Christian Martyrdom in Russia/Prefatory Note for Russian Readers

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As this book will probably be read, not only by Englishmen, but also by Russians, I should like, in a few introductory remarks, to remove a misunderstanding which is likely to arise in the minds of some Russian readers concerning the motives which have prompted its publication.

The contents of this book may produce upon a certain class of my countrymen the unpleasant impression that, by publishing it abroad and in a foreign language, I am seeking, as it were, to discredit the Russian Government in the eyes of foreigners,—a thing which, in the opinion of these readers, a man who was really attached to his country would never do.

In answer to this, I can only say that I have been exiled from my country for being a friend and co-worker of Leo Tolstoy, and for attempting to disclose the truth concerning certain abuses by the Russian Government, as well to help its innocently-persecuted victims, as for the sake of those representatives of the Government itself, who know not what they do. Since then, living here in exile, I am experiencing the pain inevitably caused by compulsory separation from those of my countrymen who are nearest to my heart, and from the people to whose interests the last fifteen years of my life have been devoted. Finding myself in this position, I am naturally not able—notwithstanding all my desire to admit my mistakes and failures—in sincerity to convict myself of indifference to my country.

But neither can I identify with my country that governmental system which is causing it to suffer so severely.

And, indeed, why should I conceal from myself and others the fact, acknowledged by all except the deluded or prejudiced upholders of the State organisation of Russia, that it is difficult to imagine a system more soulless, senseless and savage, more cowardly, deceitful and cruel, than the present Russian Government, together with the mercenary Church which supports it?[1]

Wishing my country true welfare, I cannot but hope and look for the coming of that day when the representatives of the Government, on the one hand, will awaken to the consciousness of the moral unlawfulness of that arbitrary system of uncontrolled brute force in which they now participate; and, on the other hand, the Russian people and society will realise the truth, that the first and most sacred duty of every man, before God and before his fellow-creatures, is to cease to fulfil those demands of Church and State which are contrary to his conscience.

My native country I love, because I cannot help loving it. But I love it not with that blind prejudice which seeks to justify all its dark and humiliating iniquities; I love it without shutting my eyes to all the atrocities perpetrated in it and to all the sufferings of its oppressed masses. Such prejudice would not be love, but patriotic vanity,—a sentiment which always does immeasurable harm to the nation towards which it is directed. Loving my country, I try to love and appreciate in it that which is highest and best.

And this highest manifestation of truth and righteousness in my country, I cannot fail to see in that revival of pure Christianity which is now taking place in various corners of the land, and which is undergoing the most cruel persecution at the hands of a Government, desirous of systematically wiping off the face of the earth thousands of human beings, whose only crime is that they acknowledge all men to be their brothers, regard no one as their enemy, and therefore refuse to kill anyone.

At the same time, I am firmly convinced that for the welfare of humanity it is important that all should know of these bright examples of true Christianity, however remote and inaccessible may be the locality in which they are manifested. It is such examples alone that will effectively promote international peace and universal disarmament, which are, in words at least, so generally desired, and the possibility of which is doubted by those only whose lives are founded upon that same general armament and violence, which render the perfect development of love and goodwill among men impossible.

Firmly believing that the conduct of the Spirit-Wrestlers is furthering the coming of the Kingdom of God upon earth, and at the same time knowing that the more widely the truth is spread concerning the condition of these brothers of mine, who are being martyred for conscience' sake, so much the more difficult will it become for the local authorities to continue their atrocities and murders,—could I refrain from sharing with as many people as possible the information I have succeeded in collecting concerning this matter?

And is it surprising that, having been forced to leave my country precisely for having attempted to express aloud the truth in Russia, and in Russian, I, who believe in the mutual brotherhood of all nations, have, for the attainment of my aim, profited by the liberty of conscience and of speech enjoyed by the country which at present affords me hospitality?


Croydon, August 9th, 1897.

  1. I feel it necessary to remark that, in thus alluding to the Russian Government, I in no wise have in view its nominal directors, the Emperors,—men often remarkably conscientious and well-intentioned, but who in reality belong to the category of victims of the Government, being, in consequence of their peculiar position, deprived of the possibility of free and independent action. Of all the unfortunate dupes of the Government, they are the most deluded, and therefore, in a certain sense, of all its representatives the least influential and the most helpless. And indeed it cannot be otherwise as long as the so-called autocratic form of government is maintained in Russia, with its necessary absence of publicity and of freedom of speech.