The Shadow of the Gloomy East/Conclusion

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CONCLUSION

 

I HAD no intention of writing on the preceding pages a historical sketch of Russia, whether Tsarist or Soviet. I have recorded simply a number of features of the shady life and psychology of that people which, while remaining behind the curtain of actuality, nevertheless throws a lurid light upon its mind and gives one more cue as to its true character.

I am convinced that civilised mankind will be compelled to go to Russia, not with Trade Missions and sound currency, but with the cross, the learning, and the will, which would constrain men who have lost their reason, their honour, and their country, to work out their salvation. It is a stupendous duty laid on mankind, but there Is no other way. And I think that my sketches on the shadow of the gloomy East will conduce in a certain degree towards the fulfilment of that duty.

By history and nature the Russians are akin to the peoples of the East, whose most sinister and criminal traits they exhibit. The brighter side of the psychology and morals of the Eastern peoples, requiring a greater spiritual elevation and rectitude, is alien to the Russians.

Disregard and ill-treatment of their womenfolk, be it mothers or wives, decline of family morality, political avidity, lack of social cohesion, the gulf between the educated classes and the common people, extremes of democracy in the form of either spiritual idealism or meanest vulgarity, the overgrowth of class hatred, the lust of murder and spoliation, indifference in regard to religious principles or their utter unreality, superstitions, remnants of thirteenth or fourteenth century culture, servility, and social immorality—these are the inverse aspects of the East which has outlived itself.

To-day, when I look back upon the long term of my quest across the most savage and most cultured countries of the Asiatic East, I behold clearly its gloomy shadow cast aslant over the most momentous phenomena of Russian life.

I perceive distinctly the danger threatening Christian civilisation from the East, but not from the real East, which endures in its mystic reverie or its hallowed majesty, defending its culture and independence against the pernicious influences of the new-comers. I perceive the menace of the East, In whose vanguard marches the Russian multitude of Mongolian half-breeds, followed by swarming hosts of utterly despondent Asiatics, burning with hatred, demoralised and revolutionised by Soviet diplomatists, with the bloodstained gold taken from the murdered, broken off the sacred images and crosses, carried away from temples of learning.

In such moments of fear of the East my mind recalls the cynical words of Engelhard, one of the more distinguished Russian publicists, with which he depicted the coming destinies of Russia:

"We are an anarchic, Tartar people, recognising only the superiority of physical strength, of the armed force, of the mailed fist, of the whip! When we refused to pay taxes, the Government gave us spirits, made us drink everywhere, on each step, even in the streets. We paid our taxes by drinking. When we refused to be cultured people, refused to send our children to schools, the pastor denied to baptise, to marry, or to bury us, and the policeman flogged with the lash father and mother for resistance; we refused to give conscripts to the army, whereupon an officer came with a detachment and shot and bayoneted us. Then we became good citizens and patriots: we paid taxes into the Treasury of 'Mother Russia,' we became enthusiasts for education, we went to defend Tsar, Faith, and Fatherland.

"To-day all has collapsed like a house of cards. We are the freest of all the peoples in the world. Now we may ourselves plunder gold, teach the bourgeois to sweep the streets or to scrub the floors, we can battle in the streets of our own cities carolling: 'Let the three of us attack courageously yon man, for victory is good to drink after the stress of the laborious day!'

"We are free, but liberty has brought us an uncommon gift—hunger, a famine the like of which the world has never seen before. We shall devour carrion, treebark, clay, feed on our own brats. Then only will Lenin fall or some other Communist tyrant, and the mob will tear him to pieces in the streets of Moscow, as of yore it tore to pieces Dimitri the Impostor; then we shall pocket the sharpened knife, come out into the streets, into the broad highways, lie hidden in bushes or behind walls and fences, and muttering in our Russian highwayman slang the slogan, 'Kill and go to prison!' we shall cut the throats and rip up the bellies of the passers-by, and we shall exist as long as there will be anything left to be torn to pieces. And then, when there will be nothing more left, we shall fall upon our knees and roar for the whole world to hear us:

"'We are miserable sinners, we have committed terrible crimes! We have killed our father, conscience, and our mother country! Now we lay our guilt open like a foul wound, imploring you, O civilised nations, to come and deliver usI'"