During the period of moral awakening, after the Crimean War and the death of Nicholas I., society revelled in virtuous indignation against the prevailing abuses, and placed on the pillory the most prominent delinquents; but the intensity of the moral feeling has declined, and something of the old apathy has returned. This might have been predicted by any one well acquainted with the character and past history of the Russian people. Russia advances on the road of progress, not in that smooth, gradual, prosaic way to which we are accustomed, but by a series of unconnected, frantic efforts, each of which is naturally followed by a period of temporary exhaustion.
PROPRIETORS OF THE MODERN SCHOOL
A Russian Petit Maitre—His House and Surroundings—Abortive Attempts to Improve Agriculture and the Condition of the Serfs—A Comparison—A “Liberal” Tchinovnik—His Idea of Progress—A Justice of the Peace—His Opinion of Russian Literature, Tchinovniks, and Petits Maitres—His Supposed and Real Character—An Extreme Radical—Disorders in the Universities—Administrative Procedure—Russia’s Capacity for Accomplishing Political and Social Evolutions—A Court Dignitary in his Country House.
Hitherto I have presented to the reader old-fashioned types which were common enough thirty years ago, when I first resided in Russia, but which are rapidly disappearing. Let me now present a few of the modern school.
In the same district as Ivan Ivan’itch and the General lives Victor Alexandr’itch L——. As we approach his house we can at once perceive that he differs from the majority of his neighbours. The gate is painted and moves easily on its hinges, the fence is in good repair, the short avenue leading up to the front door is well kept, and in the garden we can perceive at a glance that more attention is paid to flowers than to vegetables. The house is of wood, and not large, but it has some architectural pretensions in the form of a great, pseudo-Doric wooden portico that covers three-fourths of the facade. In the interior we remark everywhere the influence of Western civilisation. Victor Alexandr’itch is by no means richer than Ivan Ivan’itch, but his rooms are much more luxuriously furnished. The furniture is of a lighter model, more comfortable, and in a much better state of preservation. Instead of the bare, scantily furnished sitting-room, with the old-fashioned barrel-organ which played only six airs, we find an elegant drawing-room, with a piano by one of the most approved makers, and numerous articles of foreign manufacture, comprising a small buhl table and two bits of genuine old Wedgwood. The servants are clean, and dressed in European costume. The master, too, is very different in appearance. He pays great attention to his toilette, wearing a dressing-gown only in the early morning, and a fashionable lounging coat during the rest of the day. The Turkish pipes which his grandfather loved he holds in abhorrence, and habitually smokes cigarettes. With his wife and daughters he always speaks French, and calls them by French or English names.