Young Folks' History of Russia - Nathan Dole

The Reign of Alexander III
and the Accession of Nicholas II.

The tragic death of Alexander II at the hands of the Nihilists, instead of appeasing the ruthless appetite of the Terrorists, seemed rather to inspire the members of the Revolutionary party with greater zeal in their crusade against the despotism of the Government. Extraordinary precautions were taken by the authorities to protect the person of the uncrowned Emperor, who, in nervous terror of assassination, spent his time in practical imprisonment in the somber pine-embowered palace of Gatschina,—the Russian Escurial—or in isolation at Peterhoff.

On the 23rd of March, 1881, ten days after the murder of Alexander II., the Executive Committee of the Revolutionary party published an address, in which the attention of the Czar was forcibly directed to the condition of the Russian people, and a powerful appeal made for remedial legislation.

"Inspired by ideals of truth and humanity"—so ran, in part, this celebrated document—"the Russian Revolutionary party chose for its aims the elevation of the Russian workman and peasant to a higher plane of intelligence, and did not concern itself with politics. . . . It was rewarded by cruel persecution on behalf of the Russian Government. . . . Hundreds and thousands were martyred to death, in prison, in exile and in mines, and the powers of the bureaucracy were enlarged. Impoverishment, and demoralization at sight of wealth thus easily gotten, resulted in perverted views of life, and had a terribly depressing influence on the people . . . The interests of the people were sacrificed to the interests of the ruling classes, among whom, arrogance and cynicism prevailed. . . . Hunted and baited, and situated so they could not attempt to carry out their cherished reforms, they were finally drawn into open conflict with the Government. The Russian Social Revolutionary party, scorning the pitiful existence of slaves, has determined either to perish or to crush the prevailing despotism, and owing to the inhumanity of the Russian authorities, there was no other way open but that of sanguinary conflict."

"A general amnesty for all political offenders" was also asked for, and "a convocation of the representatives of the whole of the people, for the examination of the best forms of social and political life." Then followed the stipulations concerning the methods of election; a protest against all restrictions calculated to interfere with the political liberty of the subject, and an appeal for the following provisional regulations:

  • Complete freedom of the press.
  • Complete freedom of speech.
  • Complete freedom of public meeting.
  • Complete freedom of electoral addresses.

"These being the only means by which Russia could hope to enter upon the path of peaceful and regular development."

"The answer to this petition, presentation of facts, and bill of rights," says Stepniak—the well-known author and Nihilist—"was the exiling of thousands to Siberia, fresh executions, fresh rigors against the press, and opposition to every liberal tendency." The 'Third Section' of the dreaded Secret Police was again re-organized, by Chief Plome, but under another name, and after the dismissal of Melikoff, deportation to Siberia without trial was resumed.

It had been hoped by Melikoff, and those of his following who believed in the constitutional doctrine of a liberal monarchy, that his reformatory project of the creation of a representative assembly would meet with the approval of the Emperor, who, previous to his accession to the throne, had zealously advocated conservative reforms, and had even tolerated the presumptive possibility of the establishment of some form of constitutional government. To the astonishment of Melikoff, however, and notwithstanding that the suggested change had received the approval of the Cabinet, the Czar hastened to assert his fixed belief in the principles of autocracy. He issued a manifesto nullifying the purpose of the convocation of an elective commission, "in so far as it was intended to satisfy popular craving for representative institutions," and clearly demonstrated that he was "opposed to even the rudimentary beginnings of popular self-government."

Ignatieff, a versatile politician, who had earned for himself the soubriquet of the "father of lies," when engaged diplomatically in Turkey, was nominated to succeed Melikoff as Minister of the Interior. In his first official circular, while he scored the culpable negligence of government officials, and deplored the absence of moral and religious principles in the education of the children, he concluded by declaring that the chief energy of the Government would be directed to the eradication of sedition.

"But Terrorism was not to be put down by retaliation. The dynamic period called into existence by Nicholas was a law unto itself, and cynically warred," writes Noble, "against moral and social obligations." From a negation of these principles, it rapidly progressed to the negation of political dogmas, developed a policy of active hostility, until schools for the propaganda, under the guise of workshops, were founded in St. Petersburg, and offered to Prince Krapotkin, an active zealot, an opportunity to address the restless artisans.

Autocracy at the close of the nineteenth century, in a country in constant touch with the rest of Europe, and where the cultivated classes receive a thoroughly European education, is—according to Stepniak—so monstrous, that, "except those having a personal interest in it, no one can defend it. . . . If the Russian Government were not in such flagrant contradiction with society, a struggle between it and the Terrorist branch of the Socialists would be impossible, for society would not remain indifferent, but would act as one man against the disturbers of its peace, and crush them in an instant."

And so, in not unnatural sequence, the temperate propagandist was succeeded by the inexcusable Terrorist, in the ill-governed domains of the White Czar.

"Conceived by hatred, nurtured by patriotism and hope, Terrorism grew up in an electrical atmosphere, impregnated with the enthusiasm awaked by acts of nihilistic heroism." This reign of terror, if but a brief epoch, was, however, tragic enough, for the greatest sanguinary reprisals fell upon Russia between 1878 and 1882. During this period some twenty assassinations were recorded, accomplished through the aid of explosives, or by hand, and culminating in the death of the Emperor.

While extraordinary precautions were taken by the police for the protection of the Czar, he was himself an unwilling accomplice to his enforced retirement. Though fully alive to the gravity of his position, instead of displaying cowardice he was prone to rashness. Every conceivable measure for his safety was adopted by the Director General of Police, upon whom rested the entire responsibility of the Emperor's well-being. Whenever he appeared in public the police patrols were doubled, and an army of detectives in plain clothes, and a body-guard of armed gentle-men, his devoted personal followers, shadowed his footsteps. The slightest pretext constituted grounds for arrest, and three thousand suspects and others were apprehended before the end of October. At Moscow when threatened with death by posted proclamation, after attending mass at the Kremlin, whence he returned on foot, he addressed the crowd from the palace steps. "I have been warned," he said, "that this day would be my last. I have, therefore, done what any other man would have done under similar circumstances. I have been to church to ask forgiveness for my sins and protection from on high. While my body, like my soul, is in the hands of God, I fear nothing." He then thanked them for their loyalty and entered the palace amid the wildest cheering.

Alexander III., unlike most of his royal predecessors, was credited with possessing a deep natural piety in addition to a marked devotion for his family. "He had a mind, not speculative but solid and sure, practical and sound. The mind of a man capable of inspiring and reposing confidence; an honest man, who endeavored to see everything from the standpoint of justice," and then automatically tried to do right. Though "with the heart of a little child and sincere faith in the providence of God," he was a man of stubborn resolve. A resolution once taken was never altered unless he was misinformed, when "with his sense of justice and honesty—his pre-eminent characteristics—he would publicly own his mistake." Scrupulously exact in the performance of his religious duties, he was a regular attendant at mass. Strong either to love or hate, he was more leniently disposed towards the Nihilists than were his own police, and regarded the conspiracies of the university students with a generous compassion but an officer once convicted of treason passed out of and beyond the pale of his forgiveness. Every inch an athlete and physically a Hercules, he had not imbibed the passionate love of his father for military display, and was apt to be lax in the maintenance of court etiquette. His self-expressed ambition was "not to be a great sovereign, but rather the sovereign of a great people," and he had a righteous horror of war; not for peace at any price, but for peace almost at any price, compatible with national honor, and the interests of Russia. In the light of these recorded characteristics, and viewing the policy of his rule from the vantage ground of accepted history, his actions as Emperor seem scarcely to have been in strict harmony with his declarations.

That the Emperor was not all-seeing, or omnipotent, that the administration was corrupt, that the municipal organization was vitiated by bribery at its electoral sources, and at the best incapable, were all undeniable truths and universally admitted. The special governmental evil in Russia, to quote front a high authority, consisted in "a vain attempt to reconcile representative institutions with irresistible absolutism, without at the same time fixing the limits between the sovereign power and the popular rights." Added to this hopeless condition of political disorder the three national vices of thriftlessness, indolence, and inebriety, also exercised their evil and united influence. The close of the first twelve months of the new Emperor's reign was marked by a rampant stale of militarism in every branch of the civil service, and with a horizon ominously clouded with rumors of regicidal plots.

Early in 1882, Prince Gortchakof, after directing the foreign policy of Russia for over thirty years, and regarded next to Bismarck as the most influential statesman of Europe, retired from office at the age of eighty-four. He was succeeded by M. de Giers, a noted diplomat, the husband of his niece the Princess Kantakuzene. Owing to the wanton persecution of the Jews—connived at under Ignatieff's administration—a hegira set in—15,000 migrating to the United States. Committees for the relief of the refugees were organized in Europe and America, and special instructions were issued by President Arthur to the United States Minister at St. Petersburg, to protect the rights of all Jewish-Americans in Russia. Meanwhile, Ignatieff, who had resorted to questionable tactics to reconcile his actions with his sympathies, which were not in harmony with Alexander's manifesto, was dismissed from office, to make room for Count Tolstoy, and two days later a ukase was issued announcing the progressive abolition of the poll-tax, as a remedy for the now great and rapidly increasing agrarian complications.

The activity of the Nihilists was still unabated. A mine was unearthed under the Cathedral at Moscow, anticipatory of the coronation ceremonials. Even the garrisons of the prisons of St. Peter and St. Paul were found to be infected with Nihilism, and convicts, officially supposed to be in Siberia, were discovered in the enjoyment of comparative freedom under Revolutionary jailers.

After a long postponement, due, it was stated, to the Emperor's desire to allow the feeling of horror over his father's tragic end to become appeased, the Czar and Czarina left St. Petersburg for Moscow, where, after three days of fasting and prayer in retirement at the palace of Neskotchenaya, the ceremony of coronation was performed on Sunday, May 27th, in the Church of the Assumption. The official entry into Moscow was a gorgeous pageant, the "White Czar" being mounted on a white charger and clothed in a sheepskin caftan, a Muskovite garb which he has since revived as a military garment.

On the day following the fete, meat-pies, confections, and use were served out to over 400,000 of the million persons estimated to be present, but gesticulatory manifestations were not tolerated, the loyal mujiks even, being forbidden to toss their caps for fear they might conceal infernal machines. On the return to St. Petersburg, no demonstrations whatever were permitted, the royal couple arrived secretly, and were hurried with little outward ceremony into the penitential seclusion of the Peterhoff palace.

The militant Muscovites who constituted the war-party, which stood nearest to Alexander, now showed signs of aggressive activity, the pacific mission of M. de Giers to the European courts alone allaying the distrust of the foreign governments. In an imperial message addressed to this plenipotentiary, the Emperor wrote:—

"The great glory and power which, thanks to Providence, have been acquired by Russia, the extent of her Empire, and her numerous population, leave no room for any idea whatever of further conquests. His solicitude is exclusively devoted to the peaceable development of the country and its prosperity, to the preservation of its friendly relations with foreign powers on the basis of existing treaties, and the maintenance of the dignity of the Empire."

The Panslavists still agitated in the Balkan, and though the friendly visits of many European sovereigns "proved a counter-check to a war-like policy," the spirit of territorial aggrandizement, despite the disclaimer of "further conquests," was not yet extinguished, for the recognition of Russian sovereignty over the Kilia branch of the Danube, was gained at the London conference, through English support. While General Ignatieff was fond of insisting that Russia did not want to see another yard of land added to the Empire, but that what she desired most was to "develop her resources and let time do the rest,"—his presentation of the case was neither in keeping with tradition, history, nor current fact. For a better understanding of Russia's inflexible policy of occupation, a reference to her masterful acquisition of outside territory will be necessary. "From the moment that Tartar rule was over-thrown," says Boniton, "then commenced Russian expansion."

Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible annexed Kazan and Astrachan. Fedor acquired all of Siberia, south of the 50th degree of latitude to the Arctic circle. Michael Romanoff added the Ural district, and a vast slice of Northwestern Asia, from the Yenissei River to Behring's Strait and the Sea of Okhotsk. Alexis annexed Little Russia and the Cossacks of the Ukraine. Peter the Great conquered the Baltic provinces, and the peninsula of Khamschatka. Empress Anna stole from the Turks the district between the Dneiper and the Bug, and absorbed the Kirghiz Tartars on the Caspian. Elizabeth appropriated a strip of Finland. Catherine II. deprived Turkey of the Crimea and the shores of the Sea of Azof, a part of Poland, and a belt of the Baltic lands from Liban to the Black Sea. Paul I. coveted "his neighbor's vineyard" in the Province of Georgia—and took it. Alexander I. relieved Sweden of the custody of what remained of Finland, another slice of Poland, and appropriated Bessarabia in spite of Turkey's protest. In Asia he occupied the entire country extending from the Sea of Aral to Lake Balkhash. Nicholas cast an evil eye on Persia and promptly acquired two whole provinces in Trans-Caucasia. After his defeat, however, in the Crimea, he unwillingly ceded Bessarabia to Roumania. Alexander II., subsequently, under the Treaty of Berlin, re-acquired it by purchase, obtaining at the same time from Turkey, Kars, Batoum, a nearly limitless stretch of Black Sea littoral, and all of the Eastern coast of the Caspian. In Asia he absorbed Khokand, and extended Russian dominion to Khiva and Bokhara. He also annexed the region of the Amur on the Pacific; which included the whole coast line up to the Korean frontier, and a long line of coast on the Sea of Japan; but after the Crimean war he forfeited Russia's right to maintain a fleet upon the waters of the Black Sea.

While amnesty was extended to many prisoners after the coronation, Alexander excluded all Nihilists from the benefits of participation, and their acts continued to he regarded by a vast number of the middle and upper classes with malicious satisfaction. But the press was shackled as never before, information regarding any important event being wholly suppressed. In response to the demand of the mercantile class, whose interests were menaced by the imposition of a three percent income tax, the depreciation of the paper rouble and a commercial crisis, a new department, that of commerce and manufactures was established, with Ignatieff in control.

Though the fair held at Nijni-Novgorod was a failure as regards attendance, the great Industrial Exhibition at Moscow had demonstrated that while the United States and India would rob Russia of her importance as the granary of Europe, the industries of Central Russia were shown to be susceptible of unlimited expansion. Russian roads, however, are deplorably bad, and though the magnificent river system, with its extensive canals, offers extraordinary transportation facilities through tributary districts, vast tracts of arable lands lie fallow, awaiting the advent of the railway.

Seventy-six percent of the whole of the population of Russia is engaged in agricultural pursuits. The Cossack Dons on the Volga cultivate, in some individual instances, thirty thousand acres of wheat, own stud-farms comprising five hundred horses, besides herds numbering a million head of sheep. The taxes paid into the treasury by the Russian peasantry, have amounted annually to nearly one hundred and twenty million roubles, one third of which is applied to the repayment of the debt on the land, which was charged against the serfs at the time of their emancipation. This tax was substantially diminished by ukase of Alexander on his accession to the throne. On the rich "black lands" of Southern Russia, English farm machinery is now utilized, "where it is no unusual thing," says Morfill, "to see one proprietor with as much as fourteen thousand acres under crop with white Turkish wheat." Out of the one hundred and twenty-four million of Russia's population to-day not twenty millions live in the towns. "It is not among the palaces of St. Petersburg," writes Stead, "nor amid the glories of the Kremlin that you find the real Russian, but in the villages." Of these villages there are more than half a million, and from these, which "nestle like so many flocks of little brown sheep" on the immeasurable pasture lands of the Czar, a constant but unanswered prayer ascends to the imperial head shepherd at remote Gatschina, for better railway facilities and some more practical display of the milk of human kindness.

In 1883, a relaxation of existing decrees against the dissenters from the Orthodox creed, of whom there were over twelve millions, was shrewdly encouraged by the Emperor, but the Mennonites, whose religious tenets would not allow them to bear arms, were expelled from the country and sought refuge in the United States and Canada. The Poles were conciliated by the establishment of a modus vivendi  with the Vatican, and the Archbishop of Warsaw, and other offending prelates, were pardoned upon the guarantee of clerical loyalty, and the teaching of Russian in the schools. The Russification of the Baltic provinces, however, presented greater difficulties, and the agitation in Livonia and Estonia developed into a battle of languages. The Slavic idioms versus the Muscovite dialect.

Educational revolts occurred among the students at Nova Alexandria on the Polish border, one hundred and forty-three of whom were expelled, the disaffection extending to the colleges at Kazan and St. Petersburg. Youths under sixteen were prohibited from reading any work without permission of their teachers, and the curriculum was restricted to the sterile fields of grammar. "The history and literature of Greece and Rome were tabooed, and petitions for schools of technology rejected." The rectors of universities were clothed with autocratic authority, extreme discipline was enforced, and an outbreak resulted at Kiev in September. Such obstacles to the cause of education were clearly inopportune. Existing educational facilities were, at the best, gravely inadequate. Instead of there being "a little red schoolhouse" in every one of the half million villages, there were but thirty thousand in all Russia, and only two million, four hundred and forty thousand scholars, and of the sixty million women and girls, only three hundred thousand were attending the elementary classes. Though every year over four million children were being born in Russia, the problem of the education of the masses gave the imperial government but little concern.

The censorship of the press was continued with unexampled vigor in 1884, until independent opinion ceased to be represented, and the Liberal Party was without an organ. Whether the opinions expressed conflicted with the imperial views mattered little, but if they clashed with those of the Executive, the paper was doomed. The power of the minister was absolute, and anyone appealing to the Emperor would be marked for future and inevitable discipline. The muzzle worked like a charm. Literary men were arrested and fined, the printing presses of the Empire were practically silent, and under the instructions of the Minister of the Interior, the works of such men as Lyell, Huxley, Lubbock, Mill, and Herbert Spencer were interdicted. Anti-semitic outrages, resulting in bloodshed, occurred in Southern Russia, necessitating is commission of enquiry. The Holy League which had been organized to combat the spread of Nihilism proved valueless, though sixteen Revolutionists were convicted of criminal offenses, and six sentenced to death. Among these were members of the nobility, and officials of high rank, including seventy-five army officers, and arrests and trials were made in all parts of the Empire and without publicity.

In December alone, one batch of fifty prisoners was condemned to the fortress of Schasselburg. "All offenses against absolutism," writes Noble, "were now met by most disproportionate punishments." For the thirty years ending 1885, thirteen hundred and fifty-six persons had been punished for political crimes. Of these, forty-five were executed; five in the reign of Nicholas, thirty-one under the reign of Alexander II., and nine since the accession of Alexander III., while fifty met their death by violence either in prison or while enduring exile. Up to this time, and during the past twenty-five years, over two hundred prisoners had succeeded in escaping from banishment or prison, and had found shelter in Western Europe.

Count Dmitry Tolstoy, the Minister of the Interior, once suggested to the Czar that he should be authorized to open his correspondence in order to economize time. "You forget that I am Emperor," said his majesty, his face growing dark, "how dare you propose to stand between me and my subjects." As over one hundred of such petitions and appeals arrived at the Czar's chamber daily, the probability that all would have received the consideration they were entitled to—notwithstanding the Emperor's reputation for justice—seems in the nature of things a practical impossibility. Personal audience of the Czar was not permitted by the police. "Nihilist plots," says Stead, "rendered it impossible for the Emperor to stand at the door of the Anitchkoff Palace to receive petitions, but the post office was open and any mail would bear the petition to the Czar's council chamber." Of the hundred of appeals, however, addressed to the Monarch in loyal good faith, but which never reached their destination, history offers no record.

In September the Czar paid a long contemplated visit to the city of Warsaw, where he met in conference the Emperors of Germany and Austria, which resulted in a solemn confirmation of friendly relations, the establishment of steps for the suppression of nihilistic propaganda, and an invocation to the neutral powers to curtail the right of asylum. His entry into the capital of the "fair land of Poland," was the most gloomy festivity ever recorded. The royal line of march was guarded by rows of naked bayonets, and the police were in possession of the flanking houses.

The imperial decree, which had declared that Russia's territorial vastness made further conquest undesirable, was now proved to have been but a flimsy fiction. Under the pretext of the development of Central Asia, Count Ignatieff elaborated a plan for the reorganization of Turkistan. Through the representations—or perhaps, strictly speaking, instructions—of the Khan of Khiva, who was present at and duly impressed with the coronation ceremonials, and backed by Russian troops, the Oasis of Merv, the famous stronghold of the Turcomans, on the Afghan frontier, surrendered with its garrison of Merv Tekkes to the dominion of the White Czar. "This gave to Russia the undisputed trade of the whole country as far as Tejend, offered security of the projected route to the Oxus, made commercial access to Persia and Afghanistan feasible, and removed a hitherto conceded barrier against a possible advance on India." At Askabad—which though three hundred and eighty miles from Herat was one hundred and thirty-four miles nearer than Quetta, the terminal point of the English strategic railroad—the Sarik Turcomans also announced allegiance to the Russian scepter.

Meanwhile the British viewed the advance of Russia in the East with suspicion, and determined that the old boundary lines of Afghanistan, as designated on the maps, must be kept intact. An international commission was agreed to, and while Sir Peter Lumsden, the English representative who had hastened to the scene, was awaiting the arrival of the Czar's tardy commissioner, the occupation of Penjdeh on the Murgab, by the Ameer of Cabal, with a military force, and at the instigation of the English, precipitated a crisis. But Penjdeh was, in reality, a Turcoman town, and being of immense strategic value to England, as it commanded the approach to Herat—the key to India—the Russian government interfered, and as a preliminary advanced the outposts of its army of thirty-five thousand men to Pul-i-Khista, within what was colored on the maps as Afghan territory. England then addressed an ultimatum, insisting upon an immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops. This Russia refused to accede to, demanding on her part the evacuation of Penjdeh—and both countries prepared for war.

Owing to the joint opposition of Russia and Germany, at the Constantinople Conference, to the union of the two Bulgarias, the popular revolution in Roumelia led to the interdiction of "freedom of expression." Prince Cantacuzene, the Russian Minister of War at Sophia was instructed to resign, and Prince Alexander's name was, by order of the Czar, struck from the Russian Army list. At the monster trial of Nihilists held at Warsaw, several army officers, landowners, lawyers, journalists and workmen were charged with belonging to a society called the Proletariat. The proceedings were conducted with the utmost secrecy, six were condemned to be hanged, and twenty-two sentenced to long terms of penal servitude. An encounter between Russian troops under Komaroff and those of the Ameer of Afghanistan, who, countenanced by the British, were occupying Penjdeh, and which terminated in the defeat of the latter, for a time, seriously imperiled the peaceful relations existing between the two governments.

Arbitration was suggested by Earl Granville as a step that would permit no loss of national dignity to either government. The impracticability of the submitting of the case to the Emperor Wilhelm, owing to the moral support of Russia's position by the Austro-German Alliance, having become apparent, the King of Denmark was mutually agreed upon as a referee, but as time advanced, arbitration was postponed, and the joint commission resumed its labors, though a period of extreme tension followed, succeeded by the mobilization of troops.

The belligerent attitude of Russia in Afghanistan drove the Afghans into an alliance with England and strengthened the position of the British in Central Asia, and while the Russian trans-Caspian railway was about entering Astrakabad in October, the English strategic railway was rapidly pushing its iron parallels towards Quetta, and British troops were occupying the fortifications of Herat. When the international commission was at last recalled in the summer of 1886, owing to the renewed disputations, it was found that out of the nine thousand square miles that were originally in dispute, the two thousand conceded to the Ameer comprised the most valuable portion of the territory.

During the crisis in Bulgaria, when Europe was scandalized at Russia's support of the abductors of Prime Alexander, it was reported from Vienna that the Czar, who was personally directing the foreign policy of the Empire was showing signs of hereditary insanity.

The prohibitive iron duty which went into force in 1887, the suppression of the iron-mills in Poland, the expulsion of German citizens, the expropriation of foreign landowners, and other measures, so exasperated the German bankers that they refused to finance a new Russian loan, and Russian credit received a profound shock. Money was urgently needed to meet the extraordinary appropriations sanctioned for military purposes. The plans for the building of the costly line of railway from St. Petersburg through the whole length of Siberia to Vladivostok on the Pacific, had also received government approval, and money had to be raised at any cost. Paris refused to come to the rescue, and St. Petersburg itself had finally, to issue a four percent loan of one hundred million roubles at a selling price of eighty-four percent. Active revolution rioted through the land. Conspiracies existed to an alarming extent among both the cadets at the Naval School at St. Petersburg, and the students of the military academies. The "Constitutional" Society was formed, its motto being "The people, with the Czar or against the Czar." In spite of the unusual precautions taken by Gen. Dresser—the "White Terror"—on the anniversary of the assassination of Alexander II., an accidental incident alone prevented a repetition of the act of March 13th, 1871. Three hundred students were arrested. Many persons are supposed to have been summarily tried and executed.

On April 6th another attempt was made on the life of the Czar, and during the month, four hundred and eighty-two officers of the army were banished to Siberia. No one was permitted to utter an opinion contrary to the administrative system. "Nihilism" as Curtis says, "is an hysterical remonstrance against this condition of affairs. It is the protest of enlightened reason, against the despotic tyranny of the police. It is a refusal to submit." May and November witnessed more inquisitory trials, more executions and more deportations to Siberia, the nation's charnel-house, which awaits the development of its "potentialities of wealth."

For many years railway construction had retrograded in Russia. On an average but three hundred miles had been built annually since 1880. In 1885; the railroads, exclusive of those in Finland, comprised a total length of fifteen thousand, nine hundred and thirty-four miles only. Upon the completion of the Trans-Caspian road to Santarcand, the construction of which, under General Annekoff had taken but three years, another thousand miles was added to the system. The new road was opened with public ceremonies on May 27th, the anniversary of the Czar's coronation, and opportunity was now offered the ambitious traveller to reach the tomb of Tamarlane, in the heart of Southern Tartary, nine days after leaving St. Petersburg. Across a territory which, until lately, had been recognized as the terror and despair of civilized man, it was now possible to travel with regularity and in safety, and the torrid east at last commenced to pour its plethora of cotton, wool, silks and fruits, into the acquisitive lap of the Russian manufacturer. At the crossing of the Amou-Daria river, which, with its tributaries, like the Volga, waters both the land of the reindeer and the camel, powerful light-draft steamers ply south, Afghanistan-wards from Tchardjni to Kilif, while northward they follow the same stream to the sea of Aral. In 1888 only six hundred miles of a gap separated the termini in Central Asia of the two railway systems, which, starting respectively at Calais and Calcutta, were hastening, not without some political spasms of international misgivings, to unite their colonizing forces.

Notwithstanding the stringency of the passport regulations, the yearly average arrival of foreigners in Russia was placed at eight hundred thousand, the departures at seven hundred and fifty thousand. At the present time—1895—the natural increase to the population is developing at the rate of nearly one million five hundred thousand annually.

The nine hundredth anniversary of the adoption of Christianity under Vladimir the Great, was celebrated during the year, the principal festivities being held at Kiev "the mother of Russian cities," and the first seat of the Russian Church. While Kiev (or Kieff) is generally recognized as the parent capital, it, strictly speaking, is only second on the chronological list, having been founded by Oleg the Conqueror, in 882. Twenty years prior to this, Rurik the Barbarian, the creator of the Russian Empire, had established, according to Karamsin, the seat of his primitive government at Novgorod, upon the very coast where, eight hundred and forty years later, the genius of civilization, following Ruriks example, established the fifth capital at St. Petersburg.

Though the Afghans, at the instigation of the English political agent, had thwarted, by every means in their power, the migration of Turcomans and others into Russian territory, Col. Alikhanoff succeeded in gathering nearly all of them under the protecting shelter of the eagles of the White Czar.

The turbulent spirit displayed by the students, during the demonstrations by which they hoped to compel the government to rescind the obnoxious regulations imposed in 1887, finally developed into riot. The universities of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kasan, Kharkov, and Odessa were temporarily closed, and several hundred students were sent to Siberia, or to prison. Great political friction existed at this time, owing to the conservative policy that was pursued by Count Tolstoy, representing the Nationalist and Panslavist parties. The control so exercised, "influencing even the Czar at times, to act at variance with the declared policy of his government."

Early in 1888 an effort was made by Count Tolstoy to change the basis of representation, as vested in the Semstvos by the law of 1864. In these rural assemblies—the nearest approach to an elective body permitted in Russia—the land owners, manufacturers, merchants and rural communes had been proportionately represented. The Minister of the Interior now proposed to change this basis of representation, by having "each eight thousand acres of land held by the nobility, each four hundred and fifty thousand roubles of commercial capital, and each four thousand adult male peasants, represented by one delegate in the council," thus giving the nobles an unfair preponderance, besides investing the district governor with absolute power of veto. The opposition to the plan was so great that its consideration was postponed. As evidence, however, of the influence of Panslavism upon the Czar, was the appointment of Gen. Bogdanovich to the position of chief of staff in Tolstoy's department, though but a year before he had been dismissed from the army in disgrace by the Emperor, for his secret participation with Gen. Boulanger in the effort to effect an alliance between Russia and France.

In 1889, the Russification of the Baltic Provinces became complete. By imperial ukase in February the official dominance of Russian law and language was made imperative, and the total abolition of the old German courts and system of judicature followed. In July, Count Tolstoy's reform measure, shearing from the peasants what little shred of local self-government had previously been allowed them, though rejected by a majority of the Council of State, was ratified by the Czar. The people were now deprived of electing even the minor judiciary, and a "district chief administrator, directly responsible to the Minister of the Interior was made the repository of the administrative power." By another imperial ukase, trial by "a specially constituted court" was substituted for trial by jury, and greater centralization and further enlargement of despotic rule ensued. In excuse for the curtailment of the people's power in the Semstvos, it was announced that the peasants besides being altogether too apathetic were not sufficiently educated to understand its value as a link between themselves and the central authority as personified in the Czar.

In 1890, the edicts against the Jews, which had become almost a dead letter, were more vigorously enforced, their revival depriving about two million persons of the means of subsistence, and inhuman persecution of the sect was openly permitted. A protest against starvation, made by some of the suffering exiles in Siberia, aroused the anger of the Governor at Ostashine. Cossack soldiers broke into the house of the exile Notkine and fired upon the inmates, killing six and wounding nine, The persons responsible for the butchery and atrocities went unpunished. The indignities inflicted upon the female prisoners at Kara, was resented by Madame Soluzeff-Kovalsky, who died under the punishment meted out to her—one hundred strokes of the lash. Three of her companions poisoned themselves, and thirty of the male prisoners attempted to take their own lives.

The activity of Nihilism now knew no bounds. The refugees expelled from Switzerland made Paris their headquarters, Gen. Seliverstoff, chief of the Third Section, was murdered in like manner as Gen. Mezentzoff, his predecessor. Olga Ivanovsky, the niece of a Privy Councilor, was arrested in her uncle's house: dynamite bombs and nihilistic correspondence were found in her apartments. Mme. Tshebrikova, a lady widely known for her work in the cause of education, counseled the Czar to remember that Terrorism was not the fruit of the reforms of Alexander II., but "the result of their cancellation, their tardiness, or insufficiency." Offenses that would have been punished in Austria with two weeks imprisonment, entailed in contiguous Russia twelve years of banishment. Siberia with its deadly climate continued to absorb its victims.

On May 24th, 1891, the first rail of the government Trans-Siberian railroad was laid by the Czar. The total length of the road was estimated at five thousand six hundred and thirteen miles and its cost at about one hundred and eighty million dollars. The undeveloped resources of Siberia are inconceivable. It teems with raw material. It has been aptly termed Russia's inland Australia. Its natural wheat lands rival those within the fertile belt of Northern America. Its mountains of auriferous quartz are only awaiting the advent of modern machinery to yield the secret of their exhaustless possibilities. Two mighty rivers, the Ob and the Yenissei, drain its fruitful and measureless plateaus. Up the latter of these, Captain Wiggins, an English explorer, having passed through the Iron Gates of Nova Zembla, hitherto believed to have been unnavigable, took his yacht, Diana, in 1874, and subsequently, in 1886, his steamship Phoenix, two thousand miles to Vennisseisk, where he established a profitable trade.

Baron Hirsch, the philanthropic capitalist of Vienna, touched with the scandalous persecution of the Jews in Moscow, and indeed in all portions of Russia, offered to give fifteen million dollars to aid the exiles in seeking new homes. In pursuance of this laudable undertaking, he purchased seven million acres of the best farming lands in Argentina, whereon he intended to settle five thousand families of expatriated Russian Hebrews. The unrelenting harassment of these unfortunate people was in keeping with the established policy of the Old Russian party, whose purpose was to crush out all foreigners, or dissenters from the orthodox faith. Poles, Germans, Jews, Lutherans, Stundists, Baptists, had to be reduced to serfdom with forfeiture of property or suffer banishment. With the ready acquiescence of the Czar, this was not a very difficult matter for accomplishment.

In the summer of 1891, the wheat and rye crops having harvested but seventy percent of the average yield, a famine seized upon a scattered area tributary to the Volga, covering a territory of thirty thousand square miles, with a population of twenty-five million souls, and whole villages perished before food could be shipped and distributed. While private individuals and foreign governments came nobly to the relief of the sufferers with cash and kind, the liberality of the contributions from the United States evoked special acknowledgment. Besides gifts of money, four ships were dispatched laden with flour, bread stuffs and clothing, valued at over one million roubles, equivalent to the support of seven hundred thousand persons for a month. About this time, an encounter between a Russian expeditionary force and one thousand Afghan soldiers, over a disputed fight of way in the passes of the Pamirs, created a diversion from domestic woes, and aroused a good deal of excitement in India as well as in England. When it became known, however, that Russia was merely expelling intruders from her own territory, European political equanimity was restored.

Few incidents of an alarming character now disturbed the surface peace of Alexander's days. The drastic measures resorted to in the treatment of the Terrorists seemed, for a time at least, to have hypnotized them into a state of acquiescence, and the only conflict that Russia had upon its hands was a tariff war with Germany, and a misunderstanding with Great Britain on account of the poaching by Canadian sealers within the thirty mile marine limit in Behring's Sea. A commercial treaty, however, concluded in Berlin, in which Germany made the necessary concession, and an arrangement with the British Government, by which sealing was to be provisionally regulated, offered a peaceful solution of both these difficulties. This, together with a modus vivendi  agreed on between the United States and England, with the co-operation of China and Japan, would, it was believed, promote pelagic interests in the north Pacific.

The Cossack outrages on the Catholics were carried to such an extreme in 1894 that papal protests ensued. In an autograph letter to the Pope, the Czar promised that peace should be preserved. The pledge, however, was either not respected, or its fulfillment was found to be impossible. The attacks were repeated.

The progressive commercial treaty concluded with Germany instituted a new era in tariff reform, while it brought Dr. Witte, the Finance Minister, in direct but brief conflict with the Czar, who had set his heart upon the expansion of trade relations with Germany, it also aroused the opposition of a large wing of German politicians who resented Emperor Wilhelm's announcement that "rejectment of the treaty by the Reichstadt meant, not only a tariff war with Russia, but later a war of actual hostilities."

At this time, a veritable war cloud darkened Europe's horizon, and the attitude of nation towards nation, was not only watched with dread suspense, but with deep diplomatic interest. The Emperor Wilhelm's visit to England was viewed by the Czar with ill-concealed jealousy, while he threatened to break Russia's commercial treaty with France, on account of a dispute over the corn duties. The theater of anarchist plot having been temporarily transferred to Paris—culminating in the assassination of President Carnot—extended to Alexander a slight surcease from personal anxiety, and opportunity for needed physical rest.

In April the betrothal of the Grand Duke Nicholas—heir apparent to the throne—to the Princess Alix of Hesse, was announced and in August the Grand Duchess Xenia, only daughter of the Czar, was married to the Grand Duke Alexander Michailovitch at Peterhoff. The condition of the Czar's health now caused the gravest apprehension, and the darkest forebodings filled the minds of the people. As the forbidding character of the Russian landscape has exerted a marked influence on the ethnological characteristics of the people, so it has also contributed to the national pessimistic character of the race. "The music of Russia," writes Noble, "has a plaintively pessimistic ring. Even the cries of the street peddler are more like wails of anguish. Repression and somberness are the distinguishing features."

In September the malady from which Alexander was suffering assumed a more malignant form, and he repaired with the Empress to Livadia. On October 10th he was told by Professor Zacharias that there was no hope. Bright 's disease in an aggravated form had set in; it was now apparent that the Czar was doomed. On the afternoon of November 1st, All Saint's Day, the booming of cannon at Livadia and St. Petersburg announced that Russia's autocratic ruler had passed away.

On November 2nd his son Nicholas II. was proclaimed Czar, and the same day issued a pathetic yet manly manifesto, in which he solemnly vowed that his "sole aim" would be "the development of the power and glory of our beloved Russia and the happiness of all our faithful subjects."

On the 19th the remains of the late Czar were entombed in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul at St. Petersburg. On the 27th of the same month the Emperor Nicholas was married to the Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt in the Picketnay chapel of the Winter Palace.

Felix Volkovsky, a critical author, recently wrote, concerning the late Emperor, as follows "What is the present head of the Russian Government? An obstinate narrow-minded man, who, with the pertinacity of strong conviction, clings to the idea that it is good to do evil. He is a hot-tempered person, who has to keep himself in check by means of reason, which he is not very abundantly provided with. He is supposed to be very kind at heart, yet all around him tremble, as he is convinced that to be independent he must be stern. He is supposed to be honest and in a certain way he is; and yet he does things which are not easily reconciled with honesty, simply understood."

Whatever may have been Alexander's shortcomings as a sovereign, as a father his name was the synonym of loving kindness, and as a husband he was without reproach.

If the Russian Government would only—instead of nursing the doctrine that nearly everything is forbidden except that which has been specifically permitted—"let everything be permitted, excepting that which has been specifically forbidden," the Empire might reasonably look for greater peace within its borders.

The social and political condition of the Russian people at the present time seems to bear a striking parallel to the physical conditions of their own northern latitudes. These were described by Marco Polo, as "a region of darkness, with the sun invisible, and the atmosphere obscured to the same degree as we, in other countries, find it just about dawn of day, when we may be said to see and yet see not."

Under the broader and less fettered policy of a new and more youthful ruler, is it too much to hope that with to-morrow's dawn will arrive an era of constitutional reform in Russia? A splendid extension of individual liberty and rights, more in harmony with the magnificent possibilities of the Empire of the White Czar, and in response to the progressive demands of the nineteenth century.