TRUTH ABOUT RUSSIA
Autocracy Deserves Fate Which is Overtaking It.
HOW A PEASANT LIVES
The Moujik as a Subject for Liberty.
FIFTY MILLION STARVING
Country Soddened With Blood–The Aims of Revolutionists–Day of Reckoning at Hand.
_____BY C.W. PAFFLOW.
I shall not attempt either to justify or to condemn terrorism in Russia, but to account for it on the ground of the ordinary and well-known principles and motives of human conduct. The most important facts I shall state are within my own personal knowledge, for I am a native of Russia, where, until almost mature manhood, I was an interested witness to the movement of the people against autocracy and czardom, and know whereof I speak.
I know of no daily paper in America which is better Informed on Russian political affairs or whose views are more liberal and sympathetic to the cause of the revolutionary movement in Russia than is The Washington Star. I was therefore greatly surprised to read an editorial in a recent Issue wherein you give a list of names of some twenty-eight stalwart bureaucrats who have met their death at the hands of the terrorists during the last five years, and severely arraign the revolutionists for pursuing this course of exterminating the tyrants.
Among the names mentioned are to be found the most inhuman monsters that ever drew breath. Interior Minister Sipiaguine, who, shortly before he met his fate, petitioned the czar to create him dictator of Russia, that he may the better torture and destroy the subjects of the czar. M. de Plehve. whose character may best be judged by the treatment he accorded his benefactors, as will be seen from what follows. He was left an orphan in his Infancy, and was tenderly cared for and educated by a middle-class Lithuanian family. When he became all powerful in St. Petersburg he promptly deported the entire family to Siberia to languish and die in the mines, because he wished to remove any traces of his humble origin, and because the family indulged in liberal views. Soisalon Sonnen, that arch-traitor to his native Finland, who sought to substitute the imperial ukase of the Russian autocrat to the progressive laws of the diet. Count Bobrikoff, who established a reign of terror in Finland and the Baltic provinces in his efforts to rob those sections of their home rule, language and religion. Grand Duke Sergius, whose tyranny knew no bounds, and who, even after he had been relieved of his post of governor of Moscow, boasted openly that he would pursue his brutal policy in an unofficial capacity. General Min. whose regiment of the Seminovsky Guards recently protested against his brutality in a “round robin” and who, only a few days before his death, proposed to set fire to a building in which were assembled a number of students, with the express purpose of burning them alive. A number of lesser tyrants, with the details of whose lives I am not familiar, are mentioned, all of whom, it is safe to say, fully deserved the fate which overtook them.Killing of the People.
While perusing that list of names I thought of the more than 30,000 human souls who have languished and are still languishing in the most loathsome dungeons on earth, toiling without hope in the mines of Siberia; of prisons crowded to suffocation; of the 150 school houses in the western provinces which have been turned into jails during the last few years to supply the demand; of the thousands of thinkers, students and liberals who have been shot and hanged and slaughtered in masses without pity; of the widows and orphans who are left without food and without hope; of the children brained on walls and curbstones and spitted on Cossack bayonets; of the delicate females violated and lacerated by the knout.
And by what authority and under whose orders and sanction are these horrors perpetrated? They have all been done under the authority, the command and the suggestion of the men whose names are contained in your list, and other men like them. These men possess absolute power in their jurisdiction, which power has been committed to them by the God on Earth. as he calls himself, or by the czar.
Let It be said and known once and for all that with respect to so-called political crimes there is no law in Russia to limit and restrain the governor, the chief of police and the subordinates acting under their orders. How this will has been manifested the bloody work of these miscreants well show.
Let us suppose. if such a thing were possible, that a governor of any of the United States had the power to put people to hard labor In chains, to have men killed and women stripped and flogged at the whipping post at his own good will and pleasure, independent of all law, and that he exercised that right. Let us suppose further that this governor could not be removed from office, how long do you suppose such a being would be permitted to live by an intelligent and Christian people? Should they be branded as assassins and murderers for cutting him off? Would they be anarchists anywhere outside of Russia. The common law of England and the written law of the United States declare the right of the people to keep and bear arms to protect themselves from such injuries.
The American people know little of the conditions in Russia, and what they think they know Is largely erroneous. The principal cause of this Ignorance lies in the misleading news that we get from Russia by the telegraph and the comments of the papers on these dispatches, which comments assume the dispatches to be reliable. Now the censors allow nothing to go over the wires that has not their approval; hence nothing which would be distasteful to the autocracy. They not only prevent the circulation of the truth, but they order the publication and spread of what is known by them to be false.Aims of the Revolutionists.
Now, let it be understood that the anarchists and murderers are to be found among the minions of autocracy and that those who direct the revolutionary movement are neither madcaps nor dreamers, but are simply seeking relief from despotism in the only way possible to secure It. The moujik is as fit for liberty as any citizen in Washington. I mean liberty to enjoy the fruits of his labor, freedom from arbitrary arrest, banishment, torture and shame. The right to immunity from official blackmail and molestation is as precious to the subject of the czar as to the citizen of the United States. To secure these rights for a people ground to the earth by Asiatic despotism is the aim of the revolutionists in Russia.
There Is no need to seek for causes which have led up to the present reign of terror. For centuries the rulers of Russia have been waging wars for the lust of territory and for the glory of autocracy. They have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind. The useless war with Japan, stirred up for the enrichment of the imperial family and their henchmen, has opened the eyes of a long-suffering people to the iniquity of the autocracy, and as a result the whole country is running with blood.
Russian bureaucracy thoroughly deserves the fate which is overtaking it, for it is waging relentless war upon its own people. Before we shed tears over the sudden removal of despotic officers of the czar by the hand of the revolution let us look fairly and squarely at the appalling conditions which prevail throughout that unhappy country, brought about by the inefficiency, indifference and brutality of the ruling classes.
There are upward of fifty million people in Russia today on the verge of starvation. Coarse black bread has become a luxury in spite of the fact that Russia is one of the greatest grain-producing countries in the world. Even the Volga district, which a few years ago was the corn store of Russia, has been reduced to such dire poverty by the ruthless hand of autocracy that there are large villages in which the entire population lies half famished in their huts. In some villages the inhabitants train themselves to do with as little food as possible by falling into a kind of winter sleep, whereby the waste of their bodies is arrested and a saving in food and fuel is effected. This condition of decay is general in the agricultural provinces of central and eastern Russia.
It is difficult to adequately describe the wretched conditions which greet the eye everywhere In central Russia. Enormous distances without passable roads, dilapidated country palaces, side by side, with innumerable thatched huts, a rich soil which often does not return even the seed grain; prehistoric plows and other agricultural implements which kill off the few remaining horses and cows; churches which do not improve morals; schools in which reading and writing is not taught; spiritual famine increased by physical hunger, and an all-pervading feeling of hostility, of terror and death.How the Peasants Live.
Let us take a walk through a village of central Russia and observe how the vast majority of the peasants live and what is their material and moral condition. From a fourth to a third of the population live in low and narrow huts, covered with straw. These huts stretch along the village street; a vegetable garden at the back on the opposite side of the street, beyond the never-cleaned refuse heaps, a farm building, if there Is one. No tree, no shrub to be seen far and wide. The village has thousands–2,000 or more inhabitants. A shop or two supply the peasant with what he does not make for himself. No doctor, no drug store, only a few old women quacks. A smith, a shoemaker and the vodka monopoly store.
Now let us take a look at the hovel in which the peasant lives. In this wretched shack we find, a hard earth floor and no ceiling overhead. Sometimes there is one small glass window, but usually a hole cut In the wall and covered with glazed paper or cloth. The walls are roughly plastered, without an ornament of any kind except an ikon on a niche in one corner of the room. The word “ikon” means “image” and the image may be either of the Savior, of the virgin or one of the saints. There are no beds, chairs, or tables. Two boards put on barrels make the table at which the family feed. The chimneyless brick stove is the principal fixture and is the center and citadel of the peasant’s cabin around which everything may be said to revolve; it keeps the family warm and serves the purpose of a bed for the entire family. It is heated in the old Tartar fashion, by whom it was first introduced. The stove is filled with wood and lighted, and a blinding volume of smoke fills the hut. The door stands open, regardless of the cold, and the inmates stretch themselves on the floor to avoid swallowing too much of the smoke. When the wood is burned to ashes the door is closed and the shack is excessively hot. Black soot covers everything. An unbearable stench pervades the room. Dirt is everywhere, for soap is an unknown luxury. Splinters of rich pine wood stuck in the wall serve the purpose of lamps or candles.
The diet of this family consists of black bread, soup and potatoes twice a day. The bread Is baked every two weeks in enormous loaves weighing fifteen or twenty pounds and shaped like conical sweet potato hills, with a circular base of about a foot and a half. After the bread is baked and put away it gets very hard and has to be cut with an ax. The potatoes, when the family Is fortunate to have any, are dumped loose onto the table, as they would be thrown to hogs. A great earthenware pot filled with soup stands in the middle of the table, and all the family eat of it with their wooden spoons. The soup consists of cabbage or beets boiled in water mixed with hemp grease. Into which mixture is immersed chunks of coarse, black bread of rye and barley mixed. The grain is ground at home in a hand mill. Twice a year there is meat or fowl, at Christmas and Easter.
It happens not infrequently that there is neither cabbage nor potatoes; then the family subsists on the bread soaked in hot water. When the bread fails there Is starvation and death from famine, a condition which fifty millions of peasants are now facing.
The hut I have been describing consists of one room only, With the average dimensions of sixteen by eighteen feet. Here, along with the average family of seven persons, may be found calves, pigs and fowls. Here they eat and sleep; here children are born and reared, and here they die.
The dress of the peasant and his family is made of a coarse, heavy fabric of tow or cotton. The man wears his shirt outside of his breeches, an old Chinese custom imported into Russia by the Tartars. In the winter a sheepskin coat, with the wool on the inside, is worn. The shoes are made of flexible, tough ash bark covering the sole and sides, but not the top of the foot. The foot and ankles and lower legs are overlaid with rags, and the “shoe” and rags are secured to the foot with more rags.
The peasant raises grain and vegetables and hemp. The most of this he sells, starving himself and family. The two great drawbacks to profitable agriculture are the primitive methods employed and the great lack of live stock, which has resulted from a wanton destruction of the pasture lands by the government policy of cutting off the timber for revenue. The lack of live stock means the lack of manure and the exhaustion of the soil. With Asiatic greed and imbecility, the government puts a tax on all foreign fertilizers.Never Out of Debt.
The moujik feels rich when he has a few roubles In his pocket. He never gets out of debt to the government, nor is he ever able to accumulate. His whole crop Is usually mortgaged from the beginning, and he is in every sense, except in name, a slave, chained to the soil for the benefit of autocracy. His holding is too small to support him, and if It were larger he could not cultivate it with his cumbersome and antiquated utensils.
On top of all this comes his taxes to the state: and, worse than this, the taxes which he has to pay to the priest in the way of gifts and labor. The priest makes his regular rounds to take up these collections, and woe be to the poor peasant who does not respond to the demand. It is not surprising that the peasant drowns his sorrow in vodka whenever he has the copecks to buy it with; and it Is chiefly from the revenue on this liquor that the noble Russian aristocracy live in splendor and luxury.
The foregoing sketch is not an overdrawn picture of the condition of the average Russian peasant, and there are fifty millions of human beings in this state in the heart of Russia. Now, who is to blame for this extreme poverty and degradation[?] Primarily the czar, directly and indirectly those servants of the czar who execute what they call his will, but which may be, and often is, their own pleasure. This appalling condition is the result of the idiotic ideas of the rulers, who insist that the people must be governed from above and not from below; who crush every show of independence in the individual; who watch the subject distrustfully. and hedge him in by a hundred by-laws, and who inspire fear and hatred by their arrogance and despotism.
Meanwhile, the bureaucracy, seeing its approaching doom, seeks to save itself from destruction by engendering and fostering religious and caste hatred in the minds of the masses. Race has been stirred against race, Religion against religion, and there is neither mercy nor decency in the Slaughter. In nearly every province of Russia there are organized bands of assassins, maintained by the police authorities to stir up hatred and strife. The Letts against the Lithuanians, the Finns against the Germans. the Armenians against the Mussulmans, the Russians against the Georgians, and all against the Jews. So chaos reigns supreme, and blood soddens the streets and highways of Russia from the Baltic to Olonetz and from Novala Zemlia to the Caspian sea. But the people are now getting together, and are turning with one accord to rend the men who have hounded them on and who have despoiled them.
– The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Saturday, September 08, 1906. No. 16.785. Pg. 6.
Sound a little familiar? If it wasn’t for our right to keep and bear arms, we would already be in a similar state as that detailed above. Which is precisely the state that our petty wannabe tyrant hired servants desire us to be in. And we all know what came in to fill the gap left by the Russian Revolution: COMMUNISM.
Would strongly suggest that all American citizens that desire true freedom and liberty. Do the utmost to actively work at getting our system restored to what it was intended to be. Or, the above scenario can very easily be replayed here. Just as it has been played throughout the vast majority of the rest of the world. And we haven’t much time in which to do it either. For anyone that is even half awake can readily see just how far we’ve gone down already.