Russian Hopes and Aims
Why the Alliance With Russia in War Should Become an Alliance In Peace.
THE British alliance with Russia meant an alliance with a country which not many years ago was regarded as a natural nemy, but the alliance in the working has roved to be one of the most whole-hearted nd thorough-going that history has known, The Edinburgh Review sizes up this alliance nd what it means to Britain in a very clearut, forceful article by Bernard Pares, exracts from which are quoted as follows:
One of our chief preoccupations must be the feguarding and strengthening of this allince. just as the only hope of the enemy is hat he may succeed in breaking it up. With egard to the Russian people England is not mly very ignorant but also retains a number f the crudest misconceptions. The war is iducating us with amazing rapidity; but we ever so much lee-way to make up, and here is a certain time-limit. We have got ;o be on terms with our subject before the ime comes for making peace. If we succeed n this, the peace of Europe will be secured iy an intelligent understanding in England of he primary interests and aspirations of Rusfor Russia already knows what it is ssential that she should know about England, on the other hand, we are not in time, it is
fnlikely that any satisfactory peace will be iade at all, for Germany will have plenty of pportunities of spoiling it at the birth. For his reason I think it is worth trying to say, as plainly and as shortly as I can, how I Understand the attitude of the Russian people toward the war, and what in Russia is hoped or expected of it.
To start with—this war is national in Russia because it is a war against the German; 1 say, against the German, because the German is all over the interior of Russia, as well as on the western frontier, blocking the contact which Russia seeks with Western Europe. And we must not forget that this is the Prussian side of Germany, and that the actual frontier is the most Prussian part of Prussia; for East Prussia is the very nest of Junkertum, of militarism, of class aloofness, of racial domination. The only thing that is quite like it is the German domination in the Baltic provinces, which are a part of Russia itself. It is not the genial farmer or industrious trader of Baden or Westphalia; it is the very cream of Prussian swagger and brutality that sets the tone for the whole outlook of the Russian people on Germany as a State. Indeed, it is the complete triumph.of Prussianness over Germanity that we have witnessed in the present war.
The German is well known to the Russian people; he meets them at every turn, and always as a kind of deputy master. He is the small trader, the petty official in charge, the und/1 -steward of the estate, the foreman or manager, the senior clerk, the head of the chancellery, the chief constable, the big capitalist, the Governor or Deputy-Governor, the Minister, or the powerful courtier. It has even happened during the war that the Germans on occupying Polish towns have re-installed as German officials, Germans who had served in the same towns as Russian officials. Incidentally the German administrator in Russia has often taken no pains to conceal his ' contempt of those whom he rules. Every where the German has stood between th State and the people, between Russia and her ' self.
Nowhere has this been clearer than in wha is specially called “politics." The aim of th Germans in Russia was that Russia shoul never be allowed to find a voice of her owr As courtiers and as executors of orders the; had a hold on the administration of the Em pire which would necessarily be endangereby any national assembly. In Russia th cause of patriotism and the cause of nationa representation go hand in hand, and almos the only enemy of either is the German inter loper. One of the chief protests against th institution of the Duma was written by Baltic German (Herr Schwanebach) in Ger man, and was sent by him to the German Em peror. According to the reactionaries of Rus sia, the one prop of autocracy in Europe is th Emperor William, and he is not likely tunderdo the part. The same reason helps explain why the Duma, though it has nin parties and has varied very much in composi tion, has nearly always succeeded in main taining a certain solidarity.
But, with the position of the Duma itsel unfixed, all sorts of major questions whicl ought almost to have settled themselves wen treated as controversial and as involving con flicts of principle. As time went on, th« opinion of the majority of the Duma on mos of these questions became more or less clearl: defined, but it could not express itself in legis lation; even a unanimous Duma could no necessarily settle anything. And often the ex pression of public opinion only led to the op posite of what the public wanted. The anti Duma section of Ministers fought the Dumi on principle; but there was no “heroism o re-action," no hard and fast reactionary polie: —it was no more than a flow of cross-currents
Meanwhile the rudderless country drifted it own way, and its way of drifting was to grov beyond all recognition. In consequence o the rural reform establishing individual ii place of communal property in land, botl country and towns were enriched. For twent: wears previously the development of th« enormous resources of Russia had been rapi« and wholesale, but the rate of developmen was now imensely increased. Nothing call so loudly for efficient administration as th« creation of propertied interests. Such inter ests, big and small, were being created on al sides, and the great influx of foreign capita made it all the more imperative that interna order should be established. In the confusioi the country was at the mercy of any one witl enterprise. Strong in their training an« equipment and in their ties with the authori ties, the Germans made haste to secure all th« strategic points of the new Russia. A grea country cannot be governed like a farm through household officials or chance advisers and it cannot be left without any directioi at all. At the time when the Duma was creat ed the leaders of trade and industry federate« themselves into a General Council, and the de liberations of this Council, which were ver: practical, came to have more and more im portance. Moscow, the home of obscurantisn in trade policy, became cautiously progressive Petrograd, Warsaw, and South Russia neede« no conversion. But all this movement onl: increased the number of questions that clam ored for settlement; and the first of them al was a national direction of the nation’s eco nomic policy.
Another profoundly national instinct de manded a quite new foreign policy. In hi; well-known book on the far East, Prine« Ukhtomsky practically says to the younj Russian, “Forget about Europe and eonsti tutions: go to Siberia and rule Asia." Mr Stolypin, in a talk with me, once complained that the young Russian did not wish to go and serve in Siberia. Prince Ukhtomsky said more: “The ideas for which I have stood are dead and buried.” The hopes of the Russian nation took a quite different direction; it sought contact with Europe, and it interested itself before all things in the fortunes of its kinsmen and co-religionists of the Balkans. It is to Germany that Russians ascribe the impulse that sent Russia wandering afield to Manchuria and Corea, presumably because Germany herself wanted a free hand in the Balkans. It was the growth of the population and the enormous potential economic strength of Russia that frightened Germany, and made her hurry to secure her own antinational settlement of Balkan conditions.
Meanwhile England was still obsessed with the belief that Russia threatened Constantinople and British communications with India. Yet Baron Marschall von Bieberstein was then doing what Russia had never attempted, and England was being asked to provide the money for a Bagdad railway which wa$ to remain under German control. Russian writers and public men were more clearheaded than ourselves. They saw their ideal in the Balkans, their enemy in Germany, their friend in England. What they wanted to do was not to enslave the Balkans but to strengthen by Russian help and protection the smaller Slavonic nationalities in their struggle against economic, cultural and political absorption by Germany and by her junior partner Austria. In framing this policy the Russians were following the direction of their national strength, for the population and economic forces of Russia have long been rapidly gravitating southwards. They even dreamed of the liberation of the Slavs of Austria, who amount to three-fifths of the population of that Empire. Finally the Russians hoped to close their long duel with the Turk by driving him from Europe, and to hold in Constantinople the capital of their Church and the natural outlet of their Empire to Western Europe.
All this policy rests on live facts, and is, therefore, simple and convincing. The policy Is admirably expounded in a remarkable essay, “A Great Russia,” by Professor Peter Struv, a very original thinker on political problems. Other leading public men of Russia had come to the same conclusion. It was one of the ties that united nearly all the Duma men, Conservative or Liberal. It united them against Germany, and it united them in favor of England. This policy also demanded a more liberal settlement of the Polish question; for how could the other Slavs be convinced of the good intentions of Russia while there was this open sore within the Russian Empire? Thus the Poles joined with the Russians in the new Slavonic movement of Liberal Imperialism. But this again meant enmity to Germany; for the natural outcome of the Liberal Imperialist policy would be the reunion of all Poland; whereas the friendship between reactionary Russia and reactionary Prussia had been grounded on the partition of Poland, and -was maintained by the common policy that Poland should rise no more. There were a number of New Slavonic Congresses in Petrograd, in Sofia, in Prague, which Germany and Austria roughly interrupted by the annexation of Slavonic Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia, then still suffering from the Japanese War, let the mailed fist decide; but war with Germany became inevitable.
These were the conditions that made natural and necessary in Russia a broad national understanding with England. At every point England came into the programme. England was the model in constitutionalism; England was the alternative ally in the economic sphere; England was the friend of small States and the champion of national rights; England upheld the standard of Liberal Imperialism. All these things, and not least the by no means accidental similarity between the two Churches, had to be borne in mind by any Englishman working for the friendship of Russia. The friendship had to be between the two nations, and not merely between sections of them; and what two nations had a broader basis for such a friendship ? In 1907 the two Governments signed an agreement as to Persia. In 1908 was founded the semi-official Russo-British Chamber of Commerce. In 1909 Great Britain gave strong support to Russian diplomacy in the Bosnian crisis. In the same year the leaders of six Russian parties were entertained in England; and in 1912 a number of representative Englishmen were given an historic welcome in Russia. Meanwhile there was a constant and deepening stream of communications of all kinds. English books on Russia began to reach a much higher level.
The wonderful outburst of enthusiasm at the beginning of the was was founded on all that had gone before. It could not have been otherwise. All the things that Russia most wished for were closely linked together, and here was the promise, as it seemed, ox the simultaneous satisfaction of all thèse aspirations. No wonder this was for Russia a religious war; it was a war of thanksgiying, and the Russian people, humble and sincere, were ready for all sacrifices with such ends in sight. This deep satisfaction, this simple harmony of all that was herself, of all her dearest instincts, came like a wonder. It was the greatest thing which the war gave to Russia. It reincarnated, in the person of the reigning Emperor, the sovereign majesty of Russia, the idea of that traditional and intimate unity, seldom realized but always cherished, that bound the whole rich and varied world of Russia to the sovereign leader of the people.
The war of itself, by the simple force of facts, brought within reach of fulfilment all these hopes. The same enemy was the enemy of everything. At the bottom of Germany’s attitude toward Russia lies a deep conti-adiction, the hopelessness of uniting the desire to hurt with the desire to exploit, the hopelessness of a complete peaceful domination. These things were reflected by every phase of the war. They explain why crushing blows of artillery were almost immediately followed by suggestions of peace from the apparent victor. The fundamental fact has remained throughout stronger and moi’e fateful than any of the phases of the war; and the fundamental fact is this, that by beginning the war Germany at one blow wrecked all her long work of internal domination in Russia, smashed all her own machinery, and was left only with the hope of being able to pick up after the war the fragments of wreckage and turning them once more into an efficient instrument for the policy which she had so foolishly abandoned. The haste and headiness of the German Emperor had spoilt Russia for Germany.
The first economic demand of Russia is emancipation from German economic domination. The second is a full and free initiative within Russia for the development of her own economic resources. Russia has grown bigger and richer. Moscow is full of business and life. As already pointed out, the economic flow of Russian energy and population is southward towards the Balkans. The conquest of Eastern Galicia was the conquest of a longlost Russian population, and it was the work of their close kinsmen, the Little Russians of the army of Kiev. No wonder the great Russian military success was here; no wonder the conquerors and conquered lived together in fraternity; and no wonder, when heavy artillery upset for a time the course of history, a large number of the inhabitants came away with the retreating Russian army. Again the settlement of the destiny of Constantinople is one of the oldest aspirations of Russian history, but it is also a first need of the new economic Russia. When the Straits are open there will be a free sea road to free and industrial England.
On the other hand, Germany has done everything to organize Austria into a German-controlled economic unit for blocking the economic progress of Russia, and for advancing German domination over the Slavs of the Balkans. The question of the division of spoils of war has raised in Germany the cry for economic union between Germany and Austria. For Russia the legitimate direction of advance, economic and cultural, is the Balkans; and the maintenance of independent Slav States in the Balkans is the link of common interest and sentiment between Russia and England. Both countries are concerned to prevent after the war the systematic economic penetration of the Turkish Empire by Austria-Germany, and for both the independent Balkan States will be an economic as well as a military rampart.
A further question raised by this war, from its very beginning, is the continued existence of the Austrian State, of whose population three-fifths consist of Slavs crushed under German domination. While Austria was an independent State this question did not arise; it only arose when Austria became the humble instrument of Prussian ambitions. This question has to be answered before there can be any talk of having fought the war “to the end.” The liberation of non-German peoples from German control is the only practical solution to the problem of destroying German militarism. The Austrian Slav anticipated this solution where possible by passing over in large bodies to the side of their liberators— an operation attended with great danger, but the only way open to them of putting on record their national aspirations. The answer of the Germans has been to reduce the Slavonic population of Germany and Austria by every means in their power. The Croats have been left to die of epidemics, untended, in concentration camps. The Poles are fed on half rations. The Serbians have been systematically wiped out. After Austria’s invasion of Serbia, there can be no talk of re-establishing the old artificial frontier, which never had any racial significance. There can now be no Serbia but a Greater Serbia, beginning from Croatia, that is from the heart of the artificial empire of Austria. Austrian Germans, when interrogated at the front, freely express their desire to be quit of the Slavs and join their brethren in Germany, which in the long run no one can prevent them from doing. What we must prevent is the continued existence of a Germany that controls all the forces and population of a mainly Slavonic Austria. It goes without saying that from Germany itself must be torn the Slavonic provinces of Poland which are necessary to the reconstitution of polish unity, promised from the Russian throne and only defensible in the future under the aegis of the Russian Empire and army. To take from Prussia that which is not hers, to leave to Germany that which is German, to destroy the fictitious and Germanized unit of Austria — these are the aspirations of the Russian who wishes to see his Slavonic brothers independent from and guaranteed against German domina-
On every issue which I have mentioned it is in the nature of things that the English alliance in war should become an English alliance in peace. To start with, we shall be joint guarantors of the peace which is to be made. But we are much more than that. English influence, which is of a very different kind and very differently exercised, is the wished-for substitute for German influence in Russia. England, without interference in the internal affairs of her ally and friend, will continue to be, as she has been in the past, a model for public effort, initiative, and progress in Russia, where she is as much the kinswoman of the truest conservative instincts as she is the pattern of the best Russian Liberalism. Germany did not understand Russia, and understands less than ever. We did not know Russia, but we are learning and we can understand her.
The gap left in the economic life of Russia by the withdrawal of so many Germans offers a unique opportunity to Englishmen. The pity is that we have made hardly any preparation for filling it, and that we are in danger of seeing an unregulated and confused crush of purely personal interests, directed by dubious middle-men and trampling their narrow path through this fine field of economic and political promise. The common economic interests of the Allies will continue after the war; and on the Russian side their importance has been so well appreciated that something in the nature of a standing Imperial Commission is being planned to deal with them. It is sincerely to be hoped that we, on our side, shall be no less far-sighted and no less alive to the issues involved. If we take it that the Germans are to be excluded for our personal profit and that we are free to do as they have done, only with less knowledge and efficiency, we shall make the crudest of mistakes.
The war has had other effects of a more general kind on Anglo-Russian relations. The spirit of England at her best has become a daily study of the keenest interest to our comrades in arms; we have, like our Allies, been on trial, through our army, our navy, our warfactories, above all for our character; but though every one of our deficiencies necessarily affected our Allies as well as ourselves, we have very greatly gained in the good opinion of Russians by the severe test through which we have passed. It is the whole-heartedness and the sincerity of our co-operation that have stood out above all faults of detail. Besides this, the personal association in war work of so many British officers with the Russian forces, and the presence of the admirably organized Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd. have given Russia a real insight into our English character and methods, such as could hardly have been gained without this war.