Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

V.

of bondage the outcome of the establishment of In the nature of things it is impossible, at a freely chosen legislature. When, finally, the present, to speak with full certainty on this subPoles, counting upon a corresponding movement ject. The Russian revolutionists, being engaged in Russia, resolved upon that heroic though des- in a desperate struggle, have neither the leisure perate rising which by anticipation I alluded to necessary for writing such statements, nor is it in the last article, such fresh cruelties were prac- their interest to go into details. Judicial inquiticed by Alexander II. against the vanquished ries have lifted, here and there, some corner of victims that every human heart worthy of the the mysterious winding-sheets in which the sename must shudder at the mere recollection of cret Vehme is enveloped. But more light can them.

only be expected after the conspiracy has been From those days, however, the conspirato- entirely crushed, in which case, however, owing ry movement in Russia began to assume larger to the heroic silence which its adherents generproportions. What I have said in the preceding ally maintain, a great deal of knowledge will for pages goes far to explain the violence by which ever be buried in the grave, or the fuller clearing that movement has latterly been characterized. up will come when, as would fain hope, this

fierce struggle ends with a triumph, whether

complete or partial, of the cause of freedom. PARTLY from the aggressiveness which is Even under the iron rule of Nicholas, there the natural bent of a despotic military monarchy, were, many years after the St. Petersburg insurpartly from the wish to check the home-growth rection of 1825, still some faint traces of secret of liberal sentiments by frequent bloodletting societies, in which the spirit of Pestel and Muraabroad, the Government of Alexander II. has wieff was continued. One of these occult leagues tried to meet the danger which has been gather- ,was that of Petrascheski, detected in 1849, whose ing round the autocratic system by lighting up members were sentenced to forced labor and to foreign wars. Central Asia has served him for banishment to Siberia. A nearer approach to that purpose. So has Turkey. The flag of am- the plebeian element than was observable in the bition was flaunted before public opinion as soon conspiracies of 1817–25 characterized this later as there was a revival of the opposition tendency association. Altogether the more educated classin internal affairs.

es gradually began to seek closer contact with An attempt at opening up the whole Eastern the people at large. Question was made as early as 1870, when France This task was in so far facilitated by the tyand Germany were locked together in deadly em- rannical Czar-Pope Nicholas, in that he not only brace. The confidential dispatches and cipher trod under foot that portion of the nobiliary class telegrams exchanged in 1870 between Mr. de which aimed at a constitutional share of the poNovikoff, the Russian Ambassador at Vienna, litical power, but also persecuted the various disand Mr. Ionin, the Russian Consul-General at senting sects in the most barbarous fashion. Ragusa, which fortunately came to light some Under an outward gloss of official orthodoxy, years ago, have fully proved that even then Mus- Russia is eaten up with a chaos of sects. The covite policy busied itself with getting up a phan- Raskolniks, or Old Believers, profess to be the tom insurrection in Herzegovina preparatory to real Church; yet the simplest civic rights were an attack upon Turkey. Nor is it a secret that always denied to them. Besides those Old Bea Bulgarian committee of insurrection, affiliated lievers, numerous other sects exist. They in their to Russia, had been in existence in Bucharest turn are surrounded by a strange fringe of “Runfor years previous to the late war. All these ners," “ Jumpers,” “Flagellants,” “Self-Mutilapropagandistic intrigues were in a measure de- tors,” and other eccentric or anti-social pests signed to occupy some of the more active minds which crop up most thickly in the dank shadow in Russia, who hesitated between home reform of an obscurantist despotism, whose very roots, and Panslavistic ambition.

however, they gradually destroy and encroach The Czar has indulged in his warlike enter- upon. Persecuted men often seek solace in wild prises, but he has deceived himself in his calcu- hopes and prophetic beliefs, which, if strongly lations as regards home policy. All his frightful nurtured by agitation, are apt to imperil the perspilling of blood abroad has not been able to secutor. Under Nicholas, the persecutor of all prevent the formation and extension of what is dissenters, popular seers occasionally arose, who called the Nihilist Conspiracy. Side by side in their occult meetings predicted from the book with his wars, the Secret League has grown of Esdras that, after the reign of Nicholas should apace, overshadowing all his glory. So exten- be over, the monarchy would fall down under his sive have the ramifications of that conspiracy be- son, and that “the people then would be happy come that the liveliest interest is now awakened and free.” as to its origin and its earliest germs.

Such a state of feeling in the lower and more

a

66

9

backward social strata rendered it at all events Alexander Herzen,* who favored the Paneasier for would-be reformers of the conspirator slavistic cause, could still speak, retrospectively, type to enter into closer contact with the plebeian of Russian czars as being “Robespierres on element. Though educated men could not have horseback”- '-an expression of so doubtful a value any sympathy with the mystic views and tone, that it rather reminds us of the pseudo-revoluthey found a practical ally in the sullen dissat- tionary language of Napoleonism than of the isfaction which drove dissenters to opposition purer democratic principles. Herzen's idea beagainst the Government. So it was under Nich- ing that Constantinople should become the capiolas. So it still is under Alexander II. It may tal of a great Russo-Slav empire, we can easily suit the sacerdotal Ritualists, who would fain es- understand that he should have represented Mustablish a connection of High Church Anglican- covite history under such a deceptive garb. Baism with the official orthodoxy of the East, to kunin also was a Panslavist for a time, but of a promote the aggressive policy of the Czar. But different type, aiming as he did at a loose demoEnglish Dissenters, who prize their freedom from cratic federation of the various Slav tribes. The clerical trammels, might remember that autoc- impossibility of this federation all those will acracy in Russia represents all that is worst in po- knowledge who think it equally chimerical to litical as well as in religious fields. Besides up- form a Romanic federation between nations so holding the Stuart doctrine with the means of a dissimilar in origin, history, language, and aspiGenghis Khan and a Tamerlane, it pretends, in rations, as are the Italians, the French, the Spanchurch matters, to a Papal authority, crushing iards, the Portuguese, the French-speaking secthe Bible Christian, the eccentric mystic, and the tion of the Swiss, and the Roumans of Moldoreligious rationalist with an equally heavy hand- Wallachia and Hungary. Or would it be less and, if need be, as in the case of the Greek Uni- chimerical to try to form a Teutonic federation ates under Alexander II., with the Cossack knout. among Germans, Dutch, Danes, Swedes, Nor

In the educated class of Russia, two very dif- wegians, Icelanders, German-Swiss, Englishmen, ferent political currents are observable: the one North Americans, and the various English coloinclining toward Western liberalism, while the nies? other cultivates the nationalist sentiment under Nihilism, on its part, has nothing in common rather antiquated forms. The “Westerners,” with those Panslavist intrigues which mainly • Europeans,” or “Liberals,” are often regarded cover an imperialist ambition. Nihilism, as at by the more stolid adherents of Katkoff as men present known, is, in fact, the very negation of lacking in patriotism. Between these two par- such dangerous ambitious schemes. ties—if we could speak of parties in a country

The first Nihilist Society, properly speaking, which has no ordered public life-a third group is said to have been founded by Russian students is observable: the Panslavists, many of whom about the year 1859. German works on philospursue, under a liberal mask, aims favorable to ophy and natural science were then much in the aggrandizement of czardom. Not a few of demand, as forbidden fruit among the aspiring the Panslavists are in reality mere Government youths of Russia. The books not being allowed tools. Others, who, like Aksakoff, began as in- to pass the frontier, stray copies were smuggled dependent workers in the Panslavist cause, finally in, and lithographed translations passed from yielded to Government temptation; but after a hand to hand. The Agricultural College of while even they were found to be too much im- Petrovski, near Moscow, is considered to have bued with reforming ideas, and consequently been one of the first places where young men were placed under police surveillance.

became imbued with such advanced ideas. In The great mass of the Russian people has this neighborhood the Netchaieff tragedy was nothing to do with Panslavism; it does not even enacted. Among literary men, Tchernitcheffski know what it is. The idea of a Slav brother- was one of the first who became a “Nihilist.” hood is foreign to it. It can be made, by much He suffered for it by being banished to Siberia. priestly preaching, to take a sort of bigoted interest in alleged co-religionists who are said to

* There is a notion in this country that Herzen, at be ill-treated by “unbelieving Turks "; but the there. The idea is founded on a book of his, published

one time, was banished to Siberia, and lived as an exile interest and the understanding do not go beyond in German and English, under the title of “My Exile in that. Such is the distinct statement made lately Siberia." Herzen, however, was never banished to Siby one of the best observers, Ivan Turgenieff, beria, but only interned for a time at Perm, which is the novelist, in a conversation with a German several hundred miles from the Siberian frontier, and writer. As to the revolutionary party in Russia, later at Novgorod. There, as a Government official, he it has more and more become estranged from the had to sign the passport documents of those who were

transported to Siberia. He left Russia, and lived abroad Panslavistic tendency—so much so that at pres- in voluntary exile when he wrote his works of Panslaent it stands in direct opposition to it.

vistic propagandism under socialist colors.

6

66

The word “Nihilist " is, however, a somewhat more educated or well-to-do classes, have been misleading one. It was conferred at first as a found to be mixed up with the “Nihilist " connickname. Afterward it was adopted (like the spiracy. By far the most characteristic feature, name of the Gueux) in a kind of dare-devil mood; however, is the share which women have taken and has covered, ever since, a great many varie- in the late startling events. When women thus ties of political and social discontent, as well as actively and enthusiastically step forth in a revoof philosophical radicalism. There are Nihilists lutionary or national movement, even to the exwho, from the sheer hopelessness engendered by tent of sacrificing their lives, it is always a sign a tyranny lasting a thousand years, have come to of a people's feelings being wrought up to the cultivate a philosophy of despair, of disgust, and highest tension. So great a strain upon the more of destruction, without troubling themselves as delicate nature of the fairer sex can not be borne to the constitution of the future. These are men very long. It is only at a time of extreme crisis that profess a wish to do away with all state or- that the unusual event occurs; and Russia is now ganizations, for the sake of a morbid individual- at the very acme of such a crisis. ism. Others there are who, in the semi-revolu- We have seen, in succession, Vera Sassulitch, tionary vein of Comte, incline toward a socialist a captain's daughter; Sophia Löschern von Herzcollectivism in a rather Utopian, not to say hie- feld, a lady of high rank; Nathalie von Armfeldt, rarchic, form. To them the word “Nihilist " is the daughter of an imperial councilor; Mary scarcely applicable.

Kovalevski, who also ranks as a noble; Katharina Strictly speaking, the word “Nihilist " covers, Sarandovitch, the daughter of a tchinovnik, or at most, a small group of persons of a brooding official; and several more, of equally prominent and impracticable temper, such as is sometimes position, playing in the revolutionary contest a created under the darkest tyrannies. It may be most remarkable part. They have suffered imdoubted whether the majority of those who use prisonment; they have risked their lives; some the dagger and the revolver without compunc- of them have been condemned to hard labor. tion against the vile sbirri of an intolerable des. One of them was sentenced to be shot—but this potism would call themselves Nihilists, or even latter decision even the Czar, though having to Socialists. The greater number of the members wage war against women, dared not carry out. of the secret leagues are believed to hold views This extraordinary mixing of the female sex in a not far removed from those which have found a widely ramified conspiracy is of so phenomenal practical expression in some freely constituted a character that a sketch of the educational and countries. The violent means employed are, emancipatory movement which led up to it may with many, only the outcome of a feeling of re- well be here in its place. venge easily to be understood under the circum- By way of contrast, let us first look into times stances; or else they are regarded as a dire ne- which seem to lie ages behind us, but which are cessity in insurrectionary warfare. True, there yet in the recollection of a great many. have been Russians abroad who spoke of “abol- When Gogol wrote his “Dead Souls,” not ishing the family and property." But nothing quite forty years ago, the education of young warrants the assumption that this is the principle ladies in Russia was conducted on wonderful of the Nihilists in Russia itself.

principles of "finishing." Young ladies—said If either mere anarchy or a system of barrack Gogol, with cutting satire-receive, as is well communism be the object of the majority of the known, a very good education. Three things men and women whose deeds have of late riveted are looked upon, in the establishments to which the attention of all Europe, it is hard to compre- they are sent, as the pillars of all human virtues : hend that these conspirators should have secured namely, first, a knowledge of the French lanso many friends among classes which by educa- guage; secondly, the piano; thirdly, domestic tion and position can not possibly have any sym- economy, which consists of the embroidery of pathy with mere destructive or Utopian schemes. purses and other objects of surprise. “Our Of the existence of numerous friends of the Nihil- present time,” he added, “has shown itself most ists in the higher classes there is, however, no inventive as regards the perfection of this edudoubt. Thus only can the hold be explained cational method ; for in one establishment they which the occult propaganda of this hic et ubique begin with the piano, and then go on to French, conspiracy has obtained upon the commonwealth. concluding with the domestic economy alluded

to; whereas in another school the embroidering VI.

of purses forms the introduction, upon which I HAVE mentioned the participation of women French and the piano follow. It will be seen in the present desperate struggle. Students, that there is much difference in the methods.” lawyers, officers, government officials, landed Gribojedoff also, in a telling comedy, has some proprietors, merchants, all kinds of men of the striking sarcasms on the superficiality and hollow

a

frivolousness of the education of girls of the up- with bureaucratic regulations, while the foundaper classes. “We bring up our daughters," he tion of the girls' schools, for which these extensays, “as if they were destined to be the wives sive and often harassing regulations were framed, of the dancing-masters and the buffoons to whom proceeded with extreme slowness. In fact, the we intrust their instruction.” Now and then a regulations were there ; but in most cases the reformer started up, but in a very curious fashion. schools were wanting. One of the earliest was Tatjana Passek, the cousin Meanwhile, the aspiring girlhood of Russia of Alexander Herzen, of whom a writer, who threw itself with avidity upon the new sources of adopts the signature of “Borealis,” in the Berlin knowledge, scant as they were, which had at last “Gegenwart,” says that, in consequence of the been opened to it. The Minister of Public Instraitened circumstances of her father, she was struction, Golovnin, who was in office between compelled to open a Young Ladies' Establish- 1861-'66, promoted, in his quality of an oppoment in a provincial town. Intelligent, but with- nent of the classical method of education, by out any solid knowledge, she herself relates in preference the study of natural science. Hence a her memoirs how she taught ancient history off- realistic tendency--often verging upon the harsh hand, chiefly by means of a lively imagination, and the crude-became the prevailing tone. Girls, She even critically expounded the philosophical sick of the idleness and the conventional frivolisystems of Greece and Rome without knowing or ties of social life, eagerly devoted themselves to understanding them. Her hand-book for Greek scientific pursuits, both as students at the new history was “ The Travels of Young Anacharsis.” academies and as subscribers to the courses of There was no system or connection in what she lectures which were getting into vogue. The taught, but the sprightliness of her delivery made very antagonists of the more extreme “emanciup for the defect. “When we came to the his- patory” practices acknowledge that the greater tory of Sparta, we became so enthusiastic for the number of these lady-students, who soon were Lacedæmonian girls that we tried to imitate their driven to seek for an opportunity of acquiring hardened style of life, washing ourselves with knowledge at a foreign university—that is, at cold water, promenading with bare feet, doing Zurich-distinguished themselves by much diligymnastics, drinking no tea, and ceasing to cry. gence and talent, as well as by a spirit of perWhen I look back upon these performances, I sonal sacrifice in regard to worldly comforts. wonder how my pupils remained in good health.” At the same time it must be averred that The same lady reports that the friends of her some of them, yielding to an exaltation and eccenyouth, disgusted with the hollowness of drawing- tricity easily aroused in womankind, mentally room life, had endeavored to satisfy their eman- overbalanced themselves as it were, and began cipatory inclinations by donning men's dress, in- to assume hideous mannish and hermaphrodite dulging in Amazonian tastes, and secretly fre- ways. The close-cropped hair, the unnecessarily quenting taverns where, with their aristocratic spectacled face, the short tight jacket, the cigar, small hands, they jubilantly raised the foaming and the frequenting of public-houses were uncup.

pleasant outward signs; but far more deplorable So much for girls' education in the higher was the cynic tone. These were and are the sad strata. As to the immense mass of the Russian excrescences of an otherwise laudable aspirapopulation, they were left to rot, intellectually, in tion; but it may be hoped that in course of time utter neglect. The school system in some West- the excrescences will disappear. The sooner the ern countries — including central and southern better, else the best friends of the progressive Italy before 1859-'60, France, and even England tendency among womankind will turn away from until a few years ago-was bad enough. In it in sorrow and anger at the unsexing of the sex, Russia it was simply non-existent. The private whose tenderer nature—in Schiller's words, let educational establishments and grammar-schools us hope not quite antiquated — is destined to in a few towns, which were destined for the weave wreaths of heavenly roses into the earthmore well-to-do middle class, were sorry copies ly life.” of the few Government institutions. I have be- However, all the odd eccentricities, all the sad fore mentioned how, under the present reign, a contempt of the natural and recognized forms of movement for a more liberal education arose, beauty, delicacy, or even decency, into which which, however, soon led to students' tumults some may have allowed themselves to be beand to severe police measures. In girls' educa- trayed by their eagerness to throw off intolerable tion, too, a progressive movement was initiated. intellectual fetters, must not render us unjust to For a short time it was said that the Empress the sounder aspect of the movement. Nor can herself, whose German origin inclined her to that those vagaries prevent us from giving a due view, would assume its protectorate. But soon meed of admiring praise to the heroism displayed it was seen that Government mainly busied itself by those nobly aspiring women with whom the

... Thus

66

a

exaggerated manner is more an outward form, out occupation within the walls of a prison !... while their self-sacrificing deeds in the cause of Everything human concentrated in the single person the freedom of the nation and the welfare of the of the turnkey who brings the food! ... The moneglected masses show the true humanity and notonousness only broken, now and then, by the call nobility of their heart. “Dead souls” they are

of the sentinel who, peering through the windownot. The fire of enthusiasm is within them.

bars, asks, “ Prisoner, have you not done any harm to yourself?" or by the rattling of the locks and

door-bolts, the clack of guns shouldered or grounded, VII.

or the dreary striking of the hour in the fortress of AFTER this rapid general survey of the con- St. Peter and St. Paul. . . . Far, far away from evedition of mind of the more advanced women in rything human!... Nothing there to nourish the Russia I come to the tragic story of Vera Sas- feelings of friendship and love; nothing but the sulitch. It is a story typical of the base cruelty sympathy created by the knowledge that, to the of autocratic government-typical also of the right and to the left, there are fellow sufferers passresults such a system must needs produce.

ing their wretched days in the same way. The victim and heroine of that ever-memo- it was that, in the depth of her solitude, there arose, rable tragedy was not, at first, a member of any for every state prisoner that every political convict

in Vera Sassulitch, such warm-hearted sympathy secret organization. Far from it.

At the age of seventeen, Vera, then a mere schoolgirl, had recollections, to whom she assigned a place in the

sufferer became for her a spiritual comrade in her made the acquaintance of another schoolgirl, experience and the impressions of her past life. whose brother was a student. In the course of this innocent girlish friendship she was induced During the two years that Vera was kept in to take care of a few letters destined for the stu- dungeons under a mere suspicion she was twice dent Netchaieff, who afterward played a part in only subjected to a secret inquiry—“ judicial,” if the revolutionary movement. A“ Nihilist " Miss that is a word applicable to these dread inquiSassulitch, at that time, certainly was not. Her sition procedures. At last she feared she was whole ambition centered in the wish of passing forgotten. Nothing whatever having come out her examination to qualify herself for a governess, against her, she was finally set free, and went which she did “with distinction."

back to her heart-broken mother, only to be sudNetchaieff's democratic connections having denly rearrested ten days afterward! For a mobeen denounced by a traitor, whom he thereupon ment, in spite of a two years' bitter experience, slew, the schoolgirl of seventeen, who had known she childishly thought there was some mistake. his sister, and him through her, was thrown into But the horrible truth of her situation soon broke prison as one “suspected ” of conspiracy. There upon her. One morning she was seized in prison, was not a shadow of proof against her. No ac- and, without being allowed to take even a change cusation was even formulated against her. Nev- of dress or a mantle, transported by gendarmes ertheless she was kept, for two long years, in the to a distant province by way of banishment. One Czar's Bastile—an eternity of torture for a cap- of these gendarmes threw his own fur over her tive uncertain of her fate. These were the words shivering shoulders, or else she might have perwhich her counsel, Mr. Alexandroff, addressed ished on the road. to the jury, when, later on, she was tried for an I will not go here through the whole “inferattempt upon Trepoff, one of the most hated nal circle” of her sufferings and involuntary mitools of despotic profligacy:

grations, which I have elsewhere described more

fully. I will not relate how she was “moved The time between the eighteenth and the twen- on" from one place to the other; the only variety tienth year-these are the years of youth when child. in her treatment consisting of an occasional rehood ceases; when impressions lasting for life are turn to prison. Eleven years had thus altogether most powerful; when life itself appears yet spotless elapsed when at last, in those vast dominions of and pure. For the maiden it is the most beautiful the Czar, and amid more thrilling events which time—the time of budding love—the time when the began to crowd upon public attention, she girl rises to the fuller consciousness of womanhood seemed to be really forgotten. In this way she -the time of fanciful reverie and enthusiasm—the time to which, in later days, as a mother and a ma- whence again she started for Pensa. It was

managed clandestinely to go back to the capital,

I tron, her thoughts will yet fondly turn. Gentlemen of the jury, you know in the company of what friends there that by chance she learned from the “NoVera Sassulitch had to pass her best years. The voje Vremja" (“ New Times”) the infamous walls of a casemate were her companions. For two treatment of Bogoljuboff, a political prisoner, by years she saw neither mother, nor relations, nor the chief of the police at St. Petersburg, the vile friends. Sometimes she heard that her mother had and universally despised Trepoff, the personal, come and had given a message of greeting. That intimate, and pampered darling of Alexander II. was all she was allowed to learn. Locked up with. The flogging practices of this tyrannic head

a

« AnkstesnisTęsti »