The appearance of Kronstadt is respectable. It is regularly built, and contains many straight and well-paved streets, and several squares. The houses, however, are all low, being generally of one story, with those singular red-and-green painted roofs common in Russia; and are mostly of wood, with the exception of those belonging to the government, which number nearly two hundred, and are nearly all built of stone. The town is entered by three gates, and is divided into two sections, the commandant's division and the admiralty, each of which is subdivided into two districts. It is also intersected by two canals, which have their sides built of granite, and are both deep and wide enough to admit the largest vessels. The one, Peter's canal, is used as a repairing dock; and the other, Catherine's canal, for commercial purposes.
Kronstadt contains three Greek churches: that of the Transfiguration, a large wooden edifice, built by Peter the Great, and covered with images ; Trinity church, and St. Andrew's church, in the Byzantine style, with a handsome cupola. There are also two Greek chapels, and three other churches, one each for Lutherans, English, and Roman catholics. Between the two canals stands a handsome palace, built by Prince Menchikoff, now occupied as a naval school, and attended by three hundred pupils. The other public buildings deserving of notice are the marine hospital, fitted up with twenty-five hundred beds; the exchange, customhouse, admiralty, arsenal, barracks, cannon-foundry, &c, and the small palace in which Peter the Great resided, and in the gardens of which are several oaks planted by his own hand. The shady alleys of the gardens form the principal promenade.
The harbor of Kronstadt lies to the south of the town, and consists of three sections: the military or outer harbor, which is the great naval station of Russia, and is capable of containing thirty-five ships-of-the-line ; the middle harbor, properly intended for the fitting out and repairing of vessels ; and the innermost harbor, running parallel with the last, and used only by merchant-vessels, of which one thousand might lie in it. Two thirds of the external commerce of Russia pass through Kronstadt, although the depth of water at the bar is scarcely nine feet, and ice blocks up the harbor nearly five months in the year; the shipping season continuing only from May to November. Kronstadt has constant communication with the opposite shores, and steamers now ply regularly between it and the capital. The population in winter is not above six thousand, exclusive of the garrison, and marine; but including these, in summer, it is not less than forty thousand.
The Rev. J. 0. Choules, who accompanied Mr. Vanderbilt in his excursion to the principal seaports of Europe in his beautiful steam-yacht the "North Star," in 1853, mentions an interesting characteristic of that northern latitude which they witnessed, June 21, while anchored in the roadstead of Kronstadt: " This is the longest day [of summer], and the sun did not set till nearly ten o'clock, and then rose again before two; and all the interval was one continued bright twilight, so that we could read the small type of a newspaper on deck with great ease. At half-past twelve, a bright halo indicates the proximity of the sun to the horizon during his absence. All were on deck to witness the sun rise, and I do not think we shall soon forget the novelty of twenty-four hours' daylight in one day."
The remaining Baltic provinces — Esthonia, Livonia, and Courland — are situated on the south of the gulf of Finland, and to the east of the Baltic ; and, from their importance in an agricultural point of view, rank high among the tributary lands of the great autocrat. They are also known as the German provinces, the higher classes having still retained the language and customs of their. German ancestors. These provinces present an interesting field to both the student of history and the ethnographer.
Esthonia (anciently Esthland, or Revel) is situated between the fifty-eighth and sixtieth degrees of north latitude, and the twenty-third and twenty-ninth degrees of east longitude; having on the east the government of St. Petersburg, on the south Lake Peipus and the government of Riga, on the west the Baltic, and on the north the gulf of Finland. Its area, including the islands belonging to it, is about seven thousand two hundred square miles.
The surface of the country is generally flat, but diversified in parts with undulating hills. It contains many small lakes and streams, but has no navigable river. Its shores are bold and rocky. The climate is rigorous; the winters are long and severe, and fogs and violent winds are common throughout the year.
The soil is in great part sandy, and rather infertile: the cultivable lands are supposed to compare with those which are unproductive, including the forests, &c, as one to three. Agriculture is the chief employment of the population, and more grain is produced than is sufficient for home consumption : it is principally rye, barley, and oats; but wheat and buckwheat, besides flax, hemp, hops, and tobacco, are also raised. The greater part of the grain not required for food is set apart for the purpose of distilling spirituous liquors, large quantities of which are consumed by the lower orders of the people, who are much addicted to the vice of drunkenness. Different species of pulse are extensively cultivated, and form a large proportion of the nourishment of the peasantry. Fruit-trees are neglected; but certain wild fruits are very abundant. The pine, fir, &c., are the most common forest-trees; but the oak, elm, and beech, &c., are met with. A good many head of live stock are reared, and some are driven into this province from other and distant ones, to be fattened for the St. Petersburg markets.
The oxen and horses of Esthonia are very indifferent, as well as the sheep, goats, &c., though active endeavors have been made to improve the breed of the latter. Poultry is abundant. The lakes do not contain many fish, but the fisheries on the coasts are of importance to the inhabitants. Among the wild animals, may be enumerated a few elks; and the bear, wolf,* badger, fox, &c., inhabit the forests.
A few mineral products are obtained in this province, but they are of no great consequence. Nearly all the manufactures are domestic: the peasantry weave their own coarse woollens, and some very tolerable linen stuffs. In the islands, the building of boats is a principal employment. Distilleries are common in every part of the country, the free use of stills being one of the most important of their ancient privileges that the Estho-nians preserve. The chief exports are grain, spirits, salt fish, and hides; among the chief imports are herrings and salt.
The port of Revel is the centre of the trade of the government. For administrative purposes, the province is under the superintendence of the governor-general of Riga, and consists of four districts (Revel, Hapsal, Weissenstein, and Wesenberg) ; but it has its own provincial council, judicial court, &c. Nearly all the inhabitants are Lutherans. A comparatively very small proportion of the population is educated.
Revel (called by the Russians Kolyvan), the capital of Esthonia, is situated on a small bay on the south side of the gulf of Finland, two hundred miles west-southwest of St. Petersburg. Its population is about fifteen thousand. The city proper, included within the ramparts, is small; and although it has many good brick houses, its streets are narrow and irregular. There are several Lutheran, a Roman catholic, and some Greek churches, all stone edifices; and various charitable and educational establishments, the latter including a gymnasium, episcopal seminary, and a school (pension) for nobles. The castle, a modern edifice, is appropriated to the provincial authorities: the municipal officers, who are elected by the city, reside in the town-hall. The admiralty is the principal remaining public building. The suburbs, consisting mostly of wooden houses, cover a large extent of ground along the shore. Revel is much resorted to as a watering-place, and has some good warm baths, a theatre, severalclubs or casinos, and three or four public libraries, one of which, the property of the city, is said by Possart to contain ten thousand volumes.
This town is one of the stations for the Russian fleet, and has a harbor defended by several batteries. This port, which was materially improved in 1820, is deeper than that of Kronstadt, though more difficult of entrance. The roadstead, formed by some islands, is well sheltered. The long duration of the frost is the principal drawback on Revel as a naval station, though that is a disadvantage which it shares in common with the other Russian ports in the Baltic.
Though not connected with the interior by any navigable river, Revel has a considerable trade. Its principal exports are grain, spirits, hemp, flax, timber, and other Baltic produce; the imports consist of colonial produce, herrings from Holland and Norway, salt, cheese, wine, tobacco, fruits, dye-stuffs, cotton yarn, stuffs, and other manufactured goods, &c. A portion of the customs' revenue is enjoyed by the town.
Revel was founded by the Danes in 1218, and afterward sold by them to the knights of the Teutonic order. In 1561, it came into the possession of the Swedes ; but, as before remarked, in treating of the province, it was taken from them by the Russians in 1710.
Like ancient Thebes, Revel is entered by seven gates; they are all picturesque erections, decorated with various historical mementos, the arms of the Danish domination, the simple cross of the order on the municipal shield of the city. The Schmieedetforte is celebrated for a daring act of magisterial justice, which took place in 1535. At all times a petty animosity had existed between the rich burghers and the lawless nobility of the province, who troubled the commerce of the city, and laughed at the laws of the former; and, on one occasion, the atrocious murder of one of his own peasants in the streets of Revel, by Baron Uxkiill, of Reisenberg, so exasperated the magistrates, that they menaced the murderer with the utmost severity of the law if ever he came within their jurisdiction. Nevertheless, and despising their threat, the baron, attended by a slender retinue, entered the city in mere bravado; when the magistrates, true to their word, seized him, and after due trial he was condemned and executed in full view of his friends, without the walls, beneath the Schmieedetforte. Long and sanguinary were the disputes which followed this act; and, as some pacification to Uxkull's memory, the burghers walled up the gateway, which was not reopened till the beginning of the present century. In the summer there is an annual fair, called the Jahrmarkt, which is held beneath the old elm-trees before the church of St. Nicholas — a most interesting scene to the stranger — and forms the morning lounge of the inhabitants during that season of the year. In the evening, Catherinthal is the favorite promenade. This is an imperial lusts chloss, or palace, at a little distance from the town, surrounded with fine trees and well-kept grounds, or what is here termed "ein superber park" which during six weeks of the summer months is thronged with fashionable groups, who eat ices, drink chocolate, talk scandal, and make love, as people do elsewhere. This residence, which is literally a bower of verdure redeemed from a waste of sand, is the pleasant legacy of Peter the Great to the city of Revel. Being a frequent visiter to Revel, it was here, that he first erected a modest little house beneath the rocks of the Laaksberg, from the windows of which he could overlook his infant fleet riding at anchor in the bay, and which still exists. But a few years previous to his death, the present palace, within a stone's throw of his Dutch house — for all Peter the Great's own private domicils testify whence he drew his first ideas of comfort — was constructed, which he surrounded with pleasure-grounds, and presented to his consort, by the name of Catherinthal. This gift he increased by the purchase of surrounding estates to the amount of several millions of dollars — sufficient to have, assured to the empress, in case of need, a fitting retreat from the frowns of Russian fortune. These estates have been gradually alienated and bestowed on private individuals, and Catherinthal is reduced to little more than its gardens. It has been the temporary sojourn of all the crowned heads of Russia in succession; and the treaty of peace concerning Silesia (wrested from Austria by Frederick the Great in the Seven Years' War), between the two most powerful women of coeval times whom the world has ever known—Maria Theresa of Austria, and Catherine II. of Russia—was here ratified in 1746.
Livonia (called by the Russians Lifliandua, and by the Germans Livland, or Liefland) is situated on the Baltic, having on the north the government of Esthonia; on the east the lake Peipus, separating it from the government of St. Petersburg, and the governments of Pskov and Vitepsk; on the south the latter and Courland; and on the west the gulf of Livonia. Its length from north to south is about one hundred and sixty miles, and its average breadth one hundred and seventeen miles. Including the island of (Esel, in the Baltic, it has an area of about seventeen thousand three hundred square miles.
The coast and the greater part of the surface of this province are flat and marshy; but in the districts of Venden and Dorpat are some hills of considerable elevation; Eierberg, one of these, being nearly eleven hundred feet in height. There are several extensive lakes : the principal, Virtserf, which is twenty-four miles in length, by from two to six in breadth, communicates with the lake Peipus by the Embach. Besides the last named, the chief rivers are the Duna, which forms the southern boundary, the Evst, and the Bolder-Aa.
The soil of Livonia, though in some parts loamy, is in general sandy; but, being abundantly watered, it is, by proper manuring, rendered very productive. Rye and barley are the principal crops, and more of both is grown than is required for home consumption. "Wheat and oats are less cultivated; buckwheat is raised on sandy soils ; flax, hops, and pulse, are also produced, and the potato culture is on the increase: fruits are of very indifferent quality. In some districts, agriculture is tolerably well conducted. The forests are an important source of wealth, and supply excellent timber. They abound also with game, of which every landowner is the sole proprietor of all on his domain. In this manner, many noblemen, in addition to the bears and wolves, the latter of which are sometimes very destructive to the cattle, may count whole herds of deer, elks, foxes, and lynxes, among their live stock. But as in any of the German provinces it is never customary for one noble to exclude another from his hunting-grounds, each landholder is privileged to sport over the whole country. The rich landowners sometimes invite all their neighbors for twenty miles round to a great hunt (the preparation for which is seen in the engraving on the following page). The field is then taken for eight successive days against the shy inhabitants of the forest, in sledges, droskies, and coaches, or on horseback, accompanied by multitudes of peasants and dogs. The meals are taken under the shade of a lofty fir-tree, from which a lynx has just been expelled, or in the den of a bear which has just been overcome, or in the lair of a newly-shot elk. Sometimes a corps of musicians accompanies the party, and cards and dice are seldom wanting. It might be imagined that Tacitus had made his remarks on the ancient tribes of Germany, in these haunts of their unsophisticated descendants; except that, instead of savages clothed in bearskins, these hunters are always well dressed, sometimes young and handsome, and generally well educated and intelligent. The assuming of the toga virilis was the great era in the life of a Roman youth. The fowling-piece is here an emblem of the same significance. Even little boys, as soon as they can stand alone, are initiated into the merry life of the hunter, and father, son, and grandson, often hunt together. The first elk shot by a nobleman's son is talked of half his life; and the last bear conquered by an old man, before his death, is long thought of with mournful pride by his friends. In some noble families the passion for hunting has taken such deep root, that every member of it is a modern Nimrod; while in others, few in numbers, a dislike to sporting is an hereditary characteristic. There are many noblemen to be found who were never out of their forests and wildernesses, who in the seventy years of their existence have used up more than a, hundred calfskins for hunting-boots, and who have expended more saltpetre on game than their forefathers required to conquer the country!
The rearing of live stock, though not altogether neglected, does not receive adequate attention; the breed of black cattle is, however, in the course of being improved. Horses and sheep are very inferior. The fisheries, both on the coast and in the fresh waters, are important. Chalk, alabaster, and other calcareous materials, are abundant.
Rural industry and the distillation of spirits are by far the most important occupations. The manufactures of this government are, however, more extensive than those in its vicinity. The peasantry spin linen yarn, and weave their own cloths; and in the towns, especially Riga, there are sugar-refineries, and tobacco, woollen-cloth, cotton, linen, glass, and other factories, which employ about four thousand hands, and produce goods to the amount of eleven or twelve millions of roubles* a year.
The northern part of Livonia formerly constituted a portion of Esthonia, and the southern a part of Lithuania. The population consists of Estonians, Lithuanians, Russians, Germans, and (along a portion of the coast) Lives, the most ancient inhabitants of the country, and from whom it has derived its name. About eighty-five thousand of the inhabitants reside in the towns, and these, as well as the nobles, clergy, &c, are chiefly of German descent. Until 1824, the Esthonians and Lithuanians were in a state of predial slavery; now, however, they are free, but without the right to hold real property. The prevailing religion is the Lutheran; there are only about, twelve thousand individuals of the Greek church, and other professions of faith. Education is tolerably advanced in the towns, and the university of Dorpat, in this government, is the first in the empire. But, after all, few of the inhabitants are said to be receiving public instruction.
Livonia has a governor-general, whose authority extends over other Baltic provinces; but it has its own provincial assembly, magistracy, &c, and has preserved many peculiar privileges, among which is that of exemption from the state monopoly of ardent spirits. It was divided into nine districts by Catherine II. Riga, the capital, is the centre of its commerce. The other chief towns are Dorpat, Pernau, Fellin, and Arensburg in the island of Esel.
Riga, the capital of Livonia, is situated on the Duna, about nine miles from its embouchure in the gulf of Riga. Its population, including the garrison of ten thousand men, is about seventy thousand. About two thirds of the resident population are Lutherans, the rest consisting of members of the Russo-Greek church, Roman catholics &c.
Riga is strongly fortified. It consists of the town, properly so called, and the suburbs ; the former being entirely enclosed by the fortifications. The streets in the town are narrow and crooked, and the houses generally of brick. In the suburbs, which are much more extensive, the streets are broad and regular, and the houses mostly of wood. One of the suburbs lies on the left bank of the river, the communication with it being maintained by a bridge about twenty-four hundred feet in length.
Among the public buildings are the cathedral, consecrated in 1211, and rebuilt in 1547 ; the church of St. Peter, built in 1406, with a tower four hundred and forty feet in height, being the most elevated in the empire, and commanding a fine view of the city and adjacent country; the castle, the seat of the chancellery, and of the general and civil governors ; hall of the provincial states, town-house, exchange, arsenal, &c. A magnificent column, surmounted by a colossal bronze statue of Victory, was erected in 1817, by the mercantile body, in honor of the emperor Alexander and the Russian army. Among the literary establishments are a gymnasium, a lyceum, a school of navigation, and various elementary schools, a public library, an observatory, a society of Lettonian literature, &c. In the library are contained a curious arm-chair that once belonged to Charles XII., a very old bible, some letters written by Luther to the senate of Riga, and a ball which is said to have been fired by Peter the Great in the siege of 1710, and lodged in the wall of the library. The esplanade and gardens, both in and near the town, are well laid out. There is a celebrated festival held here on St. John's day, the 24th of June, called " the Flower-Feast;" also one which bears the singular title of the "Hugger Sorrow" in commemoration of a siege in which the inhabitants suffered greatly from famine.
The manufactures of Riga are of no great importance, though of late they have materially improved. Those of cotton, cloth, and rugs, are the most important. There are also various sugar-houses, tobacco-manufactories, breweries, &c.
Owing to her situation on a large navigable river, Riga is the entrepot of an extensive country; and is, in respect of foreign commerce, the next town in the Russian dominions to St. Petersburg. Grain used to be the principal article of export, but it is now far surpassed by flax and flaxseed, the exports of which have increased very rapidly. The other great articles of export are hemp and hempseed, timber, including masts and deals, hides, tallow, coarse linen, and canvass, &c. The imports consist principally of sugar, and other colonial products, dye-stuffs, wines, cotton, cotton-stuffs and cotton-yarn, woollens, salt, herrings, &c. There is a bar at the mouth of the river, which has usually from twelve to thirteen feet of water; arid it is customary for vessels drawing more than this to load and unload the whole or a part of their cargoes at Bolder-Aa, a small port outside the bar. The entrance to the river, at Dunamunde, is guarded by a fort, where is also the customhouse. The ships arriving at Riga vary from one thousand to fifteen hundred a year. If we may depend upon the official accounts, the city has increased very rapidly, though it has occasionally suffered considerably from inundations.
Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855