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An incredible (quite literally, and quite, quite mad) theory found in The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1786 (London: Printed for J. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall, 1788):

TH E fame ftile of outward magnificence, with the fame munificent fpirit in the difpofal of bounties or rewards, which have fo eminently diftinguifhed the court of Peterfburgh through the prefent reign, ftill continue to be its peculiar characteriftics. Every thing that comes within thefe defcriptions is done in the higheft ftile of grandeur, and feems not only fuited to the prefent greatnefs, but to the rifing hope and fortune of that empire. Indeed the emprefs proceeds upon fo large a fcale in thefe matters, that it feems rather to be graduated by an Afiatic than an European model. It is not often feen, at leaft in the weftern world, that a great military power, whofe ambition and armaments fpread apprehenfion or terror all round, and which feems almoft conftantly looking for war, fhould at the fame time exceed all others in the fplendid eftablifhments of peace and luxury..

The views of the court are, however, directed in its expences to other objects of greater importance and utility than thofe of mere magnificence. Of thefe may be confidered the great expedition undertaken in the year 1785, under the emprefs's direction, for the purpofe of difcovering, exploring, and examining the moft remote provinces, and the yet unknown parts of that immenfe empire. The difficulties and perils to which this expedition by land was fuppofed liable, through the tracklefs deferts which they were to explore, the inhofpitality of the climates, and the barbarity of the nations they were to encounter, with the numberlefs obftacles of various forts they were to furmount, rendered the profpect much more terrible than it had appeared to our circumnavigators in any of their late great voyages of difcovery. The boldeft and moft enterprizing perfons of all nations were accordingly fought out for this undertaking, and high rewards and promifes held out as an encouragement to their zeal and perfeverance. The Baron de Walchen Stedz, who has a regiment of cavalry in the emprefs's fervice, was appointed commander in chief upon this expedition. His corps confifted of 810 chofen men, who were led on by 107 officers of different degrees of diftinction, and accompanied by pioneers, artillery-men, handycraftfmen, draughtfmen, engineers, and an hiftoriographer. We fuppofe naturalifts and aftronomers were included in fome of thefe defcriptions. It need fcarcely be obferved, that they were amply provided with all manner of neceffaries, and that they were furnifhed with credentials fuited to every circumftance and fituation. It was fuppofed that the expedition could not be completed under three years.

The only fruit of their difcoveries which has yet reached our knowledge, was that of a small fugitive colony of ftrangers and Chriftians, who they found fhut up from the world, in a moft fequeftered part of the wilds of Caucafus; and who, in the language of the country, are called
T f c h e c h e s [my emphasis—A.B.]. Thefe poor people are faid to lead lives of the moft exemplary piety, and to exhibit a primeval fimplicity of manners. — They are totally ignorant of their origin, any farther than knowing that they are ftrangers, which they are likewife confidered by the fcattered neighbouring nations. From an affinity in their language, and fome other circumftances, they are fuppofed to be defcended from a colony of Bohemians, who flying from the religious perfecutions in their own country, towards the clofe of the fifteenth century, found at length a refuge from oppreffion, in the diftance from the reft of mankind which thefe remote defarts afforded.

[...] It is a fingular circumftance, at leaft in the modern hiftory of the Old World, for a prince to be under the neceffity of undertaking great expeditions by fea and land, in order to difcover new countries within his own dominions. Such is the vaftnefs of that unbounded empire!