« PrethodnaNastavi »
"I lately travelled on a tour of inspection through seven provinces stricken with extreme dearth. Specimens of the bread which is now eaten in those provinces, and of the dough from which it is baked, are exposed on my writing-table and examined with horror by my guests."
On October 21 Senator F. L. Barykov made a speech upon the extent of the present famine and of the measures which had been taken to cope with it. The number of persons more or less affected by the scarcity, according to Mr. Barykov, was about 32,000,000, and their position cannot improve for another ten months. In order to give to each peasant even eight bushels of rye, more than 32,000,000l. would have to be subscribed.
In November the exportation of all kinds of cereals, except wheat, from the Empire was prohibited, but the famine grew more alarming than ever. Soon it was found that most of the grain which had been purchased by the Town Councils for the relief of the sufferers from the famine was extensively adulterated, in some instances as much as 30 per cent. Many of the members of the Town Councils, including that of St. Petersburg, who were implicated in those frauds were dismissed from their posts. The money subscribed by charitable persons, too, was found in many cases to have been appropriated by fraudulent officials; yet though these disgraceful incidents were brought personally to the notice of the Czar, and he must have been aware at least of the broad facts of the famine which was stirring the whole country, and for the moment absorbed all other questions of internal administration, he is reported to have refused a contribution of 2,000 roubles offered for the relief of the sufferers by the colonel of a Finnish regiment, at the same time stating, "There is no famine in my Empire."
The result of the obscurantism thus practised by a European Government at the close of the nineteenth century is shown in the following description by an English correspondent of the state of the famine-stricken districts which he had just visited :"What struck me most was first of all the appalling fact that the major part of the vast empire known as European Russia— namely, fifteen provinces-is in receipt of what we should call outdoor relief. Imagine an entire country, about ten times the size of England, completely pauperised, the country gentry turned into guardians of the poor, the Government a gigantic workhouse. The next fact which strikes one forcibly is the abso lute helplessness and self-abasement of the peasants. Where there are no country gentlemen the peasant seems to be absolutely ruined. The fact is the entire population is invertebrate. The country gentleman has been placed in a most unenviable position. The peasants believe that the Czar has given him money for distribution, and that he is keeping it back. If this view gains ground, it may lead to very serious complications. A party of peasants went to a telegraph station, and handed in a telegram
addressed to the Emperor, to the effect that the Governor of the province was stealing the money which was their due, and which the little Father' had sent for distribution among them. The telegram was not sent, but it led to the institution of an inquiry, which proved that a belief existed among the people that as they sent their money to the Emperor it was his duty to keep them. Besides, it was thought that, as he could have as much money as he liked, money could be no object to him."
It was natural, in the midst of the general disorganisation produced by the famine, that journalists should become more daring in the expression of their opinions, and that the secret agitation which had for many years been going on against the autocratic system of government should gain in strength. A remarkable article on the famine was published by the European Messenger, a monthly review of St. Petersburg. The writer compared the famine to the Irish calamity of 1846, and contrasted the conduct of the British and Russian administrations on the two occasions. He declared that nobody in the Russian Empire had ever imagined that the economic condition of the Russian people was so wretched, and that now that the truth is known, Russia ought not to launch into any extraordinary undertakings for many years to come. The first cost of mobilising and putting an army into the field is so enormous nowadays that even a madman would decline to incur the responsibility of such a task with the general impoverishment of the nation behind him. Foreign action is a luxury which only rich nations can afford, and it was criminal on the part of the Panslavist writers in the Russian press, and those who back them up, to fill the ears of the Russian people with inflammatory stories about atrocities in Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Hungary, only calculated to rouse enmity against other nations. For these agitators must know that Russia will be unable to embark on warlike adventures for years. to come. Most of the tales appearing in the Russian press about the ill-treatment of the Slavs were, the writer adds, either pure inventions, or insignificant facts distorted. "The Russian peasants' own fate is far worse. Millions of Russian peasants would be fortunate if they could only change places. As to the constant incitement of the Russian people by the Panslavists against foreigners, Germans or Jews, it should not be forgotten by Russian journalists that all the corn usurers, those who are defrauding, fleecing, and oppressing the Russian people in their dire distress at this present moment, are genuine native Russians, people of the purest Russian blood; and that no Jew or German has ever been convicted of crimes equal to those committed by these Russians "
Not only did the terrible distress in these famine-stricken districts produce repeated acts of brigandage and riot, but signs of a revival of the revolutionary agitation grew more and more numerous towards the end of the year. In seven towns
secret printing-presses and numerous copies of secret proclamations were found by the police; 240 persons belonging to the revolutionary conspiracy, including fourteen officials, four schoolmasters, and six officers of the army and navy, were arrested at Moscow, and sixty more members of the conspiracy, all belonging to the higher classes of Russian society, together with 153 literary men and students, were arrested at St. Petersburg. The proclamations called upon "the persecuted and oppressed nation" to overthrow the Government and introduce liberal institutions.
In foreign affairs the most notable event of the year in Russia was the enthusiastic reception of the French fleet at Cronstadt. The somewhat ostentatious visit of the German Emperor to England, and especially the renewal of the Triple Alliance, which practically left France and Russia isolated, naturally led to a desire on the part of those Powers to approach each other with a view to concerting measures for protecting their interests against any encroachment on the part of the allies. Overtures had from time to time been made by the French with this object, which, however, were but coldly received by the Czar, though he took the opportunity of a French exhibition having been opened at Moscow in May to pay a visit to that city. But there could be no mistake as to the significance of the reception of the French fleet under Admiral Gervais at Cronstadt, at the end of July. Not only were the French officers cheered by the people with a spontaneous enthusiasm which in Russia is very rarely permitted, but their official reception went far beyond the ceremonies usual on such occasions. A grand banquet was given to them by the municipality of St. Petersburg, at which the Mayor delivered a speech in French, dwelling upon the friendship between France and Russia, and saying that the municipality desired to symbolise it by offering to the French officers cups of fraternity called bratinas, in order that when drinking out of them they might always remember the friends the French had in the far North. These cups were filled with champagne, which was drunk by the officers amid great enthusiasm, the orchestra playing the Russian National Anthem and the Marseillaise. The French revolutionary hymn was also played, for the first time in Russia, by the military bands on the Russian vessels which met the French squadron at Cronstadt. The demonstration was evidently a national as well as an official one; but its effect was to some extent neutralised by the subsequent visit of the French fleet to Portsmouth. There is no doubt, however, that though no treaty of alliance was entered into between France and Russia, a strong bond of sympathy was established between the two countries. The French took every occasion-as, for instance, on the arrival in Paris, on August 11, of the Grand-Duke Alexis-to reciprocate the friendly manifestations of Cronstadt; and they gave Russia a more solid proof of
their desire to co-operate with her by their subscriptions to the Russian loan and their support in the question of the Dardanelles (see Turkey and the Minor States of Eastern Europe).
Notwithstanding the distress caused by the famine, there was no relaxation in the war preparations of the Russian Government. It continued to mass troops on the Austro-Russian frontier, and in July the number of battalions of reserve infantry stationed on the frontier was doubled. A network of strategic lines was also constructed, with the object of facilitating mobilisation. Steps were also taken to augment and reorganise the Russian Navy, which at the end of the year consisted of 36 first rate vessels (28 in the Baltic and 8 in the Black Sea), 48 second class ships (38 in the Baltic and 10 in the Black Sea), 88 third class ships (49 in the Baltic, 27 in the Black Sea, 7 in the Caspian, and 5 in the port of Vladivostock), and 20 vessels of the fourth class (17 in the Baltic and 3 in the Black Sea). The object of the reorganisation was to create a strong fleet of sea-going ironclads and iron-belted cruisers. Two additional torpedo cruisers were ordered for the Black Sea fleet, and steps were taken to buy up the private shipbuilding yards. But though every means was thus taken to prevent the country from being unprepared in the event of a war, the Government was evidently anxious, in view of the difficulties caused by the famine, to avoid all occasion for one.
In October the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. de Giers, had an important interview with the King of Italy and his Ministers at Monza, in which he gave the most positive utterances as to the pacific intentions of his Imperial master, which were afterwards repeated by him in an interview with the Emperor William at Berlin. The only power with regard to which Russia maintained an aggressive attitude was England. The principal Russian journals violently attacked Lord Salisbury's policy in Egypt, China, and Afghanistan, and expressed a hope that England would become more pliable in the event of a change of Government after the next General Election.
THE failure of the compromise between the German and Czechish nationalities in Bohemia (" Annual Register," 1890, pp. 324 and 325), and the resignation of the twenty-five Italian members of the Tyrolese Diet, because the Government refused their demand for an administrative and political separation of the Italian from the German Tyrol, made it necessary for the Government at Vienna to make an appeal to the country, and the Reichsrath, elected in 1885, was accordingly dissolved on January 25. In a
statement accompanying the Imperial decree for the dissolution, Count Taaffe, the premier, appealed to all moderate parties, of whatever nationality, to assist him in carrying out the policy of his Government. This was a distinct bid for the support of the German Liberals, who had hitherto been the most important section of the Opposition; and their chief adversary, Dr. Dunajevski, Minister of Finance, a Pole, and the most brilliant and talented member of the Cabinet, accordingly sent in his resignation, which was accepted by the Emperor (Feb. 4). He was succeeded by Dr. Steinbach, a German, and an official of the Ministry of Justice.
On February 13 a pastoral letter was published, signed by thirty-two Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria, and dealing with the coming elections. The conciliatory tone of this document with regard to other religions and parties was especially remarkable, as the antiSemitic movement and the strife between the nationalities had hitherto been to a great extent fomented by the lower clergy. The pastoral pointed out the honest striving after daily bread of the lower classes, the rancorous discontent of the poor, the prevailing spirit of licence and disobedience against divinely-constituted authorities, the universal social strife, and the bitterness infused into this struggle. On the other hand, it described the immense progress in every branch of human activity, the facility of intercommunication, and the spread of knowledge and culture, accompanied, however, by the disappearance of the Christian faith and Christian morals. The growing weakness of authority was traced to the influence of the atheistical press. The agitation of demagogues amongst the working classes was pointed to as the source of the spreading discontent and class hatred; this, together with mutual distrust, the disappearance of real brotherly love, and extreme egotism, had become the dominant features of the working population.
Following upon the above picture of the present condition of society, came a description of the strife and hatred among different nationalities and different creeds; and, in conclusion, the pastoral declared in strong words for the maintenance of the unity of the Empire, for the growth of a general patriotism raising itself above the ideas of particular nationalities, and for goodwill and unity among the different parts of the population.
The result of the elections was that the "Old Czechs " under Dr. Rieger, who had thoroughly discredited themselves by first negotiating and accepting the compromise of 1890 and then repudiating it, were practically extinguished, their seats being in almost every case captured by the "Young Czechs," who are anti-Clericals, anti-Germans, and advocates of an alliance with Russia. The new Reichsrath was composed as follows:German Liberals, 110; German Nationalists, 17; Poles, 58;