The emperor Alexander wrote a fine hand. His name begins with a large, elegant A; the other letters, though narrow, are not very plain till the conclusion—the r is very plainly written and well formed. Under: the name is a very long, complicated flourish, which looks confused at first, but the thread is easily found, as it is always very regularly formed, and in the same figure.
Nicholas writes decidedly the best hand of all the Russian emperors ; it is calligraphically irreproachable, regular, intelligible, and flowing. The emperor begins with an arching stroke of the pen, under which his name "Nicolai" stands as under a roof. The last stroke of the final i slopes under in a slender arch once or twice, is then carried upward to join the first line, and ends over the name in a thick, bold stroke made with a firm hand and with the whole breadth of the pen. The name is thus prettily enclosed in a frame.
The Anitshkof (or Annitchkoff)palace, which stands on the Great Prospekt, in the neighborhood of the Fontanka canal, and closes the brilliant ranges of palaces in that street, is not unfrequently inhabited by the emperor,. According to Kohl, it was originally built by the empress Elizabeth, and bestowed on Count Rasoumoffski; then twice purchased by Catherine II., and twice presented to Prince Potemkin. Another writer believes this palace to have been built by a merchant of the name it bears, and sold by him to one of the czars. It is now the favorite residence of the imperial family, and handsomely built, but has no particular historical interest. Here also the emperor Nicholas holds the greater number of his councils, receives embassadors, &c. Hence the cabinet of St. Petersburg may be called the cabinet of Anitshkof, as that of London is called the cabinet of St. James's, &c.
There can be no doubt that the new Michailoff palace, the late residence of the emperor's younger brother, is the most elegant building in St. Petersburg. It was built in 1820, by an Italian architect named Rossi. The interior is also decidedly the handsomest and most tasteful in decoration and furniture of all the royal residences. Its position, too, is highly striking—quite as much so as that of the Winter palace. Open on all sides, it expands its wings and courtyards in a most graceful manner; not a tower, house, or any other building, being near to disturb its outline.
Behind the palace lies the ." Little Summer Garden," as it is called, whose lofty trees and groups of foliage form a pleasing contrast with its elegant architectural proportions. Before the chief front is a spacious lawn, scattered over with graceful flowers and shrubs. An iron grille, the design of which is a model of good taste, divides the inner from the outer court; and the outbuildings, offices, and courts between them, are in such harmony with each other and the main buildings, that it is evident the whole was one design, and that nothing has been the result of after-thought. The stables and riding-school are particularly worthy of attention, and the latter is deserving of especial mention. In this school fifty young men are instructed in riding and in all arts that have reference to the manege; for this object, and for the fetes in the riding-house, at which the court is often present, a number of the finest horses are kept, and both men and horses are so well cared for, that it is said to be a pleasure to walk through the range of elegant dormitories, sitting, school, and saddle rooms. All these apartments have double folding-doors in the centre, which stand open the whole day. A long carpet is laid along all the floors down to the stable, and the inspector can overlook everything at a glance, and see what the young cadets are doing in their apartment. Kohl alludes particularly to the ventilation, and remarks that " it is wonderful how pure the air is kept; it is as if the stud were perfumed with eau de Cologne as well as the cadets." Their course of preparation extends over six years, and ten leave every year and join the army as riding-masters. Quadrilles and tournaments are sometimes performed by these youths and their horses in the presence of the court. These jousts sometimes take place in the evening, when the riding-school is splendidly illuminated and decorated for the occasion; among other wonders exhibited at these fetes are six looking-glasses, so large that in them the youthful cavaliers can view themselves from head to foot.
We must not leave entirely unnoticed a palace which stands on the south side of the Summer garden, and is known by the name of the Red palace — a name for which it is indebted to one of the many strange whims of the emperor Paul. At a court-ball, a lady made her appearance in red gloves, which so enchanted Paul, that the next day he proclaimed red his favorite color, and ordered that the palace should forthwith receive that showy tint. In the same palace, his monogram, " P. I.," is so constantly repeated on every side and in every corner, that an Englishman, who undertook the thankless task of counting them, got as far as eight thousand, and then, through weariness, left off without having nearly completed his undertaking. Paul had many such crotchets. So fond was he of the gaudy and the motley, that one of his ukases was to the effect that, on one and the same day, all the gates, bridges, palaces, guardhouses, &c, in the whole vast empire, should be painted in variegated colors — a piece of childish folly, the results of which were, in time, of course, obliterated.
The Imperial library, one of the most extensive in Europe, is near the Kazan church, and occupies a large building, which, with the Anitshkof palace, the Alexander theatre, and that part of the Nevskoi Prospekt facing it, forms one of the finest squares in St. Petersburg. This library is open daily for reading, and on every Tuesday for public inspection. It contains four hundred thousand volumes, and abouf fifteen thousand manuscripts, viz., seven thousand two hundred Latin, two thousand two hundred French, two thousand Slavonic, twelve hundred Polish, nineteen hundred German, &c. The greater part of this valuable collection formed a portion of the spoils of Poland. The count Stanislaus Zaluski, bishop of Krakow, founded a splendid library, which was further increased by his descendants; and Andrew Zaluski, bishop of Kiev, bequeathed it to his country. In the middle of the eighteenth century it was transferred to Warsaw, and is said then to have contained three hundred thousand volumes. When Suwarrow conquered Poland, Catherine II. directed the library to be transferred to St. Petersburg. It was further increased, in 1833, by that of the prince Czartorisky, taken in the Polish campaign, and by a further importation from Poland of a hundred and fifty thousand volumes.
The valuable books and manuscripts of Peter Dombrowski, purchased during the early troubles of the French Revolution, were afterward added to this vast collection. The manuscripts chiefly relate to the history of France, and form an invaluable series. They consist of letters from various kings of France and their embassadors at foreign courts, reports, secret state documents, and correspondence of different European sovereigns. These interesting papers were dragged from the archives of Paris by an infuriated populace, and sold to the first bidder. Dombrowski purchased them; and thus some of the most valuable of the state papers of France adorn the library of St. Petersburg. In this collection there is a highly-illuminated missal which belonged to Mary queen of Scots while living at the French court, containing several poetical fragments; also several letters addressed to the king of France during her imprisonment by Queen Elizabeth in Fotheringay castle.
A volume of manuscript letters from English sovereigns is exceedingly interesting. The library and manuscripts of Count Schutelen have lately been added ; and the numerous acquisitions of manuscripts during the wars with Turkey, Circassia, and Persia, have contributed to form one of the finest collections in the world. The printed volumes are catalogued in manuscript, according to language, names of authors, and matter; and there is also now a catalogue of the manuscripts.
The collection of oriental manuscripts is most extensive. Several extracts from the Koran, in the Cufic character, are said to have belonged to Fatima, the favorite daughter of Mohammed. Two presses in the manuscript-room are filled with the spoils of the last war with Persia; and a collection of manuscripts, of extraordinary beauty, presented to the emperor Nicholas by the shah of Persia, in 1829, is also to be seen. It would be impossible to enumerate even the most remarkable objects of this vast collection of works from every nation of Asia.
The only other libraries entitled to particular notice are those of the Academy of Sciences, containing one hundred thousand volumes; of the Hermitage, before alluded to, with a hundred and twenty thousand volumes, of which ten thousand are in the Russian language; and of the Alexander Nevskoi monastery, which, though very limited in extent (having only ten thousand volumes), has collections of manuscripts of very great rarity and value,
The principal museums are those of the Academy of Sciences, occupying a large portion of the magnificent buildings of that celebrated body, on the Vasiliestrov, on the banks of the Great Neva, opposite to the Admiralty, and including an Asiatic museum, rich in all kinds of curiosities relating to the East; an Egyptian museum, with a few fine specimens of papyrus, but not otherwise interesting; an ethnographic museum, enriched by the collections of various Russian travellers and navigators, and a general collection of coins and medals, in which the Russian series is very valuable and complete; a good mineralogical, and a remarkably fine botanical collection ; a museum of natural history, containing an admirable collection of birds, exquisitely stuffed and well arranged; and, among the larger fossil animals, of which Siberia furnishes numerous specimens, a mammoth (perfect, with the exception of one of the hind feet), sixteen feet long, exclusive of the tusks, and at least two feet higher than the elephant. This huge inhabitant of our " earth in its vigorous prime" was found in 1803, by Mr. Adams, on the banks of the Lena, in latitude seventy degrees north. It fell from a mass of ice, in which it must have been encased "for ages, and so fresh was the flesh of the animal, that the wolves and bears were actually found eating the carcass ! How it was preserved during the years that have elapsed since such stupendous beings as the mammoth and mastodon walked the earth with their brethren, is a question which gives rise to much speculation. It must be impossible to contemplate the gigantic structure of the skeleton without being struck with the wonderful power such a colossal brute must have possessed. How the earth must have shaken beneath his ponderous and unwieldy gambols, when " he moved his tail like a cedar, and drank up a river and hasted not!" The skin of this antediluvian monster was covered with black bristles, thicker than horse-hair, from twelve to sixteen inches long, and with wool of a reddish-brown color. About thirty pounds' weight of this fur was gathered from the wet sandbank on which it was found. From the position of the tusks, which extend laterally like two scythes in the same horizontal plane, it would appear that the mammoth, in defending itself, moved the head from side to side, whereas the elephant, in striking, tosses the head upward. In this collection are also large quantities of bones of several extinct species of elephant, one of which (named by Fischer Elephas panicus) seems to have surpassed the mammoth in size as much as the latter exceeded the Asiatic elephant! In addition to these, there are a great many skulls of the larger kind of antediluvian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros teiehorhinus), which far exceed in size any of the living African species.
The Academy of Fine Arts, also situated in the Vasiliestrov, on the banks of the Great Neva, has a portion of its magnificent apartments occupied as a picture-gallery, but is better known as an artistical school. The other more important-collections are the Romanoff museum, containing a large collection of minerals, models, and antiquities; and the museum attached to the mining-school, containing a large collection of fossil conchology, models of mines, mining instruments, &c, and distinguished by its mineralogical treasures, unequalled in Russia, and thought not to be surpassed anywhere. But the most curious part of this valuable repository is underground, being a model of a mine in Siberia, exhibiting to " the life" the various practical operations of mining in that country. Furnished with lighted tapers, but no miner's dress, the visiter is led by the guides through winding passages cut into the bowels of the earth, the sides of which represent, by the aggregation of real specimens, the various stratifications, with all the different ores and minerals and different species of earth, as they are found in the natural state: the coal-formation, veins of copper, and in one place of gold, being particularly well represented, forming an admirable practical school for the study of geology, though under a chilliness of atmosphere which would be likely very soon to put an end to studies of all kinds.
At the head of the educational institutions is the university, only founded in 1819, but provided with fifty-eight professors, and attended by about five hundred students. The Chirurgical Medical Academy, founded by Peter the Great, receives about five hundred pupils, and enjoys a high reputation. Military education, in all its branches, regarded as one of the first interests of the state, forms a conspicuous feature in the academical system of Russia, and is provided for liberally in numerous institutions. The mining-school, whose admirable mineralogical collections have already been referred to, is one of the most remarkable establishments of the capital ; it occupies a grand and imposing structure, so situated as to form a very conspicuous object from the sea. It maintains above three hundred pupils, who, after remaining eight years, and receiving a very liberal education, are sent to superintend the. government mines in the Ural mountains (an important branch, particularly of late years, of the Russian revenue), or placed in the mint.
The Academy of Pine Arts has a facade, fronting the Neva, four hundred feet long and seventy feet high, adorned with columns and pilasters, and surmounted by a central cupola, on which is placed a colossal figure of Minerva. This academy, as already mentioned, is partly appropriated as a picture-gallery, but also occupied as a school of art, in which three hundred pupils are maintained and educated. In addition to these, it furnishes residences to the professors, academicians, and other artists; so that the whole number of persons accommodated under its roof is estimated at not less than a thousand.
The other principal schools are, the Technological institute, in which upward of two hundred pupils, sons of respectable tradesmen, receive a general education, and special instruction in the various mechanical arts, cotton-spinning, weaving, carpentry, &c.; the Central Pedagogical institute, or normal school; two gymnasia; the Female institute of Smolnoi, where five hundred young ladies are carefully and gratuitously educated; the Ecclesiastical academy; the principal protestant, the agricultural, commercial, veterinary, and various other schools.
With regard to public societies, the only one which can be said to have acquired a European reputation is the Imperial Academy of Sciences, which has long been distinguished for the valuable papers published in its " Transactions." Most of them, however, are not the production of native talent, but of such celebrated foreigners as the government has had the wisdom to attract by the liberality of its patronage. Numerous other societies of repute exist, under the names of Russian imperial, medical, pharmaceutical, mineralogical, economical, agricultural, educational, military, philanthropical, and artistical.
The government-buildings of St. Petersburg, which may be properly mentioned in this connection, are in harmony with the immense empire to which they belong, and are generally characterized by their colossal proportions. The Admiralty, to which, as furnishing the best station for obtaining a full view of the city, reference has already been made, is an immense brick building, situated on the north side of the square of the same name, and surmounted by a slender tower with a gilt cupola. The main part of the building, from the centre of which the tower rises, lies parallel to the river with its north side, but has its principal facade on the south, facing the square. The length of this facade is nearly half a mile; and at right angles to it are two sides, stretching from its extremities north toward the river; the east side fronting the Winter palace, and the west the Isaac square and senate-house, and each six hundred and fifty feet in length.
In the above engraving of the square of St. Isaac, the senate-house is seen on the right and the church of St. Isaac appears in the distance on the left. Between them may be seen the colossal equestrian statue of Peter the Great, reduced, however, by the remote distance to diminutive proportions. A nearer view of this statue accompanies the sketch of it a few pages farther on.
A large portion of the Admiralty is occupied as school-rooms for naval cadets. Immediately below it, on the north, lining the Russian quay, are the extensive dockyards: and in the immediate vicinity are a number of important public buildings; among others, that of the Holy Synod, where all the higher concerns of the church are regulated; the Hotel de l'Etat Major, noticed a few pages back; and the war-office, conspicuous by its profusion of gigantic columns.
On the opposite side of the Great Neva stands the exchange; and west from it, fronting the Little Neva, the customhouse—both large and imposing structures. Immediately adjoining are two high and slender towers, adorned like the Columne Rostrate of ancient Rome, from which the approach of shipping may be observed. These columns are hollow, and on their summits, which are reached by a flight of iron steps, are gigantic vases that, are filled with combustibles on all occasions of public illumination. The erection of the whole, including the quays, occupied nearly twelve years, from 1804 to 1816. The great hall of the exchange, which is of colossal proportions, is lighted from above. At either end on both sides are spaces in the form of arcades: in one of the first stands an altar, with lamps constantly burning, for the benefit of the pious Russian merchants, who always bow to the altar, and sometimes even prostrate themselves, on their entrance, to implore the favor of all the saints to their undertakings.
The citadel, with its bastions and bristling embrasures, mounted with one hundred cannon, and defended by a garrison of three thousand men, forms a very conspicuous object. Besides the church of St. Peter and St. Paul (which will be noticed in the next chapter), it contains within its enclosure the mint; and in its vicinity presents an object of great interest in the wooden cottage of Peter the Great, consisting of three small apartments, one of them his chapel, and containing, among other relics of that extraordinary man, the little boat which he constructed, and which may be considered as the germ of the powerful navy which he afterward formed.
Among the other government-edifices, the arsenals and ranges of barracks are particularly deserving of notice. The old arsenal, ah enormous building, was erected by Count Orloff at his own cost, and presented to the empress Catherine II. The new one was built by the emperor Alexander, in a very magnificent style. Both are filled with glittering weapons, trophies, old military engines, and antiquities of importance in Russian history. Among the trophies, there stands in one of the halls in the new arsenal a large Russian eagle, whose neck, body, and legs, are composed of gun-flints ; the pinions of swords ; every feather on the breast and belly is a dagger; every tail-feather a yataghan; the eyes, the muzzles of two black pistols; the gullet, the bore of a cannon: a terrible " Noli me tangere" a proper symbol of the Russian state, which has soared to its present height on the pinions of swords and bayonets. In another hall is a statue of Catherine in white marble, throned in a royal chair, and surrounded by all the emblems of imperial power. Her horse, a white one stuffed, stands near. The saddle is not a lady's side-saddle, but au ordinary man's saddle. Her passion for appearing on horseback, in male costume, has been before alluded to. The statue was erected by Orloff (one of her chief favorites) during her lifetime, and presented with the building.
Some of the historical souvenirs and antiquities are highly interesting: for example, the standards of the Strelitz guard, huge things made of pieces of silk sewed together, and adorned with many highly original pictures characteristic of that fanatical Russian praetorian band, who may justly be called the Janizaries of Christianity. Near the flags lie a number of the accoutrements of the Strelitzes, and the images of their patron-saints: each saint has its own little case, of which a whole row, fastened to straps, were worn on the breast, in a fashion similar to that of the Circassians. Some Russian cannon of the period are also placed here; they are very large, cast in iron, and ornamented with silver and gold.
To every emperor and empress since Peter the Great a separate apartment is devoted, containing the costume, weapons, and utensils, belonging to them, with the instruments of war in use at that time, uniforms, &c. The uniforms of distinguished generals, with all their orders, crosses, and ribands, are here deposited in glass cases; many thousand ells of historically-interesting ribands figure among them. With the help of this cabinet a very good history of the Russian army might be composed.
Ever since Peter the Great, the Russian emperors have voluntarily subjected themselves to their own laws and ordinances, and thereby given their subjects a great example. The pike which Peter carried as a volunteer in his own army, the uniforms he wore as sergeant, captain, and colonel, the leathern shirt he wore as a carpenter, all of which are preserved in the arsenal, constantly warn his successors to follow his example. In Peter's apartment there is still kept the cabriolet he made use of to measure the roads; the number of revolutions made by the wheels is shown by the machinery contained in the box behind. On the lid of this box is a curious old picture, representing Peter's method of travelling. It is a portrait of the cabriolet itself, drawn by one horse, and driven by Peter. Behind him are newly-built houses, and gardens laid out; before him a forest and a wilderness, to the annihilation of which he is boldly proceeding: behind him the heavens are serene, before him the clouds are heaped up like rocks. As this picture was probably designed by Peter himself, it shows what he thought of himself.
In remarkable contrast with the little modest cabriolet of the road making and measuring emperor is the great triumphal car, with its flags and kettle-drums, which Peter II. drove before the band of his guard, at the time when the ladies wore hoop-petticoats and the gentlemen long periwigs. Paul's rocking-horse; the Holstein cuirassiers of Peter III., who were so great a cause of vexation to the native Russians; Senka Rasin's state-chair of ebony, garnished with rude pistols instead of lace ; the uniform of General Miloradovitch, in which the hole made by the bullet that pierced his heart in the revolt of the 14th of December, 1825, is yet to be seen—all furnish employment for the imagination of the historian.
In this collection the accoutrements of neighboring states have not been neglected; even the equipments of the Japanese and Chinese may here be studied. The cuirasses and coats-of-mail of the Japanese guards are made of tortoise-shell, which cover the whole body, and are put together in small scales : the face is concealed in a black mask representing an open-mouthed dragon! The Chinese soldier is clothed from head to foot in thickly-wadded cotton: if he can not move about much in battle, he must be, at all events, in some measure protected against arrows and cudgels. Grimacing masks are also in use among them. The timid have everywhere a great wish to infuse into others, by means of disguises, that terror which they can not inspire by their own courage. The Chinese weapons appear to have the same aim: among them is a halberd, of which the edge of the axe is nearly six feet long—an instrument of murder which would require a free space of ten feet in diameter for every soldier to wield properly. It seems destined for the destruction of giants, but a Roman soldier with his short sword would have been quite safe from them.
Countless as are the uniforms here collected, there is scarcely one to which the Russians have not been opposed, the Japanese not excepted— and scarcely one from which they have not wrested some trophy of victory. Those in the arsenals of St. Petersburg consist of splendid silver shields of Turkish leaders; Polish, Prussian, French, and Persian flags; and at least a thousand ells of silk in Turkish standards, besides a large heap of crescents taken from the mosques. A cannon-foundry is annexed to the new arsenal, where a powerful steam-engine is at work.
In the western corner of the Admiralty square, and near the iron bridge, is located the well-known colossal equestrian statue of Peter the Great, mentioned a few pages back. The subject is admirably treated, and the idea of representing the emperor riding up a rock, on both sides of which and in front steep precipices threaten destruction, is as poetical a thought as ever sculptor entertained. It is said that Falconet, the French artist who executed this great work, was aided in his inspirations by a Russian officer, the boldest horseman of his time, who daily rode up to the edge of a high artificial mound the wildest Arabian of Count Orloff's stud, where he suddenly halted him with his fore legs pawing the air over the abyss below. The head was modelled by Marie Callot.* The emperor's face is turned toward the Neva, his hand outstretched as if he would grasp land and water. This attitude was bold and to the purpose; it is therefore inconceivable why the artist did not rest contented with it, instead of adding to the idea of power and possession which his attitude gave, the subduing a serpent which the czar finds on the rock, and which is trodden under his horse's foot: the charm of a great work of art is sinned against by this destruction of unity of action and idea. The spring of the horse, the carriage of the rider, and his well-chosen Russian costume, are, however, admirable. The air-born position of the whole statue rendered it, necessary that unusual precautions should be taken to preserve the centre of gravity: the thickness of the bronze in front is therefore very trifling, but behind it increases to several inches, and ten thousand pounds' weight of iron were cast in the hind quarters and tail of the horse—a tolerable aplomb.**
The huge block of granite which forms the pedestal, and weighs fifteen hundred tons, was brought from Lacta, a Finnish village four miles from St. Petersburg, and may have been torn by the deluge from the Swedish mountains. It was originally forty-five feet long, thirty feet high, and twenty-five feet in width ; but the chisel was set to work, and, in cutting it, the mass broke in two pieces. These were subsequently patched together, and it now looks as unnatural as the imitative rocks seen on the stage. Some work may have been necessary to obtain a footing for the horse and give an inclination to the stone. This, however, must have been done without due precaution, for one third was taken away. It is now only fourteen feet high, twenty feet broad, and thirty-five feet long; the statue is eleven feet in height, and the horse seventeen. On the two long sides are chiselled the following inscriptions in Russian and Latin: u Petramu Pervomu, Ickathrina Vtovaya" — " Petro Primo, Gatherina Secunda.— MDCCLXXXII."
A laughable circumstance connected with this statue recently occurred at St. Petersburg. Some American sailors, who had been making rather too free with " the jolly god," sallied forth on a frolicksome cruise; and one of them, not having the fear of the police before his eyes, climbed over the wire palisade surrounding the statue, and, clambering up the rock, seated himself, en croupe, behind the czar! He was speedly dismounted, and after a night's confinement was brought before the divisional officer of police, when the case was summarily disposed of, and so heavy a fine inflicted that the offender naturally remonstrated. " No, no," replied the officer, " we can make no abatement: if you will ride with great people, you must pay great people's prices!"
The monument to Suwarrow, Russia's most distinguished general, is on the Champ de Mars, opposite the Troitszka bridge—a most appropriate situation; but the work itself is generally regarded by critics as unworthy of the great marshal whose deeds it is intended to commemorate. It is a bronze statue, on foot, in Roman costume, wielding a sword in the right hand, and holding a shield in the left, in defence, over the crowns of the pope, Naples, and Sardinia, which lie at his feet. This refers especially to the campaign of Italy, in 1799.
Nearly equidistant from the Academy of Arts and the Corps of Cadets is a monument to Field-Marshal Romanzoff, erected to his memory for his services against the Turks, in the wars ending with the conquest of the Crimea. The inscription on it is " Romantzowa Pobedam" (To the Victories of Romanzoff).
This monument is composed of half a dozen different-colored stones, and is ornamented with patches of metal besides. The obelisk itself is of black granite. It stands in a socket of red marble, whose base is of another color, in addition to which there are several strata of white marble; and the whole bears on its extreme point a golden ball, with an eagle hovering over it. In vain we ask what harmony the artist could find in all these various colors and materials. Fortunately, this artistical abortion will not last long. There are already several rents and splits in it, and so many pieces broken from all the corners, that it looks as if it had stood for centuries. It will soon sink under its own weight. The Egyptian sphinxes, which lie not far from this monument, before the Academy of Arts, seem to look deridingly on the unimposing obelisk. In defiance of the thousand years of warlike tumult—in defiance of the countless burning suns, of the endless series of days and nights that have passed over their heads—they look as youthful as if newly born; their skin as smooth and polished as when they came from the chisel.
Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855