Sivut kuvina

that Asia Minor cannot be held or occupied in security without the possession of Constantinople. Should the course of events require it, we will endeavour at some future time to establish these two propositions. At this moment a few remarks must suffice. Constantinople draws her_supplies mainly from the fertile plains on the Bithynian and Phrygian coast. If she lost her Asiatic shore she would be within cannot-shot of an enemy's territory, and on the verge of her own soil: she would cease to command the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus: all the natural advantages of her position would be lost. The immediate lines of defence of Turkey against a northern enemy may lie in Bulgaria, but her strength in men and resources is above all in Anatolia. On the other hand, Asia Minor itself is, with the exception of one or two fortresses at the north-eastern corner, wholly undefended and at present indefensible.

Its area is about equal to that of France. A hostile army which should ever gain possession of the table-land of the Tauric chain would command all the valleys leading up to it from the coast; and the coast is encircled by harbours and cities, now in ruins and forsaken, but ever memorable in the history of the Grecian and the Christian world. To a European military Power in possession of Constantinople the conquest of Asia Minor would not only be easy but indispensable. A glance at the map will tell the reader what that implies. It implies the entire command of all the great harbours of the Levant and of the territories lying between the coast of the Mediterranean and the Euphrates. The line of division between Europe and Asia is purely conventional a mere geographical expression, especially when an important part of Europe is governed by an Asiatic Power, and the most important parts of Asia by European States. Nothing is in truth more European than Asia Minor. It is the most fertile portion of the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and no territory on the face of the globe is so intimately connected with the history of Grecian civilisation and the early annals of the Christian Church as the coast which extends from the promontory of Lampsacus to the island of Rhodes. The Power which may one day restore those fertile but neglected lands to cultivation, and those deserted cities to civilisation, will be the mistress of Eastern Europe. This, then, is the true reason of the paramount importance of Constantinople itself to Great Britain; and this is also the reason why the occupation of the Caucasian Provinces by Russia, and the efforts made by her to establish a system of railroads converging on Armenia, are amongst the most important and significant events of the present age, whether they be used for the purpose of war or of peace. For this reason we propose to review all the recent contributions to our knowledge of the Caucasian region.

What effect the new railways may have, either in creating a demand for or in making available the mineral wealth of the Caucasian Provinces, it is perhaps premature to speculate. The naphtha harvest in the neighbourhood of Baku has hitherto been most remunerative. One group of springs was sold some years ago for 900,000 roubles (120,0001.). Coal, said to have given satisfaction when tested on shipboard against English coal of good quality, exists in the mountains near Kutais. Nakhitschevan produces salt, Elizavetpol alum; both have been worked with profit. The Karabagh has copper mines ; not far from Tiflis iron is found in large quantities, but the attempts to work it have not up to the present time been very successful. According to Herr Radde, obviously a sanguine though an honest witness, only European capital and intelligence are needed to ensure a large return. Gold and silver also exist in small quantities; the former is obtainable by washing from the sands of the Mingrelian rivers. But we are not prepared to follow Herr Radde further into this subject. We should be sorry in any way to promote the formation of an · Alagir · Mines' or a. Phasis Goldwashing Company.'

The soil of the Caucasus is, in many parts, extraordinarily rich in vegetable products. Poti has a considerable timber trade, great quantities of box and the finer kinds of woods used in cabinet-making being exported to France. But in crops which require for their production the aid of human skill, the country, despite natural advantages, scarcely supplies its own needs. It will be long probably before the wines of Kakhety are manufactured with sufficient care to bear travel and obtain, as they well might, a market throughout Russia. The primitive character of the native husbandry, the poverty of the landowners, and, above all, the absence of decent roads, make the condition of Caucasian agriculture very hopeless. Nor can the introduction of colonists be looked to as a remedy; for much of the most fertile land lies in districts stricken with the curse of deadly fevers. It has been rather from its remoteness than from


absence of means of instruction that Englishmen as a nation have hitherto paid little attention to the Caucasian isthmus. A catalogue of Caucasian literature recently published at Tiflis extends to forty pages : according to Herr von Thielmann, the works on the Caucasus, including pamphlets and magazine articles, already number 2,355. The majority are naturally in Russian, and therefore sealed books to most readers. But even in the languages of Western Europe there is no lack of volumes. France and Germany have of late years been characteristically represented, on the one side by the light · Lettres

sur le Caucase and the farcical, but often graphic, sketches of Alexandre Dumas; on the other by the encyclopædic volumes of Herr Petzholdt, and the interesting, but for the public somewhat too botanical, chapters of Herr Radde. Those who care to go to older books may find in Dubois de Montpereux, Wagner, and Klaproth a mass of valuable information, and may pick out some curious facts from the ponderous volumes which record the embassies to Persia of the Middle Ages.

Even in our own literature much general information can be obtained. A few English travellers were attracted to the Caucasus before the Russian war by interest in the political struggle of which it was the scene, and some of them have left us curious, if imperfect, sketches of their wanderings. Since the restoration of peace and the thorough subjugation of the tribes, visitors have been more frequent, and, being looked on by the Russians no longer as spies in a doubtful contest but as witnesses to a complete victory, far better received. We have had consequently in the last twenty years a fair supply of volumes describing tours along the main lines of traffic through Transcaucasia and Daghestan, and one or two treating of travels in the interior of the country and among the fastnesses of the mountain-chain.

After an interval of nearly six years, the last twelve months have been marked by the addition to the Caucasian catalogue of three books, each of which contains a great deal more than a fresh description of the 'regular round. For the Caucasus, like Switzerland, has already its regular round. The obedient and uninventive tourist, safely landed at Poti, proceeds, with the sanction of his · Murray' and the full approval of his Russian hosts, through Kutais, and by Ani to Erivan. Having duly gazed from a distance at the sacred mountain of Armenia, he returns to Tiflis, and, after crossing the Dariel, is forwarded from Vladikaf kaz along the high-roads of Daghestan to some port on the Caspian, whence he may quickly find his way back to Moscow. In towns such a tour may be fairly satisfactory though it leaves out two of the most striking, the semi-Persian Schuscha and Elizavetpol. But as regards natural scenery it is fatally meagre, and those who adhere to it may be expected to return with impressions of the Caucasus similar to those formed of the Alps before men began to search for their beauties.


It is only by a rare exception* that a frequented highway leads through that part of a mountain-chain where the peaks rise to their full grandeur and the valleys are most luxuriant. Zermatt, Chamonix, Courmayeur, Grindelwald, all lie off the old tracks of commerce. The Stelvio road owes its existence to military necessity; a dull and easy mule-pass lies close beside it. In finding little beauty in the scenery of the Mont Cenis, the Brenner, or the Julier, our ancestors are not without sympathizers even among the most enthusiastic modern mountain-worshippers.

Mr. Grove, Herr von Thielmann, and Captain Telfer are none of them tourists of the baser sort; they have all something fresh to tell us. Moreover, each author has distinctive merits of his own. Mr. Grove went to the Caucasus primarily to climb and explore mountains, but he does not fall into the faults generally attributed to Alpine literature. He has the power, while avoiding needless details - and tedious repetitions, of seizing on characteristic incidents, and he writes with an ease, spirit, and humour rare among travellers. Herr von Thielmann is a rising German diplomatist, and some of his chapters assume somewhat the form of an official report. But, as a whole, the valuable information contained in his book is brought together and arranged in a very readable form. Captain Telfer, an officer in our own navy, has seen and read much, and notes down the facts he has gathered either on the spot or from books with a brevity thoroughly professional.

We shall now proceed to examine in detail the books referred to. Kutais, an ancient town, situated at the point where the Rion, generally identified with the classical Phasis, leaves the hills, was the starting-point of Mr. Grove and his companions for their walking tour. Thence they trod through mud and mist the long track across the Mingrelian highlands to Gebi, the village nearest the western source of the Rion. Of its inhabitants, their manners and customs, he gives us a lively sketch. They are the hucksters of the Caucasus, and in almost every valley during the subsequent tour a man of Gebi travelling on business was met with. It is possible that an infusion of Jewish blood may have had its influence on their mode of life. An old traveller asserts that there are many Jews living about the Upper Rion. Lachamuli, on the Ingur,

* The Mamisson Pass, leading from the source of the Rion to a station (Ardonsk) thirty versts west of Vladikafkaz, will, whenever the Russians are at the pains to metal the track cut many years ago, form such an exception.


is said by Herr Radde to be exclusively Jewish. Captain Telfer describes a Jewish village on the road to the Latpar Pass, the natives of which monopolise the commerce of Svanety. The presence of Jews in this part of the world has been ingeniously accounted for by a late secretary of the French Geographical Society, who has satisfied himself that some of the Babylonish captives were transported to this remote corner of the empire of their conquerors.

The situation of their home has also, doubtless, had something to do with the wandering habits of the men of Gebi. The

village is connected by horse-passes with three of the chief valleys north of the main chain-those of the Ardon, the Uruch, and the Tcherek. Horse-passes we call them, for horses do, or did within the present century, cross all of them. They are not, however, cols' on which modern Swiss animals would venture. We learn on good evidence that the St. Theodule and Col d'Hérens were once frequented horseroutes, but in Central Europe as the climbing powers of man have grown, those of beasts seem to have fallen off. The same change will probably take place in the East, although, as the road-making capacities of the Russian Government are immeasurably inferior to those of a Swiss canton or an Italian commune-much less rapidly. Where no good roads exist, and the choice lies between the perils of a morass or a glacier, directness will often turn the balance in favour of the latter. But as soon as a paved or metalled track can be found, the safety and ease it assures are held to more than compensate for any loss of time consequent on following its more circuitous course.

From Gebi Mr. Grove and his friends crossed the chain by a glacier-pass above the western source of the Rion. While descending towards the Tcherek (not to be confounded with the better-known Terek) they had an encounter which amusingly illustrates Caucasian habits :

• We found two men of Gebi who were about to cross the pass from the north, philosophically reposing each of them with a bundle by his side as big as Christian's burden in the old pictures of the “Pilgrim's “ Progress.” They had intended to drive across the pass a bullock, which I trust they had come by honestly; but the animal being much fatigued, and not likely to live over the snow, they had promptly killed him and cut him up, and were going to carry as much of him as they could to Gebi; at least such was their story. They offered us a leg for a trifling sum, but not feeling quite sure that the beast had died by steel, we declined.'

Unfortunately the clouds which pursued;Mr. Grove during

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