The Georgian chapters of
THE KRIMEA, THE CAUCASUS,
By ROBERT LYALL, M.D. F.L.S.
MEMBER OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY OF LONDON; OF THE WERNERIAN
NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH;
CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, AND OF
THE NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY, OF MANCHESTER;
MEMBER OF THE IMPERIAL SOCIETIES OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL HISTORY,
AND OF THE PHYSICO-MEDICAL SOCIETY, AT MOSCOW;
&c. &c. &c.
In two volumes; London: T. Cadell, 1825
CHAP. XI.—DEFILE OF DARIÉL.—VIEW OF THE CAUCASUS.—SUBTERRANEOUS ROAD.—THE TÉREK.—IMPROVEMENT OF ROADS.—THE FORTRESS OF DARIEL.—THE ANCIENT CASTLE OF DARIÉL.—MOUNTAIN TRIBES.—IMPOLITIC CONDUCT OF RUSSIA. —VILLAGE OF KAZBÉK.—ITS INHABITANTS.—MOUNTAIN OF KAZBÉK.—CATHEDRAL.—MOUNT ZION.—KÓBI.—DEPARTURE. —ALPINE PLANTS.—MINERAL SPRINGS.—AN AVALANCHE.—THE BI-GORÁ.—THE MOUNTAIN OF THE CROSS.—ASCENT OF THE GOOT-GORÁ.—CRITICISMS.—BASALTIC ROCK.—DESCENT OF THE GOOT-GORÁ.—KASHAUR.— MILITARY STATIONS.—FARE FOR HORSES.—COMPLAINTS OF THE KOZÁKS.—TEÜLUTIANS.—A CAT THEIR ORACLE.—SINGULAR PUNISHMENT.—COLLECTION OF TAXES.—THE ARÁGUA.—CONDUCT OF AN OSSETINIAN.—VALE OF PASSÁNANOOR.— FORT OF PASSÁNANOOR.—QUARANTINE OF ANANNOOR.—FORTRESS OF ANANNOOR.—ITS CHURCH.— NEW QUARANTINE.—CASTLE OF DUSHÉT.—TOWN OF DUSHÉT.— PLOUGHING.—THE VALE OF ARÁGUA.—KHARTIS- KÁRST.—MSKET.—THE KOOR.—THE CATHEDRAL OF MSKET.— INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY.—THE TSARS OF GEORGIA.— ANECDOTE.—PASSAGE OF THE CAUCASUS.
THE DEFILE OF DARIEL is thus described by Sir R. Porter: "The chasm rises from the river's brink, upwards of a thousand feet. Its sides are broken into clefts and projections, dark and frowning; so high, so close, so overhanging, that even at midday the whole is covered with a shadow bordering on twilight." With this description, the knight's pencil is in unison; and the view he gives of the defile is one of the best in his volumes. Some of his other views, by such a master of his art, may be reckoned complete failures. Though when he first saw the proper boundary between Asia and Europe, he tells us, in the most flowery style, that "the vast piles of Caucasus" presented to his view "a world of themselves; rocky, rugged, and capped with snow; stretching east and west beyond the reach of vision, and shooting far into the skies;" and that "it was a sight to make the senses pause; to oppress even respiration, by the weight of the impression on the mind, of such vast, overpowering sublimity; "yet his "Distant View of Mount Caucasus" does not convey the smallest idea of the truly sublime original. Indeed, a gentleman, well qualified to judge, said to me, that a view of Hampstead hills would give nearly as accurate a representation of the altitude and grandeur of the Caucasus, as Sir R. Porter's plate; and there is much truth in the observation. Some of his other views, however, are master-pieces of wild majestic scenery.
We had been forcibly struck at one part of the journey of the preceding day. A few yards of the road were blasted out of the solid rock, by the bank of the Térek, so that we rode through a kind of gallery, open on one side, and supported by pillars, beneath a huge mountain. [Note: After passing Balta, Sir R. Porter talks of the road running beneath pendent archways of stone, which are merely high enough to allow the passage under them of a low carriage; and of a path so narrow as scarcely to admit two carriages to pass each other;" while "one side of the road is on the edge of a precipice, which, in some places, is sixty feet deep; and in others, above one hundred;" with the "roaring waters of the Térek at the bottom of this abyss." I find no notice of any such place in my notes, nor do I recollect any such road; and I am inclined to think, that Sir R. Porter, or his transcriber, has confounded this part of the defile with that above noticed, and of which I am about to speak. As Sir R. Porter drew near Dariél, he says, "our road was rendered still more obscure, by its leading, for a considerable way, through a subterraneous passage cut in the solid rock." In Blackwood's Magazine it is remarked, "that this passage, however, is subterraneous, in the usual acceptance of the word, only for the space of three or four feet." I believe my account above to be correct.] The Térek rolls its course with great rapidity, sometimes separated into a number of branches; and no less than 800 soldiers were occupied in raising mounds of great stones and trees, called counter-forces, to keep it from destroying the road, and to confine it within a regular channel. Colonel Johnson says, "it is a matter deserving particular notice, that the Russian soldiers, wherever stationed, are usefully employed in public works, as roads, bridges, military posts, &c. This employment cannot but operate most favourably on their general character, as it counteracts those habits of dissipation to which soldiers are prone in the intervals of active warfare. It diminishes the repugnance excited by the presence of soldiers among the inhabitants of a district, who seeing them thus occupied, cease to regard them as slothful and vicious intruders, the drones or locusts of the state." But I have great reason to believe, that the mountaineers would much rather not see any improvements of the kind in their neighbourhood, as they tend to increase the means both of resistance and of attack.
We crossed an excellent bridge, now the only passage over the Térek near Dariél. The Ossetinians once destroyed it, when they knew that the tax-officers were about to make them a visit. The small fortress of Dariél is of more importance than its appearance indicates, being situated in one of the most dangerous places in the Porta Caucasia. The ruins of a castle on a nearly isolated rock in the middle of the valley, which commands the gloomy defile through which we had passed, attracted our particular attention. They, as well as the bridge just alluded to, are well seen in the vignette prefixed to this chapter. Sir R. Porter "found the ruins consisted of one strong square tower, with thick massive walls surrounding it, and encircling a space besides, sufficient to garrison several hundred soldiers. This seemed the citadel of the pass;" and "on all the points where the rocks might have formed advantageous lodgements for any enemy who had been dextrous enough to gain them, the ruins of subordinate out-works were visible. The face of the mountain behind the tower had been hewn, with manifest great labour, into a kind of aqueduct, to convey water to the garrison." He adds, "when we consider that there would be ground within its lines, to supply themselves and cattle with food, we could not suppose a place better adapted for the purposes of such a station. A subterraneous passage runs down from the castle to the bank of the river, communicating, probably, with other works which might be below to bar more immediately the ingress of the valley." According to the calculations of Dr. Reineggs, who made a number of visits to the Caucasus, the elevation of the mountains directly opposite the castle of Dariél is 3786 feet.
Were the above castle in good order, with a hundred men, and a few pieces of cannon, the Thermopylae might be defended against the combined forces of Russia. We were informed, that a few Ossetinians even kept command of the defile against a numerous corps of Russians, and killed all who attempted to pass; till, at length, they were starved out of their position. To prevent similar attempts for the future, the Russians destroyed the castle; but, probably, the natives rejoice that they cannot remove the mountain, which may very likely again become the seat of warfare.
Near Dariél, about a month before we passed the defile, two Kózaks were attacked and murdered by the natives. In ascending the mountain pass towards Kazbék, we remarked numerous villages, with square pyramidal towers, and surrounded by walls, which were the native fortresses in more remote periods, when the various mountain tribes waged war against each other. But these times are past, and they seem to reckon that they have now a common enemy. They appear to be united in a band of friendship among themselves, and to have sworn eternal enmity to the Russians, along the whole mountain chain, from the Euxine to the Caspian. It is the avowed policy of the Russians, to create divisions among the different tribes; but, although they have been partially successful in their plans, internal warfare, I believe, has not, of late, been carried to a great extent.
Colonel Johnson says he understood that the Russians were frequently the aggressors, and that their conduct has been hitherto so oppressive and unconciliating towards the Ossetinians, that this tribe has been urged to a continuance of their predatory habits by a spirit of retaliation, and he alludes to some instances in proof of this assertion, the most striking of which is the following: —A Russian Major having been seized by the Tchitchéntsi, one of the tribes of the Caucasus, the Emperor Alexander sent orders to General del Pozzo, who was then in command of Vladíkavkáz, to pay the sum of twenty-five thousand roubles demanded for the release of the prisoner. The General, however, marched with five or six hundred men to a village inhabited by Tchitchéntsi, who had been protected in their labours of tillage, and to whom ammunition and grain had been given, under a stipulation that they should deter their wilder friends and neighbours from entering and plundering the Russian territories and roads adjacent. The General sent for the head men of the village, and told them that they must either pay him the twenty-five thousand roubles themselves, or compromise the demand by procuring the release of the Major, which accordingly was accomplished. The General then wrote to his Imperial Majesty, that he had assumed the discretion of acting in the manner described, as the most effectual preventive of similar attacks in future.
I heard an account, oftener than once, of a similar kind, respecting the present governor-general of Georgia, Yermólof, but for the truth of which I do not vouch. It is said, that when a ransome was demanded by one of the mountain tribes for a prisoner, he ordered a body of soldiers to be assembled, and took all the flocks and herds with which they could come in contact, and retained them till the prisoner was released, notwithstanding that other conditions of exchange had been fixed.
Continuing a gentle ascent, we reached the village of Kazbék, called after the mountain of the same name, at whose base it lies. This village consists of different streets, or rather lanes, irregularly thrown together; and the houses are all built of dark-coloured schistus, with small round-topped, and even Gothic, windows, or rather apertures, and flat roofs. Many of them consist of two small stories; and in some there is no other approach to the upper story than by a ladder. The house of the late Colonel Kazbék is like a small fortress, near the middle of the village. It is an oblong square edifice, two stories in height, with columns before it, and is inclosed by a high wall, agreeably to the custom of the natives. On our return from Georgia we were accommodated with lodgings in one of the edifices within its walls, and wished much to have seen our hostess, the widow of Colonel Kazbék, but she was said to be indisposed. Her husband was a native chief, who was completely in the service of Russia, and who became a Christian convert. A small new church, dedicated to the Trinity, as I found by an inscription in its front, had been erected in 1809, by the Colonel, and now may be said to form his monument. He died six or eight years ago, and left considerable property to his family. His son is in the Russian service.
The inhabitants of Kazbék are chiefly Ossetinians, and most of them Christians. They are allied to the Georgians, with whom they maintain friendly communication, and are disliked by their brethren of the mountains on account of their religion, and still more so on account of their adherence to the Russians.
The Kazbék [Note: The name of this mountain is differently written. We have it under the forms of Kazibek, Kassy-beg, and Ghazi Beg. The Russians, whom I have followed, call it Kazbe'k. Klaproth says, that it is called Mquinivari, which signifies Snow-Mountain; and that the Ossetinians name it Tseritsi-Tsoub, Pic du Christ, or Ours-Khokh, or White Mountain. Voyage, vol. i. p. 471.— The translator of Letters from the Caucasus, &c. says, that Ghazi Beg is its Arabic and Turkish name, and implies, Hero of the true Faith.] had been all day concealed in the clouds. While we were at the village of the same name, it threw off its shroud for a moment, and appeared in all its glory, its snowy top reflecting the rays of the setting sun with the greatest brilliancy. On our return from Georgia, the weather was clear, and the whole mountain was seen to great advantage. One of the party then took a sketch of it, but already it has been well represented in several works. Parrot and Eingelhardt have calculated the height of the Kazbék to be 14,400 feet above the level of the Black Sea.
A very striking object at Kazbék, is the view of a cathedral on an adjoining high mountain, perhaps between 1500 and 2000 feet above the level of its base, which, with other churches, was erected nearly 600 years ago by the Princess Tamara of Georgia, who converted the people of her dominions to Christianity.
Having changed horses at Kazbék, we proceeded on our journey, and, as we rode along, enjoyed some of the grandest scenery which can be conceived. I was particularly struck with the view of Mount Zion, its snow-clad ridges, its monastery, and its castle. They are exhibited in an engraving, after a masterly sketch by Sir Gore Ousely, which the English Translator of "Letters from the Caucasus" has judiciously introduced as a frontispiece to her work.
We overtook three Kózaks who were on their return to Kóbi, and made an agreement with them to accompany us. We desired our guard of Kózaks to precede us, and we rode off) and soon arrived at that place, leaving the infantry to pursue their march at their leisure. We frequently stopped, however, to enjoy the views of the majestic cloudcapped mountains, and the barren hills, by which we were surrounded.
Mrs. Freyganch has given such a description of Kóbi as disgusts the traveller with the place before his arrival: but Colonel Johnson says, "this post is well built, and has accommodations for many visitors and travellers." Sir Robert Ker Porter has well described Kóbi as we found it. "This post," says he, "like most of the others, consists of a square fort, protected by earthen embankments, palisadoes, and a shallow ditch. A few dirty rooms, totally devoid of furniture, are set apart for the reception of travellers." A bench formed all the furniture of the room we occupied, which was dirty in the extreme, and unluckily its window was immoveable. As there is no wood nearer Kóbi than twelve versts, we paid four roubles for as many bundles of dried underwood as was necessary to cook our dinner. But scarcely had we kindled a fire when the apartment in which we had fixed ourselves was so filled with smoke, that we were obliged to go out, and for the first time, we felt the real want of our carriages, in which we had before luxuriously reposed. We allowed the fire to be extinguished, and then laid down to sleep upon our burchds, and small pillows placed upon the bench.
In the course of the evening, we had been amused by seeing a regiment of Kózaks and their commander, as well as by some infantry officers, who had reached this place in caláshes and kibítkas, and who were in their route to join the Georgian army, which, owing to the great mortality, requires annual reinforcements.
Having overcome some difficulties, which were made by the unaccommodating commandant of Kóbi, respecting horses, we set off from this dreary abode at six o'clock in the morning of the 15th of June. Although we had been gradually ascending, from the time we entered the defiles of the Caucasus, yet as we also descended into numerous small valleys, this circumstance was the less remarkable. Having begun the ascent, however from Kóbi, the vicinity of the snow, the cool temperature, and the alpine plants, soon made us sensible of being, as it were, transported to another climate. I was quite delighted with the botanical banquet of Caucasian rhododendrons, daphnes, anemones, and primroses, which decorated the sloping bases of these mighty mountains, at a short distance from the line of demarcation where vegetation ceases under an eternal covering of snow. [Note: The principal plants I collected between Kóbi and Krestovaya Gora, were Rhododendron Caucasicum, Daphne glomerata, Gallium Tataricum, Trollius patulus, Gentiana angulosa, Primula longifolia, Anemone narcissifolia (both with red and white flowers), Veronica gentianoides, Cerastium ruderale, Potentilla opaca, Fritillaria tulipiflora, Orobanche coccinea, Melampyrum arvense, Arenaria heteromalla, Hedysarum Bauxbaumianum, Parietaria lusitanica, Hedysarum petraeum, and Symphitum asperrimum.]
Between three and four versts from Kóbi, large patches of ground, of a fine orange colour, called our attention to them. They are found on both sides of the road, and are caused by numerous springs of mineral waters which arise in the mountains, and in their course deposit a yellow ochre upon every surface with which they come in contact; grass, stones, or the bottoms of rills and cavities. In some small natural basins, the fountains issued from the earth in a state of rapid effervescence, and the water was found to possess the same qualities as the mineral springs at Kislavodskii. [Vide p. 439. of this volume.]
About two versts farther, we reached the avalanche, of which Colonel Skvartsof had informed us when at Vladíkavkáz, and which had detached itself from an adjoining high mountain, fallen into the valley, and interrupted, or dammed up the Titri-Dskali, so that for some days the passage was highly dangerous. The river, at length, however, forced its way under the snow, and excavating a passage, left a snow-bridge, which was traversed by passengers, horses, and even carriages. The arch having become daily weaker by the melting of the snow, at last gave way, a couple of days before our arrival. We had considerable difficulty in crossing and re-crossing the ravine and the river, even on horseback, and were well pleased that we had left our carriages behind. The Kózak and infantry officers, alluded to at Kóbi, as we subsequently learned, were obliged to employ a great number of men to clear away the snow, who afterwards supported the carriages upon their shoulders in passing the river.
Water-cresses (Sisymbrium Nasturtium) and marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris) were abundant everywhere in the rills and marshy places among the mountains, even very near the snowy regions.
Pursuing the ascent, we soon reached an Ossetinian cottage, built upon the hill called the Bi-Gora, whose inhabitants cheerfully supplied us with warm milk, after quieting a savage dog, which violently assaulted our horses' heels. It has been well remarked, that these demi-savages, in one respect, may remind us of the charitable zeal of the monks of St. Bernard in Switzerland. They assist the forlorn traveller in his winter path, and afford him shelter from the howling tempest or the drifting snow, under the roof of their humble hut. According to Sir R. K. Porter, the munificence of the emperor, Alexander, provides for this establishment. The family cultivate a piece of ground near their habitation. The produce, with sheep and goats, consigned to their charge, and a large depot of flour and brandy, are always ready for the purposes of charity.
Having forded a clear mountain-stream a little further on, we continued our ascent, and soon reached the highest point of the alpine pass, the Krestavaya Gora, or the Mountain of the Cross, which at once recalled to mind the place named "Rest and be Thankful" at Glencoe, in the highlands of Scotland. On this hill is a massy pedestal, surmounted by a cross, formed out of the same stone, and with an inscription on it. It was erected to commemorate the completion of the road, by the Russians, through the Porta Caucasia, in 1809. The descent from hence, by a long winding road, conducted us to a plain, in which was an encampment of Georgian merchants, whose chief property consisted in hundreds of horses, which were feeding around them. From the plain begins the ascent of the Goot-Gora, which we traversed by an excellent road, cut out along its declivities. Hence we enjoyed a fine view ofan immense valley, in which the Arágua, the Araxis of the ancients, flows; and which we could nearly trace with the eye to its source, among many foaming rills, which rushed from the chasms of the adjoining mountains. This valley is covered with numerous villages, cornfields, and pasture-lands, and formed quite a contrast to the savage scenery we had left behind us.
After an alarming description of the descent from the Mountain of the Cross, Sir R. Porter quite terrifies us by a difficulty "of still more formidable magnitude." "Nothing can paint," says he, "the terrific situation of the road which opened before us, at Good Gora. It seemed little better than a scramble along the perpendicular face of a rock, whence a fall must be instant destruction;" and while pursuing this "perilous way, at the bottom of the green abyss, the Arágua appeared like a fine silver line," and the knight dared not trust himself "to gaze long on a scene at once so sublime and so painfully terrible." But leading his horse "as near as he could to that side of the road where the Good Gora towered to the sky, and therefore opposite to that which edged the precipice," he looked with anxiety on his fellow-travellers, "who were clinging to the stony projections, in their advance up this horrid escalade." "Who would imagine," says an anonymous writer, "that this 'horrid escalade' is almost daily effected by carriages; nay, that the author's (Sir R. Porter's) own calash mounted with himself, — that for a hundred yards or more, immediately below the road, this 'green abyss' is yearly mown for hay, by the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, and that a path leads almost directly down to it, by which this hay is carried to the foot of the mountain, over the backs of asses ! —Yet such is the fact." This critic, like ourselves, appears to have passed through the mountain defile in the summer, and to have encountered no difficulty. Though the ascent of the hill must be more arduous at an advanced season of the year, when the road, in some places of the mountain side, may be filled up by snow and ice, yet I am still inclined to think Sir R. Porter's account possesses more of romance than accuracy.
On the west side of the Arágua an interesting hill, presenting a bold perpendicular front of (apparently) basaltic columns on whose summit is an old square castle, and a village embosomed in woods and shrubbery, form the centre of the valley already mentioned, which must have a dreary and wild appearance in winter.
The descent from the Goot-Gora is rapid, and over a very bad road, covered with large stones. We often deserted it, by advice of our Kózaks. By a gentle ascent we reached the station of Kashaúr, where are two villages, with a square tapering tower, and a redoubt, similar to that of Kóbi. These mean and gloomy villages are surrounded by a profusion of the beautiful Azalea pontica and Daphne glomerata, which greatly enliven their vicinity. Guard was mounted, and the soldiers were ready to serve us. Here, as at all the stations between Vladíkavkáz and Tiflís, are a number of infantry, varying from twenty to fifty soldiers, and about twenty-five Kózaks.
The Kózaks receive the fare (the progon) of their horses, which becomes a considerable perquisite to them, when paid, as they get twelve kopeeks per verst for each horse, on account of the dearness of the corn which is brought from the south of Russia, for feeding them. Even hay is dear, as for want of proper attention, enough of it is not produced to supply forage. It is sold to them by the natives, at above a rouble per pood; a greater price by far than is paid at Moscow in ordinary circumstances. The Kozáks complained much of the Russians paying for no more than a half, or a third, of the number of horses they take for their journeys, especially as they have only an opportunity, in the summer season, of making a small sum to defray their expenses, and to repay their trouble. [Vide p. 296. of this volume.]
An officer who accompanied us through the mountain defiles, and who had passed a number of years in this vicinity, informed us, that numerous villages which we had remarked before reaching Kashäúr were inhabited by Teülutians, who had an oracle that was consulted on all occasions. He had been employed, at times, to collect taxes among this people, with whom he was on good terms. Though the pretended oracle, under the form of a cat, was in his pay, yet it told its devotees that they ought to kill him. He was invited to their annual fête, and most unexpectedly attacked. One of his men was killed, and he himself wounded; and, indeed, he effected his retreat with great difficulty. The same gentleman also told us, that the greatest punishment employed by these people is of a singular kind: a cat is tied upon the delinquent's back, and is then irritated by gentle strokes, which it naturally retaliates by scratching. The sufferer is afraid to offer resistance, because the animal -being sacred, to hurt or kill it would be a great crime.
From the mountain tribes of the Caucasus, taxes in kind —for money is really out of the question— are collected with great difficulty from the few individuals who are peaceable. The Russians are obliged to employ all kinds of stratagems in order to accomplish their designs, and sometimes they resort to very dishonourable methods. Princes and nobles have been invited to dinner, and their arms and clothes seized, and kept as pledges, till redeemed by the payment of their assessed taxes; but they are no longer to be duped in this manner. A gentleman, who was very capable of judging of the matter, supposed that the mountaineers would willingly avoid all communication with the Russians, except for the necessity to which they are in some places reduced, of being dependant upon them for some supplies. He also said that it would be very difficult to ascertain the exact population of the Caucasus, as no lists are kept, either of the births or deaths, and, as^ many of the natives live in the fastnesses of the mountains, which were never trod by an European.
Provided with good horses, and our usual guards, we soon reached one of the most beautiful landscapes I ever beheld: a valley equal in length to that of Baidar in the Krimea, but far surpassing it, if not in beauty, at least in sublimity, through which the Arágua flows toward the Koor or the Cyrus of ancient days. The descent into this valley is long and difficult, and winds, in a zig-zag direction from the summit of the hill nearly to the river just mentioned, through delightful woods, and conducts to a more genial climate than that of the mountains. Passing a barrack, or small white house, where are stationed a number of soldiers, we crossed the Arágua, by a good bridge, the erection of which is commemorated by an adjoining stone pyramid. Having lost the party while in search of plants in the woods, I took a short by-path, in order to join them. An Ossetinian, who saluted me, and conducted me into another way, gave me some uneasiness, but acted with great propriety. I then suddenly came upon a family encamped in the wood. The husband seemed as much alarmed as I was, and, putting his hand upon his dagger, —which I did not then know was a sign of friendship,— he made a bow to me. Keeping at a respectable distance, we held a conversation in pantomime. He perfectly comprehended that I had lost my way, and made signs, by observing which, after a rapid gallop, I regained the road, and was soon overtaken by the party.
In passing through the vale of Passánanoor, the continual succession of wooded hills and lofty mountains, of craggy pinnacles and frightful precipices, with deep ravines, and dark and dismal glens, which pour their tributary streams into the Aragua, is peculiarly grand and sublime, and, with some small but charming dells, forms a wild but beautiful combination of alpine scenery. The villages of the natives of this delightful valley, pitched among the craggy points and overhanging cliffs of apparently inaccessible mountains, and at such enormous heights as to be almost invisible, as well as numerous square towers or castles which were used as places of refuge in the times of former intestine broils, add a degree of the romantic and picturesque which is seldom combined.
Hawthorns, honey-suckles, guelder-roses, and barberries, besides a great variety of wild plants, grew in profusion among the woods, and by the banks of the Aragua, and numerous warblers cheered us with their sweet notes, as we approached Passánanoor, where the valley becomes more narrow.
Passánanoor, another palisadoed fortress, with a number of small edifices and barracks, and a few native huts, is placed, as it were, at the bottom of an inverted cone, whose sides are formed by mountains, covered to their summits with a variety of beautiful trees and shrubs.
The road between Passánanoor and Ananoor is one of the most delightful imaginable, and often presents such scenery as is described in the vale between Kashaúr and Passananoor. Like the Térek, on the north side of the Caucasus, the Aragua on the south was extremely dirty, and its banks were covered with innumerable lofty wide-spreading beech trees.
We arrived at the quarantine of Ananoor; and, though we got the best apartments of the establishment, they were very bad, and, what was worse, very damp. By bribing high, we procured wood: but, the mercátant, as they called the grocer of the place, gave us bad butter, bad fish, bad caviar, bad eggs, bad every thing; and, so poor was the place, that after our servant had prepared some portable soup, we were obliged to eat it out of the lids of the pans. The captain of Ananoor was not at home, so we bought hay, which probably had been purchased a dozen of times before, and prepared our beds by spreading our búrchas over it.
On the following day, impatient at our detention in such a detestable place, we sent for the captain of the quarantine, who informed us, that the laws required that travellers should remain there for four days, even when there was no suspicion of the plague, and forty days when there was. As even four days was a serious loss of time for us, we endeavoured to make arrangements, and offered a considerable bribe to be allowed to proceed on our journey. But this was rejected: a circumstance which surprised me, as the captain was a Russian, and as its parallel does not often occur. He consented, however, to let us go on the following day, as he has the discretionary power of abating the time fixed, when there is a certainty of the party enjoying perfect health, which I, as a physician, attested. The useless ceremony of fumigating our búrchas was gone through, so as, in some degree, to conform to the orders of the institution.
The quarantine of Ananoor consists of a number of small low wooden thatched houses, forming a square, and all very miserable habitations. Yet here we found there were separate apartments for nobles and for commoners, store-magazines, fumigation- rooms, &c. Among other sources of amusement we visited the house for the common travellers, which has apertures, but no windows, in its walls, so that it was sure of a thorough ventilation. The inmates of this dwelling consisted of Armenians, Georgians, Hungarians, and Jews from near Kislar, who were dancing to the sound of the tambarine, or playing at various games for money. The Jews, having their heads shaved, and wearing the Asiatic dress, we did not at first distinguish from Tartars. They were selling Kalmuck lambskins, black and curled, at ten roubles each, which may be reckoned a high price, although they are much used in Russia, as well as in Georgia and Persia.
On the 17th June, having already breakfasted, at seven o'clock in the morning we gladly quitted the quarantine, and soon arrived at the fortress of Annanoor, whose embattled and loop-holed walls and towers, include the church of the village. The money of the district is contained in the church; and, we were assured, that a cellar under it was converted into a powder magazine. It is built in the form of a cross, with a single cupola, and of hewn stone. The town, or lather paltry village of Annanoor, stands on one side of the fortress. Leaving the Aragua on the left, we turned to the right, and after riding two or three versts, we came to the New Quarantine, an establishment which, no doubt, by this time is finished, and proves a very great convenience to travellers. It is situated on an elevation by the side of a rivulet, and consists of three different squares, formed by stone walls, and includes numerous edifices built of the same materials. One of those squares is for the nobles and gentlemen, a second for common people, and a third for all kinds of merchandise. From hence we ascended a steep hill, and had some fine views of alpine scenery, with a few small scattered villages, intermixed with ruined walls and towers, in the fore-ground.
By a long and gentle declivity we reached Dushét. Here is a regular fortified castle, with a Georgian inscription, on a marble slab over the principal gate; but it is a place of no great strength. The author of the "Letters from the Caucasus, &c." speaks of it as a château, which has served for the former residence of the tsar of Georgia, Heraclius, and as a complete square, having a gallery running round it; but it is now falling to decay, and is used as a barrack for a battalion of soldiers, and twenty-five Kozáks, who dwell without its walls.
Dushét is called a town, but it hardly deserves the name. It reminded us of the streets or lanes of Baktchiserai, rilled with low small shops, or boxes, in which different articles are exposed for sale, and where all kinds of tradesmen were at work, and even weavers of coarse linen, sitting upon the ground with their feet in holes in the earth. A church, and some surrounding villages, with towers like fortifications, deserve notice.
Around Dushét there is a good deal of open space and cultivated land. Here we saw the Georgians at labour with ten pair of oxen and buffaloes, and five men employed for each plough, which had a very extraordinary appearance. [Vide p. 355. of this volume.]
Having changed horses, after occasionally ascending and descending, we again reached the banks of the Aragua, which we had left at the castle of Ananoor, and entered a fine and delightful valley, much more open than either the vale of Passananoor, or that of Ananoor.
The country now assumed more the aspect of cultivation, and of the beautiful, than of the wild and sublime. We soon entered into a cross-valley on the right and left of the road, called, by some, the Vale of Aragua. It is between twenty and thirty miles in length, and six and eight in breadth, with gently elevated slopes, fringed richly with wood, and lofty hills in the back-ground. After having seen the situation of Tiflís, I am surprised that the vale of Aragua had not rather been chosen as the site of the capital of Georgia. On the south of this valley the Kozák station, Khartiskarst, generally called Khartiskél, or simply Rskal, is beautifully situated on a rising ground amid lofty trees. About ten versts before reaching this place, we passed some houses in the form of a square, which are used as barracks for infantry, and a few Kozáks. We changed horses at Khartiskárst, and soon came in sight of the ruins of a castle, on an insulated hill, by the banks of the Aragua. From hence two fine old churches on the west, and a ruined castle on a bold projecting rock, on the east of the Aragua, and with fine intermixed scenery, make a beautiful landscape. We entered the small village of Msket, now inhabited by Georgians and Armenians, part of which we absolutely rode over; and, but for smoked holes, serving as chimneys, in the flat earth-covered roofs of the houses, we should scarcely have distinguished them from the roads, or lanes, which wind among them. In many places they are half under ground, and some of them are altogether subterranean. They are built in the sides of declivities, in other places, like the huts of the Krimean Tartars; but they are not enlivened by the luxuriant foliage which gives a cheerful aspect to the latter. Indeed they impressed us with the idea of poverty and wretchedness, and are by no means in harmony with the rich scenery of the valley in which they lie, or the mountains by which it is surrounded. Msket is supposed to be one of the most ancient towns of the universe; and, tradition says, it was inhabited by some of the earliest descendants of Noah. It was formerly the capital of Georgia, and was then twenty miles in circumference, and is said to have contained eighty thousand men capable of bearing arms j an account which probably was exaggerated, though, it must be confessed, that numerous ruins, by the banks of the Koor, and in the vicinity, testify that it was once of considerable size. Sir R. K. Porter supposes it is the Artanissa and the Misletta of Pompey, and the Harmastis of Pliny.
Msket now occupies the angle formed by the confluence of the Koor and the Aragua, or the Cyrus and the Aragus of the Greeks, whose united waters, under the former appellation, run through Tiflís, and after a winding course between Moghan and Sheervan, fall into the Caspian Sea, near the bay of Bakú, at its southern extremity.
The objects which attract attention here, are the débris of the palace of the ancient tsars, or princes of Georgia, or, strictly speaking, of Kachétia; the ancient churches, and a castle on the east side of the Koor.
The fine cathedral church which rises amid the ruins of the château, is one of the best examples of the style of architecture which has generally prevailed throughout Georgia, ever from the introduction of Christianity up to the present time. Like the Greek temples, it is built in the form of a cross, and resembles the church of Ananoor, hereafter represented, though of much greater magnitude. It is constructed entirely of stone, hewn and polished. Neither iron nor wood are employed in its massy strong walls, arches, or cupola. It interior is surrounded by arcades, neither beautiful nor well proportioned. It is still used for the performance of divine service, after the Greek ritual, but in the Georgian language; of course the few ornaments with which it is decorated, are all in the Greek style.
The chapel of St. Nino, who, according to some accounts, introduced Christianity into Georgia in the beginning of the fourth century, under the reign of the Tsar Marian, next attracted our attention. Some state, that Nino, who became the patroness of Georgia, was carried captive to this country in the time of Constantine the Great, and that Marian, convinced of the miraculous cures she performed by the power of her religion, became a convert to Christianity, and, like Vladimir in Russia, obliged his subjects to embrace the same faith. Others relate that St. Nino went of her own accord, from Rome to Jerusalem, and from thence into Iberia, for the purpose of diffusing the true faith, and that she bore a cross. made of the vine, bound with her hair; and, holding it in her hand, preached the doctrine of the Evangelists. This cross was carefully preserved by the Tsars of Georgia, who during their absence deposited it in the cathedral of Msket, When this country was invaded by the Turks and the Persians, in 1720, it was carried into the mountains, and remained for a while in the church of Ananoor; from whence it was afterwards sent to the Tsarevitch (son of the tsar) Vachtang, at Moscow. The Tsar Heraclius had often, though without success, reclaimed the revered relic from the descendants of Vachtang, But at length, Prince Bokaref^ nephew of the latter, laid the cross at the feet of the Emperor Alexander, who graciously restored it to Georgia. [Note: Vide Letters from the Caucasus and Georgia. Voyage en Perse par Maurice de Kotzebue. Voyages de Chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l'Orient. According to Mosheim, the light of the Gospel was introduced into Iberia, a province of Asia, now called Georgia, in the following manner. A certain woman was carried into that country as a captive, during the reign of Constantine the Great, and by the grandeur of her miracles, and the remarkable sanctity of her life and manners, she made such an impression upon the king and queen, that they abandoned their false gods, embraced the faith of the Gospel, and sent to Constantinople for proper persons to give them and their people a more satisfactory, and complete knowledge of the Christian religion. Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 338.]
In the cathedral of Msket the ancient tsars were crowned, and their remains deposited after death, as well as those of the nobles. Among many tombs, those of the two last Georgian tsars, Heraclius, and his son George, are the most conspicuous, being raised about a foot and a half from the ground near the centre of the nave, and on each side of the steps of the ambon. Over them are cross plates, with inscriptions, indicating the names, the titles, the time of birth and death of the royal personages, and informing us that the sepulchres were erected by the Marquis de Paulucci, then governor-general of Georgia, in consequence of an order to that effect from his Imperial Majesty Alexander. If my notes be correct, it is plainly stated in the inscription on the tomb of the Tsar George, that he ceded these states to Russia in 1801; so that the apparent mark of reverence for the dead, might also be intended to remind the Georgians of their legal subjection to Russia. This power is never wanting in finesse to accomplish her purposes of ambition and aggrandisement.
Another church, which we had passed on the west, near Msket, is said to be of more modern erection than the cathedral; otherwise it exactly resembles it both in the exterior and interior. It is now out of repair and out of use.
Upon an eminence to the north, are the ruins of a fort constructed by the Princess Amilachvorof, above two thousand years ago, and part of the walls remain entire to a considerable height. Thence yon have a superb view over the long and fruitful valley of the Aragua, which extends for thirty versts, interspersed with towers and hamlets. There is scarcely any old castle that has not its tale of murder, is not haunted by a ghost; but the story goes here, that this fort was for a long time inhabited by a princess of strong passions who used to entice young travellers to her castle, and afterwards have them thrown from the top of one of it towers into the river, hoping by these means to conceal her crimes and shame. [Lettres sur le Caucase, &c. p. 109.]
We were now within a station of Tiflís, and could scarcely believe we had crossed the Caucasus, having had the most erroneous ideas as to the immense difficulties which were to be encountered. [Note: I had no time for making any mineralogical or geological remarks, worth publishing, with respect to the Caucasus. The following extracts, however, may be interesting to some readers. According to Engelhardt and Parrot, between Kóbi and Abana, on the right bank of the Térek, the rocks consist of compact, greyish-black, slaty limestone; from Abana to Stepan Sminda, of porphyry and clay slate; and from thence to Dariél, variously-alternating beds of greenstone, hornblend-slate, black compact trapp, gneiss, and granitic sienite occur. About Lars, clay slate, with green-stone, is found; and, lower down, from Kaitukina to the foot of the mountain, compact, grey, brown, and black limestone. — Reise in die Krym und den Kaukass, 1812.]
Madame Freyganch has given quite a romantic and terrific description of the road, —its inconveniences and its dangers; and she is equalled, if not surpassed, by Sir R. Porter. In the works of these authors the words danger, peril, chasm, abyss, precipice, robbers, banditti, tremendous, terrible, and such like continually appal us, yet our journey was remarkably pleasant. Except in a few places, the road was very good, and we scarcely ever had to alight from our horses: indeed, in most places, we could either trot or gallop. The disagreeables are already detailed, and are but what travellers should expect, until Russia has her public money better expended by those who are entrusted with the care of the roads, and the accommodations for strangers.
Colonel Johnson's statement is very correct: "Notwithstanding," says he, "the appalling anticipations that we had been led to form of the Caucasus, we found very little difficulty in passing those mountains. The roads are in general very good, and practicable even for wheel carriages throughout. There is only one range of mountains to traverse, and the passage is by no means so arduous as that of almost all the ghauts in India, the declivities being nothing near so steep. The accounts given to us, had foretold not only difficulties but perils. If a traveller, from inability to ride on horseback, wishes to use a travelling carriage throughout the whole way, he ought to take with him a Russian subaltern officer to assist him, and especially to provide an escort of soldiers to help the carriage through the most difficult places. At some of these he must expect to walk perhaps five hundred yards at a time; here the difficulties are greatest, and the tremendous precipices adjoining are likely to alarm a person unused to contemplate them, but they do not frequently occur. On the whole, the facilities afforded by the Russian commandants are so great, and the expenses of travelling so moderate, that to traverse the Caucasus ought not now to be regarded as a formidable undertaking. On the contrary, the stupendous grandeur of scenery, the beauty and variety of landscapes, the novelty of manners, costume, and habits of the people, observable on this route, combine to charm the attention of the traveller, and to render him almost unconscious of fatigue." [A Journey from India to England, through Persia, Georgia, Russia, Poland, and Prussia, in the year 1817. By Lieut.- Col Johnson, C.B., London, 1818, p. 264.]
The traveller, however, must not be thrown altogether off his guard. Many travellers have spoken of the Ossetinians, who reside near the environs of Vladikavkaz, lying in wait for passengers, whom they carry off and detain as prisoners, until they obtain a ransome for them from the Russians. This horrid practice of extorting money has subsisted among this people for upwards of forty years, and they pursue it so constantly that scarcely three months pass in which some passenger of note is not waylaid and captured by them. " The most dangerous spots are passes up narrow chasms, leading to the mountains, which are so difficult of access, that in order to pursue and overtake these freebooters, it would require large bodies of light troops, expressly trained for this service." t But it must be allowed that the savage mountaineers, accustomed from their youth to the ascent and descent of difficult defiles, and clambering among the rocks, and having a perfect knowledge of all the mountain passes and fastnesses, will long be able to elude their pursuers, and to make sure their retreat.
The most formidable drawbacks on the pleasure
of passing through the Porta Caucasia arise from
causes against which the traveller can provide no
safeguard. I allude to overwhelming avalanches,
and the downfall of immense masses of precipitous
mountains, that often follow the thaw which takes
place in the superior regions of the mountains during
the heat of summer. Such avalanches, and such
masses of rock, have become suddenly detached, and
have, in a moment, been launched downwards to the
valley; overthrowing every object which opposed
their progress, filling up ravines, and obstructing
the mountain streams and rivers, so as often to
cause them to change their course. As the reader
will remark by and by, had we passed the defile
of Dariél but two or three weeks later, we might
all have been swallowed up under the ruins, if I
may so speak, of an adjoining mountain, whose
projecting cliffs fell with an awful crash, were
broken into a thousand forms, and dammed up the
CHAP. XII.—ROMAN BRIDGE.—CAVERNS.—SCENERY.—VIEW OF TÍFLIS.—ARRIVAL AT TIFLÍS.—LODGINGS.—GENERAL YERMÓLOF.—GENERAL VILYEMÍNOF.—MR.GRABÁRITCH.—HISTORY OF TIFLIS.—DERIVATION OF ITS NAME.—SITUATION.—POPULATION.—DIVISIONS.—APPEARANCE OF TIFLIS.—ITS STREETS.—ITS HOUSES.—BOORDOOKS OF WINE.—CURRENT MONEY.—THE BAZARS.—CARAVANSERAIS.—GENERAL YERMOLOF'S HOUSE.—THE ARSENAL.—THE PUBLIC GARDENS.—THE DEPOT DES CARTES.—NEW SQUARE ANECDOTE.—THE CASTLE.—THE SUBURB AVLABARI.—ITS OLD FORTRESS.—THE CROWN-BATHS.——CHAMPOOING.—LUXURY OF THE BATHS.— TEMPERATURE OF THE SPRINGS.—THEIR GENERAL NATURE.— MINERALOGICAL REMARKS.—SINGULAR DIVERSION.—CORRUPTION OF MORALS.—AN ALBINOS.
AFTER RIDING A COUPLE OF VERSTS BEYOND MSKET, we reached a bridge across the Koor, which is flanked by two square gently tapering towers on bold picturesque rocks. Pompey is said to have built this bridge for the passage of his army, and the towers for its defence; but the author of Lettres sur le Caucase, &c. conjectures that they were erected by the Prince Gedevanof, who had possession of this neighbourhood before the arrival of Pompey. It is therefore clear that both had their origin in remote antiquity. The bases of the arches alone remain of their ancient structure.
This bridge and towers, with the surrounding scenery, struck us as being extremely picturesque; and, on that account, I have given a view of them in the vignette on the opposite page, so as to enable the reader to judge for himself, as authors have pronounced very various opinions upon this point.
"It is a strange disease of the human mind," says Kotzebue, "only to admire a thing in proportion as it has a remote origin. I will venture to assert, that without the magic of the great name of Pompey, we should have passed the bridge without having given it the least attention; we examined it, however, as one of the wonders of the world. This stone, says one, presents all the vestiges of a high antiquity j these arches, says another, are at the same time light and strong; they do not now work in this manner, cries a third. One of our companions considéra avec ravissement deux tourelles, dont le sommet ressemble beaucoup à nos fromages pointus de l'Esthonie, et il s'extasia sur leur élégance. In a word, every one sought in this monument a subject of interest and admiration. As for me, if it be necessary to say it, what I found most marvellous was a Russian grenadier on guard upon the bridge of the Great Pompey. It is true, that if Pompey should return to the world, this circumstance would strike him most." I think Mr. Kotzebue, by the former part of his own opinion shows very bad taste; but, with the latter, I perfectly coincide. I believe both Pompey, and his officers, and his army, would cry, in the language of surprise and contempt —What, Scythians in the warm climate of Asia! return to the barbarous regions of the north ! the Caucasus is your natural barrier !
After crossing the bridge, the road returns along the opposite bank of the Koor, making, on the whole, a détour of about four versts to pass this river. We were astonished to find numerous caverns like those in many parts of the Krimea, hewn out of the solid rock, and some of them at a considerable height in its perpendicular face. They served as a place of retreat to the inhabitants of Msket, when they were attacked by their enemies.
Our route led along the banks of the Koor for a short distance, and then a plain opened before us, with Tiflís at its extremity. We now emerged from among the mountains, and bade adieu to charming valleys, wooded hills, and green pastures, I had almost said to vegetation. The transition from delightful to dreary scenes, is so sudden as to produce painful emotions. On both sides the view was now bounded by naked sterile hills at some distance. The grass was burned up, and the plain had a gloomy appearance, which gradually increased as we approached Tiflís. The corn was already reaped, and the fields only presented stubble. We saw this town at that time, to great disadvantage. Before the wet season has withered every blade of grass, or after the country has recovered its effects, it must have a more inviting appearance. Still, however, I am certain that I should never have agreed with the fair author of "Lettres sur le Caucase, &c." that where the plain gradually contracts into a narrow valley, at the extremity of which is Tiflís, "the scene is beautiful, particularly when viewing the town, with its numerous towers and churches, of every colour, glittering in the sun."
We crossed a small stream, by a stone bridge, and soon reached the barrier of the town, upon the top of a hill, where we left our order for posthorses, which also served as a kind of passport. A little farther on we gave in our certificate of health from the captain of Anannoor, to the chief of the quarantine of Tiflís. We now passed into the town, but had much difficulty in finding lodgings. An Englishman made himself known to us, and conducted us to an inn kept by a German, who gives good dinners, but has no apartments for travellers. During our repast, two rooms were found at an Armenian's of the name of Piránof.
On the following morning, the commandant called upon us to offer a lodging, which we readily accepted; but we afterwards regretted having done so. We got excellent rooms in the house of a Russian major, where we were most unwelcome intruders, and where we suffered great inconvenience from the difficulty of procuring the commonest article of necessity. One can scarcely be surprised at their not having shown greater eagerness to serve us. What would an English major think of having four foreigners, of whom he knew nothing, sent to lodge at his house, for as many days as they chose, perhaps without any warning, except his general's compliments?
When we were at Georgievsk, we were informed that General Yermólof, commander-in-chief of the forces in Georgia, was gone into the mountains to superintend the erection of some fortresses along their base, so as more effectually to restrain the ferocious tribes of the Caucasus: and we had despatched our letters to him by post, mentioning the time we should arrive at Tiflís. One of the aides-de-camp of General Vilyemínof, the second in command, waited upon us with a very polite letter from General Yermólof] in which, among other things, was his advice, as to the part of Georgia, we should visit during our stay. General Vilyemínof, at the same time, invited us to dinner, through his aide-de-camp, at the early hour of one o'clock, which we found to be the usual dinner-hour of polite society, all of whom take & siesta after their nearly mid-day repast. We dined with a number of officers, and drank some excellent Georgian wine. The general was remarkably hospitable, both on this occasion and during our stay in Tiflís. We employed the afternoon in making visits, walking in the public gardens, examining the baths, &c. and in the evening, the commandant conducted us to his house to supper, and was extremely civil. We found Mr. Grabáritch (for that was his name) a very singular man. He is a Hungarian by birth, but, having been long in the service of Russia, he spoke the language of that country pretty well. He is one of the most restless persons I ever saw; standing or sitting, his body and limbs were continually changing their position. He speaks a little French, German, Latin, and Italian jargon. He plays on the flute, the flageolet, the guitar, and the piano-forte; but on none of them well. He pretends to have discovered three notes lower than the usual vocal scale; but they more resembled the low, hoarse, grunts of a pig, than the sounds of the human voice. His playing and singing partook of the restlessness of his corporeal system: he began many tunes, and finished none; and all his instruments, as well as his voice, were in requisition within the space of a few minutes.
The present political situation of Tiflís adds a degree of interest to the account of this town, which it did not formerly possess. Some pretend to have traced its foundation to the year 469, and attribute it to Vachtang, a powerful and victorious sovereign, who at that epoch vanquished all the countries between the Euxine and the Caspian Seas. It was considerably augmented and embellished after his reign, and became one of the most remarkable towns of the north of Asia. The Tsar David, as hereafter mentioned, wished to render it an abode for the sciences; but it does not appear that either his efforts, or those of any of his successors, were very fortunate. Chardin gives an interesting account of Tiflís, accompanied with a general view, which conveys an excellent idea of the place as it was 150 years ago. It was then a town of considerable size, but of no very imposing appearance. In the time of the Tsar Heraclius, Tiflís contained 4,000 houses, and 20,000 inhabitants. [Letters from the Caucasus, p. 133.]
Tiflís is now the capital of the Russian government or province of Georgia, and was formerly the capital of the kingdom of the same name, and the residence of the kings of Kartalínia. It is situated in a narrow valley upon the Koor, and between the right bank of the river and an elevated mountain, which, as it were, overhangs it, and upon which the citadel is placed. Its true name is said to be Tphilissi, or Tphilis-kalaki, i.e. warm town; an appellation which it received on account of its warm springs. Its geographical position has been variously stated. According to Brookes's Gazetteer, it lies under 44° 56' E. Long, and 41° 40' N. Lat.; but agreeably to an observation of Capt. Monteith, its real latitude is 41° 43'. It is distant 2627 versts, or about 17^1 miles, from Petersburgh, and 1900, or 1,267 miles, from Moscow.
The town of Tiflís in 1812 was said to be only the shade of Tiflís, as described by Chardin in 1673. Scarcely was a third of it rebuilt, after its destruction by Aga-Mahommed in 1795. Its inhabitants are Georgians, Armenians, Mingrelians, Persians, Tartars, Lesghees, &c. According to Klaproth, in 1812, the population, independently of the Russian employés and the garrison, amounted to 18,000; one half of whom were Armenians. By the accounts of others, if we include the persons employed by the Russian government, and the garrison, the total population ofTiflís may be estimated at about 20,000 souls. In 1822, it was roundly stated at 30,000, exclusive of the military; but though this statement was obtained from high authority, I regard it as an exaggeration. Every individual in the service knowing General Yermólof's favourite scheme of restoring Tiflís to its flourishing state, of rendering it an European town in its appearance, and of encouraging its commerce, seems inclined to overrate its prosperity. If its population amount to 20,000 souls, besides the military, as a more candid individual said, it is, most probably, the utmost extent.
Klaproth received the following account from the police of Tiflís: There were in this town, in 1812, 1 Georgian patriarch (Katholikos); 1 Georgian metropolitan; 55 Georgian priests; 1 Greek archirei; 3 Greek archimandrites; 1 Armenian archbishop; 73 Armenian priests; 8 Armenian archireis; 4 Catholic priests (peres); 1 Tartar effendi; 160 Georgian princes; 216 gentlemen; 1983 burgesses; 251 peasants; 426 slaves, servants of gentlemen; and 3684 maisons particulières. No doubt, three fourths of the latter were no more than very mean huts.
Tiflís is surrounded by a wall of a triangular form, and has six gates (or rather the names of former gates) which are still used. It is divided into three parts: 1st, Tiflís, properly so called, or the ancient town, in which are the warm baths, very small, and on the east of the Koor; 2d, Kala, or the fortress, situated to the north of the preceding, on the west of that river, and which is more populous; and 3d, the suburb Isni, or Avlabari, which is separated from the other divisions by the Koor, but is connected with them by the only bridge across this river in the city. Not very long ago, there were at Tiflís nearly twenty churches of the Greek religion; fifteen Armenian churches; and one church of the Roman Catholic faith, administered by Italian capuchins. The Persians have also a mosque.
The Cathedral is very ancient, of fine architecture, and of considerable size. It is called the church of Zion, and was repaired by orders of Prince Tchitzianof, who commanded the Russian army in Georgia for a number of years. Some of the other churches resemble those at Ananoor and Msket.
I agree with Sir R. K. Porter, that Tiflís will give us very incorrect ideas of Asiatic grandeur. This author well remarks, "That the town itself stands at the foot of a line of dark and barren hills, whose high and caverned sides gloomily overshadow it. Every house, every building within its walls, seems to share the dismal hue of the surrounding heights; for a deep blackness rests on all. The hoary battlements above, and the still majestic towers of the ancient citadel; the spires of Christian churches, and other marks of European residents; even their testimonies of past grandeur, and present consequence; and, what is more, present Christian brotherhood; could not, for some time, erase the horrible dungeon impression of Asiatic dirt and barbarism, received at first view of the town."
We entered Tiflís at the worst season of the year, and experienced very disagreeable sensations, and considerable disappointment. A miserable gloomy town, by the side of a muddy river, surrounded by bleak sterile hills and parched corn fields, in sultry weather, and only enlivened by a few exotic green trees, was not likely to produce any but melancholy impressions, and the desire of a short residence. The climate, though often fine, is unhealthy; and the heat so insupportable, that the inhabitants are glad to withdraw themselves to the hills at twenty or thirty versts' distance. During our abode at Tiflís the temperature never exceeded 91° F.; but the air was indescribably sultry. At times, however, the thermometer, in the shade, rises to 38° R. = 118°F.
The streets, or rather I should say, the lanes of Tiflís, are, for the most part, very narrow, and irregular beyond description. Except in those places which have been rebuilt in the European style, there is not one which is straight. The houses, as well as their enclosing walls, are built of broad flat bricks, often mixed with common stones, or forming alternate layers with them, and bound together with mud mixed with a little lime. Except in the best houses, there are no glazed windows. Common paper and oiled paper are here used as a substitute for glass, which is excessively dear, because there are no glass manufactories in Georgia. The doors opening into the courts, often answer the purpose of windows. The greatest part of the town is excessively nasty. The Koor is dirty, and often offensive; the public markets are dirty; many of the baths are filthy; and, in fact, in spite of all the Russian improvements, Tiflís seemed one of the meanest and most disagreeable towns I ever saw; but an excessively busy place.
In passing through the streets of Tiflís, the apparently stuffed skins of buffaloes, hogs, and goats, standing upon stumps, surprised us, and we were amused at seeing the fine wine of Kachétia drawn off from such receptacles. The natives keep the wine in enormous earthen jars, under the earth, in this district; but for its transport these skins are employed. Their hairy sides are covered with a coating of naphtha, and then turned inside out. This communicates a disagreeable flavour and taste to the wine, to which the Georgians are accustomed, but which is highly disagreeable to strangers. These prepared skins are called boordooks. Barrels are not used at all, and few bottles: the latter cost six or eight times the price of the wine. General Hofen told us he had often thought of establishing a bottle manufactory near Tiflís, but that they could not find good sand for the purpose. Wine is sold here by the tunga, a measure of about seven good-sized bottles. A tunga of common wine of Kachétia, is sold at sixty or eighty kopeeks, and the best sorts at 100 or 120 kopeeks; i.e. about seven bottles are sold at from 6d. to 1s., or for a penny, and twopence, per bottle. It is not therefore surprising that the people as regularly drink wine as the English do porter. I mention the prices in kopeeks as being better known than the abazes of the country, four of which are about equal to a silver rouble. At our visit gold and silver, especially ducats, formed the chief circulating medium. The native coins have the Persian names of double abazes, abazes, and half abazes. [Some write these Persian words abassees, &c.]
Russian copper money, and silver and paper, were also plentiful at Tiflís. The paper money was exchanged with a premium of eight, and even nine roubles, upon the hundred; so that it is higher than at Moscow, where I never knew it exceed eight roubles.
The Bazárs, though of late much improved, yet have no imposing appearance. The shops are arranged along a covered alley, which is a complete thoroughfare. Some of them are very dark, and all of them gloomy, but they are enlivened by the bustle and noise of crowds of people. The same kind of shops are mostly found together, as grocers, cap-makers, taylors, ironmongers, armourers, silversmiths, &c. In the fruit shops we found abundance of apricots, cherries, and mulberries of inferior quality, and different kinds of salad. The season was yet too early for the fine fruit of the climate; and during our stay at Tiflís we never saw any upon the tables of the nobility. Every kind of merchandise and provisions is to be found here, as well the production of the country, as of Persia and Russia. We saw carpets, silks, shawls, and other articles, in the shops, which are not sold cheap in comparison with the prices in Russia. Immense quantities of Russian and German prints, handkerchiefs, besides cotton cloth, &c. of Russian manufacture, were everywhere exposed for sale.
We had expected to have found the Caravanserais much more imposing edifices, and better supplied with merchandise from eastern countries, than was the case. There are two of them at Tiflís, the one for the Turks, and the other for the Persians. They are square buildings, not unlike some prisons. They surround squares, with a double row of piazzas, one above the other, and are divided into numerous small unfurnished apartments, in which these foreigners pile up their merchandise, and reside. In the day they sit cross-legged upon the floor, smoking their pipes, or assembled in small parties for the same purpose, till a visitor enters. In the night they make their beds upon wadded covers, and thus they pass their time till they have finished their affairs, when they begin a new journey.
Two large ranges of new shops, or Caravanserais, have been lately erected near Yermólof's palace. Few of them were occupied, and, indeed, they were not all finished, in 1822. We were rather surprised at finding an Englishman, who had just commenced business in one of them. But where can we go without meeting with our countrymen? This part of the town assumes an European aspect, but it still includes hundreds of Asiatic hovels, like terraces, in the sides of the hills, which being extremely low, flat-roofed, and mean, they are in many places scarcely visible until we are close upon them.
About the middle of Tiflís another irregular square is formed by the civil governor's house, the police-office which was erected in 1820, the Pravléniyé or the administration, and other edifices, which belong to the crown.
The part of the town, which is far the best, is near General Yermólofs house, a structure which, though inferior to many private edifices in Petersburgh and Moscow, both in size and in style, yet is thought extraordinary at Tiflís. Adjoining to it is the Arsenal, and opposite it the Corps de Guard. On one side is the public garden, which is of considerable size, and pretty well laid out. It contains a grotto, tea-rooms, and shaded walks and avenues, chiefly formed by vines. A pond, with jets d'eau, runs along its top, and the views from hence are extensive, and, in spring, are said to be pleasant. Behind it the hills rise rapidly, and are scattered with numerous churches.
The Dépôt de Cartes is near it, and is under the care of Colonel Kotzebue, son of Kotzebue the famous dramatic writer, and author of "Voyage en Perse" who accompanied us to see it. It contained but few maps, and not one of the whole Russian empire. Here they are now preparing an immense map of Georgia, which is to extend to forty or forty-eight sheets, part of which we saw. It will be a work of several years' labour.
Opposite to General Yermólofs palace, but much nearer the river, there is a square of new edifices, in one of which we lodged. Here General Modatof, a Georgian prince in the Russian service, and a number of officers, have erected houses. According to Kotzebue this square was formerly a cemetery, and no great ceremony seems to have been observed in removing the tombs of the dead, so dear even to the most savage nations. But despotic power pays little regard to such ancient prejudices. These are Kotzebue's words:—
"There existed, in the centre of the town, an ancient cemetery, much revered on account of its monuments of the dead; but it occupied too much space and was surrounded by the most filthy and most disgusting streets. General Yermólof caused the enclosing walls to be pulled down, and the earth to be levelled, after having given the sepulchral stones to the families to whom they belonged. The surrounding houses were ornamented with fine façades." [Voyage en Perse, p. 48.]
Tiflís is much indebted to General Yermólof for his improvements. He wishes it to become the grand entrepôt between the southern and eastern countries of the world and Russia, and is extremely desirous that it should be made a great commercial town On these accounts, the ranges of shops, already noticed, were built, and the bazars repaired. The soldiers, aware of General Yermólof's desire, in passing through the streets and lanes, each pulls out a brick or two from the walls of the old houses, so as to accelerate their fall. This practice demonstrates, 1st, that the dwellings of the Georgians are not very firmly built; and, 2dly, that the wish is most ardent to replace the present by modern buildings.
There is an hospital, and a botanic garden, upon the Koor, about two miles below Tiflís; but, as we did not visit them, I cannot give any account of their present state.
The Castle, or Citadel, was built by the Turks, in 1576, when they became masters of Tiflís and of the surrounding country, after many victories gained under the command of the famous Mustapha Pacha, generalissimo of the troops of Soliman. Its situation is on a high and insulated hill, and its strong walls and towers must have rendered it a place of great strength. It is now in ruins; the ascent to which is very difficult. We were stopped, when half way up, by a sentinel, whose objections to our proceeding farther were overcome by a trifle for vodtki. From the castle is obtained an excellent bird's-eye view of Tiflís and its vicinity. The flat-roofed houses, in some places, arranged along the declivity of the rock, exactly resemble the steps of an immense stair, which might serve for some of the giants of fable. Their roofs were covered with people working, loitering, or amusing themselves.
In order to make a visit to the suburb of Avlabari, we crossed the Koor by a wooden bridge, at the side of which is the only mosque now in the town. It is intended soon to replace this bridge by one of stone. After passing it, a rude representation of the Holy Supper, cut out of the solid rock, and in an alcove ornamented with pillars, attracted notice. Great reverence is paid to this rude workmanship, the origin of which I could not learn. Ascending the hill, we reached an old fortress, which stands upon a bold rock; it was undergoing a thorough repair, preparatory to its becoming the chief prison of Georgia. We were told that it is the design of General Yermólof to make Tiflís a completely European town, and to allow this suburb only to retain its Asiatic character. In the meantime it exhibits nothing but meanness and wretchedness.
We afterwards made a visit to the Crown-Baths. On entering the hall we remarked a large room on the left, in which the Georgians were playing at billiards. We were shown into a similar apartment on the right, with an alcove on one side, and a curtain drawn in front of it, between two columns. In the alcove we found some chairs and a low table, or rather bench, covered with a linen sheet, where the natives undress and deposit their clothes. Having desired the attendants to treat us, in every respect, as they did the Georgians, they took off our clothes, and, after fastening a linen girdle upon each of us, they led us to the bath-rooms, which are large and vaulted. In the centre of their arched roofs are apertures for the admission of air. The baths are of an oblong square form, and from 5 to 5½ feet in depth. They are cut out of the rock, and are filled by means of pipes fixed above them, and through which the warm sulphurated fountains continually flow. Each bath is provided with two large boards, raised about four inches from the floor, so as to accommodate two persons at the same time. I was desired to descend into the bath by means of a stair, which being done, I was led out, and laid upon one of the boards mentioned, while my head rested upon a little wooden pillow. The attendant having filled a bucket with water from the bath, and having put on his right hand a glove without fingers and made of goat's hair, washed and scrubbed over the whole body. This process lasted about a quarter of an hour. A number of tubfuls of warm water were then dashed over me. He next took a bag, which was filled with soap-suds, and emptied it on different parts of the body, while he continued a gentle friction with one hand; a second operation, which did not terminate in less than twenty minutes. The ablutions with warm water being again repeated, he made signs for me to enter the bath, and to remain as long as I chose. As in Persia, Turkey, Egypt, and India, the attendants employ pressing, squeezing, and kneading, as it were, the surface of the body; an operation well known under the appellation champooing. Another part of the operation consists in cracking all the joints, and then standing on, and even walking over, the body; but to neither of these did I submit. One of our party had his joints cracked; but to the walking operation, he also demurred.
Such a luxurious bath I never before enjoyed; and now I can easily conceive how the natives of this country should remain in it hours, nay, whole days. "The Georgians of rank," says Madame Freyganch, "particularly the ladies, devote a whole day in every week to the baths; and not unfrequently pass a night in them. Reclining in luxurious ease upon the couches, they dye their hair and nails; and the old ladies have hair as black as ebony, from constantly staining it. Here also they paint their faces red and white; torturing themselves to make the eye-brows join, which is absolutely essential in a Georgian beauty. The day thus employed is with them one of the greatest importance, although attended with pain, as well as pleasure. After going through the ceremonies of these caverns, an hour's repose and a plate of fruit are very acceptable, even to Europeans; and, although the situation of these baths is not very inviting, I have contracted a taste for them, at the risk of being looked upon as a Georgian." [Letters from the Caucasus, p. 119.] The crown-baths, which, as I have said, are well arranged, were not in existence when the above was written.
Besides the crown-baths, there are other six baths in the same neighbourhood; four for males, and two for females. One of the female baths was in the most filthy condition. Innumerable naked women were busy washing clothes in it; while others were reposing in the empty baths, and allowing the water from the fountains to run over their bodies. But, for a more particular description of such scenes, I recommend the reader to peruse Sir R. K. Porter's account of the "Georgian Venuses" in the baths of Tiflís.
Of all the warm springs at the baths, I found the temperature to vary from 100° to 112° Fah.; indeed, the only one which reached 112° was in the crown-baths. Other writers speak of having found springs, both of a lower and of a considerably higher temperature, than I have stated; and it seems very probable, that the temperature may vary, at different times, from changes in the interior of the mountains, of which we know nothing beyond conjecture. The author of "Letters from the Caucasus" speaks of baths at 50° of R., equal to 144° F.; but I think she must be mistaken, unless they were warmed artificially.
The distinguishing characters of all the baths at Tiflís is their strong impregnation with sulphuretted hydrogen gas, and their possessing a temperature from 100° to 112° Farenheit.
The Crown-Baths are situated in a plain edifice, and are kept in good order. They yield an annual revenue of 5000 silver roubles, nearly equal to 20,000 paper roubles of the present day, or 883l. 6s. 8d. sterling: no small sum in Georgia.
The inhabitants enjoy the crown-baths, by paying about 6d. or upwards; and the common baths do not cost more than 3d. or 4d.
Besides the baths, the chief pleasure the Georgians allow their wives, is to take the air, on Sundays and festivals, upon the tops of their houses, where they sometimes dance to the sound of the tambarine. But Kotzebue informs us, that they were also permitted to be spectators of a very singular species of diversion at Tiflís. At certain solemn festivals, the whole population left this town, and divided themselves into two bands of warriors, who made a kind of mock fight. Both sides demonstrated an incredible obstinacy, until one of the parties was obliged to abandon its position. They threw volleys of stones, then beat each other with sticks, or with wooden sabres. The little children, even, were employed in throwing stones by the opposing parties. Many persons were bruised and and lamed, and some even lost their lives. It was made a point of honour not to complain of accidents; and even mothers were witnesses of their sons' misfortunes with the resignation of Spartan women. This kind of general battle was called Tamascha, and princes took a share in it; but its continuation was prohibited by General Yermólof.
The Russian soldiers have been much blamed for corrupting the morals of the Georgian females, especially those of the lower ranks. They seem also to have made them, at times, the sport of their amusement. " When a female," says Kotzebue, " meets one or more Russians in the streets, and the passage is too narrow to admit her changing her direction, she turns her face toward the wall, until these formidable men have passed. The young officers sometimes amuse themselves in mocking this custom dictated by shame: they arrange themselves before the wall, and cover their faces with a white handkerchief, et font, avec la pauvre femme, assaut de modestie, jusqu'à ce que d'un côté ou de l'autre on se lasse, soit de la rigeur de la coûtume, soit de plaisanterie, et l'on finit par se souhaiter, de part et d'autre, un bon voyage". [Voyage en Perse par Maurice de Kotzebue, p. 45.]
Among the objects of curiosity at Tiflís, the
commandant one day ordered an Albinos to be
brought to our quarters. He was a boy about thirteen
years of age, the son of a Mingrelian, who is
a Colonel in the Russian service. He had yellowish-white
hair. His features were pleasant, and his complexion
was fair. I remarked a white line round the
pupils of his eyes, which were very small, and altogether
insensible to different degrees of light. The
whole iris was of a purplish colour, and this was peculiarly
remarkable after causing the boy to shut his
eyelids, with his face to the wall, and turning him
suddenly round to the light. He enjoyed good
health, and was intelligent.
CHAPTER XIII.—FOUNDATION OF TIFLÍS UNCERTAIN.—ITS CONNECTION WITH GEORGIA.—HISTORY OF GEORGIA.—ITS CONNECTIONS WITH RUSSIA.—CHURCHES IN GEORGIA.—TOLERATION.—PRODUCTIONS.—TOWNS.—POPULATION.—REVENUE.—ADMINISTRATION.—MEDICAL UPRAVA.—CHARACTER AND CONDITION OF THE GEORGIANS.—BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION.—UNCERTAINTY OF PROPERTY.—ATTACKS OF THE LESGHEES.—PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS.—DEPARTURE.—RUSSIANS MUSHROOM-EATERS.—ROAD TO MUCHROVÁN.—DESCRIPTION OF MUCHROVÁN.—THE YÓRA.—RUINS OF A CONVENT.—GAMBÓRA.—HILL OF GAMBORA.—DESCRIPTION OF TELÁV.—DEPARTURE.—THE ALASÁN.—YENISÉLI.—GEORGIAN DINNER.—WINE OF KACHÉTIA.—PRINCE GEORGIÁDTSOF.—RUSSIAN CAMP.—KVARÉLLI.
AS ALREADY ALLUDED TO, some have pretended to have traced the foundation of Tiflís up to the year 469, and ascribe it to Vachtang, in those days a sovereign of some consequence, who, by force of arms and repeated victories, acquired dominion over the mountainous regions and the unbounded plains which stretch between the Black and the Caspian Seas. But, with respect to these early periods of history, we have yet much to learn; and, for 500 years after the assumed foundation of Tiflís in 469, we are presented with a blank or chasm, which is not likely to be filled up. I shall now take notice of Tiflís as connected with Georgia, and as having been the capital of her tsars in periods of greater glory than she can now pretend to, or think of recovering.
The tsar David, surnamed the Restorer, who reigned from the year 1089 to 1130, endeavoured to make the sciences flourish within the walls of Tiflís. He sent twelve young men, of good families, to study at Athens, who returned to their country, and brought with them useful knowledge, and Greek manuscripts, which they translated into their own language. The most laborious and the most learned of their writers was Petrucius, surnamed the Philosopher. Knowledge very soon spread through this country, hitherto barbarous; and the reign of the Princess Tamar improved those happy dawnings. Many schools were formed, and the number of good books was augmented. The protection which that princess granted to seminaries, and the brilliant acts of her reign, have acquired, with justice to her memory, the title of great. Soon after her death, the famous Tchingis Khan ravaged this unfortunate country. In vain some Georgians endeavoured to preserve the knowledge of science and literature in some isolated convents and strong holds among the mountains, where the manuscripts were concealed; but, continual wars, civil discord, the yoke of the Mussulmans, whose possessions on all sides surrounded those of Georgia, scarcely left her any communication with Greece, whose tottering throne soon afterwards fell. All these causes replunged Georgia into a state of barbarism, perhaps worse than that from which she had begun to emerge. During their subjection to Persia, the Georgians, especially those of Tiflís, applied themselves to the literature of their conquerors ; but the few amateurs of national literature were confined to monasteries, and only began to flourish under the reign of Heraclius, in consequence of the protection which this sovereign, as well as Antonius, the first Catholikos, gave to letters, which they themselves also cultivated. Heraclius founded an office for printing in Georgian characters at Tiflís, an establishment which was increased by the care of Gaius, archbishop of Pénza, who made a present to the nation of a printing-office which he had at Mozdók.
I must refer the reader to consult other sources for the minutiae of the history of Georgia. It cannot be irrelevant to our present subject, however, to give a rapid general sketch of this country, particularly of its connection with Russia. In the execution of this design I have profited by Madame Freyganch's labours.
Every nation is ambitious of carrying its genealogy as high as possible. The Georgians pretend to trace theirs to Noah, who, they say, gave this country to his son Shem. It is from Farsis, and after him from Targamos, that the Armenians, Lesghees, Colchians, Mingrelians, and the natives of the Caucasus, derive their origin. In course of time, the Persians seized on Georgia, and kept it, until Alexander the Great, obtaining possession of it by his conquest of Persia, gave the government to Ason. This man was, after the death of Alexander, killed by Pharnabazus, a relation of Darius, who made himself master of Georgia, and became its first king, about 300 years before the Christian æra. From this epoch, they enumerate ninety sovereigns, whose succession extends to our time: among these are Assyrian, Armenian, and Persian princes. The throne of Georgia has been occupied by females also; of whom Tamar, who reigned from 1171 to 1198, has rendered herself famous by victories over the Turks and Persians. She married Bogholyúbskii, a Russian prince, and was succeeded by Rus-Oudan, her daughter, who reigned at the time when Tchingis Khan overran Georgia, which he did upon three different occasions. Afterwards the famous tsar Tamerlane made dreadful havoc in his endeavours to introduce Mahometinism. What, however, proved most prejudicial, was the partition of the country, which many of its sovereigns had the imprudence to make. By it they facilitated the attempts of the Persians and Turks, who continually encroached, making this the theatre of their wars. Alexander I. divided it in 1421 into three principalities, namely, Kartalínia, Kachétia, and Imerétia, with which he endowed his three sons. These provinces fell under the power of numerous princes, whose origin is referred, like that of all the Georgian chiefs, to the three sons of the tsar Alexander.
The fate of Georgia was at length decided by the war of Amurat the third, the Turkish Sultan, against the Persian Schahs, Mahomet Khodabende, Ismael the Third, and Abbas the Great, the rival powers dividing it between them. Mingrélia, Gouriél and Imerétia, submitted to the Turkish yoke; the remainder, comprising Kachétia, Somhétia, and Gárdaban, fell into the hands of the Persians. This division took place in 1576, under the reign of the first Simon, tsar of Kartalínia. In order to establish a barrier between their possessions and those of Persia, the Turks invited the Tartars, who inhabit the mountains, and profess the same creed with them, to enter Georgia and lay it waste on the side of Persia. These depredations, which harassed the whole country, determined the tsar Alexander II. to implore assistance from Phéodor lvanovitch, tsar of Moscovy, to whom an ambassador was sent for this purpose in 1586, beseeching him, for the defence of Georgia, to build a Russian town upon the Térek. This treaty placed Georgia under the protection of the Russians, who communicated thereupon with the Schah Abbas. That prince, being at war with Turkey, feared to irritate the tsar, and came into his views. A few years later, George, tsar of Kartalínia, threw himself upon the protection of Russia, where Boris Phedorovítch Godúnof now reigned. From this time Georgia had the support of Russia, which has often saved her from ruin. It should be observed, that when, in I678, she again solicited protection, it was specified, in the treaty as delivered to the tsarévitch Nicolas, that she placed herself under the dependance of Russia, where many of the Georgian tsarévitches came thereupon to reside. [Letters from the Caucasus and Georgia, p. 119.]
While the Turks and the Persians ravaged Georgia, Peter the Great, either wishing to have a share in the spoil, or to check the progress of the other aggressors, caused his troops to take possession of Derbént and Bakú, which, with the provinces of Ghilan, Mazanderan, and Astrabad, were afterwards ceded to Russia by treaty. Georgia had again no tranquillity until 1729, when Russia concluded a treaty with Persia. Seven years after this, Schah Nadir, named Tamas Kooli Khan, having mounted the throne of Persia, delivered Kartalínia and Kachétia from the Turkish yoke. Russia, on her part, by a treaty in 1732, ceded her possessions between the Térek and the Koor. In 1735, Turkey renouncing all pretensions to Georgia, consented to the occupation of the country by the Persians, after which the Georgians contributed greatly to the success of Nadir Schah.
Taimouras, who became viceroy of Georgia, with his son Heraclius, defended their territories against all their enemies, and even obtained repeated victories over the competitors for the throne of Persia; but, for the sake of increasing their power, they entered into an engagement with the Empress Elizabeth to maintain fidelity to Russia. In consequence of a rupture between Taimouras and Heraclius, in I76O, the latter seized Kartalínia and Kachétia, became very formidable, and, in 1763, fought with the Russians against the Turks. In 1774, peace was concluded between Russia and Turkey; and Kartalínia and Kachétia were declared independent. In 1783, different unsatisfactory reasons were assigned for the cession of both these provinces to Russia. A new war broke out between this power and Turkey; but, at the peace of 1791, the Georgians were declared independent of the Turks. Aga Mahomed Khan, who had ascended the throne of Persia, completed the misfortunes of this people in 1795. By forced marches from Georgia he reached Tiflís, with a numerous army, surprised the tsar Heraclius, who, although above eighty years old, fought like a hero, and did prodigies of valour, but was only able to save himself and his family by flight. Tiflís was ravaged, burned, and almost entirely demolished. All its principal inhabitants, especially the females, were carried into captivity. The Russian army, under Count Zúbof, entered Georgia, and gained several advantages in 1796; but the Empress Catherine II. died, and the singular Paul recalled the troops.
Heraclius died in 1798, in the thirty-second year of his reign, and the 84th of his age. After his death discord was renewed between the different competitors to the throne, which, by right of primogeniture, belonged to George, oldest son of the last sovereign. Omar, khan of the Avares, made an irruption into the country, and no doubt would have taken advantage of the civil war, so as to have conquered it completely, if the Russian army, which also entered it at the same time, had not dispersed its troops, and re-established general tranquillity.
According to the account of the Russians, George Heracliévitch (the son of Heraclius), feeling his end approaching, and foreseeing the inevitable evils which his death would cause in his unfortunate country, submitted himself, with all the princes of his family, the grandees, and the people, to the Emperor Paul I. who caused this kingdom to be taken possession of in 1801, and which was confirmed by a manifest of Alexander in the same year. Kartalínia and Kachétia were divided into five districts: three in Kartalínia, Góri, Lóri, and Dushét; and two in Kachétia, Teláv and Signág.
Georgia Proper, which is called Grúsia by the Russians, and Goorgistan, or Koorchistan, by the Persians, comprehends the province of Kachétia (ancient Albania), of Imeretia (ancient Iberia), and of Kartalínia. Mingrelia (ancient Colchis), and, since 1813, the Khánats of Talíshin and Karabágh also belong to Russian Georgia.
In the part of Georgia now subject to Russia, there are no less than 3000 churches, most of them excessively poor, and many of them in ruins. They are chiefly built in the same style of architecture, which is better illustrated by the vignettes than by descriptions.
Toleration, as in Russia, is extended to all nations and all religious creeds, who have even their own magistrates among the Russians to settle their disputes, but always under the cognizance of the governor- general.
Although the climate of Georgia is fine, and the country is rich, sending forth its productions almost spontaneously; though its rivers abound in fish, and numerous herds of cattle are fed upon its abundant herbage, yet it does not appear to be very flourishing, if we might judge either by its population, or by the small number of paltry towns which are scattered throughout its territories.
We have seen that Tiflís has long ceased to contain above 20,000 inhabitants; and it may be questioned whether any of its other towns, within the last hundred years, ever possessed the fourth or fifth part of that number. The present chief towns, besides Tiflís, are Góri, Ananoor, Teláv, and Signág, &c.
Gori is but a small town; Ananoor is a paltry village, of a few miserable huts, as I have already mentioned; Teláv is a mean town indeed; and Signág contains 100 houses, and only 300 or 400 inhabitants.
In Russian Georgia are reckoned 308,000 inhabitants by one account and, by another, which is more accurate, they are 371,200. [Note: The population of the south of the Russian empire may be estimated thus: Kozáks of the Don, 250,000; Tchernomórskii Kozáks, 14,500; Government of the Caucasus, 122,400, including 25,000 Georgians, Ossetinians, Circassians, &c.; Georgia, 371,200; Mingrelia, 26,000; Imeretia, 80,000; Lesghistán, 20,000; Daghistán, 30,000; Shirván, 25,000; Khánat of Karabágh, 30,000; and that of Talíshin, 30,000.] They have, adopted the manner of life, the costume, and the customs of the Persians, who were their conquerors, and who long held them in subjection. A fourth part of the present population, however, are Armenians.
The revenue of this country is reckoned at 300,000 roubles, which go solely to the support of the administration, and the improvement and renewal of the towns and villages of the country.
Georgia is now under the immediate administration of the military governor-general of "Georgia, Astrachan, and Caucasus." The form of the administration is similar to that of the governments of Russia. It is under the inspection of a superior Georgian administration, fixed in Tiflís, which is divided into four expeditions or departments: 1st, The executive department; 2d, The crown and economical department; 3d, That for criminal affairs; and, 4th, That for civil affairs. Georgian princes and nobles are admitted to the administration as well as Russians. Indeed, some tell us, that the Georgians are governed by their proper laws, and that in their legislation they follow the code of Vachtang, already mentioned. But, at the same time, they inform us, that to the officers of the country, Russians have been joined for the executive department, and that the governor- general has the right to combine the Georgian laws with the Russian penal code, and often to mitigate the sentences. [Note: One Russian author, Vsévolojskii, following his countryman, Stchékatof, tells us, that "L'empereur a permis que les Géorgiens continuassent à se gouverner par leurs propres loix. Ils suivent, pour leur législation, le code de Vakhtang, un des leurs souverains: mais on a joint aux officiers du pays des Russes pour la partie exécutive et le gouverneur-général a le droit de concilier ces loix avec le code pénal Russe, et souvent à mitiger les sentences."—Geographítckeskoyé Slovár Rossiiskako Gosudárstva, vol. vi. p. 212; and Dictionaire Historique-Géographique of Vsévolojskii, vol. i. p. 193. This chevalier, and real Russian, thus employs much circumlocution with the view of making his readers believe that the Georgians have some share in the administration; but, the fact is, that the Russians are not only for "la partie exécutive"—by the way the most important—but they have complete sway in all cases. The Georgian magistrates are mere automata, who afford a cloak to Russian government, or perhaps misrule.]
For the support of the administration in Georgia, were allotted 71,000 roubles, which, I believe, has been augmented to above 100,000 since General Yermolóf became governor of this province of the empire.
At Tiflís there is a medical Uprava, and in the district towns medical men are stationed. [Vide Explanation, p. 360. of Vol. I.] In the same towns are also commandants, police-masters, cashiers, provincial courts, and other necessary magistracies.
The Iberians, ancestors of the present Georgians, have been celebrated for their valour and conquests, and struggled successfully against the Medes and the Persians; and Chardin speaks of them as "mutins, legers, et vaillans." Reineggs relates, "that both the nobles and the peasantry of Georgia are given up to a wretched degree of sloth, appearing to despise all laudable pursuits which require attention or labour; and, amongst others, the cultivation of the earth. But this stubborn indolence is not the natural bias of the Georgian. He is fully aware of his wants, of his miserable poverty, and of the usual means of relieving such a state; but he has no hope in applying to the resources apparently open to his industry. Oppression is at the door to weigh down his efforts, or rapacity at hand to seize the product of his labours. He is under the eye and the hand, and the double yoke, first of his own chiefs, and then of the powers beyond them, till the burthen becomes too heavy to be borne erect, and the man falls prostrate—a wretched useless slave. Thus avarice sets bounds to its own extortion, by damming up the sources whence it flows." It is remarked with great truth by Sir R. K. Porter, that "constant feuds amongst the chiefs themselves, rendered desperate by the total absence of all law or justice; the inroads of the Lesghees, and bloody wars with the Turks and Persians, all combined to drive the great mass of the people into that state of utter despair, which gradually subsides into the sullen contentedness of sloth, ignorance and poverty." This, as is well said by the same author, "must be the universal situation of every country which has been, for any time, under the subjection, or rather misrule, of a ceaseless change of masters; some, absolutely barbarians, and others who have yet to learn the science of government from Christian laws: and this was the situation of Georgia for a sad succession of times." This is all very just, and Sir R. K. Porter takes the opportunity of contrasting the former with the present condition of Georgia under the sway of the autocrat of Russia, in his usual style of complacency toward that great northern power. "But," says he, "about twenty years ago, it (Georgia) was received within the lines of the Russian empire; and the happy effects on the minds of the people, in feeling themselves under a regular government, secure in its natural strength, and dispensing that security to its appendages, are already become very apparent. Every encouragement to industry is held out to them; and none has more persuasion than the laws, which protect men in the possession of the fruits of their labours. The different European governors who have been put at the head of affairs here, since the junction of the province with Russia, have done all in their power to conciliate both nobles and people, by the administration of an equal justice, and a gradual amelioration of all those circumstances which had so long disorganised, and rendered poor, savage, and miserable, all ranks of persons. Being now effectually guarded from the inroads of the Lesghees, or the more overwhelming incursions of Turks and Persians, the higher orders begin to feel again that they hold a station in their country; and to establish the re-awakened sense in their own minds, and in the respect of the people at large. His Imperial Majesty has conferred orders and medals of distinction on many of the native nobility, with titles and commissions of military rank; and, in short, every other excitement to the restoration, or rather civilisation, of the country, that can be offered by a generous sovereign to a brave and confiding people. That they are still brave, when they have any thing beyond mere animal existence to defend, has been made manifest during the last twelve or fourteen years. In the wars of that period, they engaged heart and hand under the banners of Russia; and their chiefs so distinguished themselves, that many rose to the rank of generals; still continuing the brave acts by which their new honours were won. Indeed, it is very evident how much easier their new government finds it to arouse the old spirit of Iberian and Albanian courage in the bosoms of their Georgian descendants, than to inspire them with one for traffic and agriculture." The knight says further, that all will succeed in good time, and that the Armenians set a stimulating example of the ways and means of industry to the Georgians, and show many advantages resulting from their exercise. He also informs us, in his usual complimentary style, that the high reputation as a soldier, which is attached to the character of General Yermólof, and the noble style of his government, not in parade, but in principle, suits well with the naturally independent minds of the people, so long chained to the soil. The marks, he adds, of these evil clays, "now passed away, are yet upon the countenances of most of the men: a sort of cloud hangs over their brows, habitual from the gloom that once possessed their souls: but with the growing perceptions of happier times, these shades will disappear, and the brave Georgian look as brightly to the sun as any of his freeborn brothers of the mountains." [Travels in Georgia, Persia, &c. vol. i. pp. 131-4.]
The situation of Georgia, as a separate power, seems not to have been enviable. She was open to the attacks of four powerful enemies, the mountain tribes of the Caucasus, the Turks, the Persians, and the Russians; and was often placed between two or three painful alternatives, one of which she was obliged to choose. We need not therefore be surprised that now there are few towns in Georgia, and that these few scarcely deserve the appellation. The improvement of the road through the defiles of the Caucasus, and the consequent increased facility of attack, no doubt gave Russia great advantages; and, by the general turn of political affairs, and her usual cunning policy, that power at length got full possession of the country of the Georgians. In many of the sentiments of Sir R. K. Porter, with respect to the general effects of the Russian government, I perfectly coincide; but when he talks of "the administration of an equal justice" he seems either to have very incorrect ideas of the real state of affairs, or to have wished to pay a compliment to a power which he feared to offend. For no man dare speak all the truth, and far less commit it to the press, and afterwards attempt to reside in the dominions of Russia, as has been the case with the flattering fawning knight. If he did so, even in these enlightened days, but for the interference of his government, he assuredly would be sent to inhale "the free air of Siberia", before being consigned to the mines, or meeting with an insidious death. There is no danger of being contradicted by any person of veracity and impartiality, when I state boldly, that "equal justice" is almost totally unknown in the civil, maritime, or military affairs of Russia or her provinces. As in the Krimea, so it is in Georgia, the laws and the persons in authority, as mentioned, are now partly native and partly Russian; an arrangement that causes great difficulties, many of which, however, are perhaps unavoidable. The same grievance has likewise been and is still complained of by the Georgians, as by the Tauridan Tartars [Vide p. 341. Vol. I.]: viz. that their country has so often changed masters, that it is next to impossible to decide to whom estates and other property belong. I was assured that the tribunals at Tiflís were filled with so many papers, ancient and modern, respecting affairs in litigation, as would occupy some years merely to read them. This is a great misfortune for the Georgians, but the Russian authorities will turn it to account. They will reap the advantage of it, as the same system of bribery and corruption which I have elsewhere pourtrayed in pretty strong colours, has spread its pestiferous influence across the Caucasian mountains, and now reigns at Tiflís, and throughout Georgia.
I must also differ in opinion from Sir R. K. Porter, when he states that the Georgians are even now "effectually guarded from the inroads of the Lesghees," for such is not the case. On the contrary, these savage and predatory people, rushing from the Alpine passes of the Caucasus, continue to make frequent incursions into Kachétia, and often carry off considerable booty, especially cattle, and make their retreat before the Russians are aware of the place of their descent, or, at least, can assemble a force sufficient to justify an attack. The histories of many such affairs were related to us, as we traversed the base of the Caucasus, and we were shown the deep ravines and mountain defiles by which these fierce, and formidable, and brave freebooters, had either made their inroads or secured their retreats.
Colonel Johnson, in reference to the tribes of the Caucasus, and especially to the Georgians, remarks that, "no effectual measures have yet been adopted to civilise these people, and to render them useful subjects of the state to which they belong. The practice lately instituted, of taking some of the young sons of the principal men, to educate them, will no doubt tend greatly to this desirable object. It may be safely assumed, that one main reason which has operated to render the minds of these people unwilling to submit to the laws of their rulers, has been the bad policy of Russia in sending, or rather in exiling to the most distant commands, those of her officers who were most undeserving. This policy has, however, now been changed for a better; and officers, selected on account of their merit, have been appointed to different stations in Georgia. Another great obstacle to the free intercourse of the Caucasian tribes with Russia, arises from the permanent quarantine regulations. An opinion prevails, that the mountain tribes have the plague perpetually among them. Hence they are allowed no communication with the interior, at least by means of the Russians; who, to this day, I believe, have few if any of their own trust-worthy people competent to speak either of the languages of these tribes. The ground of this opinion concerning the plague is therefore never called in question; and these poor people, in mercantile pursuits, suffer so much by detention, exaction, and other grievances at the quarantine stations, that should they be disposed, they could not, without considerable difficulty, under those restraints, take either cattle, honey, butter, hides, furs, yapoonches, felts, or any of their merchandise and commodities to Russian markets, or even obtain leave to import to their own mountainous abodes any articles of Russian manufacture for their own use." [A Journey from India to England, p. 265.]
Other twenty years, however, of subjection, of good government, and of general organisation of the civil and military authorities, may be of great consequence to the Georgians; who, as the Russians say, are tied to them now by their own interests. And even under the yoke of Russia, Georgia may make progress in civilisation, and acquire an additional importance in the rank of nations, if there happen to be placed over her an intelligent, honest, moderate, and vigorous individual, as her military governor. One might almost say as her ruler, for except in the receipt of orders, this post has the appearance, in many respects, of an independent sovereignty.
On the 22d June, after an early dinner at the civil governor's, General Hofen, accompanied by Mr. Gribayédof [Note: The derivation of this name is very simple. It comes from the noun grib, a mushroom, and the verb yest, to eat; and therefore signifies mushroom-eater. Gribayédof is a very common name; but as all the Russians, nobles and peasants, males and females, are great mushroom-eaters, we may be surprised that it is not still more prevalent. Vide " Remarks on Edible Mushrooms," in the appendix of The Character of the Russians, p. 556." The name Bábayédof, vide p. 388. of Vol. I. appears plainly to be derived from baba, a grandmother, a midwife, or simply a woman, and yest, to eat; but its application I cannot comprehend. It may be connected with some tradition or legend. If we translate it literally, woman-eater, it would argue some reference to cannibalism.], we bade adieu to Tiflís, with the view of making a short tour in Kachétia. After enjoying the picturesque view of the castle of Tiflís, which is represented at the head of this chapter, we crossed the Koor by the wooden bridge formerly spoken of, and ascended to the mean suburb of Avlabári, by a road cut in the mountain. Passing out at a stone gate, we turned to the west, and pursued our course for some versts, during which we had some good views of the bleak barren hills around Tiflís, rising above each other in a wave-like manner. There is a post road to Muchrován, our destination; but besides it, different other roads conduct to the same place. Having no guide, we lost our way, and did not reach this station till late in the evening. Near Tiflís we remarked many corn-fields, and a good deal of pasture land; but the corn had all been cut, and the greatest part of it carried home. This circumstance, however, plainly showed that the appearance of Tiflís must be lively in the spring. We passed numerous carts of the Georgians, on their way to that capital, with the produce of their farms. Our road was over an undulating country, which became more and more interesting as we receded from Tiflís, and to which Nature became more lavish of her bounties. A few versts from Muchrován, we descended into an extensive and fine valley; and from thence, by a long and steep ascent, we reached the military station, so called, thirty versts from Tiflís, and met with a hearty reception from Colonel Peter Nikolaévitch Yermólof, a cousin of General Yermólof.
Muchrován is beautifully situated on an elevated hill, and while it commands a fine view of a valley on the west, it also presents a number of elevated woody mountains, rising above each other, on the east, and gave a correct idea of the fine scenery, scattered with ruins, among which we were about to proceed. This charming place is the head quarters of a regiment, and a battalion is generally stationed at it. Besides the colonel's, the lieutenant-colonel's, and other officers' houses, we found here barracks, a hospital, and a number of zemláks, or houses half under ground; and at a short distance is an old church hewn out of the solid rock, which has been converted into a powder magazine.
In the valley on the west flows the river Yóra, and on its banks is a village of Wurtemburghers, called Sertitchali, who were in a prosperous condition. Thus, wherever we go in Russia, we remark colonies of Germans,—from Archangel to Tiflís, and from Poland to Kamstchatka,—who, in addition to their habits of industry and their general knowledge, also add that of agriculture; and, in consequence, prove useful to themselves, and still more so to the country, by furnishing many places with necessaries and luxuries, and affording practical lessons to the natives, as well as showing them an example of moral conduct. This, however, does not seem to be the case in the Krimea. And, indeed, according to the relation of Mrs. Holderness, there, their conduct and condition is far from respectable.
We were assured that though Muchrován is only thirty versts distant from Tiflís, yet that there is a very material difference of temperature. Indeed it was said, that often while life is almost insupportable at Tiflís, owing to the sultry oppressive atmosphere, at Muchrován it is pleasant though warm. The officers agreed that it was a real punishment to be sent from hence to spend a few days in the Georgian capital.
All the officers of the battalion dined at Colonel Yermólof's, and many histories, with respect to the mountain tribes of the Caucasus, proved the prominent topic of conversation; all of which received the greatest attention.
At five o'clock p. m. on the 23d of June, our party being increased by Colonel Yermólof; Lieutenant- Colonel (Count) Simonitch, and a number of officers, on horseback, while we were in two calashes, we left Muchrován, and descended a steep hill to the Yóra, which flowed so rapidly, that some dogs, in attempting to swim across it, were carried to a considerable distance in spite of all their efforts. The water did not reach the horses' girths, but the bottom was filled with large stones, so that we expected every moment to be upset.
We passed the ruins of an old castle, and two or three versts beyond them, we reached an ancient monastery. This convent is of considerable extent, and it has a respectable appearance. Its walls are in a ruinous condition. It is now occupied as a station, or place of rest by travellers; and, if one might judge by appearances, also by their cattle. Its principal church is in the same style of architecture as those at Msket and Ananoor.
Pursuing our course to the east, by a winding road, over gentle elevations, through valleys and ravines, across numerous streams and rivulets, and amid fine plantations, wooded hills and mountains, we reached the military station of Gambóra, only two versts distant from a Kozák piquet of the same name. During this ride of twentyfour versts, we saw but very few villages; but ruins of castles and churches were scattered every where. As we got to the station, a cannon was fired, the echo of which among the mountains was the loudest, and the most prolonged, I ever remarked. A rocket was afterwards let off, and ascended to a great height. This practice is followed every evening, instead of beating a drum, as the signal for the soldiers to take their repose. We were politely received, supped with Lieutenant- Colonel Firsof, and then went to bed.
Gambóra is reckoned a camp, or a military station for a battalion; and, besides tents, many wooden houses have been already erected here. The situation is low, and it is completely concealed by high mountains, clothed, for the most part, with luxuriant wood.
From Gambóra, on the following day, we directed our course to the summit of the hill which has also this name. The ascent begins from the station, and we made a détour from the road, accompanied by a single Kozák. We were never obliged to quit our horses, and I should think this mountain does not exceed 1,200 feet in height. It is however the highest hill in this neighbourhood, till we fall in with the great mountain- chain of the Caucasus. The view from it is most magnificent, extensive, and diversified. Mountains, hills, and valleys, finely wooded and watered by many streams and rivers, lay under us; and the course of the Alasán, winding through the vale of Teláv, presented charming scenery. From Gambóra, in clear weather, there is also a good view of the Caucasian Alps; but while we were on its summit, their hoary heads were enveloped in clouds. To enliven the scene, numerous herds of sheep and cattle were watched by shepherds all round its vicinity.
The Gambóra, besides other plants, is profusely decorated with the beautiful Pyrethrum Roseum.
After regaining the great road, which was very bad, we continued our progress, sometimes ascending, at others descending, across numerous streams, through a long and rich valley, whose sides were every where fringed with wood. On emerging from this valley, on our right we remarked the ruins of another ancient monastery, of no very imposing appearance, and after a short ride got to Teláv, and took up our abode in the residence of Major Ilyinskii, the chief of the district of the same name.
There are two roads from the hill of Gambóra to Teláv. On our return we took a different route, through still more romantic and interesting scenery, and often proceeded in the course of the river Tetri-Dskali.
As has been already mentioned, Teláv, miserable as it is, is one of the chief towns of Georgia, even in the present day. It was formerly a place of much more importance, and was one of the royal residences of the tsar Heraclius: a choice which does the sovereign great honour for good taste. Though the chief town of the most populous district in Georgia, it is but a very small place. It is built upon the declivity of a hill, and most of its houses are concealed among high trees and shrubbery It contains a long line of shops or bazárs, like those at Tiflís, and supplied with the same kinds of merchandise. Its population amounts to nearly 1000 souls. It is rather remarkable on account of having no less than three fortresses, in the largest of which the tsar Heraclius often resided, especially in the summer months.
The royal palace is surrounded by one of the fortresses, and is separated by a partition-wall from a number of other houses, which were inhabited by the nobles of the court. It is now in ruins, and the former audience-chamber is used as a stable. It, no doubt, was reckoned a spacious and noble apartment in more ancient times. Major Uyinskii has repaired a few low and good vaulted rooms in its under story for his own accommodation, in one of which Heraclius died. The windows of this palace, like those of most of the old edifices which we saw in Georgia, are in the Gothic style, or rather an approach to it, their tops being much wider than is common. Adjoining to this edifice is a low building, which was the court chapel. It is now in ruins, and its place is supplied by a more modern structure close by it. Behind the fortress is a very strong circular battery, one half of which is tumbled down, and within which lies a large cannon, about twelve feet long, and of very great calibre.
I admired the taste which chose Teláv as a residence, for a more beautiful and commanding spot I have scarcely ever witnessed. The views from it, when the weather is clear, or generally in the morning and evening, are highly sublime, On the north-west it overlooks the vale of Teláv, through which the Alasán flows. This vale is covered with woods, vineyards, rich pastures, fertile corn-fields, backed by gentle hills, and those by the Caucasus rising in grand amphitheatre and mingling with the clouds.
It extends at least to the distance of fifty or sixty miles to the right and left of the town, and is finely intermixed with rich pasture and corn-fields, which are partitioned by rivulets, trees, and shrubs. It abounds with small villages, full of inhabitants, who form the greatest part of the population of the district of Teláv, which amounts to 34,000 souls.
The mountain, on whose side the town itself stands, as well as those by which it is surrounded on the other sides, are richly covered with luxuriant foliage.
After breakfast, on Sunday the 25th of June, according to appointment, our cavalcade was mustered, and consisted of Count Simonitch, Mr. Gribayédof, Major Ilyinskii, with his translator a native prince, Russian officers, Kozáks, Georgians, besides ourselves, amounting to twenty-five individuals, all on horseback, and many of us well armed. Our luggage had been previously sent off under a guard. After descending the hill on which Teláv is placed, we traversed the fine vale already described, and were met by Prince Georgiádtsof, who, with a number of his people, came purposely to conduct us, and to show us the greatest honour; having the preceding day received notice from Major Uyinskii of our intended visit. The Alasán always flows with great rapidity, and is only fordable when it has not rained for some days. It was very deep at the time we arrived, but men were stationed to guide us in the shallowest path, and the prince himself preceded the line, to show us the safest ford. We got through without accident, though the horses kept their legs with some difficulty. The passage is highly dangerous, as the only fordable place goes in a zig-zag manner, with which few are completely acquainted, and many lives in consequence are annually lost.
A white church, surrounded by trees, and the ruins of Grémi, described and well represented in next chapter, upon an insulated hill, gave a picturesque effect to the delightful scenery around us, as we entered the village of Yeniséli, which belongs to Prince Georgiádtsof, the houses in which resemble those of Teláv, with the difference of being situated on a plain. Here we dined in a half Asiatic and half European manner. For our party a table was covered, and knives and forks, silver spoons, tumblers, wine-glasses, &c. were provided. In lieu of chairs, long benches were used. Wines, in small earthen jars, and in bottles, were placed for every guest, and were also handed round in profusion. The dishes consisted of soup strongly seasoned with mint, boiled fish, cutlets with mint sauce, roasted beef, roasted fowls, salad, cucumbers, &c. On a low platform, along the side of the same room, a number of Georgian princes and nobles sat cross-legged, and partook of the same dishes as we did, and they were joined by some of our party. A kind of flat cake, like immense biscuits, served them for plates, and they eat with their fingers in the same way as the Persians. They drank their wine out of a silver ladle, from which it was allowed to trickle into their mouths, and afterwards used immense horns, some of them mounted with silver, and pledged each other to empty them, after the manner which prevailed in our own, as well as in other countries, in more early times.
One of the Georgian nobles gave us a strong proof that he was in the habit of using liberal potations, for he pledged almost every individual in the company to empty the horn with him, and he drank the wine to the last drop. Yet he managed his horse perfectly well afterwards, though a little merry.
Coffee was now served up. While the party was occupied, I sallied out, and passing near the apartments of the Prince's lady, was addressed by an old duenna, in Russian, who introduced me to the Princess and her sister, with whom I had a little conversation. I afterwards conducted our party, one by one, to this lady, who behaved extremely well, and like a person who had seen something of polished life. The Prince, who had received notice of our visit, met us as we were retiring from his spouse's apartments, and, it was evident, was not well pleased at our curiosity. The whole of the individuals of the cavalcade were now conducted to an out-house, which we were told was the wine-cellar. We looked in vain for the wine, and upon enquiry were informed that it was buried in the earth in enormous-sized jars, much larger than hogsheads or puncheons. Spades were brought, the earth was cleared away, and the lids of two of these jars were opened, and the wine was handed round to the whole party in silver ladles. A number of peasants, then assembled around them, and with little earthen jugs they made ample amends for our deficiency in the drinking way.
The Kachétians make both red and white wine of excellent quality. The red we thought equal to Burgundy, which it greatly resembled. Prince Georgiádtsof's revenues amount only to 4,000 silver roubles, or about 16,000 paper roubles of Russia, = nearly £667 sterling. But in a cheap country, and in a fruitful territory, this is enough to enable him to maintain his rank, and to make a considerable appearance among his countrymen. His house, which resembles that of a second class farmer, has a very plain appearance, and is very shabbily furnished. But more attention is paid here to fine silk dresses, gaudy show, and parade, than to good houses. In this respect the natives resemble many of the Russians, who drive their carriages and four though they have scarcely a room fit to receive a visitor; and, although they should go from house to house, day after day, to dine with their relations, friends, and acquaintances, knowing that they have but poor fare at home. The Georgians, who do not use carriages, expend their money upon themselves, and upon fine riding-horses and their trappings.
Joined by our host, his brother, and some other nobles, we left Yeniséli, and, after proceeding two versts farther, we arrived at the wicker-work camp of a detachment of Russians, who formed a corps of observation at the base of the Caucasus, ready to act in case of a descent of the Lesghees. We now kept by the base of the mountains, passing through villages surrounded by vineyards, of which Shilda was the largest, crossing innumerable rills and streams, and traversing much interesting woodland. After a ride of eight versts, we reached the border of the plain, and continued our road to Kvarélli. Here there is a square and well built fortress, which had something noble in its appearance from its magnitude, and seemed to date its origin in antiquity from the style of its architecture.
Our cavalcade took up its lodgings for the night
in the ruins of a large house belonging to Prince
Tchavtchavádtsof. We ascended by a stair, and
then by a ladder, to an open gallery, in which supper
was served up to the whole assembly, in the
Georgian fashion. Wine circulated freely, and
was liberally partaken of by the natives. Some of
the cavalcade slept in the gallery alluded to. Our
party were lodged in a small miserable room, and
we made our beds on the floor, with the assistance
of some hay and our burchás.
CHAPTER XIV.—DEPARTURE FROM KVARÉLLI.—GRÉMI CASTLE.—SHACKRIÁNI.—LALISKÚRI.—GEORGIAN FEMALES.—THE TUSHÍNTSI.—ALVÁN.—ALAVÉRDI.—RETURN TO TELÁV AND MUCHROVÁN.—FESTIVAL.—RETURN TO TIFLÍS.—AN AVALANCHE.—GULDENSTAEDT'S TRAVELS.—THE CAUCASUS A FINE FIELD FOR A TRAVELLER'S RESEARCHES.—THE MILITARY LINES OF DEFENCE IN THE CAUCASUS.—INHUMAN CONDUCT TOWARD THE MOUNTAINEERS.—NEW FORTRESSES.—COLONISATION IN GEORGIA.—MORTALITY OF GEORGIAN ARMY.—RUSSIAN POLICY.—INROAD OF THE MOUNTAINEERS.—ARMY OF THE CAUCASUS AND GEORGIA. [...] THE ROYAL FAMILY OF GEORGIA.—ALEXANDER MIRZA, HEREDITARY PRINCE OF GEORGIA.
On the 26th June we left Kvarélli, and returned some versts by the same road by which we had reached it. We then directed our course, through the plain of Teláv, to the ruins of Grémi. This ancient fortress occupies an insulated woody hill, as is well seen in the romantic view in the opposite vignette. It includes an old church, built in the same style of architecture as those of Tiflís and Ananoor, and, besides, has a separate belfry. This church is in a ruinous condition, and its interior is in wretched order; but service is regularly performed within its walls. The belfry is now difficult of ascent, but the charming prospect enjoyed from its summit repays the labour. Behind the church are the ruins of another fortress, upon a high mountain, whose oblique strata are well seen through scattered trees, and backed by the lofty range of the Caucasus. A crystal rivulet runs in the valley below, and adds great beauty to the scene.
We were told that León, the tsar of Kachétia, was interred in the church of Grémi.
All around the hill on which the castle is placed, we saw numerous ruins of walls, arches, and caravanserais; and, we were informed, that formerly thousands of Jews dwelt here. According to Guldenstaedt, this was the town of Grémi which had numerous churches. [Reize durch Russland, und im Caucasischen Gebürge, vol. i. p. 240.]
Passing the village of Nikolaévka, we reached Shackriáni, which belongs to Prince Georgiádtsof, the brother of the Prince at whose house we dined on the preceding day, and who met us there, and conducted us hither. His house was simply enclosed by a high wattled fence, including a large court before it, and had not a more imposing appearance than his brother's. Here we breakfasted. Vodtki, boiled and roasted fowls, cucumbers, onions, bread, butter, and cheese, formed the principal part of our meal, of which the whole cavalcade partook, as well as of the wine, which was offered in great profusion, in tumblers, ladles, and pitchers. Pursuing our route, not far from the base of the Caucasus, through most agreeable scenery, we arrived at Sanitóri, the estate of Prince Aválof, where we dined exactly in the same style as on the preceding day.
We had not proceeded many versts on our way, when Laliskúri, a small estate, with an indifferent house upon it, came into view, and we were met by its proprietor, Prince Tchelokáof who invited us to pay him a visit. We ascended a stair, and were somewhat astonished at being presented to the Princess, a fine woman, with aquiline nose, and most interesting features and demeanour. Like the other Georgian nobles, she was dressed in wide flowing silks; but, instead of wearing the long waist, usual in her country, which altogether spoils the figure, she was dressed in the most approved European fashion. This was the only instance in which we were allowed to see any of the Georgian ladies openly. At other houses we visited, they were always shut up in their own chambers, which are reckoned sacred. And, as for the common women, they are the most disagreeable I have ever seen. I refer more especially to those at Tiflís, whom there is no difficulty, now-a-days, in seeing. They dress in the most slovenly manner, and, I believe, through a proper want of delicacy, expose the upper part of the body in a very disgusting manner, especially the old women. Their clothes, or rather rags, besides, are generally in a filthy state. In Georgia we certainly saw some of the most beautiful, and some of the most disgusting, females in existence.
Travelling on, we were soon joined by the chief of one of the most savage of the tribes of the Caucasus, the Tushíntsi, whose territories we were now approaching. His name was also Prince Tchelok´aof, and he had come some versts to meet us. One of our cavalcade, who had advanced before us, and was very short-sighted, suddenly came upon a party of these ferocious mountaineers, who were watching some property, which they were carrying towards the defiles of the mountains. Whether it was honestly acquired, or the booty of some incursion, it became us not too curiously to enquire. On seeing the intruder, they immediately seized their loaded muskets, and questioned him in a language to which he could make little reply. Our party coming up, the translator, aware of some misunderstanding, galloped to the Tushíntsi, and gave an explanation which satisfied them. This fact demonstrated that they were not on bad terms either with the Georgians or the Russians, or that they acted politically, knowing that the chief of the district of Teláv was at hand, and had it in his power to have ordered two large packages, which were in sight, to have been seized by our guards.
Just before reaching the resting-place of the Tushíntsi, we passed a beautifully wooded high hill, with the ruins of a castle upon it, with an adjoining church, once a place of some consequence, having been the residence of one of the tsars of Kachétia; but it is now deserted.
We now turned to the plain of Alván, and passed the ruins of the palace of León, just alluded to, said to be a very ancient structure, and it appears to have been of considerable size.
We re-crossed the Alasán; and, turning to the west, followed its course, and reached the fortress and monastery of Alavérdi. Being in good repair, it affords an excellent specimen of Georgian architecture. We were cordially welcomed to this monastery by Epiphanius, its archimandrite; and a supper, of not less than a dozen dishes, in the Russian style, was presented, and wine served up in profusion. Our own party had a small room allotted for them, while the rest of the cavalcade sought quarters throughout the apartments of the convent, which were very numerous.
On the 27th June, we amused ourselves in examining Alavérdi, a name which is derived from the Arabic words equal to Deodonnatus, or the Don-Dieu of the French. The monastery and fortress were built 1,200 years ago. Its walls are very high, and of considerable strength. It is situated in an immense plain, as described at Teláv, and is said to be built on buffalo-hides, the situation being marshy. It now contains but few monks. The cathedral church is in the form of a cross, with a cupola nearly in its centre, and its walls are of hewn-stone, which they have had the bad taste to white-wash. Its interior is very mean. The view from its summit, which we gained by passing through a labyrinth of galleries, is very fine.
After breakfast we had a pleasant ride through the valley, and reached Teláv in a very short time, where we passed the remainder of the day. On the 28th June we retraced our way to Muchrován, so as to be present at the name's-day of Colonel Yermólof (St. Peter's) on the 29th, having dined at Gambóra in our way.
As is usual with the Russians, the first part of the day was kept with great solemnity, and the latter with mirth, All the officers of the regiment, as well as all the persons of our cavalcade who remained with us, offered their congratulations in the morning. Divine service was performed in a tent in a neighbouring valley, which was crowded with officers and men. From the heat of the day, the sun being very powerful, and the blaze of innumerable candles, the church became intolerably hot. I felt almost suffocated; yet the Russians, who are accustomed to breathe extremely rarefied air in their warm chambers, seemed to suffer but little or no inconvenience.
We had an excellent dinner, and among other dishes partook of a small kind of beautiful antelope, here called the Girán, which is common among the mountains of Georgia. Ice-creams were served up also, and were highly relished in an oppressively warm afternoon, and showed that the Russians were not inattentive to the luxuries of life here more than in their own country.
In the evening we reached Tiflís, where we passed the following day. While perambulating the town, we were met by a captain of the Russian army, who had been of our party from Mozdók to Vladikavkáz, and who informed us of news which we had heard some talk of at Muchrován; viz. that part of the mountain on the east side of the Térek, and near Dariél, had fallen down and completely obstructed the defile of the Caucasus, and that General Wilyemínof had, in consequence, issued orders that nobody should be allowed to depart for the north. This avalanche, as they called it, had taken place on the 23d June, only nine days after our passage, so that we had cause to be thankful to Providence that we had escaped, Luckily, when the accident happened, no travellers were near, and no lives were lost. At General Wilyemínof's, where we dined, we learned that many people had been employed, for ten days, in clearing the passage of the Térek, and in rendering the road practicable. On mentioning that we had heard that the general had issued an ukáz to prevent travellers proceeding through the Via Caucasia, he said he would give a special order for our passage and accommodation. This I called a counter-ukáz, to the no small amusement of the company, and it greatly solaced us. On the same day, informing the commandant of our wish to return to Moscow, and begging him to make all due arrangements, he answered that he had positive orders to allow no person to depart for the Caucasus; but, on being told of the general's orders, the aspect of affairs was changed.
I may here remark, that the traveller in this part of Georgia* should be provided with Guldenstaedt's "Reise durch Russland, und im Caucasischen Gebürge;" because, though tediously, and often uselessly minute, it contains much very curious and important information. This author, who belonged to the St. Petersburgh Academy, had excellent opportunities of making just and extensive observations in Georgia. After traversing the south of Russia, he reached Astrachán, and then Kislár, on the Térek, and a frontier town of which he has given a plan and a detailed description. He made different visits into the north-east parts of the Caucasus, by the course of the Sundja, &c.; Kislár being his head-quarters. In 1771, he made some trips in the country of the Ossetinians, and to the hot baths on the banks of the Térek, and visited the northern part of the Caucasian mountains, which is inhabited by the Dugores. He then crossed this mountain-chain, with a strong guard of Ossetinians, whom the tsar Heraclius had taken into his pay. On his arrival in Georgia, he was received in the most flattering manner by that sovereign, whom he afterwards accompanied in a campaign along the course of the Koor. At different periods he visited Kachétia, Imerétia, Mingrélia, &c.; always accompanied by a formidable guard, sometimes consisting of 300 or 400 men. Subsequently, he returned to Russia, visited the baths at the Beshtau, and reached Petersburgh.
In these days, when so many gentlemen show a disposition for travelling and adventure, one may be justly surprised that no individual from Great Britain ever has travelled far in Caucasus, or given us a good account of the tribes by which this mountain-chain is inhabited, their customs, manners, laws, &c. The greatest part of what we know of the Caucasus and its inhabitants, as well as of Georgia, has been chiefly derived from the Germans, Gmelin, Guldenstaedt, Pallas, Reineggs, Bieberstein, Englehardt, Parrot, Haas, Klaproth, &c.
Perhaps there is not a spot upon the globe which would yield such a rich harvest to an adventurous traveller, as Mount Caucasus, provided he devoted a few years to its examination and study, and possessed a general knowledge of the sciences and of human nature, so as to be able to turn every circumstance to good account. But in order to reap all the possible advantages of such a tour and residence among the mountains, a person would require to make considerable preparations. He should secure a collection of plans, maps, engravings, and books, so as to be familiar with what has already been done by others. It would be requisite for him to learn the Tartar; and if he had some knowledge of the Persian and of the Russian, so much the better. The vocabularies of the different languages of the tribes of the mountains, given in Klaproth's "Voyage au Mont Cancase" would be found of great utility. If he wished to make meteorological, trigonometrical, or barometrical observations, of course he would carry all his instruments from England. He would do well to reside a year at Tiflís, learning languages, gaining every information from others, and making all due preparations for his journeys. This town, Vladikavkáz, Mozdók, Kislár, or Derbént, might be made, at different times, his head-quarters, to which he could return with the fruits of his excursions.
Whoever undertook such a scheme, would do well to think it a task of three, four, or five years' duration, so as to be able to give a good and faithful account of the geography, topography, and productions of the country, &c.; and of the manners and customs of the various tribes of mountaineers. I should suppose the protection of the Russian government would be readily obtained for such an undertaking. If obtained, then, no doubt, the traveller would be provided with strong escorts, by order of the governor-general of Georgia; and with them he might penetrate the mountains both on the north and south, to a short distance, and so acquire a general knowledge of the people whom he wished to study. But in order to get a complete acquaintance, it would be necessary for him, afterwards, when he could speak Tartar, to go into the interior of the Caucasus, and live among the barbarians. This may appear a strange advice to those unacquainted with the rigid adherence which these demi-savages observe to the laws of hospitality, and the care they take of the stranger who intrusts them with his life. This virtue they call Kunák, and he who puts himself under their protection, is safe from outrage: he will be defended by his guide, and will never be allowed to depart without an escort, and being committed to the hands of safe allies. [Vide Pallas, vol. ii. p. 138. Letters from the Caucasus, p. 46. Klaproth, vol. i. p. 408.]
A good drawer would find infinite occupation for his pencil, not only in sketching the fine Alpine scenery with which he would be continually surrounded; but likewise in representing the natives in their various costumes, both peasants and chiefs. At General Hofen's, at Tiflís, we saw above forty portraits of the tribes of Caucasus, painted in oil colours; and although they were not well executed, yet they gave a good idea of the natives and their costumes, and showed what a good painter might do. From different accounts we received, there is reason to believe that many tribes of the Caucasus are yet unknown, and perhaps have never been seen by an European. Shut up in their inaccessible fastnesses in the interior of the Caucasian Alps, in deep valleys, and in the caverns of the rocks, beyond which they have never wandered, and into which strangers have never penetrated, generation succeeds generation, in all the primitive rudeness of nature.
A gentleman of my acquaintance, who is versed in Persian, knows something of Tartar, and besides, has devoted a number of years to the study of the mountain-tribes, and of the geography of the Caucasus, and the neighbouring countries, has proposed to give up his attention entirely to the natives, and to travel across the mountain-chain in different directions. I am confident that the individual alluded to will be able to communicate much novel information to the public; but it will be impossible for him to speak his mind freely, unless he quit the Russian service; indeed, unless he bid Russia adieu. This gentleman is also very capable of giving some important details respecting the operations of the Russians since their arrival in Georgia; or rather since this country formed a province of Russia.
Before quitting Tiflís, I shall turn the reader's attention to the plans of Russia, her army, and her politics.
The Military Line of Defence on the north of the Caucasus, begins at Tamán, and is composed of the fortresses and redoubts described in our route, as far as Mozdok. As our road did not lead by the base of the mountains between that town and Stávropole, we did not visit a number of other forts, as Protchnoi-Okope, Temnolesk, &c. They add considerably to the strength of the line, which at this part is neither protected by the Kubán nor the Térek. From Mozdók, the line of the Caucasus follows the Térek (on which account it is often called the line of the Térek) to Kislár, and from thence to the shores of the Caspian Sea. The military stations, indicated on my map, along this part of the line, are Kalyugáevskaya, Istchórskaya, Naúr, Kalínovskaya, Tchérvlenskaya, Stchédrinskaya, Novagládkovskaya, Starogládkovskaya, Kargalínskaya, &c. &c. The length of the Caucasian Line, from Tamán on the Black Sea, to the shores of the Caspian, is nearly 1,000 versts, or 667 miles. By its fortresses and its guards, it prevents all communication between Asia and Europe, except through those who have regular passports, or by hostile invaders. Along such an extensive line it is next to impossible to prevent the frequent predatory incursions of the mountain tribes, who have an inveterate antipathy to the Russians, and delight in doing them every kind of injury.
The southern line of defence of the Caucasus, runs from the Black Sea through the provinces of Abásii, Mingrélia, Imerétia, Kartalínia, Kachétia, Lesghistán, Shékinskoyé, Shirván, and Apsheron; or from Súhum-Kalé, on the Euxine, to Bakú on the Caspian; and, like the northern line, it is well guarded. The ferocious tribes, however, of the neighbouring regions, especially the Lesghees, make continual incursions into Georgia, and do great damage, and carry off much booty. They rush like a torrent from the defiles of the Caucasus, seize their prey, and retreat to their fastnesses before any sufficient military force can be brought to act against them.
From Baku to Derbent and Kislar, by the western shores of the Caspian, another line of defence is also formed, although less wanted; and the forts of which scarcely need to be guarded. Thus the range of the Caucasian mountains is completely surrounded by fortresses and guards, except on that part, by the eastern border of the Euxine, between Súhum-Kalé and Anápa.
The great principle upon which the Caucaso- Georgian army has been acting for many years, but especially of late, has been to hem in the mountain barbarians on all sides; and this has been accomplished by means equally unjustifiable in the eyes of God and man. Indeed, the heart revolts with horror at the plans which have been pursued by those who deserve not the name of men, in order, as they emphatically speak, "to civilise the barbarous mountaineers of the Caucasus." Troops surround their villages, the signal is given, and they are soon in a blaze. Then commences the cruel, the bloody, and the murderous attack,— the general massacre. At times all perish, young and old; men, women, and children, between the flames and the sword. I have seen two children of the Lesghee tribe, who were the only survivors of such a scene, and who were saved by an officer who snatched them from death, and is now rearing them, as if they were his own progeny, among the mountains of Georgia. At the house of another officer, another boy, a Tushints, (I believe) was often presented to us, as the sole representative of a hamlet now no more. The village was burned, and its inhabitants immolated. This mode of civilisation, by total extermination, is one peculiar to Russia. I shall not readily forget my sensations on examining a penned map of a part of Georgia, and asking the officer to whom it belonged, "what the numerous red marks, especially in the country of the Lesghees, alluded to," when he triumphantly replied, "these red spots indicate the sites of the villages which we burned after our various victorious engagements with the savage natives."
A very intelligent friend, for whose opinions I have the highest regard, after a perusal of this part of the MS., wrote the following remarks on the margin. As he also travelled in Georgia, I was happy that he did so, as I should rejoice to have an opportunity of correcting any mistaken impressions of my own. "This would imply," says he, "that massacres are of common occurrence. If they are, you should state the instances which induce you to think so." — "I think this is quite as unfair an attack on the Russians as ever was made by Dr. Clarke; and unless you can state very accurately the particular instances on which you found so heavy an accusation, I strongly advise its omission. The only instances I ever heard of were those of retaliation for acts of spoliation, for which the Lesghees or others refused all compensation: a cruel retaliation I grant, but by no means deserving what you say of it." — "The same thing was done by the French in the south of Italy, in the villages of the banditti; and the seventy of the measure was justified by the necessity. Quære, whether this was not the case in the instances you allude to? If, as I suspect, what you here assert is founded upon one or two instances of the destruction of villages with fire and sword, and those in some degree justified by the particular circumstances of the case, beware of a charge of exaggeration and unfairness which such a statement as this would fairly incur. At all events, the data do not justify the inference you draw." I have not altered the text, believing that it, and other similar statements I heard, fully justify my conclusions and severity. The reader will grant, at least, that I have no wish to make a wilful misrepresentation, after the admission of my friend's remarks into this volume; and future events, I fear, will develop that I am too correct, unless shame should operate upon the Russian government, now that it finds some of its measures widely subjected to public opinion. Meantime, I may add, that the gifted lady who translated Madame Freyganch's work, adds a note of considerable importance, to the following sentence: — "The Ossetinians, particularly, are intrepid and hardy as Spartans; it is, therefore, an indispensable policy for Russia to foment divisions among them." "The very vigorous policy of the Russian government," says the translator, "towards the various tribes of Caucasus and Georgia, thus partly acknowledged by our fair author, has lately been represented as rivalling that of their Turkish neighbours, in an undaunted freedom from all those scruples, which are the boasted distinction of our own administration." [Translation of Lettres sur le Caucase, &c. p. 66.]
Of late a number of new fortresses have been constructed on the south side of the Caucasian mountains, respecting which I could not obtain any distinct account; and perhaps it may be a part of the policy of the government to conceal from the world what is going on in those regions. General Yermólof's severe policy may suit the ambitious spirit of Russia, but is not calculated to unite the virtues of humanity and bravery; the highest meed of praise a warrior can receive. He may delude himself with the propriety of the most cruel measures to narrow the range of the predatory excursions of the mountain tribes, but he may rest assured, that public opinion will brand his name with infamy for his deeds, as well as that of the monarch who permits them, now that they are fully exposed." [Vide Courier and Morning Chronicle of 17th Jan. 1824.]
I have alreadv alluded to a caravan of women who were ordered from Russia to join their husbands in Georgia [Vide p. 4-58 of Vol. I.], and we met another on our return from the south. The mortality of the Russian army in Georgia is enormous; and it is not uncommon for one-third of a regiment to be in the hospitals. Like many other places equally fatal to them, as the Krimea and Moldavia, Georgia has, with justice, been called "The cemetery of the Russian army;" for it appears evident, that the descendants of the Scythians, as they boast themselves to be, cannot support a warm climate; and, no doubt, had Paul attempted to carry an army to Persia, and from thence to India, the heat would have proved as disastrous to it, as the northern cold did to the troops of Charles the Xllth, and those of the ex-emperor Napoleon. Intermittent fevers—to which the Russians are subject, and in many places proverbially so, as at Moscow and Georgievsk [Vide p. 419.]—carry off the soldiers by hundreds. Marsh miasmata and very frequent indulgence in new wine may be reckoned among the chief causes, or at least predisposing causes, of those fevers.
"The views," says Colonel Johnston, "of Russia with regard to Georgia, seem to tend towards establishing it as an entrepôt for European commodities; as a mart for the produce of the surrounding countries; and, in particular, for the supply of Persia and Turkey. To prepare for realising these views, men of abilities have been employed in traversing the country, and in ascertaining the most eligible lines of communication between Georgia and the Black Sea on one side, and the Caspian on the other; availing themselves, as far as may be practicable, of the course of the rivers." These are laudable objects; and so far both the government and General Yermólof deserve praise; but other pursuits seem to be in serious agitation, as we shall see presently.
As General Yermólof apparently wishes, by all possible means, to consolidate a great and permanent Russian force in Georgia, he has ordered the caravans of women alluded to, to be transported hither, for the purpose of raising a new progeny on the spot; who, in time, may replace their forefathers, and be as hardy as the natives; thus, as it were, forming a kind of military colonies.
The highlanders of the Caucasus cannot be ignorant of General Yermólof's plans; and it appears that they wish to resist them as far as they can; but, in England, we hear but little of what passes in those distant and mountainous regions.
The following extract from a letter dated Nuremburg, April 14th, 1824, which has appeared in many of the newspapers of this country, sufficiently establishes the truth of the above remarks.
"A statement in the Russian papers has been read with some surprise, that the Emperor Alexander, to reward the bravery which several officers have shown in the actions that have taken place with the Nomad tribes beyond the Cuban and Daghistan, has granted them various honourable distinctions. This is the first time that this war has been heard of in Europe, which seems to have been kept a profound secret. However this be, the cabinet of St. Petersburg must have considered the event as of some importance; since, besides the insignia of different orders which have been given away, swords and sabres mounted with gold have been given, bearing the inscription, 'To Valour.' The sword which General Weljaminef III. received, was enriched with diamonds. These marks of honour, which are bestowed only on extraordinary occasions, are not conferred by the chapters of the Russian orders, but immediately by the emperor."
The Caucasian and Georgian army has been variously estimated. In the first number of the Westminster Review, it is stated as low as 60,000, and by the translator of "Letters from the Caucasus," in a note, p. 64, as high as 130,000 men. During our travels, I had various conversations on this point with different officers, some of whom estimated it at only 60,000, while others assured me that it amounted to above 100,000 soldiers, Perhaps the medium number of 80,000 would be near the reality, and of that number above 50,000 are in Georgia; hence the importance of the other European powers giving serious attention to this quarter of the globe, especially after the open display of the ambition which Russia has made to encroach upon Persia, as in 1812, when she added the khanats of Talishin and Karabagh to her territories. As will be seen by a very important document in the next chapter, Russia holds Persia very low in the scale of nations, and is persuaded, that, by a single effort, Tabreez, and probably the whole kingdom, would fall into her power.
I have formerly alluded to the death of the tsar Heraclius, and to that of his successor to the throne, George; and, it may not be misplaced here to inform the reader of the manner in which the royal family of Georgia were disposed of when the crown was yielded to Russia. Eight years ago, when Mr. James was at Petersburgh, he attended an annual festival at the Imperial winter palace, and he remarks, in his journal, that the mention of a certain royal family that swelled the train of the Empress Dowager, may perhaps have created the surprise of some of his readers; and that he himself, indeed, felt no small astonishment at their first appearance. "Independent of the interest," says he, "attached to their situation, it was impossible not to notice them from their singularity of air and mien. The princes were handsome men; but the princesses, though not young, displayed features of unparalleled beauty; they were dressed with small coifs upon their heads, from which a long white veil, open in front, descended to their feet, lending, by its novel fashion, a new grace to the elegance of their persons." Unable to withstand, at once, the attacks of his domestic, as well as foreign, enemies, and especially the intrigues of Russia, the tsar George Heraclievitch surrendered his kingdom to Paul, the Emperor of Russia, and handsome appointments at Petersburgh were, by stipulation, to be provided in return; and, in the year 1801, his whole family arrived at Moscow. But it was reserved for the Emperor Alexander to fulfil the contract, which was done as soon as the confused state of things, at the death of the late Emperor, would allow.
Thus the royal family, except one son, became dependent, and still continue dependent, on Russia; and, I believe, one or two of the princes hold high ranks in the Imperial army.
Sir R. K. Porter, in describing the fête of the Nowrooze, at Tabreez, informs us, that one object of particular interest was the presence of Alexander Mirza, the fourth son of Heraclius, the late tsar of Georgia, whose bold independence of spirit still resists all terms of amity with Russia, not only having rejected every Imperial honour offered to him, but openly declaring himself irreconcilably hostile to that power's possession of his native country. When Georgia was ceded, he withdrew to Daghistan, and from thence took refuge among the Lesghees, a nation of banditti, who inhabit Leghistan, who sell their service to any body, and take different sides, so that a native sometimes falls by the sword of his brother. When Alexander left the Lesghees, with the greatest difficulty, bravery, and address, he made his way from the fastnesses of their inaccessible country; and, when his road lay by any defended post, he literally opened a path with his sword through Shirvan, till he reached the Persian frontier, and threw himself on the generous faith of Abbas Mirza." It was impossible," says Sir R. K. Porter, "to look on this intrepid prince, however wild and obdurate, without interest; without that sort of pity and admiration with which a man might view the royal lion hunted from his hereditary waste, yet still returning to hover near, and roar in proud loneliness his ceaseless threatenings to the human strangers who had disturbed his reign."
Of course, Prince Alexander remains under the protection of Persia, and is ready to join in any
plan which might seem to give the smallest hope of
Georgia recovering her former rank, and of his becoming
her sovereign, as he never yielded his right
or title, when she was abandoned by the rest of his
family. Neither Russian craft, nor flattery, nor
promise, nor policy, has as yet been able to decoy
this prince into the snare, and the Georgians preserve
and show his portrait with exultation.
CHAPTER XVI. [...] VIEWS OF TIFLÍS.—GENERAL APPEARANCE OF KACHÉTIA.—COLLECTION OF TAXES IN GEORGIA.—SULTRY HEAT AT TIFLÍS.—DEPARTURE.
During our residence at Tiflís, our time was occupied in visiting every object of interest, and taking views of the town, one of which heads the present chapter [Vide p. 513. Vol. I.]. We also went to see an adjoining German colony, previous to noticing which I shall add a few general remarks.
The colonies of Wirtemburghers have received every encouragement from General Yermólof, and are settled in various parts of Georgia upon lands which have been assigned them [P. 22. Vol. II.]. Houses have been built for them, and they have been provided both with cattle and seed, as well as assisted with money. It is said that they have greatly improved the state of agriculture, and every kind of rural and industrious employment. They bring butter, cheese, vegetables, and even beer to the market at Tiflís.
The colony in the suburbs of Tiflís, which we visited, seemed to be in a prosperous condition. There a Frenchman also resided, who was famous as a cook, and who furnished an excellent dinner and good wines, by order of a gentleman who invited us to a party. These Germans are reported to show their gratitude to the Russian government by their docility and their industry. Notwithstanding the dreary appearance of the neighbourhood of Tiflís, it is said that the soil is very rich, and that it is sufficient to graze its surface and to throw in the seeds, which yield thirty for one. This fertility is assigned us one of the causes of the idleness of the natives.
Having finished our trip in Georgia, we could well appreciate the general accuracy of Sir R. Porter, who speaks of the extreme beauty of the valleys of Kachétia, of its hills and mountains clothed with the finest woods, of its gardens which yield fruits of the choicest flavour, and its vineyards which produce the most delicious grapes. He justly adds, that Kachétian wines, both red and white, have always been esteemed for softness, lightness, and delicacy of taste, beyond those of any other district in the province of Georgia. "The valleys of Kachétia are abundant in hemp, flax, rice, millet, barley, and wheat;" and they may almost be said to grow spontaneously. Pheasants, many kinds of wild fowl, antelopes, deer, sheep, and all sorts of domestic cattle, enrich these luxuriantly pastured vales. The rivers, too, add their tribute of plenty to the ample stores of nature. Many of the treasures of the mineral world may be found in the hearts of its mountains, and the climate is delightful. "Indeed, heaven seems to have drawn to this happy spot the essence of all that is necessary to the wants of man. But, alas, the man who has been placed in this earthly paradise to keep, to dress, and to enjoy it, has neither the will to separate the weed from the good herb, nor the taste to feel that it is sweeter than his neighbour's. Sunk in apathy, he cares not whether rain or sunshine descend on the ground; abandoned to indolence, it is all one to him, whether his food be the bramble or the grape; and for personal comfort, the stye would afford as pleasant a pillow as a bed of flowers; such is the present Kachétian." From this statement we may remark the sad deterioration of character in the Kachétians, compared to their ancestors, the renowned Albanians.
Speaking of Georgia, Kotzebue informs us, with respect to the collection of the revenue, that, in the month of November, the governor usually traverses (parcourt) the frontiers, and visits the different khans subject to pay tribute to Russia; that the chiefs have the custom of making considerable presents, which cannot be refused without offending them; and that the General has found the means of accepting of these gifts sans leurs causer trop de préjudice. He has begged the khans not to give him any thing but sheep, which constitute their principal riches, and he sends these animals to the regiments. Small flocks are formed of them, which it is not difficult to support, as the meadows yield plenty of pasture during the whole year.
The 1st and 2d of July we passed at Tiflís in the most disagreeable manner; for, although the temperature did not exceed 86° and 90° Fahrenheit in the shade, there was an oppressive sultrin ess in the atmosphere which almost made life a burden- We had been lucky enough to get a very large room at an Armenian's, in which we opened all the windows, and created a circulation of air as far as that was practicable in a still day. We also sprinkled the floor with water, and used ablutions with water and vinegar, notwithstanding which we were excessively restless, hot, and uncomfortable. As the degree of heat was not very great, I am inclined to attribute these effects to a particular local state of the air, which may arise from the nature of the vicinity of Tiflís and its situation in a narrow valley, as well as from that condition of the atmosphere which often precedes a thunder-storm, and which is generally attended by a degree of oppression that temperature alone does not explain.
A thunder-storm in the evening, which was accompanied
and followed by much rain, had but a
transient effect upon the air, for we passed a restless
night, and the following day, the 2d, proved
equally disagreeable; so that we were glad to escape
from Tiflís in the evening; having previously
obtained our orders and letters for those who
were to assist us in passing the Caucasus.
CHAPTER XVII.—ARRIVAL AT KHARTISKÁRST.—DEPARTURE FROM IT.—ANANNOOR.—THUNDER-STORM AT PASSANANOOR.—DEPARTURE.—EFFECTS OF A STORM.—KASHAÚR.—KÓBI.—PRISONERS ON THEIR ROUTE TO SIBERIA.—KASBÉK.—ROMANTIC ACCOUNT IN SIR R. K. PORTER'S TRAVELS.—ANONYMOUS CRITIQUE OF THEM.—AUTHOR'S OPINION.—DIVISIONS OF THE MOUNTAIN.—TRIBES OF THE CAUCASUS.—WORKS RESPECTING THEM.—ACCOUNT OF THE OSSETINIANS.—THEIR ROBBERY.—HOSPITALITY.—REVENGE OF BLOOD FOR BLOOD.—POLYGAMY.—MARRIAGE.—RELIGION.—OATHS.—DEATH OF THEIR RELATIONS.—THEIR SEPULCHRES.—PORTER'S ACCOUNT OF THE OSSETINIANS.
In the evening of the 2d of July, we reached Khartiskárst, and found a wonderful and most agreeable change in our sensations, compared to what we had experienced at Tiflís. We passed the night most delightfully upon our burchds and boards, in one of two new houses which have lately been erected for the convenience of travellers, and a great convenience they proved to us.
On the 3d July we left Khartiskárst at six o'clock in the morning, and, after a charming ride, reached Passananoor in the evening. We dined at Ananoor, and rejoiced that we had no occasion to enter its miserable quarantine on our return. The vignette which adorns the head of the present chapter, gives an excellent view of the castle of Ananoor, which includes a church.
The weather had been fine but warm. Rain commenced in the evening, and a thunder-storm followed, and continued all night. The reader will recollect the position of Passananoor, encircled by lofty mountains, which, however beautiful in fine weather, now fearfullv increased the horror of the storm. Thunder rolled, and was reverberated by the rocks; flashes of lightning followed each other in rapid succession, and were immediately succeeded by extremely loud claps, by one of which our loose shutter fell down and somewhat alarmed us. The rain, which fell in torrents, soon penetrated the wooden house in which we slept, and some of our party were obliged to remove their burchá-beds to another part of the room, to avoid the wet which fell upon them. In the morning, when daylight dawned upon us, Passananoor appeared one of the most gloomy abodes we had ever seen, Our accommodations, too, had been but very indifferent, our beds consisting of hay and our burchás, upon the bare floor.
At six o'clock of the 4th, the weather being fair, and the sky clear, we left our quarters; but we had not proceeded far when the thunder-storm was renewed, accompanied by heavy showers; and, but for our burchás, we should have been very uncomfortable: even with them, we were drenched through, except about the shoulders. The rivulets and streams we had formerly crossed were now become torrents, and, carrying down stones and earth from the mountains, forcing before them the foundations of bridges, and making new channels on all sides, they completely destroyed the road, which we in many places could neither trace nor follow. Since the same destruction regularly takes place after every violent storm, or heavy shower, the trouble of keeping the road in tolerable order may be easily conceived; but the soldiers at the stations, besides others in the vicinity, are employed for the purpose, and of course the expense to the crown is little or nothing, while the men's health is improved by the exercise. Before we reached the bottom of the hill of Kashaúr, the weather became fair, and the sky clear, so that the snowy summits of the Caucasian ridge were seen to great advantage. As we ascended the steep hill, however, clouds formed below us in the valley, and were gradually elevated. They soon enveloped the whole horizon in a very thick fog, which was followed by rain. We made a visit to the officer at Kashaúr, who was very kind to us, and at whose house we breakfasted. We set off, with fair weather, for Kazbék. From the northern extremity of the vale of Passananoor, or the southern foot of the hill of Kashaúr, to Kazbék, is by far the most mountainous, and the most difficult part of the passage of the Caucasus. Having reached Kóbi we found it equally as miserable as at our previous visit; but, as we had taken the precaution of providing some stores, we got a dinner without being dependent upon its resources.
Soon after leaving Kashaúr, we came up with three prisoners, who were conducted by a military guard and an officer to Kóbi. They were on their way from Tiflís to Siberia, but the officers could not inform us of the crimes for which their hard sentence had been received. His duty, like that of the rest of the officers, was merely to accompany them a single station, to lodge them safely, and to take a certificate from his successor in the charge that all was in due order. One of them was a Mahometan Tartar, the other two were Russians. The feet of all were in irons, and though it was summer, they were seated on rude low sledges, like small cars, drawn each by a couple of oxen. On arriving at K6bi, the Tartar was conducted, under a guard, to an adjoining stream, where, after several ablutions, he performed his devotions, apparently with much earnestness.
With a few showers we reached Kazbék in the evening. The mountain of the same name was completely uncovered, the sky clear and serene, so that it was seen to great advantage [The reader will find a particular account of this mountain in Reise in die Krym und den Kaukasus von Moris von Engelhardt und Friederich Parrot, M. D. part i. p. 192.]. In passing through the mountains to-day, the air was not only fresh but even slightly cold, and formed a wonderful contrast in temperature to that of Tiflís.
We lodged in the house of Madame Kazbék, and slept on feather-beds; an indulgence dearly purchased with its concomitant annoyances. We did not see that lady, who rarely shows herself to strangers, though, by her orders, the rites of hospitality are performed to all respectable travellers.
Sir R. K. Porter gives a very romantic account of his reception at this place. He tells us, that in one corner of the quadrangle formed by Madame Kazbék's house, "are a suite of excellent rooms, set apart for the reception of travellers of distinction. I had been honoured in being ushered into these apartments as soon as I arrived, and I was greeted by a little boy, about twelve years old, the son and representative of the late General-in-chief, who performed the hospitable duties of the house with the grace of one twice his age. His mother, the mistress of the mansion, did not make her appearance, being unwell; but she had ordered refreshment to be spread for me, which consisted of dried fish, some small pieces of roast meat, excellent bread and butter, and, after all, some as excellent coffee. Two of my fellow-travellers partook of this repast, and were as amused as myself with the discordant aspects and devoirs of our attendants, their assassin-like looks and garb giving them more the appearance of banditti than that of serving men, for they wrere all armed, and had their breastpouches filled with cartridges. Indeed it could not but cross me, once or twice, that they might eventually prove as savage as they seemed. For it was not improbable that these very people, who were now so obsequiously providing for my wants, might, on our advance to Kóbi, if I gave them opportunity, waylay and rob, if not absolutely murder me: a mode of farewell, to recently welcomed guests, not very uncommon amongst these rapacious mountaineers. In their opinions, within the gate, and without it, makes all the difference in the rites of hospitality, and, therefore, in the bonds of faith between host and traveller." [Travels in Persia and Georgia, vol. i. p. 76.] A very ingenious but severe critic has remarked, that Sir R. K. Porter, "in his attempts to work up many passages to something much finer than was at all necessary or fitting, has given not only very highly coloured, but even very inaccurate representations of the objects which he describes, and has cast over his whole production an air of fiction—of romance—from which there is not enough of solid truth to redeem it." [Blackwood's Magazine, No. XCI. p. 140.] It must be admitted, that there is too much truth in these observations; but, at the same time, in all candour, it ought to be allowed, that the Knight's travels contain a good deal of information, and that the plates, which are no doubt the offspring of much labour and assiduity, greatly enhance their value.
Before quitting the Caucasus, I shall embrace the opportunity of introducing a few general observations, which may be of use to future travellers.
Different divisions of the mountain tribes of the Caucasus have been proposed so as to assist in their examination and history. Guldenstaedt, one of the earliest learned travellers, who devoted much attention to this subject, has divided them into classes, as Georgians, Basianas, Abasians, Circassians (or rather Tcherkess), Ossetinians, Kisti, &c. and these classes into tribes. [Reise durch Russland und im Caucasischen Gebiirge, vol. i. pp. 459-502.] Pallas, wishing to improve upon his predecessor, adopts a different division [Pallas's Second Journey, &c.], and adds numerous observations with respect to the customs and manners of the tribes, on which points Guldenstaedt is deficient in information. His statements, however, chiefly respect the inhabitants of the north side of the Caucasus.
A gentleman, well acquainted with the tribes of the Caucasus, is of opinion that they might be arranged under the six following classes, which include many species and varieties, viz. the Circassians — the Lesghees — the Ossetinians — the Kisti — the Georgians — and the Tartars.
It is matter of regret, that notwithstanding the labours of a number of travellers, our ignorance of the inhabitants of the Caucasus should still be so great. Tooke's works give but a very imperfect account of these people. But there are two works, in the English language, which contain a good deal of information with respect to them; neither of which is very well known. One of them is "Ellis's Memoirs of the Natives of the Caucasus" principally compiled from the work of Guldenstaedt, already referred to; and the second is entitled, "A General Historical and Topographical Description of Mount Caucasus," translated from the works of Dr. Reineggs, and Marshal Bieberstein. [London. 2 vols. Printed for C. Taylor, Hatton Garden, &c.] The last work, which I first saw in Georgia, contains a great many interesting details, but unfortunately they are thrown together in great confusion. The most important work which has issued from the press, of late years, with respect to the mountain tribes in question, and especially with respect to their languages and dialects, is unquestionably the "Voyage au Caucase et en Géorgie," of Klaproth. But it is so abundant in long discussions about languages, dialects, derivations of words, &c. as to be little liked by the general reader. In the "Letters from the Caucasus, &c." and in Sir R. K, Porter's Travels, we find a number of very interesting observations, many of them, however, taken from Pallas. In the "Great Geographical Dictionary of Russia" or Vsévolojskii's "Dictionnaire Historique- Géographique" scarcely any information is to be found; and the Russian geographer, Yablovskii, seems to know but little about the Caucasus or Georgia.
Though all the works referred to, as well as others, of which I have formerly spoken, be deficient in any thing like a complete account of the mountaineers, yet they pave the way for the investigations of some learned individual, who, after giving up a few years to travelling in the Caucasus, and the study of languages and dialects, and the acquisition of accurate knowledge, might produce a most interesting work, replete with novelty. To such an individual the vocabularies of the languages used by the Caucasians, in Guldenstaedt's, Pallas's, and Klaproth's Travels, will be found of the greatest utility.
The following account of the Ossi, Ossetes, or Ossetinians, whose territories we again reached at Kazbék, is chiefly taken from Klaproth, and is by far the best I have met with. It is partly composed from his own observations, and is partly a compilation.
According to Pallas, the Ossetinians, who call themselves Ir, and Irones, from the name of their country, Ironistan, form a peculiar tribe, who altogether dwell among the high mountains, and whose "frontiers stretch, on the west, to Urup; on the east, to the Térek, on the northern part of the Caucasian mountains; on the west to Rion or the Phasis of the ancients, and, on the east to the Aragua, in their southern part."
Klaproth thinks that the Ossetinians are one of the most remarkable tribes of Mount Caucasus, who differ from all the rest, both in their language and their physiognomy, though they resemble them in their rude manners and their inclination to robbery. He treats at great length of the origin of this people, whom he regards "comme étant les Sarmates-Mèdes des anciens, et comme les Alanes et les Asses du moyen age."
The Ossetinians were formerly governed by their princes, and inhabited the plains of the Great and the Little Kabarda, and part of the borders of the Caucasus; and, after many changes and commotions in that neighbourhood, at length took up their present residence. For an account of their history, through a long succession of years, the reader may be referred to Klaproth's work. I only mean to allude to their present condition.
The Ossetinians are well made, strong, and generally of a middle stature. They are principally distinguished by their physiognomy, which greatly resembles that of Europeans. Blue eyes, and fair or red hair, are very common among them. Few of them have the hair altogether black. They are a healthy and prolific race. The women are generally little, and not pretty. Their faces are round, and their noses flat. They are robust; and labour and frugal nourishment render them still stronger. Those of the territory of Tagaour form an exception to this description, by their beauty and their slender figure. They resemble the Georgians, with whom their ancestors may have intermarried.
The Ossetinians dress and arm themselves after the manner of the Circassians, and rapine is their favourite occupation, as well as of the greater part of their neighbours. Young people prove their dexterity by theft, and robbery establishes their reputation: when they have committed homicide, they acquire the celebrity of a hero. They vaunt of their roguery, and they boast of assassination, or of having vengeance satiated by blood.
All the Ossetinians do not pillage in the same manner. In the valley of the Térek, and in general upon the road from Mozdók to Tiflís, they do not make regular attacks, but twenty or thirty conceal themselves in the woods, or behind the rocks, where they wait for travellers. Each of them chooses his man, at whom he fires. Having good fusils, they rarely miss. When they have killed the greatest part of an escort, they seize the effects, and divide the spoil. The division, however, is not always made without disputes, or without effusion of blood.
When the Ossetinians set out to pillage the villages of the Circassians, they adopt the following method, so as to carry off horses, horned cattle, and sometimes even the inhabitants. From a dozen to twenty form a band, and on a wet and stormy night, they go to these villages on foot, and while part of them keep guard before the houses, and present their guns at the doors, so as to prevent the inhabitants from coming out, the rest empty the stables and cow-houses, and steal every thing they can lay hold of. This being done, they return with their booty with all possible speed. The Ossetinians, who dwell between the Térek and the Fiag, reach the habitations of the Balkars and the Tcheghems, by passes in the snow mountains, only known to themselves, and carry off all that comes in their way, and especially young girls. They keep their booty, or sell it to their neighbours, according to circumstances.
When the Ossetinians rest their guns upon something, or when they are seated on the earth, they fire well, and never miss their aim; but they are very slow in loading. When on horseback they are obliged to alight, either to charge or to force home the ball. When they fire, they take care to choose some hiding-place, and do not waste their ammunition until thev think themselves sure of their end. Their mode of defence is singular. They place themselves at some steps from one another, and each defends himself. When a retreat is resolved upon, the most advanced fires his gun, and withdraws behind the rest to load it again, until they reach some mountain-path which is well known to them, and then they make their escape.
Although the Ossetinians be such determined robbers, they, as well as all the other tribes of the Caucasus, have the strictest regard to the laws of hospitality, (called Koonák, as formerly mentioned,) and scarcely an example has occurred in which they have been violated. If any one is guilty of such a crime, the whole village assembles to judge him. He is almost always condemned to be precipitated, his hands and feet being bound together, from the top of a rock into a river.
A stranger, who arrives at an Ossetinian village, is sure of being well treated during his stay; all his wants are attended to; he is treated in every way as a relative. But if he leave the village without an escort, he runs the risk of being pillaged by the same men whose hospitality he had shared the preceding evening. This people have a saying that, "He whom we meet in the way is given us by God!" If the prisoner has the means, lie may purchase his liberty by a sum of money, or by an equivalent in arms or cattle. The bargain concluded, he is under the safeguard of their hospitality; and the village in which he had been taken, is always obliged to defend him.
The Ossetinians do not treat their prisoners badly, except when they endeavour to escape.
When a stranger arrives at the house of an Ossetinian, the landlord hastens to kill a sheep, to have it roasted, and served up whole. While he eats, the master of the house generally remains near the door with a stick in his hand, and does not partake of the repast. He would sacrifice all to defend his guest, and to avenge any outrage upon him; he would have no repose till he had killed his murderer. That vengeance which demands blood for blood, and which, generally, prevails throughout the Caucasus, is carried to the highest degree by the Ossetinians. When an Ossetinian has avenged the death of one of his parents, or of his guest, he betakes himself to his grave, and announces with a loud voice that he has killed the murderer, and avenged the death of the deceased. This kind of vengeance is hereditary; it even descends from the grandfather to the grandson, and is often the cause of hostilities among the villages. Although it could not be entirely abolished, this custom is sometimes suspended for a time by presents made to the offended party.
The murderer takes refuge in a fortified tower, where, along with some of his associates, he defends himself against the attacks of the relatives of him who has been killed. From thence he sends to the Elder of the village, who assembles the relations, and persuades them to conclude a treaty of peace with their adversaries. By it the murderer is bound to give a certain number of sheep or oxen to those offended; and they are bound, on oath, to leave him tranquil during the time of the treaty. This treaty is sometimes renewed by mutual consent.
Few examples of polygamy are met with among the Ossetinians. The rich, whether Mahometans or Christians, are the only individuals who have two, and sometimes three, wives.
When an Ossetinian wishes to marry, he sends one of his relations or friends to the father, to ask his daughter of him. If the parties agree about the dowry, which generally consists of fire-arms, sabres, poniards, cattle, &c, a feast of three days' duration follows.
The Ossetinians are very strict respecting virginity, but after marriage it is reckoned honourable for a woman to have a number of lovers.
The religion of the Ossetinians is the same as among all the mountain tribes. It is a singular mélange of Mahometanism, Christianity, and ancient superstitions. It is evident that the Ossetinians give considerable attention, even yet, to some of the festivities of the Christian church.
The oaths of the Ossetinians are very singular. When they are accused of theft, they generally swear by a dog, a cat, or the dead. The accused with a dog, runs throughout the village, and cries with a loud voice, "I am about to kill this dog." After which, the real thief generally avows his fault, because it is believed, that to participate in the death of a dog would lead to misfortune. It often happens, that he who takes an oath cuts off the head of a cat, or hangs a dog, saying that the animal will avenge itself of the perjured person, by scratching, biting, and tormenting the guilty. Whoever suspects one of his neighbours to have stolen, conducts him to the place where his relations are interred; and the accused placing himself near the tomb of his father, mother, or brother, cries out, "If I have stolen, I wish to serve as a horse in the other world to my father, my mother, or my brother; but if I am innocent, may that punishment fall upon the guilty."
When an Ossetinian dies, all his relations assemble. The men uncover the head and the hips, and lash themselves till blood appears, and the women scratch their faces, bite their arms, and cry in a dreadful manner. The wife of the deceased ought to be more violent than the rest, and to abstain for a year from all kinds of meat and other things prohibited during the fast. Generally, her husband's brother espouses her, even when he has another wife, with the view of preserving the property in the family.
Every family has its own sepulchre, which, among some tribes, is an immense square building, with a very narrow entrance. Two men enter it, drawing after them the body of the deceased, stretched upon planks. When it is entirely consumed, they mix the bones with those of others of the family. [Vide Voyage au Caucase et en Georgie, vol. ii. p. 223.]
Many of the above observations are as applicable to a number of the other tribes of the Caucasus, as to the Ossetinians. Indeed, I strongly suspect, that no author has ever had the requisite knowledge to enable him completely to distinguish the peculiar customs and manners even of the principal races.
With a few remarks from Sir R. K. Porter respecting the Ossetinians, which differ but little from the foregoing statements, I shall conclude this chapter.
"The natives in this neighbourhood, (Kazbék,) are of the Ossi tribe; a people of mixed persuasions, Christian, Mahometan, and pagan. The village of Kasbeck, as well as a few others in its immediate vicinity, is inhabited by Christians professing the same faith and observances as the Georgians." — "It is said, that the present race of Ossi Christians are amongst the most civilised of the mountaineers. This may be; but, in spite of their better faith, and better laws, they are occasionally not less expert at robbery and murder, than their brethren of Mahometan and heathen creeds. The men are strong, active, and well made, with dark complexions, and a peculiarly lowering look, an aspect more accordant with the latter part of their character, than that of their pretensions to piety, and its consequent blameless life.
"The Ossetinians are habited in the manner of
the Circassians, and never appear without the common
weapon of the country, a dagger in their
girdle. Its form is broad near the handle, tapering
down to a long point, the whole being about
eighteen inches in length. In short, there is a
general appearance of offence and defence in every
thing we see, which must always be the case as
we retrograde nearer to man in a state of nature,
where the law of force has not yet given place to
the law of reason: every body is armed, every
house is a sort of little fortress."
CHAPTER XVIII.—FORTRESSES OF THE CAUCASUS.—WARLIKE APPEARANCE OF THE INHABITANTS.—DARIEL.—FALL OF ROCK INTO THE TEREK.—NEW ROAD.—MOUNTAIN PASS.—LARS.—VLADIKAVKAZ. [...]
I have frequently had occasion to allude to the general warlike appearance which prevails in the Caucasus. There, indeed, almost every village may be said to be fortified, having a court with high stone walls, from which arises a tower, generally of a tapering square form. To these forts the inhabitants were wont to betake themselves for refuge, in former times, when divisions and warfare were more frequent among the mountain tribes than at present. They still remain as the safeguards of the more accessible parts of the Caucasus, and some of them are kept in good repair. In case of an attack by a regular army, they would only be of momentary use, and the natives, no doubt, would then desert them, and trust alone for safety, to the fastnesses of the surrounding mountains. In order that the reader may have an accurate idea of these fortified villages, I have caused a view of one of them to be placed at the commencement of the present chapter. It was taken near Kazbék, and well illustrates the nature of the alpine scenery by which that place is surrounded.
Another circumstance is very striking to the traveller. Among the mountains of the Caucasus, as well as in the adjoining plains on the north, and in Georgia on the south, every individual is armed when he quits his habitation. Even boys are furnished with daggers and swords, the use of which they are taught, at a very early age, so as to be prepared for offence or defence. Pistols and muskets are carried, at all times, by every man in the regions alluded to. They are even the accompaniments of those at the plough, in the farmyard, or employed in other rural or domestic affairs. Almost every traveller we meet, whatever be his rank, description, or country, is accoutred as if he were in active service, or as if the country was in a state of warfare. These appearances produce very unsocial feelings, and cause the stranger to such customs to look upon every individual he sees with suspicion, and even with jealousy. Here, of course, every man must be on the alert, and look to his own safety. I shall never forget the strange impression made upon my mind, on meeting a mohla —clothed in scarlet and with a white turban upon his head,— and his servant, with daggers in their girdles, and guns slung across their backs in one of the defiles of Georgia. But I must return to our journey.
The morning of the 5th July was very fresh, and in the night we had felt cold. We left Kazbék, and with a few trifling showers reached the fortress of Dariél. The commandant, to whom we had despatched a letter from General Wilyemínof the preceding evening, though it had been received only about an hour before our arrival, had made preparations for us. He gave us twenty workmen, and ten soldiers as a guard. After proceeding about a verst, we were obliged to dismount and walk. We crossed a temporary bridge from the west to the east bank of the Térek, and the workmen transported our luggage, for the horses could proceed no farther. We now approached the avalanche, or rather land-slip formerly alluded to [Vide Vol. I. p. 503.], an enormous quantity of fragments of rock, large and small, which had fallen from the adjoining mountain on the 23d June, and blocked up the Térek so that it rose many feet above its usual level. By this accident the bed of the river was permanently raised to a considerable height, and the arched way blasted and cut out of the solid rock on its west side, and which is said to have cost ten years' labour, was completely under water. [Ibid, p. 4/70.] Under the directions of a Russian major and engineer, who gave us every information, a new road was making on the east bank of the Térek, it being calculated that the trouble of doing so would be infinitely less than to clear away the rocks and stones, so as to restore the river to its former level. Nearly 800 men were daily employed for tins purpose, which was soon completed, and the temporary bridge by which we regained the west bank of the Térek, as well as the other above mentioned, I understand has been since replaced by a permanent bridge.
On the west side of the river there is, however, another pass to Dariél, but it is extremely difficult and no less than three or four hours are said to be requisite for advancing between two and three versts. The ascent is gained in some places by climbing, and in others by the assistance of ropes. Horses occasionally pass by this road, but the experiment is not made without danger. A few days before our arrival, one was killed on the spot, in consequence of having tumbled down the precipice.
In consequence of previous orders, we were met by horses from Lars, which place we soon reached, accompanied by ten soldiers and two Kozáks. After our departure from Lars, leaving the soldiers with our servant and the luggage, we rode on with the two Kozaks, against the rules of travelling in these districts. We were stopped at Maksímkina, and the officer stationed there said he would report us for going without a convoy; but we got off, and reached Vladikavkáz in safety.
[Story continues for another million years.]
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