Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/24

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in dry weather as tinder. According to the findings of a government commission appointed a few years ago to investigate the subject, the losses to the nation by fire amounted to the total destruction of rural Russia once in fifteen years. . The report was the incentive for a vigorous campaign against the thatched roof, with the result that in many villages one can now see the new roofs of wood or metal side by side with the thatched. They are less picturesque but manifestly better, and the change is going on rapidly.

The villages are usually unattractive. Where possible, they are built on low ground, probably as a protection against the cold. The streets and alleys are not paved and in rainy weather they are deep with mud which makes them not only impassable, but owing to the lack of sanitary precautions, a breeding place for disease, especially for typhoid and diphtheria. The death rate is of course appalling. Indeed the question of public health is sadly neglected. In 1909 there was only one doctor for every 11,000 people in the Empire. In the villages of some pretension, one is apt to find a house a little better than the rest that serves as the inn, hard by is the store where necessities are sold and at the end of the village street, or not infrequently back of the individual cottages, is the bathhouse in which the villagers bathe or steam themselves at least once a week.

The building of the village that one would like to find, and rarely does, is the village school, which is so conspicuous in the rural landscape of America and western Europe. Up to the present the Russian seems to have expended his energy in building churches instead of schools. Wherever you go in the land of the Tsars, the existence of an all powerful dominating church is manifest. The sky line of the great cities is dotted with the brightly gilded domes of cathedrals and monasteries, while the country landscape is likewise enriched and enlivened by the presence of the white sobor of the region. Similarly one encounters in the streets of every large city innumerable shrines. The mass of the population still makes the sign of the cross and utters a prayer when passing a church or shrine. In the hut of the peasant as in the palace of the rich, and on every vessel flying the Russian flag, the holy ikon above the little burning lamp with floating wick is always found.

The Russian church ever since the days of Peter the Great has been a state institution. Its clergy are the servants of the state, and it is therefore very closely identified with the government in its administration and policy. The clergy is sharply divided into two groups, the black and the white or grey. The former are monks; they do not marry and from their ranks come the higher clergy. While in the monasteries they occupy themselves with the complexities of the Slavonic liturgy and service, works of charity, painting of ikons, etc., the demand being