CHAPTER XV

RUSSIA IN THE FAR EAST

No one will be surprised to learn that after these interesting exchanges of view on a burning topic, which were thus occasioned by an unavowable motive, the rulers of the Tsardom wended their way blithely in the same direction as before, bestowing their immediate attention on the Far East under the safe guidance of Witte.

The Manchurian branch of the railway was begun in the year 1899. The Minister of Communications, Prince Khilkoff, was on the point of travelling from Petersburg to Paris via Siberia and China, and had asked the Tsar's permission for me to accompany him and describe my impressions. The imperial authorisation was hardly given, however, when the Boxer insurrection broke out, sections of the railway were destroyed by the rebels, and our plans were upset. I then received permission to travel over all Central Asia, at first in a carriage to myself, which I was allowed to have coupled to any trains I wished, and afterwards in a special train for myself, which served me as bedroom, saloon, and kitchen. In this way I visited most places of note in Central Asia, including Askhabad, Merv, Bokhara, and Samarkand. After the Boxer rebellion Russian troops occupied Manchuria. But yielding to China's solicitations, seconded by Witte, the Tsar consented to a treaty1 recognizing Manchuria as an integral part of China and promising to withdraw his troops gradually from that province, beginning at Mukden, which was to be evacuated within six months, and completing the operation before the expiry of eighteen months from the date on which the convention was signed. Why that promise was not kept, and what came of its breach, are matters of common knowledge. But it was not General Kuropatkin who contributed to hinder the evacuation of Manchuria or the settlement of the dispute with

____________________
1
8th April, 1902.

-279-

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