September 19, 2014 by AK
More from S.M. Soloviev’s Notes, this time from the text not included in the truncated online version. The “war” refers to the advanced stage of the Crimean War, probably 1854-55.
At that very time when it began to thunder above Nebuchadnezzar’s [Nicholas I’s] head, when Russia began to suffer an unfamiliar disgrace of military failures, when its enemies appeared by Sevastopol, we found ourselves in a difficult predicament. On the one hand, our patriotic feeling was terribly offended by Russia’s humiliation, but on the other, we were convinced that nothing but affliction, namely an ill-fated war, could accomplish a salvific upheaval — could stop the rot; we were convinced that the war’s success would make our bonds more restrictive and decisively establish a barrack-like system; we tormented ourselves with news of defeats, knowing that news of the opposite kind would have made us tremble. One could see indifference among the people at large…
Nicholas I died in February 1855:
After February 15, rumors began that the emperor had been ill. Feb. 19 was a Sunday; I went to Mass to my parish church (St. Nicholas on the Sands in Arbat [in Moscow]) where Khomyakov was also a parishioner. He walked up to me and said: “They must be taking the oath in the Senate now: he’s dead”… Of course I was not saddened by the death of Nicholas but I felt ill at ease. There was anxiety and apprehension: what if it gets even worse?! A man has been taken out of prison – it’s good to breathe fresh air but where are they taking him? Could it be another prison, an even worse one? He would be lucky to be set free. Back home, I found an order to report to the University church in a uniform [professors, as civil servants, had their own] to take the oath of allegiance [to the new emperor]. Arriving at the church, I met Granovsky on the porch; my first word to him was, “Dead!” He replied: “It’s no wonder he is dead; it’s a wonder how we’re alive.” Our anxious, abnormal predicament made us susceptible to superstition. It was Sunday and, as was my custom, I went to dine at my old father’s house and then news came that during the ringing of bells at the Ivan the Great tower part of it collapsed and killed some people. [Wikipedia says it was a bell that came off and crashed through five stories.] The accident, sad by itself, on that day made a particularly adverse impression. People were hoping for the best, and at once there was such a dark premonition! But that impression, needless to say, did not last long; [we] started living by hope.
Once [apparently, shortly afterwards] I stopped by Khomyakov’s house. He was hopeful in his own way. “It’s going to get better,” he said, “note how tsars alternate from Peter on: a good reign is followed by a bad one; a bad reign is unfailingly followed by a good one: after Peter I, Catherine I, a bad reign… [I have omitted six emperors here] Alexander I, a good one; after Alexander I, Nicholas, a wretched one; now, therefore, it must be good. At that,” continued Khomyakov, “our current sire is a passionate hunter, and hunters are always good people – recall Alexey Mikhailovich.” In conversations with Khomyakov, my habit was to smile and be silent. Khomyakov likewise smiled, and prattled on. “But Chaadayev never agrees with me – he says of Alexander II: ‘What good can come of a man with eyes like these!'” and Khomyakov burst into his ringing laughter. This is how the heads of Moscow’s two opposing camps spoke of Russia’s new head.
I’m not sure Chaadayev and Khomiakov were exactly the chief of the Westernizers and the Slavophiles respectively (nor am I sure that Khomyakov quoted Chaadayev faithfully), but they were senior, or possibly the most senior members of the two Moscow circles.