Since the time when I was living in Moscow in constant intercourse with the leading Slavophils more than a quarter of a century has passed, and of those with whom I spent so many pleasant evenings discussing the past history and future destinies of the Slav races, not one remains alive. All the great prophets of the old Slavophil doctrine—Jun Samarin, Prince Tcherkaski, Ivan Aksakof, Kosheleff—have departed without leaving behind them any genuine disciples. The present generation of Muscovite frondeurs, who continue to rail against Western Europe and the pedantic officialism of St. Petersburg, are of a more modern and less academic type. Their philippics are directed not against Peter the Great and his reforms, but rather against recent Ministers of Foreign Affairs who are thought to have shown themselves too subservient to foreign Powers, and against M. Witte, the late Minister of Finance, who is accused of favouring the introduction of foreign capital and enterprise, and of sacrificing to unhealthy industrial development the interests of the agricultural classes. These laments and diatribes are allowed free expression in private conversation and in the Press, but they do not influence very deeply the policy of the Government or the natural course of events; for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to cultivate friendly relations with the Cabinets of the West, and Moscow is rapidly becoming, by the force of economic conditions, the great industrial and commercial centre of the Empire.
The administrative and bureaucratic centre—if anything on the frontier of a country can be called its centre—has long been, and is likely to remain, Peter’s stately city at the mouth of the Neva, to which I now invite the reader to accompany me.
ST. PETERSBURG AND EUROPEAN INFLUENCE
St. Petersburg and Berlin—Big Houses—The
“Lions”—Peter the Great—His
Aims and Policy—The German Regime—Nationalist Reaction—French
Influence—Consequent Intellectual Sterility—Influence of the
Sentimental School—Hostility to Foreign Influences—A New Period of
Literary Importation—Secret Societies—The Catastrophe—The Age of
Nicholas—A Terrible War on Parnassus—Decline of Romanticism and
Transcendentalism—Gogol—The Revolutionary Agitation of 1848—New
From whatever side the traveller approaches St. Petersburg, unless he goes thither by sea, he must traverse several hundred miles of forest and morass, presenting few traces of human habitation or agriculture. This fact adds powerfully to the first impression which the city makes on his mind. In the midst of a waste howling wilderness, he suddenly comes on a magnificent artificial oasis.