Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 979 pages of information about Russia.
years.  Unless he happens to be a man of unusual intelligence and energy, it is only when he sees with his own eyes that some humble individual of his own condition in life has actually gained by abandoning the old routine and taking to new courses, that he makes up his mind to take the plunge himself.  Still, he is beginning to jog on.  E pur si muove!  A spirit of progress is beginning to move on the face of the long-stagnant waters, and progress once begun is pretty sure to continue with increasing rapidity.  With starvation hovering in the rear, even the most conservative are not likely to stop or turn back.



Necessity of Reorganising the Provincial Administration—­Zemstvo Created in 1864—­My First Acquaintance with the Institution—­District and Provincial Assemblies—­The Leading Members—­Great Expectations Created by the Institution—­These Expectations Not Realised—­Suspicions and Hostility of the Bureaucracy—­Zemstvo Brought More Under Control of the Centralised Administration—­What It Has Really Done—­Why It Has Not Done More—–­Rapid Increase of the Rates—­How Far the Expenditure Is Judicious—­Why the Impoverishment of the Peasantry Was Neglected—­Unpractical, Pedantic Spirit—­Evil Consequences—­Chinese and Russian Formalism—­Local Self-Government of Russia Contrasted with That of England—­Zemstvo Better than Its Predecessors—­Its Future.

After the emancipation of the serfs the reform most urgently required was the improvement of the provincial administration.  In the time of serfage the Emperor Nicholas, referring to the landed proprietors, used to say in a jocular tone that he had in his Empire 50,000 most zealous and efficient hereditary police-masters.  By the Emancipation Law the authority of these hereditary police-masters was for ever abolished, and it became urgently necessary to put something else in its place.  Peasant self-government was accordingly organised on the basis of the rural Commune; but it fell far short of meeting the requirements of the situation.  Its largest unit was the Volost, which comprises merely a few contiguous Communes, and its action is confined exclusively to the peasantry.  Evidently it was necessary to create a larger administrative unit, in which the interests of all classes of the population could be attended to, and for this purpose Alexander II. in November, 1859, more than a year before the Emancipation Edict, instructed a special Commission to prepare a project for giving to the inefficient, dislocated provincial administration greater unity and independence.  The project was duly prepared, and after being discussed in the Council of State it received the Imperial sanction in January, 1864.  It was supposed to give, in the words of an explanatory memorandum attached to it, “as far as possible a complete and logical development to the principle of local self-government.”  Thus was created the Zemstvo,* which has recently attracted considerable attention in Western Europe, and which is destined, perhaps, to play a great political part in the future.

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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