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RUSSIAN SHORES OF THE BLACK SEA
IN THE AUTUMN OF 1852
VOYAGE DOWN THE VOLGA, AND A TOUR THROUGH
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It may seem singular that there is no country in Europe about which so little has been "written, and about which, consequently, so little is known, as that vast empire of Russia, which absorbs in itself half the Continent, and which, from its extent and position, would seem to demand a principal share of the attention of those nations whose destinies it may one day control; and yet it is not very difficult to account for this, when the great difficulty of obtaining authentic information is considered.
The system of Government renders it impossible that any light should be thrown upon the present condition of the Empire from internal sources, while few strangers are tempted to extend their travels beyond St Petersburg or Moscow. It is not an inviting country to the dilettante tourist, for the accommodation is execrable—the means of locomotion barbarous—the obstacles thrown in the way by government annoying—and the results, with
respect to fine arts, literature, and social life, comparatively unworthy of his attention. Nor does Russia possess those charms for the more enterprising traveller which a new and unexplored country offers.
Since, then, the scanty information which the public already possesses has been of such a nature as to create an indifference towards acquiring more, I should have felt it necessary to offer some apology for publishing this volume, had not the events which have agitated Europe for the last six months induced me to suppose that an excuse is no longer needed for giving some account of those more remote provinces of the Empire of the Autocrat through which my travels led me. Upon my arrival at St Petersburg, circumstances induced me to change the plans I had originally entertained of visiting the rivers which run .into the White Sea, for the purpose of salmon-fishing, and I have found no reason to regret the alteration in my route, since it furnished me with objects of interest of a more useful and solid description.
At a time when the power of Eussia seems about to be tested, and its vast resources called into requisition, the shores of the Volga are invested with an increased importance, for Russian Tartary is the granary of the Empire.—If the Imperial forces are again to be matched with the armies of the West,