THE FIRST REFORMS
I.—THE REFORMING CURRENTS. II.—THE NEW CODE. III.—THE REORGANIZATION OF THE SERVICE. IV.—THE RELIGIOUS REFORM.
I.—The Reforming Currents.
From the heart of the intelligent class—a very small one, numerically speaking, in the days of Ivan's rule, but eager, nevertheless, to study certain political and social problems—and out of the focus formed by the men who thought and discussed and wrote, a twofold current of reform passed at this moment, converging, in spite of its exceedingly diverse points of departure, on analogous, if not identical, objects. In both cases the ideas and calculations advanced dealt with the burning question of the day; that of the possession of the land. My readers are already acquainted with the position assumed, as to this delicate matter, by Nil Sorski and Vassiane Patrikiév. Towards 1550, a pamphlet, couched in a form so strange as occasionally to render the author's thoughts unintelligible, but full of a striking fervour of expression, gave a fresh impulse to the views of the Niéstiajatéli (non-acquirers). The pamphleteer borrows his characters—the wonder-workers of Valaam, Sergius and Hermann—from the world of fiction. His own personality is wrapped in mystery. Some people have chosen to identify him with Patrikiév, but the author's denunciations of the excess of wealth accumulated in the hands of the 'black' clergy, and the abuses resulting therefrom, are too vehemently irreverent to proceed from a wearer of the klobouk. There is something monkish, indeed, about the curious artlessness of his political ideas; the permanent assembly he longs to see established is to apply its chief anxiety and care to insuring the strict keeping of fasts! But would Patrikiév, monk as he was, have ventured to claim, as the sole property of the laity, the place his brother priests had usurped in the Sovereign's councils? The lot of the cenobite, according to the author of this pamphlet, is poverty and prayer. Patrikiév's ambitions tended in quite a different direction.
The problem thus set was widening its borders, threatening other joint interests, inciting other claims. If the excessive expansion of monastic property was an evil, were not the distributions of land, now so numerous, to the 'men who serve,' and the gradual monopoly of the soil by the privileged class, whose conduct Ivan had just branded with dishonour, evils too? And behold, a second pamphlet, published under the form of an epistle or petition to the Tsar, from Ivan or Ivachka Peresviétov—whether this was the author's real name or a pseudonym has never been thoroughly settled—formulated an accusation against this rival class of landholders. By their spells and their intrigues they were said to have won the Sovereign's heart, and imposed their will on him in every particular. Enriched beyond all measure, as much so as the monks, by their expropriation and merciless squeezing of the dispossessed husbandmen, they lived in idleness and debauchery. As cowardly as they were greedy, they jeopardized the safety of the Tsar's armies in time of war, and in time of peace they levied a huge tithe on the taxes extorted from his subjects, and became the responsible agents of all the public woes.
But what then? The secularization of the monastic properties had been an item in the Muscovite policy for many years. Ivan III. had turned his attention to the matter, and made some slight attempts in that direction. How did Ivacha Peresviétov propose to solve the other portion of the problem?—By an equally radical measure: by the suppression of the kormlénié, by returning all the lands allotted to the sloojilyié-loodi to the State, and the substitution, for this mode of reward, of a money payment, which would insure obedient officials to the Sovereign, restore the land to its natural uses and legitimate owners, and relieve the mass of the people from the pressure of an unendurable tyranny.
From the literary point of view, the two pamphlets would seem to possess some bond of relationship. The imaginary characters in the first are replaced, in the second, by a Palatine of Wallachia, with whom the author has made a sojourn. The style of both is equally uncouth. But enigmatic as is the form of the work, with its strange circumlocutions, uncertain and obscure as all the phraseology of the period, never, in an country, was a more revolutionary process of reform suggested. The modern Nihilism of Russia can claim ancient parentage! In those days, as in ours, the space that parted theory from practice was wide. The question here was nothing less than a thorough reconstruction of the edifice, social and political. But the two programmes of the reformers, though they affected two different classes of land tenures, did not clash, as has been supposed. They were in a very natural agreement, and one supplied what the other lacked. They constituted two expressions of one and the same solution, revolutionary and democratic.
What was the state of Ivan's mind? How did he stand as to this twofold current of thought? That he was disposed, as far as Church property was concerned, to follow in his forefather's footsteps, we cannot doubt. On this point, through every vicissitude, from reign to reign, even from dynasty to dynasty, the Muscovite policy was never to be changed. But the grandson, like his grandfather, had to reckon with an opposition which nothing but the long-drawn complicity of time could wear down and overcome. The reorganization of the lay tenure was more difficult still. When Ivacha Peresviétov—I care not whence he came or what the source of his inspiration may have been—spoke such bold words, he must have felt a strong hand behind him. Parts of his pamphlet, indeed, seem no more than an echo of the young Tsar's speech on the Red Square. When we take him to have been a semi-official writer, we are probably not far from the truth. But unworthy as the 'men who served,' whom he would have dispossessed and reduced to their legitimate portion, may have been, and severely as the Sovereign might be resolved to treat them, they constituted the army and the administration, the very pillars of the temple! How were they to be replaced? Ivan meant to do it. But while he was finding thousands of Alexis Adachevs, he had to live; and for that purpose it would be better, instead of modifying the political status of the 'men who served' to their detriment, to think of insuring them a livelihood. Though no reform had shaken their legal position as yet, the privileges of the sloojilyié, now so bitterly attacked, had been severely damaged already. To the more or less just complaints brought against them they could reply with others, quite as legitimate. If they applied excessive pressure to the peasants who tilled the soil, the peasants themselves, by forsaking the cultivated areas, were ruining their masters. The Government, having begun by welcoming and favouring the agricultural exodus, which had so powerfully aided the process of colonization, now perceived this exodus to be a source of immediate peril, far more to be dreaded than the abuse of power, or even the insubordination, rife amongst its kormlénchtchiki. The executioner could always deal with insubordination. But supposing the material to fill the ranks of the 'service' were to fail? Supposing the holders of the pomiéstia, already so poorly supported by their scanty allotments, came short of food? The State would find itself disabled at once.
Further, Ivacha Peresviétov, when he brought all the landholders, small and great, the owners of stingily-proportioned life allotments, and the holders of huge hereditary domains, under his anathemas and his plans for dispossession, went astray, and missed the only mark then attainable, because he went beyond the facts as they existed at that date. Seeing that the land in Russia was still the only capital at the State's command, it was perfectly natural that it should be used to remunerate the State's servants, there being no other form of payment at the State's disposal. But the servants of the State were of various kinds. The land tenure of the ordinary pomiéchichiki, precarious in its nature and extremely restricted in its proportions, was not an abuse from the social point of view, nor any peril from that of politics. The people who were really privileged and really dangerous were the holders of the ancient appanages, who alone, amidst the gradual ruin of their weaker neighbours, continued to enjoy a certain amount of wealth, and, thanks to the social and economic crisis which was swallowing up the fortunes of their feebler rivals, even increased their possessions; for they attracted all the available labour by offering hope of better pay, if not by sheer force, and on the freehold lands thus populated and enlarged they kept or created a following, and maintained or strengthened their independence. These, too, were servants of the State, but often only as their pleasure, their leisure, or their convenience willed it. They were undisciplined, carping, as unaccustomed to obey as they were difficult to punish.
To protect the interest of the State in this dual system, and, instead of destroying both these elements, without knowing how to replace them, to set one against the other, weakening the stronger—the only one he had to fear—and strengthening the weaker and inoffensive; then, that first result attained, to strike hard, and rid himself of the standing menace; to keep the building intact, to preserve its good pillars, and pull down those that were in the way; to work out that historic evolution which, with slow but resistless force, was putting the Russia of the autocrat and the pomiéstia in the place of the ancient Russia of the appanaged Princes and the vottchiny—this was the plan on which Ivan, on a day yet to come, was to decide; and it was the only one that harmonized with the traditions and present necessities of his Empire.
This is the story which has hitherto been so ill understood; and the whole story of the opritchnina.
Ivan did not arrive at it suddenly. At the period which we have now reached he had probably allowed himself to drift astray between the two currents of thought, the novelty and boldness of which attracted his own open and enterprising mind. He lent an ear to the niéstiajatiéli, and probably encouraged Ivacha Peresviétov. He was feeling bis way, and was destined to begin with experiments, attempts, and compromises: These form the history of 1550–1551, and the events which fill them; the drawing up of a new Code and the assembling of an ecclesiastical council, which, thanks to that habit we have noticed of introducing lay representatives and discussing secular questions, marked an epoch in the political life of the country.
II.—The New Code.
That collection into one volume of the laws and customs of France which had been the dream of the dying Louis XI. was not realized, as my readers know, until the days of Henri III. And was it not a mere codification, then? In Russia the codifiers of 1550–1551 had to amend the Soudiébnik of 1497, which had already endeavoured, under an exaggerated system of unification, to establish a uniform procedure and a unique judicial organization. This advance on Western legislation was, indeed, less real than apparent. The legislator of 1497 had hardly touched the ideas and judicial conceptions of the Rousskaïa pravda of the eleventh century, except where, as in one or two places, he adapted it to the point of view of his own period. Save as to procedure and matters of organization, he was content to transcribe the old Customary. His work had been inspired, above all things, by the centralizing policy he was carrying on. That of his grandson was the outcome of two tendencies which, at first sight, appear inconsistent and contradictory. It marks, in a sense, a backward step—a return to the old local jurisdictions, expressive of the autonomous movement of the period. But at the same time, and in much more timid fashion, it marks, from the purely judicial point of view, an advance on the path of progress.
The first of these two aspects of the new Code was far the most important. The administration of justice at that time was practically the only administration in existence, and this was the beginning, in the vaguest fashion and under the form of a mere indication, of a general organic reform. No great exactness must ever be expected of the literary productions of that period. Even when they are prolix they tell very little, express what they do tell very ill, leave a great deal more to be understood, and are content with a hasty sketch, the features of which it is by no means easy to catch. But the outline exists, and it has been fairly claimed to have been the determinative argument of the Code, and of the assembly to which the Code was submitted.
This reform did not spring spontaneously from Ivan's brain, nor from the mind of his councillors. In spite of his centralizing views, the legislator of 1497 had accepted the principle of a certain share in the exercise of justice on the part of those amenable to it, through their elected representatives, starosts, hundreders, prud'hommes. This was rendered imperative by the toughness of certain local traditions. But these assessors' duty, limited to a right of examination, was merely optional. Starosts, hundreders, and prud'hommes did not exist everywhere, and in some places nobody cared to have them. The new Code announced that the principle was to be generally applied, and made its application obligatory. Elected and sworn assessors were to be established in every bailiwick. And more. During Ivan's minority, in the midst of the disorder into which the incoherence of the central Government had cast the provinces, the force of circumstances had evolved other judicial authorities, intended to replace the official magistrates, who had forgotten all their essential duties. Somebody there had to be, to arrest, and try, and punish, the brigands and malefactors of all sorts who swarmed in every place. Thus, in many parts of the country, rural and urban communes had sought and obtained leave, by special charters; to supply this need, by choosing judges of their own: The magistrates of this new type were generally known as goobnyié starosty. The gooba was the generic title applied, in some parts of the country, to the ward. The districts of Pskov and Novotorjok were divided up into gooby. But these wards were not originally connected with the criminal jurisdiction in any way. To this acquired fact the Code of 1550 gave an official confirmation. By a stroke of the pen, it placed all this department of jurisdiction under the charge of the communes. And this was only a preliminary step. The outbreak of war soon necessitated a general mobilization of the 'service men,' and the expediency of appealing to the new magistracy for the discharge of all the administrative duties left unperformed by the sloojilyié, absent on military duty, shortly became apparent. By a series of charters, which grew more and more numerous after the year 1555, the very financial organization, and the assessment and collection of the taxes were included in the same system.
This was neither more nor less than the adoption of Ivacha Peresviétov's plan, the cutting off of the kormlénié at the root, by the elimination of the kormlenchtchiki. At one moment, and as early as 1552, Ivan made no secret of his determination to reorganize his administration to the exclusion of these officials, who would thus have lost, if not every title—for they would still have been soldiers—the most essential of their rights to the possession of the land. And a remarkable feature is that the persons affected made no protest, and expressed no complaint. They would willingly have sacrificed their privileged possession of the land to obtain a pecuniary compensation, which, even if trifling, would have been more certain than the revenues of their ruined properties. But the reform, which had thus reached a point at which it seemed on the brink of realizing a complete communal autonomy, and, simultaneously, a profound alteration in the social, economic, and political constitution of the country, suddenly stopped short. As might have been foreseen, the men to carry out the ideas were not to be found. The benefit of the autonomy thus offered to populations quite insufficiently prepared for the duties they were expected to assume, was far beyond their powers of assimilation. The right of jurisdiction involved heavy responsibilities. The great distance between the various dwellings, which, though these were placed in the midst of elements naturally inclined to sociability in every form, enforced a necessity of a very opposite nature, was in many cases a quite insuperable obstacle to any organization of communal groups. And, further, the State did not bestow this benefit—which the people did not know how to use, and the responsibility of which it dreaded—as a free gift. It was a privilege, and the tradition in Russia, as elsewhere, was that privileges must be paid for. The charters conferring autonomy were therefore burdened with a ransom; in other words, the commune had to buy out the judicial rights of the persons who had previously held them. Many refused to incur this pecuniary sacrifice; others were too or to make it. In this respect, the course of the Upper and Lower Oka seems to have divided the country into two distinct regions. On the northern side, the population, thicker and more industrious, showed an inclination to accept the reform. On the southern, the resources of the people, material and moral, were too poor to permit of their welcoming it. A more general application of the principle might, indeed, have resulted from a development of prosperity, and coincided with the progress of communal existence; but this progress was soon to be compromised and stifled by the law of serfdom, while the Government, impelled by the bureaucratic system maintained in certain provinces, and strongest of all at the central point, was itself to intervene, and warp the working of the new institutions. In fact, from the close of the sixteenth century onwards, the goobnyié starosty, in the very places where they had been called into active existence, were to find themselves converted into mere officials appointed by Government, and dependent on its offices at Moscow.
Ivan's abortive attempt, as I have just sketched it, bears a pretty close resemblance to the reform which called the urban communes of France into life, under Philippe-Auguste and St. Louis, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and a yet closer one to that movement in the tenth and eleventh centuries which, through the charters granted to certain associations of serfs belonging to a feudal lord, resulted in the formation of the rural communes. The difference between the general processes of evolution, tending in one case to the complete enfranchisement of the classes, and in the other to their more and more complete servitude, differentiates the two phenomena. The Russian peasants, already, when Ivan claimed to use their instincts of independence for his projected scheme of reorganization, more or less deeply plunged into servitude, turned their backs on this ideal. Between the kriépostnoié pravo and self-government no compromise was possible.
Ivan also imitated Edward I. of England by putting the administration of justice and police matters into the hands of the gentry. But while in England, both in theory and in practice, the responsibility and the privilege were bound together, in Russia the two terms were to be practically separated. Whether it was that the peasant class failed to supply candidates for the pseudo-autonomous functions offered, or that the Government did not care to find them in that class, the privilege fell to the 'men who served,' in that the choice of the electors found nobody else on whom it might fall. Thus, the peasants' share ended by being all duty and no rights. And the sloojilyié themselves soon found theirs too heavy. It lacked one essential charm—independence. For—and here we have the most characteristic feature of the Muscovite experiment, and it was also one, and no doubt, the strongest, of the reasons which induced Ivan to undertake it—this tentative reform, far from being the fruit of a decentralizing tendency, was really the outcome of an anxiety of a quite different nature.
In connection with this matter, the part played by appearances and fictions in the political life of Moscow stands out in striking relief. One durable effect, and one of the objects, of this experiment, was the dissolution of the comparatively independent political organisms still present in the composition of the Muscovite State. The programme of unification, the execution of which Ivan was now pursuing in his turn, was hampered by the hereditary rights of a number of petty provincial potentates, who held certain regal rights within their own dominions. These remnants of the past the young Tsar had in view, and these he expected to wipe out, when he set up a rival organization—an organization of which he, who had created it, root and branch, was to be the regulator and master. In the West, the centralizing movement found a weapon to its hand in that emancipation of the classes which broke up the old feudal moulds, and in the particularism of the old local institutions. In Russia, where these classes did not exist—for there the town, the monastery, the village with its lord, the bailiwick with its free Byers were only so many separate units—the State evolved the idea of creating these elements artificially, by a system of forced service imposed on the communities it undertook to constitute. But ukases cannot impart life, and the reform thus devised was stillborn, save in the sense I have just indicated—that of an agent which destroyed the past and paved the way to a system of universal servitude.
The Code of 1551 laid only the lightest of fingers on the great question of the land. Contrary to the reforming tendency, and conformably with the desire of the conservative party, it converted a custom which had fixed and consolidated the tenure of the land into a law—the right to buy back patrimonial properties. In other words, the vendor of such a property, or, failing him, his relatives, were allowed to take back the lands sold at any period, so long as the price that had been given for them was repaid. The future exercise of this right was limited, indeed, to a period of forty years, and given to collateral relations only, but, notwithstanding this, it constituted a recognition, on the legislator's part, of a most detestable archaism, opposed to all freedom of exchange and economic progress.
On yet another point his work is marked by a capitulation in the struggle between the two antagonistic elements and principles. As I have already remarked (p. 20), the causes constituting slavery, as recognised by custom and by the Code of 1497, were restricted by that of 1550. Thus, children born before their parents became slaves were to be free; enslaved parents were forbidden to sell their children born out of slavery; all contracts of servitude were to be signed in the presence of certain high officials, and that only in the towns of Moscow, Pskov, and Novgorod, etc. But at the same time, and with a quite opposite tendency, the Code gave the peasants power to leave the lands they worked at every season, if they desired to barter their own freedom and sell themselves as serfs; and, further, the new law, by increasing the dues on his dwelling-house, tightened the rope that was already strangling him round the husbandman's neck.
The personal inclinations of the Sovereign probably did not affect these last provisions in any way. A series of proposals, drawn up for presentation to the assembly in his name, prove his own leanings to have been very different. But the man who was some day to jeer at Batory's limited power did not venture, as yet, to make use of his own omnipotence. He was too young, and too uncertain of his ideas and convictions.
As regards civil rights, the new Code left the order of succession untouched. It was not till 1562 that an important change was to mark the triumph of the political programme sketched above: the hereditary domains of Princes, in the absence of male heirs, and the hereditary properties of boïars, failing immediate heirs or testamentary dispositions, were to go back to the State. Ten years later, the right of succession was limited to vottchiny in the original deed of concession of which this power had been specially stipulated for, and only direct heirs and collaterals to the second degree were allowed to enjoy even these truncated rights.
The Code of 1550, indeed, like that of 1497, was above all things a rule of procedure, and in this respect it constitutes a distinct advance on its predecessor. Measures for insuring greater regularity in the course of justice, severe penalties for careless or dishonest judges, the putting down of bribery, the regulation of the use of torture and of the judicial combat—nothing calculated to correct vices unfortunately all too inveterate and obstinate, was overlooked. In another order of things it may be credited with a capital innovation—the establishment of a fixed and graduated rate of fines for offences. But taking it all in all, the conservative party came out victorious, and Ivan was left face to face with the triumphant army of his unruly boïars, who had kept all their rights and privileges, and were as ready as ever to abuse them.
Yet Ivacha Peresviétov had not spoken in vain. In the course of that same year (1550) Ivan, though he still hesitated, scarce knowing what end he should pursue, or how he should attain it, took one decisive step on the only path open to him, if he was to enter on the inevitable struggle with any hope of victory, and reconcile a reform which had become indispensable with the maintenance of a political system of the destruction of which he could not dream. On October 10, he published a ukase for the reorganization of the upper class of the 'men who served.'
III.—The Reorganization of the 'Service.'
Notice the expression. It embodies the germ of the entire system of the opritchnina and of the whole internal history of Ivan's reign.
Orders were issued to collect a thousand sons of boïars, chosen among the best, and give them pomiéstia in the Moscow district and those nearest it. This elect body was to form the nobility of the capital, the nucleus of a contingent which was to be available for service of every kind, and for military service more especially. The oldest aristocratic families established in the region were included in the group, and provided, if they did not already possess them, with allotments of landed property in the immediate neighbourhood. The whole body of this aristocracy was divided into three classes, or stati, acording to seniority in the service. In this fashion, the legislator without suppressing the miéstnitchestvo, determined and limited the field of his future labours. The service to be paid for each allotment was also carefully defined and fixed: for every hundred acres (about fifty diéssiatines, or as many hectares) the holder was to supply one mounted man, and a second horse if the expedition was to be a long one. A money payment might be substituted for the man and the horse, and the Sovereign, on his part, guaranteed an indemnity for extra men supplied, in addition to the campaigning pay every man received.
Hence the theory of 'service,' which upset all positions and ruled all questions of rank and precedence, was destined, even more than in past days, to hold the foremost place in the hierarchy thus constituted. And here is an indication of the result obtained. No Princes appear on the lists of the great personages summoned to the assembly of 1566. In the course of the evolution which had carried the official class into the front rank, they had disappeared, or, officially speaking at all events, they were as though they did not exist, for their titles still appear in their signatures, and they thus maintained and affirmed their rights. But the law ignored them, and they sometimes ended by forgetting their own identity. Even in 1554, we find Michael Ivanovitch, the descendant of the ancient appanaged Princes of Vorotynsk, claiming no more than the title of dvorianine (courtier), higher, now, than any other; and the trend of the Muscovite policy itself always tended to eliminate the hereditary element in the higher sphere, for in 1566, out of ninety-four dvorianié of the first class, only thirty belonged to the princely families.
This was the work wrought by the ukase of 1550, and a few years later the system was further and largely extended by a service, reorganized in 1571, for the protection of the southern and south-western frontiers, and confided to the landed proprietors of those regions. A fort had been built, during Ivan's minority, at Temnikov, on the Mokcha, a tributary of the Oka, and a number of posts established along the natural lines of defence rendered it possible to keep a watch on the Tartars' movements. In 1555 a regular guard of Striéltsy and Cossacks was organized, all along the Volga, and one Cossack regiment, the khoperskii polk, still preserves the remnants of a standard presented to it by Ivan IV. He did more than this. By his care, another contingent of boïars' sons in search of an establishment was assigned pomiéstia in the territory threatened by invasion. The holders of these lands were thus interested in the defence of the frontier, and bound, in return for the landed properties bestowed upon them, to keep up a permanent guard. A double chain of fortified townlets thus arose, from Alatyr and Temnikov to Poutivl, and from Nijni-Novgorod to Zvenigorod. And after this, the system, which had proved its value, was successively extended to the eastern and western frontiers, and made up one huge whole, ensuring the Empire the tranquillity it had hitherto lacked.
This work alone, so wide in its conception and so vigorously carried out, in spite of the painful struggles through which he was then passing, should suffice to clear Ivan of the too general and most insufficiently justified opprobrium cast on this portion of his reign. The Terrible did not spend it in doing nothing but cutting off men's heads. It was no fault of his that the assembly of 1551, to which his Code was presented, did not itself inscribe a far more brilliant page in the nation's history.
IV.—The Religious Reform.
In history this assembly bears the name of Stoglavnyï-sobor, or the 'Conciliable of the Hundred Chapters,' which it owes to an arbitrary division of the report of its deliberations. My readers will remember, in this connection, the 'Hundred and One Griefs' of the Diet of Worms. It was the fashion of those times. As usual, the conciliable included the Metropolitan, the Archbishops of Novgorod and Rostov, and many Bishops, archimandrites, and priors. The lay element was represented by the great Court dignitaries, and by the whole body of the boïarskaïa douma. Ivan did not fail to make speeches of his own. He multiplied his rhetorical efforts, made an act of contrition, and appealed to the counsels and prayers of his whole audience. All this was his usual course of scenic effect. Then the new Code was considered and approved. This was a mere matter of form. The questions affecting the work of legislation had been previously cleared up between the Sovereign and his lay counsellors, the only persons concerned in them. All that Ivan expected from the composite gathering now assembled, and representing the highest moral authority in the country, was a recognition of his reforms, whether accomplished or proclaimed. This was the ordinary procedure, and an invariable feature of every successive avatar of the Parliamentary existence of the country. By the way, however, the Sovereign was pleased to call on the assistance of the conciliable as to certain fresh legal proposals, in connection with which he sought, not its adhesion, but its advice. These were the suppression of the miéstnitchestvo in time of war; a revision of the Crown grants of land, with the object of bringing them into proportion with the amount of service rendered; the means to be employed for fixing the level of taxation by remedying the present fluctuations of the taxable population; the putting down of taverns; the bestowal of landed properties on the widows and orphan daughters of boïars; and the establishment of an official cadastral survey. …
We must not expect method any more than we must expect perspicuity, from the legislators of this epoch. Their procedure was one of riddles and of jerks. The assembly made some attempt to fulfil the task imposed upon it. A remedy for the fluctuation of the population was by no means easy to find, and the gathering suggested none. The plan for putting down the taverns, which had been inspired by the religious party, ran counter to the fiscal interest, and did not advance beyond a pious wish. But it was decided that in war-time 'places' were not to count; the cadastral survey and the revision of the landed properties were undertaken, and as to the widows and orphan girls, a system of life allotments was adopted, the lands to be given up if the holders married or took the veil. All this, however, was but an introduction to the feast, and the 'Hundred Chapters' bear no trace of these labours. In this assembly, in which the Church predominated, the anxieties filling men’s minds were of a quite different order. Ivachka Peresviétov's programme had been put aside or reduced to a minimum, the scope of which was probably not even understood, but that of the wonder-workers of Valaam remained upon the scene. The reform claimed by the Niéstiajatiéli had still to be dealt with.
In this matter Ivan seemed disposed, at first, to give proofs of a more lively originating power. He certainly was influenced by Nil Sorski's disciples. Artemi, the declared enemy of the Iosiflianié, and soon to be appointed Prior of the Troïtsa, was allowed to present the Sovereign with a memorandum which boldly demanded the secularization of the monastic properties. So, at least, we are led to think by a letter from the monk which has come down to our own times. Among the members of the sobor was Kassiane, Bishop of Riazan, supposed author of a vigorous denunciation of the corruption of thought and morals rampant in both orders of the clergy. Isolated though she was, Russia was not entirely untouched by the revolutionary currents which were convulsing the Western world of that period. But the Metropolitan Macarius, a worthy pupil of his alma-mater, the monastery of Volok-Lamski, spoke, not less vigorously, against the radical proposals. In a famous epistle, which has been guessed to be a reply to some new law proposed by the young Tsar, he appealed to the example of the Greek Emperors, the Russian Sovereigns, and even the Tartar Khans, who had all shown equal respect for Church property. The Iosoflianié had a huge majority in the sobor. And Ivan gave in again, agreed to present the question in a very modified form, and contented himself with calling the assembly's attention to the faulty administration of the monastic properties, and to the monks' excessive greed.
In theory, the sobor pronounced for the suppression of these abuses, and ended, though not without sharp resistance, by accepting some practical measures to that end—the restitution of freehold lands (vottchiny) ceded to the monasteries by boïars without the Sovereign's consent, and a similar restitution of all lands of every kind illegally acquired by the Church; the annulling of all gifts to the Church during Ivan's minority; the monasteries to be forbidden to acquire the patrimonial estates of the ancient appanaged Princes, and the clergy in general to be forbidden to acquire vottchiny without the Sovereign's leave. Although she laid great stress on the value of the service she already paid by furnishing a certain number of military recruits and contributing to the repair of the fortifications of certain towns, the Church was forced to accept fresh burdens. She had to pay her share towards a fund for ransoming prisoners, and the concessions she made led on to others. In 1573 a conciliable was absolutely to forbid, by the Tsar's order, any of freehold land to the rich monasteries, already well provided in this respect; and another, held in 1580, was to apply the principle still further, by forbidding all future acquisition of any lands whatsoever by any member of either clergy, whether by gift or purchase.
Thus the growth of the landed property of the Church was checked.
In 1551 Ivan sought to give more complete satisfaction to the ideas of the reformers in another matter. His intentions were made manifest in a series of questions addressed to the assembly, so sharp and searching that they sound like an echo of the English 'Black Book' of 1534—that accusation drawn up by the agents of Thomas Cromwell against the monks of his day, their dubious morals, their pride, their coarseness—or else of the scandalous tales which enlivened Layton's correspondence with his master. This somewhat insulting interrogatory, the answers given by the assembly, and the Sovereign’s further remarks, enter into the composition of the 'Book of the Hundred Chapters' (Stoglav), and constitute the most essential portion of it. The dialogue we are thus enabled to follow is most curious. We observe that the sobor at first tried every means of avoiding the discussion. In the first forty chapters, the Tsar's indiscreet queries are all brought together. Then follows a general reply, which altogether begs the question, slipping into side issues, and stealing away into the uncertain regions of the gui pro quo. Ivan finds sharp fault with the bad use made of the wealth piled up in the monasteries. The assembly pretends it does not know what he means, and replies by putting forward divers liturgical problems. This part of the book most likely adheres to the order and procedure first adopted in the debate. After the forty-first chapter these are altered, probably because the Tsar thought a change of method advisable. Questions and answers now follow in regular alternation, though the fathers of the Church still do their best to quibble and avoid any too definite response. A return is made, but with no better success, to some of the points already discussed. When the morals of the clergy are called in question, the sobor, not without a touch of spite, drops into lamentations over the increase of sodomy amongst the laity, and solemnly passes.on to some such problem of ascetic morality as this: Can a sick nun make her confession to a member of the secular clergy? Sometimes the dialogue warms into a quarrel, and descends to personalities. Ivan has made a remark as to the bad painting of the ikons. The sobor replies, 'Look at what is going on in the Kremlin!' This is a hit at an ikon of doubtful orthodoxy lately substituted for a famous one painted by Roublev, a fifteenth-century artist. Thus, through it all, amidst all the shuffling and straying hither and thither, the general idea of the reform is lost—evaporates, as it were, never attains solidity on any point. Some few amendments as to details: the institution of ecclesiastical starosts and tithing-men to overlook the morals of the clergy; a rigorous separation of the sexes within all monasteries; a stricter observance of the rules of the various communities, were accepted in principle, but in practice they were destined to remain a dead letter. The assembly, thus forced to acknowledge the reality of certain disorders which had brought shame on the National Church and compromised her future, did not fail to recognise their essential caus—the state of ignorance in which both clergy, the regular and the secular, continued to wallow. And it decided on opening a great number of schools for the education of priests. But it did nothing to insure the carrying out of this decision. It imagined, or feigned to imagine, that it could reckon, for this purpose, on the zeal and devotion of the poor popes, who were most of them forced to beg, and did not themselves possess the requisite learning; and the wealthy Bishops and archimandrites refused any personal contributions, and refused, too, in this case, to admit the necessity of beginning at the beginning—in other words, of raising the intellectual standard of the upper ecclesiastical hierarchy in the first place. Macarius himself was apt to commit the grossest errors in the interpretation and selection of his texts!
Under the influence, as we may suppose, of Maximus the Greek, the sobor turned its attention to the corruptions of the sacred books, and ordered the establishment of a printing-press—the first that ever existed at Moscow—to reprint them according to the most correct copies to be had. Alas! as my readers already know, the existence of this printing-press was of the shortest, thanks to a local tumult. All that remained were the interdicts pronounced by the assembly at the same time on certain impious and heretical works. But, alas, again! these works—the Secreta Secretorum, a repertory of the science of the Middle Ages, here called Aristotel, and ascribed to Aristoteles, and the astronomical tables of Emmanuel Ben Jacob, known under the title of the Chestokryl—constituted the whole profane literature of the country. And to save its face, reply to the accusations of immorality, and flatter the ascetic tendencies of the epoch by giving itself an appearance of rigorous austerity, the assembly took good care to renew all the Church's anathemas against profane amusements.
Quite as empty was the shadow of administrative reform embodied in the autonomous institutions the new Code had proposed to call into life. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as exercised by the Bishops' delegates, whether boïars, clerks, or tithing-men, gave lively cause for complaint. The suppression of these magistrates did not seem feasible; they had existed under the great Metropolitans Peter and Alexis! The popes were given leave to have themselves represented, for judicial purposes, by elected starosts and hundreders, but the assembly forgot to define the part these representatives were to play!
And yet, in spite of its weaknesses and failures, the labours of the assembly of 1551 do not seem to me to deserve the scorn which has fallen upon them in their own day, seeing that the very anathema with which it was smitten at a later date, by the conciliable of 1667, attests the scope and comparative boldness of its endeavour. Is not the fact, in a society so depraved and generally devoid of knowledge—a society in which no ideal existed, and given over to the rule of the coarsest instincts—that a handful of men attained so much, and asked a great deal more, a sufficient title to our indulgence and even to our respect? Attempts have been made to minimize and even to deny Ivan's share in the result obtained. Silvester or Adachev, Maximus the Greek or Macarius, we are told, did it all, even to inspiring or formulating the famous set of questions on which the deliberations of the assembly were based. Most assuredly, the young Tsar neither acted nor thought alone. Even during the progress of the debate, the earlier decisions of the conciliable were sent to the Troïtsa, where Jehosaphat, the former Metropolitan, Alexis, a former Bishop of Rostov, and a few other ecclesiastics, had to pronounce upon them. It was in consequence, indeed, of this consultation, as it would appear, that the question of the monastic properties, first put aside, and then brought back under discussion, was solved in the sense I have just indicated. But Jehosaphat and his comrades, all of them former ecclesiastical dignitaries in disgrace, and avowed partisans of Nil Sorski's, could only have been called into consultation in this way by virtue of some act of high authority, which certainly did not proceed from the council itself. Silvester is mentioned as having been one of the monks who brought back Jehosaphat's views from the Troïtsa. He would not have applied for them on his own account, and we may even doubt whether he would have had any desire to serve the cause of the ascetics 'beyond the Volga' in this fashion. The coarse asceticism of the Domostroï was also invoked by the Iosiflianié. It was the standard of the official Church. Among the materials which served for the composition of the Stoglav some people have included the epistle addressed to Ivan by the pope of the Church of the Annunciation. I have already said that the authorship of this epistle is doubtful, and only one of the subjects of which it treats was touched by the conctliable—the question of wearing beards, which Silvester connects with that struggle against the sin of sodomy, which seems to have been the great anxiety of the author of the Domostroï. And his point of view is the one generally taken up by the moralists of this school, their idea being that 'beardless men, by making themselves look more like women, were more liable to stir sinful desire in others.'
Young as Ivan was, his intelligence and education both raised him to a higher level than this. The set of questions the conciliable had to consider was not only presented to it in the Sovereign's name, but partly written by his own hand; and a comparison with other and later writings by the same author reveals his personal mark as strongly apparent in it—not his thought only, but his forms of speech, his way of putting things, cutting like a knife, vigorous and biting, rugged and blunt. Nothing here recalls Silvester, with his inferior composition and poverty of thought. Even on questions of liturgy, as to which Macarius may well have directed him, Ivan was always to give proof of very wide information.
Further, no study of the 'Book of the Hundred Chapters' was attempted till at a comparatively recent period, and the text available was incomplete, and gave rise to a great deal of uncertainty. The Stoglav, which fell under interdict in the year 1667, escaped the curiosity of historians for two whole centuries. Macarius may probably be considered as the author of the relative failure of the work of 1551, and the chief organizer of the assembly's opposition to the reforming tendencies of Nil Sorski and Jehosaphat, and the personal inclinations of the Sovereign. The Metropolitan did advocate a reform, but one which would have operated in a different direction. He turned his back on all progress, and saw no salvation save in a return to the past and its traditions, which had been scorned and violated, and to the old arbitrary ideal of the primitive Christians. This ideal consisted in a piety based on a scrupulous performance of rite; a Church with a mighty hierarchy entrenched in the very heart of the aristocracy, and rolling up more wealth, 'which came to her from God,' from year to year; an understanding with the State, on the basis of mutual support; the merciless putting down of heresy; and no schools at all. As for Jehosaphat's opinions, they would certainly never have been either received or sought for but for the intervention of the only omnipotent will able to hurl such a defiance at the majority. Their insertion in the Stoglav has given rise to some natural confusion, producing an impression that the assembly had adopted them, and even gone the length of adopting the views of the Niéstiajatiéli. As a matter of fact, the sobor only made a partial capitulation, and the honour of this cannot be denied to Ivan.
His victory, modest as it was, was still further diminished by the later efforts of the vanquished party. In some localities the decisions of the assembly long continued a dead letter. Everywhere the official Church endeavoured to hamper their application, and when the clergy were once more called together in 1554, to judge the heresies of Matthew Rachkine and his followers, they revenged themselves by dragging several of the most prominent of the reformers into the trial. Soon, too, certain of the ecclesiastical conservatives, wounded or threatened in their dearest interests, were to meet with other malcontents. Ivan's pursuance of his plan of reform was to rally every element of opposition against him: religious and political interests were to join hands, and with them all he was to enter on a fearful struggle, from which he did indeed emerge victorious, but leaving a terrifying name, and a memory that makes men shiver, even now, to his descendants.
The religious reform had failed. The political reform, more resolutely imposed, was to bring a reign of terror with it.
But Ivan had to solve other problems first. In his case, as in that of his predecessors, the territorial expansion of the huge and growing Empire called him to the frontier. The legislator was to be transformed into the conqueror.