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discharge at the end of twenty-five years, and they are, if their offences have been serious, sent into a penal corps; but still, to be made a soldier generally implies disgrace and punishment; and it may be doubtful whether, with an army constituted as this is, much reliance could be placed on its zeal and fidelity in the case of internal disturbances.
The national disgrace of Russia appears to be the system of corruption which it is said pervades every class in the empire, high and low. This accusation is, I am afraid, undeniable; for every Russian will tell you,
“ there is nothing to be done in our country without a bribe.” The only difference appears to be in the amount, which, of course, varies with the rank of the receiver. At the bottom of the ladder, three or four roubles may suffice, while as many thousands may be requisite for the important personage at the top.
No one will be unjust enough to suppose that honest men are not to be found here as well as in other countries, and I should be sorry so far to calumniate Russia as to suggest that they were rare ; but still from all that I have heard in various quarters, I cannot doubt of the lamentable prevalence of corruption. The fact of a person in a high and honourable employment, receiving money for his good offices, does not seem to be regarded here with all the horror and detestation which it de
The salary of a governor of a province is twelve thousand roubles a-year, or about five hundred pounds, a sum which is quite insufficient to cover the expences of his establishment; yet I was told the other day that a governor of Saratoff, on the Volga, one of the richest provinces in Russia, retired some years ago, after holding the office for six years, with a capital, realized during that time, of three millions of roubles, about a hundred and twenty thousand pounds. I inquired how this was possible, and the following is, in substance, the explanation which I received.
This upright Governor never committed acts of private injustice or wrong; but for value received, he consented to shut his eyes and not interfere with the doings of others. He, in fact, sold his protection wholesale to those who made their own profit by retailing their good offices as required.
In each of the twelve districts of every government is an ispravnik, an officer whom I have already mentioned as a rural master of police. Each ispravnik paid his Excellency five thousand roubles a-year, a douceur which of course obliterated any little peccadilloes of his own, or any mistakes into which he might fall in administering justice.
The Bashkirs, and other wild tribes who dwell in the Steppes beyond the Volga, wished to remain in undisturbed possession of lands to which they had no very strict title: the Governor left them in repose,
and his annual revenue was increased by thirty or forty thousand roubles.
The province abounded in heretics, of a sect regarded with much jealousy by government, and much persecuted for their political rather than their religious opinions: these sectarians longed for peace and quiet, and the price of the Governor's toleration was from one to two hundred thousand roubles a-year.
Certain salt-works at Saratoff, which supply all Russia with that article, contributed their mite to the pocket of his Excellency, which was swelled from numerous other sources not included in this catalogue.
It is not every one who is so successful in enriching himself as was this Governor, but he was no extraordinary instance of rapacity; he merely turned to good account the opportunities which he enjoyed. I was assured that he left a good character behind him, and was much regretted in the province.
In these cases of venality it is not the question here, what will the world think of such a man, and where will he again venture to show his face? But it is demanded instead, will he be able to justify himself in higher quarters, will he maintain his credit with the minister or with his Majesty? If he can succeed in so doing, he will laugh at the rest of the world, and there will be no blot on his escutcheon: there are no public prints to expose him to opprobrium,
and indeed so low is the standard of public virtue, that his conduct is hardly regarded as disgraceful, and it would almost be considered a piece of Quixotism to set up as the censor of one who had only acted as many others would have done in his place.
The Emperor, I believe, does all in his power to check and discourage this disgraceful system of corruption, by visiting offenders with the utmost severity: it is not, however, probable that it can be effectually destroyed, so long as the sources exist out of which it naturally arises. These appear chiefly to be the inadequacy of the legitimate emoluments attached to every office and employment, and the total absence of public opinion in Russia.
The former of these causes renders a man needy and liable to temptation, and the latter secures him from the disgrace which ought to be the severest punishment of his misconduct.
Belief in powers of images and saints–Madame B.-A maigre
dinner--The Archbishop of Tamboff-Variety of dishes“A toastDinner visits.
Tamboff, December 27th, 1837. I BELIEVE I told you in a former letter that the upper classes of Russians in general were by no means exact in their observance of the fasts of the church : there are, however, many ladies who are extremely rigid in this respect. Here there is one lady in particular, who in her attention to all such points is undeviating, and who in her professed belief in the miraculous powers of images, saints, and reliques, reminds me of the characters which are described as those of zealous Roman Catholics in the dark ages, but which I scarcely could have supposed were to be met with in real life in the nineteenth century.
This lady having a daughter unwell a few years ago, dreamed that a monk came to her and told her that if she took her child to the shrine of a certain saint at Veronish, a town at no very great distance