Bremner, Robert. [from old catalog]: Excursions in the Interior of Russia [excerpts]: an electronic transcription
Chapter XXI. THE UNIVERSITY AND
; FINE ARTS AND LITERATURE.next section
Great exertions of the Emperor Alexander in behalf of national education -- Result doubtful -- University of St. Petersburg -- Its comparative inferiority -- Number of students and professors - Compared with Dorpat -- Academy of sciences -- Fossil remains -- Imperial
-- Academy of painting -- Hermitage gallery -- Murillo -- Paul Potter --
and general literature --
UNTIL the time of the late Emperor Alexander, Russia, in regard to education, was the most neglected nation of Europe. Under him, however, much was done to remove this stigma. Schools were established all over the country; universities were planted in the principal cities, and liberally endowed; men of ardour and learning were sought out and induced to settle in them: in short, neither cost nor encouragement was spared in the good cause.
But has the result corresponded with the benevolent
patriot's anticipations? Has education spread among the poor and the ignorant? Has the seed so liberally scattered on a not ungrateful soil, really begun to bear its goodly fruits? Alas! we shall hereafter see that in spite of all that was done, and is doing, popular education is advancing but slowly; for in many of the governments of the interior through which we shall pass in the course of our wanderings, out of every four or five hundred of the population, there is not more than
young person attending school. The educational schemes of the government have hitherto been unsuccessful in the provinces, because the people, being ignorant of the value of instruction, seldom think of sending their children to school.
In the large cities, however, public seminaries are most successfully conducted and numerously attended. This holds true of the capital more particularly. The number of gymnasia in St. Petersburg is very great, in addition to military and normal schools, and in fact, educational institutions of every kind. All of these are very flourishing, with the exception of the university alone, which, though opened under the most favourable auspices, and with the brightest promise of almost immediately attaining high eminence, appears to be still very inferior to its ancient and highly-celebrated rival at Moscow, and is even eclipsed by
the university of Dorpat, in Livonia. The institution last named would appear to be the most prosperous of all the universities in Russia, many of its professors, such as Struve, the astronomer, Parrot, the traveller, and others, being men of great eminence in the scientific world. It is usually attended by six hundred students; while St. Petersburg seldom reckons more than two hundred and fifty, divided among the goodly array of forty-two professors. In both universities, as indeed in nearly all throughout the empire, the principal chairs are filled by Germans. The university of St. Petersburg was founded by Alexander in the year 1819; and was the seventh which that enlightened monarch had established during his reign.
The number of scientific establishments in St. Petersburg is very great; but we can mention only the
Imperial Academy of Sciences
, on the quay of the Vassilii-Ostroff, which possesses collections of immense value, in almost every department of human knowledge. Its
contains more than 105,000 volumes, including many valuable
. The Zoological Museum is among the most celebrated in Europe, from containing some of the most singular fossil remains that have yet been discovered; especially those of the mammoth, found in the ice at the mouth of the Lena, in
Siberia, the bones of the leg of which are as thick as the human body. It would be impossible to describe the feelings of wonder with which we gazed on this huge monster of another world; a naked, hideous anatomy, standing in grim mockery of all that has passed, and is passing, around him. The flesh, skin, and hair, were quite entire at the time of his first discovery (1799-1806), and even now his well-propped bones look sturdy enough to carry him through our modern world, if he had any regard for the degenerate elves which usurp his place. His vast bulk, when first seen in his icy bed, so frightened the simple huntsman who discovered him, that he fell sick at the sight, and took to bed, believing that it boded him some evil fortune. He stands 9 feet 4 inches high, and 16 feet 4 inches long, without including the tusks or
(as his neighbours, the Tungusians, more appropriately call them), which are of most amazing bulk, measuring along the curve 9 feet 6 inches, and weighing together 360 lbs. avoirdupois! The tusks of fossil elephants are so numerous in Eastern Siberia, that they are sold throughout Russia as an article of commerce, and are used by ivory-turners for the same purposes as the tusks of the elephants of the present day; but the works made from them are not so fine nor so beautiful. This museum contains also some
fossil skeletons of other huge quadrupeds, such as the rhinoceros, the urus, and buffalo, all found in the same remote region. The mineralogical department is likewise very rich, as well as the collections of medals, the Asiatic and Egyptian rooms, etc.
, in the Nefskoi Prospekht, would merit a chapter to itself, were it only for the immense number of valuable
, for which it has long been famous. To these have now been added the celebrated library of Ardebil, which came into the hands of the Russians on the fall of that city in 1827: it contained, exclusive of duplicates, ninety-six works of great value, such as the
, by Sheref-ed-din Iesdy; the
Teske-ret- etch- chuera
, a History of Persian Poetry, by Dauletchah; the
of Firdousi; the
of Thumach the First; and a great many other poems. In addition to all these, there are at least 350 volumes, chiefly in the Persian and other eastern languages, brought, by General Paskevitch, from Erzerum and the places adjacent.
As might be expected, among all these institutions for the advancement of science and learning, the Fine Arts have not been forgotten. The academy founded for their encouragement was
liberally endowed, and is said to be at present in a very flourishing condition. It contains some valuable treasures; but the lover of pictures will find still more to please him in the Hermitage Palace and its wilderness of rooms, where there are some thousands of pictures, many of them surpassing in value even the porphyry vases and other costly articles profusely scattered through this beautiful retreat. The Spanish collection is the richest in the world, out of Spain; there are Murillos and Morales enough to fill even Marshal Soult with envy. The late emperor added the Malmaison pictures to this splendid collection, which had already been enriched by the Houghton gallery, greatly to the disgrace of England, who ought never to have parted with such an acquisition. The Hermitage boasts of one of the most celebrated pictures in the world, Paul Potter's "Cow," which, however, can by no means be compared with his "Bull" at the Hague. Wouvermanns has a whole room to himself; and Schneiders fills another with his vast hunting-pieces. There are some lovely gems both of Cuyp and Ruysdaehl, three splendid Teniers, and Vandycks beyond all price. Rembrandt and Reubens have contributed some of their best works, as well as Gerard Douw, Mieris,
and Ostade. We saw but one Titian and one Raphael, but the gallery is rich in the works of Claude, Vernet, and Poussin.
Several native artists of great promise have lately appeared, and those who are best acquainted with the nation believe that the Russians will yet rise high as painters.
From the Fine Arts passing to literature, and, first, to its most familiar department, we find that though the scientific periodicals of Russia, published by the various learned bodies, maintain a very high character, yet periodical literature of a general kind does not appear to meet with much encouragement. In no country, however, does it exercise more tyrannical sway. We do not mean that it influences the mass of the people, who, it is well known, do not read at all; but its power over the educated and
"buying" portion of the community
is so great, that they are invariably guided by the sentiments of their favourite
, in all matters connected with literature, the drama, or the fine arts.
The total number of periodicals in Russia, including
, lately amounted to 86; but their number has since been increased, in consequence of the establishment of
in some of the remoter
Of these, 45 are in the
language, and the remainder in
, German, the Lette tongue, etc.
Of all the
, we are sorry to say, a French compilation of fashions and idle tales appears to be the most popular; but, so far as we could learn, none of the
St. Petersburg periodicals
, either daily or monthly, reckons more than
subscribers. It would be unjust, however, to deny that there is very great talent displayed by the conductors of these publications. The
a monthly periodical, whose editors are great admirers of English literature, and are accused of being partial to English principles in other matters, often contains articles which would do honour to any periodical in Europe. The influence exercised by this journal over the
taste is very great, its circulation being the highest of all the periodicals of the capital. The
"Son of the Country,"
another monthly work, is also highly spoken of, but its talented editors are accused of dealing too much in German mysticism.
of Russia periodical literature is almost unknown, except in the university towns, at some of which scientific journals are now published. One of these, the
"Gazette of Moscow,
has long had a very high character, and it still circulates nearly
St. Petersburg has great abundance. They are also exceedingly
, some being as low as 15 roubles (13s. 6d.) a-year, while few even of the daily ones are higher than twice that sum. With a parade of anxiety to communicate information on
, and yet after all communicating but very little, each ministry publishes a newspaper on the affairs of its own department; so that the general reader must buy the Minister of War's paper, that of the Home Minister, etc., before he can know what is passing. There are several German papers published here; one of which, closely filled with advertisements, appears twice a-week. The
"Gazette de St. Petersbourg"
; but few of its articles are of any value. Those as well as the newspapers printed in the
language are printed in a clear type, on thin paper, of a small folio size, such as that which was employed for the Paris newspapers, until within the last ten or twelve years.
are mere vehicles for advertisements and
documents. They scarcely ever contain a single article of home news. Any intelligence that is given consists entirely of extracts, accidents,
deaths, wonderful stories, etc, from the English and other foreign
the title at least of which is well known in other parts of Europe, may in some respects be an exception to this remark. It is a daily paper, and said to be conducted by several gentlemen who enjoy great popularity as authors in other departments of literature. From the character given us of its articles, they would appear to display more playfulness of humour than depth of learning.
As will be seen at a future page, when we come to speak of the emperor's regulations regarding foreign books and newspapers, government has laid the severest
on the press, and consequently on thought. In spite of all these restrictions, however, Russian literature is advancing with great rapidity. Several of the authors who have recently appeared are distinguished by great boldness and originality of fancy. Some of the novelists, and especially Bulgarine (one of the editors of the
), are highly popular as painters of national manners; their works are also read with great avidity in Germany, where they circulate through translations. Of all their poets
is the most
popular; without being an imitator, he is said to have much of the
manner of Byron
Of all Russian authors, however, the name of
stands highest; but his merits are so universally known that it is unnecessary to speak of them here. Of their other dead authors, the names which we heard most frequently repeated among the Russians, are those of Bogdanovitch and Dmitriev, famed as
. Of the first of these it may be stated, as he is little known to the English reader, that he was born in 1743, in the town of Perevolotchna, in Little Russia, and was author of the
, said to be a very happy performance, on the mythological story of Psyche, abounding in graces of style, and playfulness of illustration, as well as in lofty eloquence and polished vivacity. The Russians are extremely proud of this poem, and delight to speak of its author as the Moore of Russia. During his life, he was highly esteemed by Catherine, who gave him a lucrative appointment in some public department, after he had retired from the diplomatic service for which he was educated.
Dmitriev, born at Simbirsk, in 1760, and educated at Kasan, is the Lafontaine of Russia. His
, remarkable for refinement of sentiment and simplicity of style, are extremely popular, the
Russians having a great taste for this kind of composition. His epistles, odes, and satires, are also prized. The works of this author, next to those of Karamsin, did much towards fixing the
language. He was at first in the army, but afterwards in the civil service, where he enjoyed a handsome income. In fact, the Russian government never allows genius to linger either in poverty or obscurity.
Beyond those now mentioned, there are but few names, living or dead, that Russians can bring forward in connexion with literature. Its annals in this long-neglected region are short and scanty, as will be seen from the list which we shall now give of all the other distinguished writers of whom they can boast.
Until the time of Prince Cantemir, in the reign of the Empress Anna, no author had employed the language with any success. His translations of Horace and Boileau are said (for, of course, all that we can state on the subject of
literature is at second-hand, on the authority of Russians themselves) to possess little of the merits of the originals; and the same remark has been made of his translation of Fontenelle's
Plurality of Worlds.
Strictly speaking, his successor, Lomonosoff, whose name stands high as an author, may be considered the father of taste and
style among his countrymen. His
Peter the Great
contains many beautiful passages, but the interest is not well sustained. He wrote
every species of poem
, -- tragedy, comedy, satires, epistles, elegies, eclogues, and songs; which last became very popular. The next name is that of Kerazkoff, who improved on his style and manner, but had less poetic talent than his predecessor. Having written epics on the conquest of Kasan and the history of Vladimir the Great, he was in his time pronounced the Homer of Russia, but is already forgotten. Maykoff now acquired unmerited reputation by two burlesque poems. Kniashjinin wrote lively comedies on the manners of the time, which are still admired. Kostroff translated the Iliad into Alexandrine verse, and the poems of Ossian into prose. Bobroff, a most extravagant genius, was the author of many bombastic odes, and of the
a descriptive poem, abounding in bright passages. Petroff wrote odes on the victories of Catherine the Great. Weissen was the author of some comedies which are full of humour. Muravieff, tutor of the Emperor Alexander, wrote
treatises on Russian history, dialogues, essays, etc.
, all of which display much goodness of heart and love of virtue.
About this time,
gave a great
impulse to public taste. He chose, as his theme, the glory of the Russian arms under Catherine, and treated his subject with true poetic fire. The time was now at hand when the literature of
was to take a place among the most refined of Europe. This was done under Karamsin, whose great
History of Russia
is one of the most classical performances in any language. It rose at once into universal popularity in his own country, and is now equally esteemed by all the nations of Europe. The honours and rewards heaped upon him by the emperor were endless, and hold out strong encouragement to genius. He began his career as an author by contributions to the "Painter," a
; and soon after became editor of the
Journal of Moscow
, in which his "Letters of a Travelling Russian" first appeared.
Brief as our notice is, it must not omit
Shukoffskij and Batzuschkoff. Prince Wiasemskij and Wostokoff
are also named with applause. The more recent authors, not already named in this sketch, are, Kosloff, Gribogedoff, Glinka, Baron Delwig, Schazykoff, and Baratinskij.