Our government is in the habit of accusing its opponents, not only revolutionaries, but also liberals, of being tendentious. Have you ever read the comments of the official press on the liberal (legal, of course) publications? Vestnik Finansov, the organ of the Ministry of Finance, would at times publish reviews of the press, and each time the official in charge of this column referred to the comments of the (big) liberal magazines on the budget, on the famine, or on some government measure, he always spoke with indignation of their “tendentiousness” and, by way of contrast, pointed, “objectively,” not only to “the seamy side,” but to the “gratifying features.” This, of course, is only a minor example, but it illustrates the habitual attitude of the government, its habitual tendency to brag of its “objectivity.”
We shall endeavour to bring some satisfaction to these strict and impartial judges. We shall endeavour to do this in dealing with statistics. Naturally, we shall not take statistics on this or that set of facts of public life: it is well known that the facts are recorded by biased people and generalised by institutions which are sometimes decidedly “tendentious,” like the Zemstvos. No, we shall deal with statistics on ... laws. The most ardent supporter of the government, we imagine, would hardly dare to assert that there is anything more objective and impartial than statistics on laws—a simple calculation of the decisions made by the government, quite apart from any consideration of the divergence between word and deed, between promulgation and execution, etc.
And now, to the matter.
The State Senate publishes, as is known, a Compendium of the Laws and Edicts of the Government, a periodical that announces the measures adopted by the government. We shall examine these facts, and note what the laws and edicts are about. Precisely: what they are about. We dare not criticise the official edicts; we shall merely compute the number issued in this or that sphere. The January newspapers reprinted from this government publication the content of Nos. 2905 to 2929 of last year and Nos. 1 to 66 of the current year. Thus, in the period from December 29, 1900, to January 12, 1901, the very threshold of the new century, ninety-one laws and edicts were promulgated. The character of these ninety-one laws renders them very convenient for “statistical” analysis. None of them is out standing; there is nothing that puts everything else in the shade and lays a special impress upon the present period of domestic administration. All of them are relatively petty and answer to current requirements continuously and regularly arising. We thus see the government in its everyday garb, and this serves as a further guarantee of the objectivity of the “statistics.”
Of the ninety-one laws, thirty-four, i.e., more than a third, deal with one and the same subject: extension of the call dates for payment of capital on shares or of payment of purchases of stock in various commercial and industrial joint-stock companies. These laws can be recommended to newspaper readers as a means of refreshing their memory in regard to the list of our industrial enterprises and the names of various firms. The second group of laws is entirely analogous to the first in content. It deals with changes in the articles of association of commercial and industrial companies. These include fifteen acts revising the articles of association of K. and S. Popov Bros., tea dealers; A. Nauman & Co., cardboard and tar-paper manufacturers; I. A. Osipov & Co., tanners, and leather, canvas and linen merchants; etc., etc. To these must be added eleven more acts, of which six were passed to meet certain requirements of trade and industry (the establishment of a public bank and a mutual credit society; the fixing of prices of securities to be taken as deposit for state contracts; rules for the movement of privately-owned cars on the railways; regulations governing brokers on the Borisoglebsk Corn Exchange), while five deal with the appointment of six additional policemen and two mounted police sergeants to four factories and one mine.
Thus, sixty out of ninety-one of the laws, i.e., two- thirds, directly serve the various practical needs of our capitalists and (partly) protect them from the discontent of the workers. The impartial language of figures tells us that our government, judging by the very nature of most of its everyday laws and edicts, is a loyal servant of the capitalists and that, in relation to the capitalist class as a whole, it functions in exactly the same way as, say, the head office of an iron trust, or as does the office of a sugar-refining syndicate in relation to the capitalists in the individual branches of industry. Of course, the fact that special laws have to be passed in order to introduce some trifling alteration in the articles of association of a company or to extend the call dates for payments on shares simply shows the unwieldiness of our state machinery; only a slight “improvement in the machinery” is necessary for all this to come under the jurisdiction of the local authorities. On the other hand, the unwieldiness of the machine, the excessive centralisation, the necessity for the government itself to poke its nose into everything—this is a feature of the whole of our public life, not merely of the sphere of commerce and industry. Hence, the examination of the number of enacted laws of this or that kind gives us a pretty fair insight into what the government interests itself in, into what it thinks and does.
But the government displays considerably less interest in private associations that do not pursue aims so honourable from the moral point of view, and safe from the political point of view, as profit-making (except that it displays interest in order to hamper, prohibit, suppress, etc.). In the period “under review”—the writer of these lines is in the civil service, and he hopes, therefore, that the reader will forgive his employment of bureaucratic terms—the articles of association of two societies were sanctioned (those of the Society for the Aid to Needy Students in the Vladikavkaz Boys’ Gymnasium, and of the Vladikavkaz Society for Educational Excursions and Tours); by imperial grace permission to change the statutes was authorised for three others (the Saving and Mutual Aid Societies of the office employees and workers of the Lyudinovo and Sukreml Works and of the Maltsov Railway, the First Hop-Cultivation Society, and the Philanthropic Society for the Encouragement of Female Labour); fifty-five laws were passed pertaining to commercial and industrial companies; and five, in relation to various other societies. In the sphere of commercial and industrial interests, “we” exert our best efforts for the task and strive to do everything possible to facilitate association between merchants and manufacturers (strive, but do nothing, for the unwieldiness of the machine and the end less red tape considerably restrict the “possibilities” in the police state). In the sphere of non-commercial associations, we stand in principle for homeopathy. Now, hop-growing societies and societies for the encouragement of female labour are not so bad, but educational excursions.... God knows what may be discussed on these excursions! And will not the constant surveillance of the inspectors be made difficult? Now, you know, one must be careful in handling fire.
Schools. As many as three new schools have been established. And what schools! An elementary school for farm yard workers in the village of Blagodatnoye on the estate of His Imperial Highness, the Grand Duke Pyotr Nikolayevich. That the villages belonging to the Grand Dukes are all paradises I have long ceased to doubt. But neither do I now doubt that even the highest personages may sincerely and whole-heartedly interest themselves in the education of the “younger brother.” Moreover, the rules of the Dergachi Rural Handicraft School, and of the Asanovo Elementary Agricultural School have been confirmed. I regret that I have not a reference book at hand to inform me whether or not some highly-placed personage owns these village paradises, in which popular education—and landlord farming are being cultivated with such zeal. But I console myself with the thought that such inquiries do not enter into the duties of a statistician.
This, then, is the sum total of the laws that express “the government’s solicitude for the people.” As the reader will observe, I have made the greatest possible allowances in grouping these laws. Why, for example, is the Hop-Cultivation Society not a commercial enterprise? Perhaps be cause commerce is not the only thing that is discussed at its meetings. Or take the school for farmyard workers. Who can tell whether it is a school or an improved stockyard?
We have still to deal with the last group of laws that shows the government’s solicitude for itself. This group consists of three times as many laws as we assigned to the last two categories, twenty-two laws, dealing with administrative reforms, each one more radical than the other—changing the name of the village Platonovskoye to Nikolayevskoye; modifying the articles of association, staffs, rules, lists, hours for sessions (of certain uyezd conferences), etc.; increasing the salary of midwives attached to army units in the Caucasus military area; determining the sums for shoeing and veterinary treatment of Cossack mounts; changing the by-laws of a private commercial school in Moscow; defining the rules of the scholarship grants endowed by Privy Councillor Daniil Samuilovich Polyakov at the Kozlov Commercial School. I am not sure whether I have classified these laws correctly. Do they really express the government’s solicitude for itself, or for commercial and industrial interests? If I have classified them wrongly, I beg the reader’s indulgence, since this is the first attempt that has been made to compile statistics on laws. Hitherto no one has attempted to raise this sphere of knowledge to the level of a strict science, not even the professors of Russian state law.
Finally, one legislative act must be treated as a special, independent group, both because of its content and be cause of its being the first governmental measure in the new century. This is the law concerning the “increase in the area of forests to be devoted to the development and improvement of His Imperial Majesty’s hunting.” A grand début worthy of a great power!
Now, to strike a balance. Statistics would be incomplete without it.
Fifty laws and edicts devoted to various commercial and industrial companies and enterprises; a score of administrative name-changes and reforms; two creations and three reorganisations of private societies; three schools for the training of landlords’ employees; six policemen and two mounted sergeants appointed to factories. Can there be any doubt whatever that such richly varied legislative and administrative activity will guarantee our country rapid and undeviating progress in the twentieth century?
 A play on the name of the village Blagodatnoye which implies an earthly paradise.—Ed.
 Vestnik Finansov, Promyshlennosti i Torgooli (Finance, Industry and Trade Messenger)—a weekly journal published by the Ministry of Finance in St. Petersburg from November 1883 to 1917 (until January 1885 it was called Ukazatel Pravitelstvennykh Rasporyazheny po Ministerstvu Finansov—Record of Government Instructions, Ministry of Finance). It carried government regulations, economic articles, and reviews.