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the refusal to take an oath and to perform military service ; not to punish such dissent as a crime, but try to reconcile the inconsistency, as was done in the case of the Mennonites, by compulsory labour in exchange for military service, and & solemn declaration to speak the truth in courts of law instead of the usual oath.
In his second letter to the Tsar Count Tolstoi, referring to the assassination of the Minister of the Interior and the riots in the university towns, asserted that these incidents were not the result of revolutionary agitation by demagogues, but of discontent with the existing order of things which had already spread to millions of the working classes. The fault rested not with the leaders of the movement, but with the Administration, which, since the murder of Alexander II., had pursued a reactionary policy, in the belief that “salvation was only to be found in a brutal and antiquated form of government.
He therefore recommended a programme of reforms of which the following is a condensation :
In the first place, the peasants (who constitute the vast majority of the population) should be placed on a footing of legal equality with other citizens; for which purpose it would be necessary : (1) To abolish the absurd institution of rural administrators (zemsky natchalniki), which has no raison d'étre. (2) To repeal the regulations governing the relations of master and man, which would then be subject to the ordinary law of the land. (3) To liberate the peasantry from all oppressive impositions, such as the necessity of obtaining passports in order to move from one place to another, the duty which falls solely upon the peasants of billeting soldiers and providing country carts for purposes of transport, and the obligations connected with the rural police. (4) To abolish the unjust system of collective responsibility of peasants for each other's debts, and to remit the land redemption payments, which have long since covered the real value of the land ; and, above all, (5) to do away with corporal punishment, which is useless and degrading, and which is now retained only for “the most industrious, the most moral, and the most numerous class of the people.”
In the second place, it was necessary to cease to apply the so-called reinforced measures of public safety, which destroy all existing laws, place the people at the mercy of stupid, cruel, and, for the most part, immoral officials, promote spying and secret denunciation, and cause and encourage the frequent employment of brutal violence against workmen who have disputes with their employers and landlords.
Thirdly, education and teaching should be freed from all obstacles : (1) No differences should be made between people of different social stations with regard to facilities for education, and books which are allowed to be read by others should not be forbidden to the common people. (2) Teachers in schools
[299 should not be prevented from giving instruction in the language spoken by their pupils; and it was supremely important that (3) all persons who had not been deprived of their civil rights, and who were desirous of undertaking educational work, should be permitted to conduct schools of all grades. If there were no difficulty in the way of establishing private schools, both for the lower and higher courses of instruction, the Russian students who are dissatisfied with the order of things in the Government educational institutions would leave them for the private establishments which answered their requirements.
Fourthly, all restrictions on religious liberty must be abolished: (1) All laws should be repealed which provide punishment for any withdrawal from the Established Church. (2) The establishment and the opening of chapels and churches for the Old Believers and of houses of prayer for Baptists, Molokani, Stundists and other sectarians should be freely permitted. (3) Permission should be given for holding religious meetings, and for preaching all forms of belief, except those which teach men to commit unnatural crimes, such as castration, murder, and suicide, and (4) persons of various religious beliefs should be allowed to bring up their children in the form of faith which they believe to be the true one.
In Finland the policy of Russification was vigorously pursued, notwithstanding the persistent opposition of the people, and even of the majority in the Council of State at St. Petersburg. A powerful minority, headed by M. Pobiedonostzeff and the Minister for War, maintained the scheme of Russifying the Finnish Army (see ANNUAL REGISTER, 1899, p. 307), and the Tsar adhered to his decision in the matter, although M. Witte, the Minister of Finance, strongly opposed the scheme, and a monster petition, signed by 471,131 persons, was presented to the Finnish Senate on September 30, representing that the edicts promulgating the scheme constituted "a far-reaching infringement of the fundamental laws of the Grand Duchy, that Finnish citizens, in being forced to serve in Russian regiments, will be deprived of “one of the most important rights accorded to every Finnish citizen—the right to live under the shelter of the laws of Finland," and that it will be impossible to recognise the edicts as legally binding."
The persecution of Polish children in Prussia (see p. 278) caused intense indignation not only among the Poles in Russia, but among the Russians themselves. The German arms were pulled down and trodden under foot at the German Consulates of Warsaw and Moscow, and the Russian Press was full of violent attacks on the Prussian Government. A movement was also started for boycotting German goods in Russian Poland.
In October a committee appointed by the Tsar to report on the best means of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the defence of Sebastopol recommended that the fortifications of the
city should be reconstructed, and restored as far as possible to the same condition as they were in at the time of the siege, that the principal trenches used by the French and English should be restored so as to present a complete picture of the scene of the struggle, and that monuments should be erected on the battlefields of Inkerman, Balaclava and the Tchernaya.
The completion of the Siberian Railway was announced to the Tsar in November by a letter from M. Witte stating that this railway, of which the first sod was turned by his Majesty at Vladivostok on May 19, 1891, would now be open " for temporary traffic ” as far as Port Arthur, and that he hoped the remaining work to be done would be completed in two more years, and the railway be opened for permanent regular traffic. The Tsar, in his reply, rightly described this as one of the greatest railway undertakings in the world ; but, owing partly to the fact that the Government was plundered in the most shameless manner by certain individuals responsible for the construction of the line, and that many millions more would have to be expended upon it before its safety could be guaranteed under ordinary working conditions, it was doubtful whether the economic results would afford sufficient compensation for the immense sacrifices incurred in its construction. One of the sources of compensation was expected to arise from the emigration into Siberia of the surplus population of European Russia. But the condition of the peasantry did not give much hope of any such emigration on a large scale, unless assisted from the public funds, which were not in a condition to bear the heavy charges that would be thereby entailed. The harvest was considerably below the average of the past five years, the peasants had to sell their crops in many cases for the means of paying their taxes, and the diminished purchasing power of the rouble added to the general impoverishment. Under these circumstances the Russian peasant was not likely to be enterprising or inclined to start a new life, besides which he had scarcely any education, and it was part of the policy of his Government to encourage him in intemperance, as its chief source of revenue was derived from the drink traffic.
In foreign affairs the most important question of the year was the policy of Russia with regard to Manchuria. In the early part of the year a draft treaty virtually establishing a protectorate over the whole of Manchuria, as well as over Chinese Turkestan and Mongolia, was pressed upon the Chinese Minister at St. Petersburg. By this treaty Russia was to determine the strength of the army to be maintained in Manchuria by the Chinese after the completion of the Manchurian Railway, all Chinese officers complained of by Russia were to be cashiered, no foreigners other than Russians were to be employed in the police or in connection with the sea and land forces of Northern China, and no mining, rail
1901.) Russia.Foreign Policy.
[301 way or other rights were to be granted in Manchuria, Mongolia, or Chinese Turkestan without the permission of Russia. This treaty was opposed by England, Germany, the United States, Japan and the two leading Viceroys in the. Yang-tsze provinces, and after much negotiation Russia withdrew it. She continued, however, to take steps to establish herself in the country, and towards the end of the year began to negotiate with China for a resumption of the treaty. By an agreement concluded on January 30 between the Tartar general, TsengChi, and the Russian resident at Mukden, the former was to remain as military governor of Manchuria for four years, so that Russia might govern the province through him even after the Chinese should resume the civil administration. Except as regards the Customs tariff Niu-Chwang became virtually a Russian port. It was placed in June under a Russian civil administrator, the Russian flag flew over the Maritime Customs, all duties were paid into the Russo-Chinese Bank, and Russians policed the railway.
The dispute between Russia and England as to the North China Railway (see ANNUAL REGISTER, 1900, p. 331) was partially settled on January 13 by the section of the line within the Great Wall having been handed over to the Germans and by them to England. No arrangement was arrived at, however, as to the portion of the line beyond the Great Wall from Shanhai-Kwan to Niu-Chwang, that section still remaining, with much of the rolling stock, in the possession of the Russians, who claimed to hold it " by right of conquest,” though they declared themselves willing to restore it if Russia were repaid all her expenditure for repairing and working the whole line from Pekin to Niu-Chwang. This and other cases where Russia had appropriated land belonging to British subjects remained unsettled to the end of the year. In Persia, too, Russia continued to extend her influence in opposition to that of England, and in February a new line of steamers was established for trading between Odessa and Bunder, Bushire, Bunder Abbas, and other parts of the Persian Gulf, specially low railway freights having been allowed by the Government for goods booked through to Odessa for shipment by this line from all the chief Russian manufacturing centres. The greater part of the trade of Northern Persia was already in the hands of Russia, and the value of her exports thither rose from 4,000,000 roubles in 1885 to over 16,000,000 in 1897.
In September the Tsar was the guest of the German Emperor on board the flagship Kaiser Wilhelm II. off Dantzig, and witnessed the manoeuvres of the German fleet. This was regarded as a guarantee of the friendly relations between the two Emperors. The expansion of German influence in the Balkan peninsula, however, and the danger to Russian interests involved in the proposed German railway from Bagdad to the Persian Gulf, caused considerable apprehension in Russian commercial circles,
and the general tone of the Press with regard to Germany was far from friendly.
The cordiality of the alliance between Russia and France was specially accentuated by the visit paid to St. Petersburg in April by M. Delcassé, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and by the Tsar's reception in France at the end of September. On the first occasion several conferences took place between M. Delcassé and the Russian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Finance, and the Tsar's visit was made the occasion of a great naval and military demonstration of the French forces at Dunkirk and Rheims. The toasts exchanged between the Tsar and the President of the French Republic on this occasion referred to the two countries as “ friends and allies,” and immense enthusiasm was displayed by the French people, the only jarring note in the universal harmony being the non-inclusion of a stay in Paris in the programme of the Imperial visit. Although the naval and military manoeuvres which had taken place in the Tsar's presence gave his reception somewhat of a warlike character, the President was careful to explain that the alliance of the two countries “ arose from an essentially pacific idea,” and had afforded powerful aid “to the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe," such balance being “a condition essential to peace, which, to be fruitful, must not be precarious.” The Tsar on his part asserted that the two allies “are animated with the most peaceful intentions"; they “ do not seek to infringe upon the rights of others, but they mean to have their own respected.” The attitude of the Russian Government with regard to the Boer war carried out this principle throughout the year, and the only Russian manifestation of hostility to England took the shape of a futile boycotting of English goods by some of the inhabitants of St. Petersburg. An article in the National Review advocating an understanding between Great Britain and Russia was at first very coldly received by the Russian Press, but towards the end of the year its tone changed, and the principal Russian newspaper, the Novoe Vremya, even warmly supported the proposed understanding.
In the Balkans Russia was very active this year. A paper called the Orthodox Orient, in the Russian and French languages, was established at Bucharest advocating a close union of Roumania with Russia and the founding of a confederation of all the Balkan peoples of the Russo-Greek or “Orthodox religion under a Russian protectorate, and six Russian torpedo boats made a reconnaissance at Galatz, the key to the fortifications of Roumania. In Servia, too, which since King Alexander's marriage and the removal of the late King Milan from the country had placed herself entirely under the influence of Russia, arrangements were made by the Russian Minister of War for a concurrent action of the military forces of the two countries in the event of Russia being engaged in warlike operations in the Near East; and in Bulgaria some sensation was produced by a