The New York Times, January 2, 1876, p.4:|
As you turn to the right into the harbor strictly so called, instead of a crowd of merchant vessels lying at anchor, you see only two English steamers being repaired among the slips.
The landing place itself seems to sum up the history of the town. A fine broad flight of steps leading down to the water's edge, surmounted by a Doric colonnade, with the date of 1846, marks the era of hope and growth; while the pillars themselves, scarred here and there with shot, and contrasting strangely with the mean, ruinous buildings about them, mark the downfall of the hopes and the cessation of growth [since the Crimean war].
Sevastopol, indeed, is only just beginning to emerge from the despondency of the last twenty years. The docks are still a wilderness, overgrown with grass and weeds, with old guns and anchors embedded in the earth, showing that the work of destruction was well carried out by the allies. Fresh docks and arsenals, meanwhile, have been erected at Kertch and Nikolaieff; and no attempt has until quite lately been made to develop the commercial resources of Sevastopol.
In many places you may pass through streets silent and desolate as the streets of Pompeii; houses shattered partly by bombardment, partly by the destruction wrought by the Russians when abandoning the place, principally perhaps by the want of firewood felt by the allies during the occupation of the Winter, 1855-56.
Add to this that the sun beats down upon the arid rock with frightful force, that there are scarcely any trees to relieve the eye, and that the dust is at least ankle deep in all the streets and squares; and it follows that Sevastopol is scarcely more desirable as a place of residence in the Summer than in the Winter.
There are, however, not wanting signs of life and improvement. The old barracks at the head of the harbor, between that and the Dockyard Creek, still stand up against the sky-line a ghastly row of empty windows and roofless walls four stories high; but there are now barracks further north, between the old docks and the roadstead, where a large garrision is now accomodated.
A railway station is now open at the head of the harbor, from which you can go direct in three days and two nights to Moscow. Fresh houses have been built during the last two years, and more are building. Churches are springing up again with all the glittering ornament that marks the Russian style of architecture.
The high ridge in the centre of the town, from whence, according to Kinglake, the Russians first marked the English defiling across the heights of Mackenzie's farm, is now laid out as a boulevard, with a café and club-room. On Sundays this club-room is devoted to dancing; and the sight of this boulevard, thronged with people, while the darkness conceals the ruins of the houses round about, makes you fancy that you are in the midst of a thriving and prosperous town. The most thickly inhabited part has indeed strayed down from the eastern to the western side of the ridge, away from the Man-of-War Harbor toward the creeks which Kinglake calls Artillery Bay and the Quarantine Harbor, so that a traveler on first landing is more, perhaps, struck by the appearance of desolation than is strictly fair.
The great sea forts, however--Fort Nicholas, Fort Alexander, and the Quarantine Sea Fort--which guarded the entrance to the roadstead on this side, are an indistinguishable heap of ruins, and their site was marked only by some surveying posts recently set up.
The two chief hotels of the town are both near the landing-place, and, though neither of them very sumptuous, will supply all that you can fairly ask.--Blackwood's Magazine.
The New York Times, October 19, 1884, p.6:|
ODESSA AND SEBASTOPOL.
ODESSA, Sept. 20.--There are some towns, as there are some faces, upon which the lapse of years seems to leave no trace, and the great corn port of Russia is certainly one of them. Its bombardment by the combined fleets of France and England in 1854 might almost be considered a blessing in disguise, as tending to break, even if only for a time, its deadly uniformity.
But even setting it on fire did it no permanent good. The streets are just as straight, the butter-colored houses just as yellow, the dust clouds just as stifling, the surroundings just as outrageously modern as when I was here last in 1873. One change, indeed, is apparent, viz: that the names of the principal streets, formerly written in Russian and Italian, now appear in Russian alone.
But in all other points Odessa is Odessa still. The statues "after the antique" are so long after that it has forgotten all about them. The gaunt, scraggy church towers look like overgrown coffee pots, and all the larger buildings are so exactly alike that I am in hourly expectation of seeing a newly arrived tourist swagger into the town hall or the public library instead of his hotel, shouting to the astounded custodian to "trot out the bill of fare."
But this universal unprogressiveness is merely the natural and inevitable result of the peculiar temperament which characterizes the Slavonian race. Paradoxical as the assertion may appear, there is not enough discontent in Russia. There is, indeed, misery enough, and far away too much; but, instead of being thereby goaded into advancing, the sole idea of the suffering masses is to endure doggedly until the evil day is past, and then to jog on in the old ruts after the old fashion.
The Finn still inhabits the same log hut, wears the same shoes of twisted bark, feeds upon the same dried bread and fish mixed with sawdust, which served his forefathers in the days of Peter the Great. The Russian peasant, in an age of railways and telegraphs, is still the same careless, hospitable, thievish, drunken, good-humored savage that he was two centuries ago. The Tartars of the Crimea, burrowing like rabbits amid the ruins of Chersonesus or in the caverns of the Inkerman Valley, will tell you, as they told Mr. Kinglake in October, 1854, that they are content because their race has lived happily under the Czars for three generations.
It is not from such material as this that great nations are wrought. The sheepskin-frocked philosopher of the steppes, a conservative by nature and a fatalist by creed, accepts without a murmur the coarse fare and log-built hovel which served his ancestors in the Middle Ages, content to remain as his father was before him, and as his son will be after him. To offer civilization to such a race is like reading poetry to an oyster.
But however morally backward she may be, the great empire has visibly advanced in a material sense since the day when I saw all Moscow mourning for "the good Czarina" four years ago. If railways are indeed, as the well-known saying declares, the "true civilizers of mankind," she has constructed enough of them lately. Apart from the famous military railroad from the eastern shore of the Caspian eastward across the Khiva Desert--which has just received a fresh extension whereof I shall have more to say before long--the whole southeast of European Russia is now being opened up in all directions.
The prolongation of the Poti-Tiflis Railroad to Baku and the new petroleum fields has at last connected the Black Sea with the isolated Caspian. Along the northern slope of the Caucasus another line, running south-eastward from the point where the Don pours into the Sea of Azof, is already open as far as Vladikavkaz, at the foot of the great central ridge, and working its way slowly among the mighty precipices of the Dariel Pass and Mount Kazbek to join the trans-Caucasian track at Tiflis, and link the border provinces with the interior of Russia.
From the Poti-Tiflis line a branch has been run out to Russia's new port, Batoum, ceded by Turkey in 1878, and a "Caspian coast railroad" is now being projected, which is to run southward into Persia along the western shore of the great lake, although Persia herself seems in no special haste to accept the benefit.
It is an unspeakable relief to find one's self once more, after so many days among the unintelligible dialects of Hungary, Transylvania, and Roumania, in a country where one can understand every word that is said. When I first heard Russian spoken a few days ago at the frontier station of Umgheni, it was like the first glimpse of the distant minarets of Bagdad to a traveler on the endless plains of Mesopotamia.
But to any one who does not understand it, the grand old Slavonian tongue must at times have a somewhat startling sound. The Russian word for "thank you" is pronounced exactly like "blackguard are you," while the phrase for "pass me the salt," viz: "dai mnye sol," is, as any one will see who pronounces it quickly, suggestive of a very unorthodox remark indeed. The formidable length of some of the words, too, reminds one of the King of Kamboja's title, which required three men and a boy to recite it.
All that I have said respecting the unprogressiveness of Odessa might as justly be retorted by Odessa upon us, for just at present our progress has come to a standstill altogether. My draft upon Odessa Bank, for some mysterious reason quite beyond the comprehension of any benighted Gentile who has not graduated upon the Stock Exchange, cannot be cashed without some further commercial hocus-pocus, which I have just telegraphed to St. Petersburg to obtain. Meanwhile we are stranded here, with the satisfaction of seeing the steamer that should have carried us to Sebastopol going quietly off without us.
Ukraine was the center of the first Slavic state, Kievan Rus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kievan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The cultural and religious legacy of Kievan Rus laid the foundation for Ukrainian nationalism through subsequent centuries.
A new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. Despite continuous Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate managed to remain autonomous for well over 100 years.
During the latter part of the 18th century, most Ukrainian ethnographic territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to bring about a short-lived period of independence (1917-1920), but was reconquered and forced to endure a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two artificial famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died. In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 to 8 million more deaths.
Although independence was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, true freedom remains elusive, as the legacy of state control has been difficult to throw off. Where state control has dissipated, endemic corruption has filled much of the resulting vacuum, stalling efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil liberties.
CIA World Factbook: Ukraine
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603,700 sq km
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July 2004 estimate
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Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian
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