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accoutred and trained after the European manner. Peter was returning through Austria when he heard of the rebellion of the Strelitz, and that Gordon had taken them prisoners and loaded them with chains to await his arrival.
He resolved to humble the proud and insolent corps, who had so continuously hindered his designs. “ The particulars of the vengeance," says Lardner," which on this dreadful occasion the Czar inflicted on the Strelitz are revolting. He did not satisfy himself with ordinary cruelty, but spared no detail of physical pain that could prolong and render still more acute the dying agonies of his victims. He first put them to the torture, interrogating and reviling them during the operation ; and when he had sufficiently feasted his eyes with that exhibition of cruelty, he ordered 2,000 of the mangled wretches to be put to death, taking a part in the executions himself, and compelling his nobles to assist him in cutting off the heads of the guilty chiefs. Throughout this barbarous scene, Peter, seated on his throne, gazed with calm and unpitying looks on the work of death, and never moved from his stern composure except to indulge his cruelty by participating in the business of the executions. Nor did his vengeance rest here; to these horrors he added the intoxication of the wine-cup, as if his blood were not inflamed enough already. With the wine-cup in one hand and the axe in the other, he drank twenty successive draughts, as he smote off twenty successive heads in a single hour; exulting at every stroke at the skill and dexterity he displayed.”
Further excesses followed. Axe, gibbet, and wheel were active for months all over Russia. The imperial consort was suspected and sent to a cloister. Peter's name became a word of terror. Revolts broke out everywhere : these were cruelly suppressed ; many more
. of the Strelitz were beheaded; and finally the whole corps was disbanded and scattered) over the empire, or incorporated with his increasing well-disciplined army, chiefly consisting of men chosen from the ranks of the experienced soldiery of civilised Europe.
The Museum of Imperial Carriages is a remarkable collection, containing a fine assortment of vehicles in use at the present day, and also the splendid state and festival carriages of successive sovereigns of Russia. Perhaps the greatest curiosity is the sledge of Peter the Great, who really seems ubiquitous in this city. The sledge was made by the great Czar with his own hands.
The Imperial Public Library of St. Petersburg is one of the richest in Europe, containing over a million printed volumes and about 25,000 manuscripts. Its reading room, constructed in 1862, is only second to the noble room at the British Museum. Amongst the MSS. are an important collection of some of the most valuable State papers of Franceletters from French kings to their ambassadors at foreign Courts, reports, secret State documents, and so forth. These were bought at Paris when the contents of the archives were ransacked by the maddened populace and sold to the first bidder. The classical, Biblical, and mediæval manuscripts are also exceedingly valuable. Those who take a special interest in Peter the Great may here inspect about 400 engravings and lithographs representing him under various circumstances.
Of theatres the city possesses five, of which the Great Theatre, the home of Italian opera, is the largest, accommodating 3,000 persons. The Marie Theatre is devoted to Russian opera and drama.
AMUSEMENTS OF THE PEOPLE.
To see the good people of St. Petersburg amusing themselves to their fullest bent we must regard them at the Carnival and at Easter. Fasting is in very high repute in the Greek Church; and the fasts are kept with great strictness, all food containing any particle of animal matter being rigidly excluded. Of course neither flesh nor fowl must be touched; but milk, eggs, and butter are also tabooed, and likewise sugar on account of the animal matter used in refining it. The Great Fast preceding Easter lasts for seven weeks, and is kept far more strictly than in Roman Catholic countries. On all the Wednesdays and Fridays, and during the whole of the first and last week, the lower class abstain even from fish. To prepare for so much abstinence a preparatory time of feasting and merriment is necessary
During February the upper classes are fully engaged with their routs and balls and all sorts of Carnival revelries. But the mass of the people compress their merry-making into the week preceding the fast. This week is termed the Masslanitza, or Butter-week; and during its continuance Russian festivity reaches its highest point. The idea seems to be to consume during this week all the butter that would ordinarily be consumed during the remaining seven. Nothing seems to be caten except what can be prepared or cooked with butter. The standard popular dish of the season is blinni, a sort of pancake made with butter, fried in butter, and eaten with butter sauce. The ordinary great national dish of shtshee, or cabbage soup, finds no patronage in Butter-week.
The intervals between refreshment are devoted to a round of endless amusements. At one time the frozen surface of the Neva was the arena upon which were erected the temporary theatres, swings, and ice mountains. But the ice gave way under the immense pressure some years ago, and many persons were drowned. Accordingly the vast square of the Admiralty has since been devoted to these festal proceedings. For some time previously extensive preparations are afoot. Timber, poles, planks, blocks of ice, and all things needful for the theatres and booths, and slides and swings, are brought in vast quantities on sledges. Holes are dug in the frozen ground and posts planted, and then water is poured in, which immediately freezes, and the posts stand as firm as if fixed in solid rock. On the first Sunday of Butter-week the fun begins, and all St. Petersburg is either sliding or swinging, or else looking on at those who are doing so. No eating and drinking booths are allowed in the square, but tea and cakes and other light refreshments are hawked about. At noonday the Admiralty Square presents a stirring sight. The mirth among the lower classes is at its highest, and in a broad space reserved for equipages the higher classes drive past in interminable procession. Everybody in St. Petersburg who has any pretension to wealth or position keeps a carriage, and all these carriages, filled with the families of their owners, make up a very pleasing portion of the spectacle.
After Butter-week comes the grim seven weeks' fast. All public amusements are strictly prohibited, and the desolate Admiralty Square is strewed with fragments of the late joyous festivities. At length the Easter eggs appear in readiness for presents.
. As midnight approaches on the Saturday before Easter the churches fill; people of all ranks and ages attend the services, and at the Imperial chapel the Court appears in full dress. As soon as the midnight hour strikes, the sanctuary doors burst open, and the song of “Christ is Risen”
peals forth. The richly-attired priests, swinging their censers, pass in procession through the throng; the congregations shake hands and embrace and kiss; whilst the churches are all one blaze of light, outside as well as in, and cannons and rockets and bells all over the city join in testifying to the general joy.
During the night the ceremony of blessing food proceeds. All the pavement is covered with dishes in long lines, beside which the priests walk, sprinkling holy water. Now begins a period of banquetings and visitings and mutual congratulations, but the most extraordinary feature of the occasion is the universal kissing. Not only do relatives all kiss each other, but slight acquaintances must do the same. The peasants in the streets
seen rubbing their bearded faces together; the employés at public offices kiss each other and their superiors ; generals and colonels kiss their subordinate officers and a deputation of the men; captains kiss all the men in their company. The Czar has a busy time of it. He has to kiss his retinue, Court, and attendants, and on parade repeat the same ceremony with his officers and a select body of privates. So with much kissing and much feeding and, in many quarters, too much drinking, Easter passes by.
We have as yet only made passing reference to the magnificent river on which St. Petersburg stands. By its breadth and the enormous volume of clear blue cold water which it brings down to the Gulf of Finland, the Neva may fairly claim to take rank amongst the noblest rivers of Europe. It is crossed by only one stone bridge, a long structure, remarkable for its beauty of outline, connecting the southern part of the city with Basil Island. There are, however, numerous wooden bridges on piles, and several other floating bridges of boats. Active little steam-boats dart about and give ready communication with some of the more distant parts of the town.
The main stream, or Great Neva, is hemmed in by solid quays and embankments faced with massive blocks of red granite. The Neva is certainly the main artery of St. Petersburg, and great inconvenience results when the ice is too far weakened by the returning sun to be passable, and not yet sufficiently broken up to float away and leave a clear passage for navigation. All intercourse between the opposite portions of the city is for a time necessarily suspended. The breaking up of the ice is anxiously looked for. Ships laden with luxuries are waiting in the Baltic to approach the city. As soon as the ice has cleared away sufficiently to allow a boat to cross, the glad news is announced by a salvo of cannon from the citadel, and whatever may be the hour, the commandant and his attendants hurry to a boat and are rowed across to the Winter Palace on the southern shore. The commandant presents to the Emperor a large goblet filled with icy-cold water from the river, and states that his gondola, which has just crossed the Neva, is the herald of free communication by the river. The Czar quaffs the icy draught to the health of the capital, and returns it filled with silver coins to the commandant. It is said that this cup showed a tendency to grow larger every year, until a fixed sum was decided upon as the price to be paid for this chilly draught.
The chief promenades of St. Petersburg are the streets and quays already mentioned. There is also a pretty Summer Garden which is a favourite lounge. The old-fashioned custom once affected by the sons and daughters of Russian merchants and tradesmen, of
choosing in these gardens on Whit-Monday their partners for life, has fallen into desuetude. The adjoining square is the Russian Champ de Mars in which reviews are held.
The markets of the Russian metropolis afford many characteristic scenes. The principal one is the Gostinnoi-Dovor in the Nevski Prospect, a colossal building for the sale of
almost everything. The Senaya Ploschad, or Hay Market, is the principal provision market, in which foreigners are amused with the frozen animals and birds offered for sale. This market-place was the scene of a striking occurrence in 1831, when the cholera was raging in St. Petersburg and 1,500 deaths were occurring daily. The people got an idea that the foreign doctors, who were numerous in the city, were poisoning them by wholesale. They assembled in crowds on the Senaya market-place, which is surrounded by low cabarets, in which the wildest rumours had been credited by half-drunken moujiks. Terrible shouts