RUSSIA IN THE EIGHTIES.*
Mn. BADDELEY'S able book on Russia is like a voice from the past. The Russia that he knew well between 1879 and 1889 is dead and gone. It was not a well-governed country, but the townspeople at any rate had enough to eat, and could go about their business in safety. The administration was corrupt, but
it was not inefficient. Order reigned throughout the vast Empire, disturbed only by the occasional crimes of the Nihilist fanatics whom the secret police might perhaps have restrained if it had cared to do so. The peasantry, grateful to Alexander IL
for his liberation of forty million serfs, were devoted to the Tsar and intensely hostile to the revolutionaries. With a little wisdom in high places such a system might have long endured. Mr. Baddeley was introduced to Russia under most favourable
auspices. The well-known diplomatist, Count Peter Schouvaloff, who as Russian Ambassador in London played an important part in the critical negotiations of 1877-78 leading up to the Treaty of Berlin, was a great friend of Mr. Baddeley and his family and took him for a short visit to Russia in February, 1879. Mr. Baddeley became interested in the people and resolved to stay and learn the language. He went to live with some peasants near Moscow, to the horror of his aristocratic friends, and then travelled through Southern Russia till he had spent all his money. His thorough knowledge of the Russian language and Russian habits, acquired in this way, must of course disqualify him as an authority in the eyes of those who think that only the hasty tourist, knowing no Russian and travelling with a Bolshevik guide, can pronounce upon Russia.
Mr. Baddeley's qualifications, however, soon procured him the
post of Russian correspondent for the Standard, which he held for ten years from December, 1879. The friendship of Count
Schouvaloff procured him the entry into the most exclusive society of the capital, and his own energy and good sense, together with his enthusiasm for sport, gained him a wide circle of acquaint- ances who were helpful to him in his work. No stranger could have seen more than he did of the political cross-currents of
the early eighties, when Russia was suffering from an indecisive domestic policy and was exciting British suspicion by a forward
movement in Central Asia, towards Mery and Herat.
It is instructive to follow in Mr. Baddeley's pages the progress of that movement, which began with Skobeleff's campaign against the Tekke Turcomans in Trenscaspia in 1880-81. The
storming of Geok Tepe, the Turcoman stronghold, seems a small affair in retrospect, but at the time it brought relief from great
anxiety. The Turcomans after their defeat were slaughtered without mercy ; for three days and three nights the troops were allowed to work their will on the miserable people. Russia, partly foiled in her designs on Asiatic Turkey by the action of Great Britain, had resolved to seek compensation in Central Asia, and the capture of Geok Tape was followed by the advance to Mery and then to Penjdeh on the Afghan border. Mr. Baddeley, viewing the situation from the Russian capital, saw that Russia could not be prevented by newspaper threats or warnings from extending her military occupation to the frontier of Afghanistan, and he lamented the Liberal Government's diplomacy of bluiter which merely annoyed Russia and gave Bismarck the opportunity of extorting British approval for German acquisitions in Africa. The only thing to be done was to agree with Russia as to the frontier-line beyond which she would not encroach upon Afghan rights. As it happened. the Afghan frontier guards at Penjdeh crossed the lihushk river on March 30th, 1885, and gave General Komaroff a pretext, of which he was only tee ready to avail himself, for attacking them.
Mr. Baddeley sent the first news to London in a cipher telegram, and on April 9th there was almost a panic on the Stock Exchange, as war was thought to be unavoidable. The Russian Press was as furious as the British Press, and predicted, as the Germans
did in 1914, the speedy collapse of the British Empire. Mr. Gladstone ultimately proposed arbitration about Penjdeh on April 30th. 1885 :—
" What happened in those next eventful days has never been fully told. That England proposed arbitration and that the Tsar—somewhat ungraciously—accepted it was made public, and has never been contradicted. In reality England proposed arbitration and the Misr flatly refused it. His words were : General Koman5ff acted rightly. I will never allow his • Russia in the Rightisa : Sport and Politic. By John t. Baddeloy. London : Lonsmans. tads. no0.1 conduct to be submitted to arbitration.' That, to all seeming, put an end to the matter. War, surely, was inevitable. It was then that Gladstone showed what he was capable of, and in so doing fully justified my venturesome suggestion to Sir Edward Thornton on first hearing from him of the Penjdeh battle. Ho asserted categorically that the rejection of arbitration meant war, immediate, inevitable war ; that the English Government did not want war, wanted in fact only to co-operate with the Russian Government in finding any honourable way of escape from It ; and he begged the Tsar in the interests of peace and of humanity to consent to the appointment of an arbitrator, who, after all, need never arbitrate. Alexander III., in his honest, dull and obstinate way, took some time to adjust himself to the point of view thus forced upon him. But, finally, he con- sented to agree, openly, to arbitration by the King of Denmark, provided that in no case should the matter proceed any further. In short, the English Government offered and the Russian Tsar agreed to a sham arbitration. Gladstone's purpose was gained. Some days had passed. Liberal feeling, at least, soothed if not satisfied by the magnificence of having voted eleven millions sterling of (our own) money, had rapidly cooled down, and was already inclined to accept any reasonable compromise. Tho Tsar's consent was taken as a satisfactory solution of the diffi- culty, and the danger of war was averted. Lumsden was at once recalled, and though the Jingo press, including my own paper, wrote bitterly and furiously of this fresh instalment of humiliation ' (the acceptance of arbitration), and of Lumsden's recall, the nation as a whole, with astonishing light-heartedness, turned its attention to other things. Lord Morley has written a full and admirable life of Gladstone—but the reader will seek in vain in its pages for any light on this remarkable episode, than which none in the whole course of the great leader's career discloses so completely his own mental agility and at the same time his perfect power of gauging the public mind. And, perhaps, none deserves more grateful recognition on the part of his countrymen. He understood them—better than they understood themselves, with their foolish cry for war ; misled by' experts,' forsooth, who saw the loss of India in the extension of Russia's boundaries to Afghanistan. He had learnt from Sir Edward Thornton what the Tsar would and would not ooncedo. He consented to sham arbitration—who will now condemn him ? —and saved England from the shame and the horrors of another and, if possible, more stupidly wicked Russian war."
Mr. Baddeley's note on this incident deserves attention because
history may repeat itself any day in Central Asia. It is clear that the Bolsheviks, like the Jacobins of 1793, are reviving the
aggressive policy of the old regime. Nothing is stranger in the history of the French Revolution than the readiness of the Jacobin Government to revive the old Family Compact with
the Spanish Bourbons as well as Louis XIV.'s plans for the acquisition of the Rhine as a frontier. The Bolsheviks in their turn are showing themselves as imperialistic as the Tsars, under cover of somewhat different phrases. It is not inexpedient, then, to remember that frontier disputes in remote and desert places like that of Penjdeh are often grossly exaggerated.
Mr. Baddeley has much of interest to say about Russian domestic affairs. He is no admirer of Count Loris Melikoff,
the Armenian general, whom Alexander II. appointed in Feb- ruary, 1880, as chief of a " Supreme Executive Commission," with almost unlimited powers. Melikoff invited society to help him in devising reforms, but he achieved nothing and was content to hunt down the Nihilists. After they had killed Oa
Tsar on March 13th, 1881, it was announced that Alexander had intended to promulgate five days later a " constitution " at Melikoff's instance. But this decree, according to Mr. Baddeley, merely instituted " temporary commissions, like
those organized in 1859, for the. elaboration of reform proposals which were to be submitted to examination, amongst others, of persons taken from the zemstvos and some of the principal
towns." It might, then, or it might not have given Russia some kind of representative government. " My own opinion,"
says the author, " is that the Russia of that day wanted nothing more than to be governed with a firma hand " ; and who shall
contradict him ? As it was, the opportunity passed, and blind
reaction directed by singularly unwise bureaucrats prevailed for another quarter of a century. Mr. Baddeley fortunately does not confine himself to polities, but devotes a good many excellent chapters to the society of the capital and to sport.
His readers will be surprised to learn that wolves are not numerous in Russia, and that they do not hunt in peeks. He assures us
that none of the professional trackers whom he knew well had ever seen a pack of wolves or had heard of wolves attacking human beings, except in the case of a mad or wounded wolf. In the large forests north of the capital, where he hunted for ten seasons, there were, he says, never more than thirty or forty wolves at the same time. In the Voronej steppes, a party of his friends, hunting over a district fifty miles square for a month at a time, never shot more than fourteen wolves and did not
see a pack, The roads are full of peasants' sledges in the winter,
but Mr. Baddeley knows of no case in which the occupants of a sledge have been attacked by wolves. Thus the famous wolf legends must apparently be dismissed as obsolete, if they ever were true. Mr. Baddeley interweaves into his narrative much of the reminiscences of his friend Count Peter Schouvaloff, who died in 1889 and who must have been an attractive as well as an able man- Few of the many recent books on Russia teach us so much about that astonishing country as this unpretentious and entertaining volume.