Territory of the Don Cossacks Edward Clarke
Appearance of the Don Cossacks at Kasankaia.—House of the Ataman.—Ideal Dangers of the Country.—Voyage by Water.— Amusements and Dances of the People.—Departure.—Steppes.— River Lazovai.— Visit to a Camp of Calmuks.—Of their brandy distilled from Mare's Milk.—Personal Appearance of Calmucke.— Arts, Armour, and Weapons.— Recreations and Condition of Life. —Acenovekaia.—Of the Suroke, or Bobac, of the Steppes.—The Biroke and Suslic.—Nature of Villages named in Russian Maps.— Stragglers from the Army.—Distinction between Cossacks of the Steppes and of the Don.—Kamenskaia.—Iron Foundries of Lugam —Numerous Camps of Calmucks.—Approach to Axay.
THERE is something extremely martial, and even intimidating, in the first appearance of a Cossack. His dignified and majestic look; his tall elevated brows and dark moustaches ; his tall helmet of black wool, terminated by a crimson sack, with its plume, laced festoon, and white cockade; his upright posture ; and ease aud elegance of his gait—give him an air of great importance. We found them in considerable number at Kasankaia, lounging about their houses, and conversing in such large parties, that it seemed as if we were entering their capital. Their dresses were much richer than any tiling we had seen in Russia, although all wore uniforms. Each person's habit consisted of a blue jacket, edged with gold, and lined with silk, fastened by hooks across the chest. Beneath the jacket appeared a silk waiscoat, the lower part of which was concealed by a sash. Large and long trowsers, either of the same material as the jacket, or of white dimity, kept remarkably clean, were fastened high above the waist, and covered their boots. The sabre is not worn except on horseback, on a journey, or in Avar. In its place is substituted a switch or cane, with an ivory head, which every Cossack bears in his hand, as an appendage of his dress; being at all times prepared to mount his horse at a moment's notice. Their cap or helmet is the most beautiful part of their costume, because it is becoming to every set of features. It adds considerably to their height: and gives, with the addition of whiskers, a military air to the most insignificant figure. They wear their hair
short round the head, but not thin upon the crown. It is generally dark, thick, and quite straight. The cap is covered by a very soft and shining black wool. Some of them have civil and military distinctions of habit—wearing in time of peace, instead of the jacket, a long frock without buttons.
The sash is sometimes yellow, green, or red, though generally black; and they wear large military gloves. There is no nation in the world more neat with regard to dress: and, whether young or old, it seems to become them all. A quiet life seems quite unsuited to their disposition. They loiter about, having no employment to interest them; and passionately fond of war, seem distressed by the indolence of peace.
The ataman, or chief of the stanitza, approached us with very great respect and complaisance, as soon as we arrived. Notice at the same time was given to all the inhabitants not to quit the town without his knowledge, until every thing the travellers might require was ascertained and provided. He begged to conduct us to quarters, as he expressed it; and brought us for that purpose to his own house, which he gave up entirely to our use. It was pleasantly situated above the Don, with an open covered arcade, or wooden gallery, in which we breakfasted and dined, while we staid. His cave of revisions was in the courtyard; and he made his wife and daughter open it for our use. I had the curiosity to descend into this place. It was floored with ice, upon which I observed sterlet, and other fishes of the Don, with game and other luxuries. The house was perfectly clean and comfortable, so much so, that we could not resist the pressing invitation made to us of remaining a short time, to study the maimers of the Cossacks, in a town nearly as large as their capital.
It was amusing to observe the temporary respect they paid the ataman. If he convened any of the inhabitants on business, however trivial, they made their obeisance before him, standing bare headed as in the presence of a sovereign: but the moment the assembly was dissolved, he passed unheeded among them, receiving no other mark of respect than any other Cossacks. It is an office, to which the election is annual ; but if an ataman is particularly popular, he may retain his station, by re-election, during many years. I believe this does not often happen. Our host was in his first year, and his predecessors had been generally changed when the time arrived. We soon perceived that the Cossacks were a people characterized by great liveliness and animation: little disposed to industrious occupation, but fond of amusement, and violent if their passions are roused. In their dances, drinking songs, and discussions, they betray great vehemence. They have abundance of excellent food, and as much brandy as they may think proper to drink. It is therefore surprising that order is so well maintained in their stanitzas.
However indisposed a traveler may be to listen to those false alarms which the inhabitants of every country raise in the minds of strangers who wish to explore any remote part of their territory, it is not possible at all times to disregard such relations, especially when they come from persons of the highest authority, and who pretend to accurate knowledge of the facts they pretend to substantiate. In Russia, there was not an individual of any respectability with whom we conversed upon the subject of our journey, who did not endeavour to persuade us from the danger of traversing what they termed " the deserts of the Don Cossacks." It ended, as such accounts generally do, in misrepresentation, and absurdity. Among the Russians, indeed, we were constahtly exposed to danger, either from imposition, which it was hazardous to detect, or from insult which it was fearful to resent; and in both cases the consequences affected our security.
The very earliest view of the Cossacks showed us a brave; generous, and hospitable people. If we questioned them concerning the dangers of the country, we were referred to districts tenanted by wandering Calmucks; yet we afterwards found no cause of reasonable alarm, even in the very camps of that singular race of men. At Paulovskoy, they told us that the emperor's courier had been stopped with the mail. We doubted the fact in the first instance; and then concluded that if the mail had really been stolen, the theft was committed by the Russians who raised the clamour, and not by the Cossacks, to whom the blame had been imputed. In war, the Russians found them a desperate and dangerous enemy; and many a bitter remembrance of chastisement and defeat induces them to vilify a people whom they fear. The Cossacks are justified in acting towards the Russians as they have uniformly done; that is, in withdrawing as much as possible from all communion with a race of men, whose associations might corrupt, but never advance, the interests of their society. After these remarks, it must nevertheless be confessed that we were compelled to take an escort through the Cossack territory, and to place a guard over our carriage at night; precautions, doubtless, often calculated to excite the ridicule of the people among whom we travelled; yet even the Cossacks themselves urged their necessity, "on account," they said, "of the Calmucks."
One evil consequence, which arises from attention paid to tales of danger, is the habit it occasions of putting false representations even on the most harmless and trivial incidents. The first night of our residence among the Cossacks, we were full of idle fancies. The ataman was intoxicated, and, accompanied by his wife, set off into the country, leaving us in possession of his house. As we had heard a violent altercation without doors, and saw the ataman in a corner of the court, frequently whispering to other Cossacks, and pointing to our carriage, the effect of the silly stories we had heard began to operate, and we imagined some preparation was being made to rob us; for which purpose it was necessary to get rid of the ataman and his wife, as they otherwise might be made responsible for our safety. The apprehension of our servants did not diminish the suspicion thus excited; and we concluded the plot the more probable, as we knew that they had never before seen an equipage so attended. Since this happened, I have every reason to believe that the good old ataman was only giving directions for our advantage, and like all intoxicated persons, was making an important concern of the most trifling business, such as cording and repairing our wheels, and a few other commissions we wished to have executed. How easy it is for travelers so circumstanced to raise an alarm about nothing; make a great stir to defend themselves against ideal danger; offend those who intended good instead of evil; and finish, by congratulating themselves upon an escape, when there was not the slightest reason for an apprehension!
We received a visit, on the evening of our arrival, from the ataman of one of the neighboring stanitzas, who chanced to be in the place. He represented the voyage down the Don to Tscherchaskoy, as very pleasant, but tedious; and that it would require at least a month for its performance. The mosquitoes also are very troublesome upon the water; and the voyage is liable to impediments from the frequent shallows of the river.
Below the town, which stands on the western bank of the Don, we beheld the river, augmented to a most magnificent piece of water, rolling in a full and copious tide, and marking its progress through a sterile country by clumps of trees and flowers, and an abundant vegetation, which always hangs about its sloping sides; but all beyond is bare and desolate. I bathed frequently, and found the current very rapid. The fine sterlets caught here were often brought to regale us during our stay. I preserved one of them tolerably well, but they have often been engraved; and were this not the case, a young sturgeon will give a very good idea of their appearance. A fine large fish is also taken in this river like the bream in shape, but quite equal to the sterlet in flavor. We had one served up which weighed half a pond (eighteen pounds).
The women of this place are very beautiful. The shops are supplied with several articles of luxury which he did not expect to find; such as loaf sugar, ribands, costly silks, and other wares of large towns. But by much the most numerous articles were sabres. The Cossacks call this weapon sabla, the Poles and Malo Russians, sabel. We found the bagpipe frequently in use. The puppets common in Calabria, and carried by the inhabitants of that part of Italy over all
Europe, were much in vogue here. They consist of two email figures suspended by a string, one end of which a piper fastens to his knee or to one of his fingers, while the other end is held by a gimblet screwed into a table or floor; and by the motion of the knee, the figures are made to move in time. The Calabrians manage them with great dexterity, and often collect a crowd in the streets of London and Paris. We saw also the Cossack dance, which much resembles the dance of the Gypsies in Russia, and our English hornpipe. Like every other national dance, it is licentious. As the female recedes or approaches, the male dancer expresses his desire or his disappointment; yet so adapted is the figure of the dance to the small rooms in which such exercise is chiefly carried on, that the performers hardly stir from one spot. The whole expression is by movements of the body, especially of the arms and head, accompanied by short and sudden shrieks, and by whistling. The method they exhibited of moving the head from one shoulder to the other, while the hands are held up near the ears, is common to the dances of all the Tartars, Chinese, and even the inhabitants of the isles in the Pacific Ocean.
In the evening of June 16, we left this hospitable stanitza, crossing the Don on a raft. The people of the house in which we had been so comfortably lodged, positively refused to accept payment for all the trouble we had given them. No entreaty could prevail upon any one of them to allow us farther satisfaction, by any remuneration. "Cossacks," said they, "do not sell their hospitality."
The view of Kasankaia, from the southern side of the river, is very fine. Its large church, with numerous domes, stands in the centre. To the right and left, extends neat and numerous wooden houses. The Don flows below; which forms a fine front, with the busy raft, constantly employed in conveying the caravans across the ferry. In all parts of the river above Kasankaia, it seems to flow over a bed of chalk; and its banks, gently swelling upwards from the water, rise like the South Downs of Sussex, often disclosing the chalk of which they consist. Farther down, and near the water's edge, low copses of wood almost always accompany its course; but they diminish as it draws nearer to Tscherchaskoy, the inhabitants of which town derive all their wood from the Volga.
As soon as we left Kasankaia, we entered the steppes in good earnest, with a view to traverse their whole extent to Tscherchaskoy. These are not cultivated; yet, bleak and desolate as their appearance during winter must be, they have in summer the aspect of a wild continued meadow. The herbage rises as high as the knee, full of flowers, and exhibiting a most interesting collection of plants. No one collects or cute this herbage. The soil, though neglected, is very fine. We passed some oaks, in the first part Of our journey, which had the largest leaves I ever saw. Our Cossack escort galloped before us with their long lances, and were of great use in clearing the road of caravans, and in tracing the best track over which a carriage might expeditiously pass. We were pleased in surveying our little army, all going full speed; but thought it would avail us little, if the stories we had heard of banditti in the steppes had really been true. For ourselves, we were totally unarmed, with the exception of our sabres; and these were under lock and key in our swordcase. We relied therefore solely on our Cossacks, who seemed quite delighted with anything that promised even the hope of a skirmish, and proud of their employment, scoured the plains, armed with pistols, sabres, and lances twelve feet in length.
Thus escorted and accounted, we proceeded thirty versts before evening, and passed the night in a spot full of swamps, stinking fens, and muddy pools, near whose stagnant waters a number of caravans had also halted. The mosquitoes were in great number, and very troublesome. Our Cossacks slept the whole night on the damp ground, and in the open air almost naked, around our carriage. The atmosphere of such a country must in summer be pestilential. It resembled the Pontine marshes in Italy: being full of reeds bulrushes, and tall flags, in which was heard the constant clamor of frogs and toads, whose croaking overpowered every other sound during the night. But in the morning, the chorus of a great variety of birds, with the humming of innumerable insects, and the pleasing appearance of a flowery wilderness, gave a liveliness to a flat and wide prospect, which made the desert very interesting; and we renewed our journey. The name of this place was called Tichaia; and thereabouts the river Lozovai has its source. We followed its tardy and almost STAGNANT waters through the steppes, to a place named from it, Verchuia Lozovaia. On its banks I collected the sinapis nigra and convolvulus arvensts, or common bindweed, well known in England.
We afterwards observed a camp of Calmucks, not far from the track we pursued, lying off in the plain to the right. As we much wished to visit that singular people, it was thought prudent to send a part of our Cossack escort before, in order to apprise them of our inclination, and to ask their permission. The sight of our carriage, and of the party that was approaching with it, seemed to throw them into great confusion. We observed them running backwards and forwards from one tent to another, and moving several of their goods. As we drew near од foot, about half a dozen gigantic figures came towards us, stark naked, except a cloth bound round the waist, with greasy, shining and almost black skins, and black hair braided in a long queue behind. They began talking very fast, in so uncouth a language, that we were a little intimidated. I shook hands with the foremost, which seemed to pacify them, and we were invited to a large tent. Near its entrance hung a quantity of horse flesh, with the limbs of dogs, cats, marmots, rats, &c., drying in the sun, and quite black. Within the tent we found some women, though it was difficult to distinguish the sexes, so horrid and inhuman was their appearance. Two of them, covered with grease, were lousing each other; and IT surprised us that they did not discontinue their work, or even look up as we entered. Through a grated lattice, in the side of the tent, we saw some younger men peeping, of more handsome features, but truly Calm иск, with long black hair hanging in thick braids on each side of the face, and fastened at the ends with bits of lead or tin. In their ears they wore shells, or large peals, of a very irregular shape, or substance much resembling pearl. The old women were eating raw horse flesh, tearing it off from large bones which they hold in their hands. Others, squatted on the ground, in their tents, were smoking, with pipes not two inches in length, much after the manner of the Laplanders. In other respects, the two people, though both of eastern origin, and both nomade tribes, ear little resemblance. The manner of living among the Calmucks is much superior to that of the Laplanders. The tents of the former are better constructed, stronger, more spacious, and contain many of the luxuries of life: such as very warm and very good beds, handsome carpets and mats, domestic utensils, and materials of art and science, painting, and writing. The Calmuck is a giant, the Laplander a dwarf; both are filthy in their person, but the Calmuck more so than perhaps any other nation. I am not otherwise authorized in comparing together tribes so remote from all connection with each other, than by asserting from my own observation, that both are oriental, characterized by some habits and appearances in common, deferring at the same time all further illustration of the subject until a more appropriate opportunity. I shall have occasion to speak at large of the Laplanders in another part of my travels.
The covering of their tents consists of neat and well made mats such as we see brought from India, and also felt, or coarse woolen cloths. Whenever a Calmuck marries, he must build one of these tents, and one for every child he has by that marriage. If a husband dies, his widow becomes the property of his brother, if the latter chooses to accept her. The distinction between the married and unmarried women is in their hair. A married woman wears her hair braided, and falling over her shoulders, on each side of her face, but a virgin has only a single braid hanging down the middle of her back» Their tents were all of a circular form, near which we observed a party of their children, from the age, of five to fourteen, playing at the Russian game before mentioned, with knuckle bones. We delighted them by making a scramble with a few copecks. They were quite naked, and with skins perfectly black. Farther off, a herd of their dromedaries were grazing. Of all the inhabitants of the Russian empire, the Calmicks are the most distinguished by peculiarity of feature and manners. In their personal appearance, they are athletic, and very forbidding. Their hair is coarse and black, their language harsh and guttural. They inhabit Thibet, Bucharia, and the countries lying to the north of Persia, India, and China, but, from their vagrant habits, they may be found in all the southern parts of Russia, even to the banks of the Dnieper. The Cossacks alone esteem them, and intermarry with them. This union sometimes produces women of very great beauty, although nothing is more hideous than a Calmuck. Hugh prominent, and broad cheek bones; very little eyes, widely separated from each other; a flat and broad nose; coarse, greasy, jet black hair, scarce any eye brows, and enormous prominent ears, compose no very inviting portrait. Their women are uncommonly hardy, and on horseback outstrip their male companions in the race. The stories related of their placing pieces of horse flesh under the saddle in order to prepare them for food, are perfectly true. They acknowledged that it was a common practice among them on a journey, and that a steak so dressed became tender and palatable. In their large camps they have always cutlers, and other artificers, in copper, brass, and iron; sometimes goldsmiths, who make trinkets for their women, idols of gold and silver and vessels for their altars; also persons expert at inlaid work, enamelling, and many arts which we vainly imagine peculiar to nations in a state of refinement. One very remarkable fact, and which I should hesitate in asserting if I had not found it confirmed by the observations of other travelers, is, that from time immemorial, the oriental tribe of Calmucks have possessed the art of making gunpowder. They boil the efflorescence of nitrate of potass in a strong lye of poplar and birch ashes, and leave it to crystalise; after which they pound the crystals with two parts of sulphur, and as much charcoal; then, wetting the mixture, they place it in a caldron over a charcoal fire, until the powder begins to granulate. The generality of Calmucks, when equipped for war, protect the head by a helmet of steel, with a gilded crest, to which is fixed a net work of iron rings, falling over the neck and shoulders, and hanging as low as the eye brows in front. They wear upon their body, after the eastern manner, a tissue of similar work, formed of iron or steel rings matted together, which adapts itself to the shape, and yields readily to all positions of the body, and ought therefore rather to be called a shirt than a coat of mail. The most beautiful of these are manufactured in Persia, and are valued as equivalent to fifty horses. The cheaper sort are made of scales of tin, and sell only for six or eight horses each: but these are more common among the Chinese, and in the Mogul territory. Their other arms are lances, bows and arrows, poniards, and sabres. The richest only bear fire arms, which are therefore always regarded as a mark of distinction, and kept with the utmost had previously sent him to finish his studies in Home, where he acquired the highest perfection in design. He had the peculiar features, and many of the manners, of the nomade Calmucks. in cases made of badgers’ skins. Their most valuable bows are made of the wild goat’s horn, or whalebone; the ordinary sort of maple, or thin slips of elm or fir, fastened together and bound with a covering of linden or birch bark. Their amusements are hunting, wrestling, archery, and horse racing. They are not addicted to drunkenness; they hold drinking parties, which continue for half a day at a time, without interruption. Upon such occasions, every one brings his share of brandy and koumiss; and the whole stock is placed upon the ground, in the open air, the guests forming a circle, seated around it. One of them, squatted by the vessels which contain the liquor, periorms the office of cupbearer. The young women place themselves by the men, and begin songs of love or war, of fabulous adventure, or heroic achievement. Thus the fete is kept up, the guests passing the cup round, and singing the whole time, until the stock of liquor is expended. During all this ceremony, no one is seen to rise from the party, nor does any one interrupt the harmony of the assembly by rjot or intoxication. In the long nights of winter, the young people of both sexes amuse themselves with music, dancing, and singing. Their common musical instrument is the balalaika, or two stringed lute, which is often represented in their paintings. These paintings preserve very interesting memorials of the ancient superstition of eastern nations: inasmuch as they present us with objects of Pagan worship common to the earliest mythology of Egypt and Greece. The arts of painting and music may be supposed to have continued little liable to alteration among them, from the remotest periods of their history. As for their dances, they consist more in movements of the hands and the arms, than of the leet. In winter they also play at cards, droughts, backgammon, and chess. Their love of gambling is so great, that they will spend their nights at play, and lose in a single sitting the whole of what they possess, even to the cloths on their body. In fact, it may be said of the Calmucks, that the greatest part of their life is spent in amusement. Wretched and revolting as their appearance is to civilized people, they would be indeed miserable in their own estimation, if compelled to change their mode of living for ours. Both Gmelin and Pallas relate, that they deem a residence in houses so insupportable, that to be shut up in the confined air of a close apartment, when under the necessity of going into towns, and making visits of embassy or commerce, was considered by them with a degree of horror. Among the diseases to which they are exposed by their diet and want of cleanliness, may be mentioned the itch, to which they are very subject, and malignant fevers, which are very fatal to them during the heat of summer. The venereal disease causes great ravages; but it is said to prevail chiefly in those camps where the princes reside, and not to be often found among the lower orders. They give to this disorder a name very expressive of the estimation in which they hold their mode of life, signifying * the house disease.’' Having occasion hereafter to notice this people again, I shall only add the observations of one of the celebrated travelers before mentioned, who alter considering the privations to which they are exposed, places the situation in a point of view more favorable, perhaps, than I have done. For the rest,” says he, “ to whatever degree of wretchedness the poorest of the Calmucks may be reduced, it is very rare to behold them dejected by sorrow, and they are never subdued by despair. The generality, notwithstanding a mode of life which appears so adverse to health, attain to a robust and very advanced old age. Their disorders are neither very frequent nor very dangerous. Few become greyheaded at forty or fifty. Persons from eighty to a hundred years of age. are by no means uncommon among’ them; and at that advanced period of life they still sustain with great ease the fatigue of horsemanship. A simple and uniform diet, the free air which they uninterruptedly respire; inured, vigorous, and healthy bodies; continual exercise, without care, without laborious employment: such are the natural causes of the felicitous effects.” Leaving this encampment, we continued travelling the steppes in a southwesterly direction, and passed a very teat village belonging to a rich Greek, who, to our great surprise, bad established a residence in the midst of these desolate plains. As we advanced, we perceived where rivers intersect the steppes, there are villages and plenty of inhabitants. A manuscript map of Tscherchaskoy confirmed the truth of this observation. No maps have been hitherto published in Europe which give an accurate notion of the country. A stranger crossing the Cossack territory, might suppose himself in a desert, and yet be in the midst of villages. The road, it is true, does not often disclose them; but frequently when we were crossing a river, and believed ourselves in the midst of the most uninhabited country., which might be compared to a boundless meadow, we beheld villages to the right and left of us, concealed, by the depth of the banks of the river, below the level of the plain; not a single house or church of Which would have been otherwise discerned We were approaching in an oblique direction, the Lazovai, now augmented to a considerable river. As we drew near, its opposite banks rose considerably higher than the usual appearance of the country with fine clusters and patches of trees. Before we arrived at AcenovSkaia, it was even mountainous. On its western side we saw a neat village called Jernuchaia, pleasingly situated beneath the hills, and a new and handsome church. Indeed, the churches are everywhere good, and much superior to what we find in our churches in England, both as to architecture and interior decoration. At the top of the mountainous elevation on the western side of the river, stood one of the largest of those tumuli of which I have before spoken, and which abound all over this country. They become more numerous, and increase in size, nearer to the Don and the Sea of Azof. Finding the water clear and the current rapid. I took the opportunity of bathing; and recommend the practice to all travelers, as essential to the preservation of health. From Acenovskaia, we continued our route over steppes apparently destitute of any habitation. Dromedaries were feeding, as if sole tenants of these wide pastures. Mr. Crippsgot upon the back of one of them, as the animal was kneeling; which immediately rose, and, with a very majestic pace, bore him towards the carriage. Our horses were so terrified at the sight, that they broke the ropes, and we had great difficulty in tranquillizing them. The dromedary, having passed, made off into the plain, with his head erect, resolved, no doubt, to undertake an expedition to very distant regions; when my friend, having satisfied his curiosity, let himself down from his lofty back, as from the roof of a house, and fell with some violence to the ground, leaving the dromedary to prosecute his voluntary journey, which he continued as far as our eyes could follow him. Innumerable inhabitants of a smaller race people these immense plains. Among the number of them, is an animal which the natives call suroke—the marmot of the Alps. I have seen Savoyards at Paris leading them about for showing the dwellings of their forefathers, “in the depth of forests, on the banks of rivers, or the edge of morasses, we may not perhaps, without flattery, compare them to the architecture of the beaver; which they resembled in a double issue, to the land and water, for the escape of the savage inhabitant, an animal less cleanly, less diligent, and less social, than that marvelous quadruped.” History of the Roman Empire, chap. xlii.” They grow here to the size of a large badger, and so much resemble the bear in their manner and appearance, that, until we became acquainted with the true history ef the suroke, we considered it as a nondescript animal, and called it ursa miniта subterranea. Such mistakes are not uncommon in zoology. Naturalists frequently add to the nomenclature of animals by superfluous appellations. A beautiful little quadruped, called jerboa in Egypt, has been described in other countries as a distinct animal, under the various names of mus jaculusysubtei'raneous hare, vaultingrat, Icaper; but it is the same creature every where, and bears to the kangaroo the degree of relationship which the lizard does to the crocodile. I shall describe it more minutely hereafter. Our present business is with the suroke, which is seen in all parts of the steppes, sitting erect, near its burrow, on the slightest alarm whistling very loud, and observing all around. It makes such extensive subterranean chambers, that the ground is perforated in all directions, and the land destroyed wherever the animal is found. Its color is a greyish brown; it has five fingers upon its paws, which very much resembled human hands, and are used after the same manner. The mouth, teeth, and head are like those of the squirrel, but the ears are shorter. Its fine eyes are round, full, dark, and bright; the tail is short; the belly generally protuberant, and very large. 11 devours whatever it finds with the greatest voracity, and remains in a state of torpor half the time of its existence. Many of the peasants keep these creatures tame in their houses. We purchased no less than four, which lived and travelled with us in our carriage, and gave us an opportunity to study their natural history. They were always playing, or sleeping beneath our feet, to the great annoyance of our little pet dog, who felt much insulted by the liberties I took with him. The peasants universally gave them the name of waski. They assured me they always lost them in the month of September, and that they did not make their reappearance until the beginning of April. They either descended into a burrow, or concealed themselves in some place where they might remain least liable to observation, and there sleep during the whole winter. To awaken them during that season, naturally injures their health, and sometimes kills them. They are most destructive animals, for they will gnaw every thing that falls in their way; as shoes, boots, wooden planks, and all kinds of roots, fruit, or vegetables. They made sad havoc with the lining of our carriage, which was of leather. As soon as they have done eating, they become so somnolent as even to fall asleep in your hands, in any posture or situation, or under any circumstances of jolting, noises, or motion. While awake they are very active, and surpass every other animal in the quickness with which they will bury themselves in the earth. They resemble guinea- pigs in making a grunting noise, and whenever surprised, or much pleased, or in any degree frightened, they utter loud and short squeaks, which have the tone of a person whistling. Other animals common in the steppes are wolves and bears; as also a quadruped called biroke, of a grey color, something like a wolf, very ferocious, and daring enough to attack a man. The Cossack peasants, armed with their lances, sally forth on horseback, to the chase of this animal. It has a long full tail, which it drags on the ground. From the accounts given of it by the peasants, I suspected it to be the same animal described by Professor Pallas, as found in the environs of Astrachan, under the appellation of chakal, and which is said to be between a wolf and a dog; but whether it answers to the jackal of Egypt or not, I did not learn. The most numerous of nil the quadrupeds of the steppes, from Woronetz to Tscherchaskoy, are the suslics; by which name they are called throughout the country. As you draw dear the Don, they absolutely swarm, and many be taken in any number. This interesting little animal is found to be the mus citittus of Buffon, but the description of it will prove whether this be really the case or not. We procured several, one of whom we stuffed, but it has not been properly preserved of Lapland, Sweden, and Norway, after his masters; accompanied them, during three years, in different climates, although detesting bodily exercise; and ultimately performed a journey on foot, keeping up with horses, from Athens, through all Greece, Macedonia, and Thrace; making the tour of the Archipelago, to Constantinople ; and thence, in the same manner, through Bulgaria, and Wallachis, to Buchorest.and therefore I prefer making reference to the notes taken on the spot, rather than to any thing connected with its present appearance. It makes a whistling noise, like the suroke, hut is much smaller, not being larger than a small weasel. It constructs its habitation under ground with incredible quickness, excavating, first of all, a small cylindrical hole or well, perpendicularly, to the depth of three feet; thence, like a correct miner, it shoots out a level, although rather in an ascending direction, to prevent its being incommoded by water. At the extremity of this little gallery, it forms a very spacious chamber, to which, as a granary, it brings every morning and evening, all it can collect of favorite herbage or com, if it саn be found, of roots, and of other food. Nothing is more amusing than to observe its habits. If any one approaches, it is seen sitting, at the entrance of its little dwelling, erect, upon its hind feet, like the suroke, carefully noticing whatever is going on around it. In the beginning of winter, previous to retiring for the season, it carefully closes up the entrance of its subterranean abode with sand, in order to keep out the snow, as nothing annoys it so much as water, which is all the Calmucks and Cossacks make use of in taking them; —for the instant that water is poured into their burrows, they run out and are easily caught. The Calmucks are very fond of them; but I believe they are rarely eaten by the Cossacks. Their greatest enemy is the falcon, who makes a constant breakfast of suslics. They have from two to ten young ones at a time; and it is supposed, from the hoard prepared, that the suslic does not sleep, like the guroke, during winter. All the upper parts of its body is of a deep yellow, spotted with white. Its neck is beautifully white, the breast yellowish, and the belly a mixed color of yellow and grey: it has, more? over, a black forehead, reddish white temples, and a white chin. The rest of its head is of an ash-colored yellow, and the ears are remarkably email. Among the feathered tribe in the steppes, we noticed particularly in this part of our journey, birds called ataritchi, or the eiders, which are seen in flocks, and held by the people in superstitious veneration. They are about the size of a snipe, of a very elegant form. Such are the observations we made during the second day of Our journey across the steppes. We halted at a place called Suchofskaia, and proceeded afterwards to Rossochinskaia, a single hut in the middle of the waste. Yet such are often the villages, not to say towns and cities, which figure in Russian maps. This place consisted of a single dwelling, built of a few pieces of wood, and thatched by weeds and sedge, carelessly leaped upon it. The surrounding hovels are out-houses for the post-horses. During summer, its Cossack inhabitants sleep upon the roof among the thatch. As it grew dark, a tremendous thunder-storm came on, and. and a very interesting spectacle was disclosed by the vivid flashes of lightning which accompanied it. The Cossack guard, as well as the people of the place, had collected themselves upon different parts of the thatched covering of the hut and hovels about it, to pass the night. Every hash of lightning served to exhibit their martial figures, standing upright in groups upon the roofs of the buildings, bowing their heads and crossing themselves, beneath the awful canopy which the sky then presented. All around was desolate and silent. Perhaps no association could serve to render a scene of devotion more striking. It is customary among Cossacks, before they consign themselves to sleep, to make the sign of the cross, facing respectively the four quarters of the globe. A similar superstition, respecting four cardinal points of wor¬ship, exists among ignorant people, even in our own country. I remember, when a child, being taught by an old woman to offer the following singular prayer:—
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels over my head :
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed which I lay on.
A party of Cossacks arrived as pilgrims, returning homewards from the war in Italy. We afterwards met numbers who had traversed on foot the whole of the immense territory from the Alps to the Don, and who arrived with scarcely a rag to their backs. They were loud in complaints against their unprincipled commanders. Some of them had learned a little Italian. They said that the Russian officers stripped them of every thing they had, turned them adrift upon the frontier of Italy, and told them to find their way home on foot. One of them assured me he had begged during the whole journey; and that before he had set out from the army, they had taken away his watch, and even his clothes. We gave them a little brand v: and the noor people of the hut brought them some broth, made with fish and wild herbs. They sat round it in a circle, eating all out of one bowl, and, having ended their supper, began to sing. So relative is human happiness! We left Ilossochinskaia on the 12th of June. All the Cossack inhabitants of the steppes, from Kasankaia to Tcherchaskoy, have light brown hair, and are of a different race from the genuine Cossacks of the capital, and those dwelling in stanitzas along the Don. Lieutenant-colonel Papof, a Cossack officer of the highest merit and talent, of whom I shall hereafter speak, told me that the people of the steppes were emi-grants, of recent date, from Poland. It would be tedious to notice, upon every occasion, the extraordinary number of tumuli, which appear during the whole route. I wish the reader only to keep in mind the curious fact of their being every where in view. Close to the posthouse at Pichovskaia, the first place at which we halted this day, were two of a very remarkable size, one on each side of the road. The horses here were without shoes, and the road as excellent as it is possible to imagine. It seemed as though we were driving over a continued lawn. Yet stories of danger were renewed; the lances of our Cossack escort were twelve feet in length; and an unusual degree of caution prevailed among them, as to their means of defence. They provided themselves with firearms, which they said it was now necessary to have in due order: and a very sharp lookout was made, the Cossacks increasing in number as we advanced into the interior. We arrived at Kamenskaia, a stanitza upou the Danaetz, generally written Donetz; which river we crossed on a floating bridge, as the post house was on the opposite side. The town made a great figure, as we decended the valley in which it was situated, owing to its fine church, and the numerous gardens with which it abounded. We saw in the streets the same forme. The ataman was at his country seat; and we were told that all the principal Cossacks had their houses for summer residence in the country. Just before entering the town, a young Calmuck woman passed us, astride on horseback, laden with raw horseflesh, which lmng like carrion before her on each side. She was grinning for joy at the treasure she had obtained, which we afterwards found to be really carrion. A dead horse lying in the ditch which surrounds the town, on the land side, had attracted about thirteen dogs, whom we found greedily devouring what remained: the Calmuck having contested the prize with them just before, and helped herself to as much of the mangled carcase as she could carry away. The postmaster kept a tame suroke, as large as a common terrier, perfectly domesticated. This animal, he told us only remained with him one half of the year: that it regularly retired for the other to its hole in the ground. The postmaster kept a tame suroke, as large as a common terrier, perfectly domesticated. This animal, he told us only remained with him one half of the year: that it regularly retired for the other to its hole in the ground, near the house, and there buried itself. Upon the approach of spring, it regularly returned to its patron, resumed its former habits of sitting upright, and begging for bread and herbs as before. It would always come to him during the summer, when called by the name of tcaski; but all the bawling he could use, at the mouth of its burrow, never drew it forth in the winter season. Higher up the Danaetz, where it receives the Lugan, are the Lugan ironworks and cannot foundry, belonging to the crown: which at the time we travelled in the Cossack territory were under the direction of Sir Charles Gascoigne. From thence the emperor’s artillery passes by water to the Б1аск Sea. Sir Charles Gascoigne found very excellent coal at Lugan: in consequence of which discovery, as well as its convenient situation for water carriage the foundry was there established.
The remarkable appellation of the river at Kamenskaia has perhaps already excited the reader’s notice. In our maps it is written Donnez; and in those of Germany, Donetz. I paid the greatest attention to the pronunciation of the people living on different parts of the river, and particularly of those Cossack officers throughout the country, who, by their education, were capable of determining with accuracy the mode of orthography which would best express the manner in which the word is spoken, and always found it to be Danaetz, although frequently pronounced as if a T was before the D— Tdanaetz, or Tanaets.We traversed continued steppes from Kamenskaia. Camps of Calmucks were often stationed near the road. We paid visits to several of them, but obtained little information worth adding to what I have before stated of this people. In one of them, containing not more than four tents, we found only women who were busy in distilling brandy from milk. The men were all absent, and perhaps upon some predatory excursion. Tire women confirmed what we had been before told concerning the materials used for distilling; and said, that having made butter, they were distilling the buttermilk for brandy. We could not credit that brandy might be so obtained; but to prove it, they tapped the still, as upon a former occasion, offering us a tuft of camel’s hair soaked in brandy, that we might taste and be convinced. During the latter part of this day’s journey, we observed great numbers of dromedaries grazing. We halted for horses at Dubovskaia. Immense caravans were passing towards the Ukraine. The very sight of their burden is sufficient to prove of what prodigious importance it would be to increase the cultivation of the steppes, where nature only aek? to be invite^* i» огфяг to pour forth her choicest treasures. W e observed trains of forty or sixty to a hundred wagons, laden entirely with dried fish to feed the inhabitants of the south of Russia, who might be sup** plied with better food from their own land than Ггощ all the rivers of the Cossacks. We went on to Grivinskaia, and there passed the night; having traveled sixty eight miles this day, notwithstanding the delays which curiosity had occasioned. On the morning of June the 29 th, we came to Tchestibaloshnia, meeting frequent parties of Calmicks; and through Tuslovskaia, to the town of Oxai, upon the bon, a settlement belonging to the Cossacks of Tschercnaskoy. As we drew nearer to the river, the steppes were entirely alive with swarms of the beautiful little quadrupeds before described under the name of suslic, some of which were entirely white. Approaching Oxai, numerous camps of Calmucks appeared in every direction, over all the country round the town. Some of their tents were pitched close to the place. Others more distant, covered the lofty eminences above the Don.