It is here in the Far North that the ancient folk-lore—popular songs, stories, and fragments of epic poetry—has been best preserved; but this is a field on which I need not enter, for the reader can easily find all that he may desire to know on the subject in the brilliant writings of M. Rambaud and the very interesting, conscientious works of the late Mr. Ralston,* which enjoy a high reputation in Russia.
* Rambaud, “La
Russie Epique,” Paris, 1876; Ralston, “The
Songs of the Russian People,” London, 1872; and “Russian
Folk-tales,” London, 1873.
THE MIR, OR VILLAGE COMMUNITY
Social and Political Importance of the Mir—The Mir and the Family Compared—Theory of the Communal System—Practical Deviations from the Theory—The Mir a Good Specimen of Constitutional Government of the Extreme Democratic Type—The Village Assembly—Female Members—The Elections—Distribution of the Communal Land.
When I had gained a clear notion of the family-life and occupations of the peasantry, I turned my attention to the constitution of the village. This was a subject which specially interested me, because I was aware that the Mir is the most peculiar of Russian institutions. Long before visiting Russia I had looked into Haxthausen’s celebrated work, by which the peculiarities of the Russian village system were first made known to Western Europe, and during my stay in St. Petersburg I had often been informed by intelligent, educated Russians that the rural Commune presented a practical solution of many difficult social problems with which the philosophers and statesmen of the West had long been vainly struggling. “The nations of the West”—such was the substance of innumerable discourses which I had heard—“are at present on the high-road to political and social anarchy, and England has the unenviable distinction of being foremost in the race. The natural increase of population, together with the expropriation of the small landholders by the great landed proprietors, has created a dangerous