Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/July 1898/The Question of Wheat: Russia III

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THE QUESTION OF WHEAT.
By WORTHINGTON C. FORD,

LATE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF STATISTICS, TREASURY DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C.

III.—RUSSIA.

RUSSIA is the United States of Europe in its economic aspects. An immense territory, much of which is still unused; a population of exuberant fertility and restless wandering, gradually spreading itself over the land; an agricultural basis for its economy; an experience of slavery that was conclusive on its wastefulness and social evils; and an industrial and commercial exclusiveness that has heretofore made it the one great power of the continent of unknown and unmeasurable resources—these characteristics may be found in this country, the opposite to Russia in political practice and social theory. The simile may be extended. For Russia has been urged forward by two potent ambitions. Panslavism created the vision of a united eastern Europe, with Russia at the head, and with a great Russian port—Constantinople—on the Mediterranean. The desire to be the controlling agency in Asia has led the Government to make heavy sacrifices to further that end, seemingly now to be crowned with success. For Russia commands the north of Asia through her railroad, and is in possession of ports on the Pacific which may give her an important share, if not the most important share, in Asia's commerce. No longer shut off from her outlying and half-closed port and fortress of Vladivostock, she has secured southern outlets and connections implying even greater political than commercial power over the destinies of Asia. From ocean to ocean, across Europe and Asia, and from the arctic to the Mediterranean, this huge unformed empire rests, the arbiter in both continents. Is there no likeness in this to the pan-American ambitions of the United States?

In 1870 the population of Russia in Europe was 65,70,559, or about thirty-five souls to the square mile of territory. If Poland and Finland be included, the total population will be increased to 73,504,592, but the density of population will not be changed, as the dense settlement of Poland is neutralized by the sparse population of Finland. In 1897 the total population had increased to 100,159,141, of which 94,188,750 were assigned to Russia in Europe, and the density of the population had risen to fifty-one to the square mile. The returns of Russia in Asia are naturally imperfect, but the census of 1897 gave 23,052,000 souls, and the density of population about four to the square mile. For the whole empire the density is fifteen souls to the square mile. This low figure is due to Siberia, where only 1.2 marks the population to the square mile, and to central Asia, which gave only 5.6 to the same territory. Poland is the most densely settled (one hundred and ninety-two to the square mile), and Caucasia does not greatly differ from the average for European Russia (53.3 to the square mile). If these figures be compared with the returns of the United States census it will be seen that European Russia has more than twice the density of population of the United States (21.3); that Poland is as thickly settled as New Jersey (193.8), and that New Mexico equals Siberia in sparseness of inhabitants.

The estimates of land under cultivation in European Russia have become more correct of late years, through the intelligent application of statistical methods by the Government. In 1850 it was believed that about eighteen per cent of the area (exclusive of Poland and Finland) was under cultivation, and of this cultivated portion nine acres in every ten were under grain. Accepting these official figures, the area devoted to grain would have been 219,569,000 acres. From 1850 to 1860 the cultivated ground increased by one tenth, and nearly the entire increase was devoted to grain. The social conditions introduced by the emancipation of the serf checked this development after 1860 in the northern and central government of the empire, but stimulated the settlement and cultivation of the more southern provinces—the black-earth region. The progress as a whole was small, for the gain of one region hardly overcame the loss of another, and in 1870 the figures gave an increase of only 1.5 per cent in the area of plowed land over the returns of 1860. After 1870 the rate of progression again rose, and in 1880 nearly ten per cent more land was in cultivation than in 1870. Again accepting the official figures, the area of tilled land was about 540,000,000 acres in 1880.

In that year nearly sixty per cent of this area was in the "blackearth" zone, a vast and rich arable plain, extending across the empire from the southwest corner (Podolia) to the Ural Mountains, and even reappearing in Siberia. This is one of the largest sections of fertile lands on the globe, and its pre-eminence arises from the decomposition through centuries of accumulated steppe grasses, and the shelter afforded by the outlying forests. "It owes its name to a layer of black humus, varying in thickness from, on the average. one foot and a half to five feet. The mold consists chiefly of loam, and in lesser proportion of oily clay mixed with organic matters. It dries up rapidly and becomes pulverized in the process; but it becomes with rapidity impregnated with moisture, and under the action of rain returns to its original condition of a sort of dough as black as coal."[1] The population in this region numbers from sixty-five to seventy-five to the square mile, and is increasing rapidly. In the United States the States producing the largest returns of wheat in 1896 were Minnesota, with a population of 16.4 to the square mile; California, with 7.7; and Kansas, with 17.4. The concentration in the Russian grain region becomes remarkable under such a comparison.

If the returns of cultivated land are defective, the estimates of product are even more open to question. In a report prepared by a Government commission appointed to investigate the condition of wheat in European Russia, exclusive of Poland, the area under winter wheat was given at 6,126,300 acres, and under summer wheat at 20,764,890 acres, or a total of 26,891,190 acres. That was about 1873. In 1892 the wheat acreage of all Russia in Europe, including Poland, was 34,100,835 acres. In 1897 the total area had risen to 36,738,500 acres, of which 24,411,500 were devoted to summer wheat. The gradual extension of territory included in the statistical returns makes comparison from year to year difficult, because the details of each year's aggregate differ. The following table will lack that definiteness which would make it scientifically valuable, yet is sufficiently clear to show the general tendency of wheat culture in Russia since 1872:

Year. Acres. Production. Year. Acres. Production.
1872 28,743,390 157,938,000 1885 172,378,173
1873 157,562,800 1886 156,546,447
1874 249,107,000 1887 269,085,104
1875 145,192,000 1888 286,476,461
1876 154,268,400 1889 172,909,590
1877 246,285,400 1890 206,329,430
1878 293,702,600 1891 163,475,063
1879 166,117,000 1892 34,100,835[2] 234,034,662[2]
1880 158,946,000 1893 360,104,546[2]
1881 28,947,011 256,852,000 1894 353,629,452[2]
1882 232,341,000 1895
1883 212,130,022 1896
1884 258,562,095 1897 36,738,500 340,470,000

From the earliest recorded statistics of exports from Russia, wheat has held an important position. When the repeal of the corn laws was effected in England it was from Russia that the "avalanche" of corn was to come to destroy the English farmer and ruin the English landlord. The critical time, however, passed without any disturbing increase of imports from that direction, and Russia quietly enjoyed an increasing demand for its wheat from many quarters. The crucial test of its ability to meet the requirements of its neighbors came in the period of general failure of crops elsewhere, when a higher price for grain tempted the world to send the products to Europe, and on an equal plane of competition. The Russian crops of wheat were very large in 1870, 1874, 1877, and 1881, but in only two of these cases did the export movement expand in proportion. It must be borne in mind that the ability to export is controlled by the food supply of the whole empire. While some thirty-five governments of Russia produce a constant and at times excessive surplus, there are eight governments which vary between a sufficiency and a short supply, and some seventeen districts which never produce enough for their own consumption. The population of the grain districts is one half greater than the population of the other in insufficiently supplied regions, thus giving a home market of no mean size for the rye which forms the staple food of the people, and for some of the wheat. Whatever is not required to meet the home demand is available for export; but it by no means follows that the grain is exported. At this stage intervenes the imperfect economy of the empire—the want or deficiency in railroad transportation, the need of capital with which to move the crops, and the oppressive measures taken by the money lenders, who slowly ruin the peasant to secure a present advantage. The nearness to markets in part compensates for these obstacles, and the want of a large and steady market at home is more than sufficient to overcome the adverse influences which, standing by themselves, would almost prohibit competing in other markets except in famine years. Hence grain goes out in quantities, and is one of the controlling features in the foreign commerce of the empire, at once the result and a constant stimulus to developing this resource.

As late as 1888 the Minister of Finance deplored the want of proper intelligence and machinery among the farmers to get the benefits of the market open to them. In reciting the disadvantages incident to these conditions he wrote: "Being always well informed and not having mortgage charges to support, the American farmer is in a condition to resist more or less the maneuvers of speculation, and can form an idea as to the kind of grain of which the culture can be increased or diminished. With us the situation is very different; not only are the rates of transportation on our railways much higher than those of America (averaging fifty per cent more), but our farmers are deeply in debt, and are at the mercy of all kinds of intermediary agents whose honesty is not of a very high standard. With regard to this, the singular fact appears that last year, at such an important market as Kharkov, the farmers were not informed as to the prices current of grain; so that oats of the same quality were sold simultaneously at thirty-five cents and seventeen cents and a half the pood of thirty-six pounds. Further, instead of upholding our commerce in cereals with foreign markets, our exporters continue to compromise their reputation. A great number of merchants in London and other seaport markets complained in 1886 that the cargoes of cereals and flax coming from Russia contained an abundance of heterogeneous matter."

Owing to imperfect or expensive transportation, the peasant is not in the best position to obtain the full benefits of markets. "The harvest ended, each man brings his grain to market. Hoping to realize a more remunerative price by carrying his produce to a central or larger market, he makes application to travel. Here the factor steps in. In conjunction or in collusion with the local police, obstacles are thrown in his way week after week. Ten, twenty, or one hundred are in the same predicament. Finally, with the local station or market glutted with the yield of a county, the factor steps in and agrees to take all the grain in sight for about twenty-five per cent below its market value. They have no choice, and thus a crop grown at a cost of twenty-five per cent interest (paid to the factor for advances) frequently pays twenty-five per cent additional after its maturity."[3] Not only does such a system of handling grain cause loss to the farmer through low prices, but even more through the actual destruction of grain. It is estimated that millions of bushels of grain are lost annually on account of the failure of railways to afford transportation facilities or shelter for grain brought to them for transportation.

Nor is the question of transportation the only indication of inchoate economic conditions. The land is, as a rule, subject to a mortgage indebtedness, which takes each year an appreciable part of the produce. The usurer or money lender (in Russia the terms are almost synonymous) calls for his per cent on loans, and this per cent may range from a moderate rate to one that is virtual confiscation. A failure in the crops only throws the peasant deeper into debt, for he must borrow to obtain seed and food; the latter for immediate support, and the former as a venture in the future. Two bad seasons bring ruin, for the means of obtaining further advances have been exhausted, and only as a tenant, bound to the soil as closely as was any serf, can the peasant continue to cultivate the land. As every year does not produce a full crop at remunerative prices, it is rare to find farmers free from debts, with the coming crop already mortgaged to the factor in return for past favors.

Although rye is the great cereal consumed in Russia, wheat is also in demand at home. A short crop or a prohibition of import into a market is reflected in the domestic position of that crop. The mere fact that more than one half of the year's product is exported would explain the sensitiveness of Russia to conditions affecting supply and demand. From 1872 to 1880, when importing countries of Europe were obliged to look outside of that continent for supplies, Russia's yield of wheat did not grow as rapidly as seems to have been warranted. The backward and adverse seasons, following one another in almost unbroken line, discouraged an extension of area under wheat, and directed attention to the coarser and hardier grains more generally consumed throughout the empire.

The year 1880 stands out as one of manifold misfortune and disaster to agricultural Russia. The winter of 1879-'80 was of unusual length and severity, and lasted so far into the spring that the food for cattle was exhausted, and large numbers died of starvation. Storms of hail and rain caused great destruction, and the appearance of beetle and cattle plagues added much to the loss and suffering of the population. Had not the Government intervened, with supplies of grain for food and seed, and with public works undertaken for the relief of the starving, a famine of portentous proportion and permanent results would have been experienced. Want and suffering led to a veritable epidemic of diphtheria, "which carried away almost the whole child population of large villages." It was significant that this economic misfortune led to a social change of some moment. "The landed proprietors of the country (around Odessa) are, almost to a man, bankrupt and ruined, and the real property of the country is speedily passing into the hands of the Jews, who manage to make money from it where others starve. They divide the land into holdings, which they let to the peasants, and make a very handsome income of it."

It is remarkable how regularly the wheat production of Russia has fallen short. Beginning with 1880, already given, the next approach to failure was in 1886, with a crop of 157,000,000 bushels; and again in 1891, when 163,500,000 bushels only were gathered. Every fifth year is thus marked, and it is in these exceptional years that the real strength of the Russian wheat interest is to be measured. The year 1891 stands prominently as the year of famine (année de disette).

In the fall of 1891 Russia took the somewhat unusual step of prohibiting the exports of all kinds of cereals except wheat, and in November the prohibition was extended to wheat. As Germany obtained more than eighty-five per cent of its imported rye and more than half of its imported wheat from Russia, the measure was at once reflected in the prices of grain throughout Europe. The first explanation was that Russia sought to retaliate on Germany for the open hostility of Bismarck to Russian financial operations in Germany; but this explanation was based upon a mere supposition, and one that could not account for the general condition of the wheat market outside of Germany. The true reason came to light slowly, and in spite of the efforts of the Russian Government to conceal the gravity of the situation. It was a true famine from which Russia suffered. Both the spring and winter wheat gave very unsatisfactory returns, and one third of the provinces were appealing to the Government for the means to feed their people. The harrowing descriptions of extreme sufferings, of fearful destruction of men and cattle throughout the stricken regions, and of the comparative impotency of the administration to cope with the emergency, startled the civilized world, and brought aid even from the United States. So great a deficiency in Russia as almost to prohibit exports was aggravated by the very poor returns of grain crops throughout Europe. The price of a pood of wheat at four great markets of Russia was:

1890
Kopecks.
1891.
Kopecks.
1893.
Kopecks.
1893.
Kopecks.
1894
Kopecks.
St Petersburg 96.5 118.4 114.6 99.4 78.9
Riga 94.5 118 118.9 96.0 71.8
Odessa 89.2 107 89.8 71.3 58.5
Saratow 74.2 105.3 106 82.8 28.8

This range of prices is sufficient to warrant the name of famine year to 1891, an experience from which Russia did not recover until 1894, and from which important lessons in administration were drawn.

Scarcely had the full effects of the deficiency of 1891 been realized when a new complication arose in the serious commercial rupture with Germany. A treaty of commerce was in process of negotiation between the two powers. German manufacturers, who enjoyed a large market in Russia, complained that discriminating duties were imposed upon their products on the frontiers, and commercial treaties with other states were imposing obstacles on their operations. Russia assumed that Germany was dependent upon her for cereals, and desired as liberal concessions on grain as were given to any outside power. Germany had determined to yield no point on those duties, pointing out that the successive increases in the German tariffs in 1879, 1885, and 1887 did not hinder the development of Russian exports to Germany, whereas the Russian tariff legislation had produced a distinctly injurious effect on the trade of Germany. For nearly two years the negotiations for an agreement were continued, to be abruptly broken by the announcement on the part of Russia that the maximum tariff would be enforced against Germany after July, 1893. As this meant an increase of fifty per cent in all duties on German goods, Germany retaliated by imposing a corresponding penalty duty on all imports from Russia. In 1891 the dutiable imports into Germany from Russia were 400,000,000 marks, of which 91,000,000 marks were in wheat. In 1879 the duty collected on wheat by Germany was fixed at one mark per one hundred kilos (twenty-four cents). This rate was in 1885 increased to three marks (71.4 cents), and in December, 1887, to five marks ($1.19). Under treaty arrangements the duty on wheat could be reduced to 3.50 marks (83.3 cents), but Russia did not enjoy this concession. In spite of this discrimination the trade in wheat progressed, and would have continued to increase, had not the disaster of 1891 occurred in Russia, and the tariff war followed. The effect on the total movement of wheat from Russia and on the exports to Germany is shown by the following comparison:

Year RUSSIAN EXPORTS. GERMAN IMPORTS.
Total poods. To Germany.
Poods.
Total kilos. From Russia.
Kilos.
1889 190,545,698 14,110,471 516,887,000 301,247,000
1890 182,085,036 10,714,805 617,587,000 301,247,000
1891 176,369,063 17,931,110 905,332,000 515,212,000
1892 81555790 3,255,753 1,296,213,000 257,299,000
1893 156,229,650 2,724,043 703,453,000 21,636,000
1894 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,153,837,000 280,594,000

Fortunately, an agreement between the two countries was reached in March, 1894, but all of a year was required to correct the injury inflicted on this branch of Russian export trade.

Within eight years Russia's wheat interests have thus been subjected to severe tests, and have endured in a remarkable manner. It now becomes necessary to give some attention to the internal economy that makes this elasticity possible. The cost of production is a mere detail when set against the social revolution implied in the change from serfs to peasant farmers.

Any estimate of actual cost of production of wheat in Russia must be based upon so many different conditions as to afford little satisfaction. No two governments of that immense and variegated empire would return the same averages; and to complete a general and acceptable average would defy every known statistical method. Yet the attempt has been made in connection with the competition from the United States, and the result was published with the official recognition of the Minister of Finance. There is little doubt that this comparison deserves to rank with the curious French and English estimates already quoted—estimates which sought to determine an arbitrary limit of cost below which wheat could not and therefore would not be grown in the United States. It will be of interest to make a record of the Russian estimate, if only for future reference and comparison. "A pood, or thirty-six English pounds, of wheat costs the Russian producer fifty-six kopecks, or twenty-eight cents, whereas the same quantity of American wheat costs the producer sixty-six kopecks, or thirty-three cents. The transportation of this cereal from Russia to London costs about nine kopecks per pood, or four cents and a half, whereas the American exporter pays 9.7 kopecks, or 4.85 cents, per pood to transport his grain to the English markets."[4]

In the black-earth region the cost of production, including rent, was said to range from forty-five to sixty kopecks per pood, and even at the higher cost would have yielded a profit to the cultivator if sold at the market price. This made possible a fall of more than one fifth in the commercial value of wheat between 1881 and 1887, without affecting the production in any noticeable degree. In most cases, however, the profit was apparent, and the debt-burdened landowner derived little benefit.

In 1838 the serfs numbered forty-four out of every hundred in the population of Russia in Europe, but at the time of emancipation the proportion was less, and tended to diminish each year. The serfs on private domain, forming about one half of the total number of serfs in the empire, constituted the readiest asset of the proprietor for obtaining loans from the credit establishments of the state. So far was this practice carried, that at the moment of emancipation two thirds of these serfs were found to be so mortgaged. The act of emancipation transformed the serf into a landowner, and through this ownership and the autonomy of his commune he was supposed to be fully emancipated, at once economically and administratively. As compensation was due to the nobles for the land thus given to the freed serf, the state undertook to loan four fifths of the established value of the land, whenever the serf should wish to request that aid. The advances were made on a basis of a period of fortynine years at six per cent, the annual payment of six per cent covering the interest and finally extinguishing the debt. The process of emancipation is thus still short of completion.

Other circumstances had interposed to check the intended operation of this great economic revolution. In 1880 over one fourth of the peasants in the eight governments composing the richest region of the empire, comprising the agricultural zone of the center, were under "temporary obligations," and thus far from perfect freemen. "In the more fertile regions of the black-mold belt, where, owing to the outlets opened by the railroads, the value of land has rapidly increased, the landlords frequently found it to their advantage not to consent to its redemption, so as to retain the compulsory services of the peasants. Now the statute did not give the peasant the right to demand the redemption; this right belonged exclusively to the master, and all that the peasants could do in such a case was to reduce their lots to the legal minimum allowed for that particular locality."[5] To hasten the end, Alexander III made redemption obligatory.

Although nearly forty years have passed since the ukase of emancipation was promulgated, it is still too early to give a definite judgment upon its results. The expectations of its framers have not been attained, in part because of the immensity of the task and diversity of conditions to be met, and in part because the immediate application of the ukase was made not by those who had thought out the scheme, but by others, who were either indifferent or even hostile to the measure. The serf has not generally become an independent landholder, nor has he gained that economic self-reliance that was so ardently desired. He is even less able than before to encounter a bad season, short crops, or a cattle plague, for he has no master who may make good his losses and help him to tide over his difficulties. On the other hand, the peasant has not secured what he believed to be his rights, and is not a little discontented that his dream of full and free possession of the land has not been fulfilled. The many and increasing taxes bring home to him the responsibilities of property, but give him little for meeting the increasing burdens. "Great is the number of peasants who, to-day, pay taxes and dues as heavy as in the time of serfdom, while they have less land, less forest, often less live stock, and less credit than before the emancipation, which, under such crushing conditions, could not rapidly augment the well-being of the people nor improve the culture of the soil. It has frequently enriched wealthy districts, and sometimes appears to have still more impoverished poor ones. Official statistics have ascertained that in many localities the cattle had diminished in number, hand in hand with the lack of cattle goes that of agricultural implements and of manure, so that the peasant's already primitive mode of farming not only has not improved, but has in places actually deteriorated since he is free. The soil has become exhausted, the fields have even sometimes been abandoned, so that in many regions bad crops and dearth have come to be of almost regular occurrence."

The helplessness of the peasant, the importance of food supplies, and the necessity of foreign markets for surplus product have induced the Russian Government to devise an extensive system of state aid, apart from the measures arising out of the emancipation. This policy was initiated in 1888, and offers a most elaborate plan for facilitating the marketing and transportation of grain, without endangering the home supply. It was formerly the practice among rural communities to set aside a certain quantity of grain each year of good return to be held as a store against a deficient crop or actual famine. This salutary system had been allowed to fall into disuse in many governments where the development of agriculture seemed to promise an immunity from want or even from high prices that are inseparable from a really short production. The events of 1891 gave a rude shock to this feeling of confidence, and the Government determined to enforce the old system of storing grain, or to create a fund out of which actual suffering through a partial famine could be relieved. The Minister of the Interior, in calling the attention of the local authorities to this matter, proposed two methods of attaining the end desired: (1) by returning the grain borrowed, where a general store has been maintained, and filling new storehouses; or (2) by substituting a grain tax where the old stores have not been kept up, for a money tax designed to make a fund for the purchase of supplies when needed.

"The Ministers of Finance and of the Interior have solicited the imperial permission for giving the zemstvos the right to collect the land tax from peasants in grain instead of money, and that, furthermore, in order to give the zemstvos means to meet the necessary expenses, a credit should be opened for them in the Government bank at the low rate of three and a half per cent per annum and to the full amount of the sums they were entitled to receive in grains. The loans thus made must be returned to the bank out of the money received from the sale of the grain, or, if necessary, from special taxes, and not later than June 1, 1894."[6]

A second object to be gained through state agency was to relieve the peasant from the necessity of selling his grain as soon as gathered in order to provide the means of continuing the operations of the farm.

Since 1888 liberal loans have been made to farmers on grain stored in warehouses or delivered to the railroads. These advances are not to exceed sixty per cent of the current price for the grain at the nearest market place, and run for six months, or even for one year. A short-time loan, for six weeks or less, may reach eighty per cent of the current price. In every case the rate of interest is at least six per cent, but varies according to the condition of the grain and the nature of the security. Should the borrower default, the grain is sold at public auction by the railroad, which acts as the agent of the Imperial Bank, whence all the loanable capital is derived.

In actual practice the system does not meet with the success anticipated by its framers. Not only is the capital available for advances inadequate, but the ability to loan is given only on grain actually delivered to the railroads or stored in central warehouses on favored routes. For the grain retained in the peasant's hands no provision will apply. The natural result is to stimulate the moving of the grain away from the place of production and, as experience has often proved, away from the market where it may be most needed. To secure the widest application of the loans, the Government entered into arrangements with private banks, supplying them with the capital to advance on grain, and offering them a profit on the venture.

The Government also undertook to facilitate the marketing of grain. The current prices of the leading cereals were published at all railway stations with a view to instruct the peasant of the condition of the market. The railway tariffs were subjected to a severe examination, that there might be no gross discriminations in rates against certain localities, or through differences of distances. The actual freight charged could not at once be reduced to a complete and consistent system; but the power of the Government to control the rates made itself felt wherever an emergency pressed. When Germany excluded the wheat and rye of Russia from her territory, the Russian Government reduced by nearly one third the cost of transporting grain to the Austrian and Roumanian frontiers. This gave a saving of twenty-five dollars a car, or about six cents a bushel, on wheat carried farther than six hundred and sixty-three miles (one thousand versts), and enabled the exporter to sell his grain in markets where he had not found a ready sale because of the cost of transport.

The development of railroads in Russia has been slow, and controlled rather by military than by commercial factors. In 1871 there were 7,750 miles opened to traffic, of which no less than 4,523 miles had been opened between 1868 and 1871. In 1874 the mileage had risen to 10,368, and between that year and 1890 the length of lines in European Russia alone increased to 18,059 miles. Toward the end of 1896 the returns for all Russia gave 25,898 miles open to regular public traffic, of which two thirds were owned and worked by the Governments of Russia and Finland, and nearly 5,600 miles were under construction.

From time to time reports have come of the immense wheat possibilities of Siberia. Growing in definiteness as the land became better known, they yet have not attained to such a degree of accuracy or distinctiveness as to give a basis for testing their truth. As early as 1888 the representative of the United States in Russia reflected some of the glowing accounts. There were "vast bodies" of land in southern Siberia, capable of producing "an unlimited quantity" of all cereals. "Along the banks of the Obi, Yenisei, and Lena, and for hundreds of square miles between them, the land is a garden spot, the soil consisting of a rich, black earth. . . . It is virgin soil, and is as rich as the delta of the Nile. Owing to lack of transportation, the prices of land, grain, meat, and labor are ridiculously low."

In the famine year, when it may be assumed that all available sources of grain were drawn upon, about 9,000,000 bushels of Siberian grain were purchased, and it was stated that more than 6,000,000 bushels more could have been obtained had the means of transporting them existed. The sales in such an exceptional year can not be taken to represent the usual available quantities, and the possibilities of marketing at such distances are yet to be tested.

Thus Russia stands on wheat where the United States stood in the middle of the century. Tier farmers are hampered by lack of transportation, by debts, and by the survivals of a régime of serfs. In Europe, Russian wheat finds a ready market, naturally protected against outside competitors by propinquity or geographical position. But the peasant of Russia will consume more of his product each year, and it is very doubtful if the wheat capabilities can develop to such an extent as to place the country in a position to command her present market. An economic revolution must first be accomplished, and there is evidence of its approach at the present time. It may be checked by the Asiatic ambitions of the Czar, but on its accomplishment depends the future of wheat in that great empire.

 


 
"Pasteur," say Dr. and Mrs. Percy Frankland in their biography of him, "only worked at his ease in silence and meditation; in his vicinity he only tolerated his assistants; the presence of a stranger while he was occupied sufficed to disturb his work. One day, on going to visit Wurtz at the École de Médecine, he found the great chemist surrounded by students, the laboratory resembling a hive full of bees in its bustling activity. 'How,' exclaimed Pasteur, 'can you work in the midst of such commotion?' 'It stimulates my ideas,' replied Wurtz. 'It would effectually banish all mine,' was Pasteur's answer."
  1. Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu. Empire of the Tsars, vol. i, p. 23.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Includes Poland.
  3. Report by United States Consul-General Way, May, 1889.
  4. Based upon a report issued in 1889 by the Russian Ministry of Finance.
  5. Leroy-Beaulieu. The Empire of the Tsars, vo'. i, p. 443.
  6. Consul General Crawford's report, December, 1893.