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Illustrated Description Of Russia

the List of Illustrations

CHAPTER XII
MOSCOW


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The czars down to Peter the Great (since whom the sovereigns have been buried in the fortress of Peter and Paul, at St. Petersburg) lie in the church of the Archangel Michael. Their portraits, as large as life, are painted in fresco round the walls, each wrapped in a white mantle, by his own tomb, as if watching it. They are all evidently made after one pattern, and that no very choice one. The tombs are nothing better than heaps of brick whitened over. On the walls and cover of the sarcophagi are inscribed the names and paternal names of the czars, with the years of their birth and death. The tomb of Ivan the Terrible and his ill-fated son are here.

A portion of the screen in this church is one sheet of pure gold. Close to this cathedral is an odd-looking church, which is constantly thronged with devotees. It is said to be the most ancient in Moscow. The walls are of immense strength.

The church of the Annunciation has its floor paved with stones of all sizes and shapes — jasper, agate, and cornelian. Here is the royal seat of the czars, made of wood, covered with silver gilt, and shaped like a sugar-bowl, with a cover to match. This church is rich in relics of all the saints in the calendar, not a few in number; but the most remarkable object is a fresco-painting on the wall, representing an assembly of good and evil spirits, the latter headed by Satan himself, breathing flame and smoke, and horned, hoofed, and tailed! " The French," says Kohl, " left a large ham in pickle on the kremlin. The priests repeated with deep emotion the story of the French stabbing their horses in this church, and people from the provinces never hear this without shuddering, and swearing eternal hatred to that nation."

In addition to the churches and palaces already enumerated, there is in the kremlin an immense pile of buildings called " the Senate," within the walls of which are the offices of all the various departments of the local government. This building forms one side of a triangle, the remaining two being composed of the treasury and arsenal. In the vestibule of the treasury, or Orovjie Pallast,is a collection of busts of noble Poles, " quiet memorials of very unquiet gentlemen," mostly of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, finely executed, and evident likenesses; and on this, the ground-floor, there is also a very curious and large collection of the state-carriages of former sovereigns. Among them is that of a Russian patriarch, which has talc windows; likewise a very small one that belonged to Peter the Great when a child; and a sledge fitted up like a drawing-room, in which the empress Elizabeth and twelve of her suite used to dine when on her journeys between the two capitals: it is not unlike the cabin of a ship, with a table in the centre; the interior is well but not luxuriously fitted up. Some of these ancient equipages have whole fir-trees for their axles! One of them is said to have been built in England.

Here also is a model of an ill-conceived and extravagant design for a palace, which Catherine II. is said to have contemplated erecting on the kremlin hill. Everything, with the exception of the old churches and tower, was to have been levelled with the ground, and this giant palace, forming a screen round the whole, was intended to replace them. The circumference of the walls of this building would have been two miles; the model is said to have cost twelve thousand dollars! Luckily, some new freak of fancy interfered to save the kremlin from this threatened desecration ; and the model, beautifully executed, and capable of being taken entirely to pieces by means of numerous sliding panels, remains a memorial of the skill and dexterity of the artist.

Here, too, is preserved the alarm-bell of " the mighty Novgorod," which, in the days of its power and celebrity, was looked upon as the palladium of that proud city, and the removal of which to Moscow was considered by the citizens as the final blow to its prosperity. Its size, though considerable, is here scarcely appreciated, from the immediate contrast with the " monarch bell," in the adjoining square.

The chief attraction, however, is in the upper story of the. treasury, where, in a suite of rooms, are collected and arranged the crowns of the early czars, warlike trophies-and trappings, and a host of historical knick-knacks too numerous to mention. In one room is a man's saddle and trappings belonging to Catherine II., on which she used to exhibit herself to her loving subjects in the uniform of her guards — a very favorite amusement of that empress ; and certainly, to judge from the full-length picture, the costume became her bravely. The bridle-head and reins, as well as the stirrups and saddle-cloth, are most lavishly strewn with diamonds, amethysts, and large turquoises.

Nor are memorials of the great Peter wanting. Among them are his huge pocket-book, of coarse leather; his immense. drinking-cup; also a glass cup, with a ducat enclosed in it, blown by the czar himself; and numerous specimens of his mechanical skill and unwearied industry. A curious model of a ship, of silver gilt, sent to him from Holland, is worthy of notice.

A large recess is occupied with a most miscellaneous assortment of clothes, belonging to five or six successive occupants of the Russian throne; the coarse brown frock of Peter the Great' is ranged beside the splendidly-embroidered robes of his consort, and the still more gorgeous apparel of the second Catherine. Here, too, is the canopy of state beneath which, at the coronation, the emperor walks from his palace to the cathedral of the Assumption; while the whole extent of one long wall is occupied by an array of boots, from the massive and iron-bound jack-boots of Peter to the delicate beaver-skin of the emperor Alexander, apparently but little fitted for a Russian winter.

In a court near the treasury, or, as it is sometimes termed, the Orusheinay a Palata (palace of Arms), are arranged the cannon taken by the Russians during the disastrous retreat of the French in 1812. A trophy composed of them, erected in the most conspicuous spot in the kremlin, would make an excellent pendant to the column in the Place Vendome at Paris, erected by Napoleon from cannon taken at Marengo and Austerlitz. Most of these guns, and others, are ranged in long rows, with small shields, erected on staves, to indicate to which nation they originally belonged. The arsenal, to the right of the senate, contains a magazine of weapons sufficient to arm a hundred thousand men, and a collection of standards of Russia's enemies. The spoils of Pougatcheff are the only objects of interest. This rebellious Cossack once terrified the Russian empire with cannon at which Russian children would now laugh. They are nothing more than clumsy iron tubes, and the coarse seam of the joining is visible. The flag carried before this plunderer is worthy of the ordnance, being of coarse sackcloth, with a Madonna painted on it. This rag was fastened to a staff which looks as if it had been fashioned by a bill-hook. The standard, however, possessed, in all probability, a kind of sanctity, for a breach in the centre is carefully repaired with an iron ring. The muskets are principally of Toula manufacture, and in a press are kept specimens of the muskets of other nations.

Close to the tower of Ivan Veliki, and reared on a massive pedestal of granite, stands the mighty bell, most justly named " the Monarch" (Czar Kolokol), for no other in the world may dispute its sovereignty. It was cast by the command of the empress Anne, in 1730, and bears her figure in flowing robes upon its surface, beneath which is a deep border of flowers. It is said that the tower in which it originally hung was burnt in 1737, and its fall buried the enormous mass deep in the earth, and broke a huge fragment from it. There it lay for many years, visited in its subterraneous abode by the enterprising traveller only, and carefully guarded by a Russian sentinel. In the spring of 1837, exactly a century after it fell, the emperor Nicholas caused it to be removed, and, rightly deeming it to be one of the greatest wonders of this wondrous city, placed it upon its present pedestal, with the broken fragment beside it. The fracture took place just above the bordering of flowers that runs round the bell,; and this piece is about six feet high and three feet wide. The height of the whole bell is twenty-one feet three inches, and twentyvtwo feet five inches in diameter, and it is in no part less than three inches in, thickness. Seen from even a short distance, surrounded as it is on all sides by objects on such an immense scale, with the lofty Ivan Veliki towering immediately behind it, the impression of its magnitude is by no means striking: it is only when the spectator comes near to it, and stands beside the broken fragment of this metal mountain, or descends the stairs that lead beneath it and looks up into its capacious cavern, that he becomes sensible of its enormous bulk. This giant communicator of sound has been consecrated as a chapel, and the entrance to it is by an iron gate, and down a few steps that descend into a cavity formed by the wall and the excavation under it.

The Great Bell of Moscow

The Great Bell of Moscow
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The "Czar Kolokol" is highly venerated, for the religious feelings of the people were called into action when it was cast, and every one who had a fraction of the precious metals threw into the melting mass some offering of either silver or gold; the decorative parts of it are in low relief, and badly executed. The largest bell in France, that of Rouen, weighs but thirty-six thousand pounds ; the famous "Tom" of Lincoln, in England, cast in 1610, and afterward cracked, was not quite ten thousand pounds, though the new one is somewhat larger; the great fire-bell in the tower of the city-hall at New York is only about twenty-one thousand pounds; but the bell of the kremlin weighs between three and four hundred thousand pounds ! The value of this mass of metal, estimated from the present price of copper, must be upward of a million and a half of dollars. Bells, as well as everything else connected in the remotest degree with ecclesiastical purposes, are held in great respect by the Russian people, but that of the kremlin is recommended to especial veneration by the name of the " Eternal Bell."

The tower of Ivan Veliki (John the Great) is a most singular building; rising without ornament of any kind to the height of more than two hundred feet, surmounted by a gilded dome, upon which, as on all the other gilded domes within the kremlin (about sixty in number), the cross is displayed above the crescent. This tower, the loftiest and most remarkable in Moscow, is the campanile to the church of St. Nicholas the Magician. The summit is gained by a gopd staircase, and the view from each story, which serves as a belfry, stimulates the visiter to renew his exertions to reach the top. In the first of these stories hangs, in solitary grandeur, a bell, which, but for the mightier one below, would appear stupendous. It weighs sixty-four tons ; it is consequently four times as heavy as the famous bell of Rouen, and six times that of the city-hall in New York. To ring it is, of course, impossible: even to toll it requires the united strength of three men, who, pulling with separate ropes, swing the vast clapper round, making" it strike the bell in three different places. Standing under it, and with his arm stretched out above his head, the traveller, even if a tall man, will fail to touch the top. In the belfry above that in which this is suspended are two other bells of far smaller but still of immense proportions ; and above these are forty or fifty more, which diminish in size in each tier successively. The tones of these various bells are said to be very beautiful.

A superior dexterity in casting metals, traditionally preserved in this part of the earth from the earliest times, is proved by the bells now hanging in this tower, which were cast soon after the erection of the church in 1600. The largest, described above, is held so sacred, that it is sounded but three times a year, and then alone; the others are rung all together, and an extraordinary noise they must make : but this din and jumble of sounds is that which is most pleasing to Russian ears ! On Easter eve a deathlike silence reigns in all the streets, until on a sudden, at midnight, the thunders of the guns of the kremlin, and the uproar of its bells, supported by those of two hundred and fifty other churches, are heard. The streets and church-towers are illuminated, and a dense throng of four hundred thousand people seems inspired with but one thought and feeling: with mutual felicitations and embraces, all repeat the words " Christ is risen," and all evince joy at the glad tidings.

The view from the summit of this tower is one of the most remarkable in Europe. Clustered round it are the numerous gilt domes of the churches within the kremlin, and those of the ancient and peculiar building called the tower of the kremlin; among these are grouped the treasury, the bishop's palace, and other modern edifices, strangely out of keeping with the eastern architecture of the place, all of which are enclosed by the lofty embattled walls and fantastic towers of the fortress.

Near the " Holy Gate," the green towers of which are surmounted by golden eagles, is the cathedral of St. Basil, grotesque in form and color; and winding under the terrace of the kremlin gardens is the Moskva, the silvery though narrow line of which may be traced far into the country. Round this brilliant centre stretches on every side the city and its suburbs, radiant in all the colors of the rainbow, which are used in the decoration of the roofs and walls of the churches and houses; the effect of this mosaic is heightened by the foliage of the trees which grow in many parts of the town as well as on the banks of the river. The Greek facade of the foundling-hospital attracts attention from its extreme length and the style of its architecture, in such striking contrast with that of the town generally. The old monasteries, with their bright-blue domes spangled with golden stars, and minarets gilt or colored, particularly of the Simonov and Donskoi, surrounded by groves of trees, lie scattered on the skirts of the town. Beyond these are the Sparrow hills, on which Napoleon paused ere he descended to take possession of the devoted city. No view of any capital in Europe can be compared with that of Moscow from this tower, except that of Constantinople from the Galata or Seraskier's, which surpasses it in beauty, for the horizon here is one unbroken line of dreary steppe, while at Stamboul the distance is formed by the sea of Marmora and the snowy summits of Olympus. In St. Petersburg, all is whitewash, and stiff and stately, but in her ancient rival all is picturesque; the city seems, to work gradually upon the feelings as by a spell: her wild Tartar invaders and boyard chiefs of the olden time rise up in the imagination and people again in fantastic array the wide terrace of the old fortress; while the deeds of the foreign invaders of our own times impart a thrilling interest to the scene—the northern limit of the long career of Napoleon's conquests.

Descending from the tower of Ivan Veliki, the traveller may pass by the emperor's palace to the western gate of the kremlin, which, like the other three entrances, has a lofty, tapering tower of green and white, and a gilt eagle for its vane. Here a flight of steps lead into the kremlin gardens, which bound the whole western part of the fortress; these are beautifully laid out, and on this spot fireworks are let off on the eve of every festival.

The cathedral of St. Basil, also called the church of the Protection of Mary, is situated on the Krasnoi Ploschad (Red place), between the walls of the kremlin and those of the Kitai Gorod (Chinese city), and an edifice more bizarre, in point of both form and color, can not well be imagined. Standing alone at the extremity of this wide area, the Vassili Blagennoi seems erected in this conspicuous situation as if to show how grotesque a building the ingenuity of man could devote to the service of his Maker. There are no less than twenty towers and domes, all of different shapes and sizes, and painted in every possible color: some are covered with a network of green over a surface of yellow, another dome is a bright red with broad white stripes, and a third is gilded! Some historians affirm that it was built to commemorate the capture of Kazan; others that it was a whim of Ivan the Terrible, to try how many distinct chapels could be erected under one roof, on a given extent of ground, in such a manner that divine service could be performed in all simultaneously without any interference one with another. It is also said that the czar was so delighted with the architect, an Italian, who had thus admirably gratified Ills wishes, that when the edifice was finished he sent for him, pronounced a warm panegyric on his work, and then had his eyes put out, in order that he might never build such another! — a strange caprice of cruelty, if true—punishing the man, noti for failing, but succeeding, in gratifying his employer.

Cathedral of St. Basil, Moscow

Cathedral of St. Basil, Moscow
click to enlarge

The entire structure is far from forming a whole, for no main building is discoverable in this architectural maze; in every one of the towers or domes lurks a separate church, in every excrescence a chapel; or they may be likened to chimneys expanded to temples. One tower stands forth prominently amid the confusion, yet it is not in the centre, for there is in fact neither centre nor side, neither beginning nor end; it is all here and there. Strictly speaking, this tower is no tower at all, but a church, and the chief one in the knot of churches, the " church of the Protection of Holy Mary." This tower, one hundred and fifty feet in height, is quite hollow within, having no division of any kind, and lessening by degrees to the summit; and from its small cupola the portrait of the " protecting Mother" looks down as if from heaven. This church is placed as it were upon the neck of another, from the sides of which a number of chapels proceed— Palm-Sunday chapel, the chapel of the Three Patriarchs, of Alexander Svirskoi, and others. Service is performed in these on one day in the year only. The greater part is so filled up with sacred utensils and objects of adoration, that there is hardly any room left for the pious who . come to pray. Some of the chapels have a kind of cupola like a turban, as if they were so many Turks' heads from which Ivan had scooped the Mohammedan brains and supplied their place with Christian furniture! Some of the stones of the cupolas are cut on the sides, others not; some are three-sided, some four-sided; some are ribbed, or fluted; some of the flutes are perpendicular, and some wind in spiral lines round the cupola. To render the kaleidoscope appearance yet more perfect, every rib and every side is painted of a different color. Those neither cut in the sides nor ribbed are scaled with little smooth, glazed, and painted bricks; and, when these scales are closely examined, they even are seen to differ from one another; some are oval, others cut like leaves. The greater part of the cupola-crowned towers have a round body, but not all; there are six-sided and eight-sided towers.

From remote times wax-taper sellers have established themselves between the entrances, and there they display their gilded and many-colored wares. Prom one corner the upper churches are gained by a broad, covered flight of steps, which is beset day and night by hungry beggars who look to be fed by the devout. These steps lead to a gallery or landing-place which branches off right and left to a labyrinth of passages leading to the separate doors of the temple on the roof, so narrow and winding that it costs many a painful effort to work one's way through. In some parts they are convenient enough, and even expand into spacious terraces. Where they lead outward they are of course covered, and their roofs are supported by pillars of different forms and sizes. Whole flocks of half-wild pigeons, that build their nests here, are constantly flying in and out. Imagine, then, all these points and pinnacles surmounted by crescents, and by very profusely-carved crosses, fancifully wreathed with gilded chains ; imagine, further, with how many various patterns of arabesques every wall and passage is painted; how from painted flower-pots gigantic thistles, flowers, and shrubs, spring forth—vary into vine-wreaths—wind and twist further till they end in simple lines and knots; imagine the now somewhat-faded colors—red, blue, green, gold, and silver—all fresh and gaudy—and the reader may in some degree comprehend how these buildings must have delighted the eye of the barbarous Ivan!

The chapel of the " Iberian Mother of God" (called in Russian the Iverskaya Boshia Mater) stands at the foot of the hill by which the Krasnoi Ploschad is reached, and close to the " Sunday Gate" (Voskressenskaia Vorota), the most frequented entrance to Moscow. The Red place is here entered by a double archway in the barrier-wall of the old Tartar division of the city; and between the two gateways in a space about twenty feet wide, is the oratory in question. Georgia gave birth to the miraculous picture of the Iberian Mother: thence it passed to a monastery on Mount Athos, in Macedonia; and some centuries after, her reputation for miraculous powers spread to Russia, when the czar Alexis-Michaelovich, who flourished in 1650, " invited her to Moscow, and fixed her abode at the Voskressensk gate." The figure of the saint, resplendent with gold and precious stones, is placed in a kind of sanctuary, at one end of the chapel.

Striking as the devotion of the Russian appears to be at St. Petersburg and elsewhere, it is not for a moment to be compared with what one witnesses daily in Moscow, not only in the churches, but also before the shrines and chapels in the streets; and no Russian leaves or arrives at Moscow, on or from a journey, without invoking the Iberian Mother's blessing. Pass when he pleases, the traveller will remark that this chapel is beset by worshippers: the first step is always fully occupied, while others, unable to reach that more favorite spot, kneel on various parts of the pavement ; and a greater degree of earnestness will be observed in the devotions of those who pray here than in any other church of Moscow.

The doors of the chapel stand open the whole day, and all are admitted who are in sorrow, and heavy laden ; and this includes here, as everywhere else, a considerable number, and the multitudes that stream in testify the power which this picture exercises over their minds. None ever pass, however pressing their business, without bowing and crossing themselves ; the greater part enter, kneel devoutly down before the picture of " the Mother," and pray with fervent sighs. Here come the peasants early in the morning, before going to market, who lay aside their burdens, pray a while, and then go their way; hither comes the merchant on the eve of a new speculation, to ask the assistance of " the Mother ;" hither come the healthy and the sick, the wealthy, and those who would become so; the arriving and the departing traveller, the fortunate and the unfortunate, the noble and the beggar—all pray, thank, supplicate, sigh, laud, and pour out their hearts. Fashionable ladies leave their splendid equipages and gallant attendants, and prostrate themselves in the dust with the beggars. On a holy day two or three hundred passing pilgrims may be seen kneeling before " the Iberian Mother." Since the time of Alexis, the czars have never failed to visit it frequently; the emperor Nicholas never omits to do so when he comes to Moscow, and it is said that he has more than once in the middle of the night wakened the monks, in order that he might perform his devotions.

The picture is also, if desired, carried to the houses of sick persons; and a carriage with four horses is kept constantly ready, in which it is transported with pomp to the bed of the dying. The visit costs five roubles, and a present is usually made to the monks.

The churches of Moscow, as we have already stated, are almost count less. Scarcely a street can be traversed without a cluster of green or red domes and minarets meeting the traveller's eye. The convents and monasteries are also numerous, and situated, some in the interior and oldest parts of the city, others in the meadows and gardens of the suburbs, their walls embracing so many churches, buildings, gardens, and fields, and crowned with such numerous towers, that each looks like a little town.

Those monasteries most deserving mention are the Donskoi (dedicated to the Cossacks of the Don), situated near the southern barrier, surrounded with ancient walls, painted in broad streaks of white and red, surmounted by battlements like those of the kremlin, and containing within its enclosure six churches and chapels, several courts, a plantation of birch-wood, and dwellings for the archimandrate and monks; the Simonovskoi, at the southeast corner of the city-wall, near where the Moskva quits it, and with more of the appearance of a fortress than a monastery, its lofty battlemented walls being actually mounted with a few small pieces of ordnance; and the Devitchei convent, at the southwest corner, with walls, flanked by sixteen towers; a number of churches, one of them containing the tombs of several czarinas and princesses; and a churchyard, beautifully laid out with shrubs and flowers, and containing a great number of fine monuments. Close to this convent is the Devitchei-foll, or Maidens' Field, where the emperors, on their coronation, entertain their subjects. The emperor Nicholas here, on that occasion, dined fifty thousand persons!

Among educational establishments, the only one deserving of particular notice is the university, whose jurisdiction is not confined to the city or government of Moscow, but extends over the governments of Tver, Yaroslav, Kostroma, Vladimir, Riazan, Tambov, Orel, Toula, Kalouga, and Smolensk. It was established by the empress Elizabeth, in 1755; it consists of four faculties, and is attended by about nine hundred students. Its scientific collections are poor, compared with the best of those in the west of Europe, but it is tolerably rich in anatomical preparations. In connection with it is a gymnasium, a library of fifty thousand volumes, an observatory, botanical garden, &c.

Among benevolent establishments are the Alexander hospital and St. Catherine's hospital, both situated near the northern barrier of the city, and another hospital of St. Catherine, near the northeastern corner; two military hospitals in the eastern, a widow's hospital in the western, and St. Paul's hospital and the Galitzin hospital in the southern sections of the city. Another, the foundling-hospital, situated on the northern bank of the Moskva, a little to the east of the Kitai Gorod, has acquired more celebrity than all the rest; but whether it is entitled to be ranked among benevolent establishments is questionable, as all children, up to a certain age, are received on presentation, and no questions asked. The number actually in the house, or supported in some way or other by the institution, is upward of twenty-five thousand!

Moscow possesses two theatres — one, where the performances are in French; and the other, or Alexander theatre, where they are in Russian. Among the other buildings or places worthy of notice are the great riding-school, situated to the west of the kremlin, and supposed to be the largest building in the world unsupported by pillar or prop of any kind; the principal bazar, or gostinoi dvor, in the Kitai Gorod, a colossal building of three stories, where wholesale merchants, to the number of more than a thousand, carry on their trade; the Riadi, an open space in the same vicinity, occupied by narrow streets of shops ; the barracks, along the eastern side of the inner boulevard; and the race-course, a large oval space, elongated north and south, and almost touching the southern barrier. The number of open and planted spaces throughout the city is very great. Several of these, including the boulevards, have been already mentioned ; and we may now add the princess Galitzin's gardens, stretching along the right bank of the Moskva, and beautifully laid out, but now partly occupied by the empress's villa; and the Sparrow hills to the southwest.

Manufactures of various kinds are carried on to a great extent within the city ; but they bear only a small proportion to those which are carried on, on its account, in the surrounding towns and villages. The principal establishments are for textile fabrics, chiefly woollen, cotton, and silk, in all of which much steam-power and the most improved .machinery are employed ; the other principal articles are hats, hardware, leather, chemical products, beer, and brandy.

Prom its central position, Moscow is the great entrepot for the internal commerce of the empire. Great facilities for this commerce are given by water-communication, which extends, on one side, to the Baltic; on another, to the Caspian; and, on a third, to the Black sea; and also by the railway to St. Petersburg. In winter, the traffic over the snow in sledges is enormous: as many as three thousand six hundred, loaded with goods for Teflis alone, have been known to leave the city in a single year.

Moscow, for administrative purposes, is divided into twenty-one districts ; and is under the immediate charge of a general and military governor. It is the seat of important civil and criminal courts, and of various superintending boards of police, manufactures, trade, &c.; and has several literary, scientific, and other societies ; among which, one of the most prominent is the Bible Society, established in 1813.

The foundation of Moscow dates from the year 1147. Its nucleus was the kremlin, which, at first, was nearly surrounded by a palisade, and formed an important military station. For a long time it continued to be a dependency on the principality of Vladimir; and, in 1238, when the cruel Tartar chieftain Batou Khan, a follower of the great Zinghis, devastated Russia, it was both sacked and burnt. In 1293 it was again sacked, and the inhabitants were dragged away into slavery, by Khan Nagai, another Tartar invader. It afterward became a prey to intestine dissensions— several princes disputing the possession of it; but at last, Dmitri, surnamed Donskoi, became sole master, and died in 1389, after having done more for its prosperity than any one into whose hands it had previously fallen. From this time it became the capital of Muscovy, and continued to advance in prosperity, though not without repeated interruptions by fire, pestilence, famine, and war. In 1536, the town was nearly consumed by fire, and two thousand of the inhabitants perished in the flames; and in 1571, the Tartars fired the suburbs, and, a furious wind driving the flames into the city, a considerable portion of it was reduced to ashes, and not less than a hundred thousand persons are said to have perished in the flames or by the less lingering death of the sword. In 1611, a great portion of the city was again destroyed by fire, when the Poles had taken possession of it, under the pretence of defending the inhabitants from the adherents of Andrew Nagui, a pretender to the crown. And, lastly, in 1812, the emperor Alexander, unable successfully to oppose the triumphal advance of Napoleon's grand army, and rightly foreseeing that if the latter should winter in Moscow, the ensuing year would see him at St. Petersburg, resolved to sacrifice the ancient, holy, and beautiful city, and thus insure the destruction of the modern Caesar and his invincible legions. It was a dreadful alternative; but in the stern and barbarous governor of Moscow, Count Rostopchin, the emperor found a ready and willing instrument to execute the terrible mandate. The city was the idol of every Russian's heart, her shrines were to him,the holiest in the empire — hallowed by seven centuries of historical associations, it was abandoned to destruction by the bigoted and fanatical populace, who had been taught by their rulers and priests to believe that " Napoleon wished to drive the Russians from the face of the earth!" Accordingly, having cleared out the inhabitants before the entrance of the French, as soon as the latter were established within its walls the governor commanded the city-prisons to be thrown open and their miscreant inmates to fire the devoted town in all directions. The French made every endeavor to extinguish the flames, but in vain. Nearly four thousand houses built of stone, and seven thousand five hundred of wood, were destroyed in this conflagration.

Although, since the foundation of St. Petersburg, Moscow has ceased to be the capital of the Russian empire, it is still, from the salubrity of its climate and its central position, a desirable place of residence. As such, it is the favorite resort of many of the nobles, who pass the winter in the greatest splendor, not being overshadowed, as at St. Petersburg, by the superior display of the court. Its present population is probably about three hundred and sixty thousand.






Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855