they call 
" Ritualists of the Church Hierarchy." To use 
the pertinent expression of I. Aksakoff, the 
Rascolniks think that "the so-called Orthodox 
creed is a perfunctory, official one, which does 
not spring from the living faith of those who 
profess it, and which serves merely as one of the 
instruments used by the Government for the 
maintenance of order." 

With the Rascolniks^ the tendency to disregard 
exterior formalities and to seek after the " inner 
sense " of the Scriptures constantly gains ground. 
The Scriptures must be understood according to 
the spirit, and not according to the letter. This 
transformation has already spread very far among 
the " priestless." Their main body can be said to 
have given up the Rascol as a ritual altogether. 
The Popovzy are much slower to move, and 
stick tenaciously to the antiquated creed of their 

There exist a number of sects, founded during 
the last twenty or thirty years, in which the most 
advanced rationalistic theories of the Rascol are 
embodied. Such are the Nemoliaki (Non-prayers), 


founded in 1835-7 by Zimin, a Cossack of the Don, 
and now widely spread among the Rascolniks 
in Siberia, Perm, Moscow, Odessa, and Nijni 
Novgorod ; the Vozdykhanzy (the Sighers), who 
appeared about twelve years ago in the Province 
of Kaluga, and afterwards spread into the 
neighbouring provinces ; the Kalikovzy of the 
Province of Tchernigov ; the several new ramifica- 
tions of the Yaroslav Beguny, and many others. 
These sects are the only ones which have latterly 
had any considerable success within the Rascol. 
All are more or less rationalistic ; they reject 
the Sacraments (sometimes all of them, but 
occasionally making exceptions in favour of Bap- 
tism and the Eucharist), the Church Hierarchy, 
the ikons, and the saints, also the worship of 
relics, and temple-worship. All bear traces, how- 
ever, of their Rascolnik origin, for they always 
contain something about Nicon as Antichrist either 
in the fantastic views set forth as to the history 
of the world, or in some other peculiar tenets. 

All these are pregnant signs. Vast communi- 
ties, composed of from twelve to fifteen millions 
of men, everywhere present the widest intellectual 
differences. Whilst the more advanced elements 
of the Rascol have ceased to be Rascolniks at all, 


among the most backward we hear now and 
again of isolated cases of self-immolation. But the 
painstaking investigators of the modern Rascol 
have brought to light sufficient proof of the vast- 
ness and intensity of religious rationalism in the 
leading body of the Rascol to show unmistakably 
in what direction it is moving. 

The Orthodox Church has been quite right in 
asserting that the Rascol cannot stand the pro- 
gress of time and culture. The great ritualistic 
schism is mightily shaken, and as such its years 
are numbered. But the Church was wrong to 
suppose that when their eyes should be opened to 
the narrowness of their doctrine the people would 
return to the bosom of the Mother-Church. 
What we may expect, with a good deal of certainty, 
is that they will reverse their tactics and attack 
it from the opposite side. 

Before passing on to the consideration of purely 
rationalistic dissent, unmixed and unconnected 
with the Rascol proper, we must say a few words 
about one strange sect of which we have heard 
pretty often of late. It is the so-called sect of the 
Ne Nashy, or the " Negators." It is not exactly a 
" sect," as they are avowed freethinkers, denying 


everything in religion. Nevertheless they exhibit 
a fierce fanaticism in their negation, and to this we 
are unaccustomed in connection with the sobering 
influences of scientific thought. These popular 
freethinkers have been met and observed by 
educated people in several prisons. H. Lopatin 
described in the Vperiod several of those 
detained in the Irkutsk prison. Mishla, an official 
in the civil service, had an opportunity of studying 
them in one of the prisons of Western Siberia. 
W. Korolenko, our talented young writer, when on 
his way to Siberia met one of them in Perm 
prison. They are said to be very numerous in 
the Province of Saratov. 

All accounts agree in representing these people 
as unflinching, fierce rebels, denying all authority, 
whether Divine or human, bearing, and often pro- 
voking, the most appalling punishments, rather 
than show any sign of submission, or deference to 
their gaolers or any other men in authority. 

It would be an honour to us to call them 
popular Nihilists, were they not imbued at the 
same time with a sort of worship of individual 
selfishness, and with gloomy pessimist views as 
regards all things human. It is difficult to com- 
prehend what good purpose is served by all the 


frightful sufferings they bring down on their own 
heads by wilful, sometimes wanton, insults and 
roughness. It seems as though they enjoyed 
suffering on some incomprehensible psychological 
grounds of their own. Mishla describes a mild 
type of these popular freethinkers, a certain 
Nicolas Tchukhmishov, who did not refuse to 
work in the prison, who answered all questions as 
to his name and origin when asked by the prison 
authorities, and who did not worry them much in 
any other fashion, as his companions were wont to 
do. He was accordingly treated with mildness 
by the gaolers, who were glad to overlook as 
"crotchets " his habit of wearing his hat in their 
presence, and using rather free language towards 
his superiors, etc. But suddenly, when the new 
Governor of the Province, who is as absolute a 
monarch in Siberia as a Turkish Pacha, came to 
visit the prison, Nicolas Tchukhmishov publicly 
abused him in most opprobrious terms, though 
quite unprovoked. He was instantly condemned 
to be flogged. The next day, when the sentence 
had to be carried out, he assaulted the ispravnik 
and overthrew the zerzalo, a sort of fetish intended 
to represent the Emperor, for which offences the 
infuriated ispravnik had him flogged almost to 


death. When Mishla, with whom he was on 
friendly terms, paid him a visit at the hospital, 
and asked him for what reason he had done all 
this, Tchukhmishov quietly answered, " I had to 
do it, it was necessary," and offered no further 

There is something which recalls the early 
self-immolators of the Rascolnik in these strange 
yearnings after martyrdom. A. Prugavin names, 
as the founder of this "sect," a certain Vasily 
Shyshkov, a peasant from the Province of Saratov, 
sentenced to exile in Siberia for his religious 
opinions. He was by birth a member of the 
Fedoseevzy, but not being satisfied with it he 
changed. Four times he altered his creed, and in 
the meantime was thrice rebaptized. None of the 
Churches satisfied him, so he began to study the 
Scriptures for himself, with the hope of finding 
his own way to God. Instead of finding peace, 
however, he was struck by the contradictions con- 
tained in the Scriptures, and after great inward 
struggle and anguish he ended by abjuring the 
Scriptures, Religion, God, and the future life. To 
the question " How was the world created ?" he 
answered, that " it had never been created at all, 
but had existed from all time." As to the immor- 


tality of the soul, he taught that the mind and 
the body of man are perpetuated in his children, 
all else perishes absolutely. 

This negative sect appears under two other 
names the Netovzy, or " Deniers," and probably 
also the Molchalniky, or the " Dumb" the same 
whom a Governor of Western Siberia has again 
and again put to regular torture for the fun of 
verifying whether it would be possible for them 
not to utter a sound during the frightful ordeal. 

It is not necessary to relegate all these negative 
sects to one common source. Most probably they 
sprang up sporadically here and there ; but from 
its general character it is easy to infer that this 
form of free thought grew on the religious hotbed 
of the Rascol, independently of the influence of the 
positive sciences. 



RUSSIAN rationalism is of very ancient date. 
The great Protestant movement which began to 
agitate the whole Christian world in the thirteenth 
and fourteenth centuries, and which culminated in 
the Reformation, had its feeble echoes even in 
far-distant and secluded Muscovy. 

The new influence first became manifest in the 
northern commercial republics, which were more 
advanced in their culture and less prejudiced against 
foreigners. As early as 1370, we read that in 
the town of Pskov there was a sect founded by 
a Dean named Nikita, and a certain Karp, pro- 
bably by profession a barber, at any rate so his 
surname of Strigolnik seems to indicate. The 
doctrine of the Strigolniks, or " barbers," as 
they were dubbed by the orthodox, was that 
of a rudimentary rationalism. They rejected the 
priesthood and the sacraments ; they taught the 
people that they ought not to receive either 
Baptism or the Eucharist at the hands of 


the priests. According to them, people could 
confess without the assistance of a elegy man : the 
penitents had only to prostrate themselves on the 
ground and whisper their sins to mother earth. 
Some of the adherents of the sect even went 
so far, it is said, as to reject the infallibility of the 
Scriptures, the doctrine of the immortality of the 
soul, and resurrection of the dead. 

The Strigolniks led a very severe ascetic life, 
devoted to fasting and prayers. They mixed little 
with their orthodox fellow-citizens, and are said to 
have been very proud, stiff, and unsociable. This, 
if we are to believe the statements of their oppo- 
nents, was the chief cause of the odium in which 
they were held by the people of Pskov and of 
Novgorod. The sect had but a short existence, 
and was destroyed without the intervention of the 
authorities. The people of Pskov expelled them 
from the town, and a few years later they 
migrated to Novgorod, where the crowd laid 
hands on them and threw them from the Volchov 
bridge into the river. 

A hundred years later, in the same town of 
Novgorod, there appeared an heretical rational- 
istic sect of much wider influence and importance 
the so-called " Judaisers" This sect was 


founded about 147080 by a Jewish scholar, 
named Skhary or Zacharia. He had come to 
Novgorod from Lithuania in the suite of Alex- 
ander Olelkovitch, the last Prince of free Novgo- 
rod. Skhary, whom the chroniclers mention as 
a man of great learning and acute intellect, took 
up his abode in Novgorod, and began an active 
propaganda among the most advanced theolo- 
gians of the Christian Church. He attacked the 
dogma of the Trinity, the doctrine of the 
Redemption, the sacraments, the worship of the 
ikons, and the worship of the saints on logical 
grounds. He furthermore strongly objected to 
monastic celibacy as contrary to human nature. 

All this was new and attractive to the Nov- 
gorod divines, who had hitherto had to exercise 
their minds on mere formalities. The first 
disciples who joined this Jewish scholar were two 
prominent clergymen, Alexy and Dionisy, and 
soon afterwards Gabriel, the Dean of Novgorod 
Cathedral. The more educated among the 
laymen soon followed their example, attracted by 
the clear logic and the simple and comprehensible 
ethics, which the new sect carefully elaborated. 

In 1480 the Tzar, John III., paid a visit to 
Novgorod, and made the acquaintance of the two 


chiefs of the sect, the pops Alexy and Dionisy, 
and on returning to Moscow took both of them 
with him to his Capital. The sect spread very 
rapidly at the court of Moscow, and among a 
group of the clergy. Some too of the most 
influential officials, and even members of the 
Tzar's own family, were in its favour. In ten 
years the sect had spread over the chief towns 
of the Empire. 

In 1489 they obtained the nomination of 
Zossima, their secret adherent, to the headship of 
the Muscovite Church, a thing which no sect had 
ever before succeeded in doing. The Tzar him- 
self lent a favourable ear to their teachings, but 
they had no root among the masses, so that the 
members of the orthodox Church, when roused from 
indifference by the passionate appeal of Hennady, 
obtained an easy and complete victory over them. 
The council, convened at Hennady's instigation, 
condemned \htjudaisers as heretics, and deposed 
the Metropolitan. Zossima was permitted, by 
exceptional leniency on the part of the Tzar 
to end his days unmolested in a monastery. 
Some of the minor lights of the sect were de- 
livered over to the tribunals and executed. The 
remainder dispersed, and the whilom powerful 


sect vanished, we may safely say without leaving 
a trace behind. There exists, it is true, among 
the many popular sects of to-day a body of 
Sabbatarians which in some of its subdivisions 
reproduces the doctrines of the early Judaisers. 
It would, however, be perfectly absurd to suppose 
them connected by some mysterious links of 
heredity with a sect which only existed three 
hundred years before. The "Epistles" and the 
" Acts" show so many unmistakable proofs of the 
judaising tendencies of some of the founders of 
Christianity, that they offer a perfectly satisfactory 
explanation of the spontaneous development of 
judaizing sects in Russia as well as in other 

The following generation offers another, but 
much more feeble manifestation of the same ration- 
alistic tendencies, founded this time on a purely 
Christian basis. This movement is generally 
connected with the literary activity of a remarkable 
man, Maxim the Greek, an Albanian scholar, who 
succeeded in grafting upon the country of his 
adoption some elements of the vigorous European 
culture of his day. 

Maxim the Greek studied in Paris, Venice, and 
Florence. He was a contemporary and a warm 



admirer of Girolamo Savonarola. When sum- 
moned to Moscow, he could not help criticising 
the wooden formalism and narrowness of Russian 

There was nothing adverse to orthodoxy in 
the teachings of Maxim the Greek, though he was 
accused of "heresy" and condemned to life-long 
imprisonment. In his numerous writings and 
speeches he merely tried to persuade the Russians 
to give a little thought to their religion, which 
was a great and dangerous service in that be- 
nighted epoch. 

Prince Kurbsky tells us that at that time the 
orthodox priests themselves tried to damp the 
ardour of such young people as were lovers of 
book-lore and religious study. " Do not read 
many books," they said ; "the source of all sin is 
reasoning : it is like the second fall. You have, 
forsooth, acquired superior wisdom, when lo ! yoi 
stop to reason on some text ; and behold ! yov 
have fallen into some heresy." Matvey Seme- 
novitch Bashkin, condemned in 1555 for heresy, 
and probably burned alive a vague but vei 
touching figure was probably one of those youn^ 
people in whom such advice and warning were 
powerless to still the longing after light and truth. 


During the Lent of 1554, Simeon, the pop of 
the Cathedral of the Annunciation, was approached 
by a stranger, who asked to be confessed. It was 
a well-to-do nobleman, Matvey Bashkin. At the 
confession, the penitent asked the pop questions 
as to the moral obligations and religious duties 
of men which appeared " awkward " to the pop 
Simeon. Bashkin showed him a book of Epistles 
full of marks, indicating those texts which had 
struck the reader most ; he asked Simeon to 
explain some of these texts to him ; but the pop 
not being a man of large resource, Bashkin 
offered his own explanations. 

" Look," he said once, pointing to the gospel ; 
"is it not written, ' For all the law is fulfilled in 
one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy 
neighbour as thyself ? and yet people all around 
us do nothing but torment one another. Christ 
ordered us to live like brothers, and we, being 
Christians, hold other Christians in bondage. 
I, thank God, have torn the kabalas I had on 
my men into pieces. Those who live on my 
estates do so of their own free will, and not 
because of my rights as a certificated slave-owner. 
If they are satisfied with me they remain, if not 
they are free to go whenever they like. You who 


are our spiritual fathers, you ought to visit us 
laymen oftener, and to teach us how to live, and 
how to do our duty towards the people who are 
subjected to us." 

This inquiring tone of mind and these ideas 
revealed a different spirit from that which then 
prevailed in the Muscovite Church. Pop Simeon 
was hurt, and denounced Bashkin, whose doctrine 
he termed "a debauchery." Bashkin was arrested 
and tried by the council in the following year, 
together with a small group of friends, among 
them some of the most educated and advanced of 
the clergy. When questioned, Bashkin summed 
up the theological part of his doctrine thus : 
" We reject the sacraments, the traditions of the 
Church, the worship of the saints, and their 
ikons. By ' the Church ' we understand a 
congregation of believers, and not a human 
institution, still less a mere building of stones." 
To these doctrines, which reflected the Protes- 
tantism of the West, Bashkin is supposed to have 
united the views of the Arians. "We do not 
recognise," he went on to say, " the divinity of 
the Son, nor his equality with the Father." 
It is difficult to determine what, in this profession 
of faith, represented the real views of the Russian 


latitudinarians of the sixteenth century, and which 
were put into their mouths by the inquisitors. 
The very fact that Bashkin went to confession 
to a pop speaks against his rejection of the 
Sacraments, though this may perhaps have been 
the mere device of a propagandist to enter into 
communication with a man whom he expected to 
convert to his views. At all events, the general 
rationalistic character of Bashkin's heresy cannot 
be doubted. 

Bashkin's ultimate fate is a matter of uncertainty. 
Popular tradition says that he was burned at the 
stake, though there is no mention of him in the 
official records. Popular rationalists of modern 
times look reverently upon Bashkin as the 
founder of their creed, though of course this title 
must be accepted only as an honorary one. 

As another symptom of the fermentation going 
on in men's minds, we may also mention another 
interesting heresiarch Theodosius the Squint- 
eyed, whose heresy was discovered at about 
the same time as Bashkin's, but, according to 
Kostomarov, was not directly connected with it. 
Theodosius, or Fedosy, the Squint-eyed, was 
the first genuine self-taught moujik who, owing 
to his superior intelligence, appears at the head 


of a sect. He was a serf on some nobleman's 
estate on the river Volga. He contrived to 
escape from his master, and for some years 
wandered as a vagabond under assumed names, 
till he found refuge, as so many of his fellow- 
vagabonds had done before him, in Baloosero, 
one of the northern monasteries. Here he 
began to preach, and converted several of the 
brethren and some of the laymen of the neigh- 
bourhood. According to an account which some 
of his followers gave to a friend of theirs, 
Fedosy appears to have been a very bold thinker 
and a fine dialectician. He knew the Bible tho- 
roughly, and was as skilful in the art of discovering 
heaps of texts in support of his opinions as the 
best of the RascolniKs " readers " of more recent 
date. In many points the doctrine of Fedosy 
reminds us of that of Bashkin, though he went 
much farther. In his striving after a stricter 
monotheism, he rejected the divinity of the Son 
and his equality with the Father. 

"How dared they," he was wont to ask, "in- 
sert in the creed, in reference to Jesus, the words 
' begotten, not made,' when the Apostle Peter 
had said that God created Jesus ? He did not 
say ' begot/ but created. And the Apostle Paul 


likewise says : ' Ttiere is one God and one 
Mediator between God and men, the man Christ 

Quoting numerous passages from the Penta- 
teuch, .the Psalms, the Proverbs of Solomon, 
and the Prophets, Fedosy stigmatized ikon- 
worship as idolatry, and called the Churches 
"idol shrines," and the pops "idol priests." He 
rejected the Sacraments and the external rites of 
the Church, and showed a great respect for the 
books of Moses, which he called " fundamental 
ones." He admitted men's freedom to question 
even the authenticity of the Scriptures, rejecting, 
for instance, as unauthentic the Epistle of St. 
Paul to the Hebrews, which he attributed to 
some other man of the same name. 

He differed from the Christians inasmuch as he 
denied the immortality of the soul, as well as the 
doctrine of the Redemption and of the fall of 
man. He taught that man was created mortal, 
as were all other living creatures. " Why should 
death mean something exceptional to man ? " he 
asked. " The big fishes of the sea and the whales 
and serpents, the birds of the air and the beasts, 
the lions and elephants, who are the biggest 
creatures on the earth, all have to die, and nothing 


is left of them after death. All these are like 
men, creations of God." 

Against the doctrine of the Redemption he urged 
that human nature had undergone no change 
since the coming of Christ : " Men are as liable 
now as they were before to infirmities, death, 
and sin." 

Fedosy the Squint-eyed, with one of his chief 
disciples, had the good luck to escape from the 
Moscow prison, thus avoiding the otherwise in- 
evitable execution. He and his friend took refuge 
in Lithuania, where their propaganda is said to 
have met with great success. 

Such were the most important of the early 
manifestations of religious rationalism in Russia. 
They are so exceedingly feeble, these dying 
echoes of the far-distant thunder, that but for the 
dead silence of everything around it would be 
difficult to catch the sound at all. 

The real harbingers of rationalism, who carried 
its standard through the cold blasts of time and 
the blows of persecution, are two popular sects, 
the Dukhoborzy, or " Champions of the Spirit," 
and the Molokane, or " Milk-eaters." 


THE Dukhoborzy and Molokane are of the same 
extraction, and the exterior forms of their worship 
are pretty much the same. For a long time they 
were confounded. Closer observation showed, 
however, a considerable difference between the 
Molokane, who are strict Christians of the Pro- 
testant type, and the Dukhoborzy, who have deve- 
loped a sort of theosophy differing in some 
essentials from orthodox Christianity. It was 
generally thought that the more moderate and 
much more numerous Molokane was the elder of 
the two sects. The Dukhoborzy were supposed 
to be an offshoot generated as usual by a more 
extreme minority. This view has been adopted 
by Baron Haxthausen and other foreign writers. 
Modern investigations have, however, proved the 
contrary to be the case. The Molokane seceded 
from the Dukhoborzy during the last quarter of 
the eighteenth century, and the Dukhoborzy is 
much the elder. 


Nothing can be said with certainty about the 
origin of this sect, but the doctrines of the 
Dukhoborzy are so extremely complicated, and 
contain such strange ideas, that it is particularly 
unlikely that they should have been developed 
at one stroke on orthodox soil, without some 
previous work in the realm of thought having 
been expended in religious matters. Very pro- 
bably we see in the Dukhoborzy and Molokane the 
two last links of a long series of transformations 
and religious efforts of the popular mind, links in 
a chain which it is impossible for us to review for 
lack of any written record. 

Absorbed by the struggle with the powerful 
Rascol, the Government disregarded the small 
body of rationalist dissenters, sometimes even 
confounding them with the extreme sect of ritual- 
istic dissent. When the Dukhoborzy were first 
discovered in 1750-5 by the Imperial police, it was 
as a numerous and fully-organized body, with 
ramifications in four Provinces of the Empire. 
At their examination the Dukhoborzy of the village 
of Okhochee (Province of Kharkov) made a de- 
position in which some scholars thought to find a 
cue to the origin of the sect. On being asked by 
the police, who taught them their criminal faith, 


he prisoners answered that they had learned it 
if a foreigner, a military man, who had stayed 
or many years among them and went away again, 
lobody knowing whither. 

No particulars were given as to the nationality, 
he name, or the creed of this foreigner. In com- 
paring dates it was conjectured that he must 
lave been a prisoner of war taken during the 
seven years' campaign. As, after a superficial 
ixamination, the tenets of the Dukhoborzy were 
bought to be much the same as those of the 
Quakers, it was concluded that the mysterious 
tranger must have been a member of the Society 
f Friends. 

This legend made the turn of the world and 
ed to some curious disappointments. Whether it 
las some historical basis or not it is difficult 
o decide. A stranger who had learnt Russian 
tnd took an interest in popular religion may have 
ived in those parts, or he may never have existed 
.t all, and the whole story about him be a fabri- 
ation of the accused Dukhoborzy in order to stave 
>ff the annoyances caused by the police. The 
nner-evidences of the Dukhoborzy doctrines make 
breign influence very probable, but we must look 
or their sources rather to the East, or to the old 


Christian heresies, than to modern Protestantism, 
and to an epoch in all probability much anterior 
to the seven years' war. 

The base of the Dukhoborzys' creed is their 
conception of the Deity as the Soul of the World, 
the reasoning principle of the universe ; not as 
a Personal Being, superior to and independent 
of the world. 

" The Dukhoborzy" says the Orthodox Inter- 
locutor of 1859, " believe that God does not exist 
as a separate personal Being. The Deity, accord- 
ing to them, dwells in the souls of men, inseparable 
and indistinguishable from them, and unable to 
reveal its substance and glory otherwise than 
through them." The Dukhoborzy accordingly con- 
sider the soul of man to be a faithful image of God. 
With the above-named restrictions, the Dukhoborzy 
accept the dogma of the Trinity of the Godhead, 
and see it reproduced in the spiritual capacities 
of man, God the Father is the Memory; God 
the Son is the Reason ; God the Spirit is the' 

They also accept the whole of the Scriptures, 
but in the spirit ol symbolic individualisation. 
According to them, the whole of the New and' 
the Old Testaments merely prefigure in some 


i ritual way the mysteries which are accomplished 

the soul of every faithful man. 
The " Inner Word," or " Speculating Reason," 
lich is identical with "God the Son," performs, 

a spiritual sense, the office of redemption in 
e soul of every faithful human being ; here it 
is its spiritual birth, here it preaches, works 
iracles, suffers, and brings to life as Christ did 
n earth. 

The fall of Adam is likewise merely a symbol- 
ation of what is daily performed in the souls 

men. The Dukhoborzy accept it as an histori- 
il event, but they deny the degenerating influence 

the fall of the first man on all his descendants, 
dam's fall was his individual fall, a source of mis- 
rtune and deterioration for his soul alone. They 
sject therefore the dogma of redemption and 
incarnation. " We believe that Christ was 
nly a good man," they said to Allan and Grilet, 
wo English clergymen who came over to inquire 
hether the Dukhoborzy were really Russian 
)uakers, as it had been rumoured. 

The Inner Word the revelation of God in 
1e soul of man is the supreme authority in 
sligious questions, and the source of all wisdom, 
e totality of that wisdom, possessed by the 


whole Church, is what the Dukhoborzy understand 
to be the "Book of Life." This "Book" is 
traced out practically, by a vast number of religi- 
ous hymns, meditations, precepts, and commen- 
tories, of which every Dukhoborzy tries to retain 
in his memory as much as he can, that he may 
transmit it through oral tuition to his children. 
The share of this sacred knowledge enjoyed by 
each individual man is small, but the Dukhoborzy 
believe that the religious truth possessed by their 
Church as a whole is superior to that recorded 
in any of the Scriptures. " Ask our old people," 
they say ; "they will teach you better." 

The Dukhoborzy proudly consider themselves 
as the only true worshippers of God, and consider 
that the rest of mankind is wallowing in super- 
stition and idolatry. They show, however, a 
remarkable and quite exceptional liberality of 
mind in determining who are to be considered 
as the true Dukhoborzy champions of the spirit. 

According to them, the Church is the congrega- 
tion of those whom God himself has called from 
amongst the worldly and ordained to walk in the 
path of light. These chosen ones are not recog- 
nizable by any peculiar sign, nor are they 
associated with any outward religion. They form 


an invisible Church, whose members are scattered 
all over the world and recognize the authority of 
many religions. 

Thus there are people belonging to this Church 
not only among all Christian sects, but among 
those who do not study the Scriptures and who 
do not know Jesus Christ. It includes men of all 
nations, all races, and all tongues. Even among 
the Jews and the Turks, members of this Church 
may be found all those who are guided by their 
"inner light," and cultivate in their souls the 
seed of goodness (Novizky, 67-68, from "Westnik 
Europy," 1880). 

The Dukhoborzy believe, in their own fashion, 
in the immortality of the soul: God, who dwells in 
the souls of men, is immortal, therefore so are the 
souls ; but they entirely reject the Christian con- 
ception of immortality. According to them, the 
individual immortality of a man consists " in the 
memory which the deceased leaves behind him 
among his fellow-men." They do not believe in 
either hell or paradise. According to them, the 
promise of future life we find in the Scriptures 
refers to the future destinies of mankind on earth, 
and not to a life beyond the tomb in another 
world. " There will be no resurrection of the body, 


and there will be no destruction of the visible 
world. Physical nature as the abode of an 
Eternal God will last for ever. The difference 
between the present life and the future is this : 
now the faithful have to live among sinners, 
whilst in the future they will overcome the sinners 
and will inherit the earth alone, though people 
will be born, will work, and die just as they do 

Believing that souls are a part of God, which 
cannot perish at the destruction of the bodies, the 
Dukhoborzy admit the doctrine of the transmigra- 
tion of souls. Yet here we^find a curious peculi- 
arity, in opposition to the common version of this 
doctrine : the Dukhoborzy do not suppose that the 
soul enters the body before or at the moment of 
the birth of a child. The newly-born baby is only 
a piece of soulless matter.* According to the 
Dukhoborzy, the soul enters into the child's body 
gradually from about the sixth to the fifteenth 
year of its age, the period during which the child 
is learning from the " Book of Life," and the triune 
manifestation of the spirit memory, reason, and 

* This article of faith served as a ground for the absurd 
accusation brought against these people by the orthodox, of 


will are developed and shaped in it. This indi- 
cates clearly in what, according to the Dukhoborzy, 
the transmigration of souls consists. 

Whence have our moujiks got all these ideas ? 
From India ? from ancient Gnostics ? Or are they 
the popular version of the views of some Western 
heresiarch ? Or have they evolved them all out 
of their own heads by meditating on the Scrip- 
tures ? 

Any and all of these surmises may be true, 
though not one has more than mere conjecture 
to support it. As to the Dukhoborzy themselves, 
they have no distinct tradition as to the origin 
of their creed ; or if you like they have, and a 
very strong one, but one which can hardly be of 
any use as an historical fact. They declare that 
the founders of their creed were the three youths 
whom King Nebuchadnezzar ordered to be 
thrown into a flaming furnace. Some again go 
back to still earlier times for the founder of their 
Church, and believe him to have been Abel, the 
first innocent man slaughtered, as so many of 
their own prophets and teachers have since been. 

At all events, the formation and constant de- 
velopment of a similar doctrine among the simple, 
uneducated moujiks is a very suggestive fact, for 



it must be borne in mind that all the Dukhoborzy, 
both past and present, are simple moujiks, tillers 
of the soil, or tradesmen. " Hitherto," says 
Haxthausen, " none of the educated classes have 
been found among these sects. No Russian 
clergyman has ever gone over to them or become 
their leader : their members are all ordinary 
Russian peasants. The more wonderful there- 
fore, is the acuteness of intellect and force of 
imagination which they manifest, and which testify 
to the great intellectual gifts that still lie dormant 
in the Russian common people." 

So high, indeed, was the speculative part of the 
Dukhoborzy doctrine carried, that its followers 
often could not comprehend it so as to preserve 
its purity. The early Dukhoborzy, like the Jews of 
Moses' time, appear to have easily relapsed into 
certain lower forms of religion. They fell back 
on the worship of man, in this respect reminding 
us of the Chlists. The first of their authentic 
leaders, whose name has been preserved, was 
Silvan Kolesnikov, a peasant of the Province of 
Kharkov, who died an octogenarian. He is re- 
membered as a man of wonderful eloquence and 
power of persuasion, as well as of great practical 
piety. Few men have ever contributed so much 


towards the enlargement of the Book of Life as 
has this Patriarch of the pure Dukfioborzy Church. 
But in the next generation Savva Poberikhin, a 
peasant of the neighbouring Province of Tambov, 
played the part of a Dukhoborzy Aaron only that 
instead of a golden calf he erected his own person 
as idol. 

Poberikhin introduced a new dogma, proclaiming 
the eternal separateness of each transmigratory 
soul, and the possibility that during its wanderings 
it might retain the memory of its former state in its 
new habitation. This dogma was really intended 
to serve one purpose the discovery of the abode 
of the soul of Jesus since his death. Poberikhin 
thought that God revealed himself in his whole- 
ness in Jesus, having descended upon his soul 
at his thirtieth year, choosing him before all 
others because the soul of Jesus was the most 
perfect and pure that ever animated a human 
body. After the death of Jesus, his soul, in 
passing into the bodies of other men, had, by a 
special grace of God, always retained the remem- 
brance of its former state. Every man whom it 
animated knew that he possessed the soul of 
Jesus. Savva Poberikhin named those whom 
in the olden times he supposed to have been 


the guardians of this precious loan. For the 
present he declared that the real Jesus was him- 
self, and he accordingly claimed a tribute of 
obedience and veneration suited to that high 
dignity. He obtained recognition, and established 
among the Dukhoborzy a sort of temporal 
theocracy, and surrounded himself with a body 
of zealots called " angels of death," because it 
was their duty, it is said, to punish those who 
resisted his orders, with death. 

There are some indications, though these are 
not so well authenticated, of the appearance of 
other "Christs" of Poberikhin's type, in the earlier 
part of this century among the Dukhoborzy. 

The doctrine introduced by Poberikhin was 
afterwards rejected as contrary to the essence of 
the Dukhoborzy theology, and in its application 
repugnant to their ideas regarding the social and 
political equality of all men as children and har- 
bingers of God. 

An almost religious respect for man is the basis 
of all mutual relations with the Dukhoborzy. They 
deny even paternal authority, which is, as a rule, 
so much respected among our patriarchal popula- 
tion. The family ties among the Dukhoborzy are 
being based on mutual affection, never on the 


obedience due to a father. "The act of generation 
and of being born, with them constitutes no tie of 
relationship," says Haxthausen, in describing the 
colonies of this sect on the Molochnaia. " The soul, 
the image of God, recognizes no earthly father 
or mother : the body springs from matter as a 
whole ; it is the child of the earth. With the 
body of the mother which bore it for a time, it 
stands in no nearer relationship than does the 
seed with the plant from which we pluck it. It 
is matter of indifference to the soul as to which 
prison, or body, it inhabits. There is only one 
father, the totality of God, who dwells in each 
individual ; and one mother, universal matter, or 
nature, the earth. The Dukhoborzy, therefore, 
never call their parents ' father ' and ' mother,' but 
only 'old man' and 'old woman.' In the same 
way a father calls his children not ' mine,' but 
' ours ' (the commune's). The men call their 
wives 'sisters.' Natural sympathies and instincts, 
however, are stronger than dogmas. Thus we 
have both heard and seen that the deep and 
affectionate veneration of children lor their 
parents, and the tender love of parents for their 
children, which is a universal characteristic among 
the Russians, showed itself here likewise, in nearly 


every relation of family lif$ among the Dukkoborzy, 
outward signs of relationship only, being avoided." 

The only claim to authority with them is the 
possession of a greater share of the divine revela- 
tion. Occasionally the Dukkoborzy have bowed to 
some man in whom they have recognized excep- 
tional spiritual gifts ; but, as a rule, their religion 
has harmonized with the popular feeling of demo- 
cratic equality. The only permanent authority 
with the Dukhoborzy is that of the whole body of 
believers, the commune, whose collective light in- 
dividuals are willing to recognise as being higher 
than their own. 

From a sect professing such theories as these, 
as to human dignity and human rights, a Govern- 
ment which bore no other credentials for respect 
and obedience, than a display of brute force, can 
have expected no recognition. The Dukhoborzy 
consider the subjugation of one man to another 
by brute force as equivalent to an act of 
sacrilege. They accordingly denounce the present 
Government as an abomination before God. 

It would be a mistake to conclude from this 
that the Dukhoborzy are practically so many 
revolutionists, only waiting for an opportunity to 
put their philosophical convictions to the test. 


A religious negation and a political negation are 
two quite different things. The very elevation of 
the Dukhoborzys theosophy, from which they draw 
such excellent conclusions, helps to divert their 
minds, and to create for them a world of their 
own, whither they transport their negations and 
affirmations in a perfectly innocuous and even 
stingless state. The sect of the Beguny, for 
example, with their narrow doctrine of Antichrist, 
contains far more of the pugnacious spirit, which 
would answer a direct appeal to rebellion. Who, 
however, can stand their apocalyptical nonsense, 
and who can expect to make anything out of it ? 
As for the Dukhoborzy, they are, and always have 
been, very peaceful citizens. Outbursts of fanati- 
cism against the established Church or the 
Government have been of much rarer occurrence 
amongst them than amongst the extreme section 
of the Rascol. As long as the orders of the 
Government have not been in direct opposition to 
their creed, they have offered no resistance, and 
have scrupulously paid their taxes. With them 
the negation of the Tzar's authority was therefore 
strictly a matter of " conscience." They them- 
selves offered no provocation, even by deliberate 
roughness of language. The Dukhoborzy, when 


arrested, without saying anything untrue, always 
trjed to conceal their higher and more dangerous 
articles of faith from the inquisitors, by abstruse, 
ambiguous subtleties of language, a feat of war in 
which they were very skilful. Still, the police had no 
difficulty in getting scent of the kind of views held 
by the Dukhoborzy with regard to the authorities. 

This gave rise to frightful persecutions, to 
which they have been subject so late as the 
middle of the present century, when purely 
religious persecutions were no longer possible. 

The penalties inflicted on the political offenders 
of the educated classes from the Decembrists to 
the Nihilists reflect but a faint image of what the 
guileless Dukhoborzy and their younger brothers 
the Molokane have had to undergo almost unin- 
terruptedly for the space of about sixty years. 
Catherine II., very tolerant with the Rascol, per- 
secuted the Dukhoborzy fiercely, when they were 
first discovered at about the close of her reign. 

Savage Paul I., on being informed that the 
Dukhoborzy denied his authority, gave orders 
that " all the adherents and members of this 
pernicious sect, unworthy of any clemency, should 
be banished to the Siberian mines for life, and 
set to do the hardest work, and that they should 


never have the chains removed from their hands 
and feet; in order that they who deny the su- 
preme authority of earthly potentates, enthroned 
by the will of God, should feel sharply on their 
own bodies that there are authorities on earth 
established by God for the defence of the good, 
and for the terror and chastisement of villains 
like themselves " (Ukaz of Aug. 28th, 1799)- 

Hundreds upon hundreds of the Dukhoborzy 
have been seized, fiercely knouted, and then sent 
to the mines. Sometimes in addition they have 
had to undergo the barbarity of bodily mutilation. 

When Paul I. was killed and Alexander I. 
ascended the throne, the Dukhoborzy enjoyed 
a short respite. The young Emperor, greatly 
moved by the report of two senators about the 
sufferings inflicted on perfectly innocent people, 
issued a tolerant ukaz, and permitted the Dukho- 
borzy to establish a vast colony of their own on 
the River Molochnaia, in the Province of Taurida. 
The second and reactionary half of Alexander I.'s 
reign again changed the position of the Dukho- 
borzy much for the worse. 

On the advent of Nicolas I., with his well-known 
jealousy of his authority, the Dukhoborzy and the 
Molokane entered into the gloomiest period of 


their existence. In 1826, the year after his 
accession, Nicolas I. issued an ukaz that all the 
able-bodied Dukhoborzy and Molokane should be 
enrolled in the army, and those unqualified for 
military service exiled to Siberia. 

Thus the alternatives before them were re- 
cantation or Siberia, or the " red hat," i.e., 
compulsory enrolment for the twenty-five years 
of military service, a fate which our people 
had in those days ample grounds for dreading 
as much as the Siberian hulks. It was decreed, 
moreover, that the Dukhoborzy recruits should 
be sent to the Caucasian corps, then in permanent 
war with the Circassian tribes. As the Dukho- 
borzy (together with the Molokane] strictly object 
on religious grounds to the profession of arms, 
this was a terrible trial to them. 

They did not decline to fulfil the peaceful, 
everyday duties of the service, but when brought 
face to face with the enemy they threw their arms 
to the ground and refused to march or to fire. 
The most awful corporal punishment awarded 
under the military code could not make them 
obedient, so that after a time the Commander 
of the Caucasian army was compelled to pray the 
Emperor not to send him Dukhoborzy or Molokane, 


who "demoralized " the soldiers by their example 
and their propaganda ; for wherever these sectarians 
appeared they at once made converts. From 
Siberia, the Governor of the Eastern Provinces, 
General Soulema, in 1835 reported to the 
Emperor upon the necessity of isolating the 
Dukhoborzy from other people. 

As soon as one of the Dukhoborzy appeared 
amongst them, were it in a prison or in a mine 
or in some far-off village, the conversions to the 
sect began at once. In the Siberian hulks and 
mines the propagandism of the sect assumed 
such large proportions that an order was issued 
to send all the Dukhoborzy to one mine that of 
Nerchinsk the deadliest of them all. As to 
those condemned to deportation, they had to 
be settled among the aboriginal savages who 
did not understand Russian. In 1839 the same 
remedy i.e. paralysing the Dukhoborzy propa- 
ganda by isolation among aliens was applied on 
a large scale to the big Molochnaia Colony. 

Profiting by a false denunciation * of tlie Council 

* Made by a police officer to whom blackmail had been 
refused. This has been proved by the researches of Mrs. 
Filiber, made on the spot in 1867, whilst the facts of the case 
were still fresh in men's minds. 


of the Elders, the Government ordered all the 
eight thousand Dukhoborzy, men, women, and 
children, either to recant or to be transported to 
Transcaucasia. This barbarous measure was put 
into force during the years 1839-41, causing in- 
describable suffering, and condemning this hard- 
working people to many years of misery. 

All these severities and cruelties did not extir- 
pate the sect. Rationalistic dissent, in both its 
forms, spread with particular rapidity during 
Nicolas I.'s time. The last five years of his reign 
show a gradual relaxation, almost cessation, of 
the persecutions. The Emperor seemed tired. 
After twenty-five years' experience, the idea that 
the knout is not an efficient weapon in spiritual 
warfare seemed to penetrate even his dull brain. 


THE doctrine of the Dukhoborzy had the deepest 
influence on the development of religious thought 
throughout the whole body of our nonconform- 
ists. This sect was a kind of ready-made 
parent stem of popular philosophy, from which 
many of the extreme sects of all descriptions, the 
ritualist as well as the rationalist, had borrowed 
their boldest doctrines. The Dukhoborzy creed 
in its primitive form, however, was preserved by 
a comparatively small body of people. The 
Dukhoborzy proper probably now numbers about 
fifty thousand people. Their chief centres are in 
the provinces of Tambov, Ekaterinoslav, Saratov, 
and in Transcaucasia, with a sprinkling in the 
Central Provinces, in Southern Siberia, and in 

The Molokane sect was a transformation and 
simplification of the Dukhoborzy into a strictly 
rationalistic Christian sect. They have altogether 
dropped the superstructure of the Dukhoborzy s 


theosophy, and have developed a rational and 
comprehensive system of popular ethics. The 
secession of the Molokane took place about 1770. 

When Savva Poberikhin, whom we have already 
mentioned, declared himself and was accepted as 
the Dukhoborzys Christ, his son-in-law, Semen 
Uklein, a tailor of the same village, disagreed 
with him, and fearing his vengeance left the 
village of Horki and went to preach among the 
peasants in the Province of Tambov. In him 
the Molokane recognised the founder of their 
creed. The official records of the activity of 
Semen Uklein are scanty. It is known that he 
was arrested and kept for a time in Tambov 
prison. After his liberation he went to preach 
again, was arrested once more, knouted, and sent 
to Siberia. 

Nothing more was heard of him. But the 
seeds he had scattered evidently fell on favour- 
able ground. 

In 1802, the Molokane formed a regularly con- 
stituted sect, and in the Molochnaia colony 
requested to have their Communes separate from 
those of the Dukkoborzy. During Nicolas I.'s 
reign they spread very rapidly, cropping up all 
over the Western, Central, and Southern regions. 


It is impossible to fix the number of the Molo- 
kane with exactitude, owing to the absence of 
reliable statistics. Bushen's tables fix the number 
of registered Molokane and Dukhoborzy com- 
bined, at 110,000. Deducting the Dukhoborzy, 
this would only leave about 60,000 for the 
Molokane. The figure is evidently too small. 
In the province of Tambov alone, according to 
official records, the number of the Molokane 
registered and unregistered reached, in 1842-46, 
the figure of 200,000. (Vestnik Europy, 1880, 

There are besides this Molokane settlements in 
many other places : in the Provinces of Riazan, 
Kherson, Ekaterinoslav, and all along the southern 
part of the Volga, for instance. 

On the whole, the Molokane cannot be com- 
pared as far as numbers go with any of the big 
Rascol sects. The old rationalistic sects absorbed 
only a small fraction of our population some 
hundreds of thousands only. The Molokane, 
however, greatly outnumber the Dukhoborzy. 

They are subdivided into Sabbatarian and 
non-Sabbatarian Molokane. But the former 
constitute a mere handful, five to six thousand 
all told. The bulk are non-Sabbatarian Chris- 


tians, and present a rare uniformity in their 
doctrine and religious observances. 

We cannot give a more graphic and clear idea 
of this important sect than by quoting a few 
pages from the personal reminiscences and 
impressions of our historian N. Kostomarov, 
who has enjoyed exceptional opportunities of 
observing them during the several years of his 
exile in Saratov. 

" I had much difficulty," says N. Kostomarov, 
" in overcoming the excessive diffidence of these 
sectarians towards every stranger. At last I was 
introduced, by a common friend, to a Sabbatarian 
teacher, a fisherman by trade. He was, I was 
told on good authority, the most obstinate and 
most learned of all the congregation. His very 
meagre face, furrowed by the wrinkles which 
always denote a passion for thinking ; his sunken 
but glittering, fiery eyes ; a long lean neck ; lips 
twitching from impatience ; the hurry to pour out 
in a moment what can only be told in time ; 
finally, the habit of tracing figures in the air with 
his fingers whilst speaking a habit which I have 
often noticed among our peasant-philosophers all 
showed me at once that I was in the presence of 
one of those fanatics who govern sects and inspire 


heresies. He knew the Scriptures, especially 
the Old Testament, almost by heart. He was 
well read in ecclesiastical history, and poured out 
names and dates from memory after the manner 
of a ' crack ' pupil before a board of examiners." 

In his religious views this honoured friend 
was a strict Unitarian. He recognised in Jesus 
Christ a great prophet, a man inspired by God, 
as Isaiah and others had been. He believed in 
his miracles, and even in his resurrection, but 
emphatically rejected the dogma of his divinity. 

He saw no proof of the Trinity of God either in 
the Old or in the New Testament. There God 
is everywhere represented as being One ; Jesus 
Christ is his prophet, who calls himself, and 
is called by the apostles, a man. The Holy 
Ghost means God's grace and wisdom bestowed 
upon man, and not the third person of the Trinity. 
He explained that the Sabbatarians accepted the 
whole of the New Testament as inspired, but as 
they saw in Jesus Christ only one of the prophets, 
they gave no precedence to those books over the 
old ones. They therefore consider the Mosaic 
laws to be as binding nowadays as they were to 
the contemporaries of Jesus. They keep Saturday 
as their day of prayer ; they eat nothing that 



is prohibited by Moses ; they reject, as offensive 
to the dignity of God, all material representa- 
tions of divinity. Many are circumcised : Kos- 
tomarov's friend was of the number, and he had 
circumcised his sons. He held that his co- 
religionists ought to offer sacrifices according to 
the ancient law. " The modern Jews do not 
offer sacrifices," he said, " because they are in 
exile ; but we, who are the new Israel, we ought 
to offer sacrifices." 

Of the Jewish law he recognised only the written 
one. The posterior superstructure of Judaism 
was exceedingly distasteful to him. He called 
the Talmud "a collection of foolish ravings." He 
expected the coming of the Messiah because the 
promise of the Prophets was as yet unfulfilled, as 
Jesus was not a Messiah but only a great prophet. 
He called it a gross superstition on the part of 
modern Jews to believe in a Messiah King 
and Conqueror. He tried to prove that the 
promised dominion of Israel must be understood 
in a spiritual sense, as signifying the reign of 
truth and reason, and not as the establishing 
of a great political power. According to him, 
the promised Messiah will be a great philosopher 
and moral teacher, who will discover to mankind 


the greatest truths, and will scatter the Mosaic 
creed all over the world, and thus establish the 
reign of universal happiness on earth. 

His views as to the Future Life and God's 
providence towards mankind presented a sort of 
compromise between the teachings of the Old 
and of the New Testaments. He believed in a 
Future Life beyond the tomb, on the authority 
of the New Testament, though he found no 
word about it in the Old ; but he rejected the 
doctrine of hell. He believed that God will in 
the Future Life forgive all infidels and sinners, 
whom he chastises for their transgressions here 
on earth just as he did in the old biblical times. 
Wars, pestilences, famines, and fire, and all the 
tribulations of this earthly existence, are but 
punishments inflicted by God for the people's 
unbelief. After the coming of the Messiah, he 
will spread the true faith all over the world, and 
peace and happiness will reign for ever. 

The rites and worship of the Sabbatarians 
of Russia Proper contain nothing Jewish. On 
Saturdays they assemble in their houses of prayer, 
where their elders or teachers deliver a sermon, 
which is interrupted from time to time by the 
sacred songs of the congregation. The Sabba- 


tarians hold these meetings in great secrecy, and 
also, as a rule, conceal their affiliation to the sect. 
The criminal code, which still punishes conversion 
to " Judaism " with deportation and hard labour, 
and the easily-aroused aversion of the surround- 
ing Christian peasantry, are sufficient grounds for 
this. A lady friend of mine, a Socialist, who 
lived among the Molokane peasantry for the sake 
of propagandism, was once invited by her hostess, 
a Sabbatarian, to one of their secret meetings, 
when a famous wandering preacher of the sect 
was expected to speak. She was instructed not 
to speak to anybody and not to answer any 
questions. On entering the house they had to 
give a pass-word. 

As to the service, it was very unlike that of 
the Russian Jews. The small congregation was 
seated in rows on wooden benches on one side 
of the room. Opposite there was an open space, 
on which stood the preacher, in silent prayer, 
clad in a sort of black mantle, with an open Bible 
before him. When all were assembled and the 
doors shut, he delivered a prayer, animated by 
the broad Deistic spirit of the Jews, and then 
began to address the audience. He spoke about 
God, the Soul, Penitence, and Salvation in the 


same Unitarian spirit, appealing with great power 
to the emotions of his hearers. After a very 
pathetic allocution he fell to the ground, as if 
overwhelmed by the vehemence of his feelings. 
Then he rose and intoned a hymn, which was 
taken up by the congregation, and then resumed 
his preaching. 

Among the non-Sabbatarian Molokane the 
service is more simple, being stripped of anything 
theatrical or showy. It merely consists in read- 
ings from the Bible, interrupted now and again 
by some pious observation or comment from the 
reader. There is neither a peculiar dress nor 
permanency attached to the office of reader. 
There are generally, in each congregation, some 
five or six people who are tacitly admitted to 
be the most versed in the Scriptures, and one of 
these takes the chair and reads, indiscriminately. 
At intervals, and at the beginning and conclusion 
of the service, a choir sings psalms. The tunes 
are various, and generally very pleasing some- 
thing between the regular Church music and the 
melodies of our national songs. It is a pity that 
our collectors of popular songs have paid no 
attention to the religious melodies of some of our 


The Sabbatarian colony in the Caucasus, where 
they were deported in Nicolas I.'s time, have 
developed into a sect much more nearly allied to 
Judaism than that of their Russian co-religionists. 
They accept the Talmud, and they expect the 
Messiah in the guise of a King and Conqueror, 
who is to appear at the close of the seven thousandth 
year, dating from the creation of the world 
(Mosaic style). They follow the Jewish ritual in 
the marriage ceremony and the burial service, 
and permit divorce ; and they use the Jewish 
prayers in a Russian translation. 

Among the Caucasian Sabbatarians we meet 
with another curious sub-division of the sect the 
so-called Herrs, who are as completely judaised 
as is possible to any of their nationality. They 
elect a born Jew as Rabbi, and they pray in the 
Jewish language, which they try to learn. The 
number of these Russian moujiks who strive for 
the sake of their creed to become Jews is small, 
about one thousand one-fifth of the whole body 
of Sabbatarians. None of the branches of this 
sect give any sign of great vitality. They do not 
increase, and they have no influence on the popular 
religious movements among the masses. They 
are shunned, and in their turn shun the people. 


Nevertheless, as one of our theological curiosities, 
they must not be ignored. 

The Molokane proper present, on the contrary, 
a sect which above all is distinguished by its 
spirit of proselytism. 

"It would be difficult for me " we return to 
the reminiscences of our celebrated historian "to 
forget two men to whom I owe most of my infor- 
mation about the doctrine of the Molokane. One 
of them, with whom we became fast friends, a 
worthy man, formerly a member of the sect, has 
long since passed over to the orthodox Church. 
The priest of his parish considers him to be the 
most zealous and virtuous member of the congre- 
gation. There was, however, a time when he was 
looked upon as being most learned and dangerous 
among the propagandists of the Molokane heresy. 
Scores of people were won over by him from the 
orthodox Church. It was rumoured that in those 
days none could resist his intellectual power. It 
sufficed that he should have one or two hours' 
talk with a man ; then if his interlocutor were not 
so obstinate as to remain deaf to his arguments, 
notwithstanding his own inner conviction, the 
heresiarch was sure to convert him. There was 
in him a power of logic, accompanied by a sort of 


irresistible personal fascination, which predisposed 
the interlocutors in his favour. He knew a lot of 
texts, and applied them with great ability, putting 
insoluble questions to his opponent, confounding 
him, and deducing from his opinions contradic- 
tions and absurdities. 

" His greatest exploit as a dialectician was about 
the year 1820, in the reign of Alexander I., before 
the Emperor gave free play to the spirit of 
reaction. The Molokane were in the enjoyment 
of comparative toleration, and the bureaucracy had 
not as yet extended its attentions to the region of 
the Volga, which still remained a vast wilderness. 

" With the accession of Nicolas I. began the era 
of persecution. The Saratov Molokane preserve 
bitter recollections of these hard times, up to the 
present day. There was among them a certain 
Isaeff, a zealous and obstinate preacher. Some 
honest priests had, in the kindness of their hearts, 
tried to persuade him to give up his errors, but in 
vain. Isaeff was so skilful a dialectician that he 
confounded and routed the priests themselves. 
After several ' correctional ' punishments, he was 
indicted before the criminal court and condemned 
to the knout. He expired on the scaffold under 
the blows of this instrument, which was applied 


to his back with particular ferocity, because the 
obstinate heretic refused to make any recantation. 

" Then the priest declared that the devil had 
taken the soul from the body of the heretic just 
knouted to death, and had placed it in the living 
body of a certain Trofim, who thus becoming 
possessed of two souls, his own and Isaeffs, 
began to preach with twice the ardour of the 
deceased. The propagandism of Trofim was soon 
brought to a close, however, and his voice silenced 
by the knout, like that of his predecessor. 

"It was at this time that my friend passed over 
to the orthodox Church. Having been the fore- 
most in deeds, he had reason to expect that he 
would also be the foremost in punishment. But 
he assured me that his change of faith was the 
result of conviction, ascribing his conversion to 
the reading of the Fathers of the Church, such as 
St. John Chrysostom." 

The other Molokane leader mentioned by 
N. Kostomarov, a man of a younger generation, 
fairly illustrates the changes wrought by modern 
thought upon the best elements of our rural classes, 
both nonconformists and orthodox. A staunch 
and inflexible adherent of his creed, he had 
endured for it, several years of arbitrary im- 


prisonment. Purely theological questions did not, 
however, absorb his awakening intelligence, and 
he strove for something else besides. "He was a 
man of surpassing natural intelligence," says our 
historian. "He had picked up some knowledge 
here and there out of the few books he could 
obtain, and felt deeply the necessity of a broader 
education. The fact that his co-religionists were 
deprived of any means of substantial education, 
and were thus compelled to limit their reading to 
the Scriptures, afflicted him sorely. He showed 
a lively interest in modern secular literature, and 
in the many questions, both social and political, 
discussed therein. He was, in a word, a man 
who excited in me a mixed feeling of respect and 
sorrow : great is the number of people, endowed 
with such high gifts, who perish nowadays among 
our rural population under the weight of circum- 

The Molokane call themselves Spiritual Chris- 
tians, a title very appropriate to their doctrines ; 
but they do not object to be called Molokane, 
which simply means milk-eaters. This was 
originally a nickname given to them by the 
orthodox commonalty, because they keep no fasts 
and use milk freely on fast-days. By twisting 


an expression of St. Paul's about the " milk " of 
Christian love, they made the name square with 
their views. 

The Molokane are strict Christians, and even 
orthodox as regards the fundamental theological 
dogmas. They accept in its entirety the Christian 
conceptions of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, 
the human soul, and the life beyond the grave. 
They do not trouble themselves with theosophy 
and cosmogony, as their elder brothers the 
Dukhoborzy do. Their doctrine commended 
itself to the people by its perfect sobriety and 
absence of any tendency to mysticism. They do 
not recognise " inspiration," or the "inner word," 
as of supreme authority in matters pertaining to 
faith, accepting the Bible as the only base of their 
religion. They, however, distinguish two things 
in the Scriptures the letter, and the spirit, or sense. 
They completely neglect the former, accepting 
the sense, or meaning of the Scriptures, as they 
understand it, for guidance. Thus they reject all 
external signs of worship, from the ikons and 
mass down to the sign of the Cross. They 
reject likewise all the sacraments, Baptism and 
Eucharist included, as unnecessary, though they 
fully recognize that the first of these sacraments 


was performed by the apostles, and the second by 
Jesus Christ. They believe that these outward 
signs were meant only as a means for the better 
singling out of the early Christians from the 
heathen population by which they were sur- 
rounded. Now that Christianity has become 
an inherited creed, professed by entire nations, 
there is no need for these outward distinctions. 
" The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life," 
quote the Molokane. Baptism in itself is in- 
efficient ; it cannot aid in the salvation of the 
soul, because it can neither prevent the baptised 
from doing that which is evil nor screen him 
from the punishment he will thereby merit. A 
man christened in childhood may remain in total 
darkness as to God's commandments ; he may 
yet live as a heathen, and has therefore no right 
to bear the name of Christian ; whereas if a man 
has not been plunged in the baptismal font, but 
yet believes in Christ and fulfils all his command- 
ments, is it possible that he shall be damned ? 
On sending his Apostles to preach the Gospel 
to the world, Jesus Christ commanded them, " Go 
ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them 
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and 
of the Holy Ghost : teaching them to observe 


all things whatsoever I have commanded you. ' 
The Molokane conclude from this that by Baptism 
is meant the purification and renewing of man 
by the teachings of Christ. They quote many 
passages from Scripture in which the word "water" 
is used metaphorically, in the sense of " doctrine ; " 
for instance, in the prophecy that " living waters 
shall go out from Jerusalem." If, say the 
Molokane, immersion in water is essential to 
salvation, because thus runs the letter of the 
Scriptures, why should we not take the word 
"fire" in the same literal sense, and burn our- 
selves as some Rascolniks do ? 

The Molokane argue in a similar spirit to 
account for their rejection of the Eucharist. The 
Sacrament is to be accepted in a spiritual sense, 
representing, through a thorough impregnation, 
on the part of the believer, with the doctrines of 
the Gospels, so close a communion with Christ 
as to make him one with Christ in blood and 
body, and able to destroy, in himself, any sinful 

This kind of communion alone is efficacious as 
a means to salvation, whereas those who eat of 
the holy wafer and drink of the consecrated wine 
in church are not in the least improved thereby, 


and continue to sin as before, nor are they pre- 
served from condign punishment. 

As regards marriage, which the orthodox Church 
considers to be a sacrament, they say : Are the 
unchristian life and mutual offences between a 
husband and wife sanctified by their having been 
wedded in a church ? Mutual love and confidence, 
that it is which makes marriage sacred, not the 
rite. God created men and women, and esta- 
blished a law that they should unite. If they have 
chosen one another, and mutual love is kindled 
in their hearts, it means that God has singled 
them out for one another and blessed them, to 
love each other and to live in friendship and 
peace, and not to separate. If there is no longer 
union and confidence between them, it is better 
that they should part company. 

Marriage among the Molokane is based ex- 
clusively on the wishes of the young people. 
The parents have no right to interfere, beyond 
the point to which the children should be in- 
clined to allow them to go. They have no power 
to force their will, even by refusing them material 
assistance towards setting up a new house. The 
rrnr would interpose, and compel the fathers to 
give their share of property to the young people. 


The ceremony of marriage is reduced to a 
public declaration by the contracting parties 
The elder reads some appropriate passage from 
the Scriptures the account of Tobias' marriage, 
for instance delivers a short address, and invokes 
the blessing of God upon the young couple. 

Divorce is permitted by the Molokane, though 
practically hardly known amongst them. The well- 
established habit of mutual deference between 
the sexes, helps to preserve the union when once 
contracted, more effectually than any canonical 
prescription could do. 

We will not here expend more time on the 
further exposition of other details of the Molo- 
kane s creed. 

The former examples suffice to illustrate the 
peculiar bent of their doctrines. In their striving 
after the sense and spirit of the Scriptures, they 
may be accepted as a protest on the part of the 
popular mind against the extreme formalism of 
the State Church. Yet, as far as the dogmatic 
part of their doctrine is concerned, the Molokane 
keep within the bounds of Protestantism. They 
disagree with the Protestants in some of their con- 
clusions, but adhere to the same method : they 
hinge all their opinions on the documentary 


evidence of the Scriptures ; they compare one 
text with another ; they comment on the Scrip- 
tures by the lights borrowed from the Scriptures. 

But the Molokane apply their usual principle 
of separating the kernel from the husk, to the 
historical part of the Scriptures, which puts them 
on a somewhat different footing. In all the 
Gospels and in the Bible they seek after the 
spiritual sense and the moral idea conveyed by 
the narrative. 

" There are parts of the Scriptures," they say 
" the parables which are plainly given to us as 
stories which never happened in reality, but are 
intended to convey certain moral or religious 
lessons. Suppose that the whole of the Gospel 
is only a Parable, which by God's Providence 
was written for our edification ; men can use it 
for their salvation all the same." The Molokane 
do not really deny the historical side of the 
Gospel. They only think that a man might doubt 
the historical value of all, or some part, of the 
Scriptures, and yet need not thereby necessarily 
cease to be a Christian, the Scriptures, according 
to them, being intended as a source of moral 
perfection for humanity. This perfection can be 
attained by any man who has assimilated the high 


doctrines contained in the Gospels, and lives 
according to them ; but not by a mere belief in 
the reality of the events described therein. 
Whether these events happened exactly as they 
are represented in the Scriptures ; or whether, 
owing to the great lapse of time, they have 
reached us in a modified form this is, according 
to the Molokane, a question of history, not of 
religion. The Gospel remains a Divine revelation, 
whatever be the solution of the controversy. 

Leaving the question of the theological signifi- 
cance of these views alone, it is easy to see that 
the Molokane have remained throughout, faithful 
co the national spirit of our people. Moved by 
the same intellectual need of a reasoned-out and 
freely-chosen religion which inspired the Protes- 
tants of the West, they drew from the Bible and 
developed with great consistency their funda- 
mental doctrine of Salvation by Good Works as 
opposed to the doctrine of Salvation by Faith 
held by the individualistic West. 

The modern sects, which shall be described in 
the following chapter, exhibit exactly the same 
tendency. Though they have sprung up quite 
independently of Molokane influence, they stand to 
the latter in the same relation as the Molokane 



stand to the Dukhoborzy ; they have simplified 
their theology in order to render their ethics more 
comprehensive and accessible to the mind of the 
people. That is why they have obtained such an 
unprecedented success. 

In the first quarter of this century we see 
among the Molokane some interesting attempts 
to carry the Christian ideals of social life and 
organization to their full length. In 1820 a 
remarkable man, Maxim Akenfievitch Popoff, a 
peasant of the Province of Samara, began to preach 
the communism of the early Christians to his 
fellow Molokane. After several years of untiring 
effort, he succeeded in bringing all his fellow- 
villagers over to his views. They accepted his 
plan of social reform and organisation. Private 
property was abolished altogether ; all the money 
they possessed was brought to the common bank, 
and the herds of cattle declared to be the common 
property of the whole village. Field labour and 
most of the household labour was performed in 
common. The commune elected special officials, 
members of seven denominations, as judges, a 
cashier, a teacher, and several directors, both 
male and female, to superintend the various 
branches of work. Together they formed an 


administrative council, which decided upon every 

The example of Nicolaevka produced a great 
effect among all the surrounding villages. Some 
of them, Yablonovka and Tiagloe-Ozero, for 
instance, joined in a body, and introduced the 
organization proposed by Popoff. In others, his 
followers were active in propagating his doctrines. 

At this juncture, however, Popoff was arrested 
and exiled to Transcaucasia. For several years 
he had to suffer many hardships there, but after a 
time succeeded in winning another village over to 
his views, and organised a new communistic as- 
sociation on the same plan. He was re-arrested, 
and this time exiled to Siberia. 

The communistic experim< started by him 
held their ground for some time, but the com- 
munes gradually returned, one after another, to 
the old methods, and re-established the ordinary 
system of land tenure and private property. The 
Transcaucasian followers of Popoff, forming 
several villages, containing five hundred and forty - 
five families in all, have preserved from their 
ancient communistic organisation only the follow- 
ing form of mutual assistance. They give every 
tenth rouble, and every tenth sack of corn they 


harvest, to charity. The task of distributing this 
is superintended by a judge and a cashier. 

About twenty years later, in the middle of 
the present century, another Molokane teacher, 
Lukian Sokoloff, made a second attempt in the 
direction of Christian Communism, but without 
any marked success. 

This was more than the people could put up 
with, and, after the religious excitement had 
subsided, they declined to try it. The bulk of 
the Molokane do not go beyond the social and 
economical principles common to all Russian 

Constant meditation on matters pertaining to 
religion, in the broad and rational spirit of their 
creed, and the diligent and intelligent study of 
the Bible, have, in the course of two or three 
generations, made the Molokane the most intellec- 
tually developed body amongst the whole of our 
rural population. Then, too, the Molokane are 
always much better off than their orthodox 
brethren, all sectarians are, the " rational " as 
well as the perfectly irrational ones. The com- 
munity of religious interests has developed 
amongst all of them a spirit of cohesion and 
mutual assistance which makes them proof 


against external pressure, especially when isolated 
and persecuted, as the Molokane were up to quite 
recent times. Though based on the same prin- 
ciple, the communal life of the Molokane is in- 
finitely superior to that of the common Orthodox. 
If we want to see what a genuine Russian mir 
can be, when composed of intelligent and well- 
to-do peasants, we must go among the Molokane. 
As regards the Imperial Government, the 
Molokane are not so straightforward as the 
Dukhoborzy. They do not deny it altogether, 
adopting St. Paul's teaching in matters of civil 
authority, but thev do not consider implicit allegi- 
ance to be a Christian duty. They resist, though 
passively, all orders contrary to their convictions ; 
they do not take oaths, either before the tribunals 
nor when enrolled into the army, and they do not 
fight. The Government has been compelled to 
put up with these insuperable aversions. The 
Molokane (and the Dukhoborzy) are enrolled 
without being sworn, and are told off to non- 
fighting departments of the army. 



IN passing from the rationalistic sects of old 
standing to the modern ones, we shall have to 
deal with a series of denominations of very recent 
date. The most conspicuous of these, the Stunda, 
is only seventeen years old. The famous Sutaev 
founded his sect about the year 1877. The oldest, 
the Shalaput, assumed its present rationalistic 
character about the year 1860. Other sects of 
the same class date their existence from yester- 

Only one of these sects has been studied in 
a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Of many we 
know little but the name. Yet what we do know 
about modern sectarianism is sufficient to show 
that we are in the presence, not of a few new 
sects alone, but of a new and important phase in 
the religious history of our people 

First of all, one peculiarity of the present reli- 
gious movement must be noted. It was started 
among the Southern Russians (Ruthenians), 


known in the past for their unswerving ortho- 
doxy and indifference to sectarianism. It spread 
thence chiefly among the orthodox population of 
Great Russian descent, amongst whom sects of 
exactly the same character have been spontane- 
ously formed. The new sects invade the Rascol, 
making converts at its expense. 

Formerly the lead in any religious movement 
was invariably taken by the Rascol, the reli- 
gious elements animating the orthodox population 
being too feeble, both numerically and intellec- 
tually, to form independent nuclei. Religious 
people passed over to the various sects of the 
Rascol, swelling that huge body of from twelve 
to fifteen millions of people, contributing thus, by 
the infusion of new elements, to keep it brisk and 

The Molokane and Dukhoborzy were the only 
sects which grew on their own ground, indepen- 
dently of the Rascol. But these sects only at- 
tracted the picked men from among the orthodox 
masses. They spread steadily but slowly. In 
the hundred years covering their historical exist- 
ence they hardly mustered more than half a 
million of adherents. The modern sects, on the 
contrary, spread with the rapidity which is 


characteristic of genuine popular movements. By 
1878, according to Yousoff, these new sects, after 
some ten or twelve years of existence, had won 
over more, or at least as many, adherents as the 
Molokane and Dukhoborzy had done in a cen- 

The Russian Government is very unwilling to 
advertise its weaknesses. We have therefore no 
official figures as to the progress of modern sec- 
tarianism during the last decade ; but the special 
council of bishops, held under the presidency of 
Pobedonoszev himself (September 1884, at Kieff), 
the repeated circulars of the Holy Synod, enjoin- 
ing the clergy to boldly fight the spread of 
popular Protestantism, all prove that the move- 
ment has not slackened. 

In a recent telegram from the St. Petersburg 
correspondent of a morning paper we are told 
that the Stunda is supposed, by well-informed 
persons, to be several millions strong in the 
south of Russia (Daily News, November 24th, 

No religious movement in Russia has shown 
half the same power of contagion. The great 
Rascol of the seventeenth century, if the reader 
remembers, mustered, after the first twenty-five 


years of its existence, a mere handful of people- 
nothing when compared with these new sects. 

This movement is so sprightly and fresh, so 
full of young reformatory zeal, that it is not easy 
to determine its precise formulation ; but its 
novelty affords us, on the other hand, a precious 
opportunity for the immediate observation of the 
very process of its creation, and for feeling the 
very palpitation of the popular heart, which seeks 
in religion a solace for its pains and the satisfac- 
tion of its yearnings. 

The sect which is the most carefully studied, 
and which is in many respects the most charac- 
teristic, is that of the Stunda, or Evangelicals, as 
they prefer to call themselves. None afford a 
better insight into the inner motives and impulses 
at work within the new sectarian movement. The 
Stunda being at the same time the most numerous 
and the most pushing, these observations are of 
the greatest general interest. 

The Stunda was founded under the direct 
influence of the German Protestants settled in 
Southern Russia. The sect still preserves the 
traces of its origin in the name given to it. The 
word Stunda, according to Znachko Yavorski, is 
derived from Stunde, or " the hours," as the 


church service was called among the Germans 
of the same persuasion in the German colony of 

The founder of the sect, Michael Ratushny, a 
peasant of the neighbouring village of Osnova, 
worked there as a wage labourer for several 
summers. He was invited by his employer, a 
German Stundist, to take part in their services. 
They talked about religious matters, the Stundist 
advocating the superiority of Protestantism over 
orthodoxy. Ratushny was much impressed by 
what he saw and heard. On returning home for 
the winter he talked the matter over with his 
fellow- villagers. He had no intention as yet of 
founding a new sect, as he afterwards explained 
at his first trial. Everything happened quite 
naturally and unexpectedly to himself. 

" One day," he said. " at a village meeting the 
people began to discuss spiritual matters, and the 
priest who was present could not explain anything 
to the people's satisfaction. Thereupon I felt 
within myself a burning desire to understand God's 
words with my own mind, and to explain them 
to others. There were many people desirous of 
hearing me, and I went on teaching the Gospel, 
as I understood it myself, to all of them." 


Thus was the first nucleus of the Stunda gra- 
dually formed at Osnova during the years 1864-66. 

There was no spirit of proselytism among the 
German Protestants, who had lived side by side 
with the Russians for a hundred years without 
making any converts. Neither did any of them 
pass over to the Russians to preach among them 
now ; but Ratushny and several of the early 
Stundists repeatedly visited the Germans of 
Rorbach. It was natural that they should wish for 
more detailed instructions from those who had been 
the first to awaken within them a new religious 
life. It is certain that the German Stundists 
contributed much towards giving definite shape 
and formulation to the creed of their early Russian 
brethren, though at the trials the latter wisely kept 
silence on the matter, so as not to get their 
German friends into trouble. 

The early Stunda fully accepted the Protestant 
catechism, the Protestant sacraments, and the ritual 
of the service. The simplicity of the Presbyterian 
service, so well suited to the tastes of our people, 
has been preserved up to the present time, but 
in other respects the Russian Stunda very soon 
underwent a modification. It rejected the two 
Protestant sacraments. One branch of the sect 


the Old Stunda preserved them as simple rites ; 
the other branch the young Stunda rejected 
them altogether, abolishing likewise the dignity 
of the elder brother, or elected Presbyter. They 
adopted the same mode of service as we have 
seen among the Molokane. 

As regards the higher theological dogmas, the 
Stunda do not seem to differ in any way from 
Orthodox Christians. It is not quite clear whether 
they push the freedom of interpretation and the 
spiritualisation of the Scriptures to the same point 
as the Molokane do. The sect is still in the state 
of being formed, and its doctrinal side is not yet 
definitely settled. The Stundists show, however, 
a marked tendency to simplify the speculative 
part of their doctrine by accepting the views of 
the Orthodox Christians, such as they are. 

Still, the real difference between the Molokane 
and the Stundists the first representing ancient, 
the second modern, popular Protestantism con- 
sists in their general physiognomy rather than 
in any particular tenets. The Stundists are the 
Protestants of the New Testament. The Molo- 
kane are the Protestants of the Bible. Both sects 
of course accept the whole of the Scriptures, but 
the Stunda makes little use of the Old Testament. 


" To the Gospels the Stundists look for general 
principles for examples of Christian virtues, and 
for the whole code of individual morality. In 
the Epistles and Acts they see the legislative 
part of the New Testament, embodying the 
principles on which Christian communities ought 
to be based " (Slovo, 1880). 

The most erudite Stundists read the Bible, and 
will make an occasional quotation from it, but they 
consider the New Testament as quite sufficient 
for the edification of a Christian. All the impor- 
tant points of their doctrine are based upon the 
New Testament, whilst the Molokane use the Old 
and the New Testaments indiscriminately. Thus, 
for example, the Molokane reject the orthodox 
fasts, which consist in abstinence from certain 
kinds of food on prescribed days and at certain 
seasons, whilst they admit the old Jewish method 
of fasting, i.e., total abstinence from food and 
drink, leaving every Christian free to choose the 
time and the duration of his self-imposed mortifi- 
cation of the flesh. The Stzmdists, however, con- 
sider that fasts are abolished altogether, like the 
whole of the Jewish law. They declare the 
practice to be one of the many inventions of 
the priests, intended the better to secure their 


dominion over their people. They deny that the 
words of Christ, " The spirit is willing, but the flesh 
is weak," justify the practice of fasting, but, on 
the contrary, interpret it in just the opposite 
sense : " Since the flesh is weak," they say, " it 
must not be further weakened by insufficient 
nourishment" In controversies with the ortho- 
dox, they are fond of likening the body to an ox, 
and the soul to its driver, and they ask trium- 
phantly : " When is your ox likely to work the 
best when it is kept in good condition or when 
it is under- fed?" 

The MoLokane are fully penetrated with the 
high precepts of Christian love and charity ; but, 
with a fellow-feeling with the thrifty patriarchs of 
biblical times, they consider the accumulation of 
worldly goods, and the " multiplication of herds 
and of slaves," as a special sign of God's grace, and 
in nowise objectionable in a true Christian. 

The Stundists do not preach community of 
goods, but with them the levelling tendencies of 
the Gospel, unalloyed by the traditions of Jewish 
customs and class distinctions, appear more pro- 
minent and pure and binding. All this makes 
them simpler, fresher, and more popular in their 
social conceptions. 



This difference, combined with the ardour of 
a first explosion, which the Molokane spent in an 
earlier struggle, carried on in more ungrateful 
times, has caused the Stunda to spread like wild- 
fire, whilst the Molokane have moved very slowly. 

The new sect has spread, indeed, rather by 
contagion than by active propagandism. 

As soon as the neighbouring villages learned 
that the Osnova people had gone over to the 
Stunda, they followed their example. Congrega- 
tions were formed in the villages of 'Rastopol, 
Ignatovka, etc., in the same Odessa district. 
The Stunda next appeared in the neighbouring 
town of Nicolaev, and in the village of Zlynka in 
the Elisavetgrad district all in the same Province 
of Kherson. 

Three years had not elapsed before the sect 
had spread over the provinces of Ekaterinoslav, 
Kharkoff, and Poltava, and then leaped over the 
boundaries into Tchernigov, Mogilev, and Kieff. 
In 1877 it appeared in St. Petersburg, and then 
in Moscow. 

Such extraordinary rapidity in the propagation 
of the new creed is the most conclusive proof of 
the spontaneity of the movement, all the more 
so that neither Ratushny nor any of his early 


followers showed any particular talent as pro- 
pagandists. The ground was evidently well 
prepared beforehand. 

In the literature of the Stunda there is one 
precious document, which throws much light on 
the spiritual conditions of the South Russian 
people, who form the bulk of the members of the 
new sect. It is Tfie Autobiography of a Southern 
Stundist, from the pen of a former serf, who in 
the thirty-seventh year of his age came across 
the Stunda and immediately became one of its 

The account of his conversion only occupies a few 
of the concluding pages of his story. The bulk of 
it relates in a naive, unconcerned way the history 
of a life of almost uninterrupted suffering. It 
reveals to us a delicate moral nature, eminently 
sensitive to right and wrong, struggling from 
childhood under the blows of brutal selfishness, 
wickedness, and cruelty. There is no bile in 
his heart. He does not rebel, though some- 
times he disobeys; but in the innermost depths 
of his soul he never submits. He never over- 
looks injustice done to others or inflicted on 
himself. Against such trespasses his heart pro- 
tests keenly and passionately, and when over 


whelmed with pain, and disgust, and despair, 
there arises within it a vehement appeal to God, 
the Protector of the distressed. 

We see before us a man with the intensely 
religious temperament, so common among the 
peasants of all branches of the Russian race, 
whose notions, associated with the name of religion, 
are, however, exceedingly limited. Of the faith 
to which he belonged by birth he knew only some 
parts of a prayer his mother had taught him. He 
tells us how, on one occasion, he remembered the 
priest had one day said in his sermon, " Pray to 
God and the saints in heaven." "These words 
came to my mind when I was taking the horses 
into the steppes to graze, and I said to myself, I 
wish I knew how to become a godly man. This 
thought laboured within me for a long time. How 
glad should I be to take counsel of somebody who 
is wise in such matters ; would it not be well to 
ask father when he comes home ? But no, father 
won't be able to explain such things to me, he 
himself is a great sinner. And so I went on, 
looking after the herd and ruminating within 
myself, What shall I do to become a godly 
man ? I pondered over the question for several 


" And there were three hillocks * on this steppe. 
One day I, with my drove of horses, reached the 
biggest of these hillocks, which stood in the 
middle. The drove began to graze, the colts in 
the middle, and the mares keeping watch over 
their little ones, as they usually do. I left them 
alone and climbed the hillock by myself. When 
I reached the top of it, I saw a cavity of such 
depth that when I descended into its centre 
I could not be seen from any part. ' What a 
fool I was ! ' said I to myself. ' I have lived here 
for such a long time, and yet did not know that 
there were cavities on the tops of the hillocks.' 
I kneeled down and began to pray. That is the 
way to become a godly man. thought I. 

" I prayed there for many days. When I had 
climbed to the top of the hillock I felt as if I was 
nearer to God. But then there came over me 
doubts about my prayer. ' Is it the right one ?' 
I asked myself. ' Mother taught it me, so it is 
probably the right one.' And I began to think 
that mother was better than father, because she 
took no drink, and worked harder than father, 
that she was never idle at home, and always tried 

* Mohilas in the original, small artificial hills, supposed to 
be remains from pagan times. 


to earn something out of doors, wherewith to feed 
her children, and that father spent all his earnings 
in drink. Then I remembered, that people had 
said to me. that, if you pray to God for yourself 
alone, your prayer will not be heard, but that if 
you want to be heard you must pray for some- 
body else besides. And I said to myself, ' I will 
not pray for father, because he drinks, but I will 
pray for my mother and brothers.' And so I 
did. And I resolved to pray on each hillock in 
turn, one day on the first, the next on the second, 
the third on the last. Thus I prayed for three 
years, as long as father was employed on the 

estate of Mr. D , and I had to take the drove 

of horses to the steppe." 

Later on he had another religious fit, produced 
by accidentally hearing an Acathistus * in honour 
of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. For five years he 
prayed, repeating the few disjointed sentences 
from these hymns, which his memory retained. 
He rose by night, and wept and prayed in his 
almost inarticulate way with such fervour and 

* A hymn in honour of the Virgin Mary, used in the Greek 
Church, in memory of the deliverance of Constantinople from 
the barbarians in the seventh century, so called because those 
who sing it do not sit down. 


intensity that at one time he feared his brain 
would give way. 

What was he asking for in these ardent sup- 
plications ? He was not clear himself. He 
wanted to become a godly man, which to him 
meant to live a pure moral life, dedicated to 
spiritual works, and undefiled by that which he 
saw around him. 

He was told that at Kieff there was a monastery 
in which men led such a life. He ran away from 
his master and went thither. But what he saw 
and learned of the life and morals of the monks 
disgusted him so exceedingly that he escaped 
from the monastery on the third day and returned 
to his master, to be flogged for disobedience, 
rather than live in such a place. 

When, at the mature age of thirty-seven, he 
met a Stundist who, after a few explanatory 
remarks, put into his hands a copy of the Gospel 
for the first time in his life, it was a revelation 
to him, and his conversion to the new creed was 
at once assured. In the society of his new friends, 
and in the doctrines which they taught him, he 
found the solution of the doubts of his life, and 
the fulfilment of the ideals which he had always 
cherished in the innermost depths of his soul. 


The " Southern Stundist " belongs to the rank 
and file. Neither by his intelligence nor by his 
energy of thought can he be placed above the 
average. He was exceptionally unfortunate in 
the circumstances of his life, being the son of a 
homeless, hun ted-down, fugitive serf, and there- 
fore exceptionally ardent in his search after a 
refuge and consolation. There is, however, no 
lack of suffering in any of the walks of Russian 
peasant life, and many are bolder and more active 
in the search after truth than was the "Southern 

There were several trials of the early Stundists, 
at which the accused made a candid deposition as 
to their creed and the causes of their conversion. 
The only new factor in the accounts of these 
wholesale conversions, which is pointed out with 
greater clearness by all these declarations, is the 
incapacity of the clergy of the orthodox Church 
to satisfy the spiritual needs of the people, whilst 
in our story the clergy are merely conspicuous by 
the absence of any trace of their existence. For 
the rest, all of the sectarians who pass before us 
are shown to have been moved to join these sects 
by the same inner discontent and unrest at the 
sight of the wrongdoings which surround them. 


With most of them conversion was effected in the 
same simple and easy way as with the " Southern 
Stundist" that is, by the reading or hearing of 
the Gospel, with little, if any, additional effort on 
the part of the propagandist. 

The founder of the Stunda, Michael Ratushny, 
on his second trial explained, with modesty and 
unmistakable good faith, how wrong were those 
who accused him of having propagated the 
Stunda all over the Province of Kherson. 

" I had not the time to do it," he said. " but 
when the police came from the town to arrest me, 
and assembled the people, the priest came also, 
and when the people talked to him on scriptural 
matters he could prove nothing from the Scrip- 
tures, and then it was that the people began to 
doubt whether he was well versed in the Scriptures 
himself. When I was cast into prison all knew 
that I was locked up because I had read the 
Gospel. They wondered exceedingly, and all 
who could read procured the Gospel and began 
to read it for themselves. . . . Now the Scriptures 
can enlighten everybody and show them the 
way to salvation. When I was locked up for the 
second time people wondered again, and began 
to search after the Gospel with greater zeal, and 


to read it. That is how our doctrines have spread, 
and not, as some people think, through my having 
propagated it." 

At the trial of the Riazan Stundists in Septem- 
ber 1880, the Stundist Drosdov spoke about his 
spiritual experiences as follows : 

" I once stood in the church, and my soul 
was heavy within me, and I groaned in my heart, 
when suddenly a kind of unutterable exaltation 
came upon me. Then I went to the priest and 
said to him, ' Speak to me, father, and explain to 
me, for kindness' sake, everything according to 
the Scriptures.' He only abused me: 'Go away 
from me,' he said, ' you heretic ! ' 

At the first Odessa trial the Stundist Lopata 
said that nobody had urged him to embrace the 
Stunda. " I once heard a small boy read from 
the Gospel, and I then felt that one must forsake 
evil behaviour and lead a righteous life." He had 
many times heard the Gospel read in the church, 
but as the reading had not been distinct he had 
been able to understand nothing. 

At Khotiatino, near Kieff, a peasant woman 
had heard a vague account from someone as to 
in what the doctrine of the Stunda consisted. She 
had, however, already read the Gospels, and was so 


struck by the truth of the new creed that she im- 
nediately accepted it and put it into practice. She 
hrew all her ikons out of window, and began to 
Dreach that God must be worshipped in spirit and 
n good actions, and that men should live like 
brothers, and divide all they possessed amongst 
Dne another. 

Thus the Stunda spreads, the spontaneous sym- 
)athy of the hearers doing far more than any skill 

the part of the propagandists a trait common 
o all popular religions. 

In conclusion, we will quote the words of an 
orthodox clergyman, a recognised authority on 
he matter, who gives in the Cherson Diocesan 
Messenger the following opinion as to the mode 
and the causes of the rapid propagation of the 

"A closer study of the history of the propaga- 
ion of the Stunda has led me to the conclusion 
that its foundation and strength are to be sought 
n the spread of popular education among the 
people. There are among the Stundists illiterate 
people, but the bulk of the sectarians can read. 
When a common orthodox peasant goes over to 
the Stunda the first thing done is to teach him to 
read. Then they give him a copy of the New 


Testament, in which all the texts considered by 
them to be the most important are marked, and 
duly explained to the neophyte, after which he is 
definitely accepted as a member of their congrega- 
tion. There exist illiterate Stundists who know 
whole chapters of the New Testament by heart, 
and all the most important of its texts, with the 
indication of the chapters and verses. 

" Education is to a Stundist the chief means by 
which to win respect and authority in his congre- 
gation, and also the best vehicle for the propagation 
of the heresy. A Stundist well read in the Scrip- 
tures, and knowing to a nicety the doctrine of his 
sect, enters the house of some acquaintance may 
be or not rarely that of a perfect stranger and 
begins to read from the Gospel. A discussion is 
the natural result. The propagandist declares 
that he walked in darkness, but that now he has 
seen the light ; that the orthodox faith is not the 
true faith taught by Christ ; that the priesthood, 
for the sake of lucre, has invented a lot of cere- 
monies and rites ; that instead of the workings of 
God, in spirit and in truth, they have introduced 
idolatry (ikons and saints), and concealed the true 
Gospel from the people. Then the propagandist 
goes on to analyse the separate dogmas of the 


orthodox creed, proving their fallacy by quotations 
from the Scriptures, adding that they, the Stundists, 
have been much persecuted for their creed, and 
are persecuted still, but having once seen the light 
of the true creed they would rather die than 
return to darkness. 

11 The visit is repeated, and the thing invariably 
ends in the conversion of a part of the audience 
to the Stunda" 

The New Testament was a rare book in our 
villages until quite recent times. The Greek 
Church permits laymen to read the Scriptures, 
and, in principle, encourages the translation of the 
Bible into the native tongues. Old Slavonic, into 
which the Scriptures were translated when Chris- 
tianity was first taught to the Balkan Slavs, is 
not a foreign language to Russians. It is the 
root of both branches of the living Russian 
language : of Great Russian, which is the literary 
and official Russian, as well as of Ukrainian, or 
Southern Russian. 

There are, moreover, no popular dialects in our 
country. The fourteen millions of Ukrainians, 
settled in the plains of south-west Russia, all 
speak exactly the same language. The fifty 


millions of Great Russian peasants, from the 
shores of the Baltic to those of the Pacific, speak, 
with but slight provincialisms, pure, unsophisti- 
cated Russian the language in which Tolstoi 
writes his simpler stories and Lermontoff wrote 
the gem of his poems. To a Russian peasant Old 
Slavonic is no more difficult to learn than to an 
average educated Russian. If he were to set 
himself to read the Slavonic Bible, by the time 
he reached the middle of the book, if not sooner, 
he would, without the assistance of any teacher, 
have mastered the language completely. The 
Rascolniks, for example, find no difficulty in read- 
ing the Scriptures in the ancient version. This 
is not so, however, with the common orthodox 

A translation of the Scriptures into modern 
Russian was, therefore, very essential to them. 
Yet it is a fact very characteristic of our clergy 
that for centuries they never thought of making 
it. It was thanks to the untiring efforts of the 
three English clergymen, Paterson, Pinkerton, and 
Henderson, founders and promoters of the St. 
Petersburg branch of the London Bible Society, 
that the Russian version of the New Testament 
was published. Instituted in 1812, this branch 


society only succeeded in issuing a parallel 
Russian and Slavonic Gospel in 1818, and a 
separate Russian version of the complete New 
Testament only in 1824, by which time it had 
already published one in forty-one dialects of 
various savage and semi-savage tribes living on 
the outskirts of Russia. 

Two years later, in April 1826, the Russian 
branch of the Bible Society was suppressed by 
the Emperor Nicolas. The then Minister of 
Public Instruction, Admiral Shishkoff, and the 
Arch-Abbot, Totius, denounced the Bible Society 
as "a revolutionary association, intended for 
the overthrow of thrones and churches, of law, 
order, and religion throughout the world, with a 
view to establishing a universal republic," * 

As to the Russian branch of the said society, 
the Minister reported that "a most careful investi- 
gation of all the actions of this body shows clearly 
and unmistakably that, in translating the Scrip- 
tures from the language of the Church into that 
of novels and of the stage, the Russian Bible 
Society's sole objects were to shake the founda- 
tions of religion, to spread unbelief among the 

* " The Russian Bible Society," by the well-known Pypin, 
in the Vestnik Europy, 1868, vol. vi., p. 264, sqq. 


faithful, and to kindle civil war and foster rebellion 
in Russia."* 

The Society was suppressed, its property con- 
fiscated, and the printed sheets of the Old Testa- 
ment then in progress (reaching down to the 
Book of Ruth) put under lock and key. The 
work was not resumed until forty years later, in 
the second half of the next reign. 

The New Testament was not, however, with- 
drawn from circulation, and new reprints were 
issued by the Synod. In the reign of Alexander II. 
the Bible Society was partially resuscitated, under 
the more modest name of " Society for the En- 
couragement of Moral and Religious Reading." 
It had its committee in St. Petersburg and its 
affiliated branches in the provinces, and was com- 
posed of both clergy and laymen. But this 
society, with all its branches, was in its turn 
suppressed by the Emperor Alexander III., April 
24th, 1884. The Synod and the clergy in office 
cannot tolerate the idea that any other than the 
regular village pops, who are under their absolute 
control, should interfere in what they consider 
their exclusive business. 

The progress of popular education for it is 

* Idem. 


progressing unmistakably and rapidly, in the teeth 
of the Ministry of Public Instruction, which does 
everything to hinder it, this progress has achieved 
more than any amount of effort from the outside 
could have done. The awakening of the popular 
intelligence has created a spontaneous demand 
for spiritual food. Up to the present time religion 
has been the chief means of satisfying this new 
demand, and hence the enormous popularity of 
the Russian version of the Gospels. The book 
is as eagerly sought after by the Rascolniks as 
by the orthodox. As early as 1824, when the 
superstitious estrangement of the Rascolniks from 
anything connected with the Niconians was at its 
height, a Moscow agent of the St. Petersburg 
Bible Society reported that " most of the copies 
of the New Testament in the Russian version 
(then just issued) had been purchased by the 
Rascolniks, who read this salutary book, in their 
native tongue, with great attention." 

It must be added, however, that the Stundists, 
who in the first ten or twelve years of their exist- 
ence, at least, were almost exclusively Ukrainians, 
are peremptorily denied this satisfaction. They 
use the Great Russian version of the Gospels, 
the Church and the Government strictly pro- 



hibiting the Ukrainian version of any part of 
the Scriptures ; and there is little chance of 
the revocation of this interdict, the religious 
question in this case being complicated by the 
political one. 


WHILST the Stunda spread from the south and 
south-west, northwards, another sect, which is 
now an entirely rationalistic one, the Shalaput, 
gained a firm footing to the south-east. It also 
spread towards the north, keeping chiefly to the 
more eastern districts. 

This sect has not as yet been so well studied 
as the Stunda, though it is comparatively an old 
one. From what we know about it, the Shalaput 
sect appears to be somewhat clumsier and drier 
than its Ruthenian protagonist, but it offers the 
same distinctive characteristics of modern rational- 
istic dissent. It is a New Testament sect above 
all. It places the ethical and social side of Chris- 
tianity in the foreground as much as the Stunda 
does, and it has put these doctrines more 
thoroughly and skilfully into practice than the 
St2cnda has, owing partly to the greater associa- 
tiveness of the Great Russians, who form its chief 
contingent, partly to its longer existence. 


The Shalaput embraced religious rationalism 
some ten or fifteen years before the Stunda was 
founded. The circumstances of their conversion 
offer an additional illustration of the spontaneity 
and strength of rationalistic tendencies among the 
whole of the peasantry of modern Russia. 

The Shalaput sect did not start as a rationalistic 
one. Its founder, Abbacum Kopylov, an orthodox 
peasant of the province of Tambov, who died in 
prison in 1840, is said to have wandered for 
many years among the various sects, in search of 
the true faith. Judging by the Shalaput doctrine 
as first preached by Kopylov in 1820-30, the sects 
which impressed him as being the nearest to 
heaven must have belonged to some milder 
variety of the popular mystics, i.e., Chlists. The 
Shalaput maintained its mystical character during 
the leadership of Kopylov's son Philip, whilst 
it at the same time extended considerably to the 
Russian south-east. From the middle of the 
present century, however, a strong revulsion in the 
Shalaput doctrine shows itself. Three teachers, 
amongst them a woman named Hania, began to 
preach in favour of a practical, informal creed, 
based on the ethics of the Gospel, and strongly 
opposed to the former contemplative mysticism. 


In one generation the reformers succeeded in 
forming a curious sect, which hold their exterior 
forms of worship and their fundamental dogmas of 
ethics in common, whilst presenting considerable 
divergencies in matters of speculative doctrine. 

The main body of the Shalaput has gone over 
to genuine rationalism. It is in that capacity that 
they compete with the Stunda. But there are 
sections of the Slialaput who lean to the 
theosophy of the Dukhoborzy, or to the strange 
cosmical and historical generalisations of the 
Nemoliaki (Non-prayers), or to the reformed 
" Wanderers," or to some other rationalistic branch 
of the Rascol, In the Caucasus, the land of exile, 
whither all extreme sects have been huddled 
together, these divergencies sometimes appear 
within the same congregation. 

"In many congregations of the Caucasian 
Shalaput" says Abramov, the historian of this sect, 
" the members differ widely on many religious 
questions. Yet the complete uniformity of their 
social and ethical views keeps them together as 
a strong organic whole." 

This is not indifference towards religion. The 
Shalaput heads and the Sfialaput speeches are 
as crammed with texts, and their hearts are as 


strongly moved by the Gospel, as need be ; only 
they leave points of theology to individual taste 
as " irrelevant," putting up with all sorts of views. 
The form of worship had there been any dis- 
agreement about it would have offered more 
chance of endangering their unity ; but the ex- 
treme simplicity of their service, the absence of 
a priesthood, and the suppression of the formality 
of the sacraments, is acceptable, pleasing, and 
convenient to all alike. 

The ethics of the Gospel is the part they single 
out and exalt as the supreme religious truth. 
The earnest religious zeal of the sect seems to 
be spent entirely in this direction. As far as we 
know, the Shalaput is the only one of all our sects 
in which there exist, in working order, some 
practical examples of Christian communism. 
Abramov knows of four such communistic associ- 
ations in the Northern Caucasus. One of them 
which he has visited consists of forty households 
grouped together in five groups, one at each of 
the five ends of a large orthodox village. Each 
" end " forms a kind of big family. The fences 
between the houses have been removed, thus 
throwing open to all the houses an entrance into 
a vast common court. Clothes and household 


utensils are the only things which every family 
keeps to itself ; all the rest is common property. 
The five ends together form but one communistic 
association as regards both production and con- 
sumption. The field work is executed in common, 
according to a plan previously agreed upon by 
all. The produce is divided into four parts : one 
part is distributed between the families according 
to tfte number of eaters, i.e., their respective needs, 
independently of the amount of labour they can 
put at the service of the commune. Two parts 
of the produce are kept for seed, and for cases 
of emergency. The last quarter is taken to 
market. The money received is divided in the 
same communistic spirit between the five groups, 
according to their respective needs for the current 
year. One portion of it is sent to the reserve 
fund of the Shalaput of the province ; another is 
forwarded to the central fund of the whole SJiala- 
put federation, which has its seat in the Province 
of Tambov. 

The ordinary SJialaput congregations, which 
have nothing exceptional in their economical 
arrangements, have all some provision for the 
common good, quite irrespective of ordinary 
beneficence. Most members regularly contribute 


the "tithe" of all their earnings to the special fund 
intended for the relief of the needy. This is a 
heavy tax for a Russian moujik, whose resources 
are so limited. Yet the sacred tithe is paid, 
though there is no police to force it upon anybody. 

Some of the Shalaput congregations, moreover, 
impose upon themselves a good deal of gratuitous 
work for the benefit of the destitute, which they 
perform in the same spirit of religious discipline. 
"Whoso labours, prays," is their favourite saying. 

A life of labour is, according to the Shalaput, 
the surest path to salvation, and they always have 
a lot of texts ready to prove this. To live by the 
work of others is, on the other hand, considered 
as a particularly heavy sin. " I knew," says 
Abramov, "a rich peasant of the Province of 
Stavropol, a regular koulak, who held whole 
villages in bondage. Having married a young 
girl who was a leading Shalaputka, he turned 
Shalaput himself, and, by way of expiation for 
his former sins, opened his granary and his house 
and his purse to all who wanted to receive some- 
thing from him. In half a year he became as 
poor a labourer as the rest." 

The sect of the Shalaput s exists in eleven 
provinces of south-eastern and central Russia. 


It is constantly on the increase, mostly at the 
expense of orthodoxy, though it is very successful 
with the Rascol likewise. 

In the Province of Stavropol, and in the region 
of Terek, they form from 5 to 1 5 per cent, of the 
whole population. 

The Shalaputs are united into a sort of federa- 
tion. The elected Elders or " readers " of each 
congregation, performing the simple functions of 
ministers, are likewise invested with a sort of 
administrative authority. Once a year or so the 
Elders of the congregations meet in some town 
generally at "fair" time, and hold in secret, as 
a matter of course the so-called " Councils of the 
Fathers," to discuss and settle questions of general 
interest. It is said that the Shalaputs have a kind 
of postal service of their own, not trusting to the 
discretion of the general Post Office. Special 
"travellers " periodically visit all the congregations 
of the Provinces, and transmit all messages of any 
importance to their destinations. To avoid detec- 
tion they sometimes use a cipher alphabet. The 
key to it was found out in 1875 by an orthodox 
pop, who communicated his discovery to the police. 
It was of such a rudimentary character as to prove 
it to be of their own invention. 


These signs of the existence of a compact 
organization must not be regarded as anything 
unusual or extraordinary. It is simply a proof 
that the Shalaputs are an old sect, which under- 
went a certain intellectual transformation whilst 
preserving its outward cohesion. All Russian 
sects of long standing find means of developing 
into a kind of loose federation. The "Wanderers" 
have done this. The "Priestless" and "Priestly" 
have done it in a better form even than that 
described above. 

The Stundists, who are still in their infancy as 
a sect, have also taken the first steps towards the 
formation of a future organisation : they now and 
then hold local councils, and have a common fund, 
intended for the support of those brethren who 
have suffered for the creed, and also for the 
equipment and support of the propagandists who 
undertake the mission of " preaching the Gospel 
to the idolaters," which means, the orthodox. 

There is one curious thing amongst the Shala- 
puts which is worth mentioning. Some sections 
of this sect still hold strange views on the relations 
of the sexes. There are Shalaputs who preach the 
doctrine of complete abstinence : one must live, 
they say, with a wife as with a sister. Others 


temporise in favour of comparative abstinence, at 
the same time admitting a certain gradation in the 
sinfulness of matrimonial life. The less objec- 
tionable form, in their opinion, is that which is based 
on strong spiritual attraction. The SJialaput of this 
persuasion chooses accordingly among the women 
of his congregation a "confessor," his wife being 
of course at liberty to do the same in her turn. 
Thus, outside the legitimate families, others 
illegitimate grow up, the legitimate ones not 
being dissolved. With the views held by our 
peasants as to property, which are fully endorsed 
by the sectarians, a man and wife who have 
worked side by side for a long time, have become 
joint partners in everything they have earned 
together. The legitimate families are therefore 
preserved as an economical union, but the 
husband maintains and rears the children of his 
illegitimate wife, whilst his own are maintained 
and reared in the family of his "confessor." 

All these peculiarities are evidently the last 
remains of the old Chlists to which the Shalaputs 
formerly belonged. Driven from the domain of 
speculative doctrine, it has lingered longest in the 
common institutions of everyday life. 


BESIDES the two large rationalistic sects, a number 
of smaller ones of the same type are reported as 
being founded here and there, almost every week, 
showing an exuberance of religious feeling which 
nowadays generally finds vent within the rational- 
istic bodies. Here we will describe only one of 
them, which is interesting both on its own account 
and as a fair sample of the majority. 

In 1876, in consequence of a denunciation by the 
local priest, a peasant of the Province of Novgorod, 
named Vasily Sutaev, was indicted before a 
magistrate under the charge of having refused 
to christen his grandson. At the interrogation 
Sutaev answered that he had refused to christen 
his grandson because it is said in the Scriptures, 
" Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in 
the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of 
sins," and the child could not repent his sins. 
The tribunal acquitted Sutaev. 

The next year, 1877, the same priest lodged a 


new denunciation against the man, accusing him 
and his handful of followers of being " socialists 
who recognize no authorities." This caused the 
sect and its founder to be for the first time brought 
before the public. 

A well-known investigator of our nonconformist 
bodies, A. Prugavin, paid a visit to the social 
reformer of Shevelevo, and published a very inter- 
esting paper about the new sect and its founder 
in one of our periodicals. 

Of late the name of Sutaev has acquired con- 
siderable notoriety, owing to his great intimacy 
with Count L. Tolstoi, the novelist, who has also 
recently joined the sectarians. In relating the 
story of his inner struggles he says that the man 
who helped him most to issue victoriously from 
out of the net of contradictions and falsehoods, 
and to form his present creed, was Sutaev. 

Such a testimonial, from the author of War 
and Peace, makes it doubly interesting to follow 
the development of the religious idea in him. 

Sutaev gave definite shape to his doctrine when 
he was about fifty years of age. His creed was 
the summing up of a life's experiences. Born 
before the Emancipation, he came of age and 
married at twenty, when serfdom was at an end. 


The first use he made of the comparative inde- 
pendence of married life was to learn to read. 
He mastered this, to grown-up people, rather 
difficult art, and went to St. Petersburg to work 
as a stonecutter at a monumental mason's shop. 
After some ten or twelve years of work he suc- 
ceeded in scraping a small capital together, and 
started in a shop of his own. His business 
prospered. In time he got some leisure, which 
he and his eldest boy, who served as shop assis- 
tant, were fond of spending in "salutary" reading. 
Their favourite book was, of course, the Gospel. 
They were very much impressed by the con- 
stant contradiction of practical life, their own 
included, to the teachings of the Scriptures. 
Their profession gave them many twinges of 
conscience. The son, Dmitri, was particularly 
sensitive about it. 

"We are sinning, father," he repeated "There 
is a good deal of sin in commerce. We must 
give it up." 

The father tried to persuade him to let the 
matter rest for a short time, only for one year, 
but the young man could not stand it, and leaving 
the shop engaged himself as manual labourer 
somewhere else. Both the son and the father, 


faithful to their peasant origin, considered com- 
merce to be not " work," but "usury." 

A year later Sutaev closed his shop as he had 
promised. The 1,500 roubles, which represented 
all he had made in commerce, he distributed 
among the poor, and tore the bills he held on 
some one else, to pieces. 

He returned to his village, and resumed the 
agricultural work in which there was no sin, but 
sin was all around him. " I saw that there was 
no love amongst the people. All ran after money ; 
and I began to reason with myself as to where- 
fore it should be thus. Why this thing? why 
that ? I spoke to clever people, and applied to 

The pop* s explanations did not satisfy Sutaev 
in the least. So he began to think for himself, 
and gradually relinquished the rites and observ- 
ances of the Orthodox Church. First he left off 
wearing the cross on his breast, as the orthodox 
are wont to do. 

" I felt it was sheer hypocrisy," he explained 
to his friend and biographer. " We wear Christ's 
cross on our breasts, but in our lives we do not 
care about Christ, and do nothing for the sake of 
his truth." 


A child was born in his family. People won- 
dered why he did not christen it. 

" Wherefore ? " he asked. " We are all of us 
christened, and yet continue to live worse lives 
than the infidels." 

He did not christen the child at all. Once, 
when on the occasion of a great festival the priest 
came to his house, Sutaev put him in the place 
of honour, and asked him to explain to him some- 
thing about the rite of christening. 

" What do you want of me, you blackguard ? " 
said the pop. " Do you wish me to christen you 
with this stick ? " 

Sutaev began to argue his point, but the pop 
made short work of his arguments. 

" If I had only known what you would turn 
out, I should have drowned you in the baptismal 

He called him names, and said to Sutaev that 
he was the devil. 

When the pop had become a little more com- 
posed, Sutaev took up a copy of the Gospel, and 
pointing to one text asked him to explain it. 
Hereupon the pop lost his temper again, and 
snatching the book from Sutaev's hands threw 
it under the table. 


After this scene Sutaev abstained from going 
to church altogether. 

Several of the members of the future sect had 
had somewhat similar experiences with their 
spiritual fathers. 

A relative of Sutaev's, a certain Elias Ivanov, 
who had at one time kept a retail shop in the 
village, but who gave up commerce " for the sake 
of his soul," explained why he had ceased to go 
to confession as follows : One year he had not 
taken the Sacrament for want of time. The pop, 
on meeting him, upbraided him vehemently for 
this negligence, but then agreed to put down his 
name in the confession register for the sum of 
twenty kopecks (fivepence). 

''Well, father," asked the peasant, "have I 
now received absolution for my sins ? Does my 
soul run no further risk of being roasted in hell ?" 
The pop took offence. 

" Hold your tongue," he said, threatening with 
his finger. " I know to whom to apply to silence 

A third, a retired soldier, Lunev, deposed 
before a magistrate that nobody had tried to 
convert him, but that when the pop had refused 
to christen his baby for less than a certain sum, 



he had christened the child himself, and when 
after a time it died, he buried it himself, without 
applying to the pop. He had not gone to church 
since, because, he said, "it is not a house of 
prayer, but a house of plunder." 

The final secession from the church was accom - 
plished naturally and gradually. One day Sutaev 
and his followers dropped the fasts, on the author- 
ity of the well-known text : " Not that which 
goeth into the mouth defileth a man ; but which 
cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." 
Another day they collected all their ikons, and 
carried them in a bundle to the house of the priest, 
bidding him take care of these idols, for they did 
not want them. A couple had to be married : 
Sutaev opened the Gospel, read the chapter on 
the miracle in Cana of Galilee, delivered a short 
allocution, and pronounced the benediction over 
the young couple. 

On Sundays instead of going to church they 
met at Sutaev's house to read the Scriptures, 
especially the New Testament, of which they 
were particularly fond. The dissenting Church 
was definitely constituted, and spread among the 
Shevelevo peasants, extending thence among the 
surrounding villages. 


Inspired by a feeling of moral rebellion against 
the iniquity and injustice prevailing among men, 
the new creed aims above all at improving the 
mutual relations of humanity. 

" What do you say about my sect ? " Sutaev said. 
" We have no sect whatever. All we want is to 
be true Christians, and true Christianity is Love. 
We believe in the Trinity, but God the Father is 
Love; Jesus Christ taught the principles of love, 
and the Holy Ghost, through the Apostles, taught 
us the same. Our doctrine is that there ought 
to be no plunder, no killing, no fighting, no usury, 
no commerce, no money. Of what use is money, 
if we all live as brothers, and each can have all 
he needs from the others ? " 

Sutaev and his followers tried to give practical 
application to these principles. Their attempts 
were often unsuccessful, but always generous and 
sympathetic. Sutaev greatly objected, for in- 
stance, to the universal suspicion which prevailed, 
and to the many precautions people take against 
one another, just as if all were criminals. 

One evening the following scene took place in 
the street at Shevelevo. 

" Nicolai Ivanovitch," said Sutaev to one of 
his fellow-villagers, "are you a thief?" 


" No, thank God ! " 

He put the same question all round, and, having 
received the same answer from all, said in his 

" Neither am I a thief. Well, not one of us 
is a thief. Why then do we lock everything up 
as if we were thieves all round ? " 

He declared that as to himself he " should 
take all the locks from off his house and stores." 

Robberies began. He did not mind. One 
night some peasants of a neighbouring village 
came with a car to rob his storehouse. They 
had already filled the car, and were preparing to 
depart, when Sutaev, awakened by the unusual 
noise, appeared before them. They felt much 
alarmed, but Sutaev entered into the storehouse, 
took the single remaining sack of grain on his 
shoulders, and threw it on to the car. 

"If you are in need of bread, take this also." 

The thieves departed. But the next day they 
returned ashamed, bringing back their booty. 

" We have changed our minds," they said. 

It was not easy, however, to confound all the 
thieves of the neighbourhood, the vagabonds 
particularly. Sutaev held out for a long time, 
but finished by putting on the locks again. 


"When all have accepted the community of 
goods," he said, " there will be no thieves." 

The Shevelevo congregation made an un- 
successful attempt at practical communism. They 
agreed to follow the example of the early Chris- 
tians, and to possess everything in common. All 
went well for a time ; but the old Adam broke 
out again in a certain soldier, Lunev, a former 
koulak and usurer, who had abandoned his practice 
under the influence of the new creed. Now, 
Lunev was accused of having retained, for his 
private benefit, a part of the crops he had to 
deposit in the common granary. People began 
to quarrel ; therefore, to avoid further scandal, the 
congregation reverted to the ordinary system of 
property. They, however, still practise mutual 
assistance to a great extent, preferring exchange 
of work to any form of pecuniary help. 

The dogmatic side of Sutaev's doctrine is ex- 
ceedingly plain. The only part clearly developed 
is the negative. No ikons, no saints, no relics, 
no fasting, no priesthood, no Sacraments. They 
have a sort of christening ceremony, which they 
perform themselves ; but it is not clear whether 
they consider it in the light of a sacrament or not. 
Probably not. The marriage ceremony is per- 


formed by the father of the bride, and merely 
consists in the reading of some appropriate 
chapters from the Scriptures. Their views on 
the higher theological dogmas, such as the Trinity, 
the Redemption, the Immortality of the soul, are 
not clearly determined. 

" Paradise must be made here on earth. What 
will be found there " (pointing to the skies) " I 
do not know. I have not seen the other world. 
This question is a hidden one." 

The points on which they are precise, resolute, 
sometimes passionate up to the point of martyr- 
dom, are those concerning human' ethics. One of 
Sutaev's sons (John), when the question of military 
service, the rock on which all spiritual Christians 
split, came before him, refused point blank, not 
only to take the oath, but even to touch the 
soldiers' guns or to put on the sword. "It smells 
of blood," he said. " Christians should fight with 
spiritual swords only." After several attempts 
to break through his obstinacy he was locked up 
in Schusselbourg. 

Sutaev's views as to civil authorities are those 
common to all spiritual Christians : the good ones 
must be obeyed, the evil ones resisted, though 
passive resistance only is permissible. 


The spirit of inquiry has as yet hardly touched 
upon general political questions, but even so early 
as 1882, which is the date of Mr. Prugavin's 
publication, the payment of taxes devoted to 
purposes of violence and war excited in Sutaev 
some scruples. In 1880 he refused to pay his 
share of the taxes unless the official who super- 
intended that department would first explain to 
him on what his money would be spent. The 
official naturally laughed in his face, and took 
out a summons against him. Part of his property 
was sold and the taxes deducted. The next year 
the story was repeated. 

Whether Sutaev has continued this practice up 
to the present time or not we do not know. 

It is easy to recognise, in most of Sutaev's 
views on matters religious and social, the doctrine 
now preached by his famous disciple of Yasnaia 
Poliana. Count Tolstoi's doctrine of passive 
resistance, his views on the questions of taxation, 
military service, tribunals, money, mutual assistance 
by direct exchange of labour, as well as the great 
stress he lays on ethical questions all are identical 
with the doctrines of Sutaev. Since Count 
Tolstoi rejects the dogmas of future life and the 
immortality of the soul, as well as the divinity of 


Jesus Christ, it may be permissible to infer that 
his friend has also moved in that direction. 

Possibly he was not far from these conclusions 
when Prugavin gave his account of Sutaev's views. 
A certain reticence on such delicate points as 
these is indispensable to a Russian writer. 

The so-called Sutaevzy, or followers of Sutaev, 
are constantly gaining ground in many villages 
in the Province of Novgorod and those surround- 
ing it. 

It is doubtful, nevertheless, whether such a 
sect can ever become a really popular one. As 
a man of exceptional intellectual power and bold- 
ness of thought, Sutaev has gone farther than 
most of the modern sectarians. His creed has 
too much of the secular element in it for it to be 
accepted by very many. But the general ten- 
dencies of his doctrine, as well as the spiritual 
and moral experiences which led him to found 
his sect, are eminently typical. There are in 
every village and hamlet, perhaps in every house- 
hold, of rural Russia, men and women in exactly 
the same mood as Sutaev, and who are ready to 
follow in the same path. 


WE should gain little by giving a longer list of 
modern sects. The examples cited show clearly 
the causes, the character, and the extent of the 
religious movement in Russia, which is now 
spreading all over the orthodox and the Rascol 
world. Its striking uniformity, spontaneity, and 
contagiousness clearly indicate in it an incipient 
general movement on the part of the masses. 
Being, as far as mere doctrine goes, very similar 
to the Molokane, the new sectarianism, as a factor 
of social life, corresponds with the Rascol of the 
seventeenth century. Like the Rascol, it is the 
outcome of the combined influence of social and 
political discontent, built upon the freshly-awakened 
religious feelings of the people. 

Two centuries of national life have so tar 
developed our people intellectually as to modify 
both the character of the modern creeds and the 
method pursued in order to awaken popular 
interest in them. 


The Rascolniks of the seventeenth century, their 
fetish-like devotion to forms and rites notwith- 
standing, were as truly religious and Christian 
as the Stundists of to-day, or any of the Western 
sects. They were fully penetrated by the spell 
of the personality of Christ, and acted under the 
direct influence of this feeling. What their 
Christ required them to do makes no psycho- 
logical difference ; this was merely a reflection 
of the low intellectual level of the people of that 
epoch, which evidence is further corroborated 
by the fact that at that period the chief thing 
which roused the people from their apathy was 
the personal example of martyrdom, as has been 
clearly proved in those chapters which refer to 
the RascoL They were like young children, who 
can only understand and feel strongly and vividly 
those things which are presented to them in a 
palpable form, calculated to strike their senses. 

They now no longer need material demonstra- 
tion in the domain of religion, at all events. Per- 
secution plays a perfectly immaterial part in the 
rapid spread of modern sectarianism. Only at 
the beginning did the Government try to apply 
the usual methods of criminal courts and deporta- 
tion without judgment, against the new sectarian- 


ism. After a short experience these methods 
have been prudently abandoned, and the sectarians 
have been left almost unmolested. The only 
means resorted to to awaken the religious spirit 
nowadays, as we have plainly seen, is the simple 
reading of the Gospel ; and what they read in its 
words now, is very different from what their fore- 
fathers understood in times of yore. The masses, 
or, to be exact, the leading section of the masses, has 
taken, in the last two centuries, a step forward. 
It stands now upon the same level where, one 
century ago, stood a small minority, which furnished 
the contingent of our old rationalistic sects the 
Molokane and the Dukhoborzy. 

And the minorities ? 

The minorities have nowadays stepped out of 
the tutelage of religion altogether, and are fully 
able to participate in the stream of positive scientific 
European thought. The flower of our working 
men turn socialists, read John Stuart Mill, Spencer, 
and Darwin, Kostomarov and Setchenov, Tur- 
ghenev and Ostrovsky, just as the young people of 
the privileged classes do. It isimmaterial whether 
they turn freethinkers or not, though for the 
most part they do. All that is essential is, that 
they have dispensed with the crutches of religion. 


They are one with the whole of educated 
Europeanized Russia, upon which the future 
destinies, as well as the present salvation, of the 
country certainly depend. For it is here that are 
conveyed in various forms and stored up the 
knowledge, the understanding, and the creative 
ideas evolved by the dull books of various 
denominations, which in the last resort rule the 

To describe this Europeanized Russia does not 
come within the limits of this study. But it is 
fully within our scope to enquire, What are the 
mutual relations of these two cultures the strongly 
positive one, which radiates from the towns ; and 
the strongly religious one, harboured in the 
villages ? 

We need not enter upon generalities. It is 
certainly a fact that religion, whilst stimulating 
thought, at the same time hampers it by tracing 
for it certain impassable barriers. All, however, 
who come into direct contact with the new sects, 
or have studied them with attention, concur in the 
opinion that to our peasants religion has given 
much more than it has withheld. The rational- 
istic sectarians, as a body, represent the most 
intellectual elements of our rural population. 


They know how to read almost to a man, and 
what is more, they do read, not the Scriptures 
only, but very many other books and papers which 
are within their reach. They are open to all the 
influences of modern civilisation and literature, 
which is still a dead letter to a large mass of the 
orthodox peasantry. Thus our rural culture is by 
no means hostile to the culture of the towns ; it 
marches forward on the same road and to the same 
goal, following the latter at a certain distance. 

Some of the exponents of sectarianism Pru- 
gavin and Abramov amongst them expect that our 
sects will take the lead. They see in them popular 
attempts to discover and work out new and 
higher forms of social life almost experiments of 
practical socialism. We do not exactly share this 
too flattering opinion. The practical attempts 
of Christian socialism, such as that of Popoff 
and others, were so small and shortlived, and as 
a rule so wanting in originality, that they cannot 
be considered as a new departure. The real 
sphere of sectarianism, in which it has succeeded 
wonderfully, is not creation, but conservation. 
The social ideals which the rationalistic sects 
profess and maintain were our mirs ideals, pure 
and simple, no whit higher nor better, though 


more fully applied, protected as ^hey are by the 
impregnable walls of religion. Sectarianism is 
for our people a means of defending what they 
hold dear, and not of developing anything new. 

This function performed by the sects in our 
social dynamics is a very important one, and the 
service rendered by the sects to the people is 
very great. They will help to preserve and trans- 
mit to a future generation the inheritance of 
habits and moral ideas which are of great social 
value in themselves, and yet more so as the 
materials and starting-point of future development. 

Yet even in this more modest, though very 
valuable office, the influence of modern sectarian- 
ism can hardly be counted upon as likely to 
endure for a very long period of time. The 
Rascolniks who stood their ground for two hun- 
dred years had a much easier task to perform. 
They rebelled against the iniquities of the political 
order : the institution of serfdom, the poll-tax, 
conscription, centralization of the Church, and 
administrative abuses. They possessed a territory 
of their own, and their enemies were outside of 
it. The modern sectarians who have rebelled 
against the koulaks, wzV-eaters, usurers "the 
new Pharaohs who enslaved the people," to 
use the Stundists phrase, have to fight a more 


dangerous enemy within their own precincts. 
It is doubtful whether they will be able to 
hold their own beyond a certain very limited 
extent Religion cannot stand for long against 
the battering-rams of economical influences. It 
never did, though it has often tried, and there is 
no reason to suppose that our sectarians will 
form an exception to this rule. They will hold 
their own as long as they are isolated and few, 
and religious enthusiasm has not cooled down to 
its natural point. When this is over, the eco- 
nomical decomposition must needs penetrate into 
the sectarian mirs as it has penetrated into the 
orthodox ones. However opportune the assist- 
ance our people receive at this critical moment 
from religion, it is only a temporary one, a 
glass of strong wine, which reinvigorates an ex- 
hausted traveller for a time, but will not prevent 
his falling on the road at last, if in the meantime 
he does not receive more substantial nourish- 
ment ; unless indeed there comes a moment 
when from a purely defensive weapon this religion 
changes into an aggressive one, stimulating the 
people to open rebellion, in one form or another, 
against the kingdom of Baal. 

The rationalistic sects, though so very peaceful 


now, are in reality more dangerous to the existing 
order of things than the old Rascol was. They 
have touched the root of the evil in traducing the 
existing institutions before the tribunals of reason 
and conscience. They are consistent and thorough, 
and they do not, from superstition, shun the 
orthodox masses. The negation of the authority 
of the Government, whether absolute, as with the 
Dukhoborzy, or conditional, as with all the rest of 
the rationalists, has up to the present time only 
led them to individual acts of passive resistance. 
It may become a collective one in time ; it may 
change its nature altogether. Religion can ex- 
press everything, assume any shape. The spirit 
of active rebellion is unmistakably growing among 
the peasantry outside the realms of sectarianism. 
Why should it not invade the sects also when 
their power to satisfy the actual desires of the 
people shall be exhausted ? At all events, it 
is impossible to depend much upon the loyalty 
of a well-organised body of perhaps three or four 
millions of people who, for aught we know, may 
become ten or twelve in a few years, and who 
all view the existing government as admittedly 
wrongful. The religious question in Russia is 
to some extent a riddle. 


' J 


- Pa 



IN throwing a rapid retrospective glance over all 
that has been said upon the economical, social, and 
intellectual life of our peasantry, we shall every- 
where perceive the existence of a deeply-rooted 
dualism. Two hostile principles are in a death- 
struggle in all the spheres of popular life the 
one springing from the inner consciousness of 
the masses, the other forced upon them from the 
outside by those in power. 

This antagonism is not a peculiarity of modern 
times. The few glimpses into our past history 
which the Rascol offers us, prove that this antago- 
nism was keenly resented by the people at least 
two centuries before the present era. As a matter 
of fact, it goes back to much earlier times. An 
underhand struggle between the people and the 
Government has been going on almost ever since 
the establishment of autocracy in Russia, in other 
words, for four or five centuries. 

The fact that the people did not re-mould the 


State so as to make it fit in with their tastes is in 
itself a conclusive proof that there must have been 
some fatal shortcoming in the people them- 
selves. Remarkably flexible in the combination 
of labour, and rich in resources in the higher 
domain of thought, the Russian popular mind 
seems to have been stricken with the curse of 
utter sterility in the domain of politics. They 
were never able to rise above the most rudimen- 
tary and strictly patriarchal conceptions of State 
and statecraft. 

Perhaps this was due to the overwhelming pre- 
dominance of the agricultural classes, constitu- 
tionally patriarchal ; perhaps the result of the 
great facility offered to interior emigration, which 
was the easy and common wind-up to all our civil 
discontents, whilst in other countries people, 
volens nolens, had to stay and fight out their 
grievances, finding by means of friction some 
mutual compromise. Perhaps we should attribute 
it to the absence on our soil of anything which 
could suggest to our people some new political 
form, such as the rich inheritance of Roman 
civilisation suggested to the West. Whatever the 
reason, the fact is that through all the centuries 
of ancient political self-government, anterior to 


the creation of the Muscovite Monarchy, Russia 
remained at the same embryonic stage of polity 
from which she started. 

The vast popular republics which existed up to 
the end of the fifteenth century were established 
in the form of big families. The metropolis stood 
in the position of father to the whole land, and 
the metropolitan crowd, when assembled in the 
public square, ruled over the whole of it, advanc- 
ing the same claims to unlimited confidence and 
obedience as characterize all forms of paternal 
despotism. The centralized monarchy had no 
difficulty in overcoming these communities, which 
had made no provision to secure inner cohesion 
and unity of action. The main body of the rural 
population, and even the lower orders of the 
townspeople, accustomed to obey the patriarchal 
despotism of an assembly, had no difficulty in 
transferring their allegiance to the patriarchal 
despotism of one Prince. 

The Muscovite rule disgusted the people wher- 
ever it was introduced ; the Moscow bureaucracy, 
which was the real form under which monarchy 
came into contact with the people, proved worse 
than anything they had ever experienced before. 
But the people never regarded the shortcomings 


of his agents as a reproach to the Tzar. The 
worse the officials, and the more impossible the 
access to the Tzar, the stronger grew the people's 
conviction that he would redress their wrongs did 
he only know of them. The perennial influence 
of hero-worship, combined with the patriarchism 
prevailing in the everyday life of the multitude, 
strengthened the legend of the Tzar-Tribune and 
champion of the people. The faith in him grew 
upon the masses in proportion as the person of 
the Tzar was farther removed from all chance of 
practical usefulness to them. 

This is the fatal superstition which constitutes 
the tragedy of our history. 

In its palmiest days autocracy represented the 
interests of the State and not those of the people. 
The well-being and the rights of the people were 
matters of secondary importance, when the power, 
the glory, the expansion of the State were at 

Now, the force of the State, offensive and 
defensive, being in the last resort represented by 
the force of the organized minority, the Tzar's 
enormous power naturally grew to be an instrument 
wherewith to squeeze from the toiling masses the 
utmost they could be made to yield for the benefit 


of these organized privileged minorities. No 
other form of government could have gone to 
the same length in imposing upon the labouring 
classes obligatory sacrifices for the sake of the 

Up to a certain point this was done in the 
interests of the people themselves, who needed to 
have their nationality and soil protected just as 
much as the rest of the community ; but it was 
so difficult to keep within the limits of the strictly 
necessary, and it was so easy to overshoot the 
mark. It is doubtful whether there has been one 
single Tzar who has hesitated before imposing an 
additional burden on the people, or in withdrawing 
another privilege, in order to increase the military 
or the administrative power of the State, no 
matter whether it were needed or superfluous ; 
and, with the single exception of Peter the Great, 
there has been neither Tzar nor Tzarina who, in 
assessing these burdens, has not shown a criminal 
partiality for the upper classes which have formed 
their immediate surroundings. 

Thus, instead of maintaining popular rights, as 
they were expected to do, the Tzars went on 
gradually curtailing them in favour of the privileged 
classes and of the bureaucracy. The process was 


very slow at first. Centuries after all traces of 
self-government had been destroyed in the big 
towns, seats of the sovereign vetches the rural 
population preserved many of their ancient political 
privileges. The regional assembly of the people 
elected high officials, and could summon before 
them, and judge, even the landlords and noblemen 
resident in their respective districts. Up to the 
beginning of the sixteenth century these assem- 
blies in some places even preserved the name of 

In like manner the distribution of the best arable 
and cultivated land to to the Tzar's militiamen 
and courtiers did not much offend the peasants, 
so long as their personal freedom was not inter- 
fered with, and they could make arrangements 
with the new landlords as regarded rent, or remove 
elsewhere if they chose. 

The people began to fight, and to fight des- 
perately, when at the end of the sixteenth century 
the Tzars deprived them of their right of removal, 
thus laying their hands upon their individual 
freedom, and gradually putting on their necks the 
yoke of serfdom. 

For two centuries the terrible struggle lasted, 
but by this time the legend of the Tzardom had 


obtained such a hold upon the people's minds that 
their cause was doomed beforehand. The peasants 
withstood an evil whilst worshipping and uphold- 
ing its cause. They rebelled against the unbear- 
able tyranny of their masters and of the officials ; 
but their hearts fell and their hands dropped when 
they met an authoritative spokesman of the Tzar. 
They were in the position of the pugilist who 
should have to fight with a slip-knot round his 
neck, which would throttle him at any bold move. 
They took heart and fought their great battles 
only when they had at their head some Imperial 
phantom a false Demetrius, or a second Demetrius 
of Tushino, who was ihefatse false Demetrius ; or 
the Russian Spartacus, the Cossack Emelian Ivano- 
vitch Pugatchev, who under the name of Peter III. 
stirred to open rebellion one half of enslaved 
Russia, and made Catherine II. tremble upon her 
throne, an unique spectacle among popular risings, 
made in the name of truth and justice, and at the 
same time backed by an impudent lie, which was 
an open secret to very many of its champions ; 
which strove to attain to the progressive ideals of 
freedom, equality, and social justice, and was at 
the same time a downright reaction. If successful 
it would have merely thrown Russia back from 


the eighteenth into the fifteenth century, with the 
prospect of a gradual re-bestowal, of the privileges 
taken from Catherine's nobility in favour of 
Pugatchev's Cossacks and generals and their 

After the bloody suppression of Pugatchev's 
rising, no further popular insurrection of any 
moment ever took place. For one century the 
people bore the frightful chains of slavery, which 
the Tzars supported merely to please the idle 
nobility ; for, since the day when the nobility 
at one time militiamen had been exempted from 
obligatory service to the State (1762), serfdom 
had become an inexcusable act of tyranny, and 
its support by the Tzars an act of treachery. 

Did such a flagrant, palpable treason to the 
popular cause throw a damper upon the popular 
belief in the Tzars ? No, it did not. The people 
seemed to be more than ever devoted to them. 
It is astonishing how feeble both logic and reason 
are when they have to cope with imagination and 
certain other vague aspirations of the human heart. 

The patriarchism of our people once again 
played us a trick. The self-governing patriarchal 
institutions, entirely driven from the upper walks of 
life, and completely forgotten by the people, nestled 


within the village communes, their last refuge and 
stronghold. Here they exhibited a marvellous 
tenacity and adaptability. As long as the econo- 
mical equality between the members of the mir 
was not entirely broken down, the small village 
communes could realize the ideal of a patriarchal 
government much more truly than the popular 
republics, based on the same principles, could. The 
mir is not an ideal human institution, destined to 
break the teeth of time. It is only a phase of 
development, which will certainly have to begin 
by first suppressing, or at all events restricting, 
its political functions. Of all forms of authority 
the patriarchal one is certainly the most insup- 
portable to a thoroughly independent mind, just 
as paternal tutelage is to a full-grown man. 
Yet this is no argument against the usefulness of 
a good family education. 

The mirs life and the mirs authority must 
be looked upon somewhat in the same light. 
They were an excellent school, which developed 
many precious qualities in the bulk of our people 
which will not soon disappear. But it is to this 
same institution that we owe the enormous 
tenacity of that plague of Russia, the superstition 
of the Tzar. 


For all primitive minds the monarchical idea 
has a kind of peculiar fascination. The balance 
of powers, the mutual checks and the control 
of the various springs of a complicated political 
machinery, are pure Hebrew to them ; whilst they 
can grasp the idea of a good, benevolent man, 
without an effort. It is difficult for them not to 
take the empty official phraseology as to their 
Sovereign's love, and solicitude for their good, 
literally. Of human temptations and weaknesses 
they know only those sordid ones which they see 
in their own everyday life. A man who is placed 
so much above them is naturally fancied by them 
to be above human nature altogether. In the 
continental monarchies there has always been, and 
there still lingers, much of this superstition within 
the rural classes, notwithstanding all their consti- 
tutions. This is why in Russia monarchical 
superstitions have penetrated even into those 
regions where they would seem to have no 
historical reason for existence, for instance, in 
the Ruthenian provinces annexed to Russia in 
the seventeenth century, and enslaved by 
Catherine II. at the end of the eighteenth. 

We have not come across any positive state- 
ment on the subject with regard to the English 


peasantry, but we were struck by an amusing 
scene in George Eliot's Middlemarch, the en- 
counter between Mr. Brook and his tenant 
Dagley (p. 293, ed. of 1874), upon the " Rin- 
form " the king will send upon the landlord's 
back. It is too lifelike to be invented, and it 
seems to indicate that even in England there 
exists something of the kind, or did exist at all 
events at that time, notwithstanding her three 
centuries of constitutional government 

As for our moujiks, who in their mir had before 
them a tangible embodiment of this patriarchal 
idea of government, they performed a curious 
psychological operation. They mentally trans- 
ferred to the Tzar the whole of the functions 
performed by the mir, thus giving to his authority 
a remarkably precise and clear definition. The 
Tzar's authority is the mirs authority, magnified 
so as to suit the requirements of the State, with- 
out being in the smallest degree changed in its 
most characteristic attributes. The Tzar is the 
common Father of the country, its Protector, and 
the supreme dispenser of impartial justice to all, 
defending the weaker members of the community 
from the stronger. The Tzar "pities" everybody 
like the mir. The whole of the nation's riches 


1 belong to the Tzar " exactly in the same sense 
as the land and meadows and forests within the 
boundaries of the commune belong to the mir. 
The most important function the peasant's imagi- 
nation imposes on the Tzar is that of universal 
leveller, not, however, of movable property The 
Tzar, like the mir, has the right to impose taxes 
on whomsoever he chooses, and on whatever he 
chooses, but he is expected not to interfere with 
what the people regard as the private property of 
each household, i.e., movable capital. On the 
contrary, the Tzar is in duty bound to step in and 
to equitably redistribute the natural riches of 
the country, especially the land, whenever this 
is needed in the common interest. 

All these restrictions and obligations are purely 
moral. The people repose implicit confidence in 
the Tzar's wisdom and justice. He is absolute 
master of the life and property of every man 
within his dominions, and no exception may be 
taken to his orders. The occasional blunders 
made by the Tzar, however heavy they may be, 
must be borne with patience, as they can be only 
temporary ; the Tzar will redress the evil as soon 
as he is better informed on the matter. 

Nobody would accuse us, I suppose, of unfair- 


ness in defining the popular legend of the auto- 
cracy, though we are not really sure to what extent 
it represents the past, and how far the present 
views of our peasantry as a body. Since the Eman- 
cipation many new influences have been at work 
in an opposite direction, in addition to which it 
must also be remembered that the two pillars of 
our patriarchism the mir and the family have 
changed vastly during the last twenty years, the 
mir for the worse, the family for the better. 

Before the Emancipation, and for from ten to 
fifteen years afterwards, these institutions were in 
their full vigour, and so was the superstitious belief 
in the monarchy. It seemed to be something 
immutable, and so frightfully earnest that it over- 
whelmed and crushed the hopes of many noble 
Russian hearts. Thus a melody, which we dismiss 
as flat and commonplace when sung by a single 
voice, becomes strikingly solemn and impressive 
when taken up by an enormous crowd. During 
the three reigns which preceded the present one, 
to oppose autocracy seemed an act of madness. 
Yet all the thinking men of the day, in whom 
pusillanimity did not obscure judgment, could see 
that the Tzars were less capable than ever of 
playing the part of people's Tribunes. 


A century ago, many years before any opposi- 
tion was dreamt of in Russia, namely, after the 
outbreak of the French Revolution, autocracy 
lost the most essential element of a patriarchal 
Government, i.e., full confidence in its own im- 
mutability. Abject fear took possession of the 
hearts of the autocrats fear of the surging 
Democracy that they were expected to champion. 
The Tzars were no longer sure of their position, 
or even of their personal security, and they 
wanted to protect themselves by making common 
cause with the privileged classes. They ceased 
to be the representatives of the State as a whole, 
with no vested interests in any particular party. 
Prior to the Emancipation the Tzars were pleased 
to parade their title of " first nobleman (dvorianin) 
of Russia " ; but after the Emancipation they 
might well have assumed the name of " first 
broker of the Empire." 

The sentimental, liberal Alexander I., and the 
tory-democrat Nicolas I., both so intensely wor- 
shipped by the poor moujiks, kept them enslaved 
because they feared a revolution. The Emperor 
Alexander II. had the courage to break the spell 
and to cancel this terrible injustice, but he wanted 
to remain an autocrat at all costs, and only grew 


the more obstinate the more the new needs 
pressed upon him. He was inevitably driven to 
the fatal course of re-establishing with his left 
hand, abuses which he had overthrown with his 
right. Instead of inaugurating a new and brilliant 
era of progress for the nation, and securing a 
happy reign for himself, he merely introduced the 
last phase in the terrible struggle between the 
people and their Government 

The enemy is now at their door. If our people 
at the present crisis lose the battle, they will 
never again have anything of their own to lose. 
With a nation of hereditary husbandmen, the land 
question is the question of life and death. It is 
silly and cruel to consider the problem as in any 
way solved by the inquiry as to whether the 
peasants themselves would or would not prefer a 
return to their former state of serfdom. Certainly 
they would not ; but they would prefer yet more, 
to be free without the danger of starvation. 

They received the announcement of their libera- 
tion with transports of joy, but they were utterly 
disappointed by the details of the new agrarian 
regulations. Their secular superstition gave rise 
to some very curious phenomena of social psy- 



To begin with, they declined to believe in the 
authenticity of the Emancipation Act. To their 
candid, unsophisticated minds it seemed utterly 
incredible that their Tzar should have " wronged " 
them so bitterly as to the land. They obstinately 
repeated that their "freedom," i.e., the Emanci- 
pation Act, had been tampered with by the nobility, 
who had concealed the Tzar's real " freedom," 
which had been quite a different thing. The 
most emphatic declarations made before the 
peasants' deputies and elders by the Emperor's 
ministers and by the Emperor in person could 
not disabuse them. They persisted in believing 
against belief. There were hundreds of peasants' 
rebellions in all parts of the empire, owing to this 
misunderstanding, especially during the first years 
which followed the Act of Emancipation. They 
subsided at last. After ten years of incessant 
persuasion through the medium of speeches, 
ukazes, floggings, and an occasional shooting, this 
superstition began to give way. It did not dis- 
appear, however, it only changed its shape. 

Since 1870 or thereabouts we hear no more of 
the peasants' doubts as to the authenticity of the 
agrarian arrangements of 1861. They have ended 
by admitting that it was really the work of the 


Tzar's own hands, but the whole of our peasantry 
have made up their minds, and expect a new 
agrarian arrangement from the Tzar, which will 
rectify the blunders of the old regulations. 
Rumours as to the coming agrarian ravnenie or 
" redistribution," which is to take place next 
spring, next summer, and so forth, now and 
then spread like wildfire over whole provinces 
and regions. It is not uncommon for them to 
give rise to " disorderly " and illegal conduct, such 
as refusal to pay the rent due to the landlords, 
or the arbitrary appropriation of his fields by 
the peasants. The authorities of course intervene, 
and the central Government, which ascribes all 
things to the Nihilist propaganda, makes strenuous 
efforts to dissipate these dangerous rumours. 

Up to the present time official and Imperial 
declarations have not opened the peasants' eyes. 
The moujiks see in them either a new trick of 
the nobles (landlords), or by some strange aber- 
ration of intellect understand the plainest state- 
ments in an exactly inverse sense to the real one. 
We know, for instance, cases where peasants' 
deputies, expressly summoned before a Governor- 
General to be instructed in the right views on the 
agrarian question, have on their return to their 


villages emphatically affirmed that " His Excel- 
lency has positively charged them to be reassured, 
because the Tzar will ere long effect an agrarian 
' redistribution.' ' They have doubtless been 
spoken to " about the land," and then probably 
the General has indulged in some vapouring about 
the Tzar's solicitude and benevolence. The two 
things when put together could for them mean 
nothing but " agrarian redistribution." 

In 1878-79, after the enormous strain of the 
Turkish war, rumours relating to this supposed 
coming agrarian " redistribution " assumed par- 
ticular definiteness and enlargement. They pene- 
trated everywhere, and even into the ranks of 
the army ; people openly discussed the coming 
rearrangements at the village meetings, in the 
presence of the rural authorities, who, as peasants, 
fully shared in the common expectations. 

General Makov, then Minister of the Interior, 
issued a circular letter, to be publicly read in all 
villages, and affixed to the walls in all communal 
houses. This circular contradicted these rumours, 
and declared positively that there would be no 
" redistribution," and that the landlords would 
retain their own property. It produced no effect. 
Professor Engelhardt, who wrote one of his Letters 


from a Village at the time of this fit of popular 
hopefulness, says that the moujiks who heard 
Makov's circular understood it in the following 
sense : " It is requested that people shall, for a 
time, abstain from gossiping at random about the 
'redistribution. '" * As to the ministerial warnings 
against the evil-intentioned disseminators of false 
reports, and the orders to apprehend them, they 
produced the most amusing bewilderment. The 
superior and the inferior agents of the adminis- 
tration could not understand each other's language. 
The superior officers, the gentlemen, as Engelhardt 
calls them, by "evil-intentioned people" meant 
to imply the Nihilists, the advocates and partisans 
of agrarian " redistribution ; " whilst according to 
the Elders and other village authorities the " evil- 
intentioned " were those who opposed this move- 

The year 1880, which was almost a year of 
famine, gave new zest to the popular expectations. 
" There is no bread in the country," they said, 
" the moujiks are so pressed that they cannot 

* When three years afterwards, in March 1884, General 
Makov, compromised by some bribery business, committed 
suicide, the peasants said that he had destroyed himself 
because he had issued this famous circular without the Tzar's 
consent, and that the Tzar had just discovered his treachery. 


move on their little patches of land, and the land- 
lords have no end of land lying waste." A 
universal conviction grew up among the peasants 
that in the course of the next spring (1881) the 
Tzar's surveyor would come and start upon the 
work of general readjustment. 

It must be borne in mind that, with our 
peasants, this idea of the coming " redistribution " 
never assumed the character of expropriation of 
one class of men the landlords for the benefit 
of another class of men the peasants. They 
expected a general readjustment, a fair redivision, 
in the exact sense of the word. All who dwelt 
on the land, the landlords included, would receive 
their fair share of the land, according to the 
number of their children. Several facts relating 
to this period show unmistakably that such was 
the peasants' idea as to the "redistribution." In 
some places small landlords, after being asked 
how many children they had, received the tran- 
quillising assurance from the peasants that " they 
had nothing to fear, because at the coming re- 
distribution they would receive an extra piece of 
land in addition to that they already held." In 
other districts the impatient peasants have been dis- 
covered in the fields in the act of performing some 


strange geodetic operations. On being asked 
what it all meant, they answered that they were 
"cutting off their landlord's share beforehand." 

Thus, to use the authoritative words of Prof. 
Engelhardt, "The thing (the redistribution) about 
which so much has been said is understood by 
the moujiks in the following sense. At certain 
periods, namely, at the time of taking the census, 
there must be a general redivision of land all 
over Russia, as there are now and then local re- 
divisions of land within the boundaries of each 
commune. The communal re-division means the 
equalization of the shares of land held by the 
various households. The general redistribution 
is to be the equalisation of the shares of land held 
by the different Communes. It is not a ques- 
tion of the expropriation of the landlords, but 
of the fair distribution of the land of the whole 
country, whether held by landlords or by 
peasants. The rich peasants who had estates 
of their own, purchased ' in perpetuity ' (private 
property), spoke of the coming redistribution in 
exactly the same sense as the poorer peasants did. 
They never doubted but that these legally acquired 
estates could be taken from their legal owners 
and given to other people." (P. 511.) 


In the eyes of genuine moujiks these specu- 
lations in land are similar to mutual sale or 
exchange, or pawning, of their respective lots of 
land between the members of a village commune. 
They are private arrangements made at the 
personal risk and peril of the contracting parties. 
When the land division comes, the mir takes no 
notice of any such agreements, which are as a 
matter of course only binding up to the time of 
the redivision. 

Every moujik, whether rich or poor, proletarian 
or landowner, mirs man or even wzir-eater, provided 
always that they have not broken their ties with 
the peasantry, hold the same views as to landed 
estates in general. They all therefore expect a 
universal redistribution of the land ; those who 
have in the meantime succeeded in appropriating 
a nice piece of this most precious commodity 
look upon it as a sad but unavoidable necessity ; 
the destitute and landless as an occasion for 
great rejoicing ; whilst both wonder why the Tzar 
tarries so long over giving the signal for it, to 
do which, according to the multitude, is both his 
right and his duty 

Stripped of their monarchical trappings, these 
ideas present themselves as a very sound and 


thorough economical theory of land nationalization. 
The most advanced advocates of the system 
would have nothing to teach our people as to its 
general principles. They have from their child- 
hood been educated in the soundest theories of 
land nationalization, and exclude not only the 
right of private persons to monopolize land, but 
also prohibit its engrossment by some privileged 
Communes to the permanent injury of others. 

The theory of land nationalization, for which 
an extreme faction of social reformers have to 
fight so hard in Europe, is with us not a subver- 
sive but a conservative doctrine. It exists with 
us as a fact of universal knowledge, an ancient 
and traditional right, which our people have never 
renounced and never forgotten, only they did not 
know, and for the most part do not even now 
know, how to protect it. They trust to an 
authority which, whatever the individual intention 
of its representative may be, is fatally hostile to 
these rights and these institutions, and has brought 
them to the verge of a complete subversion. 

We Russians are now living in a critical, nay, 
almost solemn moment, when, to arrest this decay 
and to convert it into a rapid revival, no violent 
upheaval would be necessary. This moment will 


not last long : imbecility is nowhere allowed to 
have its way free of cost, no, not even in Russia, 
but it certainly has not passed as yet. If the 
nation obtains control over the political powers 
within a measurable distance of time, land 
nationalization will be a reform as easy and 
peaceable as it is unavoidable ; and that once an 
accomplished fact, there are ample grounds for 
expecting it will give to Russia a splendid start 
on the road of social progress. 

It will relieve our agrarian distress enormously. 
The industry of our people and their passionate 
attachment to agriculture are a guarantee for 
prosperity when they shall have a sufficiency of 
land to apply their hands to. Freedom of inter- 
course, a larger share of local self-government, 
independence of the village communes, and a 
better education would, to say the least, certainly 
secure to our people, that amount of mutual assist- 
ance won by the members of the Rascol and other 
sects through their religious organization. There 
is nothing unreasonable in supposing that when 
protected by general and local freedom, a fair 
agrarian arrangement would be likely to possess 
considerable stability. Land nationalization will 
be a great thing for Russia, even if it merely takes 


the form of an equitable redistribution of this 
source of work, as our people understand it to be. 

But is it probable that a measure of such magni- 
tude would lead to no corresponding improve- 
ments in the methods of agricultural labour ? 
We do not mean small improvements in agri- 
cultural implements and modes of culture, things 
which individual peasants can do on their own 
plots of land ; these we take to be a matter of 
course. Every intelligent husbandman will do 
this, provided he has the means. The main road 
to any really great improvement in the productive- 
ness of national labour, in agriculture as well as 
in other walks of life, lies in the combination 
of individual effort, in the extension of the area 
under culture, and in the co-operation of the 

Would our peasants be equal to the demand 
made upon them in this direction ? 

Well, judging by what they now are, in all 
probability they would. 

There exist no people on the face of the earth, 
or, to keep within the boundaries of the better 
known, on the face of Europe, who, as a body, 
are so well trained for collective labour as our 
moujiks are. Whenever a group or a crowd of 


them have some common economical interest to 
look after, or some common work to perform, 
they invariably form themselves into an artel, or 
kind of trades union, which is a free, purely 
economical mir, purged of the compulsory, des- 
potic elements of political authority. It is a free 
union of people, who combine for the mutual 
advantages of co-operation in labour, or consump- 
tion, or of both. Its membership is voluntary, not 
imposed, and each member is free to withdraw at 
the close of the season, or upon the conclusion of 
the particular work for which the artel was formed, 
and to enter into a new artel. Quarrels between 
members, as well as offences against the artel, if 
not settled in an amicable manner have to be 
brought before the common tribunals. The artel 
has no legal authority over its members. Expul- 
sion from the artel is the only punishment, or 
rather the only protection, these associations 
possess against those who break their rules. Yet 
the artels do very well, and in permanent work 
often prove to be lifelong partnerships. The 
fishermen of the north ; the carpenters who go to 
work in the towns; the bricklayers and builders; 
the diggers and the freight-carriers, all the hun- 
dreds of thousands of peasants who move from 


the villages in search of work, either start by 
forming artels, or join some artel when they reach 
their destination. Every artel accepts work, 
makes engagements, etc., as a body, distributing 
or dividing the work they have to do amongst 
themselves. The principle followed is, that every 
man's pay shall be strictly proportioned to the 
amount of his individual labour, or, that this ideal 
shall be approached as nearly as the nature of the 
particular industry will admit of. 

There is endless variety in the economical cha- 
racters and the size of these artels, some being 
regular owners of industrial establishments or 
trading companies (a machine manufactory in 
Ural), whilst others are only temporary and 
limited associations of vast numbers of men, 
blown together by the four winds of heaven, 
such as those of bargemen or railway servants, 
etc., though in substance they all reproduce the 
leading features of the village mir. 

The principle of co-operation is applied as 
frequently and as naturally to agricultural as to 
non-agricultural work. Of late years co-operation 
in agriculture has become even more varied and 
more extensive than ever before, partly because 
of the impoverishment of the people, and especially 


because of the wholesale breaking down, throughout 
Russia, of the big patriarchal families. So long as 
they existed they formed compulsory co-operative 
associations, and were held together by family 
despotism. Now they are supplanted by free 
associations or self-electing artels. 

Thus we know that in Southern Russia and in 
the south-west, as well as among the Kuban and 
Terek Cossacks, the great diminution in the 
number of cattle gave rise to co-operative plough- 
ing. Several households join their cattle to form 
the team of four to six horses or oxen necessary 
to move the heavy plough used in the black earth 
region. Sometimes they do the harrowing in 
common, likewise. It is a suggestive fact that 
those districts where the families have been most 
broken up are just those where this form of 
co-operation is most in vogue. In the Borzensk 
district 90 per cent, of the householders plough 
their land in this manner. 

In the impoverished districts of the Province 
of Moscow, the peasants who have no cattle at 
all, unite in the purchase of horses on the joint- 
stock principle, keeping them and using them in 

In the Province of Kostroma, flourishing Com- 


munes invest in thrashing-machines for the common 
benefit, at the expense of the mir. 

The habit of renting plots of land of neighbour- 
ing landlords, by artels of five, six, or more 
peasants for purposes of tillage, is practised every- 
where. The peasants join their capitals to pay 
the landlord, and join their hands to till the land, 
and divide the profits accordingly. In many 
places whole mirs rent considerable tracts of land 
in the same way, tilling it by the mir on the 
principles of the artels. They divide such work 
as can be done by the job, and that which cannot 
be divided they do in a body. The renting of 
meadows by mirs is a universal practice, and 
hewing of wood is always done in a body, in the 
same way as all other public work. All labour 
of this nature is executed with an almost military 
precision and regularity. The working power 
and the obligations of each household are known 
to a nicety, and accounts are kept in the memories 
of all and of everybody, of the whole year's 
budget of public labour. Any given quantity of 
the working power of a village can be produced 
at a moment's notice. 

The peasants are fully trained for combined 
work of greater dimensions, in the draining of 


large marshes, the digging of big ditches, the 
construction of bridges, etc., in which several 
villages may be concerned, or in the mowing of 
large meadows belonging to several, sometimes 
five or ten villages, in common. Every village 
sends its contingent of men, horses, waggons, 
implements, etc. They divide the work, and make 
the most complicated mental calculations, and 
keep all accounts without the use of a scrap of 
paper or a pencil, owing to the great development 
of their memories, which astonishes people ac- 
customed to the aid of a note-book. As a rule, 
all these works and operations are completed 
without any hitch or friction. Their long training 
has developed in our moujiks two valuable 
qualities. These are (i) honesty in the work, 
which prevents a man from cheating the artel by 
supplying work of an inferior quality, when control 
is difficult ; (2) self-command, which teaches the 
member of an artel, for the sake of the general 
advantage, to bear the burden with equanimity, 
when it so chances that he has to exert himself 
a little more than his neighbours. 

Now, if our people are so much accustomed 
to co-operation in general, and co-operate so 
frequently on a small scale, why should they be 


unable to co-operate on a larger one ? If they 
unite to make a full team for a common plough, 
or buy a thrashing-machine out of the general 
funds of the mir, or, as an artel, till a tract of land 
they rent, etc., etc., why should they be unable 
to till the whole of their communal land with 
improved implements on the co-operative system, 
which would be so immeasurably more profitable ? 

Why should not they in the natural course 
of their intellectual and economical growth pass 
from communal and local co-operation to general 
national co-operation, gradually embracing all the 
branches of national industry, which is nothing 
but socialism ? 

This eventuality will probably be dismissed by 
most of our readers as a chimera. Well, we do 
not think they will prove right. Taking into 
account the present economical ideas, the train- 
ing, and the moral habits and aspirations of 
our rural classes, as well as the intellectual and 
moral dispositions of their educated brethren, 
there is nothing chimerical in supposing that, 
under the inspiring influence of Western social 
science, our economical evolution, when once 
begun, may lead to a full and comparatively rapid 
realisation of socialism. Or, to put it beyond 


theoretical controversy, we will say that, sup- 
posing socialism is not entirely a dream, of all 
European nations the Russians, provided they 
become a free nation, have the best chance of 
realising it. The future will decide as to how 
much the Russian nation is fitted for it. 

But whether altogether socialistic or only half 
way towards these luminous ideals of the future, 
Russia, to the Russians, will be something entirely 
different, as a factor in international life, to that 
ignoble and disastrous one which she now is. A 
nation of labourers, she is to bring to the brother- 
hood of nations something peculiarly her own, in 
the development of new forms of labour. If she 
cannot do this, if we are to suppose that the solu- 
tion of the political crisis under which she is now 
struggling will come after the aspirations of 
labour shall have been stifled, and that Russia 
will have to plod on her painful way to social 
reorganisation in the rear of Europe, she will be 
but a poor imitator, and a drag upon civilisation 
for many generations to come. 

The abstract sciences are the only things 
which are cosmopolitan. All that deals with, or 
refers to, masses of living men may be great on 
condition of its being national. In one domain 


only has Russia attained to the glorious summit 
of human achievements : this is in her art ; because 
this was the only domain in which the genius of 
individual creators has been inspired and sup- 
ported by the genius of the people ; with the 
result that it has produced a complete thing, 
which is as original as it is national. As it is 
now being rapidly incorporated as an inter- 
national inheritance, it has certainly added its 
deep and powerful note to the general choir. 

As to her polity as a nation among nations, 
Russia can be great otherwise than by her size, if 
only political freedom walks hand in hand with 
the growth of those ideals of labour which spring 
from the collective aspirations of her people. 
We are not European enough to successfully 
imitate a progress based upon the fruition of 
individual interest. 



Agrarian disturbances, 180. 

Question, 3-114, 625, sqq. 

Agricultural Proletariats, 76, 

77, 79, 80. 

Andrey Denisov, 464-467. 
Aleshka, 305-307. 
Antichrist, Reign of, 429-431 
Arcady, Bishop, 460. 
Artel, 636, 637, 638, 639. 
Assistance, Mutual, 292-301 
" Autobiography of a Southern 

Stundist," 563-569. 



Banks, 25, 36-37. 
Peasant, Loan and Sav- 
ings, 104, 105. 
Bashkin, Matvey, 499-504. 
Bashkir, 173, 177, 178, 180. 
Batrak, 95, 250-251, 265. 
Beglopopovzy, The, 443. 
Beguny, The, 448, 450, 453. 
Bdizy, The, 470. 
Bezpopovzy, The, 441, 447. 
Bible Society, London, 574, 

575' 576. 

Bishops Cannon, Arcady, and 

Hennady, 460. 
"Black" Clergy, 373. 
Bobylkas, 269. 
Bobyls, 269. 
Bolshak) 119. 
Bondage System, 51, 63, 77, 

80, 81, 82, 97. 
Bosykh, Ivan, 323-333. 

Capitalists, Russian, 18, 36. 
Castrate, The, 439. 
Cattle, Export of, 35. 
Caucasus, Administration of 

the, 183-186. 
Cheremukhin, 316-319. 
C Mists, The, 437-441. 
Circulation of money, 26-29. 
Clergy, Black, 373. 

Indifference of, 401- 


Relations between, and 

people, 376-378. 

Want of culture among, 


White 373. 



Coalition, Trepoff-Shouvaloff- 

Potapoff, 194-196. 
Colonel Kapger, 200-207. 
Communes, Village, 126, 166, 

275, 276. 

Constabulary, Rural, 208-228. 
Conversions, Popular, 133, 

Corn, Exports of, 32-35. 
Council of Moscow, 407. 
-- 1666-7, 47- 
Count Leo Tolstoi, 589, 599. 

- Valueff, 175-176. 
Credit, Form of, 60-63. 
Crimea, Administration of, 


" DANCERS," The, 438. 
Danilo, 417-418. 
-- Filipovitch, 437. 
Death-rate, 85-90, in. 
Debt, National, 19. 
" Deniers," The, 490. 
Denisov, Andrey, 464-467. 
Dissent, Rationalistic, 493-504. 
Disturbances, Agrarian, 180. 
Dukhoborzy, The, 441, 505- 

525. 554- 

- Number of, 527. 

-- Persecution of, 520-524. 
"Dumb," The, 490. 

Edinoverzy, The, 445. 
Education, Popular, 106, 120, 

576, 577- 
Elders, 156, 157, 160, 161, 


Emancipation, Act of. 4 sgq., 
14, 15, 42, 71, 626. 

of Serfs, 153. 

Embezzlement of land, 167, 
168, 171-207. 

of money, 103-105. 

Employments, Non-agricul- 
tural, 256-261. 
Ermolaeff, Ivan, 310-312. 
Export of corn, 32-35. 
cattle, 35. 

Fedoseevzy, The, 448-453, 


Filipovitch, Danilo, 437. 
Filipovzy, The, 449, 451. 

GAGARINE, Princess, 185, 186. 
Gerassimoff, 225, 226. 
Gorshkovs, The, 280-289. 
Paternal, 153-228. 

Government, 5, 6, no, 148, 

Grain, Average Returns of, 98- 

Greedy Pop, Legend of the, 

Grey Moujik, 273-289.- 310- 


HALLELUIAH'S wife, 370-371. 
Hard Times, 231-336. 
Havrila Volkov, 314-323. 
Hennady, Bishop, 460. 
Home Policy, 107 -no, passim. 
Hromadas, The, 125, 126. 



tempts at, 546. 
Ignatius of Solovezk, 419. 
Industries, Indoor, 53. 
Inheritance, Laws of, 127-129. 
Insurrections, Popular, 618. 
Interest, Rate of, 64, sqq. 70- 

Jspravnik, 102, 164, 167, 210, 


Ivan Afanasieff, 244-249. 

Bosykh, 323-333. 

Ermolaeff, 310-312. 

Izba, 233-234. 

Furniture of, 234-235. 

JAROFF, 58. 

/ua'aisers, The, 494-497. 
"Jumpers," The, 438. 
Kabala, 51, 63, 77, 97, 499. 
Kalikovzy, The, 485. 
Kapger, Colonel, 200-207. 
Karmaly, 66. 
Kalmuks, 182. 
King's Way, The, 482. 
Koulak, 54-57, 74-76,83, 271, 

272, 279. 
Kovylin, 452. 

168, 171-207. 

Question, 625. 

Hunger, 232, 241. 

- Love for the, 240-242. 

Nationalization, 622, 627- 


Land Redistribution of, 109, 

622, 627-635. 

Reform, 99, 100, sqq. 

Tenure in Russia, 8, 9, 

11-15, 4- 

,, the Balkans, 


Lastochkin, 222. 
Laws of Inheritance, 127 129. 
Legal Rights of Women, 129. 
Legend of the Devil and the 

Smith, 362-363. 

Greedy Pop, 361. 

Marvellous Thrashing of 

Corn, 368-370. 

Noah the Godly, 362. 

St. Nicolas and St Elias, 


Loghishino, 194,195, 197-207. 
London Bible Society, 574, 
575. 576. 

MAKOORINE, 219, 200. 
Marriage Question, 475-481. 
Marvellous Thrashing of Corn, 

Legend of, 368-370. 
Mass book, The Revised, 385- 

389, 404, 407. 
Matvey Bashkin, 499-504. 
Maxim, A. Popoff, 546-547. 

the Greek, 497. 

Mediators, 163, 178. 

" Milk-eaters," 538. 

Mir, 101, 102, 125, 126, 131, 

132-134, 136, 138-140, 143, 

*54-i56> 2 79> 280, 619, 

6 4 8 


J//V-eaters, 54, 83, 84. 

Mir's men, 162. 

Missal, The Revised, 385-389, 


Modern Sectarianism, 553-608. 
Molchalniky, The, 490. 
Molokane, The, 505, 522, 525- 

527, 535-549> 554- 

Differences between 

Stundists and, 559-562. 
Non-Sabbatarian, 533. 

- Number of, 527. 

Persecutions of, 520-524. 

Sabbatarian, 528-534 

- Views of Marriage, 542- 

Money, Circulation of, 26-29. 

- Paper, 29-32, 35, 36, 93, 


" Morsels," going for, 293-300. 
Mortality in Russia, 85-90, 

Moscow, Council of, 407. 

- Riots, 410-412. 
Moujiks, i, 2, 116-149, 2 4 2 " 

249, 251, 252-254, 621, 


Grey, 273-289, 310-312. 

Mutual Assistance, 292-301. 
Mystic Sects, spread of, 436, 


" Negators " The, 486-489. 
Ncmoliaki, The, 484-485, 
Ne-Nashy, The, 486-489. 
Netovzy, The, 490. 

Nicolas Tchukhmistov, 488- 

Nicon, Patriarch, 385-389 
passim, 404-405. 

Nihilists, 112, 210. 

Nikitina, 188-189. 

Noah the Godly, Legend of, 

Non-Agricultural Employ- 
ments, 256-261. 

Nonconformity in Russia, 
General review of, 601-608. 

" Non-Prayers," The, 484-485. 

"OLD BELIEVERS," The, 441. 
Orbeliany, Princess, 186. 
Orthodox Church, 143. 

UP," 419-421. 

Monks, 419. 

Paper money, 29-32, 35-36, 


Paranka, 283-288. 
Paternal Government, 153- 

Patriarch Nicon, 385-389, 


Patriotism, Russian, 148-149. 

Peasant Loan and Savings 

Banks, 104, 105. 

proprietorships, 96-97. 

Rebellions of, 192-207, 


- State, 44-45, 254-255. 

Tribunals, 126-127. 

Peasantry, Capacity for Co- 



operative Work, 635- 

Co-operative Mutual 

Assistance, 290-301. 
Curtailment of Privi- 
leges, 615-619. 

Dissatisfaction, 113-114. 

Dress, 235-236. 

Food, 236-237, 264, 265- 


Loyalty, 112-113. 

Migration, 241-242. 

Religiousness, 339, sqq . 

372, 381. 

Starvation, 38. 

Struggle for their own, 


Superstitions, 355-371- 

Truthfulness, 252-253. 

Persecutions of Molokane, 



Pissars, 131, 159, 160. 
"Planters," 163. 
Pless Wanderers, 457. 
Policy, Home, 107-1 10 passim. 
Pomorzy, The, 448, 451. 

Pop, i43> 373-375- 

the Greedy, Legend of, 


Popoff, Maxim A., 546-547. 
Popwzy. The, 441, 443' 447, 

Bishopric, Founding of, 

446, 447- 
Popular Conversions, 133-134. 

Popular Education, 106, 120, 

576-577 ; 

Insurrections. 618. 

Religion, 120-121, 339- 


J Poshekhon Wanderers, 457. 
; Potapoff Coalition. 194-196. 
Princess Gagarine, 185-186. 

Orbeliany. 186. 

Proletariats, Agricultural, 76.. 

77, 79, 80. 124. 
Property, Rights of, 129-130. 
Public Relief, 308-309. 
Pugatchev, Rising under. 426, 

RAILWAYS, 20-22, 37. 

Construction of, by 

Government, 18-19. 

Debt, 19-20. 

Traffic, 22-24. 

Raseol, The, 385-490. 
Rascolniks, Excommunication, 
407-408, 444. 

The, intellectual activity, 

462, sqq. 
Peculiar culture, 473- 

Persecution, 413-421, 

Pops, ordination of, 442- 

- Religious Debates, 471- 


Schools, 470-471. 

Self-government, 425. 

Villages, 422-423. 



Rate of Interest, 64, sqq. 70- 


Rationalistic Dissent, 493-504. 
Ratushny, Michael, 557, 569. 
Ravnenie, 627. 
Re-baptists, 413, 418. 
Redistribution of Land, 109, 

622, 627-635. 
Relations between Clergy and 

People, 376-378. 
Religion in Russia, 120-121 


Remission of Taxes, 231-232. 
Rights of Property, 129-130. 
Women, 129. 
Rising under Pugatchev, 426, 


of the Strelzy, 410-411. 

Rural Constabulary, 208-228. 
Russia, Capitalists in, 18, 

Conception of Statecraft, 

in, 612-614. 

Land Tenure in, 8, 9, 

11-15, 40. 

Mortality in, 85-90, in. 

Nonconformity in, 60 1- 


Patriotism in, 148-149. 

Religion in, 120-121, 

Russian History, Tragedy, of 

Rvanzeff, 66. 

SABBATARIAN, Molokane, 528- 

Sabbatarian, Non-, Molokane, 

Scriptures, Translation of, 573- 

Sectarianism, Modern, 553- 


Serfdom, 12, 40-43. 
Serfs, 124-125. 
Shalaputs, The, 438, 553, 579- 


- Communistic Associa- 

tions, 582-584. 
-- Federation, 585-586. 

- Marriage Relations, 586- 

Shevelevo, Congregation at, 


Shouvaloff Coalition, 194-196. 
Shyshkov, Vasily, 489-490. 
" Sighers," The, 485. 
Skopzy, The, 438, 439-440 
Solovezk, Ignatius of, 419. 
Sopelky Wanderers, The, 457. 


" Southern Stundist, Autobio- 
graphy of," 563-569. 

, 102, 167, 210- 


Starik, 445. 

Starikovshina, The, 446. 
Starvation of peasantry, 38. 
State and Railways, 18-22. 
- Peasants, 44-45,254-255. 
St. Cassian and St. Nicolas 

Legend of, 144, sqq. 
St. Nicolas and St. Elias, 

Legend of, 365-368. 



Stratmiky, The, 453. 
Strelzy^ Rising of the, 410-41 1. 
Strigolniks, The, 493-494. 
Struggle of Peasantry lor their 

own, 250-272. 
Stunda, The, 553-573- 

Literature of, 563, sqq. 

Stundists, Differences between, 

and Molokane, 559-562. 
Stundists, Federation of, 586. 
Sutaev, Vasily, 588, sqq. 
Sutaez'zy, The, 594-600. 
System, Bondage, 51, 63, 77, 

81-82, 97. 

TAXES, 43-46, 92. 

Remission of, 231, 232. 

Tchin, 154, 164-165. 
Tc'hinovnik, 154-155, 157, 

Tchukhmistov, Nicolas, 488- 

Theodosius the Squint-eyed, 

Tokareff, Trial of General, 


Tolstoi, Count Leo, 589, 599. 
Tragedy of Russian History, 


Trepoff Coalition, 194-196. 
Trial of General Tokareff, 193- 

Tzar, Popular conception of 

the, 621-623. 

URIADNIK, 209-228. 
Usurers, 54-55 
Usman. 66. 

VALUEFF, COUNT, 175-176. 
Vasily, Shyshkov, 489-490. 
Vttchc, 6 1 6. 
Village Communes, 126, 166, 


Volkov, Havrila, 314-323. 
Volost, 126-127, 154, 158. 
Vozdykhanzy^ The, 485. 

"Wanderers" The, 453-457 

PUss, 457. 

Poshekhon, 457. 

" White " Clergy, 373. 

Ones, 470. 

Women, Education of, 468- 

held in honour, 469-470. 

Legal rights of, 129. 

Wygorezie, The, 464. 
Wyg Settlement, 464-468, 470- 

YIELD of Grain, 47. 
Yusefovitch, 173. 

Zossima, 496. 





V v' 

Kravchinskii, Sergei 
Mikhailovich, 1652-1895 
The Russian peasantry, 
their agrarian condition, 
social life and religion^ 
New ed. 

G. Routledge