Men who saw in the significant political eruption of 1848 nothing but an outburst of meaningless, aimless anarchy, and who believed that their country was destined to restore order throughout the civilised world, had of course little time or inclination to think of putting their own house in order. No one now spoke of the necessity of social reorganisation: the recently awakened aspirations and expectations seemed to be completely forgotten. The critics returned to their old theory that art and literature should be cultivated for their own sake and not used as a vehicle for the propagation of ideas foreign to their nature. It seemed, in short, as if all the prolific ideas which had for a time occupied the public attention had been merely “writ in water,” and had now disappeared without leaving a trace behind them.
In reality the new movement was destined to reappear very soon with tenfold force; but the account of its reappearance and development belongs to a future chapter. Meanwhile I may formulate the general conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing pages. Ever since the time of Peter the Great there has been such a close connection between Russia and Western Europe that every intellectual movement which has appeared in France and Germany has been reflected—albeit in an exaggerated, distorted form—in the educated society of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Thus the window which Peter opened in order to enable his subjects to look into Europe has well served its purpose.
THE CRIMEAN WAR AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
The Emperor Nicholas and his System—The Men with Aspirations and the Apathetically Contented—National Humiliation—Popular Discontent and the Manuscript Literature—Death of Nicholas—Alexander II.—New Spirit—Reform Enthusiasm—Change in the Periodical Literature—The Kolokol—The Conservatives—The Tchinovniks—First Specific Proposals—Joint-Stock Companies—The Serf Question Comes to the Front.
The Russians frankly admit that they were beaten in the Crimean War, but they regard the heroic defence of Sebastopol as one of the most glorious events in the military annals of their country. Nor do they altogether regret the result of the struggle. Often in a half-jocular, half-serious tone they say that they had reason to be grateful to the Allies. And there is much truth in this paradoxical statement. The Crimean War inaugurated a new epoch in the national history. It gave the death-blow to the repressive system of the Emperor Nicholas, and produced an intellectual movement and a moral revival which led to gigantic results.