This is a detailed and richly illustrated history of the Russian people from the founding of the Rurick Dynasty, near Novgorod, to the early reign of Nicholas II, several decades before the Bolshevik Revolution. The book gives an especially detailed history of the Russian middle ages, including the reigns of Ivan, Basil, and the Tsars who lived before Peter the Great. The political situation during the 19th century, when Russia was at the height of her power and at war with the Turks and their European allies, is also well covered.
A GRAND PRINCE.
A Russian writer describes his country as a vast building adorned with a European front, furnished in Asiatic style, and served by Tartars disguised in European dress. Many persons would carry the simile further: they would see bars placed across all the windows, and would look upon Russia as a prison where the knout was the chief delight of the despotic jailor, and where unspeakable deeds of lawless violence were wrought in torture-chambers hidden far from human eyes.
It is the purpose of the present book to study the foundation of this portentous structure which overshadows Europe, and to follow its growth and upbuilding. As a whole the story is a dark and tragic one, and no apology is made for lingering over the earlier portions of it which are less familiar and at the same time more dramatic and interesting.
It has been well said by a recent author that the aim of all the great reforms made in Russia since Peter the Great has been to undo what he did or tried to do. That struggle is still going on, and with such throes that it sometimes seems as though the building itself must fall in ruins. The history of modern Russia is the history of a transition, and must needs be unfinished until the transition is complete. The death of an emperor or the execution of an assassin is not the end of an epoch.
In a book for young people a long list of authorities may be spared; it is sufficient to state that the facts have been drawn from the best sources, Russian, German, French, and English.
In the first part Russian names have been done away with; English equivalents take their places. A table follows for convenience. In all cases difficult words are avoided so far as possible, and it is hoped that this Young Folks' History of Russia is at least readable.
For the sake of reference a running commentary, in the form of side-notes, accompanies the text, and in this Russian appellations are uniformly employed. In many cases the spelling affords no clew to the real pronunciation: Oleg is Aliokh; Orel, Ariol; Potemkin, Potemkin. As a rule, however, g is always hard as in get; ch or tch soft, as in church; shch is represented by the same letters in wish chilled; i is like i in Castile; u as in rule; ui like we, pronounced short.
Table of Equivalents
- SVIATOSLAF = HOLY FAME.
- SVIATOPOLK = HOLY HOST (or TROOP).
- IAROSLAF = FIERY FAME (more literally, FURY, or FURIOUS FAME).
- IAROPOLK= FIERY HOST.
- VLADIMIR= LORD OF THE WORLD.
- MSTISLAF = VENGING FAME (more literally, GLORYING IN REVENGE).
- DALGORUKI = LONG HAND.
- BOGOLIUBSKI = BELOVED BY GOD, Or GOD LOVED.
- DREVLIANS = FOREST FOLK
- POLIANS = FIELD FOLK.
- KALITA = MONEY BAG.
It must be remembered that many of these evere given simply as family names, and had long lost any significance as regards the character or attributes of the bearers. The story of the foundation of Russia by Rurik partakes of the nature of legend. In all probability the time employed in such an enterprise was much longer than that usually allotted. The Norman origin of the Russian name and nation is settled, however, almost beyond a doubt. At any rate it is worth believing for the sake of the romance and poetry stored away in the old chronicles. Russia is a vast plain, level and monotonous; fortunately its history does not resemble its geography; no country has a more fascinating and poetic past. To present that in simple language has been the aim of the author.