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Wrongs to be Righted in Russia., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2429, 14 May 1890
Wrongs to be Righted in Russia.
MADAME TSHEBRIKOVA'S LETTER
A few days ago (writes a correspondent of the "Times") a despatch from St. Petersburg announced that the Tzar had received a threatening letter from a woman named Tshebrikova, and it further stated thab a copy of this letter had been sent to each of the' Ministers. The event has caused considerable sensation, as its author is a lady who enjoyed a highreputation in political circles. Madame Tshebrikova is about 50 years old, and for the last 20 years has been known for her writings on women's questions arid on educational subjects. The brilliant position Madame Tshebrikova occupied is now sacrificed by this one letter. Her action is all the more remarkable as Madame
Tshebrikova had no relations with the Russian revolutionary party; she wrote spontaneously, and her letter was not due
to any suggestions from the Nihilists. Madame Tshebrikova went to Paris, there composed her epistle, and then boldly took it herself back to Russia, caused it to be delivered, and awaited the consequences. Madame Tshebrikova has,' of course, been arrested ; and it is this display of self-sacrifice and of civic courage which is.likely to cause as much effect as what the letter itself contains. The document will, therefore, in its:' way, become historical. The following are the more important passages :— Tour Majesty,—The laws of my country punish free speech. All that is honorable in Russia is condemned to see thought persecuted by an . arbitrary Administration. We witness the moral and physical massacre of youth, the spoliation and flagellation of a people condemned, to remain speechless.' But liberty, Sire, is'the primordial necessity of a people, and sooner or later the hour will come when the citizens, having, under this tutelage, exhausted their patience, wili raise their voices and then your authory will have to yield. -■'■■ ...
There are also in the lives of individuals moments when they are ashamed of their silence, and, thenf they dare to risk all that is dear to them ; so as to say, to the' person who holds in his hands all-the, power and all the strength, the person who could put an end to so much evil and so much shame :—"Look at what you are doing, either consciously or not." NOT ORDER BUT ANARCHY. After showing that all guarantee against" the arbitrary conduct.of the functionaries has been abolished,. Madame, Tshebrikova exclaims:— - ■ .. : / " i
What I say to you is no fable, as your lacquais- and Ministers ■would have you believe ; it is the truth. Tolstoi himself did not wish to suppresa the village jnstices of the peace ; and to your initiative is attributed the abolition of this last remaining guarantee the peasants possessed. What, were you able Sire, to burden your own conscience with such a measure—you who know not what life, the people led ? Do you imagine that because you are an, anointed Sovereign you are a divinity possessing knowledge of all things? If you could, Sire, like the Sovereign in" the fable, pass invisibly, over the tdwns and' villages, so as to know what life the Russian people live, you would see its misery, you would see how the Governors bring up the soldiers to shoot down the peasants and the workmen. You would see that f order, maintained by thousands ofsoldiers, by legions of functionaries, by an army of spies, that order in the name of which every word of protestation is suppressed, that this is not order at all, but a state of administrative anarchy.
DECORATIONS V. THE HOPE ANjU GIBBET.
After enumerating,' at length, all the measures taken against education in the schools Mclme. Tshebrikova speaks of the censure and persecution of the Press, and proceeds:— „ . , The experience of the past reign and
your own experience must have demonstrated to your Majesty that the policy of persecution does not'attain its object! The' day will come whon the persecution of tlie right of thought will seem as the,memory , of a bad dream ; but I fear that the advent of such a day will, be accompanied with flames aftd ' floods of.. blood. The whole of your system pushes those who are dissatisfied into the camp of (the revolutionists, even those who feel a strong and natural repulsion,for all ideas of blood and violence. For one imprudent word, for a revolutionary print often taken out of mere curiosity, a young man, a mere child, is declared to be a political criminal. I We have political criminals who are only 14 years old, who are consigned to cellular confinement. The Government that rules 100,000,000 people trembles before children. In our country people are sent for 12 years to Eastern Siberia for offences which in Austria would be punished by two weeks' simple imprisonment. The youth of, the 1 country thus-trampled, upon becomered revolutionists. I have k horror of bloodshed, no matter who may be the victim; but when, for the spilling _of blood, we find that on one "side decorations are .distributed, and on the other is 'the rope and the "gibbet,' it is easy to understand the synipathies of young, enthusiastic, arid heroic" youths. By the., side of , the. -Draconian punishments inflicted by the tribunals we have also the punishments by administrative order. By this latter -the Government gets 4 rid of its enemies against* whom there is, 'insufficient proof. A man is killed, not because there are established proofs against, him, but because.police functionaries are inwardly^ convinced of his guilt; arid such'corivic- 1 tion is based on the reports of spies, compared by';','the\liigher <\f unctibriaries themselves to "a source of troubled waters." This is the way orders',ofdeportation are drawn up:—"Though there are no .proofs on\whiclv\ to ..cqndemn-
, still he is exiled to——l^J" 1 These warrants will be transmitted ,to> posterity,. and it is said that your Majesty's signature is affixed to to such orders. ... HOW ASSASSINS ARE .MANUFACTURED.;
The political prisoners areHhe'victims Of arbitrary conduct which, at times as.sumes ian absolutely savage ■ character. The Minister Tolstoi was himself alarmed by the extent of the spoliations and massacres. Every prison gaoler, every etnpe officer, may without danger to himself, rob, strike, martyrise the unfortunate prisoners, the poor women and children. The lower falls a stone the greater the shock ; thus each order of repression descending lower and lower in the administrative hierarchy augments progressively in its destructive force and falls on defenceless victims. All their complaints are useless. The victims protest by voluntary starvation, or by some act of violence, which is often an act of folly. All these measures of terrorism, which commence wi,fch exile under administrative order and end by the gibbet, do not effect the object for.which they were intended. The nuriiber of political criminals will increase every day.. The imagination of the young people will become accustomed to the idea of exile to the executions, and their number will go on increasing, because the cause of these political offences is firmly, rooted in our political and social condition. A Government which- defends itself by means that are condemned by all public moral senti-. ment, such as exile by administrative .order, spies., flogging, the gibbet, and bloodshed, itself teaches to the revolutionists the Jesuitical, principle that ■ the object justifies the means. Where the victims of autocracy die by the thousand where people are flogged to death with impunity-,, an ardent feeling of commiseration will always bring into existence those who are wijling to seek revenge.
HOW SALVATION MAY BU FOUND, The policy of Nicholas I. cost Russia a heavy price. Your Majesty's reforms
make Russia go backward towards this lugubrious epoch. The lessons taught by the' Crimean campaign compelled your father to alter the policy of Nicholas I. Is an equally cruel lesson necessary to lay bare the rottenness of a similar state of affairs ?
Your salvation depends on your return to the reforms commenced by your father. Freedom of speech, 1 inviolability, of the person, the freedom of meeting, publicity given to all trials, education widely accessible to all, the suppression of arbitrary administrations, and the convocation of Zeniskisobor,'or National Parliaments—in this is salvation. One word from you, and we shall have in Russia a pacific revolution which will constitute a luminous page of history. Should you, however,', desire to leave in the history of your country a sinister blot, you will not hear the malediction of posterity, but your children will hear it, and what; a horrible legacy you will have left them. You are, sire, one of the most powerful monarchs, of the world ; I am but an atom among a crowd of millions, of beings similar -to myself whose fate is in your hands. And yefc my conscience, my right, my duty as a Russian woman compels me to'speak out what is on my mind, and to say what I had to say
Wrongs to be Righted in Russia., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2429, 14 May 1890
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