But what has all this to do, it may be asked, with the aforementioned Volkerwanderung, or migration of peoples, during the Dark Ages? More than may at first sight appear. Some of the so-called migrations were, I suspect, not at all migrations in the ordinary sense of the term, but rather gradual changes, such as those which have taken place, and are still taking place, in Northern Russia. A thousand years ago what is now known as the province of Yaroslavl was inhabited by Finns, and now it is occupied by men who are commonly regarded as pure Slays. But it would be an utter mistake to suppose that the Finns of this district migrated to those more distant regions where they are now to be found. In reality they formerly occupied, as I have said, the whole of Northern Russia, and in the province of Yaroslavl they have been transformed by Slav infiltration. In Central Europe the Slavs may be said in a certain sense to have retreated, for in former times they occupied the whole of Northern Germany as far as the Elbe. But what does the word “retreat” mean in this case? It means probably that the Slays were gradually Teutonised, and then absorbed by the Teutonic race. Some tribes, it is true, swept over a part of Europe in genuine nomadic fashion, and endeavoured perhaps to expel or exterminate the actual possessors of the soil. This kind of migration may likewise be studied in Russia. But I must leave the subject till I come to speak of the southern provinces.
LORD NOVGOROD THE GREAT
Departure from Ivanofka and Arrival at Novgorod—The Eastern Half of the Town—The Kremlin—An Old Legend—The Armed Men of Rus—The Northmen—Popular Liberty in Novgorod—The Prince and the Popular Assembly—Civil Dissensions and Faction-fights—The Commercial Republic Conquered by the Muscovite Tsars—Ivan the Terrible—Present Condition of the Town—Provincial Society—Card-playing—Periodicals—“Eternal Stillness.”
Country life in Russia is pleasant enough in summer or in winter, but between summer and winter there is an intermediate period of several weeks when the rain and mud transform a country-house into something very like a prison. To escape this durance vile I determined in the month of October to leave Ivanofka, and chose as my headquarters for the next few months the town of Novgorod—the old town of that name, not to be confounded with Nizhni Novgorod—i.e., Lower Novgorod, on the Volga—where the great annual fair is held.
For this choice there were several reasons. I did not wish to go to St. Petersburg or Moscow, because I foresaw that in either of those cities my studies would certainly be interrupted. In a quiet, sleepy provincial town I should have much more chance of coming in contact with people who could not speak fluently any West-European languages, and much better opportunities for studying native life and local administration.