Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

The Russians

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 311;
Written: by Engels on April 21, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 279, April 22, 1849.

Cologne, April 21. When the Neue Rheinische Zeitung began to be published almost eleven months ago, it was the first newspaper to point out the concentration of Russian armies on our Eastern frontier. At that time many virtuous citizens spoke of exaggeration, of unnecessary cries of alarm etc.

It has become clear whether we were exaggerating or not. The Russians, who at first were merely protecting their frontiers, passed more and more to the offensive as the counter-revolution achieved successes. The June victory in Paris brought them to Jassy and Bucharest; the fall of Vienna and Pest brought them to Hermannstadt and Kronstadt.

A year ago Russia was not prepared for war; at that time, in the first panic terror at the omnipotence of the sudden revolution, it was easy to drive the 30,000-40,000 Russians out of Poland and establish a free Poland. That was what was called for, but the desire for it was lacking. The Russians were given time to arm, and now a Russian army of 500,000-600,000 men surrounds us from the Niemen to the Danube and Aluta. Along the Prussian frontier alone, according to the Ostsee-Zeitung, some 150,000 men are stationed; the remainder are in the interior, on the Galician frontier, in Moldavia, Wallachia, Lithuania, Podolia and Volhynia, and in the fortresses of NovoGeorgievsk (Modlin), Brest-Litovsk, Demblin and Zamosye, which according to the Ostsee-Zeitung have depots with arms and reserves for 250,000 men.

The same newspaper writes:

“Food depots are set up with the aid of requisitioning notes, which oblige every landowner to deliver a certain quantity of produce that is to be used as provisions for the army. Next year these notes will be accepted in payment of taxes. This, therefore, is the source of the recently spread rumour that the Russian Government in Poland has ordered taxes to be collected one year in advance.”

What the state of affairs is as regards the acceptance of these notes we learn from another quarter.

At the end of last year and the beginning of this year, Polish landlords had to make enormous deliveries, but these were taken into account in the payment of taxes. It was believed that thereby everything was settled, but it turns out now that the taxes until the end of this year have to be paid in advance.

Even from this compulsory method of ensuring supplies for the army it is evident what enormous masses of Russian troops must be concentrated in Poland.

Another newspaper, the Posen Zeitung des Osten, reports from Posen on April 13:

“The number of Russian troops in the West is as follows: Within the Polish Kingdom is the Rüdiger Corps-half of the Fourth Rüdiger Corps together with reserves, altogether approximately 120,000 men. In Lithuania is the so-called Grenadier Corps (formerly the Shakhovskoy Corps), and part of the First Corps. The Guards are expected to arrive later-there has been talk of their arrival for several months already. In Volhynia, where the staff headquarters is in Dubno, is the remaining part of the Fourth Chegodayev Regiment. In Kiev there is a Second Auxiliary Corps, in Krzemieniec a mobile corps (Pavlov’s) of about 6,000-8,000 men. Finally in Moldavia and Wallachia is the Lüders Corps with about 65,000 men.”

As to why these troops are there, they themselves very naively make the following admission:

“Rank-and-file Russians, as well as the officers, are less reserved in their conversation. It is noteworthy that to the question why they are stationed on the frontier they all give the same reply, viz: Our Emperor is the brother-in-law of the King of Prussia. After the French were defeated by the Russians in the great war, all the land right up to Paris belonged to the Emperor; he entrusted the administration to various small German knyazes (princes), and appointed his brother-in-law, the Prussian knyaz, as supreme military governor. Now the French and Germans have risen in revolt, and so the German knyazes as well as the supreme governor have asked for help from the Emperor, and that is why we are stationed here on the frontier. If calm is not soon established, we shall cross the frontier and restore order.”

But that is not all. Emperor Nicholas has ordered another call-up of recruits of eight men per thousand to be carried out in the western part of his Empire. The order lists 21 provinces where recruits are to be called up.

That is how things look on the other side of the frontier. Half a million armed and organised barbarians are only waiting for an opportunity to fall on Germany and turn us into feudal serfs of the orthodox Tsar.

Just as Transylvania was once before occupied by the Russians, just as at the present time the incursion of 30,000 Russians into that same region is being demanded, and another 30,000 to be sent across Galicia, just as the Banat Serbs are also imploring the orthodox Tsar for help, so it will be with us. We shall yet reach the point when the Government and the bourgeoisie invite the Russians into our country, as happened recently in Transylvania. And things are bound to go that way. The victory of counter-revolution in Vienna and in Berlin has not sufficed for us. But when Germany has once felt the Russian knout, it will behave somewhat differently.

The Russians are the true liberators of Germany, we said in June last year. We repeat this also today, but today we are no longer the only ones to say it!