Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

coast from the parallel of 34° N. lat. to Saide in lat. 33.° 25'. They frequently rebel against the Turkish government, and though they now acknowledge the sovereignty of the Grand Seignor, they pay oniy a small tribute and are almost in every respect independent under their own chiefs. Their religion appears to be a mixture of Christianity and Mahometanism. The extent of their territory is estimated at 1.200 square miles, and the population at 160,000, of whom 40,000 are capable of bearing arms.

Kurds.] The Kurds are a barbarous race of mep inhabiting the country called from them Kurdistan, which embraces the eastern pari of Turkey in Asia and the adjacent districts in Persia. They are bold and daring robbers, and are divided into dumerous tribes, under separate chiefs, some of wboni acknowledge the sovereignty of the Grand Seignor, and some are subject to the Persians, while others are wholly independent. They are about 100,000 in number, and live a wandering life, deriving their subsistence principally from their flocks and herds. In respect to religion they are partly Mahometans, and partly Nestorian Christians.

Government. The whole of this country is nominally included within the dominions of the Grand Seigpor, yet there are extensive districts in almost every part of it where the inhabitants re. fuse to acknowledge his authority. The Syrian desert is now completely in lhe possession of the Wahabees, a tribe of Arabs who carry their incursions even to the gates of Damascus; and besides the Druses, the Kurds and some other wild and wandering tribes, there are several pachas in Asia Minor and Syria who are almost entirely independent, and some of them are very powerful.

Islands.] The island of Cyprus. in the Mediterranean near the southern coast of Asia Minor, contains 8,600 square miles and is traversed from E. to W by a high chain of mountains. It was much celebrated in ancient times for its beauty and fertility, and the soil still produces corn, excellent grapes, fine fruits, cotton &c. in the greatest abundance, but under the cruel oppression of the Turks, the island has been reduced from one of the most fertile and beautiful spots in the world almost to a desert, and the popu• lation is estimated at only 60,000.

Rhodes, lying off the S. W. eoast of Asia Minor, contains 450 square miles and 20,000 inhahitants. It was anciently one of the mosi celebrated of the states of Greece, and di-tinguished above all oibers by its wealtb, commerce and naval power. The climate is still delightful and the soil fertile and well watered, but as in Cyprus, the arbitrary exactions of its governors have reduced it to a state of the most wretched poverty. Rhodes, the capital, has two good harbors, separated by a mole and well fortified.

Samns, in the Archipelago, separated by a narrow strait from the continent, was anciently celebrated for its fertility and the excellence of its fruits, and it still produces grapes, wine and raising in abundance for exportation. The population is variously estimated from 12 to 60,000.

[ocr errors]

Scio, lying due west from Smyrna and separated from the coast by a narrow strait, contains 500 square miles and 115,000 inhabi. tants, almost all of whom are Greeks. It is the best cultivated and most flourishing island in the Archipelago. Patmos, celebrated as the spot where St. John wrote the Apocalypse, lies a little S. W. of Samos and contains at present 3,000 inhabitants. Tenedos is a small island 20 miles in circumference near the entrance into the Hellespont.

RUSSIA IN ASIA.

Situation and Extent.] Russia in Asia is bounded N. by the Frozen ocean; E. by the Pacific ocean; S. by the Chinese empire, Independent Tartary, Persia and Turkey; and W. by Europe. The boundary on the side of the Chinese empire is formed principally by the Altay mountains, but in one place it runs on the south side of that chain, leaving several of the head streams of the river Amour within the Russian territory. The boundary on the side of Persia and Turkey was formerly the Caucasian mountains, but within a few years the Russians have conquered several provinces south of that chain, and the line now commences on the Black sea in about lat. 42° N. and proceeding in an E. S. E. direction terminates on the Caspian at the mouth of the Kur near lat. 39° 30' N. Russia, therefore, now embraces the provinces of Georgia, Daghestan and Shirvan, taken from Persia, and Mingrelia and Imiretta, taken from Asiatic Turkey. It extends from 30° 30' to 76° N. lat. and from 37° to 192o É. lon. The area is estimated at nearly 5,000,000 square miles.

Divisions. This part of the Russian empire is divided into six governments, the estimated extent and population of which are given in the following table.

[blocks in formation]

sea.

The governments of Tobolsk and Irkutsk, embracing the whole country east of the Ural mountains, are usually called Siberia. It covers a greater extent of territory than the whole of Europe, while the population hardly exceeds 1,000,000.

Mountains and Lake.] The principal mountains are the Altay chain on the southern boundary, the Ural mountains in the west, and the Caucasian mountains between the Caspian and the Black

The principal lake is lake Baikal in the government of Irkutsk. It is 360 miles long, from 20 to 50 broad, and after receiving the waters of the Selinga and several other rivers which rise in the Chinese territory, discharges itself through the Lower Angara into the river Eoicei or Jenisey.

Rivers.] The three largest rivers are the Oby, the Enicei or Yenisey and the Lena, all of which discharge themselves into the Arctic ocean, after having traversed the whole breadth of Siberia, from south to north. The principal tributary of the Ohy is the Irtish,which joins it near lat. 61° N. after having received the Issiń and the Tobol. The Kovima is a large river, which falls into the Frozen ocean near lon. 163° E.

The other considerable rivers are, 1. The Kuban, which rises on the north side of the Caucasian mountains, and discharges itself through many mouths partly into the sea of Azoph and partly into the Black sea. 2. The Kur, which rises on the south side of the Caucasian mountains, and discharges itself into the Caspian after forming for some distance the boundary between Russia and Persia. 3. The Volga. 4. The Oural or Ural, which rises in the Ural mountains in about 54° N. lat. and falls into the Caspian east of the Volga.

Face of the Country.) The feature which is most strikingly characteristic of this region is the steppes or vast level plains, which cover the principal portion of its surface. In their extent and the dead uniformity of their aspect, they resemble the deserts of Arabia and Africa, but differ entirely as to the nature of the soil which is marshy, covered with long rank grass and aquatic shrubs, and filled with innumerable saline lakes. The steppe of Issim, in the S. W. part of Siberia, extends across the heads of the Tobol, the Issim and the Irtish, along the foot of the Altay mountains. Connected with this, and reaching from the Irtish to the Yenisey, is another vast steppe of a very dreary aspect. It is almost entirely covered with marshes, and tenanted only by a few wretched natives, who reside in houses half sunk in the ground, and employ themselves in hunting Still more dreary is the vast northern steppe, which extends between the Lower Oby and the Lower Yenisey. Its marshy plains consist of mud, almost constantly frozen. The countries from the Yenisey to the Lena and from the Lena to the Koyyma are also considered as steppes although the level is interrupted by some inequalities in the surface. The governments of Astrachan and Orenburg, on the west of the Ural mountains, consist also principally of past plains or steppes, abounding with salt lakes, from which large quantities of salt are manufactured.

be

Climate and Soil.] The northern part of Siberia lies in the frigid zone, the southern frontier is skirted by lofty mountains, while the intermediate district lies sloping towards the north. As might be expected, therefore, the cold is intense ; eternal winter banishes all vegetation from the northern half of the country, except a few dwarfish oaks, and plants of the most hardy character; and the southern half is also a barren and inhospitable region, except a few favored districts, lying at the foot of the mountains An extensive tract around lake Baikal for example, and for some distance to the west, has a luxuriant soil, favorable to the growth of oats, barley and rye, but it is principally devoted to pasturage. The countries on the head waters of the Tobol and of the Issim are very fertile and form the granary of the governments of Tobolsk, Perm and Orenburg. The environs of several of the large towns are also favorable to pasturage, and to the inferior species of grain

Minerals.) Siberia is very rich in minerals. The Ural mountains contain extensive mines of iron and copper with, some of gold, for the working of which considerable establishments have been formed. Katharinenburg, in the government of Perm in European Russia, forms the centre of all the toundries and forges in these mountains. The great scene of mining operations in the Altay chain is the Schlangenberg or Serpent mountain, situated about 60 miles from the Irtish and 100 from the Oby. It may considered as an enormous mineral mass; wherever its covering of slate rock is taken off, all the substances beneath are found to yield gold, silver, copper and plumbago. Zinc, arsenic and sulphur are also abundant. Between 1749 and 1771 it produced 12,318 pounds of gold, and more than 324,000 pounds of silver, It still yields annually 36,000,000 pounds of mineral of every description; and the veins already discovered will supply the same quantity for 20 years. The mines of Nertschink, on the south side of the Altay chain, yield lead mixed with silver.

Animals:] This bleak country, almost deserted by man, is covered with the elk, the martin, the sable, the beaver and the ermine, animals protected from the cold with a covering of rich and beautisul fur, which is eagerly sought after for purposes of comfort and luxury, and hence these frozen regions have become the seat of an extensive for trade. The rein-deer is also found in most parts of Siberia, and supplies its wild inhabitants with food,' milk and clothing, and conveys them with rapidity in sledges over the snow. The most formidable tenant of this part of the world is the bear, and many ingenious methods are used to destroy him. Sometimes they lay a rope in his path, with a heavy block at one end and a noose at the other, contrived in such a way that the bear becomes entangled, and then is either exhausted in dragging so great a weight, or attacking the block with fury, he throws it down some precipice, where it seldom fails to drag bim after it to destruction.

Curiosity.) One of the most remarkable curiosities is the remains of huge animals, none of which are now found alive in Si

beria. The bones of the elephant and rhinoceros occur in vast quantities, not only in the southern regions but in the isles of the Frozen ocean. Several entire carcasses have also been found of the mammoth, that extraordinary animal, no longer found alive in any part of the world, but which surpasses in bulk every other species of land animal.

Chief Towns.] Astrachan, the largest town, is situated on an island in the Volga, 52 miles from its mouth. It is a place of great trade, and has extensive manufactories. Immense quantities of sturgeon and other fish are also caught in the vicinity. The population, consisting of Russians, Armenians, Greeks, Tartars, Persians, Jews, Hindoos, English, French, &c. is variously estimated from 30 to 70,000.

Tiflis, the capital of Georgia, is on the Kur, in lat. 41° 43' N. lon. 15° E. It carries on considerable trade with Persia, and has 18,000 inhabitants, half of whom are Armenians.

Baku, in the province of Shirvan, is on a promontory which juts out into the Caspian, and its harhor is one of the best in that sea. The country around Baku yields large quantities of naphtha, which is collected in wells by the natives and used as a substitute for lamp oil. The earth seems here to be deeply impregnated with inflammable matter, and the city was formerly much resorted to by the Guebres or fire worshippers of Persia, who built various temples of stone, in one of which a blue lambent flame issued from a large hollow cane near the altar, and this the devotees of that sect believed would last till the end of the world.

Orenburg, on the river Ural, 250 miles N. E. of Astracban, is the great throughfare from Siberia to European Russia and a place of considerable trade. The country around is inhabited by numerous Tartar tribes. Population 21,000.

Tobolsk, situated at the junction of the Tobol and the Irtish, is a place of considerable trade. Here is the general magazine for the furs paid by the various tribes of Siberia as a tribute to the Russian government. The population is 16,000.

Irkutsk, situated at the junction of the Irkut and the Angara, in lon. 103° 30' E. lat. 52° 16' N. is a place of great commercial importance, being the residence of many merchants engaged in the trade between Russia and China, which is carried on at Kiachta. It contaios about 20,000 inhabitants.

Kiachta, the centre of all the trade carried on between the Russian and Chinese empires, is situated on the southern frontier of Siberia, 330 miles S. of Irkutsk, and within a stone-cast of the Chinese city of Maimatshin. The great fair is held in December, when merchants flock hither from every part of the Ross an em. pire. They bring cloths, furs, Russia and morocco leather, and receive in exchange nankeens, silk stuffs, tea, rhubarb, &c. The town contains 150 houses.

Okhotsk, the centre of the trade with Kamtschatka an! Russian America, is situated on a long narrow peninsula included between the river Okhota and the sea of Okhotsk. It contains 2,000 inhabitants.

« AnteriorContinuar »