Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 819 pages of information about Russia.

This apathetic tolerance may be partly explained by the national character, but it is also to some extent due to the peculiar relations between Church and State.  The government vigilantly protects the Church from attack, and at the same time prevents her from attacking her enemies.  Hence religious questions are never discussed in the Press, and the ecclesiastical literature is all historical, homiletic, or devotional.  The authorities allow public oral discussions to be held during Lent in the Kremlin of Moscow between members of the State Church and Old Ritualists; but these debates are not theological in our sense of the term.  They turn exclusively on details of Church history, and on the minutiae of ceremonial observance.

A few years ago there was a good deal of vague talk about a possible union of the Russian and Anglican Churches.  If by “union” is meant simply union in the bonds of brotherly love, there can be, of course, no objection to any amount of such pia desideria; but if anything more real and practical is intended, the project is an absurdity.  A real union of the Russian and Anglican Churches would be as difficult of realisation, and is as undesirable, as a union of the Russian Council of State and the British House of Commons.*

* I suppose that the more serious partisans of the union scheme mean union with the Eastern Orthodox, and not with the Russian, Church.  To them the above remarks are not addressed.  Their scheme is, in my opinion, unrealisable and undesirable, but it contains nothing absurd.

CHAPTER XX

THE NOBLESSE

The Nobles In Early Times—­The Mongol Domination—­The Tsardom of Muscovy—­Family Dignity—­Reforms of Peter the Great—­The Nobles Adopt West-European Conceptions—­Abolition of Obligatory Service—­Influence of Catherine II.—­The Russian Dvoryanstvo Compared with the French Noblesse and the English Aristocracy—­Russian Titles—­Probable Future of the Russian Noblesse.

Hitherto I have been compelling the reader to move about among what we should call the lower classes—­peasants, burghers, traders, parish priests, Dissenters, heretics, Cossacks, and the like—­and he feels perhaps inclined to complain that he has had no opportunity of mixing with what old-fashioned people call gentle-folk and persons of quality.  By way of making amends to him for this reprehensible conduct on my part, I propose now to present him to the whole Noblesse* in a body, not only those at present living, but also their near and distant ancestors, right back to the foundation of the Russian Empire a thousand years ago.  Thereafter I shall introduce him to some of the country families and invite him to make with me a few country-house visits.

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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