Around The Baltic
The discussion of the duma occupied so much space that I was compelled to omit from that article all mention of Russia in general, and to . St. Petersburg in particular; I shall therefore begin this article with a brief reference to the Moscovite empire. Two and a half years ago, when I saw Russia for the first time, I entered by the way of Warsaw and went to St. Petersburg from Moscow. While considerable territory was covered, the winter's snows made the whole country look barren and uninviting. This time our course lay through the Baltic provinces, and as farming was at its height, the country presented a much fairer picture. The cities and villages through which we passed were busy with life and each had its church, for the Russians are a church-going people.
St. Petersburg is a fascinating city. The Church of St. Isaacs, with its great granite monoliths on the outside, its pillars within covered with malachite and lapsus lazuli, and its immense bronze doors, is among the world's most imposing places of worship; the equestrian statue of Peter the Great is famous, and the .art gallery is of rare merit. Russia's bronzes are most excellent, and her stores exhibit a large assortment of furs.
In St. Petersburg I found myself, as on my former visit, admiring the horses, they being, upon the whole, the best that I have seen since leaving America. Possibly the fact that so many stallions are driven singly and in pairs may account, in part, for the handsome and stylish animals seen upon the streets, but certain it is that the Russian horse is a splendid representative of his breed. There is a large park, called the Point, near the city, and in the evening this park and the approaches to it are thronged with carriages and droskies. As the sun does not set there at this season of the year until between nine and ten and is followed by a long twilight, the drives are gay with life until midnight. We did not reach our hotel until eleven o'clock, although we were among the first to leave the park.
Speaking of horses, reminds me that the Russian coachman has an individuality all his own. His headgear is peculiar, being a squatty beaver with a spool-shaped crown, but one soon forgets the hat in contemplation of the form. The skirt of the coachman's coat is very full and pleated, and the more stylish the equipage, the broader is the driver. Beginning at the shoulders, his padding gradually increases until about the hips he is as broad as the box upon which he sits. This padding is carried to such an extreme that the coachman some-times has to be lifted upon the box, and it is needless to say that he is practically helpless, as well as useless, in case of an accident. It may be that this style of dress is designed for a wind break for those who are seated behind the wearer—this was one of the explanations given—or it may be that it, like some other fashions in wearing apparel, has no foundation in reason.
I found to my disappointment that. Tolstoy is not contributing materially to the political revolution that is taking place in Russia. Being revered throughout the land not only because of his philosophy, but also because of his fearless arraignment of the despotism that has afflicted Russia, he might be a powerful factor in giving direction to the popular movement, but believing that individual regeneration furnishes the only complete emancipation from all forms of evil, he takes but little interest in what he regards as the smaller and less important remedies proposed by the duma. It remains to be seen whether it is wiser to secure that which is now within reach, and then press forward for other advantages, or to reject piecemeal reforms in the hope of ultimately gaining larger ones. Probably the pioneer in thought and the practical reformer will never be able to fully agree upon this point.
The boat ride from St. Petersburg to Stockholm. is one of unsurpassed beauty. It requires about thirty hours to make the trip, and of that time but two hours are spent in the open sea, the remainder of the route being between islands that fill the Baltic and the Gulf of Finland as the stars stud the sky. Just out of St. Petersburg is Russia's most important naval station, where we saw a number of warships and were informed that the crew of one of them had recently refused to comply with a sailing order, answering that it was waiting to see what the duma would do.
Until about a hundred years ago Finland was a part of the Baltic Empire; of which Sweden was the head, and of the three million inhabitants of Finland, something like twenty per cent. are of Swedish descent. As might be expected, the Swedish element was not only the official element, enjoying to a large extent the titles of nobility, but it is still the wealthier and more influential portion. The Finns proper are not Laplanders, as their northern position would suggest, neither are they, in race closely akin to the Slavic or Scandinavian population. As mentioned in the article on Hungary, they came from western Asia and are quite distinct in race characteristics from their present neighbors. They acquired from their Swedish conquerors a fondness for the public school, and the percentage of illiteracy is much less in Finland than in other parts of Russia, under whose dominion they unwillingly came in 1808.
Our boat stopped at Helsingfors for a few hours, and we had an opportunity to visit the principal points of interest in the capital of Finland. It is a substantial and prosperous looking city with large school houses, attractive public buildings and commodious churches. We passed several small parks where children were playing and where numerous comfortable seats beckoned the weary to rest beneath the shade. I confess to a partiality for the small city park; it is. much better to have these breathing spaces so scattered about through densely populated sections that the children, as well as the adults, can find in them a daily refuge than to have the entire park fund lavished upon suburban parks, which can only be visited occasionally.
It is a pity that space is not more often reserved for these parks in the laying out of towns, for the ground not only becomes more valuable in proportion as these small parks are the more needed, but the opening of them in the heart of a city brings a large unearned increment to those who own land adjacent to them.
We could not help noticing the contrast between the market of Helsingfors and those which we visited in Asia. At the former neatly dressed peasants, men and women, exposed for sale from the end of their carts a bountiful supply of vegetables, meats, but-ter, eggs and cheese. The eggs were stamped with the name of the owner and the date of laying, the butter was packed in wooden buckets of various sizes, and the cheese was of many varieties. Some of the carts were filled with stacks of black bread baked in large flat cakes. The radishes presented a temptation that I was not able to withstand; the fondness for them, re-strained during the months of travel through the Orient, overcame me, and at the risk of being thought extravagant, I purchased five dozen at a gross outlay of about five cents and lived high until they were all gone.
The Finns are rejoicing over the autonomy recently secured, and they have signalized their partial independence by creating a single parliamentary body whose representatives are elected by the entire population, male and female, above the age of twenty-four. No one can understand the persistency with which the Finns have struggled for constitutional government without recalling that, as a part of Sweden, their country long enjoyed the right to representation in the nation's councils. The people have always resented Russian methods, and only a few years ago the governor general sent from St. Peters-burg was assassinated by a young Finn who, having thus given expression to his nation's hatred of despotism, immediately took his own life. The death of the governor was followed by the suspension of such few privileges as the people had been enjoying, but when last year the whole of Russia seemed about to rise in rebellion, the czar announced his willingness to grant all that was asked, and now one can travel through Finland without being harassed by soldiers or bothered about passports.
If Constantinople can claim to be the natural capital of the east-ern hemisphere, Stockholm can with equal justice claim to be its natural summer resort. It is situated at a point where a chain of lakes pours its flood into the Baltic, so that the citizens of Sweden's capital have their choice between the fresh water and the salt. As the lakes and the sea are filled with innumerable islands, each family can have one for 'itself. Summer homes are probably more numerous near Stockholm, in proportion to the population, than anywhere else, because during the winter months the people live in flats. One is immediately struck with the compactness of the city and with the absence of single dwellings surrounded by yards. Owing to the severe cold and the long, dark days of winter, the people huddle together in great blocks and thus economize fuel, and they are at the same time close to their work. As soon as spring opens there is a general movement toward the islands, and as we approached Stockholm from the Baltic and left it through the lakes, we saw a great many summer cottages and watched the boats carrying their cargoes of passengers to and fro.
Sweden's lakes are so numerous and so large that about eight per cent of her entire area is given up to these internal waterways, and they probably account for the fact that her people had a large domes-tic commerce before the era of railroads. These lakes are so situated that by connecting them by canals water transit has been secured between Stockholm on the east coast and Gothenburg on the west. The boat trip through these lakes and canals is one of the most pleasant to be found in Europe.
The Swedes who have come to the United States are such excellent farmers that I was surprised to find but twelve per cent of the area of Sweden devoted to agriculture and fifty-one per cent described as woodland. Only fifty-five per cent of the population is now engaged in farming, the proportion having fallen from seventy-two per cent since 1870, while the proportion engaged in other industries has risen from fifteen to twenty-seven per cent.
Lumbering, fishing and shipping each gives employment to a large number of men, and iron mining, long a leading industry, is still important, although, owing to the development of mines elsewhere, Sweden now furnishes but one per cent of the entire output of ore as against ten per cent in the eighteenth century. The fact that she had such an abundant supply of the raw material early gave her a conspicuous place in iron manufactures, and the familiarity with this metal may be due to the fact that Sweden was quick to take advantage of the railroad, the telegraph and the telephone. In electrical appliances she now claims a second place among the nations. A large use has also been made of the water power with which the country abounds, notably at Norrkoping, where an industrial exposition is now in progress.
We spent a day at this exposition for the purpose of gathering information in regard to industrial Sweden. While the agricultural display was not ready, the exhibit of the products of the factory was exceedingly interesting. The articles shown included metal work of all kinds and varieties, from heavy machinery to parlor ornaments. In one section canned fruit was displayed, in another great rolls of linoleum and oilcloth, and in still another textile fabrics. The cloth was especially worthy of notice, being of superior quality and of every color. There was also a complete assortment of dairy implements and farm tools. So skillful is the Swedish artisan that the International Harvester Company has recently established a branch factory at Norrkoping, and with the aid of American foremen is preparing to manufacture reapers and mowers there, not only for Sweden but for northern Europe.
In addition to the machine-made exhibits, there were specimens of the handwork of peasants and students. These included many varieties of needlework, wood carving, and decoration on leather and bark. Peasant girls in native costume presided over these displays and gave the visitor a glimpse of the picturesque garb now fast disappearing before the prosaic dress of the cities. At Skansen, in the suburbs of Stockholm, and at a few of the enterprising stores, this quaint costume may still be seen, but it is not generally worn now even in the country.
There is a gallery at Norrkoping exposition where one may see a collection of Swedish and Danish art, the pictures not only portraying the familiar features and flaxen hair of the north, but recalling the long nights and the winter scenes of that latitude.
Sweden was a pioneer in the matter of universal education and has at Upsala a state university founded in 1477—fifteen years before Columbus sailed for America. She has also had a college of medicine for more than a hundred years, and- her sons have taken high rank in all the departments of science. Her grammar schools run back to the time of Gustavus Adolphus, and her common school system is almost as old. She has given to the world among other things the Sloyd system of teaching, which combines manual training with mental instruction. Sweden has shown by her prominence in literature, science, art and music that the higher altitudes do not chill the imagination or repress genius, and yet, the country is even more noted for the high average of intelligence among the people than for the extraordinary accomplishments of a few.
The Swedish language contains so many words that resemble the English that the Swedish newspaper looks much more familiar than the Greek or the Russian, but it is not always safe to rely upon the ' similarity in spelling. For instance, "rum" means room, and when it appears in a window or on a door, it is only an innocent announce-ment that travelers can find accommodation within. The word "bad" means bath, and "bad rum," therefore, is a familiar sign in hotels.
Sweden has her political problems like all the other nations, and just now her people are absorbed in the question of extending the suffrage. The upper house is an aristocratic body composed of representatives of the wealthier classes. In electing members to this body a rich man's vote counts for more than a poor man's vote, it being possible for the richest person to have about ten times as many votes as the poorest. As might be expected, the upper house is conservative and stands in the way of some of the reforms proposed by the more popular branch. The last ministry was a liberal one, but resigned when the upper house defeated the measure for the extension of the suffrage. The new ministry has at its head Mr. Lindmann, a business man who represents the commercial and conservative elements, and his party is willing to accept an- extension of the franchise, provided it is coupled with minority representation, the aim being to increase the conservative strength in the lower house in order to protect the upper house from attack. The conservatives fear—and not without reason—that an overwhelming liberal majority in the popular branch wound soon endanger the aristocratic character, if not the very existence of the upper house. The situation is interesting in that it indicates the growth of radicalism in the country. The conservatives recognize this and are prepared to make concessions ; they hope to retard the progress of the movement but realize that they cannot defeat it entirely.
Industrial questions are receiving consideration in Sweden ; laws concerning child labor have been enacted, accident insurance has been provided, and an old age pension is being discussed. Attention is also being given to the housing problem in the cities, to farm allotments and to the establishment of labor bureaus and boards of arbitration. The Gothenburg license system is in operation in Sweden., under which the sale of liquor, where the sale is not entirely prohibited, is in the hands of semi-official corporations. Whether this system is responsible for it or not may be open to question, but statistics show that there has been a large decrease in the sale of beverages containing a high percentage of alcohol.
By the courtesy of the American minister, Colonel Graves, I had an opportunity to pay my respects to King Oscar II. I was glad to do so for two reasons: First, because so many of his former subjects have become American citizens; and, second, because of the honorable part which he played in the recent crisis which resulted in the separation of Sweden and Norway. He is of powerful frame, and though seventy-seven years old, would pass for a much younger man. He has a kindly face and rides about the city without a guard. A more ambitious monarch would have met Norway's demand with armed resistance, but he, recognizing that the holding of Norway against the will of the people would involve his country in perpetual strife, advocated a peaceful separation, provided the people of Norway asked for it in unmistakable terms.
For thirty years he had been the sovereign of both, and in his old age he could not bear to see the two countries engaged in a bloody conflict. He is just now criticised by some who did not become sanguinary until all prospect of war was past, but he has the consolation of knowing that his critics are not only alive but have no dead relatives to mourn. Had he plunged his country into war, his critics could remind him of vacant chairs at the fireside.
King Oscar has, in a most practical way, proved himself to be a promoter of peace and as such deserves the prize provided by that great Swedish chemist, Alfred Nobel. By giving conspicuous approval to his course, the trustees of the Nobel fund may be able to encourage other sovereigns to imitate him.
( Originally Published 1907 )
The Old World And Its Way:
Greece—the World's Teacher
The Byzantine Capital
In The Land Of The Turk
Hungary And Her Neighbors
Around The Baltic
Democratic Norway—her Sun, Her Scenery And Her Coronation
England's New Liberal Government
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