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The Englishwoman in Russia Impressions of the Society and Manners of the Russians at Home

The Englishwoman in Russia
Impressions of the Society and Manners of the Russians at Home
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Title: The Englishwoman in Russia Impressions of the Society and Manners of the Russians at Home
Release Date: 2019-01-31
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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[i]

Frontispiece. A Review. Charge of 10,000 Cavalry.

See page 323.


[ii]

THE
ENGLISHWOMAN IN RUSSIA;
IMPRESSIONS OF THE SOCIETY AND MANNERS
OF THE

RUSSIANS AT HOME.

BY A LADY,
TEN YEARS RESIDENT IN THAT COUNTRY.

Peter the Great’s Statue, and the Office of the Senate.

With Illustrations.

LONDON:
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
1855.

The Proprietor of the Copyright of this Work reserves to himself the right
of Translation in Foreign Countries.


[iii]

TO
HER BROTHER,
THESE PAGES ARE AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED BY
THE AUTHOR.

[iv]


[v]

PREFACE.

Without troubling the reader with any account of asea voyage from England to Archangel, as all travels onthe “vasty deep” present pretty much the same featureswhich have been so frequently and so well described byothers, I will only observe that circumstances induced meto reside for more than ten years in Russia, which Ihave only recently quitted.

The following pages contain a simple account of themanners, customs, and genre de vie chez eux of a peoplewhose domestic habits are comparatively but little knownto the English nation.

Of the truth of many of the anecdotes I can assure thereader; others I have had from good authority, and Ihave every reason to believe that they are veracious.

The names of persons that are inserted in the text arenot those of Russian families: the Russians, like theancient Greeks, have a termination denoting parentage;the syllables vitch for the masculine, and ovna for thefeminine, are merely equivalent to the classic ides.Thus, Dmitri Ivanovitch, means Demetrius the son ofIvan; Cleopatra Ivanovna, Cleopatra the daughter of[vi]Ivan, &c. I have therefore betrayed none, because thesurname is omitted; I have also taken the further precautionto change one of the names in every instance, lestmy friends should incur any evil consequences from theirgovernment, which is at the present time so exceedinglysuspicious, that, for the most harmless expression, theoffender who made use of it would be liable to be banishedto Siberia.

I trust that I have done full justice to all the amiableand social excellences of the Russians. Of their otherqualities I beg the reader to form his own judgment.“Une nation de barbares polis,” said a French gentleman,in speaking of them; but one cannot deny that theypossess the good qualities of savages, as well as their badones. Perhaps the Muscovite character is the most difficultof any to understand; and after living for years inRussia, it is very possible not to know the Russians.They seem indeed to possess two characters, each distinguishedby traits diametrically opposed to those of theother. One may be considered as their private, and theother as their public character; and I cannot pretend tothe power of defining them. I have seen a Russian colonel,known for his excessive severity, who would witness unmovedthe terrible infliction of the knout, perfectly unableto control his tears at the mimic sorrows of a Frenchactress. He that is mean and despicable in public life,is often kind, amiable, and liberal at home. He whowould be merciless and oppressive to his inferiors, is[vii]frequently affectionate to his family and sincere to hisfriend. The lady who would be shocked to say a petulantword to an acquaintance, would not hesitate to strikeher maid; and though she would be overwhelmed withgrief at the distress she could see, she would, by herreckless extravagance, cause the severest sufferings toher serfs, and reduce them to the extremity of want,without feeling remorse.

This slight sketch of Muscovite manners having nopretension whatever to literary excellence, the writertrusts that its manner of delineation will escape criticism,and that its truthfulness will counterbalance the manyfaults it undoubtedly contains.

The interest at present excited by a nation with whomthe English are at war has induced her to listen to severalfriends who have recommended her to present these writtenobservations to the public.

London, October, 1854.

[viii]


[ix]

CONTENTS.

PAGE
CHAPTER I.
Aspect of the Dwina—Crosses erected by the peasants—Sunset in the North—Russian boats and barks—Boatmen—Their cargoes—Solombol—Shallowness of the river—Archangel—Samoïdes—Their mode of living—A visit to their Tchume, or encampment—Reindeer and sledges—Samoïde bridegroom—A wedding-feast—The Samoïde costume—Their ideas of the Supreme Being—A keepsake—Catching a reindeer—Manner of eating—Strange custom 1
CHAPTER II.
Wedding of a Starosta’s daughter—Politeness of the host—The guests—The bride—Bridal etiquette—Description of the bride’s dress—The bridegroom—The hospitality shown—The amusements of the guests—Improvised songs—The bridegroom’s riches—Demeanour of the company—Dance of the peasant-women—Dance of the men—National songs 14
CHAPTER III.
Travellers in Russia—False impressions—Civilization in the Czar’s dominions—Public roads—Morasses and forests—The Vologda road—Wretched horses—Rough roads—The crown peasants—Aspect of the villages—Civilization of the people—Vanity of the Russians—Provincial towns—The churches—The postmasters—The yemstchicks or drivers—Personal appearance of the peasantry—Their costumes—Crossing the Dwina—Pleasing scene—Village burying-ground 19
[x]CHAPTER IV.
Vologda: its inhabitants—A Polish lady—Treatment of the Poles—Russian ladies: their politeness—Peter the Great’s civilization—Slavery: its effects on the character—Conversation—Card-playing—A princess—Poverty—Filthy households—Equal division of property—Cause of poverty—An old gambler 31
CHAPTER V.
Our journey—Kabitkas—Russian custom—Endless forests and morasses—Desolation of the country—Musical yemstchick—Scarcity of inhabitants—Criminals: their aspect—A bad mother—Monastery of Seea—Visit to the abbot—The church—A saint’s shrine—Peasants—Change in the scenery—Accidents—The driver—A contented veteran—Love of country—Soldiers’ songs—Russian melodies—Yemstchick’s gratitude—Another driver: his prospects in life—Beautiful effect—Ladinapol—Schlusselberg—A village inn in Russia 39
CHAPTER VI.
Appearance of the capital—The public buildings—The statue of Peter—The quays—The lighting of the streets—The shops and shopmen—A bargain—The dwornicks: their wretched life—Tea-taverns: the company assembled—The itinerant merchants—Cossacks—Circassians: their fidelity—The soldiers of the line—Shameful treatment—The butitchnick—A sad occurrence—Winter aspect—The Nevsky Perspective—Costumes—A drowning man—Police regulations—Number of murders—A poor man’s funeral—Funeral cortège of a prince—Effect of twilight—Convicts—The metropolitan—The Emperor—Police regulations on salutations—The Kazane church 51
[xi]CHAPTER VII.
Places worth visiting—Peter’s Museum—The Czar’s works—Curious effigy—The war-horse—The Nevsky monastery—The saint’s shrine—Magnificent tomb—Superstition—The cemetery—Catherine—Imperial mausoleum—Description of the sarcophagi—Prisoners—Political offenders—Spy system—Bombardment of Odessa—Dumb spy—A spy of rank—Assemblée de la noblesse—Masked balls—Russian civilization—Love of money—Inebriety—Society in St. Petersburg 74
CHAPTER VIII.
Winter amusements—The opera and French theatre—Hamlet—A true Russian play—Corruption of the police—Anecdotes—The hermitage—The museum—Dinner parties—Russian hospitality—Want of information—The censor’s office: its restrictions 87
CHAPTER IX.
Russian courtship—State of household servants—Anecdotes—Trousseaux—The matrimonial candidate—Matchmakers—Serfs’ weddings—Rich dowry—Matchmakings—Curious custom—Russian marriages—Blessing the threshold—Bridal parties—Statute-fair for wives in St. Petersburg—Habit of painting—Lottery of marriage, &c. 103
CHAPTER X.
The abbess—The inmates of the convent—The wardrobe—A young Russian priest and his bride—The archbishop—Ancient manuscripts—Alexis, son of Peter the Great—Description of a monastery—Prisoners—The church, cemetery, and garden—Monastic serfs—The archimandrite—Superior and inferior class of Russian clergy—Peter the Great’s policy—Political use of religion—A modern miracle—General estimate of monastic institutions—Proscribed sects—Russian hermits—Hermitage at Kastroma 118
[xii]CHAPTER XI.
Aspect of the country—Sketch of the peasants—Forebodings of evil—State of the serfs—Anecdotes of proprietors—The French waiting-maid—Shameful treatment of serfs—State of crime—Mutilations and murders—Revenge for a beating—Dreadful vengeance of the serfs—Pleasing anecdote—Wealthy serfs—Recklessness of the nobles—Selling slaves—The cook and his sorrows—Anecdotes—Serf apprentices—The old gourmand—A good bargain and a bad one—The gardener—A boorish audience—The peasants—Superstitions and ignorance—Anecdotes 134
CHAPTER XII.
Landed proprietors—Sketch of the country—The wolves: dreadful occurrence—A child lost—Winter amusements—Wolf-hunt—A cunning animal—Summer sketch—Russian costumes—The national dance—The peasants—Avarice of the landowners—Serfs
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