Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Part 1 out of 15



Donald Mackenzie Wallace

Copyright 1905





Railways--State Interference--River Communications--Russian "Grand
Tour"--The Volga--Kazan--Zhigulinskiya Gori--Finns and Tartars--The
Don--Difficulties of Navigation--Discomforts--Rats--Hotels and
Their Peculiar Customs--Roads--Hibernian Phraseology Explained--
Bridges--Posting--A Tarantass--Requisites for Travelling--
Travelling in Winter--Frostbitten--Disagreeable Episodes--Scene at
a Post-Station.



Bird's-eye View of Russia--The Northern Forests--Purpose of my
Journey--Negotiations--The Road--A Village--A Peasant's House--
Vapour-Baths--Curious Custom--Arrival.



Ivanofka--History of the Place--The Steward of the Estate--Slav and
Teutonic Natures--A German's View of the Emancipation--Justices of
the Peace--New School of Morals--The Russian Language--Linguistic
Talent of the Russians--My Teacher--A Big Dose of Current History.



Priests' Names--Clerical Marriages--The White and the Black Clergy--
Why the People do not Respect the Parish Priests--History of the
White Clergy--The Parish Priest and the Protestant Pastor--In What
Sense the Russian People are Religious--Icons--The Clergy and
Popular Education--Ecclesiastical Reform--Premonitory Symptoms of
Change--Two Typical Specimens of the Parochial Clergy of the
Present Day.



Unexpected Illness--A Village Doctor--Siberian Plague--My Studies--
Russian Historians--A Russian Imitator of Dickens--A ci-devant
Domestic Serf--Medicine and Witchcraft--A Remnant of Paganism--
Credulity of the Peasantry--Absurd Rumours--A Mysterious Visit from
St. Barbara--Cholera on Board a Steamer--Hospitals--Lunatic
Asylums--Amongst Maniacs.



Ivan Petroff--His Past Life--Co-operative Associations--
Constitution of a Peasant's Household--Predominance of Economic
Conceptions over those of Blood-relationship--Peasant Marriages--
Advantages of Living in Large Families--Its Defects--Family
Disruptions and their Consequences.



Communal Land--System of Agriculture--Parish Fetes--Fasting--
Winter Occupations--Yearly Migrations--Domestic Industries--
Influence of Capital and Wholesale Enterprise--The State Peasants--
Serf-dues--Buckle's "History of Civilisation"--A precocious
Yamstchik--"People Who Play Pranks"--A Midnight Alarm--The Far



Social and Political Importance of the Mir--The Mir and the Family
Compared--Theory of the Communal System--Practical Deviations from
the Theory--The Mir a Good Specimen of Constitutional Government of
the Extreme Democratic Type--The Village Assembly--Female Members--
The Elections--Distribution of the Communal Land.



Sweeping Reforms after the Crimean War--Protest Against the Laissez
Faire Principle--Fear of the Proletariat--English and Russian
Methods of Legislation Contrasted--Sanguine Expectations--Evil
Consequences of the Communal System--The Commune of the Future--
Proletariat of the Towns--The Present State of Things Merely



A Finnish Tribe--Finnish Villages--Various Stages of Russification--
Finnish Women--Finnish Religions--Method of "Laying" Ghosts--
Curious Mixture of Christianity and Paganism--Conversion of the
Finns--A Tartar Village--A Russian Peasant's Conception of
Mahometanism--A Mahometan's View of Christianity--Propaganda--The
Russian Colonist--Migrations of Peoples During the Dark Ages.



Departure from Ivanofka and Arrival at Novgorod--The Eastern Half
of the Town--The Kremlin--An Old Legend--The Armed Men of Rus--The
Northmen--Popular Liberty in Novgorod--The Prince and the Popular
Assembly--Civil Dissensions and Faction-fights-- The Commercial
Republic Conquered by the Muscovite Tsars--Ivan the Terrible--
Present Condition of the Town--Provincial Society--Card-playing--
Periodicals--"Eternal Stillness."



General Character of Russian Towns--Scarcity of Towns in Russia--
Why the Urban Element in the Population is so Small--History of
Russian Municipal Institutions--Unsuccessful Efforts to Create a
Tiers-etat--Merchants, Burghers, and Artisans--Town Council--A Rich
Merchant--His House--His Love of Ostentation--His Conception of
Aristocracy--Official Decorations--Ignorance and Dishonesty of the
Commercial Classes--Symptoms of Change.



A Journey to the Steppe Region of the Southeast--The Volga--Town
and Province of Samara--Farther Eastward--Appearance of the
Villages--Characteristic Incident--Peasant Mendacity--Explanation
of the Phenomenon--I Awake in Asia--A Bashkir Aoul--Diner la
Tartare--Kumyss--A Bashkir Troubadour--Honest Mehemet Zian--Actual
Economic Condition of the Bashkirs Throws Light on a Well-known
Philosophical Theory--Why a Pastoral Race Adopts Agriculture--The
Genuine Steppe--The Kirghiz--Letter from Genghis Khan--The Kalmyks--
Nogai Tartars--Struggle between Nomadic Hordes and Agricultural



The Conquest--Genghis Khan and his People--Creation and Rapid
Disintegration of the Mongol Empire--The Golden Horde--The Real
Character of the Mongol Domination--Religious Toleration--Mongol
System of Government--Grand Princes--The Princes of Moscow--
Influence of the Mongol Domination--Practical Importance of the



Lawlessness on the Steppe--Slave-markets of the Crimea--The
Military Cordon and the Free Cossacks--The Zaporovian Commonwealth
Compared with Sparta and with the Mediaeval Military Orders--The
Cossacks of the Don, of the Volga, and of the Ural--Border Warfare--
The Modern Cossacks--Land Tenure among the Cossacks of the Don--
The Transition from Pastoral to Agriculture Life--"Universal Law"
of Social Development--Communal versus Private Property--Flogging
as a Means of Land-registration.



The Steppe--Variety of Races, Languages, and Religions--The German
Colonists--In What Sense the Russians are an Imitative People--The
Mennonites--Climate and Arboriculture--Bulgarian Colonists--Tartar-
Speaking Greeks--Jewish Agriculturists--Russification--A Circassian
Scotchman--Numerical Strength of the Foreign Element.



The Molokanye--My Method of Investigation--Alexandrof-Hai--An
Unexpected Theological Discussion--Doctrines and Ecclesiastical
Organisation of the Molokanye--Moral Supervision and Mutual
Assistance--History of the Sect--A False Prophet--Utilitarian
Christianity--Classification of the Fantastic Sects--The "Khlysti"--
Policy of the Government towards Sectarianism--Two Kinds of
Heresy--Probable Future of the Heretical Sects--Political



Dissenters not to be Confounded with Heretics--Extreme Importance
Attached to Ritual Observances--The Raskol, or Great Schism in the
Seventeenth Century--Antichrist Appears!--Policy of Peter the Great
and Catherine II.--Present Ingenious Method of Securing Religious
Toleration--Internal Development of the Raskol--Schism among the
Schismatics--The Old Ritualists--The Priestless People--Cooling of
the Fanatical Enthusiasm and Formation of New Sects--Recent Policy
of the Government towards the Sectarians--Numerical Force and
Political Significance of Sectarianism.



The Russian Orthodox Church--Russia Outside of the Mediaeval Papal
Commonwealth--Influence of the Greek Church--Ecclesiastical History
of Russia--Relations between Church and State--Eastern Orthodoxy
and the Russian National Church--The Synod--Ecclesiastical
Grumbling--Local Ecclesiastical Administration--The Black Clergy
and the Monasteries--The Character of the Eastern Church Reflected
in the History of Religious Art--Practical Consequences--The Union



The Nobles In Early Times--The Mongol Domination--The Tsardom of
Muscovy--Family Dignity--Reforms of Peter the Great--The Nobles
Adopt West-European Conceptions--Abolition of Obligatory Service--
Influence of Catherine II.--The Russian Dvoryanstvo Compared with
the French Noblesse and the English Aristocracy--Russian Titles--
Probable Future of the Russian Noblesse.



Russian Hospitality--A Country-House--Its Owner Described--His
Life, Past and Present--Winter Evenings--Books---Connection with
the Outer World--The Crimean War and the Emancipation--A Drunken,
Dissolute Proprietor--An Old General and his Wife--"Name Days"--A
Legendary Monster--A Retired Judge--A Clever Scribe--Social
Leniency--Cause of Demoralisation.



A Russian Petit Maitre--His House and Surroundings--Abortive
Attempts to Improve Agriculture and the Condition of the Serfs--A
Comparison--A 'Liberal" Tchinovnik--His Idea of Progress--A Justice
of the Peace--His Opinion of Russian Literature, Tchinovniks, and
Petits Maitres--His Supposed and Real Character--An Extreme
Radical--Disorders in the Universities--Administrative Procedure--
Russia's Capacity for Accomplishing Political and Social
Evolutions--A Court Dignitary in his Country House.



Do Social Classes or Castes Exist in Russia?--Well-marked Social
Types--Classes Recognised by the Legislation and the Official
Statistics--Origin and Gradual Formation of these Classes--
Peculiarity in the Historical Development of Russia--Political Life
and Political Parties.



The Officials in Norgorod Assist Me in My Studies--The Modern
Imperial Administration Created by Peter the Great, and Developed
by his Successors--A Slavophil's View of the Administration--The
Administration Briefly Described--The Tchinovniks, or Officials--
Official Titles, and Their Real Significance--What the
Administration Has Done for Russia in the Past--Its Character
Determined by the Peculiar Relation between the Government and the
People--Its Radical Vices--Bureaucratic Remedies--Complicated
Formal Procedure--The Gendarmerie: My Personal Relations with this
Branch of the Administration; Arrest and Release--A Strong, Healthy
Public Opinion the Only Effectual Remedy for Bad Administration.



Two Ancient Cities--Kief Not a Good Point for Studying Old Russian
National Life--Great Russians and Little Russians--Moscow--Easter
Eve in the Kremlin--Curious Custom--Anecdote of the Emperor
Nicholas--Domiciliary Visits of the Iberian Madonna--The Streets of
Moscow--Recent Changes in the Character of the City--Vulgar
Conception of the Slavophils--Opinion Founded on Personal
Acquaintance--Slavophil Sentiment a Century Ago--Origin and
Development of the Slavophil Doctrine--Slavophilism Essentially
Muscovite--The Panslavist Element--The Slavophils and the



St. Petersburg and Berlin--Big Houses--The "Lions"--Peter the
Great--His Aims and Policy--The German Regime--Nationalist
Reaction--French Influence--Consequent Intellectual Sterility--
Influence of the Sentimental School--Hostility to Foreign
Influences--A New Period of Literary Importation--Secret Societies--
The Catastrophe--The Age of Nicholas--A Terrible War on Parnassus--
Decline of Romanticism and Transcendentalism--Gogol--The
Revolutionary Agitation of 1848--New Reaction--Conclusion.



The Emperor Nicholas and his System--The Men with Aspirations and
the Apathetically Contented--National Humiliation--Popular
Discontent and the Manuscript Literature--Death of Nicholas--
Alexander II.--New Spirit--Reform Enthusiasm--Change in the
Periodical Literature--The Kolokol--The Conservatives--The
Tchinovniks--First Specific Proposals--Joint-Stock Companies--The
Serf Question Comes to the Front.



The Rural Population in Ancient Times--The Peasantry in the
Eighteenth Century--How Was This Change Effected?--The Common
Explanation Inaccurate--Serfage the Result of Permanent Economic
and Political Causes--Origin of the Adscriptio Glebae--Its
Consequences--Serf Insurrection--Turning-point in the History of
Serfage--Serfage in Russia and in Western Europe--State Peasants--
Numbers and Geographical Distribution of the Serf Population--Serf
Dues--Legal and Actual Power of the Proprietors--The Serfs' Means
of Defence--Fugitives--Domestic Serfs--Strange Advertisements in
the Moscow Gazette--Moral Influence of Serfage.



The Question Raised--Chief Committee--The Nobles of the Lithuanian
Provinces--The Tsar's Broad Hint to the Noblesse--Enthusiasm in the
Press--The Proprietors--Political Aspirations--No Opposition--The
Government--Public Opinion--Fear of the Proletariat--The Provincial
Committees--The Elaboration Commission--The Question Ripens--
Provincial Deputies--Discontent and Demonstrations--The Manifesto--
Fundamental Principles of the Law--Illusions and Disappointment of
the Serfs--Arbiters of the Peace--A Characteristic Incident--
Redemption--Who Effected the Emancipation?



Two Opposite Opinions--Difficulties of Investigation--The Problem
Simplified--Direct and Indirect Compensation--The Direct
Compensation Inadequate--What the Proprietors Have Done with the
Remainder of Their Estates--Immediate Moral Effect of the Abolition
of Serfage--The Economic Problem--The Ideal Solution and the
Difficulty of Realising It--More Primitive Arrangements--The
Northern Agricultural Zone--The Black-earth Zone--The Labour
Difficulty--The Impoverishment of the Noblesse Not a New
Phenomenon--Mortgaging of Estates--Gradual Expropriation of the
Noblesse-Rapid Increase in the Production and Export of Grain--How
Far this Has Benefited the Landed Proprietors.



The Effects of Liberty--Difficulty of Obtaining Accurate
Information--Pessimist Testimony of the Proprietors--Vague Replies
of the Peasants--My Conclusions in 1877--Necessity of Revising
Them--My Investigations Renewed in 1903--Recent Researches by
Native Political Economists--Peasant Impoverishment Universally
Recognised--Various Explanations Suggested--Demoralisation of the
Common People--Peasant Self-government--Communal System of Land
Tenure--Heavy Taxation--Disruption of Peasant Families--Natural
Increase of Population--Remedies Proposed--Migration--Reclamation
of Waste Land--Land-purchase by Peasantry--Manufacturing Industry--
Improvement of Agricultural Methods--Indications of Progress.



Necessity of Reorganising the Provincial Administration--Zemstvo
Created in 1864--My First Acquaintance with the Institution--
District and Provincial Assemblies--The Leading Members--Great
Expectations Created by the Institution--These Expectations Not
Realised--Suspicions and Hostility of the Bureaucracy--Zemstvo
Brought More Under Control of the Centralised Administration--What
It Has Really Done--Why It Has Not Done More---Rapid Increase of
the Rates--How Far the Expenditure Is Judicious--Why the
Impoverishment of the Peasantry Was Neglected--Unpractical,
Pedantic Spirit--Evil Consequences--Chinese and Russian Formalism--
Local Self-Government of Russia Contrasted with That of England--
Zemstvo Better than Its Predecessors--Its Future.



Judicial Procedure in the Olden Times--Defects and Abuses--Radical
Reform--The New System--Justices of the Peace and Monthly Sessions--
The Regular Tribunals--Court of Revision--Modification of the
Original Plan--How Does the System Work?--Rapid Acclimatisation--
The Bench--The Jury--Acquittal of Criminals Who Confess Their
Crimes--Peasants, Merchants, and Nobles as Jurymen--Independence
and Political Significance of the New Courts.



The Reform-enthusiasm Becomes Unpractical and Culminates in
Nihilism--Nihilism, the Distorted Reflection of Academic Western
Socialism--Russia Well Prepared for Reception of Ultra-Socialist
Virus--Social Reorganisation According to Latest Results of
Science--Positivist Theory--Leniency of Press-censure--Chief
Representatives of New Movement--Government Becomes Alarmed--
Repressive Measures--Reaction in the Public--The Term Nihilist
Invented--The Nihilist and His Theory--Further Repressive Measures--
Attitude of Landed Proprietors--Foundation of a Liberal Party--
Liberalism Checked by Polish Insurrection--Practical Reform
Continued--An Attempt at Regicide Forms a Turning-point of
Government's Policy--Change in Educational System--Decline of



Closer Relations with Western Socialism--Attempts to Influence the
Masses--Bakunin and Lavroff--"Going in among the People"--The
Missionaries of Revolutionary Socialism--Distinction between
Propaganda and Agitation--Revolutionary Pamphlets for the Common
People--Aims and Motives of the Propagandists--Failure of
Propaganda--Energetic Repression--Fruitless Attempts at Agitation--
Proposal to Combine with Liberals--Genesis of Terrorism--My
Personal Relations with the Revolutionists--Shadowers and Shadowed--
A Series of Terrorist Crimes--A Revolutionist Congress--
Unsuccessful Attempts to Assassinate the Tsar--Ineffectual Attempt
at Conciliation by Loris Melikof--Assassination of Alexander II.--
The Executive Committee Shows Itself Unpractical--Widespread
Indignation and Severe Repression--Temporary Collapse of the
Revolutionary Movement--A New Revolutionary Movement in Sight.



Russia till Lately a Peasant Empire--Early Efforts to Introduce
Arts and Crafts--Peter the Great and His Successors--Manufacturing
Industry Long Remains an Exotic--The Cotton Industry--The Reforms
of Alexander II.--Protectionists and Free Trade--Progress under
High Tariffs--M. Witte's Policy--How Capital Was Obtained--Increase
of Exports--Foreign Firms Cross the Customs Frontier--Rapid
Development of Iron Industry--A Commercial Crisis--M. Witte's
Position Undermined by Agrarians and Doctrinaires--M. Plehve a
Formidable Opponent--His Apprehensions of Revolution--Fall of M.
Witte--The Industrial Proletariat



Influence of Capitalism and Proletariat on the Revolutionary
Movement--What is to be Done?--Reply of Plekhanof--A New Departure--
Karl Marx's Theories Applied to Russia--Beginnings of a Social
Democratic Movement--The Labour Troubles of 1894-96 in St.
Petersburg--The Social Democrats' Plan of Campaign--Schism in the
Party--Trade-unionism and Political Agitation--The Labour Troubles
of 1902--How the Revolutionary Groups are Differentiated from Each
Other--Social Democracy and Constitutionalism--Terrorism--The
Socialist Revolutionaries--The Militant Organisation--Attitude of
the Government--Factory Legislation--Government's Scheme for
Undermining Social Democracy--Father Gapon and His Labour
Association--The Great Strike in St. Petersburg--Father Gapon goes
over to the Revolutionaries.



Rapid Growth of Russia--Expansive Tendency of Agricultural Peoples--
The Russo-Slavonians--The Northern Forest and the Steppe--
Colonisation--The Part of the Government in the Process of
Expansion--Expansion towards the West--Growth of the Empire
Represented in a Tabular Form--Commercial Motive for Expansion--The
Expansive Force in the Future--Possibilities of Expansion in
Europe--Persia, Afghanistan, and India--Trans-Siberian Railway and
Weltpolitik--A Grandiose Scheme--Determined Opposition of Japan--
Negotiations and War--Russia's Imprudence Explained--Conclusion.



Reform or Revolution?--Reigns of Alexander II. and Nicholas II.
Compared and Contrasted--The Present Opposition--Various Groups--
The Constitutionalists--Zemski Sobors--The Young Tsar Dispels
Illusions--Liberal Frondeurs--Plehve's Repressive Policy--
Discontent Increased by the War--Relaxation and Wavering under
Prince Mirski--Reform Enthusiasm--The Constitutionalists Formulate
their Demands--The Social Democrats--Father Gapon's Demonstration--
The Socialist-Revolutionaries--The Agrarian Agitators--The Subject-
Nationalities--Numerical Strength of the Various Groups--All United
on One Point--Their Different Aims--Possible Solutions of the
Crisis--Difficulties of Introducing Constitutional Regime--A Strong
Man Wanted--Uncertainty of the Future.


The first edition of this work, published early in January, 1877,
contained the concentrated results of my studies during an
uninterrupted residence of six years in Russia--from the beginning
of 1870 to the end of 1875. Since that time I have spent in the
European and Central Asian provinces, at different periods, nearly
two years more; and in the intervals I have endeavoured to keep in
touch with the progress of events. My observations thus extend
over a period of thirty-five years.

When I began, a few months ago, to prepare for publication the
results of my more recent observations and researches, my intention
was to write an entirely new work under the title of "Russia in the
Twentieth Century," but I soon perceived that it would be
impossible to explain clearly the present state of things without
referring constantly to events of the past, and that I should be
obliged to embody in the new work a large portion of the old one.
The portion to be embodied grew rapidly to such proportions that,
in the course of a few weeks, I began to ask myself whether it
would not be better simply to recast and complete my old material.
With a view to deciding the question I prepared a list of the
principal changes which had taken place during the last quarter of
a century, and when I had marshalled them in logical order, I
recognised that they were neither so numerous nor so important as I
had supposed. Certainly there had been much progress, but it had
been nearly all on the old lines. Everywhere I perceived
continuity and evolution; nowhere could I discover radical changes
and new departures. In the central and local administration the
reactionary policy of the latter half of Alexander II.'s reign had
been steadily maintained; the revolutionary movement had waxed and
waned, but its aims were essentially the same as of old; the Church
had remained in its usual somnolent condition; a grave agricultural
crisis affecting landed proprietors and peasants had begun, but it
was merely a development of a state of things which I had
previously described; the manufacturing industry had made gigantic
strides, but they were all in the direction which the most
competent observers had predicted; in foreign policy the old
principles of guiding the natural expansive forces along the lines
of least resistance, seeking to reach warm-water ports, and pegging
out territorial claims for the future were persistently followed.
No doubt there were pretty clear indications of more radical
changes to come, but these changes must belong to the future, and
it is merely with the past and the present that a writer who has no
pretensions to being a prophet has to deal.

Under these circumstances it seemed to me advisable to adopt a
middle course. Instead of writing an entirely new work I
determined to prepare a much extended and amplified edition of the
old one, retaining such information about the past as seemed to me
of permanent value, and at the same time meeting as far as possible
the requirements of those who wish to know the present condition of
the country.

In accordance with this view I have revised, rearranged, and
supplemented the old material in the light of subsequent events,
and I have added five entirely new chapters--three on the
revolutionary movement, which has come into prominence since 1877;
one on the industrial progress, with which the latest phase of the
movement is closely connected; and one on the main lines of the
present situation as it appears to me at the moment of going to

During the many years which I have devoted to the study of Russia,
I have received unstinted assistance from many different quarters.
Of the friends who originally facilitated my task, and to whom I
expressed my gratitude in the preface and notes of the early
editions, only three survive--Mme. de Novikoff, M. E. I. Yakushkin,
and Dr. Asher. To the numerous friends who have kindly assisted me
in the present edition I must express my thanks collectively, but
there are two who stand out from the group so prominently that I
may be allowed to mention them personally: these are Prince
Alexander Grigorievitch Stcherbatof, who supplied me with
voluminous materials regarding the agrarian question generally and
the present condition of the peasantry in particular, and M. Albert
Brockhaus, who placed at my disposal the gigantic Russian
Encyclopaedia recently published by his firm (Entsiklopeditcheski
Slovar, Leipzig and St. Petersburg, 1890-1904). This monumental
work, in forty-one volumes, is an inexhaustible storehouse of
accurate and well-digested information on all subjects connected
with the Russian Empire, and it has often been of great use to me
in matters of detail.

With regard to the last chapter of this edition I must claim the
reader's indulgence, because the meaning of the title, "the present
situation," changes from day to day, and I cannot foresee what
further changes may occur before the work reaches the hands of the

LONDON, 22nd May, 1905.




Railways--State Interference--River Communications--Russian "Grand
Tour"--The Volga--Kazan--Zhigulinskiya Gori--Finns and Tartars--The
Don--Difficulties of Navigation--Discomforts--Rats--Hotels and
Their Peculiar Customs--Roads--Hibernian Phraseology Explained--
Bridges--Posting--A Tarantass--Requisites for Travelling--
Travelling in Winter--Frostbitten--Disagreeable Episodes--Scene at
a Post-Station.

Of course travelling in Russia is no longer what it was. During
the last half century a vast network of railways has been
constructed, and one can now travel in a comfortable first-class
carriage from Berlin to St. Petersburg or Moscow, and thence to
Odessa, Sebastopol, the Lower Volga, the Caucasus, Central Asia, or
Eastern Siberia. Until the outbreak of the war there was a train
twice a week, with through carriages, from Moscow to Port Arthur.
And it must be admitted that on the main lines the passengers have
not much to complain of. The carriages are decidedly better than
in England, and in winter they are kept warm by small iron stoves,
assisted by double windows and double doors--a very necessary
precaution in a land where the thermometer often descends to 30
degrees below zero. The train never attains, it is true, a high
rate of speed--so at least English and Americans think--but then we
must remember that Russians are rarely in a hurry, and like to have
frequent opportunities of eating and drinking. In Russia time is
not money; if it were, nearly all the subjects of the Tsar would
always have a large stock of ready money on hand, and would often
have great difficulty in spending it. In reality, be it
parenthetically remarked, a Russian with a superabundance of ready
money is a phenomenon rarely met with in real life.

In conveying passengers at the rate of from fifteen to thirty miles
an hour, the railway companies do at least all that they promise;
but in one very important respect they do not always strictly
fulfil their engagements. The traveller takes a ticket for a
certain town, and on arriving at what he imagines to be his
destination, he may find merely a railway-station surrounded by
fields. On making inquiries, he discovers, to his disappointment,
that the station is by no means identical with the town bearing the
same name, and that the railway has fallen several miles short of
fulfilling the bargain, as he understood the terms of the contract.
Indeed, it might almost be said that as a general rule railways in
Russia, like camel-drivers in certain Eastern countries, studiously
avoid the towns. This seems at first a strange fact. It is
possible to conceive that the Bedouin is so enamoured of tent life
and nomadic habits that he shuns a town as he would a man-trap; but
surely civil engineers and railway contractors have no such dread
of brick and mortar. The true reason, I suspect, is that land
within or immediately beyond the municipal barrier is relatively
dear, and that the railways, being completely beyond the
invigorating influence of healthy competition, can afford to look
upon the comfort and convenience of passengers as a secondary
consideration. Gradually, it is true, this state of things is
being improved by private initiative. As the railways refuse to
come to the towns, the towns are extending towards the railways,
and already some prophets are found bold enough to predict that in
the course of time those long, new, straggling streets, without an
inhabited hinterland, which at present try so severely the springs
of the ricketty droshkis, will be properly paved and kept in decent
repair. For my own part, I confess I am a little sceptical with
regard to this prediction, and I can only use a favourite
expression of the Russian peasants--dai Bog! God grant it may be

It is but fair to state that in one celebrated instance neither
engineers nor railway contractors were directly to blame. From St.
Petersburg to Moscow the locomotive runs for a distance of 400
miles almost as "the crow" is supposed to fly, turning neither to
the right hand nor to the left. For twelve weary hours the
passenger in the express train looks out on forest and morass, and
rarely catches sight of human habitation. Only once he perceives
in the distance what may be called a town; it is Tver which has
been thus favoured, not because it is a place of importance, but
simply because it happened to be near the bee-line. And why was
the railway constructed in this extraordinary fashion? For the
best of all reasons--because the Tsar so ordered it. When the
preliminary survey was being made, Nicholas I. learned that the
officers entrusted with the task--and the Minister of Ways and
Roads in the number--were being influenced more by personal than
technical considerations, and he determined to cut the Gordian knot
in true Imperial style. When the Minister laid before him the map
with the intention of explaining the proposed route, he took a
ruler, drew a straight line from the one terminus to the other, and
remarked in a tone that precluded all discussion, "You will
construct the line so!" And the line was so constructed--remaining
to all future ages, like St. Petersburg and the Pyramids, a
magnificent monument of autocratic power.

Formerly this well-known incident was often cited in whispered
philippics to illustrate the evils of the autocratic form of
government. Imperial whims, it was said, over-ride grave economic
considerations. In recent years, however, a change seems to have
taken place in public opinion, and some people now assert that this
so-called Imperial whim was an act of far-seeing policy. As by far
the greater part of the goods and passengers are carried the whole
length of the line, it is well that the line should be as short as
possible, and that branch lines should be constructed to the towns
lying to the right and left. Evidently there is a good deal to be
said in favour of this view.

In the development of the railway system there has been another
disturbing cause, which is not likely to occur to the English mind.
In England, individuals and companies habitually act according to
their private interests, and the State interferes as little as
possible; private initiative does as it pleases, unless the
authorities can prove that important bad consequences will
necessarily result. In Russia, the onus probandi lies on the other
side; private initiative is allowed to do nothing until it gives
guarantees against all possible bad consequences. When any great
enterprise is projected, the first question is--"How will this new
scheme affect the interests of the State?" Thus, when the course
of a new railway has to be determined, the military authorities are
among the first to be consulted, and their opinion has a great
influence on the ultimate decision. The natural consequence is
that the railway-map of Russia presents to the eye of the
strategist much that is quite unintelligible to the ordinary
observer--a fact that will become apparent even to the uninitiated
as soon as a war breaks out in Eastern Europe. Russia is no longer
what she was in the days of the Crimean War, when troops and stores
had to be conveyed hundreds of miles by the most primitive means of
transport. At that time she had only 750 miles of railway; now she
has over 36,000 miles, and every year new lines are constructed.

The water-communication has likewise in recent years been greatly
improved. On the principal rivers there are now good steamers.
Unfortunately, the climate puts serious obstructions in the way of
navigation. For nearly half of the year the rivers are covered
with ice, and during a great part of the open season navigation is
difficult. When the ice and snow melt the rivers overflow their
banks and lay a great part of the low-lying country under water, so
that many villages can only be approached in boats; but very soon
the flood subsides, and the water falls so rapidly that by
midsummer the larger steamers have great difficulty in picking
their way among the sandbanks. The Neva alone--that queen of
northern rivers--has at all times a plentiful supply of water.

Besides the Neva, the rivers commonly visited by the tourist are
the Volga and the Don, which form part of what may be called the
Russian grand tour. Englishmen who wish to see something more than
St. Petersburg and Moscow generally go by rail to Nizhni-Novgorod,
where they visit the great fair, and then get on board one of the
Volga steamers. For those who have mastered the important fact
that Russia is not a country of fine scenery, the voyage down the
river is pleasant enough. The left bank is as flat as the banks of
the Rhine below Cologne, but the right bank is high, occasionally
well wooded, and not devoid of a certain tame picturesqueness.
Early on the second day the steamer reaches Kazan, once the capital
of an independent Tartar khanate, and still containing a
considerable Tartar population. Several metchets (as the Mahometan
houses of prayer are here termed), with their diminutive minarets
in the lower part of the town, show that Islamism still survives,
though the khanate was annexed to Muscovy more than three centuries
ago; but the town, as a whole, has a European rather than an
Asiatic character. If any one visits it in the hope of getting "a
glimpse of the East," he will be grievously disappointed, unless,
indeed, he happens to be one of those imaginative tourists who
always discover what they wish to see. And yet it must be admitted
that, of all the towns on the route, Kazan is the most interesting.
Though not Oriental, it has a peculiar character of its own, whilst
all the others--Simbirsk, Samara, Saratof--are as uninteresting as
Russian provincial towns commonly are. The full force and
solemnity of that expression will be explained in the sequel.

Probably about sunrise on the third day something like a range of
mountains will appear on the horizon. It may be well to say at
once, to prevent disappointment, that in reality nothing worthy of
the name of mountain is to be found in that part of the country.
The nearest mountain-range in that direction is the Caucasus, which
is hundreds of miles distant, and consequently cannot by any
possibility be seen from the deck of a steamer. The elevations in
question are simply a low range of hills, called the Zhigulinskiya
Gori. In Western Europe they would not attract much attention, but
"in the kingdom of the blind," as the French proverb has it, "the
one-eyed man is king"; and in a flat region like Eastern Russia
these hills form a prominent feature. Though they have nothing of
Alpine grandeur, yet their well-wooded slopes, coming down to the
water's edge--especially when covered with the delicate tints of
early spring, or the rich yellow and red of autumnal foliage--leave
an impression on the memory not easily effaced.

On the whole--with all due deference to the opinions of my
patriotic Russian friends--I must say that Volga scenery hardly
repays the time, trouble and expense which a voyage from Nizhni to
Tsaritsin demands. There are some pretty bits here and there, but
they are "few and far between." A glass of the most exquisite wine
diluted with a gallon of water makes a very insipid beverage. The
deck of the steamer is generally much more interesting than the
banks of the river. There one meets with curious travelling
companions. The majority of the passengers are probably Russian
peasants, who are always ready to chat freely without demanding a
formal introduction, and to relate--with certain restrictions--to a
new acquaintance the simple story of their lives. Often I have
thus whiled away the weary hours both pleasantly and profitably,
and have always been impressed with the peasant's homely common
sense, good-natured kindliness, half-fatalistic resignation, and
strong desire to learn something about foreign countries. This
last peculiarity makes him question as well as communicate, and his
questions, though sometimes apparently childish, are generally to
the point.

Among the passengers are probably also some representatives of the
various Finnish tribes inhabiting this part of the country; they
may be interesting to the ethnologist who loves to study
physiognomy, but they are far less sociable than the Russians.
Nature seems to have made them silent and morose, whilst their
conditions of life have made them shy and distrustful. The Tartar,
on the other hand, is almost sure to be a lively and amusing
companion. Most probably he is a peddler or small trader of some
kind. The bundle on which he reclines contains his stock-in-trade,
composed, perhaps, of cotton printed goods and especially bright-
coloured cotton handkerchiefs. He himself is enveloped in a
capacious greasy khalat, or dressing-gown, and wears a fur cap,
though the thermometer may be at 90 degrees in the shade. The
roguish twinkle in his small piercing eyes contrasts strongly with
the sombre, stolid expression of the Finnish peasants sitting near
him. He has much to relate about St. Petersburg, Moscow, and
perhaps Astrakhan; but, like a genuine trader, he is very reticent
regarding the mysteries of his own craft. Towards sunset he
retires with his companions to some quiet spot on the deck to
recite evening prayers. Here all the good Mahometans on board
assemble and stroke their beards, kneel on their little strips of
carpet and prostrate themselves, all keeping time as if they were
performing some new kind of drill under the eve of a severe drill-

If the voyage is made about the end of September, when the traders
are returning home from the fair at Nizhni-Novgorod, the
ethnologist will have a still better opportunity of study. He will
then find not only representatives of the Finnish and Tartar races,
but also Armenians, Circassians, Persians, Bokhariots, and other
Orientals--a motley and picturesque but decidedly unsavoury cargo.

However great the ethnographical variety on board may be, the
traveller will probably find that four days on the Volga are quite
enough for all practical and aesthetic purposes, and instead of
going on to Astrakhan he will quit the steamer at Tsaritsin. Here
he will find a railway of about fifty miles in length, connecting
the Volga and the Don. I say advisedly a railway, and not a train,
because trains on this line are not very frequent. When I first
visited the locality, thirty years ago, there were only two a week,
so that if you inadvertently missed one train you had to wait about
three days for the next. Prudent, nervous people preferred
travelling by the road, for on the railway the strange jolts and
mysterious creakings were very alarming. On the other hand the
pace was so slow that running off the rails would have been merely
an amusing episode, and even a collision could scarcely have been
attended with serious consequences. Happily things are improving,
even in this outlying part of the country. Now there is one train
daily, and it goes at a less funereal pace.

From Kalatch, at the Don end of the line, a steamer starts for
Rostoff, which is situated near the mouth of the river. The
navigation of the Don is much more difficult than that of the
Volga. The river is extremely shallow, and the sand-banks are
continually shifting, so that many times in the course of the day
the steamer runs aground. Sometimes she is got off by simply
reversing the engines, but not unfrequently she sticks so fast that
the engines have to be assisted. This is effected in a curious
way. The captain always gives a number of stalwart Cossacks a free
passage on condition that they will give him the assistance he
requires; and as soon as the ship sticks fast he orders them to
jump overboard with a stout hawser and haul her off! The task is
not a pleasant one, especially as the poor fellows cannot
afterwards change their clothes; but the order is always obeyed
with alacrity and without grumbling. Cossacks, it would seem, have
no personal acquaintance with colds and rheumatism.

In the most approved manuals of geography the Don figures as one of
the principal European rivers, and its length and breadth give it a
right to be considered as such; but its depth in many parts is
ludicrously out of proportion to its length and breadth. I
remember one day seeing the captain of a large, flat-bottomed
steamer slacken speed, to avoid running down a man on horseback who
was attempting to cross his bows in the middle of the stream.
Another day a not less characteristic incident happened. A Cossack
passenger wished to be set down at a place where there was no pier,
and on being informed that there was no means of landing him,
coolly jumped overboard and walked ashore. This simple method of
disembarking cannot, of course, be recommended to those who have no
local knowledge regarding the exact position of sand-banks and deep

Good serviceable fellows are those Cossacks who drag the steamer
off the sand-banks, and are often entertaining companions. Many of
them can relate from their own experience, in plain, unvarnished
style, stirring episodes of irregular warfare, and if they happen
to be in a communicative mood they may divulge a few secrets
regarding their simple, primitive commissariat system. Whether
they are confidential or not, the traveller who knows the language
will spend his time more profitably and pleasantly in chatting with
them than in gazing listlessly at the uninteresting country through
which he is passing.

Unfortunately, these Don steamers carry a large number of free
passengers of another and more objectionable kind, who do not
confine themselves to the deck, but unceremoniously find their way
into the cabin, and prevent thin-skinned travellers from sleeping.
I know too little of natural history to decide whether these agile,
bloodthirsty parasites are of the same species as those which in
England assist unofficially the Sanitary Commissioners by punishing
uncleanliness; but I may say that their function in the system of
created things is essentially the same, and they fulfil it with a
zeal and energy beyond all praise. Possessing for my own part a
happy immunity from their indelicate attentions, and being
perfectly innocent of entomological curiosity, I might, had I been
alone, have overlooked their existence, but I was constantly
reminded of their presence by less happily constituted mortals, and
the complaints of the sufferers received a curious official
confirmation. On arriving at the end of the journey I asked
permission to spend the night on board, and I noticed that the
captain acceded to my request with more readiness and warmth than I
expected. Next morning the fact was fully explained. When I began
to express my thanks for having been allowed to pass the night in a
comfortable cabin, my host interrupted me with a good-natured
laugh, and assured me that, on the contrary, he was under
obligations to me. "You see," he said, assuming an air of mock
gravity, "I have always on board a large body of light cavalry, and
when I have all this part of the ship to myself they make a
combined attack on me; whereas, when some one is sleeping close by,
they divide their forces!

On certain steamers on the Sea of Azof the privacy of the sleeping-
cabin is disturbed by still more objectionable intruders; I mean
rats. During one short voyage which I made on board the Kertch,
these disagreeable visitors became so importunate in the lower
regions of the vessel that the ladies obtained permission to sleep
in the deck-saloon. After this arrangement had been made, we
unfortunate male passengers received redoubled attention from our
tormentors. Awakened early one morning by the sensation of
something running over me as I lay in my berth, I conceived a
method of retaliation. It seemed to me possible that, in the event
of another visit, I might, by seizing the proper moment, kick the
rat up to the ceiling with such force as to produce concussion of
the brain and instant death. Very soon I had an opportunity of
putting my plan into execution. A significant shaking of the
little curtain at the foot of the berth showed that it was being
used as a scaling-ladder. I lay perfectly still, quite as much
interested in the sport as if I had been waiting, rifle in hand,
for big game. Soon the intruder peeped into my berth, looked
cautiously around him, and then proceeded to walk stealthily across
my feet. In an instant he was shot upwards. First was heard a
sharp knock on the ceiling, and then a dull "thud" on the floor.
The precise extent of the injuries inflicted I never discovered,
for the victim had sufficient strength and presence of mind to
effect his escape; and the gentleman at the other side of the
cabin, who had been roused by the noise, protested against my
repeating the experiment, on the ground that, though he was willing
to take his own share of the intruders, he strongly objected to
having other people's rats kicked into his berth.

On such occasions it is of no use to complain to the authorities.
When I met the captain on deck I related to him what had happened,
and protested vigorously against passengers being exposed to such
annoyances. After listening to me patiently, he coolly replied,
entirely overlooking my protestations, "Ah! I did better than that
this morning; I allowed my rat to get under the blanket, and then
smothered him!"

Railways and steamboats, even when their arrangements leave much to
be desired, invariably effect a salutary revolution in hotel
accommodation; but this revolution is of necessity gradual.
Foreign hotelkeepers must immigrate and give the example; suitable
houses must be built; servants must be properly trained; and, above
all, the native travellers must learn the usages of civilised
society. In Russia this revolution is in progress, but still far
from being complete. The cities where foreigners most do
congregate--St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa--already possess hotels
that will bear comparison with those of Western Europe, and some of
the more important provincial towns can offer very respectable
accommodation; but there is still much to be done before the West-
European can travel with comfort even on the principal routes.
Cleanliness, the first and most essential element of comfort, as we
understand the term, is still a rare commodity, and often cannot be
procured at any price.

Even in good hotels, when they are of the genuine Russian type,
there are certain peculiarities which, though not in themselves
objectionable, strike a foreigner as peculiar. Thus, when you
alight at such an hotel, you are expected to examine a considerable
number of rooms, and to inquire about the respective prices. When
you have fixed upon a suitable apartment, you will do well, if you
wish to practise economy, to propose to the landlord considerably
less than he demands; and you will generally find, if you have a
talent for bargaining, that the rooms may be hired for somewhat
less than the sum first stated. You must be careful, however, to
leave no possibility of doubt as to the terms of the contract.
Perhaps you assume that, as in taking a cab, a horse is always
supplied without special stipulation, so in hiring a bedroom the
bargain includes a bed and the necessary appurtenances. Such an
assumption will not always be justified. The landlord may perhaps
give you a bedstead without extra charge, but if he be uncorrupted
by foreign notions, he will certainly not spontaneously supply you
with bed-linen, pillows, blankets, and towels. On the contrary, he
will assume that you carry all these articles with you, and if you
do not, you must pay for them.

This ancient custom has produced among Russians of the old school a
kind of fastidiousness to which we are strangers. They strongly
dislike using sheets, blankets, and towels which are in a certain
sense public property, just as we should strongly object to putting
on clothes which had been already worn by other people. And the
feeling may be developed in people not Russian by birth. For my
own part, I confess to having been conscious of a certain
disagreeable feeling on returning in this respect to the usages of
so-called civilised Europe.

The inconvenience of carrying about the essential articles of
bedroom furniture is by no means so great as might he supposed.
Bedrooms in Russia are always heated during cold weather, so that
one light blanket, which may be also used as a railway rug, is
quite sufficient, whilst sheets, pillow-cases, and towels take up
little space in a portmanteau. The most cumbrous object is the
pillow, for air-cushions, having a disagreeable odour, are not well
suited for the purpose. But Russians are accustomed to this
encumbrance. In former days--as at the present time in those parts
of the country where there are neither railways nor macadamised
roads--people travelled in carts or carriages without springs and
in these instruments of torture a huge pile of cushions or pillows
is necessary to avoid contusions and dislocations. On the railways
the jolts and shaking are not deadly enough to require such an
antidote; but, even in unconservative Russia, customs outlive the
conditions that created them; and at every railway-station you may
see men and women carrying about their pillows with them as we
carry wraps. A genuine Russian merchant who loves comfort and
respects tradition may travel without a portmanteau, but he
considers his pillow as an indispensable article de voyage.

To return to the old-fashioned hotel. When you have completed the
negotiations with the landlord, you will notice that, unless you
have a servant with you, the waiter prepares to perform the duties
of valet de chambre. Do not be surprised at his officiousness,
which seems founded on the assumption that you are three-fourths
paralysed. Formerly, every well-born Russian had a valet always in
attendance, and never dreamed of doing for himself anything which
could by any possibility be done for him. You notice that there is
no bell in the room, and no mechanical means of communicating with
the world below stairs. That is because the attendant is supposed
to he always within call, and it is so much easier to shout than to
get up and ring the bell.

In the good old times all this was quite natural. The well-born
Russian had commonly a superabundance of domestic serfs, and there
was no reason why one or two of them should not accompany their
master when his Honour undertook a journey. An additional person
in the tarantass did not increase the expense, and considerably
diminished the little unavoidable inconveniences of travel. But
times have changed. In 1861 the domestic serfs were emancipated by
Imperial ukaz. Free servants demand wages; and on railways or
steamers a single ticket does not include an attendant. The
present generation must therefore get through life with a more
modest supply of valets, and must learn to do with its own hands
much that was formerly performed by serf labour. Still, a
gentleman brought up in the old conditions cannot be expected to
dress himself without assistance, and accordingly the waiter
remains in your room to act as valet. Perhaps, too, in the early
morning you may learn in an unpleasant way that other parts of the
old system are not yet extinct. You may hear, for instance,
resounding along the corridors such an order as--"Petrusha!
Petrusha! Stakan vody! ("Little Peter, little Peter, a glass of
water!") shouted in a stentorian voice that would startle the Seven

When the toilet operations are completed, and you order tea--one
always orders tea in Russia--you will be asked whether you have
your own tea and sugar with you. If you are an experienced
traveller you will be able to reply in the affirmative, for good
tea can be bought only in certain well-known shops, and can rarely
be found in hotels. A huge, steaming tea-urn, called a samovar--
etymologically, a "self-boiler"--will be brought in, and you will
make your tea according to your taste. The tumbler, you know of
course, is to be used as a cup, and when using it you must be
careful not to cauterise the points of your fingers. If you should
happen to have anything eatable or drinkable in your travelling
basket, you need not hesitate to take it out at once, for the
waiter will not feel at all aggrieved or astonished at your doing
nothing "for the good of the house." The twenty or twenty-five
kopeks that you pay for the samovar--teapot, tumbler, saucer,
spoon, and slop-basin being included under the generic term pribor--
frees you from all corkage and similar dues.

These and other remnants of old customs are now rapidly
disappearing, and will, doubtless, in a very few years be things of
the past--things to be picked up in out-of-the-way corners, and
chronicled by social archaeology; but they are still to be found in
towns not unknown to Western Europe.

Many of these old customs, and especially the old method of
travelling, may be studied in their pristine purity throughout a
great part of the country. Though railway construction has been
pushed forward with great energy during the last forty years, there
are still vast regions where the ancient solitudes have never been
disturbed by the shrill whistle of the locomotive, and roads have
remained in their primitive condition. Even in the central
provinces one may still travel hundreds of miles without ever
encountering anything that recalls the name of Macadam.

If popular rumour is to be trusted, there is somewhere in the
Highlands of Scotland, by the side of a turnpike, a large stone
bearing the following doggerel inscription:

"If you had seen this road before it was made,
You'd lift up your hands and bless General Wade."

Any educated Englishman reading this strange announcement would
naturally remark that the first line of the couplet contains a
logical contradiction, probably of Hibernian origin; but I have
often thought, during my wanderings in Russia, that the expression,
if not logically justifiable, might for the sake of vulgar
convenience be legalised by a Permissive Bill. The truth is that,
as a Frenchman might say, "there are roads and roads"--roads made
and roads unmade, roads artificial and roads natural. Now, in
Russia, roads are nearly all of the unmade, natural kind, and are
so conservative in their nature that they have at the present day
precisely the same appearance as they had many centuries ago. They
have thus for imaginative minds something of what is called "the
charm of historical association." The only perceptible change that
takes place in them during a series of generations is that the ruts
shift their position. When these become so deep that fore-wheels
can no longer fathom them, it becomes necessary to begin making a
new pair of ruts to the right or left of the old ones; and as the
roads are commonly of gigantic breadth, there is no difficulty in
finding a place for the operation. How the old ones get filled up
I cannot explain; but as I have rarely seen in any part of the
country, except perhaps in the immediate vicinity of towns, a human
being engaged in road repairing, I assume that beneficent Nature
somehow accomplishes the task without human assistance, either by
means of alluvial deposits, or by some other cosmical action only
known to physical geographers.

On the roads one occasionally encounters bridges; and here, again,
I have discovered in Russia a key to the mysteries of Hibernian
phraseology. An Irish member once declared to the House of Commons
that the Church was "the bridge that separated the two great
sections of the Irish people." As bridges commonly connect rather
than separate, the metaphor was received with roars of laughter.
If the honourable members who joined in the hilarious applause had
travelled much in Russia, they would have been more moderate in
their merriment; for in that country, despite the laudable activity
of the modern system of local administration created in the
sixties, bridges often act still as a barrier rather than a
connecting link, and to cross a river by a bridge may still be what
is termed in popular phrase "a tempting of Providence." The
cautious driver will generally prefer to take to the water, if
there is a ford within a reasonable distance, though both he and
his human load may be obliged, in order to avoid getting wet feet,
to assume undignified postures that would afford admirable material
for the caricaturist. But this little bit of discomfort, even
though the luggage should be soaked in the process of fording, is
as nothing compared to the danger of crossing by the bridge. As I
have no desire to harrow unnecessarily the feelings of the reader,
I refrain from all description of ugly accidents, ending in bruises
and fractures, and shall simply explain in a few words how a
successful passage is effected.

When it is possible to approach the bridge without sinking up to
the knees in mud, it is better to avoid all risks by walking over
and waiting for the vehicle on the other side; and when this is
impossible, a preliminary survey is advisable. To your inquiries
whether it is safe, your yamstchik (post-boy) is sure to reply,
"Nitchevo!"--a word which, according to the dictionaries, means
"nothing" but which has, in the mouths of the peasantry, a great
variety of meanings, as I may explain at some future time. In the
present case it may be roughly translated. "There is no danger."
"Nitchevo, Barin, proyedem" ("There is no danger, sir; we shall get
over"), he repeats. You may refer to the generally rotten
appearance of the structure, and point in particular to the great
holes sufficient to engulf half a post-horse. "Ne bos', Bog
pomozhet" ("Do not fear. God will help"), replies coolly your
phlegmatic Jehu. You may have your doubts as to whether in this
irreligious age Providence will intervene specially for your
benefit; but your yamstchik, who has more faith or fatalism, leaves
you little time to solve the problem. Making hurriedly the sign of
the cross, he gathers up his reins, waves his little whip in the
air, and, shouting lustily, urges on his team. The operation is
not wanting in excitement. First there is a short descent; then
the horses plunge wildly through a zone of deep mud; next comes a
fearful jolt, as the vehicle is jerked up on to the first planks;
then the transverse planks, which are but loosely held in their
places, rattle and rumble ominously, as the experienced, sagacious
animals pick their way cautiously and gingerly among the dangerous
holes and crevices; lastly, you plunge with a horrible jolt into a
second mud zone, and finally regain terra firma, conscious of that
pleasant sensation which a young officer may be supposed to feel
after his first cavalry charge in real warfare.

Of course here, as elsewhere, familiarity breeds indifference.
When you have successfully crossed without serious accident a few
hundred bridges of this kind you learn to be as cool and fatalistic
as your yamstchik.

The reader who has heard of the gigantic reforms that have been
repeatedly imposed on Russia by a paternal Government may naturally
be astonished to learn that the roads are still in such a
disgraceful condition. But for this, as for everything else in the
world, there is a good and sufficient reason. The country is
still, comparatively speaking, thinly populated, and in many
regions it is difficult, or practically impossible, to procure in
sufficient quantity stone of any kind, and especially hard stone
fit for road-making. Besides this, when roads are made, the
severity of the climate renders it difficult to keep them in good

When a long journey has to be undertaken through a region in which
there are no railways, there are several ways in which it may be
effected. In former days, when time was of still less value than
at present, many landed proprietors travelled with their own
horses, and carried with them, in one or more capacious, lumbering
vehicles, all that was required for the degree of civilisation
which they had attained; and their requirements were often
considerable. The grand seigneur, for instance, who spent the
greater part of his life amidst the luxury of the court society,
naturally took with him all the portable elements of civilisation.
His baggage included, therefore, camp-beds, table-linen, silver
plate, a batterie de cuisine, and a French cook. The pioneers and
part of the commissariat force were sent on in advance, so that his
Excellency found at each halting-place everything prepared for his
arrival. The poor owner of a few dozen serfs dispensed, of course,
with the elaborate commissariat department, and contented himself
with such modest fare as could be packed in the holes and corners
of a single tarantass.

It will be well to explain here, parenthetically, what a tarantass
is, for I shall often have occasion to use the word. It may be
briefly defined as a phaeton without springs. The function of
springs is imperfectly fulfilled by two parallel wooden bars,
placed longitudinally, on which is fixed the body of the vehicle.
It is commonly drawn by three horses--a strong, fast trotter in the
shafts, flanked on each side by a light, loosely-attached horse
that goes along at a gallop. The points of the shafts are
connected by the duga, which looks like a gigantic, badly formed
horseshoe rising high above the collar of the trotter. To the top
of the duga is attached the bearing-rein, and underneath the
highest part of it is fastened a big bell--in the southern
provinces I found two, and sometimes even three bells--which, when
the country is open and the atmosphere still, may be heard a mile
off. The use of the bell is variously explained. Some say it is
in order to frighten the wolves, and others that it is to avoid
collisions on the narrow forest-paths. But neither of these
explanations is entirely satisfactory. It is used chiefly in
summer, when there is no danger of an attack from wolves; and the
number of bells is greater in the south, where there are no
forests. Perhaps the original intention was--I throw out the hint
for the benefit of a certain school of archaeologists--to frighten
away evil spirits; and the practice has been retained partly from
unreasoning conservatism, and partly with a view to lessen the
chances of collisions. As the roads are noiselessly soft, and the
drivers not always vigilant, the dangers of collision are
considerably diminished by the ceaseless peal.

Altogether, the tarantass is well adapted to the conditions in
which it is used. By the curious way in which the horses are
harnessed it recalls the war-chariot of ancient times. The horse
in the shafts is compelled by the bearing-rein to keep his head
high and straight before him--though the movement of his ears shows
plainly that he would very much like to put it somewhere farther
away from the tongue of the bell--but the side horses gallop
freely, turning their heads outwards in classical fashion. I
believe that this position is assumed not from any sympathy on the
part of these animals for the remains of classical art, but rather
from the natural desire to keep a sharp eye on the driver. Every
movement of his right hand they watch with close attention, and as
soon as they discover any symptoms indicating an intention of using
the whip they immediately show a desire to quicken the pace.

Now that the reader has gained some idea of what a tarantass is, we
may return to the modes of travelling through the regions which are
not yet supplied with railways.

However enduring and long-winded horses may be, they must be
allowed sometimes, during a long journey, to rest and feed.
Travelling long distances with one's own horses is therefore
necessarily a slow operation, and is now quite antiquated. People
who value their time prefer to make use of the Imperial Post
organisation. On all the principal lines of communication there
are regular post-stations, at from ten to twenty miles apart, where
a certain number of horses and vehicles are kept for the
convenience of travellers. To enjoy the privilege of this
arrangement, one has to apply to the proper authorities for a
podorozhnaya--a large sheet of paper stamped with the Imperial
Eagle, and bearing the name of the recipient, the destination, and
the number of horses to be supplied. In return, a small sum is
paid for imaginary road-repairs; the rest of the sum is paid by
instalments at the respective stations.

Armed with this document you go to the post-station and demand the
requisite number of horses. Three is the number generally used,
but if you travel lightly and are indifferent to appearances, you
may content yourself with a pair. The vehicle is a kind of
tarantass, but not such as I have just described. The essentials
in both are the same, but those which the Imperial Government
provides resemble an enormous cradle on wheels rather than a
phaeton. An armful of hay spread over the bottom of the wooden box
is supposed to play the part of seats and cushions. You are
expected to sit under the arched covering, and extend your legs so
that the feet lie beneath the driver's seat; but it is advisable,
unless the rain happens to be coming down in torrents, to get this
covering unshipped, and travel without it. When used, it painfully
curtails the little freedom of movement that you enjoy, and when
you are shot upwards by some obstruction on the road it is apt to
arrest your ascent by giving you a violent blow on the top of the

It is to be hoped that you are in no hurry to start, otherwise your
patience may be sorely tried. The horses, when at last produced,
may seem to you the most miserable screws that it was ever your
misfortune to behold; but you had better refrain from expressing
your feelings, for if you use violent, uncomplimentary language, it
may turn out that you have been guilty of gross calumny. I have
seen many a team composed of animals which a third-class London
costermonger would have spurned, and in which it was barely
possible to recognise the equine form, do their duty in highly
creditable style, and go along at the rate of ten or twelve miles
an hour, under no stronger incentive then the voice of the
yamstchik. Indeed, the capabilities of these lean, slouching,
ungainly quadrupeds are often astounding when they are under the
guidance of a man who knows how to drive them. Though such a man
commonly carries a little harmless whip, he rarely uses it except
by waving it horizontally in the air. His incitements are all
oral. He talks to his cattle as he would to animals of his own
species--now encouraging them by tender, caressing epithets, and
now launching at them expressions of indignant scorn. At one
moment they are his "little doves," and at the next they have been
transformed into "cursed hounds." How far they understand and
appreciate this curious mixture of endearing cajolery and
contemptuous abuse it is difficult to say, but there is no doubt
that it somehow has upon them a strange and powerful influence.

Any one who undertakes a journey of this kind should possess a
well-knit, muscular frame and good tough sinews, capable of
supporting an unlimited amount of jolting and shaking; at the same
time he should be well inured to all the hardships and discomforts
incidental to what is vaguely termed "roughing it." When he wishes
to sleep in a post-station, he will find nothing softer than a
wooden bench, unless he can induce the keeper to put for him on the
floor a bundle of hay, which is perhaps softer, but on the whole
more disagreeable than the deal board. Sometimes he will not get
even the wooden bench, for in ordinary post-stations there is but
one room for travellers, and the two benches--there are rarely
more--may be already occupied. When he does obtain a bench, and
succeeds in falling asleep, he must not be astonished if he is
disturbed once or twice during the night by people who use the
apartment as a waiting-room whilst the post-horses are being
changed. These passers-by may even order a samovar, and drink tea,
chat, laugh, smoke, and make themselves otherwise disagreeable,
utterly regardless of the sleepers. Then there are the other
intruders, smaller in size but equally objectionable, of which I
have already spoken when describing the steamers on the Don.
Regarding them I desire to give merely one word of advice: As you
will have abundant occupation in the work of self-defence, learn to
distinguish between belligerents and neutrals, and follow the
simple principle of international law, that neutrals should not be
molested. They may be very ugly, but ugliness does not justify
assassination. If, for instance, you should happen in awaking to
notice a few black or brown beetles running about your pillow,
restrain your murderous hand! If you kill them you commit an act
of unnecessary bloodshed; for though they may playfully scamper
around you, they will do you no bodily harm.

Another requisite for a journey in unfrequented districts is a
knowledge of the language. It is popularly supposed that if you
are familiar with French and German you may travel anywhere in
Russia. So far as the great cities and chief lines of
communication are concerned, this may be true, but beyond that it
is a delusion. The Russian has not, any more than the West-
European, received from Nature the gift of tongues. Educated
Russians often speak one or two foreign languages fluently, but the
peasants know no language but their own, and it is with the
peasantry that one comes in contact. And to converse freely with
the peasant requires a considerable familiarity with the language--
far more than is required for simply reading a book. Though there
are few provincialisms, and all classes of the people use the same
words--except the words of foreign origin, which are used only by
the upper classes--the peasant always speaks in a more laconic and
more idiomatic way than the educated man.

In the winter months travelling is in some respects pleasanter than
in summer, for snow and frost are great macadamisers. If the snow
falls evenly, there is for some time the most delightful road that
can be imagined. No jolts, no shaking, but a smooth, gliding
motion, like that of a boat in calm water, and the horses gallop
along as if totally unconscious of the sledge behind them.
Unfortunately, this happy state of things does not last all through
the winter. The road soon gets cut up, and deep transverse furrows
(ukhaby) are formed. How these furrows come into existence I have
never been able clearly to comprehend, though I have often heard
the phenomenon explained by men who imagined they understood it.
Whatever the cause and mode of formation may be, certain it is that
little hills and valleys do get formed, and the sledge, as it
crosses over them, bobs up and down like a boat in a chopping sea,
with this important difference, that the boat falls into a yielding
liquid, whereas the sledge falls upon a solid substance, unyielding
and unelastic. The shaking and jolting which result may readily be

There are other discomforts, too, in winter travelling. So long as
the air is perfectly still, the cold may be very intense without
being disagreeable; but if a strong head wind is blowing, and the
thermometer ever so many degrees below zero, driving in an open
sledge is a very disagreeable operation, and noses may get
frostbitten without their owners perceiving the fact in time to
take preventive measures. Then why not take covered sledges on
such occasions? For the simple reason that they are not to be had;
and if they could be procured, it would be well to avoid using
them, for they are apt to produce something very like seasickness.
Besides this, when the sledge gets overturned, it is pleasanter to
be shot out on to the clean, refreshing snow than to be buried
ignominiously under a pile of miscellaneous baggage.

The chief requisite for winter travelling in these icy regions is a
plentiful supply of warm furs. An Englishman is very apt to be
imprudent in this respect, and to trust too much to his natural
power of resisting cold. To a certain extent this confidence is
justifiable, for an Englishman often feels quite comfortable in an
ordinary great coat when his Russian friends consider it necessary
to envelop themselves in furs of the warmest kind; but it may be
carried too far, in which case severe punishment is sure to follow,
as I once learned by experience. I may relate the incident as a
warning to others:

One day in mid-winter I started from Novgorod, with the intention
of visiting some friends at a cavalry barracks situated about ten
miles from the town. As the sun was shining brightly, and the
distance to be traversed was short, I considered that a light fur
and a bashlyk--a cloth hood which protects the ears--would be quite
sufficient to keep out the cold, and foolishly disregarded the
warnings of a Russian friend who happened to call as I was about to
start. Our route lay along the river due northward, right in the
teeth of a strong north wind. A wintry north wind is always and
everywhere a disagreeable enemy to face; let the reader try to
imagine what it is when the Fahrenheit thermometer is at 30 degrees
below zero--or rather let him refrain from such an attempt, for the
sensation produced cannot be imagined by those who have not
experienced it. Of course I ought to have turned back--at least,
as soon as a sensation of faintness warned me that the circulation
was being seriously impeded--but I did not wish to confess my
imprudence to the friend who accompanied me. When we had driven
about three-fourths of the way we met a peasant-woman, who
gesticulated violently, and shouted something to us as we passed.
I did not hear what she said, but my friend turned to me and said
in an alarming tone--we had been speaking German--"Mein Gott! Ihre
Nase ist abgefroren!" Now the word "abgefroren," as the reader
will understand, seemed to indicate that my nose was frozen off, so
I put up my hand in some alarm to discover whether I had
inadvertently lost the whole or part of the member referred to. It
was still in situ and entire, but as hard and insensible as a bit
of wood.

"You may still save it," said my companion, "if you get out at once
and rub it vigorously with snow."

I got out as directed, but was too faint to do anything vigorously.
My fur cloak flew open, the cold seemed to grasp me in the region
of the heart, and I fell insensible.

How long I remained unconscious I know not. When I awoke I found
myself in a strange room, surrounded by dragoon officers in
uniform, and the first words I heard were, "He is out of danger
now, but he will have a fever."

These words were spoken, as I afterwards discovered, by a very
competent surgeon; but the prophecy was not fulfilled. The
promised fever never came. The only bad consequences were that for
some days my right hand remained stiff, and for a week or two I had
to conceal my nose from public view.

If this little incident justifies me in drawing a general
conclusion, I should say that exposure to extreme cold is an almost
painless form of death; but that the process of being resuscitated
is very painful indeed--so painful, that the patient may be excused
for momentarily regretting that officious people prevented the
temporary insensibility from becoming "the sleep that knows no

Between the alternate reigns of winter and summer there is always a
short interregnum, during which travelling in Russia by road is
almost impossible. Woe to the ill-fated mortal who has to make a
long road-journey immediately after the winter snow has melted; or,
worse still, at the beginning of winter, when the autumn mud has
been petrified by the frost, and not yet levelled by the snow!

At all seasons the monotony of a journey is pretty sure to be
broken by little unforeseen episodes of a more or less disagreeable
kind. An axle breaks, or a wheel comes off, or there is a
difficulty in procuring horses. As an illustration of the graver
episodes which may occur, I shall make here a quotation from my

Early in the morning we arrived at Maikop, a small town commanding
the entrance to one of the valleys which run up towards the main
range of the Caucasus. On alighting at the post-station, we at
once ordered horses for the next stage, and received the laconic
reply, "There are no horses."

"And when will there be some?"


This last reply we took for a piece of playful exaggeration, and
demanded the book in which, according to law, the departure of
horses is duly inscribed, and from which it is easy to calculate
when the first team should be ready to start. A short calculation
proved that we ought to get horses by four o'clock in the
afternoon, so we showed the station-keeper various documents signed
by the Minister of the Interior and other influential personages,
and advised him to avoid all contravention of the postal

These documents, which proved that we enjoyed the special
protection of the authorities, had generally been of great service
to us in our dealings with rascally station-keepers; but this
station-keeper was not one of the ordinary type. He was a Cossack,
of herculean proportions, with a bullet-shaped head, short-cropped
bristly hair, shaggy eyebrows, an enormous pendent moustache, a
defiant air, and a peculiar expression of countenance which plainly
indicated "an ugly customer." Though it was still early in the
day, he had evidently already imbibed a considerable quantity of
alcohol, and his whole demeanour showed clearly enough that he was
not of those who are "pleasant in their liquor." After glancing
superciliously at the documents, as if to intimate he could read
them were he so disposed, he threw them down on the table, and,
thrusting his gigantic paws into his capacious trouser-pockets,
remarked slowly and decisively, in something deeper than a double-
bass voice, "You'll have horses to-morrow morning."

Wishing to avoid a quarrel we tried to hire horses in the village,
and when our efforts in that direction proved fruitless, we applied
to the head of the rural police. He came and used all his
influence with the refractory station-keeper, but in vain.
Hercules was not in a mood to listen to officials any more than to
ordinary mortals. At last, after considerable trouble to himself,
our friend of the police contrived to find horses for us, and we
contented ourselves with entering an account of the circumstances
in the Complaint Book, but our difficulties were by no means at an
end. As soon as Hercules perceived that we had obtained horses
without his assistance, and that he had thereby lost his
opportunity of blackmailing us, he offered us one of his own teams,
and insisted on detaining us until we should cancel the complaint
against him. This we refused to do, and our relations with him
became what is called in diplomatic language "extremement tendues."
Again we had to apply to the police.

My friend mounted guard over the baggage whilst I went to the
police office. I was not long absent, but I found, on my return,
that important events had taken place in the interval. A crowd had
collected round the post-station, and on the steps stood the keeper
and his post-boys, declaring that the traveller inside had
attempted to shoot them! I rushed in and soon perceived, by the
smell of gunpowder, that firearms had been used, but found no trace
of casualties. My friend was tramping up and down the little room,
and evidently for the moment there was an armistice.

In a very short time the local authorities had assembled, a candle
had been lit, two armed Cossacks stood as sentries at the door, and
the preliminary investigation had begun. The Chief of Police sat
at the table and wrote rapidly on a sheet of foolscap. The
investigation showed that two shots had been fired from a revolver,
and two bullets were found imbedded in the wall. All those who had
been present, and some who knew nothing of the incident except by
hearsay, were duly examined. Our opponents always assumed that my
friend had been the assailant, in spite of his protestations to the
contrary, and more than once the words pokyshenie na ubiistvo
(attempt to murder) were pronounced. Things looked very black
indeed. We had the prospect of being detained for days and weeks
in the miserable place, till the insatiable demon of official
formality had been propitiated. And then?

When things were thus at their blackest they suddenly took an
unexpected turn, and the deus ex machina appeared precisely at the
right moment, just as if we had all been puppets in a sensation
novel. There was the usual momentary silence, and then, mixed with
the sound of an approaching tarantass, a confused murmur: "There he
is! He is coming!" The "he" thus vaguely and mysteriously
indicated turned out to be an official of the judicial
administration, who had reason to visit the village for an entirely
different affair. As soon as he had been told briefly what had
happened he took the matter in hand and showed himself equal to the
occasion. Unlike the majority of Russian officials he disliked
lengthy procedure, and succeeded in making the case quite clear in
a very short time. There had been, he perceived, no attempt to
murder or anything of the kind. The station-keeper and his two
post-boys, who had no right to be in the traveller's room, had
entered with threatening mien, and when they refused to retire
peaceably, my friend had fired two shots in order to frighten them
and bring assistance. The falsity of their statement that he had
fired at them as they entered the room was proved by the fact that
the bullets were lodged near the ceiling in the wall farthest away
from the door.

I must confess that I was agreeably surprised by this unexpected
turn of affairs. The conclusions arrived at were nothing more than
a simple statement of what had taken place; but I was surprised at
the fact that a man who was at once a lawyer and a Russian official
should have been able to take such a plain, commonsense view of the

Before midnight we were once more free men, driving rapidly in the
clear moonlight to the next station, under the escort of a fully-
armed Circassian Cossack; but the idea that we might have been
detained for weeks in that miserable place haunted us like a



Bird's-eye View of Russia--The Northern Forests--Purpose of my
Journey--Negotiations--The Road--A Village--A Peasant's House--
Vapour-Baths--Curious Custom--Arrival.

There are many ways of describing a country that one has visited.
The simplest and most common method is to give a chronological
account of the journey; and this is perhaps the best way when the
journey does not extend over more than a few weeks. But it cannot
be conveniently employed in the case of a residence of many years.
Did I adopt it, I should very soon exhaust the reader's patience.
I should have to take him with me to a secluded village, and make
him wait for me till I had learned to speak the language. Thence
he would have to accompany me to a provincial town, and spend
months in a public office, whilst I endeavoured to master the
mysteries of local self-government. After this he would have to
spend two years with me in a big library, where I studied the
history and literature of the country. And so on, and so on. Even
my journeys would prove tedious to him, as they often were to
myself, for he would have to drive with me many a score of weary
miles, where even the most zealous diary-writer would find nothing
to record beyond the names of the post-stations.

It will be well for me, then, to avoid the strictly chronological
method, and confine myself to a description of the more striking
objects and incidents that came under my notice. The knowledge
which I derived from books will help me to supply a running
commentary on what I happened to see and hear.

Instead of beginning in the usual way with St. Petersburg, I prefer
for many reasons to leave the description of the capital till some
future time, and plunge at once into the great northern forest

If it were possible to get a bird's-eye view of European Russia,
the spectator would perceive that the country is composed of two
halves widely differing from each other in character. The northern
half is a land of forest and morass, plentifully supplied with
water in the form of rivers, lakes, and marshes, and broken up by
numerous patches of cultivation. The southern half is, as it were,
the other side of the pattern--an immense expanse of rich, arable
land, broken up by occasional patches of sand or forest. The
imaginary undulating line separating those two regions starts from
the western frontier about the 50th parallel of latitude, and runs
in a northeasterly direction till it enters the Ural range at about
56 degrees N.L.

Well do I remember my first experience of travel in the northern
region, and the weeks of voluntary exile which formed the goal of
the journey. It was in the summer of 1870. My reason for
undertaking the journey was this: a few months of life in St.
Petersburg had fully convinced me that the Russian language is one
of those things which can only be acquired by practice, and that
even a person of antediluvian longevity might spend all his life in
that city without learning to express himself fluently in the
vernacular--especially if he has the misfortune of being able to
speak English, French, and German. With his friends and associates
he speaks French or English. German serves as a medium of
communication with waiters, shop keepers, and other people of that
class. It is only with isvoshtchiki--the drivers of the little
open droshkis which fulfil the function of cabs--that he is obliged
to use the native tongue, and with them a very limited vocabulary
suffices. The ordinal numerals and four short, easily-acquired
expressions--poshol (go on), na pravo (to the right), na lyevo (to
the left), and stoi (stop)--are all that is required.

Whilst I was considering how I could get beyond the sphere of West-
European languages, a friend came to my assistance, and suggested
that I should go to his estate in the province of Novgorod, where I
should find an intelligent, amiable parish priest, quite innocent
of any linguistic acquirements. This proposal I at once adopted,
and accordingly found myself one morning at a small station of the
Moscow Railway, endeavouring to explain to a peasant in sheep's
clothing that I wished to be conveyed to Ivanofka, the village
where my future teacher lived. At that time I still spoke Russian
in a very fragmentary and confused way--pretty much as Spanish cows
are popularly supposed to speak French. My first remark therefore
being literally interpreted, was--"Ivanofka. Horses. You can?"
The point of interrogation was expressed by a simultaneous raising
of the voice and the eyebrows.

"Ivanofka?" cried the peasant, in an interrogatory tone of voice.
In Russia, as in other countries, the peasantry when speaking with
strangers like to repeat questions, apparently for the purpose of
gaining time.

"Ivanofka," I replied.



After some reflection the peasant nodded and said something which I
did not understand, but which I assumed to mean that he was open to
consider proposals for transporting me to my destination.

"Roubles. How many?"

To judge by the knitting of the brows and the scratching of the
head, I should say that that question gave occasion to a very
abstruse mathematical calculation. Gradually the look of
concentrated attention gave place to an expression such as children
assume when they endeavour to get a parental decision reversed by
means of coaxing. Then came a stream of soft words which were to
me utterly unintelligible.

I must not weary the reader with a detailed account of the
succeeding negotiations, which were conducted with extreme
diplomatic caution on both sides, as if a cession of territory or
the payment of a war indemnity had been the subject of discussion.
Three times he drove away and three times returned. Each time he
abated his pretensions, and each time I slightly increased my
offer. At last, when I began to fear that he had finally taken his
departure and had left me to my own devices, he re-entered the room
and took up my baggage, indicating thereby that he agreed to my
last offer.

The sum agreed upon would have been, under ordinary circumstances,
more than sufficient, but before proceeding far I discovered that
the circumstances were by no means ordinary, and I began to
understand the pantomimic gesticulation which had puzzled me during
the negotiations. Heavy rain had fallen without interruption for
several days, and now the track on which we were travelling could
not, without poetical license, be described as a road. In some
parts it resembled a water-course, in others a quagmire, and at
least during the first half of the journey I was constantly
reminded of that stage in the work of creation when the water was
not yet separated from the dry land. During the few moments when
the work of keeping my balance and preventing my baggage from being
lost did not engross all my attention, I speculated on the
possibility of inventing a boat-carriage, to be drawn by some
amphibious quadruped. Fortunately our two lean, wiry little horses
did not object to being used as aquatic animals. They took the
water bravely, and plunged through the mud in gallant style. The
telega in which we were seated--a four-wheeled skeleton cart--did
not submit to the ill-treatment so silently. It creaked out its
remonstrances and entreaties, and at the more difficult spots
threatened to go to pieces; but its owner understood its character
and capabilities, and paid no attention to its ominous threats.
Once, indeed, a wheel came off, but it was soon fished out of the
mud and replaced, and no further casualty occurred.

The horses did their work so well that when about midday we arrived
at a village, I could not refuse to let them have some rest and
refreshment--all the more as my own thoughts had begun to turn in
that direction.

The village, like villages in that part of the country generally,
consisted of two long parallel rows of wooden houses. The road--if
a stratum of deep mud can be called by that name--formed the
intervening space. All the houses turned their gables to the
passerby, and some of them had pretensions to architectural
decoration in the form of rude perforated woodwork. Between the
houses, and in a line with them, were great wooden gates and high
wooden fences, separating the courtyards from the road. Into one
of these yards, near the farther end of the village, our horses
turned of their own accord.

"An inn?" I said, in an interrogative tone.

The driver shook his head and said something, in which I detected
the word "friend." Evidently there was no hostelry for man and
beast in the village, and the driver was using a friend's house for
the purpose.

The yard was flanked on the one side by an open shed, containing
rude agricultural implements which might throw some light on the
agriculture of the primitive Aryans, and on the other side by the
dwelling-house and stable. Both the house and stable were built of
logs, nearly cylindrical in form, and placed in horizontal tiers.

Two of the strongest of human motives, hunger and curiosity,
impelled me to enter the house at once. Without waiting for an
invitation, I went up to the door--half protected against the
winter snows by a small open portico--and unceremoniously walked
in. The first apartment was empty, but I noticed a low door in the
wall to the left, and passing through this, entered the principal
room. As the scene was new to me, I noted the principal objects.
In the wall before me were two small square windows looking out
upon the road, and in the corner to the right, nearer to the
ceiling than to the floor, was a little triangular shelf, on which
stood a religious picture. Before the picture hung a curious oil
lamp. In the corner to the left of the door was a gigantic stove,
built of brick, and whitewashed. From the top of the stove to the
wall on the right stretched what might be called an enormous shelf,
six or eight feet in breadth. This is the so-called palati, as I
afterwards discovered, and serves as a bed for part of the family.
The furniture consisted of a long wooden bench attached to the wall
on the right, a big, heavy, deal table, and a few wooden stools.

Whilst I was leisurely surveying these objects, I heard a noise on
the top of the stove, and, looking up, perceived a human face, with
long hair parted in the middle, and a full yellow beard. I was
considerably astonished by this apparition, for the air in the room
was stifling, and I had some difficulty in believing that any
created being--except perhaps a salamander or a negro--could exist
in such a position. I looked hard to convince myself that I was
not the victim of a delusion. As I stared, the head nodded slowly
and pronounced the customary form of greeting.

I returned the greeting slowly, wondering what was to come next.

"Ill, very ill!" sighed the head.

"I'm not astonished at that," I remarked, in an "aside." "If I
were lying on the stove as you are I should be very ill too."

"Hot, very hot?" I remarked, interrogatively.

"Nitchevo"--that is to say, "not particularly." This remark
astonished me all the more as I noticed that the body to which the
head belonged was enveloped in a sheep-skin!

After living some time in Russia I was no longer surprised by such
incidents, for I soon discovered that the Russian peasant has a
marvellous power of bearing extreme heat as well as extreme cold.
When a coachman takes his master or mistress to the theatre or to a
party, he never thinks of going home and returning at an appointed
time. Hour after hour he sits placidly on the box, and though the
cold be of an intensity such as is never experienced in our
temperate climate, he can sleep as tranquilly as the lazzaroni at
midday in Naples. In that respect the Russian peasant seems to be
first-cousin to the polar bear, but, unlike the animals of the
Arctic regions, he is not at all incommoded by excessive heat. On
the contrary, he likes it when he can get it, and never omits an
opportunity of laying in a reserve supply of caloric. He even
delights in rapid transitions from one extreme to the other, as is
amply proved by a curious custom which deserves to be recorded.

The reader must know that in the life of the Russian peasantry the
weekly vapour-bath plays a most important part. It has even a
certain religious signification, for no good orthodox peasant would
dare to enter a church after being soiled by certain kinds of
pollution without cleansing himself physically and morally by means
of the bath. In the weekly arrangements it forms the occupation
for Saturday afternoon, and care is taken to avoid thereafter all
pollution until after the morning service on Sunday. Many villages
possess a public or communal bath of the most primitive
construction, but in some parts of the country--I am not sure how
far the practice extends--the peasants take their vapour-bath in
the household oven in which the bread is baked! In all cases the
operation is pushed to the extreme limit of human endurance--far
beyond the utmost limit that can be endured by those who have not
been accustomed to it from childhood. For my own part, I only made
the experiment once; and when I informed my attendant that my life
was in danger from congestion of the brain, he laughed outright,
and told me that the operation had only begun. Most astounding of
all--and this brings me to the fact which led me into this
digression--the peasants in winter often rush out of the bath and
roll themselves in the snow! This aptly illustrates a common
Russian proverb, which says that what is health to the Russian is
death to the German.

Cold water, as well as hot vapour, is sometimes used as a means of
purification. In the villages the old pagan habit of masquerading
in absurd costumes at certain seasons--as is done during the
carnival in Roman Catholic countries with the approval, or at least
connivance, of the Church--still survives; but it is regarded as
not altogether sinless. He who uses such disguises places himself
to a certain extent under the influence of the Evil One, thereby
putting his soul in jeopardy; and to free himself from this danger
he has to purify himself in the following way: When the annual mid-
winter ceremony of blessing the waters is performed, by breaking a
hole in the ice and immersing a cross with certain religious rites,
he should plunge into the hole as soon as possible after the
ceremony. I remember once at Yaroslavl, on the Volga, two young
peasants successfully accomplished this feat--though the police
have orders to prevent it--and escaped, apparently without evil
consequences, though the Fahrenheit thermometer was below zero.
How far the custom has really a purifying influence, is a question
which must be left to theologians; but even an ordinary mortal can
understand that, if it be regarded as a penance, it must have a
certain deterrent effect. The man who foresees the necessity of
undergoing this severe penance will think twice before putting on a
disguise. So at least it must have been in the good old times; but
in these degenerate days--among the Russian peasantry as elsewhere--
the fear of the Devil, which was formerly, if not the beginning,
at least one of the essential elements, of wisdom, has greatly
decreased. Many a young peasant will now thoughtlessly disguise
himself, and when the consecration of the water is performed, will
stand and look on passively like an ordinary spectator! It would
seem that the Devil, like his enemy the Pope, is destined to lose
gradually his temporal power.

But all this time I am neglecting my new acquaintance on the top of
the stove. In reality I did not neglect him, but listened most
attentively to every word of the long tale that he recited. What
it was all about I could only vaguely guess, for I did not
understand more than ten per cent of the words used, but I assumed
from the tone and gestures that he was relating to me all the
incidents and symptoms of his illness. And a very severe illness
it must have been, for it requires a very considerable amount of
physical suffering to make the patient Russian peasant groan.
Before he had finished his tale a woman entered, apparently his

To her I explained that I had a strong desire to eat and drink, and
that I wished to know what she would give me. By a good deal of
laborious explanation I was made to understand that I could have
eggs, black bread, and milk, and we agreed that there should be a
division of labour: my hostess should prepare the samovar for
boiling water, whilst I should fry the eggs to my own satisfaction.

In a few minutes the repast was ready, and, though not very
delicate, was highly acceptable. The tea and sugar I had of course
brought with me; the eggs were not very highly flavoured; and the
black rye-bread, strongly intermixed with sand, could be eaten by a
peculiar and easily-acquired method of mastication, in which the
upper molars are never allowed to touch those of the lower jaw. In
this way the grating of the sand between the teeth is avoided.

Eggs, black bread, milk, and tea--these formed my ordinary articles
of food during all my wanderings in Northern Russia. Occasionally
potatoes could be got, and afforded the possibility of varying the
bill of fare. The favourite materials employed in the native
cookery are sour cabbage, cucumbers, and kvass--a kind of very
small beer made from black bread. None of these can be recommended
to the traveller who is not already accustomed to them.

The remainder of the journey was accomplished at a rather more
rapid pace than the preceding part, for the road was decidedly
better, though it was traversed by numerous half-buried roots,
which produced violent jolts. From the conversation of the driver
I gathered that wolves, bears, and elks were found in the forest
through which we were passing.

The sun had long since set when we reached our destination, and I
found to my dismay that the priest's house was closed for the
night. To rouse the reverend personage from his slumbers, and
endeavour to explain to him with my limited vocabulary the object
of my visit, was not to be thought of. On the other hand, there
was no inn of any kind in the vicinity. When I consulted the
driver as to what was to be done, he meditated for a little, and
then pointed to a large house at some distance where there were
still lights. It turned out to be the country-house of the
gentleman who had advised me to undertake the journey, and here,
after a short explanation, though the owner was not at home, I was
hospitably received.

It had been my intention to live in the priest's house, but a short
interview with him on the following day convinced me that that part
of my plan could not be carried out. The preliminary objections
that I should find but poor fare in his humble household, and much
more of the same kind, were at once put aside by my assurance, made
partly by pantomime, that, as an old traveller, I was well
accustomed to simple fare, and could always accommodate myself to
the habits of people among whom my lot happened to be cast. But
there was a more serious difficulty. The priest's family had, as
is generally the case with priests' families, been rapidly
increasing during the last few years, and his house had not been
growing with equal rapidity. The natural consequence of this was
that he had not a room or a bed to spare. The little room which he


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