Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia:
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Passage to Taman – Russian hospitals – Line of the Kuban – Russian sentinels perched on platforms – Cossacks of the line – Ekaterinodar – Stavropol – Our Armenian hostess – Novel mode of ablution – Giorgesk – Caucasian watering-place – Vladikafkaz, the keep of the Caucasus – Curious mode of conversion to Christianity among the Ossets – Shamil – Across the Caucasus to Tiflis.
Taman is a miserable place, desolate, dreary, and sad. It consists of a few houses, or rather cottages, on the shore. The commandant's house alone possessed the dignity of a patch of garden; the rest was steppe or swamp. We wished to proceed without delay, but the commandant's hospitality would not admit of our departure without partaking of his bread and salt; and, to say the truth, hunger, with a vision of being dinnerless until we reached Tiflis, looming in the future, made us more ready to comply. The interval before dinner was passed by my husband in inspecting the military hospitals with our host. Taman seems to be used chiefly as an establishment for invalid soldiers. Two or three hundred of them from the small posts along the Circassian coast of the Black Sea, were now lying here. My husband said the hospitals were in excellent order. The sick seemed carefully attended to; the beds were comfortable; the men were dressed in good hospital clothing, which, as well as their own persons, was perfectly clean. Russian was the only language known to the Tamanians; nevertheless we could understand, that
the Circassian coast was considered pestiferous, during summer. Indeed, it is notorious that the Russians perish in that climate, as well as in the swamps and jungles of Imeretia and Mingrelia, in numbers which would seem incredible.
The fact of making such a place as Taman a general hospital for the garrison of the coast was alone proof sufficient of the dreadful climate prevailing at the military stations on the shores of the Black Sea. Taman, too, conceals its hidden treasures of antiquities, its tumuli, its fragments of marbles, temples, and so forth; the remnants of a former age of Hellenic greatness and enterprise. Now it is desolate enough; and one can scarcely bring oneself to credit that here was once a great city.
In the evening we renewed our journey. We now had approached dangerous ground; it was only in the island of Taman we could venture to travel by night. Not withstanding the assurances of Prince Woronzow of perfect safety, I could not approach the haunts of the Circassians without anxiety. Their feats of daring in their predatory incursions were well known; and it was besides obvious to the eye in how much awe they were held by the Russians. Our road was along the line of the Kuban, the river separating Russia from Circassia; for though the Emperor includes the latter country among "all the Russias," the frontier is as distinctly traced as that of Persia or China. We never ventured to move without a considerable escort of those showy horsemen the line Cossacks. It is marvellous how little change has taken place in this country during fifty years. Our journey under the Caucasus was only a repetition
of that described by Clarke in his interesting travels; the same morasses, and jungles, the same clouds of mosquitos, or rather midges, which could not be excluded from a closed carriage; the same desolation, the same posts of Cossacks at short intervals. It was curious to see the sentinel perched at the summit of a triangle, thirty or forty feet high, with a small platform at the top, gazing intently at the Kuban, and over the extensive plains of grass, swamp, and jungle beyond that river, towards Circassia; surmounted by a beacon to be fired the moment an enemy was distinguishable. So absorbed were the watchers, that when we passed under their strange roosting-place they hardly deigned to look at us, although for them we must have been a novel spectacle. This vigilance impressed me with a very uncomfortable sense of danger; or was it a mere display of rigid discipline these Cossacks were enacting? In reading Clarke's narrative of the scene fifty years ago, I fancy him to have been our companion on our journey in 1849.
Let the traveller on the Kuban bid adieu to the comforts, and sometimes to the necessaries, of life. I scarcely quitted the carriage until we reached Stavropol, the capital of the Russian districts north of the Caucasus. A few Cossack villages might be seen here and there, with some appearance of cultivation; but at the military posts and post-houses the accommodation and fare were of the humblest, or, more truly, the meanest, description. On one occasion, arriving late at a station after a long and hard day's work, we found absolutely nothing to eat, not even bread, or the hitherto unfailing samawar, or kettle-urn, for preparing tea, which is found throughout
Russia; so we went dinnerless and supperless to bed, not having anticipated or provided for this dearth and famine.
Our guards, as I before said, were composed of Cossacks of the line, meaning those guarding and stationed on the line of the Kuban. They are, I have heard it conjectured, formed from miscellaneous races: Turkish tribes settled in these tracts, refugees from Circassia in a large proportion, and colonists from the Tchernomorski, or Black Sea Cossacks, who inhabit the country northwards towards the Don, where begins the territory of the Don Cossacks. They hold a high reputation in Russia for the military qualities created by a life of unceasing peril, and for their constant and successful struggles with their mountain foes. My husband was in admiration of their appearance, thoroughly rough and ready, "rugged and dangerous." They are altogether irregular troops, each man fighting on his own account. They seem to dress as they best can, though they affect as much as possible the appearance of Circassians in attire, arms, and mode of fighting, so much so as not to be easily distinguishable at a short distance from the mountaineers. A "pulk" of line Cossacks, with their weather-beaten visages, their thick beards, their Circassian caps of black sheepskin, resembling a broad low turban, with a loose crown of yellow or red cloth; their motley coarse frock-coats with six receptacles for ball-cartridges on each breast, like the Circassians; their yaponchas, a short cloak of goatskin with long hair, moveable round the neck to face the wind and rain from any quarter, present a striking spectacle. These line
Cossacks are described to be the only Cossacks who will fight the Circassians on equal terms, or of whom the Circassians have the least apprehension. I was told it was a point of honour among the Circassians and these rough soldiers that, if two parties or two single horsemen met, and were in doubt if they were friends or foes, a horseman from one side would dash out and gallop in a circle to the right, if a Circassian; on which a horseman from the other party would immediately imitate this evolution, but galloping to the left, if a Cossack, to show he was a foe. An eternal war is waged between the line Cossacks and the Circassians who inhabit the swampy grassy plains between the Kuban and the mountains, so favourable for ambush and surprise. Dr. Clarke seems to think that the Tchernomorski Cossacks are derived chiefly from Circassian descent, which would account for their martial qualities and superiority over the Don Cossacks; yet how is this descent to be reconciled with the same author's statement of the Tchernomorski being colonists from the Dnieper little more than half a century ago? He is enthusiastic in favour of all Cossacks, Don and Tchernomorski; still I must avow that the specimens of the Don to be seen in Tehran, attached to the Russian mission, are far from exciting an impression in their favour. Instead of the bold troopers of the Kuban, they have been metamorphosed into nondescript soldiers, in a frightful uniform.
We plodded our way through swamp and steppe, with the Kuban on our right hand, without adventure or variety, until we began to approach Ekaterinodar; and then at length the long-wished-for peaks of the Caucasus
began to show their solitary grandeur, every hour increasing in magnificence. The right bank of the river being considerably more elevated than the land on the opposite side, we had, during our progress, a clear view of the level country to the base of the mountains, with an occasional sight of the rapid Kuban, and now and then a Circassian village afar off. Ekaterinodar is the principal settlement of the Tchernomorski Cossacks, and is little more than a large military station, constructed after the fashion of that martial race. It is a collection of cottages, with a few better houses interspersed, belonging to the commandant, his staff, and the officers of the Cossacks.
The kindness of Prince Woronzow still pursued, or rather met us. At Ekaterinodar we were received by Count M—, aide-de-camp of the general-in-chief of Cossacks, who had been despatched from Stavropol to meet us. We are under great obligations to this young officer, who accompanied us the rest of our journey to the Persian frontier. Ever active, and on the watch to oblige us and facilitate our journey, under his charge we made rapid progress. His equipage consisted of the springless, roofless pavoska; but in Russia officers, soldiers, and horses, lead a rough life. The pavoska is the vehicle of all ranks of the army. Prince Simon Woronzow, the son of the Emperor's Lieutenant, and a major-general, used often to mount the pavoska and travel day and night.
Our road to Stavropol was generally level. This remark is applicable to the entire tract in this part of Russia, it being only at the very foot of the Caucasus
that any considerable difference of elevation is perceptible. On the left hand was the interminable flat steppe, extending far to the east, north, and west; and on the right were the grassy plains of Kabarda, or Circassia cis-Caucasus, the country of the race named in their own language Adigh, the word Cherkess, the original of Circassia, being, it seems, either Turkish or Persian. The inhabitants of these plains are, from their accessibility, more or less subject to Russia; but this vassalage does not, as we have seen, dispense with the most watchful circumspection, nor prevent the wild denizens from carrying their forays across the Kuban. At this part of the journey we lost the opportunity, never to be retrieved, of seeing a Circassian family. Knowing my curiosity on the subject, Count M— had ordered a family of hostages from a friendly tribe, to be prepared at daylight to receive company; the men arrayed for battle, the women and children in their gayest national costume. At daybreak we proceeded, as we thought, to their house, some distance off, but after an hour we found we were far on the high road to Stavropol, our French servant having judged fit to think and to say we were wholly indifferent to everything sublunary excepting breakfast.
Stavropol is the chief town of the Russian Caucasian districts, north of the mountains. Like all Russian towns in this part of the world, the streets are wide, the houses low and painted white. There was a theatre and an assembly-room, where, I was told, they had balls during winter.
We arrived at near midnight, and were lodged in the house of an Armenian merchant. At the door, to our
consternation, there appeared something very like an illumination to celebrate our arrival, while several civil authorities, in full dress, presented themselves to offer their congratulations. Next followed an officer in uniform, who, with great solemnity of demeanour and the attitude of the parade, drew forth a paper, from which he read aloud in Russian. This proved to be a report or "present state" of the garrison of Stavropol, which this gentleman lost no time in notifying. After apprising us of the number of the sick, absent, and the forthcoming, they all gravely retired, and left us to a needful and excellent supper, and to repose. This complimentary form of the military report seems to be an ordinary usage. We experienced a repetition of the same ceremony several times afterwards. We were, as I said before, billeted in the house of a wealthy merchant, whose wife next morning came to pay me a visit, with seven fine children, of whom she seemed very proud. . She was gorgeously attired in a light-coloured satin dress, with a profusion of diamonds, pearls, and jewellery. Russian and Armenian being the only languages in which she could communicate, our conversation was limited, but she made up in civility and smiling good-humour for our inability to converse. A short time after the visit was over, I found her, in her ordinary plain dress, washing her hands and face in a saucepan. This saucepan, and a small silver jug in my room, of the size of a cream-ewer, appeared to be the only vessels in the house appropriated to ablution. But, primitive as was the former culinary utensil, my husband met an instance where it was exceeded in simplicity. Many years previously he had been travelling in the Caucasus.
Having stopped one night at a post-house, in the morning, on awaking, he found a Russian officer dressing – if dressing it could be called, he having slept in his clothes, boots and all. Among other feats of legerdemain, or de bouche, he filled his mouth with water, where, as it was cold, he retained it some time, and, after being sufficiently heated, he ejected it gradually on his hands, scouring his face at the same time. With all these peculiarities, it may be doubted if the Russians in general are not at least as attentive to their persons as the English. The hot bath is the constant resource of the poorest peasant.
We dined next day with the Governor, at whose house we met an agreeable party. Seated near me was a pretty little girl of apparently twelve or fourteen, who, to my astonishment, turned out to be the wife of our friend Count M—, and the mother of his son and heir. No one at table seemed to think her youth extraordinary, early marriages being, it appeared, as frequent in Russia as in America.
We had left the Kuban before reaching Stavropol, from which time the security of the roads seemed to increase. Our escort, after leaving Stavropol, not only dwindled to two or three horsemen, but we even ventured occasionally to travel without protection. The truth was, we had left the Circassians behind, and had approached the lands of the Tchetchens, – a tribe not less warlike, but whose country was free from the swamps and fastnesses of Kabarda, and consequently more under the control of the Russians. A few years ago, no traveller was allowed to proceed without an escort, so dangerous
was the passage, while the post was accompanied by two pieces of artillery and a company of infantry. Even to this day it is not safe to dispense with all precaution.
The next town we arrived at was Giorgesk, a place of no importance, unless it be as a military post connecting Stavropol with Vladikafkaz, the key of the Caucasus. To the right lay the famous watering-place called Besh-Dagh in Turkish and Piategorsk in Russian, meaning in both languages Five Mountains. This is the Baden-Baden of Russia, where the Muscovite loungers or invalids come from distant quarters, so far even as Moscow, to recruit their purses at the gaming-table, or their health at the numerous springs, which are said to possess medicinal virtues of every variety in no ordinary perfection. Piategorsk, several years ago, suffered the infliction of a foray, and was surprised by the mountaineers; nearly every one, it is said, having been destroyed, including a colony of German missionaries, with their families.
At length, still following the steppe, we reached Vladikafkaz. The solemn snow-clad range of the Caucasus had long before displayed itself to our sight in all its glory and grandeur. Towering far above all was the monarch mountain of the range, Elboorz, situated in the heart of the independent tribes, and said to be at least 16,000 feet high;4 its summit has, it is supposed, never yet been reached. It is strange that in Persia the same name of Elboorz should be preserved for the range of
mountains a few miles to the north of Tehran, which is continued to Khorassan, and even farther, until at length it reaches the Hindoo Koosh, and, finally, the Himalaya. Vladikafkaz is an important. post, close to the Caucasus, of which it commands the entrance by the famous pass of Dariel. From Stavropol to this fortress the same system of fortified posts was maintained that we had seen on the other side of that city, though in fewer numbers, but at Vladikafkaz, even to my unpractised eye, it was evident that much greater care and expense had been bestowed in strengthening the key of the central Caucasus, and of the Russian communications with Tiflis and the Georgian provinces. It deserves all their solicitude, as, with the exception of the road by Derbend, on the Caspian Sea, Redout Kala and the Black Sea being no longer Russian, this is the only line for the transmission of troops, munitions of war, or merchandize, to the trans-Caucasian districts. There are, it is reported, other paths intersecting the mountains, but being through the midst of hostile tribes, and moreover only available for foot travellers, or at most horsemen, the importance of the main route has.never been overlooked. The entire road to Tiflis is defended by strong posts and barracks, which contribute largely to preserve the fidelity of the Ossets, through whose territory the road is carried. This tribe has been so thoroughly subdued that no escort is required between Vladikafkaz and Tiflis, excepting, strangely enough, for the first four miles on leaving the former city, where the mountains really commence. The remainder of the road is considered sufficiently guarded by the presence of the various military posts disposed along its entire
length. The Ossets have been subject to Russia since the time Georgia was annexed to that empire, more than fifty years ago. A portion of the tribe is said to have adopted a sort of nominal Christianity; so many indeed have been proselytised, that to use the quaint expression of a Russian writer (Wagner), the converts far exceed the entire population – something like my countryman, who, when his pocket was picked, declared that five out of four of his companions were thieves. It appears that, conversion being attended with certain advantages, the same proselytes had been repeatedly registered under different appellations.
October 19th. – We had been anxious to leave Vladikafkaz at once without stopping, but the flesh-pots of Egypt were too alluring to the appetite of Count M—, who perfectly well knew the difference between a supper at a post-station in the mountains of Caucasus, and an elaborate repast at Prince Woronzow's house at Vladikafkaz, where he assured us everything was prepared for our reception. A few sly hints thrown in by the Count of the approach of evening and of the risk from prowlers of Shamil's partizans, put an end to speculation, and we adjourned to Prince Woronzow's house, where, as usual, we had every reason to be grateful for his kindness.
Strolling about the heights near the town later in the evening, we were shown, far to the north-east, the hills where Shamil was said to be living in defiance of the Emperor of all the Russias. This information gave us some surprise. Shamil in Persia is regarded as chief of the Lezgees, a tribe, the fiercest among these mountaineers, who inhabit the tracts towards the Caspian, at the eastern
extremity of the Caucasus. Shamil is, however, an erratic monarch, one day leading a foray against the Russians, or defending himself from one of their inroads, another carrying fire and sword among the tribes which have, traitorously dared to form a truce with the Muscovites. We saw during our walk a few miserably dressed girls near some tents belonging to the Ossets.
Next morning we resumed our journey. A small escort conducted us to the entrance of the Pass of Dariel, and there left us, all danger having then ceased. As my pen cannot do justice to the grandeur of the scenes our road led us through, I shall not attempt to describe them, but refer the curious reader to Sir R. Ker Porter's work, in which the mountain scenery of the Pass of Dariel is most vividly portrayed. After passing the village of Dariel, from which is derived the name of the defile, we spent the night in a lonely post-house, where for the first time I heard the howling of jackals. It is a melancholy wild cry, and, as in Ireland we are accustomed to regard the howling of a dog as a thing of ill omen, these yells sounded particularly dismal to me. Next day we passed in succession Kazee Bey, the formidable Kazee Bey, [sic] Kobi, Kassanoor, Ananoor, Doushete. We found the road excellent and free from danger, as free at least as a mountain road can be made. Sir R. Ker Porter has indulged in a little exaggeration in his description of the horrors and perils he experienced in the passage of the defile, though for my part I cannot remember any cause for excitement or apprehension, unless to a very fervid imagination. Even Kazee Bey, said to be 14,000 feet high, was divested of any terror. The carriage was
so heavy that we left it and ascended to the summit in the pavoska; the descent was so steep that we thought it more prudent to walk down. I can imagine that under another aspect, a wall of snow impending above and a scanty breadth of road, my lord judge (Kazee is our old acquaintance Cadi) would be very formidable, and would give a severe trial to the nerves. At the foot of this mountain we crossed, by a long narrow bridge, a rapid turbulent river, which we were told was the Terek, the second stream in importance in the Caucasus. The southern extremity of the bridge was defended by a small military work, which seemed more insignificant than so important a position deserved.
At Ananoor we had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a Mingrelian lady, who was married to a person of distinction among the Ossets. She was sitting at the end of a room, destitute, with the exception of Persian carpets, of all furniture. She was dressed in the Georgian costume, which is very becoming to a young face, but makes old people look perfectly frightful. It consists of a cap made of coloured silk, embroidered either with gold or pearls, made like a boy's cap, and placed on the top of the head; the hair hangs down in tresses, and over it is thrown a light tulle veil; the gown opens in front, showing a thin handkerchief; and over the dress is a short pelisse, made, if possible, of the richest materials. This lady must have been handsome when young. She complained of the solitude of her life, as she had no children; and, in going away, begged we would leave her our visiting-cards as a souvenir,
Before quitting the Caucasus I may as well transcribe
a few particulars concerning the Circassians, which though I fear may not be in themselves novel, yet certainly come from a novel source, namely, a Turkish slave-dealer, who had given up his profession, and was my husband's instructor in Turkish several years ago at Trebizonde. His name was Hafiz Effendi, and his residence in Circassia amounted to five years. His reason for giving up this branch of commerce was the vigilance of the Russian cruisers, which made it too hazardous to attempt to cross the sea with his living cargo. The ports he frequented were Soojook Teghameesa and Shiyapsookha, and he frequently penetrated fifteen or twenty hours' distance into the interior.
There are no towns; the villages are built along the coast, but are not very numerous; the houses are dispersed through the forest, which is not thick and reaches close to the sea.
The population is divided into the following classes – khans, or princes; meerzas, nobles; usdens, gentlemen; ryots, or freemen; and kieulehs, serfs; besides slaves obtained in war or by purchase.
These classes do not intermarry; and, like the castes of India, no man, whatever be his capacity or his deeds, can rise from one class to a higher rank. It is even very rare for one class to buy slaves from another, unless to sell them again.
Circassia, or Adeegha, as the natives style their country, is divided into six large tribes or confederacies, of which the names are Natchwo, Natakhwo, Koblee, Sabich, Gwoghwo, Sotokh; but Kabarda, although the inhabitants resemble the Circassians in language, customs, and manners,
does not belong to any of these tribes. These six large tribes are subdivided into fraternities, the members of which hold to each other the relations of brother and sister, and therefore cannot intermarry.
Serfs are numerous, a rich man having often fifty or sixty male serfs. Their condition seems to be much more analogous with serfdom than slavery. In external appearance there is no difference perceptible between them and other Circassians. In colour they are the same, as well as in courage and other qualities. Slaves may sit and eat in a mejlis, or society, of the higher classes, and they carry arms.
About half the population consists of Soonee Mahommedans. In general they know very little of their religion, and many care very little about the matter. They are equally indifferent to the religion of their neighbours, and usually are willing to give their daughters in marriage to idolators, who are numerous. These latter appear to believe in God, but they worship trees; at all events, they go through ceremonies under trees.
There are some Christians of Greek or Armenian descent, but they are almost wholly Circassianised: their language, dress, customs, are Circassian. They can obtain wives from the idolators; but the Mahommedans would rather give their daughters to the latter, as being real Adeeghas, than to these Christians, who are found chiefly in the interior.
Eloping with a young woman, with her own consent, is a common occurrence. Her father can make no complaint, as, if the girl's parents are not slaves, she has the disposal of herself; but he can exact from the lover the
amount of her value, and the "white beards" settle what that value shall be.
The Circassians are of middling stature, and tolerably stout. Their hair is of all colours, but reddish is the most prevalent. Blue eyes are more common than any other colour. They are not in general very fair, though some among them are eminently so; and a good complexion is not at all uncommon.
They rarely sit cross-legged, or on their heels, preferring to sit like Europeans, on cushions. They eat, as the Turks do, seated at a tray placed on a stool.
They never move out without their arms, it being effeminate to appear unprovided with the means of defence. Their tempers are excellent; they are not easily roused to anger, and they are quickly pacified. Conversation is one of their chief amusements, and they indulge in it freely.
The mode in which the trade with Turkey is carried on is this. Trebizonde is the principal port from which the merchants proceed, though they also embark from Samsoon and Sinope, Constantinople, and occasionally from Egypt. The trade is generally conducted in partnership. One person supplies the capital, and the profits are equally divided between him and the person who undertakes the labour of the voyage to Circassia. The capital, on an average, is about 250l. or 300l. The articles taken to Circassia mostly consist of silk and cotton cloths, calicoes, chintzes, cheap shawls, a small quantity of gunpowder, and a great deal of salt; also some Turkish coloured leather for slippers and bridles.
When the boat arrives at a landing-place, it is drawn
high up on the shore to conceal it from the Russians. The merchants then disembark, and if, from having made previous voyages, they are already provided with a konāk pāe, they go at once to their abode; but if not, they inquire for the best private house, to which they proceed immediately, and are always welcome. The konāk pāe is the host. If one were to leave his house for another, it would be a mortal offence. It is his solemn duty to protect the person and property of his guests, and he is always ready to lose his life in their defence. As this is well known, a traveller once hosted is tolerably safe. After the merchants have landed, the people assemble from the vicinity to hear the news, and to see the novelties from the land of the Ameer ool Moomeneen, the Commander of the Faithful, whom they continue to revere. The goods are taken to the konāk pāe's house, and there the people come with their articles of barter, consisting of honey, butter, tallow, hides, fox-skins, slave-girls and boys – the two latter articles of trade being, however, kept in another dwelling – while the boatmen purchase grain in exchange for salt, and take it to Turkey. People come from fifty hours' distance to traffic. They are keen in dealing, and never make a bargain without abundance of talking. The profits, after all expenses are paid, amount generally to twenty-five per cent.
Those persons who have slaves for the market do not bring them to the merchant's residence. When the latter has seen the slaves, they retire to another house, leaving the transaction to be completed by no less a person than an elchee, or ambassador, or by a dellāl, or broker.
When a Circassian says he has got slaves to sell, the Turk inquires if they are young, and in case of an affirmative answer, proceeds to ask how many spans they are. This refers to height. A girl is considered beyond spanning when she reaches six spans; she is then technically said to be "qarishden chiqdee," that is, she has passed spanning, and is understood to be twelve years old.
Slaves are valued by the number of pieces of silk, chintz, &c, given in exchange for them.
Ugly female slaves are purchased for Constantinople, to fill menial or domestic duties. Old women are sometimes sold in Circassia. They are purchased to act as nurses in Constantinople. An old woman may be worth two or three thousand ghooroosh (17l. to 25l.) in that city.
If among the slaves that have been bought there are any full-grown men, they are chained or tied lest they should run away, but women are never tied. The merchants, after the purchase, supply them with new clothes, the goodness and quality of which depend on the value of the slave. The food given to them is the same as that of the merchants themselves, and there is no limit to the quantity.
A great many among the female slaves are glad to leave the country; and some young women, not slaves, who are poor and unprotected, especially orphans, often entreat their relations to sell them. Their hope is that they may be purchased in Constantinople by some wealthy Turk, at the head of whose establishment they may be placed. An orphan-girl, at all events, is certain of not changing for the worse.
Sometimes a free man is sold by force. He is stolen
from some distant place, taken down to the coast, and sold. This does not often happen, and is still more rare with regard to women.
Occasionally there is a collusive sale. A man procures a friend to sell him; he then takes to flight, and the amount of the purchase is divided between them.
Hafiz Effendi says he does not well know how the supply of slaves is maintained. The country is populous, criminals are sold, slaves are brought from distant places; as before observed, orphans are frequently offered for sale, and some persons are themselves desirous of change, and willing to be sold. These, he supposes, are the principal sources from which the supply is kept up. A man cannot sell his son or daughter against their own consent; but it is by no means uncommon for a man to bring his daughter into the market by her own desire. The unmarried girls do nothing whatever excepting needlework, but the married women do all the drudgery.
The Circassian girls are not, the Effendi considers, strikingly handsome. They are, however, exceedingly clever and intelligent, readily learning Turkish, music, and dancing. Their intellectual superiority makes them attractive, and they soon acquire influence in a Turkish family. The Georgian women are handsome, but much inferior in mental qualities, and their market value is in consequence less.
Prices of course vary at Constantinople according to the vigilance of Russian cruisers, and the incorruptibility of Russian agents at Trebizonde, Samsoon, and Sinope. The following is the average price in Circassia: –
|A man of||30||years of age,||£10|
|"||20||"||10 to £30|
|"||15||"||30 " 70|
|"||10||"||20 " 50|
|"||5||"||10 " 30.|
|A woman of||50||years of age,||£10 to £30|
|"||40||"||30 " 40|
|"||30||"||40 " 70|
|"||20 to 25||"||50 " 100|
|"||14 " 18||"||50 " 150|
|"||8 " 12||"||30 " 80|
|"||5||"||20 " 40.|
The foregoing statement is a very condensed account of the Effendi's narrative, which would have been still more extended had not his affairs called him suddenly to Constantinople.
In passing through the Caucasus, Count M— procured us a gratification fully as interesting and agreeable as the dame from Mingrelia. The vocal powers of the Russian soldiery have a wide reputation, combining not only sweetness of tone but superior execution. A party of thirty or forty soldiers, whom he had assembled on the roadside, near one of the military stations we had just past, improvised a concert, which proved highly agreeable. It had really a surprising effect to bear these rough uncultivated men singing with the utmost precision tenor, second tenor, bass, and all preserving a perfect correctness and harmony. It is said that on a march an entire regiment of Russian soldiers will sometimes relieve their fatigue by singing in parts one of their national melodies.
4 18,493 feet, See Mrs. Somerville's Physical Geography. On the authority of Fuss.
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