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SCIENCE IN POLITICS, PAUL BERT'S. A PERSONAL REMINIS-
SCIENCE AND PSEUDO-SCIENCE. By Professor T. H. Huxley..
WHEN, about a score of years before the emancipation, the Russian democrats for the first time came in close contact with the peasants, with the view of knowing better their down-trodden brothers, they were amazed by their discoveries. The moujiks proved to be an entirely different race from what pitying people among their " elder brothers' expected them to be. Far from being degraded and brutalized by slavery, the peasants, united in their semi-patriarchal, semi-republican village communes, exhibited a great share of self-respect, and even capacity to stand boldly by their rights when the whole of the commune was concerned. Diffident in their dealings with strangers, they showed a remarkable truthfulness and frankness in their dealings among themselves, and a sense of duty and loyalty and unsel fish devotion to their little communes, which contrasted strikingly with the NEW SERIES.-VOL. XLV., No. I
shameful corruption and depravity of the official classes. They had not the slightest notion of the progress made by the sciences, and believed that the earth rested on three whales, swimming on the river called " ocean;" but in their traditional morality they showed sometimes such a deep humanity and wisdom as struck with wonder and admiration their educated observers.
These democrats of the first hour, men of great talent and enormous erudition, such as Yakushkin, Dal, Kireevsky, in propagating among the bulk of the reading public the results of their long years of study, laid the base of that democratic feeling which has not died out in Russia. Since that time the momentous rush of the educated people
among the peasants," and the study of the various sides of peasant life, has gone on constantly increasing. No country possesses such a literature on
the subject as Russia; but the tone of the writers of these latter times-men of the same stamp as Yakushkin and Kireevsky is no longer one of unmixed admiration. Whether you embark on the sea of statistical and ethnographical lore collected for posterity by the untiring zeal of the late Orloff and his followers, or whether you are deep in admiration of the artistic sketches of peasant life drawn by Uspensky, or whether you are perusing the works of no less trustworthy though less gifted essayists of the same school, such as Zlatovratsky and Zassodimsky, you will invariably come to recognize a great breaking up of the traditional groundwork of the social and moral life of our peasantry. Something harsh, cruel, cynically egotistical, is worming itself into the hearts of the Russian agricultural population, where formerly all was simplicity, peace, and goodwill unto men. Thus the gray-bearded grandfathers are not alone in modern Russia in lamenting the good old times. Some of our young and popular writers are, strangely enough, striking the same wailing chords. It is evident that in the terrible strait through which our people are passing, not only their material condition but their souls have suffered grave injuries.
Yet not all is lamenting about bygones in the tidings which reach us from our villages. The good produced by the progress of culture is, in spite of its drawbacks, according to our modest opinion, full compensation for the impairing of the almost unconscious virtues of the old patriarchal period. Freed from the yoke of serfdom and put before the tribunals on equal footing with other citizens, their former masters included, the peasants, too, are beginning to feel themselves citizens. A new generation, which has not known slavery, has had time to grow up. Their aspiration after independence has not as yet directed itself against political despotism, save in isolated cases; but in the mean time it has almost triumphed in the struggle against the more intimate and trying domestic despotism of the bolshak, the head of the household. A very important and thoroughgoing change has taken place in the family relations of the great Russian rural
population. The children, as soon as they are grown up and have married, won't submit any more to the bolshak's whimsical rule. They rebel, and if imposed upon, separate and found new households, where they become masters of their acts. These separations have grown so frequent that the number of independent households in the period of 1858-1881 has increased from thirtytwo per cent. to seventy-one per cent. of the whole provincial population. It is worth noticing that the rebellion among the educated classes began also in the circle of domestic life, before stepping into the larger one of political action.
Elementary education, however hampered and obstructed by the Government, is spreading among the rural classes. In 1868, of a hundred recruits of peasant origin, there were only eight who could read and write. In 1882 the proportion of literate people among the same number was twenty. This is little compared with what might have been done, but it is a great success if we remember the hindrances the peasant has had to overcome.
Reading, which a score of years ago was an exclusive attribute of the superior classes, is spreading now among the moujiks. Popular literature of all kinds. has received an unheard-of development in the last ten or fifteen years. Popular books bear dozens of republications, and are selling by scores of thousands of copies.
Religion is the language in which the human spirit is lisping its first conceptions and giving vent to its first aspirations. The awakening of the popular intelligence and moral consciousness has found its expression in dozens of new religious sects, a remarkable and suggestive phenomena of modern popular life in Russia. Differing entirely from the old ritualistic sectarianism, which was more of a rebellion against ecclesiastical arrangements than against orthodoxy, these new sects of rationalistic and Protestant type have acquired in about ten or twelve years hundreds of thousands, millions, of proselytes. This movement of thought both by its exaltation and the general tendency of its doctrines can be compared with the great Protestant movement of the six
teenth century. The only difference consists in its being confined in Russia exclusively to the rural and working class, without being in the least shared by the educated people. The sources. of religious enthusiasm are dried up, we think forever, in the Russian intellectual classes, their enthusiasm and exaltation having found quite another channel. For nobody can take in earnest the few drawing-room attempts at founding some new creed, of which we hear now and then of late. But it is beyond doubt that the genuine and earnest development of religious thoughts and feelings, which we are witnessing among our masses, will play an important part in our people's near future.
In whatever direction we look, everything proves that under the apparent calm there is a great movement in the minds of our rural masses. The great social and political crisis through which Russia is passing is not confined to the upper classes alone. The process of demolition, slower but vaster, is going on among the rural masses too. All is tottering there orthodoxy, custom, traditional forms of life. The European public takes notice only of the upper part of that crisis, that which is going on among the educated, because of its dramatic manifestations; but the crisis among our rural masses, wrought by the combined efforts of civilization on the one hand and of economical ruin on the other, is no less real and certainly no less interesting and worth studying than the former.
In what does this crisis consist? How far and in what direction have gone the changes in the social and ethical ideals, the traditional morality and the character of the moujik, the tiller and guardian of our native land? It would seem presumption to answer, or even to attempt to answer, in the space of a few pages such questions in reference to an enormous rural population like the Russian.
We hasten, therefore, to mention one thing which renders such an attempt -partial at least-justifiable. A Russian moujik presents of course as many varieties as there are tribes and regions in the vast empire. There is a wide difference between the eminently sociable, open-hearted Great Russian peasant, brisk in mind and speech, quick
in attachment and in forgetfulness, and the dreamy and reserved Ruthenian; or between the practical, extremely versatile and independent Siberian, who timid never knew slavery, and the Beloruss (White Russian), who has borne three yokes. But through all the varieties of types, tribes, and past history the millions of our rural population present a remarkable uniformity in those higher general, ethical, and social conceptions which the educated draw from divers social and political sciences, and the uneducated from their traditions, which are the depositories of the collective wisdom of past generations.
This seemingly strange uniformity of our peasants' moral physiognomy is to be accounted for by two causes: the perfect identity of our people's daily occupation, which is almost exclusively pure husbandry, and the great similitude of those peculiar self-governing associations, village communes, in which the whole of our rural population, without distinction of tribe or place, have lived from time immemorial.
No occupation is fitter to develop a morally as well as physically healthy race than husbandry. We mean the genuine husbandry, where the tiller of the soil is at the same time its owner. We need not dwell on the proofs. Poets, historians, and philosophers alike have done their best to bring home to us, corrupted children of the towns, the charms of the simple virtues of the populations of stanch ploughmen.
In Russia, until the "economic progress" of the last twenty-five years turned twenty millions of our peasants into landless proletarians, they were all landowners. Even the scourge of serfdom could not depose them from that dignity. The serfs, who tilled gratuitously the manorial land, had each of them pieces of freehold land which they cultivated on their own account. Nominally it was the property of the landlords. But so strong was tradition and custom that the landlords themselves had almost forgotten that they had a right to it. So much so, that Professor Engelhardt (Letters from a Village) tells us that many of the former seigneurs learned only from the Act of Emancipation of 1861 that the land on which the peasants were sitting was also
their property. Gleb Uspensky, in discussing the causes of the wonderful preservation of the purity of the moral character of the Russian people through such a terrible ordeal as the three centuries of slavery, which passed over without grafting in it any vice of the slave, finds no other explanation than this: the peasant was never separated from the furrow, from the all-absorbing cares and the poetry of agricultural work.
Our peasants could, however, do something more than individually preserve themselves. They could give a more lasting assertion and definition to their collective dispositions and aspirations. A Russian village has never been a mere aggregation of individuals, but a very intimate association, having much work and life in common. These associations are called Mirs among the Great and White Russians, Hromadas among the Ruthenians. Up to the present time the laws allow them a considerable amount of self-government. They are free to manage in common all their economical concerns. The land, if they hold it as common property-which is the case everywhere save in the Ruthenian provinces-the forests, the fisheries, renting of public-houses standing on their territory, etc., they distribute among themselves as they choose, the taxes falling to the share of the commune according to the Government tables. They elect the rural executive administration-Starost and Starshinas -who are (nominally at least) under their permanent control. A very important privilege too : they, the village communes composing the Volost, in general meeting assembled, elect the ten judges of the Volost. All these must be peasants, members of some village commune. The peasants' tribunal's jurisdiction is very extensive; all the civil, and a good many criminal offences (save the capital ones), in which one of the parties, at least, is a peasant of the district, are amenable to this tribunal. The peasants sitting as judges are not bound to abide in their verdicts by the official code of law. They administer justice according to the customary laws and traditions of the local peasantry.
The records of these tribunals, published by an official commission, afford
us at once an insight into the peasants' original notions as to juridical questions. We pass over the verdicts illustrating the popular idea as to land tenure, which is more or less known. We will rather try to elicit the other side of the question: the peasants' views on movable property, the right of bequest, of inheritance, and their civil code in general, which presents some curious and unexpected peculiarities. The fact which strikes us in it, is that among the peasants where the patriarchal principle is as yet so strong and the ties of blood are held so sacred, kinship gives no right to property. The only rightful claim to it is given by work alone. Whenever the two come into conflict it is to the right of labor that the popular conscience gives the preference. father cannot disinherit one son or diminish his share for the benefit of his favorite. Notwithstanding the religious respect in which the last will of a dying man is held, both the "Mir'' and the tribunal will annul it at the complaint of the wronged young man, if the latter is known to be a good and diligent worker. The fathers themselves know this well. Whenever they attempt to prejudice in their wills one of the children, they always adduce as motive that he has been a sluggard or a spendthrift who has already dissipated his share. The favorite, on the other hand, is mentioned as having worked hard for the family." Kinship has no influence whatever in the distribution and proportioning of shares at any division of property. It is determined by the quantity of work each has given to the family. A brother who has lived and worked with the family for a longer time will receive more, no matter whether he is the elder or the younger. He will be excluded from the inheritance altogether if he has been living somewhere else and has not contributed in some way to the common expenses. The same principle is observed in settling the differences between the other grades of kinsfolk. The cases of sons-in-law, step-sons, and adopted children, are very characteristic. If they have remained a sufficient time
-ten or more years-with the family they receive, though strangers, all the rights of legitimate children, while the legitimate son is excluded if he has not