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States which then divided Central Asia amongst them, and still maintains political supremacy, are the most numerous race in the country, though Kipchaks, Kara Kirghiz, and Tadjiks also comprise a considerable portion of the population which-nomad and
RUSSIAN CENTRAL ASIA : FERGHANA.
settled-does not number over one million. The climate is more equable than in most other parts of Russian Turkestan, being warmer in winter, when little snow falls, but on summer days Dr. Schuyler describes the heat as differing little in intensity between Tashkend and Khokan, but the nights are always cool and comfortable. The soil is rich, and this, combined with the excellence of the climate, has put agriculture into a fourishing condition in the Khanate, though it is still capable of being much further
advanced. The mountains abound in minerals, coal-crops in places, and naptha and petroleum wells have been found in numerous localities.
It is also affirmed that copper, lead, iron, as well as inferior tin quarries, are to be found. Khokan, the capital (p. 293), lies in a valley south of the Syr Darya, but Tashkend, built on a fertile plain near one of the northern tributaries of the Syr, is the largest town in Russian Turkestan, and the seat of the Government. It is surrounded by a wall of sun-dried bricks twelve miles in circumference, and owing to its being the meeting-place of several great caravan routes, is one of the busy trading places in the country.
Since the Russians have obtained possession of it Tashkend has wonderfully changedfor the better or the worse. The native city still exists pretty much as it always did, and does not differ except in degree from any of the other drowsy Central Asiatic towns. But the European quarters are so very modern that Dr. Schuyler, looking at it for the first time by moonlight could scarcely believe that he was not in one of those brand-new American “cities” with which he was so familiar at home-more particularly one of the little towns of Central New York. “The broad, dusty streets, shaded by double rows of trees; the sound of rippling water in every direction; the small white houses, set a little back from the street, with trees and a palisade in front; the large square full of turf and flowers, with a little church in the middle-all combined to give me this familiar impression. By daylight, however, Tashkend seems more like one of the Western American towns—Denver, for instance—though lacking in the busy air which pervades that place, and with Sarts in turbans and gowns, in place of Indians and miners. The conditions of the town are, indeed, much the same: it is built on the Steppe, and owes its green and fresh appearance to the canals wbich bring streams of fresh water through every street. The sides of the streets are planted with poplars and willows, which in this country grow quickly and luxuriantly; a small stake driven into the ground soon becomes a fine tree; gardens spring up almost like magic; and I saw in the garden of a laboratory a peach-tree bearing peaches the third year from the seed.” When Schuyler visited the place-and we are led to understand from more recent travellers that it has not increased greatly since that date—there were about 600 houses in the Russian quarter, and a population of 3,000, exclusive of the garrison of about 600. New houses were springing up rapidly, and the growth of the town in its nine years of existence seemed to the traveller something wonderful. But on closer examination this seeming vitality proved to be very artificial. The real, permanent population of the city is small, for trade, in the European acceptation of the term, is trifling. There are few great merchants, and manufactories do not exist. A handful of people come to make money and return “home” to spend it, but with these exceptions no one lives in Tashkend who is not obliged to do so by pressure of official duties. This distinguishes it at once from similar American towns; and moreover in Tashkend most of the pretty houses which the visitor so admires have been built by the aid of money lent by the Government, of which, it may be added, but little is ever repaid. Sun-dried bricks covered with plaster are the usual material of which the buildings are constructed, and they are seldom more than one storey high. “Owing to the scarcity of wood, and the dearness of iron, the roofs are very peculiar ; between the rafters which compose the ceilings pieces of small willow branches are closely fitted together, the whole is then thatched with reeds, and on this is placed a layer of clay every year to render the roof in any degree waterproof. During the summer, when it does not rain, these roofs are excellent and very pretty, as they are often covered with wild poppies, capers, and other flowers. When the rainy season commences one must be very careful; it may be that too many layers of clay have been placed on the roof, and the timbers have become worn, so that the whole thing falls through ; or perhaps not enough clay has been put on, and one violent rainstorm is sufficient to wash a large hole in it.” In Central Asia upholsterers are
RUSSIAN CENTRAL ASIA: TASHKEND.
unknown, and hence, as all furniture has to be brought from Europe or Siberia, simplicity is the rule. Still the houses, in spite of their fragility, are comfortable. The want of Western appliances is to a great extent redeemed by the great wide divans, the profusion of Turkoman carpets, the embroidered cushions, and the display of Oriental weapons, armour, and curiosities, which give the rooms an air of elegance which they would not otherwise possess.
In the summer all who can afford it leave their town-house and take refuge from the heat in cottages built among the gardens of the suburbs, or in Kirghiz kibitkas, or Bokharan pavilion tents. The sun does not penetrate through the foliage of the elms and poplars; there is a fragrance of flowers all round, and a coolness imparted by the canals and watery ponds. “When at night the paper lanterns stand out against the dark green of the pomegranates, while the nightingale sings as the light shimmers over the still surface of the water, it is a scene taken bodily from the 'Arabian Nights." The Palace of the Governor-General, the public buildings, the mosques, and the Buddhist temple are the chief structures. Hotels proper can scarcely be said to exist in the city, though boarding-houses, restaurants, and above all private hospitality, go far to make up for the want of " licensed victuallers.” Otherwise Tashkend does not differ widely from any other Russian town. The “Moskovs,” like the British, carry their country with them. The amusements, mode of living, and social prejudices, are in Turkestan very much what they are further west. Only perhaps the lazy life and the surroundings have induced an even lower morality than in Moscow and St. Petersburg; and as the officers who elect to be sent to Central Asia are frequently “ broken men,” who for good reasons find it convenient, for a time at least, not to live too much in the public gaze, the result can be imagined. Luxuries are also dear over the country, though necessaries are moderate in price. Beef is bad, but mutton is plentiful, good, and not very costly. Game is abundant, and though the Syr Darya contains many sturgeon, fish is rare.
Fruits can be had almost for the asking, and garden vegetables are beginning to be raised in abundance. Grapes grow in profusion, and consequently wine of several kinds, but all equally strong and sour, can be had. A very indifferent beer is brewed, but, of course, good European wines can be purchased, though at about four times the St. Petersburg prices. English ale and porter are luxuries even procurable in this Central Asiatic town; the latter is an especial favourite, as it ought to be, considering that the cost of the black liquid is ten shillings per bottle. There is, as in every Russian town, a “Cercle," or club—“as stupid and unclublike as all Russian clubs.” There exists a fair library, a large chemical laboratory, and the famous “Turkestanski Viedomosti," or Turkestan Gazette. This little sheet consists mainly of articles on the natural history, chronicles, and ethnology of the country. It contains no news of the outer world, and little even of events transpiring in Central Asia; while the Turki supplement for the enlightenment of the natives is filled with translations of the “ Arabian Nights,” and similarly instructive matter. Its circulation is merely nominal, but being kept up by the Government, the journal has a reputation and importance in Europe out of all proportion to its character or merits. The exact number of inhabitants in the city has not been ascertained, but in the last official census it is put at 78,165, and the whole population of Ferghana at 800,000.
This is not an over-estimate.