Page images
PDF
EPUB

follow his arrangement, as between the different excursions, there is no necessary connexion.

"The Emperor Alexander," says M. Gamba, "by an Ukase, dated the 8th October, 1821, re-opened to the inhabitants of the Mediterranean, the shortest and the most ancient route for the commerce of Asia.

"This measure, whose vast results we are permitted already to foresee, was adopted in consequence of representations made by General Yermoloff, the commander of the government of Caucasus, upon plans and memoirs that I had submitted to the ministers of his imperial majesty."-Vol. i. p. 1.

This ukase of Alexander, is, indeed, abundantly liberal. It grants to every person, foreigner or Russian, who shall settle, in the course of ten years from 1822, in the government of the Caucasus as a merchant, all the rights belonging to merchants of the first class, without paying, during this term, the taxes imposed on this class; an exemption from personal imposts and personal service; the right of acquiring immoveable property; the right of purchasing from the crown, at moderate prices, the land necessary for their establishments; freedom from all duties, but a small one of five per cent., except on goods which may be carried from this government into the older provinces of Russia; and the promise of a military escort to give security to all merchandise passing between the Euxine and the Caspian seas.

The government of Russia sent instructions, in the spring of 1822, to Admiral Greig, who commanded the naval forces in the Black Sea, to send a vessel of war to Odessa as soon as the Euxine should be navigable, to convey M. Gamba and his attendants to Redoute-kalè on his way to Tifflis, at which place he was to reside as Consul of France. Our traveller accordingly left Petersburgh on the 1st of March, and travelled to Odessa by the route of Moscow, Orel, Taganrog and Kherson. It is impossible to read a description of this country, without being struck with the strong resemblance that the south of Russia bears, in many respects, to the western and north-western districts of the United States. The fertile, naked steppe, the boundless waste, forever arrest the attention. of the travellerevery where are seen rising villages, and as the wandering Tartar has retired or been located in fixed habitations, the commencement of agricultural life. We find also in this fruitful country the same rapid, almost magical creation of towns and cities, which is become so familiar to us, in our own land.— Odessa will exemplify this remark. In 1792, it was but a Tartar village, when Admiral Ribas, on account of the insalubrity of Kherson, proposed that a city should be built at that spot,

and should be made the depot of the trade of the Dnieper and the Dniester, and in a great measure also of the Don. In 1803, Odessa contained four hundred houses, and from seven to eight thousand inhabitants, the revenue of the post-office amounted to 11,000 roubles,* and the commerce of the Black Sea to five millions. At that period, it was placed under the superintendence of the Duke de Richelieu, one of the most distinguished of the French emigrants, and in 1814, when he relinquished his command, the number of houses amounted to 2600, and they had improved in size as well as construction, and the population exceeded 35,000. The revenue of the post-office amounted to 190,000 roubles, and the commerce of the Black Sea to fortyfive millions. In 1816 and '17, this commerce greatly increased, but with the decline in the price of provisions, it has since been much reduced.

When Russia occupied, in 1774, the countries bordering on the Black Sea, and the sea of Azoph, she took possession of a desert; the greatest part of the population had withdrawn into the Turkish provinces. A few Nogais, in the plains, and about 80,000 Tartars, attached to their possessions in the Crimea, remained, suffering their love of property to overcome their religious fanaticism. In 1814, the population of this country, to which the name of New Russia has been given, was very considerable. It was composed of colonies from the interior of Russia, or from foreign countries. The plains were studded with cities and villages, which, excepting those of the Crimea, were of recent origin. In the reign of the Emperor Paul, the farm of brandy, in all New Russia, including two districts since annexed to the government of Poltowa, yielded 220,000 roubles— in 1812, the lease amounted to 2,800,000, and this was considered as below its value. The salt-works of Perecoff had increased from 200,000 to upwards of 2,000,000 of roubles. Every where are seen the symptoms of increasing prosperity, and the results of a well regulated government, which, though stern and despotic in many of its features, is, at least, indulgent to the permanent proprietors of the soil.

The productions of New Russia are, as might be expected, from a new country, so exclusively agricultural, that, in 1816, when the exports of Odessa amounted to 52,716,704 roubles, the value of the grain exported is stated at 49,364,704. Wax, hides, wool, tallow, flax, hemp, and salted and smoked meats, composed much of the remainder.

The paper rouble which is used in these calculations is equal to about 183 cts.

Besides colonies of Germans, Bulgarians, Greeks, Jews, Poles, many individuals of foreign origin, own fine estates near Odessa. M. Rouvier, of Marseilles, possessed 87,000 French acres of land, and 35,000 merinos. M. Reveillod, 50,000 acres of land, and 20,000 merinos-the Prince of Wurtemberg, and many others, are large proprietors. So great has been, in fact, the increase in the cultivation and wealth of this district, that the memorandums of the Duc de Richelieu, given to M. Gamba, attest, that in the disastrous winter of 1812, the numerous meteils (hurricanes attended with snow) which occurred at short intervals, destroyed 102,000 horses, 250,000 horned cattle, and more than a million of sheep, and this loss was so little felt in New Russia, that the price of these animals was not increased. M. Gamba embarked on board a Russian frigate on the 16th of May, and in three days anchored in the Bay of Sebastopol, near the southern promontory of the Crimea, a magnificent harbour, divided into many arms or basins, and the principal station of the Russian fleet in the Euxine. Its position is, in every respect, fortunate; its entrance easy; its anchorage deep and safe; its climate healthful; but it is badly supplied with water, so that vessels are often exposed to inconvenience, even during their short cruises (promenades) around this sea.

The Russian fleet, on the Black Sea, consists of from fifteen to eighteen ships of the line, and a proportional number of frigates. The vessels are, generally, built at Nikolaiev, near the mouth of the Bog, but are repaired and refitted at Sebastopol. Ship-timber is brought down from the immense forests on the Dnieper and Dniester, masts obtained from the former of these rivers; iron and copper from Siberia, descending the Wolga and the Don to Taganrog. About fifteen thousand seamen and workmen are usually retained in the service of the fleet. Merchant vessels are forbidden to enter into the port of Sebastopol. The frigate again sailed on the 6th of June.

"Our time," says M. Gamba, "passed very agreeably, we traversed in its greatest length, with a feeling of delight, this sea, celebrated in the most ancient maritime expeditions; this sea, whose coasts are covered with the ruins of Greek colonies, and which was so long an object of terror to navigators, from its frequent tempests, its want of harbours, and the cruelty of the people who inhabited its shores-it was, until the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, the most frequented route for the commerce of Asia. Closed afterwards, for three centuries, against the Christian flags, partially opened, within forty years, to their vessels-it seems destined to become, anew, the centre of the richest commerce of the world."-Vol i. p. 35.

It was to the re-establishment of this ancient commerce, either along the Tigris and Euphrates, or through Persia to the Persian Gulph, or crossing the Caspian, to pass through Khorasan and Candahar, or by Balk and Cabul, direct to India, that the attention of our traveller was particularly directed. To his mind, for the temperament of a Frenchman is essentially sanguine, the occupation of the Bosphorus, by the Turks, opposed but a small obstacle. From the mouth of the Phasis, the productions of India and China could easily be distributed by the Don and the Wolga into the centre of Russia, and ultimately to St. Petersburgh, dividing the trade of Astrachan-by Odessa and the Dnieper into Poland, and to the Vistula-and by the Danube, which he supposes must soon be an open river, into the heart of Germany. Persia and Bucharia, however, must be more civilized, or better governed, before these magnificent schemes can, to any extent, be realised.

The voyage was generally along shores enriched by many recollections-they met but few vessels, and when they approached, as they once did the Turkish coast, near Heraclea, Sinope, and Trebizond, they saw no traces of navigation, “as if every thing which surrounds the Ottoman Empire was stricken with the silence of death."

"It is scarcely one hundred and fifty years since the celebrated tra veller Chardin, compelled to reside for a month in the port of Theodosia or Caffa, saw, in this short interval, nearly four hundred vessels enter its harbour. But, at that epoch, the Crimea possessed an immense population-its Khans were powerful, and maintamed a great intercourse with Constantinople. Then Circassia, Colchos, Georgia itself, furnished great numbers of slaves.- -In short, the objects of exchange were as numerous as important."-Vol. i. p. 38.

From 1815 to 1819, the navigation of this sea resumed its ancient activity. In 1818, nine hundred vessels entered the port of Odessa, and upwards of four hundred the ports of Theodosia and Taganrog. Since that period, this commerce has again undergone a great change-the grain of Russia has been prohibited in the south of Europe, particularly in France.

"Four years of rich harvests," adds M. Gamba, "have justified the wisdom of this measure; two years of drought or continual rains might have proved its imprudence. But I respect the decision, and shall not discuss it. I shall only confine myself to the remark, that while it injured, for the moment, the proprietors of Podolia and the Ukraine, it determined Russia, by way of reprisal, to augment the duties on our wines, to prohibit some of our manufactures; it has annihilated our navigation on the Black Sea.- -Thus, in the government of a great nation, an isolated measure may injure the whole social organization." Vol. i. p. 39.

Such is the usual history of restrictions-begun in greediness, producing in their progress resentment, retaliation, and national antipathy-resulting in a perverse disposition on all sides to suffer injury, rather than permit another to gain any casual benefit-and terminating in mutual loss, and in the universal retardation of improvement.

"Returning to our voyage, we shall add, that favoured by south-west winds, we approached sufficiently near the coast of Circassia and Abazie to admire the smiling vallies, terminated by mountains covered with forests of the richest vegetation, and these, at a distance, overlooked by the summits of Caucasus, covered with eternal snow.

"Among these summits, Elbourous or Elbrus is distinguished, which, according to recent observations, has been ascertained to be five hundred toises higher than Mount Blanc, and whose summit, divided into two peaks, equal and parallel, has given rise to the belief, among the Armenians, that the ark, in its uncertain march amidst the waters of the deluge, had split this mountain before it arrived at Mount Ararat.

"I could have wished, before we touched at Soukoum-kal“, that it had been possible for us to have entered into the bay of Pitsunda, and to have landed there; but the part of Abazie, in which it is situated, does not acknowledge the Sovereign named by Russia, and as in the times of Strabo, the inhabitants of this coast still live by piracy and pillage. "We passed on to the bay of Soukoum-kalè, where we anchored on the sixth day after we left the Crimea."-Vol. i. p. 40.

At this point, M. Gamba offers such notices of the coast of Circassia as he was able to collect. We will follow him in his rapid survey.

Temrouk and Taman formerly belonged to Circassia, and the latter was its principal commercial city. But when the Kouban or K'huban was made the boundary of Circassia, these two places fell to Russia, and are now occupied by her troops. Near Taman, the Russians have constructed the fortress of Phanagoria in remembrance of an ancient Greek city which existed on the same spot. Fragments of statues, capitals and shafts of columns, marbles bearing ancient inscriptions, intermingled with unwrought stones in the construction of this fortress, bear testimony to the difference of civilization in its successive occupants.

"Nothing presents a stronger contrast than the taste for the fine arts, so remarkable among the Greeks, who, about the age of Pericles, founded a colony on the southern shore of the Straits of Taman, and the barbarism, which scarcely a half century ago distinguished those famous Zaporogian Cossacs, transported under Catharine II. from the Cataracts of the Dnieper to the banks of the Kouban, and now known as the Tchernomorsky Cossacs, or the Cossacs of the Black Sea.

"Their origin is traced back to the year 800, but their first warlike assemblage bears date from 948.

« PreviousContinue »