250 CZARISM AND REVOLUTION
that his decision would stand until a Constituent Assembly would decide on a future form of government.
The conditions under which the Constituent Assembly met several months later and its subsequent fate are well known. (3) The span of its life was predetermined and conformed in every detail to the forecast made by Plekhanov in his London speech when outlining the program of the Russian Social Democratic Party, quoted in Chapter X.
By March 3/16 the real meaning of all that was happening in the rear seems, at last, to have been grasped by G.H.Q. At least we have the following avowal by General Alexeiev:
"I can never forgive myself for believing in the sincerity of certain persons and for following their advice by sending the Army-group Commanders the telegram concerning the Emperor's abdication."(a)
However, the irreparable had by then happened; the act of abdication was already a matter of history.
A few days later the Emperor sent his farewell message to the Army:
"My beloved soldiers, I am speaking to you for the last time. After my abdication, in my own name and in the name of my son, supreme authority was assumed by the Provisional Government formed on the initiative of the Duma. May it, with God's help, guide Russia to prosperity and glory. May God help you, courageous soldiers, to defend our country against the cruel foe. For over two years and a half you have withstood the enemy's pressure. Much blood has been shed and great feats accomplished. The hour is at hand when, in a common effort, Russia and her gallant Allies will break the stubborn resistance of the enemy.
(a) On the crisis and General Alexeiev see General Denikin "Outline of the Russian Crisis." (in Russian) Vol. I. p. 54.
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"This war, without precedent in history, must be fought till final victory. Anyone at the present time considering peace or even desiring it is a traitor to his country. I feel confident that every honest fighter thinks like I do. Do your duty, obey your superiors and remember that any weakening of discipline serves no one but the enemy.
"I am firmly convinced that boundless love for our lovely country has not yet died in your hearts. May God's blessing be upon you and may the great martyr St. George lead you to victory.
This message was never allowed to reach the Army. It was intercepted and its publication prohibited by the Provisional Government for fear of the loyal reaction it might have on the troops.
Surely this was an act of petty meanness which shows up the men who succeeded to the historical supreme power of the Russians for what they really were.
We are faced by a tempting question: what would have happened if Czarism had not been overthrown in 1917? That Russia would have continued to advance by giant strides along the path of material and moral progress she was following, is the first answer that springs to mind. In 1913 the well-known French economist Ed. Thery wrote:
"If we consider the results observed from the beginning of this century, we are bound to conclude that, provided things in the Great European Nations retain the same pattern from 1912 to 1950 as between 1900 and 1912, Russia toward the middle of the century will dominate Europe politically, financially and economically." (4)
Had the revolution not occurred peace would have been signed in the summer of 1917 instead of 18 months later. Russia
252 CZARISM AND REVOLUTION
would not only have retained her possessions but also reached her natural boundaries in the Carpathians and reintegrated into the Empire the millions of Russians living in Eastern Galicia. For the greater good of the world Constantinople would have been placed under Russian suzerainty. (International agreement confirmed at the St. Petersburg conference of January, 1917.) The whole of Armenia, freed from the Turkish yoke would have formed part of the Empire, thus providing it with outlets to Messopotamia and Syria. Other compensations, designed to stabilize peace, would have been obtained by Russia, corresponding to those obtained by the Allies in Africa, the Pacific and elsewhere.
Russia would have enjoyed universal respect. She would have helped to bring to the Treaties of Peace an element of calm and moderation by exercising that particular spirit of clemency and justice which always moved her to complete reconciliation with her former enemies.
Added to this, universal economic chaos, the revolt of Asia against Europe, social unrest in every nation, the progressive bolshevization of entire continents and the terrible martydom of a conglomeration of peoples and races inhabiting more than a third of the land surface of the globe, all would have been avoided had that tremendous calamity both for Russia and humanity, the fall of Czarism, not occurred.
But here another question arises. Czarist Russia's extraordinary progress in the 20th century and her advance toward unequalled prosperity and power, were not these the main reasons for her downfall? Take, for instance, the case of a gifted individual who has outstripped his equals. When his position is firmly established or his talents universally recognized his rise to power or fame are seldom viewed with sympathy or even with indifference. On the contrary, they are far more likely to evoke feelings of jealousy and hatred. In this order of things nations and individuals tend to react in the same way. Therein, perhaps, lies the solution to the puzzle why two great powers and sundry other international groups
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so determinedly supported the Russian revolutionaries, those perpetual opponents of the creative and constructive genius of our Czars.
It may, therefore, be pointed out that the ever-increasing might of Czarist Russia was, in the nature of things, bound to breed among her sister nations feelings of jealousy or even of blind hatred as well as of supposedly legitimate fear.
An examination of Russia's policy in the field of international affairs under the Czars contradicts any such ideas. On the contrary, the unfettered march of humanity toward progress largely depended upon the existence of historical Russia. This fact, if ignored, is done so by design. What the enemies of Russia either foresaw or hoped to achieve by "liberating" her from the "tyranny" of Czarism has come to pass and been realized beyond their most sanguine expectations. Today many of them regret their former attitude to Russia when they view the effects it has had on their recent history and their most vital interests.
(1) From the beginning of the war the political parties of the left took up an attitude of hostility toward the Government in spite of the wave of genuine patriotism which swept over the country. The "Rietch," organ of the Cadet Party and the mouthpiece of its leader Miliukov, at once published an article directed at poor, unfortunate Serbia, and was so disloyal in contents that the paper was suspended by order of the Grand Duke Nicholas, Commander-in-Chief. Even in those early days there already existed a certain understanding and collusion between the elements of the radical left in the Duma on the one hand and those of its liberal members who flaunted their patriotism, on the other. At the request of the President of the Duma, Rodzianko, the Grand Duke rescinded his order and "Rietch" resumed publication. A powerful weapon was thus at once placed in the hands of an avowed enemy of the regime. By flouting a timorous censorship and using his reputation for moderation as a cloak, Miliukov was given the chance of conducting with utter impunity and in the full spate of war a slanderous campaign against the Government. It seems unnecessary to stress the extent by which the renewed life of "Rietch," as well as other openly seditious literature printed at the enemy's expense, facilitated the task of discrediting the immense war effort demanded of the nation.
254 CZARISM AND REVOLUTION
No politician ever dropped so many political bricks as Miliukov or yet made so many prophesies which somehow never materialized. In 1914, soon after the beginning of the war when national patriotism was at its height, his more astute colleagues, like Maklakov, made him see the advisability of changing his tactics. He followed this advice and, though pro-German to the core and a slave of German "kultur," he turned to a violent form of barrel-thumping jingoism. In the now far-off days of the war with Japan and the painful years following, his conduct was definitely suspect and, among other things, he then did his best to torpedo the French loan to Russia, as witnessed by the reports of our financial agent in Paris. Now he conjured up and trumpeted all over Russia the legend of "Treason from above."
His pro-German sympathies and his complete lack of political insight are shown in the report he submitted to General Alexeiev at the time of the Bolshevik coup d'etat. "France," said the former Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government, "is on the eve of a second Sedan and will be beaten to her knees by Germany." In 1918 he was expelled from France, as a traitor to the Allies.
This hatred of France was a feeling shared by Russian revolutionaries, liberals of advanced views and intelligentsia of every hue. As early as 1914 M. Paleologue comments with surprise on the bitterness of this hatred. "It is confined," he says, "to the 'intelligentsia' classes, who seem unable to forgive us the financial support we rendered Czarism in the past. In their eyes this wrong is now aggravated by another: we are accused of bringing Russia into the war so that we might regain possession of Alsace and Lorraine at the price of Russian sacrifices." (Work quoted. Vol. I. pp. 234-235.) In two articles published by "La Revue de France" in January and February, 1930, M. J. Jacoby, the French historian, analyzes the various trends of Russian liberal opinion. He says it is an insult to tar the genuinely progressive section of Russian thought and politics with the same brush as the anarchical and disruptive elements of the Duma.
(2) Additional light is shed on the immature approach of Russian liberalism to politics by quoting MacKenize Wallace. This is what he writes concerning an interview with one of the leaders of the Cadet Party about 1906. "As a matter of principle the Cadets (Constitutional Democrats) liked to be called a moderate party, which, in fact, they were far from being. This is proved by an interview I had with one of the leaders of the party. With great diffidence I took the liberty of suggesting to him that his party might, perhaps, do better if, instead of persisting in an attitude of systematic hostility to the Government, it cooperated with it and thereby brought about a state of affairs somewhat approaching the British parliamentary system, for which the Cadets professed such genuine admiration. I added that this might take eight or ten years to achieve. Here I was interrupted by my friend who ex-
THE REVOLUTION 255
claimed: "Eight or ten years? We cannot possibly wait for so long!" I replied: 'I do not, for a moment, pretend to know your business better than you do, but I would point out that in England, considered as a model by admirers of parliamentary government, we have had to wait for several centuries/ " ("Russia." p. 728. Translated from the French.)
Full power, concentrated in their hands, is what the leaders of the Cadet Party really desired. Their views on constitutional monarchy were revealed by Miliukov at the beginning of the revolution when he said with his customary coarseness that "the combination of the Heir Alexis and the Grand Duke Michael was very favorable as an introduction to real government by parliament, for one was a child and the other an imbecile." (Sukhanov. "Notes on the Revolution." 1922. Vol. I. p. 279. In Russian.) Incidentally the last part of his remark is quite unjustified if we are to believe M. Paleologue's appraisal of the Grand Duke given in the 3rd volume of his "La Russie des Tsars."
Mr. Maklakov, formerly a prominent member of the Cadet Party and ambassador in Paris of the Provisional Government writes: "These circles (the Cadet leaders) were influenced by their political past as members of the 'professional opposition' who, so far, had never had the opportunity of appreciating the difficulties of government. On the other hand, they had studied the art of malicious criticism and in perfecting it sought to justify their existence. Their aim was to educate the country politically but, when comparing the shortcomings of everyday life with the lofty ideals they proclaimed, they would never stoop to consider its realities. They talked of elaborate reforms in which they themselves hardly believed and then opposed any suggested improvement because it fell short of their demands."
I quote these lines from M. Maklakov's preface to "La Chute due Regime Tsariste" (The Fall of the Czarist Regime) "Interrogation of Ministers, Counsellors and Dignitaries of the Russian Imperial Court by the Extraordinary Commission of the Provisional Government." Paris. Payot, publ. 1927.
The course of the Government, burdened with an opposition of this kind, was not an easy one; matters did not improve during the war when, in "politically educating" the nation, the opposition saw fit to make very grave and serious charges against the administration. All were subsequently disproved as witnessed by a multitude of official documents published after the revolution. In this connection "The Fall of the Czarist Regime, etc.," merits special attention. The Russian version, entitled "Padenie Czarskovo Regima" (Moscow 1925-1926) comprizes seven volumes, while the French edition, quoted above, giving a translation of the main interrogations, runs into well over 500 pages.
It is a report of the findings of the Extraordinary Commission set up by special decree of the Provisional Government two days after the abdication
256 CZARISM AND REVOLUTION
of the Emperor to enquire into the charges of abuse of power and treason brought against his ministers and high ranking civil servants. Notwithstanding the composition of the Commission which was, of course, revolutionarily biased, and its admitted aim of revealing the "misdeeds" of the accused, all the charges were proved to be unfounded. The Empress, so odiously calumniated, and sundry ministers, like Sukhomlinov, Sturmer and Protopopov— charged with high treason—were not only completely exonerated but found not guilty of having at any time aspired to separate peace or even entertained the wish to traffic with the enemy. (Concerning the Empress, M. Paleologue quite rightly says: "Alexandra Fedorovna never was, nor is, either in spirit or at heart a German." See Vol. I. pp. 249-251 of his Memoirs, where he refers to the Empress and discusses the rumors connected with her person.)
Attention is drawn to the Rasputin legend. Here are the facts as they emerge from the "Interrogations."
Rasputin was a peasant endowed with pronounced hypnotic powers and the ability of performing the kind of "miracles" we usually associate with Indian fakirs. He claimed "to be searching for God" and had been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The origin of his ascendency over the Emperor and Empress was due to two causes; First, the Imperial couple saw in Rasputin a true representative of "the people," whom the Empress idealized and compared favourably with Petersburg high society, "the bridgeplayers," as she called its members. In this she suffered from the same psychosis to which a majority of Russian society were victims, commencing with Leo Tolstoy. It first appeared in the second half of the 19th century and sought to prove the "superiority of the mujik," the "unspoilt man." Second, Rasputin was for the Empress the "man of God," who alone had the power to cure her son and it was in this capacity that he was first introduced to the Court in 1908. As everyone knowns the Czarevitch suffered from haemmophilia, the hereditary malady of the house of Hesse, against which the doctors were powerless.
After 1914 Rasputin's private life, the details of which he was at pains to conceal from his Imperial masters, was one of drunkenness and debauch. The ugly rumors connected with his name were regarded as malicious slander both by the Sovereigns and those members of society who were unacquainted with this sordid side of his life. The idea of a debauched Rasputin seemed quite inconceivable and the campaign against the mujik was ascribed by the Emperor and Empress to intrigues promoted by their enemies in order to deprive them of a trusted friend, a son of the people and the only person capable of easing the suffering of their child.
The "Interrogations" also reveal that toward the end of his life Rasputin was not averse to receiving bribes in kind, especially Madeira wine of which
THE REVOLUTION 257
he was particularly fond, and of using his influence to promote the unsavory dealings of various "spivs."
The stories circulated by enemies of the Imperial family and just plain enemies of the regime would have us believe in the sinister influence Rasputin exercised on politics or in his German sympathies. The "Interrogations" tell us that he never aspired to the former and that he was a staunch supporter of continuing the war till final victory. (See pp. 305/6 of the "Interrogations.")
According to the Rasputin legend he was also supposed to be a tool in the hands of mysterious "occult" circles, headed in St. Petersburg by a Jewish banker named Manus, himself rumoured to be an agent in German pay. This, too, is contradicted by the "Interrogations." Furthermore, the unfortunate Manus later shared the fate of many of his colleagues who failed to escape abroad and was shot by the Bolsheviks. Had he really been a German agent he might have met with a less unpleasant end.
Taken by itself the whole Rasputin story is neither better nor worse than the story of a hundred other unsavory episodes which can and do happen everywhere. But because of the notoriety it achieved through skillful presentation, by the way it was exaggerated and ably exploited, it did the Government untold harm. To the patriotically minded it showed Rasputin as an enemy agent, thereby undermining the personal prestige of the Empress and consequently of the regime. For the people the legend acquired a character no less monstrous in its implications: Rasputin's private life of sensuality and debauch was intimately linked with his role as healer of the Czarevitch and his proximity to and intimacy with the Sovereigns. It is under this horrible aspect that the story has been spread abroad. Within the last 30 or 40 years the West has thrown up an endless series of novels, films and plays, some of them frankly pornographic, perpetuating this scurrilous legend. No aspect of the filthy story, which does not further damage the reputation of our martyred Czar, defile his memory or sully the character of his unfortunate consort, has been allowed to go by default. Faced by this infamous calumny which is exploited to the full and used to perpetuate the rooted hostility to Czarism, it is high time for those of us who are anxious to maintain and establish the truth to rise in indignant protest.
(3) At the time (1917), the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly caused considerable comment in the West. It is questionable whether its further deliberations would have been viewed with much favor if we consider that within the brief span of its life it resolved: (a) to repudiate Russia's foreign debts, (b) socialize all the land and (c) pursue negotiations with the enemy powers for a separate peace. A single day of debate sufficed to expose the utter impotence of the Assembly, an impotence dooming it to oblivion, regardless of its actual dispersal by bolshevized sailors of the Baltic Fleet. In actual fact
CZARISM AND REVOLUTION
it represented the perfect synthesis of all the bewildering ramifications of the revolutionary "intelligentsia."
(4) To confirm a forecast made in 1913 that Russia was bound shortly to become the dominating factor in Europe, M. Ed. Thery, after commenting on the size, riches, increased production and industrial potential of Russia, drew up the following table of the estimated population of the principal European countries by 1948 based on the respective increase in their populations between 1900 and 1912.
(Million of inhabitants)
Actual figures 1900 1912
P.c. increase by 1912
Estimated figures 1924 1936 1948
42.3 Total for the
excluding Russia 214.1
267.0 299.2 336.0
A revolution is the consequence of an "old order" only if the latter fails to appreciate the budding aspirations of the nation or yet if, by its policy, it paralyzes its normal development. I suggest that far from having outlived its usefulness Czarism which was responsible for the tremendous upsurge of Russia and the spectacular expansion of the nation's productive genius was not allowed the time sufficiently to develop. The terrifying tragedy of Russia was not a result of the "ancien regime" but a direct and inevitable consequence of its disappearance.
A revolution is "legitimate'^ 1) when it tends to free a nation of a wicked tyranny by which its development is being strangled. It is then useful and in the end it is constructive.
A revolution is a socially criminal act when it destroys the fountain spring of the nation's well being. In which case it is inevitably destructive and continues to be so to an ever increasing degree.
The effects of the Russian revolution are so stupendous and without precedent in history precisely because of its utter uselessness and the criminal aspect of its character. For years it did nothing but turn the country into a vast torture chamber, a gigantic cemetery, a heap of ruins. If today it is, perhaps, possible to discern at home a certain change of attitude in the authors of these horrible crimes it is only to witness their repeated perpetration in other countries under the Soviet yoke.
In the West the apparent stability of the regime in Russia and the fact that the nation has to all intent acquiesced in the Soviet form of government, except for sporadic outbursts of revolt, have been frequently used as an argument against any
260 CZARISM AND REVOLUTION
intervention in the internal affairs of Russia. The truth is exactly the opposite. The vast majority of the Russian people is radically opposed to the regime and detests the principles it represents. Unfortunately for as long as the people are subjected to the existing system of repression, espionage, denunciation and persecution they will remain powerless to act. Is any success likely to be achieved by a people in revolt faced with modern weapons of war and a ruthless determination to use them to the full when occasion arises? The recent events in Hungary supply the answer. When at the beginning of the German invasion hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers went over to the Germans they did so in the genuine belief that the enemy was fighting Communism, not Russia. It was not an escape to freedom and it cannot be called treachery. It was the first chance offered of fighting to free the country of the yoke of oppression. The revolt of the people against Com-munism has every time been subdued by reprisals, deporta-tions and every other bestial means available to those in power; even in the early days of the regime, when the population might logically have been expected to rejoice at the success of the revolution, wave after wave of insurrection swept the country only to be broken against the machine-guns of Bol-shevik "banditocracy" and then surpressed by an unparalelled system of terror.
We have now reached a stage when the civilized world is in a position to ponder over the full effects of the Russian upheaval. No revolution can be said to have started on a given date, be due to one particular fact or have been brought about by one particular individual. It simply becomes abruptly apparent. Lenin's arrival on the Russian scene was not the starting point, but the affirmation of pre-existing revolutionary conditions. These conditions far from being caused by the defects of the old order were created by the activities and propaganda of the Russian revolutionaries.
These men were at the time, and still are, the most formid-
able enemies in the world of ordered society as we know it. It must further be understood that their disruptive activities, much as they were assisted by the war, were strengthened by the open and secret support they obtained from all the various forces bent upon the destruction of Russia. However, we can now follow the development of these activities carried a stage further as applied to the so-called bourgeois countries and accurately assess the measure of encouragement they receive from the fount of triumphant Communism, oppressed Russia, which has been turned into a base of world revolution.
Lenin's speeches which so masterly paved the way for his advent, his very words, so strangely adaptable to any and every situation, now resound all over the world, driving home the gospel of hate and civil strife. As Dr. G. Le Bon so justly remarks:
"We now live at a time when words, myths and formulae exercise a dominating influence over the credulous instincts of the masses." And further:
"Today the demands of the masses by becoming increasingly defined tend toward the complete disruption of society, as it now stands, and aim at reducing it to a condition of primitive Communism which was the common state of every human collective before the dawn of civilization."
Communist leadership is no longer content with making the masses "Communist minded" or bringing them by skillful propaganda to a state of mental indiscipline and disintegration when resistance to conquering Communism is no longer possible. From words it has turned to deeds. In every country of the world a streamlined communist organization backed by years of experience is assiduously and expertly hammering away at its task, which is to give its victims the illusion of outward political stability until the hour of irrevocable ruin.
262 CZARISM AND REVOLUTION |
When the Communist plague descended upon Russia there existed no historical precedent by which to guage the immensity of the danger that then threatened the country and later the world or yet to dictate a salutary policy with which to ; fight it as soon as it had made itself manifest. We Russians are -offered the somewhat cold consolation of realizing that we were | the sacrificial offering necessary to the full comprehension of "• international Communism.
Up to quite recently the fate of the millions of human beings a doomed to suffering and death in prison and concentration | camp somewhere in the limitless spaces of Eastern Europe and * Siberia left the Western world callously indifferent.(2) There was no visible sign of compunction about shaking the bloody hands of the Moscow butchers or about handing over to torture and death loyal sons of Russia on the strength of agreements signed and extorted during the war.
Opposition to Communism is now growing in the West. Why
this sudden change? Is it based on a sudden upsurge of hu
manity, on a sudden awakening to the teachings of the Chris
tian faith? Anyone looking squarely at the truth knows that it >
is prompted by the unpleasant fact that Communism is now 1
threatening the Western world itself. Bitter experience has J
taught the West that "co-existence" is a mockery and that no
lasting agreement with Communism is possible. Had the true
nature of Communism been understood in time by the Western
powers, had timely action been taken before the evil had taken
root in Russia the spread of Communism in the world today
would have been avoided.
A great mistake, and I cannot too strongly emphasize the point, of modern anti-communist policy is to identify national Russia with her present day rulers. The identification of the Soviet Union with Russia and the aims of Communist policy with those of National Russia is an error fraught with the greatest danger. This mistaken identification has brought us to the point when Russia and not the Soviet Union is regarded as
the potential source of international disquiet, while the fact that the Russian people are the first victims of international Communism is totally disregarded. The world seems to have forgotten that Communism was introduced into Russia from the West and that it is essentially foreign to Russia in its concepts.
To persevere in this mistaken appraisal merely plays into the hands of the Communists. It enables them to convince their subjugated people that the enmity of the West is directed against Russia, as such, and in the event of trouble, to make use of genuine national patriotism in the defense of Communism.
I quote here from "An Appeal to the Free World" made by H.I.H. the Grand Duke Wladimir of Russia in February 1952:
"This fallacy which interprets the acts of the rulers of the USSR as representative of the will of the Russian Nation, is responsible for the popular bogey of a 'new Russian Imperialism.' The program and aims of Soviet international policy are wholly distinct from those of National Russia.
"Nevertheless, as tension increases between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, the press and politicians of the Western nations, with a view to preparing public opinion for an eventual war against the USSR, make ever more frequent use of such slogans as 'the Russian Menace' and 'the danger of Russian Imperialism.'
"History shows that every nation and state in the course of its development endeavors to increase its territorial possessions in the interests of its people. This is a natural tendency and Russia was no exception to the rule. At the same time the territorial expansion of the Russian Empire was a gradual process, the result of the wise and peaceful policy of its monarchs rather than of wars of conquest and aggression.
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"Once Russia had obtained the indispensable outlets to the sea and frontiers that guaranteed her security, she sought no further territorial acquisitions. On the contrary, the Russian Empire during the last decades of its existence voluntarily ceded certain territories that were not considered of vital strategic importance.
"It is also relevant to note that Russian expansion had already come to an end when other nations, France, Germany and Great Britain, for example, were still, in the 20th century, seeking their aggrandisement in colonial and other wars.
"Russia has nothing to gain by the conquest or control of territories outside her national frontiers or the oppression of other peoples, some of whom were liberated from foreign domination at the cost of many Russian lives. She certainly did not assist the Bulgarians, Serbs and Rumanians to win their independence in order that a few decades later they would be infamously subjugated by International Communism. The Russian people have no need whatever of Stalin's territorial or political conquests, still less do they desire to oppress other nations. No true Russian can take any pride in the sight of red flags flying over Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Sofia, Belgrade, Bucharest, Riga, Reval, Kovno, Vienna, or even over the Brandenburg Gate.
"It is not in any country's interest for it to annex foreign territory and subjugate other peoples that have their own age-old history, culture, traditions and language. It is, indeed, dangerous because such violations of legitimate rights invariably create lasting enmities.
"These errors have certainly been frequent in the past; few nations can claim never to have committed any injustice of this kind in the course of their history. For example, Imperial Russia made precisely such a mistake in the case of Poland. It should, however, be remembered that during the First World War Russia promised that
Poland would be granted her independence when hostilities ended. I should sincerely like to be able henceforth to regard this country and all Russia's neighbors as loyal allies in the struggle against the common foe, and I trust that in the future they will no longer live in fear of Russia but will rather consider her as a friend.
"I repeat again that Russia has never had the least intention of dominating Europe or the world. She has no need to acquire or control territories beyond the frontiers that ensure her security. Russia has never desired, and never could desire, to assume the odious role of bogey to the rest of the world which Communism has forced upon her. It is imperative to understand that neither Stalin, Vyshinsky, the Politbureau nor the Communist Party are in any way representative of the true Russia and her people."
The First World War, which occured at a time when fundamental changes were taking place in the whole structure of Russian life was, unquestionably, one of the main reasons responsible for the downfall of the Empire. Another contributory factor, though equally fateful in its consequences, was the increased activity of the Russian revolutionary bodies powerfully sustained from abroad at a period when the forces of the nation were taxed to the straining point and were centered on a single target, that of winning the war. In the gigantic task of fighting the enemy these forces were all but broken, while the resultant widespread feeling of general lassitude and moral fatigue was largely responsible for the success of skilfully directed revolutionary propaganda. In spite of this it is doubtful if these two factors would by themselves have been powerful enough to foment and consumate the revolution had the political body of the country not been previously undermined by the revolutionary virus and the whole political atmosphere not permeated by a feeling of frustration and disilusionment caused by the heavy sacrifices demanded by
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the war. The closer we examine this period of Russian history the more does the all-important link between the revolution and the war become apparent.
Sir Winston Churchill and Professor Charles Sarolea have given us their views on the real causes of the Russian tragedy and, in conclusion, I take the liberty of quoting them somewhat extensively. I must, however, add that their views differ widely from those generally expressed by the many authors who have sought to unravel this baffling problem. By concentrating their attention on the fundamental factors of our national evolution and refusing to be distracted by the apparent and trivial, by setting aside their own political preferences and avoiding so to distort the true perspective of events as to suit the public taste for the vulgar and commonplace, these two men, one the ablest statesman of our age and great historian, the other a man of learning and a high authority on Russia, have been able to discern "the wood from the trees."
Sir Winston Churchill and Professor Sarolea belong to that small group of foreigners, represented in the 19th century in France by F. Le Play, A. Leroy-Beaulieu, in Germany by Hax-thausen and in England by MacKenzie Wallace, who, though watching contemporary events in Russia from the outside, or perhaps precisely because of this reason, were able better to assess the interplay of cause and effect than many Russians themselves. From afar they were in a position to grasp impartially the many "differentiae specifiae" of Russia and of her crisis.
"Surely to no nation," writes Winston Churchill, "has fate been more malignant than to Russia. Her ship went down in sight of port. She had actually weathered the storm when all was cast away. Every sacrifice had been made; the toil was achieved. Despair and Tyranny usurped command at the very moment when the task was done.
"The long retreats were ended; the munition famine was broken; arms were pouring in; stronger, larger, better equipped armies guarded the immense front; the depots overflowed with strong men. Alexeiev directed the Army and Koltchak the Fleet. Moreover, no difficult action was now required: to remain in presence: to lean with heavy weight upon the far-stretched Teutonic line: to hold without exceptional activity the weakened hostile forces on her front: in a word, to endure—that was all that stood between Russia and the fruits of general victory. Says Ludendorff, surveying the scene at the close of 1916: 'Russia, in particular, produced very strong formations, divisions were reduced to twelve battalions, the batteries to six guns; new divisions were formed out of surplus fourth battalions and the seventh and eighth guns of each battery. This reorganization made a great increase of strength.' (Ludendorff, Vol. I, p. 305)
"It meant in fact that the Russian Empire marshalled for the campaign of 1917 a far larger and better equipped army than that with which she had started the war. In March the Czar was on his throne; the Russian Empire and people stood, the front was safe, and victory certain.
"It is the shallow fashion of these times to dismiss the Czarist regime as a purblind, corrupt, incompetent tyranny. But a survey of its thirty month's war with Germany and Austria should correct these loose impressions and expose the dominant facts. We may measure the strength of the Russian Empire by the battering it endured, by the disasters it had survived, by the inexhaustible forces it had developed, and by the recovery it had made. In the governments of states, when great events are afoot, the leader of the nation, whoever he be, is held accountable for failures and vindicated by success. No matter who wrought the toil, who planned the struggle, to the supreme responsible authority belongs the blame or credit for the result.
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"Why should this stern test be denied to Nicholas II? He had made many mistakes, what ruler had not? He was neither a great captain nor a great prince. He was only a true, simple man of average ability, of merciful disposition, upheld in all his daily life by his faith in God. But the brunt of supreme decisions centered upon him. At the summit where all problems are reduced to yea or nay, where events transcend the faculties of men and where all is inscrutable, he had to give the answers. His was the function of the compass-needle. War or no war? Advance or retreat? Right or left? Democratize or hold firm? Quit or persevere? These were the battlefields of Nicholas II. Why should he reap no honour for them? The devoted onset of the Russian armies which saved Paris in 1914; the mastered agony of the munitionless retreat; the slowly regathered forces; the victories of Brussilov; the Russian entry upon the campaign of 1917, unconquered, stronger than ever; has he no share in these? In spite of errors vast and terrible, the regime he personified, over which he presided, to which his personal character gave the vital spark, had at this moment won the war for Russia.
"He is about to be struck down. A dark hand, gloved at first in folly, now intervenes. Exit Czar. Deliver his and all he loved to wounds and death. Belittle his efforts, asperse his conduct, insult his memory;, but pause then and tell us who else was found capable. Who or what could guide the Russian State? Men gifted and daring; men ambitious and fierce; spirits audacious and commanding— of these there was no lack. But none could answer the few plain questions on which the life and fame of Russia turned. With victory in her grasp she fell upon the earth, devoured alive, like Herod of old, by worms. But not in vain her valiant deeds. The giant mortally stricken had just time, with dying strength, to pass the torch westwards across the ocean to a new Titan long sunk in doubt who now arose and began ponderously to arm. The Russian
Empire fell on March 16th; on April 6th the United States entered the war." (a)
"If we were to accept the current explanation of the Russian catastrophe" writes Charles Sarolea, "the revolution surprised the Russian Government in a hopeless state of decay, corruption and exhaustion. The reality is entirely different. When the upheaval came, it found the people in a crisis of growth, on a high tide of political reform and economic prosperity. I can well remember my amazement and perplexity when I studied Russian conditions before the war. I had witnessed on a previous visit the terrible disorganization following the Japanese and Civil War. Revisiting the country in 1909, I fully expected to find everywhere traces of the suffering endured in the two terrible years 1904 and 1905. Instead, I observed the most wonderful recovery, a gigantic agrarian reform successfully carried through by the statesman Stolypine; millions of peasants settled in Siberia, industries growing by leaps and bounds, capital flowing into the country, the budget showing an abundant surplus, the population increasing at the rate of three million a year.
"Why then did the collapse come? Why did a prodigious prosperity end in unexampled disaster? Why did the Russian Monarchy fall almost without a struggle? It did not fall because of its inner weakness and corruption. It did not fall because it had outlived its usefulness., It fell because of purely accidental causes which would have brought about the downfall even of the most ideal Western government, if it had been faced with the same ordeal.
"Czarism fell in the first place because of the tragic coincidence that in the greatest political crisis of European history a weak ruler happened to occupy the throne, at the very moment when a strong monarch was most urgently needed. As in the case of the English revolution in the
(a) Winston Churchill. "The World Crisis, 1916-1918" pp. 223-225.
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seventeenth century, of the French revolution of 1789, of the second Napoleonic Empire, of the Austrian revolution of 1918, even so in Russia the ruler who was riding the storm happened to be a hen-pecked husband.
"Czarism fell in the second place because an agricultural state was unexpectedly called upon to fight a gigantic industrial war when it had not the material or technical means of carrying on such a war. Even a highly organized community like Great Britain was taken by surprise and found itself short of munitions. Even France had largely to depend on the assistance both of Great Britain and of the United States.
"But whereas Great Britain could depend on the cooperation of the United States, whereas France could depend on the assistance of her British ally, Russia was compelled to struggle in tragic isolation. She was left to her own resources. She had to fight without weapons and munitions. Russia had the right to expect that British sea power would keep open the Dardanelles, and that British industrial power would supply the Russian armies with the means of continuing the war. Great Britain was not able to discharge either of these functions. Through the closing of the Dardanelles, Russia from the beginning, was cut off. Through the British shortage of munitions Russia was faced with military disaster, and military disaster inevitably culminated in a political revolution, even as the military disaster of Sedan culminated in the Paris Commune of 1871. It may therefore justly be said that the Russian monarchy was the vicarious sacrificial victim of the delinquencies of her allies. We often hear it said that Russia failed her allies in their hour of need. The truth is exactly the opposite. It is not Russia who failed her allies. Her allies failed Russia. In fairness to the Russian people it would be well if British and French publicists, who are still denouncing the great Russia Treason of 1917, would remember that it was Europe who left the Russian people
in the lurch in the supreme hour of their national history." (a)
In the preceding pages I have tried to place before the foreign reader a true presentation of the political, social and economic state of Russia before the triumph of the revolution in 1917.
I have endeavored to vindicate Czarism and to dispel some of the preconceived and generally accepted errors on Czarism with which one is so frequently confronted.
If I have succeeded in explaining the true meaning of Russia's historical and traditional form of government and shown some of its achievements, if I have awakened a spirit of unbiased criticism about Russia I shall not have labored in vain.
Is it a mistake to conclude that the entire future of the world increasingly depends upon the solution of the Russian problem?
(1) The division of revolutions into two categories, one prompted by criminal ambitions, the other by unfulfilled social aspirations, might at first glance appear fictitious. However, if analyzed, this distinction is shown to be pertinent. Far from being devoid of substance it is based on the evolution of ideas and events in the 19th century.
In the years following the Congress of Vienna the horror inspired by the excesses of the French revolution was such that conservative circles in Europe, governments and liberal public opinion alike, were hostile to any form of popular movement. Any revolution, irrespective of its nature, was regarded as criminal. At the same time an inverse conception, gradually taking shape, resulted toward the middle of the century in the formulation of a precept even more open to criticism. Every revolution was to be henceforth justified, provided it was crowned with success. "The People" could never be wrong. In those days the laws governing mass psychology, later so ably analyzed by Dr. Le Bon, who has been frequently quoted in this work, were as yet unknown, the strange phenomenon of collective suicide, capable of depraving or contaminating entire nations, unheard of. Comparable to a lighted match which,
(a) Professor Charles Sarolea. "The Truth About Imperial Russia." English Review, June, 1925.
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if carelessly dropped in an arsenal, can cause the destruction of a city, so a "subversive idea," ably exploited by skillful propaganda and hammered into the minds of the people can undermine the foundations of a state and bring its people to disaster. The ease with which this explosion is brought about largely depends on the degree of susceptibility of the people to demagogic propaganda.
The "subversive idea," which was later to provoke the explosion, was the concrete application of the theory widely preached by successive generations that a revolution, essential in any case, was an indispensible corollary to progress. If a nation had by ill luck avoided a revolution in the past its belated appearance was attributable to the underdeveloped social mentality of the people.
There was thus brought into being the concept of the obligatory socially criminal act directly connected with the state of this development. The generations of Buffon and Goethe placed the existence of God and good in nature as a condition of human evolution, "cultured and consequently better," they said; "more fully developed and therefore ripe for the socially criminal act," argued the leading spirits of a more modern generation. Proceeding on these lines we finally come to Karl Marx, who went a stage further and formulated in precise terms his doctrine based on sophisms.
The experience of the last forty years and the accrued wisdom we have gained gives us Russians, the right, nay the duty, to impress on those nations which, in proud ignorance, have lightly trod this sorry path, the extent of the miseries they have been spared and by which they are at present threatened. For Communism, while always finding willing accomplices in the bosom of every nation and profiting by the assistance it is so generously given, is advancing along a road cleared of obstacles for over three quarters of a century by a doctrine of social disintegration.
As I have said, we have been taught to distinguish between the two types of revolutionary tendencies: those that are permissible and those that are criminal and purely destructive. We wish the rest of the world to profit by this costly lesson.
(2) This remark is in no way contradicted by the generous help given to the starving population of Russia during the years of famine in 1921 and 1922 by the American people through Mr. Herbert Hoover's organization and all the many different forms of succour unattached to politics given at other times by various sources.