IN the April Century, Mr. George Kennan gave an invaluable article on the “Russian Penal Code,” from which we make the following extract on the subject of religion. In reading it it must be borne in mind that Russia is a “Christian nation,” that the religion of Russia is a national religion, and that what is there called Christianity is the national religion. Also in reading it, it will be well to bear in mind the National Reform scheme to make the United States a “Christian nation,” to establish here a national religion, and to make what the National Reformers call Christianity, the national religion. At the same time, too, may very properly be borne in mind the National Reform proposition in regard to dissenters from their national religion when they get it established, which is as follows:—
“If the opponents of the Bible do not like our Government and its Christian features, let them go to some wild, desolate land; and … stay there till they die.”
Let the reader compare this with the Russian Penal Code on “Crimes against the Faith,” and tell, if he can, what would be the difference between this and the oft-repeated Russian penalty of “exile for life to the most remote part of Siberia.”
Mr. Kennan says:—
“The first important title or division of the Russian penal code is that which comprises what are called ‘Crimes against the Faith,’ and the severity with which such crimes are punished furnishes a striking illustration of the importance which the State attaches to the church as the chief bulwark of its own authority. The first section, which may be taken as fairly indicative of the spirit of the whole title, is as follows:
“‘SECTION 176. Whoever dares, with premeditation, and publicly in a church, to blaspheme [literally, “to lay blame upon”] the glorious Triune God, or our Most Pure Ruler and Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, or the illustrious Cross of the Lord God Our Saviour Jesus Christ, or the incorporeal Heavenly Powers, or the Holy Saints of God and their images, such person shall be deprived of all civil rights, and exiled for life, with not less than twelve nor more than fifteen years of penal servitude. If such crime shall be committed not in a church but in a public place, or in the presence of a number of assembled people, be that number large or small, the offender shall be deprived of all civil rights and exiled for life, with not less than six nor more than eight years of penal servitude.’
“The next section, which deals with another aspect of the same crime, is as follows:—
“‘SECTION 177. If the offense described in the foregoing section [No. 176] be committed not in a public place nor before a large assemblage of people, but nevertheless in the presence of witnesses, with an intention to shake the faith of the latter, or lead them astray, the offender shall be deprived of all civil rights, and exiled for life to the most remote part of Siberia.’
“SECTION 178 provides that ‘whoever, with premeditation, in a public place and in the presence of a large or small assemblage of people, dares to censure [or condemn] the Christian faith, or the orthodox church, or to revile [or abuse] the sacred Scriptures or the holy sacraments [literally, “mysteries”], such person shall be deprived of all civil rights, and exiled for life, with not less than six nor more than eight years of penal servitude. If such crime shall be committed not in a public place nor in the presence of an assemblage of people, but nevertheless before witnesses, and with an intention to shake the latter’s faith, and lead them astray [literally, “to seduce them”], the offender shall be deprived of all civil rights, and exiled for life to the most remote part of Siberia.’
“SECTION 179 declares that if any person shall witness or have personal knowledge of the commission of the crimes set forth in sections 176-178, and shall fail to inform the authorities thereof, he shall be imprisoned for not less than four nor more than eight months, according to the circumstances of the case.
“SECTION 181 is as follows: ‘Whoever, in a printed work, or even in a written composition, if the latter be by him in any manner publicly circulated, indulges in blasphemy, or speaks opprobriously of the saints of the Lord, or condemns the Christian faith or the orthodox church, or reviles the sacred Scriptures or the holy sacraments, such person shall be deprived of all civil rights, and exiled for life to the most remote part of Siberia. The same  punishment shall be inflicted upon all persons who knowingly sell, or in any other way publicly circulate, such works or compositions.’
“SECTION 182 provides that ‘all persons who shall be found guilty of so-called scoffing—that is, of making sneering or sarcastic gibes that show manifest disrespect for the rules or ceremonies of the orthodox church, or for Christianity in general—shall be imprisoned for not less than four nor more than eight months.’
“It would be hard, I think, to find in the criminal laws of any other civilized State punishments of such severity attached to crimes of such a nature. In most countries an insulting or contemptuous reference, even in a church and during service, to the `Incorporeal Heavenly Powers’ [the angels] would be regarded merely as a misdemeanor, and would be punished with a small fine, or with a brief term of imprisonment, as a disturbance of the public peace. In Russia, however, disrespectful remarks concerning the ‘Saints of the Lord and their Images,’ even although such remarks be made to three or four acquaintances, in the privacy of one’s own house, may be punished with ‘deprivation of all civil rights, and exile for life to the most remote part of Siberia’—that is, to the coast of the Arctic Ocean in the territory of Yakutsk….
“Blasphemous or disrespectful remarks concerning holy persons or things are not, however, the only offenses contemplated by Title II, and included among ‘Crimes against the Faith.’ One whole chapter is devoted to heresy and dissent, and punishments of the most cruel severity are prescribed for adjuration of the orthodox faith, for secession from the true church, and for the public expression of Heretical opinions. Section 184, for example, provides that if a Jew or Mohammedan shall, by persuasion, deception, or other means, induce an orthodox Christian to renounce the true church and become an adherent of the Jewish or Mohammedan faith, he shall be deprived of all civil rights, and exiled for life, with not less than eight nor more than ten years of penal servitude.
“SECTION 187 declares that if any person tempt or persuade an adherent of the Russo-Greek Church to leave that church and join some other Christian denomination, he shall be banished to Siberia for life.
“SECTION 188 provides that if any person shall leave the orthodox church and join another Christian denomination, he shall be handed over to the ecclesiastical authorities for instruction and admonition; his minor children shall be taken into the custody of the Government; his real estate shall be put into the hands of an administrator; and until he abjures his errors he shall have no further control over either.
“Parents who are required by law to bring up their children in the true faith, but who, in violation of that duty, cause such children to be christened or educated in accordance with the forms and tenets of any other Christian church, shall be imprisoned for not less than eight nor more than sixteen months. During such time the children shall be taken in charge by orthodox relatives, or shall be turned over to a guardian appointed by the Government. [Section 190.]
“If a Jew or a Mohammedan shall marry an orthodox Christian and shall fail to bring up the children of such marriage in the orthodox faith, or shall throw obstacles in the way of the observance by such children of the rules and forms of the orthodox church, the marriage shall be dissolved, and the offender shall be exiled for life to the most remote part of Siberia. [Section 186.]
“All persons who shall be guilty of aiding in the extension of existing sects, or who shall be instrumental in the creation of new sects hostile or injurous to the orthodox faith, shall be deprived of all civil rights, and exiled for life, either to Siberia or to the Trans-Caucasus. [Section 196.]
“I met large numbers of dissenters exiled under this section, both in the Caucasus and in all parts of Siberia. It is the unvarying and universal testimony of both the civil and military officers of the Russian Government that these dissenting Christians form the most honest, the most temperate, the most industrious, and altogether the most valuable part of the whole population in the regions to which they have been banished. The ispravnik, or chief police officer, of Verkhni Udinsk, in Eastern Siberia, speaking to me of three or four settlements of dissenters in his okrug, or circuit, said: ‘If all the people in my territory were only exiled heretics, I could shut up the jails and should have little or nothing to do; they are the best people within my jurisdiction.’ I need hardly comment upon the cruel injustice of sending good citizens like these to the remotest part of Eastern Siberia simply because they do not believe in worshiping images and kissing bones, or because they cross themselves with two fingers instead of three.
“It would be easy to fill pages with illustrative examples of the unjust and oppressive character of Russian penal legislation in the field of religious crime. Every paragraph fairly bristles with threats of ‘imprisonment,’ ‘exile,’ and ‘penal servitude,’ and the whole title seems to the occidental mind to breathe a spirit of bigotry and intolerance. One might perhaps expect to find such laws in a penal code of the Middle Ages; but they strike one as an extraordinary anachronism when they appear in a code which was revised and amended in the capital of a so-called Christian State in the year of our Lord 1885.”
And yet, in the face of such an infamous code as that, Prince Gortschakoff, Chancellor of the Russian Empire, declared, in 1871, that Russia is “the most tolerant country in the world.” Now, with this Russian code and the Russian Chancellor’s idea of tolerance, read the following proposition of the National Reform Association upon the subject of tolerance, as announced by Rev. Jonathan Edwards, D. D., one of its Vice-Presidents, bearing in mind that Mr. Edwards holds that all who oppose National Reform are atheists:—
“What are the rights of the atheist? I would tolerate him as I would tolerate a poor lunatic…. So long as he does not rave, so long as he is not dangerous, I would tolerate him. I would tolerate him as I would a conspirator…. Yes, to this extent I will tolerate the atheist, but no more…. Tolerate atheism, sir? There is nothing out of hell that I would not tolerate as soon. The atheist may live, as I said, but, God helping us, the taint of his destructive creed shall not defile any of the civil institutions of all this fair land! Let us repeat, atheism and Christianity are contradictory terms. They are uncompatible systems. They cannot dwell together on the same continent.”
Let the reader compare this with the Russian Penal Code and Prince Gortschakoff’s idea of tolerance, and then honestly say, if he can, whether the establishment of the National Reform principles in this Government would not be the establishment of the same sort of a despotism that now reigns in Russia—with the advantage, however, in favor of Russia. For whereas Russia will allow the victims of her tolerance to dwell on the same continent with her, the National Reformers will not allow the victims of their tolerance to dwell on the same continent with them. And yet we are compelled to contemplate, and are asked to condone, the fact that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is a close and fond ally of the National Reform Association, and that Joseph Cook, President Seelye, Bishop Huntingdon, Dr. Crafts, and scores of others like them, are Vice-Presidents of it!
A. T. J.