« ForrigeFortsett »
the streets, and beat them, without the formality of a trial. Chap.
in the severest manner, without their cries exciting any !_
attention among those who witness it, who, glad that the l8ls" tempest has not fallen on their shoulders, quietly pass by without either observation or surprise. The nobles and higher classes of the Tchinn are exempt from such chastisement; but Siberia is constantly hanging over their heads, the most effectual of all bastinadoes to the mind; and the prisons resound with the cries of those upon whom the punishment of flogging for crime* or at the instance of their masters, is inflicted. The frightful screams of the sufferers under these inflictions leave the most melancholy impression on the minds of such as have, heard them; they recall the horrors of slavery among w.'2si.m the boasted republican institutions of America.1
It is this constant recurrence to force, and the frequency and severity of corporal punishments in Russia, which Character has imprinted at once its regular methodical aspect on clrcumJumthe march of government, and their supple character and imprinted extraordinary powers of dissimulation on the people. IfJ^* Rus" Like a well-disciplined regiment, in which the lash is the constant object of apprehension, everything goes on silently and smoothly in Russia. Nothing retards or checks the machine of government; riots or disturbances of any sort are unknown; resistance is never thought of, or, if attempted, is speedily suppressed by the strong arm of power. The country resembles rather a vast army obeying the directions and coerced by the authority of a single general-in-chief, than a great community actuated by separate interests and impelled by various passions. As a necessary consequence of this irresistible force of power and necessity of submission, the character of the Russians has been modified in a most essential degree. Originality or independence of thought is in a great degree unknown; where these qualities exist, as doubtless they must in many breasts, they are carefully concealed, as the most dangerous qualities which the possessor can discover. Like the Greeks under the Mussulman yoke,
Chap. the Russians have become perfect adepts in all the arts vm' by which talent eludes the force of authority, and astutel815, ness escapes the discoveries of power. They are admirably skilled in the use of flattery, and, like all persons initiated in that dangerous art, passionately desirous of praise themselves. The Americans do not exceed them in their thirst for national, the French in their passion for individual praise—the certain proof in both of the secret consciousness of very serious defects. Those who feel none, do not desire the balm. They are most skilful imitators; and their powers of dissimulation are universally admitted to exceed those of the most accomplished courtiers or skilful diplomatists in western Europe. It was not thus in former days : this dissimulation and causes' address is a contrast to the manliness and simplicity udtothu* of early times. The Slave originally, like a rude and character, barbarous savage, was bold, intrepid, and outspoken, pitiless to his enemies, but simple, kind, and guileless to his friends; and such is still the character of the Cossacks, and of those distant tribes which have not felt the crushing influence of the central government. The principles of freedom had strongly taken root among them, and at a time when all the nations of western Europe were sunk in slavery, a republic flourished in Novgorod the Great, which rivalled for centuries the energy, as in its fall it equalled the heroism, of the republics of Greece and Rome. It was the dreadful irruption of Bati and the Tartar hordes in the fourteenth century, who overran the whole eastern and southern countries of the empire, and for three long centuries kept them in a state of cruel servitude, which induced this disposition upon them ; they assumed the character because they were subjected to the lot of slaves. During those disastrous centuries the Poles joined their arms to the Tartars; and the Muscovites, assailed on all sides, and driven to their last fastnesses, were fain to avoid utter destruction by the most abject submission. Ivan IV. first extricated them from this dreadful yoke; he won for them Kazan, Astracan, and the boundless realms of Siberia, but it was only to sub- Chap.
ject them to a tyranny almost as terrible as that from —
which they had escaped, and which won for him the last- 181s* ing surname of the Terrible. Severe as it was, his yoke was cheerfully borne for half a century, because it averted the still more dreadful oppression of the Tartars; and when Peter the Great, a century after, sought to gain for them a place in the European family, he found the Muscovites prepared to submit to any mandates, and ready to be moulded by any will which assumed their direction. Let us not boast of the independent character and fearless disposition of the English peasantry, but rather thank the Almighty, who, in the encircling ocean, has given them a barrier against their enemies. Had the circumstances of both been different—had the Russians been located in Yorkshire, and the Anglo-Saxon on the, „
banks of the Volga—who will affirm that the character Histoid de
of the two nations, despite the all but indelible influence 447,44V of race, would not have been exchanged %1 *
The Emperor Nicholas has often said that "its dis
tances are the scourge of Russia; and considered with Great effect reference to the march of civilisation, it is obvious that tL'cMin" the observation is well founded. It is difficult, indeed, Ku33ia' to conceive how civilisation can spread generally in a country of such enormous extent, possessing such slender means, natural or artificial, of internal communication, with so few seaports, and these few, for the most part, blocked up half the year with ice. At the accession of Peter the Great, Russia possessed only one seaport (Archangel) on the White Sea; and it was the pressing want of
* "L'orgueil national B'aneantit parmi les Russes; ils eurent recours aux artifices qui Buppleent a la force chez les hommes condamnes a une obeissance servile ; habiles a tromper les Tartares, ils devinrent aussi, plus savants dans l'art de so tromper mutuellement; achetant des barbares lour s&curite personnels, ils furent plus avides d'argent et moins Bensibles aux injures et a la honte; exposes sans cesso a l'insoleuce des tyrans strangers, il se pourrait que le caracttre actuel des Russes conservat quelques-unes des tacbeB dont l'a Bouille la barbarie des Mongols. Le soutien des boyards ayant disparu, il fallait obeir au souverain sous peine d'etre regarde comme traitre ou comme rebelle: et il n'existe plus aucune voie legitime de s'opposer a ses volontes, en un mot on vit naitre l'autocratie."—Kabamsin, Bi/toire de Rxusie, T. 44; vi. 851.
Chap. a great harbour to connect it with the commerce and
ideas of western Europe which made him lavish such i815, sums, and waste such an enormous amount of human life, in the construction of St Petersburg. The same want is still felt with unmitigated severity in the interior. Civilisation meets with grievous impediments in a country entirely flat, without minerals or coal to stimulate manufactures, covered with snow half the year, in great part shaded by forests, with few navigable rivers, and still fewer canals or railroads, distant from any harbour, and necessarily chained by physical necessity, over great part of its extent, to rude agricultural labour during the whole year. The situation of the basin of the Mississippi, of surpassing fertility, and intersected in every part by a vast network of navigable rivers, which descend from the Alleghanies on the one side and the Rocky Mountains on the other, is not a parallel but a contrast to that of Muscovy; and if we would rightly appreciate the advantages which Great Britain has derived, and Ireland might have derived, from its insular situation, compact provinces, numerous harbours, and mineral riches, we have only to contemplate what Russia has suffered from the want of them. ( It results necessarily from these circumstances, that as
Civilisation much as Russia abounds to overflowing in the elements «reTM<onen of physical, is she weak in the materials of intellectual thehgher strength . and if a great destiny awaits her, as it
plainly does, it is to be found in the conquest of the bodies, not the subjugation of the souls of men. Civilisation depends entirely on and flows from the higher ranks; there is none of the ascending pressure from below which constitutes so important an element in the society of western Europe. In the very highest ranks it exists in the most refined and captivating form, and one of the many contrasts which strike a stranger most in that extraordinary country, is the strange contrasts which exist between the manners, habits, and tastes of the nobility and those of the great body of the people. After traversing hundreds of leagues over a country imperfectly cultivated, overrun by forests or swamps, and tilled in the places which the Chap. plough has reached by ignorant serfs, the astonished vm' traveller finds himself suddenly landed in an enchanted i815palace, where the last refinements of European civilisation are to be met with, where the finest copies of the Greek statues adorn marble halls of surpassing magnificence, where the choicest gems of Titian or Raphael enchant the eye, in drawing-rooms enriched with all the luxury of Ormolu and Sevres, and beautiful women, arrayed in the last Parisian fashion, alternately fascinate the mind by conversation on the most celebrated novels or operas of the day, or charm the senses by the finest melodies of Mozart or Beethoven. It is this strange and startling combination of rudeness with refinement, of coarseness with elegance of taste, of barbarity with the last delicacies of civilisation, in one class, with the first attempts at improvement in those beneath it, which strikes the traveller at every step in Russia. Diderot long ago said that "the Russians were rotten before they were ripe;" but it would be more just to say that they are ripe in one class before they are even beginning to form fruit in those below it.
The Russians are essentially an imitative people, and they have carried talent in this respect to a length strong'imiunequalled in any other age or country of the world, RtmTheir manners, their fashions, their arts, their luxuries,*ian*' their architecture, their painting, are all copied from those of western Europe. Like the inhabitants of all northern countries, they are passionately fond of travelling, for this plain reason, that they seek in foreign countries gratifications they cannot find in their own. They make good use of the opportunities they thus enjoy: they are well known as the most lavish patrons of art both in France and Italy, and they carry back with them to their deserts not only the finest specimens of ancient statuary or modern painting, but the most refined taste for their beauties, and correct appreciation of their excellencies. Their architecture, in all but the very