The first edition of this work, published early in January, 1877, contained the concentrated results of my studies during an uninterrupted residence of six years in Russia—from the beginning of 1870 to the end of 1875. Since that time I have spent in the European and Central Asian provinces, at different periods, nearly two years more; and in the intervals I have endeavoured to keep in touch with the progress of events. My observations thus extend over a period of thirty-five years.
When I began, a few months ago, to prepare for publication the results of my more recent observations and researches, my intention was to write an entirely new work under the title of “Russia in the Twentieth Century,” but I soon perceived that it would be impossible to explain clearly the present state of things without referring constantly to events of the past, and that I should be obliged to embody in the new work a large portion of the old one. The portion to be embodied grew rapidly to such proportions that, in the course of a few weeks, I began to ask myself whether it would not be better simply to recast and complete my old material. With a view to deciding the question I prepared a list of the principal changes which had taken place during the last quarter of a century, and when I had marshalled them in logical order, I recognised that they were neither so numerous nor so important as I had supposed. Certainly there had been much progress, but it had been nearly all on the old lines. Everywhere I perceived continuity and evolution; nowhere could I discover radical changes and new departures. In the central and local administration the reactionary policy of the latter half of Alexander II.’s reign had been steadily maintained; the revolutionary movement had waxed and waned, but its aims were essentially the same as of old; the Church had remained in its usual somnolent condition; a grave agricultural crisis affecting landed proprietors and peasants had begun, but it was merely a development of a state of things which I had previously described; the manufacturing industry had made gigantic strides, but they were all in the direction which the most competent observers had predicted; in foreign policy the old principles of guiding the natural expansive forces along the lines of least resistance, seeking to reach warm-water ports, and pegging out territorial claims for the future were persistently followed. No doubt there were pretty clear indications of more radical changes to come, but these changes must belong to the future, and it is merely with the past and the present that a writer who has no pretensions to being a prophet has to deal.
Under these circumstances it seemed to me advisable to adopt a middle course. Instead of writing an entirely new work I determined to prepare a much extended and amplified edition of the old one, retaining such information about the past as seemed to me of permanent value, and at the same time meeting as far as possible the requirements of those who wish to know the present condition of the country.