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Bryan and the Russians

During his years in Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan welcomed many foreign visitors to the city and often entertained them at his home, named Fairview. In May of 1907 his guests included two distinguished Russians who were giving public lectures to publicize unfavorable political conditions in their native country. Bryan was particularly interested in Russia, which he had visited several years earlier as part of his European tour undertaken in late 1903. While there, he received an audience with Czar Nicholas II and boldly reminded him of his promise to give a degree of self-government and free speech to his people. While in Russia, Bryan also visited author Leo Tolstoy, whose literary work he greatly admired.

"Two apostles of the society of 'The Friends of Russian Freedom' [English and American sympathizers with Russian anti-czarist groups] closed a whirlwind speaking tour of the city yesterday," said the Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on May 16, 1907. "They were Alexis Alladin, member of the Russian douma, and Nicholai Tschikowsky, a student and representative of the laboring classes of Russia.

"They arrived in Lincoln in the morning, were immediately taken to the state university, where they delivered addresses at convocation, from there went to Wesleyan university at University Place during the afternoon, where they spoke, took dinner in the evening with William Jennings Bryan at Fairview, and arrived at the church [St. Paul's Methodist] late in the evening, after the church had been filled with an expectant audience. . . .

"Mr. Bryan then introduced the two gentlemen from the land of the czar, and briefly told of the struggle of the Russian people for freedom. He said he had heard Mr. Alladin speak before the douma in his visit to St. Petersburg, and that Mr. Tschikowsky was a student in the University of St. Petersburg, and a patriot who has given up his future for the cause of his people." When Tschikowsky was complimented on his excellent English, he revealed that he had lived for several years as a farmer in southern Kansas about thirty years before but had left the U.S. before he could become a naturalized citizen.

The Russian orators were enthusiastically received and were presented at the church with "two large bouquets . . . by the representatives of the Hebrew Relief association of this city. This association has about seventy-five members, was organized November 12, 1905; has in its membership some of the most intelligent Russian Jews, and has for its object the relief and assistance of countrymen in Lincoln. Each bouquet had a card attached, with a message written on one side in Russian and on the other in English. The cards read: 'The sympathizers of the cause of Russian freedom express their sympathy to the laboring class and to the peasants.'"

Bryan also accompanied the Russian visitors to a noon luncheon attended by Lincoln Mayor F. W. Brown and Nebraska Governor George Sheldon and on a brief visit to Sheldon's office. From Lincoln the pair went on to Cincinnati.

William Jennings Bryan on the steps of Fairview. NSHS RG3198-30-7

(March 2011)



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