BLTC Press Titles

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The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Life-work of Louis Klopsch

by Charles Melville Pepper


E first of the remarkable chain of world

wide charities which Dr. Klopsch under

X took was for the relief of starving millions of Russian peasants.

The vast extent of the Czar's dominions, from the frozen sea of the Arctic to the frozen sea of the Pacific, is little understood. The area is estimated at nearly nine million square miles and the population at one hundred and sixty million inhabitants.

In so extensive a region there is naturally much variety of resources, yet the chief reliance of the people is on the soil. The mass of peasantry is absolutely dependent on the crops and the conditions are such that they have little chance of saving from one season to another. They are as much of the soil as when they were serfs.

In the best of conditions the lot of the peasants is not a comfortable one, yet they are peaceful, hardworking, and make the best of their surroundings.


A description of Russian peasants at home by an American writer, Mrs. Isabel F. Hapgood, gives a graphic idea of their manner of existence.

Mrs. Hapgood wrote: "We visited the peasants in their cottages. The rope and moss-plugged log house stood flat on the ground, and was thatched with straw which was secured by a ladder-like arrangement of poles along the gable ends. Three tiny windows, with tinier panes, relieved the street front of the house. The entrance was on the side, from the small farmyard littered with farm implements, chickens, and manure, and enclosed with the usual fence of wattled branches. From the small ante-room, designed to keep out the winter's cold, the storeroom opened at the rear and the livingroom at the front.

"The lefthand corner of the living-room as one entered was occupied by the oven made of stones and clay and whitewashed. In it the cooking was done by placing the pots among the glowing wood coals. The bread was baked when the coals had been raked out. Later still, when desired, the owners took their steam bath, more resembling a roasting, inside it, and the old people kept their aged bones warm by sleeping on top of it close to the low ceiling. Around three sides of the room ran a broad bench which served for furniture and beds. In the righthand corner, opposite the door, the great corner of honor, was the case of images, in front of which stood the rough table whereon meals were eaten. This was convenient, since the images were saluted at the beginning and end of meals with the sign of the cross and a murmured prayer. The case also contained the sacred pictures of the home."

Like every crop country Russia experiences periods of plenty, when it ships enormous quantities of grain to other countries. Then sometimes come the periods of short crops, when the richest districts do not supply enough for themselves. Such a time came in the winter of 1891-1892.

The richest agricultural region in the great Empire is the basin of the Volga. This is equal in extent and in productivity to our own Mississippi Valley. Repeated droughts and the pest of insects caused a complete crop failure in the Volga Basin and in other districts extending over sixteen provinces. Fully twenty million cultivators of the soil were affected. It was known that the crops in Russia were short, yet for months the outside world had little conception of the suffering or of the need of relief. The districts were so remote, and so little was known of the great interior of the Czar's dominions, that at first it was regarded only as an ordinary crop failure. Gradually something became known of the extent of the suffering.

Reports were received of famine refugees filling the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Something was also learned of the vigorous measures of the Russian government and accounts were received of the relief trains which were daily dispatched. Then word began to come from those who had gone among the peasantry and who were writing of what they saw. Here is a striking picture given by a correspondent of his visit with a member of a local branch of the Red Cross Society in the province of Rexan to a distressed family:

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