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THE EMPIRE OF THE TSAR

[By W. F- Ksiwkdt.] Come years ago, while travelling from Tfrasuru to Dunedin, I got into cqnvepsa*tion with a gentleman on the train, who turned out to be a representative of the Russian Government. He said ho was Governor, I think, of one of the provinces of Liberia, and was on a visit to New Zealand inquiring into our agricultural and pastoral methods. I found him a very interesting acquaintance, and he talked freelv of his impressions of the Dominion. Doubtless everything seemed to him to be on a very small scale comoared with tho huge country from which he came. If so, it ia not to be wondered it, for tho territory of the Russian Empire embraces one-sixth of the land surface of the globe. It extends from the Black Sea to tho Arctic, and from the Baltic >o the North Pacific; the Empire touches China, Afghanistan, Persia, and Asiatic Turkey, Sweden, Prussia, Auatro-Hungary, and Rumania, and comes very near the north-west frontier of India. It has an area twice as large as tho whole of Europe, and a population estimated at embracing a variety of nationalities, and tongues. The annual increase ot population exceeds 1,500,000. Tho Empire over which the Tsar holds sway includes Finland, Poland, Caucasia, Siberia, Turkestan, and the Transcaspian region. The Baltic is her principal sea, four out of five of her five ports—viz., St. Petersburg (or Petrograd, as the capital is now called), Reval, Libau, and Riga being situated on that sea. Three of these ports are frozen over for four or five months in the year. Russia has no colonies. Her Asiatic possessions are simply reserves for surplus population. In European Russia the arc hot and tho winters very cold, as Napoleon and his forces discovered to their cost. The spring has a charm unknown ic Western Europe. The rainfall is small, averaging 14in to 22iu per annum, and there is a regularity in the seasons which we in this Dominion are certainly not familiar with. In summer westerly winds temper the climate, but in the long dark winter fierce blizzards blow with great severity, often burying the railways under snow and dertrdying numbers of live stock. A vast forest region prevails over Northern and Central Russia, where wolves and bears are common, but the wild hoar and the bison, the reindeer, the elk, the beaver, which were once plentiful, are now scarce. The people of this great empire, as 1 jaid, embrace a large variety of nationalities. The Russians proper are divided Into three sections—the Great Russians, the Little Russians, and the White Russians, numbering 77,000,000. The Poles number about 5,000,000. Then_ there are ‘he Letts, Finns, Armenians, Kurds, Persians, who live chiefly in Caucasia. The .Tews are most numerous in West Russia and Poland, numbering about 31 millions. Among them are many artisans, factory workers, and agriculturists. In the far north are the Lapps and Samoyedes. The Turko-Tartars also number about 5£ millions in European Russia alone, and a still larger number are to be found In Central Asia. They are tho remnants of a race who once conquered Russia. The great majority of the people of the Empire belong to the Grreco-Russian Church, known officially as the Orthodox Catholic Church. The Finns and a few other nationalities are Protestant, while the followers of Mohamrtied are to bo found among tho Turco-Tartars. Buddhism ia represented in tho Kalmucks and the Buriats. Shamanism —a religion said to be baaed mainly on magic and sorcery —prevails among "the natives of Siberia. Religious intolerance (according to Prince Kronotkine) is not a feature of tho national character, but the persecution of the Jews has been notorious, and the making of converts from among adherents of tho Greek Church is severely punished, while all sorts of vexatious measures are imposed upon the followers of some of the dissenting sects. Tho Dukhobors, of whom wc heard so much some • avs ago, and who, on aicount of perse,....on, left Russia in largo numbers for Canada, are a kind of Baptist persuasion. Their name means “ warriors of the Spirit,” and they are strict vegetarians. Among the orthodox a pilgrimage to Palestine is one of tho things eagerly looked forward to once in a lifetime. Tolstoy’s story ‘ Two Old Men ’ is a realistic description of such a journey, and gives ua on insight into the simple, childlike, joyous faith of the 'Russian peasant. —Government.— The political organisation of Russia, Kropotkme says, is a very heterogeneous structure. At bottom it has a great deal of self-government, based on quite democratic principles. But above this stands the Imperial authority, represented by an army of officials, whose powers, down to those of the very humblest rural policeman, are extremely vague and very extensive; and these officials are constantly interfering with the local self-government, and paralysing it, without, however, being able to destroy it or reduce it entirely into submisrdon to the central authority. Until 1906 tho Empire was an absolute and hereditary monarchy, the final decision in all legislative, executive, and judicial questions remaining with tho Emperor, who nominates the Ministers, and whose will is law. In that year the national assembly, known os the Duma, was authorised. It forms tho Lower House of Parliament, and consists of 442 members, elected by a complicated process, so manipulated as to secure an overwhelming number of representatives of the wealthy and landed class. The Tsar has power to prorogue or dissolve the Duma as often oa he pleases, and still in other ways controls, a largo part of governmental power. The Holy Synod, of which we hear a good deal, fa the supreme organ , of government of the Orthodox Church in Russia. It is presided over by a procurator and bishops nominated by the Tear. The various provinces are administered by governors, such officials being in many instances chiefs of the police, who are nominated by the governors. They are invested with large and badly-defined powers, and, being in general illiterate and ignorant of the law, are often exasperating engines of persecution and oppres&ion. In the country districts at the close of the reign o! Alexander IL the Government appointed mounted police, who had power to arrest on tho spot anyone whom they suspected. They were nicknamed “chicken stealers," and rapidbf became the terror of the countryside. In the towns every house is provided with a detective policeman in the shape of the porter, whose duty is to report to the police any auspicious character, or supply information that would prove useful or interesting. And, finally, in this much-policed country eojne secret police, who are armed with inquisitorial functions and arbitrary powers of quite a universal nature for the discovery, prevention, and extirpation of political sedition. It was a development of this service under the Tsar Nicholas L, known as the “Third Section,” whose activity brought about a fearsome reign of terror all over Russia, its methods being secret and summary, ita administration ignorant and corrupt, and its victims numbering thousands. Much, however, as th“ government of Sqiflsia leaves to bo desired, it enables legislation to be passed for the benefit of the people with an expedition and direct. i:ess which would not be possible were tho rule of the Tsar less autocratic. (Witness recently tho closing down of the Hquor traffic during the war.) John Foster Fraser, in his most interesting book 'Tho Real Siberia.’ bears testimony to this. “ Before I left St. Petersburg," he writes, “it was my fortune to have a chat with a very distinguished Russian. What he said to me was this: ‘You British people don't understand ua. You think because we have no representative institutions wo must bo averse to change. My dear eir, Russia has made tremendous strides this last halLcenlury, and she would not have made them had there been popular Goemment. When you talk of popular government you, don’t understand what that would mean in Russia. Do yon know that only 3 per cent, of the population can read Of write). The Government fa trying,to etuuuce this, but it fa hard when dealing a people who for centuries have been

1 as ours, which has been behind other lands so long, autocracy is the only thing that could nave lifted it to its present place among the nations.” Wo have all heard of the horrors of being exiled to Siberia, and have pictured to ourselves the terrible fate of the political and other offenders under the brutal treatment of the Russian prison authorities. Mr Foster Fraser describes two prisons—one at Irkutsk, the other at Alexandrovski, in far-off Siberia. In both of establishments ho found, to his surprise, that the treatment of the prisoners was humane in the extreme, the sanitary arrangement good, and everything quite different from the popular notion. There were workshops where the men could pass their time in bootmaking, carpentering, etc. One old man he saw was engaged binding books, another in repairing a watch, the man next him was making a concertina, while another was busy at — what do you think? —crewel work! He quite lost the idea ho was in a prison, as there was no hindrance to conversation, and the prisoners were smoking cigarettes. All engaged in work earn a wage, and there was a shop where various articles could bo purchased. Further, there was a theatre where plays and concerts were produced, and a library, where, in their leisure, those who could read might pass their time. The governor {who looked like the conductor of a German orchestra) invited Mr Fraser to dinner, and after a hospitable meal he got out his violin, the doctor of the prison produced his ’cello, and with the daughter of the Governor at the piano they had an hour of Mozart's trios—surely a strange experience in the drawing room of the governor of one of the biggest prisons in Siberia, Military’ service in the Empire of the Tsar ia obligatory on all. Every ablebodied man must servo, for five years. Certain privileges arc, however, extended to young men who have received various degrees of education. The war strength is nominally 5,400,000, but in reality is below this. Their food consists largely of black bread made of rye, cut into thick slices, and baked hard. It is said that a tlirc-e-years' supply of this is always kept for the army. The Russian navy suffered severely in the war with Japan, only the bulk of the Black Sea fleet and a few other battleships being left. Since 1904, however, the building of new vessels haa boon pushed ahead, and now the Empire'e navy ranks fourth among the world Powers. Agricultural pursuits occupy a vast proportion of the people of European Russia. Bye, oats, barley, wheat, and beetroot being the chief crops. In Siberia immense crops of wheat arc now raised, which is exported in huge quantities. Flax us also an important industry. Cattle-raising, poultry--farming, and dairying aro carried on over a wide area. (Eight million eggs received in England according to a recent cable.)

Agriculture is. I am sorry to say, at a low ebb, met bids of cultivation being primitive, tho land-owners suffer for want of capital, the peasantry aro impoverished, and in many parts live on the verge of starvation for the greater part of the year. They ara paid in paper money for their produce, only holding it in their hands long enough to dirty it before they have to return it to the Exchequer for taxes. Minerals exist plentifully in the rural districts, and in Siberia copper, iron, platinum, gold, coal, and precious stones. Wood fa. however, mostly used as fuel. Every year it is estimated no less than 150,COC)'000 tons of wood are consumed for domestic purposes. Stcpniak, in his book, ‘The Russian Peasantry,’ bears eloquent witness to the high moral nature and persona! worth of the people of Russia. Hewn in unpolished stono, ho (tho hero of tho plough) looks better than when robed in marble. “The charm of his strength, dauntless courage, and Jiis moral character is strengthened by the thrilling voice of pity, tho indescribable sufferings of this childish’ giant. A passion for equality and fraternity is and will ever be the strongest, wo 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 tho enormous majority of onr educated classes."

la Russia the chief glory in regard to literature has been her great novelists, among them being one who, of course, ranks as much mare than a novelist —Leo Tolstoi (1828-1910) —a man who more than any other of tho last century has left his mark upon the Empire. His books have been translated into most European languages, and his influence social, political, and religious has been widespread. His pen lias truly been mightier than a sword, and his great and remarkable personality a world-wide power. In musical composition the advance made in Russia has bec-n phenomenal. A truly national school has been steadily but surely evolved, and at the present time its members stand in ( the forefront of contemporary music. 'this school is not a thing of recent growth. It dates from about the year 1830-50, when Michael Ivanovitch Glinka, the true founder of the Russian school, gave to the world his now famous opera ‘ A Life for tho Tsar’ and many lesser works, all bearing a strong national stamp. During his liiettme Glinka had no followers or anv special distinction, and it was not until about 1860 that Mili Balakirev, to whose influence is due the creation of almost all modem Russian music, drew to his side the now famous composers Moussorgskv, Eirndry-Korsakov, and Borodin, with the result that Russian music rose to an eminence never attained before or since To this little band of pioneers was added Cesar Cui, who was more of an author than composer. For a time they had scant encouragement. Their ideas ee-med to tho conservative musicians too revolutionary; but in the end them cause triumphed, and their fame became worldwide. For 10 or 15 years these men—a kind of Russian pre-Raphaelite brotherhood together, giving to the world of them beat. Their compositions are based largely upon the beautiful folksongs of their native land, and thereby they opened up to their contemporaries and infused into their works a rhythmical swim T , a warm and passionate coloring, and 3 stirring, I till-blooded nee.s _ that has never been equalled in the music of other ra Tho most remarkable thing, when one considers the highly-finished technique shown by them, is that, with the exception of Balakirev, none wore musicians by profession. Rimsky-Korsakov was m the navy, and rose to the rank of rearadmiral of tho China fleet; Mour.sorgskj was an officer in a crack cavalry regiment; Borodin was a uistu guishod chemist who wrote music during his hondays, or when nob feeling particularly well, so it is said Of these men, the outstanding figure is Rimskv-Koisakov, whose work will Jive long after most of the Russian composers, including the well-known Tchaikovsky, aic almost entirely forgotten. Ho was a man of great industry and kindness of heart, and b left behind him at his death in 1908 18 operas, many of them ot surpassing beauty and charm, besides numerous orchestral works and songs. At the present time musical composition in Russia is in a more progressive state than elsewhere, though England, follows close behind. Numbers of composers, such as Sermbme and Stravinsky, to mention two ot the more generally known, ate maintaining the great name of Russian music as laisod to such heights by the men wo have just heard of—men who will be long remembered throughout the world by thousands of music-lovers, to whom this music has como 3B a revelation and a snro sign of the immense art forces working m the great country of Russia, a country popularly supposed to he devoid of all art and the appreciation of it. Lastly, let us ask: “ What, if any, fear fa there of tho political intentions of Russia on the conclusion of tlhe present war?” H. G. Wells, who spent some time recently in the country, has an article dealing with the question in a late number of ‘The Nation.’ Ho maintains that it ia an exaggerated dread arising out of our extreme ignorance of Russian realities. English people imagine Russia to have purposes and ideals which do not exist. They think of her policy as if she were a diabolically clever spider in a dark place. They fancy she nas ambitions of a like character with the German Empire aiming at the agression ol the yycrlaL This droad t Mr Wdla-sayp he

is convinced, is a misconception. Russia is not only the vastest country in the world, but the laxest; she is incapable of unification, and not for two centuries yot, if ever, need Western Europe trouble itself about the risk of aggression from that quarter. It js customary to talk of Russia being in the 14th century or the 16th century. The fact is she is in the 20th century. In the main She is barbaric. Between 80 and 90 per cent, of her population is living at a level of little above those agricultural Aryan races who were scattered over Europe before the beginning of written history. The people are superstitious, conservative, and religious in a primitive way—a helpless, unawakened mass. Above the peasantry come a few millions of fairly well-educated and intelligent people. They correspond to ourselves, and are either officials, clerical or lay, in a great Government machine to control the peasants, or they are private persons more or less mixed up in that machine. ‘‘At the head of this structure, with powers of interference strictly determined by his individual capacity, is that tragic figure, the Tsar. That, briefly, is the composition of Russia, and it is unlike any other State on earth. It will follow laws of its own and hare a destiny of its own. Of course, there is a certain ‘‘Russian idea ” inspiring the general policy of the State—it is bureaucratic and aggressive. It is a bad thing, but, unlike Prussianism, it is not a danger to the world at large. The one civilised country she docs really threaten is Sweden —.Sweden, with her vast wealth of coal and iron just at Russia’s door. If she is dragged into the war. the result to her may be disastrous. England should eeo to it that Sweden s integrity is assured for over. —ln Conclusion. — Professor Paul Vinogradoff, Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford, a Russian Liberal, who scorns the notion of subserviency to the Russian bureaucracy, in the course of a letter to the London * Times 1 in September, dealing with the subject of ‘ Muscovite versus German Culture,’ after a scathing denunciation of the former nation’s part in the present war, and her taunts at Russian barbarism, says that “whatever may have -been the shortcomings and the blunders of the Russian Government, it is a blessing in this decisive crisis that Russians should have a firmly-knit organisation and a traditional centre of authority in the power of the Tsar. The present Emperor stands as the national leader, not in the histrionic attitude of a War Lord, but in the quiet dignity of his office. He has said and done the right thing, and his subjects will follow hrm to a man. We are sure he will remember in the hour of victory the unstinted devotion and sacrifices of all the nationalities and parties of his vast empire. It ia our firm conviction that the sad tale of reaction and oppression is at an end in Russia, and that our country will issue from this momentous crisis with the insight and strength required for the constructive and progressive statesmanship of which it stands in need. . . . Russia is so huge and so strong that material power hae ceased to be attractive to her thinkers. But we need not yet retire into the desert and deliver ourselves to be bound hand and foot by civilised Germans. Russia also wields a sword—a charmed sword, blunt in an unrighteous cause, but sharp enough in the defence of right and freedom. And this war is indeed our —‘ Befreiungsgrieg.’— The Slavs must have their chance in tho history of the world, and the date of their coming of age will mark a new departure in the growth of civilisation. ’ The notes on Russian music in the above article wore kindly supplied to the writer by Mr Arthur Alexander.

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THE EMPIRE OF THE TSAR, Issue 15668, 5 December 1914

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3,438

THE EMPIRE OF THE TSAR Issue 15668, 5 December 1914

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