What is peculiar in the historical development of Russia is this: until lately she remained an almost exclusively agricultural Empire with abundance of unoccupied land. Her history presents, therefore, few of those conflicts which result from the variety of social conditions and the intensified struggle for existence. Certain social groups were, indeed, formed in the course of time, but they were never allowed to fight out their own battles. The irresistible autocratic power kept them always in check and fashioned them into whatever form it thought proper, defining minutely and carefully their obligations, their rights, their mutual relations, and their respective positions in the political organisation. Hence we find in the history of Russia almost no trace of those class hatreds which appear so conspicuously in the history of Western Europe.*
* This is, I believe,
the true explanation of an important
fact, which the Slavophils endeavoured to explain by an
ill-authenticated legend (vide supra p.151).
The practical consequence of all this is that in Russia at the present day there is very little caste spirit or caste prejudice. Within half-a-dozen years after the emancipation of the serfs, proprietors and peasants, forgetting apparently their old relationship of master and serf, were working amicably together in the new local administration, and not a few similar curious facts might be cited. The confident anticipation of many Russians that their country will one day enjoy political life without political parties is, if not a contradiction in terms, at least a Utopian absurdity; but we may be sure that when political parties do appear they will be very different from those which exist in Germany, France, and England.
Meanwhile, let us see how the country is governed without political parties and without political life in the West-European sense of the term. This will form the subject of our next chapter.
THE IMPERIAL ADMINISTRATION AND THE OFFICIALS
The Officials in Norgorod Assist Me in My Studies—The Modern Imperial Administration Created by Peter the Great, and Developed by his Successors—A Slavophil’s View of the Administration—The Administration Briefly Described—The Tchinovniks, or Officials—Official Titles, and Their Real Significance—What the Administration Has Done for Russia in the Past—Its Character Determined by the Peculiar Relation between the Government and the People—Its Radical Vices—Bureaucratic Remedies—Complicated Formal Procedure—The Gendarmerie: My Personal Relations with this Branch of the Administration; Arrest and Release—A Strong, Healthy Public Opinion the Only Effectual Remedy for Bad Administration.