« AnteriorContinuar »
and Kharkoff, including Professor Gordeënko (the mayor of the latter city) and Mr. Petrunkevitch (the presiding justice of one of the new courts, and a member of the Chernigof provincial assembly), decided to open communications with the "terrorists," urge upon them the dangers of the path on which they had entered, point out to them the calamities which they might bring upon Russia by this desperate, unreasonable, murderous policy, and ascertain upon what conditions they would agree to stop committing acts of violence. In pursuance of this resolution a committee of liberals, representing several of the zemstvos, or provincial assemblies, of central and south ern Russia, made journeys to various parts of the empire, and had personal interviews with a number of the leaders of the "terroristic" or extreme revolutionary party. The committee said to the latter:
“We believe that we can bring about reforms by peaceable and legal methods, and we desire now to make another attempt to do so, but we shall of course fail if you continue these political murders. Our object in coming to see you is to ask you to suspend your opera tions for a while and give us an opportunity to act. If we fail to attain our ends by reasonable and peaceful methods, and if you then think that you can accomplish something by your policy of 'terror,' proceed at your own peril; we shall disapprove and deplore your mistaken action, but we shall have nothing more to say; first, however, give us a chance."
The "terrorists" declared that their policy was not one of choice; that the Government had forced them to adopt it by closing to them all other avenues of escape from an absolutely intolerable position. They were willing, however, to listen to reason, and would solemnly promise not to commit any more acts of violence if the Government would even show a disposition to do three things-namely, first, remove the existing restrictions upon freedom of speech and of the press; second, guarantee personal rights against capricious, illegal, irresponsible action on the part of the executive authorities; and, third, allow the people to participate in some way in the national government. These, they said, were the things for which they were fighting, and if they could be satisfied that the Government would grant these demands, they as a party would refrain wholly from acts of violence and "maintain an attitude of expectancy."
The members of the liberal committee returned to their homes and held a consultation with their fellow-delegates as to the best means of carrying their plans into execution. The only basis upon which they could proceed in legal form was that furnished by the zemstvos, or provincial assemblies. These were legally authorized bodies, representative of the people and recognized by the Government, and it
was decided to have these zemstvos adopt and simultaneously forward memorials or petitions to the Crown setting forth the grievances of the people and asking for a constitutional form of government.
The first petition which went in was that of the provincial assembly of Kharkoff, which convened earlier than the others, and therefore took the lead. This address was not as clear in statement nor as definite in its demands as might have been desired, but nevertheless it produced a profound impression. The Minister of the Interior at once sent a circular letter to the Marshals of the Nobility, who presided over the provincial assemblies, directing them not to allow any memorials to be laid before the assemblies without previous submission to them (the marshals) for approval, and not to permit action of any kind upon such petitions as that from the assembly of Kharkoff. The next zemstvo to draw up a memorial was that of Chernigof. Its address to the Crown was respectful in form and tone, but extremely bold in expression. It declared that the Government itself was responsible for the revolutionary movement which it asked the people to oppose, because it had never executed faithfully its own laws; that by constantly violating those laws and resorting to administrative force to attain its illegal ends it had destroyed the people's respect for law, and had thus prepared the way for all sorts of anarchistic teaching; that it had not granted a single reform which on the very next day it had not tried to mutilate or nullify by administrative regulations and restrictions; that it had deprived the Russian people of the right to express its opinions, not only through the press and through public meetings, but even through the provincial assemblies; and, finally, that the only way to successfully combat revolution and anarchy was to create new national forms and adopt a constitution which would restrain illegal action not only on the part of individual citizens, but on the part of the Government.
At an informal meeting of all the delegates of the Chernigof provincial assembly this bold address was adopted with only two dissenting votes, and was then given to Mr. Ivan I. Petrunkevitch for formal presentation to the assembly at its regular session on the following day. In the meantime Mr. Petrunkevitch submitted it to the presiding officer for approval as required by the recent ministerial circular. The marshal after reading it said, "I cannot allow you to lay this paper before the assembly."
"Why?" demanded Mr. Petrunkevitch.
"Can you show me any law of the empire which forbids a delegate to lay before the as
sembly of which he is a member a perfectly respectful petition to the Crown?
"No," replied the marshal, "but I have an order from the Minister of the Interior which has all the force of law so far as I am concerned, and I must obey it."
"If," said Mr. Petrunkevitch, "you cannot show me a law which forbids such action as that which I propose to take, I am acting within my legal rights, and I shall lay this petition before the assembly to-morrow unless I am prevented by force."
"Very well,” replied the marshal, "I must then take my measures."
When, on the following morning, Mr. Petrunkevitch went to the assembly hall, he found the public for the first time excluded. There were gendarmes at the door to keep out all persons except delegates, and there were gendarmes in the hall itself. As soon as the assembly had been called to order, several members sprang to their feet and protested against the presence of the gendarmes, which they declared was a menace and an insult to a deliberative assembly. The presiding officer replied that the gendarmes were there by order of the governor. Amid a scene of great excitement and confusion, Mr. Petrunkevitch rose to present the address to the Crown, which had been almost unanimously adopted by the delegates at the informal session of the previous day. The presiding officer refused to allow it to be read or considered, and when Mr. Petrunkevitch persisted in his attempt to obtain formal action upon it, the marshal peremptorily declared the session of the assembly closed, and the hall was cleared by the gendarmes. The delegates, however, prepared copies of their address, and sent them to all the zemstvos in the empire, and many other assemblies-eight or ten, if I remember rightly-followed the example set by the zemstvos of Chernigof and Kharkoff, by drawing up memorials, and trying to get them acted upon. Their efforts, however, were rendered fruitless by ministerial prohibitions enforced by gendarmes, and on the 14th of April, 1879, this form of agitation was stopped by the attempt of Solivioff to assassinate the Tsar. Another spasm of alarm, reaction, and repression followed; martial law was declared throughout the greater part of European Russia, and executions, arrests, and the indiscriminate exile of all persons who dared to remonstrate or protest, silenced once more the voice of the Russian people. Mr. Petrunkevitch and other members of the provincial assemblies of Chernigof and Kharkoff were arrested and banished by administrative process, and, to
adopt the language of the official reports, "order was reestablished in the disaffected provinces."
Thus ended another attempt of the Russian liberals to put a stop to violence and bloodshed, and to obtain for the people of the empire by peaceable methods the reforms which the whole protesting class demanded. Of the leaders in this temperate, courageous, patriotic movement only two are now living; one of them is in exile and the other is insane.
It is not necessary to pursue the history of the fierce conflict which took place between the "terrorists" on one side and the police and gendarmes on the other in the year 1879 and the first part of the year 1880. The liberals did not participate in that conflict, and only took the field again when on the 25th of February, 1880, the Tsar, finding that repressive measures alone were not adequate to cope with the volcanic social forces which were in operation, appointed a "Supreme Executive Commission" and put at the head of it General Loris Melikoff, an army officer, but a man who was believed to be in sympathy with the law-abiding branch of the protesting party. To Loris Melikoff the liberals determined to make a last appeal, and in March, 1880, twentyfive of the leading citizens of Moscow, including professors in the university, members of the Moscow Bar Association, a number of well-known authors and representative men from the educated classes generally, drew up, signed, and forwarded to the new Dictator of Russia a long and carefully prepared letter, in which they set forth temperately, but with great courage and frankness, their views with regard to the real nature of the evils from which the empire was suffering and the measures which, in their opinion, should be adopted to restore tranquillity to the country. I obtained from one of the signers a copy of that letter. In order to fully appreciate the weight and significance of this document the reader must bear in mind that it is not an editorial from a "Nihilistic" newspaper; it is not an anonymous proclamation intended to excite or encourage rebellion; it is not a letter designed to affect public opinion in any way, at home or abroad. It is a calm, temperate statement of facts and conclusions, written at a most critical moment in the history of Russia, signed by some of the ablest and most patriotic citizens of the empire, and carried personally by one of them to Loris Melikoff, with a request that it be laid before the Tsar. The rest of this article (except the final paragraph) is a translation of the letter:
FROM THE LIBERALS OF MOSCOW TO GENERAL LORIS MELIKOFF, CHIEF OF THE
THE unfortunate condition of Russia at the present time is due to the fact that there has arisen in Russian society a party which acts with great irrationality, and is carrying on a contest with the Government in a manner with which right-thinking people, no matter what their position or degree of education, cannot sympathize. This contest, which is seditious in its character, manifests itself in a series of acts of violence directed against the ruling authorities. The question is, How can the evil be remedied?
In order to answer this question it is necessary first to uncover the real causes of the evil. The object of the present letter is to show
First. That the principal reason for the morbid form which the contest with the Government has taken is the absence in Russia of any opportunity for the free development of public opinion and the free exercise of public activity.
Second. That the evil cannot be eradicated by any sort of repressive measures.
Third. That the present condition of the people, many of whose most urgent needs are wholly unsatisfied, constitutes ample cause for dissatisfaction, and that this dissatisfaction, having no means of free expression, necessarily manifests itself in morbid forms.
Fourth. That the causes which underlie this wide-spread discontent cannot be removed by governmental action alone, but require the friendly coöperation of all the vital forces of society.
THE unnatural form which the contest with the Government has taken is due to the absence of all means for the free and orderly expression of public discontent. Dissatisfaction cannot be expressed through the press, since the press is closely restricted in its comments upon governmental action, and such restriction is enforced by warnings, suspensions, and
*It may seem strange to the American reader that the Russian Government should prohibit the discussion of such questions as "Scientific vs. Classical Education"; but it must be remembered that scientific training, to use the language of the Russian censors," excites the mind,"-that is, leads the student to think, question, and experiment,- while the study of the dead languages does not have that pernicious tendency to so great an extent. The classical system of instruction is therefore favored by the Government, and the advocacy of any other system is forbidden. Herbert Spencer's "Education," and "The Culture demanded by Modern Life," by the late E. L. Youmans, have been withdrawn from all the Russian public libraries and placed on the Index Expurgatorius.-G. K.
heavy penalties, in the shape of the interdiction of street sales and the deprivation of the right to print advertisements, which fall upon the periodical press with crushing force. Questions of first-class importance are wholly removed by censorial prohibition from the field. of newspaper discussion, and that at the very time when they most occupy public attention. Within the past year the prohibition has been extended even to educational subjects, such as the classical system of instruction and the laws regulating universities.*
Measures as important as university reform are considered secretly and kept concealed from the people. Then there are other subjects which the periodical press is directed to discuss "with especial caution and circumspection,"- a phrase which, in the language of the censors, has almost the force of a complete prohibition. Newspapers are not even allowed to publish facts, if such facts compromise or reflect in any way upon governmental organs. All remember the recent case of the newspaper "Golos," which was severely punished for merely publishing the facts with regard to the illegal imprisonment of certain dissenting prelates. † The press must, therefore, either be silent or hypocritical, or must express itself in the language of allegory - a language which demoralizes literature and which often unnecessarily excites public opinion. If the newspapers discuss governmental measures within the narrow limits to which they are confined, their readers seek for hidden meaning and unexpressed opinion between the lines. If, on the other hand, a newspaper praises the Government, it is not believed, because the commendation is regarded as hypocritical. Perfect freedom of speech is the privilege of the representatives of extreme opinions only, and we find it on the one side, for example, in the "Moscow Gazette" and kindred organs, and on the other, in the " underground" press.
Another reason for the development of "underground" activity may be found in the en
+ A correspondent of the "Golos" at Suzdal, in the province of Vladimir, discovered that in the prison connected with the monastery at that place there were confined two bishops and an archbishop of the dissenting sect known as the " Starovertsi," or Old Believers. One of the bishops had been in solitary confinement in this monasterial prison 17 years, the other 22 years, and the archbishop 26 years. The "Golos," in commenting editorially upon its correspondent's letter, suggested that these prelates had probably been put in prison for some sectarian obstinacy and had then been entirely forgotten. For publishing this letter and commenting upon it, the "Golos" was deprived for a month of the right to print advertisements.G. K.
forced silence of public assemblies. The cases of the provincial assemblies of Pultava, Chernigof, and other provinces in 1879 show that the voices of the representatives of the people are stifled even when they are responding in accordance with their best judgment to the call of the Government.* The latter withholds its confidence more and more from the provincial assemblies and bestows it more and more upon bureaucratic institutions-submitting, for example, to the Provincial Councils for Peasant Affairs [a body of chinovniks appointed by the Crown] cases and questions which it formerly referred to the zemstvos [representative bodies elected by the people]. The Government creates cantonal and provincial delegates, and at the same time has so little confidence in these representatives of the people that it puts them under the supervision and control of a presiding officer not by themselves chosen; and having imposed upon them such a presiding officer, in the person of a Marshal of the Nobility, the Government strives to turn the latter into a mere chinovnik. Many of these marshals serve only in order to obtain rank or for the sake of an administrative career.
The Government often treats with contemptuous neglect statements and petitions from sources fully competent to make them, and listens unwillingly to the representatives even of the most legitimate interests. There may be found in the reports of any provincial administration records of innumerable petitions sent by the assembly to the Government, which not only have never been granted, but have never even been answered. The voice of the press is treated with equal if not greater contempt. The newspapers and magazines have had occasion of late to discuss almost every question which relates to the administration of the internal affairs of the empire, and with regard to such questions have expressed definite opinions based upon precise scientific data, but very little respect has been paid to their conclusions. A recent illustration of this fact is furnished by the railroad tax. When, in the latter part of 1878, it was first proposed, the organs of the press almost without exception pointed out and pertinaciously insisted upon its inadequacy and its burdensome character. The tax was nevertheless imposed, only to justify the predictions which had been made with regard to it. The Government in general pays too little attention to the investigation of subjects which require exact scientific research. This is particularly the case with regard to questions of economic and financial legisla
The reference is to the attempt of the provincial assemblies to obtain reforms by means of petitions to the Crown. G. K.
A chinovnik is any officer of the civil service.—G. K.
tion, which are least of all susceptible to bureaucratic methods of treatment.
The result of the state of things above set forth is the creation of an impression that the Government does not wish to listen to the voice of the people; that it will not tolerate criticism, however just, of its mistakes and failures; that it despises the opinions of competent advisers, and that it has in view peculiar objects not related in any way to the necessities of the people. There is undoubtedly at the present time a wide-spread belief in the existence of an antagonism between the people and the organs of government. Upon this point cultivated society is in remarkable accord with the common people. The peasant reveres the Tsar as he reveres God, but he has no confidence in the chinovniks, who, as he naïvely expresses it, "get around the Tsar." In like manner the educated classes of society, while they preserve their deep veneration for their monarch, discern, in a bureaucratic mechanism, isolated from the people, the root of the existing evils. There is in this respect a complete lack of faith in the Government, and faith can never be restored while the Administration manifests neither adequate knowledge nor moral force nor conformity to any ideal. The weakness of the Government is apparent to society, and it is an added cause of irritation, because there is nothing which provokes and humiliates people more than to feel that they are in subjection to persons who can inspire neither respect nor trust. It makes no difference, under such circumstances, what means official power may take to establish its authority; its efforts will result only in exasperation. It does not help matters when the organs of the Government say, as they are inclined to say, that an attack upon them is an attack upon the Imperial power. The sophistry of such a method of dealing with the question is apparent even to the simplest intelligence, and it only intensifies the existing resentment.
The forcible repression of discontent is injurious in another way. The impossibility of speaking out frankly compels people to keep their ideas to themselves, to cherish and nurse them in secret, and to regard complacently even illegal methods of putting them into practice. Thus is created one of the most important of the conditions upon which the spread of sedition depends; namely, the weakening of the loyalty of those who, under other circumstances, would regard sedition with abhorrence.
There are in organized society self-reliant
The permanent executive bureau which attends to the official business of a provincial assembly and keeps its records.-G. K.
opinions which strive for free expression, and an accumulated fund of energy which seeks a field for activity. The more rigorously these impulses are repressed in their legal form, the sooner they will take on a form which is not legal; the more apparent will become the lack of harmony between the strivings of society and the working methods of the ruling power; and the more general and emphatic, and consequently the more infectious, will become the illegal protest. When society has no means of making known and discussing peaceably and publicly its wants and its necessities, the more energetic members of that society will throw themselves passionately into secret activity, and lose gradually the habit of trying to obtain their ends by reasonable methods. The characteristics which at first mark only the more hot-headed members of society will at last become common to people of a very different class, simply because the latter have no field in which to cultivate better qualities.
Ar the present time, there is a prevalent opinion that the existing evils can be eradicated only by repressive measures. Many people believe that, before anything else is thought of, attention should be concentrated upon methods of repression, and that, when such methods shall have attained the results expected from them, it will be time enough to proceed with the further development of Russian social life. But the evils cannot be remedied by repressive measures; and that is not all-repressive measures not only do not cure the evils which exist, but they create new evils, because they are inevitably accompanied by administrative license.* It might be possible, under given conditions, for people to reconcile themselves to the uncontrolled exercise of power by the higher authorities; but license above creates license below. Every official ispravnik, stanavoi, uriadnik or gendarmethas his own idea of saving the country, and upon the strength of it he sets himself above all laws and institutions. The Government thus tears down with one hand what it builds up with the other, and finally undermines all respect for authority, by establishing the conviction in the minds of the people that authority does not propose to be bound by any fixed and definite rules of procedure. License, furthermore, threatens an extraordinary widening of the circle of persons to be proceeded against. It opens the way for a general appli
*The Russian word proizvol, which I have here translated "license," has no precise equivalent in English. It means action upon personal impulseaction which is not controlled by law, nor by any standard of duty or obligation external to the actor. The
cation of the rule that "he who is not for us is against us"— a rule which, when applied by the Government, is particularly dangerous, because it declares persons to be enemies of the country who are in reality peaceable and useful citizens, but who simply do not agree in all respects with the Administration.
Everybody is well aware of the shadow which has recently been cast, without any serious reason, upon some of the best elements of our society. A crusade has been declared against the educated class, and in this movement the Government itself is not altogether guiltless. It seems to be forgotten that the educated class upon which a brand is thus set is a product of Russian history; that the Government itself, since the time of Peter the Great, has been creating this unfortunate class, and that now, whatever may be its character, it embodies all the self-conscious intellectual faculties of the Russian people. Those who seek to crush these intellectual faculties rely upon the support of excited passion, forgetting that passion is a double-edged blade, which, when it has been raised and turned in one direction, cannot be restrained if, under the influence of an unforeseen impulse, it takes another. Education,-the self-conscious thinking power,- on the other hand, is the best possible support of order. It must be remembered, furthermore, that by encouraging passion, instead of intelligent reflection, administrative license strikes down the sense of lawfulness which in Russia is imperfectly developed at best. License also brings the organs of authority into collision with one another, and such collisions are extremely injurious to the processes of healthy national life. Nothing but the supremacy of law can regulate and discipline and bring into agreement with one another the organs of administrative authority.
But aside from all this, repression cannot kill human thought. Convincing proof of this fact is furnished by the last reign (1825 to 1855) as well as by more recent years. The idea of popular representation, for example, has recently taken enormous strides forward and has made its way even into the wilderness of the provinces, notwithstanding the fact that public discussion or consideration of that idea has been absolutely forbidden. In the absence of a free press there arises another medium of intercommunication in the shape of the oral transmission of ideas from mouth to mouth. Examples of the wide extension in this way of religious heresies are too well known to need reference,
word "license" is intended to have this signification wherever it occurs in the present paper.— G. K.
These words cannot be translated into English. An ispravnik is a sort of local governor; stanavois and uriadniks are officers of the local rural police.