A Russian “Symposium”
The Pioneer, March 1, 1881
An important triad of Russian writers has lately been engaged on a discussion of British and Russian relations. One of these, Mr. Martens, Professor in the St. Petersburg University, whose article in the Revue du Droit International, entitled “The Russians and the Chinese,” was quoted at some length in the Pioneer of January the 20th, has now brought out another and more interesting pamphlet which has attracted considerable attention. This time the learned Professor discusses the whole subject of “Russia and England in Central Asia,” and tries to find in the situation a “solidarity of Anglo-Russian interests.” “No well-educated Russian,” he says, “would ever dream of the conquest of India.” At the same time it does not appear to Mr. Martens absurd to contemplate an attempt of the kind as possibly arising from the development of bad feeling between the two countries. And whatever might be the issue, he fancies that English prestige would suffer; because, in the event of a Russian invasion, the English army would of necessity in the main consist of Indians. All the Indian princes and independent states would be called upon to unite for the defense of their country. Should the invaders be defeated, then the Asiatic allies of Great Britain would ascribe to themselves the whole glory of victory. The larger their numbers, the stronger, of course, their convictions that without their help the British army would have been defeated; hence the spread of a general belief in the weakness of the English Government and of its military power. “Such a belief is pregnant with danger to the English, for it can but lead to a general rising in India.”
There is a comical mixture in all this of intelligent reasoning applied to a misconception of fundamental facts. When our Russian critic talks about the Indian princes and independent states being called upon to join in the defense of their country, one can realize the extent to which foreigners fail to understand the real condition of India and the relations of the independent states to the paramount power. But Mr. Martens’ opponents, those of his own nationality, are equally unable to understand the true character of the facts. Mr. Danevsky, Professor and Principal of the University of Kharkoff, publishes his views in London in a small pamphlet in French. Quite agreeing with Mr. Martens’ views as above described, this author is at variance with him as regards the supposed common interests of the two rival powers. In his capacity of Professor of International Rights, having, perhaps, found it monotonous to be always preaching about the harmony and solidarity of international interests, Mr. Danevsky sets himself the special task of proving that “there are no common interests between England and Russia, and that no such interests can ever exist.” “May it be the will of God,” he piously exclaims, “that no such war between the two nations should ever take place,” but none the less he thinks that, “according to all the portents and signs, the chances for peace are very slight,” so he threatens England with the certainty of a Russian campaign to India. Commenting in detail upon the irreconcilability of Russian interests with the Eastern Question, as it now stands, Mr. Danevsky actually rests a part of his case on the commercial interests of Great Britain in Turkey!
After him a third champion enters the arena. The London correspondent of the St. Petersburg Novoye Vremya treats the other two writers with contempt, falling heavily upon Mr. Danevsky’s disquisitions regarding English commerce in Turkey. “Had the author merely glanced at the British commercial statistics,” he remarks, “he might have seen that for the present, the Turkish markets play a comparatively insignificant part in English export trade.” What the English do not probably see is how much, on the contrary, their interests are interwoven in those parts with Russian success, hence with Russian interests. “With the liberation of the Balkan populations, and the increase of their prosperity, under a free national Government, the British exports and trade in general can but increase.” Further, the correspondent is angry with the Kharkoff Professor, for certain portions of his pamphlet. “Mr. Danevsky confesses,” he says, “that the good understanding and perfect entente cordiale in the Eastern Question between Russia and England is sure to last, and to be strongly supported by the British Government so long as the Gladstone Ministry shall last. But Mr. Danevsky also adds that as Mr. Gladstone cannot himself last forever, this cabinet, too, may one day fall, and then will the implacable British interests again raise their voices, and an English war upon Russia become almost a certainty, if not an accomplished fact. Hence, according to Mr. Danevsky,” concludes the correspondent, “Mr. Gladstone, in order to keep on good terms with Russia, is made out by the author to sacrifice British interests”! The critic of course conceives that, in saying this, he has accomplished a reductio ad absurdum. Perhaps English readers will not see the argument in quite the same light.
We need hardly explain that, in giving an account of this controversy, we aim merely at showing on what inaccurate pictures of the whole situation the public opinion of Russia is nourished—not at reproducing views which have any substantial claims to attention.