I recently ran across a book published in 1912 entitled ‘Undiscovered Russia’, by Stephen Graham, an English traveler. The quotes by Merezhkovsky are particularly noteworthy. It’s very interesting to read in light of the tidal wave of revolution that was to break upon Russia just after this was written —
Russian life is not known in England. The Slavonian land is not so far away but that the picture might have been visible had it not been for the dust raised between us in these years.
Russia is not a land of bomb-throwers ; is not a land of intolerable tyranny and unhappiness, of a languishing and decaying peasantry, of a corrupt and ugly Church that at least may be said right away in the forefront of this book.
The Russians are an agricultural nation, bred to the soil, illiterate as the savages, and having as yet no ambition to live in the towns. They are strong as giants, simple as children, mystically superstitious by reason of their unexplained mystery. They live as Ruskin wished the English to live, some of them, as he tried to persuade the English to live by his “Fors Clavigera.”
They are obediently religious, seriously respectful to their elders, true to the soil they plough, content with the old implements of culture, not using machinery or machine-made things, but able themselves to fashion out of the pine all that they need.
But they have all the while been doing this, and have never fallen away as the English have. There is no ” back to the land ” problem in Russia, nor will there be for a hundred years.
The Liberal press and the revolutionaries would like to educate the peasantry to give them a vote. They would at the same time place no restraints on Russian manufacture and the freedom of town life, and so once more betray the country to the town and rush into all the errors of Western Europe. Continue reading