Imágenes de página

vast forests and thinly-peopled plains has just now appeared in a clever give assurance of sport. The motley English dress. The sono of a man character of its native and immigrant of great learning and high attainpopulation affords to the philosopher ments, Mr Adolph Erman treads curious matter of consideration. A nobly in his father's footsteps. Still place of deportation for traitors and young, he has done much to incriminals-and not unfrequently for crease the lustre of the honourable the innocent-its name is inseparably name transmitted to him. Born in connected with the memory of innu- the year 1806, he was but two-andmerable unfortunates who have there twenty years of age when he underpined out their existence in expiation took, at his own cost, a journey round of crime, or in obedience to mandates the world, having for its chief object often as unjust as arbitrary. Fallen a series of magnetical observations. favourites of the Czars, rebels against The expedition was completely suctheir tyranny, traitors to their per- cessful. Starting from Berlin to St son, murderers, and other malefac- Petersburg, he crossed northern Asia, tors, and even prisoners of war, have with occasional digressions of a few here found a living grave till released by hundred leagues, took ship at Okhotsk death, clemency, or flight. Did the for Kamschatka, thence proceeded to tears of exiles fertilise, Siberia should California, visited Otaheite, and came be a teeming land. Since its first subju- round by Cape Horn and Rio Janeiro gation by Ivan the Terrible, how many to Europe and Berlin. Then he sat a Russian magnate, lord of thousands down to write of what he had seen, of serfs, owner of millions of rubles, entitling his work—6 Journey round proud of his position, and confident of the Earth, across North Asia and both imperial favour, has suddenly found Oceans." But the tale of travel so himself travelling eastward under extensive takes time to tell ; and, up escort, banished and a beggar. How to the present date, he has not promany mournful trains of minor of- tracted his narrative beyond Okhotsk. fenders have plodded their weary way What he has done, however, is comacross the Uralian chain, guarded by plete in itself, very interesting, and barbarian Bashkirs, to labour in the withal somewhat voluminous, since mines of Nerchinsk, or to lead a its abridged translation forms two peasant's toilsome life on the margin heavy octavos, heavy in amount of of the Frozen Sea. From those vast and paper and print, but not, we must in ice-bound regions, escape can rarely be justice admit, in the nature of their accomplished. But at intervals, during contents. Whilst recording scientific the last five-and-thirty years, bearded investigations, the author does not and toil-worn men of martial aspect neglect subjects more generally intehave crossed the German frontier, and resting. Upon all he brings to bear astonished those they accosted by wild an extraordinary amount of reading tales of suffering, and ignorance of the and research. The result is a book of most notorious events. Some have travels of no ephemeral nature, but inquired for Napoleon, and wept when that will long be esteemed as a stana they learned he was a captive, or dard work, and respected as a valuable dead. Circumstances of current his authority. tory, known to each child and peasant, Mr Erman commences his narrative were to them a mystery and a marvel. of travel on the day of his departure These strange wanderers, escaped from Berlin; but its earlier portion from long bondage in Siberia, were has been compressed by the transamongst the last survivors of that lator, in order to escape as soon countless host led northwards by a as possible from Europe, and get Corsican's ambition, and whose fune- upon the less trodden ground east ral pile was lighted in Moscow's city of Tobolsk. Much has been written

Amongst the delineators of Siberia of late years concerning European and its inhabitants, of the produce, Russia and its inhabitants, and it was customs, and peculiarities of the coun- hardly to be expected that even so try and its people, one of the most acute an observer as Mr Erman successful is the German gentleman should find any thing particularly and scholar whose admirable work novel to say about them. He takes a sensible and practical view of the by the inferences to be gleaned from condition, character, and disposition them, we must consider the Russians of the population ; and is happy in à contented and flourishing nation, his detection and indication of na likely to make the larger strides in tional peculiarities. He does not, civilisation that they are unimpeded like the majority of travellers in by revolutionary agitation. ProRussia, enter the country with a pagandists meet little encouragesettled determination to behold no- ment amongst the loyal and lightthing, from the White Sea to the hearted subjects of the autocrat. Black, but oppression and cruelty on "We have often observed at Moscow," the one hand, slavery and suffering says Mr Erman, "birch-trees hewn upon the other. He does not come for fencing, yet still alive in the horito a premature decision, that be- zontal position, and throwing out cause Russia is ruled by an abso- shoots. The great distinction of lute monarch, all happiness, prosperity, the vegetable nature in this region is and justice are essentially banished its tenacity of life; and, singularly from the land. It is really pleasant enough, the same capability of exto find a deviation from the established isting under oppression, and of routine of books about Russia. These withstanding stubbornly every revoare now nearly all concocted upon one lutionising influence, is here the and the same plan. The recipe is as characteristic of man also. The ear exact as any in Mrs Rundell, and is of the stranger is sure, at every turn as conscientiously adhered to by of conversation, to catch the sounds literary cooks, as that great artist's - Kak ni bud,' (no matter how,) invaluable precepts are by knights with which the Russians are used to and ladies of the ladle. Tyranny, give expression to their habitual inmisery, and the knout are the chief difference, and renunciation of all ingredients of the savoury dish. care. ... Notwithstanding the We are shown a nation of cretins, great variety of condition which the crushed under the boot-heel of an im- population exhibit, every thing has perial ogre; whilst a selfish, servile the stamp of nationality, and an aristocracy salaam their admiration, obstinate adherence to established and catch greedily at the titles and usage may be plainly recognised as a gewgaws thrown to them as a sop fundamental principle. Some foreign by their terrible master. This is the customs, indeed, are adopted from substance of the mess, which, being strangers residing in Moscow; but handsomely garnished with lying they are, at the same time, so changed anecdotes of horrible cruelties prae- as to be assimilated to the national tised upon the unfortunate population, manners. Russian nationality may is deemed sufficiently dainty to set be compared to a river, which receives before the public, and is forthwith other streams without changing its devoured as genuine and nutritive name; or, still better, to a living food by the large body of simpletons organism, which, while devouring who take type for a guarantee of every variety of food, continues still veracity. Mr Erman despises the the same." common trick and claptrap resorted It was on the 29th of July that to by vulgar writers. Avoiding Mr Erman, who travelled in comanecdotage, and abuse of the powers pany with the Norwegian professor that be, he gives, in brief shrewd para- Hansteen, left Moscow, and moved graphs, glimpses of Muscovite cha- eastwards, passing through a proracter and feelings, which clearly prove ductive country, strewn with populous the people of that vast empire to and comfortable villages. At Pokròf, be far happier, more prosperous, and his first halting-place, his chamber more practically free, than the inha- walls were adorned with rude carvings bitants of many countries who boast and paintings, whose subjects were of liberty because anarchy has re- taken from the events of 1812, and placed good government. Judging represented the valiant deeds of the less from any distinct assertions or peasantry. Buikova, a village forty arguments advanced in these volumes, miles east of Moscow, was the farthest than from their general tenor, and point to which the French penetrated.

[ocr errors]

Their invasion has left but a faint position with the elegant luxuries and impression upon the popular mind in superfluities of extreme European Russia-even in Moscow, which suf- civilisation. The clumsy carvings of fered so much at their hands. Con- Uralian peasants are found in the flagrations have been common occur- next warerooms to the fragile and rences in that city, and the inhabitants fashionable masterpieces of a Parisian are accustomed to be burned out. milliner. The chief part of the goods We read of seven such events, from come from great distances. Amongst the thirteenth to the beginning of the the important articles of traffic are nineteenth century, in all of which tea from China, horse-hides from the destruction was complete, or very Tatary, iron bars from Siberia, shawls nearly so. The fire of 1812 spared of camel's-down from Bokhara. The many of the stone churches, on whose Bokharians also import large quantitowers" the Mahomedan crescent ties of cotton, partly raw and partly rises above the cross, a monument of span. This is one of the principal earlier revolutions. The yoke of the objects of trade at Nijni. ConcernTatars was so lasting and oppressive, ing the origin of this useful subthat later events of a similar kind stance, curious fables were current in seem comparatively unimportant; Russia not quite a century ago. “It and even the French invasion is here appears to me certain," says Mr Erthought little of, being usually com- man, “ that the story of the zoophytic pared with the irruptions of the plant called Baránez, or lamb-plant Pechenegues and that of the Poles in (formed as a diminutive from Barán, later times, but never set on a level & sheep,) originated in some embelwith the Tatar domination.” The lished account of the cotton plant. French have little prestige in Russia. Herberstein relates it at full length Whatever respect they previously and unchanged, just as he had heard enjoyed there, was completely anni- it. There has been seen, near to hilated by the pitiful figure they cut in the Caspian Sea, a seed, rather larger the Moscow campaign ; retreating, as and rounder than that of a melon, they did, a ragged, disorderly, frost- from which, when set in the ground, bitten remnant, before a swarm of is produced something similar to a armed peasants and irregular horse. lamb, of the altitude of five palms, AndMuscovite sign-painters and saint- having a very fine fleece, &c., &c. The carvers decorate village walls with epi- German edition of Herberstein (Basodes of the disastrous overthrow of an sel, 1563) adds that the Baránez has army, probably the most powerful and a head, eyes, ears, and all the limbs, really efficient ever got together. Any like a sheep. But it mentions cornotion entertained by the Russians rectly the very fine fleece which the of French invincibility was as com- people of that country commonly make pletely dissipated in that country by use of to pad their caps withal.' This the events of 1812, as it was in Ger- is the ordinary use which the Tatar many by the ensuing, and scarcely tribes in general make of cotton at less important, campaign of 1813. the present day." The fair at Nijni

Passing Murom, where a sort of lasts two months, and brings together Yankee tradition exists of a "robber- six hundred thousand persons of difnightingale," which entices travellers ferent nations and tribes, or about into the woods by its song, and then thirty-three times the number of the kills them by the power of its notes, stationary population. It produces a Mr Erman reached Nijni Novgorod at large revenue to the imperial treasury, the moment of the great annual fair. -the letting of the wooden booths, and The mixture of European and Asiatic of two thousand five hundred and produce and manufactures gives the twenty-two stone storerooms, (to Russian fairs an appearance singularly each of which latter is attached a striking to the foreigner's eye. Things chamber for the owner of the goods the most opposite are there brought to live in) alone yielding, so far back together. Obrasá, or Greek holy as 1825, nearly four hundred thousand images, amulets, and other objects rubles ; whilst the population of the used in the solemnities of the Græco- government, or district, amounting to Russian church, are seen in juxta- nearly a million of souls, paid taxes to the amount of fourteen millions of year or other limited period. Those rubles.

of the peasant class have to support Nijni Novgorod is the point of ren- themselves, whilst offenders of a dezvous for criminals from the western higher rank, and unused to manual provinces of the empire, condemned labour, have an allowance made them to Siberian exile. They arrive there by the government. In various places in small detachments, to pursue their Mr Erman met with exiles, from some journey in large bodies. In the vici- of whom he obtained curious infornity of every post-house along the mation. They are usually known by road is another building known as the the mild name of "the unfortunates," Ostrog or fort, which is merely a and are held in no particular disfavour large barrack divided into numerous by the natives, with whose families small chambers, and surrounded by a they intermarry. By a remarkable fence of palisades, where the convicts enactment of the Russian law, serfs, are lodged upon the journey. From when transported to Siberia, become various passages scattered through in all respects as free as the peasants Mr Erman's book, it appears that in western Europe. Mr Erman rethese Siberian exiles are by no means fers to this with strong approval, and so badly treated as has frequently attributes to it the happiest results. been stated and believed. In most “I have often," he says, “heard intelinstances the punishment derives its ligent and reflecting Russians mention, severity less from any painful toil or as an almost inexplicable paradox, cruel discipline imposed upon them, that the peasants condemned to bethan from the rigidity of the climate, come settlers, all, without exception, the separation from friends, and the and in a very short time, change their mortal ennui those accustomed to habits and lead an exemplary life; civilisation and society cannot but yet it is certain that the sense of the experience, whilst leading the mono- benefit conferred on them by the gift tonous life of a peasant or Cossack in of personal freedom is the sole cause regions as dreary as any the globe's of this conversion. Banishment subsurface affords. The first caravan of servient to colonisation, instead of prisoners encountered by Mr Erman, close imprisonment, is, indeed, an at about a hundred versts beyond excellent feature in the Russian code; Nijni, were well clothed and cared and though the substitution of forced for, and seemed neither dissatisfied labour in mines for the punishment of with their past journey, nor over death may be traced back to Grecian whelmed with care about the future. example, yet the improving of the * With every train of them are seve- offender's condition by bestowing on ral waggons, drawn by post-horses, to him personal freedom, is an original carry the women and the old and as well as an admirable addition of a infirm men; the rest follow in pairs, Russian legislator.” It is of course in a long train, after the waggons, by the higher class of exiles that the escorted by a militia established in banishment is most severely felt; but the villages. It is but rarely that these live in the towns, that the sucone sees special offenders with fetters cour received from government may upon their legs during the march." reach them the more easily, and subThe majority of tales circulated by mit, for the most part, with great romancing travellers, with reference equanimity to the startling change to Siberian exile, have little founda- from the luxury of Moscow or St tion save in the imagination of the Petersburg, to the dulness and simnarrators. Amongst these fictions is plicity of Tobolsk, and even of worse to be reckoned the statement that places. Some of them have to do certain classes of the banished are penance in church for a certain time compelled to pass their lives in hunt- after their arrival, and a portion of ing the sable, and other animals. The these continue the practice when it is great majority of the delinquents are no longer compulsory. At Beresov, condemned only to settle in Siberia; a town in western Siberia, which Mr and when hard labour in the Uralian Erman passed through on an excurmines, and in certain manufactories, sion northwards from Tobolsk, the is superadded, it is generally for a oral chronicles of the inhabitants

furnish curious details of the nume- katerinburg, the northern limit of rous illustrious exiles who have there their residence, gives curious partiended their days. Menchikoff, the culars. They are the only aboriginal well-known favourite of Peter I., was Siberian tribe whose mode of life one of these. “After his political regularly alternates from the nomadic extinction, he prepared himself, by to the fixed. Their winters are passed devout penitence, for his natural de- in permanent villages of wooden huts, cease. He worked with his own erected usually upon the skirt of a hands in erecting the little wooden forest. But when spring approaches, church, now fallen to decay, which they collect their flocks and herds, stands thirty or forty feet above the strap hair tent-cloths upon their bank of the Sosva, at the southern saddles, and are off to the plains. extremity of the town : he then They appear to live upon horseback, served in it as bell-ringer, and was and are indolent, indocile, and useless finally buried by the grateful inhabi- out of the saddle. The only thing the tants of Beresov, immediately before men do, is to drive home the mares at the door of the building." It was milking-time; all other domestic toil here, at Beresov, that Mr Erman fell is left to the women. And although in with a number of unlucky conspi- grass abounds in the summer pastures, rators, who had lost fortune, rank, hay is unknown amongst them. The and home, by their association in a cattle sustain life in winter as best recent abortive revolutionary attempt. they may, on stunted or decayed herAmongst them were a M. Gorski, at bage, sought under the snow and one time a count and general of ca- gathered on the dungbills. Fermented valry, and the ex-chieftains Focht mare's milk is the favourite drink of and Chernilov. They usually wore the Bashkirs, who live chiefly upon the costume of the country, but upon mutton and fish, and upon the fruit holidays they donned European coats, of the bird-cherry (Prunus padus) in order to display the vestiges of the kneaded into a sort of cake. In the orders which had once been sewed upon chase they make use of hawks, which them. A curious instance of vanity, they are particularly skilful in traintraceable, perhaps, to a desire to dis. ing. The smaller species of these tinguish themselves from persons birds are used to take hares, whilst condemned to the same punishment the greater will strike foxes, and even for crimes of a more disgraceful wolves. The roving careless life of the nature.

Bashkirs possesses a peculiar charm, In the streets of Yekaterinburg, the admitted even by the civilised Rusfirst town of importance after crossing sians; and it is with no good will that, the Asian boundary, parties ofexiles are on the return of winter, the tribes rea frequent spectacle; the number pass- enter their settled habitations. “They ing through in a year being estimated approach them with reluctance, and beat five thousand, or about two-fifths of lieve that Shaitan, or the evil spirit, the annual export of convicts to has taken up his abode in the huts Siberia, as stated by Mr Stepanov, that oppress them with such a sense whose statement, however, Mr Erman of restraint. The men accordingly seems disposed to consider exagger- remain at some distance from the ated. The detachments are usually settlement, and send the women forguarded by Kosaks of the Ural, and ward, armed with staves, with which by a company of Bashkir militia. they strike the door of every hut, These Uralian Kosaks are well uni- uttering loud imprecations; and it is formed, armed, and mounted, and not till they have made the rounds enjoy the same privileges as the with their noisy exorcisms, that the Kosaks of the Don. They are allowed men ride forward at full speed and an immunity from every impost, but with terrific shouts, to banish the are bound to devote themselves to dreaded demon from his lurkingthe public service. Touching the place." The chief weapon of these Bashkirs, another irregular and half. Bedouins of the north is the same savage militia, serving to swell the which so forcibly excited Captain ranks of Russia's enormous army, Mr Dalgetty's risibility upon his visit to Erman, who made some stay at Ye- the Children of the Mist. But al


« AnteriorContinuar »