Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 819 pages of information about Russia.

From the political point of view the question of the independence of the Courts has not yet acquired much practical importance, because the Government can always have political offenders tried by a special tribunal or can send them to Siberia for an indefinite term of years without regular trial by the “administrative procedure” to which I have above referred.

CHAPTER XXXIV

REVOLUTIONARY NIHILISM AND THE REACTION

The Reform-enthusiasm Becomes Unpractical and Culminates in
Nihilism—­Nihilism, the Distorted Reflection of Academic Western
Socialism—­Russia Well Prepared for Reception of Ultra-Socialist
Virus—­Social Reorganisation According to Latest Results of
Science—­Positivist Theory—­Leniency of Press-censure—­Chief
Representatives of New Movement—­Government Becomes Alarmed—­Repressive
Measures—­Reaction in the Public—­The Term Nihilist Invented—­The
Nihilist and His Theory—­Further Repressive Measures—­Attitude of Landed
Proprietors—­Foundation of a Liberal Party—­Liberalism Checked by Polish
Insurrection—­Practical Reform Continued—­An Attempt at Regicide Forms
a Turning-point of Government’s Policy—­Change in Educational
System—­Decline of Nihilism.

The rapidly increasing enthusiasm for reform did not confine itself to practical measures such as the emancipation of the serfs, the creation of local self-government, and the thorough reorganisation of the law-courts and legal procedure.  In the younger section of the educated classes, and especially among the students of the universities and technical colleges, it produced a feverish intellectual excitement and wild aspirations which culminated in what is commonly known as Nihilism.

In a preceding chapter I pointed out that during the last two centuries all the important intellectual movements in Western Europe have been reflected in Russia, and that these reflections have generally been what may fairly be termed exaggerated and distorted reproductions of the originals.* Roughly speaking, the Nihilist movement in Russia may be described as the exaggerated, distorted reflection of the earlier Socialist movements of the West; but it has local peculiarities and local colouring which deserve attention.

     * See Chapter XXVI.

The Russian educated classes had been well prepared by their past history for the reception and rapid development of the Socialist virus.  For a century and a half the country had been subjected to a series of drastic changes, administrative and social, by the energetic action of the Autocratic Power, with little spontaneous co-operation on the part of the people.  In a nation with such a history, Socialistic ideas naturally found favour, because all Socialist systems until quite recent times were founded on the assumption that political and social progress must be the result not of slow natural development, but rather of philosophic speculation, legislative wisdom, and administrative energy.

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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