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Russia page 3

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Russia is imposing by her vast bulk. She is a huge embodiment of brute force. In defensive war she will always prove invincible; in aggressive war on barbaric oriental powers she will always be formidable; for purposes of aggression on the civilized and powerful west she must happily remain harmless.

But it is not surprising that an empire so gigantic should inspire with awe the states which are overshadowed by her enormous dimensions. In point of extent Russia is the largest dominion in the world. The waters of the Arctic Sea wash her northern shores; on the south she looks out upon the Mediterranean; the Pacific bounds her on the east; the Atlantic may almost be said to bound her on the west. The czar gives law to one-seventh part of the earth's surface. From his palace in St. Petersburg he governs a people seven thousand miles away on the remotest coasts of Asia. His subjects number one hundred and two million. They would be well-nigh irresistible were they less widely separated; but they are scattered thinly over nine million square miles - an area twice that of Europe.

The one hundred and four million. Russian people have surrendered to a single family all control over the management of their national interests. Russia is, in the fullest sense of the term, an absolute monarchy. All power - legislative, executive, judicial, ecclesiastical - centres in the emperor. His will is the law of Russia. He appoints and dismisses all the officers by whom his will is executed, and answers to no one for his actions. He enjoys an income which, it is believed, amounts to two and a half million sterling. The people suffer in silence, as if sent by the judgment of Heaven, the miseries which his pride or folly may inflict upon them. "When he dies all these vast prerogatives and emoluments are occupied by his son.

The emperor supports the dignity of his crown by an ample military establishment. Following the example of Prussia, he has decreed universal liability to military service. Every young Russian must spend the six years from twenty-one to twenty-seven in active service, and thereafter stand enrolled for nine years in the reserve. During peace there are three quarters of a million men under arms; in war the number rises to two million and a quarter. Besides this enormous array, there are one hundred and forty thousand Cossack horsemen, who give military service instead of rent or taxes, and who equip themselves for the field at their own cost. The emperor spends forty million sterling annually upon, his preparations for war; the education of his people costs him three million; he dispenses justice at a cost of three million; religious instruction, is supplied for one million seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds. The total expenditure is one hundred and forty-five million. Until recently the financial position of Russia was not upon the whole unfavourable. During the last sixty years she has borrowed largely, but by the operation of sinking funds she has also repaid largely, and her total debt before the war was three hundred and sixty million.

The late war against Turkey has involved Russia in no inconsiderable financial distress. The costs of that war are officially stated at a sum which, under the present depreciation of the currency, is the equivalent of one hundred and thirty million sterling, and will represent a greatly larger amount if Russia shall ever regain the blessing of a healthy currency. Much of it has been met for the time by enormous issues of paper money, the uncertain value of which is highly injurious to the commercial interests of the country. The credit of Russia has been gravely impaired, and her power to borrow has almost ceased. Her people are already taxed beyond their capability; vast irrecoverable arrears defy the well-proved skill of her most experienced collectors. The universal dishonesty of officials inflicts year by year losses which seriously enhance the sufferings of the people and the difficulties of the government.

Russia exports annually products to the value of eighty-five million sterling. Her shipments consist mainly of wheat, flax, hemp, timber. She receives to a somewhat larger value the manufactures of the west. Her foreign commerce does not tend to increase.

The resources of Russia are enormous, but as yet their development has scarcely begun. Her coal-fields equal in area those of Great Britain, but she raises only three million eight hundred thousand tons of coal - scarcely over one-fiftieth of the British production. She has abundant gold, but her processes are so rude that the real capabilities of her mines have not been ascertained. She has a prodigious area of fertile land under cultivation, but her agriculture is barbarous, and her land laws preclude the hope of improvement. There is a magnificent future in store for Russia, but it is still remote.

With vast effort the emperor has provided sixteen thousand miles of ill-constructed and ill-conducted railways by an outlay of two hundred million sterling. But the country is still miserably supplied with means of communication. Where Britain has one mile of railway to seven square miles of area, and the United States one to forty, the proportion in European Russia is one to one hundred and twenty. There are many parts of the country where the price of wheat is nominal, and where access to a seaport or the market of a large city is wholly impossible. New lines have been projected, the construction of which would hasten the development of the empire. Several lines are to pierce the great coal-fields of the Don. One immense line is to stretch across the waste which divides Siberia from the capital. Another will run deep into central Asia. But the execution of these magnificent designs must wait the restoration of Russian credit.

Among a people so little educated communication by writing is seldom resorted to. The Russians receive letters and postcards at the annual rate of one and one-third for each of the population. Telegraphic messages are sent on the average of one to every ten persons.

The territorial gains of Russia have proved financially a heavy loss. The government of Poland, of the Caucasus, of Central Asia, forms a serious drain on the resources of the empire. There is no reason to suppose that the Russian government would willingly add to the burdens of the people by undertaking the rule of additional unremunerative provinces. Like England, she has had the cares of extended empire forced upon her by circumstances (Lord Northbrook, late governor-general of India, said "he believed that the extension of Russian territory had been brought about gradually (like our own) by force of circumstances, and that there had been no policy entered upon with the view of Russian extension in India."), and it is not probable that she desires to increase the load. She has subjugated innumerable wandering tribes to whom law and industry were unknown. She has not bestowed upon them a high civilization - for they were not able to receive it, and she herself does not possess it; but to the extent of their capacity she is teaching them to be orderly and industrious. Wherever her arms have been carried, slavery has been abolished. Her teaching is always stern, often cruel. It is not in her nature to impart, nor in that of her subjects to receive, any other. Her influence has, however, beyond doubt, been beneficial to those who have been brought under its sway.

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