TURKEY and Russia had always lagged behind the civilised countries of Europe, and their rate of progress had for many years been slower. The Turks, a race of Central Asiatic origin, lived as peasants in Asia Minor or soldiered and " administered " subject Christians in the Balkans, amid relics of the Roman and Byzantine Empires. The Turk had some of the virtues of the Mohammedan man of arms, and these qualities sometimes endeared him to foreigners. But his ignorance, laziness, and savagery were not to be explained except by downright stupidity. The Moslem religion and the Turkish dress, language, and alphabet tended to sever him from civilising European influences, and to maintain the feeling that he was an alien intruder.
Even in Russia there was an Asiatic strain under the Western varnish of the Government and Court. There was, too, more than a hint of Asiatic savagery in the methods of rule. Until 1905 there was no pretence of parliamentary government. The Tsar, in theory, ruled as Napoleon or Louis XIV. had done; in practice, he was in the hands of his officials and generals; and the central and provincial governments were considerably more military than even those of Germany and Austria. The secret police and spies, the exile of political offenders, and the frequent use of bayonets and the lash were regarded as legitimate and necessary weapons against revolutionary movements. These movements, however, were to a large extent a natural reaction against obsolete methods of government, whose corruption was demonstrated clearly by the failure of Imperial Russia during her wars-the Crimean War, the Japanese War of 1904-05, and the World War of 1914-18.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Russia was the object of intense detestation by Liberals in western countries. In England this feeling dovetailed with Conservative apprehensions about India and the Mediterranean the Russians were menacing the North-West Frontier and the Bosphorus-and produced an anti-Russian opinion which remained solid until overcome by fear of Germany. In
Germany there were also Liberals who disliked tyranny in the abstract, and by all Germans, Liberal or militarist, Russia's enormous area and population were assumed to be capable of producing immense forces in war.
DISTURBANCES under the Tsardom before the seventies had mainly been national affairs-in Poland or Finland, for example-but there had long been a Liberal section among the small educated class, lawyers, journalists, certain civil servants and a few nobles; Russia now became the home of the most extreme reforming movement of recent times. Socialism had been crystallised by Karl Marx during his exile in England (1849-83). His book Das Kapital (1867) expounded the influence of material conditions on the social development of Man, the production of all value by labour, and the tendency for employers or capitalists to absorb everything above a bare subsistence allowance for the workmen. Marx also popularised the term "proletariat" as a description of the working class.
His book was more vigorous than any apologies that capitalism could then make. Marx and his various colleagues and rivals gained considerable followings on the continent and there were writers who, secretly in Russia, and more openly in exile, advocated similar views, with much dispute as to Marx's meaning. Stepniak, Bakunin, and, later, Kropotkin were among revolutionary leaders, and Tolstoy, the great novelist, without being actively revolutionary, was sympathetic. Freedom of speech and of the press did not fully exist in Russia: the censorship was active spasmodically, and open advocacy of reform might be grounds for exile.
The revolutionary movement of the last quarter of the nineteenth century included academic socialists at one extreme, like the highly respectable English Fabians, who proposed to reform capitalist society gradually and by persuasion; at the other were the persons known as Nihilists in Russia and Anarchists in Italy and other countries. In theory they desired the destruction of all forms of government-the negation of Socialism, in whatever sense that word is taken, but in practice their views had something in common with what we call Communism. They rapidly made an impression by a series of assassinations in the 'eighties and 'nineties. Tsar Alexander was assassinated in 1881, after which the Russian government repressed Nihilism with much rigour. The French and American Presidents, the Empress of Austria, and the Kings of Italy and Portugal met the same fates in the 'nineties. Many other political murders were attempted and " terrorism " was well known in Europe before the end of the century. Lenin, an able young bourgeois, was already active, though not as a terrorist.