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1878 ; Norman, Arinoiia and the Ca/npai^i^it of 187 J, London, n.d. ; Etude critiijiie des
opt'rations en Titrqnie d' Asie pendant la guerre en i8jy - /S d'apres des doainients ojiciels,
par un officier superieur Turc (Constantinople and Leipzic, 1896).



400 Armenia

habitations, and I came to the conclusion that it concealed a
mystery. I rang in vain several times at the door. At last I
contrived to summon a very pretty young woman with a very
sulky countenance. As she spoke both French and German, I
contrived to win her to my side, and she promised she would
enquire after the General. She returned with a set expression
which I felt I could not assail. I did, however, succeed in
making her smile, and that was something pleasant in itself
His Excellency was absent ; it was not known where, nor by what
time he would return. I enquired whether he made a practice of
sleeping out. At last she relented into suggesting I might call in
the evening ; she would do what she could, but she was only a
subordinate member of the household. She did not come to the
door when I repeated my visit, and I received the same unsatis-
factory answers. The vice-governor. General Petander, examined
my papers at the seat of government, but pleaded that his
authority was extremely limited. He could not say when the
Governor would return to his house. I was glad to escape from
him to the hospitable home of Colonel Rzewuski, in command of
the Uman regiment of Cossacks of Kuban. I had accepted an
invitation to dine with him and Madame Rzewuski ; and the party
consisted of a group of as amiable and charming people as it
would be possible to meet. All had travelled and knew the
world. The conversation was free, and ranged at ease over
every topic, including the mysterious Governor. They were
immensely entertained by my own experiences in that quarter,
and they repaid me by narrating the gallant deeds of Fadeeff,
who appears to have been instrumental in the conquest of Kars
in 1877. But they left me in doubt whether he still existed in
the flesh. I thought I detected a certain legendary phraseology
in their remarks about him, from which a master of the higher
criticism would easily be able to establish that they were not
contemporary with the personage of whom they spoke.

My host was determined that I should not be blindfolded, and
that I should see what might be seen without endangering the
safety of Kars, His own aide-de-camp had recently returned
from a visit to England, where he had been accorded facilities
of a similar nature, and whence he brought back the most
agreeable recollections. The deficiencies in our insular manners
are in such cases outweighed in the mind of the visitor by the
freedom of our life, the absence of suspicion against foreign



Kars 40 1

designs, and, above all, by the world-wide bond of sport. Never
in the height of the hunting season at home have I listened to a
more animated discussion of the relative merits of our countries
and packs of foxhounds than after dinner in the company of these
officers in this remote corner of Russian Asia. From hounds we
passed to horses, and to an interesting experiment which had
recently been made by the Colonel. It is well known that the
Cossack horses are of great endurance ; but they have little pace,
and their shoulders are of the worst. My host had crossed one of
his mares with the English thoroughbred, and had produced a colt
of much promise which had only just been broken. If I did not
object I should ride him on the morrow, when he would take me
to have a peep at the fortifications on the heights. In spite of
the twinkle in his eye when he spoke of the vivacity of the
youngster, I felt that the opportunity was cheap at this price,
and merely stipulated that I should be allowed my English
saddle.

Very early on the following morning I sallied forth to the
Colonel's residence, and was surprised to find a whole squadron
of Cossack cavalry drawn up in the road. His aide-de-camp was
conspicuous in a magnificent uniform, which set off his tall and
graceful figure. The band of the regiment was mustered at its
full strength ; but these troops were only a portion of the effective,
which numbered some eight or nine hundred horsemen. The
remainder were distributed over the extensive tract of country
between Akhaltsykh and the Turkish frontier at Sarikamish.
An iron-grey charger, over i 5 hands in height, was being paced
to and fro before the door. He excited the admiration and the
curiosity of the onlookers, having a long and elastic walk, and
arching his neck to the hand of the groom instead of stolidly
following where he was led. That ivas a horse, they were all
saying — those of the country were ponies beside him, and, as for
the mounts of the Cossacks, they looked mere dross by his side.
My small and plain-flap saddle, which I recognised upon his back,
brought out the points of his sloping shoulder and strong loins.
A word from the aide-de-camp, and the squadron was brought to
attention with the band at their head. When the Colonel emerged
from the doorway a salute was exchanged, and when he had
mounted, the march commenced and the band prepared to strike
up. None too soon had I adjusted my stirrup leathers on the
iron-grey, for at the first sound he bounded high into the air.
VOL. I 2D



402 Armenia

But he had plenty of room at the head of the regiment, where the
Colonel beckoned me to ride by his side.

This was the second time I had ridden at the head of
Cossacks ; I mention the fact merely to justify the assertion that
there can be few more inspiriting positions. One feels the peculiar
quality of the material behind one ; it is in the air and makes the
pulse beat. There is no champing of bits and impatient curvet-
ting ; nor do the riders sit up in their saddles and look smart.
They may be seen in every posture, lolling about in their shabby
drab uniforms, and holding their reins long. But they com-
municate the impression that each man is a born soldier, and that
one might march with them from, one end of Asia to another
without troubling much about the commissariat or the length of
the particular stage. They are just the troops with which to
traverse these vast plains. The long-backed horses are hardened
to every kind of privation, and so are their owners, for every
Cossack owns his mount. Where would you march ? Say the
word, and we go now.

On this occasion the proceedings were quite of a gala order.
We passed through the main streets of the modern town upon
the plain ; and all the Karslis were there assembled to hear the
inspiriting music and to pass remarks upon the foreigner on the
grey horse. We wound along the side of the river, at the foot of
the precipice crowned by the citadel, where a window in the walls
of that airy edifice marks the spot whence the Turks were wont
to precipitate spies. We crossed to the left bank by the lower
of the two bridges, and followed along the chaussee upon that
side. It is now the principal avenue of communication with
Alexandropol ; but it is destined to be replaced by a road which
will pass to the south of the town, leaving this chaussee with its
secrets for purely military use. The further we proceeded the
loftier loomed the walls of the chasm, especially that upon our
left hand. It rises almost vertically from the margin of the road to
the edge of the plateau, some five hundred feet above the stream.

The heights on the left bank are here called by the name of
Mukhliss, and such is their elevation that the buildings upon
them — the military hospital and the redoubts — may be seen
from the plain on the south of Kars, showing up behind the
insular ridge against which the ancient town is built. Opposite
the old citadel they are known as Vali Pasha, and, further west,
as Takhmas. On the right bank the mass of rock which falls



Kars 403

abruptly to the river is styled Kars and Karadagh. We had
arrived at a point whence the solitary house of the Governor
could be clearly seen beyond the winding channel on that side.
The choice was offered between two roads. The one we had
been following pursued its course through the chasm ; the other
took advantage of some milder acclivities in the cliff to mount
to the plateau above our heads. The forts upon the plateau
are the interesting feature of modern Kars ; the word was given
to take the upper road. The Colonel and myself were still
riding in front of the band, and could look back upon the long
train of one of the finest of Cossack regiments defiling in half
column up the incline. When we had reached a considerable
elevation, all of a sudden a human figure springs into the road.
It is a little gendarme, and he stands immovable in the centre
of the road. The regiment is at once brought to a halt. The
figure enquires whether there be a foreigner riding with them,
and receives an affirmative reply. Then he points to an adjacent
bifurcation of the road, one branch leading to the heights, and
the other rejoining the chaussee at a point some distance down
the stream. He directs us to take the latter way. The Colonel
bites his lip, turns pale and obeys. We have come up all this
distance, and now we are to go down. The ghost of General
Fadeeff must be chuckling — if ghosts can chuckle—behind those
windows in the speck of a house on the opposite bank !

It had been the plan of my kind host to cross the block of
heights containing the forts, and thence to descend into the plain
upon the north. A little Molokan village, called Blagodarnoe,
is situated in the more level country on that side. A troop of
his Cossacks was billeted within it, and it had been thought
convenient to pay them a visit. The return journey would be
made by way of the chaussee. There was now nothing for it
but to proceed and to come home by the same route, since the
little gendarme had given orders to this effect. We continued
our passage through the chasm. I was impressed with the
admirable communications which the Russians have established
at great cost between the heights on either bank. Soon after
regaining the main road we passed two opposite flights of steps,
of which the one scaled the steep side of the plateau on the
left, and the other that of the insular rock of Kars. Both were
broad and perfectly maintained. The latter conducted from the
water's edge to the Karadagh fort, now called Fort Fadeeff,



404 Annenia

invisible on the further side of the ridge. And from the base of
these steps a military road was carried slantwise towards the
citadel. During the last siege the garrison suffered from the
want of ready access to the outlying positions. This want has
now been supplied. Troops can be moved with rapidity between
the town and these positions as well as between the positions
themselves.

The cliffs on either hand retain their elevation until you
have reached the fourth military verst stone (over two and a
half miles). Then they decline and become less rocky and
steep. The formation on the right bank is continued into the
distance in a low outline ; that on the left already opens to
plainer land at about the sixth stone (four miles). We now
left the chaussee, and cantered over the plain, across which it
was a pleasure to extend the iron-grey. He had all the makings
of a very valuable horse.

Luncheon was served in one of the neat little houses of the
Molokan village, and many a glass of white liqueur was consumed
before the meal. On the way home there was a display of
Cossack exercises, a succession of riders galloping past us in
single file, and vaulting to the ground with one foot in the
stirrup in full career. Or they placed their bodies parallel with
the flanks of their horses, avoiding the arrows of their ancestors
or the bullets of their contemporaries. Like Kurds and Cir-
cassians they raised wild shouts ; but, unlike these, they never
got out of hand. Last of all there was a race, conducted on
strict principles, in which I cantered in, an easy winner, on the
grey. The squadron then re-formed, and we retraced our steps
through the chasm to the inspiriting music of the band. It soon
ceased playing ; and with the last strain, at first low, then
gradually louder, a sad and mysterious chant broke from the
ranks. It was carried like sobs into the recesses of the gorge,
rising and falling like the sighing of the wind. What did they
sing in that expression of bottomless misery ? Their homes
had been laid waste, their parents were no more, nor their horses
any longer at tether or stall. Then the theme would change
abruptly, and a note of triumph would be heard. Nowhere
except in Hungary have I heard such moving music, giving
utterance through the canons of Western harmony to the
tempestuous motives of Eastern songs.

It remains to say a few words about the town of Kars, as



Kars 405

you see it at the present clay. It is a mere shadow of its former
self. The old fortress city on the side of the insular rock is
scarcely better than a heap of ruins. The suburb on the plain —
Orta Kapi of Mussulman times — is rapidly pushing it out of
existence. This suburb contains the residences of the high
officials and officers, and can boast of a new Russian church,
at its southern extremity, and of a number of single-storeyed but
spacious and well -supplied shops. The church displays the
masonry of the grey stone found at Kars ; but the bulk of the
buildings have their walls painted white, and their roofing of sheet
metal, coloured pink or a soft green. The aspect of this modern
quarter, jutting out from the hill into the plain opposite the
answering horn of the Karadagh on the east, presents a striking
contrast to the uniform grey of the old city, overlooking the
bay of the plain. The stone of the walls and of the old Armenian
church have weathered almost black. But the majority of the
ancient houses have disappeared, and the walled area is for the
most part covered with rubble and ruin, or with straggling hovels,
resembling those of a village. The citadel was blown up by the
Russians prior to their evacuation at the close of the Crimean
War,^ and has been rebuilt in a softer and yellow stone (Fig. 98).
It now forms a most admirable target for artillery, being the only
patch of brighter colour on a ground of the sombrest hue. The
population of city and suburbs is censused at not more than
4000, of course excluding the garrison. Of these 2500 are
Armenians and only some 850 are Turks. The Russians, in-
cluding Molokans, number 250, and the Greeks over 300 souls.
It is true that the total might perhaps be doubled if there were
included in it those families who are allowed to reside here on
sufferance, prior to being settled elsewhere. Kars is constantly
receiving refugees from the Turkish provinces, flying before the
excesses of the Kurds.

Still the number of the inhabitants has grown smaller and
smaller, if we even confine ourselves to the present century.
Prior to the campaign of Paskevich, we are informed by a credible
authority that Kars with its suburbs contained some 10,000
families, or from 50,000 to 60,000 souls.^ After it was evacuated
by the Russian army upon the close of that war, the bulk of the
Armenian population deserted their homes and followed the

^ \]ss\\Qr, Journey fi'ovi London to Perscpolis, London, 1S65, p- 238.
- Ker Porter (1819), Travels, etc., vol. ii. p. 648.



4o6



A



rn tenia



Russian retreat.^ The figure then drops to a pretty uniform
estimate of 2000 houses or families, giving a result of some
10,000 to 12,000 souls, of whom the vast majority were
Mussulmans." It must now be further reduced by more than
one -half Perhaps the projected railway will increase the pros-




FlG.



The Citadel of Kars.



perity of Kars if the military regulations be relaxed. But it
will be a long time before it can recover its former splendour,
when the fortress city contained no less than 3000 houses, 47
mosques and i 8 schools/^

1 Wilbraham, Travels, etc., London, 1S39, pp. 294, 314 ; Koch, I\c/sg iiii poiitiscluii
Gebirge, Weimar, 1846, p. 460.

^ I may cite Brant (1835), Hamilton {1836), Abbott (1837), Consul Taylor (1868)
— the last being an unpublishetl report. Taylor estimates 2000 houses, of which 200
are Christian and the rest Moslem.

2 Travels of Evliya, translated by Von Hammer, London, 1850, vol. ii. p. 182.



Kars 407

I was prevented by the number and ubiquity of the gen-
darmes from making use of my camera. The only illustration
which I am able to offer is a view of the citadel, reproduced
from a photograph which has been placed at my disposal by
my friend Mr. F. C. Conybeare (Fig. 98). I should have liked
to reproduce the interesting features of the Armenian church,
now converted into a temple of the Russian Orthodox profession
and serving as the principal resort of the garrison. In Mussul-
man times it was used as a mosque. There can, I think, be
little doubt that this is the same building which was erected by
the Armenian monarch of the Bagratid dynasty, Abas, in A.D.
930.^ The teachers in the Armenian school ascribed it to this
prince, but were not certain about the date. I have remarked
upon the blackness of its walls from without. The interior has
been covered with a yellow buff paint, and its proportions are
spoilt by an elaborate altar. It wears an air of comfort and even
of luxury, all the ornaments being out of keeping with the
austerity of the ancient pile. The form of this church is one I
have not seen elsewhere, presenting on plan four semicircular
arms with a rectangular projection between each arm. The
vaulting of the ceilings above the projections composes with that
of the ceilings of the apsidal recesses a group of eight arches.
Another monument of the same period is said to be the ruinous
castle at the upper end of the wall on the east. The wall on the
south has well-nigh disappeared, and what remains is almost lost
among the houses. The gate on this side contains an Arabic
inscription, and several Armenian crosses are inserted into the
adjacent rampart. From the citadel a wall still descends the
side of the precipice, and is taken by an archway over the road
to the margin of the river. I cannot help thinking that the plan
of the place and its essential features have not changed much
since the time of the Armenian kings. Sultan Murad III.
(i 574-1 595) is credited with extensive works, but it may be
questioned whether they were much more than restorations. A
renewal is ascribed to Sultan Selim, but it appears doubtful to
which monarch of that name.- The days of the fortified town,
with its mediseval castle and ramparts, are perhaps already
numbered. The Russians will build in the open, where there will

1 Samuel of Ani, in Migne, Pairologiae ciirsiis complcttis, series Grseca, vol. xix.
p. 718. "Abasus, Sembati filius, mirae magnificentiae templum excitat cathedrale
in urbe Carsa." 2 Brosset, Ruines if.-liii, p. 8.



4o8 Armenia

be room for their favourite boulevards, although trees are rare at
present in Kars. The fortifications will year by year be extended
over a larger area, the neighbourhood being sown with volcanic
eminences admirably adapted both for the attack and for the
defence.

The Armenian inhabitants have a single elementary school,
or, rather, one for boys and one for girls. It is housed in the
buildings adjacent to the little church of St. Mary, under the
citadel at the western extremity of the rock. The teachers
simply cowered with fear during my visit. The Russian school
dispenses a somewhat higher standard of education, and profits
by the disabilities imposed upon its rival, I was shown specimens
of the Easter cards which each child had received this year from
inmates of schools in France. The little French boy sends some
poetry translated into Russian to his Russian contemporary.
The girls here received similar presents from French girls. It
would appear as if no Russian school within the limits of the
Empire had been passed over by the organisers of an act of
demonstrative patriotism which, let us hope, is not spontaneous
with the young.



CHAPTER XX

ACROSS THE SPINE OF ARMENIA

The long and lofty barrier of the Ararat system affords a natural
partition of the surface of the Armenian highlands, and, corre-
sponding with the frontier between the Russian and the Turkish
empires, divides Armenia into two. The fairest districts of either
territory are found on their southern confines ; and what the
valley of the Araxes is to the Russian provinces, that is to those
under Turkish rule the country of Van. Van, with her famous
lake and immemorial antiquity, became the next, and not the
least alluring objective of the journey which we had planned. A
new world lay on the further side of the mountains towards which
we now directed our course.

October 2 2. — During our stay in Kars we had experienced
the first spell of cold, bleak weather that the coming winter held
in store. On the day of departure the district was visited by a
storm of rain which delayed us until afternoon. At a {^w minutes
after one o'clock we were crossing the bridge which spans the
river, and taking a last view of the castle and the gorge. Above
the entrance to the cleft the stream flows between humbler slopes ;
but they are still of rock, and the metalled road, which follows the
western shore at no great distance, is without a prospect on either
side. A few versts are covered among such cheerless surround-
ings ; then the river comes towards you through a nice tract of
flat pasture land which opens out upon the right bank. The
meadows, brown of hue after the heats of summer, were seen to
extend to the cultivated skirts of a hill range, some six miles
distant, at the foot of which we were shown the village of Azat.
A second settlement, Little Tikma, was nearer to us, in the same
direction ; and on our side of the water a group of low stone
houses were aligned upon the road. We were surprised to hear



4IO Arjiienia ,•

the German tongue and the mournful sounds of a concertina ; the
dress, the hymn reminded us that the day was Sunday ; and the
simple people were delighted to converse with a son of Protestant
England in the language of their fatherland. They told me that
it was two years since they had left the colony at Tiflis, and
migrated to these distant wilds. The soil was rich, and it only
needed a small expense of capital to diffuse the river over the
adjacent plain. But whence could they draw the money for works
of this nature ? They harvested their corn in the month of August,
but the crops suffered from want of water. Although they
possessed no school, they were not without the rudiments of
learning ; their frank, intelligent faces were a pleasure to see.
Petrovka is the name of their settlement, which contains some
forty houses. A few versts further we entered the Russian colony
of Vladikars. We were crossing an open country which stretched
away on either hand to the outlines of low hills. Several of these
Russian villages were visible in the landscape, and the brown loam
had been exposed by the plough.

Vladikars bears a strong resemblance to Gorelovka — the same
white faces and little windows of the neat stone houses, ranged at
intervals on either side of the road. The inhabitants, too, display
a family likeness to the dwellers in the northern watershed — the
men with their lank figures and dull but honest faces, the women
with their broad shoulders and massive hips. The feminine
members of the colony were especially conspicuous — strapping
wenches, as one might call them, attired in the gayest of printed
cottons and exhibiting a plainness which was almost repulsive. I
entered the oblong and single-storeyed building in which they
conduct their services of prayer. A wooden bench along the
walls, a few wooden chairs were its only furniture ; you saw no
pulpit or altar or religious picture ; God resided in the living
objects of His love. This village as well as its neighbours are
peopled by Molokans, a sect of which the doctrine, like that of
the Dukhobortsy, represents an extreme and a logical form of the
Protestant faith. An old man to whom I turned, and whose
striking features I was able to record (Fig. 99), spoke to me with
much charm of voice and manner concerning their religious beliefs.
They reverence Moses and the prophets and the Holy Gospel,
but they practise their religion in their own way. Singing psalms
appears to be their principal method of spiritual expression.
Infants are not baptized, but are brought to this building ; a



Across the Spine of Armenia



Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 43 of 49)