History of Russia/Chapter 2
Ethnography of Russia
Greek colonies and the Scythia of Herodotus
The early Greeks had established factories and founded flourishing colonies on the northern shores of the Black Sea. The Milesians and Megarians built Tomi or Kustenje, near the Danube, Istros at its mouth, Tyras at that of the Dniester, Odessos at that of the Bug, Olbia at that of the Dnieper, Chersonesos or Cherson on the roadstead of Sebastopol, Palakion which afterwards became Balaclava, Theodosia which became Kaffa, Panticapea (Kertch), and Phanagoria on the two shores of the Strait of Ienikale, Tanaïs at the mouth of the Don, Apatouros in the Kuban, Phasis, Dioscurias, Pityus at the foot of the Caucasus, on the coast of ancient Colchis. Panticapea, Phanagoria and Theodosia formed, in the 4th century B.C., a confederation with a hereditary chief called the Archon of the Bosphorus at its head, whose authority was also acknowledged by some of the barbarous tribes.
Russian archæologists, and quite recently, M. Ouvarof, have brought to light many monuments of Greek civilization, funeral pillars, inscriptions, bas-reliefs, statues of gods and heroes. We know that the colonists carefully preserved the Greek civilization, cultivated the arts of their mother cities, repeated the poems of Homer as they marched to battle, loved eloquent speeches as late as the time of Dion Chrysostom, and offered a special cult to the memory of Achilles. Beyond the line of Greek colonies dwelt a whole world of tribes, whom the Greeks designated by the common name of Scythians, with whom they entered into wars and alliances, and who served them as middlemen in their trade with the countries of the north. Herodotus has handed on to us nearly all that was known of these barbarians in the 5th century B.C.
The Scythians worshipped a sword fixed in the earth as an image of the god of war, and bedewed it with sacrifices of human gore. They drank the blood of the first enemy killed in battle, scalped their prisoners, and used their skulls as drinking-cups. They gave their kings terrible burial-rites, and celebrated the anniversaries of their death by strangling their horses and slaves, and leaving the impaled corpses to surround the royal kourgan with a circle of horsemen. They honored the memory of the wise Anacharsis, who travelled among the Greeks. Their nomad hordes defied the power of Darius Hystaspes.
Among the Scythians properly so called, Herodotus distinguished the agricultural Scythians established on the Dnieper, probably in the tchernoziom of the Ukraine; the nomad Scythians, who extended fourteen days' journey to the east; the royal Scythians encamped round the Sea of Azof, who regarded the other Scythians as their slaves.
The barbarism of the inland tribes became rapidly modified under the influence of the powerful cities of Olbia and Chersonesos, and the Greco-Scythian state of the Bosphorus. In the tombs of the Scythian kings of what is now the government of Ekaterinoslaf, as well as in those of the Greco-Scythian princes of the Bosphorus, works of art have been found which show the genius of the Greeks accommodating itself to the taste of the barbarians, precious vases chiselled for them by Athenian artists, and all the jewels which at present enrich the museums of Kertch, Odessa, and St. Petersburg.
The Hermitage Museum at St. Petersburg, in particular, possesses two vases of an incomparable artistic and archæologic value. They are the silver vase of Nicopol (government of Ekaterinoslaf) and the golden vase of Kertch, and date from the 4th century B.C., or about the period when Herodotus wrote his history, of which they are the lively commentary. The Scythians of the silver vase, with their long hair, their long beards, large features, tunics and trousers, reproduce very fairly the physiognomy, stature and costume of the present inhabitants of the same countries; we see them breaking-in and bridling their horses in exactly the same way as they do it to-day in those plains. The Scythians of the golden vase, notwithstanding their pointed caps, their garments embroidered and ornamented after the Asiatic taste, and their strangely-shaped bows, are of a very marked Aryan type. The former might very well have been the agricultural Scythians of Herodotus, perhaps the ancestors of the agricultural Slavs of the Dnieper; the latter, the royal Scythians who led a nomad and warlike life. The philological studies of M. Bergmann and M. Mullendorf tend to identify the Scythian idiom with the Indo-European family of languages. “They were then,” says M. Georges Perrot, “in spite of many apparent differences of language, customs and civilization, nearly related to the Greeks, and this kinship perhaps contributed, without the knowledge of either Greeks or barbarians, to facilitate the relations between Hellenes and Scythians.”
Herodotus takes care to make an emphatic distinction between the Scythians properly so called, and certain other peoples about whom he has strange stories to tell. These peoples are the Melanchlainai, who wear black raiment; the Neuri, who, once a year, become were-wolves; the Agathyrsi, who array themselves in golden ornaments, and have their women in common; the Sauromati, sprung from the loves of the Scythians with the Amazons; the Budini and Geloni, slightly tinged with Greek culture; the Thysagetæ, the Massageæ the Iyrx, who lived on the produce of the chase; the Argippei, who were bald and snub-nosed from their birth; the Issedones, who used to devour their dead parents with great pomp and ceremony; the one-eyed Arimaspians; the Gryphons, guardians of fabled gold; the Hyperboreans, who dwell in a land where, summer and winter, the snow-flakes fall, like a shower of white feathers.
It seems probable that among all these peoples there may be some who have since emigrated westwards, and who may belong to the German and Gothic races. Others, again, may have continued to maintain themselves, under different names, in Eastern Europe, such as the Slavs, the Finns, and even a certain number of Turkish tribes. M. Rittich believes he can identify the Melanchlainai of Herodotus with the Esthonians, who still prefer dark raiment; the Androphagi with the Samoyedes, whose name is derived from the Finnish word suomeadnæ; the Issedones with the Vogouls, who may very well have dwelt on the Isseta, a sub-tributary of the Obi; the Arimaspians with Votiaks, whom the Turks now call Ari; the Argippei, Aorses, and Zyrians of Strabo with the Erzes or Zyrians; the Massagetes with the Bachkirs. M. Vivien de Saint-Martin recognizes the Agathyrsi in the Agatzirs of Priscus (A.D. 449), and Acatzirs of Jornandes, who are the Khazars. The Finns, then, have formed the most widely-spread race of Scythia.
The Russian Slavs of Nestor the Chronicler—Lithuanian, Finnish, and Turkish clans in the ninth century
The great barbaric invasions in the 4th century of our era formed a period of change and terrible catastrophe in Eastern Europe. The Goths, under Hermanaric, founded a vast empire in Eastern Scythia. The Huns, under Attila, overthrew this Gothic dominion, and a cloud of Finnish peoples, Avars and Bulgarians, followed later by Magyars and Khazars, hurried swiftly on the traces of the Huns. In the midst of this strife and medley of peoples, the Slavs came to the front with their own marked character, and appeared in history under their proper name. They were described by the Greek chroniclers and by the Emperors Maurice and Constantine Porphyrogenitus. They clashed against the Roman Empire of the East; they began the secular duel between the Greek and Slavonic races, a duel which is still being waged for the prize of mastery in the peninsula of the Balkans. Certain tribes formed a separate group among the others, and received the name of the Russian Slavs. Nestor, the first Russian historian, a monk of Kief, of the 12th century, has described their geographical distribution as it existed two hundred years before his time. The Slavs, properly so called, inhabited the basin of the Ilmen, and the west bank of Lake Peïpus; their towns, Novgorod, Pskof, Izborsk, appear in the very beginning of the history of Russia. The Krivitches, again, were settled on the sources of the Dwina and the Dnieper, round their city of Smolensk. The Polotchans had Polotsk, on the Upper Dwina. The Dregovitches dwelt on the west of the Dwina, and of the Upper Dnieper, and held Tourof. The Radimitches abode on the Soja, a tributary of the Dnieper, and possessed the old cities of Ouvritch and Korosthenes; the Viatitches on the Higher Oka; the Drevlians, so called from the thick forests which covered their territory, in the basin of the Pripet. Between the Desna and the Dnieper the Severians were established; their towns were Loubetch, Tchernigof, and Pereiaslavl. The Polians faced the Severians on the right bank of the Dnieper; Kief was their centre. The White Croats abode between the Dniester and the Carpathians; the Tivertses and the Loutitches on the Lower Dniester and the Pruth; the Doulebes and the Boujans on the Bug, a tributary of the Vistula.
Nestor's list of the Russian Slavs shows that, in the 9th century of our era, when their history begins, they occupied but a small part of the Russia of to-day. They were almost completely penned in the districts of the Dwina and the Upper Dnieper, of the Ilmen and the Dniester. In all the immense basin of the Caspian, their share was only the land they occupied around the sources of the Volga and the Oka.
On the west and north, the Russian Slavs bordered on other Slavonic tribes, which, about this period, acquired distinct national names. Some groups, scattered about the Upper Elbe and the two banks of the Vistula, after the invasion of the Tcheques and the Liakhs or Lechites (from the 4th to the 7th century), formed themselves into the States of Bohemia and Poland.
Other tribes on the March, or Morava, made, in the kingdom of Moravia, their first attempt to secure political existence (9th century). Certain others scattered on the Lower Danube formed the kingdom of Bulgaria, after the invasion of the Bulgarians under Asparuch (680). In a more distant land on the Adriatic, the Servian and Croatian tribes were preparing to organize themselves into the kingdoms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Servia. On the Baltic were the Slavs of Pomerania, of Brandenburg (Havelians), and Sprevanians of the banks of the Elbe (Obotrites, Wiltzes, Lutitzes, and Sorabians or Sorbes), all one day to be absorbed by the German Conquest.
At this period there was little difference between Russian and Polish Slavs. M. Koulich thinks that conquests achieved by two different races of men; that the adoption of two irreconcilable creeds (those of Rome and of Byzantium); that the influence of two rival civilizations, the Greek and the Latin, with their separate literatures and alphabets;—that all these influences created two antagonistic peoples in the midst of a race of one blood, and stamped on the inert and unconscious material of the Slavonic kindred the impress of two hostile nationalities. The Slav, moulded by the Lechites, converted to the Church of Rome, and subject to the influences of the west, became the Pole. The Slav, moulded by the Varangians, converted to the Greek church, and subject to Byzantine influences, became the Russian. In the beginning, on the Vistula as on the Dnieper, all were Slavs alike; all practised the same heathen ritual; all were governed by the same traditions, and spoke almost the same language. Indeed, the affinities of the Russian and Polish idioms, between which the dialects of White Russia, of Red Russia, and of Little Russia serve as links, sufficiently demonstrate an original brotherhood, which the strifes of churches and of thrones have destroyed.
The Russian Slavs, before taking possession of all the domain assigned to them by history, had to struggle in the north and east against the nations belonging to three principal races, the Letto-Lithuanians, the Finns and the Turks, in whom Finnish and Tatar elements were more or less mingled. The Finns and the Turks belong to that branch of the human family which has been named, from its twofold cradle of the Oural and the Altai, Ouralo-Altaic. The first of these races belongs to the Aryan family, but is nevertheless distinct from the Germanic or Slav races, and its dialects have more resemblance to Sanscrit than any other European tongue. The Jmouds and the Lithuanians, properly so called, dwell on the Niemen, the Iatviagues on the Narev. On the western shore of the Gulf of Riga and on the Baltic, the Korses, who give their name to Courland, are to be found, while the Semigalli inhabit the left bank of the Dwina; and the Letgols, from whom are descended by a mingling with the Finnish race of Livonians, the Letts of Latiches of Southern Livonia. The Livonians on the Gulfs of Livonia and Finland, and the Tchoud-Estonians, who gave their name to Peïpus, the Lake of the Tchouds, belong to the Finnish race. They are the ancestors of the present inhabitants of Northern Livonia and Esthonia. The three so-called German provinces of the Baltic are then Lettish in the south, Finnish in the north. The Narovians were established on the Narova, which is a territory of the Peïpus; the Votes or Vodes, between the Volkhof and the sea, in a country called by the Novgorodians, Vodskaïa Piatina; the Ingrians or Ijors, on the Ijora or Ingra, a tributary on the left bank of the Neva. The Tchoud-Estonians at the present day number 719,000, the Livonians 2540, the Vodes 5000, and the Ingrians 18,000.
Finland or Suomen-maa (land of the Suomi) is still inhabited by the Suomi, who were divided into three tribes, the Iames or Tavasts on the south-east, round Inamburg and Tavastehus; the Kvins or Kaïans, on the Gulf of Bothnia; the Carelians, who were more numerous than the two other nations put together, occupied the rest of Finland. These three peoples at present amount to a total of 1,450,000. The north of Finland was and is inhabited by the Laps or Laplanders, who form a special division of the Finnish race, and reckon in Russia about 4000 souls. The shores of the Icy Ocean, from the Mezen to the Yenissei, have been always occupied by the Samoyedes, a very wide-spread but far from numerous people, who amount in Europe to about 5000 souls. In the time of Nestor the Vesses dwelt on the Cheksna and the White Lake; the Mouromians (whose name is repeated in that of Mourom) on the Oka and its affluents, the Moskowa and the Kliazma; the Merians on the Upper Volga around the Lake Klechtchine and Lake Nero or Rostof. These three tribes have completely disappeared, having been absorbed or transformed by the Russian colonization, but leave behind them innumerable kourgans or tumuli. Between 1851 and 1854, M. Ouvarof and M. Savelief excavated 7729 in the Merian country alone. Besides these monuments and the remains which they contain, the only traces left of these tribes are to be found in names of places, and in certain peculiarities of the local dialects. It was around their territory that the Muscovite State and the Russian empire were formed. The Tchoud-Zavolotchians were encamped on the Lower Dwina; the Erzes, or Zyrians, inhabited the basin of the Petchora; the Permians, the source of the Dwina and the Kama; the Votiaks or Ari lived on the Viatka, where the town of Viatka still preserves their name. These races form what is called the Permian branch of the Finnish nation; their country was named by the Scandinavians, Biarmia or Biarmaland, and “Great Permia” by the Muscovites. Biarmaland was discovered in the 9th century by the Norwegian navigator Other, who not long afterwards entered the Service of Alfred the Great, king of England, and has left in Anglo-Saxon an account of his travels. This narrative proves that the Permians were then a civilized people, who traded with India and Persia. The temple of their god Ioumala was so richly ornamented with precious stones, that its brilliance illuminated all the surrounding country. The Erzes number at the present day only 80,000, the Permians 70,000, the Votiaks 234,000.
The Ougrian branch is composed first of the Ostiaks, amounting to 20,000 and of the Voguls (7000). On the east they inhabit the Ourals, and only border on Europe. Formerly they lived more to the south. The Magyars, who made Europe tremble in the 10th century, and founded the kingdom of Hungary, belonged to this race.
Between the Kama and the Oural were already to be found the Bach-Kourtes (shaven-heads) or Bachkirs of the 16th to the 17th centuries, originally a Finnish people, no doubt of the Ugrian branch, but profoundly Tatarized, with whom were mingled the Metcheraks, a tribe named by Nestor. There are at present 500,000 Bachkirs, and 100,000 Metcheraks. On the Middle Volga dwelt the Tcheremisses, the Tchouvaches, and the Mordvians; the Tcheremisses are found again to-day in the government of Kazan, Nijni-Novgorod, and Viatka; the Tchouvaches in Kazan, Nijni-Novgorod, and Simbirsk; the Mordvians in Kazan, Tambof, Pensa, Simbirsk, Samara, and Saratof, but these are now only small islets amid the Russian colonization, whereas in the time of Nestor they formed a compact mass. The Tcheremisses now only number 165,000, the Tchouvaches 430,000, and the Mordvians 500,000; all the rest have become Russians except a few who have become Tatar.
All seems strange among these ancient peoples. The type of countenance is blurred and, as it were, unfinished; the costume seems to have been adopted from some antediluvian fashion; the manners and superstitions preserve the trace of early religions beyond the date of any known paganisms; the language is sometimes so very primitive that the Tchouvaches for example do not possess more than a thousand original words.
The Tcheremiss women wear on their breasts two plates forming a cuirass, and ornamented with pieces of silver, transmitted from generation to generation. A numismatist would make wonderful discoveries in these walking museums of medals. They drape their legs in a piece of tightly “tied back” black cloth, and think that modesty consists in never showing the legs, just as the Tatar women make a point of never unveiling the face.
The Tchouvach women cover their heads with a little peaked cap like a Saracen helmet, carry on their backs a covering of leather and metal, like the trapping of a war-horse, and wear on fête-days a stiff and rectangular mantle like a chasuble. Among this singular people, “black” and “beautiful” are synonymous, and when they wish to revenge themselves they hang themselves at their enemy's door.
In spite of three centuries of Christian missions, these tribes dwelling in the heart of Russia and on the great artery of the Volga are not even yet complete converts to Christianity.
There are still some pagan districts. It may even be said that a considerable portion of the Tcheremisses, Tchouvaches, Mordvians, and Votiaks remain attached to the worship of the ancient deities, which they sometimes mingle with the orthodox practices and the worship of St. Nicholas. Their religion consisted essentially in dualism: the good principle is called by the Tchouvaches, Thora; Iouma (the “Ioumal” of the Finns) by the Tcheremisses; Inma by the Votiaks, etc. The bad principle was named Chaïtan or Satan. Between the two is a divinity whom men had in former times cruelly offended, who is called Keremet. From the good god proceeded an infinity of gods and goddesses; from Keremet a numerous progeny of male and female Keremets, genii more mischievous and malevolent, to whom the aborigines offer pieces of money, and sacrifice horses, oxen, sheep, swans, and cocks and hens, in sanctuaries also named Keremet, built in the depths of the forests and far from Russian spies.
Human sacrifices have been talked of. The worship of the dead inspired ideas which guide the savage everywhere. Men have preserved the custom of wife-capture, or buying brides from the fathers by paying the kalym; they practise agricultural communism. In a word, the life of these races of the Volga in the 19th century is the living commentary of the accounts of Nestor of the Russian Slavs of the 9th century.
It is probable that Slavs and Russians then lived in an absolutely identical state of civilization, and had almost the same religious ideas and the same customs.
There remain two Finnish peoples still to be spoken of, who, mentioned by Nestor, have at present disappeared, but who were far more remarkable than any of the preceding. These are the Khazars, who, although mingled with Turkish elements, were essentially Finnish. Remarkable for their aptitude for civilization, they had formed in the 9th century a vast empire, which embraced the regions of the Lower Dnieper, the Don, and the Lower Volga, round the Sea of Azof and the Caspian; they had built Itil on the Volga, and Sarkel or the White City on the Don; they had sometimes governors at Bosporos and Cherson in the Taurid peninsula; in the Kuban they possessed the Tamatarchia of the Greeks. They had commercial and friendly relations with Byzantium, the caliphate of Bagdad, and even the caliphate of Cordova, the only civilized states of the then known world. The Khazars had flourishing schools, and tolerated all religions besides the national paganism. Mussulman missionaries appeared in the 7th, Jewish missionaries in the 8th century, and Saint Cyril arrived about 860 at the court of their Chagan. A Jewish Chagan of the name of Joseph interchanged some curious letters with the Rabbi Hasdai of Cordova, announcing to him that the people of God, the Israel Khazar, ruled over nine nations of the nineteen of the Caucasus, and thirteen of the Black Sea, and that he did not allow the Russians to descend the Volga to ravage the territory of the Caliph of Bagdad. The Israelitish Khazars became afterwards mingled with the Kharaite Jews, and the Moslem Khazars with the Tatars of the Crimea. Among the vassal nations of the Khazars enumerated by the Chagan Joseph, were the Bourtass and the Bulgars of the Volga; the latter, kinsmen of the Bulgars who were subjected by the Danubian Slavs, and apparently nearly related to the Tchouvaches, were a mixture of Finnish, Turkish, and even Slav elements, according to an Arabian account. Sedentary, industrious, and destined to inherit the commercial splendor of the Khazars, they blended with the native superstitions the Islamism which was preached to them in 922 by missionaries from Bagdad, and possessed in the 10th century a flourishing state. Their capital was Bolgary or the “Great City,” on the junction of the Volga and the Kama. They also owned the cities of Bouliar or Biliarsk, Souvar, Krementchoug, &c. Their descendants were fused with the Tatar conquerors of the 13th century.
The Finnish races, even more than the Slavs, are the real aborigines of Russia. In the 5th century B.C. Herodotus writes of them as already long possessed of the soil. Everywhere in these wide regions the traces of their occupation are visible. At different periods they extended from the Livonian Gulf to the Ourals, and from the Icy Ocean to the Black Sea. They withdrew at various times, especially from the 5th to the 9th centuries, to allow the passage of the great migrations and of the great invasions; but in the 10th century they occupied, with the Khazars, the shores of the Sea of Azof and of the Caspian, while the Finns of Esthonia held the Lithuanians in check.
The Turkish races, on the contrary, made their appearance much later in Russia. In the 9th century the Lower Volga and the Lower Oural began to fall a prey to the Patzinaks, incorrigible brigands who marched over the bodies of the Khazars to establish themselves on the Lower Dnieper. After them appeared the Polovtsi or Koumans, the Ouzes or Torques. The invasion of the Tatars was more Turkish than Mongolian. The nomads vanished or, according to Nestor, were absorbed by new arrivals, namely the Nogaïs, formed in the 13th century of the remnants of the Polovtsi, and of the Turko-Kanglis, at present numbering 50,000; the Kirghis, who entered Europe about 1721, and to-day amount to about 82,000 souls; the Kalmucks, who are Mongols not Turks, belong to the Œleutes or Western Mongols, invaders of Russia in 1636, number 87,000 in the provinces of Astrakhan, Stavropol, and the Don, and in spite of the efforts of Christians and Mussulmans have remained Lamaists. As to the Tatars, properly so called, or sedentary Turks (more or less a mixture of Finnish and Mongol elements), who inhabit the governments of the Volga, Kazan, and Astrakhan, as well as those of Stavropol and the Crimea, they number altogether about 1,420,000 heads.
Division of the Russians of to-day into three branches—How Russia was colonized
In the time of Nestor (end of the 11th century), the Russian Slavs confined between the Lithuanians on the west, the Finns on the north, and the Turks on the east, hardly occupied one-fifth part of Russia in Europe. To-day we see the Russian race extend from Finland to the Oural, from the Icy Ocean to the Caucasus and Crimea, amounting to 56,000,000 men, besides 3,000,000 colonists in the Asiatic provinces. The Letto-Lithuanians on the contrary are reduced to 2,420,000 souls; the Finns, including the inhabitants of Finland, to less than 4,000,000; and the Turko-Tatars to less than 2,000,000. The Russians form six-sevenths of the population of Russia. The proportions are more than reversed. What a change has been wrought in ten centuries! The present Russians may be divided into three branches, deriving their names from certain historical circumstances. 1. The name of White Russia is given to the provinces conquered from the 13th to the 14th century by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. These were the ancient territories of the Krivitches, Polotchans, Dregovitches, Drevlians, Doulebes, now forming the governments of Vitepsk, Mohilef, and Minsk. The governments of Kovno, Grodno and Wilna, at present unequally Russicized, were originally Lithuanian. The Lithuanian territories of Grodno, Novogrodek and Belostok were sometimes called Black Russia. 2. Little Russia includes the country of the ancient Severians and Polians increased by colonies; that is, the governments of Kief, Tchernigof, Pultowa, Kharkof, Volhynia, and Podolia. It even extends beyond the frontiers of the empire into Red Russia or Old Gallicia (Galitch, Iaroslavl, Terebovl, Zvenigorod, Lemberg, or Lvof), belonging to Austria, and peopled by 3,000,000 of Ruthenians or Russians. 3. Great Russia grouped around the ancient Muscovy, and occupying the place held in the 9th century by many Turkish or Finnish tribes. To Great Russia belong Northern Russia (Arkhangel), Eastern Russia (the Volga, Kazan, Astrakhan), and New Russia or South Russia (Cherson, Ekaterinoslaf, Kharkof, Odessa, the Crimea). Great Russia as a whole, apart from Novgorod and Pskof, was won from foreign races by Russian colonization. It was a colony of Kievian Russia, and, though for a time subjugated by the Tatars, was able to shake off their yoke, while Kief still remained a Lithuanian province. It continued to extend its conquests in the East; then turning to the West in the 17th and 18th centuries, was able to recover White Russia and Little Russia.
In the empire the White Russians number 3,000,000, the Little Russians 12,000,000, and the Great Russians 41,000,000. There are dialectical differences between the idioms of these three families, which historical and literary influences easily explain. Some writers have been anxious to establish the existence of a profound difference between Great Russia and her two neighbors. They have reserved the name of Russians and the character of Slavs for the White Russians and the Little Russians, and have pretended to see in the “Muscovites” nothing but descendants of Finns, Turks and Tatars, in a word Turanians, Russian only in language. The Muscovite Empire, founded in the midst of Vesses, of Mouromians, and of Merians, extended at the expense of the Tchouvaches, the Mordvians, Tatars and Kirghiz, with its two capitals Moscow and St. Petersburg in the Tchoudic region, is not, if these writers are to be trusted, even a European state. A more careful study shows us that Muscovy was formed in the first place by the migrations of Russian colonists, in the second place by the assimilation of certain foreign races. 1. When the steppes of the south became the prey of Asiatic nomads, the Russian population flowed back in a vast wave, from the banks of the Dnieper to the Upper and Middle Volga. We see the princes of Souzdal calling to their aid the inhabitants of the banks of the Dnieper, while in the forests of the north new cities are constantly founded by the people of Novgorod. The Russia of Kief once destroyed, a new Russia begins to form itself, almost out of the same elements, at the opposite extremity of the Oriental plain. The names given to the new towns of Souzdal and Muscovy must be noticed. There is a Vladimir on the Kliazma as there is a Vladimir in Volhynia, a Zvenigorod on the Moskowa as on the Dniester, a Galitch in Souzdal as in Gallicia, a Iaroslavl on the Volga as on the San. Souzdal and Riazan, like Kief, have their Pereiaslavl; that of the former bears the title of Zaliesski, or “beyond the forests.” In a different land and under another sky the emigrants clearly tried to restore the name, if they could not find the image of their native country. Is it not thus that the English in America founded New York, and the French New Orleans? Moreover, when we have seen a population of 3,000,000 Russians gather in the Caucasus and in Siberia—when we see that the steppes of the south which were deserts in the time of Catherine II. reckon to-day their 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 inhabitants,—it is easy to understand how, at a more distant epoch, the basin of the Volga was colonized. As for saying that the inhabitants of New Russia are nothing but Finns and Russified Turks, one might as well pretend that the 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 of North America are Red-skins who have learnt English and embraced Protestantism.
We must recognize that the Russian, almost as much as the Anglo-Saxon, has the instinct which drives men to emigrate and found colonies. The Russians do in the far East of Europe what the Anglo-Saxons do in the far West of America. They belong to one of the great races of pioneers and backwoodsmen. All the history of the Russian people, from the foundation of Moscow, is that of their advance into the forest, into the Black Land, into the prairie. The Russian has his trappers and settlers in the Cossacks of the Dnieper, Don, and Tereck; in the tireless fur-hunters of Siberia; in the gold-diggers of the Oural and the Altai; in the adventurous monks who ever lead the way, founding in regions always more distant, a monastery which is to be the centre of a town; lastly, in the Raskolnicks, or Dissenters, Russian Puritans or Mormons, who are persecuted by laws human and divine, and seek from forest to forest the Jerusalem of their dreams. The level plains of Russia naturally tempted men to migration. The mountain keeps her own, the mountain calls her wanderers to return; while the steppe, stretching away to the dimmest horizon, invites you to advance, to ride at adventure, to “go where the eyes glance.”
The flat and monotonous soil has no hold on its inhabitants; they will find as bare a landscape anywhere. As for their hovel, how can they care for their hovel? it is burned down so often. The Western expression, the “ancestral roof,” has no meaning for the Russian peasant. The native of Great Russia, accustomed to live on little, and endure the extremes of heat and cold, was born to brave the dangers and privations of the emigrant's life. With his crucifix, his axe in his belt, and his boots slung behind his back, he will go to the end of the Eastern world. However weak may be the infusion of the Russian element in an Asiatic population, it cannot transmute itself nor disappear—it must become the dominant power.
History has helped to make this movement irresistible. When the Russian took refuge in Souzdal, he was compelled to clear and cultivate the very worst land of his future domain, for the Tchernoziom was then overrun by nomads. How could he escape the temptation to go and look in the south for more fertile soil which without labor or manure would yield four times as great a harvest? Villages and whole cantons in Muscovy have been known to empty themselves in a moment, the peasants marching in a body, as in the old times of the invasions, towards the “Black Soil,” the “Warm Soil” of the south. Government and the landholders were obliged to use the most terrible means to stop these migrations of the husbandmen. Without these repressive measures the steppes would have been colonized two centuries earlier than they actually were. The report that the Tzar authorized the emigrations—a forged ukase, a rumor—anything was enough to uproot whole peoples from the soil. The peasant's passion for wandering explains the development of Cossack life in the plains of the south; it explains the legislation which from the beginning of the 16th century chained the serf to the glebe and bound him to the soil. In the 13th century, on the other hand, the peasant was free. His prince encouraged him to emigrate, and hence came the colonization of Eastern Russia.
2. The Russian race, it is true, has the faculty of absorbing certain aboriginal stocks. The Little Russians assimilated the remnants of Turkish tribes, the Great Russians swallowed up the Finnish nations of the East. There must, however, be no religious barrier between the conquerors and the conquered, for the Tchoud, while still heathen, is easily assimilated; but once converted to Islamism, he is a refractory element that can scarcely be brought to order. A baptized Tchouvach inevitably becomes a Russian, a circumcised Tchouvach inevitably becomes a Tatar. We have seen the Vesses, the Mouromians, the Merians disappear without leaving a trace; the Tchouvaches, the Mordvians, the Tcheremisses become more Russian every day. The successive stages, and the steps which lead to the accomplishment of this change, were lately observed by Mr. Wallace, an English traveller:—
“During my wanderings in these northern provinces I have found villages in every stage of Russification. In one everything seemed thoroughly Finnish: the inhabitants had a reddish-olive skin, very high cheek-bones, obliquely-set eyes, and a peculiar costume; none of the women and very few of the men could understand Russian, and any Russian who visited the place was regarded as a foreigner. In a second there were already some Russian inhabitants; the others had lost something of their pure Finnish type, many of the men had discarded the old costume and spoke Russian fluently, and a Russian visitor was no longer shunned. In a third, the Finnish type was still further weakened; all the men spoke Russian, and nearly all the women understood it; the old male costume had entirely disappeared, and the old female costume was rapidly following it, and the intermarriage with the Russian population was no longer rare. In a fourth, intermarriage had almost completely done its work, and the old Finnish element could be detected merely in certain peculiarities of physiognomy and accent” (vol. i. p. 231).
The density and resisting power of these ancient peoples, scattered over such immense spaces of the continent, must have been comparatively slight, while the Russian emigrants came on in vast waves, or stole in like the constant dropping of water. The aboriginals must often have recoiled and concentrated their forces, thus leaving room and verge for the pure Slavonic element. The more or less considerable mixture of races, on the other hand, cannot but have influenced the physical type, character, and powers of the Great Russian in a peculiar way. The bright Slavonic nature, when blended with tribes of a duller cast, gained in strength and weight what it lost in vivacity. Hence, of all the Slavonic peoples, the Great Russian alone has been able to create and to maintain, in face of every obstacle, a vast and durable empire.