Page:The Russian Review Volume 1.djvu/23

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In the Russian Village.

By Th. Kriukov.[1]

It seems that the "holy calm of Russia's impoverished villages" has nowadays become deeper, as if it had grown in its bounds. So it seems, at least, far in the interior of the country; as if all the thunder and the noise, all the shrieks and groans, have become concentrated in one place, while beyond the quivering boundary line of the mighty upheaval, nothing remains but dumbness and emptiness.

Such an impression comes inevitably to one who witnesses the life of the Russian village, both on week-days and on holidays. Everything is quiet; no busy bustle and motion, no music, no singing, no profanity. Life has not died out; it seems to have shrunken, grown quieter, more timid and severe, become religiously self-concentrated, as it often becomes during Lent, or in times of great national misfortune ...

This is my second month spent in the capacity of an observer of the quiet and slow-moving life of the Russian village.

... A part of my working day is usually devoted to giving every variety of advice, and writing all kinds of petitions. By the irony of fate, while wholly unversed in either legal or business practices, I am considered an extremely learned and important man, and am supposed to have connections with all sorts of institutions, almost from the palace to the prison. And, willingly or unwillingly, I am compelled to bear the burden of unearned fame, to hear sighs, complaints, and groans, to give advice and write petitions. It is not easy to close one's door to people who have no other place to go to in their need.

The variegated threads of everyday troubles are now bound together by the heavy chain of war difficulties. Every day brings from the war territory some hint, some tiny bit of news, which speaks of the difficult life in the vast camp, hidden from the eyes of those who follow the great drama through the newspapers.

Yesterday, an old Cossack came to me from the neighboring settlement. While stating his request he suddenly burst into tears and could not finish it. He simply handed me a folded sheet of paper.

"Here," sobbed he, "read of the troubles that fall on my old

  1. From the "Russkiya Zapiski" (Russian Notes) of Petrograd.