being provided with land, and left to its fate", the settlers who seized its land were armed at government expense: the uyezd rural superintendents were ordered to "see to it that the peasants of the newly-
established villages on the Mugan, including those from Pokrovskoye, were supplied with arms -- ten Berdan rifles for each hundred households". This is an interesting illustration of the "nationalist course" of the present policy.
Nevertheless, Right-wing deputies to the Duma spoke triumphantly of the existence of a reserve for resettlement amounting to 1,700,000 dessiatines, citing the report of the Vice-Gerent of the Caucasus to this effect. However, according also to the testimony of the Vice-Gerent, nearly half of this reserve has already been taken over by settlers, while a considerable part of it is situated in areas where -- according again to the Vice-Gerent's evidence -- it is physically impossible for cultivators unaccustomed to the conditions to engage in farming.
Deputy Chkheidze also spoke of the way in which the government provides for the new settlers. "Inadequate water supply and lack of irrigation on the land set aside for resettlement," says the report of the Vice-Gerent, "particularly in the eastern areas of Transcaucasia, is one of the main reasons why many peasants already settled migrate back again. In the Black Sea region the new settlers are deserting their farms because of the absence of roads suitable for wheeled traffic not only between the various settlements, but even within each of the resettlement areas. To this it should be added that in their turn the unfavourable climatic conditions, to which the settlers are unaccustomed and which are attended in many parts of the Caucasus by malaria that affects not only people but livestock as well, no less than the lack of roads, cause the less sturdy of the new settlers to flee from the Caucasus. Due to the above-mentioned causes there is a continuous migration in evidence from the Yelisavetpol and Baku gubernias and from Daghestan Region, as well as from the Tiflis and Black Sea gubernias."
The upshot is that the results of the resettlement in the Caucasus are assessed by the Vice-Gerent himself as follows: "The attitude taken so far to the Caucasian population and its land affairs can no longer be tolerated, if only because it undoubtedly plays a rather prominent part in fostering revolutionary sentiments among the rural population."
The government and the ruling classes are pursuing very similar aims in settling peasants in Siberia; here, too, in
view of the political objectives involved, no consideration whatever is given either to the interests of the settlers or to the rights of the old residents.
In the emigration areas, in Russia, resettlement matters have now been entrusted to the land committees, the rural superintendents and the governors. Vitally interested as they are in reducing the number of peasants with little or no land and in leaving only as many of them as are needed to provide for the requirements of the big landowners (as a source of supply of wage-labour), the land committees have shown such zeal in "moving" poor peasants as to shock even the Resettlement Department. "The land committees," complained one official of the Department, "form parties of completely destitute people who at the outset need an allowance for their travelling expenses, who need a loan not for setting up a home but for food; and even if, as an exception, a settler happens to have some little money, he spends it all on fares and food."
Swarms of these "weak" foster-children of the land policy which proclaimed as its motto "stake on the strong" are being sent off to Siberia in unaltered cattle wagons, packed chock-full with old men, children, pregnant women. In these cattle wagons (which bear the famous inscription: "40 men, 8 horses"), the emigrants have to cook their food and wash their linen; lying in them, too, are often persons afflicted with contagious diseases, whom the emigrants usually keep out sight lest they be removed from the train and thus fall behind the party. At terminal points and stations the emigrants are at best provided with tents; in the worst cases they are left in the open, with no shelter from sun or rain. Deputy Voiloshnikov told the Duma that at Sretensk he had seen people stricken with typhus lying in the open, with no protection from the rain. And conditions such as those described above, under which the peasants have to travel, two Ministers (Stolypin and Krivoshein) find to be "tolerable". "The sanitary conditions provided for the settlers on their way are tolerable," they wrote in a report to the Emperor; "many of them even find conveniences en route to which they have not been accustomed." Truly, there is no limit to bureaucratic complacency!
After going through such ordeals on their way to "the
promised land", the poorest emigrants find no happiness in Siberia either. Here, for instance, is how Deputy Voiloshnikov described their condition in the new places of settlement by quoting from official reports.
One official (a special inspector of the Resettlement Department) writes: "Most of the lots are scattered among taiga forests without water, without ploughland, and without pastures." Another adds: "The granting of loans has entirely lost its significance as a means for setting up homes; the amount of the loans is in itself too small to be of real help in this respect. The established procedure of granting loans has turned the latter into a matter of charity pure and simple, for it is impossible to set up a home and live for two years on the 150 rubles granted as a loan."
And here, by way of example, is a description of the sanitary conditions of the new settlers, quoted from the same official reports:
"After the typhus," writes one official,[*] "scurvy has been raging here on a no lesser scale; practically in all the settlements and in every house there are people suffering from this disease or liable to contract it. In many homes there are cases of both diseases. In the Okur-Shask settlement I came across the following picture: the master of the house was ill with typhus in the period of peeling; his pregnant wife was extremely exhausted from undernourishment; their son, a boy of twelve, had swollen glands and scurvy, the wife's sister was sick with scurvy and could not walk; she had a breast-fed baby; her ten-year-old boy was sick with scurvy, was bleeding through the nose and could hardly move; her husband alone, of the whole family, was well.
"Scurvy and typhus are followed by night blindness. There are settlements in which literally all the settlers, without exception, suffer from this blindness. The groups of lots along the Yemna River are covered almost entirely with taiga forests, have no pastures or meadowland, and in the course of two or three years the new settlers barely managed to clear the ground to build wretched huts. There could be no question of the settlers having their own grain; they had to live entirely on the loans, and when these gave out there was a terrible scarcity of bread; many literally starved. The scarcity of bread was aggravated by the scarcity of drinking water."
Such reports are plentiful. Appalling as these official accounts are, they apparently do not tell the whole truth, and
* Memorandum, p. 8.
thus give too favourable a picture of the actual state of affairs. Here is, for instance, how Prince Lvov, a man, as we know, of moderate views, who visited the Far East as a representative of the Zemstvo organisation, describes resettlement in Amur Territory:
"Cut off from the world as if they were on an uninhabited island, amid marshy hummocks in the primeval taiga, amid swampy valleys and swampy hills, and forced to put up with barbaric conditions of life, labour and subsistence, the dispirited and indigent settler naturally feels crushed. He lapses into a state of apathy, having exhausted his small store of energy at the very beginning of his struggle against harsh natural conditions in setting up his wretched dwelling. Scurvy and typhus attack the wasted organism and carry it off to the grave. In many of the settlements founded in 1907, the death rate is simply incredible -- 25 to 30 per cent. There are as many crosses as there are households, and many settlements are doomed to be removed completely to new sites or to the grave-yard. Instead of resettlement, what rivers of bitter tears shed by unhappy families and what costly funerals at state expense in the remote borderland! It will be long before those who survived last year's great wave of resettlement will stand on their feet again after their defeat in the taiga. Many will die, and many others will flee back to Russia, where they will defame the territory by stories about their misfortunes, scaring off new settlers and holding up further resettlement. It is not accidental that this year we witness an unprecedented reverse movement from the Maritime Region, and an influx of new settlers that is one-fifth of the former proportion."
Prince Lvov is justly appalled by the isolation of the settler from the world and his desolation in the boundless Siberian taiga, particularly in view of the lack of roads in Siberia. We can imagine with what brilliant success the policy of setting up separate homestead farms and the apportionment of otrubs is now being put into effect there, for the very same men who direct the agrarian policy have proclaimed "the necessity for a decisive turn [!] in the land policy in Siberia", the necessity of "establishing and promoting private property", of "ensuring that individual peasants have their plots in accordance with the decree of November 9, 1906", "assigning lots for resettlement, with the land divided, as far as possible, into otrub holdings",* etc.
The conditions of resettlement being what they are, it is quite natural that, according to the Resettlement Depart-
* Memorandum, pp. 60, 61, 62.
ment, 10 per cent of the peasants settled in 1903-05 owned not a single draught animal, 12 per cent owned only one draught animal per household, 15 per cent owned no cow, and 25 per cent owned no plough (from the speech of Deputy Gaidarov during the First Session, when he spoke on behalf of the Social-Democratic group). Deputy Voiloshnikov, basing himself on the same official reports, was therefore fully justified when he summed up the results of the resettlement policy in 1906-08 as follows:
"In three years -- 1906, 1907 and 1908 -- 1,552,439 persons of both sexes, half of them paupers, lured by the government's advertising, were sent across the Urals, into unknown parts, and there left to their fate. According to the Resettlement Department, 564,041 persons settled down, and 284,984 persons of both sexes went back. Thus the Resettlement Department provides information about 849,025 persons. But what has become of the rest? Where are the other 703,414 persons? The government, gentlemen, is perfectly well informed of their bitter lot, but it will say nothing about them. Some of them have gone to live in the villages of the old residents, and some others have swollen the ranks of the Siberian proletariat and are begging for alms.
"As for the vast majority, the government arranged a costly funeral for them, and that is why it keeps silent about them."
That is how the hopes of Markov the Second to "solve the agrarian problem" through resettlement are materialising. Faced with these facts, even the Octobrist spokesmen of big capital had to admit that there are "defects in the resettlement work". During the First Session the Octobrists called (and the Duma supported them) for "changing and improving the travelling conditions of the emigrants", for "creating in the resettlement areas the conditions necessary for their cultural and economic development", and for "respecting the interests and rights of the local peasantry and the non-Russian population when apportioning the land and settling the peasants". It goes without saying that these cautious and deliberately ambiguous wishes have to this day remained "a voice crying in the wilderness". And the Octobrist woodpeckers patiently repeat them year after year.