صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

whole civilized world is witnessing the struggle with intense interest.

According to telegraphic despatches, a large crowd gathered outside the palace where the lower house sits to greet or to deride the new members according to the policy they were supposed to advocate. As the deputies entered the palace whose approaches were guarded by police and troops, there were frequent shouts of "Amnesty!" The crowd became so numerous, it is estimated that they numbered more than twenty thousand, that riots in a small way among smail groups were noticed. Street cars were stopped and traffic entirely suspended. There was nothing, however, of a serious nature that occurred, but the crowd was pushed back by mounted police who trampled upon many of the people, and several were severely whipped.

It was when the members of the Duma left the palace that the crowd became the most excited. As the members passed along, the crowd would shout out to them: "To what party do you belong?" If they answered, "to the Left," (the Radicals) they were cheered vociferously; but if "to the Right,,"(the Government party) they were hooted. Some of the labor members known to the crowd were raised up on to the backs of their fellow workmen in the midst of red flags which were waving. On these human platforms short speeches were made. One said: "The people of Ufa sent me here to defend the cause of liberty. I have sworn to die for it. Therefore, you swear that you will do the same." A number shouted: "We swear." All such speeches were applauded wildly.

Some incidents that occurred both before and during the session gave indication of the temper of a majority of the members as well as the immense crowd that sought to stimulate the Left in its opposition to the present regime in Russia. Among those who visited the Tauride Palace at the opening session was the French Ambassador. When he arrived in his carriage to attend the ceremony, he was seen by the crowd who began shouting: "Don't give them any more money." France has been Russia's greatest creditor, and the radical element both in and out of the Duma are trying to impress upon Russia's creditors the thought that hereafter all loans must come through the Duma by consent of the

people's representatives, and not in the arbitrary manner with which loans have been procured heretofore.

Just prior to the opening of the Duma, the members attended a religious service called the Te Deum. After the Te Deum, the Metropolitan Bishop of St. Petersburg, Antonius, delivered an address to the deputies in which he begged of them to forget their differences and work in harmony together for their suffering country. He drew a parallel between the assembled Duma and Christ calling his disciples together; and "notwithstanding," said the Metropolitan, "there was among the disciples of Christ only one traitor, yet his will prevailed." Another circumstance which gave some significance to the opening ceremony was the fact that after the Secretary of State had read the imperial ukase convening the assembly, the Conservative members on the Right, to the number of about one hundred, arose and shouted: "Long live the Emperor!" The other members remained seated and took no part whatever in the cheering; indeed, the Social Democrats did not attend the opening ceremony at all, but came in later and took the oath.

When Golovine took the chair there were enthusiastic cheers from the great majority of those present. In his opening remarks, among other things, he said he hoped that they would be able to work in unison with the monarch, and stated that nothing further would be done until he had an audience with the monarch. The Minister of Finance introduced the budget estimates for 1907. It was accompanied by a statement that the recent war expenditures amounted to $1,299,000,000. It was also shown that the revenue for 1906 exceeded the expenditures by $15,000,000.

The most important factor with which the Russian government has been concerned, in both this and the preceding Duma, is the probable conduct of the peasant. Notwithstanding the very prevalent idea that the Russian peasant is a patient, dumb creature, naturally submissive, the fact is, he is somewhat given to revolutions, and has carried a secret determination some day to abolish the existing order of things in his country. The trouble has been that Russian peasants are scattered over a large area of country. They have never been able to co-operate in a general opposition to the government. Their revolts have been local and spasmodic, and they have been punished with such a terrible vengeance by the

cossacks, the whips of the Czar, that they are kept down largely by the fear of punishment they are likely to receive. When, however, they are permitted to take part in a representative government, their combined force is quickly recognized, and hence the fear expressed by Witte and his successors that the peasants might join the revolutionists.

Since the October manifesto, in which a representative body was conceded to the Russian people, the government has devised all sorts of antidotes in order that the peasants might be kept out of any radical movements. In the first place, they were relieved of something like 35 million roubles of direct taxation on their land. Other forms of taxation which weighed heavily upon other classes were made to favor the peasants and relieve them of something like 75 million roubles. A short time before the close of the last Duma, a gift of the crown lands was made to them, though, considering their number, this gift was not so very large. Within the last few months, Stolypin removed certain political and financial disabilities under which they suffered. As is well known, the Russian peasants own the land in the villages where they live in common, and the entire commune is made responsible for the taxes of each. This system was abolished by the government and greater individual liberty given to each peasant. Peasants were also permitted, without the interference of the government, to leave their villages and locate in any part of the empire, and thus enjoy the privileges of the higher classes. These concessions no doubt were made with the expectation that the peasant would reciprocate a kindly feeling towards the government under the influence of gratitude. The peasants, however, did not look upon the matter in that light. They looked upon these changes favorable to them as terms which they had forced from the government and not as a friendly gift from the latter.


Soon after the dissolution of the last Duma, there was some effort made to induce the peasants to passively resist taxation and recruits to the army, but this program was not from the first in any sense effectual because of the force which the government had at its command, and the program of opposition shifted to an uprising against the landlord classes. The peasants felt that the landlords

[ocr errors]

had been a heavy burden upon them, that they stood between them and the Czar. They were ruthless in the collection of taxes and interest money. They kept down wages to a miserable pittance and were regarded as the most dangerous element to the peasant's interests.

When the landlords heard these discussions among the peasants, they began to hire armed guards to protect their homes and interests; and such a move on the part of the landlords was taken as something of a challenge. Then came the great outburst of class feeling, the whole country from north to south from east to west was the scene of the destructive work of the peasants in their uprising against the landlords. The country mansions were destroyed by fire, surrounding improvements went up in smoke, and the torch did its fearful work in the hands of the peasants by the destruction of over $50,000,000 worth of property. Such an uprising of course, could not continue, so the cossacks were set to work. They beat the peasants into submission, killed a number of the ring leaders, and sent perhaps more than 25,000 into exile in Siberia, others were thrown into prison; the torch, therefore, had not improved the condition of peasant life in Russia.

After that came the strikes in which the Russians refused to go to work. They preferred rather that the grain fields of the landlord go unharvested than to work for the miserable pittance they had been receiving. In this unhappy condition millions of peasants are on the verge of starvation, and their miserable condition is attributed, more or less, to the policy of the government, notwithstanding the millions it has distributed for the relief of the peasants in the famine stricken provinces. Under these circumstances the peasants are ready to join the workmen in the great cities, and the government sees all hope of placating and winning the peasant vote frustrated.

The peasant representatives in the new Duma are clamoring for the amnesty of the 25,000 and more of their neighbors now in exile. They want the prisons, now filled with their brethren who took part in those anti-landlord riots, emptied. Naturally the question of amnesty is foremost in the minds of the peasant members of the Duma who are perhaps less insistent on the question of ministerial responsibility. However, the peasants are willing

to co-operate with the representatives of the labor element in their demands. The situation in Russia from the standpoint of liberal government, religious freedom, and redress, is one now inviting the attention of the whole civilized world.

Salt Lake City, Utah.

[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »