« AnteriorContinuar »
St. Petersburg in Summer is com- the fogs and storms of autumn till winparatively dull and deserted, although ter comes, when the Summer Islands it is the season of its foreign trade, and are deserted, the flowers gone, and the when most travellers visit it. But the cottages, literally, boarded up; preimperial family are at one of the im- senting, indeed, a scene of wintry desoperial villas-usually Peterhoff or lation. Then St. Petersburg itself beTzarskoe-selo, the Tzar's village- comes all bustle and activity. The with its celebrated palace, parks, and ice-hills are in motion, and the Neva grounds, and its halls of amber and ornamented with its evergreens. You lapis-lazuli. The nobility have gen- see all the costumes of Europe and erally gone to their estates in the inte- Asia—the Laponian and Siberian hunrior, except those connected with the ter of the North-the Kossack, Georgovernment at St. Petersburg. Sum- gian, Circassian, Calmuck, and Tartar mer is, however, not without its enjoye of the South. The markets are supments even in the latitude of sixiv. plied with fish, flesh, and fowl, frozen The nobility remaining resort to their as hard as marble, from Archangel and retreats in the Summer Islands, where Astracan-from every province of the the people of St. Petersburg, fashionempire; the mighty Autocrat of all able and of all classes, spend most of the Russias is seen flying about in his their long midsummer evenings. Here little one-horse sleigh, without an al. we find the neat and unpretending tendant but his coachman-driving wooden cottages of the nobility; gar- with great rapidity, and occasionally dens filled with flowers of every clime; tumbled out into a snow-bank by the and boatmen in their caiques, on the “fortune of war" as unceremoniously branches of the Neva, chaunting their as the humblest of his subjects; the mariners' hymns,- indeed we can al- solemn ceremony of the blessing of the most fancy ourselves suddenly trans- waters of the Neva is performed, after ported to some Neapolitan or Sicilian which some at least believe them 10 scene. It is delightful to wander in be a sovereign remedy for all diseases; the long summer evenings through the and last come the popular amusements parks and grounds of Imperial Yelagin of the carnival. and the other islands; passing from The Winter Palace has an approisland to island, over light and airy priate name; for in that season it blazes bridges, through gardens of flowers with oriental splendor--with its crysand groves of fir, larch, cedar, beech, als and gold, its rubies and diamonds, and weeping birch; watching the wan- fountains and baths (the latter copied ing splendor of a porthern sky-the from the Alhambra) its winter garblended hues of red, orange, and violet den, salle-blanche, Hall of St. George gradually fading away till midnight- and its banquet room--resembling, on when you behold, in the same land. grand occasions, an orange grove laden scape, ihe pale twilight welcoming, as with fruit. In these halls assemble it expires, the silver gleam of the the court of Russia—the most splendid morning dawn-a sublime emblem of in Europe. Its gorgeous nobility apimmortality.
pear all glittering with jewellery and The Winter in St. Petersburg is a shining with embroidery, and amidst very different affair. We pass through all this splendor the monarch enters in
the gulf would then be driven landward, and those of the Neva seaward, whilst in this battle of the Titans, the marvellous city, with all its palaces and fortresses, princes and beggars, would be swallowed in the flood like Pharaoh in the Red Sca. Scarce may we speak thus lightly of the future, for, in truth, the danger lies so near that many a Petersburg heart quails at the thought. Their only hope lies in the improbability of these three enemies, west wind, high water, and ice-passage, combining against them at one and the same time. Fortunately for them there are sixtyfour winds in the compass. Had the old Finnish inhabitants of the Neva Islands made their observations and bequeathed them to their successors, the average chances would have warned them how often in a thousand years such a combination must occur. In short, we shall not be astonished to hear any day that Petersburg, which, like a brilliant meteor, rose from the Finnish marshes, had just as suddenly been extinguished in the same. God protect it!"
a simple but graceful military costume. horses, and driven by postillions, gen-
tion, and fit only for the brutal bondage Moscow. The road from St. Peters, in which we are told they are still held. burg to Moscow presents little to inter- These impressions arise from travels est the traveller. The country is gen- written a century ago, copied by sucerally, like most of northern Russia, ceeding travellers, even to the present flat and barren, until you reach the hills time; from the monthly fabrications of Valdai ; and towards Moscow, it of English and French journalists, who becomes undulating; but is still unin- find it a profitable business to abuse teresting to an eye accustomed to our Russia and the Russians; and from luxuriant and varied scenery. You pass hasty opinions formed by discontented over an admirable turnpike of about travellers, who fly, as fast as they can, 500 miles in length, drawn by miser- through a country where they find few able looking but hardy and quick good roads or public conveyances, soft
beds, or comfortable inns. The Ameri- ing value of the currency; the vast excan traveller, as he passes through tent of her dominions; the imperfect their villages and towns, and sees the returns from the provinces, and the vaRussian peasants clothed in sheep-skins riety of tribes and nations composing and sleeping in groups upon the pave. that empire. Most travellers take it ments, is strongly reminded of the sa- for granted that all these peasants are vages of our wilderness, and imagines not only in a state of deplorable ignothem equally benighted. But those rance but of abject slayery. This is not who will take the trouble to inform So. About one third, as is estimated, pay themselves will learn that the Russian an annual hire to their masters or to Sclavonians, though held in vassalage the crown, and are employed as merfor centuries, are naturally distinguish- chants, tradesmen, mechanics, archied for genius, enterprise, courage, devo- tects, nay, in every branch of industry, tion to their country, an unwavering art and science; some of them are fidelity to their vows, and a devout wealthy, and some distinguished for reverence for their church. There their skill and talents. Such is the condiare innumerable instances of the inven- tion of this portion of the serfs. It is tions and mechanical works of serfs supposed that about another third are who could neither read nor write. At on the crown lands. These pay an the present time the instructed serfs annual quit-rent to the crown, and enare employed in every branch of trade joy the produce of their own labor. and industry--in every art and science. They are virtually mere tenants of the This was in some measure the case crown, and are in as good a condition as even in the last century. We are told any peasantry in Europe. The remainby the Count de Ségur, who was the ing third are on the lands of the nobiliMinister of France in the time of Catha. ty. Even these would be quite as well rine II., that on her return from her cele: off as most of the peasantry in neighbrated expedition to the Criinea, Count boring nations, if the laws for their prode Cheremetieft gave a splendid enter- tection were executed. According to tainment at his beautiful villa near these they cannot be sold without the Moscow, on which occasion there was land; their punishment is regulated ; an opera and ballet. He says that the they are required to labor only three architect who constructed the hall for days for their master and three for themthe opera, the painter who ornament- selves, on land which the master must ed it, the poet and the musicians, the set apart for their use. But these laws authors of the opera, the performers are evaded or violated ; and, on badly in it and in the ballet, and the musi- managed estates particularly, the concians of the orchestra, were all serfs dition of the serf is wretched indeed. of the Count de Cheremetieff. The pea- It may well be imagined what must be sants are also remarkable for their su- the condition of this portion of the peasperstitious courage. On more occasions antry of Russia in times of famine, than one have the Russian troops been when a single proprietor, perhaps withslaughtered by an overpowering force, out any property but his lands and serfs, refusing to obey the order to retreat, in and without credit, is called upon sudconsequence of some vow that they denly to supply food for the ten, twenwould not turn their backs upon the ty, thirty, forty, nay up to 150,000—for enemy. Their conduct in abandoning that is the estimated number belongtheir homes and evacuating Moscow in ing to the estates of the Count de 1812-following their priests with the Cheremetieff. The serfs of some of the sacred symbols of their religion, chauntnobility are no doubt cruelly treated ; ing hymns of lamentation, and invoke and when the crops fail, the peasants, ing the aid of heaven,-as the scene is on improvidently managed estates, described by the French historian of wander about begging for food, and in ihat disastrous campaign-was char- their desperation sometimes commit acteristic of the self-sacrificing devotion horrid atrocities. But a large majori. of the Russianş to their country. ty of the serfs of Russia suffer less than
The number of serfs is estimated at most of the peasantry and laborers of about forty-five millions. Little reliance, Europe. however, can be placed on Russian The Emperor Nicholas.-It is still statistics, whether relating to finance more dangerous to say anything in favor or population, owing to the fluctuat- of, or even to do common justice to the Emperor of Russia, whose character mediately took the oath of allegiance and fame seem to be under the special to his brother, Constantine, required and charitable guardianship of British the army and all to do the same, and reviewers. If we believe these, and despatched a courier to his brother, who some French and German journals, the was then at Warsaw, announcing this Emperor has not even the merit of By- intelligence. The Council of the Emron's Corsair--not “one virtue" amidst pire disclosed the renunciation cf Con"a thousand crimes." Under a mili- stantine; but Nicholas persisted in his tary despotism, where absolute power allegiance. Two days after, the Grand not only exists in the head, but, of ne. Duke Michael arrived from Warsaw, cessity, is delegated to fourteen Govern- with a second renunciation of Constanors General, or Viceroys, and more tine in favor of Nicholas; but the latter than a hundred civil and military Pro- refused to accept it, and all the decrees vincial Governors, scattered over a vast were still issued in the name of the empire, and far removed from the former. At length, seventeen days affountain of authority, a thousand cruel terwards he received an answer by his and atrocious wrongs must be expect- own courier, with Constantine's final ed. For while there are many wise abdication of the crown. Not until and just men among these Viceroys and then did the Emperor consider the act Governors, (like Count de Woronzoff,) of his brother in conformity to the funin so large a number there must una- damental law regulating the succesvoidably be many tyrants; for all sion, as the voluntary act of an acwhose acts the Emperor is held respon- knowledged sovereign. But then ocsible, whether he has any knowledge curred the stormy scenes following his of them or not. Whatever British re- coronation, when a conspiracy, which viewers may say, the Emperor Nicho had been maturing for some time prelas is an extraordinary man and admira- vious against Alexander, burst upon bly fitted for his station, as the chief his head. The conspirators, availing in a military despotism. He is superior themselves of the fidelity of the Rusto his brother and predecessor, Alex. sians to their oath, took the side of ander, in character and mind, and espe- Constantine, to whom the army had cially in those stern qualities so neces. sworn allegiance, notwithstanding his sary to sustain a crown so often under- voluntary abdication. The Emperor mined by treason. His personal ap- Nicholas displayed extraordinary pearance and deportment are remark- promptitude and courage in advancing able, and on all occasions he is distin- to the revolting regiments and offering guished for grace and propriety, when his life, if they desired it ; and equal ther in the martial pomp of a parade, forbearance in not permitting a cannon on grave occasions of state, or amidst to be fired, until Milarodovitch, a disthe solemn ceremonials of the Russian tinguished officer in the campaign of Greek religion. In his character he 1812, was shot down by his side. The unites those extremes, so frequently events of that day have had, no doubt, found in men accustomed to military a strong influence on the character and command or absolute power, of gentle- reign of the present Emperor; and have ness and fiery impetuosity. The slightgiven a higher tone of severity to his est neglect or violation of military re- conduct, as a military commander, and gulation instantly rouses his passions, as the chief of the secret police of his and the reprimand follows quickly, empire. whether the offender be his brother Many striking anecdotes are told of the Grand Duke, a major-general, or a the Emperor's conduct during and after subaltern. His conduct before and this revolt ; of his fearless exposure after his coronation, exhibited strong of his person, and of his anxious solicitraits of character. Prior to the death tude to conciliate a favorite regiment of Alexander, at Taganrok, Constan- by personal appeals, to spare the effutine had renounced his right to the sion of blood. One of the conspirators, succession, and Alexander had sanc- who had repeatedly attempted to fire tioned the act. These documents were at him, refused to make any confession sealed up and deposited with the except to the Emperor himself, and Council of the Empire. When intelli- alone. It is said he immediately orgence was received at St. Petersburg dered him to be brought to him. What of the Emperor's death, Nicholas im- was the nature of their conference was never known; but it was understood published all the ukases, regulations, to have had some effect on the fate of diplomas and treaties since 1649, and the prisoner. One of the chief conspir- declared them to be in force since the ators, Troubetskoi, an officer of high 1st of January, 1835. Although these rank and one of the nobility, who had form an incongruous mass, they are not acted, it is said, very bravely, when useful for purposes of reference and rethe Emperor found it necessary to fire form, and the measure was an imporupon the insurgents, was sentenced to tant step in the progress of law and death.* He petitioned the Emperor civilisation in Russia. By his ukase to change his punishment for exile 10 of February, 1831, the Emperor orderSiberia. He granted his petition, noted the establishment of 4000 primary as an act of grace, but as a heavier pun- schools on the crown lands, on which ishment, to live a dishonorable life, there are some fourteen millions of than to undergo the sentence of death. serfs. Another ukase of the 1st of JanOthers besides Troubetskoi will pro- uary, 1830, decreed ibat the crown bably differ with the Emperor in this lands should be farmed out, and that opinion, particularly after seeing in the of the 2d of November, 1832, ordered Museum of the Mines, landscapes of the execution of this important meathe beautiful scenery in Siberia. In- sure, on leases of 24 to 99 years, which deed, looking at the barren and cheer- must eventually, to a considerable exless aspect of the country in Northern tent, emancipate the serfs of the crown. Russia in Europe, generally, and espe-. In the present year, the Emperor has cially about St. Petersburg, rather than decided on the construction of a railspend one's life in that region, we road of 500 miles, from St. Petersburg should be strongly tempted to petition to Moscow, and has employed Major the Emperor for the privilege of such Whistler, one of our most distinguished an exile; or, if that was rejected, to engineers, to superintend the work. commit some crime which would These are a few of many measures transfer us from the barren and desc- adopted during the present reign. It late plains around St. Petersburg, to is but sheer justice to the Emperor the grand and more refreshing scenery Nicholas to say, that he has labored of the Oural Mountains.
zealously, and has done more than any Many of the measures of this mon- of his predecessors, to enlighten and arch are worthy of admiration. The improve the condition of the peasantry literature of the country has been much of Russia. These humane, wise, and advanced during his reign. Notwith just measures are, however, looked standing the censorship of the press, upon with jealousy and apprehension, there is a large and constant increase by a portion of the ancient nobility, who of printing establishments and journals, believe that every measure tending to and more than a thousand volumes are enlighten the serf undermines the printed annually. This is almost en- foundation of their property and authortirely the work of the present century ity. The Emperor perfectly compre. and chiefly of his reign. He has had hends his position. He knows he is
* It is well known that the practice of Capital Punishment has been abolished in Russia for about a century, as forming any part of the ordinary penal justice of the country--exile to Siberia being substituted for it with most satisfactory efficiency and success. The occasion here referred to, after the suppression of this insurrection, was an isolated exception, the execution of a number of the conspirators being rather a political measure, than an ordinary criminal sentence, and even to this it is said that the consent of the Emperor was not obtained without great reluctance and hesitation. One somewhat similar act took place during the reign of the great Catharine, in the case of Pougatcheff, the leader of a large predatory band or army, which had ravaged whole provinces, and for a considerable time defied and resisted all the forces sent for their suppression. Such exceptions in no respect militate against the settled regularity of the wise and humane principle of the penal law of Russia here referred to. The words of Catharine to the Count de Ségur convey a keen rebuke to the more “ civilized ” nations which have as yet been so slow in following so noble an example:-“We must punish crime without imitating it; the punishment of death is rarely more than a useless barbarity."