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Title: Historic Tales, Vol. 8 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality
Author: Morris, Charles, 1833-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Historic Tales, Vol. 8 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality" ***

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[Illustration: THE KREMLIN.]

  Édition d'Élite

  Historical Tales

  The Romance of Reality



  _Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the
  Dramatists," etc._


  Volume VIII




  Copyright, 1898, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
  Copyright, 1904, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
  Copyright, 1908, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.



  THE ANCIENT SCYTHIANS                                      5

  OLEG THE VARANGIAN                                        14

  THE VENGEANCE OF QUEEN OLGA                               21

  VLADIMIR THE GREAT                                        29

  THE LAWGIVER OF RUSSIA                                    41

  THE YOKE OF THE TARTARS                                   49

  THE VICTORY OF THE DON                                    55

  IVAN, THE FIRST OF THE CZARS                              60

  THE FALL OF NOVGOROD THE GREAT                            64

  IVAN THE TERRIBLE                                         74

  THE CONQUEST OF SIBERIA                                   80

  THE MACBETH OF RUSSIA                                     85

  THE ERA OF THE IMPOSTORS                                 101

  THE BOOKS OF ANCESTRY                                    110

  BOYHOOD OF PETER THE GREAT                               114

  CARPENTER PETER OF ZAANDAM                               123

  THE FALL OF THE STRELITZ                                 132


  MAZEPPA, THE COSSACK CHIEF                               149

  A WINDOW OPEN TO EUROPE                                  155

  FROM THE HOVEL TO THE THRONE                             165

  BUFFOONERIES OF THE RUSSIAN COURT                        174

  HOW A WOMAN DETHRONED A MAN                              184

  A STRUGGLE FOR A THRONE                                  195

  THE FLIGHT OF THE KALMUCKS                               202

  A MAGICAL TRANSFORMATION SCENE                           220

  KOSCIUSKO AND THE FALL OF POLAND                         226

  SUWARROW THE UNCONQUERABLE                               231

  THE RETREAT OF NAPOLEON'S GRAND ARMY                     241

  THE DEATH-STRUGGLE OF POLAND                             248

  SCHAMYL, THE HERO OF CIRCASSIA                           258

  THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE                          267

  THE FALL OF SEBASTOPOL                                   276

  AT THE GATES OF CONSTANTINOPLE                           284

  THE NIHILISTS AND THEIR WORK                             293

  THE ADVANCE OF RUSSIA IN ASIA                            300

  THE RAILROAD IN TURKESTAN                                311

  AN ESCAPE FROM THE MINES OF SIBERIA                      319

  THE SEA FIGHT IN THE WATERS OF JAPAN                     329




  THE KREMLIN                                    _Frontispiece._

  CATHEDRAL AT OSTANKINO, NEAR MOSCOW                       40

  GENERAL VIEW OF MOSCOW                                    55

  CHURCH AND TOWER OF IVAN THE GREAT                        78

  KIAKHTA, SIBERIA                                          84

  THE CZAR IS CROWNED                                      109

  ALEXANDER III., CZAR OF RUSSIA                           122

  MOSCOW                                                   136

  PETER THE GREAT                                          142

  ST. PETERSBURG HARBOR, NEVA RIVER                        156

  SLEIGHING IN RUSSIA                                      160

  A RUSSIAN DROSKY                                         189

  THE CITY OF KASAN                                        199

  SCENE ON A RUSSIAN FARM                                  223

  RUSSIAN PEASANTS                                         249

  MOUNT ST. PETER, CRIMEA                                  267

  THE WALLS OF CONSTANTINOPLE                              290

  THE ARREST OF A NIHILIST                                 297

  DOWAGER CZARINA OF RUSSIA                                300

  GROUP OF SIBERIANS                                       320


Far over the eastern half of Europe extends a vast and mighty plain,
spreading thousands of miles to the north and south, to the east and
west, in the north a land of forests, in the south and east a region of
treeless levels. Here stretches the Black Land, whose deep dark soil is
fit for endless harvests; here are the arable steppes, a vast fertile
prairie land, and here again the barren steppes, fit only for wandering
herds and the tents of nomad shepherds. Across this great plain, in all
directions, flow myriads of meandering streams, many of them swelling
into noble rivers, whose waters find their outlet in great seas. Over it
blow the biting winds of the Arctic zone, chaining its waters in fetters
of ice for half the year. On it in summer shine warm suns, in whose
enlivening rays life flows full again.

Such is the land with which we have to deal, Russia, the seeding-place
of nations, the home of restless tribes. Here the vast level of Northern
Asia spreads like a sea over half of Europe, following the lowlands
between the Urals and the Caspian Sea. Over these broad plains the
fierce horsemen of the East long found an easy pathway to the rich and
doomed cities of the West. Russia was playing its part in the grand
drama of the nations in far-off days when such a land was hardly known
to exist.

Have any of my readers ever from a hill-top looked out over a broad,
low-lying meadow-land filled with morning mist, a dense white shroud
under which everything lay hidden, all life and movement lost to view?
In such a scene, as the mist thins under the rays of the rising sun,
vague forms at first dimly appear, magnified and monstrous in their
outlines, the shadows of a buried wonderland. Then, as the mist slowly
lifts, like a great white curtain, living and moving objects appear
below, still of strange outlines and unnatural dimensions. Finally, as
if by the sweep of an enchanter's wand, the mists vanish, the land lies
clear under the solar rays, and we perceive that these seeming monsters
and giants are but the familiar forms which we know so well, those of
houses and trees, men and their herds, actively stirring beneath us,
clearly revealed as the things of every day.

It is thus that the land of Russia appears to us when the mists of
prehistoric time first begin to lift. Half-formed figures appear,
rising, vanishing, showing large through the vapor; stirring,
interwoven, endlessly coming and going; a phantasmagoria which it is
impossible more than half to understand. At that early date the great
Russian plain seems to have been the home of unnumbered tribes of varied
race and origin, made up of men doubtless full of hopes and aspirations
like ourselves, yet whose story we fail to read on the blurred page of
history, and concerning whom we must rest content with knowing a few of
the names.

Yet progressive civilizations had long existed in the countries to the
south, Egypt and Assyria, Greece and Persia. History was actively being
made there, but it had not penetrated the mist-laden North. The Greeks
founded colonies on the northern shores of the Black Sea, but they
troubled themselves little about the seething tribes with whom they came
there into contact. The land they called Scythia, and its people
Scythians, but the latter were scarcely known until about 500 B.C., when
Darius, the great Persian king, crossed the Danube and invaded their
country. He found life there in abundance, and more warlike activity
than he relished, for the fierce nomads drove him and his army in terror
from their soil, and only fortune and a bridge of boats saved them from

It was this event that first gave the people of old Russia a place on
the page of history. Herodotus, the charming old historian and
story-teller, wrote down for us all he could learn about them, though
what he says has probably as much fancy in it as fact.

We are told that these broad levels were formerly inhabited by a people
called the Cimmerians, who were driven out by the Scythians and went--it
is hard to tell whither. A shadow of their name survives in the Crimea,
and some believe that they were the ancestors of the Cymri, the Celts of
the West.

The Scythians, who thus came into history like a cloud of war, made the
god of war their chief deity. The temples which they built to this deity
were of the simplest, being great heaps of fagots, which were added to
every year as they rotted away under the rains. Into the top of the
heap was thrust an ancient iron sword as the emblem of the god. To this
grim symbol more victims were sacrificed than to all the other deities;
not only cattle and horses, but prisoners taken in battle, of whom one
out of every hundred died to honor the god, their blood being caught in
vessels and poured on the sword.

A people with a worship like this must have been savage in grain. To
prove their prowess in war they cut off the heads of the slain and
carried them to the king. Like the Indians of the West, they scalped
their enemies. These scalps, softened by treatment, they used as napkins
at their meals, and even sewed them together to make cloaks. Here was a
refinement in barbarity undreamed of by the Indians.

These were not their only savage customs. They drank the blood of the
first enemy killed by them in battle, and at their high feasts used
drinking-cups made from the skulls of their foes. When a chief died
cruelty was given free vent. The slaves and horses of the dead chief
were slain at his grave, and placed upright like a circle of horsemen
around the royal tomb, being impaled on sharp timbers to keep them in an
upright position.

Tribes with habits like these have no history. There is nothing in their
careers worth the telling, and no one to tell it if there were. Their
origin, manners, and customs may be of interest, but not their
intertribal quarrels.

Herodotus tells us of others besides the Scythians. There were the
Melanchlainai, who dressed only in black; the Neuri, who once a year
changed into wolves; the Agathyrei, who took pleasure in trinkets of
gold; the Sauromati, children of the Amazons, or women warriors; the
Argippei, bald-headed and snub-nosed from their birth; the Issedones,
who feasted on the dead bodies of their parents; the Arimaspians, a
one-eyed race; the Gryphons, guardians of great hoards of gold; the
Hyperboreans, in whose land white feathers (snow-flakes?) fell all the
year round from the skies.

Such is the mixture of fact and fable which Herodotus learned from the
traders and travellers of Greece. We know nothing of these tribes but
the names. Their ancestors may have dwelt for thousands of years on the
Russian plains; their descendants may still make up part of the great
Russian people and retain some of their old-time habits and customs; but
of their doings history takes no account.

The Scythians, who occupied the south of Russia, came into contact with
the Greek trading colonies north of the Black Sea, and gained from them
some little veneer of civilization. They aided the Greeks in their
commerce, took part in their caravans to the north and east, and spent
some portion of the profits of their peaceful labor in objects of art
made for them by Greek artists.

This we know, for some of these objects still exist. Jewels owned by the
ancient Scythians may be seen to-day in Russian museums. Chief in
importance among these relics are two vases of wonderful interest kept
in the museum of the Hermitage, at St. Petersburg. These are the silver
vase of Nicopol and the golden vase of Kertch, both probably as old as
the days of Herodotus. These vases speak with history. On the silver
vase we may see the faces and forms of the ancient Scythians, men with
long hair and beards and large features. They resemble in dress and
aspect the people who now dwell in the same country, and they are shown
in the act of breaking in and bridling their horses, just as their
descendants do to-day. Progress has had no place on these broad plains.
There life stands still.

On the golden vase appear figures who wear pointed caps and dresses
ornamented in the Asiatic fashion, while in their hands are bows of
strange shape. But their features are those of men of Aryan descent, and
in them we seem to see the far-off progenitors of the modern Russians.

Herodotus, in his chatty fashion, tells us various problematical stories
of the Scythians, premising that he does not believe them all himself. A
tradition with them was that they were the youngest of all nations,
being descended from Targitaus, one of the numerous sons of Jove. The
three children of Targitaus for a time ruled the land, but their joint
rule was changed by a prodigy. There fell from the skies four implements
of gold,--a plough, a yoke, a battle-axe, and a drinking-cup. The oldest
brother hastened eagerly to seize this treasure, but it burst into flame
at his approach. The second then made the attempt, but was in his turn
driven back by the scorching flames. But on the approach of the youngest
the flames vanished, the gold grew cool, and he was enabled to take
possession of the heaven-given implements. His elders then withdrew from
the throne, warned by this sign from the gods, and left him sole ruler.
The story proceeds that the royal gold was guarded with the greatest
care, yearly sacrifices being made in its honor. If its guardian fell
asleep in the open air during the sacrifices he was doomed to die within
the year. But as reward for the faithful keeping of his trust he
received as much land as he could ride round on horseback in a day.

The old historian further tells us that the Scythian warriors invaded
the kingdom of Media, which they conquered and held for twenty-eight
years. During this long absence strange events were taking place at
home. They had held many slaves, whom it was their custom to blind, as
they used them only to stir the milk in the great pot in which koumiss,
their favorite beverage, was made.

The wives of the absent warriors, after years of waiting, gave up all
hopes of their return and married the blind slaves; and while the
masters tarried in Media the children of their slaves grew to manhood.

The time at length came when the warriors, filled with home-sickness,
left the subject realm to seek their native plains. As they marched
onward they found themselves stopped by a great dike, dug from the
Tauric Mountains to Lake Mæotis, behind which stood a host of youthful
warriors. They were the children of the slaves, who were determined to
keep the land for themselves. Many battles were fought, but the young
men held their own bravely, and the warriors were in despair.

Then one of them cried to his fellows,--

"What foolish thing are we doing, Scythians? These men are our slaves,
and every one of them that falls is a loss to us; while each of us that
falls reduces our number. Take my advice, lay aside spear and bow, and
let each man take his horsewhip and go boldly up to them. So long as
they see us with arms in our hands they fancy that they are our equals
and fight us bravely. But let them see us with only whips, and they will
remember that they are slaves and flee like dogs from before our faces."

It happened as he said. As the Scythians approached with their whips the
youths were so astounded that they forgot to fight, and ran away in
trembling terror. And so the warriors came home, and the slaves were put
to making koumiss again.

These fabulous stories of the early people of Russia may be followed by
an account of their funeral customs, left for us by an Arabian writer
who visited their land in the ninth century. He tells us that for ten
days after the death of one of their great men his friends bewailed him,
showing the depth of their grief by getting drunk on koumiss over his

Then the men-servants were asked which of them would be buried with his
master. The one that consented was instantly seized and strangled. The
same question was put to the women, one of whom was sure to accept.
There may have been some rare future reward offered for death in such a
cause. The willing victim was bathed, adorned, and treated like a
princess, and did nothing but drink and sing while the obsequies lasted.

On the day fixed for the end of the ceremonies, the dead man was laid in
a boat, with part of his arms and garments. His favorite horse was slain
and laid in the boat, and with it the corpse of the man-servant. Then
the young girl was led up. She took off her jewels, a glass of kvass was
put in her hand, and she sang a farewell song.

"All at once," says the writer, "the old woman who accompanied her, and
whom they called the angel of death, bade her to drink quickly, and to
enter into the cabin of the boat, where lay the dead body of her master.
At these words she changed color, and as she made some difficulty about
entering, the old woman seized her by the hair, dragged her in, and
entered with her. The men immediately began to beat their shields with
clubs to prevent the other girls from hearing the cries of their
companion, which might prevent them one day dying for their master."

The boat was then set on fire, and served as a funeral pile, in which
living and dead alike were consumed.


For ages and ages, none can say how many, the great plain of Russia
existed as a nursery of tribes, some wandering with their herds, some
dwelling in villages and tilling their fields, but all warlike and all
barbarians. And over this plain at intervals swept conquering hordes
from Asia, the terrible Huns, the devastating Avars, and others of
varied names. But as yet the Russia we know did not exist, and its very
name had never been heard.

As time went on, the people in the centre and north of the country
became peaceful and prosperous, since the invaders did not cross their
borders, and a great and wealthy city arose, whose commerce in time
extended on the east as far as Persia and India, on the south to
Constantinople, and on the west far through the Baltic Sea. Though
seated in Russia, still largely a land of barbarous tribes, Novgorod
became one of the powerful cities of the earth, making its strength felt
far and wide, placing the tribes as far as the Ural Mountains under
tribute, and growing so strong and warlike that it became a common
saying among the people, "Who can oppose God and Novgorod the Great?"

But trouble arose for Novgorod. Its chief trade lay through the Baltic
Sea, and here its ships met those terrible Scandinavian pirates who were
then the ocean's lords. Among these bold rovers were the Danes who
descended on England, the Normans who won a new home in France, the
daring voyagers who discovered Iceland and Greenland, and those who
sailed up the Mediterranean as far as Constantinople, conquering
kingdoms as they went.

To some of these Scandinavians the merchants of Novgorod turned for aid
against the others. Bands of them had made their way into Russia and
settled on the eastern shores of the Baltic. To these the Novgorodians
appealed in their trouble, and in the year 862 asked three Varangian
brothers, Rurik, Sinaf, and Truvor, to come to their aid. The warlike
brothers did so, seated themselves on the frontier of the republic of
Novgorod, drove off its foes--and became its foes themselves. The people
of Novgorod, finding their trade at the mercy of their allies, submitted
to their power, and in 864 invited Rurik to become their king. His two
brothers had meantime died.

Thus it was that the Russian empire began, for the Varangians came from
a country called Ross, from which their new realm gained the name of

Rurik took the title of Grand Prince, made his principal followers lords
of the cities of his new realm, and the republic of Novgorod came to an
end in form, though not in spirit. It is interesting to note at this
point that Russia, which began as a republic, has ended as one of the
most absolute of monarchies. The first step in its subjection was taken
when Novgorod invited Rurik the Varangian to be its prince; the other
steps came later, one by one.

For fifteen years Rurik remained lord of Novgorod, and then died and
left his four-year-old son Igor as his heir, with Oleg, his kinsman, as
regent of the realm. It is the story of Oleg, as told by Nestor, the
gossipy old Russian chronicler, that we propose here to tell, but it
seemed useful to precede it by an account of how the Russian empire came
into existence.

Oleg was a man of his period, a barbarian and a soldier born; brave,
crafty, adventurous, faithful to Igor, his ward, cruel and treacherous
to others. Under his rule the Russian dominions rapidly and widely

At an earlier date two Varangians, Askhold and Dir by name, had made
their way far to the south, where they became masters of the city of
Kief. They even dared to attack Constantinople, but were driven back
from that great stronghold of the South.

It by no means pleased Oleg to find this powerful kingdom founded in the
land which he had set out to subdue. He determined that Kief should be
his, and in 882 made his way to its vicinity. But it was easier to reach
than to take. Its rulers were brave, their Varangian followers were
courageous, the city was strong. Oleg, doubting his power to win it by
force of arms, determined to try what could be done by stratagem and

Leaving his army, and taking Igor with him, he floated down the Dnieper
with a few boats, in which a number of armed men were hidden, and at
length landed near the ancient city of Kief, which stood on high ground
near the river. Placing his warriors in ambush, he sent a messenger to
Askhold and Dir, with the statement that a party of Varangian merchants,
whom the prince of Novgorod had sent to Greece, had just landed, and
desired to see them as friends and men of their own race.

Those were simple times, in which even the rulers of cities did not put
on any show of state. On the contrary, the two princes at once left the
city and went alone to meet the false merchants. They had no sooner
arrived than Oleg threw off his mask. His followers sprang from their
ambush, arms in hand.

"You are neither princes nor of princely birth," he cried; "but I am a
prince, and this is the son of Rurik."

And at a sign from his hand Askhold and Dir were laid dead at his feet.

By this act of base treachery Oleg became the master of Kief. No one in
the city ventured to resist the strong army which he quickly brought up,
and the metropolis of the south opened its gates to the man who had
wrought murder under the guise of war. It is not likely, though, that
Oleg sought to justify his act on any grounds. In those barbarous days,
when might made right, murder was too much an every-day matter to be
deeply considered by any one.

Oleg was filled with admiration of the city he had won. "Let Kief be the
mother of all the Russian cities!" he exclaimed. And such it became, for
he made it his capital, and for three centuries it remained the capital
city of the Russian realm.

What he principally admired it for was its nearness to Constantinople,
the capital of the great empire of the East, on which, like the former
lords of Kief, he looked with greedy and envious eyes.

For long centuries past Greece and the other countries of the South had
paid little heed to the dwellers on the Russian plains, of whose
scattered tribes they had no fear. But with the coming of the
Varangians, the conquest of the tribes, and the founding of a
wide-spread empire, a different state of affairs began, and from that
day to this Constantinople has found the people of the steppes its most
dangerous and persistent foes.

Oleg was not long in making the Greek empire feel his heavy hand.
Filling the minds of his followers and subjects with his own thirst for
blood and plunder, he set out with an army of eighty thousand men, in
two thousand barks, passed the cataracts of the Borysthenes, crossed the
Black Sea, murdered the subjects of the empire in hosts, and, as the
chronicles say, sailed overland with all sails set to the port of
Constantinople itself. What he probably did was to have his vessels
taken over a neck of land on wheels or rollers.

Here he threw the imperial city into mortal terror, fixed his shield on
the very gate of Constantinople, and forced the emperor to buy him off
at the price of an enormous ransom. To the treaty made the Varangian
warriors swore by their gods Perune and Voloss, by their rings, and by
their swords,--gold and steel, the things they honored most and most

Then back in triumph they sailed to Kief, rich with booty, and ever
after hailing their leader as the Wise Man, or Magician. Eight years
afterwards Oleg made a treaty of alliance and commerce with
Constantinople, in which Greeks and Russians stood on equal footing.
Russia had made a remarkable stride forward as a nation since Rurik was
invited to Novgorod a quarter-century before.

For thirty-three years Oleg held the throne. His was too strong a hand
to yield its power to his ward. Igor must wait for Oleg's death. He had
found a province; he left an empire. In his hands Russia grew into
greatness, and from Novgorod to Kief and far and wide to the right and
left stretched the lands won by his conquering sword.

He was too great a man to die an ordinary death. According to the
tradition, miracle had to do with his passing away. Nestor, the prince
of Russian chroniclers, tells us the following story:

Oleg had a favorite horse, which he rode alike in battle and in the
hunt, until at length a prediction came from the soothsayers that death
would overtake him through his cherished charger. Warrior as he was, he
had the superstition of the pagan, and to avoid the predicted fate he
sent his horse far away, and for years avoided even speaking of it.

Then, moved by curiosity, he asked what had become of the banished

"It died years ago," was the reply; "only its bones remain."

"So much for your soothsayers," he cried, with a contempt that was not
unmixed with relief. "That, then, is all this prediction is worth! But
where are the bones of my good old horse? I should like to see what
little is left of him."

He was taken to the spot where lay the skeleton of his old favorite, and
gazed with some show of feeling on the bleaching bones of what had once
been his famous war-horse. Then, setting his foot on the skull, he

"So this is the creature that is destined to be my death."

At that moment a deadly serpent that lay coiled up within the skull
darted out and fixed its poisonous fangs in the conqueror's foot. And
thus ignobly he who had slain men by thousands and conquered an empire
came to his death.


The death of Oleg brought Igor his ward, then nearly forty years of age,
to the throne of Rurik his father. And the same old story of bloodshed
and barbarity went on. In those days a king was king in name only. He
was really but the chief of a band of plunderers, who dug wealth from
the world with the sword instead of the spade, threw it away in wild
orgies, and then hounded him into leading them to new wars.

The story of the Northmen is everywhere the same. While in the West they
were harrying England, France, and the Mediterranean countries with fire
and sword, in the East their Varangian kinsmen were spreading
devastation through Russia and the empire of the Greeks.

Like his predecessor, Igor invaded this empire with a great army,
landing in Asia Minor and treating the people with such brutal ferocity
that no earthquake or volcano could have shown itself more merciless.
His prisoners were slaughtered in the most barbarous manner, fire swept
away all that havoc had left, and then the Russian prince sailed in
triumph against Constantinople, with his ten thousand barks manned by
murderers and laden with plunder.

But the Greeks were now ready for their foes. Pouring on them the
terrible Greek fire, they drove them back in dismay to Asia Minor, where
they were met and routed by the land forces of the empire. In the end
Igor hurried home with hardly a third of his great army.

Three years afterward he again led an army in boats against
Constantinople, but this time he was bought off by a tribute of gold,
silver, and precious stuffs, as Oleg had been before him.

Igor was now more than seventy years old, and naturally desired to spend
the remainder of his days in peace, but his followers would not let him
rest. The spoils and tribute of the Greeks had quickly disappeared from
their open hands, and the warlike profligates demanded new plunder.

"We are naked," they bitterly complained, "while the companions of
Sveneld have beautiful arms and fine clothing. Come with us and levy
contributions, that we and you may dwell in plenty together."

Igor obeyed--he could not well help himself--and led them against the
Drevlians, a neighboring nation already under tribute. Marching into
their country, he forced them to pay still heavier tribute, and allowed
his soldiers to plunder to their hearts' content.

Then the warriors of Kief marched back, laden with spoils. But the
wolfish instincts of Igor were aroused. More, he thought, might be
squeezed out of the Drevlians, but he wanted this extra plunder for
himself. So he sent his army on to Kief, and went back with a small
force to the country of the Drevlians, where he held out his hand--with
the sword in it--for more.

He got more than he bargained for. The Drevlians, driven to extremity,
came with arms instead of gold, attacked the king and his few followers,
and killed the whole of them upon the spot. And thus in blood ended the
career of this white-haired tribute-seeker.

The fallen prince left behind him a widow named Olga and a son named
Sviatoslaf, who was still a child, as Igor had been at the death of his
father. So Olga became regent of the kingdom, and Sveneld was made
leader of the army.

How deeply Olga loved Igor we are not prepared to say, but we are told
some strange tales of what she did to avenge him. These tales we may
believe or not, as we please. They are legends only, like those of early
Rome, but they are all the history we have, and so we repeat the story
much as old Nestor has told it.

The death of Igor filled the hearts of the Drevlians with hope. Their
great enemy was gone; the new prince was a child: might they not gain
power as well as liberty? Their prince Male should marry Olga the widow,
and all would be well with them.

So twenty of their leading men were sent to Kief, where they presented
themselves to the queenly regent. Their offer of an alliance was made in
terms suited to the manners of the times.

"We have killed your husband," they said, "because he plundered and
devoured like a wolf. But we would be at peace with you and yours. We
have good princes, under whom our country thrives. Come and marry our
prince Male and be our queen."

Olga listened like one who weighed the offer deeply.

"After all," she said, "my husband is dead, and I cannot bring him to
life again. Your proposal seems good to me. Leave me now, and come again
to-morrow, when I will entertain you before my people as you deserve.
Return to your barks, and when my people come to you to-morrow, say to
them, 'We will not go on horseback or on foot; you must carry us in our
barks.' Thus you will be honored as I desire you to be."

Back went the Drevlians, glad at heart, for the queen had seemed to them
very gracious indeed. But Olga had a deep and wide pit dug before a
house outside the city, and next day she went to that house and sent for
the ambassadors.

"We will not go on foot or on horseback," they said to the messengers;
"carry us in our barks."

"We are your slaves," answered the men of Kief. "Our ruler is slain, and
our princess is willing to marry your prince."

So they took up on their shoulders the barks, in which the Drevlians
proudly sat like kings on their thrones, and carried them to the front
of the house in which Olga awaited them with smiling lips but ruthless

There, at a sign from her hand, the ambassadors and the barks in which
they sat were flung headlong into the yawning pit.

"How do you like your entertainment?" asked the cruel queen.

"Oh!" they cried, in terror, "pity us! Forgive us the death of Igor!"

But they begged in vain, for at her command the pit was filled up and
the Drevlians were buried alive.

Then Olga sent messengers to the land of the Drevlians, with this
message to their prince:

"If you really wish for me, send me men of the highest consideration in
your country, that my people may be induced to let me go, and that I may
come to you with honor and dignity."

This message had its effect. The chief men of the country were now sent
as ambassadors. They entered Kief over the grave of their murdered
countrymen without knowing where they trod, and came to the palace
expecting to be hospitably entertained.

Olga had a bath made ready for them, and sent them word,--

"First take a bath, that you may refresh yourselves after the fatigue of
your journey, then come into my presence."

The bath was heated, and the Drevlians entered it. But, to their dismay,
smoke soon began to circle round them, and flames flashed on their
frightened eyes. They ran to the doors, but they were immovable. Olga
had ordered them to be made fast and the house to be set on fire, and
the miserable bathers were all burned alive.

But even this terrible revenge was not enough for the implacable widow.
Those were days when news crept slowly, and the Drevlians did not dream
of Olga's treachery. Once more she sent them a deceitful message: "I am
about to repair to you, and beg you to get ready a large quantity of
hydromel in the place where my husband was killed, that I may weep over
his tomb and honor him with the trizna [funeral banquet]."

The Drevlians, full of joy at this message, gathered honey in quantities
and brewed it into hydromel. Then Olga sought the tomb, followed by a
small guard who were only lightly armed. For a while she wept over the
tomb. Then she ordered a great mound of honor to be heaped over it. When
this was done she directed the trizna to be set out.

The Drevlians drank freely, while the men of Kief served them with the
intoxicating beverage.

"Where are the friends whom we sent to you?" they asked.

"They are coming with the friends of my husband," she replied.

And so the feast went on until the unsuspecting Drevlians were stupid
with drink. Then Olga bade her guards draw their weapons and slay her
foes, and a great slaughter began. When it ended, five thousand
Drevlians lay dead at her feet.

Olga's revenge was far from being complete: her thirst for blood grew as
it was fed. She returned to Kief, collected her army, took her young son
with her that he might early learn the art of war, and returned inspired
by the rage of vengeance to the land of the Drevlians.

Here she laid waste the country and destroyed the towns. In the end she
came to the capital, Korosten, and laid siege to it. Its name meant
"wall of bark," so that it was, no doubt, a town of wood, as probably
all the Russian towns at that time were.

The siege went on, but the inhabitants defended themselves obstinately,
for they knew now the spirit of the woman with whom they had to contend.
So a long time passed and Korosten still held out.

Finding that force would not serve, Olga tried stratagem, in which she
was such an adept.

"Why do you hold out so foolishly?" she said. "You know that all your
other towns are in my power, and your countrypeople are peacefully
tilling their fields while you are uselessly dying of hunger. You would
be wise to yield; you have no more to fear from me; I have taken full
revenge for my slain husband."

The Drevlians, to conciliate her, offered a tribute of honey and furs.
This she refused, with a show of generosity, and said that she would ask
no more from them than a tribute of a pigeon and three sparrows from
each house.

Gladdened by the lightness of this request, the Drevlians quickly
gathered the birds asked for, and sent them out to the invading army.
They did not dream what treachery lay in Olga's cruel heart. That
evening she let all the birds loose with lighted matches tied to their
tails. Back to their nests in the town they flew, and soon Korosten was
in flames in a thousand places.

In terror the inhabitants fled through their gates, but the soldiers of
the bloodthirsty queen awaited them outside, sword in hand, with orders
to cut them down without mercy as they appeared. The prince and all the
leading men of the state perished, and only the lowest of the populace
were left alive, while the whole land thereafter was laid under a load
of tribute so heavy that it devastated the country like an invading army
and caused the people to groan bitterly beneath the burden.

And thus it was that Olga the widow took revenge upon the murderers of
her fallen lord.


Vladimir, Grand Prince of Russia before and after the year 1000, won the
name not only of Vladimir the Great but of St. Vladimir, though he was
as great a reprobate as he was a soldier and monarch, and as
unregenerate a sinner as ever sat on a throne. But it was he who made
Russia a Christian country, and in reward the Russian Church still looks
upon him as "coequal with the Apostles." What he did to deserve this
high honor we shall see.

Sviatoslaf, the son of Olga, had proved a hardy soldier. He disdained
the palace and lived in the camp. In his marches he took no tent or
baggage, but slept in the open air, lived on horse-flesh broiled by
himself upon the coals, and showed all the endurance of a Cossack
warrior born in the snows. After years of warfare he fell on the field
of battle, and his skull, ornamented with a circle of gold, became a
drinking-cup for the prince of the Petchenegans, by whose hands he had
been slain. His empire was divided between his three sons, Yaropolk
reigning in Kief, Oleg becoming prince of the Drevlians, and Vladimir
taking Rurik's old capital of Novgorod.

These brothers did not long dwell in harmony. War broke out between
Yaropolk and Oleg, and the latter was killed. Vladimir, fearing that his
turn would come next, fled to the country of the Varangians, and
Yaropolk became lord over all Russia. It is the story of the fugitive
prince, and how he made his way from flight to empire and from empire to
sainthood, that we are now about to tell.

For two years Vladimir dwelt with his Varangian kinsmen, during which
time he lived the wild life of a Norseman, joining the bold vikings in
their raids for booty far and wide over the seas of Europe. Then,
gathering a large band of Varangian adventurers, he returned to
Novgorod, drove out the men of Yaropolk, and sent word by them to his
brother that he would soon call upon him at Kief.

Vladimir quickly proved himself a prince of barbarian instincts. In
Polotsk ruled Rogvolod, a Varangian prince, whose daughter Rogneda,
famed for her beauty, was betrothed to Yaropolk. Vladimir demanded her
hand, but received an insulting reply.

"I will never unboot the son of a slave," said the haughty princess.

It was the custom at that time for brides, on the wedding night, to pull
off the boots of their husbands; and Vladimir's mother had been one of
Queen Olga's slave women.

But insults like this, to men like Vladimir, are apt to breed bloodshed.
Hot with revengeful fury, he marched against Polotsk, killed in battle
Rogvolod and his two sons, and forced the disdainful princess to accept
his hand still red with her father's blood.

Then he marched against Kief, where Yaropolk, who seems to have had more
ambition than courage, shut himself up within the walls. These walls
were strong, the people were faithful, and Kief might long have defied
its assailant had not treachery dwelt within. Vladimir had secretly
bought over a villain named Blude, one of Yaropolk's trusted
councillors, who filled his master's mind with suspicion of the people
of Kief and persuaded him to fly for safety. His flight gave Kief into
his brother's hands.

To Rodnia fled the fugitive prince, where he was closely besieged by
Vladimir, to whose aid came a famine so fierce that it still gives point
to a common Russian proverb. Flight or surrender became necessary.
Yaropolk might have found strong friends among some of the powerful
native tribes, but the voice of the traitor was still at his ear, and at
Blude's suggestion he gave himself up to Vladimir. It was like the sheep
yielding himself to the wolf. By the victor's order Yaropolk was slain
in his father's palace.

And now the traitor sought his reward. Vladimir felt that it was to
Blude he owed his empire, and for three days he so loaded him with
honors and dignities that the false-hearted wretch deemed himself the
greatest among the Russians.

But the villain had been playing with edge tools. At the end of the
three days Vladimir called Blude before him.

"I have kept all my promises to you," he said. "I have treated you as my
friend; your honors exceed your highest wishes; I have made you lord
among my lords. But now," he continued, and his voice grew terrible,
"the judge succeeds the benefactor. Traitor and assassin of your
prince, I condemn you to death."

And at his stern command the startled and trembling traitor was struck
dead in his presence.

The tide of affairs had strikingly turned. Vladimir, late a fugitive,
was now lord of all the realm of Russia. His power assured, he showed
himself in a new aspect. Yaropolk's widow, a Greek nun of great beauty,
was forced to become his wife. Not content with two, he continued to
marry until he had no less than six wives, while he filled his palaces
with the daughters of his subjects until they numbered eight hundred in

"Thereby hangs a tale," as Shakespeare says. Rogneda, Vladimir's first
wife, had forgiven him for the murder of her father and brothers, but
could not forgive him for the insult of turning her out of his palace
and putting other women in her place. She determined to be revenged.

One day when he had gone to see her in the lonely abode to which she had
been banished, he fell asleep in her presence. Here was the opportunity
her heart craved. Seizing a dagger, she was on the point of stabbing him
where he lay, when Vladimir awoke and stopped the blow. While the
frightened woman stood trembling before him, he furiously bade her
prepare for death, as she should die by his own hand.

"Put on your wedding dress," he harshly commanded; "seek your handsomest
apartment, and stretch yourself on the sumptuous bed you there possess.
Die you must, but you have been honored as the wife of Vladimir, and
shall not meet an ignoble death."

Rogneda did as she was bidden, yet hope had not left her heart, and she
taught her young son Isiaslaf a part which she wished him to play. When
the frowning prince entered the apartment where lay his condemned wife,
he was met by the boy, who presented him with a drawn sword, saying,
"You are not alone, father. Your son will be witness to your deed."

Vladimir's expression changed as he looked at the appealing face of the

"Who thought of seeing you here?" he cried, and, flinging the sword to
the floor, he hastily left the room.

Calling his nobles together, he told them what had happened and asked
their advice.

"Prince," they said, "you should spare the culprit for the sake of the
child. Our advice is that you make the boy lord of Rogvolod's

Vladimir did so, sending Rogneda with her son to rule over her father's
realm, where he built a new city which he named after the boy.

Vladimir had been born a pagan, and a pagan he was still, worshipping
the Varangian deities, in particular the god Perune, of whom he had a
statue erected on a hill near his palace, adorned with a silver head. On
the same sacred hill were planted the statues of other idols, and
Vladimir proposed to restore the old human sacrifices by offering one of
his own people as a victim to the gods.

For this purpose there was selected a young Varangian who, with his
father, had adopted the Christian faith. The father refused to give up
his son, and the enraged people, who looked on the refusal as an insult
to their prince and their gods, broke into the house and murdered both
father and son. These two have since been canonized by the Russian
Church as the only martyrs to its faith.

Vladimir by this time had become great in dominion, his warlike prowess
extending the borders of Russia on all sides. The nations to the south
saw that a great kingdom had arisen on their northern border, ruled by a
warlike and conquering prince, and it was deemed wise to seek to win him
from the worship of idols to a more elevated faith. Askhold and Dir had
been baptized as Christians. Olga, after her bloody revenge, had gone to
Constantinople and been baptized by the patriarch. But the nation
continued pagan, Vladimir was an idolater in grain, and a great field
lay open for missionary zeal.

No less than four of the peoples of the south sought to make a convert
of this powerful prince. The Bulgarians endeavored to win him to the
religion of Mohammed, picturing to him in alluring language the charms
of their paradise, with its lovely houris. But he must give up wine.
This was more than he was ready to do.

"Wine is the delight of the Russians," he said: "we cannot do without

The envoys of the Christian churches and the Jewish faith also sought to
win him over. The appeal of the Jews, however, failed to impress him,
and he dismissed them with the remark that they had no country, and
that he had no inclination to join hands with wanderers under the ban of
Heaven. There remained the Christians, comprising the Roman and Greek
Churches, at that time in unison. Of these the Greek Church, the claims
of which were presented to him by an advocate from Constantinople,
appealed to him most strongly, since its doctrines had been accepted by
Queen Olga.

As may be seen, religion with Vladimir was far more a matter of policy
than of piety. The gods of his fathers, to whom he had done such honor,
had no abiding place in his heart; and that belief which would be most
to his advantage was for him the best.

To settle the question he sent ten of his chief boyars, or nobles, to
the south, that they might examine and report on the religions of the
different countries. They were not long in coming to a decision.
Mohammedanism and Catholicism, they said, they had found only in poor
and barbarous provinces. Judaism had no land to call its own. But the
Greek faith dwelt in a magnificent metropolis, and its ceremonies were
full of pomp and solemnity.

"If the Greek religion were not the best," they said, in conclusion,
"Olga, your ancestress, and the wisest of mortals, would never have
thought of embracing it."

Pomp and solemnity won the day, and Vladimir determined to follow Olga's
example. As to what religion meant in itself he seems to have thought
little and cared less. His method of becoming a Christian was so
original that it is well worth the telling.

Since the days of Olga Kief had possessed Christian churches and
priests, and Vladimir might easily have been baptized without leaving
home. But this was far too simple a process for a prince of his dignity.
He must be baptized by a bishop of the parent Church, and the
missionaries who were to convert his people must come from the central
home of the faith.

Should he ask the emperor for the rite of baptism? Not he; it would be
too much like rendering homage to a prince no greater than himself. The
haughty barbarian found himself in a quandary; but soon he discovered a
promising way out of it. He would make war on Greece, conquer priests
and churches, and by force of arms obtain instruction and baptism in the
new faith. Surely never before or since was a war waged with the object
of winning a new religion.

Gathering a large army, Vladimir marched to the Crimea, where stood the
rich and powerful Greek city of Kherson. The ruins of this city may
still be seen near the modern Sevastopol. To it he laid siege, warning
the inhabitants that it would be wise in them to yield, for he was
prepared to remain three years before their walls.

The Khersonites proved obstinate, and for six months he besieged them
closely. But no progress was made, and it began to look as if Vladimir
would never become a Christian in his chosen mode. A traitor within the
walls, however, solved the difficulty. He shot from the ramparts an
arrow to which a letter was attached, in which the Russians were told
that the city obtained all its fresh water from a spring near their
camp, to which ran underground pipes. Vladimir cut the pipes, and the
city, in peril of the horrors of thirst, was forced to yield.

Baptism was now to be had from the parent source, but Vladimir was still
not content. He demanded to be united by ties of blood to the emperors
of the southern realm, asking for the hand of Anna, the emperor's
sister, and threatening to take Constantinople if his proposal were

Never before had a convert come with such conditions. The princess Anna
had no desire for marriage with this haughty barbarian, but reasons of
state were stronger than questions of taste, and the emperors (there
were two of them at that time) yielded. Vladimir, having been baptized
under the name of Basil, married the princess Anna, and the city he had
taken as a token of his pious zeal was restored to his new kinsmen. All
that he took back to Russia with him were a Christian wife, some bishops
and priests, sacred vessels and books, images of saints, and a number of
consecrated relics.

Vladimir displayed a zeal in his new faith in accordance with the
trouble he had taken to win it. The old idols he had worshipped were now
the most despised inmates of his realm. Perune, as the greatest of them
all, was treated with the greatest indignity. The wooden image of the
god was tied to the tail of a horse and dragged to the Borysthenes,
twelve stout soldiers belaboring it with cudgels as it went. The banks
reached, it was flung with disdain into the river.

At Novgorod the god was treated with like indignity, but did not bear
it with equal patience. The story goes that, being flung from a bridge
into the Volkhof, the image of Perune rose to the surface of the water,
threw a staff upon the bridge, and cried out in a terrifying voice,
"Citizens, that is what I leave you in remembrance of me."

In consequence of this legend it was long the custom in that city, on
the day which was kept as the anniversary of the god, for the young
people to run about with sticks in their hands, striking one another

As for the Russians in general, they discarded their old worship as
easily as the prince had thrown overboard their idols. One day a
proclamation was issued at Kief, commanding all the people to repair to
the river-bank the next day, there to be baptized. They assented without
a murmur, saying, "If it were not good to be baptized, the prince and
the boyars would never submit to it."

These were not the only signs of Vladimir's zeal. He built churches, he
gave alms freely, he set out public repasts in imitation of the
love-feasts of the early Christians. His piety went so far that he even
forbore to shed the blood of criminals or of the enemies of his country.

But horror of bloodshed did not lie long on Vladimir's conscience. In
his later life he had wars in plenty, and the blood of his enemies was
shed as freely as water. These wars were largely against the
Petchenegans, the most powerful of his foes. And in connection with them
there is a story extant which has its parallel in the history of many
another country.

It seems that in one of their campaigns the two armies came face to face
on the opposite sides of a small stream. The prince of the Petchenegans
now proposed to Vladimir to settle their quarrel by single combat and
thus spare the lives of their people. The side whose champion was
vanquished should bind itself to a peace lasting for three years.

Vladimir was loath to consent, as he felt sure that his opponents had
ready a champion of mighty power. He felt forced in honor to accept the
challenge, but asked for delay that he might select a worthy champion.

Whom to select he knew not. No soldier of superior strength and skill
presented himself. Uneasiness and agitation filled his mind. But at this
critical interval an old man, who served in the army with four of his
sons, came to him, saying that he had at home a fifth son of
extraordinary strength, whom he would offer as champion.

The young man was sent for in great haste. On his arrival, to test his
powers, a bull was sent against him which had been goaded into fury with
hot irons. The young giant stopped the raging brute, knocked him down,
and tore off great handfuls of his skin and flesh. Hope came to
Vladimir's soul on witnessing this wonderful feat.

The day arrived. The champions advanced between the camps. The
Petchenegan warrior laughed in scorn on seeing his beardless antagonist.
But when they came to blows he found himself seized and crushed as in a
vice in the arms of his boyish foe, and was flung, a lifeless body, to
the earth. On seeing this the Petchenegans fled in dismay, while the
Russians, forgetting their pledge, pursued and slaughtered them without

Vladimir at length (1015 A.D.) came to his end. His son Yaroslaf, whom
he had made ruler of Novgorod, had refused to pay tribute, and the old
prince, forced to march against his rebel son, died of grief on the way.

With all his faults, Vladimir deserved the title of Great which his
country has given him. He put down the turbulent tribes, planted
colonies in the desert, built towns, and embellished his cities with
churches, palaces, and other buildings, for which workmen were brought
from Greece. Russia grew rapidly under his rule. He established schools
which the sons of the nobles were made to attend. And though he was but
a poor pattern for a saint, he had the merit of finding Russia pagan and
leaving it Christian.



The Russia of the year 1000 lay deep in the age of barbarism. Vladimir
had made it Christian in name, but it was far from Christian in thought
or deed. It was a land without fixed laws, without settled government,
without schools, without civilized customs, but with abundance of
ignorance, cruelty, and superstition.

It was strangely made up. In the north lay the great commercial city of
Novgorod, which, though governed by princes of the house of Rurik, was a
republic in form and in fact. It possessed its popular assembly, of
which every citizen was a member with full right to vote, and at whose
meetings the prince was not permitted to appear. The sound of a famous
bell, the Vetchevoy, called the people together, to decide on questions
of peace and war, or to elect magistrates, and sometimes the bishop, or
even the prince. The prince had to swear to carry out the ancient laws
of the republic and not attempt to lay taxes on the citizens or to
interfere with their trade. They made him gifts, but paid him no taxes.
They decided how many hours he should give to pleasure and how many to
business; and they expelled some of their princes who thought themselves
beyond the power of the laws.

It seems strange that the absolute Russia of to-day should then have
possessed one of the freest of the cities of Europe. Novgorod was not
only a city, it was a state. The provinces far and wide around were
subject to it, and governed by its prince, who had in them an authority
much greater than he possessed over the proud civic merchants and money

In the south, on the contrary, lay the great imperial city of Kief, the
capital of the realm, and the seat of a government as arbitrary as that
of Novgorod was free. Here dwelt the grand prince as an irresponsible
autocrat, making his will the law, and forcing all the provinces, even
haughty Novgorod, to pay a tax which bore the slavish title of tribute.
Here none could vote, no assembly of citizens ever met, and the only
restraint on the prince was that of his warlike and turbulent nobles,
who often forced him to yield to their wishes. The government was a
drifting rather than a settled one. It had no anchors out, but was moved
about at the whim of the prince and his unruly lords.

Under these two forms of government lay still a third. Rural Russia was
organized on a democratic principle which still prevails throughout that
broad land. This is the principle of the Mir, or village community,
which most of the people of the earth once possessed, but which has
everywhere passed away except in Russia and India. It is the principle
of the commune, of public instead of private property. The land of a
Russian village belongs to the people as a whole, not to individuals. It
is divided up among them for tillage, but no man can claim the fields
he tills as his own, and for thousands of years what is known as
communism has prevailed on Russian soil.

The government of the village is purely democratic. All the people meet
and vote for their village magistrate, who decides, with the aid of a
council of the elders, all the questions which arise within its
confines, one of them being the division of the land. Thus at bottom
Russia is a field sown thick with little communistic republics, though
at top it is a despotism. The government of Novgorod doubtless grew out
of that of the village. The republican city has long since passed away,
but the seed of democracy remains planted deeply in the village

All this is preliminary to the story of the Russian lawgiver and his
laws, which we have set out to tell. This famous person was no other
than that Yaroslaf, prince of Novgorod, and son of Vladimir the Great,
whose refusal to pay tribute had caused his father to die of grief.

Yaroslaf was the fifth able ruler of the dynasty of Rurik. The story of
his young life resembles that of his father. He found his brother strong
and threatening, and designed to fly from Novgorod and join the
Varangians as a viking lord, as his father had done before him. But the
Novgorodians proved his friends, destroyed the ships that were to carry
him away, and provided him with money to raise a new army. With this he
defeated his base brother, who had already killed or driven into exile
all their other brothers. The result was that Yaroslof, like his father,
became sovereign of all Russia.

But though this new grand prince extended his dominions by the sword,
it was not as a soldier, but as a legislator, that he won fame. His
genius was not shown on the field of battle, but in the legislative
council, and Russia reveres Yaroslaf the Wise as its first maker of

The free institutions of Novgorod, of which we have spoken, were by him
sustained and strengthened. Many new cities were founded under his
beneficent rule. Schools were widely established, in one of which three
hundred of the youth of Novgorod were educated. A throng of Greek
priests were invited into the land, since there were none of Russian
birth to whom he could confide the duty of teaching the young. He gave
toleration to the idolaters who still existed, and when the people of
Suzdal were about to massacre some hapless women whom they accused of
having brought on a famine by sorcery, he stayed their hands and saved
the poor victims from death. The Russian Church owed its first national
foundation to him, for he declared that the bishops of the land should
no longer depend for appointment on the Patriarch of Constantinople.

There are no startling or dramatic stories to be told about Yaroslaf.
The heroes of peace are not the men who make the world's dramas. But it
is pleasant, after a season spent with princes who lived for war and
revenge, and who even made war to obtain baptism, to rest awhile under
the green boughs and beside the pleasant waters of a reign that became
famous for the triumphs of peace.

Under Yaroslaf Russia united itself by ties of blood to Western Europe.
His sons married Greek, German, and English princesses; his sister
became queen of Poland; his three daughters were queens of Norway,
Hungary, and France. Scandinavian in origin, the dynasty of Rurik was
reaching out hands of brotherhood towards its kinsmen in the West.

But it is as a law-maker that Yaroslaf is chiefly known. Before his time
the empire had no fixed code of laws. To say that it was without law
would not be correct. Every people, however ignorant, has its laws of
custom, unwritten edicts, the birth of the ages, which have grown up
stage by stage, and which are only slowly outgrown as the tribe develops
into the nation.

Russia had, besides Novgorod, other commercial cities, with republican
institutions. Kief was certainly not without law. And the many tribes of
hunters, shepherds, and farmers must have had their legal customs. But
with all this there was no code for the empire, no body of written laws.
The first of these was prepared about 1018 by Yaroslaf, for Novgorod
alone, but in time became the law of all the land. This early code of
Russian law is a remarkable one, and goes farther than history at large
in teaching us the degree of civilization of Russia at that date.

In connection with it the chronicles tell a curious story. In 1018, we
are told, Novgorod, having grown weary of the insults and oppression of
its Varangian lords and warriors, killed them all. Angry at this,
Yaroslaf enticed the leading Novgorodians into his palace and
slaughtered them in reprisal. But at this critical interval, when his
guards were slain and his subjects in rebellion, he found himself
threatened by his ambitious brother. In despair he turned to the
Novgorodians and begged with tears for pardon and assistance. They
forgave and aided him, and by their help made him sovereign of the

How far this is true it is impossible to say, but the code of Yaroslaf
was promulgated at that date, and the rights given to Novgorod showed
that its people held the reins of power. It confirmed the city in the
ancient liberties of which we have already spoken, giving it a freedom
which no other city of its time surpassed. And it laid down a series of
laws for the people at large which seem very curious in this enlightened
age. It must suffice to give the leading features of this ancient code.

It began by sustaining the right of private vengeance. The law was for
the weak alone, the strong being left to avenge their own wrongs. The
punishment of crime was provided for by judicial combats, which the law
did not even regulate. Every strong man was a law unto himself.

Where no avengers of crime appeared, murder was to be settled by fines.
For the murder of a boyar eighty grivnas were to be paid, and forty for
the murder of a free Russian, but only half as much if the victim was a
woman. Here we have a standard of value for the women of that age.

Nothing was paid into the treasury for the murder of a slave, but his
master had to be paid his value, unless he had been slain for insulting
a freeman. His value was reckoned according to his occupation, and
ranged from twelve to five grivnas.

If it be asked what was the value of a grivna, it may be said that at
that time there was little coined money, perhaps none at all, in Russia.
Gold and silver were circulated by weight, and the common currency was
composed of pieces of skin, called _kuni_. A grivna was a certain number
of kunis equal in value to half a pound of silver, but the kuni often
varied in value.

All prisoners of war and all persons bought from foreigners were
condemned to perpetual slavery. Others became slaves for limited
periods,--freemen who married slaves, insolvent debtors, servants out of
employment, and various other classes. As the legal interest of money
was forty per cent., the enslavement of debtors must have been very
common, and Russia was even then largely a land of slaves.

The loss of a limb was fined almost as severely as that of a life. To
pluck out part of the beard cost four times as much as to cut off a
finger, and insults in general were fined four times as heavily as
wounds. Horse-stealing was punished by slavery. In discovering the
guilty the ordeals of red-hot iron and boiling water were in use, as in
the countries of the West.

There were three classes in the nation,--slaves, freemen, and boyars, or
nobles, the last being probably the descendants of Rurik's warriors. The
prince was the heir of all citizens who died without male children,
except of boyars and the officers of his guard.

These laws, which were little more primitive than those of Western
Europe at the same period, seem never to have imposed corporal
punishment for crime. Injury was made good by cash, except in the case
of the combat. The fines went to the lord or prince, and were one of his
means of support, the other being tribute from his estates. No provision
for taxation was made. The mark of dependence on the prince was military
service, the lord, as in the feudal West, being obliged to provide his
own arms, provisions, and mounted followers.

Judges there were, who travelled on circuits, and who impanelled twelve
respectable jurors, sworn to give just verdicts. There are several laws
extending protection to property, fixed and movable, which seem
specially framed for the merchants of Novgorod.

Such are the leading features of the code of Yaroslaf. The franchises
granted the Novgorodians, which for four centuries gave them the right
to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," form part of it. Crude
as are many of its provisions, it forms a vital starting-point, that in
which Russia first came under definite in place of indefinite law. And
the bringing about of this important change is the glory of Yaroslaf the


In Asia, the greatest continent of the earth, lies its most extensive
plain, the vast plateau of Mongolia, whose true boundaries are the
mountains of Siberia and the Himalayan highlands, the Pacific Ocean and
the hills of Eastern Europe, and of which the great plain of Russia is
but an outlying section. This mighty plateau, largely a desert, is the
home of the nomad shepherd and warrior, the nesting-place of the
emigrant invader. From these broad levels in the past horde after horde
of savage horsemen rode over Europe and Asia,--the frightful Huns, the
devastating Turks, the desolating Mongols. It is with the last that we
are here concerned, for Russia fell beneath their arms, and was held for
two centuries as a captive realm.

The nomads are born warriors. They live on horseback; the care of their
great herds teaches them military discipline; they are always in motion,
have no cities to defend, no homes to abandon, no crops to harvest.
Their home is a camp; when they move it moves with them; their food is
on the hoof and accompanies them on the march; they can go hungry for a
week and then eat like cormorants; their tools are weapons, always in
hand, always ready to use; a dozen times they have burst like a
devouring torrent from their desert and overwhelmed the South and West.

While the Turks were still engaged in their work of conquest, the
Mongols arose, and under the formidable Genghis Khan swept over Southern
Asia like a tornado, leaving death and desolation in their track. The
conqueror died in 1227,--for death is a foe that vanquishes even the
greatest of warriors,--and was succeeded by his son Octoi, as Great Khan
of the Mongols and Tartars. In 1235, Batou, nephew of the khan, was sent
with an army of half a million men to the conquest of Europe.

This flood of barbarians fell upon Russia at an unfortunate time, one of
anarchy and civil war, when the whole nation was rent and torn and there
were almost as many sovereigns as there were cities. The system of
giving a separate dominion to every son of a grand prince had ruined
Russia. These small potentates were constantly at war, confusion reigned
supreme, Kief was taken and degraded and a new capital, Vladimir,
established, and Moscow, which was to become the fourth capital of
Russia, was founded. Such was the state of affairs when Batou, with his
vast horde of savage horsemen, fell on the distracted realm.

Defence was almost hopeless. Russia had no government, no army, no
imperial organization. Each city stood for itself, with great widths of
open country around. Over these broad spaces the invaders swept like an
avalanche, finding cultivated fields before them, leaving a desert
behind. They swam the Don, the Volga, and the other great rivers on
their horses, or crossed them on the ice. Leathern boats brought over
their wagons and artillery. They spread from Livonia to the Black Sea,
poured into the kingdoms of the West, and would have overrun all Europe
but for the vigorous resistance of the knighthood of Germany.

The cities of Russia made an obstinate defence, but one after another
they fell. Some saved themselves by surrender. Most of them were taken
by assault and destroyed. City after city was reduced to ashes, none of
the inhabitants being left to deplore their fall. The nomads had no use
for cities. Walls were their enemies: pasturage was all they cared for.
The conversion of a country into a desert was to them a gain rather than
a loss, for grass will grow in the desert, and grass to feed their
horses and herds was what they most desired.

So far as the warriors of Mongolia were concerned, their conquests left
them no better off. They still had to tend and feed their herds, and
they could have done that as well in their native land. But the leaders
had the lust of dominion, their followers the blood-fury, and inspired
by these feelings they ravaged the world.

One thing alone saved Russia from being peopled by Tartars,--its
climate. This was not to their liking, and they preferred to dwell in
lands better suited to their tastes and habits. The great Tartar empire
of Kaptchak, or the Golden Horde, was founded on the eastern frontier;
other khanates were founded in the south; but the Russian princes were
left to rule in the remainder of the land, under tribute to the khans,
to whom they were forced to do homage. In truth, these Tartar chiefs
made themselves lords paramount of the Russian realm, and no prince,
great or small, could assume the government of his state until he had
journeyed to Central Mongolia to beg permission to rule from the khan of
the Great Horde.

The subjection of the princes was that of slaves. A century afterward
they were obliged to spread a carpet of sable fur under the hoofs of the
steed of the khan's envoy, to prostrate themselves at his feet and learn
his mission on their knees, and not only to present a cup of koumiss to
the barbarian, but even to lick from the neck of his horse the drops of
the beverage which he might let fall in drinking. More shameful
subjection it would be difficult to describe.

Several princes who proved insubordinate were summoned to the camp of
the Horde and there tried and executed. Rivals sought the khan, to buy
power by presents. During their journeys, which occupied a year or more,
the Tartar bashaks ruled their dominions. Tartar armies aided the
princes in their civil wars, and helped these ambitious lords to keep
their country in a state of subjection.

Fortunately for Russia, the great empire of the Mongols gradually fell
to pieces of its own weight. The Kaptchak, or Golden Horde, broke loose
from the Great Horde, and Russia had a smaller power to deal with. The
Golden Horde itself broke into two parts. And among the many princes of
Russia a grand prince was still acknowledged, with right by title to
dominion over the entire realm.

One of these grand princes, Alexander by name, son of the grand prince
of Vladimir, proved a great warrior and statesman and gained the power
as well as the title. Prince of Novgorod by inheritance, he defeated all
his enemies, drove the Germans from Russia, and recovered the Neva from
the Swedes, which feat of arms gained him the title of Alexander Nevsky.
The Tartars were too powerful to be attacked, so he managed to gain
their good will. The khan became his friend, and when trouble arose with
Kief and Vladimir their princes were dethroned and these principalities
given to the shrewd grand prince.

Russia seemed to be rehabilitated. Alexander was lord of its three
capitals, Novgorod, Kief, and Vladimir, and grand prince of the realm.
But the Russians were not content to submit either to his authority or
to the yoke of the Tartars. His whole life was spent in battle with
them, or in journeys to the tent of the khan to beg forgiveness for
their insults.

The climax came when the Tartar collectors of tribute were massacred in
some cities and ignominiously driven out of others. When these acts
became known at the Horde the angry khan sent orders for the grand
prince and all other Russian princes to appear before him and to bring
all their troops. He said that he was about to make a campaign, and
needed the aid of the Russians.

This story Alexander did not believe. He plainly perceived that the wily
Tartar wished to deprive Russia of all its armed men, that he might the
more easily reduce it again to subjection. Rather than see his country
ruined, the patriotic prince determined to disobey, and to offer himself
as a victim by seeking alone the camp of Usbek, the great khan, a
mission of infinite danger.

He hoped that his submission might save Russia from ruin, though he knew
that death lay on his path. He found Usbek bitterly bent on war, and for
a whole year was kept in the camp of the Horde, seeking to appease the
wrath of the barbarian. In the end he succeeded, the khan promising to
forgive the Russians and desist from the intended war, and in the year
1262 Alexander started for home again.

He had seemingly escaped, but not in reality. He had not journeyed far
before he suddenly died. To all appearance, poison had been mingled with
his food before he left the camp of the khan. Alexander had become too
great and powerful at home for the designs of the conquerors. He died
the victim of his love of country. His people have recognized his virtue
by making him a saint. He had not labored in vain. In his hands the
grand princeship had been restored, Vladimir had become supreme, and a
centre had been established around which the Russians might rally. But
for a century and more still they were to remain subject to the Tartar


The history of Russia during the century after the Mongol conquest is
one of shame and anarchy. The shame was that of slavish submission to
the Tartar khan. Each prince, in succession, fell on his knees before
this high dignitary of the barbarians and begged or bought his throne.
The anarchy was that of the Russian princes, on which the khan looked
with winking eyes, thinking that the more they weakened themselves the
more they would strengthen him. The rulers of Moscow, Tver, Vladimir,
and Novgorod fought almost incessantly for supremacy, crushing their
people beneath the feet of their ambition, now one, now another, gaining
the upper hand.


In the end the princes of Moscow became supreme. They grew rich, and
were able to keep up a regular army, that chief tool of despotism. The
crown lands alone gave them dominion over three hundred thousand
subjects. The time was coming in which they would be the absolute rulers
of all Russia. But before this could be accomplished the power of the
khans must be broken, and the first step towards this was taken by the
great Dmitri Donskoi, who became grand prince of Moscow in 1362.

Dmitri came to the throne at a fortunate epoch. The Golden Horde was
breaking to pieces. There were several khans, at war with one another,
and discord ruled among the overlords of Russia. Still greater discord
reigned in Russia itself. For eighteen years Dmitri was kept busy in
wars with the princes of Tver, Kief, and Lithuania. Terrible was the war
with Tver. Four times he overcame Michael, its prince. Four times did
Michael, aided by the prince of Lithuania, gain the victory. During this
obstinate conflict Moscow was twice besieged. Only its stone walls,
lately built, saved it from capture and ruin. At length Olguerd, the
fiery prince of Lithuania, died, and Tver yielded. Moscow became
paramount among the Russian principalities.

And now Dmitri, with all Russia as his realm, dared to defy the terrible
Tartars. For more than a century no Russian prince had ventured to
appear before the khan of the Golden Horde except on his knees. Dmitri
had thus humbled himself only three years before. Now, inflated with his
new power, he refused to pay tribute to the khan, and went so far as to
put to death the Tartar envoy, who insolently demanded the accustomed

Dmitri had burned his bridges behind him. He had flung down the gage of
war to the Tartars, and would soon feel their hand in all its dreaded
strength. The khan, on hearing of the murder of his ambassador, burst
into a terrible rage. The civil wars which divided the Golden Horde had
for the time ceased, and Mamai, the khan, gathered all the power of the
Horde and marched on defiant Moscow, vowing to sweep that rebel city
from the face of the earth.

The Russians did not wait his coming. All dissensions ceased in the
face of the impending peril, all the princes sent aid, and Dmitri
marched to the Don at the head of an army of two hundred thousand men.
Here he found the redoubtable Mamai with three times that number of the
fierce Tartar horsemen in his train.

"Yonder lies the foe," said Dmitri to his princely associates. "Here
runs the Don. Shall we await him here, or cross and meet him with the
river at our backs?"

"Let us cross," was the unanimous verdict. "Let us be first in the

At once the order was given, and the battalions marched on board the
boats and were ferried across the stream, at a short distance from the
opposite bank of which the enemy lay. No sooner had they landed than
Dmitri ordered all the boats to be cast adrift. It was to be victory or
death; no hope of escape by flight was left; but well he knew that the
men would fight with double valor under such desperate straits.

The battle began. On the serried Russian ranks the Tartars poured in
that impetuous assault which had so often carried their hosts to
victory. The Russians defended themselves with fiery valor, assault
after assault was repulsed, and so fiercely was the field contested that
multitudes of the fallen were trampled to death beneath the horses'
feet. At length, however, numbers began to tell. The Russians grew weary
from the closeness of the conflict. The vast host of the Tartars enabled
them to replace with fresh troops all that were worn in the fight.
Victory seemed about to perch upon their banners.

Dismay crept into the Russian ranks. They would have broken in flight,
but no avenue of escape was left. The river ran behind them, unruffled
by a boat. Flight meant death by drowning; fight meant death by the
sword. Of the two the latter seemed best, for the Russians firmly
believed that death at the hands of the infidels meant an immediate
transport to the heavenly mansions of bliss.

At this critical moment, when the host of Dmitri was wavering between
panic and courage, the men ready to drop their swords through sheer
fatigue, an unlooked-for diversion inspired their shrinking souls. The
grand prince had stationed a detachment of his army as a reserve, and
these, as yet, had taken no part in the battle. Now, fresh and furious,
they were brought up, and fell vigorously upon the rear of the Tartars,
who, filled with sudden terror, thought that a new army had come to the
aid of the old. A moment later they broke and fled, pursued by their
triumphant foes, and falling fast as they hurried in panic fear from the
encrimsoned field.

Something like amazement filled the souls of the Russians as they saw
their dreaded enemies in flight. Such a consummation they had scarcely
dared hope for, accustomed as they had been for a century to crouch
before this dreadful foe. They had bought their victory dearly. Their
dead strewed the ground by thousands. Yet to be victorious over the
Tartar host seemed to them an ample recompense for an even greater loss
than that sustained. Eight days were occupied by the survivors in
burying the slain. As for the Tartar dead, they were left to fester on
the field. Such was the great victory of the Don, from which Dmitri
gained his honorable surname of Donskoi. He died nine years afterwards
(1389), having won the high honor of being the first to vanquish the
terrible horsemen of the Steppes, firmly founded the authority of the
grand princes, and made Moscow the paramount power in Russia.


The victory of the Don did not free Russia from the Tartar yoke. Two
years afterwards the principality of Moscow was overrun and ravaged by a
lieutenant of the mighty Tamerlane, the all-conquering successor of
Genghis Khan. Several times Moscow was taken and burned. Full seventy
years later, at the court of the Golden Horde, two Russian princes might
have been seen disputing before the great khan the possession of the
grand principality and tremblingly awaiting his decision. Nevertheless,
the battle of the Don had sounded the knell of the Tartar power. Anarchy
continued to prevail in the Golden Horde. The power of the grand princes
of Moscow steadily grew. The khans themselves played into the hands of
their foes. Russia was slowly but surely casting off her fetters, and
deliverance was at hand.

Ivan III., great-grandson of Dmitri Donskoi, ascended the throne in
1462, nearly two centuries and a half after the Tartar invasion. During
all that period Russia had been the vassal of the khans. Only now was
its freedom to come. It was by craft, more than by war, that Ivan won.
In the field he was a dastard, but in subtlety and perfidy he surpassed
all other men of his time, and his insidious but persistent policy
ended by making him the autocrat of all the Russias.

He found powerful enemies outside his dominions,--the Tartars, the
Lithuanians, and the Poles. He succeeded in defeating them all. He had
powerful rivals within the domain of Russia. These also he overcame. He
made Moscow all-powerful, imitated the tyranny of the Tartars, and
founded the autocratic rule of the czars which has ever since prevailed.

The story of the fall of the Golden Horde may be briefly told. It was
the work of the Russian army, but not of the Russian prince. In 1469,
after collecting a large army, Ivan halted and began negotiating. But
the army was not to be restrained. Disregarding the orders of their
general, they chose another leader, and assailed and captured Kasan, the
chief Tartar city. As for the army of the Golden Horde, it was twice
defeated by the Russian force. In 1480 a third invasion of the Tartars
took place, which resulted in the annihilation of their force.

The tale, as handed down to us, is a curious one. The army, full of
martial ardor, had advanced as far as the Oka to meet the Tartars; but
on the approach of the enemy Ivan, stricken with terror, deserted his
troops and took refuge in far-off Moscow. He even recalled his son, but
the brave boy refused to obey, saying that "he would rather die at his
post than follow the example of his father."

The murmurs of the people, the supplication of the priests, the
indignation of the boyars, forced him to return to the army, but he
returned only to cover it with shame and himself with disgrace. For
when the chill of the coming winter suddenly froze the river between the
two forces, offering the foe a firm pathway to battle, Ivan, in
consternation, ordered a retreat, which his haste converted into a
disorderly flight. Yet the army was two hundred thousand strong and had
not struck a blow.

Fortune and his allies saved the dastard monarch. For at this perilous
interval the khan of the Crimea, an ally of Russia, attacked the capital
of the Golden Horde and forced a hasty recall of its army; and during
its disorderly homeward march a host of Cossacks fell upon it with such
fury that it was totally destroyed. Russia, threatened with a new
subjection to the Tartars by the cowardice of its monarch, was finally
freed from these dreaded foes through the aid of her allies.

But the fruits of this harvest, sown by others, were reaped by the czar.
His people, who had been disgusted with his cowardice, now gave him
credit for the deepest craft and wisdom. All this had been prepared by
him, they said. His flight was a ruse, his pusillanimity was prudence;
he had made the Tartars their own destroyers, without risking the fate
of Russia in a battle; and what had just been condemned as dastard
baseness was now praised as undiluted wisdom.

Ivan would never have gained the title of Great from his deeds in war.
He won it, and with some justice, from his deeds in peace. He was great
in diplomacy, great in duplicity, great in that persistent pursuit of a
single object through which men rise to power and fame. This object, in
his case, was autocracy. It was his purpose to crush out the last shreds
of freedom from Russia, establish an empire on the pernicious pattern of
a Tartar khanate, which had so long been held up as an example before
Russian eyes, and make the Prince of Moscow as absolute as the Emperor
of China. He succeeded. During his reign freedom fled from Russia. It
has never since returned.

The story of how this great aim was accomplished is too long to be told
here, and the most important part of it must be left for our next tale.
It will suffice, at this point, to say that by astute policy and good
fortune Ivan added to his dominions nineteen thousand square miles of
territory and four millions of subjects, made himself supreme autocrat
and his voice the sole arbiter of fate, reduced the boyars and
subordinate princes to dependence on his throne, established a new and
improved system of administration in all the details of government, and
by his marriage with Sophia, the last princess of the Greek imperial
family,--driven by the Turks from Constantinople to Rome,--gained for
his standard the two-headed eagle, the symbol of autocracy, and for
himself the supreme title of czar.


The Czar of Russia is the one political deity in Europe, the sole
absolute autocrat. More than a hundred millions of people have delivered
themselves over, fettered hand and foot, almost body and soul, to the
ownership of one man, without a voice in their own government, without
daring to speak, hardly daring to think, otherwise than he approves.
Thousands of them, millions of them, perhaps, are saying to-day, in the
words of Hamlet, "It is not and it cannot come to good; but break my
heart, for I must hold my tongue."

Who is this man, this god of a nation, that he should loom so high? Is
he a marvel of wisdom, virtue, and nobility, made by nature to wear the
purple, fashioned of porcelain clay, greater and better than all the
host to whom his word is the voice of fate? By no means; thousands of
his subjects tower far above him in virtue and ability, but,
puppet-like, the noblest and best of them must dance as he pulls the
strings, and hardly a man in Russia dares to say that his soul is his
own if the czar says otherwise.

Such a state of affairs is an anachronism in the nineteenth century, a
hideous relic of the barbarism and anarchy of mediæval times. In
America, where every man is a czar, so far as the disposal of himself
is concerned, the enslavement of the Russians seems a frightful
disregard of the rights of man, the nation a giant Gulliver bound down
to the earth by chains of creed and custom, of bureaucracy and perverted
public opinion. Like Gulliver, it was bound when asleep, and it must
continue fettered while its intellect remains torpid. Some day it will
awake, stretch its mighty limbs, burst its feeble bonds, and hurl in
disarray to the earth the whole host of liliputian officials and
dignitaries who are strutting in the pride of ownership on its great
body, the czar tumbling first from his great estate.

This does not seem a proper beginning to a story from Russian history,
but, to quote from Shakespeare again, "Thereby hangs a tale." The
history of Russia has, in fact, been a strange one; it began as a
republic, it has ended as a despotism; and we cannot go on with our work
without attempting to show how this came about.

It was the Mongol invasion that enslaved Russia. Helped by the khans,
Moscow gradually rose to supremacy over all the other principalities,
trod them one by one under her feet, gained power by the aid of Tartar
swords and spears or through sheer dread of the Tartar name, and when
the Golden Horde was at length overthrown the Grand Prince took the
place of the Great Khan and ruled with the same absolute sway. It was
the absolutism of Asia imported into Europe. Step by step the princes of
Moscow had copied the system of the khan. This work was finished by Ivan
the Great, at once the deliverer and the enslaver of Russia, who freed
that country from the yoke of the khan, but laid upon it a heavier
burden of servility and shame.

Under the khan there had been insurrection. Under the czar there was
subjection. The latter state was worse than the former. The subjection
continues still, but the spirit of insurrection is again rising. The
time is coming in which the rule of that successor of the Tartar khan,
miscalled the czar, will end, and the people take into their own hands
the control of their bodies and souls.

There were republics in Russia even in Ivan's day, free cities which,
though governed by princes, maintained the republican institutions of
the past. Chief among these was Novgorod, that Novgorod the Great which
invited Rurik into Russia and under him became the germ of the vast
Russian empire. A free city then, a free city it continued. Rurik and
his descendants ruled by sufferance. Yaroslaf confirmed the free
institutions which Rurik had respected. For centuries this great
commercial city continued prosperous and free, becoming in time a member
of the powerful Hanseatic League. Only for the invasion of the Mongols,
Novgorod instead of Moscow might have become the prototype of modern
Russia, and a republic instead of a despotism have been established in
that mighty land. The sword of the Tartar cast into the scales
overweighted the balance. It gave Moscow the supremacy, and liberty

Ivan the Great, in his determined effort to subject all Russia to his
autocratic sway, saw before him three republican communities, the free
cities of Novgorod, Viatka, and Pskof, and took steps to sweep these
last remnants of ancient freedom from his path. Novgorod, as much the
most important of these, especially demands our attention. With its fall
Russian liberty fell to the earth.

At that time Novgorod was one of the richest and most powerful cities of
the earth. It was an ally rather than a subject of Moscow, and all the
north of Russia was under its sway and contributed to its wealth. But
luxury had sapped its strength, and it held its liberties more by
purchase than by courage. Some of these liberties had already been lost,
seized by the grand prince. The proud burghers chafed under this
invasion of their time-honored privileges, and in 1471, inspired by the
seeming timidity of Ivan, they determined to regain them.

It was a woman that brought about the revolt. Marfa, a rich and
influential widow of the city, had fallen in love with a Lithuanian,
and, inspired at once by the passions of love and ambition, sought to
attach her country to that of her lover. She opened her palace to the
citizens and lavished on them her treasures, seeking to inspire them
with her own views. Her efforts were successful: the officers of the
grand prince were driven out, and his domains seized; and when he
threatened reprisal they broke into open revolt, and bound themselves by
treaty to Casimir, prince of Lithuania.

But events were to prove that the turbulent citizens were no match for
the crafty Ivan, who moved slowly but ever steadily to his goal, and
made secure each footstep before taking a step in advance. His
insidious policy roused three separate hostilities against Novgorod. The
pride of the nobles was stirred up against its democracy; the greed of
the princes made them eager to seize its wealth; the fanatical people
were taught that this great city was an apostate to the faith.

These hostile forces proved too much for the city against which they
were directed. Novgorod was taken and plundered, though Ivan did not yet
deprive it of its liberties. He had powerful princes to deal with, and
did not dare to seize so rich a prey without letting them share the
spoil. But he ruined the city by devastation and plunder, deprived it of
its tributaries, the city and territory of Perm, and turned from
Novgorod to Moscow the rich commerce of this section. Taking advantage
of some doubtful words in the treaty of submission, he held himself to
be legislator and supreme judge of the captive city. Such was the first
result of the advice of an ambitious woman.

The next step of the autocrat added to his influence. Novgorod being
threatened with an attack from Livonia, he sent thither troops and
envoys to fight and negotiate in his name, thus taking from the city,
whose resources he had already drained, its old right of making peace
and war.

The ill feeling between the rich and the poor of Novgorod was fomented
by his agents; all complaints were required to be made to him; he still
further impoverished the rich by the presents and magnificent receptions
which his presence among them demanded, and dazzled the eyes of the
people by the Oriental state and splendor which had been adopted by the
court of Moscow, and which he displayed in their midst.

The nobles who had formerly been his enemies now became his victims. He
had induced the people to denounce them, and at once seized them and
sent them in chains to Moscow. The people, blinded by this seeming
attention to their complaints, remained heedless of the violation of the
ancient law of their republic, "that none of its citizens should ever be
tried or punished out of the limits of its own territory."

Thus tyranny made its slow way. The citizens, once governed and judged
by their own peers, now made their appeals to the grand prince and were
summoned to appear before his tribunal. "Never since Rurik," say the
annals, "had such an event happened; never had the grand princes of Kief
and Vladimir seen the Novgorodians come and submit to them as their
judges. Ivan alone could reduce Novgorod to that degree of humiliation."

This work was done with the deliberation of a settled policy. Ivan did
not molest Marfa, who had instigated the revolt; his sentences were just
and equitable; men were blinded by his seeming moderation; and for full
seven years he pursued his insidious way, gradually weaning the people
from their ancient customs, and taking advantage of every imprudence and
thoughtless concession on their part to ground on it a claim to
increased authority.

It was the glove of silk he had thus far extended to them. Within it lay
concealed the hand of iron. The grasp of the iron hand was made when,
during an audience, the envoy of the republic, through treason or
thoughtlessness, addressed him by the name of sovereign (_Gosudar_,
"liege lord," instead of _Gospodin_, "master," the usual title).

Ivan, taking advantage of this, at once claimed all the absolute rights
which custom had attached to that title. He demanded that the republic
should take an oath to him as its judge and legislator, receive his
boyars as their rulers, and yield to them the ancient palace of
Yaroslaf, the sacred temple of their liberties, in which for more than
five centuries their assemblies had been held.

This demand roused the Novgorodians to their danger. They saw how
blindly they had yielded to tyranny. A transport of indignation inspired
them. For the last time the great bell of liberty sent forth its peal of
alarm. Gathering tumultuously at the palace from which they were
threatened with expulsion, they vigorously resolved,--

"Ivan is in fact our lord, but he shall never be our sovereign; the
tribunal of his deputies may sit at Goroditch, but never at Novgorod:
Novgorod is, and always shall be, its own judge."

In their rage they murdered several of the nobles whom they suspected of
being friends of the tyrant. The envoy who had uttered the imprudent
word was torn to pieces by their furious hands. They ended by again
invoking the aid of Lithuania.

On hearing of this outbreak the despot feigned surprise. Groans broke
from his lips, as if he felt that he had been basely used. His
complaints were loud, and the calling in of a foreign power was brought
against Novgorod as a frightful aggravation of its crime. Under cover of
these groans and complaints an army was gathered to which all the
provinces of the empire were forced to send contingents.

These warlike preparations alarmed the citizens. All Russia seemed
arrayed against them, and they tremblingly asked for conditions of peace
in accordance with their ancient honor. "I will reign at Novgorod as I
do at Moscow," replied the imperious despot. "I must have domains on
your territory. You must give up your Posadnick, and the bell which
summons you to the national council." Yet this threat of enslavement was
craftily coupled with a promise to respect their liberty.

This declaration, the most terrible that free citizens could have heard,
threw them into a state of violent agitation. Now in defiant fury they
seized their arms, now in helpless despondency let them fall. For a
whole month their crafty adversary permitted them to exhibit their rage,
not caring to use the great army with which he had encircled the city
when assured that the terror of his presence would soon bring him

They yielded: they could do nothing but yield. No blood was shed. Ivan
had gained his end, and was not given to useless cruelty. Marfa and
seven of the principal citizens were sent prisoners to Moscow and their
property was confiscated. No others were molested. But on the 15th of
January, 1478, the national assemblies ceased, and the citizens took the
oath of subjection. The great republic, which had existed from
prehistoric times, was at an end, and despotism ruled supreme.

On the 18th the boyars of Novgorod entered the service of Ivan, and the
possessions of the clergy were added to the domain of the prince, giving
him as vassals three hundred thousand boyar-followers, on whom he
depended to hold Novgorod in a state of submission. A great part of the
territories belonging to the city became the victor's prize, and it is
said that, as a share of his spoil, he sent to Moscow three hundred
cart-loads of gold, silver, and precious stones, besides vast quantities
of furs, cloths, and other goods of value.

Pskov, another of the Russian republics, had been already subdued. In
1479, Viatka, a colony of Novgorod, was reduced to like slavery. The end
had come. Republicanism in Russia was extinguished, and gradually the
republican population was removed to the soil of Moscow and replaced by
Muscovites, born to the yoke.

The liberties of Novgorod were gone. It had been robbed of its wealth.
Its commerce remained, which in time would have restored its prosperity.
But this too Ivan destroyed, not intentionally, but effectually. A burst
of despotic anger completed the work of ruin. The tyrant, having been
insulted by a Hanseatic city, ordered all the merchants of the Hansa
then in Novgorod to be put in chains and their property confiscated. As
a result, that confidence under which alone commerce can flourish
vanished, the North sought new channels for its trade, and Novgorod the
Great, once peopled by four hundred thousand souls, declined until only
an insignificant borough marks the spot where once it stood.

It is an interesting fact that this final blow to Russian republicanism
was dealt in 1492, the very year in which Columbus discovered a new
world beyond the seas, within which the greatest republic the world has
ever known was destined to arise.


In seeking examples of the excesses to which absolute power may lead, we
usually name the wicked emperors of Rome, among whom Nero stands most
notorious as a monster of cruelty. Modern history has but one Nero in
its long lines of kings and emperors, and him we find in Ivan IV. of
Russia, surnamed the Terrible.

This cruel czar succeeded to the throne when but three years of age. In
his early years he lived in a state of terror, being insulted and
despised by the powerful nobles who controlled the power of the throne.
At fourteen years of age his enemies were driven out and his kinsmen
came into power. They, caring only for blood and plunder, prompted the
boy to cruelty, teaching him to rob, to torture, to massacre. They
applauded him when he amused himself by tormenting animals; and when,
riding furiously through the streets of Moscow, he dashed all before him
to the ground and trampled women and children under his horses' feet,
they praised him for spirit and energy.

This was an education fitted to make a Nero. But, happily for Russia,
for thirteen years the tiger was chained. Ivan was seventeen years of
age when a frightful conflagration which broke out in Moscow gave rise
to a revolt against the Glinski, his wicked kinsmen. They were torn to
pieces by the furious multitude, while terror rent his youthful soul.
Amid the horror of flames, cries of vengeance, and groans of the dying,
a monk appeared before the trembling boy, and with menacing looks and
upraised hand bade him shrink from the wrath of Heaven, which his
cruelty had aroused.

Certain appearances which appeared supernatural aided the effect of
these words, the nature of Ivan seemed changed as by a miracle, dread of
Heaven's vengeance controlled his nature, and he yielded himself to the
influence of the wise and good. Pious priests and prudent boyars became
his advisers, Anastasia, his young and virtuous bride, gained an
influence over him, and Russia enjoyed justice and felicity.

During the succeeding thirteen years the country was ably and wisely
governed, order was everywhere established, the army was strengthened,
fortresses were built, enemies were defeated, the morals of the clergy
were improved, a new code of laws was formed, arts were introduced from
Europe, a printing-office was opened, the city of Archangel was built,
and the north of the empire was thrown open to commerce.

All this was the work of Adashef, Ivan's wise prime minister, aided by
the influence of the noble-hearted Anastasia. In 1560, at the end of
this period of mild and able administration, a sudden change took place
and the tiger was set free. Anastasia died. A disease seized Ivan which
seemed to affect his brain. The remainder of his life was marked by
paroxysms of frightful barbarity.

A new terror seized him, that of a vast conspiracy of the nobles
against his power, and for safety he retired to Alexandrovsky, a
fortress in the midst of a gloomy forest. Here he assumed the monkish
dress with three hundred of his minions, abandoning to the boyars the
government of the empire, but keeping the military power in his own

On all sides Russia now suffered from its enemies. Moscow, with several
hundred thousand Muscovites, was burned by the Tartars in 1571. Disaster
followed disaster, which Ivan was too cowardly and weak to avert.
Trusting to incompetent generals abroad, he surrounded himself at home
with a guard of six thousand chosen men, who were hired to play the part
of spies and assassins. They carried as emblems of office a dog's head
and a broom, the first to indicate that they worried the enemies of the
czar, the second that they swept them from the face of the earth. They
were chosen from the lowest class of the people, and to them was given
the property of their victims, that they might murder without mercy.

The excesses of Ivan are almost too horrible to tell. He began by
putting to death several great boyars of the family of Rurik, while
their wives and children were driven naked into the forests, where they
died under the scourge. Novgorod had been ruined by his grandfather. He
marched against it, in a freak of madness, gathered a throng of the
helpless people within a great enclosure, and butchered them with his
own hand. When worn out with these labors of death, he turned on them
his guard, his slaves, and his dogs, while for a month afterwards
hundreds of them were flung daily into the waters of the river, through
the broken ice. What little vitality Ivan III. had left in the
republican city was stamped out under the feet of this insensate brute.

Tver and Pskov, two others of the free cities of the empire, suffered
from his frightful presence. Then returning to Moscow, he filled the
public square with red-hot brasiers, great brass caldrons, and eighty
gibbets, and here five hundred of the leading nobles were slain by his
orders, after being subjected to terrible tortures.

Women were treated as barbarously as men. Ivan, with a cruelty never
before matched, ordered many of them to be hanged at their own doors,
and forced the husbands to go in and out under the swinging and
festering corpses of those they had loved and cherished. In other cases
husbands or children were fastened, dead, in their seats at table, and
the family forced to sit at meals, for days, opposite these terrifying

Seeking daily for new conceits of cruelty, he forced one lord to kill
his father and another his brother, while it was his delight to let
loose his dogs and bears upon the people in the public square, the
animals being left to devour the mutilated bodies of those they killed.
Eight hundred women were drowned in one frightful mass, and their
relatives were forced under torture to point out where their wealth lay

It is said that sixty thousand people were slain by Ivan's orders in
Novgorod alone; how many perished in the whole realm history does not
relate. His only warlike campaign was against the Livonians. These he
failed to conquer, but held their resistance as a rebellion, and ordered
his prisoners to be thrown into boiling caldrons, spitted on lances, or
roasted at fires which he stirred up with his own hands.

This monster of iniquity married in all seven wives. He sought for an
eighth from the court of Queen Elizabeth of England, and the daughter of
the Earl of Huntington was offered him as a victim,--a willing one, it
seems, influenced by the glamour which power exerts over the mind; but
before the match was concluded the intended bride took fright, and
begged to be spared the terrible honor of wedding the Russian czar.

Yet all the excesses of Ivan did not turn the people against him. He
assumed the manner of one inspired, claiming divine powers, and all the
injuries and degradation which he inflicted upon the people were
accepted not only with resignation but with adoration. The Russians of
that age of ignorance seem to have looked upon God and the czar as one,
and submitted to blows, wounds, and insults with a blind servility to
which only abject superstition could have led.


The end came at last, in a final freak of madness. An humble
supplication, coming from the most faithful of his subjects, was made to
him; but in his distorted brain it indicated a new conspiracy of the
boyars, of which his eldest and ablest son was to be the leader. In a
transport of insane rage the frenzied emperor raised his iron-bound
staff and struck to the earth with a mortal blow this hope of his race.

This was his last excess. Regret for his hasty act, though not remorse
for his murders, assailed him, and he soon after died, after twenty-six
years of insane cruelties, ordering new executions almost with his
latest breath.


In the year 1558 a family of wealthy merchants, Stroganof by name, began
to barter with the Tartar tribes dwelling east of the Ural Mountains.
Ivan IV. had granted to this family the desert districts of the Kama,
with great privileges in trade, and the power to levy troops and build
forts--at their own expense--as a security against the robbers who
crossed the Urals to prey upon their settled neighbors to the west. In
return the Stroganofs were privileged to follow their example in a more
legal manner, by the brigandage of trade between civilization and

These robbers came from the region now known as Siberia, which extends
to-day through thousands of miles of width, from the Urals to the
Pacific. Before this time we know little about this great expanse of
land. It seems to have been peopled by a succession of races, immigrants
from the south, each new wave of people driving the older tribes deeper
into the frozen regions of the north. Early in the Christian era there
came hither a people destitute of iron, but expert in the working of
bronze, silver, and gold. They had wide regions of irrigated fields, and
a higher civilization than that of those who in time took their place.

People of Turkish origin succeeded these tribes about the eleventh
century. They brought with them weapons of iron and made fine pottery.
In the thirteenth century, when the great Mongol outbreak took place
under Genghis Khan, the Turkish kingdom in Siberia was destroyed and
Tartars took their place. Civilization went decidedly down hill. Such
was the state of affairs when Russia began to turn eyes of longing
towards Siberia.

The busy traders of Novgorod had made their way into Siberia as early as
the eleventh century. But this republic fell, and the trade came to an
end. In 1555, Khan Ediger, who had made himself a kingdom in Siberia,
and whose people had crossed swords with the Russians beyond the Urals,
sent envoys to Moscow, who consented to pay to Russia a yearly tribute
of a thousand sables, thus acknowledging Russian supremacy.

This tribute showed that there were riches beyond the mountains. The
Stroganofs made their way to the barrier of the hills, and it was not
long before the trader was followed by the soldier. The invasion of
Siberia was due to an event which for the time threatened the total
overthrow of the Russian government. A Cossack brigand, Stepan Rozni by
name, had long defied the forces of the czar, and gradually gained in
strength until he had an army of three hundred thousand men under his
command. If he had been a soldier of ability he might have made himself
lord of the empire. Being a brigand in grain, he was soon overturned and
his forces dispersed.

Among his followers was one Yermak, a chief of the Cossacks of the Don,
whom the czar sentenced to death for his love of plunder, but afterwards
pardoned. Yermak and his followers soon found the rule of Moscow too
stringent for their ideas of personal liberty, and he led a Cossack band
to the Stroganof settlements in Perm.

Tradition tells us that the Stroganof of that date did not relish the
presence of his unruly guests, with their free ideas of property rights,
and suggested to Yermak that Siberia offered a promising field for a
ready sword. He would supply him with food and arms if he saw fit to
lead an expedition thither.

The suggestion accorded well with Yermak's humor. He at once began to
enlist volunteers for the enterprise, adding to his own Cossack band a
reinforcement of Russians and Tartars and of German and Polish prisoners
of war, until he had sixteen hundred and thirty-six men under his
command. With these he crossed the mountains in 1580, and terrified the
natives to submission with his fire-arms, a form of weapon new to them.
Making their way down the Tura and Taghil Rivers, the adventurers
crossed the immense untrodden forests of Tobol, and Kutchum, the Tartar
khan, was assailed in his capital town of Ister, near where Tobolsk now

Many battles with the Tartars were fought, Ister was taken, the khan
fled to the steppes, and his cousin was made prisoner by the
adventurers. Yermak now, having added by his valor a great domain to the
Russian empire, purchased the favor of Ivan IV. by the present of this
new kingdom. He made his way to the Irtish and Obi, opened trade with
the rich khanate of Bokhara, south of the desert, and in various ways
sought to consolidate the conquest he had made. But misfortune came to
the conqueror. One day, being surprised by the Tartars when unprepared,
he leaped into the Irtish in full armor and tried to swim its rapid
current. The armor he wore had been sent him by the czar, and had served
him well in war. It proved too heavy for his powers of swimming, bore
him beneath the hungry waters, and brought the career of the victorious
brigand to an end. After his death his dismayed followers fled from
Siberia, yielding it to Tartar hands again.

Yermak--in his way a rival of Cortez and Pizarro--gained by his conquest
the highest fame among the Russian people. They exalted him to the level
of a hero, and their church has raised him to the rank of a saint, at
whose tomb miracles are performed. As regards the Russian saints, it may
here be remarked that they have been constructed, as a rule, from very
unsanctified timber, as may be seen from the examples we have heretofore
given. Not only the people and the priests but the poets have paid their
tribute to Yermak's fame, epic poems having been written about his
exploits and his deeds made familiar in popular song.

Though the Cossacks withdrew after Yermak's death, others soon succeeded
them. The furs of Siberia formed a rich prize whose allurement could not
be ignored, and new bands of hunters and adventurers poured into the
country, sustained by regular troops from Moscow. The advance was made
through the northern districts to avoid the denser populations of the
south. New detachments of troops were sent, who built forts and settled
laborers around them, with the duty of supplying the garrisons with
food, powder, and arms. By 1650 the Amur was reached and followed to the
Pacific Ocean.

It was a brief period in which to conquer a country of such vast extent.
But no organized resistance was met, and the land lay almost at the
mercy of the invaders. There was vigorous opposition by the tribes, but
they were soon subdued. The only effective resistance they met was that
of the Chinese, who obliged the Cossacks to quit the Amur, which river
they claimed. In 1855 the advance here began again, and the whole course
of the river was occupied, with much territory to its south. Siberia,
thus conquered by arms, is being made secure for Russia by a
trans-continental railroad and hosts of new settlers, and promises in
the future to become a land of the greatest prosperity and wealth.

[Illustration: KIAKHTA, SIBERIA.]


On the 15th of May, 1591, five boys were playing in the court-yard of
the Russian palace at Uglitch. With them were the governess and nurse of
the principal child--a boy ten years of age--and a servant-woman. The
child had a knife in his hand, with which he was amusing himself by
thrusting it into the ground or cutting a piece of wood.

Unluckily, the attention of the women for a brief interval was drawn
aside. When the nurse looked at her charge again, to her horror she
found him writhing on the ground, bathed in blood which poured from a
large wound in his throat.

The shrieks of the nurse quickly drew others to the spot, and in a
moment there was a terrible uproar, for the dying boy was no less a
person than Dmitri, son of Ivan the Terrible, brother of Feodor, the
reigning czar, and heir to the crown of Russia. The tocsin was sounded,
and the populace thronged into the court-yard, thinking that the palace
was on fire. On learning what had actually happened they burst into
uncontrollable fury. The child had not killed himself, but had been
murdered, they said, and a victim for their rage was sought.

In a moment the governess was hurled bleeding and half alive to the
ground, and one of her slaves, who came to her aid, was killed. The
keeper of the palace was accused of the crime, and, though he fled and
barred himself within a house, the infuriated mob broke through the
doors and killed him and his son. The body of the child was carried into
a neighboring church, and here the son of the governess, against whom
suspicion had been directed, was murdered before it under his mother's
eyes. Fresh victims to the wrath of the populace were sought, and the
lives of the governess and some others were with difficulty saved.

As for the child who had killed himself or had been killed, alarming
stories had recently been set afloat. He was said to be the image of his
terrible father, and to manifest an unnatural delight in blood and the
sight of pain, his favorite amusement being to torture and kill animals.
But it is doubtful if any of this was true, for there was then one in
power who had a reason for arousing popular prejudice against the boy.

That this may be better understood we must go back. Ivan had killed his
ablest son, as told in a previous story, and Feodor, the present czar,
was a feeble, timid, sickly incapable, who was a mere tool in the hands
of his ambitious minister, Boris Godunof. Boris craved the throne.
Between him and this lofty goal lay only the feeble Feodor and the child
Dmitri, the sole direct survivors of the dynasty of Rurik. With their
death without children that great line would be extinguished.

The story of Boris reminds us in several particulars of that of the
Scotch usurper Macbeth. His future career had been predicted, in the
dead of night, by astrologers, who said, "You shall yet wear the
crown." Then they became silent, as if seeing horrors which they dared
not reveal. Boris insisted on knowing more, and was told that he should
reign, but only for seven years. In joy he exclaimed, "No matter, though
it be for only seven days, so that I reign!"

This ambitious lord, who ruled already if he did not reign, had
therefore a purpose in exciting prejudice against and distrust of
Dmitri, the only heir to the crown, and in taking steps for his removal.
Feodor dead, the throne would fall like ripe fruit into his own hands.

Yet, whether guilty of the murder or not, he took active steps to clear
himself of the dark suspicion of guilt. An inquest was held, and the
verdict rendered that the boy had killed himself by accident. At once
the regent proceeded to punish those who had taken part in the outbreak
at Uglitch. The czaritza, mother of Dmitri, who had first incited the
mob, was forced to take the veil. Her brothers, who had declared the act
one of murder, were sent to remote prisons. Uglitch was treated with
frightful severity. More than two hundred of its inhabitants were put to
death. Others were maimed and thrown into dungeons. All the rest, except
those who had fled, were exiled to Siberia, and with them was banished
the very church-bell which had called them out by its tocsin peal. A
town of thirty thousand inhabitants was depopulated that, as people
said, every evidence of the guilt of Boris Godunof might be destroyed.

This dreadful violence did Boris more harm than good. Macbeth stabbed
the sleeping grooms to hide his guilt. Boris destroyed a city. But he
only caused the people to look on him as an assassin and to doubt the
motives of even his noblest acts.

A fierce fire broke out that left much of Moscow in ruin. Boris rebuilt
whole streets and distributed money freely among the people. But even
those who received this aid said that he had set fire to the city
himself that he might win applause with his money. A Tartar army invaded
the empire and appeared at the gates of Moscow. All were in terror but
Boris, who hastily built redoubts, recruited soldiers, and inspired all
with his own courage. The Tartars were defeated, and hardly a third of
them reached home again. Yet all the return the able regent received was
the popular saying that he had called in the Tartars in order to make
the people forget the death of Dmitri.

A child was born to Feodor,--a girl. The enemies of the regent instantly
declared that a boy had been born and that he had substituted for it a
girl. It died in a few days, and then it was said that he had poisoned

Yet Boris went on, disdaining his enemies, winning power as he went. He
gained the favor of the clergy by giving Russia a patriarch of its own.
The nobles who opposed him were banished or crushed. He made the
peasants slaves of the land, and thus won over the petty lords. Cities
were built, fortresses erected, the enemies of Russia defeated; Siberia
was brought under firm control, and the whole nation made to see that
it had never been ruled by abler hands.

Boris in all this was strongly paving his way to the throne. In 1598 the
weak Feodor died. He left no sons, and with him, its fifty-second
sovereign, the dynasty of Rurik the Varangian came to an end. It had
existed for more than seven centuries. Branches of the house of Rurik
remained, yet no member of it dared aspire to that throne which the
tyrant Ivan had made odious.

A new ruler had to be chosen by the voice of those in power, and Boris
stood supreme among the aspirants. The chronicles tell us, with striking
brevity, "The election begins; the people look up to the nobles, the
nobles to the grandees, the grandees to the patriarch; he speaks, he
names Boris; and instantaneously, and as one man, all re-echo that
formidable name."

And now Godunof played an amusing game. He held the reins of power so
firmly that he could safely enact a transparent farce. He refused the
sceptre. The grandees and the people begged him to accept it, and he
took refuge from their solicitations in a monastery. This comedy, which
even Cæsar had not long played, Boris kept up for over a month. Yet from
his cell he moved Russia at his will.

In truth, the more he seemed to withdraw the more eager became all to
make him accept. Priests, nobles, people, besieged him with their
supplications. He refused, and again refused, and for six weeks kept all
Russia in suspense. Not until he saw before him the highest grandees and
clergy of the realm on their knees, tears in their eyes, in their hands
the relics of the saints and the image of the Redeemer, did he yield
what seemed a reluctant assent, and come forth from his cell to accept
that throne which was the chief object of his desires.

But Boris on the throne still resembled Macbeth. The memory of his
crimes pursued him, and he sought to rule by fear instead of love. He
endeavored, indeed, to win the people by shows and prodigality, but the
powerful he ruled with a heavy hand, destroying all whom he had reason
to fear, threatening the extinction of many great families by forbidding
their members to marry, seizing the wealth of those he had ruined. The
family of the Romanofs, allied to the line of Rurik, and soon to become
pre-eminent in Russia, he pursued with rancor, its chief being obliged
to turn monk to escape the axe. As monk he in time rose to the headship
of the church.

The peasantry, who had before possessed liberty of movement, were by him
bound as serfs to the soil. Thousands of them fled, and an insupportable
inquisition was established, as hateful to the landowners as to the
serfs. All this was made worse by famine and pestilence, which ravaged
Russia for three years. And in the midst of this disaster the ghost of
the slain Dmitri rose to plague his murderer. In other words, one who
claimed to be the slain prince appeared, and avenged the murdered child,
his story forming one of the most interesting tales in the history of
Russia. It is this which we have now to tell.

About midsummer of the year 1603 Adam Wiszniowiecki, a Polish prince,
angry at some act of negligence in a young man whom he had lately
employed, gave him a box on the ear and called him by an insulting name.

"If you knew who I am, prince," said the indignant youth, "you would not
strike me nor call me by such a name."

"Knew who you are! Why, who are you?"

"I am Dmitri, son of Ivan IV., and the rightful czar of Russia."

Surprised by this extraordinary statement, the prince questioned him,
and was told a plausible story by the young man. He had escaped the
murderer, he said, the boy who died being the son of a serf, who
resembled and had been substituted for him by his physician Simon, who
knew what Boris designed. The physician had fled with him from Uglitch
and put him in the hands of a loyal gentleman, who for safety had
consigned him to a monastery.

The physician and gentleman were both dead, but the young man showed the
prince a Russian seal which bore Dmitri's arms and name, and a gold
cross adorned with jewels of great value, given him, he said, by his
princely godfather. He was about the age which Dmitri would have
reached, and, as a Russian servant who had seen the child said, had
warts and other marks like those of the true Dmitri. He possessed also a
persuasiveness of manner which soon won over the Polish prince.

The pretender was accepted as an illustrious guest by Prince
Wiszniowiecki, given clothes, horses, carriages, and suitable retinue,
and presented to other Polish dignitaries. Dmitri, as he was thenceforth
known, bore well the honors now showered upon him. He was at ease among
the noblest; gracious, affable, but always dignified; and all said that
he had the deportment of a prince.

He spoke Polish as well as Russian, was thoroughly versed in Russian
history and genealogy, and was, moreover, an accomplished horseman,
versed in field sports, and of striking vigor and agility, qualities
highly esteemed by the Polish nobles.

The story of this event quickly reached Russia, and made its way with
surprising rapidity through all the provinces. The czarevitch Dmitri had
not been murdered, after all! He was alive in Poland, and was about to
call the usurper to a terrible reckoning. The whole nation was astir
with the story, and various accounts of his having been seen in Russia
and of having played a brave part in the military expeditions of the
Cossacks were set afloat.

Boris soon heard of this claimant of the throne. He also received the
disturbing news that a monk was among the Cossacks of the Don urging
them to take up arms for the czarevitch who would soon be among them.
His first movement was the injudicious one of trying to bribe
Wiszniowiecki to give up the impostor to him,--the result being to
confirm the belief that he was in truth the prince he claimed to be.

The events that followed are too numerous to be given in detail, and it
must suffice here to say that on October 31, 1604, Dmitri entered
Russian territory at the head of a small Polish army, of less than five
thousand in all. This was a trifling force with which to invade an
empire, but it grew rapidly as he advanced. Town after town submitted on
his appearance, bringing to him, bound and gagged, the governors set
over them by Boris. Dmitri at once set them free and treated them with
politic humanity.

The first town to offer resistance was Novgorod-Swerski, which Peter
Basmanof, a general of Boris, had garrisoned with five hundred men.
Basmanof was brave and obstinate, and for several weeks he held the
force of Dmitri before this petty place, while Boris was making vigorous
efforts to collect an army among his discontented people. On the last
day of 1604 the two armies met, fifteen thousand against fifty thousand,
and on a broad open plain that gave the weaker force no advantage of

But Dmitri made up for weakness by soldierly spirit. At the head of some
six hundred mail-clad Polish knights he vigorously charged the Russian
right wing, hurled it back upon the centre, and soon had the whole army
in disorder. The soldiers flung down their arms and fled, shouting, "The
czarevitch! the czarevitch!"

Yet in less than a month this important victory was followed by a
defeat. Dmitri had been weakened by his Poles being called home. Boris
gathered new forces, and on January 20, 1605, the armies met again, now
seventy thousand Muscovites against less than quarter their number. Yet
victory would have come to Dmitri again but for treachery in his army.
He charged the enemy with the same fierceness as before, bore down all
before him, routed the cavalry, tore a great gap in the line of the
infantry, and would have swept the field had the main body of his army,
consisting of eight thousand Zaporogues, come to his aid.

At this vital moment this great body of cavalry, half the entire army,
wheeled and quit the field,--bribed, it is said, by Boris. Such a
defection, at such a moment, was fatal. The Russians rallied; the day
was lost; nothing but flight remained. Dmitri fled, hotly pursued, and
his horse suffering from a wound. He was saved by his devoted Cossack
infantry, four thousand in number, who stood to their guns and faced the
whole Muscovite army. They were killed to a man, but Dmitri
escaped,--favored, as we are told, by some of the opposing leaders, who
did not want to make Boris too powerful.

All was not lost while Dmitri remained at liberty. Lost armies could be
restored. He took refuge in Putivle, one of the towns which had
pronounced in his favor, and while his enemies, who proved half-hearted
in the cause of Boris, wasted their time in besieging a small fortress,
new adherents flocked to his banner. Boris was furious against his
generals, but his fury caused them to hate instead of to serve him. He
tried to get rid of Dmitri by poison, but his agents were discovered and
punished, and the attempt helped his rival more than a victory would
have done.

Dmitri wrote to Boris, declaring that Heaven had protected him against
this base attempt, and ironically promising to extend mercy towards him.
"Descend from the throne you have usurped, and seek in the solitude of
the cloister to reconcile yourself with Heaven. In that case I will
forget your crimes, and even assure you of my sovereign protection."

All this was bitter to the Russian Macbeth. The princely blood which he
had shed to gain the throne seemed to redden the air about him. The
ghost of his slain victim haunted him. His power, indeed, seemed as
great as ever. He was an autocrat still, the master of a splendid court,
the ruler over a vast empire. Yet he knew that they who came with
reverence and adulation into his presence hated him in their hearts, and
anguish must have smitten the usurper to the soul.

His sudden death seemed to indicate this. On the 13th of April, 1605,
after dining in state with some distinguished foreigners, illness
suddenly seized him, blood burst from his mouth, nose, and ears, and
within two hours he was dead. He had reigned six years,--nearly the full
term predicted by the soothsayers.

The story of Dmitri is a long one still, but must be dealt with here
with the greatest brevity. Feodor, the son of Boris, was proclaimed czar
by the boyars of the court. The oath of allegiance was taken by the
whole city; all seemed to favor him; yet within six weeks this boyish
czar was deposed and executed without a sword being drawn in his

Basmanof, the leading general of Boris, had turned to the cause of
Dmitri, and the army seconded him. The people of Moscow declared in
favor of the pretender, there were a few executions and banishments, and
on the 20th of June the new czar entered Moscow in great pomp, amid the
acclamations of an immense multitude, who thronged the streets, the
windows, and the house-tops; and the young man who, less than two years
before, had had his ears boxed by a Polish prince, was now proclaimed
emperor and autocrat of the mighty Russian realm.

It was a short reign to which the false Dmitri--for there seems to be no
doubt of the death of the true Dmitri--had come. Within less than a year
Moscow was in rebellion, he was slain, and the throne was vacant. And
this result was largely due to his generous and kindly spirit, largely
to his trusting nature and disregard of Russian opinion.

No man could have been more unlike the tyrant Ivan, his reputed father.
Dmitri proved kind and generous to all, even bestowing honors upon
members of the family of Godunof. He remitted heavy taxes, punished
unjust judges, paid the debts contracted by Ivan, passed laws in the
interest of the serfs, and held himself ready to receive the petitions
and redress the grievances of the humblest of his subjects. His
knowledge of state affairs was remarkable for one of his age, and Russia
had never had an abler, nobler-minded, and more kindly-hearted czar.

But Dmitri in discretion was still a boy, and made trouble where an
older head would have mended it. He offended the boyars of his council
by laughing at their ignorance.

"Go and travel," he said; "observe the ways of civilized nations, for
you are no better than savages."

The advice was good, but not wise. He offended the Russian demand for
decorum in a czar by riding through the streets on a furious stallion,
like a Cossack of the Don. In religion he was lax, favoring secretly the
Latin Church. He chose Poles instead of Russians for his secretaries.
And he excited general disgust by the announcement that he was about to
marry a Polish woman, heretical to the Russian faith. The people were
still more incensed by the conduct of Marina, this foreign bride, both
before and after the wedding, she giving continual offence by her
insistence on Polish customs.

While thus offending the prejudices and superstitions of his people,
Dmitri prepared for his downfall by his trustfulness and clemency. He
dismissed the spies with whom former czars had surrounded themselves,
and laid himself freely open to treachery. The result of his acts and
his openness was a conspiracy, which was fortunately discovered.
Shuiski, its leader, was condemned to be executed. Yet as he knelt with
the axe lifted above him, he was respited and banished to Siberia; and
on his way thither a courier overtook him, bearing a pardon for him and
his banished brothers. His rank was restored, and he was again made a
councillor of the empire.

Clemency like this was praiseworthy, but it proved fatal. Like Cæsar
before him, Dmitri was over-clement and over-confident, and with the
same result. Yet his answer to those who urged him to punish the
conspirator was a noble one, and his trustfulness worth far more than a
security due to cruelty and suspicion.

"No," he said, "I have sworn not to shed Christian blood, and I will
keep my oath. There are two ways of governing an empire,--tyranny and
generosity. I choose the latter. I will not be a tyrant. I will not
spare money; I will scatter it on all hands."

Only for the offence which he gave his people by disregarding their
prejudices, Dmitri might have long and ably reigned. His confidence
opened the way to a new conspiracy, of which Shuiski was again at the
head. Reports were spread through the city that Dmitri was a heretic and
an impostor, and that he had formed a plot to massacre the Muscovites by
the aid of the Poles whom he had introduced into the city.

As a result of the insidious methods of the conspirators, the whole city
broke out in rebellion, and at daybreak on the 29th of May, 1606, a body
of boyars gathered in the great square in full armor, and, followed by a
multitude of townsmen, advanced on the Kremlin, whose gates were thrown
open by traitors within.

Dmitri, who had only fifty guards in the palace, was aroused by the din
of bells and the uproar in the streets. An armed multitude filled the
outer court, shouting, "Death to the impostor!"

Soon conspirators appeared in the palace, where the czar, snatching a
sword from one of the guards, and attended by Basmanof, attacked them,
crying out, "I am not a Boris for you!"

He killed several with his own hands, but Basmanof was slain before
him, and he and the guards were driven back from chamber to chamber,
until the guards, finding that the czar had disappeared, laid down their

Dmitri, seeing that resistance was hopeless, had sought a distant room,
and here had leaped or been thrown from a window to the ground. The
height was thirty feet, his leg was broken by the fall, and he fainted
with the pain.

His last hope of life was gone. Some faithful soldiers who found him
sought to defend him against the mob who soon appeared, but their
resistance was of no avail. Dmitri was seized, his royal garments were
torn off, and the caftan of a pastry-cook was placed upon him. Thus
dressed, he was carried into a room of the palace for the mockery of a

"Bastard dog," cried one of the Russians, "tell us who you are and
whence you came."

"You all know I am your czar," replied Dmitri, bravely, "the legitimate
son of Ivan Vassilievitch. If you desire my death, give me time at least
to collect my senses."

At this a Russian gentleman named Valnief shouted out,--

"What is the use of so much talk with the heretic dog? This is the way I
confess this Polish fifer." And he put an end to the agony of Dmitri by
shooting him through the breast.

In an instant the mob rushed on the lifeless body, slashing it with axes
and swords. It was carried out, placed on a table, and a set of
bagpipes set on the breast with the pipe in the mouth.

"You played on us long enough; now play for us," cried the ribald

Others lashed the corpse with their whips, crying, "Look at the czar,
the hero of the Germans."

For three days Dmitri's body lay exposed to the view of the populace,
but it was so hacked and mangled that none could recognize in it the
gallant young man who a few days before had worn the imperial robes and

On the third night a blue flame was seen playing over the table, and the
guards, frightened by this natural result of putrefaction, hastened to
bury the body outside the walls. But superstitious terrors followed the
prodigy: it was whispered that Dmitri was a wizard who, by magic arts,
had the power to come to life from the grave. To prevent this the body
was dug up again and burned, and the ashes were collected, mixed with
gunpowder, and rammed into a cannon, which was then dragged to the gate
by which Dmitri had entered Moscow. Here the match was applied, and the
ashes of the late czar were hurled down the road leading to Poland,
whence he had come.

Thus died a man who, impostor though he seems to have been, was perhaps
the noblest and best of all the Russian czars, while the story of his
rise and fall forms the most dramatic tale in all the annals of the
empire over which for one short year he ruled.


We have told how the ashes of Dmitri were loaded into a cannon and fired
from the gate of Moscow. They fell like seeds of war on the soil of
Russia, and for years that unhappy land was torn by faction and harried
by invasion. From those ashes new Dmitris seemed to spring, other
impostors rose to claim the crown, and until all these shades were laid
peace fled from the land.

Vassili Shuiski, the leader in the insurrection against Dmitri, had
himself proclaimed czar. He was destined to learn the truth of the
saying, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." For hardly had the
mob that murdered Dmitri dispersed before rumors arose that their victim
was not dead. His body had been so mangled that none could recognize it,
and the story was set afloat that it was one of his officers who had
been killed, and that he had escaped. Four swift horses were missing
from the stables of the palace, and these were at once connected with
the assumed flight of the czar. Rumor was in the air, and even in Moscow
doubts of Dmitri's death grew rife.

Fuel soon fell on the flame. Three strangers in Russian dress, but
speaking the language of Poland, crossed the Oka River, and gave the
ferryman the high fee of six ducats, saying, "You have ferried the
czar; when he comes back to Moscow with a Polish army he will not forget
your service."

At a German inn, a little farther on, the same party used similar
language. This story spread like wildfire through Russia, and deeply
alarmed the new czar. To put it down he sought to play on the religious
feelings of the Russians, by making a saint of the original Dmitri. A
body was produced, said to have been taken from the grave of the slain
boy at Uglitch, but in a remarkable state of preservation, since it
still displayed the fresh hue of life and held in its hand some
strangely preserved nuts. Tales of miracles performed by the relics of
the new saint were also spread, but with little avail, for the people
were not very ready to believe the man who had stolen the throne.

War broke out despite these manufactured miracles. Prince
Shakhofskoi--the supposed leader of the party who had told the story at
the Oka--was soon in the field with an army of Cossacks and peasants,
and defeated the royal army. But the new Dmitri, in whose name he
fought, did not appear. It seemed as if Shakhofskoi had not yet been
able to find a suitable person to play the part.

Russia, however, was not long without a pretender. During Dmitri's reign
a young man had appeared among the Cossacks of the Volga, calling
himself Peter Feodorovitch, and claiming to be the son of the former
czar Feodor. This man now reappeared and presented himself to the rebel
army as the representative of his uncle Dmitri. He was eagerly welcomed
by Shakhofskoi, who badly needed some one whom he might offer to his
men as a prince.

And now we have to describe one of the strangest sieges in the annals of
history. Shakhofskoi, finding himself threatened by a powerful army,
took refuge in the fortified town of Toula. Here he was soon joined by
Bolotnikof, a Polish general who had come to Russia with a commission
bearing the imperial seal of Dmitri. In this stronghold they were
besieged by an army of one hundred thousand men, led by the czar

Toula was strong. It was vigorously defended, the garrison fighting
bravely for their lives. No progress was made with the siege, and
Shuiski grew disconsolate, for he knew that to fail now would be ruin.

From this state of anxiety he was relieved by a remarkable proposal,
that of an obscure individual who promised to drown all the people of
Toula and deliver the town into his hands. This extraordinary offer,
made by a monk named Kravkof, was at first received with incredulous
laughter, and it was some time before the czar and his council could be
brought to listen to the words of an idle braggart, as they deemed the
stranger. In the end the czar asked him to explain his plan.

It proved to be the following. Toula lay in a narrow valley, down whose
centre flowed the little river Oupa, passing through the town. Kravkof
suggested that they should dam this stream below the town. "Do as I
say," he remarked, "and if the whole town is not under water in a few
hours, I will answer for the failure with my head."

The project thus presented seemed feasible. Immediately all the millers
in the army, men used to the kind of work required, were put under his
orders, and the other soldiers were set to carrying sacks of earth to
the place chosen for the dam. As this rose in height, the water backed
up in the town. Soon many of the streets became canals, hundreds of
houses, undermined by the water, were destroyed, and the promise of
Kravkof seemed likely to be fulfilled.

Yet the garrison, confined in what had become a walled-in lake, fought
with desperate obstinacy. Water surrounded them, yet they waded to the
walls and fought. Famine decimated them, yet they starved and fought. A
terrible epidemic broke out in the water-soaked city, but the garrison
fought on. Dreadful as were their surroundings, they held out with
unflinching courage and intrepidity.

The dam was the centre of the struggle. The besiegers sought to raise it
still higher and deepen the water in the streets; the besieged did their
best to break it down and relieve the city. It had grown to a great
height with such rapidity that the superstitious people of Toula felt
sure that magic had aided in its building and fancied that it might be
destroyed by magic means. A monk declared that Shuiski had brought
devils to his aid, but professed to be a proficient in the black art,
and offered, for a hundred roubles, to fight the demons in their own

Bolotnikof accepted his terms, and he stripped, plunged into the river,
and disappeared. For a full hour nothing was seen of him, and every one
gave him up for lost. But at the end of that time he rose to the surface
of the water, his body covered with scratches. The story he had to tell
was, to say the least, remarkable.

"I have had a frightful conflict," he said, "with the twelve thousand
devils Shuiski has at work upon his dam. I have settled six thousand of
them, but the other six thousand are the worst of all, and will not give

Thus against men and devils alike, against water, famine, and
pestilence, fought the brave men of Toula, holding out with
extraordinary courage. Letters came to them in Dmitri's name, promising
help, but it never came. At length, after months of this brave defence
had elapsed, Shakhofskoi proposed that they should capitulate. The
Cossacks of the garrison, furious at the suggestion, seized and thrust
him into a dungeon. Not until every scrap of food had been eaten, horses
and dogs devoured, even leather gnawed as food, did Bolotnikof and Peter
the pretender offer to yield, and then only on condition that the
soldiers should receive honorable treatment. If not, they would die with
arms in their hands, and devour one another as food, rather than
surrender. As for themselves, they asked for no pledges of safety.

Shuiski accepted the terms, and the gates were opened. Bolotnikof
advanced boldly to the czar and offered himself as a victim, presenting
his sword with the edge laid against his neck.

"I have kept the oath I swore to him who, rightly or wrongly, calls
himself Dmitri," he said. "Deserted by him, I am in your power. Cut off
my head if you will; or, if you will spare my life, I will serve you as
I have served him."

This appeal was wasted on Shuiski. He forgot the clemency which the czar
Dmitri had formerly shown to him, sent Bolotnikof to Kargopol, and soon
after ordered him to be drowned. Peter the pretender was hanged on the
spot. Shakhofskoi alone was spared. They found him in chains, which he
said had been placed on him because he counselled the obstinate rebels
to submit. Shuiski set him free, and the first use he made of his
liberty was to kindle the rebellion again.

Thus ended this remarkable siege, one in some respects without parallel
in the history of war. What followed must be briefly told. Though the
siege of Toula ended with the hanging of one pretender to the throne,
another was already in the field. The new Dmitri, in whose name the war
was waged, had made his appearance during the siege. Some of the
officers of the first Dmitri pretended to recognize him, but in reality
he was a coarse, vulgar, ignorant knave, who had badly learned his
lesson, and lacked all the native princeliness of his predecessor.

Yet he had soon a large army at his back, and with it, on April 24,
1608, he defeated the army of the czar with great slaughter. He might
easily have taken Moscow, but instead of advancing on it he halted at
the village of Tushino, twelve versts away, where he held his court for
seventeen months.

Meanwhile still another pretender appeared, who called himself Feodor,
son of the czar Feodor. He presented himself to the Don Cossacks, who
brought him in chains to Dmitri, by whom he was promptly put to death.
Soon afterwards Marina, wife of the first Dmitri, who had been released,
with her father, by Shuiski, was brought into the camp of the pretender.
And here an interesting bit of comedy was played. Marina, rather than go
back to meet ridicule in Poland, was ready to become the wife of this
vulgar impostor, though she saw at once that he was not the man he
claimed to be.

She met him coldly at first, but at a second meeting she greeted him
with a great show of tenderness before the whole army, being glad, it
would appear, to regain her old position on any terms. The news that
Marina had recognized the pretender brought over numbers to his side,
and soon nearly all Russia had declared for him, the only cities holding
out being Moscow, Novgorod, and Smolensk.

The false Dmitri had now reached the summit of his fortunes. A rapid
decline followed. One of his generals, who laid siege to the monastery
of the Trinity, near Moscow, was repulsed. His partisans were defeated
in other quarters. Soon the whole aspect of the war changed. A new enemy
to Russia came into the field, Sigismund, King of Poland, who laid siege
to the strong city of Smolensk, while the army of the czar, which
marched to its relief, suffered an annihilating defeat.

This result closed the reign of Shuiski. An insurrection broke out in
Moscow, he was forced to become a monk, and in the end was delivered to
Sigismund and died in prison. Thus was Dmitri avenged. The new
condition of affairs proved as disastrous to the false Dmitri. His Poles
deserted him, his power vanished, and he descended to the level of a
mere Cossack robber. In December, 1610, murder ended his career.

Smolensk fell after a siege of eighteen months, but at the last moment a
powder magazine exploded and set fire to the city, and Sigismund became
master only of a heap of ruins. The Poles in Moscow, attacked by the
Russians, took possession of the Kremlin, burned down most of the city,
and massacred a hundred thousand of the people. Anarchy was rampant
everywhere. New chiefs appeared in all quarters. Each town declared for
itself. The Swedes took possession of Novgorod. A third Dmitri appeared,
and dwelt in state for a while, but was soon taken and hanged. The whole
great empire was in a state of frightful confusion, and seemed as if it
was about to fall to pieces.

From this fate it was saved by one of the common people, a butcher of
Nijni Novgorod, Kozma Minin by name. Brave, honest, patriotic, and
sensible, this man aroused his fellow-citizens, who took up arms for the
deliverance of their country. Other towns followed this example, an army
was raised with Prince Pojarski at its head, and Minin, the patriotic
butcher, seconded him in an administrative capacity, being hailed by the
people as "the elect of the whole Russian empire."

Driving the Poles before him, Pojarski entered Moscow, and in October,
1612, became master of the Kremlin. The impostors all disappeared;
Marina and her three-year-old son Ivan were captured, the child to be
hanged and she to end her eventful life in prison; anarchy vanished, and
peace returned to the realm.

The end came in 1613, when a national council was convened to choose a
new czar. Pojarski refused the crown, and Michael Romanof, a boy of
sixteen, scion of one of the noblest families of Russia, and allied to
the Ruriks by the female line, was elected czar. His descendants still
hold the throne.



The noble families of Russia, for the most part descendants of the
Scandinavian adventurers who had come in with Rurik, were as proud in
their way as the descendants of the vikings who came to England under
William of Normandy. Their books of pedigree were kept with the most
scrupulous care, and in these were set down not only the genealogies of
the families, but every office that had been held by any ancestor, at
court, in the army, or in the administration.

With this there is no special fault to be found. It is as well,
doubtless, to keep the pedigrees of men as it is to keep those of horses
and dogs; though the animals, being ignorant of their records, are less
likely to make them a matter of pride and presumption. In Russia the
fact that certain men knew the names and standing of their ancestors led
to the most absurd consequences. The books of ancestry were constantly
appealed to for the support of foolish pretensions, and the nobles of
Russia strutted like so many peacocks in their insensate pride of

In no other country has the question of precedence been carried to such
ridiculous lengths as it was in Russia in the days of the early
Romanofs. If a nobleman were appointed to a post at court or a position
in the army, he at once examined the books of ancestry to learn if the
officials under whom he would serve had fewer ancestors on record than
he. If such proved to be the case the office was refused, or accepted
under protest, the government being, metaphorically, forced to fall on
its knees to the haughtiness of its offended lordling.

The folly of the nobles went even farther than this. The height of their
genealogy counted for as much as its length. They would refuse to accept
positions under persons whose ancestors were shown by the books to have
been subordinate to theirs in the same positions. If it appeared that
the John of five centuries before had been under the Peter of that
period, the modern Peter was too proud to accept a similar position
under the modern John. And so it went, until court life became a
constant scene of bickering and discontent, and of murmurs at the most
trifling slights and neglects. In short, it became necessary that an
office of genealogy should be established at court, in which exact
copies of the family trees and service registers of the noble families
were kept, and the officers here employed found enough to keep them busy
in settling the endless disputes of their lordly clients.

In the reign of Theodore, the third czar of the Romanof dynasty, this
ridiculous sentiment reached its climax, and it became almost impossible
to appoint a wise man to office over a fool, if the fool's ancestors had
happened to hold the same office over those of the man of wisdom. The
fancy seemed to be held that folly and wisdom are handed down from
father to son, a conceit which is often the very reverse of the truth.

Theodore was a feeble youth, who reigned little more than five years,
yet in that time he managed to bury this folly out of sight. Annoyed by
the constant bickerings of courtiers and officials, he consulted with
his able minister, Prince Vassili Galitzin, and hit on a means of
ridding himself of the difficulty.

Proclamation was made that all the noble families of the kingdom should
deliver their service rolls into court by a fixed date, that they might
be cleared of certain errors which had unavoidably crept into them. The
order was obeyed, and a multitude of these precious documents were
brought into the palace halls of the czar. The heads of the noble
families and the higher clergy were now sent for, composing a proud
assembly, before whom the patriarch, who had received his instructions,
made an eloquent address. He ended by speaking of the claims to
precedence in the following words:

"They are a bitter source of every kind of evil; they render abortive
the most useful enterprises, in like manner as the tares stifle the good
grain; they have introduced, even into the hearts of families,
dissension, confusion, and hatred. But the pontiff comprehends the grand
design of his czar; God alone could have inspired it!"

Though utterly ignorant of what that design was, the grandees felt
compelled to express a warm approval of these words. At this Theodore,
who pretended to be enraptured by their unanimous applause, suddenly
rose, and, simulating a burst of patriotic enthusiasm, proclaimed the
abolition of all their hereditary claims.

"That the very recollection of them may be forever extinguished," he
exclaimed, "let all the papers relative to these titles be instantly

The fire was already prepared, and by his orders the precious papers
were hurled into the flames before the anguished eyes of the nobles, who
did not dare in that despotic court to express their true feelings, and
strove to hide their dismay under hollow acclamations of assent.

As what they deemed their most valuable possessions were thus converted
to ashes before their eyes, the patriarch again rose, and declared an
anathema against any one who should dare to oppose this order of the
czar. An "Amen" that was like a groan came from the lips of the
horrified nobles, and precedence went up in flames.

The czar had no thought of effacing the noble families. New books were
prepared, in which their ancestry was described. But the absurd claims
which had caused such discord were forever abolished, and court life
thereafter proved smoother and easier in consequence of the iconoclastic
act of the czar Theodore.


Peter the Great, grandson of the first emperor of the Romanof line, was
a man of such extraordinary power of body and mind, such a remarkable
combination of common sense, mental activity, advanced ideas, and
determination to lift Russia to a high place among the nations, with
cruelty, grossness, and infirmities of vice and passion, that his reign
of forty-three years fills as large a place in Russian history as do the
annals of all the preceding centuries, and the progress of Russia during
this short period was greater than in any other epoch of three or four
times its length.

The character of the man showed in the boy, and while a mere child he
began those steps of progress which were continued throughout his life.
He had two brothers, both older than he, and sons of a different mother,
so that the throne seemed far from his grasp. But Theodore, the oldest
of the three, died after a brief reign, leaving no heirs to the throne.
Ivan, the second son, was an imbecile, nearly blind, and subject to
epileptic fits. The clergy and grandees, in consequence, looked upon
Peter as the most promising successor to the throne. But he was still
only a child, not yet ten years of age.

The czar Alexis had left also several daughters; but in those days the
fate of princesses of the blood was a harsh one. They were not permitted
to marry, and were consigned to convents, where they knew nothing of
what was passing in the busy world without. One of the daughters, Sophia
by name, had escaped from this fate. At her earnest request she was
taken from the convent and permitted to nurse her sickly brother

She was a woman of high intelligence, bold and ambitious by nature, and
during her residence in court learned much of the politics of the empire
and took some part in its government. After the death of Theodore she
contrived to have herself named regent for her two brothers, Ivan being
plainly unfit to rule, and Peter too young.

There are many stories told about her, of which probably the half are
not true. It is said that she kept her young brother at a distance from
Moscow, where she surrounded him with ministers of evil, whose business
it was to encourage him in riot and dissipation, to the end that he
might become a moral monster, odious and insupportable to the nation at
large. Such a course had been pursued with Ivan the Terrible, and to it
was largely due his incredible iniquity.

If Sophia had really any such purpose in view, she was playing with
edge-tools. She quite mistook the character of her young brother, and
forgot that the same rule may work differently in different cases. The
steps taken to make the boy base, if really so intended, aided to make
him great. His morals were corrupted, his health was impaired, and his
heart hardened by the excesses of his youth, but his removal from the
palace atmosphere of flattery and effeminacy tended to make him
self-reliant, while his free life in the country and the activity which
it encouraged helped to develop the native energy of his character.

It is probable that Sophia had no such intention to corrupt the nature
of the child, for she showed no ill will against him. It was apparently
to his mother, rather than to his sister, that his residence in the
country was due, and he was obliged to go frequently to Moscow, to take
part in ceremonial affairs, while his name was used in all public
documents, many of which he was required to sign.

From early life the boy had shown himself active, intelligent, quick to
learn, and full of curiosity. He was particularly interested in military
affairs, and playing at soldiers was one of the leading diversions of
his youth. Only a day or two after a great riot in Moscow, in which
numbers of nobles were slaughtered, and in which the child had looked
unmoved into the savage faces of the rioters, he sent to the arsenal for
drums, banners, and arms. Uniforms and wooden cannon were supplied him,
and on his eleventh birthday--in 1683--he was allowed to have some real
guns, with which he fired salutes.

From his country home at Preobrajensk messengers came almost daily to
Moscow for powder, lead, and shot; small brass and iron cannon were
supplied the boy, and drummer-boys, selected from the different
regiments, were sent to him. Thus he was allowed to play at soldier to
his heart's content.

A company was formed from the younger domestics of the place, fifty in
number, the officers being sons of the boyars or lords. But these were
required by the alert boy to pass through all the grades of the service,
which he also did himself, serving successively as private, sergeant,
lieutenant, and captain, and finally as colonel of the regiment which
grew from this youthful company. Peter called his company "the guards,"
but it was known in Moscow as the "pleasure company," or "troops for
sport." In time, however, it grew into the Preobrajensky Guards, a
celebrated regiment which is still kept up as the first regiment of the
Russian Imperial Guard, and of which the emperor is always the colonel.
Another company, formed on the same plan in an adjoining village, became
the Semenofsky Regiment. From these rudiments grew the present Russian

These military exercises soon ceased to be child's play to the active
lad. He gave himself no rest from his prescribed duties, stood his watch
in turn, shared in the labors of the camp, slept in the tents of his
comrades, and partook of their fare. He used to lead his company on long
marches, during which the strictest discipline was maintained, and the
camps at night were guarded as in an enemy's country.

On reaching his thirteenth year the boy took further steps in his
military education, building a small fortress, whose remains are still
preserved. This was constructed with great care, and took nearly a year
to build. At the suggestion of a German officer it was named Pressburg,
the name being given with much ceremony, Peter leading from Moscow a
procession of most of the court officials and nobles to take part in the

These military sports were not enough for the active mind of the boy,
who kept himself busy at a dozen labors. He used to hammer and forge in
the blacksmith's shop, became an expert with the lathe, and learned the
art of printing and binding books. He built himself a wheelbarrow and
other articles which he needed, and at a later date it was said that he
"knew excellently well fourteen trades."

When in Moscow, Peter spent much of his time in the foreign quarter,
joining his associates there in the beer, wine, and tobacco of which
they were specially fond, and questioning them about a thousand subjects
unknown to the Russians, thus acquiring a wide knowledge of men and
affairs. He troubled himself little about rank or position, making a
companion of any one, high or low, from whom anything could be learned,
while any mechanical curiosity particularly attracted him.

A sextant and astrolabe were brought him from France, of whose use no
one could inform him, though he asked all whom he met. At length a Dutch
merchant, Franz Timmermann by name, was brought him, who measured with
the instrument the distance to a neighboring house.

Peter was delighted, and eagerly asked to be taught how to use the
instrument himself.

"It is not so easy," replied Timmermann; "you must first learn
arithmetic and geometry."

Here was a new incentive. The boy at once set to work, spending all his
leisure time, day and night, over these studies, to which he afterwards
added geography and fortification. It was in this desultory way that his
education was gained, no regular course of training being prescribed,
and his strong self-will breaking through all family discipline.

We may end here what we have to say about the boy's military activity.
His army gradually grew until it numbered five thousand men, mainly
foreigners, who were commanded by General Gordon, a Scotch officer.
Lefort, a Swiss, who had become one of Peter's favorite companions, now
undertook to raise an army of twelve thousand men. He succeeded in this,
and unexpectedly found himself made general of this force.

It is, however, of the boy's activity in naval affairs that we must now
speak. Timmermann had become one of his constant companions, and was
always teaching him something new. One day in 1688, when Peter was
sixteen years old, he was wandering about one of the country estates of
the throne, near the village of Ismailovo. An old building in the
flax-yard attracted his attention, and he asked one of the servants what
it was.

"It is a storehouse," the man said, "in which was put all the rubbish
that was left after the death of Nikita Romanof, who used to live here."

Peter at once, curious to see this "rubbish," had the doors opened, went
in, and looked about. In one corner, bottom upward, lay a boat, very
different in build from the flat-bottomed, square-sterned boats which
were in use on the Russian rivers.

"What is that?" he asked.

"It is an English boat," said Timmermann.

"But what is it good for? Is it better than our boats?" demanded Peter.

"Yes. If you had sails for it, you would find that it would not only go
with the wind, but against the wind."

"Against the wind! Is that possible? How can it be possible?"

With his usual impatience, the boy wanted to try it at once. But the
boat proved to be too rotten for use. It would need to be repaired and
tarred, and a mast and sails would have to be made.

Where could these be had? Who could make them? Timmermann was able to
tell him. Some thirty years before, a number of Dutch ship-carpenters
had been brought from Holland and had built some vessels on the Volga
River for the czar Alexis. These had been burned by a brigand, and
Brandt, the builder, had returned to Moscow, where he still worked as a
joiner. In those days it was easier to get into Russia than to get out
again, foreigners who entered the land being held there as virtual
prisoners. Even General Gordon tried in vain to get back to his native

Old Brandt was found, looked over the boat, put it in order, and
launched it on a neighboring stream. To Peter's surprise and delight, he
saw the boat moving under sail up and down the river, turning to right
and left in obedience to the helm. Greatly excited, he called on Brandt
to stop, jumped in, and, under the old man's directions, began to manage
the boat himself.

But the river was too narrow and the water too shallow for easy
sailing, and the energetic boy had the boat dragged overland to a large
pond, where it went better, but still not to his satisfaction. Where was
a better body of water? He was told that there was a large lake about
fifty miles away, but that it would be easier to build a new boat than
to drag the English boat that distance.

"Can you do that?" asked the eager boy.

"Yes, sire," said Brandt, "but I will need many things."

"Oh, that does not matter at all," said Peter. "We can have anything."

No time was lost. Brandt, with one of his old comrades and Timmermann,
went to work at once in the woods bordering the lake, Peter working with
them when he could get away from Moscow, where he was frequently needed.
It took time. Timber had to be prepared, a hut built to live in, and a
dock to launch the boats, which were built on a larger scale than the
small English craft. Thus it was not until the following spring that the
new boats were ready to launch.

Peter meanwhile had been married. But the charms of his wife could not
keep him from his beloved boats. Back he went, aided in completing and
launching the new craft, and took such delight in sailing them about the
lake that he could hardly be induced to return to Moscow for important

In this humble way began the Russian navy, which had grown to large
proportions before Peter died. The little English boat, which some think
was one sent by Queen Elizabeth to Ivan the Terrible, has ever since
Peter's time been known as the "Grand-sire of the Russian navy." It is
kept with the greatest care in a small brick building within the
fortress at St. Petersburg, and was one of the principal objects of
interest in the great parade in that city in 1870 on the two hundredth
anniversary of Peter's birth.

It will suffice to say, in conclusion, that shortly after these events
Peter became the reigning czar, and turned from sport to earnest. Sophia
had enjoyed so long the pleasure of ruling that her ambition grew with
its exercise, and she sought to retain her position as long as possible.
It is even said that she laid a plot to assassinate Peter, so that only
the feeble Ivan should be left. The boy, told that assassins were
seeking him, fled for his life. His fright seems to have been
groundless, but it made him an undying enemy of his sister. The affair
ended in the bulk of the nobility and soldiery turning to his side and
in Sophia being obliged to leave the throne for a convent, where she
spent the remainder of her life in the misery of strict seclusion.



On the banks of the river Zaan, about five miles from Amsterdam, lies
the picturesque little town of Zaandam, with its cottages of blue,
green, and pink, half hidden among the trees, while a multitude of
windmills surround the town like so many monuments to thrift and
enterprise. Here, two centuries ago, ship-building was conducted on a
great scale, the timber being sawed by windmill power, while the workmen
were so numerous that a vessel was often on the sea in five weeks after
the keel had been laid.

To this place, in August, 1697, came a workman of foreign birth, who
found humble quarters in a small frame hut and entered himself as a
ship-carpenter at the wharf of Lynst Rogge. There was nothing specially
noticeable about the stranger, who wore a workman's dress and a
tarpaulin hat. But with him were some comrades dressed in the strange
garb of Russia, who attracted the attention of the people.

As for the new workman, he did not long escape curious looks. The rumor
had got about that no less a personage than the Czar of Russia was in
the town, and it began to be suspected that this unobtrusive stranger
might be the man, so that it was not long before inquisitive eyes began
to follow him wherever he went. The rumor soon brought large crowds
from Amsterdam, whose presence made the streets of the small Dutch town
anything but comfortable.

It was well known that Peter I., Czar of Russia, was travelling through
the nations of the West. A large embassy, composed of several hundred
people, some of them the highest officials of the court, had left the
Muscovite kingdom, and visited the several courts and large cities on
their route, being everywhere received with the greatest distinction.
But the czar did not appear openly among them. He was there in disguise,
but had given strict orders that his presence should not be revealed. He
hated crowds, hated adulation, and wished only to be let alone to see
and learn all he could. So while the ambassadors were receiving the
highest honors of kingdoms and courts and bowing and parading to their
hearts' content, the czar kept himself in the background as an amused
spectator, thought by most observers to be one of the servants of the
gorgeous train.

And thus he reached Zaandam, which he had been told was the best place
to learn how ships were built. Here he saw fishing in the river one of
his old acquaintances of the foreign quarter of Moscow, a smith named
Gerrit Kist. Calling him from his rod, and binding him to secrecy, he
told him why he had come to Holland, and insisted on taking up quarters
in his house. This house, a small frame hut, is now preserved as a
sacred object, enclosed within a brick building, and has long been a
place of pilgrimage even for royal travellers. Emperors and kings have
bent their lofty heads to enter its low door.

Yet Peter lived in Zaandam only a week, and during that week did little
work at ship-building, spending much of his time in rowing about among
the shipping, and visiting most of the factories and mills, at one of
which he made a sheet of paper with his own royal hands.

One day the disguised emperor met with an adventure. He had bought a
hatful of plums, and was eating them in the most plebeian fashion as he
walked along the street, when he met a crowd of boys. He shared his
fruit with some of these, but those to whom he refused to give plums
began to follow him with boyish reviling, and when he laughed at them
they took to pelting him with mud and stones. Here was a situation for
an emperor away from home. The Czar of all the Russias had to take to
his heels and run for refuge to the Three Swans Inn, where he sent for
the burgomaster of the town, told who he was, and demanded aid and
relief. At least we may suppose so, for an edict was soon issued
threatening punishment to all who should insult "distinguished persons
who wished to remain unknown."

The end of Peter's stay soon came. A man in Zaandam had received a
letter from his son in Moscow, saying that the czar was with the great
Russian embassy, and describing him so closely that he could no longer
remain unknown. This letter was seen by Pomp, the barber of Zaandam, and
when Peter came into his place with his Russian comrades he at once knew
him from the description and spread the news.

From that time the czar had no rest. Wherever he went he was followed by
crowds of curious people. They grew so annoying that at length he
leaped in anger from his boat and gave one of the most forward of his
persecutors a sharp cuff on the cheek.

"Bravo, Marsje!" cried the crowd in delight: "you are made a knight."

The czar rushed angrily to an inn, where he shut himself up out of
sight. The next day a large ship was to be moved across the dike by
means of capstans and rollers, a difficult operation, in which Peter
took deep interest. A place was reserved for him to see it, but the
crowd became so great as to drive back the guards, break down the
railings, and half fill the reserved space. Peter, seeing this, refused
to leave his house. The burgomaster and other high officials begged him
to come, but the most he could be got to do was to thrust his head out
of the door and observe the situation.

"_Te veel volks, te veel volks_" ("too many people"), he bluntly cried,
and refused to budge.

The next day was Sunday, and all Amsterdam seemed to have come to
Zaandam to see its distinguished guest. He escaped them by fleeing to
Amsterdam. Getting to a yacht he had bought, and to which he had fitted
a bowsprit with his own hands, he put to sea, giving no heed to warnings
of danger from the furious wind that was blowing. Three hours after he
reached Amsterdam, where his ambassadors then were, and where they were
to have a formal reception the next day.

Receptions were well enough for ambassadors, but they were idle flummery
to the czar, who had come to see, not to be seen, and who did his best
to keep out of sight. He visited the fine town hall, inspected the
docks, saw a comedy and a ballet, consented to sit through a great
dinner, witnessed a splendid display of fireworks, and, most interesting
to him of all, was entertained with a great naval sham fight, which
lasted a whole day.

Zaandam has the credit of having been the scene of Peter the Great's
labor as a shipwright, but it was really at Amsterdam that his life as a
workman was passed. At his request he was given the privilege of working
at the docks of the East India Company, a house being assigned him
within the enclosure where he could dwell undisturbed, free from the
curiosity of crowds. As a mark of respect it was determined to begin the
construction of a new frigate, one hundred feet long, so that the
distinguished workman might see the whole process of the building of a
ship. With his usual impetuosity Peter wished to begin work immediately,
and could hardly be induced to wait for the fireworks to burn themselves
out. Then he set out for Zaandam on his yacht to fetch his tools, and
the next day, August 30, presented himself as a workman at the East
India Company's wharf.

For more than four months, with occasional breaks, Peter worked
diligently as a ship-carpenter, ten of his Russian companions--probably
much against their will--working at the wharf with him. He was known
simply as Baas Peter (Carpenter Peter), and, while sitting on a log at
rest, with his hatchet between his knees, was willing to talk with any
one who addressed him by this name, but had no answer for those who
called him Sire or Your Majesty. Others of the Russians were put to work
elsewhere, to study the construction of masts, blocks, sails, etc., some
of them were entered as sailors before the mast, and Prince Alexander of
Imeritia went to the Hague to study artillery. None of them was allowed
"to take his ease at his inn."

Peter insisted on being treated as a common workman, and would not
permit any difference to be made between him and his fellow-laborers. He
also demanded the usual wages for his work. On one occasion, when the
Earl of Portland and another nobleman came to the yard to have a sight
of him, the overseer, to indicate him, called out, "Carpenter Peter of
Zaandam, why don't you help your comrades?" Without a word, Peter put
his shoulders under a log which several men were carrying, and helped to
lift it to its place.

His evenings were spent in studying the theory of ship-building, and his
spare hours were fully occupied in observation. He visited everything
worth seeing, factories, museums, cabinets of coins, theatres,
hospitals, etc., constantly making shrewd remarks and inquiries, and
soon becoming known from his quick questions, "What is that for? How
does that work? That will I see."

He went to Zaandam to see the Greenland whaling fleet, visited the
celebrated botanical garden with the great Boerhaave, studied the
microscope at Delft under Leuwenhoek, became intimate with the military
engineer Coehorn, talked with Schynvoet of architecture, and learned to
etch from Schonebeck. An impression of a plate made by him, of
Christianity victorious over Islam, is still extant.

He made himself familiar with Dutch home life, mingled with the
merchants engaged in the Russian trade, went to the Botermarkt every
market-day, and took lessons from a travelling dentist, experimenting on
his own servants and suite, probably not much to their enjoyment. He
mended his own clothes, learned enough of cobbling to make himself a
pair of slippers, and, in short, was insatiable in his search for
information of every available kind.

His work on the frigate whose keel he had helped to lay was continued
until it was launched. It was well built, and for many years proved a
good and useful ship, braving the perils of the seas in the East India
trade. But with all this the imperial carpenter was not satisfied. The
Dutch methods did not please him. The ship-masters seemed to work
without rules other than the "rule of thumb," having no theory of
ship-building from which the best proportions of a vessel could be

Learning that things were ordered differently in English ship-yards,
that there work was done by rule and precept, Peter sent an order to the
Russian docks not to allow the Dutch shipwrights to work as they
pleased, but to put them under Danish or English overseers. For himself,
he resolved to go to England and follow up his studies there. King
William had sent him a warm invitation and presented him a splendid
yacht, light, beautifully proportioned, and armed with twenty brass
cannon. Delighted with the present, he sailed in it to England,
escorted by an English fleet, and in London found an abiding-place in a
house which a few years before had been the refuge of William Penn when
charged with treason. Here he slept in a small room with four or five
companions, and when the King of England came to visit him, received his
fellow-monarch in his shirt-sleeves. The air of the room was so bad
that, though the weather was very cold, William insisted on a window
being raised.

In England the czar, though managing to see much outside the ship-yards,
worked steadily at Deptford for several months, leaving only when he had
gained all the special knowledge which he could obtain. His admiration
for the English ship-builders was high, he afterwards saying that but
for his journey to England he would have always remained a bungler.
While here he engaged many men to take service in Russia, shipwrights,
engineers, and others; he also engaged numerous officers for his navy
from Holland, several French surgeons, and various persons of other
nationality, the whole numbering from six to eight hundred skilled
artisans and professional experts. To raise money for their advance
payment he sold the monopoly of the Russian tobacco trade for twenty
thousand pounds. Sixty years before, his grandfather Michael had
forbidden the use of tobacco in Russia under pain of death, and the
prejudice against it was still strong. But in spite of this the use of
tobacco was rapidly spreading, and Peter thus threw down the bars.

Great numbers of anecdotes are afloat about Peter's doings in Holland
and England,--many of them, doubtless, invented. The sight of a great
monarch going about in workman's clothes and laboring like a common
ship-carpenter was apt to aid the imagination of story-tellers and give
rise to numerous tales with little fact to sustain them.

In May, 1698, Peter left England and proceeded to Amsterdam, where his
embassy had remained, often in great distress about him, for the winter
was cold and stormy and at one time no news was received from him for a
month. From Amsterdam he made his way to Vienna, whence he proposed to
go to Venice and Rome, but was prevented by disturbing news from Moscow,
which turned his steps homeward. Here he was to show a new phase of his
varied character, as will be seen in the following tale.


History presents us with four instances of an imperial soldiery who took
the power into their own hands and for a time ruled as the tyrants of a
nation. These were the Pretorian Guards of Rome, the Mamelukes of Egypt,
the Janissaries of Turkey, and the Strelitz of Russia. Of these, the
Pretorian Guards remained pre-eminent, and made emperors at their will.
The other three came to a terrible end. History elsewhere records the
tragic fate of the Mamelukes and the Janissaries: we are here concerned
only with that of the Strelitz corps of Russia.

The Strelitz were the first regular military force of Russia, a
permanent militia of fusileers, formed during the early reign of Ivan
the Terrible, and themselves in time becoming a terror to the nation.
The first serious outbreak of this dangerous civic guard was on the
nomination of Peter I. to the throne of the czar. They did not dream
then of the terrible revenge which this despised boy would take upon

Two days after the funeral of the czar Theodore the insurrection began,
the Strelitz marching in an armed body to the Kremlin, where they
accused nine of their colonels of defrauding them of their pay. The
frightened ministers hastened to dismiss these officers, but this did
not satisfy the savage soldiery, who insisted on their being delivered
into their hands. This done, the unfortunate officers were sentenced to
be scourged, some of them by that fearful Russian whip called the knout.

Their success in this outbreak led the Strelitz to greater outrages. The
tiger in their savage natures was let loose, and only blood could
appease its rage. Marching to the Kremlin, they declared that the late
czar had been poisoned by his doctor, and demanded the death of all
those in the plot. Breaking into the palace, they seized two of the
suspected princes and flung them from the windows, to be received upon
the pikes of the soldiers in the street below. The next victim was one
of the Narishkins, the uncles of Peter the Great. He was massacred in
the same brutal manner and his bleeding body dragged through the
streets. Three of the proscribed nobles had fled for sanctuary to a
church, but were torn from the altar, stripped of their clothing, and
cut to pieces with knives.

The next victim was a friend and favorite of the Strelitz, who was
killed under the belief that he was one of the Narishkins. Discovering
their error, the assassins carried the mangled body of the young
nobleman to the house of his father for interment. The old man, timid by
nature, did not dare to complain of the savage act, and even rewarded
them for bringing him the body of his son. For this weakness he was
bitterly reproached by his wife and daughters and the weeping wife of
the victim.

"What could I do?" pleaded the helpless father; "let us wait for an
opportunity to be revenged."

A revengeful servant overheard these words and repeated them to the
soldiers. In a sudden fury the savages returned, dragged the old man
from the room by the hair of his head, and cut his throat at his own

Meanwhile some of the Strelitz, seeking the Dutch physician Vongad, who
had attended the dying czar and was accused of poisoning him, met his
son and asked where his father was. "I do not know," replied the
trembling youth. His ignorance was instantly punished with death.

In a few minutes a German physician fell in their way. "You are a
doctor," they cried. "If you have not poisoned our master Theodore, you
have poisoned others. You deserve death." And in a moment the unlucky
doctor fell a victim to their blind rage.

The Dutch physician was at length discovered and dragged to the palace.
Here the princesses begged hard for his life, declaring that he was a
skilful doctor and a good man and had worked hard to save their
brother's life. They answered that he deserved to die as a sorcerer as
well as a physician, for they had found the skeleton of a toad and the
skin of a snake in his cabinet.

The next victim demanded was Ivan Narishkin, who they were sure was
somewhere concealed in the palace. Not finding him, they threatened to
burn down the building unless he were delivered into their hands. At
this terrifying threat the young man was taken from his place of
concealment and brought to them by the patriarch, who held in his hands
an image of the Virgin Mary which was said to have performed miracles.
The princesses surrounded the victim, and, kneeling to the soldiers,
prayed with tears for his life.

All their supplications and the demands of the venerable patriarch were
without effect on the savage soldiery, who dragged their captives to the
bottom of the stairway, went through the forms of a mock trial, and
condemned them to the torture. They were sentenced to be cut to pieces,
a form of punishment to which parricides are condemned in China and
Tartary. This tragedy went on until all the proscribed on whom they
could lay their hands had perished and Sophia felt secure in her power.

In the end, Ivan and Peter were declared joint sovereigns (1682), and
their sister Sophia was made regent. The acts of the Strelitz were
approved and they rewarded, the estates of their victims were
confiscated in their favor, and a monument was erected on which the
names of the victims were inscribed as traitors to their country.

The Strelitz had learned their power, and took frequent occasion to
exercise it. Twice again they broke out in revolt during the regency of
Sophia. After the accession of Peter their hostility continued. He had
sent them to fight on the frontiers. He had supplanted them with
regiments drilled in the European manner. He had organized a corps of
twelve thousand foreigners and heretics. He had ordered the construction
of a fleet of a hundred vessels, which would add to the weight of taxes
and bring more foreigners into the country. And he proposed to leave
Russia, to journey in the lands of the heretics, and to bring back to
their sacred land the customs of profane Europe.

All this was too much for the leaders of the Strelitz, who represented
old Russia, as Peter represented new. They resolved to sacrifice the
czar to their rage. Tradition tells the following story, which, though
probably not true, is at least interesting. Two leaders of the Strelitz
laid a plot to start a fire at night, feeling sure that Peter, with his
usual activity, would hasten to the scene. In the confusion attending
the fire they meant to murder him, and then to massacre all the
foreigners whom he had introduced into Moscow.


The time fixed for the consummation of this plot was at hand. A banquet
was held, at which the principal conspirators assembled, and where they
sought in deep potations the courage necessary for their murderous work.
Unfortunately for them, liquor does not act on all alike. While usually
giving boldness, it sometimes produces timidity. Two of the villains
lost their courage through their potations, left the room on some
pretext, promising to return in time, and hastened to the czar with the
story of the plot.

Peter knew not the meaning of the words timidity and procrastination.
His plans were instantly laid. The time fixed for the conflagration was
midnight. He gave orders that the hall in which the conspirators were
assembled should be surrounded exactly at eleven. Soon after, thinking
that the hour had come, he sought the place alone and boldly entered
the room, fully expecting to find the conspirators in the hands of his

To his consternation, not a guard was present, and he found himself
alone and unarmed in the midst of a furious band who were just swearing
to compass his destruction.

The situation was a critical one. The conspirators, dismayed at this
unlooked-for visit, rose in confusion. Peter was furious at his guards
for having exposed him to this peril, but instantly perceived that there
was only one course for him to pursue. He advanced among the throng of
traitors with a countenance that showed no trace of his emotions, and
pleasantly remarked,--

"I saw the light in your house while passing, and, thinking that you
must be having a gay time together, I have come in to share your
pleasure and drain a cup with you."

Then, seating himself at the table, he filled a cup and drank to his
would-be assassins, who, on their feet about him, could not avoid
responding to the toast and drinking his health.

But this state of affairs did not long continue. The courage of the
conspirators returned, and they began to exchange looks and signs. The
opportunity had fallen into their hands; now was the time to avail
themselves of it. One of them leaned over to Sukanim, one of their
leaders, and said, in a low tone,--

"Brother, it is time."

"Not yet," said Sukanim, hesitating at the critical moment.

At that instant Peter heard the footsteps of his guards outside, and,
starting to his feet, knocked the leader of the assassins down by a
violent blow in his face, exclaiming,--

"If it is not yet time for you, scoundrel, it is for me."

At the same moment the guards entered the room, and the conspirators,
panic-stricken by the sight, fell on their knees and begged for pardon.

"Chain them!" said the czar, in a terrible voice.

Turning then to the commander of the guards, he struck him and accused
him of having disobeyed orders. But the officer proving to him that the
hour fixed had just arrived, the czar, in sudden remorse at his haste,
clasped him in his arms, kissed him on the forehead, proclaimed his
fidelity, and gave the traitors into his charge.

And now Peter showed the savage which lay within him under the thin
veneer of civilization. The conspirators were put to death with the
cruellest of tortures, and, to complete the act of barbarity, their
heads were exposed on the summit of a column with their limbs arranged
around them as ornaments.

Satisfied that this fearful example would keep Russia tranquil during
his absence, Peter set out on his journey, visiting most of the
countries of Western Europe. He had reached Vienna, and was on the point
of setting out for Venice, when word was brought him from Russia that
the Strelitz had broken out in open insurrection and were marching from
their posts on the frontier upon Moscow.

The czar at once left Vienna and journeyed with all possible speed to
Russia, reaching Moscow in September, 1698. His appearance took all by
surprise, for none knew that he had yet left Austria.

He came too late to suppress the insurrection. That had been already
done by General Gordon, who, marching in all haste, had met the rebels
about thirty miles from Moscow and called on them to surrender. As they
refused and attacked the troops, he opened on them with cannon, put them
to flight, and of the survivors took captive about two thousand. These
were decimated on the spot, and the remainder imprisoned.

This was punishment enough for a soldier, but not enough for an
autocrat, whose mind was haunted by dark suspicions, and who looked upon
the outbreak as a plot to dethrone him and to call his sister Sophia to
the throne. In his treatment of the prisoners the spirit of the monster
Ivan IV. seems to have entered into his soul, and the cruelty shown,
while common enough in old-time Russia, is revolting to the modern mind.

The trial was dragged out through six weeks, with daily torture of some
of the accused, under the eyes of the czar himself, who sought to force
from them a confession that Sophia had been concerned in the outbreak.
The wives of the prisoners, all the women servants of the princesses,
even poor beggars who lived on their charity, were examined under
torture. The princesses themselves, Peter's sisters, were questioned by
the czar, though he did not go so far as to torture them. Yet with all
this nothing was discovered. There was not a word to connect Sophia with
the revolt.

The trial over, the executions began. Of the prisoners, some were
hanged, some beheaded, others broken on the wheel. It is said that those
beheaded were made to kneel in rows of fifty before trunks of trees laid
on the ground, and that Peter compelled his courtiers and nobles to act
as executioners, Mentchikof specially distinguishing himself in this
work of slaughter. It is even asserted that the czar wielded the axe
himself, though of this there is some doubt. The opinion grew among the
people that neither Peter nor Prince Ramodanofsky, his cruel viceroy,
could sleep until they had tasted blood, and a letter from the prince
contains the following lurid sentence: "_I am always washing myself in

The headless bodies of the dead were left where they had fallen. The
long Russian winter was just beginning, and for five months they lay
unburied, a frightful spectacle for the eyes of the citizens of Moscow.

Of those hanged, nearly two hundred were left depending from a large
square gallows in front of the cell of Sophia at the convent in which
she was confined, and with a horrible refinement of cruelty three of
these bodies were so placed as to hang all winter under her very window,
one of them holding in his hand a folded paper to represent a petition
for her aid.

The six regiments of Strelitz still on the frontier showed signs of a
similar outbreak, but the news of the executions taught them that it was
safest to keep quiet. But many of them were brought in chains to Moscow
and punished for their intentions. Various stories are told of Peter's
cruelty in connection with these executions. One is that he beheaded
eighty with his own hand, Plestchef, one of his boyars, holding them by
the hair. Another story, told by M. Printz, the Prussian ambassador,
says that at an entertainment given him by the czar, Peter, when drunk,
had twenty rebels brought in from the prisons, whom he beheaded in quick
succession, drinking a bumper after each blow, the whole concluding
within the hour. He even asked the ambassador to try his skill in the
same way. It may be said here, however, that these stories rest upon
very poor evidence, and that anecdote-makers have painted Peter in
blacker colors than he deserves.

In the end the corps of the Strelitz was abolished, their houses and
lands in Moscow were taken from the survivors, and all were exiled into
the country, where they became simple villagers.


The return of Peter the Great from his European journey was marked by
other events than his cruel revenge upon the rebellious Strelitz. That
had affected only a few thousand people; the reforms he sought to
introduce affected the nation at large. The Russians were then more
Oriental than European in style, wearing the long caftan or robe of
Persia and Turkey, which descended to their heels, while their beards
were like those of the patriarchs, the man deeming himself most in honor
who had the longest and fullest crop of hair upon his face.

[Illustration: PETER THE GREAT.]

To Peter, fresh from the West, and strongly imbued with European views,
all this was ridiculous, if not abominable. He determined to reform it
all, and at once set to work in his impetuous way, which could not brook
a day's delay, to deprive the Russians of their beards and the tails of
their coats. He had scarcely arrived before the boyars and leading
citizens of Moscow, who flocked to congratulate him on his return, were
taken aback by the edict that whiskers were condemned, and that the
razor must be set at work without delay upon their honorable chins.

This edict was like a thunder-clap from a clear sky. The Russians
admired and revered their beards. They were time-honored and sacred in
their eyes. To lose them was like losing their family trees and patents
of nobility. But Peter was without reverence for the past, and his word
was law. He had ordered a mowing and reaping of hair, and the harvest
must be made, or worse might come. General Shein, commander-in-chief of
the army, was the first to yield to the imperative edict and submit his
venerable beard to the indignity of the razor's edge. The old age seemed
past and the new age come when Shein walked shamefacedly into court with
a clean chin.

The example thus set was quickly followed. Beards were tabooed within
the precincts of the court. All shared the same fate, none being left to
laugh at the rest. The patriarch, it is true, was exempted, through awe
for his high office in the Church, while reverence for advanced years
reprieved Prince Tcherkasy, and Tikhon Streshnef was excused out of
honor for his services as guardian of the czaritza. Every one else
within the court had to submit to the razor's fatal edge or feel the
czar's more fatal displeasure, and beards fell like "autumnal leaves
that strow the brooks in Vallombrosa."

An observer speaks as follows concerning a feast given by General Shein:
"A crowd of boyars, scribes, and military officers almost incredible was
assembled there, and among them were several common sailors, with whom
the czar repeatedly mixed, divided apples, and even honored one of them
by calling him his brother. A salvo of twenty-five guns marked each
toast. Nor could the irksome offices of the barber check the
festivities of the day, though it was well known he was enacting the
part of jester by appointment at the czar's court. It was of evil omen
to make show of reluctance as the razor approached the chin, and
hesitation was to be forthwith punished with a box on the ears. In this
way, between mirth and the wine-cup, many were admonished by this insane
ridicule to abandon the olden guise."

For Peter to shave was easy, as he had little beard and a very thin
moustache. But by the old-fashioned Russian of his day the beard was
cherished as the Turk now cherishes his hirsute symbol of dignity or the
Chinaman his long-drawn-out queue. Shortly after Peter came to the
throne the patriarch Adrian had delivered himself in words of thunder
against all who were so unholy and heretical as to cut or shave their
beards, a God-given ornament, which had been worn by prophets and
apostles and by Christ himself. Only heretics, apostates,
idol-worshippers, and image-breakers among monarchs had forced their
subjects to shave, he declared, while all the great and good emperors
had indicated their piety in the length of their beards.

To Peter, on the contrary, the beard was the symbol of barbarity. He was
not content to say that his subjects might shave, he decreed that they
_must_ shave. It began half in jest, it was continued in solid earnest.
He could not well execute the non-shavers, or cut off the heads of those
who declined to cut off their beards, but he could fine them, and he
did. The order was sent forth that all Russians, with the exception of
the clergy, should shave. Those who preferred to keep their beards
could do so by paying a yearly tax into the public treasury. This was
fixed at a kopeck (one penny) for peasants, but for the higher classes
varied from thirty to a hundred rubles (from sixty dollars to two
hundred dollars). The merchants, being at once the richest and most
conservative class, paid the highest tax. Every one who paid the tax was
given a bronze token, which had to be worn about the neck and renewed
every year.

The czar would allow no one to be about him who did not shave, and many
submitted through "terror of having their beards (in a merry humor)
pulled out by the roots, or taken so rough off that some of the skin
went with them." Many of those who shaved continued to do reverence to
their beards by carrying them within their bosoms as sacred objects, to
be buried in their graves, in order that a just account might be
rendered to St. Nicholas when they should come to the next world.

The ukase against the beard was soon followed by one against the caftan,
or long cloak, the old Russian dress. The czar and the leading officers
of his embassy set the example of wearing the German dress, and he cut
off, with his own hands, the long sleeves of some of his officers.
"Those things are in your way," he would say. "You are safe nowhere with
them. At one moment you upset a glass, then you forgetfully dip them in
the sauce. Get gaiters made of them."

On January 14, 1700, a decree was issued commanding all courtiers and
officials throughout the empire to wear the foreign dress. This decree
had to be frequently repeated, and models of the clothing exposed. It is
said that patterns of the garments and copies of the decrees were hung
up together at the gates of the towns, while all who disobeyed the order
were compelled to pay a fine. Those who yielded were obliged "to kneel
down at the gates of the city and have their coats cut off just even
with the ground," the part that lay on the ground as they kneeled being
condemned to suffer by the shears. "Being done with a good humor, it
occasioned mirth among the people, and soon broke the custom of their
wearing long coats, especially in places near Moscow and those towns
wherever the czar came."

This demand did not apply to the peasantry, and was therefore more
easily executed. Even the women were required to change their Russian
robes for foreign fashions. Peter's sisters set the example, which was
quickly followed, the women showing themselves much less conservative
than the men in the adoption of new styles of dress.

The reform did not end here. Decrees were issued against the high
Russian boots, against the use of the Russian saddle, and even against
the long Russian knife. Peter seemed to be infected with a passion for
reform, and almost everything Russian was ordered to give way before the
influx of Western modes. Western ideas did not come with them. To change
the dress does not change the thoughts, and it does not civilize a man
to shave his chin. Though outwardly conforming to the advanced fashions
of the West, inwardly the Russians continued to conform to the
unprogressive conceptions of the East.

It may be said that these changes did not come to stay. They were too
revolutionary to take deep root. There is no disputing the fact that a
coat down to the heels is more comfortable in a cold climate than one
ending at the knees, and is likely to be worn in preference. Students in
Russia to-day wear the red shirt, the loose trousers tucked into the
high boots, and the sleeveless caftan of the peasant, to show that they
are Slavs in feeling, while the old Russian costume is the regulation
court dress for ladies on occasions of state.

We cannot here name the host of other reforms which Peter introduced.
The army was dressed and organized in the fashion of the West. A navy
was rapidly built, and before many years Russia was winning victories at
sea. Peter had not worked at Amsterdam and Deptford in vain. The money
of the country was reorganized, and new coins were issued. The year,
which had always begun in Russia on September 1, was now ordered to
begin on January 1, the first new year on the new system, January 1,
1700, being introduced with impressive ceremonies. Up to this time the
Russians had counted their year from the supposed date of creation. They
were now ordered to date their chronology from the birth of Christ, the
first year of the new era being dated 1700 instead of 7208. Unluckily,
the Gregorian calendar was not at the same time introduced, and Russia
still clings to the old style, so that each date in that country is
twelve days behind the same date in the rest of the Christian world.

Another reform of an important character was introduced. Peter had
observed the system of local self-government in other countries, and
resolved to have something like it in his realm. In Little Russia the
people already had the right of electing their local officials. A
similar system was extended to the whole empire, the merchants in the
towns being permitted to choose good and honest men, who formed a
council which had general charge of municipal affairs. Where bribery and
corruption were discovered among these officials the knout and exile
were applied as inducements to honesty in office. Even death was
threatened; yet bribery went on. Honesty in office cannot be made to
order, even by a czar.


Among the romantic characters of history none have attained higher
celebrity than the hero of our present tale, whose remarkable adventure,
often told in story, has been made immortal in Lord Byron's famous poem
of "Mazeppa." Those who wish to read it in all its dramatic intensity
must apply to the poem. Here it can only be given in plain prose.

Mazeppa was a scion of a poor but noble Polish family, and became, while
quite young, a page at the court of John Casimir, King of Poland. There
he remained until he reached manhood, when he returned to the vicinity
of his birth. And now occurred the striking event on which the fame of
our hero rests. The court-reared young man is said to have engaged in an
intrigue with a Polish lady of high rank, or at least was suspected by
her jealous husband of having injured him in his honor.

Bent upon a revenge suitable to the barbarous ideas of that age, the
furious nobleman had the young man seized, cruelly scourged, and in the
end stripped naked and firmly bound upon the back of an untamed horse of
the steppes. The wild animal, terrified by the strange burden upon its
back, was then set free on the borders of its native wilds of the
Ukraine, and, uncontrolled by bit or rein, galloped madly for miles upon
miles through forest and over plain, until, exhausted by the violence
of its flight, it halted in its wild career. For a dramatic rendering of
this frightful ride our readers must be referred to Byron's glowing

The savage Polish lord had not dreamed that his victim would escape
alive, but fortune favored the poor youth. He was found, still fettered
to the animal's back, insensible and half dead, by some Cossack
peasants, who rescued him from his fearful situation, took him to their
hut, and eventually restored him to animation.

Mazeppa was well educated and fully versed in the art of war of that
day. He made his home with his new friends, to whom his courage,
agility, and sagacity proved such warm recommendations that he soon
became highly popular among the Cossack clans. He was appointed
secretary and adjutant to Samilovitch, the hetman or chief of the
Cossacks, and on the disgrace and exile of this chief in 1687 Mazeppa
succeeded him as leader of the tribe. He distinguished himself
particularly in the war waged by the army of the Princess Sophia against
the Turks and Tartars of the Crimea, in which Mazeppa led his Cossack
followers with the greatest courage and skill.

On the return of the army to Moscow, Prince Galitzin, its leader,
brought into the capital a strong force of Cossacks, with Mazeppa at
their head. It was the first time the Cossacks had been allowed to enter
Moscow, and their presence gave great offence. It was supposed to be a
part of the plot of Sophia to dethrone her young brother and seize the
throne for herself. It was known that they would execute to the full
any orders given them by their chief; but their motions were so
restricted by the indignant people that the ambitious woman, if she
entertained such a design, found herself unable to employ them in it.

The daring hetman of the Cossacks became afterwards a cherished friend
of Peter the Great, who conferred on him the title of prince, and
severely punished those who accused him of conspiring with the enemies
of Russia. Having the fullest confidence in his good faith, Peter
banished or executed his foes as liars and traitors. Yet they seem to
have been the true men and Mazeppa the traitor, for at length, when
sixty-four years of age, he threw off allegiance to Russia and became an
ally of the Swedish enemies of the realm.

The fiery and ungovernable temper of Peter is said to have been the
cause of this. The story goes that one day, when Mazeppa was visiting
the Russian court, and was at table with the czar, Peter complained to
him of the lawless character of the Cossacks, and proposed that Mazeppa
should seek to bring them under better control by a system of
organization and discipline.

The chief replied that such measures would never succeed. The Cossacks
were so fierce and uncontrollable by nature, he said, and so fixed in
their irregular habits of warfare, that it would be impossible to get
them to submit to military discipline, and they must continue to fight
in their old, wild way.

These words were like fire to flax. Peter, who never could bear the
least opposition to any of his plans or projects, and was accustomed to
have everybody timidly agree with him, broke into a furious rage at this
contradiction, and visited his sudden wrath on Mazeppa, as usual, in the
most violent language. He was an enemy and a traitor, who deserved to be
and should be impaled alive, roared the furious czar, not meaning a
tithe of what he said, but saying enough to turn the high-spirited chief
from a friend to a foe.

Mazeppa left the czar's presence in deep offence, muttering the
displeasure which it would have been death to speak openly, and bent on
revenge. Soon after he entered into communication with Charles XII. of
Sweden, the bitter enemy of Russia, which he was then invading. He
suggested that the Swedish army should advance into Southern Russia,
where the Cossacks would be sure to be sent to meet it. He would then go
over with all his forces to the Swedish side, so strengthening it that
the army of the czar could not stand against it. The King of Sweden
might retain the territory won by his arms, while the Cossacks would
retire to their own land, and become again, as of old, an independent

The plot was well laid, but it failed through the loyalty of the
Cossacks. They broke into wild indignation when Mazeppa unfolded to them
his plan, most of them refusing to join in the revolt, and threatening
to seize him and deliver him, bound hand and foot, to the czar. Some two
thousand in all adhered to Mazeppa, and for a time it seemed as if a
bloody battle would take place between the two sections of the tribe,
but in the end the chief and his followers made their way to the Swedish
camp, while the others marched back and put themselves under the command
of the nearest Russian general.

Mazeppa was now sentenced to death, and executed,--luckily for him, in
effigy only. In person he was out of the reach of his foes. A wooden
image was made to represent the culprit, and on this dumb block the
penalties prescribed for him were inflicted. A pretty play--for a savage
horde--they made of it. The image was dressed to imitate Mazeppa, while
representations of the medals, ribbons, and other decorations he usually
wore were placed upon it. It was then brought out before the general and
leading officers, the soldiers being drawn up in a square around it. A
herald now read the sentence of condemnation, and the mock execution
began. First Mazeppa's patent of knighthood was torn to pieces and the
fragments flung into the air. Then the medals and decorations were rent
from the image and trampled underfoot. Finally the image itself was
struck a blow that toppled it over into the dust. The hangman now took
it in hand, tied a rope round its neck, and dragged it to a gibbet, on
which it was hung. The affair ended in the Cossacks choosing a new

The remainder of Mazeppa's story may soon be told. The battle of
Pultowa, fought, it is said, by his advice, ended the military career of
the great Swedish general. The Cossack chief made his escape, with the
King of Sweden, into Turkish territory, and the reward which the czar
offered for his body, dead or alive, was never claimed. Mentchikof took
what revenge he could by capturing and sacking his capital city,
Baturin, while throughout Russia his name was anathematized from the
pulpit. Traitor in his old days, and a fugitive in a foreign land, the
disgrace of his action seemed to weigh heavily upon the mind of the old
chief of the Ukraine, and in the following year he put an end to the
wretchedness of his life by poison.


Peter the Great hated Moscow. It was to him the embodiment of that old
Russia which he was seeking to reform out of existence. Had he been able
to work his own will in all things, he would never have set foot within
its walls; but circumstances are stronger than men, even though the
latter be Russian czars. In one respect Peter set himself against
circumstance, and built Russia a capital in a locality seemingly lacking
in all natural adaptation for a city.

In the early days of the eighteenth century his armies captured a small
Swedish fort on Lake Ladoga near the river Neva. The locality pleased
him, and he determined to build on the Neva a city which should serve
Russia as a naval station and commercial port in the north. Why he
selected this spot it is not easy to say. Better localities for his
purpose might have been easily chosen. There was old Novgorod, a centre
of commerce during many centuries of the past, which it would have been
a noble tribute to ancient Russian history to revive. There was Riga, a
city better situated for the Baltic commerce. But Peter would have none
of these; he wanted a city of his own, one that should carry his name
down through the ages, that should rival the Alexandria of Alexander the
Great, and he chose for it a most inauspicious and inhospitable site.

The Neva, a short but deep and wide stream, which carries to the sea
the waters of the great lakes Ladoga, Onega, and Ilmen, breaks up near
its mouth and makes its way into the Gulf of Finland through numerous
channels, between which lie a series of islands. These then bore Finnish
names equivalent to Island of Hares, Island of Buffaloes, and the like.
Overgrown with thickets, their surfaces marshy, liable to annual
overflow, inhabited only by a few Finnish fishermen, who fled from their
huts to the mainland when the waters rose, they were far from promising;
yet these islands took Peter's fancy as a suitable site for a commercial
port, and with his usual impetuosity he plunged into the business of
making a city to order.


In truth, he fell in love with the spot, though what he saw in it to
admire is not so clear. In summer mud ruled there supreme: the very name
Neva is Finnish for "mud." During four months of the year ice took the
place of mud, and the islands and stream were fettered fast. The country
surrounding was largely a desert, its barren plains alternating with
forests whose only inhabitants were wolves. Years after the city was
built, wolves prowled into its streets and devoured two sentries in
front of one of the government buildings. Moscow lay four hundred miles
away, and the country between was bleak and almost uninhabited. Even
to-day the traveller on leaving St. Petersburg finds himself in a
desert. The great plain over which he passes spreads away in every
direction, not a steeple, not a tree, not a man or beast, visible upon
its bare expanse. There is no pasturage nor farming land. Fruits and
vegetables can scarcely be grown; corn must be brought from a distance.
Rye is an article of garden culture in St. Petersburg, cabbages and
turnips are its only vegetables, and a beehive there is a curiosity.

Yet, as has been said, Peter was attracted to the place, which in one of
his letters he called his "paradise." It may have reminded him of
Holland, the scene of his nautical education. The locality had a certain
sacredness in Russian tradition, being looked upon as the most ancient
Russian ground. By the mouth of the Neva had passed Rurik and his
fellows in their journeys across the Varangian sea,--_their own sea_.
The czar was willing to restore to Sweden all his conquests in Livonia
and Esthonia, but the Neva he would not yield. From boyhood he had
dreamed of giving Russia a navy and opening it up to the world's
commerce, and here was a ready opening to the waters of the Baltic and
the distant Atlantic.

St. Petersburg owed its origin to a whim; but it was the whim of a man
whose will swayed the movements of millions. He was not even willing to
begin his work on the high ground of the mainland, but chose the Island
of Hares, the nearest of the islands to the gulf. It was a seaport, not
a capital, that he at first had in view. Legend tells us that he
snatched a halberd from one of his soldiers, cut with it two strips of
turf, and laid them crosswise, saying, "Here there shall be a town."
Then, dropping the halberd, he seized a spade and began the first
embankment. As he dug, an eagle appeared and hovered above his head.
Shot by one of the men, it fluttered to his feet. Picking up the wounded
bird, he set out in a boat to explore the waters around. To this event
is given the date of May 16, 1703.

The city began in a fortress, for the building of which carpenters and
masons were brought from distant towns. The soldiers served as laborers.
In this labor tools were notable chiefly for their absence. Wheelbarrows
were unknown; they are still but little used in Russia. Spades and
baskets were equally lacking, and the czar's impatience could not wait
for them to be procured. The men scraped up the earth with their hands
or with sticks and carried it in the skirts of their caftans to the
ramparts. The czar sent orders to Moscow that two thousand of the
thieves and outlaws destined for Siberia should be despatched the next
summer to the Neva.

The fort was at first built of wood, which was replaced by stone some
years afterwards. Logs served for all other structures, for no stone was
to be had. Afterwards every boat coming to the town was required to
bring a certain number of stones, and, to attract masons to the new
city, the building of stone houses in Moscow or elsewhere was forbidden.
As for the fortress, which was erected at no small cost in life and
money, it soon became useless, and to-day it only protects the mint and
cathedral of St. Petersburg.

The new city, named Petersburg from its founder, has long been known as
St. Petersburg. While the fort was in process of erection a church was
also built, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. The site of this wooden
edifice is now occupied by the cathedral, begun in 1714, ten years
later. As regarded a home for himself, Peter was easily satisfied. A hut
of logs--his palace he called it--was built near the fortress,
fifty-five feet long by twenty-five wide, and containing but three
rooms. At a later date, to preserve this his first place of residence in
his new city, he enclosed it within another building. Thus it still
remains, a place of pilgrimage for devout Russians. It contains many
relics of the great czar. His bedroom is now a chapel.

Such a city, in such a situation, should have taken years to build.
Peter wished to have it done in months, and he pushed the labor with
little regard for its cost in life and treasure. Men were brought from
all sections of Russia and put to work. Disease broke out among them,
engendered by the dampness of the soil; but the work went on. Floods
came and covered the island, drowning some of the sick in their beds;
but there was no alleviation. History tells us that Swedish prisoners
were employed, and that they died by thousands. Death, in Peter's eyes,
was only an unpleasant incident, and new workmen were brought in
multitudes, many of them to perish in their turn. It has been said that
the building of the city cost two hundred thousand lives. This is, no
doubt, an exaggeration, but it indicates a frightful mortality. But the
feverish impatience of the czar told in results, and by 1714 the city
possessed over thirty-four thousand buildings, with inhabitants in

The floods came and played their part in the work of death. In that of
1706, Peter measured water twenty-one inches deep on the floor of his
hut. He thought it "extremely amusing" as men, women, and children were
swept past his windows on floating wreckage down the stream. What the
people themselves thought of it history does not say.

[Illustration: SLEIGHING IN RUSSIA.]

As yet Peter had no design of making St. Petersburg the capital of his
empire. That conception seems not to have come to him until after the
crushing defeat of the Swedish monarch Charles XII. at the battle of
Pultowa. And indeed it was not until 1817 that it was made the capital.
It was the fifth Russian capital, its predecessors in that honor having
been Novgorod, Kief, Vladimir, and Moscow.

To add a commercial quarter to the new city, Peter chose the island of
Vasily Ostrof,--the Finnish "Island of Buffaloes,"--where a town was
laid out in the Dutch fashion, with canals for streets. This island is
still the business centre of the city, though the canals have long since
disappeared. The streets of St. Petersburg for many years continued
unpaved, notwithstanding the marshy character of the soil, and in the
early days boats replaced carriages for travel and traffic.

The work of building the new capital was not confined to the czar. The
nobles were obliged to build palaces in it,--very much to their chagrin.
They hated St. Petersburg as cordially as Peter hated Moscow. They
already had large and elegant mansions in the latter city, and had
little relish for building new ones in this desert capital, four hundred
miles to the north. But the word of the czar was law, and none dared say
him nay. Every proprietor whose estate held five hundred serfs was
ordered to build a stone house of two stories in the new city. Those of
greater wealth had to build more pretentious edifices. Peter's own taste
in architecture was not good. He loved low and small rooms. None of his
palaces were fine buildings. In building the Winter Palace, whose
stories were made high enough to conform to others on the street, he had
double ceilings put in his special rooms, so as to reduce their height.

The city under way, the question of its defence became prominent. The
Swedes, the mortal enemies of the czar, looked with little favor on this
new project, and their prowling vessels in the gulf seemed to threaten
it with attack. Peter made vigorous efforts to prepare for defence.
Ship-building went on briskly on the Svir River, between Lakes Ladoga
and Onega, and the vessels were got down as quickly as possible into the
Neva. Peter himself explored and measured the depth of water in the Gulf
of Finland. Here, some twenty miles from the city, lay the island of
Cronslot, seven miles long, and in the narrowest part of the gulf. The
northern channel past this island proved too shallow to be a source of
danger. The southern channel was navigable, and this the czar determined
to fortify.

A fort was begun in the water near the island's shores, stone being sunk
for its foundation. Work on it was pressed with the greatest energy, for
fear of an attack by the Swedish fleet, and it was completed before the
winter's end. With the idea of making this his commercial port, Peter
had many stone warehouses built on the island, most of which soon fell
into decay for want of use. But to-day Cronstadt, as the new town and
fortress were called, is the greatest naval station and one of the most
flourishing commercial cities in Russia, while its fortifications
protect the capital from dangers of assault.

In those early days, however, St. Petersburg was designed to be the
centre of commerce, and Peter took what means he could to entice
merchant vessels to his new city. The first to appear--coming almost by
accident--was of Dutch build. It arrived in November, 1703, and Peter
himself served as pilot to bring it up to the town. Great was the
astonishment of the skipper, on being afterwards presented to the czar,
to recognize in him his late pilot. And Peter's delight was equally
great on learning that the ship had been freighted by Cornelis Calf, one
of his old Zaandam friends. The skipper was feasted to his heart's
content and presented with five hundred ducats, while each sailor
received thirty thalers, and the ship was renamed the St. Petersburg.
Two other ships appeared the same year, one Dutch and one English, and
their skippers and crews received the same reward. These pioneer vessels
were exempted forever from all tolls and dues at that port.

St. Petersburg, as it exists to-day, bears very little resemblance to
the city of Peter's plan. To his successors are due the splendid granite
quays, which aid in keeping out the overflowing stream, the rows of
palaces, the noble churches and public buildings, the statues, columns,
and other triumphs of architecture which abundantly adorn the great
modern capital. The marshy island soil has been lifted by two centuries
of accretions, while the main city has crept up from its old location to
the mainland, where the fashionable quarters and the government offices
now stand.

St. Petersburg is still exposed to yearly peril by overflow. The violent
autumnal storms, driving the waters of the gulf into the channel of the
stream, back up terrible floods. The spring-time rise in the lakes which
feed the Neva threatens similar disaster. In 1721 Peter himself narrowly
escaped drowning in the Nevski Prospect, now the finest street in

Of the floods that have desolated the city, the greatest was that of
November, 1824. Driven into the river's mouth by a furious southwest
storm, the waters of the gulf were heaped up to the first stories of the
houses even in the highest streets. Horses and carriages were swept
away; bridges were torn loose and floated off; numbers of houses were
moved from their foundations; a full regiment of carbineers, who had
taken refuge on the roof of their barracks, perished in the furious
torrent. At Cronstadt the waters rose so high that a hundred-gun ship
was left stranded in the market-place. The czar, who had just returned
from a long journey to the east, found himself made captive in his own
palace. Standing on the balcony which looks up the Neva, surrounded by
his weeping family, he saw with deep dismay wrecks of every kind,
bridges and merchandise, horses and cattle, and houses peopled with
helpless inmates, swept before his eyes by the raging flood. Boats were
overturned and emptied their crews into the stream. Some who escaped
death by drowning died from the bitter cold as they floated downward on
vessels or rafts. It seemed almost as if the whole city would be carried
bodily into the gulf.

The official reports of this disaster state that forty-five hundred of
the people perished,--probably not half the true figure. Of the houses
that remained, many were ruined, and thousands of poor wretches wandered
homeless through the drenched streets. Such was one example of the
inheritance left by Peter the Great to the dwellers in his favorite
city, his "window to Europe," as it has been called.


The reign of Peter the Great was signalized by two notable instances of
the rise of persons from the lowest to the highest estate, ability being
placed above birth and talent preferred to noble descent. A poor boy,
Mentchikof by name, son of a monastery laborer, had made his way to
Moscow and there found employment with a pastry-cook, who sent him out
daily with a basket of mince pies, which he was to sell in the streets.
The boy was destitute of education, but he had inherited a musical voice
and a lively manner, which stood him in good stead in proclaiming the
merits of his wares. He could sing a ballad in taking style, and became
so widely known for his songs and stories that he was often invited into
gentlemen's houses to entertain company. His voice and his wit ended in
making him a prince of the empire, a favorite of the czar, and in the
end virtually the emperor of Russia.

Being one day in the kitchen of a boyar's house, where dinner was being
prepared for the czar, who had promised to dine there that day, young
Mentchikof overheard the master of the house give special directions to
his cook about a dish of meat of which he said the czar was especially
fond, and noticed that he furtively dropped a powder of some kind into
it, as if by way of spice.

This act seemed suspicious to the acute lad. Noting particularly the
composition of the dish, he betook himself to the street, where he began
again to exalt the merits of his pies and to entertain the passers-by
with ballads. He kept in the vicinity of the boyar's house until the
czar arrived, when he raised his voice to its highest pitch and began to
sing vociferously. The czar, attracted by the boy's voice and amused by
his manner, called him up, and asked him if he would sell his stock in
trade, basket and all.

"I have orders only to sell the pies," replied the shrewd vender: "I
cannot sell the basket without asking my master's leave. But, as
everything in Russia belongs to your majesty, you have only to lay on me
your commands."

This answer so greatly pleased the czar that he bade the boy come with
him into the house and wait on him at table, much to the young
pie-vender's joy, as it was just the result for which he had hoped. The
dinner went on, Mentchikof waiting on the czar with such skill as he
could command, and watching eagerly for the approach of the suspected
dish. At length it was brought in and placed on the table before the
czar. The boy thereupon leaned forward and whispered in the monarch's
ear, begging him not to eat of that dish.

Surprised at this request, and quick to suspect something wrong, the
czar rose and walked into an adjoining room, bidding the boy accompany

"What do you mean?" he asked. "Why should I not eat of that particular

"Because I am afraid it is not all right," answered the boy. "I was in
the kitchen while it was being prepared, and saw the boyar, when the
cook's back was turned, drop a powder into the dish. I do not know what
all this meant, but thought it my duty to put your majesty on your

"Thanks for your shrewdness, my lad," said the czar; "I will bear it in

Peter returned to the table with his wonted cheerfulness of countenance,
giving no indication that he had heard anything unusual.

"I should like your majesty to try that dish," said the boyar: "I fancy
that you will find it very good."

"Come sit here beside me," suggested Peter. It was the custom at that
time in Moscow for the master of a house to wait on the table when he
entertained guests.

Peter put some of the questionable dish on a plate and placed it before
his host.

"No doubt it is good," he said. "Try some of it yourself and set me an

This request threw the host into a state of the utmost confusion, and
with trembling utterance he replied that it was not becoming for a
servant to eat with his master.

"It is becoming to a dog, if I wish it," answered Peter, and he set the
plate on the floor before a dog which was in the room.

In a moment the brute had emptied the dish. But in a short time the
poor animal was seen to be in convulsions, and it soon fell dead before
the assembled company.

"Is this the dish you recommended so highly?" said Peter, fixing a
terrible look on the shrinking boyar. "So I was to take the place of
that dead dog?"

Orders were given to have the animal opened and examined, and the result
of the investigation proved beyond doubt that its death was due to
poison. The culprit, however, escaped the terrible punishment which he
would have suffered at Peter's hands by taking his own life. He was
found dead in bed the next morning.

We do not vouch for the truth of this interesting story. Though told by
a writer of Peter's time, it is doubted by late historians. But such is
the fate of the best stories afloat, and the voice of doubt threatens to
rob history of much of its romance. The story of Mentchikof, in its most
usual shape, states that Le Fort, general and admiral, was the first to
be attracted to the sprightly boy, and that Peter saw him at Le Fort's
house, was delighted with him, and made him his page.

The pastry-cook's boy soon became the indispensable companion of the
czar, assisted him in his workshop, attended him in his wars, and at the
siege of Azov displayed the greatest bravery. He accompanied Peter in
his travels, worked with him in Holland, and distinguished himself in
the wars with the Swedes, receiving the order of St. Andrew for
gallantry at the battle of the Neva. In 1704 he was given the rank of
general, and was the first to defeat the Swedes in a pitched battle. At
the czar's request he was made a prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

As Prince Mentchikof the new grandee loomed high. His house in Moscow
was magnificent, his banquets were gorgeous with gold and silver plate,
and the ambassadors of the powers of Europe figured among his guests.
Such was the bright side of the picture. The dark side was one of
extortion and robbery, in which the favorite of the czar out-did in
peculation all the other officials of the realm.

Peculation in Russia, indeed, assumed enormous proportions, but this was
a crime towards which Peter did not manifest his usual severity. Two of
the robbers in high places were executed, but the others were let off
with fines and a castigation with Peter's walking-stick, which he was in
the habit of using freely on high and low alike. As for Mentchikof, he
was incorrigible. So high was he in favor with his master that the
senators, who had abundant proofs of his robberies and little love for
him personally, dared not openly accuse him before the czar. The most
they ventured to do was to draw up a statement of his peculations and
lay the paper on the table at the czar's seat. Peter saw it, ran his eye
over its contents, but said nothing. Day after day the paper lay in the
same place, but the czar continued silent. One day as he sat in the
senate, the senator Tolstoi, who sat beside him, was bold enough to ask
him what he thought of that document.

"Nothing," Peter replied, "but that Mentchikof will always be

The death of Peter placed the favorite in a precarious position. He had
a host of enemies, who would have rejoiced in his downfall. These, who
formed what may be called the Old Russian party, wished to proclaim as
monarch the grandson of the deceased czar. But Mentchikof and the party
of reform were beforehand with them, and gave the throne to Catharine,
the widow of the late monarch. Under her the pastry-cook's boy rose to
the summit of his power and virtually governed the country. Unluckily
for the favorite, Catharine died in two years, and a new czar, Peter
II., grandson of Peter the Great, came to the throne.

Mentchikof had been left guardian of the youthful czar, to whom his
daughter was betrothed, and whom he took to his house and surrounded
with his creatures. And now for a time the favorite soared higher than
ever, was practically lord of the land, and made himself more feared
than had been Peter himself.

But he had reached the verge of a precipice. There was no love between
the young czar and Mary Mentchikof, and the youthful prince was soon
brought to dislike his guardian. Events moved fast. Peter left
Mentchikof's house and sought the summer palace, to which his guardian
was refused admittance. Soon after he was arrested, the shock of the
disgrace bringing on an apoplectic stroke. In vain he appealed to the
emperor; he was ordered to retire to his estate, and soon after was
banished, with his whole family, to Siberia. This was in 1727. The
disgraced favorite survived his exile but two years, dying of apoplexy
in 1729. Four months afterwards the new czar followed in death the man
he had disgraced.

The other instance of a rise from low to high estate was that of the
empress herself, whose career was very closely related to that of
Mentchikof. There are various instances in history of a woman of low
estate being chosen to share a monarch's throne, but only one, that of
Catharine of Russia, in which a poor stranger, taken from among the
ruins of a plundered town, became eventually the absolute sovereign of
that empire into which she had been carried as captive or slave.

It was in 1702, during the sharply contested war between Russia and
Sweden, that, while Charles XII. of Sweden was making conquests in
Poland, the Russian army was having similar success in Livonia and
Ingria. Among the Russian successes was the capture of a small town
named Marienburg, which surrendered at discretion, but whose magazines
were blown up by the Swedes. This behavior so provoked the Russian
general that he gave orders for the town to be destroyed and all its
inhabitants to be carried off.

Among the prisoners was a girl, Catharine by name, a native of Livonia,
who had been left an orphan at the age of three years, and had been
brought up as a servant in the family of M. Gluck, the minister of the
place. Such was the humble origin of the woman who was to become the
wife of Peter the Great, and afterwards Catharine I., Empress of Russia.

In 1702 Catharine, then seventeen years of age, married a Swedish
dragoon, one of the garrison of Marienburg. Her married life was a short
one, her husband being obliged to leave her in two days to join his
regiment. She never saw him again. She could neither read nor write,
and, like Mentchikof, never learned those arts. She was, however,
handsome and attractive, delicate and well formed, and of a most
excellent temper, being never known to be out of humor, while she was
obliging and civil to all, and after her exaltation took good care of
the family of her benefactor Gluck. As for her first husband, she sent
him sums of money until 1705, when he was killed in battle.

It was a common fate of prisoners of war then to be sold as slaves to
the Turks, but the beauty of Catharine saved her from this. After some
vicissitudes, she fell into the hands of Mentchikof, at whose quarters
she was seen by the czar. Struck by her beauty and good sense, Peter
took her to his palace, where, finding in her a warm appreciation of his
plans of reform and an admirable disposition, he made her his own by a
private marriage. In 1711 this was supplemented by a public wedding.

Catharine was soon able amply to reward the czar for the honor he had
conferred upon her. He was at war with the Turks, and, through a foolish
contempt for their generalship and military skill, allowed himself to
fall into a trap from which there seemed no escape. He found himself
completely surrounded by the enemy and cut off from all supplies, and
it seemed as if he would be forced to surrender with his whole force to
the despised foe.

From this dilemma Catharine, who was in the camp, relieved him.
Collecting a large sum of money and presents of jewelry, and seeking the
camp of the enemy, she succeeded in bribing the Turkish general, or in
some way inducing him to conclude peace and suffer the Russian army to
escape. Peter repaid his able wife by conferring upon her the dignity of

The death of the czar was followed, as we have said, by the elevation of
his wife to the vacant throne, principally through the aid of
Mentchikof, her former lord and master, aided by the effect of her
seemingly inconsolable grief and the judicious distribution of money and
jewels as presents.

For two years Catharine and Mentchikof, whose life had begun in the
hovel, and who were now virtually together on the throne, were the
unquestioned autocrats of Russia. Catharine had no genius for
government, and left the control of affairs to her minister, who was to
all intents and purposes sovereign of Russia. The empress, meanwhile,
passed her days in vice and dissipation, thereby hastening her end. She
died in 1727, at the age of about forty years. In the same year, as
already stated, the man who had grown great with her fell from his high


Amid the serious matters which present themselves so abundantly in the
history of Russia, buffooneries of the coarsest character at times find
place. Numerous examples of this might be drawn from the reign of Peter
the Great, whose idea of humor was broad burlesque, and who, despite the
religious prejudices of the people, did not hesitate to make the church
the subject of his jests. One of the broadest of these farces was that
known as the Conclave, the purpose of which was to burlesque or treat
with contumely the method of selecting the head of the Roman Catholic

At the court of the czar was an old man named Sotof, a drunkard of
inimitable powers of imbibition, and long a butt for the jests of the
court. He had taught the czar to write, a service which he deemed worthy
of being rewarded by the highest dignities of the empire.

Peter, who dearly loved a practical joke, learning the aspirations of
the old sot, promised to confer on him the most eminent office in the
world, and accordingly appointed him _Kniaz Papa_ that is, prince-pope,
with a salary of two thousand roubles and a palace at St. Petersburg.
The exaltation of Sotof to this dignity was solemnized by a performance
more gross than ludicrous. Buffoons were chosen to lift the new
dignitary to his throne, and four fellows who stammered with every word
delivered absurd addresses upon his exaltation. The mock pope then
created a number of cardinals, at whose head he rode through the streets
in procession, his seat of state being a cask of brandy which was
carried on a sledge drawn by four oxen.

The cardinals followed, and after them came sledges laden with food and
drink, while the music of the procession consisted of a hideous turmoil
of drums, trumpets, horns, fiddles, and hautboys, all playing out of
time, mingled with the ear-splitting clatter of pots and pans vigorously
beaten by a troop of cooks and scullions. Next came a number of men
dressed as Roman Catholic monks, each carrying a bottle and a glass. In
the rear of the procession marched the czar and his courtiers, Peter
dressed as a Dutch skipper, the others wearing various comic disguises.

The place fixed for the conclave being reached, the cardinals were led
into a long gallery, along which had been built a range of closets. In
each of these a cardinal was shut up, abundantly provided with food and
drink. To each of the cardinals two conclavists were attached, whose
duty it was to ply them with brandy, carry insulting messages from one
to another, and induce them, as they grew tipsy, to bawl out all sorts
of abuse of one another. To all this ribaldry the czar listened with
delight, taking note at the same time of anything said of which he might
make future use against the participants.

This orgy lasted three days and three nights, the cardinals not being
released until they had agreed upon answers to a number of ridiculous
questions propounded to them by the Kniaz Papa. Then the doors were
flung open, and the pope and his cardinals were drawn home at mid-day
dead drunk on sledges,--that is, such of them as survived, for some had
actually drunk themselves to death, while others never recovered from
the effect of their debauch.

This offensive absurdity appealed so strongly to the czar's idea of
humor that he had it three times repeated, it growing more gross and
shameless on each successive occasion; and during the last conclave
Peter indulged in such excesses that his death was hastened by their

As for the national church of Russia, Peter treated it with contemptuous
indifference. The office of patriarch becoming vacant, he left it
unfilled for twenty-one years, and finally, on being implored by a
delegation from the clergy to appoint a patriarch, he started up in a
furious passion, struck his breast with his fist and the table with his
cutlass, and roared out, "Here, here is your patriarch!" He then stamped
angrily from the room, leaving the prelates in a state of utter dismay.

Soon after he took occasion to make the church the subject of a second
coarse jest. Another buffoon of the court, Buturlin by name, was
appointed Kniaz Papa, and a marriage arranged between him and the widow
of Sotof, his predecessor. The bridegroom was eighty-four years of age,
the bride nearly as old. Some decrepit old men were chosen to play the
part of bridesmaids, four stutterers invited the wedding guests, while
four of the most corpulent fellows who could be found attended the
procession as running footmen. A sledge drawn by bears held the
orchestra, their music being accompanied with roars from the animals,
which were goaded with iron spikes. The nuptial benediction was given in
the cathedral by a blind and deaf priest, who wore huge spectacles. The
marriage, the wedding feast, and the remaining ceremonies were all
conducted in the same spirit of broad burlesque, in which one of the
sacred ceremonies of the Russian Church was grossly paraphrased.

Peter did not confine himself to coarse jests in his efforts to
discredit the clergy. He took every occasion to unmask the trickery of
the priests. Petersburg, the new city he was building, was an object of
abhorrence to these superstitious worthies, who denounced it as one of
the gates of hell, prophesying that it would be overthrown by the wrath
of heaven, and fixing the date on which this was to occur. So great was
the fear inspired by their prophecies that work was suspended in spite
of the orders of the terrible czar.

To impress the people with the imminency of the peril, the priests
displayed a sacred image from whose eyes flowed miraculous tears. It
seemed to weep over the coming fate of the dwellers within the doomed

"Its hour is at hand," said the priests; "it will soon be swallowed up,
with all its inhabitants, by a tremendous inundation."

When word of this seeming miracle and of the consternation which it had
produced was brought to the czar, he hastened with his usual impetuosity
to the spot, bent on exposing the dangerous fraud which his enemies were
perpetrating. He found the weeping image surrounded by a multitude of
superstitious citizens, who gazed with open-eyed wonder and reverence on
the miraculous feat.

Their horror was intense when Peter boldly approached and examined the
image. Petrified with terror, they looked to see him stricken dead by a
bolt from heaven. But their feelings changed when the czar, breaking
open the head of the image, explained to them the ingenious trick which
the priests had devised. The head was found to contain a reservoir of
congealed oil, which, as it was melted by the heat of lighted tapers
beneath, flowed out drop by drop through artfully provided holes, and
ran from the eyes like tears. On seeing this the dismay of the people
turned to anger against the priests, and the building of the city went

The court fool was an institution born in barbarism, though it survived
long into the age of civilization, having its latest survival in Russia,
the last European state to emerge from barbarism. In the days of Peter
the Great the fool was a fixed institution in Russia, though this
element of court life had long vanished from Western Europe. In truth,
the buffoon flourished in Russia like a green bay-tree. Peter was never
satisfied with less than a dozen of these fun-making worthies, and a
private family which could not afford at least one hired fool was
thought to be in very straitened circumstances.

In the reign of the empress Anne the number of court buffoons was
reduced to six, but three of the six were men of the highest birth. They
had been degraded to this office for some fault, and if they refused to
perform such fooleries as the queen and her courtiers desired they were
whipped with rods.

Among those who suffered this indignity was no less a grandee than
Prince Galitzin. He had changed his religion, and for this offence he
was made court page, though he was over forty years of age, and buffoon,
though his son was a lieutenant in the army, and his family one of the
first in the realm. His name is here given in particular as he was made
the subject of a cruel jest, which could have been perpetrated nowhere
but in the Russian court at that period.

The winter of 1740, in which this event took place, was of unusual
severity. Prince Galitzin's wife having died, the empress forced him to
marry a girl of the lowest birth, agreeing to defray the cost of the
wedding, which proved to be by no means small.

As a preliminary a house was built wholly of ice, and all its furniture,
tables, seats, ornaments, and even the nuptial bedstead, were made of
the same frigid material. In front of the house were placed four cannons
and two mortars of ice, so solid in construction that they were fired
several times without bursting. To make up the wedding procession
persons of all the nations subject to Russia, and of both sexes, were
brought from the several provinces, dressed in their national costumes.

The procession was an extraordinary one. The new-married couple rode on
the back of an elephant, in a huge cage. Of those that followed some
were mounted on camels, some rode in sledges drawn by various beasts,
such as reindeer, oxen, dogs, goats, and hogs. The train, which all
Moscow turned out to witness, embraced more than three hundred persons,
and made its way past the palace of the empress and through all the
principal streets of the city.

The wedding dinner was given in Biren's riding-house, which was
appropriately decorated, and in which each group of the guests were
supplied with food cooked after the manner of their own country. A ball
followed, in which the people of each nation danced their national
dances to their national music. The pith of the joke, in the Russian
appreciation of that day, came at the end, the bride and groom being
conducted to a bed of ice in an icy palace, in which they were forced to
spend the night, guards being stationed at the door to prevent their
getting out before morning.

Though not so gross as Peter's nuptial jests, this was more cruel, and,
in view of the social station of the groom, a far greater indignity.

A Russian state dinner during the reign of Peter the Great, as described
by Dr. Birch, speaking from personal observation, was one in which only
those of the strongest stomach could safely take part. On such
occasions, indeed, the experienced ate their dinners beforehand at
home, knowing well what to expect at the czar's table. Ceremony was
absolutely lacking, and, as two or three hundred persons were usually
invited to a feast set for a hundred, a most undignified scuffling for
seats took place, each holder of a chair being forced to struggle with
those who sought to snatch it from him. In this turmoil distinguished
foreigners had to fight like the natives for their seats.

Finally they took their places without regard to dignity or station.
"Carpenters and shipwrights sit next to the czar; but senators,
ministers, generals, priests, sailors, buffoons of all kinds, sit
pell-mell, without any distinction." And they were crowded so closely
that it was with great difficulty they could lift their hands to their
mouths. As for foreigners, if they happened to sit between Russians,
they were little likely to have any appetite to eat. All this Peter
encouraged, on the plea that ceremony would produce uneasiness and

There was usually but one napkin for two or three guests, which they
fought for as they had for seats; while each person had but one plate
during dinner, "so if some Russian does not care to mix the sauces of
the different dishes together, he pours the soup that is left in his
plate either into the dish or into his neighbor's plate, or even under
the table, after which he licks his plate clean with his finger, and,
last of all, wipes it with the table-cloth."

Liquids seem to have played as important a part as solids at these
meals, each guest being obliged to begin with a cup of brandy, after
which great glasses of wine were served, "and betweenwhiles a bumper of
the strongest English beer, by which mixture of liquors every one of the
guests is fuddled before the soup is served up." And this was not
confined to the men, the women being obliged to take their share in the
liberal potations. As for the music that played in the adjoining room,
it was utterly drowned in the noise around the table, the uproar being
occasionally increased by a fighting-bout between two drunken guests,
which the czar, instead of stopping, witnessed with glee.

We may close with a final quotation from Dr. Birch. "At great
entertainments it frequently happens that nobody is allowed to go out of
the room from noon till midnight; hence it is easy to imagine what
pickle a room must be in that is full of people who drink like beasts,
and none of whom escape being dead drunk.

"They often tie eight or ten young mice in a string, and hide them under
green peas, or in such soups as the Russians have the greatest appetites
to, which sets them a kicking and vomiting in a most beastly manner when
they come to the bottom and discover the trick. They often bake cats,
wolves, ravens, and the like in their pastries, and when the company
have eaten them up, they tell them what they have in their stomachs.

"The present butler is one of the czar's buffoons, to whom he has given
the name of _Wiaschi_, with this privilege, that if any one calls him by
that name he has leave to drub him with his wooden sword. If, therefore,
anybody, by the czar's setting them on, calls out _Wiaschi_, as the
fellow does not know exactly who it is, he falls to beating them all
around, beginning with prince Mentchikof and ending with the last of the
company, without excepting even the ladies, whom he strips of their head
clothes, as he does the old Russians of their wigs, which he tramples
upon, on which occasion it is pleasant enough to see the variety of
their bald pates."

On reading this account of a Russian court entertainment two centuries
ago, we cannot wonder that after the visit of Peter the Great and his
suite to London it was suggested that the easiest way to cleanse the
palace in which they had been entertained might be to set it on fire and
burn it to the ground.


We have told how one Catharine, of lowly birth and the captive of a
warlike raid, rose to be Empress of Russia. We have now to tell how a
second of the same name rose to the same dignity. This one was indeed a
princess by descent, her birthplace being a little German town. But if
she began upon a higher level than the former Catharine, she reached a
higher level still, this insignificant German princess becoming known in
history as Catharine the Great, and having the high distinction of being
the only woman to whose name the title Great has ever been attached. We
may here say, however, that many women have lived to whom it might have
been more properly applied.

In 1744 this daughter of one of the innumerable German kinglings became
Grand Duchess of Russia, through marriage with Peter, the coming heir to
the throne. We may here step from the beaten track of our story to say
that Russia, at this period of its history, was ruled over by a number
of empresses, though at no other time have women occupied its throne.
The line began with Sophia, sister of Peter the Great, who reigned for
some years as virtual empress. Catharine, the wife of Peter, became
actual empress, and was followed, with insignificant intervals of male
rulers, by Anne, Elizabeth, and Catharine the Great. These male rulers
were Peter II., whose reign was brief, Ivan, an infant, and Peter III.,
husband of Catharine, who succeeded Elizabeth in 1762. It is with the
last named that we are concerned.

Peter III., though grandson of Peter the Great, was as weak a man as
ever sat on a throne; Catharine a woman of unusual energy. For years of
their married life these two had been enemies. Peter had the misfortune
to have been born a fool, and folly on the throne is apt to make a sorry
show. He had, besides, become a drunkard and profligate. The one good
point about him, in the estimation of many, was his admiration for
Frederick the Great, since he came to the throne of Russia at the crisis
of Frederick's career, and saved him from utter ruin by withdrawing the
Russian army from his opponents.

His folly soon raised up against him two powerful enemies. One of these
was the army, which did not object, after fighting with the Austrians
against the Prussians, to turn and fight with the Prussians against the
Austrians, but did object to the Prussian dress and discipline, which
Peter insisted upon introducing. It possessed a discipline of its own,
which it preferred to keep, and bitterly disliked its change of dress.
The czar even spoke of suppressing the Guards, as his grandfather had
suppressed the corps of the Strelitz. This was a fatal offence. It made
this strong force his enemy, while he was utterly lacking in the
resolution with which Peter the Great had handled rebels in arms.

The other enemy was Catharine, whom he had deserted for an unworthy
favorite. But her enmity was quiet, and might have remained so had he
not added insult to injury. Heated by drink, he called her a "fool" at a
public dinner before four hundred people, including the greatest
dignitaries of the realm and the foreign ministers. He was not satisfied
with an insult, but added to it the folly of a threat, that of an order
for her arrest. This he withdrew,--a worse fault, under the
circumstances, than to have made it. He had taught Catharine that her
only safety lay in action, if she would not be removed from the throne
in favor of the worthless creature who had supplanted her in her
husband's esteem.

Events moved rapidly. It was on the 21st of June, 1762, that the insult
was given and the threat made. Within a month the czar was dead and his
wife reigned in his stead. On the 24th Peter left St. Petersburg for
Oranienbaum, his summer residence. He did not propose to remain there
long. He had it in view to join his army and defeat the Danes, his
present foes, with the less defined intention of gaining glory on some
great battle-field at the side of his victorious ally Frederick the
Great. The fleet with which Denmark was to be invaded was not ready to
sail, many of the crew being sick; but this little difficulty did not
deter the czar. He issued an imperial ukase ordering the sick sailors to
get well.

On going to his summer residence Peter had imprudently left Catharine at
St. Petersburg, taking his mistress in her stead. On the 29th his wife
received orders from him to go to Peterhof. Thither he meant to proceed
before setting out on his campaign. His feast-day came on the 10th of
July. On the morning of the 9th he set out with a large train of
followers for the palace of Peterhof, where the next day Catharine was
to give a grand dinner in his honor.

It was two o'clock in the afternoon when Peterhof was reached. To the
utter surprise of the czar, there were none but servants to meet him,
and they in a state of mortal terror.

"Where is the empress?" he demanded.



No one could tell him. She had simply gone,--where and why he was soon
to learn. As he waited and fumed, a peasant approached and handed him a
letter, which proved to be from Bressau, his former French valet. It
contained the astounding information that the empress had arrived in St.
Petersburg that morning and had been proclaimed _sole and absolute
sovereign of Russia_.

The tale was beyond his powers of belief. Like a madman he rushed
through the empty rooms, making them resound with vociferous demands for
his wife; looked in every corner and cupboard; rushed wildly through the
gardens, calling for Catharine again and again; while the crowd of
frightened courtiers followed in his steps. It was in vain; no voice
came in answer to his demand, no Catharine was to be found.

The story of what had actually happened is none too well known. It has
been told in more shapes than one. What we know is that there was a
conspiracy to place Catharine on the throne, that the leaders of the
troops had been tampered with, and that one of the conspirators, Captain
Passek, had just been arrested by order of the czar. It was this arrest
that precipitated the revolution. Fearing that all was discovered, the
plotters took the only available means to save themselves.

The arrest of Passek had nothing to do with the conspiracy. It was for
quite another cause. But it proved to be an accident with great results,
since the Orlofs, who were deep in the conspiracy, thought that their
lives were in danger, and that safety lay only in prompt action. As a
result, at five A.M.. on July 9, Alexis Orlof suddenly appeared at
Peterhof, and demanded to see the empress at once.

Catharine was fast asleep when the young officer hastily entered her
room. He lost no time in waking her. She gazed on him with surprise and

"It is time to get up," he said, in as calm a tone as if he had been
announcing that breakfast was waiting. "Everything is ready for your

"What do you mean?" she demanded.

"Passek is arrested. You must come," he said, in the same tone.

This was enough. A long perspective of peril lay behind those words. The
empress arose, dressed in all haste, and sprang into the coach beside
which Orlof awaited her. One of her women entered with her, Orlof seated
himself in front, a groom sprang up behind, and off they set, at
headlong speed, for St. Petersburg.

The distance was nearly twenty miles, and the horses, which had already
covered that distance, were in very poor condition for doubling it
without rest. In his haste Orlof had not thought of ordering a relay.
His carelessness might have cost them dear, since it was of vital moment
to reach the city without delay. Fortunately, they met a peasant, and
borrowed two horses from his cart. Those two horses perhaps won the
throne for Catharine.

[Illustration: A RUSSIAN DROSKY.]

Five miles from the city they met two others of the conspirators,
devoured with anxiety. Changing to the new coach, the party drove in at
breakneck pace, and halted before the barracks of the Ismailofsky
regiment, with which the conspirators had been at work.

It was between six and seven o'clock in the morning. Only a dozen men
were at the barracks. Nothing had been prepared. Excitement or terror
had turned all heads. Yet now no time was lost. Drummers were roused and
drums beaten. Out came soldiers in haste, half dressed and half asleep.

"Shout 'Long live the empress!'" demanded the visitors.

Without hesitation the guardsmen obeyed, their only thought at the
moment being that of a free flow of _vodka_, the Russian drink. A priest
was quickly brought, who, like the soldiers, was prepared to do as he
was told. Raising the cross, he hastily offered them a form of oath, to
which the soldiers subscribed. The first step was taken; the empress was

The proclamation declared Catharine sole and absolute sovereign. It made
no mention of her little son Paul, as some of the leaders in the
conspiracy had proposed. The Orlofs controlled the situation, and the
action of the Ismailofsky was soon sanctioned by other regiments of the
guard. They hated the czar and were ripe for revolt.

One regiment only, the Preobrajensky, that of which the czar himself was
colonel, resisted. It was led against the other troops under the command
of a captain and a major. The hostile bodies came face to face a few
paces apart; the queen's party greatest in number, but in disorder, the
czar's party drawn up with military skill. A moment, a word, might
precipitate a bloody conflict.

Suddenly a man in the ranks cried out, "_Oura!_ Long live the empress!"
In an instant the whole regiment echoed the cry, the ranks were broken,
the soldiers embraced their comrades in the other ranks, and, falling on
their knees, begged pardon of the empress for their delay.

And now the throng turned towards the neighboring church of Our Lady of
Kasan, in which Catharine was to receive their oaths of fidelity. A
crowd pushed in to do homage, composed not only of soldiers, but of
members of the senate and the synod. A manifesto was quickly drawn up by
a clerk named Tieplof, printed in all haste, and distributed to the
people, who read it and joined heartily in the cry of "Long live the

Catharine next reviewed the troops, who again hailed her with shouts.
And thus it was that a czar was dethroned and a new reign begun without
the loss of a drop of blood. There was some little disorder. Several
wine-shops were broken into, the house of Prince George of Holstein was
pillaged and he and his wife were roughly handled, but that was all: as
yet it had been one of the simplest of revolutions.

Catharine was empress, but how long would she remain so? Her empire
consisted of the fickle people of St. Petersburg, her army of four
regiments of the guards. If Peter had the courage to strike for his
throne, he might readily regain it. He had with him about fifteen
hundred Holsteiners, an excellent body of troops, on whose loyalty he
could fully rely, for they were foreigners in Russia, and their safety
depended on him. At the head of these troops was one of the first
soldiers of the age, Field-Marshal Münich. The main Russian army was in
Pomerania, under the orders of the czar, if he were alert in giving
them. He had it in view to annihilate the Danes, to show himself a hero
under Frederick of Prussia; surely a handful of conspirators and a few
regiments of malcontents would have but a shallow chance.

Yet Catharine knew the man with whom she dealt. The grain of courage
which would have saved Peter was not to be found in his make-up, and
Münich strove in vain to induce him to act with manly resolution. A
dozen fancies passed through his mind in an hour. He drew up manifestoes
for a paper campaign. He sent to Oranienbaum for the Holstein troops,
intending to fortify Peterhof, but changed his mind before they arrived.

Münich now advised him to go to Cronstadt and secure himself in that
stronghold. After some hesitation he agreed, but night had fallen
before the whole party, male and female, set off in a yacht and galley,
as if on a pleasure-trip. It was one o'clock in the morning when they
arrived in sight of the fortress.

"Who goes there?" hailed a sentinel from the ramparts.

"The emperor."

"There is no emperor. Keep off!"

Delay had given Catharine ample time to get ahead of him.

"Do not heed the sentry," cried Münich. "They will not dare to fire on
you. Land, and all will be safe."

But Peter was below deck, in a panic of fear. The women were shrieking
in terror. Despite Münich, the vessels were put about. Then the old
soldier, half in despair at this poltroonery, proposed another plan.

"Let us go to Revel, embark on a war-ship, and proceed to Pomerania.
There you can take command of the army. Do this, sire, and within six
weeks St. Petersburg and Russia will be at your feet. I will answer for
this with my head."

But Peter was hopelessly incompetent to act. He would go back to
Oranienbaum. He would negotiate. He arrived there to learn that
Catharine was marching on him at the head of her regiments. On she came,
her cap crowned with oak leaves, her hair floating in the wind. The
soldiers had thrown off their Prussian uniforms and were dressed in
their old garb. They were eager to fight the Holstein foreigners.

No opportunity came for this. A messenger met them with a flag of
truce. Peter had sent an offer to divide the power with Catharine.
Receiving no answer, in an hour he sent an offer to abdicate. He was
brought to Peterhof, where Catharine had halted, and where he cried like
a whipped child on receiving the orders of the new empress and being
forcibly separated from the woman who had ruined him.

A day had changed the fate of an empire. Within little more than six
months from his accession the czar had been hurled from his throne and
his wife had taken his place. Peter was sent under guard to Ropcha, a
lonely spot about twenty miles away, there to stay until accommodations
could be prepared for him in the strong fortress of Schlüsselburg.

He was never to reach the latter place. He had abdicated on July 14. On
July 18 Alexis Orlof, covered with sweat and dust, burst into the
dressing-room of the empress. He had a startling story to tell. He had
ridden full speed from Ropcha with the news of the death of Peter III.

The story was that the czar had been found dead in his room. That was
doubtless the case, but that he had been murdered no one had a shadow of
doubt. Yet no one knew, and no one knows to this day, just what had
taken place. Stories of his having been poisoned and strangled have been
told, not without warrant. A detailed account is given of poison being
forced upon him by the Orlofs, who are said to have, on the poison
failing to act, strangled him in a revolting manner by their own hands.
Though this story lacks proof, the body was quite black. "Blood oozed
through the pores, and even through the gloves which covered the hands."
Those who kissed the corpse came away with swollen lips.

That Peter was murdered is almost certain; but that Catharine had
anything to do with it is not so sure. It may have been done by the
conspirators to prevent any reversal of the revolution. Prison-walls
have hidden many a dark event; and we only know that the czar was dead
and Catharine on the throne.


While the armies of Catharine II. were threatening with destruction the
empire of Turkey, and her diplomats were deciding what part of
dismembered Poland should fall to her share, her throne itself was put
in danger of destruction by an aspirant who arose in the east and for
two years kept Russia from end to end in a state of dire alarm. The
summary manner in which Peter III. had been removed from the throne was
not relished by the people. Numerous small revolts broke out, which were
successively put down. St. Petersburg accepted Catharine, but Moscow did
not, and on her visits to the latter city the political atmosphere
proved so frigid that she was glad to get back to the more genial
climate of the city on the Neva.

Years passed before Russia settled down to full acceptance of a reign
begun in violence and sustained by force, and in this interval there
were no fewer than six impostors to be dealt with, each of whom claimed
to be Peter III. Murdered emperors sleep badly in their graves. The
example of the false Dmitris, generations before, remained in men's
minds, and it seemed as if every Russian who bore a resemblance to the
vanished czar was ready to claim his vacated seat.

Of these false Peters, the sixth and most dangerous was a Cossack of
the Don, whose actual name was Pugatchef, but whose face seemed capable
of calling up an army wherever it appeared, and who, if his ability had
been equal to his fortune, might easily have seated himself on the
throne. The impostor proved to be his own worst foe, and defeated
himself by his innate barbarity.

Pugatchef began his career as a common soldier, afterwards becoming an
officer. Deserting the army after a period of service, he made his way
to Poland, where he dwelt with the monks of that country and pretended
to equal the best of them in piety. Here he was told that he bore a
striking resemblance to Peter III. The hint was enough. He returned to
Russia, where he professed sanctity, dressed like a patriarch of the
church, and scattered benedictions freely among the Cossacks of the Don.
He soon gained adherents among the old orthodox party, who were bitter
against the religious looseness of the court. Finally he gave himself
out as Peter III., declaring that the story of his death was false, that
he had escaped from the hands of the assassins, and that he desired to
win the throne, not for himself, but for his infant son Paul.

The first result of this announcement was that the impostor was seized
and taken to Kasan as a prisoner. But the carelessness of his guards
allowed him to escape from his prison cell, and he made his way to the
Volga, near its entrance into the Caspian Sea, where he began to collect
a body of followers among the Cossacks of that region. His first open
declaration was made on September 17, 1773, when he appeared with three
hundred Cossacks at the town of Yaitsk, and published an appeal to
orthodox believers, declaring that he was the czar Peter III. and
calling upon them for support.

His handful of Cossacks soon grew into an army, multitudes of the
tribesmen gathered around him, and in a brief time he found himself at
the head of a large body of the lowest of the people. The man was a
savage at heart, betraying his innate depravity by foolish and useless
cruelties, and in this way preventing the more educated class of the
community from joining his ranks.

Yet he contrived to gather about him an army of several thousand men,
and obtained a considerable number of cannon, with which he soon
afterwards laid siege to the city of Orenburg. Both Yaitsk and Orenburg
defied his efforts, but he had greater success in the field, defeating
two armies in succession. These victories gave him new assurance. He now
caused money to be coined in his name, as though he were the lawful
emperor, and marched northward at the head of a large force to meet the
armies of the state.

His army was destitute of order or discipline and he woefully deficient
in military skill, yet his proclamation of freedom to the people, and
the opportunities he gave them for plunder and outrage, strengthened his
hands, and recruits came in multitudes. The Tartars, Kirghis, and
Bashkirs, who had been brought against their will under the Russian
yoke, flocked to his standard, in the hope of regaining their freedom.
Many of the Poles who had been banished from their country also sought
his ranks, and the people of Moscow and its vicinity, who had from the
first been opposed to Catharine's reign, waited his approach that they
might break out in open rebellion.

The outbreak had thus become serious, and had Pugatchef been skilled as
a leader he might have won the throne. As it was, his followers showed a
fiery valor, and, undisciplined as they were, gave the armies of the
empire no small concern. Bibikof, who had been sent to subdue them,
failed through over-caution, and was slain in the field. His
lieutenants, Galitzin and Michelson, proved more active, and frequently
defeated the impostor, though only to find him rising again with new
armies as often as the old ones were crushed, like the fabulous giant
who sprang up in double form whenever cut in twain.

Prince Galitzin defeated him twice, the last time after a furious battle
six hours in length. Pugatchef, abandoned by his followers, now fled to
the Urals, but soon appeared again with a fresh body of troops. Between
the beginning of March and the end of May, 1774, the rebel chief was
defeated six or seven times by Michelson, in the end being driven as a
fugitive to the Ural Mountains. But he had only to raise his standard
again for fresh armies to spring up as if from the ground, and early
June found him once more in the field. Defeated on June 4, he fled once
more to the hills, but in the beginning of July was facing his foes
again at the head of twenty-two thousand men.

Only the cruelty shown by himself and his followers, and his
ruthlessness in permitting the plunder and burning of churches and
convents, kept back the much greater hosts who would otherwise have
flocked to his ranks. And at this critical moment in his career he
committed the signal error of failing to march on Moscow, the principal
seat of the old Russian faith which he proposed to restore, and where he
would have found an army of partisans. He marched upon Kasan instead,
took the city, but failed to capture the citadel. Here he was making
havoc with fire and sword, when Michelson came up and defeated him in a
long and obstinate fight.

[Illustration: THE CITY OF KASAN.]

He now fled to the Volga, wasting the land as he went, burning the crops
and villages, and leaving desolation in his track. Men came in numbers
to replace those he had lost, and an army of twenty thousand was soon
again under his command. With these he surprised and routed a Russian
force and took several forts on the Volga, while the German colonies of
Moravians which had been established upon that stream, and were among
the most industrious inhabitants of the empire, suffered severely at his
hands. In the town of Saratof he murdered all whom he met.

As an example of the character of this monster in human form, it is
related that hearing that an astronomer from the Imperial Academy of
Sciences of St. Petersburg was near by, engaged in laying out the route
of a canal from the Volga to the Don, he ordered him to be brought
before him. When the peaceful astronomer appeared, the brutal ruffian
bade his men to lift him on their pikes "so that he might be nearer the
stars." Then he ordered him to be cut to pieces.

The end of this carnival of murder came at the siege of Zaritzin. Here
Michelson came up on the 22d of August and forced him to raise the
siege. On the 24th the insurgents were attacked when in the intricate
passes of the mountains and encumbered with baggage-wagons, women, and
camp-followers. Though thus taken at a disadvantage, they defended
themselves vigorously, the mass of them falling in the mountain passes
or being driven over the cliffs and precipices. Pugatchef continued to
fight till his army was destroyed, then made his escape, as so often
before, swimming the Volga and vanishing in the desert. Only about sixty
of his most faithful partisans accompanied him in his flight.

Michelson, failing to reach him in his retreat, took care that he should
not emerge into the cultivated districts. But in the end the Russians
were able to capture him only by treachery. They won over some of their
Cossack prisoners, among them Antizof, the nearest friend of the
fugitive. These were then set free, and sought the desert retreat of
their late leader, where they awaited an opportunity to take him by

This they were not able to do until November. Pugatchef was gnawing the
bone of a horse for food when his false friends ran up to him, saying,
"Come, you have long enough been emperor."

Perceiving that treachery was intended, he drew his pistol and fired at
his foes, shattering the arm of the foremost. The others seized and
bound him and conveyed him to Goroduk in the Ural, the locality of
Antizof's tribe. Michelson was still seeking him in the desert when word
came to him that the fugitive had been delivered into Russian hands at
Simbirsk, and was being conveyed to Moscow in an iron cage, like the
beast of prey which he resembled in character.

On the way he sought to starve himself, but was forced to eat by the
soldiers. On reaching Moscow he counterfeited madness. His trial was
conducted without the torture which had formerly been so common a
feature of Russian tribunals. The sentence of the court was that he
should be exhibited to the people with his hands and feet cut off, and
then quartered alive. With unyielding resolution Pugatchef awaited this
cruel death, but the sentence, for some reason, was not executed, he
being first beheaded and then quartered. Four of his principal followers
suffered the same fate, and thus ended one of the most determined
efforts on the part of an impostor to seize the Russian throne that had
ever been known. The undoubted courage of the man was enough to prove
that he was not Peter III. Had he combined military capacity with his
daring he could readily have won the throne.


On the 5th of January, 1771, began one of the most remarkable events in
the history of the world, the migration of an entire nation, more than
half a million strong, with its women and children, flocks and herds,
and all that it possessed, to a new home four thousand miles away. More
than once--many times, apparently--in the history of the past such
migrations have taken place. But those were warlike movements, with
conquest as their aim. This was a peaceful migration, the only desire of
those concerned being to be let alone. This desire was not granted, and
death and terror marked every step of their frightful journey.

A century and a half earlier the fathers of these people, the Kalmuck
Tartars, had left their homes in the Chinese empire and wandered west,
finding a resting-place at last on the Volga River, in the Russian
realm. Here they would have been well content to remain but for the arts
and designs of one man, Zebek-Dorchi by name, who, ambitious to be made
khan of the tribe, and not being favored in his desires by the Russian
court, determined to remove the whole Kalmuck nation beyond the reach of
Russian control.

This was no easy matter to do. Russia had spread to the east until the
whole width of Asia lay within its broad expanse and its boundary
touched the Pacific waves. To reach China, the mighty Mongolian plain
had to be crossed, largely a desert, swarming with hostile tribes; death
and disaster were likely to haunt every mile of the way; and a general
tomb in the wilderness, rather than a home in a new land, was the most
probable destiny of the migrating horde.

Zebek-Dorchi was confronted with a difficult task. He had to induce the
tribesmen to consent to the new movement, and that so quickly that a
start could be made before the Russians became aware of the scheme.
Otherwise the path would be lined with armies and the movement checked.

Oubacha, the khan of the Kalmucks, was a brave but weak man. The
conspirator controlled him, and through him the people. On a fixed day,
through a false alarm that the Kirghises and Bashkirs had made an inroad
upon the Kalmuck lands, he succeeded in gathering a great Kalmuck horde,
eighty thousand in all, at a point out of reach of Russian ears. Here,
with subtle eloquence, he told them of the oppressions of Russia, of her
insults to the Kalmucks, her contempt for their religion, and her design
to reduce them to slavery, and declared that a plan had been devised to
rob them of their eldest sons. By a skilful mixture of truth and
falsehood he roused their fears and their anger, and at length he
proposed that they should leave their fields and make a rapid march to
the Temba or some other great river, from behind which they could speak
in bolder language to the Russian empress and claim better terms. He
did not venture as yet to hint at his startling plan of a migration to
far-off China.

The simple minded Tartars, made furious by his skilful oratory, accepted
his plan by acclamation, and returned home to push with the utmost haste
the preparations for their stupendous task. The idea of a migration _en
masse_ did not frighten them. They were nomads and the descendants of
nomads, who for ages had been used to fold their tents and flit away.

The Kalmuck villages extended on both sides of the Volga. A large
section of the horde would have to cross that great stream, and this
could be done with sufficient speed only when its surface was bridged
with ice. For this reason midwinter was chosen for the flight, despite
the sufferings which must arise from the bitter Russian cold, and the
5th of January was appointed for religious reasons by the leading Lama
of the tribe. The year had been selected by the Great Lama of Thibet,
the head of the Buddhist faith, to which the Kalmucks belonged, and to
whom the conspirator had appealed.

Despite the secrecy and rapidity of the movement, tidings of it reached
the Russian court. But the Russian envoy who dwelt among the Kalmucks
was quite deceived by their wiles, and sent word to the imperial court
that the rumors were false and nothing resembling an outbreak was in
view. The governor of Astrachan, a man of more sense and discernment,
sent courier after courier, but his warnings were ignored, and the fatal
5th of January came without a preventive step being taken by the
government. Then the governor, learning that the migration had actually
begun, sprang into his sleigh and drove over the Russian snows at the
furious speed of three hundred miles a day, finally rushing into the
imperial presence-chamber at St. Petersburg to announce to the empress
that all his warnings had been true and that the Kalmucks were in full
flight. Other couriers quickly confirmed his words, and the envoy paid
for his blindness by death in a dungeon-cell.

Meanwhile the banks of the Volga had been the locality of a remarkable
event. At early dawn of the selected day the Kalmucks east of the stream
began to assemble in troops and squadrons, gathering in tens of
thousands, a great body of the tribe setting out every half-hour on its
march. Women and children, several hundred thousand in number, were
placed on wagons and camels, and moved off in masses of twenty thousand
at once, with escorts of mounted men. As the march proceeded, outlying
bodies of the horde kept falling in during that and the following day.

From sixty to eighty thousand of the best mounted warriors stayed behind
for work of ruin and revenge. Their first purpose was to destroy their
own dwellings, lest some of the weak-minded might be tempted to return.
Oubacha, the khan, set the example by applying the torch to his own
palace. Before the day was over the villages throughout a district of
ten thousand square miles were in a simultaneous blaze. Nothing was
saved except the portable utensils and such of the wood-work as might be
used in making the long Tartar lances.

This was but part of the destruction proposed. Zebek-Dorchi had it in
view to pillage and destroy all the Russian towns, churches, and
buildings of every kind within the surrounding district, with outrage
and death to their inhabitants,--a frightful scheme, which was
providentially checked. The day of flight had been selected, as has been
said, in the worst season of the year, in order that the tribes west of
the Volga might be able to cross its surface on a thick bridge of ice.
Yet for some reason--possibly because of the weakness of the ice--the
western Kalmucks failed to join their eastern brethren, and fully one
hundred thousand of the Tartars were left behind. It was this that saved
the Russian towns, it being feared by the leaders that such a vengeance
would be repaid upon their brethren left to Russian reprisal. These
western Kalmucks little guessed what horrors they were escaping by being
prevented from joining in the flight.

The migrating horde was not less than six hundred thousand strong, while
a vast number of horses, camels, cattle, goats, and sheep added to the
multitude of living forms. The march was a forced one. Every day gained
was of prime importance, for it was well known that Russian armies would
soon be in hot pursuit, while the tribes on their line of march,
hereditary foes of the Kalmucks, would gather from all sides to oppose
their passage as the news of the flight reached their ears.

The river Jaik, three hundred miles away, must be reached before a day's
rest could be had. The weather was not severely cold, and the journey
might have been accomplished with little distress but for the forced
pace. As it was, the cattle suffered greatly, the sheep died in
multitudes, milk began to fail, and only the great number of camels
saved the children and the infirm.

The first of the subjects of Russia with whom the Kalmucks came into
collision were the Cossacks of the Jaik. At this season most of these
were absent at the fisheries on the Caspian, and the others fled in
crowds to the fortress of Koulagina, which was quickly summoned to
surrender by the Kalmuck khan. The Russian commandant, numerous as were
his foes, refused, knowing that they must soon resume their flight. He
had not long to wait. On the fifth day of the siege, from the walls of
the fort a number of Tartar couriers, mounted on the swift Bactrian
camels, were seen to cross the plains and ride into the Kalmuck camp at
their highest speed.

Immediately a great agitation was visible in the camp, the siege was
raised, and the signal for flight resounded through the host. The news
brought was that an entire Kalmuck division, numbering nine thousand
fighting-men, stationed on a distant flank of the line of march, and
between whom and the Cossacks there was an ancient feud, had been
attacked and virtually exterminated. The exhaustion of their horses and
camels had prevented flight, quarter was not asked or given, and the
battle continued until not a fighting-man was left alive.

The utmost speed was now necessary, for a sufficient reason. The next
safe halting-place of the Kalmucks was on the east bank of the Toorgaï
River. Between it and them rose a hilly country, a narrow defile through
which offered the nearest and best route. This lost, the need of
pasturage would require a further sweep of five hundred miles. The
Cossack light horsemen were only about fifty miles more distant from the
pass. If it were to be won, the most rapid march possible must be made.

For a day and a night the flight went on, with renewed suffering and
loss of animals. Then a snowfall, soon too deep to journey through,
checked all progress, and for ten days they had a season of rest,
comfort, and plenty. The cows and oxen had perished in such numbers that
it was resolved to slaughter what remained, feast to their hearts'
content, and salt the remainder for future stores.

At length clear, frosty weather came: the snow ceased to drift, and its
surface froze. It would bear the camels, and the flight was resumed. But
already seventy thousand persons of all ages had perished, in addition
to those slain in battle, and new suffering and death impended, for word
came that the troops of the empire were converging from all parts of
Central Asia upon the fords of the Toorgaï, as the best place to cut off
the flight of the tribes, while a powerful army was marching rapidly
upon their rear, though delayed by its artillery.

On the 2d of February Ouchim, the much-desired defile, was reached. The
Cossacks had been out-marched. A considerable body of them, it is true,
had reached the pass some hours before, but they were attacked and so
fiercely dealt with that few of them escaped. The Kalmucks here
obtained revenge for the slaughter of their fellows twenty days before.

The road was now open. How long it would continue open was in doubt.
Word came that a large Russian army, led by General Traubenberg, was
advancing upon the Toorgaï. He was to be met on his route by ten
thousand Bashkirs and as many Kirghises, implacable enemies of the
Kalmucks, from whom they had suffered in past years. The only hope now
lay in speed, and onward the Kalmucks pressed, their line of march
marked by the bodies of the dead. The weak, the sick, had to be left
behind; nothing was suffered to impede the rapidity of their flight.

From the starting-point on the Volga to the halting-ground on the
Toorgaï, counting the circuits that had to be made, was full two
thousand miles, much of it traversed in the dead of winter, the cold,
for seven weeks of the journey, being excessively severe. Napoleon's
army in its retreat from Moscow suffered no more from the winter chill
than did this migrating nation. On many a morning the dawning light
shone on a circle that had gathered the night before around a sparse
fire (made from the lading of the camels or from broken-up
baggage-wagons), now dead and frozen stiff as they sat.

But at length the snows ceased to fall, the frost to chill. Spring came.
March and April passed away. May arrived with its balmy airs. Vernal
sights and sounds cheered them on every side. During all these months
they continued their march, and towards the end of May the Toorgaï was
reached and crossed, and the weary wanderers, having left their enemies
far in the rear, hoped to find comfort and security during weeks of
rest, and to complete their journey with less of ruin and suffering.
They little dreamed that the worst of their task had yet to be endured.

During the five months of their wanderings their losses had been
frightfully severe. Not less than two hundred and fifty thousand members
of the horde had perished, while their herds and flocks--oxen, cows,
sheep, goats, horses, mules, and asses--had perished, only the camels
surviving. These hardy creatures had come through the terrible journey
unharmed, and on them rested all their hopes for the remainder of their

But another two thousand miles lay before them, with hostility in front
and in rear. Should they still go on, or should they return and throw
themselves on the mercy of the empress? Oubacha, the khan, advised
return, offering to take all the guilt of the flight upon himself.
Zebek-Dorchi earnestly urged them to proceed, and not lose the fruit of
all their suffering. But the people, worn out with the hardships and
perils of their route, favored a return and a trust in the imperial
mercy, and this would probably have been determined upon but for an
untoward event.

This was the arrival of two envoys from Traubenberg, the Russian
general, who, after a long and painful march, had approached within a
few days' journey of the fugitives about the 1st of June. On his way he
had been joined by large bodies of the Kirghis and Bashkir nomads. The
harsh tone and peremptory demands of the envoys aroused hostile feelings
among the Kalmuck chiefs. But the main check to negotiations was the
action of the Bashkirs, who, finding that Traubenberg would not advance,
left his camp in a body and set off for the Kalmuck halting-place.

In six days they reached the Toorgaï, swam their horses across it, and
fell in fury upon the Kalmucks, who were dispersed over leagues of
ground in search of pasture and food. Peace at once changed to war. Over
a field from thirty to forty miles wide, fighting, flight and pursuit,
rescue and death, went on at all points. More than once were the khan
and Zebek-Dorchi in peril of death. At one time both were made
prisoners. But at length, concentrating their strength, they forced the
Bashkirs to retreat. For two days more the wild Bashkir and Kirghis
cavalry continued their attacks, and the Kalmuck chiefs, looking upon
these as the advance parties of the Russian army, felt themselves
obliged to order a renewal of the flight. Thus suddenly ended their
hoped-for season of repose.

One event took place during this period of which it is important to
speak. A Russian gentleman, Weseloff by name, was held prisoner in the
Kalmuck camp, and had been brought that far on their route. The khan
Oubacha, who saw no object in holding him, now gave him leave to attempt
his escape, and also asked him to accompany him during a private
interview which he was to hold on the next night with the hetman of the
Bashkirs. Weseloff declined to do so, and bade the khan to beware, as
he feared the scheme meant treachery.

About ten that night Weseloff, with three Kalmucks who had offered to
join in his flight, they having strong reasons for a return to Russia,
sought a number of the half-wild horses of that district which they had
caught and hidden in the thickets on the river's side. They were in the
act of mounting, when the silence of the night was broken by a sudden
clash of arms, and a voice, which sounded like that of the khan, was
heard calling for aid.

The Russian, remembering what Oubacha had told him, rode off hastily
towards the sound, bidding his companions follow. Reaching an open glade
in the wood, he saw four men fighting with nine or ten, one, who looked
like the khan, contending on foot against two horsemen. Weseloff fired
at once, bringing down one of the assailants. His companions followed
with their fire, and then all rode into the glade, whereupon the
assailants, thinking that a troop of cavalry was upon them, hastily
fled. The dead man, when examined, proved to be a confidential servant
of Zebek-Dorchi. The secret was out: this ambitious conspirator had
sought the murder of the khan.

Accompanying the khan until he had reached a place of safety, Weseloff
and his companions, at the suggestion of the grateful Oubacha, rode off
at the utmost speed, fearing pursuit. Their return was made along the
route the Kalmucks had traversed, every step of which could be traced by
skeletons and other memorials of the flight. Among these were heaps of
money which had been abandoned in the desert, and of which they took as
much as they could conveniently carry. Weseloff at length reached home,
rushed precipitately into the house where his loving mother had long
mourned his loss, and so shocked her by the sudden revulsion of joy
after her long sorrow that she fell dead on the spot. It was a sad
ending to his happy return.

To return to the Kalmuck flight. Two thousand miles still remained to be
traversed before the borders of China would be reached. All that took
place in the dreary interval is too much to tell. It must suffice to say
that the Bashkirs pursued them through the whole long route, while the
choice of two evils lay in front. Now they made their way through desert
regions. Now, pressed by want of food, they traversed rich and inhabited
lands, through which they had to win a passage with the sword. Every day
the Bashkirs attacked them, drawing off into the desert when too sharply
resisted. Thus, with endless alternations of hunger and bloodshed, the
borders of China at length were approached.

And now we have another scene in this remarkable drama to describe. Keen
Lung, the emperor of China, had been long apprised of the flight of the
Kalmucks, and had prepared a place of residence for these erring
children of his nation, as he considered them, on their return to their
native land. But he did not expect their arrival until the approach of
winter, having been advised that they proposed to dwell during the
summer heats on the Toorgaï's fertile banks.

One fine morning in September, 1771, this fatherly monarch was enjoying
himself in hunting in a wild district north of the Great Wall. Here, for
hundreds of square leagues, the country was overgrown with forest,
filled with game. Centrally in this district rose a gorgeous
hunting-lodge, to which the emperor retired annually for a season of
escape from the cares of government. Leaving his lodge, he had pursued
the game through some two hundred miles of forest, every night pitching
his tent in a different locality. A military escort followed at no great
distance in the rear.

On the morning in question the emperor found himself on the margin of
the vast deserts of Asia, which stretched interminably away. As he stood
in his tent door, gazing across the extended plain, he saw with
surprise, far to the west, a vast dun cloud arise, which mounted and
spread until it covered that whole quarter of the sky. It thickened as
it rose, and began to roll in billowy volumes towards his camp.

This singular phenomenon aroused general attention. The suite of the
emperor hastened to behold it. In the rear the silver trumpets sounded,
and from the forest avenues rode the imperial cavalry escort. All eyes
were fixed upon the rolling cloud, the sentiment of curiosity being
gradually replaced by a dread of possible danger. At first the
dust-cloud was imagined to be due to a vast troop of deer or other wild
animals, driven into the plain by the hunting train or by beasts of
prey. This conception vanished as it came nearer, until, seemingly, it
was but a few miles away.

And now, as the breeze freshened a little, the vapory curtain rolled
and eddied, until it assumed the appearance of vast aerial draperies
depending from the heavens to the earth; sometimes, where rent by the
eddying breeze, it resembled portals and archways, through which, at
intervals, were seen the gleam of weapons and the dim forms of camels
and human beings. At times, again, the cloud thickened, shutting all
from view; but through it broke the din of battle, the shouts of
combatants, the roar of infuriated hordes in mortal conflict.

It was, in fact, the Kalmuck host, now in the last stage of misery and
exhaustion, yet still pursued by their unrelenting foes. Of the six
hundred thousand who had begun the journey scarcely a third remained,
cold, heat, famine, and warfare having swept away nearly half a million
of the fleeing host, while of their myriad animals only the camels and
the horses brought from the Toorgaï remained. For the past ten days
their suffering had reached a climax. They had been traversing a
frightful desert, destitute alike of water and of vegetation. Two days
before their small allowance of water had failed, and to the fatigue of
flight had been added the horrors of insupportable thirst.

On came the flying and fighting mass. It was soon evident that it was
not moving towards the imperial train, and those who knew the country
judged that it was speeding towards a large freshwater lake about seven
or eight miles away. Thither the imperial cavalry, of which a strong
body, attended with artillery, lay some miles in the rear, was ordered
in all haste to ride; and there, at noon of September 8, the great
migration of the Kalmucks came to an end, amid the most ferocious and
bloodthirsty scene of its whole frightful course.

The lake of Tengis lies in a hollow among low mountains, on the verge of
the great desert of Gobi. The Chinese cavalry reached the summit of a
road that led down to the lake at about eleven o'clock. The descent was
a winding and difficult one, and took them an hour and a half, during
the whole of which they were spectators of an extraordinary scene below,
the last and most fiendish spectacle in eight months of almost constant

The sight of the distant hills and forests on that morning, and the
announcement of the guides that the lake of Tengis was near at hand, had
excited the suffering host into a state of frenzy, and a wild rush was
made for the water, in which all discipline was lost, and the heat of
the day and the exhaustion of the people were ignored. The rear-guard
joined in the mad flight. In among the people rode the savage Bashkirs,
suffering as much as themselves, yet still eager for blood, and
slaughtering them by wholesale, almost without resistance. Screams and
shouts filled the air, but none heeded or halted, all rushing madly on,
spurred forward by the intolerable agonies of thirst.

At length the lake was reached. Into its waters dashed the whole
suffering mass, forgetful of everything but the wild instinct to quench
their thirst. But hardly had the water moistened their lips when the
carnival of bloodshed was resumed, and the waters became crimsoned with
gore. The savage Bashkirs rode fiercely through the host, striking off
heads with unappeased fury. The mortal foes joined in a death-grapple in
the waters, often sinking together beneath the ruffled surface. Even the
camels were made to take part in the fight, striking down the foe with
their lashing forelegs. The waters grew more and more polluted; but new
myriads came up momentarily and plunged in, heedless of everything but
thirst. Such a spectacle of revengeful passion, ghastly fear, the frenzy
of hatred, mortal conflict, convulsion and despair as fell on the eyes
of the approaching horsemen has rarely been seen, and that quiet
mountain lake, which perhaps had never before vibrated with the sounds
of battle, was on that fatal day converted into an encrimsoned sea of

At length the Bashkirs, alarmed by the near approach of the Chinese
cavalry, began to draw off and gather into groups, in preparation to
meet the onset of a new foe. As they did so, the commandant of a small
Chinese fort, built on an eminence above the lake, poured an artillery
fire into their midst. Each group was thus dispersed as rapidly as it
formed, the Chinese cavalry reached the foot of the hills and joined in
the attack, and soon a new scene of war and bloodshed was in full
process of enactment.

But the savage horsemen, convinced that the contest was growing
hopeless, now began to retire, and were quickly in full flight into the
desert, pursued as far as it was deemed wise. No pursuit was needed,
even to satisfy the Kalmuck spirit of revenge. The fact that their
enemies had again to cross that inhospitable desert, with its horrors of
hunger and thirst, was as full of retribution as the most vindictive
could have asked.

Here ends our tale. The exhausted Kalmucks were abundantly provided for
by their new lord and master, who supplied them with the food necessary,
established them in a fertile region of his empire, furnished them with
clothing, tools, a year's subsistence, grain for their fields, animals
for their pastures, and money to aid them in their other needs,
displaying towards his new subjects the most kindly and munificent
generosity. They were placed under better conditions than they had
enjoyed in Russia, though changed from a pastoral and nomadic people to
an agricultural one.

As for Zebek-Dorchi, his attempt on the life of the khan had produced a
feud between the two, which grew until it attracted the attention of the
emperor. Inquiring into the circumstances of the enmity, he espoused the
cause of Oubacha, which so infuriated the foe of the khan that he wove
nets of conspiracy even against the emperor himself. In the end
Zebek-Dorchi, with his accomplices, was invited to the imperial lodge,
and there, at a great banquet, his arts and plots were exposed, and he
and all his followers were assassinated at the feast.

As a durable monument to the mighty exodus of the Kalmucks, the most
remarkable circumstance of the kind in the whole history of nations, the
emperor Keen Lung ordered to be erected on the banks of the Ily, at the
margin of the steppes, a great monument of granite and brass, bearing
an inscription to the following effect:

          By the Will of God,
      Here, upon the brink of these Deserts,
    Which from this Point begin and stretch away,
        Pathless, treeless, waterless,
For thousands of miles, and along the margins of many mighty Nations,
    Rested from their labors and from great afflictions
      Under the shadow of the Chinese Wall,
  And by the favor of KEEN LUNG, God's Lieutenant upon Earth,
The Ancient Children of the Wilderness, the Torgote Tartars,
    Flying before the wrath of the Grecian Czar,
  Wandering sheep who had strayed away from the Celestial
        Empire in the year 1616,
  But are now mercifully gathered again, after infinite sorrow,
      Into the fold of their forgiving Shepherd.
         Hallowed be the spot forever, and
      Hallowed be the day,--September 8, 1771.


Catharine the Great earned her title cheaply, her patent of greatness
being due to the fact that she had the judgment to select great generals
and a great minister and the wisdom to cling to them. Russia grew
powerful during her reign, largely through the able work of her
generals, and she forgave Potemkin a thousand insults and unblushing
robberies in view of his successful statesmanship. Potemkin possessed,
in addition to his ability as a statesman, the faculty of a spectacular
artist, and arranged a show for the empress which stands unrivalled amid
the triumphs of the stage. It is the tale of this spectacle which we
propose to tell.

Catharine had literary aspirations, one of her admirations being
Voltaire, with whom she corresponded, and on whom she depended to
chronicle the glory of her reign. The poet had his dreams, in which the
woman shared, and between them they contrived a scheme of a modern
Utopia, a Russo-Grecian city of whose civilization the empress was to be
the source, and which a decree was to raise from the desert and an idea
make great. This fancy Potemkin, who stood ready to flatter the empress
at any price, undertook to realize, and he built her a city in the
fashion in which cities were built in the times of the Arabian Nights,
and made it flourish in the same unsubstantial fashion. The magnificent
Potemkin never hesitated before any question of cost. Russia was rich,
and could bleed freely to please the empress's whim. He therefore
ordered a city to be built, with dwellings and edifices of every
description common to the cities of that date,--stores, palaces, public
halls, private residences in profusion. The buildings ready, he sought
for citizens, and forcibly drove the people from all quarters to take up
a temporary residence within its walls. It was his one purpose to make a
spectacle of this theatrical city to enchant the eyes of the empress. So
that it had an appearance of prosperity during her visit, he cared not a
fig if it fell to pieces and its inhabitants vanished as soon as his
supporting hand was removed. He only required that the scenes should be
set and the actors in place when the curtain rose.

And the city grew, on the banks of the Dnieper, eighteen million rubles
being granted by the empress for its cost,--though much of this clung to
the bird-lime of avarice on Potemkin's fingers. It was named Kherson.
The desert around it was erected into a province, entitled by the wily
minister _Catharine's Glory_ (Slava Ekatarina). Another province,
farther north, he named after his imperial mistress Ekatarinoslaf. And
thus, by fraud and violence, a city to order was brought into existence.
The stage was ready. The next thing to be done was to raise the curtain
which hid it from Catharine's eyes.

It was early in the year 1787 that the empress began her journey towards
her Utopian city, to receive the homage of its citizens and to exhibit
to the world the magnificence of her reign. Great projects were in the
air. Poland had just been cut into fragments and distributed among the
hungry kingdoms around. The same was to be done with Turkey. Joseph II.
of Austria was to meet the empress in Kherson to consult upon this
partition of the Turkish empire; while Constantine, grand duke of Russia
and grandson of the empress, was to reign at Byzantium, or
Constantinople, over the new empire carved from the Turkish realm. Such
was the paper programme prepared by Potemkin and the empress, the
minister doubtless smiling behind his sleeve, his mistress in solid

And now we have the story to tell of one of the most marvellous journeys
ever undertaken. It was made through a thinly inhabited wilderness,
which to the belief of the empress was to be converted into a populous
and thriving realm. That the journey might proceed by night as well as
by day, great piles of wood were prepared at intervals of fifty perches,
whose leaping flames gave to the high-road a brightness like that of
day. In six days Smolensk was reached, and in twenty days the old
Russian capital of Kief, where the procession halted for a season before
proceeding towards its goal.

As it went on, the whole country became transformed. The deserts were
suddenly peopled, palaces awaited the train in the trackless wild,
temporary villages hid the nakedness of the plain, and fireworks at
night testified to the seeming joy of the populace. Wide roads were
opened by the army in advance of the cortége, the mountains were
illuminated as it passed, howling wildernesses were made to appear like
fertile gardens, and great flocks and herds, gathered from distant
pastures, delighted the eyes of the empress with the appearance of
thrift and prosperity as her vehicle drove rapidly along the roads. To
the charmed eyes of those not "to the manner born" the whole country
seemed populous and prosperous, the people joyous, the soil fertile, the
land smiling with abundance. There was no hint to indicate that it was a
desert covered for the time being by an enamelled carpet.

[Illustration: SCENE ON A RUSSIAN FARM.]

The Dnieper reached, the empress and her train passed down that river in
fifteen splendid galleys, with the pomp of a triumphal procession. It
was now the month of May, and the banks of the river showed the same
signs of prosperity as had the sides of the road. At Kaidack the emperor
Joseph met the empress, having reached Kherson in advance and gone north
to anticipate her coming. He accompanied her down the stream, looking
with her on the show of prosperity and populousness which delighted her
inexperienced eyes, and smiling covertly at the delusion which
Potemkin's magic had raised, well assured that as soon as she had passed
silence and desertion would succeed these busy scenes. At a new
projected town on the way, of which Catharine had, with much ceremony,
laid the first stone, Joseph was asked to lay the second. He did so,
afterwards saying of the farcical proceeding, "The Empress of Russia and
I have finished a very important business in a single day: she has laid
the first stone of a city, and I have laid the last." He had no doubt
that, when they had gone, the buildings in which they had slept, the
villages which they had seen, the wayside herders and flocks, would
vanish like theatrical scenery, and the country present the dismal
aspect of a deserted stage.

At length the new city was reached, the magical Kherson. Catharine
entered it in grand state, under a noble triumphal arch inscribed in
Greek with the words "The Way to Byzantium." It was a busy city in which
she found herself. The houses were all inhabited; shops, filled with
goods, lined the principal streets; people thronged the sidewalks,
spectators of the entry; luxury of every kind awaited the empress in the
capital which had arisen for her as by the rubbing of Aladdin's ring,
and entertainments of the most lavish character were prepared by the
potent genius to whom all she saw was due. Potemkin hesitated at no
expense. The journey had cost the empire no less than seven millions of
rubles, fourteen thousand of which were expended on the throne built for
the empress in what was named the admiralty of Kherson.

Such was the scenery prepared for one of the most theatrical events the
world has ever witnessed. It cost the empire dearly, but Potemkin's
purpose was achieved. He had charmed the empress by causing the desert
to "blossom like the rose," and after the spectators had passed all sank
again into silence and emptiness. The new empire of Byzantium remained a
dream. Turkey had not been consulted in the project, and was not quite
ready to consent to be dismembered to gratify the whim of empress and

As for the city of Kherson, its site was badly chosen, and its seeming
prosperity and populousness during the empress's presence quickly passed
away. The city has remained, but its actual growth has been gradual, and
it has been thrown into the shade by Odessa, a port founded some years
later without a single flourish of trumpets, but which has now grown to
be the fourth city of Russia in size and importance. Of late years
Kherson has shown some signs of increase, but all we need say further of
it here is that it has the honor of being the burial-place of the shrewd
Potemkin, under whose fostering hand it burst into such premature bloom
in its early days.


Of the several nations that made up the Europe of the eighteenth
century, one, the kingdom of Poland, vanished before the nineteenth
century began. Destitute of a strong central government, the scene of
continual anarchy among the turbulent nobles, possessing no national
frontiers and no national middle class, its population being made up of
nobles, serfs, and foreigners, it lay at the mercy of the ambitious
surrounding kingdoms, by which it was finally absorbed. On three
successive occasions was the territory of the feeble nation divided
between its foes, the first partition being made in 1772, between
Russia, Prussia, and Austria; the second in 1793, between Russia and
Prussia; and the third and final in 1795, in which Russia, Prussia, and
Austria again took part, all that remained of the country being now
distributed and the ancient kingdom of Poland effaced from the map of

Only one vigorous attempt was made to save the imperilled realm, that of
the illustrious Kosciusko, who, though he failed in his patriotic
purpose, made his name famous as the noblest of the Poles. When he
appeared at the head of its armies, Poland was in a desperate strait.
Some of its own nobles had been bought by Russian gold, Russian armies
had overrun the land, and a Prussian force was marching to their aid.
At Grodno the Russian general proudly took his seat on that throne which
he was striving to overthrow. The defenders of Poland had been
dispersed, their property confiscated, their families reduced to
poverty. The Russians, swarming through the kingdom, committed the
greatest excesses, while Warsaw, which had fallen into their hands, was
governed with arrogant barbarity. Such was the state of affairs when
some of the most patriotic of the nobles assembled and sent to
Kosciusko, asking him to put himself at their head.

As a young man this valiant Pole had aided in the war for American
independence. In 1792 he took part in the war for the defence of his
native land. But he declared that there could be no hope of success
unless the peasants were given their liberty. Hitherto they had been
treated in Poland like slaves. It was with these despised serfs that
this effort was made.

In 1794 the insurrection broke out. Kosciusko, finding that the country
was ripe for revolt against its oppressors, hastened from Italy, whither
he had retired, and appeared at Cracow, where he was hailed as the
coming deliverer of the land. The only troops in arms were a small force
of about four thousand in all, who were joined by about three hundred
peasants armed with scythes. These were soon met by an army of seven
thousand Russians, whom they put to flight after a sharp engagement.

The news of this battle stirred the Russian general in command at Warsaw
to active measures. All whom he suspected of favoring the insurrection
were arrested. The result was different from what he had expected. The
city blazed into insurrection, two thousand Russians fell before the
onslaught of the incensed patriots, and their general saved himself only
by flight.

The outbreak at Warsaw was followed by one at Vilna, the capital of
Lithuania, the Russians here being all taken prisoners. Three Polish
regiments mustered into the Russian service deserted to the army of
their compatriots, and far and wide over the country the flames of
insurrection spread.

Kosciusko rapidly increased his forces by recruiting the peasantry,
whose dress he wore and whose food he shared in. But these men
distrusted the nobles, who had so long oppressed them, while many of the
latter, eager to retain their valued prerogatives, worked against the
patriot cause, in which they were aided by King Stanislaus, who had been
subsidized by Russian gold.

To put down this effort of despair on the part of the Poles, Catharine
of Russia sent fresh armies to Poland, led by her ablest generals.
Prussians and Austrians also joined in the movement for enslavement,
Frederick William of Prussia fighting at the head of his troops against
the Polish patriot. Kosciusko had established a provisional government,
and faced his foes boldly in the field. Defeated, he fell back on
Warsaw, where he valiantly maintained himself until threatened by two
new Russian armies, whom he marched out to meet, in the hope of
preventing their junction.

The decisive battle took place at Maciejowice, in October, 1794.
Kosciusko, though pressed by superior forces, fought with the greatest
valor and desperation. His men at length, overpowered by numbers, were
in great part cut to pieces or obliged to yield, while their leader,
covered with wounds, fell into the hands of his foes. It is said that he
exclaimed, on seeing all hopes at an end, "Finis Poloniæ!" In the words
of the poet Byron, "Freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell."

Warsaw still held out. Here all who had escaped from the field took
refuge, occupying Praga, the eastern suburb of the city, where
twenty-six thousand Poles, with over one hundred cannon and mortars,
defended the bridges over the Vistula. Suwarrow, the greatest of the
Russian generals, was quickly at the city gates. He was weaker, both in
men and in guns, than the defenders of the city; but with his wonted
impetuosity he resolved to employ the same tactics which he had more
than once used against the Turks, and seek to carry the Polish lines at
the bayonet's point.

After a two days' cannonade, he ordered the assault at daybreak of
November 4. A desperate conflict continued during the five succeeding
hours, ending in the carrying of the trenches and the defeat of the
garrison. The Russians now poured into the suburb, where a scene of
frightful carnage began. Not only men in arms, but old men, women, and
children were ruthlessly slaughtered, the wooden houses set on fire, the
bridges broken down, and the throng of helpless people who sought to
escape into the city driven ruthlessly into the waters of the Vistula.
In this butchery not only ten thousand soldiers, but twelve thousand
citizens of every age and sex were remorselessly slain.

On the following day the city capitulated, and on the 6th the Russian
victors marched into its streets. It was, as Kosciusko had said, "the
end of Poland." The troops were disarmed, the officers were seized as
prisoners, and the feeble king was nominally raised again to the head of
the kingdom, so soon to be swept from existence. For a year Suwarrow
held a military court in Warsaw, far eclipsing the king in the splendor
of his surroundings. By the close of 1795 all was at an end. The small
remnant left of the kingdom was parted between the greedy aspirants, and
on the 1st of January, 1796, Warsaw was handed over to Prussia, to whose
share of the spoils it appertained.

In this arbitrary manner was a kingdom which had an area of nearly three
hundred thousand square miles and a population of twelve millions, and
whose history dated back to the tenth century, removed from the map of
the world, while the heavy hand of oppression fell upon all who dared to
speak or act in its behalf. One bold stroke for freedom was afterwards
made, but it ended as before, and Poland is now but a name.


Of men born for battle, to whose ears the roar of cannon and the clash
of sabres are the only music, the smoke of conflict their native
atmosphere, Suwarrow (Suvarof, to give him his Russian name) stands
among the foremost. A little, wrinkled, stooping man, five feet four
inches in height and sickly in appearance, he was the last to whom one
would have looked for great deeds in war or mighty exploits in the
embattled field. Yet he had the soul of a hero in his diminutive frame,
and even as a boy the passion for military glory fired his heart, Cæsar
and Charles XII. of Sweden (from which country his ancestors came) being
the heroes worshipped by his youthful imagination. Born in 1729, he
entered the army as a private at seventeen, but rapidly rose from the
ranks, made himself famous in the Seven Years' War and in the Polish war
of 1768-71, and from that time until death put an end to his career was
almost constantly in the field. Napoleon, against whose armies he fought
in his later days, was not more enraptured with the breath of battle
than was this war-dog of the Russian army.

Diminutive and sickly as he looked, Suwarrow was strong and hardy, and
so inured to hardship that the severity of the Russian climate failed
to affect his vigorous frame. Disdaining luxury, and ignoring comfort,
he lived like the soldiers under his command, preferring to sleep on a
truss of hay, and accepting every privation which his men might be
called on to endure. He was a man of high intelligence, a clever
linguist, and a diligent reader even when on campaign, and religiously
seems to have been very devout, being ready to kneel and pray before
every wayside image, even when the roads were deep with mud.

In his ordinary manners he carried eccentricity to an extravagant
extent, was brusque and curt in speech, often to the verge of insult,
laconic in his despatches, and--a soldier in grain--treated with
stinging sarcasm all whose lack of activity or of courage invited his
contempt. It was by this spirit that he incurred the enmity of the
Emperor Paul, when, in his half-mad thirst for change, the latter
attempted to change the native dress of the Russian soldier for the
ancient attire of Germany. His fair locks, which the Russian was used to
wash every morning, he was now bidden to bedaub with grease and flour,
while he energetically cursed the black spatterdashes which it took him
an hour to button every morning. Orders to establish these novelties
among his men were sent to Suwarrow, then in Italy with the army, the
directions being accompanied with little sticks for models of the tails
and side curls in which the soldiers' hair was to be arranged. The old
warrior's lips curled contemptuously on seeing these absurd devices, and
he growled out in his curt fashion, "Hair-powder is not gunpowder;
curls are not cannon; and tails are not bayonets."

This sarcastic utterance, which forms a sort of rhyming verse in the
Russian tongue, got abroad, and spread from mouth to mouth through the
army like a choice morsel of wit. The czar, to whose ears it came, heard
it with deep offence. Soon after Suwarrow was recalled from the army, on
another plea, and on his return to St. Petersburg was not permitted to
see the emperor's face. This injustice may have been a cause of his
death, which occurred shortly after his return, on May 18, 1800. No
courtier of the Russian court, and no diplomatist, except the English
ambassador, followed the war-worn veteran to the grave.

Suwarrow was the idol of his men, whose favorite title for him was
"Father Suvarof," and who were ready at command to follow him to the
cannon's mouth. In all his long career he never lost a battle, and only
once in his life of war acted on the defensive. With a superb faith in
his own star, the inspiration of the moment served him for counsel, and
rapidity of movement and boldness and dash in the onset brought him many
a victory where deliberation might have led to defeat.

A striking instance of this, and of his usual brusque eccentricity, took
place in 1799 in Italy, where Suwarrow was placed in command of all the
allied troops. This raising of a Russian to the supreme command excited
the jealousy of the Austrian generals, and they called a council of war
to examine his plans for the campaign. The members of the council, the
youngest first, gave their views as to the conduct of the war. Suwarrow
listened in grim silence until they had all spoken, and had turned to
him for his comment on their views. The wrinkled veteran drew to himself
a slate, and made on it two lines.

"Here, gentlemen," he said, pointing to one line, "are the French, and
here are the Russians. The latter will march against the former and beat
them." This said, he rubbed out the French line. Then, looking up at his
surprised auditors, he curtly remarked, "This is all my plan. The
council is ended."

In war he is said to have been averse to the shedding of blood, and to
have been at heart humane and merciful. Yet this hardly accords with the
story of his exploits, it being said that twenty-six thousand Turks were
killed in the storming of Ismail, while in that of Praga at Warsaw more
than twenty thousand Poles were massacred.

Such was the character of one of the men who aided to make glorious the
reign of Catharine of Russia, and whose merit she--unlike her weak son
Paul--was fully competent to appreciate. With this estimate of the
greatest soldier Russia has ever produced, and one of the ablest
generals of modern times, we may briefly describe some of the most
striking exploits of Suwarrow's career.

In 1789, during one of the interminable wars against Turkey, in which on
this occasion the Austrians took part with the Russians, the Prince of
Coburg was at the head of an Austrian force, which he was strikingly
incapable of commanding. The prince, advancing with sublime
deliberation, found himself suddenly threatened by a considerable
Turkish army. Filled with alarm at the sight of the enemy, he sent a
hasty appeal to Suwarrow to come to his aid.

The Russian general had just rejoined his army after recovering from a
wound. The news of Coburg's peril reached him at Belat, in Moldavia,
between forty and fifty miles away, and these miles of mountains,
ravines, and almost impassable wilds. Suwarrow at once broke camp, and
with his usual impetuosity led his army over its difficult route,
reaching the Austrians in less than thirty-six hours after receiving the

It was five o'clock in the evening when he arrived. At eleven he sent
his plan of attack to the prince. An assault on the enemy was to be made
at two in the morning. Coburg, who had never dreamed of such rapidity of
movement and such impetuosity in action, was utterly astounded. In
complete bewilderment, he sought Suwarrow at his quarters, going there
three times without finding him. The supreme command belonged to him as
the older general, but he had the sense not to claim it, and to act as a
subordinate to his abler ally. In an hour after the advance began the
allied armies were in the Turkish camp, and the Turks, though much
outnumbering their assailants, were in full flight. All their stores, a
hundred standards, and seventy pieces of artillery fell into the hands
of the victors.

Suwarrow returned to Moldavia, and Coburg looked quietly on while the
Turks collected a new army. In less than two months he found himself
confronted by a hundred thousand men. In new alarm, he hastily sent
again to Suwarrow for aid.

In two days the Russian army had reached the Austrian camp, which the
enemy was just about to attack. The Turks had neglected to fortify their
camp before offering battle. Of this oversight the keen-eyed Russian
took instant advantage, attacked them in their unfinished trenches, and,
as before, took their camp by storm,--though after a more stubborn
defence than in the previous instance. The Turkish army was again
dispersed, immense booty was taken, and Suwarrow received for his valor
the title of a count of the Austrian empire, while the empress Catharine
gave him in reward the honorable surname of Rimniksky, from the name of
the river on which the battle had been fought.

The next great exploit of Suwarrow was performed at Ismail, a Turkish
town which Potemkin had been besieging for seven months. The prime
minister at length grew impatient at the delay, and determined on more
effective measures. Living in a luxury in his camp that contrasted
strangely with the sparse conditions of Suwarrow, Potemkin was
surrounded by courtiers and ladies, who made strenuous efforts to
furnish the great man with amusement. One of the ladies, handling a pack
of cards, from which she laughingly pretended to be able to read the
secrets of destiny, proclaimed that he would be in possession of the
town at the end of three weeks.

"You are not bad at prediction," said Potemkin, with a smile, "but I
have a method of divination far more infallible. My prediction is that I
will have the town in three days."

He at once sent orders to Suwarrow, who was at Galatz, to come and take
the town.

The obedient warrior, who seemed to be always at somebody's beck and
call, quickly appeared and surveyed the situation. His first steps
seemed to indicate that he proposed to continue the siege, the troops
being formed into a besieging army of about forty thousand men, while
the Russian fleet was ordered up to the town. But the deliberation of a
siege never accorded with Suwarrow's ardent humor. His real purpose was
to take the place by storm. He had taken Otchakof in this way the
previous year with heavy loss, and with the slaughter of twenty thousand
Turks. He now, on the 21st of September, twice summoned the city to
surrender, threatening the people with the fate of Otchakof. They
refused to yield, and the assault began at four o'clock of the following

Battalion after battalion was hurled against the walls: the slaughter
from the Turkish fire was frightful, but the stern commander hurled ever
new hosts into the pit of death, and about eight o'clock the summit of
the walls was reached. But the work was yet only begun. The city was
defended street by street, house by house. It was noon before the
Russians, fighting their way through a desperate resistance, reached the
market-place, where were gathered a body of the Tartars of the Crimea.
For two hours these fought fiercely for their lives, and after they had
all fallen the Turks kept up the conflict with equal desperation in the
streets. At length the gates were thrown open and Suwarrow sent his
cavalry into the city, who charged through the streets, cutting down all
whom they met. It was four o'clock in the afternoon when the butchery
ended, after which the city was given up for three days to the mercy of
the troops. According to the official report, the Turks lost forty-three
thousand in killed and prisoners, the Russians forty-five hundred in
all; the one estimate probably as much too large as the other was too

We may conclude with the story of Suwarrow's career in Italy and
Switzerland against the armies of the French republic. The plan which
the Russian conqueror had marked out on the slate for the Austrian
generals was literally fulfilled. In less than three months he had
cleared Lombardy and Piedmont of the troops of France. He forced the
passage of the Adda against Moreau and his army, compelling the French
to abandon Milan, which he entered in triumph. His next success was at
Turin, a dépôt of French supplies, towards which Moreau was hastily
advancing. The Russians took the city by surprise, driving the French
garrison into the citadel, and capturing three hundred cannons and
enormous quantities of muskets, ammunition, and military stores. The
French army was saved from ruin only by the great ability of its
commander, who led it to Genoa in four days over a mountain path.

The czar Paul rewarded his victorious general with the honorable
designation of Italienski, or the Italian, and, in his grandiloquent
fashion, issued a ukase commanding all people to regard Suwarrow as the
greatest commander the world had ever known.

We cannot describe the whole course of events. Other victories were won
in Italy, but finally Suwarrow was weakened by the jealousy of the
Austrians, who withdrew their troops, and subsequently was obliged to go
to the relief of his fellow-commander, Korsakof, who, with twenty
thousand men, had imprudently allowed himself to be hemmed in by a
French army at Zurich. He finally forced his way through the enemy,
losing all his artillery and half his host.

Of this Suwarrow knew nothing, as he made his way across the Alps to the
aid of the beleaguered general. He attempted to force his way over the
St. Gothard pass, meeting with fierce opposition at every point. There
was a sharp fight at the Devil's Bridge, which the French blew up, but
failed to keep back Suwarrow and his men, who crossed the rocky gorge of
the Unerloch, dashed through the foaming Reuss, and drove the French
from their post of vantage.

At length, with his men barefoot, his provisions almost exhausted, the
Russian general reached Muotta, to find to his chagrin that Korsakof had
been defeated and put to flight. He at once began his retreat, followed
in force by Masséna, who was driven off by the rear-guard. On October 1
Suwarrow reached Glarus. Here he rested till the 4th, then crossed the
Panixer Mountains through snow two feet deep to the valley of the Rhine,
which he reached on the 10th, having lost two hundred of his men and
all his beasts of burden over the precipices. Thus ended this
extraordinary march, which had cost Suwarrow all his artillery, nearly
all his horses, and a third of his men.

These losses in the Russian armies stirred the czar to immeasurable
rage. All the missing officers--who were prisoners in France--were
branded as deserters, and Suwarrow was deprived of his command,
ostensibly for his failure, but largely for the sarcasm already
mentioned. He returned home to die, having experienced what a misfortune
it is for a great man to be at the mercy of a fool in authority.


In the spring of 1812 Napoleon reached the frontiers of Russia at the
head of the greatest army that had ever been under his command, it
embracing half a million of men. It was not an army of Frenchmen,
however, since much more than half the total force was made up of
Germans and soldiers of other nationalities. In addition to the soldiery
was a multitude of non-combatants and other incumbrances, which
Napoleon, deviating from his usual custom, allowed to follow the troops.
These were made up of useless aids to the pomp and luxury of the emperor
and his officers, and an incredible number of private vehicles, women,
servants, and others, who served but to create confusion, and to consume
the army stores, of which provision had been made for only a short

Thus, dragging its slow length along, the army, on June 24, 1812,
crossed the Niemen River and entered upon Russian soil. From emperor to
private, all were inspired with exaggerated hopes of victory, and looked
soon to see the mighty empire of the north prostrate before the genius
of all-conquering France. Had the vision of that army, as it was to
recross the Niemen within six months, risen upon their minds, it would
have been dismissed as a nightmare of false and monstrous mien.

Onward into Russia wound the vast and hopeful mass, without a battle and
without sight of a foe. The Russians were retreating and drawing their
foes deeper and deeper into the heart of their desolate land. Battles
were not necessary; the country itself fought for Russia. Food was not
to be had from the land, which was devastated in their track. Burning
cities and villages lit up their path. The carriages and wagons, even
many of the cannon, had to be left behind. The forced marches which
Napoleon made in the hope of overtaking the Russians forced him to
abandon much of his supplies, while men and horses sank from fatigue and
hunger. The decaying carcasses of ten thousand horses already poisoned
the air.

At length Moscow was approached. Here the Russian leaders were forced by
the sentiment of the army and the people to strike one blow in defence
of their ancient capital. A desperate encounter took place at Borodino,
two days' march from the city, in which Napoleon triumphed, but at a
fearful price. Forty thousand men had fallen, of whom the wounded nearly
all died through want and neglect. When Moscow was reached, it proved to
be deserted. Napoleon had won the empty shell of a city, and was as far
as ever from the conquest of Russia.

It is not our purpose here to give the startling story of the burning of
Moscow, the sacrifice of a city to the god of war. Though this is one of
the most thrilling events in the history of Russia, it has already been
told in this series.[1] We are concerned at present solely with the
retreat of the grand army from the ashes of the Muscovite capital, the
most dreadful retreat in the annals of war.

Napoleon lingered amid the ruins of the ancient city until winter was
near at hand, hoping still that the emperor Alexander would sue for
peace. No suit came. He offered terms himself, and they were not even
honored with a reply. A deeply disappointed man, the autocrat of Europe
marched out of Moscow on October 19 and began his frightful homeward
march. He had waited much too long. The Russian armies, largely
increased in numbers, shut him out from every path but the wasted one by
which he had come, a highway marked by the ashes of burnt towns and the
decaying corpses of men and animals.

On November 6, winter suddenly set in. The supplies had largely been
consumed, the land was empty of food, famine alternated with cold to
crush the retreating host, and death in frightful forms hovered over
their path. The horses, half fed and worn out, died by thousands. Most
of the cavalry had to go afoot; the booty brought from Moscow was
abandoned as valueless; even much of the artillery was left behind. The
cold grew more intense. A deep snow covered the plain, through whose
white peril they had to drag their weary feet. Arms were flung away as
useless weights, flight was the only thought, and but a tithe of the
army remained in condition to defend the rest.

The retreat of the grand army became one of incredible distress and
suffering. Over the seemingly endless Russian steppes, from whose
snow-clad level only rose here and there the ruins of a deserted
village, the freezing and starving soldiers made their miserable way.
Wan, hollow-eyed, gaunt, clad in garments through which the biting cold
pierced their flesh, they dragged wearily onward, fighting with one
another for the flesh of a dead horse, ready to commit murder for the
shadow of food, and finally sinking in death in the snows of that
interminable plain. Each morning, some of those who had stretched their
limbs round the bivouac fires failed to rise. The victims of the night
were often revealed only by the small mounds of fallen snow which had
buried them as they slept.

That this picture may not be thought overdrawn, we shall relate an
anecdote told of Prince Emilius of Darmstadt. He had fallen asleep in
the snow, and in order to protect him from the keen north wind four of
his Hessian dragoons screened him during the night with their cloaks.
The prince arose from his cold couch in the morning to find his faithful
guardians still in the position they had occupied during the
night,--frozen to death.

Maddened with famine and frost, men were seen to spring, with wildly
exulting cries, into the flames of burning houses. Of those that fell
into the hands of the Russian boors, many were stripped of their
clothing and chased to death through the snow. Smolensk, which the army
had passed in its glory, it now reached in its gloom. The city was
deserted and half burned. Most of the cannon had been abandoned, food
and ammunition were lacking, and no halt was possible. The despairing
army pushed on.

Death followed the fugitives in other forms than those of frost and
hunger. The Russians, who had avoided the army in its advance, harassed
it continually in its retreat. From all directions Russian troops
marched upon the worn-out fugitives, grimly determined that not a man of
them should leave Russia if they could prevent. The intrepid Ney, with
the men still capable of fight, formed the rear-guard, and kept at bay
their foes. This service was one of imminent peril. Cut off at Smolensk
from the main body, only Ney's vigilance saved his men from destruction.
During the night he led them rapidly along the banks of the Dnieper,
repulsing the Russian corps that sought to cut off his retreat, and
joined the army again.

The Beresina at length was reached. This river must be crossed. But the
frightful chill, which hitherto had pursued the fleeing host, now
inopportunely decreased, a thaw broke the frozen surface of the stream,
and the fugitives gazed with horror on masses of floating ice where they
had dreamed of a solid pathway for their feet. The slippery state of the
banks added to the difficulty, while on the opposite side a Russian army
commanded the passage with its artillery, and in the rear the roar of
cannon signalled the approach of another army. All seemed lost, and
only the good fortune which had so often befriended him now saved
Napoleon and his host.

For at this critical moment a fresh army corps, which had been left
behind in his advance, came to the emperor's aid, and the Russian
general who disputed the passage, deceived by the French movements,
withdrew to another point on the stream. Taking instant advantage of the
opportunity, Napoleon threw two bridges across the river, over which the
able-bodied men of the army safely made their way.

After them came the vast host of non-combatants that formed the rear,
choking the bridges with their multitude. As they struggled to cross,
the pursuing Russian army appeared and opened with artillery upon the
helpless mass, ploughing long red lanes of carnage through its midst.
One bridge broke down, and all rushed to the other. Multitudes were
forced into the stream, while the Russian cannon played remorselessly
upon the struggling and drowning mass. For two days the passage had
continued, and on the morning of the third a considerable number of sick
and wounded soldiers, sutlers, women, and children still remained
behind, when word reached them that the bridges were to be burned. A
fearful rush now took place. Some succeeded in crossing, but the fire
ran rapidly along the timbers, and the despairing multitude leaped into
the icy river or sought to plunge through the mounting flames. When the
ice thawed in the spring twelve thousand dead bodies were found on the
shores of the stream. Sixteen thousand of the fugitives remained
prisoners in Russian hands.

This day of disaster was the climax of the frightful retreat. But as
the army pressed onward the temperature again fell, until it reached
twenty-seven degrees below zero, and the old story of "frozen to death"
was resumed. Napoleon, fearing to be taken prisoner in Germany if the
truth should become known, left his army on December 5, and hurried
towards Paris with all speed, leaving the news of the disaster behind in
his flight. Wilna was soon after reached by the army, but could not be
held by the exhausted troops, and, with its crowded magazines and the
wealth in its treasury, fell into the hands of the Russians.

During this season of disaster the Austrian and Prussian commanders left
behind to guard the route contrived to spare their troops.
Schwarzenberg, the Austrian commander, retreated towards Warsaw and left
the Russian armies free to act against the French. The Prussians, who
had been engaged in the siege of Riga, might have covered the fleeing
host; but York, their commander, entered into a truce with the Russians
and remained stationary. They had been forced to join the French, and
took the first opportunity to abandon their hated allies.

A place of safety was at length reached, but the grand army was
represented by a miserable fragment of its mighty host. Of the
half-million who crossed the Russian frontier, but eighty thousand
returned. Of those who had reached Moscow, the meagre remnant numbered
scarcely twenty thousand in all.


The French revolution of 1830 precipitated a similar one in Poland. The
rule of Russia in that country had been one of outrage and oppression.
In the words of the Poles, "personal liberty, which had been solemnly
guaranteed, was violated; the prisons were crowded; courts-martial were
appointed to decide in civil cases, and imposed infamous punishments
upon citizens whose only crime was that of having attempted to save from
corruption the spirit and the character of the nation."

On the 29th of November the people sprang to arms in Warsaw and the
Russians were driven out. Soon after a dictator was chosen, an army
collected, and Russian Poland everywhere rose in revolt.

It was a hopeless struggle into which the Polish patriots had entered.
In all Europe there was not a hand lifted in their aid. Prussia and
Austria stood in a threatening attitude, each with an army of sixty
thousand men upon the frontiers, ready to march to the aid of Russia if
any disturbance took place in their Polish provinces. Russia invaded the
country with an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men, a force
more than double that which Poland was able to raise. And the Polish
army was commanded by a titled incapable, Prince Radzivil, chosen
because he had a great name, regardless of his lack of ability as a
soldier. Chlopicki, his aide, was a skilled commander, but he fought
with his hands tied.

On the 19th of February, 1831, the two armies met in battle, and began a
desperate struggle which lasted with little cessation for six days.
Warsaw lay in the rear of the Polish army. Behind it flowed the Vistula,
with but a single bridge for escape in case of defeat. Victory or death
seemed the alternatives of the patriot force.

[Illustration: RUSSIAN PEASANTS.]

The struggle was for the Alder Wood, the key of the position. For the
possession of this forest the fight was hand to hand. Again and again it
was lost and retaken. On the 25th, the final day of battle, it was held
by the Poles. Forty-five thousand in number, they were confronted by a
Russian army of one hundred thousand men. Diebitsch, the Russian
commander, determined to win the Alder Wood at any cost. Chlopicki gave
orders to defend it to the last extremity.

The struggle that succeeded was desperate. By sheer force of numbers the
Russians made themselves masters of the wood. Then Chlopicki, putting
himself at the head of his grenadiers, charged into the forest depths,
driving out its holders at the bayonet's point. Their retreat threw the
whole Russian line into confusion. Now was the critical moment for a
cavalry charge. Chlopicki sent orders to the cavalry chief, but he
refused to move. This loss of an opportunity for victory maddened the
valiant leader. "Go and ask Radzivil," he said to the aides who asked
for orders; "for me, I seek only death." Plunging into the ranks of the
enemy, he was wounded by a shell, and borne secretly from the field. But
the news of this disaster ran through the ranks and threw the whole army
into consternation.

The fall of the gallant Chlopicki changed the tide of battle. Fiercely
struggling still, the Poles were driven from the wood and hurled back
upon the Vistula. A battalion of recruits crossed the river on the ice
and carried terror into Warsaw. Crowds of peasants, heaps of dead and
dying, choked the approach to Praga, the outlying suburb. Night fell
upon the scene of disorder. The houses of Praga were fired, and flames
lit up the frightful scene. Groans of agony and shrieks of despair
filled the air. The streets were choked with débris, but workmen from
Warsaw rushed out with axes, cleared away the ruin, and left the
passages free.

Inspirited by this, the infantry formed in line and checked the charge
of the Russian horse. The Albert cuirassiers rode through the first
Polish line, but soon found their horses floundering in mud, and
themselves attacked by lancers and pikemen on all sides. Of the
brilliant and daring corps scarce a man escaped.

That day cost the Poles five thousand men. Of the Russians more than ten
thousand fell. Radzivil, fearing that the single bridge would be carried
away by the broken ice, gave orders to retreat across the stream.
Diebitsch withdrew into the wood. And thus the first phase of the
struggle for the freedom of Poland came to an end.

This affair was followed by a striking series of Polish victories. The
ice in the Vistula was running free, the river overflowed its banks, and
for a month the main bodies of the armies were at rest. But General
Dwernicki, at the head of three thousand Polish cavalry, signalized the
remainder of February by a series of brilliant exploits, attacking and
dispersing with his small force twenty thousand of the enemy.

Radzivil, whose incompetency had grown evident, was now removed, and
Skrzynecki, a much abler leader, was chosen in his place. He was not
long in showing his skill and daring. On the night of March 30 the Praga
bridge was covered with straw and the army marched noiselessly across.
At daybreak, in the midst of a thick fog, it fell on a body of sleeping
Russians, who had not dreamed of such a movement. Hurled back in
disorder and dismay, they were met by a division which had been posted
to cut off their retreat. The rout was complete. Half the corps was
destroyed or taken, and the remainder fled in terror through the forest

Before the day ended the Poles came upon Rosen's division, fifteen
thousand in number, and strongly posted. Yet the impetuous onslaught of
the Poles swept the field. The Russians were driven back in utter rout,
with the loss of two thousand men, six thousand prisoners, and large
quantities of cannon and arms. The Poles lost but three hundred men in
this brilliant success. During the next day the pursuit continued, and
five thousand more prisoners were taken. So disheartened were the
Russian troops by these reverses that when attacked on April 10 at the
village of Iganie they scarcely attempted to defend themselves. The
flower of the Russian infantry, the _lions of Varna_, as they had been
called since the Turkish war, laid down their arms, tore the eagles from
their shakos, and gave themselves up as prisoners of war. Twenty-five
hundred were taken.

What immediately followed may be told in a few words. Skrzynecki failed
to follow up his remarkable success, and lost valuable time, in which
the Russians recovered from their dismay. The brave Dwernicki, after
routing a force of nine thousand with two thousand men, crossed the
frontier and was taken prisoner by the Austrians, who had made no
objection to its being crossed by the Russians. And, as if nature were
fighting against Poland, the cholera, which had crossed from India to
Russia and infected the Russian troops, was communicated to the Poles at
Iganie, and soon spread throughout their ranks.

The climax in this suicidal war came on the 26th of May, when the whole
Russian army, led by General Diebitsch, advanced upon the Poles. During
the preceding night the Polish army had retreated across the river
Narew, but, by some unexplained error, had left Lubienski's corps
behind. On this gallant corps, drawn up in front of the town of
Ostrolenka, the host of Russians fell. Flanked by the Cossacks, who
spread out in clouds of horsemen on each wing, the cavalry retreated
through the town, followed by the infantry, the 4th regiment of the
line, which formed the rear-guard, fighting step by step as it slowly
fell back.

Across the bridges poured the retreating Poles. The Russians followed
the rear-guard hotly into the town. Soon the houses were in flames.
Disorder reigned in the streets. The fight continued in the midst of the
conflagration. Russian infantry took possession of the houses adjoining
the river and fired on the retreating mass. Artillery corps rushed to
the river bank and planted their batteries to sweep the bridges. All the
avenues of escape were choked by the columns of the invading force.

The 4th regiment, which had been left alone in the town, was in imminent
peril of capture, but at this moment of danger it displayed an
indomitable spirit. With closed ranks it charged with the bayonet on the
crowded mass before it, rent a crimson avenue through its midst, and
cleared a passage to the bridges over heaps of the dead. Over the
quaking timbers rushed the gallant Poles, followed closely by the
Russian grenadiers. The Polish cannon swept the bridge, but the gunners
were picked off by sharp-shooters and stretched in death beside their
guns. On the curving left bank eighty Russian cannon were planted, whose
fire protected the crossing troops.

Meanwhile the bulk of the Polish army lay unsuspecting in its camp.
Skrzynecki, the commander, resting easy in the belief that all his men
were across, heard the distant firing with unconcern. Suddenly the
imminence of the peril was brought to his attention. Rushing from his
tent, and springing upon his horse, he galloped madly through the
ranks, shouting wildly, as he passed from column to column, "Ho!
Rybinski! Ho! Malachowski! Forward! forward, all!"

The troops sprang to their feet; the forming battalions rushed forward
in disorder; from end to end of the line rushed the generalissimo, the
other officers hurrying to his aid. Charge after charge was made on the
Russians who had crossed the stream. As if driven by frenzy, the Poles
fell on their foes with swords and pikes. Singing the Warsaw hymn, the
officers rushed to the front. The lancers charged boldly, but their
horses sank in the marshy soil, and they fell helpless before the
Russian fire.

The day passed; night fell; the field of battle was strewn thick with
the dead and dying. Only a part of the Russian army had succeeded in
crossing. Skrzynecki held the field, but he had lost seven thousand men.
The Russians, of whom more than ten thousand had fallen, recrossed the
river during the night. But they commanded the passage of the stream,
and the Polish commander gave orders for a retreat on Warsaw, sadly
repeating, as he entered his carriage, Kosciusko's famous words, "Finis

The end indeed was approaching. The resources of Poland were limited,
those of Russia were immense. New armies trebly replaced all Russian
losses. Field-Marshal Paskievitch, the new commander, at the head of new
forces, determined to cross the Vistula and assail Warsaw on the left
bank of the stream, instead of attacking its suburb of Praga and
seeking to force a passage across the river at that point, as on former

The march of the Russians was a difficult and dangerous one. Heavy rains
had made the roads almost impassable, while streams everywhere
intersected the country. To transport a heavy park of artillery and the
immense supply and baggage train for an army of seventy thousand men,
through such a country, was an almost impossible task, particularly in
view of the fact that the cholera pursued it on its march, and the sick
and dying proved an almost fatal encumbrance.

Had it been attacked under such circumstances by the Polish army, it
might have been annihilated. But Skrzynecki remained immovable, although
his troops cried hotly for "battle! battle!" whenever he appeared. The
favorable moment was lost. The Russians crossed the Vistula on floating
bridges, and marched in compact array upon the Polish capital.

And now clamor broke out everywhere. Riots in Warsaw proclaimed the
popular discontent. A dictator was appointed, and preparations to defend
the city to the last extremity were made. But at the last moment twenty
thousand men were sent out to collect supplies for the threatened city,
leaving only thirty-five thousand for its defence. The Russians,
meanwhile, had been reinforced by thirty thousand men, making their army
one hundred and twenty thousand strong, while in cannon they outnumbered
the Poles three to one.

Such was the state of affairs in beleaguered Warsaw on that fatal 6th of
September when the Russian general, taking advantage of the weakening
of the patriot army, ordered a general assault.

At daybreak the attack began with a concentrated fire from two hundred
guns. The troops, who had been well plied with brandy, rushed in a
torrent upon the battered walls, and swarmed into the suburb of Wola,
driving its garrison into the church, where the carnage continued until
none were left to resist.

From Wola the attack was directed, about noon, upon the suburb of
Czyste. This was defended by forty guns, which made havoc in the Russian
ranks, while two battalions of the 4th regiment, rushing upon them in
their disorder, strove to drive them back and wrest Wola from their
hands. The effort was fruitless, strong reinforcements coming to the
Russian aid.

Through the blood-strewn streets of the city the struggle continued,
success favoring now the Poles, now the Russians. About five in the
afternoon the tide of battle turned decisively in favor of the Russians.
A shower of shells from the Russian batteries had fired the houses of
Czyste, within whose flame-lit streets a hand-to-hand struggle went on.
The famous 4th regiment, intrenched in the cemetery, defended itself
valiantly, but was driven back by the spread of the flames. Night fell,
but the conflict continued. The dawn of the following day saw the city
at the mercy of the Russian host. The twenty thousand men sent out to
forage were still absent. Nothing remained but surrender, and at nine in
the evening the news of the capitulation was brought to the army, to
whom orders to retire on Praga were given.

Thus ended the final struggle for the freedom of Poland. The story of
what followed it is not our purpose to tell. The mild Alexander was no
longer on the Russian throne. The stern Nicholas had replaced him, and
fearful was his revenge. For the crime of patriotism Poland was
decimated, thousands of its noblest citizens being transported to the
Caucasus and Siberia. The remnant of separate existence possessed by
Poland was overthrown, and it was made a province of the Russian empire.
Even the teaching of the Polish language was forbidden, the youth of the
nation being commanded to learn and speak the Russian tongue. As for the
persecution and suffering which fell upon the Poles as a nation, it is
too sad a story to be here told. There is still a Polish people, but a
Poland no more.


In the region lying between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea rise the
rugged Caucasian Mountains, a mighty wall of rock which there divides
the continents of Europe and Asia. Monarch of those lofty hills towers
the tall peak of Elbrus, called by the natives "the great spirit of the
mountains." Farther east Kasbek lifts its lofty summit, and at a lower
level the whole jagged line, "the thousand-peaked Caucasus," rises into
view. Below these a lower range, dark with forests, marks its outline on
the snowy summits beyond. Fruitful clearings appear to the height of
five thousand feet on the western slopes; garden terraces mount the
eastward face, and the valleys, green with meadows or golden with grain,
are dotted with clusters of cottages. Sheep and goats browse in great
numbers on the hill-sides; lower down the camel and buffalo feed; herds
of horses roam half wild through the glades, and from the higher rocks
the chamois looks boldly down on the inhabited realms below.

In these mountain fastnesses dwells a race of bold and liberty-loving
mountaineers who have preserved their freedom through all the historic
eras, yielding only at last, after years of valiant resistance, when the
whole power of the Russian empire was brought to bear upon them in
their wilds. For years the heroic Schamyl, their unconquerable chief,
braved his foes, again and again he escaped from their toils or hurled
them back in defeat, and for a quarter of a century he defied all the
power of Russia, yielding only when driven to his final lair.

In the _aoul_ or village of Himri, perched like an eagle's nest high on
a projecting rock, this famous chief was born in the year 1797. The only
access to this high-seated stronghold was by a narrow path winding
several hundred feet up the slope, while a triple wall, flanked by high
towers, further defended it, and the overhanging brow of the mountain
guarded it above. Such is the character of one of the strongholds of
this mountain land, and such an example of the difficulties its foes had
to overcome.

There are no finer horsemen than the daring Circassian mountaineers, who
are ready to dash at full speed up or down precipitous steeps, to leap
chasms, or to swim raging torrents. In an instant, also, they can
discharge their weapons, unslinging the gun when at full gallop, firing
upon the foe, and as quickly returning it to its place. They can rest
suspended on the side of the horse, leap to the ground to pick up a
fallen weapon, and bound into the saddle again without a halt. And such
is the precision of their aim that they are able to strike the smallest
mark while riding at full speed.

Such were some of the arts in which Schamyl was trained, and in which he
became signally expert. In the hunt, the trial of skill, all the labors
and sports of the youthful mountaineers, he was an adept, and so valiant
and resourceful that his admiring countrymen at length chose him as
their Iman, or governor, during the defence of their country against the
Russian invaders.

The first battle in which Schamyl engaged was behind the walls of his
native village. Himri, well situated as it was, was hurled into ruin by
the artillery of the foe, and among its prostrate defenders lay Schamyl,
with two balls through his body. He was left by the enemy as dead, and
in after-years the mountaineers looked upon his escape and recovery as
due to miracle.

Schamyl was thirty-seven years of age when he became leader of the
tribes. Of middle stature, with fair hair, gray eyes shadowed with thick
brows, a Grecian nose, small mouth, and unusually fair complexion, he
was one of the handsomest and most distinguished in appearance of the
mountaineers. He was erect in carriage, light and active in tread, and
had a natural nobility of air and aspect. His manner was calmly
commanding, while his eloquence was at once fiery and persuasive.
"Flames sparkle from his eyes," says one, "and flowers are scattered
from his lips."

In 1839 the Russians made one of their most determined efforts to crush
the resistance of the mountaineers. Schamyl's head-quarters were then at
Akhulgo, a stronghold perched upon the top of an isolated conical peak
around whose foot a river wound. Strong by nature, it was well
fortified, trenches, earthworks, and covered ways now taking the place
of those stone walls which the Russian cannon had so easily overturned
at Himri.

Other fortified works were built on the road to Akhulgo, which was
retained as a last resort, behind whose defences the mountaineers were
resolved to conquer or die. Its garrison was composed of the flower of
the Circassian warriors, while some fifteen thousand men beside stood
ready to take part in the fight.

In the month of May the Russians advanced, with such energy and in such
force that the anterior works were soon taken, and the mountaineers
found themselves obliged to take refuge in their final fortress of
defence. The fight here was fierce and persistent. Step by step the
Russians made their way, pushing their parallels against the intrenched
works of their foes. Point after point was gained, and at length, in
late August, the crisis came. A sudden charge carried them into the
fort, and the defenders died where they stood, leaving only women and
children to fall as prisoners into the Russians' hands.

But Schamyl had disappeared. Seek as they would, the chief was not to be
found. The fortress, the approaches, every nook and corner, were
explored, but the famous warrior, for whom his foes would have given
half their wealth, had utterly vanished, no one knew how. To make sure
of his death they had scarcely left a fighting man alive, yet to their
chagrin the redoubtable Schamyl was soon again in the field.

How the brave mountaineer escaped is not known. Of the stories afloat,
one is that he lay concealed until night in a rock refuge, and then
managed to swim the river while some of his friends attracted the
attention and drew the fire of the guards. All that can be said is that
in September he reappeared, ready for new feats of arms, and was seen
again at the head of a gallant body of mountain warriors.

His head-quarters were now fixed at Dargo, a village in the heart of the
mountains and in the midst of the primeval forest. But the chief had
learned a lesson from his late experience. The Circassians were no match
for the Russians behind fortifications. He resolved in the future to
fight in a manner better suited to the habits of his followers, and to
wear out the foe by a guerilla warfare.

Three years passed before the Russians again sought to penetrate the
mountains in force. Then General Grabbe, the victor at Akhulgo,
attempted to repeat his success at Dargo. But the experience he gained
proved to be of a less agreeable type. At the close of the first day's
march, when the soldiers had eaten their evening meal and stretched
their limbs to rest after a hard day's march, they were suddenly brought
to their feet by a rattling volley of musketry from the surrounding
woods. All night long the firing continued, no great damage being done
in the darkness, but the soldiers being effectually deprived of their
rest. When day dawned there was not a Circassian to be seen.

Near noon, as the column wound through a ravine in the forest, the
firing sharply recommenced, a murderous volley pouring upon the vanguard
from behind the trees. The number of wounded became so great that there
were not wagons enough for their transportation. Still General Grab be
kept on, despite the advice of his officers, only to be attacked again
at night as his weary men lay in a small open meadow among the hills.
All night long the whiz of bullets drove away repose, and at every step
of the next day's march the woods belched forth the leaden messengers of

The goal of the march was near at hand. The little village of Dargo
could be seen on a distant hill-top. But it was to be reached only by a
path of death, and the Russian commander was at length forced to give
the order to retreat. On seeing the column wheel and begin its backward
march the Circassians grew wild with excitement and triumph. Slinging
their rifles behind their backs, they rushed, sabre in hand, upon the
enemy's centre, breaking through it again and again, while a deadly hail
of rifle-shots still came from the woods. In the end, of the column of
six thousand, two thousand were left dead, the remainder reaching the
fortress from which they had set out in sorry plight.

For several years Schamyl made Dargo his head-quarters. Not until 1845
did the Russians succeed in taking it, their army now being ten thousand
strong. But it was a village in flames they captured. Schamyl had fired
it before leaving, and the Russians were so beset in coming and going
that their empty conquest was made at the cost of three thousand of
their men.

In the spring of the following year the valiant chief repaid the enemy
in part for these invasions of his country. He had now under his command
no less than twenty thousand warriors, largely horsemen, and in the
leafy month of May, taking advantage of a weakening of the Russian line,
he dashed suddenly from the highlands for a raid in the neighboring
country of the Kabardians.

Two rivers flowed between the mountain ranges and the Kabardas, and two
lines of hostile fortresses guarded the frontier, containing in all no
less than seventy thousand men. Between the forts lay Cossack
settlements, and beyond them the Kabardians, an armed and warlike race.
Schamyl had no artillery, no fortresses, no dépôts of provisions and
ammunition. All he could do was to make a quick dash and a hasty return.

Down upon the Cossacks he rode, followed by his thousands of daring
riders. Plundering their villages, he halted to take no forts except
those that went down in the whirl of his coming. Before the garrisons in
the strongholds fairly knew that he was among them he was gone; and
while the Kabardians believed that he was lurking in the mountain
depths, he suddenly dashed into their midst. Sixty populous Kabardian
villages were plundered, and the mountaineers proudly refused to turn
till they had watered their horses in the Kuban and even reached the
more distant banks of the Laba.

But how were they to return? Thousands of horsemen had gathered in the
way. Long battalions of infantry had hurried to cut off the raiders on
their retreat. Schamyl knew that he could not get back by the way he
had come; but, turning southward, he galloped at headlong speed through
the Cossack settlements in that quarter, and, with his cruppers laden
with booty and his saddle-bows well furnished with food, evaded his foes
and reached the mountains again. May seemed to bloom more richly than
ever as the wild riders dashed proudly back to the doors of their homes
and heard the glad shouts of joy that greeted their safe return.

The whole story of the exploits of the famous Circassian chief is too
extended and too full of stirring incidents to be here given even in
epitome. It must suffice to say, in conclusion, that ten years after his
escape from Akhulgo that stronghold was again attacked and taken by the
Russians, and as before Schamyl mysteriously escaped. Completely
baffled, nothing was left for the Russians but to wear out the chief and
his people by continued invasions of their mountain land. Again and
again their armies were beaten by their indomitable foe, but the
continuance of the struggle slowly exhausted the land and its powers of

The Circassians were helped during the Crimean War by the foes of
Russia, who supplied them with arms and money, but after that war the
Russians kept up the struggle with more energy than ever, and, by
opening a road over the mountains, cut off a part of the country and
compelled its submission. At length, in April, 1859, twenty-five years
after the struggle began, Weden, Schamyl's stronghold at that time, was
taken, after a seven weeks' siege. As before, the chief escaped, but the
country was virtually subdued, and he had only a small band of
followers left.

For months afterwards his foes pursued him actively from fastness to
fastness, determined to run him down, and at length, on September 6,
1859, surprised him on the plateau of Gounib. Here the devoted band made
a desperate resistance, not yielding until of the original four hundred
only forty-seven remained alive. Schamyl, the lion of the Caucasus, was
at length taken, after having cost the Russians uncounted losses in life
and money.

With his capture the independence of Circassia came to an end. It has
since formed an integral part of the Russian empire, and its subjugation
has opened the gateway to that vast expansion of Russia in Central Asia
which since then has taken place. The captive chief had won the respect
of his foes, and was honorably treated, being assigned a residence at
Kaluga, in Central Russia, with an annual pension of five thousand
dollars. He, like his countrymen, was a Mohammedan in faith, and removed
to Mecca, in Arabia, in 1870, dying at Medina in the following year.


The Crimean War, brief as was the interval it occupied in the annals of
time, was one replete with exciting events. And of these much the most
brilliant was that which took place on the 25th of October, 1854, the
famous "Charge of the Light Brigade," which Tennyson has immortalized in
song, and which stands among the most dramatic incidents in the history
of war. It was truthfully said by one of the French generals who
witnessed it, "It is magnificent, but it is not war." We give it for its
magnificence alone.

[Illustration: MOUNT ST. PETER, CRIMEA.]

First let us depict the scene of that memorable event. The British and
French armies lay in front of Balaklava, their base of supplies, facing
towards Sebastopol. They occupied a mountain slope, which was strongly
intrenched. A valley lay before them, and some two miles distant rose
another mountain range, rocky and picturesque. In the valley between
were four rounded hillocks, each crowned by an earthwork defended by a
few hundred Turks. These outlying redoubts formed the central points of
the famous battle of October 25.

In the early morning of that day the Russians appeared in force,
debouching from the mountain passes in front of the allied army. Six
compact masses of infantry were seen, with a line of artillery in
front, and on each flank a powerful cavalry force, while a cloud of
mounted skirmishers filled the space between. Fronting the line of the
allies were the Zouaves, crouching behind low earthworks, on the right
the 93d Highlanders, and in front the British cavalry, composed of the
Heavy Brigade, under General Scarlett, and, more in advance, the Light
Brigade, under Lord Cardigan. Such were, in broad outline, the formation
of the ground and the position of the actors in the drama of battle
about to be played.

The scene opened with an attack on the advanced redoubts. No. 1 was
quickly taken, the Turks flying in haste before the fire of the Russian
guns. No. 2 was evacuated in similar panic haste, the Cossack
skirmishers riding among the fleeing Turks and cutting them mercilessly
down. The guns of No. 2 were at once turned upon No. 3, whose garrison
of Turks fired a few shots in return, and then, as in the previous
cases, broke into open flight. After them dashed the Cossack light
horsemen, flanking them to right and left, and many of the turbaned
fugitives paid for their panic with their lives. The Russians had won in
the first move of the game. They had taken three of the redoubts before
a movement could be made for their support.

Next a squadron of the Russian cavalry charged vigorously upon the
Highlanders. But a deadly rifle fire met them as they came, volley after
volley tearing gaps through their compact ranks, and in a moment more
they had wheeled, opened their files, and were in full flight. "Bravo,
Highlanders!" came up an exulting shout from the thousands of spectators

It was evident that Balaklava was the goal of the Russian movement, and
the heavy cavalry were ordered into position to protect the approaches.
As they moved towards the post indicated, a large body of the enemy's
cavalry appeared over the ridge in front. These were _corps d'élite_,
evidently, their jackets of light blue, embroidered with silver lace,
giving them a holiday appearance. Behind them, as they galloped at an
easy pace to the brow of the hill, appeared the keen glitter of
lance-tips, and in the rear of the lancers came several squadrons of
gray-coated dragoons as supports. As the serried ranks of horsemen
advanced, their pace declined from a gallop to an easy trot, and from
that almost to a halt. Their first line was double the length of the
British, and three times as deep. Behind it came a second line, equally
strong. They greatly outnumbered their foe.

It was evident that the shock of a cavalry battle was at hand. The
hearts of the spectators throbbed with excitement as they saw the Heavy
Brigade suddenly break into a full gallop and rush headlong upon the
enemy, making straight for the centre of the Russian line. On they went,
Grays and Enniskilleners, in serried array, while their cheers and
shouts rent the air as they struck the Russian line with an impetus
which carried them through the close-drawn ranks. For a moment there was
a glittering flash of sword-blades and a sharp clash of steel, and
then, in thinned numbers, the charging dragoons appeared in the rear of
the line, heading with unchecked speed towards the second Russian rank.

The gallant horsemen seemed buried amid the multitude of the enemy. "God
help them! they are lost!" came from more than one trembling lip and was
echoed in many a fearful heart. The onset was terrific: the second line
was broken like the first, and in its rear the red-coated riders
appeared. But the first line of Russians, which had been rolled back
upon its flanks by the impetuous rush, was closing up again, and the
much smaller force in their midst was in serious peril of being
swallowed up and crushed by sheer force of numbers.

The crisis was a terrible one. But at the moment when the danger seemed
greatest, two regiments of dragoons, the 4th and 5th, who had closely
followed their fellows in the charge, broke furiously upon the enemy,
dashing through and rending to fragments the already broken line. In a
moment all was over. Less than five minutes had passed since the first
shock, and already the Russian horse was in full flight, beaten by half
its force. Wild cheers burst from the whole army as the victors drew
back with almost intact ranks, their loss having been very small.

Thus ended the famous "Charge of the Heavy Brigade." Its glory was to be
eclipsed by that memorable "Charge of the Light Brigade" which became
the theme of Tennyson's stirring ode, and the recital of which still
causes many a heart to throb. We are indebted for our story of it to
the thrilling account of W.H. Russell, the _Times_ correspondent, and a
spectator of the event.

As the Russian cavalry retired, their infantry fell back, leaving men in
three of the captured redoubts, but abandoning the other points gained.
They also had guns on the heights overlooking their position. About the
hour of eleven, while the two armies thus faced each other, resting for
an interval from the rush of conflict, there came to Lord Cardigan that
fatal order which caused him to hurl his men into "the jaws of death."
How it came to be given, how the misapprehension occurred, who was at
fault in the error, has never been made clear. Captain Nolan, who
brought the order, was one of the first to fall, and his story of the
event died with him. All we know is that he handed Lord Lucan a written
command to advance, and when asked, "Where are we to advance to?" he
pointed to the Russian line, and said, "There are the enemy, and there
are the guns," or words of similar meaning.

It is a maxim in war that "cavalry shall never act without a support,"
that "infantry should be close at hand when cavalry carry guns," and
that a line of cavalry should have some squadrons in column on its
flanks, to guard it against a flank attack. None of these rules was
carried out here, and Lord Lucan reluctantly gave the order to advance
upon the guns, which Lord Cardigan as reluctantly accepted, for to any
eye it was evident that it was an order to advance upon death. "Some one
had blundered," and wisdom would have dictated the demand for a
confirmation of the order. Valor suggested that it should be obeyed in
all its blank enormity. Dismissing wisdom and yielding to valor, Lord
Cardigan gave the word to advance, the brigade, scarcely a regiment in
total strength, broke into a sudden gallop, and within a minute the
devoted line was flying over the plain towards the enemy.

The movement struck Lord Raglan, from whom the order was supposed to
have emanated, with consternation. It struck the Russians with surprise.
Surely that handful of men was not going to attack an army in position?
Yet so it seemed as the Light Brigade dashed onward, the uplifted sabres
glittering in the morning sun, the horses galloping at full speed
towards the Russian guns, over a plain a mile and a half in width.

Not far had they gone when a hot fire of cannon, musketry, and rifles
belched from the Russian line. A flood of smoke and flame hid the
opposing ranks, and shot and shell tore through the charging troops.
Gaps were rent in their ranks, men and horses went down in rapid
succession, and riderless horses were seen rushing wildly across the
plain. The first line was broken. It was joined by the second. On went
the brigade in a single line with unchecked speed. Though torn by the
deadly fire of thirty guns, the brave riders rode steadily on into the
smoke of the batteries, with cheers which too often changed in a breath
to the cry of death.

Through the clouds of smoke the horsemen could be seen dashing up to and
between the guns, cutting down the gunners as they stood. Then,
wheeling, they broke through a line of Russian infantry which sought to
stay their advance, and scattered it to right and left. In a moment
more, to the relief of those who had watched their career in an agony of
emotion, they were seen riding back from the captured redoubt.

Scattered and broken they came, some mounted, some on foot, all
hastening towards the British lines. As they wheeled to retreat, a
regiment of lancers was hurled upon their flank. Colonel Shewell, of the
8th Hussars, saw the danger, and rushed at the foe, cutting a passage
through with great loss. The others had similarly to break their way
through the columns that sought to envelop them. As they emerged from
the cavalry fight, the gunners opened upon them again, cutting new lines
of carnage through their decimated ranks. The Heavy Brigade had ridden
to their relief, but could only cover the retreat of the slender remnant
of the gallant band. In twenty-five minutes from the start not a British
soldier, except the dead and dying, was left on the scene of this daring
but mad exploit.

Captain Nolan fell among the first; Lord Lucan was slightly wounded;
Lord Cardigan had his clothes pierced by a lance; Lord Fitzgibbon
received a fatal wound. Of the total brigade, some six hundred strong,
the killed, wounded, and missing numbered four hundred and twenty-six.

While this event was taking place, a body of French cavalry made a
brilliant charge on a battery at the left, which was firing upon the
devoted brigade, and cut down the gunners. But they could not get the
guns off without support, and fell back with a loss of one-fourth their
number. Thus ended that eventful day, in which the British cavalry had
covered itself with glory, though it had only glory to show in return
for its heavy loss.

Such is the story as it stands in prose. Here is Tennyson's poetic
version, which is full of the dash and daring of the wild ride.


  Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
  All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
    "Forward, the Light Brigade!
  Charge for the guns!" he said:
  Into the valley of Death
        Rode the six hundred.

  "Forward, the Light Brigade!"
  Was there a man dismayed?
  Not though the soldier knew
    Some one had blundered:
  Theirs not to make reply,
  Theirs not to reason why,
  Theirs but to do and die,
  Into the valley of Death
        Rode the six hundred.

  Cannon to right of them,
  Cannon to left of them,
  Cannon in front of them,
    Volleyed and thundered;
  Stormed at with shot and shell,
  Boldly they rode and well;
  Into the jaws of Death,
  Into the mouth of Hell,
        Rode the six hundred.

  Flashed all their sabres bare,
  Flashed as they turned in air,
  Sabring the gunners there,
  Charging an army, while
    All the world wondered:
  Plunged in the battery-smoke
  Right through the line they broke;
  Cossack and Russian
  Reeled from the sabre-stroke
    Shattered and sundered.
  Then they rode back, but not--
        Not the six hundred.

  Cannon to right of them,
  Cannon to left of them,
  Cannon behind them,
    Volleyed and thundered;
  Stormed at with shot and shell,
  While horse and hero fell,
  They that had fought so well
  Came through the jaws of Death,
  Back from the mouth of Hell,
  All that was left of them,
        Left of six hundred.

  When can their glory fade?
  Oh, the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
  Honor the charge they made!
  Honor the Light Brigade,
        Noble six hundred!


The history of Russia has been largely a history of wars,--which indeed
might be said with equal justice of most of the nations of Europe. In
truth, history as written gives such prominence to warlike deeds, and
glosses over so hastily the events of peace, that we seem to hear the
roll of the drum rising from the written page itself, and to see the hue
of blood crimsoning the printed sheets. This dominance of war in history
is a striking instance of false perspective. Nations have not spent all
or most of their lives in fighting, but the clash of the sword rings so
loudly through the historic atmosphere that we scarcely hear the milder
sounds of peace.

So far as Russia is concerned, the torrent of war has rolled mainly
towards the south. From those early days in which the Scythians drove
back the Persian host and the early Varangians fiercely assailed the
Greek empire, the relations of the north and the south have been
strained, and a rapid succession of wars has been waged between the
Russians and their varying foes, the Greeks, the Tartars, and the Turks.
For ten centuries these wars have continued, with Constantinople for
their ultimate goal, yet in all these ten centuries of conflict no
Russian foot has ever been set in hostility within that ancient city's

Of these many wars, that which looms largest on the historic page is
the fierce conflict of 1854-55, in which England and France came to
Turkey's aid and Russia met with defeat on the soil of the Crimea. We
have already given the most striking and dramatic incident of this
famous Crimean war. It may be aptly followed by the final scene of all,
the assault upon and capture of Sebastopol.

The city of this name (Russian _Sevastopol_) is a seaport and fortress
on the site of an old Tartar village near the southwest extremity of the
Crimea, built by Russia as her naval station on the Black Sea. It
possesses one of the finest natural harbors of the world, and formed the
central scene of the Crimean War, the English and French armies
besieging it with all the resources at their command. For nearly a year
this stronghold of Russia was subjected to bombardment. Battles were
fought in front of it, vigorous efforts for its capture and its relief
were made, but in early September, 1855, it still remained in Russian
hands, though frightfully torn and rent by the torrent of iron balls
which had been poured into it with little cessation. But now the climax
of the struggle was at hand, and all Europe stood in breathless anxiety
awaiting the result.

On September 5 the fiercest cannonade the city had yet felt was begun by
the French, the English batteries quickly joining in. All that night and
during the night of the 6th the bombardment was unceasingly continued,
and during the 7th the cannons still belched their fiery hail upon the
town. Everywhere the streets showed the terrible effect of this
vigorous assault. Nearly every house in sight was rent asunder by the
balls. Towards evening the great dock-yard shears caught fire, and
burned fiercely in the high wind then prevailing. A large vessel in the
harbor was next seen in flames, and burned to the water's edge. This
bombardment was preliminary to a general assault, fixed for the 8th, and
on the morning of that day it was resumed, as a mask to the coming
charge upon the works.

The Malakoff fort, the key to the Russian position, was to be assaulted
by the French, who gathered in great force in its front during the
night. The Redan, another strong fortification, was reserved for the
British attack. In the trenches, facing the works, men were gathered as
closely as they could be packed, with their nerves strung to an intense
pitch as they awaited the decisive word. The hour of noon was fixed for
the French assault, and as it approached a lull in the cannonade told
that the critical moment was at hand.

At five minutes to twelve the word was given, and like a swarm of angry
bees the French sprang from their trenches and rushed in mad haste
across the narrow space dividing them from the Malakoff. The place, a
moment before quiet and apparently deserted, seemed suddenly alive. A
few bounds took the active line of stormers across the perilous
interval, and within a minute's time they were scrambling up the face
and slipping through the embrasures of the long-defiant fort. On they
came, stream after stream, battalion succeeding battalion, each dashing
for the embrasures, and before the last of the stormers had left the
trenches the flag of the foremost was waving in triumph above a bastion
of the fort.

The Russians had been taken by surprise. Very few of them were in the
fort. The destructive cannonade had driven them to shelter. It was in
the hands of the French by the time their foes were fully aware of what
had occurred. Then a determined attempt was made to recapture it, and
the Russian general hurled his men in successive storming columns upon
the work, vainly endeavoring to drive out its captors. From noon until
seven in the evening these furious efforts continued, thousands of the
Russians falling in the attempt. In the end the exhausted legions were
withdrawn, the French being left in possession of the work they had so
ably won and so valiantly held.

Meanwhile the British were engaged in their share of the assault. The
moment the French tricolor was seen waving from the parapet of the
Malakoff four signal rockets were sent up, and the dash on the Redan
began. It was made in less force than the French had used, and with a
very different result. The Russians were better prepared, and the space
to be crossed was wider, the assaulting column being rent with musketry
as it dashed over the interval between the trenches and the fort. On
dashed the assailants, through the abatis, which had been torn to
fragments by the artillery fire, into the ditch, and up the face of the
work. The parapet was scaled almost without opposition, the few Russians
there taking shelter behind their breastworks in the rear, whence they
opened fire on the assailing force.

At this point, instead of continuing the charge, as their officers
implored them to do, the men halted and began loading and firing, a work
in which they were greatly at a disadvantage, since the Russians
returned the fire briskly from behind their shelters. Every moment
reinforcements rushed in from the town and added to the weight of the
enemy's fire. The assailants were falling rapidly, particularly the
officers, who were singled out by their foes.

For an hour and a half the struggle continued. By that time the Russians
had cleared the Redan, but the British still held the parapets. Then a
rush from within was made, and the assailants were swept back and driven
through the embrasures or down the face of the parapet into the ditch,
where their foes followed them with the bayonet.

A short, sharp, and bloody struggle here took place. Step by step the
band of Britons was forced back by the enemy, those who fled for the
trenches having to run the gauntlet of a hot fire, those who remained
having to defend themselves against four times their force. The attempt
had hopelessly failed, and of those in the assailing column
comparatively few escaped. The day's work had been partly a success and
partly a failure. The French had succeeded in their assault. The English
had failed in theirs, and lost heavily in the attempt.

What the final result was to be no one could tell. Silence followed the
day's struggle, and night fell upon a comparatively quiet scene. About
eleven o'clock a new act in the drama began, with a terrific explosion
that shook the ground like an earthquake. By midnight several other
explosions vibrated through the air. Here and there flames were seen,
half hidden by the cloud of dust which rose before the strong wind. As
the night waned, the fires grew and spread, while tremendous explosions
from time to time told of startling events taking place in the town.
What was going on under the shroud of night? The early dawn solved the
mystery. The Russians were abandoning the city they had so long and so
gallantly held.

The Malakoff was the key of their position. Its loss had made the city
untenable. The failure of the attempt to recover it was followed by
immediate preparations for evacuation. The gray light of the coming day
showed a stream of soldiers marching across the bridge to the north
side. The fleet had disappeared. It lay sunk in the harbor's depths.

The retreat had begun at eight o'clock of the evening before, soon after
the failure to retake the Malakoff. But it was a Moscow the Russian
general proposed to leave his foes. Combustibles had been stored in the
principal houses. About two o'clock flames began to rise from these, and
at the same hour all the vessels of the fleet except the steamers were
scuttled and sunk. The steamers were retained to aid in carrying off the
stores. A terrific explosion behind the Redan at four o'clock shook the
whole camp. Four others equally startling followed. Battery after
battery was hurled into the air by the explosion of the magazines.
Before seven o'clock the last of the Russians had crossed the bridge to
the north side, which was uninvested by the allies, and the hill-sides
opposite the city were alive with troops. Smaller explosions followed.
From a steamer in the harbor clouds of dense smoke arose. Flames spread
rapidly, and by ten o'clock the whole city was in a blaze, while vast
columns of smoke rose far into the skies, lurid in the glare of the
flames below. The sounds of battle had ceased. Those of conflagration
and ruin succeeded. The final flames were those sent up from the
steamers, which were set on fire when the work of transporting stores
had ceased.

Great was the surprise throughout the camp that Sunday morning when the
news spread that Sebastopol was on fire and the enemy in full retreat.
Most of the soldiers, worn out with their desperate day's work, slept
through the explosions and woke to learn that the city so long fought
for was at last theirs--or so much of it as the flames were likely to

About midnight, attracted by the dead silence, some volunteers had crept
into an embrasure of the Redan and found the place deserted by the foe.
As soon as dawn appeared, the French Zouaves began to steal from their
trenches into the burning town, heedless of the flames, the explosions,
and the danger of being shot by some lurking foe, the desire for plunder
being stronger in their minds than dread of danger. Soon the red
uniforms of these daring marauders could be seen in the streets,
revealed by the flames, and the day had but fairly dawned when men came
staggering back laden with spoils, Russian relics being offered for sale
in the camps while the Russian columns were still marching from the
deserted city. The sailors were equally alert, and could soon be seen
bearing more or less worthless lumber from the streets, often useless
stuff which they had risked their lives to gain.

The allies had won a city in ruins; but they had defeated the Russians
at every encounter, in field and in fort, and the Muscovite resources
were exhausted. The war must soon cease. What followed was to complete
the destruction which the torch had began. The splendid docks which
Russia had constructed at immense cost were mined and blown up. The
houses which had escaped the fire were robbed of doors, windows, and
furniture to add to the comfort of the huts which were built for winter
quarters by the troops. As for the scene of ruin, disaster, and death
within the city, it was frightful, and it was evident that the Russians
had clung to it with a death-grip until it was impossible to remain. It
was an absolute ruin from which the Sebastopol of to-day began its


From the days of Rurik down, a single desire--a single passion, we may
say--has had a strong hold upon the Russian heart, the desire to possess
Constantinople, that grand gate-city between Europe and Asia, with its
control of the avenue to the southern seas. While it continued the
capital of the Greek empire it was more than once assailed by Russian
armies. After it became the metropolis of the Turkish dominion renewed
attempts were made. But Greek and Turk alike valiantly held their own,
and the city of the straits defied its northern foes. Through the
centuries war after war with Turkey was fought, the possession of
Constantinople their main purpose, but the Moslem clung to his capital
with fierce pertinacity, and not until the year 1878 did he give way and
a Russian army set eyes on the city so long desired.

In 1875 an insurrection broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, two
Christian provinces under Turkish rule. The rebellious sentiment spread
to Bulgaria, and in 1876 Turkey began a policy of repression so cruel as
to make all Europe quiver with horror. Thousands of its most savage
soldiery were let loose upon the Christian populations south of the
Balkans, with full license to murder and burn, and a frightful carnival
of torture and massacre began. More than a hundred towns were destroyed,
and their inhabitants treated with revolting inhumanity. In the month of
June, 1876, about forty thousand Bulgarians, of all ages and sexes, were
put to death, many of the children being sold as slaves in the Turkish

Of all the powers of Europe, Russia was the only one that took arms to
avenge these slaughtered populations. England stood impassive, the other
nations held aloof, but Alexander II. called out his troops, and once
more the Russian battalions were set _en route_ for the Danube, with
Constantinople as their ultimate goal.

In June, 1877, the Danube was crossed and the Russian host entered
Bulgaria, the Turks retiring as they advanced. But the march of invasion
was soon arrested. The Balkan Mountains, nature's line of defence for
Turkey, lay before the Russian troops, and on the high-road to its
passes stood the town of Plevna, a fortress which must be taken before
the mountains could safely be crossed. The works were very strong, and
behind them lay Osman Pacha, one of the boldest and bravest of the
Turkish soldiers, with a gallant little army under his command. The
defence of this city was the central event of the war. From July to
September the Russians sought its capture, making three desperate
assaults, all of which were repulsed. In October the city was invested
with an army of forty thousand men, under the intrepid General
Skobeleff, with a determination to win. But Osman held out with all his
old stubbornness, and continued his unflinching defence until
starvation forced him to yield. He had lost his city, but had held back
the Russian army for nearly half a year and won the admiration of the

The fall of Plevna set free the large Russian army that had been tied up
by its siege. What should be done with these troops, more than one
hundred thousand strong? The Balkans, whose gateways Plevna had closed,
now lay open before them, but winter was at hand, winter with its frosts
and snows. An attempt to cross the mountains at this time, even if
successful, would bring them before strong Turkish fortresses in
midwinter, with a chain of mountains in the rear, over which it would be
impossible to maintain a line of supplies. The prudent course would have
been to put the men into winter quarters at the foot of the Balkans on
the north and wait for spring before venturing upon the mountain passes.

The Grand Duke Nicholas, however, was not governed by such
considerations of prudence, but determined, at all hazards, to strike
the Turks before they had time to reorganize and recuperate. The army
was, therefore, at once set in motion, General Gourko marching upon the
Araba-Konak, Radetzky upon the Shipka Pass. The story of these movements
is a long one, but must be given here in a few words. The bitter cold,
the deep snow, the natural difficulties of the passes, the efforts of
the enemy, all failed to check the Russian advance. Gourko forced his
way through all opposition, took the powerful fortress of Sophia without
a blow, and routed an army of fifty thousand men on his march to
Philippopolis. Radetzky did even better, since he captured the Turkish
army defending the Shipka Pass, thirty-six thousand strong. The whole
Turkish defence of the Balkans had gone down with a crash, and the
Russians found themselves on the south side of the mountains with the
enemy everywhere on the retreat, a broken and demoralized host.

Meanwhile what had become of the Turkish population of the Balkans and
Roumelia? There were none of them to be seen; no fugitives were passed;
not a Turk was visible in Sophia; the whole region traversed up to
Philippopolis seemed to have only a Christian population. But on leaving
the last-named city the situation changed, and a terrible scene of
bloodshed, death, and misery met the eyes of the marching hosts. It was
now easy to see what had become of the Turks: they were here in
multitudes in full flight for their lives. The Bulgarians had avenged
themselves bitterly on their late oppressors. Dead bodies of men and
animals, broken carts, heaps of abandoned household goods, and tatters
of clothing seemed to mark every step of the way. Fierce and terrible
had been the struggle, dreadful the result, Turks and Bulgarians lying
thickly side by side in death. Here appeared the bodies of Bulgarian
peasants horrible with gaping wounds and mutilations, the marks of
Turkish vengeance; there beside them lay corpses of dignified old Turks,
their white beards stained with their blood.

While the men had died from violence, the women and children had
perished from cold and hunger, many of them being frozen to death, the
faces and tiny hands of dead children visible through the shrouding
snows. The living were dragging their slow way onward through this
ghastly array of the dead, in a seemingly endless procession of wagons,
drawn by half starved oxen, and bearing sick and feeble human beings and
loads of household goods. Beside the laden vehicles the wretched,
famine-stricken, worn-out fugitives walked, pushing forward in unceasing
fear of their merciless Bulgarian foes.

Farther on the scene grew even more terrible. The road was strewn with
discarded bedding, carpets, and other household goods. In one village
were visible the bodies of some Turkish soldiers whom the Bulgarians had
stoned to death, the corpses half covered with the heaps of stones and
bricks which had been hurled at them.

Beyond this was reached a vast mass of closely packed wagons extending
widely over roads and fields, not fewer than twenty thousand in all. The
oxen were still in the yokes, but the people had vanished, and Bulgarian
plunderers were helping themselves unresisted to the spoil. The great
company, numbering fully two hundred thousand, had fled in terror to the
mountains from some Russian cavalry who had been fired upon by the
escort of the fugitives and were about to fire in return. Abandoning
their property, the able-bodied had fled in panic fear, leaving the old,
the sick, and the infants to perish in the snow, and their cherished
effects to the hands of Bulgarian pilferers.

In advance lay Adrianople, the ancient capital of Turkey and the second
city in the empire. Here, if anywhere, the Turks should have made a
stand. But news came that this stronghold had been abandoned by its
garrison, that the wildest panic prevailed, and that the Turkish
population of the city and the surrounding villages was in full flight.
At daylight of the 20th of January the city was entered by the cavalry,
and on the 22d Skobeleff marched in with his infantry, at once
despatching the cavalry in pursuit of the retreating enemy. The defence
of Adrianople had been well provided for by an extensive system of
earthworks, but not an effort was made to hold it, and an incredible
panic seemed everywhere to have seized the Turks.

Russia had almost accomplished the task for which it had been striving
during ten centuries. Constantinople at last lay at its mercy. The Turks
still had an army, still had strong positions for defence, but every
shred of courage seemed to have fled from their hearts, and their powers
of resistance to be at an end. They were in a state of utter
demoralization and ready to give way to Russia at all points and accept
almost any terms they could obtain. Had they decided to continue the
fight, they still possessed a position famous for its adaptation to
defence, behind which it was possible to hold at bay all the power of

This was the celebrated position of Buyak-Tchek-medje, a defensive line
twenty-five miles from Constantinople and of remarkable military
strength. The peninsula between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora is
at this point only twenty miles wide, and twelve of these miles are
occupied by broad lakes which extend inland from either shore. Of the
remaining distance, about half is made up of swamps which are almost or
quite impassable, while dense and difficult thickets occupy the rest of
the line. Behind this stretch of lake, swamp, and thicket there extends
from sea to sea a ridge from four hundred to seven hundred feet in
height, the whole forming a most admirable position for defence. This
ridge had been fortified by the Turks with redoubts, trenches, and
rifle-pits, which, fully garrisoned and mounted with guns, might have
proved impregnable to the strongest force. The thirty thousand men
within them could have given great trouble to the whole Russian army,
and double that number might have completely arrested its march. Yet
this great natural stronghold was given up without a blow, signed away
with a stroke of the pen.


On January 31 an armistice was signed, one of whose terms was that this
formidable defensive line should be evacuated by the Turks, who were to
retire to an inner line, while the Russians were to occupy a position
about ten miles distant. It was no consideration for Turkey that now
kept the Russians outside the great capital, but dread of the powers of
Europe, which jealously distrusted an increase of the power of Russia,
and were bent on saving Turkey from the hands of the czar.

On February 12 an event took place that threatened ominous results. The
British fleet forced the passage of the Dardanelles and moved upon
Constantinople, on the pretence of protecting the lives of British
subjects in that city. As soon as news of this movement reached St.
Petersburg the emperor telegraphed to the Grand Duke Nicholas, giving
him authority to march a part of his army into Constantinople, on the
same plea that the British had made. In response the grand duke demanded
of the sultan the right to occupy a part of the environs of his capital
with Russian soldiers, the negotiations ending with the permission to
occupy the village of San Stefano, on the Sea of Marmora, about six
miles from the walls of the threatened city.

What would be the end of it all was difficult to foresee. On the waters
of the city floated the English iron-clads, with their mute threat of
war; around the walls Turkish troops were rapidly throwing up
earthworks; leading officers in the Russian army chafed at the thought
of stopping so near their longed-for goal, and burned with the desire to
make a final end of the empire of the Turks and add Constantinople to
the dominions of the czar. Yet though thus, as it were, on the edge of a
volcano, their ordinary policy of delay and hesitation was shown by the
Turkish diplomats, and the treaty of peace was not concluded and signed
until the 3d of March. The Russians had used their controlling position
with effect, and the treaty largely put an end to Turkish dominion in

The news of the signing was received with cheers of enthusiasm by the
Russian army, drawn up on the shores of the inland sea, the
Preobrajensky, the famous regiment of Peter the Great, holding the post
of honor. Scarce a rifle-shot distant, crowding in groups the crests of
the neighboring hills, and deeply interested spectators of the scene,
appeared numbers of their late opponents. The news received, the
cheering battalions wheeled into column, and past the grand duke went
the army in rapid review, the march still continuing after darkness had
descended on the scene.

And thus ended the war, with the Russians within sight of the walls of
that city which for so many centuries they had longed and struggled to
possess. Only for the threatening aspect of the powers of Europe the
Ottoman empire would have ended then and there, and the Turk, "encamped
in Europe," would have ended forever his rule over Christian realms.


In 1861 Alexander II., Emperor of Russia, signed a proclamation for the
emancipation of the Russian serfs, giving freedom by a stroke of the pen
to over fifty millions of human beings. In 1881, twenty years
afterwards, when, as there is some reason to believe, he was about to
grant a constitution and summon a parliament for the political
emancipation of the Russian people, he fell victim to a band of
revolutionists, and the thought of granting liberty to his people
perished with him.

This assassination was the work of the secret society known as the
Nihilists. To say that their association was secret is equivalent to
saying that we know nothing of their purposes other than their name and
their deeds indicate. Nihilism signifies _nothingness_. It comes from
the same root as _annihilate_, and annihilation of despots appears to
have been the Nihilist theory of obtaining political rights. This
society reached its culmination in the reign of Alexander II., and,
despite the fact that he proved himself one of the mildest and most
public-spirited of the czars, he was chosen as the victim of the theory
of obtaining political regeneration by terror.

Threats preceded deeds. The final years of the emperor's life were made
wretched through fear and anxiety. His ministers were killed by the
revolutionists. Some of the guards placed about his person became
victims of the secret band. Letters bordered with black and threatening
the emperor's life were found among his papers or his clothes. An
explosive powder placed in his handkerchief injured his sight for a
time; a box of asthma pills sent him proved to contain a small but
dangerous infernal machine. He grew haggard through this constant peril;
his hair whitened, his form shrank, his nerves were unstrung.

In February, 1879, Prince Krapotkin, governor-general of Kharkoff, was
killed by a pistol-shot fired into his carriage window. In April a
Nihilist fired five pistol-shots at the czar. In June the Nihilists
resolved to use dynamite with the purpose of destroying the
governors-general of several provinces and the czar and heir-apparent.
Among their victims was the chief of police, while two of his successors
barely escaped death.

The first attempt to kill the czar by dynamite took the form of
excavating mines under three railroads on one of which he was expected
to travel. Of these mines only one was exploded. A house on the Moscow
railroad, not far from that city, was purchased by the conspirators, and
an underground passage excavated from its cellar to the roadway. Here
auger-holes were bored upward in which were inserted iron pipes
communicating with dynamite stored below. On the day when the emperor
was expected to pass, a woman Nihilist named Sophia Perovskya stood
within view of the track, with instructions to wave her handkerchief to
the conspirators in the house at the proper moment. The pilot train
which always preceded the imperial train was allowed to pass. The other
train drew up to take water, and was wrecked by the explosion of the
mine. Fortunately for the emperor, he was in the pilot train and out of

Some of the participants in this affair were arrested, but their chief,
a German named Hartmann, escaped. Despite the utmost efforts of the
police, he made his way safely out of Russia, aided by Nihilists at
every step, sometimes travelling on foot, at other times in peasants'
carts, finally crossing the frontier and reaching the nest of
conspirators at Geneva. Here he is supposed to have taken part with
others in devising a new and what proved a fatal plot. Meanwhile a fresh
attempt was made on the life of the czar.

On February 5, 1880, Alexander II. was to entertain at dinner in the
Winter Palace a royal visitor, Prince Alexander of Hesse. Fortunately,
the czar was detained for a short time, and the hour fixed for the
dinner had passed when the party proceeded along the corridor to the
dining-hall. The brief delay probably saved their lives, for at that
moment a tremendous explosion took place, wrecking the dining-hall and
completely demolishing the guard-room, which was filled with dead and
dying victims, sixty-seven in all. It proved that a Nihilist had
obtained employment among some carpenters engaged in repairs within the
palace, and had succeeded in storing dynamite in a tool-chest in his
room. He escaped, and was never seen in St. Petersburg again. Two days
later the corpse of a murdered policeman was found on the frozen surface
of the Neva, a paper pinned to his breast threatening with death every
governor-general except Melikoff, the successor of the murdered

Their failures had proved so nearly successes that the Nihilists were
rather encouraged than depressed. New plans followed the failure of old
ones. It was proposed to poison the emperor and his son, the murder to
be followed by a revolt of the disaffected in Moscow and St. Petersburg,
the seizure of the palaces, and the establishment of a constitutional
government. This plan, however, was given up as not likely to have the
"_great moral effect_" which the Nihilists hoped to produce.

A Nihilist student in St. Petersburg had sent to the Paris committee of
the society a recipe for a formidable explosive of his invention. A
quantity of this dangerous substance was manufactured in France and
secretly conveyed to St. Petersburg, where bombs to contain it had been
prepared. The plans of the conspirators were now very carefully laid.
They did not propose to fail again, if care could insure success. A
cheesemonger's shop was opened on a street leading to the palace, under
which a mine was laid to the centre of the carriage-way, it being
proposed to kill the czar when out driving. If his carriage should take
another route and follow the street leading from the Catharine Canal, it
was arranged to wreck it with bombs flung by hand. The death of the czar
was the sole thing in view. The conspirators seemed willing freely to
sacrifice their own lives to that object. As regards the mine, it was so
heavily charged with dynamite that its explosion would have wrecked a
great part of the Anitchkoff Palace while killing the czar.

How the explosive material was conveyed from Paris to Russia is a
mystery which was never successfully traced by the police. The utmost
care was taken at the frontiers to prevent the entrance of any
suspicious substance. For a year or two even the tea that came on the
backs of camels from China was carefully searched, while all travellers
were closely examined, and all articles coming from Western Europe were
almost pulled to pieces in the minuteness of the scrutiny. The explosive
is said to have looked like golden syrup, and to have been sweet to the
taste, though acrid in its after-effects. A drop or two let fall on a
hot stove flashed up in a brilliant sheet of flame, though without smell
or noise.


Among the conspirators, one of the most useful was Sophia Perovskya, the
woman already named. She was young, of noble family, handsome, educated,
and fascinating in manner. Her beauty and high connections gave her
opportunities which none of her fellow-conspirators enjoyed, and by her
influence over men of rank and position she was enabled to learn many of
the secrets of the court and to become familiar with all the precautions
taken by the police to insure the safety of the czar. There was another
woman in the plot, a Jewish girl named Hesse Helfman. Eight men
constituted the remainder of the party.

The fatal day came in March, 1881. On the morning of the 12th Melikoff,
minister of the interior, told the czar that a man connected with the
railroad explosion had just been arrested, on whose person were found
papers indicating a new plot. He earnestly entreated Alexander to avoid
exposing himself. On the next morning the czar went early to mass, and
subsequently accompanied his brother, the Grand Duke Michael, to inspect
his body-guard. Sophia Perovskya had been apprised of these intended
movements, and informed the chief conspirators, who at once determined
that the deed should be done that day. The lover of Hesse Helfman had
been arrested and had at once shot himself. Papers of an incriminating
character had been found in her house, and it was feared that further
delay might frustrate the plot, so that the purpose of waiting until the
czar and his son might be slain together was abandoned. It was not known
which street the czar would take. If he took the one, the mine was to be
exploded; if the other, the bombs were to be thrown.

Two men, Resikoff and Elnikoff, the latter a young man completely under
Sophia's influence, were to throw the bombs. She took a position from
which she might signal the approach of the carriage. As it proved, the
Catharine Canal route was taken. The carriage approached. Everything
wore its usual aspect. There was nothing to excite suspicion. Suddenly a
dark object was hurled from the sidewalk through the air and a
tremendous report was heard. Resikoff had flung his bomb. A baker's boy
and the Cossack footman of the czar were instantly killed, but the
intended victim was unhurt and the horses were only slightly wounded.
The coachman, who had escaped injury, wished to drive onward at speed
out of the quickly gathering crowd, but Alexander, who had seen his
footman fall, insisted on getting out of the carriage to assist him. It
was a fatal resolve. As his feet touched the ground, Elnikoff flung his
bomb. It exploded at the feet of the czar with such force as to throw
men many yards distant to the ground, but proved fatal to only two,
Elnikoff, who was instantly killed, and Alexander, who was mortally
wounded, his lower limbs and the lower part of his body being
frightfully shattered. He survived for a few hours in dreadful pain.

Terrible as was the crime, it was worse than useless. The proposed
rising did not take place. A new czar immediately succeeded the dead
one. The hoped-for constitution perished with him upon whom it depended.
The Nihilists, instead of gaining liberal institutions, had set back the
clock of reform for a generation, and perhaps much longer. Of the
conspirators, one of the men was killed, one shot himself, and two
escaped; the other four were executed. Of the women, Sophia was
executed. She knew too much, and those who had betrayed to her the
secrets of the court, fearing that she might implicate them, privately
urged the new czar to sign her death-warrant. She held her peace, and
died without a word.


The Emperor of Russia, lord of his people, absolute autocrat over some
one hundred and twenty-five millions of the human race, to-day stands
master not only of half the soil of Europe but of more than a third of
the far greater continent of Asia. To gain some definite idea of the
total extent of this vast empire it may suffice to say that it is
considerably more than double the size of Europe, and nearly as large as
the whole of North America. The tales already given will serve to show
how the European empire of Russia gradually spread outward from its
early home in the city and state of Novgorod until it covered half the
continent. How Russia made its way into Asia has been described in part
in the story of the conquest of Siberia. The remainder needs to be told.


It is now more than three hundred years since the Cossack robber Yermak
invaded Siberia, and more than two centuries since that vast section of
Northern Asia was added to the Russian empire. The great river Amur,
flowing far through Eastern Siberia to the Pacific, was discovered in
1643 by a party of Cossack hunters, who launched their boats on this
magnificent stream and sailed down it to the sea. It was Chinese soil
through which it ran, its waters flowing through the province of
Manchuria, the native land of the emperors of China.

But to this the Russian pioneers paid little heed. They invaded Chinese
soil, built forts on the Amur, and for forty years war went on. In the
end they were driven out, and China came to her own again.

Thus matters stood until the year 1854. Six years before, an officer
with four Cossacks had been sent down the river to spy out the land.
They never returned, and not a word could be had from China as to their
fate. In the year named the Russians explored the river in force. China
protested, but did not act, and the whole vast territory north of the
stream was proclaimed as Russian soil. Forts were built to make good the
claim, and China helplessly yielded to the gigantic steal. Since then
Russia has laid hands on an extensive slice of Chinese territory which
lies on the Pacific coast far to the south of the Amur, and has forcibly
taken possession of the Japanese island of Saghalien. Her avaricious
eyes are fixed on the kingdom of Corea, and the whole of Manchuria may
yet become Russian soil.

Siberia is by no means the inhospitable land of ice which the name
suggests to our minds. That designation applies well to its northern
half, but not to the Siberia of the south. Here are vast fertile plains,
prolific in grain, which need only the coming railroad facilities to
make this region the granary of the Russian empire. The great rivers and
the numerous lakes of the country abound in valuable fish; large forests
of useful timber are everywhere found; fur-bearing animals yield a rich
harvest in the icy regions of the north; the mineral wealth is immense,
including iron, gold, silver, platinum, copper, and lead; precious
stones are widely found, among them the diamond, emerald, topaz, and
amethyst; and of ornamental stones may be named malachite, jasper, and
porphyry, from which magnificent vases, tables, and other articles of
ornament are made. The region on the Amur and its tributaries is
particularly valuable and rich, and a great population is destined in
the future to find an abiding-place in this vast domain.

South of Siberia lies another immense extent of territory, stretching
across the continent, and comprising the great upland plain known as the
steppes. On this broad expanse rain rarely falls, and its surface is
half a desert, unfit for agriculture, but yielding pasturage to vast
herds of cattle, horses, and sheep, the property of wandering tribes.
Here is the great home of the nomad, and from these broad plains
conquering hordes have poured again and again over the civilized world.
From here came the Huns, who devastated Europe in Roman days; the Turks,
who later overthrew the Eastern Empire; and the Mongols, who, led by
Genghis and Tamerlane, committed frightful ravages in Asia and for
centuries lorded it over Russia.

To-day the greater part of this vast territory belongs to China. But
westward from Chinese Mongolia extends a broad region of the steppes,
bordering upon Europe on the west, and traversed by numerous wandering
tribes known by the name of the Kirghis hordes. For many years Russia,
the great annexer, has been quietly extending her power over the domain
of the hordes, until her rule has become supreme in the land of the
Kirghis, which in all maps of Europe is now given as part of Siberia.

One by one military posts have been established in this semi-desert
realm, the wandering tribes being at first cajoled and in the end
defied. The glove of silk has been at first extended to the tribes, but
within it the hand of iron has always held fast its grasp. The
simple-minded chiefs have easily been brought over to the Russian
schemes. Some of them have been won by money and soft words; others by
some mark of distinction, such as a medal, a handsome sabre, a cocked
hat or a gold-laced coat. Rather than give these up some of them would
have sold half the steppes. They have signed papers of which they did
not understand a word, and given away rights of whose value they were
utterly ignorant.

Thus insidiously has the power of the emperor made its way into the
steppes, fort after fort being built, those in the rear being abandoned
as the country became subdued and new forts arose in the south. Cities
have risen around some of these forts, of which may be mentioned Kopal
and Vernoje, which to-day have thousands of inhabitants.

"Russia is thus surrounding the Kirgheez hordes with civilization," says
the traveller Atkinson, "which will ultimately bring about a moral
revolution in this country. Agriculture and other branches of industry
will be introduced by the Russian peasant, than whom no man can better
adapt himself to circumstances."

Michie, another traveller, gives in brief the general method of the
Russian advance. It will be seen to be similar to that by which the
Indian lands of the western United States were gained. "The Cossacks at
Russian stations make raids on their own account on the Kirgheez, and
subject them to rough treatment. An outbreak occurs which it requires a
military force to subdue. An expedition for this purpose is sent every
year to the Kirgheez steppes. The Russian outposts are pushed farther
and farther south, more disturbances occur, and so the front is year by
year extended, on pretence of keeping peace. This has been the system
pursued by the Russian government in all its aggressions in Asia."

But this does not tell the whole story of the Russian advance in Asia.
South of the Kirghis steppes lies another great and important territory,
known as Central Asia, or Turkestan. Much of this region is absolute
desert, wide expanses of sand, waterless and lifeless, on which to halt
is to court death. Only swift-moving troops of horsemen, or caravans
carrying their own supplies, dare venture upon these arid plains. But
within this realm of sand lie a number of oases whose soil is well
watered and of the highest fertility. Two mighty rivers traverse these
lands, the Amu-Daria--once known as the Oxus--and the
Syr-Daria--formerly the Jaxartes,--both of which flow into the Sea of
Aral. It is to the waters of these streams that the fertility of _the_
oases is due, they being diverted from their course to irrigate the

Three of the oases are of large size. Of these Khiva has the Caspian
Sea as its western boundary, Bokhara lies more to the east, while
northeast of the latter extends Khokand. The deserts surrounding these
oases have long been the lurking-places of the Turkoman nomads, a race
of wild and warlike horsemen, to whom plunder is as the breath of life,
and who for centuries kept Persia in alarm, carrying off hosts of
captives to be sold as slaves.

The religion of Arabia long since made its way into this land, whose
people are fanatical Mohammedans. Its leading cities, Khiva, Bokhara,
and Samarcand, have for many centuries been centres of bigotry. For ages
Turkestan remained a land of mystery. No European was sure for a moment
of life if he ventured to cross its borders. Vambéry, the traveller,
penetrated it disguised as a dervish, after years of study of the
language and habits of the Mohammedans, yet he barely escaped with life.
It is pleasant to be able to say that this state of affairs has ceased.
Russia has curbed the violence of the fanatics and the nomads, and the
once silent and mysterious land is now traversed by the iron horse.

The first step of Russian invasion in this quarter was made in 1602. In
that year a Russian force captured the city of Khiva, but was not able
to hold its prize. In 1703, during the reign of Peter the Great, the
Khan of Khiva placed his dominions under Russian rule, and during the
century Khiva continued friendly, but after the opening of the
nineteenth century it became bitterly hostile.

Meanwhile Russia was making its way towards the Caspian and Aral seas.
In 1835 a fort was built on the eastern shore of the Caspian and
several armed steamers were placed on its waters. Four years later war
broke out with Khiva, and the khan was forced to give up some Russian
prisoners he had seized. In 1847 a fort was built on the Sea of Aral, at
the mouth of the Syr-Daria, whose waters formed the only safe avenue to
the desert-girdled khanate of Khokand. Steamers were brought in sections
from Sweden, being carried with great labor across the desert to the
inland sea, on whose banks they were put together and launched. Armed
with cannon, they quickly made their appearance on the navigable waters
of the Syr.

The Amu-Daria is not navigable, so that the Syr at that time formed the
only ready channel of approach to Khokand, and from this to the other
khanates, none of which could be otherwise reached without a long and
dangerous desert march. Russia thus, by planting herself at the mouth of
the Syr, had gained the most available position from which to begin a
career of conquest in Central Asia.

War necessarily followed these steps of invasion. In 1853 the Russians
besieged and captured the fort of Ak Mechet, on the Syr, thought by its
holders to be impregnable. Up the river, bordered on each side by a
narrow band of vegetation from which a desert spread away, the Russians
gradually advanced, finally planting a military post within thirty-two
miles of Tashkend, the military key of Central Asia.

Such was the state of affairs in 1862, when war arose between the
khanates themselves, and the Emir of Bokhara invaded and conquered
Khokand. Russia looked on, awaiting its opportunity. It came at length
in an appeal from the merchants of Tashkend for protection. The
protection came in true Russian style, a Cossack force marching into and
occupying the town, which has since then remained in Russian hands. The
movement of invasion went on until a large portion of Khokand was

This audacious procedure of the Muscovites, as the Emir of Bokhara
regarded it, roused that ruler to a high pitch of fury and fanaticism.
He imprisoned Colonel Struve, an eminent Russian astronomer who was on a
mission to his capital, and declared a holy war against the invading

The emir had little fear of his foes, having what he considered two
impassable lines of defence. Of these the first was the desert, which
enclosed his land as within a wall of sand. The second, and in his view
the more impregnable, was the large number of saints that lay buried in
Bokharan soil, before whose graves the infidel host would surely be

He probably soon lost faith in the saints, for the Russians quickly
drove his troops out of Khokand and then invaded Bokhara itself,
defeating his troops near the venerable and famous city of Samarcand, of
which they immediately afterwards took possession. These infidel
assaults soon brought the holy war to an end, the emir being forced to
cede Samarcand and three other places to Russia, the four being so
chosen as to give the invaders full military control of the country.

This disaster, which fell upon Bokhara in 1868, was repeated in Khiva in
1873. Bokharan troops aided the Russians, and Bokhara was rewarded with
a generous slice of the conquered territory. Khiva was overthrown as
quickly as the other oases had been, and the whole of Central Asia
became Russian soil. It is true that a shadow of the old government is
maintained, the khans of Bokhara and Khiva still occupying their
thrones. But they are mere puppets to move as the Czar of Russia pulls
the strings. As for Khokand, it has disappeared from the map of Asia,
being replaced by the Russian province of Ferghana.

We have thus in few words told a long and vital story, that of the steps
by which Russia gained its strong foothold in Asia, and extended its
boundaries from the Ural Mountains and Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean
and the boundaries of China, Persia, and India, all of which may yet
become part of the vast Russian empire, if what some consider the secret
purpose of Russia be carried out.

Asia has been won by the sword; it is being held by other influences.
Schools have been founded among the Kirghis, and a newspaper is printed
in their language. Their plundering habits have been suppressed,
agriculture is encouraged, and luxuries are being introduced into the
steppes, with the result of changing the ideas and habits of the nomads.
Thriving Cossack colonies have grown up on the plains, and the wandering
barbarians behold with wonder the ways and means of civilization in
their midst.

The same may be said of Turkestan, in which violence has been suppressed
and industry encouraged, while the Russian population, alike of the
steppes and of the oases, is rapidly increasing. A railroad penetrates
the formerly mysterious land, trains roll daily over its soil, carrying
great numbers of Asiatic passengers, and an undreamed-of activity of
commerce has taken the place of the old-time plundering raids of the
half-savage Turkoman horsemen.

The Russian is thoroughly adapted to deal with the Asiatic. Half an
Asiatic himself, in spite of his fair complexion, he knows how to baffle
the arts and overcome the prejudices of his new subjects. The Russian
diplomatist has all the softness and suavity of his Asiatic congeners.
He conforms to their customs and allows them to delay and prevaricate to
their hearts' content. He is an adept in the art of bribery, has
emissaries everywhere, and is much too deeply imbued with this Asiatic
spirit for the bluntness of European methods. "You must beat about the
bush with a Russian," we are told. "You must flatter them and humbug
them. You must talk about everything but _the_ thing. If you want to buy
a horse you must pretend you want to sell a cow, and so work gradually
round to the point in view."

Thus the shrewd Russian has gained point after point from his Oriental
neighbors, and has succeeded in annexing a vast territory while keeping
on the friendliest of terms with his new subjects. He has respected
their prejudices, left their religions untouched, dealt with them in
their own ways, and is rapidly planting the Muscovite type of
civilization where Asiatic barbarism had for untold ages prevailed.

No man can predict the final result of these movements. Asia has been in
all ages the field of great invasions and of the sudden building up of
immense empires. But the movements of the Muscovite conquerors have none
of the torrent rush of those great invasions of the past. The Russian
advances with extreme caution, takes no risks, and makes sure of his
game before he shows his hand. He prepares the ground in front before
taking a step forward, and all that he leaves in his rear falls into the
strong folds of the imperial net. Gold and diplomacy are his weapons
equally with the sword, and in the progress of his arms we seem to see
Europe marching into Asia with a solid and unyielding front.


On the 24th of January, 1881, Edward O'Donovan, a daring traveller who
had journeyed far through the wastes and wilds of Turkestan, found
himself on a mountain summit not far removed from the northern boundary
of Persia, from which his startled eyes beheld a spectacle of fearful
import. Below him the desert stretched in a broad level far away to the
distant horizon. Near the foot of the range rose a great fortress,
within which at that moment a frightful struggle was taking place.
Bringing his field-glass to bear upon the scene, the traveller saw a
host of terror-stricken fugitives streaming across the plain, and hot
upon their steps a throng of merciless pursuers, who slaughtered them in
multitudes as they fled. Even from where he stood the white face of the
desert seemed changing to a crimson hue.

What the astounded traveller beheld was the death-struggle of the desert
Turkomans, the hand of retribution smiting those savage brigands who for
centuries had carried death and misery wherever they rode. These were
the Tekke Turkomans, the tribes who haunted the Persian frontier, and
whose annual raids swept hundreds of captives from that peaceful land to
spend the remainder of their days in the most woful form of slavery. For
a month previous General Skobeleff, the most daring and merciless of
the Russian leaders, had besieged them in their great fort of Geop Tepe,
an earthwork nearly three miles in circuit, and containing within its
ample walls a desert nation, more than forty thousand in all, men,
women, and children.

On that day, fatal to the Turkoman power, Skobeleff had taken the fort
by storm, dealing death wherever he moved, until not a man was left
alive within its walls except some hundreds of fettered Persian slaves.
Through its gateways a trembling multitude had fled, and upon these
miserable fugitives the Russian had let loose his soldiers, horse, foot,
and artillery, with the savage order to hunt them to the death and give
no quarter.

Only too well was the brutal order obeyed. Not men alone, but women and
children as well, fell victims to the sword, and only when night put an
end to the pursuit did that terrible massacre cease. By that time eight
thousand persons, of both sexes and all ages, lay stretched in death
upon the plain. Within the fort thousands more had fallen, the women and
children here being spared. Skobeleff's report said that twenty thousand
in all had been slain.

Such was the frightful scene which lay before O'Donovan's eyes when he
reached the mountain top, on his way to the Russian camp, a spectacle of
horrible carnage which only a man of the most savage instincts could
have ordered. "Bloody Eyes" the Turkomans named Skobeleff, and the title
fairly indicated his ruthless lust for blood. It was his theory of war
to strike hard when he struck at all, and to make each battle a lesson
that would not soon be forgotten. The Turkoman nomads have been taught
their lesson well. They have given no trouble since that day of
slaughter and revenge.

Such was one of the weapons with which the Russians conquered the
desert,--the sword. It was succeeded by another,--the iron rail. It is
now some twenty years since the idea of a railroad from the Caspian Sea
eastward was first advanced. In 1880 a narrow-gauge road was begun to
aid Skobeleff, but that daring and impetuous chief had made his march
and finished his work before the rails had crept far on their way. Soon
it was determined to change the narrow-gauge for a broad-gauge road, and
General Annenkoff, a skilful engineer, was placed in charge in 1885,
with orders to push it forward with all speed.

It was a new and bold project which the Russians had in view. Never
before had a railroad been built across so bleak a plain, a treeless and
waterless expanse, stretching for hundreds of miles in a dead level,
over which the winds drove at will the shifting sands, constantly
threatening to bury any work which man ventured to lay upon the desert's
broad breast. West of Bokhara and south of Khiva stretched the great
desert of Kara-Kum, touching the Caspian Sea on the west, the Amu-Daria
River on the east, the home of the wandering Turkomans, the born foes of
the settled races, but from whom all thought of disputing the Russian
rule had for the time been driven by Skobeleff's death-dealing blade.

The total length of the road thus ordered to be built--extending from
the shores of the Caspian Sea, the outpost of European Russia, to the
far-away city of Samarcand, the ancient capital of Timur the Tartar, and
the very stronghold of Asiatic barbarism--was little short of a thousand
miles, of which several hundred were bleak and barren desert. Two
immense steppes, waterless, and scorching hot in summer, lay on the
route, while it traversed the oases of Kizil-Arvat, Merv, Charjui, and
Bokhara. In the northern section of the last lay the famous city of
Samarcand, the eastern terminus of the road. The western terminus was at
Usun-ada, on the Caspian, and opposite the petroleum region of Baku,
perhaps the richest oil-yielding district in the world.

General Annenkoff had special difficulties to overcome in the building
of this road, of a kind never met with by railroad engineers before.
Chief among these were the lack of water and the instability of the
roadway, the wind at times manifesting an awkward disposition to blow
out the foundation from under the ties, at other times to bury the whole
road under acres of flying sand.

These difficulties were got rid of in various ways. Fresh water, made by
boiling the salt water of the Caspian and condensing the steam, was
carried in vats or tuns over the road to the working parties. At a later
date water was conveyed in pipes from the mountains to fill cisterns at
the stations, whence it was carried in canals or underground conduits
along the line, every well and spring on the route being utilized.

To overcome the shifting of the sand, near the Caspian it was
thoroughly soaked with salt water, and at other places was covered with
a layer of clay. But there are long distances where no such means could
be employed, at least two hundred miles of utter wilderness, where the
surface resembles a billowy sea, the sand being raised in loose hillocks
and swept from the troughs between, flying in such clouds before every
wind that an incessant battle with nature is necessary to keep the road
from burial. To prevent this, tamarisk, wild oats, and desert shrubs are
planted along the line, and in particular that strange plant of the
wilderness, the _saxaoul_, whose branches are scraggly and scant, but
whose sturdy roots sink deep into the sand, seeking moisture in the
depths. Fascines of the branches of this plant were laid along the track
and covered with sand, and in places palisades were built, of which only
the tops are now visible.

Yet despite all these efforts the sands creep insidiously on, and in
certain localities workmen have to be kept employed, shovelling it back
as it comes, and fighting without cessation against the forces of the
desert and the winds. In the building of the road, and in this battling
with the sands, Turkomans have been largely employed, having given up
brigandage for honest labor, in which they have proved the most
efficient of the various workmen engaged upon the road.

Aside from the peculiar difficulties above outlined, the Transcaspian
Railway was remarkably favored by nature. For nearly the whole distance
the country is as flat as a billiard-table, and the road so straight
that at times it runs for twenty or thirty miles without the shadow of a
curve. In the entire distance there is not a tunnel, and only some small
cuttings have been made through hills of sand. Of bridges, other than
mere culverts, there are but three in the whole length of the road, the
only large one being that over the Amu-Daria. This is a hastily built,
rickety affair of timber, put up only as a make-shift, and at the mercy
of the stream if a serious rise should take place.

The whole road, indeed, was hastily made, with a single track, the rails
simply spiked down, and the work done at the rate of from a mile to a
mile and a half a day. Before the Bokharans fairly realized what was
afoot, the iron horse was careering over their level plains, and the
shrill scream of the locomotive whistle was startling the saints in
their graves.

Over such a road no great speed can be attained. Thirty miles an hour is
the maximum, and from ten to twenty miles the average speed, while the
stops at stations are exasperatingly long to travellers from the
impatient West. To the Asiatics they are of no concern, time being with
them not worth a moment's thought.

In the operation of this road petroleum waste is used as fuel, the
refining works at Baku yielding an inexhaustible supply. The carriages
are of mixed classes, some being two stories in height, each story of
different class. There are very few first-class carriages on the road.
As for the stations, some of them are miles from the road, that of
Bokhara being ten miles away. This method was adopted to avoid exciting
the prejudices of the Asiatics, who at first were not in favor of the
road, regarding it as a device of Shaitan, the spirit of evil. Yet the
"fire-cart," as they call it, is proving very convenient, and they have
no objection to let this fiery Satan haul their grain and cotton to
market and carry themselves across the waterless plains. The camel is
being thrown out of business by this shrill-voiced prince of evil. The
road is being extended over the oases, and will in the end bring all
Turkestan under its control.

It almost takes away one's breath to think of railway stations and
time-tables in connection with the old-time abiding-place of the
terrible Tartar, and of the iron horse careering across the empire of
barbarism, rushing into the metropolis of superstition, and waking with
the scream of the steam whistle the silent centuries of the Orient.
Nothing of greater promise than this planting of the railroad in Central
Asia has been performed of recent years. The son of the desert is to be
civilized despite himself, and to be taught the arts and ideas of the
West by the irresistible logic of steel and steam.

But this enterprise is a minor one compared with that which Russia has
recently completed, that of a railway extending across the whole width
of Siberia, being, with its branches, more than five thousand miles
long--much the longest railway in the world. Work on this was begun in
1890, and it is now completed to Vladivostok, the chief Russian port on
the Pacific, a traveller being able to ride from St. Petersburg to the
shores of the Pacific Ocean without change of cars. A branch of this
road runs southward through Manchuria to Port Arthur, but as a result of
the war with Japan this has been transferred to China, Manchuria being
wrested from the controlling grasp of Russia. It is a single-track road,
but it is proposed to double-track it throughout its entire length, thus
greatly increasing its availability as a channel of transport alike in
war and peace.

All this is of the deepest significance. The railroad in Asia has come
to stay; and with its coming the barbarism of the past is nearing its
end. The sleeping giant of Orientalism is stirring uneasily in its bed,
its drowsy senses stirred by the shrill alarum of the locomotive
whistle. New ideas and new habits must follow in the track of the iron
horse. The West is forcing itself into the East, with all its restless
activity. In the time to come this whole broad continent is destined to
be covered with railroads as with a vast spider-web; new industries will
be established, machinery introduced, and the great region of the
steppes, famous in the past only as the starting-point of conquering
migrations, must in the end become an active centre of industry, the
home of peace and prosperity, a new-found abiding-place of civilization
and human progress.


The name Siberia calls up to our minds the vision of a stupendous
prison, a vast open penitentiary larger than the whole United States, a
continental place of captivity which for three centuries past has been
the seat of more wretchedness and misery than any other land inhabited
by the human race. To that far, frozen land a stream of the best and
worst of the people of Russia has steadily flowed, including prisoners
of state, religious dissenters, rebels, Polish patriots, convicts,
vagabonds, and all others who in any way gave offence to the authorities
or stood in the way of persons in power.

Not freedom of action alone, but even freedom of thought, is a crime in
Russia. It is a land of innumerable spies, of secret arrest and rapid
condemnation, in which the captive may find himself on the road to
Siberia without knowing with what crime he is charged, while his
friends, even his wife and family, may remain in ignorance of his fate.
Every year a convoy of some twenty thousand wretched prisoners is sent
off to that dismal land, including the ignorant and the educated, the
debased and the refined, men and women, young and old, the horror of
exile being added to indescribably by this mingling of delicate and
refined men and women with the rudest and most brutal of the convict
class, all under the charge of mounted Cossacks, well armed, and bearing
long whips as their most effective arguments of control.

It may be said here that the misery of this long journey on foot has
been somewhat mitigated since the introduction of railroads and
steamboats, and will very likely be done away with when the
Trans-siberian Railway is finished; but for centuries the horrors of the
convict train have piteously appealed to the charity of the world, while
the sufferings and brutalities which the exiles have had to endure stand
almost without parallel in the story of convict life.

The exiles are divided into two classes, those who lose all and those
who lose part of their rights. Of a convict of the former class neither
the word nor the bond has any value: his wife is released from all duty
to him, he cannot possess any property or hold any office. In prison he
wears convict clothes, has his head half shaved, and may be cruelly
flogged at the will of the officials, or murdered almost with impunity.
Those deprived of partial rights are usually sent to Western Siberia;
those deprived of total rights are sent to Eastern Siberia, where their
life, as workers in the mines, is so miserable and monotonous that death
is far more of a relief than something to be feared.

[Illustration: GROUP OF SIBERIANS.]

Many of the exiles escape,--some from the districts where they live
free, with privilege of getting a living in any manner available, others
from the prisons or mines. The mere feat of running away is in many
cases not difficult, but to get out of the country is a very different
matter. The officers do not make any serious efforts to prevent escapes,
and can be easily bribed to allow them, since they are enabled then to
turn in the name of the prisoner as still on hand and charge the
government for his support. In the gold-mines the convicts work in
gangs, and here one will lie in a ditch and be covered with rubbish by
his comrades. When his absence is discovered he is not to be found, and
at nightfall he slips from the trench and makes for the forest.

To spend the summer in the woods is the joy of many convicts. They have
no hope of getting out of the country, which is of such vast extent that
winter is sure to descend upon them before they can approach the border,
but the freedom of life in the woods has for them an undefinable charm.
Then as the frigid season approaches they permit themselves to be
caught, and go back to their labor or confinement with hearts lightened
by the enjoyment of their vagrant summer wanderings. There is in some
cases another advantage to be gained. A twenty years' convict who has
escaped and lets himself be caught again may give a false name, and
avoid all incriminating answers through a convenient failure of memory.
If not detected, he may in this way get off with a five years' sentence
as a vagrant. But if detected his last lot is worse than his first,
since the time he has already served goes for nothing.

There is another peril to which escaping prisoners are exposed. The
native tribes are apt to look upon them as game and shoot them down at
sight. It is said that they receive three roubles for each convict they
bring to the police, dead or alive. "If you shoot a squirrel," they say,
"you get only his skin; but if you shoot a _varnak_ [convict] you get
his skin and his clothing too."

Atkinson, the Siberian traveller, tells a remarkable story of an escape
of prisoners, which may be given in illustration of the above remarks.
One night in September, 1850, the people of Barnaoul, a town in Western
Siberia, were roused from their slumbers by the clatter of a party of
mounted Cossacks galloping up the quiet street. The story they brought
was an alarming one. Siberia had been invaded by three thousand Tartars
of the desert, who were marching towards the town. Nearly all the gold
from the Siberian gold-mines lay in Barnaoul, waiting to be smelted into
bars and sent to St. Petersburg. There was much silver also, with
abundance of other valuable government stores. All this would form a
rich booty for an army of nomad plunderers, could they obtain it, and
the news filled the town with excitement and alarm.

As the night passed and the day came on, other Cossacks arrived with
still more alarming news. The three thousand had grown to seven
thousand, many of them armed with rifles, who were burning the Kalmuck
villages as they advanced, and murdering every man, woman, and child who
fell into their hands. Some thought that the wild hordes of Asia were
breaking loose again, as in the time of Genghis Khan, and the terror of
many of the people grew intense.

By noon the enemy had increased to ten thousand, and the people
everywhere were flying before their advance. Hasty steps were taken for
defence and for the safety of the gold and silver, while orders were
despatched in all directions to gather a force to meet them on their
way. But as the days passed on the alarm began to subside. The number of
the invaders declined almost as rapidly as it had grown. They were not
advancing upon the town. No army was needed to oppose them, and Cossacks
were sent to stop the march of the troops. In the course of two days
more the truth was sifted from the mass of wild rumors and reports. The
ten thousand invaders dwindled to forty Circassian prisoners who had
escaped from the gold-mines on the Birioussa.

These fugitives had not a thought of invading the Russian dominions.
They were prisoners of war who, with heartless cruelty, had been
condemned to the mines of Siberia for the crime of a patriotic effort to
save their country, and their sole purpose was to return to their
far-distant homes.

By the aid of small quantities of gold, which they had managed to hide
from their guards, they succeeded in purchasing a sufficient supply of
rifles and ammunition from the neighboring tribesmen, which they hid in
a mountain cavern about seven miles away. There was no fear of the
Tartars betraying them, as they had received for the arms ten times
their value, and would have been severely punished if found with gold in
their possession.

On a Saturday afternoon near the end of July, 1850, after completing the
day's labors, the Circassians left the mine in small parties, going in
different directions. This excited no suspicion, as they were free to
hunt or otherwise amuse themselves after their work. They gradually came
together in a mountain ravine about six miles south of the mines. Not
far from this locality a stud of spare horses were kept at pasture, and
hither some of the fugitives made their way, reaching the spot just as
the animals were being driven into the enclosure for the night. The
three horse-keepers suddenly found themselves covered with rifles and
forced to yield themselves prisoners, while their captors began to
select the best horses from the herd.

The Circassians deemed it necessary to take the herdsmen with them to
prevent them from giving the alarm. Two of these also were skilful
hunters and well acquainted with the surrounding mountain regions, and
were likely to prove useful as guides. In all fifty-five horses were
chosen, out of the three or four hundred in the herd. The remainder were
turned out of the enclosure and driven into the forest, as if they had
broken loose and their keepers were absent in search of them. This done,
the captors sought their friends in the glen, by whom they were received
with cheers, and before midnight, the moon having risen, the fugitives
began their long and dangerous journey.

Sunrise found them on a high summit, which commanded a view of the
gold-mine they had left, marked by the curling smoke which rose from
fires kept constantly alive to drive away the mosquitoes, the pests of
the region. Taking a last look at their place of exile, they moved on
into a grassy valley, where they breakfasted and fed their horses. On
they went, keeping a sharp watch upon their guides, day by day, until
the evening of the fourth day found them past the crest of the range and
descending into a narrow valley, where they decided to spend the night.

Thus far all had gone well. They were now beyond the Russian frontier
and in Chinese territory, and as their guides knew the country no
farther, they were set free and their rifles restored to them. Venison
had been obtained plentifully on the march, and fugitives and captives
alike passed the evening in feasting and enjoyment. With daybreak the
Siberians left to return to the mine and the Circassians resumed their

From this time onward difficulties confronted them. They were in a
region of mountains, precipices, ravines, and torrents. One dangerous
river they swam, but, instead of keeping on due south, the difficulties
of the way induced them to change their course to the west, alarmed,
probably, by the vast snowy peaks of the Tangnou Mountains in the
distance, though if they had passed these all danger from Siberia would
have been at an end. As it was, after more than three weeks of
wandering, the nature of the country forced them towards the northwest,
until they came upon the eastern shore of the Altin-Kool Lake.

Here was their final chance. Had they followed the lake southerly they
might still have reached a place of safety. But ill fortune brought them
upon it at a point where it seemed easiest to round it on the north,
and they passed on, hoping soon to reach its western shores. But the
Bëa, the impassable torrent that flows from the lake, forced them again
many miles northward in search of a ford, and into a locality from which
their chance of escape was greatly reduced.

More than two months had passed since they left the mines, and the poor
wanderers were still in the vast Siberian prison, from which, if they
had known the country, they might now have been far away. The region
they had reached was thinly inhabited by Kalmuck Tartars, and they
finally entered a village of this people, with whose inhabitants they
unluckily got into a broil, ending in a battle, in which several
Kalmucks were killed and the village burned.

To this event was due the terrifying news that reached Barnaoul, the
alarm being carried to a Cossack fort whose commandant was drunk at the
time and sent out a series of exaggerated reports. As for the fugitives,
they had in effect signed their death-warrant by their conflict with the
Kalmucks. The news spread from tribe to tribe, and when the real number
of the fugitives was learned the tribesmen entered savagely into
pursuit, determined to obtain revenge for their slain kinsmen. The
Circassians were wandering in an unknown country. The Kalmucks knew
every inch of the ground. Scouts followed the fugitives, and after them
came well-mounted hunters, who rapidly closed upon the trail, being on
the evening of the third day but three miles away.

The Circassians had crossed the Bëa and turned to the south, but here
they found themselves in an almost impassable group of snow-clad
mountains. On they pushed, deeper and deeper into the chain, still
closely pursued, the Kalmucks so managing the pursuit as to drive them
into a pathless region of the hills. This accomplished, they came on
leisurely, knowing that they had their prey safe.

At length the hungry and weary warriors were driven into a mountain
pass, where the pursuers, who had hitherto saved their bullets, began a
savage attack, rifle-balls dropping fast into the glen. The fugitives
sought shelter behind some fallen rocks, and returned the fire with
effect. But they were at a serious disadvantage, the hunters, who far
outnumbered them, and knew every crag in the ravines, picking them off
in safety from behind places of shelter. From point to point the
Circassians fell back, defending their successive stations desperately,
answering every call to surrender with shouts of defiance, and holding
each spot until the fall of their comrades warned them that the place
was no longer tenable.

Night fell during the struggle, and under its cover the remaining
fifteen of the brave fugitives made their way on foot deeper into the
mountains, abandoning their horses to the merciless foe. At daybreak
they resumed their march, scaling the rocky heights in front. Here,
scanning the country in search of their pursuers, not one of whom was to
be seen, they turned to the west, a range of snow-clad peaks closing the
way in front. A forest of cedars before them seemed to present their
only chance of escape, and they hurried towards it, but when within two
hundred yards of the wood a puff of white smoke rose from a thicket, and
one of the fugitives fell. The hunters had ambushed them on this spot,
and as they rushed for the shelter of some rocks near by five more fell
before the bullets of their foes.

The fire was returned with some effect, and then a last desperate rush
was made for the forest shelter. Only four of the poor fellows reached
it, and of these some were wounded. The thick underwood now screened
them from the volley that whistled after them, and they were soon safe
from the effects of rifle-shots in the tangled forest depths.

Meanwhile the clouds had been gathering black and dense, and soon rain
and sleet began to fall, accompanied by a fierce gale. Two small parties
of Kalmucks were sent in pursuit, while the others began to prepare an
encampment under the cedars. The storm rapidly grew into a hurricane,
snow falling thick and whirling into eddies, while the pursuers were
soon forced to return without having seen the small remnant of the
gallant band. For three days the storm continued, and then was followed
by a sharp frost. The winter had set in.

No further pursuit was attempted. It was not needed. Nothing more was
ever seen of the four Circassians, nor any trace of them found. They
undoubtedly found their last resting-place under the snows of that
mountain storm.


On the memorable Saturday of May 27, 1905, in far eastern waters in
which the guns of war-ships had rarely thundered before, took place an
event that opened the eyes of the world as if a new planet had swept
into its ken or a great comet had suddenly blazed out in the eastern
skies. It was that of one of the most stupendous naval victories in
history, won by a people who fifty years before had just begun to emerge
from the dim twilight of mediæval barbarism.

Japan, the Nemesis of the East, had won her maiden spurs on the field of
warfare in her brief conflict with China in 1894, but that was looked
upon as a fight between a young game-cock and a decrepit barn-yard fowl,
and the Western world looked with a half-pitying indulgence upon the
spectacle of the long-slumbering Orient serving its apprenticeship in
modern war. Yet the rapid and complete triumph of the island empire over
the leviathan of the Asiatic continent was much of a revelation of the
latent power that dwelt in that newly-aroused archipelago, and when in
1903 Japan began to speak in tones of menace to a second leviathan, that
of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia, the world's interest was deeply
stirred again.

Would little Japan dare attack a European power and one so great and
populous as Russia, with half Asia already in its clasp, with strong
fortresses and fleets within striking distance, and with a continental
railway over which it could pour thousands of armed battalions? The idea
seemed preposterous, many looked upon the attitude of Japan as the
madness of temerity, and when on February 6, 1904, the echo of the guns
at Port Arthur was heard the world gave a gasp of astonishment and

Were there any among us then who believed it possible for little Japan
to triumph over the colossus it had so daringly attacked? If any, they
were very few. It is doubtful if there was a man in Russia itself who
dreamed of anything but eventual victory, with probably the adding of
the islands of Japan to its chaplet of orient pearls. True, the success
of the attack on their fleet was a painful surprise, and when they saw
their great iron-clads locked up in Port Arthur harbor it was cause for
annoyance. But if the fleet had been taken by surprise, the fortress was
claimed to be impregnable, the army was powerful and accustomed to
victory over its foes in Asia, and it was with an amused contempt of
their half-barbarian foes and confidence in rapid and brilliant triumph
that the Muscovite cohorts streamed across Asia with arms in hand and
hope in heart.

We do not propose to tell here what followed. The world knows it. Men
read with an interest they had rarely taken in foreign affairs of the
rapid and stupendous successes of the little soldiers of Nippon, the
indomitable valor of the troops, the striking skill of their leaders,
the breadth and completeness of their tactics, the training and
discipline of the men, the rare hygienic condition of the camps, their
impetuosity in attack, their persistence in pursuit; in short, the
sudden advent of an army with all the requisites of a victorious career,
as pitted against the ill-handled myriads of Russia, not wanting in
brute courage, but sadly lacking in efficient leadership and strategical
skill in their commanders.

Back went the Russian hosts, mile by mile, league by league, steadily
pressed northward by the unrelenting persistence of the island warriors;
while on the Liao-tung peninsula the besieging forces crept on foot by
foot, caring apparently nothing for wounds or death, caring only for the
possession of the fortress which they had been sent to win.

We should like to record some victories for the Russians, but the annals
of the war tell us of none. Outgeneralled and driven back from their
strong position on the Yalu River; decisively beaten in the great battle
of Liao-yang; checked in their offensive movement on the Shakhe River,
with immense loss; and finally utterly defeated in the desperate two
weeks' struggle around Mukden; the field warfare ended in the two great
armies facing each other at Harbin, with months of manoeuvring before

Meanwhile the campaign in the peninsula had gone on with like desperate
efforts and final success of the Japanese, Port Arthur surrendering to
its irresistible besiegers on the opening day of 1905. With it fell the
Russian fleet which had been cooped up in its harbor for nearly a year;
defeated and driven back in its every attempt to escape; its flag-ship,
the "Petropavlovsk," sunk by a mine on April 13, 1904, carrying down
Admiral Makaroff and nearly all its crew; the remnant of the fleet being
finally sunk or otherwise disabled to save them from capture on the
surrender of Port Arthur to the besieging forces.

Such, in very brief epitome, were the leading features of the conflict
on land and its earlier events on the sea. We must now return to the
great naval battle spoken of above, which calls for detailed description
alike from its being the closing struggle of the contest and from its
extraordinary character as a phenomenal event in maritime war.

The loss of the naval strength of Russia in eastern waters led to a
desperate effort to retrieve the disaster, by sending from the Baltic
every war-ship that could be got ready, with the hope that a strong
fleet on the open waters of the east would enable Russia to regain its
prestige as a naval power and deal a deadly blow at its foe, by closing
the waters upon the possession of which the islanders depended for the
support of their armies in Manchuria.

This supplementary fleet, under Admiral Rojestvensky, set sail from the
port of Libau on October 16, 1904, beginning its career inauspiciously
by firing impulsively on some English fishing-boats on the 21st, with
the impression that these were Japanese scouts. This hasty act
threatened to embroil Russia with another foe, the ally of Japan, but it
passed off with no serious results.

Entering the Mediterranean and passing through the Suez Canal, the fine
fleet under Rojestvensky, nearly sixty vessels strong, loitered on its
way with wearisome deliberation, dallying for a protracted interval in
the waters of the Indian Ocean and not passing Singapore on its journey
north till April 12. It looked almost as if its commander feared the
task before him, six months having now passed since it left the Baltic
on its very deliberate cruise.

The second Russian squadron, under Admiral Nebogatoff, did not pass
Singapore until May 5, it being the 13th before the two squadrons met
and combined. On the 22d they were seen in the waters of the Philippines
heading northward. The news of this, flashed by cable from the far east
to the far west, put Europe and America on the _qui vive_, in eager
anticipation of startling events quickly to follow.

Meanwhile where was Admiral Togo and his fleet? For months he had been
engaged in the work of bottling up the Russian squadron at Port Arthur.
Since the fall of the latter place and the destruction of the war-ships
in its harbor he had been lying in wait for the slow-coming Baltic
fleet, doubtless making every preparation for the desperate struggle
before him, but doing this in so silent and secret a method that the
world outside knew next to nothing of what was going on. The astute
authorities of Japan had no fancy for heralding their work to the world,
and not a hint of the movements or whereabouts of the fleet reached
men's ears.

As the days passed on and the Russian ships steamed still northward, the
anxious curiosity as to the location of the Japanese fleet grew
painfully intense. The expected intention to waylay Rojestvensky in the
southern straits had not been realized, and as the Russians left the
Philippines in their rear, the question, Where is Togo? grew more
insistent still. With extraordinary skill he had lain long in ambush,
not a whisper as to the location of his fleet being permitted to make
its way to the western world; and when Rojestvensky ventured into the
yawning jaws of the Korean Strait he was in utter ignorance of the
lurking-place of his grimly waiting foes.

Before Rojestvensky lay two routes to choose between, the more direct
one to Vladivostok through the narrow Korean Strait, or the longer one
eastward of the great island of Honshu. Which he would take was in doubt
and in which Togo awaited him no one knew. The skilled admiral of Japan
kept his counsel well, doubtless satisfied in his own mind that the
Russians would follow the more direct route, and quietly but watchfully
awaiting their approach.

It was on May 22, as we have said, that the Russian fleet appeared off
the Philippines, the greatest naval force that the mighty Muscovite
empire had ever sent to sea, the utmost it could muster after its
terrible losses at Port Arthur. Five days afterwards, on the morning of
Saturday, May 27, this proud array of men-of-war steamed into the open
throat of the Straits of Korea, steering for victory and Vladivostok. On
the morning of Monday, the 29th, a few battered fragments of this grand
fleet were fleeing for life from their swift pursuers. The remainder
lay, with their drowned crews, on the sea-bottom, or were being taken
into the ports of victorious Japan. In those two days had been fought to
a finish the greatest naval battle of recent times, and Japan had won
the position of one of the leading naval powers of the world.

On that Saturday morning no dream of such a destiny troubled the souls
of those in the Russian fleet. They were passing into the throat of the
channel between Japan and Korea, but as yet no sign of a foeman had
appeared, and it may be that numbers on board the fleet were
disappointed, for doubtless the hope of battle and victory filled many
ardent souls on the Russian ships. The sun rose on the new day and sent
its level beams across the seas, on which as yet no hostile ship had
appeared. The billowing waters spread broad and open before them and it
began to look as if those who hoped for a fight would be disappointed,
those who desired a clear sea and an open passage would be gratified.

No sails were visible on the waters except those of small craft, which
scudded hastily for shore on seeing the great array of war-ships on the
horizon. Fishing-craft most of these, though doubtless among them were
the scout-boats which the watchful Togo had on patrol with orders to
signal the approach of the enemy's fleet. But as the day moved on the
scene changed. A great ship loomed up, steering into the channel, then
another and another, the vanguard of a battle-fleet, steaming straight
southward. All doubt vanished. Togo had sprung from his ambush and the
battle was at hand.

It was a rough sea, and the coming vessels dashed through heavy waves as
they drove onward to the fray. From the flag-ship of the fleet of Japan
streamed the admiral's signal, not unlike the famous signal of Nelson at
Trafalgar, "The defense of our empire depends upon this action. You are
expected to do your utmost."

Northward drove the Russians, drawn up in double column. The day moved
on until noon was passed and the hour of two was reached. A few minutes
later the first shots came from the foremost Russian ships. They fell
short and the Japanese waited until they came nearer before replying.
Then the roar of artillery began and from both sides came a hail of shot
and shell, thundering on opposing hulls or rending the water into foam.
From two o'clock on Saturday afternoon until two o'clock on Sunday
morning that iron storm kept on with little intermission, the huge
twelve-inch guns sending their monstrous shells hurtling through the
air, the smaller guns raining projectiles on battle-ships and cruisers,
until it seemed as if nothing that floated could live through that
terrible storm.

Never in the history of naval warfare had so frightful a cannonade been
seen. Its effect on the opposing fleets was very different. For months
Togo had kept his gunners in training and their shell-fire was accurate
and deadly, hundreds of their projectiles hitting the mark and working
dire havoc to the Russian ships and crews; while to judge from the
little damage done, the return fire would seem to have been wild and at
random. Either the work of training his gunners had been neglected by
the Russian admiral, or they were demoralized by the projectiles from
the rapid-fire guns of the Japanese, which swept their decks and mowed
down the gunners at their posts.

This fierce and telling fire soon had its effect. Ninety minutes after
it began, the Russian armored cruiser "Admiral Nakhimoff" went reeling
to the bottom with the greater part of her crew of six hundred men. Next
to succumb was the repair-ship "Kamchatka." Badly hurt early in the
battle, her steering-gear was later disabled, then a shell put her
engines out of service, and shortly after her bow rose in the air and
her stern sank, and with a tremendous roar she followed the "Nakhimoff"
to the depths.

Around the "Borodino," one of the largest of the Russian battle-ships,
clustered five of the Japanese, pouring in their fire so fiercely that
flames soon rose from her deck and the wounded monster seemed in sore
distress. This was Rojestvensky's flag-ship, and the enemy made it one
of their chief targets, sweeping its decks until the great ship became a
veritable shambles. Admiral Rojestvensky, wounded and his ship slowly
settling under him, was transferred in haste to a torpedo-boat
destroyer, and as evening came on the huge ship, still fighting
desperately, turned turtle and vanished beneath the waves. As for the
admiral, the destroyer which bore him was taken and he fell a prisoner
into Japanese hands.

Previous to this three other battle-ships, the "Lessoi," the "Veliky,"
and the "Oslabya," had met with a similar fate, and shortly after
sundown the "Navarin" followed its sister ships to the yawning depths.
The fiery assault had quickly thrown the whole Russian array into
disorder, while the Japanese skilfully manoeuvred to press the
Russians from side and rear, forcing them towards the coast, where they
were attacked by the Japanese column there advancing. In this way the
fleet was nearly surrounded, the torpedo-boat flotilla being thrown out
to intercept those vessels that sought to break through the deadly net.

With the coming on of darkness the firing from the great guns ceased,
the Russian fleet being by this time hopelessly beaten. But the
torpedo-boats now came actively into action, keeping up their fire
through most of the night. When Sunday morning dawned the shattered
remnants of the Russian fleet were in full flight for safety, hotly
pursued by the Japanese, who were bent on preventing the escape of a
single ship. The roar of guns began again about nine o'clock and was
kept up at intervals during the day, new ships being bagged from time to
time by Togo's victorious fleet, while others, shot through and through,
followed their brothers of the day before to the ocean depths.

The most notable event of this day's fight was the bringing to bay off
Liancourt Island of a squadron of five battle-ships, comprising the
division of Admiral Nebogatoff. Togo, in the battle-ship "Mikasa,"
commanded the pursuing squadron, which overtook and surrounded the
Russian ships, pouring in a terrible fire which soon threw them into
hopeless confusion. Not a shot came back in reply and Togo, seeing their
helpless plight, signalled a demand for their surrender. In response the
Japanese flag was run up over the Russian standard, and these five ships
fell into the hands of the islanders without an effort at defense. The
confusion and dismay on board was such that an attempt to fight could
have led only to their being sent to the bottom with their crews.

It was a miserable remnant of the proud Russian fleet that escaped,
including only the cruiser "Almez" and a few torpedo-boats that came
limping into the harbor of Vladivostok with the news of the disaster,
and the cruisers "Oleg," "Aurora," and "Jemchug," under Rear-admiral
Enquist, that straggled in a damaged condition into Manila harbor a week
after the great fight. Aside from these the Russian fleet was
annihilated, its ships destroyed or captured; the total loss, according
to Admiral Togo's report, being eight battle-ships, three armored
cruisers, three coast-defense ships, and an unenumerated multitude of
smaller vessels, while the loss in men was four thousand prisoners and
probably twice that number slain or drowned.

The most astonishing part of the report was that the total losses of the
Japanese were three torpedo-boats, no other ships being seriously
damaged, while the loss in killed and wounded was not over eight hundred
men. It was a fight that paralleled, in all respects except that of
dimensions of the battling fleets, the naval fights at Manila and
Santiago in the Spanish-American war.

What followed this stupendous victory needs not many words to tell. On
land and sea the Russians had been fought to a finish. To protract the
war would have been but to add to their disasters. Peace was imperative
and it came in the following September, the chief result being that the
Russian career of conquest in Eastern Asia was stayed and Japan became
the master spirit in that region of the globe.


[Footnote 1: See Historical Tales: France.]

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