Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 819 pages of information about Russia.
cruise along the Murman coast, or, it may be, off the coast of Spitzbergen.  His gains will depend on the amount caught, for it is a joint-venture; but in no case can they be very great, for three-fourths of the fish brought into port belongs to the owner of the craft and tackle.  Of the sum realised, he brings home perhaps only a small part, for he has a strong temptation to buy rum, tea, and other luxuries, which are very dear in those northern latitudes.  If the fishing is good and he resists temptation, he may save as much as 100 roubles—­about 10 pounds—­and thereby live comfortably all winter; but if the fishing season is bad, he may find himself at the end of it not only with empty pockets, but in debt to the owner of the boat.  This debt he may pay off, if he has a horse, by transporting the dried fish to Kargopol, St. Petersburg, or some other market.

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.

CHAPTER VIII

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

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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