FIRE AND SWORD IN THE CAUCASUS
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THE revolutionary outbreaks by which Russia has been disturbed from end to end during the last eighteen months, have assumed an exceptionally interesting aspect in the parts of the Empire inhabited by alien races. Old national ideals, which were believed to be buried and forgotten, others whose very existence few suspected, have sprung to life, armed and formidable. While the autocracy is fighting for its life against the onslaught of political and social revolution, its border provinces are seething with Nationalist discontent, and are a prey to violent uprisings. Poles, Finns, Letts, Georgians, Armenians, are all demanding the rights so long denied them, and their demands are backed by rifles, revolvers, and bombs.
No part of Russia at the present moment is more full of acute problems of great interest for the student of politics than the Caucasus. There, side by side with Nationalist claims and bitter racial and religious animosities, we see attempts to realize the conceptions of Social Democracy; together with evidences of mediaeval barbarism we find men actually putting the theories of Marx into practice. For many months the country has been the theatre of a
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civil war, accompanied by every circumstance of horror. Thousands of people have been killed, hideous crimes have been and are still being perpetrated, and a vast amount of property has been destroyed. The Russian authorities oscillate between brutal reaction and weak concession, with occasional lucid intervals of liberal statesmanship. Yet out of all this chaos of bloodshed and ruin some good may come, and, indeed, I am sure will come. For there will at last be a chance for the free development of those nationalities which have for so long been the step-children of a historic fatality. It seemed at one time as though these peoples, who have kept alight the torch of Christianity and civilization amidst the darkness of Oriental savagery for fifteen centuries, were destined to disappear, to be absorbed into those greater and more expansive races who are spreading their dominion all over the earth, or to be wiped out by more savage and less civilized fighting peoples. Such a state of things would have been in every way regrettable ; for while in all other parts of the world local patriotism and provincial ideals, which have given us so much in the way of political and social development, seem to be dying out, overwhelmed by the large, political units, it is only in such regions as the Mediterranean East that there are left, in the words of Mr. James Bryce, “ nationalities with a capacity for developing into independent nations that may create new types of character and new forms of literary and artistic life.” * Moreover, some of these
* Introduction to “ The Balkan Question,” by various writers, P. 13.
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nations have achieved enough in the past to warrant us in the conviction that under favourable conditions they may do more, much more in the future.
In writing the ensuing pages I have tried to present a sketch of this great Russian colony during what is perhaps the most critical period of its history. I spent several months, during the summer and autumn of 1905, visiting every important centre of political unrest in the Caucasus, and inquiring into the general conditions of the country ; for this purpose I consulted numbers of people of all classes, races, and religions, from the Russian Viceroy down to simple peasants, from the chief of the secret police to the Georgian revolutionary leaders, not to mention the editors of local papers, and the foreign residents and consuls ; and I am bound to say that I found everybody, with rare exceptions, most anxious to assist me, and that I was treated with the greatest possible kindness and hospitality. It would be invidious to single out by name any of the people to whom I am so deeply indebted, while to include them all would fill several pages. I must, however, express my especial indebtedness to Mr. J. Gordon Browne, who was my travelling companion for the greater part of my trip, and by his thorough knowledge of Russia and of Russian was an invaluable and ungrudging helper.
If I succeed in calling the attention of the public to the state of things in the Caucasus and in arousing some little sympathy in the civilized West for these
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struggling and suffering peoples of the East, my object will have been gained. I may perhaps seem to be unduly partial towards the Armenians, but all I can say in explanation of my attitude is that I went out with an absolutely unbiassed mind, and that the conclusions at which I have arrived are the result of inquiries from all sources, including many which are decidedly unfavourable to that nationality. I have dwelt particularly on this point, as the Armenians are certainly one of the most unpopular races of the East, and they have been grossly libelled by ignorant and prejudiced critics, including some of English nationality.
The photographs, except when otherwise stated, are my own.
Table of contents
Cover and pp. 1-4 | Prefatory note | Table of contents (as in the book) | List of illustrations
“Chronological table of recent events in the Caucasus”
1. The Caucasus, its peoples, and its history | 2. Eastward ho! | 3. Batum
4. Kutais and the Georgian movement | 5. The Gurian “republic” | 6. Tiflis
7. Persons and politics in the Caucasian capital
8. Armenians, Tartars, and the Russian government
9. Baku and the Armeno-Tartar feud | 10. Bloodshed and fire in the oil city
11. The land of Ararat | 12. The heart of Armenia | 13. Russia's new route to Persia
14. Nakhitchevan and the May massacres | 15. Alexandropol and Ani
16. Over the frosty Caucasus | 17. Recent events in the Caucasus | Index
Villari, Luigi. Fire and Sword in the Caucasus by Luigi Villari author
of “Russia under the Great Shadow”, “Giovanni Segantini,”
etc. London, T. F. Unwin, 1906
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