“The French are a decent civilised lot of people; but I wish we were not allies of Russia.” This, or something very like it, is the spoken or unspoken thought of a very large number of persons, especially among the working-classes in England at the present time. English suspicion of Russia is no new thing, though there is no doubt that the suppression of the revolution during the years 1906-1909 made it more general than ever before. It was responsible, for example, for the Crimean War, and the “crafty Russian” has become a catch-word almost as widely accepted in England as the phrase “perfidious Albion” is upon the Continent. I have seen Russia at her worst: I saw the revolution stamped out cruelly and relentlessly; I have lived three years in Finland, and know the weariness of spirit and aching bitterness of heart that comes to a fine and cultured race in its perpetual struggle for liberty against an alien Government to whom the word liberty means nothing but rebellion. And yet I am firmly persuaded of the innate soundness of the Russian people, and of the tremendous future which lies before it in the history of the world. I believe too that the English are suspicious of Russia, not because Russia is crafty or evil or barbaric, but because English people find it very difficult to understand a race which is so extraordinarily different from themselves. We fear the unknown; we suspect what is unlike ourselves; yet we shall do well, in the present crisis, whether we are thinking of our enemy Germany or our ally Russia, to remember the axiom laid down by Edmund Burke, the greatest of English political thinkers: “It is impossible to bring an indictment against a whole nation.”
In any case, for good or ill, Russia is our ally, and if Germany is beaten, Russia seems likely to play as great a part in the settlement as she did in 1815. It therefore behoves us, in our own self-interest if for no higher motive, to try and understand the spirit and ideals of a great people, who, as they did a century ago at the time of Napoleon, are once again coming forward to assist Europe in ridding herself of a military despotism.
Sec.1. The Russian State.—Many of us do not realise the most obvious facts about Russia. For example, our atlases, which give us Europe on one page and Asia on another, prevent us from grasping the most elementary fact of all—her vastness. Mr. Kipling has told us that “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” But Russia confounds both Mr. Kipling and the map-makers