Title


CHAPTER VI. CRIMEA.-TAGANROG.-NOVO-TCHERKASK. [331]

CHAPTER VI.

CRIMEA.-TAGANROG.-NOVO-TCHERKASK.

Men on Horses

FEw situations are so picturesque as that of the burgh of Yalta. Its port is more an ornament than a port. The new houses of this burgh are sheltered by the high mountains of the chain of Yaila. Recently built on the very site of an ancient Greek town of some consequence, Yalta occupies the whole of the northern part of a very spacious bay, between cape Nikita on the north, and cape AI-Todor [332] on the south. This coast, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, is perfectly sheltered on one side, whilst on the other it is exposed to the winds and heavy seas from the south-east ; this is the case also at Odessa, and even when the winds have subsided, the waves in the bay continue agitated for some time, while the sands, thrown up from the bottom by the motion of the sea, tend more and more to contract an anchorage already sufficiently incommodious. The port of Yalta will therefore never be a maritime settlement of any importance ; it is one of those temporary shelters, where sailors may cast anchor for a short time, but could not, even at an enormous cost, be made into a per- manent harbour. However, as a mere pied-á-terre for all the notabilities who during the summer people the southern coast, Yalta is a place of some importance.

Women and Children

With regard to public institutions, Yalta is not behind any large town ; a custom-house, a post-office, architects, chemists, and a variety of shops, filled with everything to tempt greediness, one of the chief sources of pleasure in this country — nothing is wanting. The principal hotel is called la Citta di Odessa, and assumes all the dignity which distinguishes a respectable hotel from a common- place inn. A house arranged with taste and appropriate to its hospitable purposes, a thing too rare in these parts, has been built by order of Count de Woronzoff. [333] The Count may in truth be called the host of these shores. In the long garden of the southern coast, he has allowed no pleasing detail to escape the visitor. The hotel once established, a major domo was required; it was then that Signor Bartolucci, the excellent basso cantante, quitted the boards at Odessa to create a new part for himself here, which he fills with equal satis- faction to the public.

The next day we were conveyed in the equipages sent by Count de Woronzoff to Aloupka. The road from Yalta to this beautiful residence runs along the shore of the bay, and rises by a gentle ascent to the first hills which command the sea on the west, whence reaches the base of the rocks of the Yalla, which rises like a wall, eighteen hundred feet high, extending from Yalta to Cape Aï-Tador. This road is smooth, and so easy, that carriages can go at the utmost speed upon it. About midway up the mountains, you meet with a number of villas on the roadside, one and all con- structed with the most tasteful fancy. Here a small Asiatic palace greets you, with discreet blinds and minaret- shaped chimneys ; a little further, an elegant gothic manor, or one of those pretty English cottages covered with ivy, and surrounded with verdure, which long retains its freshness. Sometimes you find a dwelling built entirely of wood, fancifully varnished, and almost hidden [334] by its large verandas ; here a group of white and graceful turrets, there a mass of ruins ; everywhere trees, grass, sparkling water, garlands of hawthorn and beds of purple dahlias. The traveller advances thus along a road winding for a distance of fifteen versts by the side of the great ramparts of the Yaïla; on his left the glittering and boundless sea; at his feet, sloping down to the shore, verdant declivities covered with villas, beautiful vineyards, and winding pathways. Throughout its extent, the road is protected, like a drive through an English park, by wooden barriers painted white, which though slight, prevent the head and eyes from suffering the dizziness which so rapid a pace might occasion. Everywhere above head, are over-hanging rocks a thousand feet high, from the crevices of which an abundant vegetation makes its way, and waves in the wind. But who can attempt to describe these lovely views as they deserve. Amidst them I spent a brief inter- val filled with sensations of which it is utterly impossible to give any idea. On such occasions we see, we admire, but never for a moment dream of finding words to match the dazzling beauties of the scenes which charm us. Besides, I was not a fanciful, and still less a poetical traveller; my visit to Count de Woronzoff was for a serious and useful end : I was anxious to get to the provinces neigh- bouring the Don, where it will be remembered an important part of my expedition was to be established, [335] under the direction of M. le Play. How I longed to judge for myself of the justice of our mutual expectations, and to follow the progress of my companions in the study which was the object of their travels ; for I had not come to Aloupka to indulge egotistically in poetical meditations, but to advance more rapidly towards my destination : I intended remaining but one day amidst the enchantments of this princely country life. I was resolved to make my escape on the very same evening from this kind hospitality ; the amiability of the hosts, the splendour of the sky, and the magnificence of the country, what allurements were these to conquer, and how hard the struggle, when, on the other hand, we had to launch afresh into steppes without end. I must, however, do myself the justice to say that I did resist. To present my respects to Count de Woronzoff, and thank him, in my own name and that of my companions, could be done in one day, and in one day I did it. Count de Woronzoff, who thoroughly appreciates all good motives, understood the sacrifice I was making to duty. He welcomed my foreign colleagues with that gracious courtesy which wins all hearts to him ; and from that moment he became a guide and protector to them. As may be imagined, under such generous patronage, I did not hesitate to leave them to follow their own inclinations in making arrange- ments for visiting every part of this interesting country, [336] as was their intention. The day passed but too quickly in the midst of a numerous and select party. After taking a rapid view of the rustic gardens and the magni- ficent oriental palace which the Count was finishing at this time, in the expectation of a royal visit, the glorious and well-merited reward of so many labours, I took leave of this noble lord, not without having received from him advice full of kindness to myself, and most courteous promises in favour of those I left behind. Night was already far advanced, when I resumed the road to Yalta, not however alone, for Count Galateri, aide-de-camp to the governor-general, in whom I soon found an obliging and devoted guide, had been attached to me for my rapid campaigns of the Don. I also took back with me to Yalta, in order to give him my last instructions, the individual who was to replace me with my colleagues ; less experienced travellers than himself, heedless of the morrow, like all men of science, and full of the ardour of true 'artists, they needed a prudent guardianship ; I had deputed Sainson, an inveterate traveller, to represent me as pilot to the caravan.

PASSAGE IN THE BLACK SEA. STEAM BOAT, 'PIERRE 1er.'
PASSAGE IN THE BLACK SEA. STEAM BOAT, "PIERRE 1er."

During the whole day, Aloupka, that 'privileged spot, had enjoyed a mild and warm temperature, but it was not so in the bay of Yalta : the wind had not ceased howling, and the swollen waves rendered it difficult to put out from shore to the " Peter the Great," in which my [337] carriage had been left. We should have had to wait a long time for a more quiet sea, and all delay was forbidden at this moment. The winds, said the captain — an old English sailor, who certainly knew something about it — the winds might continue violent for several days. My resolution was soon taken ; I abandoned my carriage, which the steamer was to convey the next day to Kaffa, and I determined to post as far as this town in a télégue, a rude and swift national carriage.

There is so great a similarity between this Russian equipage and the Wallachian caroussi, which I have already mentioned, that a minute description would be superfluous ; suffice it to say, the télègue is the best of the two. You are more comfortable on the straw, which is not spared, and abundantly fills the little box in which the traveller is seated. Two passengers may, if needful, find room on the mountain of cloaks and coverings heaped together in lieu of a seat, lending each other the support of a shoulder over the rough places through which the télègue is dragged, at the plea- sure of two vigorous horses. In front of the machine, and with no other seat than a narrow plank, is perched the coachman, who never ceases speaking to his horses : to conclude, as a final distinction — and in this consists the incontestible superiority of the télègue to the humble caroussi of the Wallachians — a, metal bell is suspended [338] to the fore part of the pole, and swinging to and fro with great noise during the whole time the carriage is in motion, constantly reminds the traveller that sleep would be dangerous on his perilous seat. When we arrived at a town, the bell was suppressed, out of respect for the ears of the citizens. It is in such rude carriages, however, that innumerable travellers, officers, agents, couriers, and government functionaries, continually tra- verse the empire, galloping day and night, crossing over thousands of versts in this uncomfortable position, and with no other shelter than a cloak, which serves as an equal protection against the sun, the rain, the dust, and the mud. I leave the reader to imagine what sort of a constitution you must be gifted with, to stand such frightful travelling. In less time than is necessary to describe this simple and primitive equipage, we had already passed the long and winding ways through the valley of Yalta, and were rolling with wonderful swiftness over the beautiful road cut along the side of the mountains which command the sea from a vast height, taking their course towards the east. We had started at noon, and at this season of the year, from the 1st to the 13th of August, it is easy to conceive the scorching heat we had to endure.

RUSSIAN COURIER (BESSARABIA)
RUSSIAN COURIER (BESSARABIA)

Under the blazing rays of the sun, our faces were burnt in less than an hour in such a manner as long [339] to retain the traces. Nikita, with its beautiful gardens, Massandra and its rich vineyards, Ai-Danil, and the whole of this picturesque road soon vanished from our sight. We then came to the Aïou-Dagh. This immense promontory advances so far into the sea, that the road cannot be brought round it, and accordingly proceeds along a second range of mountains ; here, heaven be thanked, are to be found the most cool and delightful re- treats, large trees, beautiful forests, cascades, and all those happy and wonderful effects which artists prize so much. Italy itself is surpassed — surpassed by the Crimea : land- scape painters must allow it. Alouchta, a semi-Tatar town of some importance, situated on the coast, terminates this magnificent line of shore. A considerable valley opens towards the sea close by, and from this spot we quit the coast to enter into the interior of Taurida, directing our course towards the central part, where Sympheropol is situated. At first for a considerable time our course was all up-hill, the road following the lower declivities of the Tchadir-Dagh. This is truly a majestic mountain; the highest of the Crimea. Its summit, forming a. table, is a good land mark for the ships in the Black Sea : it also commands on the north the whole expanse of the steppe — that sea of dust, P here the Tatar caravans salute it from a-far.

When our modest equipage had toiled up these [340] imposing heights, we found that the country became less and less picturesque, as we descended the reverse and northern side of the Tchadir-Dagh ; vegetation becomes scanty, and soon ceases altogether on the skirt of the plains, where you meet with it no more, except at the bottom of ravines, and along the course of the Salghir. Nevertheless, nature here is still beautiful and rich. A few villages here and there are met with : that called Soultan-Mahmoud occupies a conspicuous place in my recollections, on account of a horde of gipsies, encamped in the neighbouring fields. It is impossible to obtain, without going out of Europe, a more complete idea of those wild tribes, which lend so much interest to the narratives of navigators. A few rags was all the whole tribe possessed in the way of attire, and the children and young people, who had been forgotten in the distribution of hereditary tatters, scarcely appeared any the worse clothed. In every village, also, troops of the most trouble- some dogs in the world pursued us with inveterate obsti- nacy. At last we arrived at Sympheropol, the present capital of the Crimea, and the head-quarters of the government of Taurida. Our journey, though rapid, had nevertheless been a hard trial, and we eagerly and grate- fully accepted the kind offer of M. Mourounzoff, the civil governor, to lend us his carriage as far as Kaffa.

Sympheropol, though so far from the mountains, is [341] not quite in the steppe. Its environs, intersected by a few ravines, where the supply of fresh water maintains vegetation, offers some favourable sites for the cultivation of the vine. The valley of the Salghir, extending northward, is especially remarkable for the beauty of its trees. The town is divided into two parts : first, the ancient Ak-Metchet of the Tatars, where we find narrow populous alleys, lined with shops of all kinds, classed according to the oriental custom ; then the new town, where we already recognise the breadth and regularity of our own streets. The principal church, of elegant design but slight materials, adorns one of the spacious squares of the town. Another square, or rather market-place, situated in the centre of Sympheropol, is filled with a noisy medley of buyers and sellers. People of every nation are here gathered, talking every known lan- guage under the sun : we could fancy ourselves at the foot of the Tower of Babel. Greeks, Tatars, Armenians, Jews, and Russians incessantly pass and repass in the midst of merchandise and cattle, the headlong droschkies of the Russians, and the leisurely madgiars of the Tatars, drawn by a couple of enormous dromedaries, with double humps, and the most imperturbable aspect. This town is, from its position, the centre of all activity and enterprise. A number of new houses are being erected in the capital; an Artesian well promises an abundant supply of water; and a [342] few inns, recently established, favour the sojourn of travel- lers. To this day, however, the innkeepers, trusting to the custom adopted by the better class of Russians, of always travelling with their beds, have made no effort to provide visitors with any better sleeping accommodation than miserable sofas, scantily stuffed with hay, indiscriminately provided for travellers of all ranks, whom the fatigues of the journey, and the meagreness of the supper, equally dispose to sleep. In a few years beds will have found their way into these inns. We have seen more wonderful things in the way of progress than this.

At midnight, we left Sympheropol. The governor had lent us his carriage, and in it we were soon rolling over a smooth steppe. We quickly passed through Kara-Sou- Bazar, a large Tatar town, but the darkness prevented our observing its character ; then, still keeping across the steppe, we reached the oriental side of the Crimea, and Kaffa, the half Genoese and half Tatar town, which with all its Italian aspect, reminding one of Bologna, yet preserves withal some vestiges of the Mussulman city. Kaffa appeared to us beneath the beams of the rising sun, enclosing within its ancient walls and turrets the ruined memorials of the power which it so long enjoyed. The port of Kaffa, called also by its ancient name of Theodosia, formerly rich and well-peopled, is now rarely entered, save by a few small vessels laden with the produce of the [343] steppe — the steppe which, uncultivated as it is, is yet in- credibly fertile. The traffic which formerly gave animation to Kaffa, is in the present day transferred more to the east in the roads of Kertch, where the favourable position of the strait, uniting the Sea of Azoff with the Black Sea, attracts a numerous concourse of vessels. Theodosia is generally considered an agreeable city ; it is chiefly populated by Greeks, but commerce has at all times brought a great number of strangers to it. Many Arme- nians and Karaïm Jews reside within its walls ; the suburbs are inhabited by Krim Tatars, and another tribe of Tatars, the Nogaïs, with Chinese countenances, may constantly be seen driving their cars through its streets. We merely hurried through the public places, thoroughfares, and somewhat limited promenades of Theodosia. The " Peter the Great " had kept its word, and my carriage was landed on a far more commodious port; accordingly I hastened to pursue my journey with my constant companion in weal or woe, the Count de Galateri. We shared this time the comforts of an excellent coach, as we had done the previous night the joltings of the roughest of vehicles. We reached Ararat with unequalled rapidity, taking a direct line from south to north. The distance was performed in four hours ; and as we turned our backs upon the mountains of the Crimea, our only horizon was [344] that of the plain, smooth as the sea which bounds it. This desert, however, is not so entirely deserted but one frequently meets caravans composed of cars carrying either to Kaffa or to Kertch the salt picked up on the shores of the Dead Sea, not far from the town of Pérécop. Occasionally, also, a Tatar is seen squatted beside his dromedaries, enjoying the delights of his pipe beneath their shadow, if a degree of heat which lite- rally calcines the soil can be called such. In traversing these solitary regions, more than in any we had pre- viously crossed, the road is left to the choice of the driver ; these Tatars have, however, a marvellous in- stinct in discovering the direct line ; and it is asserted, that even when the steppe is an entire sheet of snow, they still drive through on the right road, as if it were marked out.

A fortress, still defended by good outworks and a ditch, though its interior is in ruins, and a village, composed of ten houses facing one another, in the form of a street, occupying a space of ground which in central Europe would suffice for a town containing twelve thousand souls — such is Ararat. The fort is built on the sands between the Sea of Azoff and the Dead Sea, or Sivach, another name given to this great lake, but too justly meriting the characteristic epithet ; a sort of natural dyke, starting from the very foot of these [345] ramparts, runs directly northwards, between dashing waves on one side, and on the other, stagnant and putrid waters, always emitting a horrible and poisonous stench. This narrow causeway is intersected towards the northern extremity by a canal about a hundred metres long, forming a communication between the two seas, and is rather pompously designated a strait. Several post-houses are established on the isthmus, which fortunately enable one to travel with terrific rapidity. The post-master of the place, stupefied by constant drunkenness, obstinately refused to assist us ; and when we remonstrated energetically with him upon his intemperance, he told us it was the dull and tedious life he led which drove him to it. What could we say in answer to so good a reason ? We endeavoured, by patience, to set this unfortunate man a good example.

THE ANCIENT FORTRESS OF ARARAT
THE ANCIENT FORTRESS OF ARARAT

It was midnight when we landed on firm ground at Yenitchi, beyond the strait, whence we were to direct our course towards the east, skirting at some distance the coast of the Sea of Azoff. Still the same endless plain lay before us, the same tedious and flat horizon vanishing in the distance, in the midst of which, how delightful a relief it was to chance upon a human being !

When the sun rises amid damp vapours, and gradually ascends over the plain, the deceptive phenomenon of [346] mirage frequently occurs, painting lakes, rivers and mea- dows on the refracting morning mists, transforming the smallest stem rising above the ground into a ma- jestic tree, converting a man into a tower, and a baggage waggon into a gigantic palace. These illusions, so inducive to dreamy meditation, occupied our attention in the mornings, and at evening, in the fiery clouds of the west, we pictured black rocks, formidable peaks, and volca- noes pouring forth torrents of lava. As to the mid-day, it passed but heavily, in spite of constant movement, and the wide spaces we travelled over. At the stations alone we for a moment came in contact with living creatures. And what suffering did we not witness in these deserts, beneath those huts, where disease exists in its worst forms, and medical assistance can never penetrate ! These people, labouring under the most dreadful diseases, await without help, and what is worse than all, without hope, the close of sufferings of which they cannot even calculate the ex- tent — miserable examples of human patience and resigna- ation ! One poor old sick man, for whom we expressed our compassion, said, with honest and unaffected humility, that peasants were not sent into the world for their own pleasure. And certainly, if ever spot on earth were calcu- lated to exercise the virtue of patience, it is this.

Our first day's journey did not elapse without an adven- ture. At one of the last relays, we found the post-house in [347] the greatest confusion — all the inhabitants, in a state of anguish and consternation, running backwards and forwards like people in the greatest distress. Our arrival was eagerly welcomed, and by every available voice at once we were asked, if by any means we could recall to life a dying woman ? This was a serious affair. When introduced into the house, I was soon convinced that the dying woman, who was the post-mistress, possessed her vital energies to an eminent degree, and that if she was in any danger, it arose from having taken too copious a dinner on the previous day. The poor woman was, however, almost suffocating, and nothing but a sudden inspiration could save her. Fortunately, I was struck with such a medical inspiration. I had in my carriage a preparation of seidlitz powders, which I had always found productive of excellent results. I administered a powerful dose to the sick woman. You may easily conceive my anxiety, although I knew the remedy to be harmless. After waiting a short time, however, it had the desired effect, and relieved her overloaded stomach. We started again, overwhelmed with the blessings of the sick woman. No doctor of the highest eminence could have done better.

After crossing the Tolomak, a little river which discharges itself into Lake Molotchnoie, we were not long before we came to the territory of Nogaïsk. In these large plains we began to observe some signs of [348] cultivation. We here witnessed with our own eyes that destructive phenomenon, that Egyptian plague, the locusts, which we had heard of in Wallachia, without ever having encountered it. Imagine an animated cloud consuming everything before it ; you might fancy, from the noise they make in feeding, that it was a flock of famished goats. Everything is devoured as the torrent sweeps along ; herons, lapwings, and all sorts of birds of prey fall upon them, but in vain ; scarcely do they make the least impression.

Nogaïsk is a capital ; it is the metropolis of a foreign tribe — a tribe of nomadic habits, not yet thoroughly converted to the life of cities ; this is evident, even in the structure of this new town, thatch and clay being the principal materials employed. Pull down the mosques, the bazaars, and some few miserable shops in the oriental style, and nothing would remain but a wretched village. The history of this town is sufficiently recent to enable one to trace it without difficulty to its origin. Towards the end of the last century, at the time when the mighty Empress Catherine conceived the idea of peopling her new and vast possessions in the south, a numerous horde of Tatars, said to be pure descendants of the race which Tchinghis-Khan drew in his train, still dwelt in the steppes of Astrakhan. Government, by useful concessions, attracted them towards the country they [349] now inhabit; but the frequent return of their vagrant pro- pensities became a source of great uneasiness to their neighbours. A French emigrant undertook to civilize and instruct them in agricultural pursuits. This excellent person, Count de Maison, applied himself to the task with so much zeal and perseverance, that he succeeded in trans- forming these wanderers over the steppe, into disciplined colonists. He taught them how to cultivate the earth, which only requires labour; and when cultivated, it did not prove ungrateful. Then arose commerce, and with com- merce a species of traffic which admirably suited the tra- velling predilections of the Nogaïs. Long caravans leave every year after the harvest, and convey the produce of these plains as far as Kaffa and Kertch. Scarcely can you distinguish this long train of waggons in the distance, before the frightful jarring sound of their creaking wheels reaches you, wafted on the wind. These rude waggons, constructed entirely of wood, without a single particle of iron, are drawn by two powerful dromedaries of truly gigantic stature. The heavy load bearing upon axle- trees rarely greased with a species of bitumen, pro- duces a friction, the noise of which is perfectly deafening. The good Nogaïs rather like this harmony ; and if you advise them to grease their axle-trees, they answer, "why should we? none but thieves are afraid to make a noise." Thus, amid these simple husbandmen, has Nogaïsk risen ; [350] nor, as I have already said. is its prosperity as a town of a very flattering description : it has become simply a large inn for the convenience of Armenian or Karaïm traders, those dauntless merchants who are met with everywhere. Its worthy founder, the Count de Maison, had died a short time before our visit : we saw the dwelling he inhabited, and the little gardens he planted, without ob- taining many followers ; nevertheless, the good influences he has bequeathed to this people will hereafter bear their fruit. The Nogaïs are active and intelligent; passionately fond of a wandering life, they are true descendants of the invading race, which for several centuries overran the whole of eastern Europe, sweeping everything before them. To find the means of reducing to habits of obedience, and securing the progress and well-being of this newly civilized tribe ; what a project was this to conceive, yet it has been accomplished.

We were now in the land of colonies, for several emigrant populations have brought their labour and industry into the neighbourhood of the Nogaïs. A colony of Memnonites, coming originally from Prussia, inhabit a territory bordering that granted to the Nogaïs ; further on, and nearer Marioupol, cultivated lands, houses in good order, and immense stacks of corn, in the midst of acacias, point out the German settlements. It is a singular spectacle, to meet on the same plains [351] these honest Germans, with their fair complexions, and slow, lumbering gait, and the Nogaïs with their flat yellow faces, prominent cheek bones, and eyes slanting upwards at the outer corners. But even the progress of the Tatars cannot be compared with the truly admirable results obtained by German colonisation in these regions : I do not only speak of the large amount of grain produced — for this land refuses nothing to those who cultivate it — what I mean is, that the presence of the Germans has transformed these deserts into a country where every requisite of life may now be found ; unfortunately there are not sufficient markets for their rich produce ; consisting of excellent milk, vegetables, fruits, cattle and fine wheat flour. The colonists supply every thing, and stock the cities with provisions, an example one would wish to see followed by our peasants, who are generally too indifferent as to their material welfare. Meanwhile every year, the cultivation of the land is conducted on a more extensive scale and by superior means; the breed of cattle is improving, and the country growing more populous and fertile. It cannot be too fre- quently repeated, that the earth is productive only in propor- tion as labour is bestowed upon it ; let the land be better peopled, and it will become fertile; such is the law of nature. Look at the waste lands in the finest countries of the world ; they exhaust themselves in the production of a [352] useless abundance of vegetation, in which poisonous and noxious plants predominate ; it is because there the hand of man has planted nothing. The earth requires to be watered by the sweat of man's brow.

In the midst of these vast steppes, which seem to invite those who find it hard to live elsewhere, I reflected how nobly and wisely might this wide .space be employed which now lies desolate, this fertility which is lost, these riches neglected and shamefully wasted. How many nations, I exclaimed, are there condemned to see the best institutions become useless for want of adequate space. And should we not return thanks to God for the large portion which He has bestowed upon Russia, enabling her, without confusion, to class within her confines all the elements of order and future prosperity.

What regions better fitted for the efforts of modern civilization? where could we find land more fertile, a soil better prepared, or a more noble site for cities. Russia maintains Siberia as England does New South Wales, as a penal settlement, where turbulent spirits at open war with the laws of society can be removed to a distance ; but it remains for us, perhaps, to find a practical solution to the penitentiary system, reconcilable with the amendment of culprits. Colonies adapted to this philanthropic end, seem to me the best calculated to [353] solve the problem, which has so long occupied the minds of philanthropists really deserving the name. An admirable trial lately made in Holland, pointed out to Europe the use which might be made of a well directed system of association for the cure of social evils. The experiment made with pauperism, by General Van-den-Bosch, an excellent man, offers a noble precedent. Assisted by the most insignificant subscriptions, the Dutch general's creative genius founded a model establishment, and by degrees numerous colonies, in which poor people, vagrants and orphans, were enabled to gain a livelihood by their work. And yet, be it observed, Holland was obliged to purchase its own lands, whereas Russia, on the contrary, can dispose of an entire kingdom. I thought how pauperism, mendicity and deserted infancy might populate these solitudes with great profit to society, to public morals, and to themselves ; and perhaps, said I, some attempts might be made with advantage, for the amendment of those culprits whose offences are too severely punished by transportation to a distance ; but all these dreams, which had beguiled the tediousness of the journey, soon vanished before the present reality, and I again beheld the steppe, which my imagination had for a moment peopled, as desert and as waste as ever. Soon we were in sight of Marioupol.

Marioupol possesses a commercial port, especially [354] remarkable for the activity of its traffic. To this place, as along the whole coast, grain is brought from the interior, and freighted in the Genoese ships, which have not forgotten the way to these seas, where the Genoese flag was formerly so powerful. The Italian ships bring to Marioupol articles manufactured at Chiavari, a small and very industrious town, not far from the Apen- nines, celebrated for its light chairs ; and also diffuse the colonial wares brought to Genoa from England. Returning to the Gulf of Genoa, they fill their stores with the grain from the east, which merchants come to their ports to purchase, and which they are able to sell at small profits, as their navigation is the least expensive of any in the Mediterranean. It was seventy- three hours from the time we left Yalta to the time we entered Taganrog. The first associations awakened by this name, are those connected with the melancholy event which must ever unite the names of Taganrog and Alexander, that great Emperor, whose good faith and straightforward policy saved Europe, and perhaps the whole world. There he died, and Russia needs not the bronze monument erected to his memory, to remind her of her loss.

Taganrog is well built, and agreeably situated ; the houses are of stone or brick, and their architecture pleasing. If it were needful to say more in favour of [355] this town, I could add that it possesses a theatre, which is frequently honoured by the presence of the most distinguished inhabitants of Taganrog. Here we find the features of that same French society changing its habits as frequently as its fashions, traced by the witty pen of M. Scribe, whose light comedies lose none of their smartness by translation in a foreign language. This port owes its foundation to Peter the Great : even in the time of this great man, the decrease of the waters of the Sea of Azoff had already been observed, and the site chosen for Taganrog was on the slope of a promontory, whose declivity seemed to promise that ships would always find safe anchorage there. At first, the commerce of the new port sprung up under happy auspices ; but it was destined to meet with great obstacles. The Don, which rushes with great force into the depths of this sea, carries into it the sands which are drifted by the southerly winds upon the coast ; and the waters round Taganrog are now so shallow, that vessels are unladen by means of carts, driven far out to meet the large boats, among which the cargoes are di- vided. As to the ships, they cannot approach within a league of the land ; the greatest depth of this sea, which is daily being reduced to the proportions of a lake, does not exceed twelve or fifteen fathoms, the average being about two fathoms. These, truly, are great disadvantages.

[356]

At the beginning of this century, this port was visited by a sufficient number of ships to induce government to second the measures which were being taken for its improvement. Taganrog was now provided with a lazaretto, dispensing ships bound to its port from a stay of seven days, which they were before obliged to make at the straits of Kertch. As soon as the traffic increased, and the maritime establishment of Taganrog threatened to be insufficient to meet its exigencies, a custom-house and lazaretto were established on a large scale at Kertch. This occasioned an immediate division of the traffic, and Taganrog saw fewer ships enter its harbour, for no suspected merchandise now came direct to its port. The quarantine of Kertch allowed free passage for Taganrog to none but such cargoes as had been recognised to be free from suspicion. These alone came to the waters of the sea of Azoff to undergo the required purgation.

Such was the state of things when, in 1833, a measure was adopted which was most disastrous to Taganrog. Kertch was declared the only quarantine port. All ships visiting these shores were therefore now obliged to anchor under the walls of its lazaretto, and remain there eight-and-twenty days at least, and some- times even thirty-two. From this time, the sea of Azoff was closed to all ships, except mere coasters. [357] Kertch thus became, in fact, the depôt and port of this sea, as well as of the northern port of the Black Sea. The produce of the colonies, of the northern coast, and even of the Don, came up in caravans along the narrow promontory of Arabat, to the only privileged port. Hence is it, that the little town we were walking through appeared deserted, and that in the conversations we had with several of the merchants, we observed their great depression. The only thing which now sustains the reduced commerce of Taganrog, is the transport of ammunition and military stores to the Caucasus ; a considerable number of vessels employed in this special service plough the shallow waters of this sea, which is gradually dwindling away.

My impatience was great, and I was most anxious to reach the territory of the Cossacks of the Don, where I was to meet the members of my expedition occupied in mineralogical investigations, which they had already commenced on a large scale. I first fell into their track at Taganrog, and I eagerly followed it. I took the road to Rostoff without delay, for my time was limited ; and after paying a short visit to our skilful engineers, I was to return as speedily as possible to Odessa, to be present at the military spectacles which were preparing at Vosnessensk with so much splendour as to attract the attention of all Europe. The Emperor [358] had determined to review the colonies of cavalry ; the meadows of Vosnessensk, on the banks of the Boug, had been chosen for this imposing meeting of troops, and on all sides preparations were going on for this great event. But let us return to Rostoff, or rather the road to it, which is everywhere interspersed with tumuli.

This immense extent of country, deprived of all forest vegetation, is covered with those conical mounds, which are here called khourghans. Nowhere are these khourghans found so plentiful, and in such close con- tiguity, as in the plains of Kertch, and the ancient kingdom of Pontus ; but great numbers are also found from the borders of the Don to those of the Pruth, where they frequently seem ranged at regular intervals, as though by design. After leaving Marioupol, I began frequently to meet with these curious elevations ; they are generally from five-and-twenty to thirty feet high, and evidently raised by the hand of man. The earth of which they are composed has been dug from round the base of the hillock, for at the foot of most of them a depression is remarked, which in other cases seems to have been filled up. After a great many researches, it was ascertained that several of these khourghans con- tained the remains of the dead ; but we must not from this conclude that all have been used for this purpose. Some authors, struck like myself by this appearance, [359] of an arrangement in right lines, generally observed in the large spaces where the steppe is flat and without undulations, have beheld here a stratagetic contrivance, conceiving them to have been land marks by which the hordes of barbarians, who have so frequently crossed the steppe, took their levels, and struck their line of march. This opinion is not contrary to common sense, nor opposed to the somewhat obscure traditions relative to these ancient monuments. It is not unreasonable to suppose that these khourghans were raised at every encampment of any considerable horde. They might serve as a shelter against the violence of the winds, and to protect the tent of the chief, or to station vedettes, or what not ; even to serve as a tribune for the rude harangues of the barbarians, or altars on which their priests offered a sacrifice. If a considerable army advanced together, it is very natural to imagine that they might raise khourghans in such a manner as to render it easy for them to correspond by means of signals, or watch fires ; and in case of a battle, or a natural death, the mortal remains were deposited in the khourghans, which was left as an imperishable monument, to which some name was given ; and thus this plain, a desert to us, might to these men, of another age, have been peopled with memorials.

A peculiarity which distinguishes the tumuli we met with after passing Taganrog, on the banks of the lion, [360] the Tanais of the ancients, is that each tumulus is sur- mounted by a kind of post, rudely carved into the shape of a sphinx's head, and made of a very hard species of granite, not to be found in these parts.

Rostoff is washed by the Don before the waters of this river are divided, and distributed among the channels, which form its mouth. There is sufficient activity in this small port to excite attention for a moment. We were not far from it, when a grand deputation, con- sisting of four Armenians, mounted on capital horses, came to invite me to visit Nakitchevan, a colony entirely composed of people of their nation. I was the less tempted to refuse this courteous invitation, in copse- . quence of Nakitchevan being precisely on the road I purposed taking : my visit was short, and very interesting.

DEPUTATION OF ARMENIANS (AT BASTAFF)
DEPUTATION OF ARMENIANS (AT BASTAFF)

Nakitchevan is a curious town, from its novel, and at the same time commercial aspect. It is situated on the banks of the Don, below Staro and Novo-Tcherkask ; the old and the new capitals of the Cossacks of the Don. The intelligent and commercial population of this town would certainly deserve an attentive study. Less favoured than Rostoff, as regards its geographical sit- uation, Nakitchevan is superior to it from the com- mercial genius of its inhabitants. From the remotest part of this almost unknown country, they keep up a constant intercourse with their fellow countrymen at Astrakhan, at Leipzig, and in Asia Minor. Situated [361] as they are, in the centre of this immense triangle embracing their common interests, the clever Armenians have secured to themselves almost- the whole trade of the basin of the Don. The numerous bazaars of Nakitchevan constitute it the emporium, which at times inundates with its merchandise all the markets in the country. These active merchants have not neglected to monopolise the produce of the vineyards of the Don, which they export to all the southern parts of Russia, under favour of a delusive label, which converts the somewhat rough wines of this soil into Chateau Lafitte and Haut Sauterne. Beautiful silks, and quan- tities of Eastern commodities, especially Persian, stock the numerous warehouses of this small town ; the streets are clean, perfectly straight, and the houses in good order. We were received at the house of the chief person in the town, the golowa — a word meaning head, which seems to be the almost universal symbol of authority. Here we were treated with the utmost kindness ; but the extreme bashfulness of the ladies scarcely gave us an opportunity of catching a glimpse of the elegant coronet of braided hair worn by them, and the tasteful design of their silk dresses. Shortly after having quitted this hospitable town, we made our entry into the capital of the Cossacks, the great Novo-Tcherkask.

[362]

From a distance the houses of this town, which covers a small hill, advancing like a promontory on the plains, remind one of a large flock of sheep grazing here and there over a large space. Novo-Tcherkask, whose name indi- cates a recent construction, has taken the place of Staro- Tcherkask, the old town. At first the old town was the capital, but it had been built on an ill chosen spot. In time, getting weary of the too frequent inundations to which the town was exposed, they resolved to establish it on a site out of the reach of all inundations. The new capital reared its head upon a kind of promontory, whose steep sides presented equal disadvantages perhaps, but of another nature. Novo-Tcherkask, however, soon became a very large town ; but its immensely wide streets, its arid soil covered with dust, which almost blinds the wayfarer, and its small dazzling white houses, all combine to make it appear, at first sight, a tolerably insup- portable place of abode. The Attaman Vlassoff compen- sated by the cordiality of his reception for the discomforts of his residence. This old and respectable officer dis- played the most frank and hearty kindness towards us. We had scarcely partaken of a repast hastily prepared for us at General Berdaieff's, a Russian officer, employed by exception in the service of the Cossacks, as head of the staff, before we were off again, rolling along the road to Kamenskaia.

[363]

Kamenskaia is situated at a considerable distance from Novo-Tcherkask, on the high road from this capital to Voronége, and on the banks of the Donetz. I scarcely allowed myself time to stop here, but hastened on towards the little valley of Kamenka, where I was to find those persons I had come so far and through such dreadful roads to seek. I found effectually in those solitudes, works commenced by the French borers, to whom I had associated a certain number of workmen from our Siberian mines, to take part in these operations, and import the useful art of boring into our mountains. As to M. le Play, whom I was pursuing for the last two days with indefatigable perseverance, he had just gone to Lougane, where he was expected by General Count Saint-Aldegonde, serving in the corps of the imperial mines ; a determined will, and the interest he took in the scientific and industrial questions then in agi- tation in this remote corner of the globe, had led the general to these parts. The zeal we all felt, overcame fatigue ; rest was to be found at Lougane, and we were almost there ; for the last time I gave the signal to depart. But there was now no longer any regular road traced across the plain, and to add to our troubles, deep ravines intersected the steppe, and obstructed our direct course. At the very moment I was indulging in the hope of soon reaching, without accident, the long- [364] wished for termination of my journey, the horses and carriage were carried away by a steep descent, and we were precipitated suddenly on the banks of the Donetz, where we remained imbedded in thick black mud ; but even in this abyss our good luck did not desert us. Having come out safe from the half-buried carriage, I threw myself into a telegue, which happened to be near at hand, and alone for twelve hours, in spite of a dozen shocks sufficient to unhorse the most hardy Cossack, I arrived at Lougane at ten o'clock at night, when I was least expected. It required ten hours work, however, before my carriage could be got out of the mire in which it was buried.

I found myself now, at last, in the midst of this other section of my companions in fatigue, who, less fortunate than their comrades of the Crimea, were working in dull regions, and in a burning climate, the effects of which nothing could mitigate. Yet great labours had already been accomplished ; a minute geo- logical investigation of the soil had been carried out in the basin of the Don and on the banks of the Donetz; not a single valley of any importance, not a single ravine had escaped the indefatigable researches of our enthusiastic engineers, and the conclusion of these conscientious examinations had been, the opening of the borings I had seen on my road, and some others which [365] were to co-operate in the system of research concerted between us. I only remained two days in Lougane, to make arrangements for our future plans and further operations ; this done, I proposed returning to Odessa by the most direct road.

At Lougane, where I made the longest stay during this rapid excursion, there is an imperial foundry, estab- lished to furnish the fortresses in the south, and the fleet of the Black Sea, with projectiles, cannons, and other articles in cast-iron, required by the establishments of the war department and the navy, in this part of Europe.

From the nature of the ores, and the character of the combustible minerals extracted in this country, it has not been possible, as yet, to fabricate cast-iron on the spot ; and all that is necessary to the working of the foundry has till now been brought from Siberia.

The imperial foundry, however, is established on a scale worthy of the important office it will have to perform : a numerous staff, composed of officers from the mining corps, presides over the works of the establish- ment. Lougane had long been the head-quarters of M. le Play, and the persons he had to direct. The foundry also, which had not been forgotten, in the recommendations of which my expedition was the object, lent us a considerable number of workmen, to assist in our [366] operations. The persons who were already at work on the ground, in connection with the subject which occupied me, had met with the kindest reception at Lougane, for which they were truly grateful ; and I saw, with pleasure, that friendships had been formed between my foreign explorers and the officers residing at Lougane. Fully satisfied with all I had seen, I left this little town on the evening of the 8-20th of August.

If I were only to give my own observations relative to the country of the Cossacks of the Don, which I had just crossed with such incredible rapidity, these details — as indistinct as the whirl which seemed to pass before my eyes during this bewildering journey — would certainly be of little value. But I may at least give the substance of my conversations, both with the excellent Attaman Vlassoff, and with my kind and faithful cicerone, Count Galateri, who, tired to death as he was with the journey, still proved himself an attentive and useful guide.

The country inhabited by the Cossacks of the Don is a vast plain, through which that river flows from its leaving the province of Voronége to its emptying itself into the sea of Azoff. It includes also the mountainous district stretching from the borders of the Donetz to within the circle of the province of Ekatérinoslaff. Although subject to the dominion of Russia, this popu- [367] lation of Cossacks is governed by laws and customs peculiar to themselves. It appoints its own chiefs, who are called attamans, and chooses its civil functionaries. The only office to which the Emperor appoints, is the chief attaman, and this he has conferred on the heir to the throne, in order to consolidate, by the ties of honour and affection, the incorporation of the Cossacks with the great Russian family. The territory of the Cossacks is fertile, but badly cultivated. The soil, consisting of plains on a somewhat high level, is intersected by deep ravines, through which the rivers flow. Agriculture, fishing, and the breeding of cattle, are the principal occupations of its inhabitants. Nevertheless, in the midst of so many conditions of wealth, these people remain poor, in spite of the most precious gifts of nature, which a small amount of industry would suffice to render fruitful. The Cossacks have but one ruling passion, and that is the love of brandy. A soldier at fifteen, he wears the uniform till he is fifty, ready to obey every order — to start on service, perform escort duty, or carry dis- patches. Few towns, but a great number of villages, are scattered over the wide plain inhabited by these people. Every village is called by the generic term of stanitza, without prejudice to any other distinctive appellation. In each of these villages there is a public establishment, in which the attaman devotes a certain number of hours [368] in the day to the affairs of the commune. The country is dotted over, besides, with khoutors or hamlets : these are composed of country seats, with their appended farm- buildings. The Cossacks are scrupulous in the practice of their religious duties ; and their superstitious ideas lead them to treat all who profess another worship than their own as unclean heretics. Thus, in their commu- nications with our workmen employed in boring, every- thing that had been touched by the infidels was passed through the fire. The ignorance of these people is very great ; and it will be long ere any civilising influence can be brought to bear upon them. Poorly housed, ill clad, and eaten up with the most repulsive uncleanliness, the people of the most numerous class are altered in nothing from the Cossack of fifty years ago. These peasant soldiers are careful but of one point, namely — the cleanliness and order of their uniforms. This is rigorously enforced : they brush their clothes every day, but they never think of washing their hands.

On the 20th, Odessa was within 863 versts of us, and we resumed our march quite refreshed by our forty- eight hours' rest. The road, more diversified than at Bahkmout, presented several objects of interest. On all sides, we beheld those sphinxes of granite, so plentifully scattered over the steppe, at the foot of the khourgans. Ekatérinoslaff soon received us ; it is seen in the distance, [369] stretching along the banks of the Dnieper, in a succession of pretty houses and gardens. This town, built, as its name indicates, in honour of the great Empress, is now the capital of a province subordinate to the governor- generalship of New Russia. Passing through it at a gallop, as we did, but little movement was observed among its inhabitants. We next reached Nikopol, and thence followed the course of the Dnieper as far as Berislaff, still driving through a plain bounded by numerous tumuli, and exhibiting at intervals the fertile results of an intelligent husbandry.

Of Berislaff and Kherson, I shall have occasion to speak hereafter, when I shall be able to describe them at leisure. I passed rapidly through them, and soon found myself in the broad and handsome streets of Nicolaieff, con- taining the first dockyard established upon these shores. Nicolaieff, less richly endowed by nature than the admir- able harbour of Sevastopol, offers, nevertheless, a good roadstead, and possesses a spacious arsenal. After ferrying across the Dnieper, which is so wide that the passage lasts more than half an hour, we proceeded in the direction of Odessa, where I arrived at night, on the 24th of August, after an absence of a fortnight, during which I had travelled about 2,000 versts.

I had accomplished my visit, and returned to Odessa exactly at the time I had prescribed to myself. I had [370] now to prepare for a journey to Vosnessensk, a short but magnificent excursion. Such is a traveller's existence ! a strange mixture of emotion, enjoyment and hardship ; to-day encamped on the barren steppe — to-morrow ex- tended on a soft couch, within the walls of a palace.

In the meantime, a portion of my companions were exploring the Crimea, and studying, by short stages at a time, the surface of that ancient peninsula, every town of which bears a name thrice consecrated — by mythology, history, and modern conquest. The narrative of their voyage of observation will fill the succeeding chapter.

Men with Hats

END OF VOL. I.




Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents