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Chap. did much to establish schools in his dominions; but as Ym' they were all either in the hands of the sovereign or the 1815. Church, they did little to enlighten the general mind, save in the military art, in which they kept it on a level with, if not superior to, any country of Europe. The schools, other than the government ones, which are mere military academies, being entirely in the hands of the clergy, who are themselves, with some bright exceptions, the most uninformed of the community, little is to be expected for the training of the general mind from the spread of education, as it is at present constituted. 22 There is no nation in the world more profoundly imThe clergy, pressed with religious feelings than the Russians, and yet there is none to which the Gospel has less been preached. The Bible is to them a sealed book, for not one in a hundred can read; preaching is unknown, for it would not be understood; form is all in all. Repeated genuflexions at passing the image of a saint, invariable crossing themselves before eating, and attendance at church to witness a few ceremonies around the altar on Sunday, form, in general, the whole of their devotional practices. In truth, the vast majority of the people are in so backward a state as to civilisation, that they could neither understand doctrines nor apprehend precepts apart from the influence of the senses. Like all rude nations, they are deeply impressed with religious feelings; but it is the religion which enters by the eye rather than the ear, and is nourished by visible objects, not abstract ideas. Paintings of Scriptural subjects are to be seen in all directions, and are the objects of the most superstitious devotion to the entire people; for they think that the prohibition in the Commandments is only against graven, not painted images; and that, provided only the surface is flat, it is lawful to fall down and worship it. The clergy are a very numerous body in the empire—they amounted, in 1829, to 243,000; and being allowed to marry, their children are still more numerous, and having nearly all received the elements of education, they constitute the Chap. chief class from whom the numerous civil employes of TIIL government are drawn.* They are little elevated, either 1816# in instruction, station, or circumstances, above the peasants by whom they are surrounded, whose virtues and vices they in general share; but among the higher prelates, appointed by the emperor, are to be found men, as in the elevated diplomatic circles, second to none in the world 276,279.' in piety and zeal, and learning.1
Titles and estates are hereditary in Russia, but not 23 rank—-a curious distinction, little understood in western Rank in Europe, where they are invariably united, but highly Tchum! characteristic of its social system, and important in its social and political effects on the inhabitants. It is this distinction which has crushed the feudal system in that country, and placed society on an entirely different basis— half European, half Asiatic—from any of the other states founded by the conquerors who overthrew the Roman Empire. Peter the Great was the author of the system which is called the Tchinn, and by its establishment he effected a greater revolution in the destinies of the empire than by the destruction of the Strelitzes. The whole people were by this strange but vigorous lawgiver divided into fourteen classes, corresponding to the grades in the army, and something analogous to the centuries into which, for the purposes of taxation and election, the Romans, in the days of the Republic, were divided. Each of these classes has certain privileges peculiar to itself, which are not
* The clergy are thus divided, which shows how vast a preponderance the
Greek Church enjoys—viz.
Greek Church, ..... 223,000
United Greeks, ..... 7,000
Roman Catholics, ..... 6,000
Mahommedon, ..... 6,000
Reformed, ..... 400
The whole are married, or capable of being so, except the Roman Catholic priests. The entire persons belonging to the clergy and their families, forming the clergy class, amounted, in 1829, to 900,000, and are now above a million of souls.—Malte Bruk, vi. 414.
Chap. enjoyed by the one below it: the lowest class, which is YII1' immediately above the serfs, is invested with the single ,815, privilege of not being beaten except by judicial authority; and to insure the enjoyment of this privilege, and prevent strangers from in ignorance invading it, every person in that class is obliged to have his number placarded above his door. All the inferior employes of government, and persons charged with subaltern duties in the administration, belong to this class. Every person who becomes a soldier acquires its privileges when he puts off , Co.tine his uniform and obtains his discharge. As to the serfs, ii. 3ii,3i2j they are left in the condition that our peasants were
MalteBrun, J , 1
vi.4i5,4i7. by Magna Cnarta—any one may beat them at pleasure.1
This singular organisation of society, which pervades Greatpower all ranks in Russia, from the Czar downwards, augments firTch'imi. to a most enormous degree the power of the sovereign, for it places the personal rank and privileges of every individual in the realm at his disposal. By a stroke of the pen the Czar can degrade every individual in the empire, whatever his descent, or family, or titles may be, from his rank, deprive him of all the privileges belonging to it, and cast him down to the very lowest class immediately above the serfs. With equal facility he can elevate any person to a class in which he was neither born, nor to which he is entitled by any distinction or services rendered to the state, and thus place him in a rank superior to any, even the very highest noble in the land. The rank thus conferred is personal only; it does not descend with the holder's titles or estates to his heirs; it is given by the sovereign, held of, and may at any moment be resumed by him. An awful example of the exercise of this power by the Czar is sometimes given, who, in flagrant cases, degrades a colonel at the head of his regiment, or a civil governor in the seat of his authority— has him flogged in presence of those so recently subjected to his authority, and instantly sent off in one of the
cars provided for convicts to Siberia. It is these terrible Chap. instances of severe, but, in so despotic a state, necessary YII1' justice, often falling like a flash of lightning on the highest 1815, functionaries, and in the most unforeseen manner, which inspires so universal a dread of the power of the Czar, and causes his mandates to be obeyed like the laws of the Almighty or the decrees of fate, which mortals must accept and submit to in trembling silence. It has given rise to the common opinion that rank in Russia is military only, and depends on the position held in the army. This is in appearance true, but not really so; for in no country are civil gradations more firmly established or scrupulously observed than in Russia. They are abreast of the steps in military rank, and confer the same rights, but they do not confer steps in the army; hence a hairdresser or tailor sometimes has the rank of a majorgeneral, but he could not command a company. At the head of the Tchinn was long placed Field-marshal l^levi Paskewitch, the conqueror of Persia and Poland, and!°9.
nr c iii •i• Custine, ii.
governor of Warsaw; at its foot the whole postilions 312,315. and couriers in the empire.1
This organisation of society betrays its Eastern origin: ^ it recalls the castes of Egypt and Hindostan, with this dif- Caste of the ference, that the rank is personal, and entirely dependentnobleson the emperor's will—not hereditary, as with them, and naturally descending, like the colour of the skin, from parent to child. As such, it confers an influence on the sovereign unknown even on the banks of the Nile or the Ganges. The class of nobles is very numerous; it embraced in 1829 no less than 389,542 individuals. It need hardly be said that a great proportion of this class are destitute of property; but such as are so, for the most part find a refuge in the ample ranks of the army. Some of them are possessed of enormous fortunes, and when not trained to civil or military duties in the diplomatic or military line, they for the most part spend their lives in St Petersburg or Moscow, where a great proportion of
Chap. them, even to the most advanced age, are engaged in an Ym' incessant round of profligacy and pleasure. It exceeds 1815' anything witnessed, at least on the surface, either in Paris or London; for passion, relieved from the pressure of public opinion, and too distant to fall under the coercion of the emperors, riots without control, and to a degree which would not be tolerated in the societies of western Europe. Democratic desires, with all their inconveniences, have this good effect, that they provide for the decorum of society, and check those gross instances of license which at once degrade and corrupt it. They render every man a spy on his neighbour, and the espion, Castine &&e of no armtrai7 sovereign is so willingly and effectuiii.357,361; ally exercised; for though no man likes to have a restraint
MalteBran, , . . ."
Ti. 413. imposed on his own passions, every one is willing to have
it fastened upon those of his neighbour.1
The trading or bourgeois class, which composes several or the" ranks of the Tchinn, is made up in Russia, so far as the and trad- higher persons in it are concerned, for the most part, of mg classes. foreigners. xhe portion of it drawn from the nation is composed of persons entirely emancipated, or of those who, still serfs, are not attached to the soil, and have commuted their obligation of personal service into the payment of a certain annual sum called the obrok, generally ten or twelve rubles a-year (£1, 12s. 6d. or £l, 18s.) This latter class is very numerous; it contains no less than 14,000,000 of souls, including the families of the semi-emancipated serfs. They cannot, however, leave their trade or force the purchase of their freedom on their master against his consent, and the obrok is generally raised as their supposed gains augment. This is perhaps the very best way in which the step, always difficult, sometimes dangerous, can be made from slavery to freedom, because it makes the gaining of the habits of industry precede the cessation of its compulsion, and renders man capable of being free before he becomes so. The peasants on the domains of the Crown, though