The Shadow of the Gloomy East/Introduction
AS a Pole I was an alien in Russia, where I lived for many years, and I looked upon that huge country with all the detachment of an unprejudiced foreigner.
I knew Russia from her Western confines right to the Pacific and the Pamir, and I think I understand the psychology of the peoples of that vast, mysterious land, where modern civilisation of the West and the ideology of Mongolian nomads, the asceticism of orthodox Christianity and heathenism exist together in weird confusion to this very day. The Russian intelligentsia, spiritualised and rising to the loftiest idealism, has long ago cut adrift from the people; it could not understand the great mass and contemptuously disdained to notice its qualities, hostile and dangerous to mankind, which nevertheless remained.
Tolstoy has cast upon the ant-heap of the country a new idea, which to his mind defined the pith of his people.
He called the common people "the carriers of God," and considered that all the qualities, the fine as well as the terrible, were the means of searching after God and His truth.
This formula appealed to the minds of the educated classes and inspired a highly poetic view of the common crowd.
When warning voices were raised against this abstract and most unreal idealism, when writers like Rodionov, Kuprin, Gorky, Chehov pointed this out with set purpose or incidentally, their warnings evoked only the indignant ire of dim-sighted dreamers.
Sober reality wrote with a blood-stained hand Its verdict on the visions of the intelligentsia.
I hope that the same severe judge will not pass the same sentence on the Christian civilisation, which has been sapped by materialism, and is passing at present through its twilight of death or new birth, unable to rouse itself with new strength and impulse to loftier ideals. In face of the danger threatening from Russia these should be our strength and stay, for in them lies the only salvation from the peril coming tip from the East, with its passion for evil and showing its true face since the mask—which deceived mankind for so long—is torn off.
My sketches of the "Shadow of the Gloomy East" are an attempt to lay bare before the civilised world the true face of the Russian people, which must be enlightened, converted to Christianity, to European culture, strengthened in true morality, and then, only then, admitted as an equal to the great comity of nations which aims at perfection, spiritual beauty and strength.
Prof. Dr. FERDINAND A. OSSENDOWSKI.