Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/20

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tudes of life on the Russian plain, of its contact with nature, its aloofness from artificiality, and its call upon the people for suffering and passive resistance.

Though again and again led by autocracy into wars of aggression, the Russians have shown an inaptitude for positive aggressive strategy. They have lacked the punch. Apparently invincible, as Napoleon, Frederick the Great and Charles XII. discovered, when resisting attack, they have so far failed in the offensive. Whether this is due to inferior military organization or to a national characteristic induced by environment, and described by Turgeniev, as a weakness of the will among individuals, is hard to determine. Both factors doubtless play their part. It took over an hour to add an extra coach to the night express on which I was traveling from Moscow to Nijni last July, and then a score of people were without accommodation and had to wait till the following day. And that was at Moscow, the principal railroad center of the country.

Another important fact in Russian development has been the predominance of agriculture over every other occupation. There has not been sufficient seaboard for a great commerce, and as yet, industrial development though fraught with great promise, is for the same reason in its beginnings. Of the 175,000,000 Russians, 125,000,000 are engaged in agriculture. A population of peasants! Indeed one is tempted to say an empire of peasants. The soil of the country as well as the climate varies so greatly that almost anything can be raised in Russia from the furs of the government of Archangel to the teas of the Crimea and the cotton of the Trans-Caucasus. In Russia's report for the Glasgow Exposition some years ago occurs the sentence:

We possess a whole assortment of climates, ranging from that of the Polar regions, which is suitable to fur farming, to the sub-tropical in which may be cultivated for commercial purposes such plants as mandarines, tea and bamboo.

Across the northern portion of the country tundra prevails, but it is not for that reason worthless, for it contains some of the most valuable peat bogs in Europe, second only to those of the central provinces. South of the tundra lies a broad forest belt of pine and birch, with clearings on which flax, rye and oats are grown. Further south still is oak, beech and lime with large clearings for wheat and hemp. Next to this forest zone with its untold wealth in timber is the wide strip of rich vegetable soil which has given to the region the name of the Black Earth Belt. It stretches from the Carpathians to the Urals and even beyond into Asia. The area is covered with a rich deposit of black soil, varying in depth from 12 inches to 12 feet, which rivals the black loam of the Mississippi in its natural fertility, despite the fact that it has produced its crops since the days of Pericles. It awaits only the introduction of more intensive farming and up-to-date machinery to increase its productivity still more.