to Mr. Fish.
St. Petersburg , February 23, 1874. (Received March 17.)
Sir: Some days ago I was informed that disturbances had broken out in portions of Poland, but I desired to ascertain more correctly the state of things before informing you. This has been a matter of some difficulty as the affair has been kept very quiet here. So near as I can get at the facts they are these: There exist in the government of Lublin some 230,000 persons belonging to the Uniate church, which was formerly a branch of the Greek orthodox church, but now acknowledges the primacy of the Pope and adopts some of the Catholic ceremonies. The government is desirous of restoring this church to the orthodox communion, and of abolishing the use of the bell daring mass, the singing of Polish chants, and other displeasing usages. Such an effort was successful with the Uniates of Lithuania and the northwestern [Page 815] provinces some forty years ago. In 1872 and 1873 Count Tolsboy the minister of public instruction and procurer of the Holy Synod issued orders to bring about these results, and, if possible, to persuade the inhabitants to accept orthodox priests. It was found, however, impossible to do this, and a report being made to that effect, new and more stringent orders were issued a few weeks ago, in consequence of which several priests, I am told twenty-four, who insisted on carrying on the former services, were arrested. In some places the peasants refused to go to the churches when the orthodox priests ministered, until they were forced to do so by the troops; in others they collected in crowds, closed the churches, and prevented the priests from performing the services. In one case it is said a priest was stoned to death. Conflicts arose between the peasants and the military, in which several persons were injured, and in one case, at the village of Drelof, on the 8th of February, thirty peasants were killed and many more wounded, and it is said, even, that several of the soldiers were killed. The prisons at Lublin and Kielce are said to be overflowing with prisoners. The peasants were also punished by whipping, the men receiving fifty, the women twenty-five, and the children ten blows each; some women more persistent and outspoken than the rest are said to have received as many as one hundred blows. Similar troubles are said to have occurred at Protulin and other places, also, with loss of life. It is supposed that the disturbances are now over, the peasants, probably, in most cases preferring to submit rather than to be utterly ruined, for during the last summer the peasants of various villages in the government of Lublin were obliged constantly to submit to interrogation, and attend upon judicial proceedings; by which they were prevented from cultivating their fields and were reduced almost to a state of starvation.
I have, &c,