The Shadow of the Gloomy East/Chapter 12

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Black Shadows

RUSSIA, the Immense country, the ant-heap of one hundred and forty million human beings, the political chaos where a reactionary Government and a violently protesting revolutionism always marched together, where ignorance and mental haziness, divergent psychologies of different classes formed an excellent hunting-ground for the most obscure and ignorant elements, both in the reactionary and revolutionary camps.

The procedure In the two camps differed as to method, but had the same results.

The reactionaries employed the system of provocation, the revolutionaries that of destroying the foundations of the State by awaking the passions of the Russian mob. The results were the same: contempt of law and complete demoralisation of the nation.

On a background thus prepared were thrown such terribly dark shadows as Pobedonoscev, Kurlov; and appeared such living characters of the Middle Ages as Grishka Rasputin, the Bishop Pimen, the monk Heliodor. These were of the reactionary camp. The other side could produce such figures as Azev, Maria Spiridonova, Borys Savinkov, Kerensky, Malinovsky, and others.

The famous revolutionary publicist, Burtsev, made secret investigations and inquiries into the internal conditions of the revolutionary parties, and published in the French and Russian press a series of articles proving that these parties were rotten to the core, infested by agents of the Government, who, under various pretences, acted as spies, as informers, and succeeded in disorganising and demoralising the ranks.

I mentioned already the ex-Oberprocurator of the Holy Synod, Constantin Pobedonoscev. He was the dark and evil genius of Russia, the man who led the bureaucratic thought of the Government on the path of the most extreme repression for the purpose of keeping the nation perpetually in intellectual darkness and humility under the triple yoke of the Tsar, the Church, and officialdom.

Pobedonoscev crushed many a budding flower of healthy, enlightened political thoughts and led many of the most distinguished men to ruin. It was he who issued the decree of the Synod expelling Tolstoy from the Orthodox Church, and compelled several of the greatest men of science to leave their mother country.

He fully deserved the name "Grand Inquisitor."

The Metropolitans, the Bishops and Priors trembled before the man, who succeeded in making the Orthodox Church an annex of the secret police, destroying its Influence, and rousing the wrath of the people against the clergy.

Beside this Inquisitor stands the appalling figure of General Kurlov.

As chief of the gendarmerie and vice-Minister of the Interior, General Kurlov was the head of the secret political police, the "Okhrana."

The corruption of members of revolutionary parties, and their recruiting into the ranks of the agents of the "Okhrana"; the staging of terroristic attempts on those high political personages of more liberal views, the torturing of political prisoners, numerous death sentences, the organising of pogroms of Poles, Letts, Finns, and Jews; the persecution of the national leaders of peoples living within the Russian Empire; spying, suppression of the freedom of the press and of education these are among the deeds of the Chief of Police, General Kurlov.

He was "immortal," as all changes of Government and of political tendencies left him always unaffected. He always remained head of the police, the greatest power in Russia, able to destroy Ministers of State. The chancery of the "Okhrana" had a special department which exercised strict control over the utterances and actions of Ministers and dignitaries, even of the Grand Dukes. The disfavour which befell the family of the well-known poet and President of the Academy of Science, the liberal-minded Grand Duke Constantin, and the distinguished historian, Grand Duke Nicolai Nicolayevich, were the doings of Kurlov and his secret police.

Kurlov conceived the plan of smashing the revolutionary groups and organisations with the help of distinguished members of the party, whom he bribed. He knew how to compel them to hand over to him compromising documents which made them his instrument. The traitor could never escape Kurlov's clutches, and added crime to crime, knowing that sooner or later he would fall into the hands of the Secret Revolutionary Tribunal.

The Director of the Police Department, Lopuchin, tried repeatedly to make Kurlov understand that such a policy was fatal, since it demoralised the whole administrative system, and exposed the police itself to the temptation of accepting bribes from the enemy. He pointed out to him that revelations of the activities of the secret police transpiring into the foreign press would make the worst possible impression on Russia's allies, and have a very prejudicial effect on Russian politics generally.

Lopuchin protested particularly against Kurlov's relations with Azev, who, acting as an agent of the "Okhrana," was at the same time a distinguished and influential member of the Russian and foreign revolutionary organisations. He feared international complications, as Azev's activity extended into the sphere of foreign political affairs. But Lopuchin was dismissed, and soon afterwards there appeared in the French and Russian press sensational revelations, unmasking Azev. The scandal was astounding, but it came too late, for the revolutionary parties were utterly crushed by the arrests due to Azev's informations, still more by the mutual distrust and suspicion engendered by these denunciations.

Just at that time there appeared a new faction which changed the Internal organisation, and several years later came to the surface of the international stage as Bolshevism first and Communism afterwards.

The famous leader of the workmen in the revolutionary period of 1905, the priest Gapon, was also a tool of the secret police; for it was he who led the enthusiastic masses to implore the Tsar to grant a Constitution, and to be massacred before the gates of the Winter Palace in Petrograd by General Trepov's troops.

The priest Gapon, preacher, socialist, and god of the working classes, was Kurlov's agent, and for Judas's silver delivered to death hundreds of defenceless workmen who put their trust in him. The "Okhrana" helped him to escape to Finland, but the Revolutionary Tribunal tracked him to his hiding-place, and the engineer Ruthenberg carried out the sentence and hanged him in a solitary hut in Teryoki.

Side by side with these ghouls of reaction there worked amongst the same people very different men—the revolutionary agents. There were many, but I shall mention only those who were not regarded as such, and were received by those who plotted for the destruction of their own camp, the "powerful" Kurlov himself putting in an appearance from time to time.

There was the old philosopher, anarchist, sceptic and cynic, Solncev, who figured in several Russian novels as a most sympathetic character. He expressed without reserve his extreme radical views; but their exaggeration made him appear a crazy dreamer, and nobody paid attention to his vapourings.

I met Solncev several times at M. B. Glinski's, the editor of the Historical Courier. There he delivered himself of such anarchic opinions, and made such boasts of cynicisms in social and religious questions, that the nicknames "crazy fellow," "Diogenes," seemed to be fully justified.

Great was the astonishment when, in the Revolution of 1917, this "Diogenes" appeared at the head of a well-organised army of anarchists. Under his leadership were taken by storm the Leuchtenberg Palace, the Durnovo Palace, and the palace of the dancer, Krzesinska, and the police and military were helpless against his bands. Then in December 1918 Solncev proclaimed the Bolsheviks as reactionaries and declared war on them. In Moscow detachments of anarchists, equipped with artillery, held the city for two days, but at last were obliged to compromise and to come to terms with the Soviets.

Solncev's real name was Bejchman.

Another unknown apostle of Bolshevism was the rich and highly educated publisher of sociological, historical, and psychological works, Mr. W. Bonch-Bruyevich. The brother of this revolutionary, who is now chief of the Chancery of the Soviet Cabinet, was a General of the General Military Staff, and for a time Commander-in-chief of the Russian army during the first revolutionary Government.

Bonch-Bruyevich was a welcome guest in the best Petersburg society, in circles of higher military officers, and of the best educated classes. He knew all and everybody, he seemed a true gentleman of old family, well educated, amiable. At the same time he was the secret leader of extreme socialist factions, bordering on anarchism.

It was he who during the 1905 revolution sheltered the present dictator of Russia, Trotsky, then Vice-President of the Workmen and Soldiers' Council, and who, remaining invisible, directed the work of Chrustalov Nosario, the President of the Council, pushing him in the direction of Maximalism, and all the time organising the Bolshevik party.

I was told that it often happened in Bonch-Bruyevich's house that the host, smartly dressed, entertained in his luxuriously furnished drawing-room the flower of Russian society; while in his study and library, the unwashed crowd of future dictators, breathing fire and smelling rank, discussed the means of destroying Tsarist, bourgeois, and socialist Russia,