Krauskopf Entering Russia

Entering Russia.
It was a bright, cool morning in July, as we steamed up the Gulf of Finland
towards Cronstadt. A number of Russian officers had come on board the vessel at the
last stopping-place, and it was evident that their presence was in the line of duty. Before
reaching Cronstadt all passports had to be given up, nominally to the Captain of the
vessel. No one can enter Russia without a passport issued by his own government, and
properly vised by the Russian consulate. This document is required upon entering each
town, and must be stamped afresh with every change of residence; even a change of
rooms in the hotel requires a fresh vise upon the passport. To enter any public building,
palace, or museum, it is usually needful to have the passport stamped by the proper
authority; and a traveler in Russia without this document would be as poorly off as a man
who wished to cash a check at a bank where he was not identified. When the journey
through Russia is ended written permission must be obtained to leave the country, and at
the last station, this permission, duly sealed, stamped, and paid for, is detached from the
passport and retained by the authorities. (These manifold formalities are greatly
increased where natives are concerned. The servant who desires to seek employment in a
neighboring town must secure a passport, at a cost of at least six rubles, and this
document must be renewed every six months. If a native desires to emigrate, it is almost
impossible for him to do so, on account of the hindrances and expenses to which the
government subjects him, except he be a Jew, then the Government even helps him, only
to be rid of him.)
The traveller who is accustomed to accept the formalities of different nations as a
matter of course, is not annoyed by the passport regulations of Russia; but he has the
feeling while there, that the government knows, “His down-sitting and his up-rising, and
is acquainted with all his ways”, such as he has in no other country in Europe. Other
nations have police arrangements and supervision, but they are not obtruded on the view.
Meanwhile, having given up our passports, we are rapidly approaching the
famous fortifications of Cronstadt. The town was founded by Peter the Great, who took
the Island of Kotlin from the Swedes in 1703, and began the great naval station, which is
one of the largest and strongest in the world. As we draw near, the forts begin to show
their formidable proportions and armament. Six monster constructions of granite, with
extensive earthworks, armed with heavy guns, which bristle in every direction, defend the
navigable passages. The shot from these Forts would cross each other at every
conceivable angle, and render the destruction of the fastest and most completely clad
warship inevitable.
Cronstadt is really the port as well as the fort of St. Petersburg; for although there
is a canal to the capital, almost all vessels bound for St. Petersburg touch here, and those
whose draught of water is too great to proceed up the Neva, unload and transfer their
cargo to lighters. (The port is ice-bound nearly six months in every year, but several
thousand merchants vessels enter and clear during the other half-year, and there is a
steam communication with all the Baltic ports, and also with England and France.)
The activity in all the ship-yards was remarkable; the Russian workmen, clad in
red, seemed to swarm everywhere, and the clang of beaten iron and the blows of the shipcarpenter’s
hammer filled the air. The city lies so low, that together with the whole
region, it is liable to inundation when the wind blows long and strong from the gulf of
From Cronstadt the golden dome of St. Isaac’s church can be seen glistening in
the sunlight and dominating the heavy blocks of buildings which form the city of St.
Petersburg. As the traveler sails up the Neva, other domes and glittering points come into
view; the palace of Peterhoff is dimly seen through the trees, and the manufactories and
ware-houses of a great city line the banks. Everywhere, on land and water, throngs of
men were busily at work, and the hum of industry filled the air
Soon the steamer was fastened to the wharf; the trunks had been yielded to the
investigation of the custom-house officials, passports were examined and returned, and
we were rattling over execrable pavements in dreschies, to the Hotel de Europe. It was a
long and bright Summer day, the breeze was cool, on every hand were novel sights, the
music of the bells was in the air, and our minds were full of memories and stories of Peter
the Great and Catherine the Second, as we stepped upon the pavement of St. Petersburg.
The Drosky and its Driver.
Instead of Washington, Petersburg should be called the City of Magnificient
Distances. It is a ride of three quarters of an hour from the Railway Station to the hotels
in the center of the town, and it is so far to almost every place the stranger wants to visit,
that he has neither the time nor the strength for walking. But he had the drosky, a curious
vehicle that is found nowhere else, and a few street cars that take him from end to end of
the city. (Only the peasants use the street cars, however; and we were warned against
them because of the vermin. The fares are very cheap, as cheap as the ferries in New
York. One can ride from one end of the city to the other for ten Copeks, and the usual
fare is five-about two cents. But the droskies are quite as cheap when comfort is taken
into consideration. The usual drosky fare for a course of three miles and less, as fixed by
law, is twenty copeks, (and a copek is one hundredth part of a ruble, which at par is equal
to sixty cents of the United States money. At the present depreciated condition of the
Russian currency a ruble is worth forty-five or forty-six cents in gold, according as you
are buying or selling, so that twenty copeks is about nine cents. By the hour the drosky
fare is one ruble, with a tip-or “tea-money,” as they call it in Russia, for the driver. For
the time the vehicle is unemployed, while visiting or shopping or sight-seeing or at the
theatre, there is a deduction of half a ruble an hour. In no country in the world are there
such cheap, and rapid facilities for city transportation as in Petersburg, and nowhere can
one find such splendid horses.
The drosky would be very useful and popular in all our cities particularly if it
could be drawn by Russian horses. There is as much fascination in riding in a drosky as
in a Gondola in Venice, and it is the first thing the traveler wants to do when he arrives in
Petersburg. He will send his bags by the omnibus and go to the hotel in a drosky. It is a
low vehicle the floor being scarcely more than a feet from the ground, as four wheels, not
much larger than those of a wheelbarrow, a sort of a miniature Victoria. The ishveshthik,
or driver, sits on a high perch, above the heads of the passengers, who have a low narrow
backless seat over the hind wheels. It is not uncomfortable but the sensation at first is
alarming, particularly when you are whizzing around a corner, for the drivers always go
like mad, and you wish there was something to hold on to. But you can only fasten your
hands on the seats with a good grip, and cling to your fellow passenger if you have one.
I should remark by the way of parenthesis, that when a gentlemen is riding with a
lady in Russia, in the daytime as well as after dark in the principal thoroughfares as well
as in the secluded portions of the parks, he always puts his arm around her waist. It is the
custom of the country, and makes drosky riding popular with young people—as popular
as dancing; and it causes no more remark than the attitude of a waltz in a ballroom.
Every one expects it.
A little experience causes the alarm to wear off, and you become accustomed to
let your body sway with the motions of the vehicle. I inquired if any one was ever
thrown out of a drosky, and was told such a thing never happened; and I think it is true,
for I have seen men riding in them so drunk that I thought they would topple over the
next instant, but they never did.
The horse that draws you, and the driver who holds the reins, are both Russian
institutions, and you won’t find their like elsewhere. There are poor horses in Russia, I
suppose, but very few in Petersburg or the large cities. They are long-legged animals,
with slender bodies and limbs, long silken manes and tails, the latter nearly always
reaching to the ground, small heads, small feet, large, clear, intelligent eyes, and necks
arched like the chargers one sees in pictures of the Bedouins of the desert.
The ishvoshthik is always proud of his stallion and treats him much better than he
does his wife. Nearly all the time he is disengaged he is either petting or rubbing his
horse, and at intervals he brings out a little nose bag from under the seat, to feed him oats
or meal.
Not one in ten of these charioteers has a home, and not one in ten of the splendid
horses knows the inside of a stable. They live in the harness, and in the open air,
Summer and Winter, being always on duty, eating when opportunity offers, and sleeping
in their droskies between drives. Water troughs are erected at intervals, small packages
of hay, oats, and meal are sold at the shops along the wayside, and the ishveshthik gets
his coffee and his meat at the same places, feeding, as he lives, with his horse. Both
horse and master seem never to tire, both are continually on the alert, the drivers are
always cheerful and good natured, and the horses always ready to start off like a
whirlwind as soon as they get the work. Neither seem to care for the cold or rain, and the
one is about as much an animal as the other. The harness of the horse is as light as
leather can be made, none of the straps being more than half an inch in width and most of
them round, not larger than a led pencil. There is no breeching because there are no
grades in Petersburg, the country being perfectly level. There are no blinders on the
bridle, for the horses fear nothing. They will walk up to a locomotive with as much
indifference as a man. He never shies, never gets rattled, never runs away, and is
perfectly obedient to the voice of his master. There are no traces, as the vehicle is drawn
by thills made fast to the heavy collar with a high hoop over the horse’s neck. The collar
is a part of the drosky, not of the harness, for when the horse is taken away from the
vehicle, the collar goes with the latter.
The hoop over the horses neck, which connects the ends of the thills, and looks
like an exaggerated, badly formed horseshoe, is called the “dugs”; and underneath the
apex, is fastened a big bell sometimes two or three bells, which jangle so loudly that they
may be heard a half mile away. The purpose of the bell is to announce the coming of the
horseman, to frighten away the wolves that infest the country roads, and to warn other
travelers upon narrow and dangerous highways against collisions. The droskies in the
cities were formerly decorated with bells but they made such a din that the government
issued an edict to abolish them. Now, when the vehicle is approaching a corner at a high
rate of speed, and it never goes slowly, the driver announces his coming by a shout—a
peculiar, prolonged tone, like the gondoliers use at Venice. In winter, bells are necessary,
for the sledges are noiseless, and the ordinary speed is so great. In the interior the Drosky
frequently assumes a different form under the name of tarantas which is a sort of
overgrown drosky with exceedingly stiff springs and a general condition of discomfort.
The seats are lengthwise and back to back and your face is often in danger of coming in
contact with the earth below. A whip is never used, I did not see one during my entire
stay in Petersburg; but the ishvoshnik keeps up a continual one-sided conversation with
his fleet-footed partner, now encouraging him with tender, caressing epithets; now
stinging him with sarcasm and taunts of scorn; and again hurling at him profane
expletives. The effect of the driver’s voice is peculiar and powerful; and an observant
rider will be interested in studying this odd relationship. Now the stallion-and only
stallions are used- “is precious to the soul” of the ishvoshnik or is his “tender dove;” a
few moments later he is accused of being something entirely different, in terms that
cannot be permitted here; and the horse seems to understand every word.
“Come, pretty pigeon, let go thy legs. Go! go! pass the brute beside thee, my
sweetheart; let not that worthless wretch kick dust in thy eyes. Go swiftly, my beauty,
and thou shalt have more oats than thine eyes have seen for a month. Thou art lazy
today, thou son of my heart; wilt thou freeze in thy tracks here, starveling? Look out for
that stone there, little father; carefully, carefully; this road was not made the Czar. What
doest thou with thine eyes? accursed thing. Thy mother’s colts ought not to run into
holes like that one. Now speed thee, oh kitten, for the passenger has promised me a ruble
if thou makest haste.”
This sort of taunts and phrases are continually flung at the horse, and there is a
good deal of poetry and pathos in the relationship between him and his driver.
When the reins are tight the horse goes; when they are relaxed he stops. The
drivers use a queer sound made by rolling the tongue, a sort of troll-ll-ll-ll-ll-ll, which
means business. When the horse hears that he pulls himself together and goes for all he
is worth. Droskies never never go slowly but in the most reckless fashion, the drivers
jeering and shouting at each other as they pass with good-humored banter, while the
pedestrian takes the best care of himself he can. People seldom cross a street at a walk,
unless it is deserted. They give a look in one direction, then in the other, and gathering
their skirts around them, run for their lives. Vehicles always have the right of way, and it
is a popular tradition that the hospitals are established solely for the treatment of
unfortunates who have been run over.
The costume of the ishvoshnik is novel and peculiar. He generally wears a stiff
hat about half the height of the ordinary “plug”, with a long blue surtout that reaches to
his heels, and covers high top boots. Under that surtout or Kaftan, which is bound around
his waist by a belt, are supposed to be concealed all wordly treasures, among which, from
the dropsical appearance of the subject, one can imagine are several feather beds. His
circumference is enormous, he fills up an ordinary doorway, and when perched upon his
drosky laps over the seat many inches, on all sides. When you attempt to attract the
driver’s attention by poking him in the back with your cane or umbrella, you must use
considerable violence, for the point will sink into his wrappings several inches before it
reaches the sensible part of his frame.
The streets of St. Petersburg are wide and very long, and with few exceptions, far
from clean. The open squares are of immense size the houses and public buildings are
upon the same scale, and yet the impression which is produced upon the mind is not one
of grandeur, but of attempted greatness. There is a saying of Russian poet, “Human
hands built Rome; divine hands created Venice; but he who sees St. Petersburg may say,
‘This town is the work of the devil’”
Peter the Great, however, knew what he was about when he founded this
capital on the worasses of the Neva. He wanted, as Algaroti says, “a window by which
the Russians might look out into civilized Europe.” He knew that his subjects were
barbarians, and that if Russia was to rise in power and hold a place among the nations,
civilization must come in, and it could come in at that time only by way of the Baltic Sea.
He meant to bring the arts of civilized life into Russia, and also to draw the Russian
nobles away from the Asiatic indolence of the interior provinces to an active and bustling
seaport connected with the western world, and he accomplished his purposes. In spite of
the floods which the west winds piles up against the city bulwarks, and which even this
year have obliged the alarm guns to summon the inhabitants of the low wards of the town
to flee for their lives, he laid the foundations of the first fortress in 1703, and began to
rear the town with workmen who carried the dirt for ramparys and fortifications in their
shirts. Thieves, criminals, and noblemen alike were obliged to labor in building the city;
for two thousand of the former who had been sentenced to Siberia were set at work here:
and every noble and merchant was obliged to build a house in the new city. Each large
vessel on the Neva was forced to bring thirty stones, each small one ten, and every
peasant’s cart three, towards the foundations of the town. The wild beasts disputed the
territory with the inhabitants, even after Peter had built his own house and a church to St.
Peter and St. Paul upon the site where the present Emperor now worships; for it is
recorded, that, in 1714, two soldiers on guard in front of the foundry were eaten by
wolves, and not long after a woman was torn to pieces at noon in front of the Prince’s
palaces. But all obstacles yield to an iron will, and today the only wolves in the city of
the Czar are the elegant stuffed ones in the fur stores of the Nevski Prospekt; the most
extensive palaces in the world have been reared upon the marshes of the Neva, nearly a
million of people live on the islands and lowlands which have been reclaimed from the
river and the Gulf, and all the nobility of the country flocks to the court which is held in
the city which Peter determined nearly three hundred years ago should be the capital of a
great and powerful empire. What Peter began Catherine II carried on with the same
largeness of plan and an equally invincible spirit.
The Winter Palace is a huge building, eighty feet in height and four hundred and
fifty feet long, with a breadth of three hundred and fifty feet. It curves around an
immense open space, in the centre of which rises the Alexander column. The largest
monolith of modern times, brought one hundred and forty miles from the red granite
quarries of Finland. It stands upon a pedestal of bronze, and has a bronze capital
surmounted by an angel with a cross, the whole structure being one hundred and fifty feet
high. Upon the pedestal, which is made from Turkish cannon, is this brief inscription
“To Alexander I Grateful Russia.” The splendor of the Winter Palace is not unmixed
with a certain sense of shabbiness, in that its walls are covered with yellow stucco which
is duly lime-washed to prevent the annual ravages of the frost. It will accommodate
several thousand dwellers, and has at times been infested by whole colonies of squatters
who had been surreptitiously introduced by servants. Indeed at one time the firewatchers
on the roof built themselves huts between the chimneys, took their wives and children
there, and even kept poultry and goats, which fed on the grass growing on the roof.
There is today a garden with large trees on the top of one part of the building. The palace
is not now used as a residence, but is opened for balls and receptions, royal concerts,
operas and other ceremonials purposes which are connected with the social arrangements
of the great empire.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is almost severe in its simplicity; but its stupendous
proportions and costly material are impressive. From the founding of the city, this spot
has been chosen for a place of worship, and several churches have been built upon it.
Peter built one of wood, and Catherine the Second another, which was begun in marble
and finished in brick by Paul the First in 1801. This was pulled down to make room for
the magnificent building whose foundation was laid in 1819, and it was consecrated in
1858. An epigram exists, which is said to have sent its author to Siberia. “This church is
the symbol of three reigns—granite, pride, and destruction.” It is dedicated to St. Isaac of
Dalmatia, on whose festival Peter the Great was born. A forest of pipes was sunk fortytwo
feet into the swampy soil at a cost of a million of dollars, to make a foundation yet
the vast edifice is continually sinking, and whole side is now being rebuilt to prevent its
downfall. Twenty million of dollars would not cover the cost of the cathedral, and it is
the treasury, of untold values.
It is a simple Greek cross built of Finland granite, upon a platform about three
hundred and fifty feet square, which is reached on each of the four sides by three flights
of massive steps every one of which is made of a single block of red granite. These steps
lead to the grand bronze entrances, through one hundred and twelve pillars sixty feet high
and seven feet in diameter. They remind one of the columns at Karmak and of the
Roman Pantheon; but while the latter are made of many stones, these are magnificent
round, highly polished monoliths. Each weighs one hundred and twenty eight tons, has a
bronze base, and is crowned with a Corinthian capital of bronze. These pillars support
an enormous frieze upon which are these texts in large bronze letters: on the north, “The
King shall rejoice in thy strength, O Lord”, on the east, “In Thee O Lord, do I put my
trust, let me never be ashamed”; on the west, “To the King of Kings”.
The central Byzantine dome rises three hundred feet above the main building, and
is supported by twenty four Corinthian pillars of polished granite, which, although they
seem small at such an elevation, are yet thirty feet in height, and weigh sixty-four tons.
There are four other domes at the angles of the building, which contain the bells, and all
the domes are plaited with gold. From the central dome rises an elegant lantern, a
miniature repetition of the whole structure, and from this springs the golden cross, which
fitly crowns the imposing temple. As we drew near to Cronstadt from the Finland Gulf,
the first object that greeted our eyes was this glittering symbol, and when we steamed
over the levels towards Moscow: the sunlight of the golden dome and shining cross was
our last momento of the northern metropolis.
If the cathedral is gorgeous without, it is no less glorious within. Words cannot
present to the mind the wealth of splendor which dazzles the eyes of the beholder as he
enters this gorgeous sanctuary. The light is dim, but there are multitudes of gold and
silver lamps burning night and day before sacred pictures and shrines. The longhaired,
beaded priest, in flowing robes, escorts the visitors through the extensive building,
bidding him notice the walls of exquisite mosaic work, the pillars of lapis lazuli and
malachite, each of which is worth a fortune; the sacred pictures framed in silver and gold
inlaid with regal gems; the floor of polished marble in rich and rare varieties, and finally,
the holy of holies, an inner temple wrought of porphyry and jasper and other stones of the
New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse. Within the holy place is a model of the cathedral
made of pure gold, complete in every part, and sacred vessels and ornaments whose value
is beyond computation. In this gorgeous temple services are held for eight hours out of
every twenty four, consisting chiefly of prayers; and the place is never without some
evidence of the pious uses for which it was reared and to which it is dedicated.
The Russian church has its altar in the eastern end and a short flight of steps
leading to the altar, where the priest performs certain parts of the service. Immediately
behind this is the iconastos, or screen, in which are three doors, the central one being
called the “royal”, “holy”, “beautiful”. Within the screen is the holy table beneath a
canopy, from the centre of which a dove is suspended, symbolizing the Holy Ghost, and
on which the cross is always laid with the Gospel and a box containing the sacred
elements for visitations of the sick. Behind the holy table is the bishop’s throne. On the
left is the communion table for the preparation of the Eucharist, and on the right the
sacristy for the holy utensils and vestments.
The iconastos, or screen, of St. Isaac’s is of dazzling gold, and the services which
we attended were of the most imposing and solemn character. In the midst of sonorous
chanting, the royal doors were thrown open and the splendors of the inner sanctuary were
revealed with the majestic figure of Christ on the immense window of stained glass
which forms the chief light of the church. The multitude of worshipers fell prostrate
upon the marble pavement, and even tourists were awed into silence. The garment in
which the bishops officiate is called by the humble name of “sack”, but it is made of the
most costly and showy material. Over this is worn another robe called the “omophorion,”
now of silk, but once made of sheep’s wool, as typical of the lost sheep which Christ the
Good Shepherd bore on his shoulders. The bishop gives the benediction, holding two
candlesticks, one with three branches to represent the Trinity, and another with two, to set
forth the two natures of Christ.
The Greek Church of Russia differs from the Roman Catholic Church, in not
recognizing the primacy of the Pope; in denying that the Holy Ghost proceeds form the
Son; in rejecting purgatory indulgencies, it requires immersion and baptism, and insists
upon the marriage of the secular surgery, but does not permit marriages to the clergy.
This church also forbids images of the Savior or of the Saints, as idolatrous and a
violation of the second commandment, but allows pictures, Mosaics, and all flat
representations as aids to devotion. There are four great feasts. Wednesday and Friday
of every week are fast days, and there are Church Festivals and Saints days and such
numbers as seriously to interfere with labor and business. The people are profoundly
religious; the churches are full; pilgrimages are made to holy places by all classes;
immense sums are given by the rich; in alms and for the adornments and maintenance of
the Churches; and on Sundays and festivals the shops are closed during the hour of
service. Every Russian must take the sacrament annually, having, as a matter of course,
been baptized in infancy. Russia does not permit any Russian subject to apostatize from
the national faith. The Czar is at the head of the Church which is governed by a body of
metropolitans and bishops called the holy synod. This is presided over by a layman, the
minister of public worship, called the procurator general, which office is at present held
by the infamous Pobiedonostziff, the modern torquamada, the instigator of a Jewish and
other religious persecutions. The porch is full of male beggars, who prostrate themselves
before all who pass by, and are considered as all beggars in Russia, to be rather holy
persons. Inside are the far holier female beggars curvetting smirking, and prostrating,
two rows of the strangest figures, like witches, in high peaked hoods. These are nuns,
who are sent out to beg for a certain number of years, a certain sum being fixed, which
they are expected to acquire for the sisterhood and which once obtained, secures their
being provided for in their old age. No seats are permitted in the Russian Churches,
except occasionally for the Emperor and Empress, and, in old churches, especially
monastic churches, for the Abbot or Bishop. The congregation always stand, except on
Wednesday and Friday and Lent, when they kneel at a particular part of the liturgy and
communion, and on a few other occasions. Indeed with a perpetual bowing and
prostrating, seats would be a great inconvenience. Every one prostrates, not at any
particular point in the service but when he feels so disposed, and when you see any look
out for a good open space, you may be sure that another moment he will fall flat on the
pavement. The dirty habits of the Russians make their Church-services a terrible penance
to strangers, and it is desirable to give a wide berth to the peasants, especially to the men
in sheepskin, which are always swarming with vermin. Almost all the men wear beards,
well cared for by the young men but neglected by the old. To outsiders, the greater part
of the Russian Services are monotonous, two choirs of male voices and always
unaccompanied by instrumental music alternatively taking up a sweet and plaintive chant,
in which the words Gospodi, gospodi Pamiluy, “Lord, Lord, have mercy upon us,” soon
become familiar. The is no degree, no variety in the melody of the Russian church; all is
a sweet, harmonious murmur. A creation, last judgment, a recream, could never find
berth in Russian Church music, it is like the monotonous whisper of the brook set to
music. The chief part turns on the words Gospidi “Pomilui” Lord, have mercy, ‘Gospodi
Pomolimsa”, Lord we pray thee, Padai Gospodi, Grant this O,Lord. With these words the
singers continually interrupt the prayers of the priest. The different modulations of the
melodies on these few words form the chief study of the Russian Choristers; during a
many hours service they are only occasionally varied by a psalm or two and a prayer for
the emperor. The service are all in the Slavonian tongue, which, thought the ancient
language of the country differs so greatly from that in present use as to be an unknown
tongue to the greater part of the congregation. However, the congregation is not
supposed to make any responses in the service, which is performed by the priest, a
deacon, a reader, and the choir. The Russian congregations only join in the service by
crossing themselves and bowing when Lord have mercy upon us is repeated, and at the
beginning and end of each prayer. They cross themselves by touching the forehead first,
then on the breast, then on the right shoulder, and then on the left thereby making the
sign of the cross: and with the thumb the first and middle fingers bent together the three
fingers signifying the Trinity. These are called the inclinations or reverences but the
greater inclinations are made by prostrating themselves till their forehead touch the
ground. Of other prominent churches we might mention the Proiczki or Trinity Church,
surmounted by five stars, light blue cupolas, the central one rising two hundred and fifty
feet above the ground. A characteristic exterior ornament of the church is a monument
one hundred feet high consisting of the guns captured in the Turkish war. Verrily a
strange ornament for a house of God, for a sanctuary of peace. The Vladimir Church, on
the Newsky Prospect, near the hotel De Europe where I stopped and near the Antchikoff
Palace, the city residence of the Czar is also one of the imposing edifices of St.
Petersburg. It is of snowy whiteness. It towerins cupolas are covered with gold, making
with the white nether-structure a dazzling picture indeed. The greatest work of
monumental art in Russia, is the famous statue of Peter the Great, which fronts the Neva
opposite St. Isaac’s. It is an equestrian statue representing the emperor reigning in his
horse upon the brink of a precipice. The pedestal forms the precipice and is a mass of
granite weighing 1500 tons and about fifteen feet high. The horse is rearing and is
balanced on his hind legs and an immense tail, which is said to weigh nearly five tons.
The weight of the whole statue is about 16 tons is so nicely adjusted by varying the
thickness of the horse that the centre of gravity is just above the hind feet of the animal.
The emperors face, fronts the Neva, his hand is outstretched, and a serpent, which
represents the difficulties which Peter surmounted, is trodden by the feet of the spirited
animal. The pedestal bears the inscription, “Petramu Permovu”, Catherina, Vtovaya (to
Peter the First and Catherine the Second). The splendid cathedral, the vast buildings of
the Admiralty, from the midst of which rises the tall mast-like spire covered with
glittering gold, and the swift flowing Neva, spanned by grand bridges and covered with
ships and boats, are all seen from this central point. Here in the grandest part of the great
city, which Peter designed and built in spite of natural and physical obstacles which
might have discouraged any human being stands this fitting monument to the greatest of
the Russians. Among the monuments in the Summer garden of the capital there is one to
Kriloff this writer of fables who lived from 1768 to 1844; his writings are scathing
burlesques of the different classes of Russian society, whose weakness and credulity
satirizes most unmercifully. He ridicules the blind worship of rank and exposes the folly
and stupidity of the masses. Among other monuments are those to field marshall
Suvoroff the subjugator of Poland the conqueror of Turkey and of France. The Gostinnci
Dwor Literally the strangers court or Bazar, is a characteristic institution of St.
Petersburg, in fact, of all Russia. Its conception as well as its Wannamakerism, without
however possessing the method and taste of our local pride. The din and stench within it
is almost insufferable and if one is anxious to be robbed wither directly or indirectly, he
can find no better place than in all St. Petersburg than in this Bazar which is the property
of the Government, and almost the neighbor of the Antchikoff Palace. Crowds of
purchasers fill the labyrinth lanes and alleys by which those markets are intersected and
in which above 4000 merchants are at work and one of the best opportunity presents itself
there of viewing national types of every grade. The Chapel in front of it facing the Hotel
De Europe is one of the most frequented in the city, and the crowds that constantly
prostrate themselves before it gives the tourist an excellent conception of the idolatry and
devotion of the Russian. There is yet another structure in St. Petersburg which to me
stood as the greatest monument of all, and that, was the first palace of the might Czars of
Russia, the first residence of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. The palace which he built
in 1703, and from which he superintended the building of his new capital contains only
two rooms and a kitchen, their combined size being about 55 feet by 20 feet in breadth.
The bedroom in which he also dined, has been converted into a chapel, generally
crowded with worshipers, attracted briefly by an Iron of the Savior, which accompanied
Peter in his battles and affected the discomfiture of the Charles the twelfth at Poltava;
among other relics of the sovereign who forcibly hurled Russia into the path of Western
civilization is a boat which he built, and the wooden bench on which he sat at his door.
The sovereign of Russia, who divides the honors with Peter the Great is Catherine the
Second. She was of strong mind and passions, and of indomitable will. Her picture
greets the visitor everywhere, in every variety of costume and position. She is even
represented astride of a magnificent charger, reviewing her army, and no doubt records
the fact. A woman of magnificent presence, noble form, ruddy complexion, a woman
born to love, but also to rule. The barbarian part of her nature made her reckless and
arbitrary; but a powerful intellect and personal charms made her reign remarkable in the
annals of the empire. She gathered at her court learned and famous men from all lands,
she managed the affairs of the nation with keen insight directed its wars with the courage
and skill of a veteran, and its finances with a business capacity of a banker. By inducing
emigrants from other lands to come to Russia, she introduced mechanics and farmers into
the country who taught her roving and barbarous subjects . The arts of civilization and
the processes of useful labor. In her intervals of leisure she indulged a taste for
magnificence by building some of the finest palaces which the world has ever seen, and
filling them with all things rich and rare, and gathering in their gorgeous halls the wise
and witty, musicians of eminence, and celebrities of the age. Here in intellectual delights
strangely mingled with sensual dissipations, the long dark winters of this arctic region
were made to fly away. Among the palaces that she built were the marble palace on the
Court Quay which is not open to the public, being the nominal dwelling of the Grand
Duke Constantine. Why it is called the marble palace, for it is difficult to understand, for
it is built on blocks and granite with iron beams and a copper roof, the cornices and
copper window frames being covered with gold. The Taurida Palace is another erection
of Catherine the Second. It cost its recipient a feather and the imperial giver millions of
rubles. In the revolution which gave the empress her throne, Catherine appeared at the
head of the Guards. Potemkin, a young cavalry officer seeing that she had no feather in
her hat rode up to her and presented his. She made him her favorite, is said to have
secretly married him in 1784, and built this costly palace for him, with an enormous
ballroom that was lighted by twenty thousand wax candles at the magnificent fetes which
this imperial lover gave to the Court and Nobility. A sarcastic writer says, for the marble
is all false the silver is plated copper the pillars and statues are of brick, and the pictures
are copies. Nevertheless, Potemkin reveled there like a Prince and after a brilliant
luxurious and insolent career, came to a miserable end under a tree on the road from
Jassy to Ochakon. The Palace Hermitage was one of Catherines greated creations. Its
name was a Miss-Nomer, except as it was a retreat from the cares of the state. The
hermitage was no solitude but a magnificent palace. The original hermit being the
Empress Catherine the Second; and the nymphs were the princesses and countesses of her
court. Perfect freedom and equality reigned here in accordance with the ukases
suspended in all the apartments of the palace. One of these in contrast to those of
existing sovereigns reads thus: “Sit where you wish and when you please without being
told a thousand times. Here musicians displayed their talents, artists their work, and men
of wit their opinions, and the pictures which we see elsewhere only as allegorical
representation of art and science loving princes, were here every day realized. This vast
palace is now a gallery of art, containing the most famous pictures in the world. A
museum of antiquities from Scythia, Italy, Greece, from the Kirgis Steppes. From Persia
and Assyria; a cabinet of gems and coin; a library of archaeology and art; and an endless
collection of memorials of Peter the Great to whom one long gallery is devoted. Another
of her great palaces is located at Zcarsky or the Royal village located about an hours ride
by rail from St. Petersburg. That palace is 780 feet long, a mass of pillars and caryatides
and statues and vases. The effect is a display of barbarous magnificence which startles
the beholder. The whole front was once covered with gold leaf, but only the domes and
cupolas of the church are guilt. The interior of the palace is oppressive on account of its
vastness of its rooms and the extravagance of its decorations. The grand ballroom is
nearly 150 feet long lined with mirrors and guilted where there is no glass. There is a
lapis-lazuli, so called because its walls are covered with this precious stone. The floor is
of ebony, inlaid with mother-of-pearl wrought into flowers and fruit. The most
wonderful place however, is the amber room the walls of which are paneled with amber
in architectural designs. Frederick the Great presented the amber to Catherine the
Second, and his arms are carved upon the panels together with a cypher of the Empress.
We have been accustomed to see the mouth pieces of pipes, beads, and ornaments made
of small pieces of this precious substance, but here we saw large slabs and blocks carved
into figures and frames. There is a Chinese room of black and gold, arranged after the
fantastic fashion of the celestial empire; a banqueting room whose walls to the height of
nine feet are gold plated. A silver room resplendent with that metal; and a sumptuous
bed-chamber with porcelain walls and pilasters of pure glass. The grounds around the
palace are 18 miles in circumference, and we were told that more than five hundred men
were constantly employed in the gardens and parks. The amounts which these Russian
monarchs have spent and still spend upon such splendid trifles is satirized in a story
which has been oft told. The story runs, that when Catherine had finished decorating
tsarskoeselo and had applied the final layers of gold to the ornaments both inside and
outside, she invited the French ambassador to visit it under her guidance. After admiring
its splendid room and statue and ornament again and again he went out and stood in front
of the palace, looking in every direction, as if seeking for something. What are you
looking for asked Catherine, Imperial majesty, replied the ambassador, I am looking for
the glass case in which this precious jewel is to be placed. These palaces and parks are
the playthings of Czars and the people often pay dearly for them. That contrast between
these wasteful, costly extravagances, and the starving populists of the interior: what
commentary of the heartlessness of human nature; what commentary of the folly of the
United States to send money for the relief of the people of the government whose rulers
rise in such criminal excesses. We went one day by boat to Peterhof, built by Peter the
Great for his Summer Residence in 1720 and to which each sovereign had made some
additions. One can go either by rail or boat. We noticed that the whole line was guided
by soldiers, thought the imperial family were absent. Passengers were scrutinized on
landing from the boat, and throughout the grounds there were Cosack guards with their
dark and handsome faces and elegant uniforms. Hundreds of workmen completing the
preparation for the celebration of the wedding of the Princess Zenia, at which fete a
hundred thousand rubles worth of fireworks were to be displayed at Peterhof. All St.
Petersburg comes down to the summer palace on these occasions, and in view of this
celebration the guards may have been especially increased. The palace is a long twostory
yellow building whose water works are amazing. All of these parks and hot-houses
and flower-beds and lawns and woodland are in perfect order and we drove over smooth
gravel roads which were freshly raked soon as we had passed. Directly in front of the
palace is one of the finest fountains in Russia, called Sampson form the great bronze
giant who is forcing open the jaws of a colossal lion from which flows forth a small river.
A greek temple of red and gray marble with a white marble plinth and pedestal, rises in
the midst of the woods, from a marble basin like a miniature lake into which tall
fountains springing between each of the pillars and many mouths along the base are
splashing and foaming. This is but the beginning of a succession of fairy water scenes.
Jets in the dense woods and water nymphs veiled by the spray of a hundred intersecting
cascades, while at the top, between wooded avenues and pillared fountains rises the
palace. Here within these grounds the late Czar spent most of his time, feeling himself
most secure behind the barricades of stone and iron and artillery. Here within the plainest
of its various palaces he fell victim to that disease which after carrying him in vain to the
Crimea in search for relief brought him safety and rest at last and let us hope also safety
and rest for the whole of Russia’s downtrodden population.