in Eastern Europe can, be described in two words: complexity and instability.
This is true not merely of the present but also of the past. Nature
herself is primarily responsible. Eastern Europe is a vast plain stretching
from Germany across Russia to the Ural Mountains. Furthermore, Eastern
Europe is itself only part of a larger whole, because the Urals are
no true barrier and beyond them lie the even vaster plains of Siberia,
which go clear to the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, Eastern Europe is really
a borderland between Europe an4 Asia, and partakes of both continents
in its geography, its climate, and the character of its inhabitants.
For ages it has been the scene of vast racial movements. These endless
plains with their long, navigable rivers invite migration. There countless
tribes and nomad hordes of diverse races have wandered meeting and
mingling their blood. In Eastern Europe race-lines tend to become
blurred, its inhabitants being mostly of mixed stocks. This has, however,
not resulted in a uniform mixture. The land is so vast, the climates
are so varied, and the migrations have come from such different directions,
that the populations of different regions vary widely from one another
in racial make-up, though with a good deal of border-crossing. This
combmation of wide migration and varied local race-mixture has likewise
produced a complex overlapping of languages,
religions, and cultures, while the interplay of all
these factors has resulted in profound instability -- especially in
political matters. States and "empires" have arisen rapidly
-- and as rapidly disappeared. Here and there populations have developed
a national consciousness and have therefore crystallized into "nations."
But even they lack the stability of western nations: their territories
are not separated from their neighbors by natural frontiers, and they
often contain within their political borders elements which have not
been assimilated into the national life. Eastern Europe is thus a
world still in the making, where frontiers are still fluid and where
great political changes may yet take place.
the greater part of this immense area one basic factor has long been
active -- the spread of Alpine blood and Slav speech. For the past
thousand years the Alpine Slavs have been expanding over Eastern 'Europe,
so that they to-day form the common element in the various racial
and national combinations which have taken place. This is the outstanding
point to remember in Eastern Europe's complex history. In previous
chapters we have observed the great outpouring of the round-headed
Alpine Slavs from their Carpathian homeland westward into Germany
and southward through the Danube basin to the Balkans. Let us now
follow this same movement northward and eastward into what is to-day
Poland, Russia, and other east-European regions.
the Slav masses began pouring over Eastern Europe, they found a land
generally level but diversified by climate into wide, treeless prairies,
dense forests, deep swamps, and half-desert plains. The forests and
lay to the north, with a cold climate and heavy rain or snowfall.
South of the forest belt began the open country -- at first fertile
prairie but gradually shading off to the southeast into less fertile
plains with diminishing, rainfall until, on the borders of Asia, they
became waterless deserts. These southern deserts and arid plains (known
as "steppes") were already occupied by Asiatics -- Turkish
or Mongol nomad hordes moving in from Asia. The rest of Eastern Europe
was, then sparsely inhabited by blond Nordic tribes, mingled in the
far north with Asiatic Finnish stocks which had wandered in from Siberia.
was the land in, to which the migrating Slavs made their way, a little
over a thousand years ago. What followed was, not so much a conquest
as a confused inter-penetration. The Slavs were split up into a multitude
of independent groups, while the native Nordic and Finnish populations
were equally unorganized. After a certain amount of obscure fighting,
the newcomers and the older elements seem to have rapidly mingled,
the more numerous Alpine Slavs contributing the largest share in the
new racial combination. Th'e steady Alpinization of Russia and Poland,
together with its gradual and mainly peaceful character, has been
proved by numerous studies of ancient burial-mounds and old Russian
and Polish graveyards. The prehistoric burial-mounds contain the bones
of a long-skulled population unmistakably Nordic in type. Alpine round-skulls
do not become frequent in Russian and Polish burial-places until about
900 A. D. Thereafter the proportion of round-skulls increases rapidly
until in a few centuries it becomes the prevailing type, thus showing
the steady replacement of the Nordic by the
Alpine racial element. Racial change, however varies widely with different
regions. This is clear not only from historical studies but also by
the appearance of the existing population. Not only in their head-forms
but also in their complexions, modern Russians and Poles show the
effect of varied Alpine and Nordic crossings. The original Slavs were
(like all distinctly Alpine peoples) a round-skulled, thick-set, rather
dark-complexioned folk. Such is to-day the prevailing type in Southern
Russia and Poland, as it also is in the Slav homeland, the highlands
of the Carpathians. But in Northern Poland, and even more in Northwestern
Russia, a great deal of Nordic blood survives, showing itself in the
blond and reddish-blond types so common among the Polish and Russian
peasantry of those regions. At the same time, it should be noted that
pure Nordic types are rare: so prolonged and general has been the
intermingling of racial stocks that in most living individuals Nordic
characteristics are found associated with Alpine traits like round
skulls and thick-set bodies thus forming what scientists call "disharmonic
combinations." Again, in Northern Russia, the population shows
distinct signs of an admixture of Asiatic Finnish blood.
this by no means describes the whole of Eastern Europe's complex racial
make-up. Parallel to the expansion of the Alpine Slavs has gone a
series of invasions by Asiatic nomads, mostly Turks and Mongols who
have several times turned back the Slav advance and who have also
sown much Asiatic blood among the Eastern European peoples. Asiatic
types are to-day not infrequent in Poland and are much more common
in Russia particularly in Southern Russia, where there is much
Asiatic blood. The Russian temperament is clearly part Asiatic in
character. That old saying, "Scratch a Russian and you find a
Tartar," contains a deal of truth.
the Asiatic strains which have become absorbed in the general population,
there exist other Asiatic elements which still remain distinct. Such
are the Mohammedan Tartars of Eastern and Southern Russia, kept apart
from the surrounding population by barriers of religion and culture.
The same is true of the large Jewish population of Poland and Western
Russia. The Russian and Polish Jews are a very mixed stock, widely
different in type and temperament from the Jews of Western Europe,
and the Mediterranean basin. These east-European Jews of Russia, Poland,
and Rumania together form the so-called "Ashkenazim" branch
of Jewry, the west-European and Mediterranean branch being known as
"Sephardim." The racial make-up of the Ashkenazim is decidedly
complicated. The largest element in their make-up consists of various
Alpine strains, acquired not only from the Alpine populations of Europe
but also from distant relatives of the European Alpines such as the
Armenians and kindred round-skulled stocks of Western Asia. The Ashkenazim
possess very little of the old Semitic Hebrew blood. On the other
hand, they have a strong Mongolian infusion due to intermarriage with
the Khazars, a Mongoloid Asiatic tribe once settled in Southern Russia
which was converted to Judaism about a thousand years ago, and was
thereafter absorbed by intermarriage into the Ashkenazic stock. It
is from the Khazars that the dwarfish stature, flat faces, high cheekbones,
and other Mongoloid traits so common among east-European Jews seem
mainly due. The mixed racial make-up of the east-European Jews shows
plainly in the wide varieties of physical appearance and temperament
which appear in the stock, this extreme variability frequently producing
very unusual "disharmonic combinations."
other feature in Eastern Europe's racial make-up should be noted:
the ruling aristocracies which have appeared at various times. The
inability of Alpines to erect strong states of large size is well
illustrated by the Slavs. In practically every case where large, powerful,
and enduring states have arisen among the Slav peoples it has been
primarily due to a masterful ruling minority differing considerably
in race from the Alpine masses. The best example of this is Russia,
which from the very beginning of its history has been ruled by minorities
chiefly of non-Alpine blood.
is the racial and geographical background of Eastern Europe. To describe
in detail all tile human groupings which have arisen as a result of
these varied racial combinations, cross-cut as they have been by political,
cultural, and religious factors, would make a book in itself. Let
us therefore confine ourselves to a brief survey of the three most
important east-European peoplek: the Russians, the Poles, and the
Czecho-Slovaks. From this survey a good general idea of east-European
conditions can be obtained.
will begin our survey with the Czecho-Slovaks because this people
(divided, as its name implies, into two branches) forms a natural
link between Central and Eastern Europe. A glance at the map makes
this clear. The
country of the Czecho-Slovaks is a long ribbon of territory running
across East-Central Europe almost due east and west. The Czechs inhabit
the western portion, the regions known as Bohemia and Moravia, which
thrust their mountainous bulk far to the westward, dividing the German
plains to the north from the Danube valley to the south. Bohemia,
the more westerly of the two regions, is likewise the larger and more
important. It is a great plateau in Europe's very heart, ringed about
with mountains. Bohemia's dominating position, overlooking as it does
both the flatlands of Germany and the Danube valley, has given it
the significant title of "The Citadel of Europe." .
a transition land of hill and plateau, is the link connecting Bohemia
with the Slovak country to the eastward -- the rugged highlands of
the Carpathians, which sweep like a vast bow southeastward for hundreds
of miles, dividing the Danube basin from the limitless east-European
plains. We now see how geography itself has made the Czecho-Slovaks
the link between Central and Eastern Europe. Bohemia seems at first
sight to be geographically part of Central Europe. What binds it racially
to Eastern Europe is the fact that the only easy entrance to Bohemia
is from the east. On its other sides Bohemia's mountain walls rise
almost unbroken, and when (as in ancient times) these mountains were
clothed with primeval forest they formed an impenetrable barrier to
large-scale human migration.
history begins with its settlement by the Czechs. This settlement
was part of the great expansion of the Alpine Slavs which took place
shortly after the
fall of the Roman Empire. The Czechs of Bohemia and Moravia are the
Slavs who migrated due west from the Carpathian homeland. The Slovaks
are their kinsmen who stayed behind. These Slovaks, backward and isolated
as they have remained, have kept much of the primitive Slav physical
type and temperament. However, even the Czechs are to-day racially
nearer to the original Slavs than are most of the modern Slav peoples
of the east-European plains such as the Poles and Russians, because
the Czechs have not come in contact with so many racial elements.
The only considerable mixture that the Czechs have undergone has been
with Germans. When the Czechs first entered Bohemia they found the
country thinly populated with Teutonic Nordics. These the more numerous
Czech invaders soon overwhelmed and absorbed. To this early cross
the blond traits which appear in the Czech peasantry are mainly due.
The Slav strain, however, remained predominant, so that a glance at
the present population is enough to show that the modern Czechs are
mainly Alpine in race. The extremely round heads, thick-set bodies,
and dark hair and eyes so common among the Czech peasantry unquestionably
represent the primitive Slav type. The Czech riddle classes have more
Nordic blood, this being due largely to the later period of German
domination. For Bohemia, the western outpost of Slavdom, has been
under German control during much of its history. The trend of affairs
in Central Europe made this inevitable. When the Czechs invaded Bohemia
they formed merely the middle of the great Slav wave which was also
rolling over Germany to the northward and up the Danube valley to
the south. But presently
the Germans counter-attacked in their great eastward march which rapidly
reconquered the German plains and also pushed down the valley of the
Danube. The Czechs thus became isolated in their mountain bastion,
surrounded by Germans on three sides and connected with the Slav world
to the eastward only through Moravia. And presently the Germans began
to filter into Bohemia. At first, tills movement was a peaceful one.
The Czech monarchs, anxious to increase their country's prosperity,
welcomed German merchants and artisans who brought to Bohemia their
industry and higher civilization. This process of Germanization went
on much faster when the old Czech kings died out and were succeeded
by a dynasty of German origin. Presently Bohemia and Moravia were
connected politically with the Mediawal German Empire and seemed in
a fair way to be completely Germanized.
the later Middle Ages, however, there came a violent reaction. The
Czechs awoke to national self-consciousness and began a fierce fight
to preserve their national life. The terrible Hussite Wars, though
religious in form, were in fact mainly a Czech nationalistic revolt
against encroaching Germanism, which was checked for a century. Nevertheless,
the Czechs had not gained complete independence, and they presently
fell under the rule of the most powerful of the Germanic states- Habsburg
Austria. Against Habsburg rule the Czechs soon revolted, their revolt
marking the start of the terrible Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), which
devastated the whole of CentraJ Europe. This time the Czechs lost.
The Habsburgs (who here represented Germanism) took a bloody vengeance
upon the rebellious Czechs. Bohemia and Moravia were
half depopulated, while the old Czech nobility was entirely rooted
out, their estates being given to foreigners, mostly Austrian Germans.
Thus deprived of their natural leaders, the oppressed Czech peasantry
sank into a political and cultural stupor which looked like death.
Outwardly the land became entirely German, the Czech language being
spoken only by peasants.
the nineteenth century, that awakener of dormant nationalities, roused
the Czechs from their long slumber. A vigorous nationalist revival
began, and the increasing economic prosperity which Bohemia then enjoyed
favored the rapid growth of a Czech middle and educated class which
furnished able leaders to the national revival. Step by step, despite
stubborn opposition, the Czechs drove the German minority from their
privileged positions and won a large measure of political control.
The long struggle, however, aroused increasing bitterness on both
sides. The German minority, infuriated by Czech successes and alarmed
for its future, openly preached secession from Austria to the German
Empire, while the Czech nationalists demanded what amounted to independence:
the formation of Bohemia and Moravia as a fully self-governing state
wherein they, as the majority, might Slavize the Germans. When Austria
refused these demands, the Czech nationalists began planning the break-up
of Austria and full independence, fixing their hopes on Russia as
their possible liberator.
and Moravia were thus full of race-hatred, secessionism, and general
unrest when the Great War broke out in 1914. The Czech nationalists
hailed the war as their opportunity. Most of the present leaders of
Czecho-Slovakia, such as President Masaryk and Mr. Benes, were in
exile, and these exiled leaders hastened to proclaim their devotion
to the Allied cause against the Germanic Empires. The Czechs rendered
the Allies good service. When forced by the Austrians to do military
service, the Czechs surrendered wholesale, disrupting the Austrian
armies. In return, the Allies recognized the Czech claims to independence,
and the peace-treaties set up the present Republic of Czecho-Slovakia
as a sovereign state.
has an area of about 54,000 square miles with a population of 13,600,000.
As its name implies, it contains not only the Czechs but also their
kinsmen the Slovaks. The country forms a long, narrow band stretching
across East-Central Europe. This elongated form is one of Czecho-Slovakia's
chief weaknesses. Its frontiers are largely artificial and would be
hard to defend against attack. Internally, Czecho-Slovakia's main
problem is the lack of harmony between the various elements of its
population. This is a very serious matter. Of the total population
only about three-fifths (8,700,000) are Czecho-Slovaks. There are
over 3,000,000 Germans, 800,000 Magyars (Hungarians) 500,000 Ruthenians,
"Little Russians," and fully 600,000 of other nationalities.
None of these minorities are really reconciled to the new situation,
and they are thus possible sources of trouble, singly or in combination.
The powerful German minority in particular, concentrated as it is
mainly in Bohemia and thereby in physical touch with the German Reich,
is bitterly discontented and makes no secret of its hope to join Germany
situation is made still more serious by the disputes which have arisen
between the two sections of the dominant group -- the Czechs and the
Slovaks. Despite their common origin, there are many differences between
them. Losing touch with one another almost at the start, their paths
diverged widely and they grew asunder. Unlike the Czechs, the Slovaks
have had no political or cultural development worth mentioning. Isolated
in their mountains, the Slovaks have remained primitive and backward.
For centuries they have been under Hungarian rule, and they have never
come in contact with western civilization as the Czechs have done.
Also, their territory is poor and barren compared with the Czech lands,
which are not only fertile but possess much mineral wealth which has
formed the basis of a prosperous industrial development.
Slovaks are thus very much the "junior partner" in the new
concern. Among other things, they are far less numerous than the Czechs,
numbering only a trifle over 2,000,000 as against the Czechs' 6,500,000.
Nevertheless, the Slovaks possess a distinct local consciousness and
assert their claims to consideration. During the late war, when both
elements were struggling for a common cause, the Czech leaders promised
the Slovaks a large measure of local self-government. Independence
once gained, however, the Czechs proceeded to erect a strongly uriified
state, declaring this to be vital to the country's safety in view
of its exposed frontiers and discontented minorities. But this angered
the Slovaks, who declared that they had been tricked. The breach was
further widened by the economic damage inflicted upon the Slovaks
by the new frontiers. Slovakia's natural market is Hungary. Its riyers
and valleys run into the Hungarian plain, and along these natural
avenues the Slovaks sent their agricultural and forest products which
are Slovakia's sole wealth. The new frontier (which was also a tariff-wall),
however, cut off Slovakia from Hungary, and at the same time did not
open the Czech lands to Slovak products, because the Czech territories
are divided from Slovakia by rugged mountains which make transportation
difficult and costly.
the quarrel between Czechs and Slovaks goes merrily on. Indeed, there
are all the makings of an unusually fine family row, for both sides
show their kinship by a common obstinacy and tactlessness characteristic
of the stock. The chief differences between them are that the Czechs
are well-educated, prosperous, and open to modern ideas, whereas the
Slovaks are mostly illiterate, poor, and intensely conservative. Neither
side makes it easy for the other. The Slovaks regard the Czechs as
rich relatives who put on airs and bully their poor relations in intolerable
fashion. The Czechs look down on the Slovaks as ignorant, dirty, narrow-minded
"country cousins," who must be cleaned up and civilized
before they can be given much of a say in running the country. I still
smile when I recall the indignant outburst of a Czech when I re¬counted
to him the grievances that a Slovak had recently told me. "Those
Slovaks!" snorted the Czech disgustedly. "They make me tired.
'Liberty,' Indeed! The first thing they'd better do is to get de-loused!"
Czech-Slovak quarrel is a most pressing problem. If it continues,
the Slovaks may develop a real "nation-
alism" of their own and instead of demanding merely self-government
may plot secession and independence. This is by no means an impossible
contingency. For one thing, it would be in lire with a political tendency
observable among all Slav peoples-the tendency to local particularism.
Throughout their history the Slavs have tended to form small political
units and have rarely combined in large states except under the pressure
of foreign foes or the compulsion of able rulers. But, unless the
Czechs and Slovaks do grow together, "Czecho-Slovakia" can
hardly survive. A rebellious Slovakia would become one more "minority,"
playing in with the other minorities against the dominant Czechs.
Indeed: statistically speaking, the Czechs themselves would become
a "minority," because without the Slovaks they would form
less than one-half of the total population. Czecho-Slovakia would
thus become a second edition of pre-war Austria, and would in the
long run almost certainly suffer the same fate.
most hopeful aspect of the situation is the presence of some very
able leaders, notably President Masaryk and Mr. Benes, who have displayed
great skill in guiding the ship of state. No one can meet and talk
with these men without being impressed by their intelligence and states
manlike common sense. Their wisdom is shown in both domestic and foreign
policy. Despite the dangerous temper of the minorities, these are
more liberally dealt with in Czecho-Slovakia than in almost any other
European country, the Czech leaders realizing that their minorities
are too numerous to be crushed and that the only hope of reconciling
them lies in moderation. In their foreign
policy the Czech rulers have been cautious and pacific, knowing that
if a new explosion should occur in Europe, Czecho-Slovakia, with its
exposed frontiers and domestic instability, would be one of the first
wise policies have given Czecho-Slovakia a calmer and more prosperous
post-war life than any other country of Central or Eastern Europe.
At first sight, indeed, Czecho-Slovakia's future seems already fairly
secure. But when one looks below the surface the future appears less
certain. Czecho-Slovakia's success has thus far been primarily due
to a triumph of able leadership over great inherent difficulties.
The more one sees of Czecho-Slovakia, the more one feels that its
present rulers are very far above the level of their followers. The
average Czech politician or official seems just about as narrow-minded,
short-sighted, and intolerant as the politicians and officials of
other eastern European and Balkan lands. When Benes and Masaryk go,
will they be replaced by statesmen of equal calibre? On the answer
to that question, the fate of Czecho-Slovakia will largely depend.
from Czecho-Slovakia to Poland, we encounter typical east-European
conditions: a country without natural frontiers, with a very mixed
population, and with languages, religions, and cultures overlapping
in extremely complicated fashion. In other words, we find in Poland
those conditions of complexity and instability characteristic of Eastern
Europe. Poland's past has been a troubled and a tragic one, while
Poland's future is menaced by ills similar to those which have caused
its previous misfortunes.
tragedy of Poland is rooted in its geography. Save on the south it
has never known the protecting and preserving advantage of natural
frontiers. Consequently its political boundaries have shifted and
re-shifted as its fortunes rose or declined. And every shift has meant
Polish people centres in the inland plains which are drained by the
river Vistula. This centre of Polish settlement is shaped like a huge
oblong, its southern base resting upon the Carpathian Mountains, Poland's
only natural frontier. Along that border the line between Poles and
non-Poles is fairly clear. Elsewhere, however, the Polish nucleus
shades off into regions inhabited partly by Poles and partly by peoples
of other nationalities. In these debatable regions, which stretch
west, north, and especially east, and which together form a vast area
nearly four times as large as the nucleus of Polish settlement, Polish
and non-Polish elements are intermingled in various proportions. The
reasons for this complicated situation can be explained only by a
glance at Polish history.
original Poles formed part of the great Slav wave which descended
from the Carpathian highlands and inundated Central and Eastern Europe.
Originally almost pure Alpines in race, the Poles absorbed a certain
amount of Nordic blood from the rather sparse Nordic population which
then occupied the Vistula plains, though this Nordic infusion was
nowhere strong enough greatly to modify the ancestral Alpine type.
The primitive Poles could not be called a "people"; they
were a loose mass of small tribes with very slight political cohesion.
What welded the Poles into a people with a national consciousness
pressure of foreign foes -- especially the Germans. We have already
noted the great eastward movement of conquest and colonization which
the Germans undertook at the beginning of the Middle Ages. It was
the Poles who checked the German "March to the East." Among
the Poles there arose a dynasty of able chieftains who welded the
petty tribes of the Vistula plains into a state strong enough to block
the German advance. For about two centuries this early Kingdom of
Poland was strong and fairly prosperous. During that period the Poles
not only became a nationality but also developed a distinct culture
based upon western ideals. This latter fact is a matter of great importance
because the Poles were thereby clearly marked off from the Russian
Slavs to the eastward Poland took its Christianity from Rome and thus
entered the pale of western civilization. Russia, on the other hand,
was converted from Constantinople and became part of Greek Orthodox
Christianity and Byzantine Greek civilization. With different faiths
and cultures, the Poles and Russians followed divergent paths and
presently became bitter rivals for the leadership of Eastern Europe.
this rivalry was still in the future. The Russians were as yet too
disunited and backward to count for much, while Poland's first national
experiment ended in failure. Its ruling dynasty having lost its vigor,
Poland broke up into several principalities. In this condition of
mutual weakness, Poland and Russia both fell victims to a terrible
invasion by the Mongol Tartars. These fierce Asiatic nomads swept
like a hurricane over Eastern Europe. Russia was stamped fiat under
the Mongol hoofs
and remained-for centuries under Asiatic control -- with lasting effects
upon its blood and culture. In Poland the Mongol tide soon ebbed,
but it left the land desolated and with Asiatic strains in its population
which are visible even to-day.
So weakened had Poland now become that it not only lost ground to
the Germans on the west but was also threatened by a new foe from
the north -- the Lithuanians. The Lithuanians were a group of tribes
of primitive Nordic stock who from time inunemorial had dwelt among
the forests and marshes north of Poland along the Baltic Sea. Unlike
the other peoples of Eastern Europe, these warlike barbarians clung
doggedly to their ancestral paganism and had remained entirely outside
the pale of civilization. Emerging from their forests, the Lithuanians
now ravaged both Poland and Russia. At last the Poles agreed to make
the Lithuanian leader their King if he would become a Christian and
unite the two countries under his sceptre. This he did in the year
1386 -- a notable date, because under his able rule the combined state
of Poland-Lithuania rapidly rose to power. The next two centuries,
indeed, are Poland's golden age. Poland-Lithuania became the strongest
state in Eastern Europe. The Germans were defeated and huge tracts
of Russia were conquered and partially colonized, the Russian inhabitants
being reduced to serfdom under Polish-Lithuanian landlords. It was
during this same period that the great Jewish immigration took place.
At first welcomed and encouraged by the Polish Kings, the Jews flocked
in from every side, settling in the towns in such numbers that the
Poles at length checked this immigration. However,
tbe Polish Jews throve and multiplied, and Poland became thenceforth
the numerical centre of the Jewish race.
Lithuanian dynasty produced a series of able rulers, but after about
two centuries the dynasty died out and with its extinction Poland-Lithuania
fell into rapid decline. The turbulent and factious nobility (which
had always given trouble) seized control and set up a government which
was little better than legalized anarchy. The Crown became a mere
shadow, while the nobles, split into warring factions, plunged the
land into endless confusion. The decadent state; with its vast outlying
territories, inhabited by oppressed and rebellious alien elements
like Russians and Germans, and with its cities full of unassimilated
Jews, became a mere helpless hulk, inviting aggression by more powerful
neighbors. And unfortunately for Poland, as it got weaker its neighbors
grew stronger. To the westward stood Germanic Prussia, to the southward
was Habsburg Austria, while to the eastward Russia at last found herself
with Peter the Great, and made ready to regain those Russian lands
which Poland and Lithuania had conquered during Russia's time of trouble.
Having beaten Poland in several wars and thus discovered her full
weakness, Russia, Prussia, and Austria decided to wipe her out altogether.
There followed the famous Partitions of Poland (1772-1795) by which
Poland disappeared from the map. Russia got the lion's share of the
booty, Prussia and Austria receiving smaller, yet valuable, portions.
the political extinction of Poland did not solve the Polish problem.
The anarchic Polish state died, as it deserved to die; but the Polish
people lived. The
very depth of their misfortunes roused the Poles to a fresh national
consciousness. Accordingly, the nineteenth century witnessed an intense
national revival in all the sundered branches of the Polish stock.
Despite their best efforts, Russia and Prussia failed to de-nationalize
their Polish subjects. Austria never seriously attempted to denationalize
her Poles, permitting them a large measure of local self-government.
Thus the "Polish Question" continued to vex the politics
of Eastern Europe and remained a source of chronic trouble and unrest.
came the Great War, which ended by re-creating a Polish state almost
as large and populous as medireval Poland. This result, however, was
quite unexpected and was mainly due to an unlooked-for event -- the
Russian Revolution. When the war began, Polish independence was scarcely
mentioned in Europe, while the Poles themselves were divided as to
what attitude they should assume. To some Poles Russia was the supreme
foe, to other Poles Germany was the most hated enemy. As for Russia,
it had very definite ideas on the Polish question, its intention being
to seize both Prussia's and Austria's Polish territories and thus
bring all Poles under Russian dominion. Had Russia stood by its allies
until the end of the war, this would undoubtedly have happened, France
and England having agreed that Russia should receive Prussian and
Austrian Poland as the spoils of victory. But Russia broke duwn in
1917, went Bolshevist, and made peace with the Germanic Empires at
the most critical moment of the war. Thenceforth the western Allies
considered Soviet Russia their enemy, both on account of its desertion
of the common cause and on account of
its Bolshevist propaganda which sought to disrupt the Allied nations
as part of the Bolshevik programme of "World- Revolution."
these circumstances the restoration of Polish independence naturally
suggested itself to the western Powers. The Peace Conference, therefore,
erected a Polish state to serve as a check on both Germany and Russia,
and to keep these two countries from possibly combining to upset the
peace-treaties which had been framed largely at their expense. France,
in particular, pressed this policy to its logical conclusion. The
French argued that since Poland was to be restored primarily to watch
Germany and Russia and to keep them apart, she should be made as strong
as possible in order to do her work well. That naturally appealed
to the Poles. The Poles had never forgotten their old dream of supremacy
in Eastern Europe. Accordingly, they demanded frontiers which went
even beyond the "historic Poland of 1772." Acting on the
old saying: "It's a poor rule that doesn't work both ways,"
the Poles advanced two utterly contradictory sets of arguments for
the same end. Said the Poles: All territories which to-day contain
any considerable number of Poles must be Polish, in accordance with
the "principle of nationalities." But, likewise, all territories
which formed part of the old Polish state, whatever their present
population, must also be Polish, to square with other "principles"
like "historic justice," and, failing those, "strategic
necessity." Lastly, Lithuania was regarded as "Polish"
as a matter of course. Such were the claims which the Poles pressed
at the Peace Conference which re-made the map of Europe.
Poles got by no means all they wanted, but they got enough to make
the New Poland a very large and populous state. Poland to-day has
an area of nearly 147,000 square miles (considerably larger than the
British Isles) and a population of over 27,000,000. These territories
are mainly fertile and contain much mineral wealth, so that Poland
has the possibility of both a prosperous agricultural and industrial
Poland might seem to have bright prospects. Actually, her prospects
are very far from bright. Poland owes her new independence primarily
to a lucky turn in European politics, and she has attained her present
frontiers not only through the peace-treaties but also by a series
of successful aggressions against her neighbors. Poland has "gotten
away with" these aggressions through French backing, France regarding
Polanct as the keystone of her system of alliances, and thus favoring
Poland in every way. But Poland's successes have left a legacy of
foreign and domestic problems very ominous for the future. Having
not only quarrelled but fought bloodily with every one of her neighbors,
Poland has not
a friend in Eastern Europe. Universally disliked and widely hated,
Poland is to-day surrounded by a ring of potential enemies. Even her
former partner, Lithuania, has been infuriated by Poland's seizure
of Lithuania's chief city, Vilna -- about the most barefaced act of
aggression that has occurred anywhere since the war. As for Russia
and Germany, Poland's most powerful neighbors, they are precisely
her most embittered opponents. Poland's present frontiers are a standing
challenge to both nations, which they will tolerate just so long as
they have to -- and not one moment longer.
in addition to these external dangers, Poland is afflicted with grave
internal troubles ominously like those which brought Old Poland to
decline and ruin. Poland's frontiers are far-flung, but they contain
many large and rebellious minorities, while the Poles have already
begun to quarrel among themselves as of yore. Of Poland's 27,000,000
inhabitants only a trifle more than half are of Polish blood. The
balance of the population consists of over 2,500,000 Germans, nearly
4,000,000 Jews, 4,000,000 Ruthenians, or "Little Russians,"
and more than 1,500,000 of other nationalities -- principally White
Russians, Great Russians, and Lithuanians, with a few Czechs and Slovaks
thrown in for good measure. None of these minorities likes Polish
rule, and the Poles are doing their best to make them like it still
less by oppressing them as harshly as the Poles themselves were oppressed
by their former Russian and German ruIers. Meanwhile the Poles are
quarrelling fiercely among themselves, Polish politics being enlivened
by riots, assassinations, and kindred disturbances. Furthermore, Poland's
big army and other governmental expenditures have plunged her into
debt and debased her currency, which is now practically worthless.
In fine: although the New Poland has been running less than ten years,
conditions begin more and more strongly to resemble those of the "historic
Poland of 1772," when Old Poland was partitioned among her neighbors.
Unless the New Poland mends her ways, her neighbors may well partition
her again. But will Poland mend her ways? Events thus far strongly
suggest that the Poles are the Bourbons of Eastern Europe -- "learning
nothing and forgetting nothing."
All things considered, New Poland seems to be a pretty poor life-insurance
Poland lies Russia -- vast and incalculable. This immense region of
huge forests, boundless prairies, and illimitable plains is the borderland
of Europe and Asia. Here diverse races have wandered, fought, and
mingled, producing strange blends and equally strange contrasts of
blood, temperament, and ideals. Despite all the thought and .investigation
devoted to it, Russia remains essentially unknown, not merely to foreigners
but even to Russians themselves. Many Russians frankly admit that
the soul of Russia is still an enigma -- a mystery. Bolshevism is
merely the last of a long series of strange Russian developments which
have surprised the world -- and Russia probably has other startling
surprises yet in store.
constant factors in Russian history are Alpine blood and Slav speech,
which have been spreading eastward and northward for more than a thousand
years. Yet these factors are merely the binding strands in a tangled
skein. We commonly speak of Russia as a unit; yet true unity Russia
has never known. Leaving aside the various non-Russian tribes and
peoples which dwell within Russia's borders, the Russian stock is
divided into three main branches differing distinctly from one another
in blood, temperament, culture, and speech. These three branches are
usually called the" Great," "Little," and "White"
Russians respectively. Although probably much reduced in numbers by
the frightful disasters of the last ten years, the total Russian stock
number well over 100,000,000. Of these fully 60,000,000 are Great
Russians, while over 30,000,000 are Little Russians -- this figure
including the "Ruthenian" populations under Polish and Czecho-Slovak
rule. The White Russians, numbering somewhere between. 5,000,000 and
10,000,000, are to-day politically divided between Russia and Poland.
It was this diversity of the Russian stock (as well as the idea of
their eventual unity) which prompted the title assumed by the former
Russian monarchs: "Czar of all the Russias."
Great Russians are not merely the most numerous but also the dominant
branch of the Russian stock. It is they who form the core of modern
Russia and who have colonized its outlying dependencies like Siberia.
They inhabit the forest zone of modern Russia and extend well into
the rich prairie belt to the southward until they merge with the Little
Russians. Racially the Great Russians are a cross between Alpine Slavs
and the earlier Nordic population, mixed in varying proportions with
Asiatic elements. The Nordic strain is strongest to the northwest
near the Baltic Sea, fading out gradually inland. However, Nordic
traits are widespread, as is shown by the blond and reddish-blond
types that are so frequent among the Great Russian population. These
Nordic characteristics are usually found in "disharmonic combination"
with Alpine and Asiatic traits, thus proving the racially mixed character
of the stock. Pure Nordic types are rare save among the upper classes,
which are composed largely of Scandinavian and German elements that
have entered Russia in comparatively recent times.
Little Russians centre in the southwest and, as already stated, are
not all included within Russia's political frontiers, a large section
of the Little Russians living under Polish rule while a small fraction
is found in Czecho-Slovakia. The Little Russians have much less Nordic
blood than their Great Russian kinsmen but contain more Asiatic strains
in their racial make-up, this being due to their prolonged contact
with Mongol Tartar and Turkish nomads who often overran their territories.
The Little Russians' political disunion and other misfortunes have
kept them relatively backward and have given their Great Russian cousins
the leadership in Russian affairs. Even more backward, however, are
the White-Russians, who -- inhabit the swamp and forest regions or
Western Russia. Racially the White Russians have kept closest to the
primitive Alpine Slav type. They have never developed a true national
consciousness or even a distinctive culture. During the Middle Ages
they fell under Polish rule and any of them are to-day included within
Poland's new political frontiers.
three branches of the Russian stock represent distinct crystallizations
of invading Alpine Slavs with diverse racial elements in different
regions. Russia's early history is an obscure welter of petty tribes
over an immense area. Significantly enough, the beginnings of political
cohesion were due, not to the Russians themselves but to a foreign
ruling element -- the Scandinavians. Back somewhere in the dim past
adventurous Scandinavian Nordics discovered a trade-route across Western
Russia and established commercial contact between their Baltic homeland
and Constantinople, then the capital of
the Byzantine Greek Empire and a centre of civilization. Despite their
small numbers, these masterful Norse Vikings easily kept in order
the petty tribes along the rivers which formed their trade-highway,
and. as time passed the natives came to regard the strangers as arbiters
in their endless intertribal quarrels. Becoming more and more influential,
the Norsemen established themselves firmly at several points and at
length founded a real state at Kiev, a natural centre in Southwestern
Russia situated on the great river Dnieper- -- the water-route to
the Black Sea and Constantinople. The legend of the founding of Kiev
is quaintly significant. The story goes that the local tribes were
so affiicted by domestic feuds and raids by their neighbors that they
invited a famous Viking chief to be their ruler. Their invitation
is said to have run as follows; "Our land is great and has everything
in abundance, but it lacks order and justice. Come and take possession
and rule over us."
or not the legend states the exact facts of the case, certain it is
that about a thousand years ago a Norse chief named Rurik did become
ruler of Kiev and built up a state which soon became powerful and
which laid the foundations of Russian nationality and civilization.
It is also noteworthy that the early political centres in northern
Russia, like Novgorod and Pskov, lay likewise on the Scandinavian
trade-route and seem to have been mainly due to Scandinavian influence.
long remained the heart of Russia and, owing to its contact with Constantinople,
Kiev took its Christianity and civilization from the Byzantine Empire.
This is a fact of great importance. We have already seen how
Poland's conversion from Rome brought the Poles with-in the pale of
west-European civilization. Russia, on the other hand, became Greek
Orthodox in faith and Byzantine in culture. The breach between the
two halves of Christendom went deep, friendly intercourse between
them being impossible. Therefore, when Russia became Orthodox she
cut herself off from the West and looked eastward for her ideals.
presently this first link which bound Russia to the East was followed
by other links of a very unfortunate character. From their earliest
days the Russians had been harassed by Asiatic nomads raiding up from
the arid plains that stretched southeastward into Asia. These raids
grew steadily more violent until they culminated in the terrible Mongol
invasion which marks a sinister epoch in Russian history. The Mongols
were hideously cruel, destructive barbarians whose sole ideas were
bloodshed and plunder. Sweeping across_ Russia like a cyclone, they
reduced it to ruin and impotence. The budding civilization of Russia
was stamped flat under the terrible Mongol hoofs. Kiev was destroyed
and all southern Russia depopulated. Orily in the forests of the north,
beyond the sweep of the Mongol horse, did Russia survive. But it was
a barbarized Russia, entirely cut off from the civilized world and
subject to Mongol domination. Instead of advancing, Russia retrograded,
turning away from Europe toward Asia. Both Mongol blood and Mongol
ideas penetrated Russia. And this penetration was degrading, because
the Mongol Tartars were bloodthirsty barbarians with nothing to offer
except savage ideals of violence and despotism. The Mongol influence
sia has been profound and lasting; to it many, if not most, of the
unlovely traits of the modern Russian character seem to be due. "Scratch
a Russian and you find a Tartar!" is no idle phrase.
Russia regained strength and at length a new political centre arose
in north-central Russia at Moscow, where a dynasty of able rulers
conquered the other Russian principalities, shook off the Mongol yoke,
and became the powerful "Czardom of Muscovy." This increase
of'political strength, however, was not accompanied by any corresponding
increase in culture. Down to about two centuries ago Russia remained
barbarous and backward, cut off from Western civilization, and more
Asiatic than European in its manners and ideals. Russia's political
life, in particular, was thoroughly Asiatic in character. The Czars
of Moscow had the outlook of Tartar Khans; they were arbitrary despots
who were often ferocious tyrants. Thus Russia lived on, a hermit nation;
ignorant, fanatically devoted to a degraded Orthodoxy, and steeped
in a barbarous mixture of half-forgotten Byzantine culture and Asiatic
ideas borrowed trom the Tartars.
dramatically, the situation changed. Peter the Great became Czar and
determined to "open a window to the West" and let in the
light of civilization. Peter was a man of tremendous energy and iron
will. He hated half-measures and insisted that he be instantly obeyeg.
Accordingly, he tried to jump several centuries and ordered Russia
to become westernized overnight. But his subjects hung back. Ignorant
and fanatical, they clung doggedly to their old ways and refused to
embrace a civi-
lization which they did not in the least comprehend. This resistance,
however, merely infuriated Peter and hardened his resolution. As much
a tyrant as any of his predecessors, opposition seemed to him criminal
and intolerable. Accordingly, he not only opened a window but dragged
Russia by the hair of the head clear out of its dark house into the
Western sunshine, and since he could get little aid from his subjects
he imported multitudes of Westerners to act as drill-masters and carry
out his orders.
policy, begun by Peter and continued by his successors, westernized
Russia -- on the surface. Within a sho)rt time Russia looked pretty
much like a Western nation. The newcomers from Western Europe (most1y
Germans and Scandinavians) together with many Russians converted to
the government's policy gave Russia a veneer of Western civilization
and formed a ruling class which was almost a caste apart. Beneath
this veneer, however, Old Russia lived on, the bulk of the Russian
people, especially the peasants, remaining almost untouched by Western
influences. Henceforth Russia became more than ever a land of strange
contrasts and conflicting ideas, where new and old, east and west,
Europe and Asia, jostled, fought, and illogically combined.
contrasts and conflicts were nowhere better revealed than in Russian
political life. Despite its westernizing policy, the Russian Government
remained at heart un-westernized. Its spirit was still that of the
Tartar Khans, even though it wore European clothes and built railroads.
The Russian Government, in fact, tried to borrow the material equipment
of Western civilization and fit it to half-Oriental ideals. This experiment,
created difficulties which led ultimately to disaster.
Though outwardly Russia became a great World Power, inwardly she was
torn by mental and spiritual conflicts which grew sharper as time
went on. Imperial Russia was thus a giant with feet of clay. Not only
did the Russian masses remain instinctively hostile to westernization,
but the. upper classes quarrelled among themselves. Those Russians
who became truly westernized in spirit began demanding that Russia
adopt the liberal ideals as well as the material improvements of Western
civilization. This, however, the despotic government refused, and
the liberal protesters were sent to Siberia. That embittered the liberals
and made them revolutionists while revolutionary agitation in turn
further infuriated the government and increased its persecuting activity.
More and more Russia became a house divided against itself, and consequently
broke down whenever faced by a real test. The preliminary break down
took place under the strain of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, when
Russia fell into revolutionary turmoil. The old regime just managed
to save itself and restore order, but below the surface Russia went
on seething and the social foundations were badly shaken. Then, came
the far heavier strain of the Great War -- and Imperial Russia collapsed.
The old order being. hopelessly shattered, the extreme revolutionary
elements took advantage of the chaotic confusion, established their
Bolshevist dictatorship, and plunged Russia into a hell of class war,
terrorism, poverty, cold, disease, and famine .
the horrors and failures of Bolshevism I do not propose to enter.
They are well known and need no de-
tailed discussion here. What is not so well known is the important
fact that the present Bolshevik government, though differing widely
in its economic aims, is in its spirit and political methods strikingly
like the old imperial government which it replaced. The outstanding
characteristics of the Bolshevik regime are violence and despotism.
But those were precisely the outstanding characteristics of the old.
imperial regime. Russia has thus merely changed tyrants, one despotism
having been followed by another. The main outcome of the revolution
has been a cracking of the Western veneer which had been imposed upon
Russia by Peter the Great. Much of the material equipment borrowed
by Russia from the West has been destroyed, while the former upper
classes (largely of Western origin) have been killed or driven into
exile. The real losers by the revolution are the truly westernized
elements who had worked for a Russia westernized in spirit but who
now see their illusions shattered. In fact, the revolution was largely
a revolt against westernism. In many ways Russia is to-day farther
from Europe and nearer to Asia than she has been since Peter opened
his "window to the West." .
will emerge from the obscure and troubled transition period through
which Russia is passing no one can say. Yet one word of caution is
distinctly needed. Many persons imagine that because Russia is a land
of huge size, vast natural resources, and immense population, something
"great" and "constructive" must necessarily arise.
Such persons are thinking in terms of quantity rather than quality.
The more we look at Russia's past and Russia's racial make-up, the
more we are led to suspect that Russia may not be really great, but
big -- which is something very different from true greatness.
To-day, as in former days, Russia appears as a complex, unstable mass
of diverse bloods, tendencies, and ideas. This of course makes possible
startling and interesting developments, but it also works against
creative, constructive progress. Russia has given birth to many brilliant
individuals, but as a people, what has Russia done? This distinction
should be clearly kept in mind. Because a stock produces talented
writers and artists is no necessary proof that it possesses high political
and social capacities. Russian history has been the story of mixed
populations dominated by a succession of masterful ruling minorities
mainly of foreign origin. Now, no people of high political initiative
and creative capacity would be likely to leave the direction of their
political and economic life so continuously and so generally in the
hands of foreign masters. It is therefore only fair to judge the Russians,
not so much by what they have said as by what they have done -- or
rather, by what they have failed to do.
of thought combined with failure in action is characteristic of the
Russians -- as it is of many mixed stocks. This is instinctively recognized
by Russians themselves. Russian novels are full of attractive young
heroes full of ideas who start out to do great things but soon slack
off and end in futile melancholy. Russian life seems to be typified
in those stimulating yet inconclusive conversations so beloved by
Russians, which go on all night long over innumerable cigarettes and
cups of tea, and which end at dawn with everybody tired, everything
discussed and nothing settled!