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Of the social and political importance of this foreign element we may form some idea by means of the statistics which we possess regarding the religious confessions. In Russia, religion and nationality are, practically speaking, so closely allied as to be almost identical; and we may be quite sure that those who have become members of the National Church are either already Russified or on the high-road to Russification. Regarding nationality, then, from the social point of view, we find that the foreign element decreases somewhat in bulk.* Of the sixty-one millions composing the population of European Russia in the sense above defined, about nine millions are non-Orthodox. Of these, nearly three millions are Roman Catholics; rather more than two millions are Protestants; about a million and a half are Jews; two millions are Mahometans; and 86,000 are Lamaïsts.

The geographical distribution of these various sects is worthy of attention. In the provinces lying near the western frontier we find the influence of the West in the form of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and in the eastern provinces we observe Oriental influences in the form of Lamaïsm and Islam. Thus, with regard to religious beliefs, as in many other respects, Russia forms the connecting-link between Europe and Asia.†

* This decrease is accounted for by the fact that the Finns in Russia Proper 3,038,000) are Orthodox.

+ Part of this chapter was published in the Fortnightly Review, August, 1876.



St. Petersburg and Berlin-Big Houses-Police-The "Lions"-Peter the Great-His Aims and Policy-The German Régime-Nationalist Reaction-French Influence-Consequent Intellectual Sterility-Influence of the Sentimental School-Hostility to Foreign Influences-A New Period of Literary Importation-Secret Societies-The Catastrophe―The Age of Nicholas-A Terrible War on Parnassus-Decline of Romanticism and Transcendentalism-Gógol-The Revolutionary Agitation of 1848-New


FROM whatever side the traveller approaches St. Petersburg, unless he goes thither by sea, he must traverse several hundred miles of forest and morass, presenting few traces of human habitation or agriculture. This fact adds powerfully to the first impression which the city makes on his mind. In the midst of a waste howling wilderness, he suddenly comes on a magnificent artificial oasis.

Of all the great European cities the one which most resembles the capital of the Tsars is Berlin. Both are built on perfectly level ground; both have wide, regularly-arranged, badly-paved streets; in both there is a general look of stiffness and symmetry which suggests military discipline and German bureaucracy. But there is at least one profound difference. Though Berlin is said by geographers to be built on the Spree, we might live a long time in the city without ever noticing the sluggish, dirty little stream on which the name of a river has been undeservedly conferred. St. Petersburg,

on the contrary, is built on a magnificent river, which forms the main feature of the place. By its breadth, and by the enormous volume of its clear blue cold water, the Neva is certainly one of the noblest rivers in Europe. A few miles before reaching the Gulf of Finland it breaks up into several streams and forms a delta. It is here that St. Petersburg stands. The principal part of the town is built on the southern bank; the remainder is scattered over the northern bank and the islands. The chief of these is Basil Island, or Vassiliostrof, connected with the southern bank by a long stone bridge, remarkable for the beauty of its outline. This is the only great stone bridge of which the city can boast, but there are numerous wooden ones—some supported by piles, and others by boats like the wellknown floating bridges on the Rhine-which connect the islands with each other and with the mainland.


many intermediate points the communication is kept up in summer by picturesque, little two-oared ferry-boats, built, it is said, on a model designed by Peter the Great. Some of the more distant parts of the town may be conveniently reached by means of the active little steamlaunches, which dart about, and add to the animation of the scene. In winter these ferry-boats and launches disappear, and the bridges lose much of their importance, for the river is covered throughout its whole extent by a thick firm layer of ice, strong enough to support the heaviest burdens. Then disappear, too, the rattling, jolting little droskies-a vehicle which stands midway

• A second is now in course of construction.

between a cab and an instrument of torture-and are replaced by the sledges, which glide along smoothly and noiselessly like a boat in calm water.

The main stream, or "Big Neva," spanned by the stone bridge and by three bridges of boats, flows between the city properly so called and Vassiliostrof, and is kept within proper bounds by quays and embankments solidly built and faced with massive blocks of red granite. On the southern side the embankment is used as a street or promenade. The quays of Vassiliostrof, on the contrary, are employed for commercial purposes, and are always lined during the summer months by a goodly array of shipping. At the eastern extremity of the island stand the Custom-house and the Exchange, and here the foreign merchants, who monopolise the export and import trade, most do congregate. The quarter is not, however, exclusively mercantile, for it contains also the Academy of Science, the University, and the Academy of the Fine Arts. On the neighbouring island, higher up the river, stands the fortress, a picturesque structure, used as the burying-place of the Imperial family and as a State prison. On the opposite bank stand the Imperial palace, the Admiralty, the Senate, and, further down, the naval dockyards; and high over all, towers the majestic gilded dome of St. Isaac's.

Like the river, everything in St. Petersburg is on a colossal scale. The streets, the squares, the palaces, the public buildings, the churches, whatever may be their defects, have at least the attribute of greatness, and seem to have been designed for the countless generations

to come, rather than for the practical wants of the present inhabitants. In this respect the city well represents the Empire of which it is the capital. Even the private houses are built in enormous blocks, many of them containing more than a score of separate apartments.

This custom of building big houses has rendered possible a peculiar and effective system of police organisation. Each house has a dvornik, or porter, who is a servant of the proprietor and at the same time a police agent. He has to sweep, and in summer to water, the street in front of the house, and to see that all the inmates observe scrupulously the passport regulations. At night he has to remain outside in the street and act as watchman. The fact that these men commonly lie down and go to sleep during the long winter nights, when the thermometer may sink to thirty degrees below zero, and that they are rarely if ever frozen to death, constitutes a brilliant proof of the Russian's wonderful capacity for resisting extreme cold. Formerly, it is said, these watchmen often aided the police in waylaying and robbing benighted citizens; but all such practices have become things of the past, and the police of St. Petersburg may now challenge comparison with those of the other European capitals.

St. Petersburg has, of course, its "lions," which every tourist is expected to visit and admire. There is, for instance, St. Isaac's Cathedral, an enormous building in Renaissance style, with gilded dome and gigantic monolithic pillars of red granite. The general effect of the exterior, especially when covered with a layer of sparkling

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