The Russian Revolution

The controller, as he is called on the Siberian railroad, was passing

through the cars to see that every passenger had a ticket. He did not

notice the mooshik, which is what the Russian peasant is called in

his own language, hiding under one of the car seats with a large bundle

in front of him; or if he saw him, he passed on without seeming to have

done so.

The mooshik had given the brakeman a small sum o
money, about fifty

cents in our currency, to let him hide there whenever the controller

came around, and in this way ride from Petrograd, or Petersburg as the

Bolsheviki renamed it after the revolution, to Vladivostok, a distance

of about four thousand miles.

Now this mooshik did not need to go to Vladivostok; but his Russian

nature made him go, go somewhere, it made little difference where. He

had been the year before to Jerusalem, but this was for religious

reasons, and now he must go again for no reason except that from within

came the impulse to travel, an impulse too strong to be denied. The

Russian government did not attempt to discourage the people from

traveling, but actually made it easier by fixing fares for long

distances at very small amounts. This traveler did not have even that

small amount, but he found it easy with a smaller one to bribe his way

in Russia.

There is a society in Russia, whose members pledge themselves never to

remain more than three days in any one place; and it is said that

wealthy Russians, after their children have grown up, will often divide

their property and with staff in hand spend the remainder of their

lives in traveling from one holy place to another.

A dream, a vision, leads the wealthy man to do this, and perhaps this

is true also of the mooshik; but it is as likely that he goes because

of the reality, the real people, the real village, the real home that

he leaves behind. He is uneducated, for only seven out of every hundred

can read and write in Russia. He lives in a shed as filthy and bad

smelling as a pig-pen, or rather he starves there, starves both for

food and for comfort. Black bread, potatoes, and sometimes cabbage,

make up his "balanced diet." He cannot afford money for meat, eggs,

milk, butter, sugar, or any of the many other ordinary foods of the

American home, nor for the light of lamp or candle.

It is not strange that such mooshiki constantly move on and have no

love for their native place, and have never established an "Old Home

Day." It is not so strange that their former Tsar, Peter the Great,

said, "One can treat other European people as human beings, but I have

to do with cattle." Are they not treated like cattle?

But it is strange that a Russian writer can say of these people, and

say it with truth, "A Russian may steal and drink and cheat until it is

almost impossible to live with him; and yet, in spite of it all, you

feel a charm in him that draws you to him, and that there is something

more in him, some good or promise of good, that raises him above the

level of all other races you have ever met." It is strange that he is

so religious, so pitying of others, and so critical of himself; that he

has so many noble visions and dreams for which he is ready and willing

to die.

Uneducated, with little or no respect for truth or honesty in their own

dealings, with no experience in government, having always been robbed

by the aristocracy, and now eager and willing in turn to rob them, but

with dreams of a society of men where all crime and hardship and

unnecessary suffering are abolished, where there are no grafters, no

self-seekers, no wrong-doers, no conflict, no robbery, no war--these

Russian mooshiki, workmen, soldiers, and sailors, as a result of a

revolution, found themselves attempting to govern a nation nearly twice

as large in population as the United States. There are indeed two

problems before the world, to make the world safe for democracy, and to

make democracy safe for the world.

History tells the story of many revolutions. The story of the American

Revolution, which was an uprising of the American colonies against the

mother country, and that of the French Revolution, in which the

laborers and peasants and some others rose against the extravagant and

autocratic rulers of France, are well known to Americans.

When the real character and aims of the German autocracy were made

plain to the world, all free people hoped for and expected the World

War to end in a revolution of the German people. But the mass of the

German people are kept ignorant of what the rest of the world feels and

thinks about them, and have so long been trained to unquestioning

obedience that a German revolution can come, if ever, only after some

unexpected and appalling German defeat.

It has been said that if, at the time the Russian revolution broke out,

a few regiments of trained veteran soldiers had been in Petrograd, the

revolution would have been put down by these soldiers, to whom

obedience to commands of superiors had become second nature. Those on

guard in the city were newly-formed regiments recently trained and

taken into the service.

The Russian revolution of March 9-13, 1917, overthrew Tsar Nicholas and

the Romanoff dynasty. The Tsar has since been shot, and his son and

heir has died--from exposure, it was reported. When Tsar Nicholas

succeeded his father on the throne of Russia, the Russian people

rejoiced and felt certain better days were at hand, and that they

should love and loyally support the new Tsar. He had his opportunity

and he threw it aside. Instead of granting larger liberty and a greater

part in the government to the common people when they petitioned for

it, he replied, "Let it be known that I shall guard the autocracy as

firmly as did my father." His father was as autocratic as the German


Tsar Nicholas was weak and fickle. He made promises when in trouble and

refused to keep his promises when trouble seemed avoided. The Russian

people were much disappointed in him, and every year their

disappointment grew. Some dreadful massacres of workers at Jaroslav, of

peasants in Kharkov, and of miners on the Lena changed their

disappointment to hatred.

As the Tsar grew older he drew away from touch with the people, and

lived in his palaces, leaving affairs of state to his ministers who

were chosen from a small and selfish clique. They brought on the war

with Japan, and its failure was due to them. When Russia was defeated,

the people were on the brink of a revolution; but the Tsar promised

them a constitution, and trouble was put off for a while. When the

people were quiet again, he broke his word and did not give them a

constitution. Instead, in every way possible, he lessened the power

and freedom of the people, and took revenge upon those who had caused

the trouble by having them arrested and exiled, or executed.

He was very much under the influence of his wife. She was even weaker

in many ways than he was and seemed to be in the power of an ignorant

and wicked peasant who claimed to be a monk and was called Rasputin,

the Black Monk. His influence over the weak Tsar and the weaker Tsarina

so angered and disgusted some of the young Russian leaders that finally

they had him secretly put to death--but not until he had helped to set

every one against Tsar Nicholas and his wife.

For a while after the World War broke out, matters seemed to be going

better. The people wanted the influence of Germany destroyed, and they

expected the Russian army would soon be in Berlin. But when defeat and

disaster overwhelmed the armies through the treachery of government

officials, the people began to turn and to condemn Rasputin, the

Tsarina, and the Tsar. It is said that Rasputin had one of his friends

serving as physician to the Tsar and that he kept Nicholas drugged. It

hardly seems possible that this can be true, but at any rate, the Tsar

seemed to show no sense in his dealing with the situation. Instead of

appointing better ministers, he appointed worse ones, suggested by

Rasputin. Every one became disgusted and felt that only a revolution

would save Russia. If it had not come from the people, it would have

come from the nobles. It was looked forward to by all, but not until

after the war.

There was suffering everywhere in the capital, Petrograd. Living was

very high. It was difficult to get enough to eat or to get carried from

place to place. Steam trains and trolleys were few and irregular.

Though there was plenty of food in Russia, the railroads were in such

bad shape that it did not reach the capital. But the Russians were

fighting Germany, and no one expected or seemed to desire a revolution

until after the war. When it did come, it was not planned, but seemed

to come as if by accident.

Trouble began in the factory districts, in connection with bread riots.

Stones were thrown, and some damage was done to property. Then crowds

gathered and marched up and down the streets crying for bread, singing

revolutionary songs, and carrying red flags.

The police were not able to handle the situation alone, and the

soldiers were called upon. These were Cossacks and recently trained.

There was bad feeling between the police and the Cossacks, and so the

Cossacks were inclined to listen to the people and to become friendly

with them.

On Sunday, March 11, the factory hands planned to make a great

demonstration. The Tsar, learning of it, ordered notices to be posted

warning the people that if they gathered, the soldiers were ordered to

fire upon them. A few people did gather, and they were fired upon by

machine guns and several were killed. The next morning, the officers

who had ordered the soldiers to fire upon the people were killed by

their own men. Then notices were posted by the government saying that

unless the rioters went to work, they would immediately be sent to the


Other regiments revolted, and there was a battle between these and the

few who remained loyal to the government. It was not a serious battle;

but some were killed and the loyal regiments were defeated. Then

soldiers and people ran through the streets crying, "Down with the


The Tsar was at the front. Had he been in Petrograd, he might have

saved the government by making some new promises; but, as it was, it

soon fell.

As soon as the government was overthrown and the Tsar taken prisoner,

those who had long sought for a revolution and had been forced to flee

from Russia, came rushing back from Switzerland, Greece, France, and

the United States. They were the real leaders after they arrived.

An American who was in Petrograd at the time gives the following

account of the revolution:

Their first demand was that all prison doors should be opened

and that the oppressed the world over should be freed.

The revolution was picturesque and full of color. Nearly every

morning one could see regiment after regiment, soldiers,

Cossacks, and sailors, with their regimental colors, and bands,

and revolutionary flags, marching to the Duma to take the new

oath of allegiance. They were cheered; they were blessed;

handkerchiefs were waved; hats were raised, as marks of

appreciation and gratitude to these men, without whose help

there would have been no revolution. The enthusiasm became so

contagious that men and women, young and old, high and low, fell

in alongside, or behind, joined in the singing of the

Marseillaise, and walked to the Duma to take the oath of

allegiance, and having taken it, they felt as purified as if

they had partaken of the communion.

Another picturesque sight was the army trucks filled with armed

soldiers, red handkerchiefs tied to their bayonets, dashing up

and down the streets, ostensibly for the purpose of protecting

the citizens, but really for the mere joy of riding about and

being cheered. One of these trucks stands out vividly in my

mind: it contained about twenty soldiers, having in their midst

a beautiful young woman with a red banner, and a young hoodlum

astride the engine.

No one knows, at the end of the fourth year of the World War, what the

result of the Russian revolution will be. It has so far left Russia a

prey to Germany, but Germany is showing such criminal greed and

unfairness that she may find her easily gained plunder will be her

destruction, like the drowning robber with his pockets filled with


The Russian mooshik has a motto, or rather a philosophy, which is

expressed by the word "nitchevo." This word has several meanings, one

of which is "nothing." Just what the mooshik has in mind when he

says "nitchevo" is illustrated by the following story.

When Bismarck was Prussian ambassador at the court of Tsar Alexander

II, he was invited by the Tsar to take part in a great hunt, a dozen or

more miles out of the capital.

Bismarck started with his own horses and sledge but soon met with a

serious accident, and was obliged to call upon the Russian peasants, or

mooshiki, to help him by providing a horse, sledge, and driver. Soon

a peasant appeared with a very small and raw-boned horse attached to a

sledge that seemed about ready to fall to pieces.

"That looks more like a rat than a horse," growled Bismarck, but he got

into the sledge.

The peasant answered but one word, "Nitchevo."

Soon the horse was flying over the snow at a great rate of speed. There

was no road to be seen and the peasant was heading for the woods. "Look

out!" yelled Bismarck. "You will throw me out!" But the peasant

replied, "Nitchevo."

In a moment they were among the trees and were turning, now this way,

now that, to avoid hitting them. The raw-boned horse had not lessened

his speed in the least. Suddenly there was a crash. The sledge had

skidded and struck a tree. The peasant and his passenger were thrown

out headlong.

Bismarck was a man of fiery temper. When he had picked himself up, he

rushed up to the peasant, who was trying to stop his bleeding nose, and

yelled, "I will kill you." The mooshik did not seem at all frightened

or troubled, and answered simply, "Nitchevo." He drew a piece of rope

from the sledge and began to tie the broken parts together.

"I shall be late at the hunt," yelled the angry Bismarck.

"Nitchevo," replied the peasant.

While the sledge was being repaired, Bismarck noticed a small piece of

iron broken from the runner and lying on the snow. He picked it up and

put it in his pocket.

The mooshik soon had the sledge ready for them, and this time he

reached the hunting lodge with his distinguished passenger without

further accident or delay.

The Tsar and his companions laughed heartily at the story, as related

by Bismarck, and then explained to the Prussian that by nitchevo the

mooshik meant that nothing mattered, that they would get where they

had started for, if they did not let accidents or circumstances turn

them from it.

When Bismarck returned to the capital he had a ring made from the piece

of iron, and on the inside of it he had inscribed the word nitchevo.

The Russian mooshik of to-day is the same in character and belief as

the mooshik that replied "Nitchevo" to Bismarck. To Germany, to the

Kaiser, to the world, the Russians, amid all their sorrows and

troubles, are saying "Nitchevo." They will reach their goal at

length, for they look upon the dangers and delays as nothing.

* * * * *

The Russian word Bolsheviki, used to designate the revolutionary

party which was in power in Russia in 1918, is composed of two words:

bolsh, meaning many; and vik, meaning most. Bolsheviki means the

greatest number, or the common people, as compared with the few, or the

aristocracy. Bolshevik, with the accent on the first syllable, is the

singular and means one of the greatest number. Bolsheviki, with

accents on the second and on the last syllables, is the plural.

Similarly mooshik means a peasant, and mooshiki means peasants.