25 MARCH 1899, Page 5


T"group of able and resolute men who surround, and in some degree control, successive Czars of Russia, and who, we fancy, keep up the continuity of the Administration by what is in reality an informal system of co-optation, have evidently decided that the system of Russifying Russia must be continued until the Empire _ presents to the eye a single and a harmonious whole. Moved in part by a tradition which has survived the gradual, and now forgotten, extinction of the Grand Dukeries, which once threatened Russia with the fate of Germany, they are determined that Russia, like France, shall be a solid, unbroken mass of power, obeying every. where the same impulse communicated from its Imperial head. They see weakness in colonies, weakness in privileged States, weakness even in separate religious sects. The process of, so far as possible, compelling every Russian subject to give up his original nationality. to adopt, or at least to learn, the Russian language, and to become in outward form a member of the Holy Orthodox Church has been going on for years, but has in this country been partially misinterpreted. It is imagined here that " Russification " is a mere synonym for repression, and that the policy is only fully applied in provinces where, as in Poland, the Caucasus, and Armenia, the population shows signs of a lingering disaffection or open hostility to the throne. Poland, it was thought, was oppressed only because the Poles of the kingdom, unlike the Galicians, refused to be even acquiescent in the foreign rule. This, however, is not the case. The Russian policy, wise or unwise, moral or immoral, is one of the largest and most far-reaching kind. All who owe loyalty to the Emperor are to be forced into a single mould, to make the same sacrifices, to speak the same tongue, to respect outwardly the same Church, and, so far as that may be possible, to think the same thoughts. The Finns, for instance, are now to be Russified—at least they so believe —and the Finns are not even disaffected. Ever since the Swedes in 1809, after a series of defeats, resigned the kingdom, it has been a submissive prin- cipality under the Russian throne, the Czar himself being Prince under the title of Grand Duke. The Finns have not only not attempted rebellion, which, as they are only two millions scattered over a country more than three times as large as England and Wales, and with no great city within it, would have been impossible, but they have given no trouble, arid have acted on all occasions as loyal subjects of the Czar. They have obeyed the laws made by their own Diet, which after a suspension of half a century was revived in 1863; have paid a quite exceptional attention to education ; have entered readily and largely into commerce ; and so far as the sterility of their soil admitted, have striven strenuously to become rich. They have been rewarded by a large measure of prosperity, by an immense advance in civilisation, and by a general contentment hardly exceeded by that of any Continental population. The group, however, who govern Russia were not contented, for Finland remained separate, a privileged State, and they abhor separation and privilege as much as ever the French Terrorists did. They accord- ingly induced the present Emperor to issue a series of decrees, or modifications of fundamental laws, the obvious intention of which was to reduce Finland to the position of an ordinary Russian province or series of provinces. The Finnish Diet was prohibited from discussing any law which referred to any subject not strictly local, their schools were ordered to teach Russian, and they were all placed under so strict a police regime that every Finn declares the freedom of his country to have disappeared. The Finns were horrified ; they probably dreaded direct attacks upon their Lutheran creed; they believed they would be subjected to the Russian conscription, which takes men for twelve years instead of five; and they felt keenly an order forbidding them to remonstrate either in public meeting or through the Press. Though the horror was so universal that common Finnish printers refused to print the decrees, " all is as silent in Finland " as if they were content. They managed, still, to make their irritation known to the Czar, and even forwarded to St. Petersburg a great deputation conveying a vast petition signed—if the number of signatures is truly represented —by 90 per cent. of the entire people, praying the Czar of his graciousness to let things remain as they were. The Russian Councillors, however, had made up their minds, and the Emperor, not content with refusing the petition, declined to receive it on the pretext that it had not received the endorsement of the Governor-General of Finland, who, of course, receives his orders from the throne. The Finns believe this decision to be final, and they are heartbroken, for they have no resource. It is impossible for them to rebel, for they have neither the material force, nor any idea of a future which, if Russia were hostile, would still be tolerable. They have no hope of assistance from abroad, for the only people, the Swedes, which care about them, or even know their history as a separate nationality, have no longer the power to face Russia in battle ; and they have no allies or sympathisers within the Empire itself, where naturally their special privilege as to conscription is regarded with jealousy or dislike. They can but yield in silence and tears to overwhelming force, and circulate through Europe appeals to opinion, which will, we fear, do little or nothing for their cause. The rigidly governed nations will not care. and the free nations will only pity them, without—for they know nothing of Finland—any special lamentation. They are lost for ever in the Russian morass.

Our advice to the Finns would be to accept their fate, and strengthen the liberalism which must before long develop itself in Russia ; but we cannot bit deem the Russian Government most unwise. Their action, to begin with, is inopportune. The Finns were not opposing them, or worrying them, or menacing them, even in words. The Finns are, if anything, over-discreet people, the best of subjects, because they refrain even from making themselves too obvious. We do not understand them to object to the autocracy, which no doubt may be as necessary to Russia as the reserved power of Parliament is to the British Empire, but only to the special exercise of it which has so greatly affected themselves. Their privilege as regards conscription might have been compromised ; difference of language matters little, as witness the position in Wales ; and as to the Church, persecution will only drive its teaching deeper into the hearts of the people. A Lutheran can be as stubborn as a Scotch Presbyterian, the limit of whose stubbornness has not yet been found. There is literally nothing gained by this violent exertion of the reserved sovereignty, even if it legally exists—we think it does, for the privileges of Finland are not secured by treaty, but were all octroy4—while there is this important advantage lost. Russia is connected in many directions with Slav States, and with at least one Norse State, which she is anxious to acquire, or at all events to " protect," in the new sense of that most undiplomatic word. The greatest aid she could have enjoyed in the realisation of her vast projects would have been the conviction that any State which accepted the Empire would retain its national tradition, its local liberties, and its right of direct appeal, in the case of grievance, to the autocratic power. That hope is dissipated, we should fear, for ever. Servia and Bulgaria, the Slav majorities in Hungary and Bohemia, and, above all, the discontented in Nor- way, now know that if they accept Russian protec- tion they will surrender everything,—that in at most a generation or two they will be forced to become Russian, will be reduced to a silent submission, and if they remon- strate will be so completely boycotted that the final authority will refuse even to hear their complaints. The absorption of Finland will therefore cost Russia much beyond her borders, while within them it will increase the paralysing uniformity which stupefies her, and which must cover masses of half-developed localised dis- content. Do the Russian magnates really think that sameness and tameness are identical? So men think of water till the winds blow. Crowds may grow too vast for any energy to deal with them, and a. hundred millions of men all alike, all equally affected by any decree, all liable to suffer equally from any misfortune or mistake, con- stitute a crowd that the imagination is hardly capable of taking in. This Rassifying policy pulverises Russia to sand, and sand when it stirs is more formidable even than the sea. We admit that the British policy, which leaves all outside subjects their own ways, is more trouble- some, but is it so certain that it is not the safer of the two? Which perishes first and more completely, the Colossus or the forest of statues?