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TRAVELS

IN THE

STEPPES OF THE CASPIAN SEA,

THE CRIMEA, THE CAUCASUS, &c.




BY

XAVIER HOMMAIRE DE HELL,

CIVIL ENGINEER,
MEMBER OF THE SOCIETE GEOLOGIQUE OF FRANCE, AND KNIGHT OF THE ORDER
OF ST. VLADIMIR OF RUSSIA.




WITH ADDITIONS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES.




LONDON:
CHAPMAN AND HALL, 186, STRAND.
MDCCCXLVII.




C. WHITING, BEAUFORT HOUSE, STRAND.




AUTHOR'S PREFACE.

When I left Constantinople for Odessa my principal object was to
investigate the geology of the Crimea and of New Russia, and to arrive
by positive observations at the solution of the great question of the
rupture of the Bosphorus. Having once entered on this pursuit, I was
soon led beyond the limits of the plan I had marked out for myself, and
found it incumbent on me to examine all the vast regions that extend
between the Danube and the Caspian Sea to the foot of the northern slope
of the Caucasus. I spent, therefore, nearly five years in Southern
Russia, traversing the country in all directions, exploring the course
of rivers and streams on foot or on horseback, and visiting all the
Russian coasts of the Black Sea, the Sea of Azof and the Caspian. Twice
I was intrusted by the Russian government with important scientific and
industrial missions; I enjoyed special protection and assistance during
all my travels, and I am happy to be able to testify in this place my
gratitude to Count Voronzof, and to all those who so amply seconded me
in my laborious investigations.

Thus protected by the local authorities, I was enabled to collect the
most authentic information respecting the state of men and things. Hence
I was naturally led to superadd to my scientific pursuits considerations
of all kinds connected with the history, statistics, and actual
condition of the various races inhabiting Southern Russia. I was,
moreover, strongly encouraged in my new task by the desire to make known
in their true light all those southern regions of the empire which have
played so important a part in the history of Russia since the days of
Peter the Great.

My wife, who braved all hardships to accompany me in most of my
journeys, has also been the partner of my literary labours in France. To
her belongs all the descriptive part of this book of travels.

Our work is published under no man's patronage; we have kept ourselves
independent of all extraneous influence; and in frankly pointing out
what struck us as faulty in the social institutions of the Muscovite
empire, we think we evince our gratitude for the hospitable treatment we
received in Russia, better than some travellers of our day, whose pages
are only filled with exaggerated and ridiculous flatteries.

XAVIER HOMMAIRE DE HELL.




DEFINITIONS.


_Geographic miles_ are of 15 to a degree of the equator.

A Russian Verst (104-3/10 to a degree), is 1/7 of a geographical mile,
1/4 of a French league of 25 to a degree. It is equal to 3484.9 English
feet, or nearly 2/3 of a statute mile. It is divided into 500
_sazhenes_, and each of these into 3 _arshines_.

A _deciatine_ (superficial measure) is equivalent to 2 acres, 2 roods,
32 perches, English.

A _pood_ is equal to 40 Russian or 36 English pounds.

100 _tchetverts_ (corn measure) are equal to about 74-1/2 English
quarters.

A _vedro_ (liquid measure) contains 3-1/4 English gallons, or 12-1/4
Litres.

Since 1839 the paper ruble has been suppressed, and has given place to
the silver ruble. But the former is always to be understood wherever the
word ruble occurs in the following pages. The paper ruble is worth from
1 fr. 10c. to 1 fr. 18c. according to the course of exchange; the silver
ruble is equal to 3-1/2 paper rubles.

* * * * *

A French _hectare_ is equal to 2 acres, 1 rood, 33 perches, English.




CONTENTS.


PAGE

CHAPTER I.

Departure from Constantinople - Arrival in Odessa - Quarantine 1


CHAPTER II.

Streets of Odessa - Jews - Hotels - Partiality of the Russians for
Odessa - Hurricane, Dust, Mud, Climate, &c. - Public Buildings 5


CHAPTER III.

The Imperial Family in Odessa - Church Music - Society of the
Place, Count and Countess Voronzof - Anecdote of the Countess
Braniska - The Theatre - Theatrical Row 10


CHAPTER IV.

Commerce of the Black Sea - Prohibitive System and its Pernicious
Results - Depressed State of Agriculture - Trade of Odessa - Its
Bank 14


CHAPTER V.

Navigation, Charge for Freight, &c. in the Black Sea 26


CHAPTER VI.

Agriculture and Manufactures of Southern Russia - Mineral
Productions - Russian Workmen 28


CHAPTER VII.

Departure from Odessa - Travelling in Russia - Nikolaïef, Olvia,
Otshakof - Kherson - The Dniepr - General Potier - Ancient
Tumuli - Steppes of the Black Sea - A Russian Village - Snow
Storm - Narrow Escape from Suffocation - A Russian Family -
Appendix 32


CHAPTER VIII.

An Earthquake - Ludicrous Anecdote - Sledging - Sporting - Dangerous
Passage of the Dniepr - Thaw; Spring-Time - Manners and Customs
of the Little Russians - Easter Holidays - The Clergy 45


CHAPTER IX.

Excursion on the Banks of the Dniepr - Doutchina - Election of
the Marshals and Judges of the Nobility at Kherson - Horse-Racing
- Strange Story in the "Journal des Débats" - A Country House and
its Visiters - Traits of Russian Manners - The Wife of Two Husbands
- Servants - Murder of a Courier - Appendix 55


CHAPTER X.

Departure for the Caspian - Iekaterinoslav - Potemkin's Ruined
Palace - Paskevitch's Caucasian Guard - Sham Fight - Intolerable
Heat - Cataracts of the Dniepr - German Colonies - The Setcha of the
Zaporogues - A French Steward - Night Adventure - Colonies of the
Moloshnia Vodi - Mr. Cornies - The Doukoboren, a Religious Sect 69


CHAPTER XI.

Marioupol - Berdiansk - Knavish Jew Postmaster - Taganrok - Memorials
of Peter the Great and Alexander - Great Fair - The General with
Two Wives - Morality in Russia - Adventures of a Philhellene - A
French Doctor - The English Consul - Horse Races - A First Sight of
the Kalmucks 82


CHAPTER XII.

Departure from Taganrok - Sunset in the Steppes - A Gipsy Camp
- Rostof; a Town unparalleled in the Empire - Navigation of the
Don - Azof; St. Dimitri - Aspect of the Don - Nakitchevane, and
its Armenian Colony 89


CHAPTER XIII.

General Remarks on New Russia - Antipathy between the Muscovites
and Malorossians - Foreign Colonies - General aspect of the
Country, Cattle, &c. - Want of Means of Communication - River
Navigation; Bridges - Character of the Minister of Finance -
History of the Steamboat on the Dniestr - The Board of Roads
and Ways - Anecdote - Appendix 96


CHAPTER XIV.

The different Conditions of Men in Russia - The Nobles - Discontent
of the Old Aristocracy - The Merchant Class - Serfdom - Constitution
of the Empire; Governments - Consequences of Centralisation;
Dissimulation of Public Functionaries - Tribunals - The Colonel
of the Gendarmerie - Corruption - Pedantry of Forms - Contempt of
the Decrees of the Emperor and the Senate - Singular Anecdote;
Interpretation of a Will - Radical Evils in the Judicial
Organisation - History and present State of Russian Law 102


CHAPTER XV.

Public Instruction - Corps of Cadets - Universities and
Elementary Schools; Anecdote - Plan of Education - Motives for
attending the Universities - Statistics - Professors; their
Ignorance - Exclusion of Foreign Professors - Engineering -
Obstacles to Intellectual Improvement - Characteristics of the
Sclavonic Race 127


CHAPTER XVI.

Entry into the Country of the Don Cossacks - Female Pilgrims of
Kiev; Religious Fervour of the Cossacks - Novo Tcherkask, Capital
of the Don - Street-lamps guarded by Sentinels - The Streets on
Sunday - Cossack Hospitality and Good Nature - Their Veneration
for Napoleon's Memory 134


CHAPTER XVII.

Origin of the Don Cossacks - Meaning of the Name - The Khirghis
Cossacks - Races anterior to the Cossacks - Sclavonic Emigrations
towards the East 137


CHAPTER XVIII.

Journey from Novo Tcherkask along the Don - Another Knavish
Postmaster - Muscovite Merchants - Cossack Stanitzas 154


CHAPTER XIX.

First Kalmuck Encampments - The Volga - Astrakhan - Visit to a
Kalmuck Princess - Music, Dancing, Costume, &c. - Equestrian
Feats - Religious Ceremony - Poetry 162


CHAPTER XX.

Historical Notice of Astrakhan - Mixed Population; Armenians,
Tatars - Singular Result of a Mixture of Races - Description of
the Town - Hindu Religious Ceremonies - Society 178


CHAPTER XXI.

Commercial Position of Astrakhan - Its Importance in the Middle
Ages - Its Loss of the Overland Trade from India - Commercial
Statistics - Fisheries of the Caspian - Change of the Monetary
System in Russia - Bad State of the Finances - Russian Political
Economy 187


CHAPTER XXII.

Departure from Astrakhan - Coast of the Caspian - Hawking -
Houidouk - Three Stormy Days passed in a Post-house - Armenian
Merchants - Robbery committed by Kalmucks - Camels - Kouskaia -
Another Tempest - Tarakans - A reported Gold Mine 202


CHAPTER XXIII.

Another Robbery at Houidouk - Our Nomade Life - Camels - Kalmuck
Camp - Quarrel with a Turcoman Convoy, and Reconciliation - Love
of the Kalmucks for their Steppes; Anecdote - A Satza - Selenoi
Sastava - Fleeced by a Lieutenant-Colonel - Camel-drivers beaten
by the Kalmucks - Alarm of a Circassian Incursion - Sources of
the Manitch - The Journey arrested - Visit to a Kalmuck Lady -
Hospitality of a Russian Officer 208


CHAPTER XXIV.

Review of the History of the Kalmucks 229


CHAPTER XXV.

The Kalmucks after the Departure of Oubacha - Division of the
Hordes, Limits of their Territory - The Turcoman and Tatar
Tribes in the Governments of Astrakhan and the Caucasus -
Christian Kalmucks - Agricultural Attempts - Physical, Social,
and Moral Characteristics of the Kalmucks 235


CHAPTER XXVI.

Buddhism - Kalmuck Cosmogony - Kalmuck Clergy - Rites and
Ceremonies - Polygamy - The Kirghis 247


CHAPTER XXVII.

The Tatars and Mongols - The Kaptshak - History and Traditions
of the Nogais 264


CHAPTER XXVIII.

Banks of the Kouma; Vladimirofka - M. Rebrof's Repulse of a
Circassian Foray - Bourgon Madjar - Journey along the Kouma -
View of the Caucasian Mountains - Critical Situation - Georgief
- Adventure with a Russian Colonel - Story of a Circassian Chief 276


CHAPTER XXIX.

Road from Georgief to the Waters of the Caucasus - A Polish Lady
carried off by Circassians - Piatigorsk - Kislovodsk - History
of the Mineral Waters of the Caucasus 285


CHAPTER XXX.

SITUATION OF THE RUSSIANS AS TO THE CAUCASUS.

History of their Acquisition of the Trans-Caucasian Provinces
- General Topography of the Caucasus - Armed Line of the Kouban
and the Terek - Blockade of the Coasts - Character and Usages of
the Mountaineers - Anecdote - Visit to a Circassian Prince 293


CHAPTER XXXI.

Retrospective View of the War in the Caucasus - Vital Importance
of the Caucasus to Russia - Designs on India, Central Asia,
Bokhara, Khiva, &c. - Russian and English Commerce in Persia 309


CHAPTER XXXII.

A Storm in the Caucasus - Night Journey; Dangers and Difficulties
- Stavropol - Historical Sketch of the Government of the Caucasus
and the Black Sea Cossacks 334


CHAPTER XXXIII.

Rapid Journey from Stavropol - Russian Wedding - Perilous Passage
of the Don; all sorts of Disasters by Night - Taganrok;
Commencement of the Cold Season - The German Colonies revisited 343


CHAPTER XXXIV.

Departure for the Crimea - Balaclava - Visit to the Monastery of
St. George - Sevastopol - The Imperial Fleet 349


CHAPTER XXXV.

Bagtche Serai - Historical Revolutions of the Crimea - The Palace
of the Khans - Countess Potocki 358


CHAPTER XXXVI.

Simpheropol - Karolez - Visit to Princess Adel Bey - Excursion to
Mangoup Kaleh 366


CHAPTER XXXVII.

Road to Baidar - The Southern Coast; Grand Scenery - Miskhor and
Aloupka - Predilection of the Great Russian Nobles for the Crimea 371


CHAPTER XXXVIII.

Three Celebrated Women 375


CHAPTER XXXIX.

Ialta - Koutchouk Lampat - Parthenit - The Prince de Ligne's Hazel
- Oulou Ouzen; a Garden converted into an Aviary - Tatar Young
Women - Excursion to Soudagh - Mademoiselle Jacquemart 387


CHAPTER XL.

Ruins of Soldaya - Road to Theodosia - Caffa - Muscovite Vandalism
- Peninsula of Kertch - Panticapea and its Tombs 391


CHAPTER XLI.

POLITICAL AND COMMERCIAL REVOLUTIONS OF THE CRIMEA.

Extent and Character of Surface - Milesian and Heraclean Colonies
- Kingdom of the Bosphorus - Export and Import Trade in the Times
of the Greek Republics - Mithridates - The Kingdom of the Bosphorus
under the Romans - The Alans and Goths - Situation of the Republic
of Kherson - The Huns; Destruction of the Kingdom of the Bosphorus
- The Khersonites put themselves under the Protection of the
Byzantine Empire - Dominion of the Khazars - The Petchenegues and
Romans - The Kingdom of Little Tatary - Rise and Fall of the
Genoese Colonies - The Crimea under the Tatars - Its Conquest by
the Russians 402


CHAPTER XLII.

Commercial Polity of Russia in the Crimea - Caffa sacrificed in
Favour of Kertch - These two Ports compared - The Quarantine at
the Entrance of the Sea of Azof, and its Consequences - Commerce
of Kertch - Vineyards of the Crimea; the Valley of Soudak -
Agriculture - Cattle - Horticulture - Manufactures; Morocco Leather
- Destruction of the Goats - Decay of the Forests - Salt Works -
General Table of the Commerce of the Crimea - Prospects of the
Tatar Population 410


CHAPTER XLIII.

HISTORICAL SKETCH OF BESSARABIA.

Topology - Ancient Fortresses - The Russian Policy in Bessarabia
- Emancipation of the Serfs - Colonies - Cattle - Exports and
Imports - Mixed Population of the Province 424

Note 435




THE
STEPPES OF THE CASPIAN SEA, &c.




CHAPTER I.

DEPARTURE FROM CONSTANTINOPLE - ARRIVAL, IN ODESSA -
QUARANTINE.


On the 15th of May, 1838, we bade adieu to Constantinople, and standing
on the deck of the Odessa steamer, as it entered the Bosphorus, we could
not withdraw our eyes from the magnificent panorama we were leaving
behind us.

Constantinople then appeared to us in all its grandeur and beauty.
Seated like Rome on its seven hills, exercising its sovereignty like
Corinth over two seas, the vast city presented to our eyes a superb
amphitheatre of palaces, mosques, white minarets and green plane-trees
glistening in an Asiatic sunshine. What description could adequately
depict this marvellous spectacle, or even give an idea of it? Would it
not be wronging creation, as Lamartine has said, to compare
Constantinople with any thing else in this world?

Meanwhile, we were advancing up the Bosphorus, and the two shores,
fringed all along to the Black Sea with cypress groves, and half hidden
beneath their sombre shade, invited a share of that attentive gaze we
had hitherto bestowed only on the great city that was vanishing in our
wake. The Bosphorus itself presented a very animated scene. A thousand
white-sailed caïques glided lightly over the waves, coming and going
incessantly from shore to shore. As we advanced, the Bosphorus widened
more and more, and we soon entered that Black Sea, whose ominous name so
well accords with the storms that perpetually convulse it. A multitude
of vessels of all kinds and dimensions, were anchored at the entrance of
the channel, waiting for a favourable wind to take them out of the
straits, which alone present more dangers than the whole navigation of
the Black Sea. The difficulties of this passage are further augmented in
the beginning of spring and the end of autumn by dense fogs, which have
caused an incalculable number of vessels to be wrecked on the steep
rocks of these iron-bound coasts.

The passage from Constantinople to Odessa is effected in fifty hours in
the Russian steamers, which ply twice a month from each of these ports.
Those who are accustomed to the comfort, elegance, and scrupulous
cleanliness of the Mediterranean and Atlantic steamers, must be
horrified at finding themselves on board a Russian vessel. It is
impossible to express the filth and disorder of that in which we were
embarked. The deck, which was already heaped from end to end with goods
and provisions, was crowded besides with a disgusting mob of pilgrims,
mendicant monks, Jews, and Russian or Cossack women, all squatting and
lying about at their ease without regard to the convenience of the other
passengers. Most of them were returning from Jerusalem. The Russian
people are possessed in the highest degree with the mania for
pilgrimages. All these beggars set off barefooted, with their wallets on
their backs, and their rosaries in their hands, to seek Heaven's pardon
for their sins; appealing on their way to the charity of men, to enable
them to continue that vagabond and miserable life which they prefer to
the fulfilment of homely duties.

It was a sorry specimen of the people we were going to visit that we had
thus before our eyes, and our repugnance to these Muscovites was all the
stronger from our recollections of the Turks, whose noble presence and
beauty had so lately engaged our admiration.

On the morning of the second day, we saw on our left a little island
called by the sailors the Island of Serpents. The Russians have retained
its Greek name of Fidonisi. It was anciently called Leucaia, or Makaron
Nesos (Island of the Blest), was sacred to Achilles, and contained a
temple, in which mariners used to deposit offerings. It is a calcareous
rock, about thirty yards high and not more than 600 in its greatest
diameter, and has long been uninhabited. Some ruins still visible upon
it would probably be worth exploring, if we may judge from an
inscription already discovered.

Soon afterwards we were made aware of our approach to Odessa, our place
of destination, by the appearance of the Russian coast with its cliffs
striated horizontally in red and white. Nothing can be more dreary than
these low, deserted, and monotonous coasts, stretching away as far as
the eye can reach, until they are lost in the hazy horizon. There is no
vegetation, no variety in the scene, no trace of human habitation; but
everywhere a calcareous and argillaceous wall thirty or forty yards
high, with an arid sandy beach at its foot, continually swept bare by
the waves. But as we approached nearer to Odessa, the shore assumed a
more varied appearance. Huge masses of limestone and earth, separated
ages ago from the line of the cliffs, form a range of hills all along
the sea border, planted with trees and studded with charming
country-houses.

A lighthouse, at some distance from the walls of Odessa, is the first
landmark noted by mariners. An hour after it came in sight, we were in
front of the town. Europe was once more before our eyes, and the aspect
of the straight lines of street, the wide fronted houses, and the sober
aspect of the buildings awoke many dear recollections in our minds.
Every object appeared to us in old familiar hues and forms, which time
and absence had for a while effaced from our memories. Even
Constantinople, which so lately had filled our imaginations, was now
thought of but as a brilliant mirage which had met our view by chance,
and soon vanished with all its illusive splendours.

Odessa looks to great advantage from the quarantine harbour, where the
steamer moored. The eye takes in at one view the boulevard, the
Exchange, Count Voronzof's palace, the _pratique_ harbour, and the
Custom-house; and, in the background, some churches with green roofs and
gilded domes, the theatre, Count de Witt's pretty Gothic house, and some
large barracks, which from their Grecian architecture, one would be
disposed to take for ancient monuments.

Behind the Custom-house, on some steep calcareous rocks, sixty or
seventy feet high, stands the quarantine establishment, looking proudly
down on all Odessa. A fortress and bastions crowning the height, protect
the town. All the remarkable buildings are thus within view of the port,
and give the town at first sight an appearance of grandeur that is very
striking.

The day of our arrival was a Sunday; and when we entered the harbour, it
was about four in the afternoon, the hour of the promenade, and all that
portion of the town adjoining the port presented the most picturesque
appearance imaginable. We had no difficulty in distinguishing the
numerous promenaders that filled the alleys of the boulevard, and we
heard the noise of the droshkys and four-horse equipages that rolled in
every direction. The music, too, of a military band stationed in the
middle of the promenade, distinctly reached our ears, and heightened the
charms of the scene. It was, indeed, a European town we beheld, full of
affluence, movement, and gaiety. But, alas! our curiosity and our
longings, thus strongly excited, were not for a long while to be
satisfied. The dreaded quarantine looked down on us, as if to notify
that its rights were paramount, and assuredly it was not disposed to
abrogate them in our favour. One of the officers belonging to it had
already come down to receive the letters, journals, and passports, and
to order us into a large wooden house, placed like a watchful sentinel
on the verge of the sea. So we were forced to quit the brilliant
spectacle on which we had been gazing, and go and pass through certain
preliminary formalities in a smoky room, filled with sailors and
passengers, waiting their turn with the usual apathy of Russians.

We had no sooner entered the quarantine, than we were separated from
each other, and every one made as much haste to avoid us, as if we were
unfortunate pariahs whose touch was uncleanness. All our baggage was put
aside for four-and-twenty hours, and we were accommodated in the
meantime with the loan of garments, so grotesque and ridiculous, that
after we had got into them, we could not look at each other without
bursting into laughter. We made haste to inspect our chambers, which we
found miraculously furnished with the most indispensable things. But
what rejoiced us above all, was a court-yard adorned with two beautiful
acacias, the flowery branches of which threw their shade upon our
windows. Our guardian, who had been unable to preserve the usual gravity



Online LibraryXavier Hommaire de HellTravels in the Steppes of the Caspian Sea, the Crimea, the Caucasus, &c. → online text (page 1 of 55)