The Study of Russian by Indian Officers
Theosophist, February, 1881
To the Editor of the Bombay Gazette.
Sir:––In The Pioneer of February 19th, there is a letter from Mr. Walter T. Lyall, H.B.M.’s Consul at Tiflis, Caucasus, which has filled me with delight. This gentleman suggests and even urges, the expediency of the Russian language being studied “by Indian officers and others.” He recommends, that the Anglo-Indian Government “should offer a premium of Rs. 2000 or Rs. 3000 for passing, and that the aspirant should reside a year in some part of Russia,” the Caucasus preferred, as being the most “proper spot to select, as the aspirant while studying Russian could also ground himself in Turki (or Tartar).” This amiable official closes his liberal and timely suggestion as to the Caucasus (Russia’s India) by repeating once more that “It would be better for students to (first) ground themselves thoroughly in these languages by study in India (Lahore) and then to spend a year in the Caucasus by way of finish.”
Now this is really a most charming and happy thought! What a sweet picture of reciprocal bliss and welcome, of noble trust––if carried out! The Russian Consul at Bombay ought not to lose time, but issue at once like invitations to officers in the Russian army to “ground themselves thoroughly,” and as fast as they can, in the Hindustani, Urdu, and Marathi languages at St. Petersburg and then spend a year at Poona, and in Cawnpore and Kashmir, “by way of finish”; for once Mr. Lyall’s suggestion is accepted, I do not believe the Anglo-Indian Government will be so ill-mannered as to remain behindhand in extending a like invitation and offering the same hospitality to Russian officers in India. H.B.M.’s Consul at Tiflis must have been quite sure of their welcome since he writes so positively and invites them to the Caucasus. That the Russians can never be accused of a lack of hospitality, a feature they have in common with all semi-barbarous Asiatic nations, I am ready to vouch. Nor would be military gentlemen at India find a scarcity of “grass widows” in Tiflis (owing to their heroic husbands being on their Tchengis Khan expedition to Central Asia) to “bow-wow” with, in their quiet intervals of leisure. Nor yet would there be the remotest fear of their being mistaken for “British spies”; for once the nascent linguists were allowed to cross the frontiers of the Empire, such danger would become quite ephemeral. Unblessed with a constitution which would force her, in cases of emergency, to concealed double-dealing and suspicion, and notions of refined étiquette having never troubled her dreams, in this respect at least, she is as frankly dishonourable as any British heart might desire her to be. She is a Tartar to her sons, but was ever hospitable and generous to foreigners. Let the Indian officers go to the Caucasus by all means. Russia, with all her large share of “unprincipled dealings” in reference to politics, holds yet to the principle of “honour among thieves.” She will never think of visiting upon isolated and well-meaning individuals who trusted themselves within her territory for the purpose of study, the wrath she may nourish against their country, with which she is at political loggerheads.
Thus the picture of the future, in its dovelike character, is positively arcadian, and its soothing effect upon all other nations will be priceless. Only fancy General Roberts, with Major Butler, the Honourable George Napier, and Captain Gill on his staff, studying Russian on the ruins of Gunib and Daghestan, while General Skobeleff, flanked by Colonels.
Grodekoff, Kuropatkine, and perhaps Prjevalsky, like Jupiter with his satellites, after preparing themselves under capable munshis at the Russian Foreign Office, mastering the difficulties of the Bagh-o-Bahar and Baital Pachisi in the land of Wasudew Bulwant Phadke, or translating the exercise from Hindi into Russian in the “legitimate heir-loom” of the “Prince Ramchandra,” the hapless hero of the Russian Golos—in the North-Western Provinces! Will you kindly inform us whether Mr. Walter T. Lyall’s advice is to be immediately carried out, or must we wait till the Kali Yuga is over?
H. P. Blavatsky.
Feb. 21st, 1881.