MARXISM AND THE RUSSIAN
IN Western Europe Marxism was only one among several varieties of socialist political thought, but none of the other varieties was able to oppose it with a doctrine of comparable intellectual appeal. In Russia, however, it encountered a rival form of socialist faith, which not only proved a most formidable competitor, but had in the long run a profound influence on the development of Marxism itself, so that the "Leninist" variant of Marxism, which after the Russian Revolution of I9I7 became the official ideology of the new Soviet régime, showed characteristics which could only be traced to non‐ Marxist origins.
This rival doctrine was that of the Narodniks or Populists, and its main distinguishing feature lay in its "peasant orientation". The narod or "people", to whose cause they dedicated themselves, meant primarily the peasantry, and this corresponded to the fact that in nineteenth-century Russia the peasants were the great majority of the population. Compared with most of Western Europe, Russia had remained essentially an agrarian country, and this was synonymous with its general economic backwardness. At the beginning of the nineteenth century less than five per cent of the population of Russia lived in towns, and at the end of the century not more than twenty per cent. The vast continental land mass of Russia which rendered it so difficult for a foreign conqueror to subdue it—as Charles XII and Napoleon had found to their cost—