Ivan the Terrible/Part 1/Chapter 4
HABITS AND CUSTOMS
I.—THEIR ASPECT, PHYSICAL AND MORAL. II.—THE WOMEN. III.—THE FAMILY. IV.—SOCIETY.
I.—Their Aspect, Physical and Moral.
The thirteenth-century invaders did not prevent all civilization in Russia ; in fact, they imposed their own civilization on the country, and, to judge by the consequences, this side of their conquest was far-reaching. Look at the Muscovite of the sixteenth century. To begin with, he is dressed from head to foot after the fashions of Samarkand. Bachmak, iazam, armiak, zipoune, tchebygi, kaftane, outchkour, chlyk, bachlyk, kolpak, klobouk, taflia, temlak—all these are the Tartar names he applies to the various items of his attire. If he falls out with his comrades, and begins to use rough language, the word dourak invariably occurs in his vocabulary; if he comes to blows, the koulak straightway appears. When he metes out justice, he binds the culprit with kandaly (chains), and appeals to the kate (executioner) to give the condemned man the knout. If he is an official he gathers the taxes into a kazna (treasury), protected by a karaoul (guard-house), or organizes relays which he calls iamy on roads served by tamchtchiki. When he gets out of his posting-sleigh, he is seen going into a kabak (tavern), which has taken the place of the old Russian kortchma. And all these words belong to the same Asiatic dictionary. The meaning of all this, though it affects external matters only, is surely very significant. A more serious thing is that a certain infusion of Mongol blood seems to have accompanied this prompt and docile assimilation. What was its extent? It is difficult to decide. Russian documents dealing with the subject are non-existent, and the observations of foreign travellers contradict each other. 'The real Muscovite natives,' wrote Vigenerius ('Description of the Kingdom of Poland and the Neighbouring Countries,' 1573), 'are short, as a rule, with good constitutions, strong and hardy, with very white skins, green eyes, long beards, short legs, and well-proportioned bellies.' Except for this last feature, noted by the majority of witnesses, this portrait is rather like that of the famous red-headed tavern wench. Peer Persson, or Petreus (Travels, in Rerum Rossicorum Scriptores Exterii, 1851, vol. i.), had the good luck, when he was in the same country, to see nothing but men who stood six feet high, and women whose black eyes, slight figures, dainty bosoms, delicate hands, and taper fingers filled him with admiration. These same eyes, as black as jet, were also noticed by Jenkinson. But the item of complexion continues to be discussed, Petreus declaring it to be naturally fair, and only spoilt by the abuse of paint and cosmetics, which the fair Muscovites used with singular want of taste, not only on their faces and necks, but on their eyes and teeth, while Fletcher ascribes their addiction to these artifices to a desire to conceal natural defects of colouring.
As an excuse for one and all of these observers, it should be added that they could not see clearly, because the persons they sought to behold hardly showed themselves at all, the women being hidden in their own special quarters, and even the men—of the aristocratic class, at all events—concealed beneath the mass of garments they wore. The list of these, as given by Fletcher, is amazing. To begin with the men. There was first of all the taflia, a little cap which covered the head, itself completely shaved. No man let his hair grow, except as a sign of mourning or disgrace. The taflia, in the case of great nobles, was made of cloth of gold, and embroidered with pearls and precious stones. Over this came a great tiara-shaped cap, in the Persian style, trimmed with black fox, the most valuable of all furs. The collarless shirt left the neck bare, but this was adorned with a richly-worked necklace, some three or four fingers deep. This shirt, made of fine material and loaded with embroideries, was worn in summer as the indoor garment. In winter it was hidden by a light silk overgarment, buttoned down the front, and reaching to the knee, and over this came the kaftane, a long narrow gown, sometimes made of cloth of gold, and reaching the instep; a girdle, knotted very low, below the waist, with a dagger and a spoon thrust into it; the odnoriadka, a silken garment, still longer and wider, edged with fur, and embroidered all down the front; and then, for outdoor use, the okhabene. …
I will spare my readers the other variations of the costume, the feriaz and the kontouche, all completed by the high morocco-leather boots, worn instead of hose, and also embroidered with pearls and gems.
The feminine wardrobe, as may well be imagined, was no less complicated; the features common to both were opulence and the superposition of many garments. The hair was confined by silken nets, red or black, covered in summer with a fine cambric or lawn kerchief embroidered with pearls, and fastened under the chin. This was replaced in winter by a cloth of gold cap, edged with some valuable fur, and likewise sprinkled with pearls and precious stones. The first loose gown—the opachnia—was generally scarlet in colour, and its long sleeves reached the ground. Over it came an incredible series of garments, some of them wide and some of them narrow, some of silk and some of cloth of gold, some fur-lined, others sewn with gems, and whole coffers full of necklaces and bracelets and ornaments of every kind. The noble Muscovite lady, in her white or blue or yellow leather buskins, also pearl-embroidered, could scarcely stand under her heaped-up glories. She was like a shrine.
This was the wardrobe of the aristocrats. That of the common folk was simpler, as may be well imagined. A shirt and a pair of long boots—two chemises, one over the other, for decency's sake, in the woman’s case—in summer-time; in the winter a coarse blue or black cloth gown, reaching nearly to the feet, and a sheepskin pelisse, were its invariable and chief constituents. For the woman, a metal cross and earrings of some kind were also indispensable. Under the ascetic influence, religion and modesty played a foremost part in the constitution of the female toilet. Even the excessive use of cosmetics seems to have had its origin in this quarter, these being employed to hide charms which had better be concealed. But if God was served by this device, the devil lost nothing by it, and some modes of dressing the hair, and the choice of certain stones, like the emerald and the ruby, considered to heighten the brilliance and expression of the wearer's face, were certainly not dictated solely by the precepts of the Domostroï.
Did the dresses and customs bearing these Tartar names really come out of Tartary? It is a curious thing that Fletcher should never have suspected this origin. According to him, the Russians of his day were dressed à la Grecque. The garb of the Muscovite Sovereigns, identical with that worn by all European monarchs at a much more ancient epoch, certainly came from Byzantium rather than from Samarkand. And the Byzantine origin of the cosmetics so dear to the coquettes of the country is not less certain. They were a legacy from Olga, the wife of Igor. This Princess was attended, when she travelled to Constantinople in 955, by a numerous female suite, and the ladies did not waste the time they spent on the shores of the Bosphorus. In the Europe of the Middle Ages, Constantinople held the place now occupied by Paris, as the metropolis of luxury. The Russian women of the sixteenth century, when they covered their teeth with a black varnish, and even succeeded, by some now unknown process, in dyeing the whites of their eyes black, would seem to have drawn their inspiration from some primitive system of tattooing rather than from the delicate processes of the Greco-Roman belles. But we must take this to be a consequence of that clumsy deformation undergone by every form of art in a country where feminine vanity strove to realize the ideal of beauty set forth in the popular song, 'A face as white as the white snow, and eyes as red as poppies.'
From the shores of the Bosphorus, Olga's ladies brought back, if not the kila itself, one form of that head-dress, at all events—that adopted by the ancient Muscovite Sovereigns, with the viazy, long strings of pearls falling down to the shoulders on each side. This head-dress occurs among the ancient Greek colonists on the Black Sea, and in a tenth-century evangelistary preserved in the Gotha Library, Theophania, Empress of Germany, and her son Otho III., are represented with costumes strongly resembling those of the boïars and boïarines of the sixteenth century.
In this case, then, names and things do not exactly correspond, and a peculiarity of all conquests is the creation of appearances frequently rendered illusory by an appropriative action as ephemeral as it is shallow. As regards the Russian women of the period now under consideration, it is at Byzantium that we must look for the secret of their ways and their outward appearance. Byzantine asceticism ruled them and wrapped them round. Though, during the woman's growing years, it allowed a certain development of her body and blossoming of her physical charms, it commanded, once she was married, that these charms should be hidden from all eyes save her husband's. The wife's hair must be concealed, her form must disappear under her load of wide and floating garments, worn one above the other. She must not wear a belt, save with her sorotchka, an indoor dress in which she would never show herself before strangers. But, by an inversion common in the case of ideas of this sort, the belt must always be worn with the sorotchka, and any neglect of this duty would cause a scandal.
In habits thus constituted, secular convenience was often mixed up with religious conventions. The full garments corresponded with the prevailing habit of body. The idleness and lack of exercise common to both sexes in the upper classes made the men stout and full-bellied and the women fat, at a very early age; and the peculiarity thus associated with an ideal life of luxury ended by becoming an element of beauty—one still valued in the case of the St. Petersburg coachmen and amongst middle-class women in Russia.
Let not my readers scorn, on this account, the female charms which tempted the Russian contemporaries of Ivan the Terrible! The Muscovite lady of the sixteenth century, in spite of her excessive embonpoint and her thick and ungraceful accoutrements, was assigned a place of honour in Jost Amman's 'Gynæceum; or, Theatrum Mulierum' (1586). 'Qualem vix similem Gallia culta dabit! …' The taste for dress, the worship and care of personal beauty, were, indeed, one of the features under which the æsthetic feeling of a still barbarous people, and its aspirations towards the superior forms of civilized life, were then revealed. For it must not be forgotten that the very men who wore these gorgeous garments lived in hovels, and I will not deny that, having used the spoon they carried in their belts for their soup, they eat the rest of their meals with their fingers! Very coarse they still were, in life and morals, under their splendid toggery. But here we note the usual march of civilization, proceeding from the individual, thus cultivated and ennobled in the simplest and narrowest sense, to idealizations of a more and more general and complex kind.
Let us pass on to their moral condition. As to this, all testimony is agreed, and it is not complimentary. Anything else would have been surprising. A high standard of morality concurrent with a low state of culture is a fiction which history constantly contradicts. It is well, nevertheless, to recollect that the testimony, in this case, is of foreign origin, and that a certain amount of ill-nature must be allowed for. The features on which it lays special stress are pride, roguery, incredulity, and bad faith. The Muscovites, in their simplicity, thought themselves superior to all other men. They were liberal with promises which they never dreamt of performing. No mutual confidence at all existed among them. The father doubted his son, the son believed nothing his mother said, and nobody would lend a halfpenny without security. These are the terms of the witness borne by two Germans, Buchau and Ulfeld, by Persson, a Swede, and Michalon, a Lithuanian. The worst of it is that the Englishmen, Fletcher and Jenkinson, echo these sentiments. 'It may be most truthfully said … that from the highest to the lowest, except in some rare cases, very difficult to discover, no Russian believes anything that is said to him, or says anything that is worthy of belief.' Now, these last witnesses, belonging to a race which at that period enjoyed a privileged position in the country, may be taken to be less dubious than their fellows. And they outdo them, adding another feature to the list, one to which I have already had occasion to refer—cruelty. Fletcher, it is true, excuses this by the following explanation: 'Harshly and cruelly used by the magistrates and the upper classes, the nation has grown harsh and cruel to its equals, and especially to its inferiors.'
This is the history of barbarism everywhere, and it was aggravated, in this particular country, by a climate which is not calculated to make men tender. The national historians have vainly striven to lay the blame in this particular, too, on the Mongol invasion, which, so they assert, corrupted the vanquished people's habits, and taught it cunning and violence. But two centuries before the Tartars came, the ancient Russia of Kiev was a scene of blood and rapine, plunged in that state of warfare which was to last till the very threshold of the modern epoch was reached, and which was in itself a deteriorating agent. Ferocity is the very essence of war. It has its own laws, which contravene every code and every gospel, and it excludes all honesty. In war, cunning is a merit, and violence a virtue. In this land, where anarchy reigned for centuries, it was not the Tartars who replaced the phenomenon known in Western Europe as 'chivalry' by another, which, though certainly not its equivalent, was, historically speaking, co-incident with it—'brigandage'—a brigandage enshrined in legend, sung by the national bards, personified by the popular heroes. In one of the bylines, which brings Ivan IV. upon the scene, we find a robber tale which is a specimen of the ideas elaborated under the influence of these peculiar historical precedents. A young man, haled before the justice-seat, is subjected to the praviéje. The Sovereign passes by, and inquires into the matter. It concerns a theft of treasure by the culprit. The young man gives his explanation. The treasure had been in the hands of a robber band. The bold fellow had fallen upon it, laid hands on the booty, and then gone from tavern to tavern, sharing his plunder with all the vagabonds in the country. The Sovereign does not hesitate: the hero of the adventure deserves not punishment, but reward, for his bravery and open-handedness. The judges are commanded to make him large amends, and all the people rejoice with him.
The attitude of mind here exemplified is not the specific characteristic of any Asiatic or European race, but the accidental result of a certainly abnormal evolution, during a transition period of development.
During the sixteenth century, under the coating, very superficial, as we have already seen it to be, of the Mongol alluvion, the strongest visible mark on Muscovite habits is that left by the nearest, the Byzantine, East. But this influence, just at that moment, was giving rise to fierce reaction. Under the excessive weight and pressure of the ascetic yoke, Nature, physical and moral, was revolting and rebelling, breaking her bonds, casting them off, and rushing, under the reflex action of unbridled instincts, into wild flights in a quite opposite direction—extravagant debauchery, monstrous vices, the oblivion of all modesty even amongst the women, once they contrived to break down the barriers of the terem. These phenomena naturally stand out against the ordinary background of social and domestic life. They strike the attention of observers, and thus elicit severe judgments, which should be carefully weighed. These more particularly affect and condemn the Russian woman. As foreign witnesses saw her, she is a monster. Into this closer inquiry must be made.
II.—The Russian Woman.
The position imposed on man's partner by Muscovite customs and legislation was certainly not affected by racial influences. The terem, as all men know nowadays, was not of Eastern origin. In it we recognise, under a Tartar name, the Greco-Roman gynæceum, dressed up Byzantine fashion. Nor can the general tendencies of the Slav race be blamed; they rather leant towards giving women a privileged position. Most of the Slav laws, unlike those of Rome, Germany, or Scandinavia, reject the idea that woman is an inferior being, placed under the permanent guardianship of her male relations, or assimilated to things of which they have the arbitrary disposal. In Russia, according to the code of Jaroslav, the indemnity due for murder (the glovchtchizna, price of the head) was higher when the murdered person was a woman, and even according to Ivan IV.'s code, both sexes were equal before the law. It was not till 1557 that it occurred to the Terrible to attack this principle by deciding that any clause whereby a wife willed the management of her property away to her husband was invalid. 'What the husband orders, the wife writes'—so runs the preamble of the new law. But this is a mere acknowledgment of a fact, and a precaution taken in the wife's interest, rather than a decree of forfeiture.
Whether or not it should be attributed, as the learned historian of Slav law, Maciejowski, holds, to her participation in the duties of the priesthood in ancient Slav communities, or to some other and more authentic cause (for the equality in priestly matters itself looks like a result), Eve's comparative triumph, even on Russian soil, is not open to any doubt. But in Russia Byzantium set on this primordial fact the seal of her own very different conceptions, largely borrowed from pagan teachings. The Constantinopolitan compilers had carefully noted the aphorism ascribed to Solon—'The wise man thanks the gods daily for having made him a Greek and not a barbarian, a man and not a beast, a male and not a female.' They had further noted that Aristotle gave the citizen full power over children, slaves, and women, and they industriously amalgamated these precepts with their Christian notions as to damnation and the origin of sin.
'What is a woman?' we read in an ancient religious instruction imported into Russia from the East. 'A net to tempt men! with her clear face and her high-set eyes, she works spells! … What is a woman? A viper's nest! The Eve of the Byzantine world is a being 'twelve times impure,' and always dangerous. On certain days no man must sit at table with her, and the meat she has killed is poison. Wherefore, in the country parts of Russia, in the sixteenth century, housekeepers might have been seen running through the village to find a man to wring the neck of the chicken they wanted to boil. The younger and fairer the woman was, the more she was pernicious and accursed. And only old women were allowed to prepare the sacred wafers.
To lessen the mischief and diminish the peril, the woman must be shut up. 'She sits behind twenty-seven locks—she sits locked in with twenty-seven keys, so that the wind may not blow on her, so that the sun may not burn her, so that bold comrades may not see her. …' In the case of women of high rank, the precautions thus enumerated in the popular song are literally applied. The boïarina's apartments, at the back of the house, with a special entrance of their own, constitute a prison of which the boïarine keeps the key. No other man, not even a near relation, can enter. The windows all look on to an inner court, protected from indiscreet curiosity by a tall fence. This is the gaol-yard, where the prisoners take their exercise. Generally there is a chapel or oratory, where the woman is allowed to perform her devotions, only going to church on great occasions, and surrounded then by the various precautions which attend all her rare excursions out of doors. The carriage which transports her, when this happens, is a sort of cellular vehicle, with bladder-skins instead of glass in its windows, so that the occupant can see out without being seen, and it is attended by a whole escort of serving-men, half-spies, half-guards. Most of these will spend the whole of their lives without ever beholding their closely-watched mistress, and even their master's own friends may not be more highly favoured. As a matter of principle, the wife does not appear before her husband's guests. But an exception is made on the occasion of banquets given to persons to whom the entertainer desires to do special honour. In the course of such repasts, a ceremony is performed which would seem to show some glimmer of the chivalrous ideas of the West. At a signal given by her lord, the boïarina descends the staircase of the gynæceum, dressed in her most gorgeous attire, and bearing in her hand a golden cup. Having touched this with her lips, she offers it to every guest, and then, standing upright at the place of honour, permits each to greet her with a respectful kiss.
All this was possible, evidently, in the aristocratic class; but outside it, such cloistered retirement seemed less indispensable, and the danger slighter. The woman of humble birth was a beast of burden, who might very well be left to the free exercise of her household duties, to carry the linen to the public washing-place, and labour in the fields. Even in the middle class, the terem admitted of some modifications. When the great festivals drew near, the women of the lesser nobility, and those of the merchant and poorer classes, crowded round the seesaws and roundabouts set up in the streets, the chief entertainment of the female public of that period. The great ladies had them in the inner courts of their houses. When the ladies got off their seesaws, they went to dance in some meadow. The dancing of that period seems to have been a simple and somewhat monotonous business. The dancers kept stamping their feet on the same spot of ground, twirling round and round, moving their shoulders, swaying their hips, nodding their heads about, raising and lowering their eyebrows, waving handkerchiefs—all to the accompaniment of their own singing and of the shrill music of a skomorokh. But Peerson noticed a less innocent aspect of these gambols, a dubious habit of standing back to back, and rubbing the more fleshy parts of their bodies against their partners', not to mention extempore songs on most improper subjects.
Here, again, we have to note the inevitable consequence of a too severe religious law. Dancing, however decent, was forbidden by the Church, with games and pastimes of every kind. This was shutting the door in the devil's face, so that he might climb in by the window. The public baths gave rise to much more serious disorders. In them the sexes were nominally separated, but men and women came out of their respective hot rooms, stripped, streaming with sweat, and their blood heated by smart rubbing, met at the entrance, fell without any embarrassment into eager conversation, and cast themselves pell-mell into the river, or rolled in the snow, amidst shouts and jests and jokes the nature of which will be easily divined.
This was the filthy outlet of the ascetic system. Only one woman almost entirely escaped this system—the widowed mother of sons. From the domestic and social, even from the political, point of view, she attained complete independence, and enjoyed rights equal to a man's. But if the widow had no son, she dropped into the class of orphans and infirm persons, of whom the Church had the care and trouble, for society would have none of them. Thus the exception was a confirmation of the rule. Unless, again, the Eve on whom the ascetic ideal had laid its curse lifted herself, whether mother or maid, above the malediction, and, rising, by some prodigy of virtue, to the level of that ideal, became a saint according to its canons. But such an elevation seems to have been particularly laborious, for the 'Tcheti Mineï' of Macarius only chronicle the lives of two female saints in all. Russian hagiographers, indeed, appear to have-professed a certain scorn for these scarce beings, even when recognised and adopted by the Church. St. Olga and St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk, who lived, one in the tenth and the other in the twelfth century, found no biographers till the fifteenth—and both of them were Princesses!
One other opening there was for women who could not reach such heights as these—that world of supernatural forces to which the popular imagination ascribed so mighty a power over human life. Woman, banned out of society, scorned as a wife and mother, was dreaded as a sorceress and courted as a soothsayer. She could be queen of the magic kingdom of superstition. And in the raskol, where superstition played so great a part, the power of woman was to recover all its privileges and retake first rank. In ordinary life, at all events, was the wife and mother permitted to taste the joys of domestic existence?
Here an initial fact presents itself. In the upper class, the education of the children was generally taken out of the mother's hands. In this quarter, therefore, we find nothing at all. Maternal love and filial love both lay under the interdict of the Church. The only thing left was marriage. But marriage, in a young girl's case, did not mean that she had found a young man for whom she cared, or was even likely to care. Except in the case of second marriages, the matching of couples concerned the parents only, and they, as a rule, never thought of consulting the young people's inclinations; all the more, as the persons married were very frequently mere children. Twelve years old for a girl, fourteen for a boy, were considered quite marriageable ages. And before they went to the altar, even up to the very threshold of the nuptial chamber, the young couple might be, and, strictly speaking, ought to be, strangers. The bride, especially, must not be seen by her bridegroom until the supreme moment. To avoid surprises of a too painful nature, some lady relation of the man's assumed the delicate duties of the smotritiélnitsa, or looker (smotrit, to look). She was brought into a room decorated for the purpose, and caught a glimpse of the betrothed behind a curtain which was drawn aside for a moment. Substitutions, facilitated by such prearranged presentations, were not uncommon. The husband thus deceived had a right to make a complaint, demand an inquiry, and demand the revocation of the contract. As a rule, he preferred to solve the difficulty by treating the woman so ill that he drove her to take the veil. In exceptional cases, and if his suit was greatly desired, the young man was allowed to accomplish the ceremony of the smotr in person; but if he drew back afterwards, it was an affront which carried heavy penalties with it.
After the smotr came the sgovor, or espousals, on which occasion long speeches were made on each side, the contract was drawn up, and the dowry (always, until the sixteenth century, furnished by the bridegroom) sometimes immediately paid over, in fulfilment of the proverb, 'The money on the table, the young girl behind the table.' But the betrothed bride was never present. It was not till after the signatures had been exchanged that one of her female relatives brought the bridegroom a few trifling gifts from her.
The marriage itself was attended by very complicated rites, symbolizing the entrance into a new life, and very closely reproducing those customary on the accession of a Prince. They were presided over by two personages—one called tyssiatski, a name corresponding with important functions under the appanage system and the viétchié—a sort of chiliarch, appointed to command the crowd of groomsmen and bridesmaids; the other, the iassiélnik (equerry), whose duty was to protect the ceremony and all who took part in it from evil spells of every kind; for such occasions were supposed to be particularly auspicious for evil spirits and sorcerers.
The evening before the wedding the guests gathered in the bridegroom's house, where he received their congratulations, gave them a banquet, and sent his bride, who was still invisible, more or less splendid presents—a casket with rings and cosmetics and dainties, and a symbolic whip. At the same moment the matchmaker was busying herself about preparing the nuptial couch. She began by walking all round the house with a rowan-branch in her hand, to drive away spells. The bridal chamber was generally arranged in a loft, so that, being as far as possible above the ground, it might evoke fewer thoughts of the tomb. It was hung with carpets and marten furs, an essential sign of wealth and comfort; in the four corners four pewter vessels filled with hydromel were set, and the necessary adjuncts of the sleeping-chamber were brought in procession, the pictures of Christ and the Virgin carried first. The bed was generally made on wooden benches set side by side. On these, sheaves of wheat were first laid, the quantity, which always had a meaning, differing according to the rank of the newly-married couple. The wheat was covered with carpets, on which eiderdown coverlets were laid, and close to the bed open barrels full of wheat, rye, barley, and oats were placed.
The next morning there was a second banquet in the same house, for which the korovaï (wedding-cake) was baked, and this time the bride occupied her own place at the head of the table beside the bridegroom. In front of her were three cloths, laid one on the top of the other, and on them a salt-cellar, a small loaf of white bread (kalatch), and a cheese. The bridegroom went to fetch his bride with a great following, korovaï-bearers and taper-bearers—two of them, sometimes, to each taper, some of which weighed as much as ninety-six pounds. A groomsman followed with the ossypalo, a great dish of hops, (typical of joy and plenty), marten furs, gold-embroidered handkerchiefs, and coins, to be distributed among the company. A similar procession formed up behind the bride, who was invisible, shrouded in a thick veil. Two bridesmaids carried two dishes, on which might be seen the bride's head-dress, a goblet filled with a mixture of wine and honey, the use of which will shortly be detailed, and handkerchiefs, also intended for the guests.
The two processions took their way to the young couple's residence, and the banquet was opened by long prayers recited by the pope. According to custom, the guests hardly touched the first course, until the matchmaker, rising, requested the bride's parents' leave to dress her hair. Tapers were lighted, and a strip of silk with a great cross embroidered on each side was stretched between the couple. The matchmaker took off the bride's veil, dipped a comb into the symbolic goblet, and passed it through her hair before covering it with the net and the kika. At this moment, while the bridesmaids fanned the couple with marten-skins, the habit, in the middle classes, was that the betrothed persons should bring their cheeks close to the silk that was being held between them. A mirror was held in front of them, and thus for the first time they could see each other’s features. At that moment, too, one of the wedding-guests approached them, wearing a touloupe with the fur outside, and wished them as many children as there were hairs in the fur.
Then came the distribution of the kerchiefs and other objects on the ossypalo, the exchange of rings before the pope, and the handing to the bridegroom by the bride's father of the emblem of his paternal authority. My readers will have guessed it was a whip! 'I hope I shall never need it,' quoth the bridegroom gallantly. But he stuck it in his belt. Here there was a break in the feasting, and everybody went to church. On the way there was singing and dancing, in spite of the pope's presence, and, under his angry eyes, the skomorokhy delighted the party with their tricks. After the benediction the bride sometimes prostrated herself and touched her husband's boot with her forehead, in sign of submission, while he, with a protecting gesture, sheltered his chosen partner with a corner of his garment. Sometimes, too, the pope held out a cup, at which the couple wetted their lips three times. Then it was cast upon the ground, and each tried to set his or her foot upon it. If the woman proved the most active of the two, it was taken as an omen that she would have the upper hand in the household. And as they left the church there were more symbolic ceremonies and make-believe endeavours to separate the couple, who clung together. Then everybody went back to the wedding-feast. The bride was expected to weep freely, and her companions egged her on, singing sad songs to her. Neither she nor the bridegroom were allowed to touch any of the dishes till, a swan having been served to all the other guests, a roast fowl was set before the newly-married pair.
This was the signal for their retirement, and here, even more clearly than in the details already related, the spirit of local mysticism, in its most coarsely sensual and naively cynical form, was manifested. The symbolic fowl led the way to the nuptial chamber, escorted by the taper-bearers, the korovaï-bearers, and all the rest of the company. The tapers were thrust into the barrels of corn, the married pair were conducted into the room with much further ceremony, and the guests went back to the feast, while the matchmaker and her assistants helped the young people to undress. When this process began, the wife, in token of humility, had to pull off her husband's boots. In one of them a coin was hidden, and if she pulled this boot off first, it was looked on as a lucky omen. Meanwhile the husband enacted his part by drawing the symbolic whip out of his belt and applying it with the discretion the occasion demanded! The couple were left alone at last, still guarded by an iassiélnik, who went on a protective round outside the house, on foot or horseback, and the feasting continued merrily for an hour. At the end of that time a girl was sent to ask for news of the married pair. If the husband answered through the closed door that he was well, it meant that 'good had been accomplished between them,' and forthwith the guests went back to the loft to carry food to the husband and wife. The fowl constituted the chief portion of this ritual feast, but other dishes were habitually added to it. There was an exchange of toasts and compliments, then the newly-married folk were put to bed again, and the guests, departing, sat down once more to make merry.
The next morning the ceremonies followed their course. First came the indispensable bath, after which the wife presented her husband's mother with the proofs of her virginity, in the shape of the shift worn on the wedding night, which was carefully preserved. When the Tsar married, it was not till this stage of the business that the Court beheld the new Sovereign, a boïarine of high rank lifting the corner of her veil on the point of an arrow. On this day it was the bride's parents who entertained the wedding guests. But on certain occasions they were exposed to a terrible humiliation. The husband's father might offer them a cup with a hole bored in it, stopped by the pressure of his finger. The finger removed, the contents of the goblet, wine or brandy, escaped, and the audience knew the young wife 'had not been what she should have been. …'
All through these festivities, except to pronounce certain sacramental words, the bride never spoke. Her silence, apart from these, was considered a proof of her being well brought up. Her companions, on the other hand, enjoyed a quite unusual freedom, of which they took liberal advantage, a joyous slackening of the bonds, sometimes degenerating into a sort of madness, which carried the most chaste and modest of creatures into sudden shamelessness and the wildest excess. And after all that, the heavy doors of the terem closed once more on the short snatch of gaiety, and on the fate of the newly-married wife.
The probable nature of that fate may be easily imagined. The Domostroï has no doubt exaggerated the austerity of domestic life, but it must have been very like a cloistered existence, all the same. Several times a day the denizens of every house of any size gathered in the krestovaïa komnata, a room intended as a place of prayer, and covered with ikons from its ceiling to its floor. All the events of life, small or great, involved the invocation of the sacred pictures, with which relics and other similarly precious objects—such as tapers that had been lighted at the celestial fire of Jerusalem, or fragments of a stone on which our Lord had set His foot—were venerated. Even outside the krestovaïa a woman's rosary was never out of her grasp, and in the hands of the recluses of the terem these instruments of supplication, which must needs be of artistic workmanship and blessed at some special centre of devotion, such as the Troïtsa or the monasteries of Solovki or Bielooziéro, were a faithful image of the monotonous and empty lives that slipped through their fingers with their Paters and their Aves.
Everybody, whether of high or humble rank, rose early: with the sun in summer-time, several hours before it in the winter. Even in the sixteenth century, time was still reckoned on the Oriental system, twelve hours in the day and twelve in the night, the equinox being taken to be the normal reckoning, and the first hour of the day corresponding with protecting</noinclude>the seventh, according to our present calculations. The services of the Church were regulated on this system of timing, and all other occupations were based on these. These, in the aristocratic class, beyond that of passing from one orison to another till dinner-time came, were very few. After dinner a siesta was absolutely indispensable. The very tradesmen shut up their shops, and nobody worked but the barbers, who removed overluxuriant tresses on one of the Moscow spaces, known as the 'Square of Lice.' There was a good reason for this period of repose. People ate a great deal; they loaded their stomachs with a huge quantity of food, often of a most indigestible nature, and Dimitri the impostor betrayed his true origin by neglecting this national habit.
For the wife of a rich boïar, the whole of life consisted in praying, eating, and sleeping. Other women had their household duties, but their life was one of toil, of convict labour. The boïarina, born to idleness and stupefied by it, would not even take the trouble to embroider some church ornament, except to lighten her own unbearable ennui. And boredom was not the most dangerous guest in a conjugal existence constituted after the fashion we have noted. How many ill-assorted unions did it create! How great the risk of consequent conflict! Did not the law provide a special penalty for the wife who poisoned her husband? And what a hideous penalty! She was to be buried alive, her head above ground, so that her torture might be long. It sometimes ted many days. Some culprits escaped this fate by taking the veil, but they were forced to live in separate cells and wear chains.
But in most cases the woman, ill-treated, outraged, and not unfrequently forsaken, avenged herself on these unions, in which love was so seldom her portion, through love. Closely watched as she was, she generally succeeded in 'putting her husband under the bench,' as the common expression went. Even the repulsion with which the 'non-Christians,' as all foreigners were called, inspired her, did not prevent her committing adultery with them, if we are to believe the travellers of that time; and the chapter of the Domostroï which forbids the admission of gossips of doubtful reputation into the terem certainly points to the not uncommon infraction of an over-stringent law. Some of these women, who acted as go-betweens, were always to be found about the places frequented by the poorer class—wash-houses, markets, fountains—and they were also to be seen in the most respectable houses, where they generally performed a double duty, and so insured the master's favour. There was no necessity for his concealing his mistresses, for custom permitted him to take them even in his own house, and by force, without incurring any serious reproach.
Amongst the lower orders, laxity of morals as to this matter was extreme, and the neglect of all reserve and decency almost general. Women would issue stark naked from the public bath-houses, and brush against the passers-by in the open street. In the following century, Oléarius recounts a scene he himself witnessed at Novgorod. A great crowd had gathered for some religious ceremony. A woman came out of a tavern where she had got drunk, and, dazed by the open air, fell down in an indecent posture. A drunken peasant saw her, threw himself like a wild beast on the naked form, while the crowd, men, women, and children, gathered, shouting with laughter, round the horrid sight. …
Even when the wife became a mother her miserable fate was hardly bettered. Maternity, for her, was reduced to the material cares and duties of the child's earliest years, and the essential element—affection—was always to be lacking. Respect for parents was, indeed, believed to insure a long and happy life. It was said of a man who spoke evil of the authors of his being, 'The ravens will tear him with their beaks, the eagles will devour him. …' 'A father's curse dries up,' runs another proverb; 'a mother's curse roots up.' But the family law, while it ascribed a much greater authority to the father, 'Look on thy father as on God, and on thy mother as on thyself,' seems to have had its roots in fear. The father thus commended, not to the love, but to the respect of his children, was the august bearer (groznyï) of the whip. It was a law of slavery still, devoid of all moral strength, the fitting counterpart of the political system which it completed, which it partly inspired, and which it made acceptable. And here again, as quoted by Karamzine ('History of Russia,' ix. 156), is the testimony of a Russian moralist who has much to say and conceals nothing as to those family relations, the sad truths concerning which no historian of the epoch can overlook or hide. They have lain like a curse on ten centuries of the past history of a people which thereby, more than by any other cause, has been prevented from entering into earlier and fuller dealings and community of thought with other civilized nations. 'Better it is to have an unsheathed dagger at one's side than an unmarried son in one's house. … Better it is to have a goat in the house than a girl who has grown up; the goat runs about the meadow and will bring home milk, the girl runs about the village'—here there is an untranslatable play on words—'she will bring home her father's shame.'
Under the domestic roof, which so often sheltered a very hell, the one event crowned with an aureole of sincere and august morality was death. In that hour the religious law, which claimed more than any life could render, obtained full and utter satisfaction. To die surrounded by one's family, and in full possession of one's faculties, was accounted a heavenly benediction. So great was the power of faith that the moment did not terrify. It was prepared for long before it came, the last will duly made, and as many good actions as possible introduced into it—alms, the freeing of slaves, the remission of debts, or merely their discharge. The keeping of engagements was accounted a merit, and the whole process was graced with an expressive name, 'to build one's soul' (stroït douchou). It often happened that the dying man desired to put on a monkish habit, and in the Tsar's case this was generally done. If a man who had put on the skhima recovered his health he was obliged to enter a monastery. But even on the brink of eternity, and in spite of the part played by Christian beliefs, pagan traditions still claimed their rights, and the scenic effect produced was instinct with materialism of the grossest sort. There was a funeral banquet, as a prelude to which a preparation of flour or of kacha—perhaps the koutia already known to us—was laid on a window-sill, and there were lamentations in which the profane or profaning spirit ruled: 'Oh, my darling,' the widow would begin, 'why hast thou forsaken me? … Was I not pleasant to thee? … Did I not know how to dress and adorn myself to please thy taste? …' And the rest would cry: 'Why didst thou die? … Hadst thou not thy fill of meat and drink? … Was not thy wife fair? …'
The family was not so much a moral entity as an association of interests. And it was capable of extension in the form of certain communistic groups, of which the principle, on an equally low level of culture, may be found in Iceland, in Servia, and even in America—elementary communities of from ten to fifty persons, living under the same roof, eating at the same table, and recognising the authority of a leader, instead of any bond of relationship. The Servian zadrouga is the most perfect type of this description. These communities, which were mentioned by Nestor and in the Pravda (code) of Jaroslav, continued to exist in Russia down to the seventeenth century, both in the north-west provinces, towards Pskov, and those in the south-west lying near Lithuania. This method of association, while, as its apologists have pointed out, it suppressed the bitterness of economic rivalries, contributed yet more to the paralysis of the spirit of individual enterprise, and certainly did not render family or sexual relations purer or tenderer.
That family life, properly so called, as practised amongst the Muscovites of the sixteenth century, did not admit of the progressive development of certain domestic virtues cannot be affirmed, and this the unfavourable testimony of all contemporary observers notwithstanding. Their observation was limited to the most apparent phenomena, and virtue is a plant which usually flourishes in the shade. One characteristic trait in this respect is the solidarity of feeling so powerful in the numerous class of serving-men and daily guests who surrounded the heads of families of the period. These men, whether slaves or freemen, really constituted a sort of court (dvornia), surrounded by which the boïar loved to play the king, aping the ceremonial and the conferring of places practised in the Grand Ducal household, save that in his bedroom he was apt to replace the spalnik by a postiélnitsa. Badly fed, as a rule, for the turnkey (klioutchnik) did not fail to levy an unconscionable tithe on the food destined for the servants' support; ill-clothed, too, for, as in the Grand Duke's palace, fine liveries and rich clothes were only worn on great occasions, the members of the dvornia frequently sought compensation out of doors. They wandered about the streets, fraternized with vagabonds and beggars, asked charity like them, and helped them, when darkness fell, to strip the passers-by. Reward and punishment alike were bestowed on their master's whim, and their idea of justice was one in which morality had no part. 'The master,' they said, 'will find a fault if he wants to strike.' But they were ready to die for him. When a quarrel arose between two boïars their servants always intervened, and made this intervention a point of honour identical with that observable in the relations between the sloojilyié lioodi and the Sovereign. The boïar, habitually robbed and even betrayed by his servants, just as he often ill-used them, both in their persons and in their dearest interests, felt no scruple as to his own master, whom he deceived and whose property he stole, whenever and however he could, and whom he was quite capable, too, of betraying on occasion, though he would serve him, on some other, with an unchangeable devotion. Ivan the Terrible was to spend his whole life in denouncing and chastising his servants' disloyalty, and yet he always found men to carry out all his undertakings: men with a moral system of their own, in which the sense of right and wrong had no place, and conscience played no part, but in which a single directing instinct asserted itself in prodigies of complete and absolute self-sacrifice—that one principle of 'service.' This imperative absolute, the basis of the social and political organization of the country, triumphantly forced on the docile mind of a robust and patient race, has been the secret of its triumphs and its glories. The whole of Russia's greatness reposes on this foundation.
We have crossed the threshold of the family dwelling; let us now follow the boïar on his walks abroad.
We know already that he never goes out except in a carriage or on horseback. The horse's trappings are as splendid as his master's clothes. The rider and his mount are all of a piece. The saddle is covered with morocco leather or velvet, embroidered with gold; the housings are of the same precious material, the frontlet silver-mounted, and chains and necklets and bells jingle down to the creature's very hoofs. A perfect peal, in fact, giving warning, even from the distance, of the great man's coming, and bidding passers-by get themselves out of the way. The carriage, generally, was a sledge, for even in summer-time wheeled vehicles were despised, being considered much less dignified. This sledge, long and very narrow, usually held only one person. But two servants, as a rule, crouched on it at their master's feet, hidden, like him, in winter-time, by a mass of furs. The horse, another peal of bells, adorned according to the season of the year with feathers or fox and marten tails, was bestridden by the coachman. Thus our boïar fared forth a-visiting, but as he neared the house he proposed to honour with his presence, a question of etiquette arose. Where should he dismount or get out of his sledge? This, if the house to which the visit was paid belonged to a person of the highest rank, must be done at the courtyard gate. At the Kremlin, a few dignitaries had the entrée to the courtyard, but they would have been knouted if they had dared to cross it altogether. Amongst equals, the visitor could drive or ride to the steps of the house. Here he was received, according to circumstances and to the rules of a most scrupulous ceremonial, by the master of the house or some attendant. Once within doors, he began by saluting the holy pictures, crossing himself before them, and then touching the ground with his right hand. Then he proceeded to salute his host, exchanging civilities ruled by the equality or differences of the respective ranks, and ranging from handshakings to genuflections. Everything, down to the tiniest detail, was carefully regulated. The opening remarks, too, followed certain stereotyped formulas, very ceremonious and hypocritically humble. 'I strike my forehead like a slave in the presence of my benefactor! … Pardon the poverty of my intelligence! …' Speaking to a Churchman, it was absolutely necessary to declare one's self 'a great and impious sinner,' and to address him as 'Orthodox doctor' and 'Guardian of the great light.' After these and similar grimaces, refreshments were accepted—these were offered at every hour of the day—and when the guest departed, he began, as when he arrived, by paying his duty to the holy pictures.
Meetings in public places involved less etiquette and constraint, but they were not of common occurrence. The bathing establishments were not much frequented by people of condition, though the habit of taking baths daily, or several times in the week at all events, was shared by every class. But the humblest of gentlemen had his own bania. The moment a Muscovite felt out of sorts he drank a glass of brandy seasoned with pepper or garlic, ate a slice of onion, and took a douche. This was the usual course of treatment for every complaint; none but a few great lords bestowed any confidence—and in their case it was limited—on doctors, who were not numerous in those days, and all of them of foreign origin. The first, who came into the country with Sophia Paleologus, wife of Ivan III., had been sentenced to death because he failed to cure one of his patients. This precedent had not produced an encouraging effect. Yet under Ivan IV. a medical body was to be formed, in which a quartette of Englishmen, Standish, Elmes, Roberts, and Frensham the apothecary, were to compete with Elysius Bomelius the German. But not the whole of them together could have induced any native-born Russian to swallow a pill or accept any similar remedy.
Apart from the bath-houses, social life found its expression in banquets, which occurred pretty frequently and took two forms: they were either private or collective—arranged, in this latter case, by associations, communities, and called brattchiny (brat, brother). Friends and relations feasted among themselves on the great festivals, and important family gatherings, marriages, christenings, and funerals. Court banquets were given on such occasions as a coronation, the installation of a new Metropolitan, or the reception of a foreign Ambassador. The question of the places to be assigned to the guests at these feasts was hugely important, and often gave rise to quarrels, and even to bloody scuffles, although it was the correct thing for a guest to make difficulties about taking his rightful seat at the high table. Two persons generally ate out of the same dish, helping themselves with their fingers, and putting the bones on their plates, which were not intended to serve any other purpose, and were not changed during the meal. The amphitryon distributed the bread and salt, and sent delicate morsels to his guests. The number of the courses passes all imagination, and the duration of these repasts, together with the peculiar taste of most of the dishes and the smell of garlic, onions, and rotten fish that soon filled the air, the excess to which the guests carried their libations, and the disgusting conduct in which most of them indulged, made them unendurable to foreigners. It was not an uncommon thing even for ladies, who took their meals apart from the men, to be carried home unconscious, and when: their hostess sent to inquire for them the next day, the correct answer, their tribute to the hospitable entertainment they had received, was, 'I was so merry yesterday that I do not know how I got home!'
Amongst devout folk, religious observances were strangely mingled with all this carousing. The clergy were invited and set in the place of honour; they paid their score in prayers and ceremonies of various kinds, blessed the food and drink, and burned incense in every room in the house. Sometimes, in imitation of the practice in the monasteries, a monstrance containing 'the host of the Blessed Virgin' was placed upon the table. The meal was stopped now and then, and psalms were sung. Beggars were fed in the antechamber, and some were even made to sit down among the other guests. The seclusion of the terem was broken, and the two sexes met. Players on instruments and jugglers fanned the general merriment, and filthy songs rang on the air.
Amongst the peasants, the feast took the name of 'private beer,' because it presupposed the permission, only occasionally granted, to brew strong drinks, beer, fermented liquors, or hydromel, all of which were monopolies. This authorization could be had for three days, or even for a week, at the great festivals, and when the period closed, the fiscal authorities sealed up the various drinks until the next feast-day came.
The brattchiny were also called ssypnyié (from ssypat, to pour together). In ancient days the shares were probably paid in wheat, poured on to the same heap. These collective banquets, which were presided over by an elected staroste, enjoyed a judicial autonomy, of which some remnants existed down to the seventeenth century. The quarrels between persons present at them were not amenable to the ordinary tribunals. The proverb, 'We will brew no beer with that man,' indicates the nature of these feasts, symbolic of an alliance, an action taken in common. At them peasants and nobles met in perfect equality. But disorderly scenes, scuffles, even murders, were of more frequent occurrence here than at private gatherings. Wherefore pious folk generally avoided them. The drinking was excessive. Vladimir had already written, 'Roussi vésselé piti: nié mojet bez tavo byti' ('The joy of Russia is to drink: she could not do without it'). Joy, tenderness, sympathy, a whole gamut of feeling, found its expression in the bowl. A man got dead drunk to express his friendship for his guest or for a cheery comrade. And he ate, too, till he was ready to burst—pikes' heads dressed with garlic, fish soups with saffron in them, hares' kidneys stewed in milk and ginger, strongly flavoured cookery all of it, highly spiced, that burnt the mouth and necessitated copious libations. The wines most commonly consumed came from Hungary and the Rhine, and are not always easy to recognise under their corrupted names. For Petersemen we must read Peter Simon's wein, a Rhenish vintage imported by Peter Simon, a Dutch merchant. There were French wines, red and white burgundies—amongst which the Romanée vintage no doubt figured under that name of Romaneïa now applied in Russian taverns to corn-brandy and alcohol distilled from fruits, malmsey, alicant, and other Spanish wines. French wines were more especially used by the Church. Brandy was also imported in large quantities, and so were German and French white wine vinegars. The usual drink of the common people was kvass: but Tetaldi the Italian mentions another preparation, frequently used, called tolokno, into the composition of which dry oatmeal entered. But Russian authorities only speak of this as a food.
As to the extent of the habits of intemperance thus revealed, witnesses disagree as much as on every other matter. According to Jenkinson, the English traveller, Russia would have been a drunken country whether Ivan IV. had been sober or not, whereas a memorandum drawn up at Lubeck in 1567, on the occasion of a projected embassy from Germany to Ivan's Court, points quite in the opposite direction. The Ambassadors are charged to keep perfectly sober, because drunkenness is considered the greatest of vices in Muscovy. And the author of this memorandum is a merchant who made a considerable stay in Moscow (Forsten, 'The Baltic Question,' i. 475). Michalon the Lithuanian, certainly an impartial witness, speaks in the same sense, adding, it must be confessed, a statement, thoroughly untrue, that there were no taverns in the country. Towards the close of Ivan IV.'s reign, according to Tetaldi, the sale of spirituous liquors was only allowed in one suburb of Moscow, which is also mentioned by Herberstein, Guagnino, and Olearius, though each, according to his own fashion, maims the word, the etymology of which they derive from nalivat, to pour. The real word was Nalivki, and the spot, which is within the boundaries of the present city, is marked by a Church of the Transfiguration, still called na Nalivkakh (at the Nalivki). The trade in strong drinks seems, in fact, to have been centralized, at a certain moment, in this outlying corner of the ancient capital. At the same time, however, the other towns and villages of the country were completely free in this respect, thanks to the innumerable taverns, the existence of which the fiscal authority favoured in its own interests. In this matter, as in so many others, secular interests were at variance with the principles of a vexatious system of morals, and the result was a series of compromises which have led observers astray.
The Church, as may be imagined, warred against the kabaks; but from a general point of view, if the Church's own witness is to be believed, her commands and anathemas did very little good. The conciliable of the year 1551 has left us a picture of contemporary morals which reveals a condition, in the popular classes, at all events, of extreme profligacy. In the course of certain nocturnal gatherings, which combined the commemoration of a Christian festival with the worship of a heathen tradition—the feast of St. John and the festival of Iarilo, the Slav Priapus—drunkenness favoured every other form of debauchery. Men and women, girls and boys, spent the night in some out of the way spot, dancing, singing, indulging in every kind of excess; and, so we read in the report of this illustrious assembly, 'when dawn came, they ran shouting like mad folk down to the river, where they all bathed together, and when the bell rang for matins they went back to their houses, and there fell down, like dead people, of sheer exhaustion.' The stress laid by the members of this council, and by all Church writers of that time, on the sin of sodomy, is equally significant.
But the Church, as we know, exacted much—too much. She confounded and condemned every form of sociability with a quite excessive severity. Secular art, like pleasure, fell under her interdict. She waged war, too, against the skomorokhy. According to a popular legend, which had a religious basis, the devil took on the form of these wandering jugglers and musicians, so that he might lead honest folk to their perdition. Without this special action on the devil's part, the skomorokhy frequently played the part of burglars—nay, even of highway robbers. Considered outlaws, and treated as such, they moved about, to insure their own safety, in bands numbering from thirty to sixty persons, and sometimes they grew dangerous. They were artists in their way, and the forerunners of the entertainers who form an integral part of every civilized life. They supplied the comic note, and the national theatre is the outcome of their coarse and burlesque performances. They had rivals, too, pursued, like them, by the thunders of the Church—other comedians, these, bear-leaders.
The bear held an important position in the Muscovite life of this epoch. He, too, was an artist after a fashion; and not only had he been taught to perform every kind of trick, but he figured as the chief character, and under divers aspects, in a comic repertory dear to the common herd. Sometimes he was a judge, who took bribes and delivered grotesque sentences; sometimes he was a husband, fooled first of all, and then thrashed. He was the Punch, the Snagarelle, of the country. Now and then, indeed, he was promoted to play some tragic part. Physical exercises and effort of every kind, races on foot or on horseback, archery competitions, tournaments, at which the riders picked up rings on their lance-points, and fights, whether with fists or cudgels, were all much enjoyed. But the most favourite sport of all was a match between the bear and hounds, or other animals, or, above all, between the bear and a man. The man, armed with a spear, strove to strike his terrible adversary in the breast just when the creature stood up on its hind legs. If he missed his aim, he ran the risk of being torn to pieces, and this often occurred. The bear's antagonists were generally selected from amongst the Sovereign's dog-boys; but on the lists of the most famous champions we find such aristocratic names as that of Prince Goundorov, who, in 1628, was rewarded with a piece of blue damask for having killed a bear in single combat and of Feodor Sytine, the son of a boïar, torn to pieces, in the course of a less successful struggle, in 1632.
Affairs of honour were also decided with fists or cudgels. It was not considered necessary to unsheath the sword on such accounts, and the fact suffices to show how rustic and savage this half-complete society still was, how far removed from the elegant forms of life already existing in the West. It was a far cry, indeed, to those French and Italian palaces where the guests already talked, after they had laughed and danced; where the man who could tell a story pleasantly, or 'say the word,' was welcomed; where things of beauty were admired, at all events, if comfort was not generally sought; where love was full of poetry, and there was wit even in hatred; where, if a quarrel arose, men slew each other—after they had taken their leave—nobly, as they had delighted to live. To the models of beauty and grace there blossoming in the flush of a new art summer, the spirit of Russia opposed a very different type, personified by another order of vagabonds, one which enjoyed the favour of the populace and the indulgence of the clergy—the iourodivyié or blajennyié, coarse seers and magicians, who turned the people's credulity to account, and skilfully concealed their real trade under professions of extreme austerity and appearances of miraculous power. They stalked naked in the bitterest cold, they let their neglected tresses float on the breeze, they pretended to need neither food nor clothing, but they went into any shop and took what they wanted without paying for it. To be robbed by them was an earnest of prosperity, a certainty of blessing. They were accounted saints. They had the privilege of telling the truth, even to the Sovereign himself, and we shall see the Terrible, when brought to close quarters with one of them, yield to his bold words. The Church tolerated them, and even admitted them to paradise, and at the splendid funeral of the blajennyi Basil, to whom the masterpiece of Barma and Postnikov on the Kremlin Square is dedicated, the holy man's coffin rested on Ivan's own shoulder.
I have said enough to enable the reader to measure the abyss which parted Europe from this corner of the European world, at the moment when Russia was about to enter into contact with the civilizations lying nearest her, and thus to render the story of this evolution, which I am now about to commence, intelligible.