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THE EMPEROR OF RUSSIA., Otago Daily Times, Issue 5236, 28 November 1878
THE EMPEROR OF RUSSIA.
(From the World.)
A steamer from Odessa and Sebastopol touches at Yalta, now over-crowded with Imperial couriers, place-hunters, and tourists. A few Circassians in their brilliant uniforms perambulate the streets with the consequential air which the members of the Imperial body guard assume, much better satisfied apparently than their brothers on the opposite side of the Black Sea, whom we left at Trebizond disposing of their Roumelian and Bulgarian plunder for bread. Behind Yalta the high hills rise round a wooded plateau, like the sides of an amphitheatre, the centre covered with gardens and palaces nestling among the trees. One of the most tasteful, but by no means the grandest, of these country houses is Livadia, the Balmoral or Babelsberg of the Emperor and Empress of All the Russias, a very unpretending but picturesque residence three miles from the port, and farther off, Orianda, where the Emperor's suite and the minister in attendance I are generally lodged while their sovereign is taking his holiday. Yet it is not much of 3 holiday after all, and the thin, gaunt, anxious-eyed owner of Livadii hardly looks as if he were enjoying it. The telegraph connects the house with all parts of Europe and Russia ; and thirty miles off lie the ruins of Sebastopol, filled with bitter memories for the present Russian sovereign, with ils graves containing a hundred thousand soldiers, who fell while keeping the French, English, and Sardinian armies waiting so long in the cold. The Emperor occasionally makes an excursion there from Livadia to inspect a war vessel, to receive a portion of his army arriving from Turkey, or to attend a service for the repose of the brave in the appropriate memorial chapel which has been erected at Sebastopol near to their remains. The very appearance of this city, which is like another Pompeii, and the wild dreary music of the Russian priests in the chant of the " Everlasting Remembrance," must send back the pale and moody Kmperor to Livadia iv a still more gloomy frame of mind than when he left it; for he has a vivid recollection of the closing scenes of that celebrated siege, and from the northern shore of the harbour he inspected the southern half of the fortress shortly after its capture in 1855. On these oscasions he retires into his private apartments directly he returns, and is seen no more that day—not even at the whist table, to which Count .Aldeiberg frequently tries to draw him, the game being often termed the statesman's narcotic, from its power of banishing unpleasant memories and producing a good night's sleep. At other times Ministers and aide-dc camps come for audiences, and the work of governing the Empire goes on much as if its Imperial head was at Tzarco-Selo or the Winter Palace ; for a ton load of boxes brought the necessary papers by the same train which carried the Emperor, who is more than usually equal to his work, at Livadia, as the estate is shaded from the north wind, and therefore suit 3 his asthma better than any place but the Four Towers in tho steamy valley of Ems, where for three years past he has been prevented from sojourning by the Eastern war.
Time was when any Englishman who could obtain au introduction, which was not difficult, was always welcome at the Court of St. Petersburg, and the c very-day life of the Czar Nicholas has been described by at least a dozen who were either entertained by him, or met him at various Russian noblemen's houses, for he almost lived in public. But that has never been the case since Alexander 11. began to reign, for his palace door has been rigidly closed against all foreigners but diplomatists; by ill-health needing quiet wherever it could be obtained, by family cares, and by the political troubles which have involved the Empire several times during the last twenty-five years. He never partakes of the hospitality of his subjects, and in his visits to Berlin always lodges at the Russian Embassy, for his recreation has been solitude rather than the pleasures of society. The rooms are not large enough to entertain, but are eminently fitted for the quiet pursuit of business. On the walls are family pictures, with, among them, our Queen and the Emperor of Germany ; but nothing very new or expensive ; for since the beginning of the late war all palace expenses have been curtailed, and the Emperor let the attaches at the Russian Embassies knosv informally that their participation in balls and gaiety would not he seemly while their countrymen were bleeding in Bulgaria.
Alexander 11. rises early, and walks out at eight o'clock in the morning after a cup of coffee and a biscuit. He used to drink tea, but now takes coffee instead, on account of his nerves, which are shattered, neither by drinking nor dissipation, but by long hours in the Council Chamber, interrupted nights, and other real hard work which the business of a sovereign and prime minister combined —as is the case with a despot—necessary entails. Few can wish more that a House of Parliament and responsible Ministry could be safely implanted in Russia than her weary autocrat ; but he cannot see his way to it without running the risk of a revolution like that of France in 1789. After his early morning walk, he works till twelve with his secretary, and then comes the dejeuner a la fourchette, or luncheon. He is extremely moderate in eating and drinking ; so that a former cook in the Winter Palace, now settled in Paris, declares it was most disheartening to cater for him, as he was indifferent to the choicest viands. The truth is, his health obliges him to live very strictly, and in all things by rule. After luncheon he walks or rides with one of his two youngest sons, Sergius and Paul, who are with him at Livadia, or drives out with the Empress if she is well enough for the exercise. From three till five he retires again into his study, when he possibly takes the siesta which most Russians indulge in to enable them to extend the day at both ends. At Livadia the Court dines at five or half-past. It is the last meal which the Emperor takes in the day, and is seldom prolonged beyond an hour. At St. Petersburg, in defiance of medical rules, he often goes to work directly afterwards till nine o'clock. Here, however, ha generally sits or walks in the garden, or remains with the Empress, till eight o'clock. He then returns to his work till midnight, and sometimes finishes up with one round of whist.
Livadia, like the German Babelsberg, is surrounded by the mansions of other members of the Imperial family ; and in spite of the Tartar emigration to Turkey after the Crimean war, there are many Mahometan viuegrowera and shepherds in the neighbourhood, who are remarkable for their loyalty. To catch a sight of a tall spare man, in a white hat and light summer suit, with scanty grey hair, and a worn haggard face very much out of harmony with his comparatively youthful and, except when bent with asthma, still upright figure, is considered by these peasants as an ample compensation for a walk of several miles, and the loss of a day's work spent in hovering about the estate. Unlike his uncle of Germany, the Czar, who is a good linguist, carefully studies tho priucipal European newspapers ; and his rare smiles are usually caused by seeing himself described as a Sardanapalua, an inveterate drunkard, or an abject coward hiding himself from the public gaze for fear of assassination, as, although nervous, he is in truth by no means too careful of his life ; and any one who takes a walk at 8 a.m. in St Petersburg when the Emperor is at the Winter I'dlace may see him, entirely unattended, taking exercise in the Summer Garden, sometimes receiving a petition or giving a trifle to an old soldier.
Though the air of Livadia may be somewhat sombre, yet the absence of stiff etiquette and the good nature of the sovereign, who wishes everybody round
him to be comfortable and happy, make i& a very pleasant abode. His attendants certainly have an easy time of it, for he is considerate to them to excess, but has a» great objection to any change in his entourage ; so that the length of timo which many of the ministers and courtofficials have remained in their posts is a favourite popular grievance in Russia, where for a man to have been a playfellow or fellow-student of the Emperor in their boyhood is a surer claim to promotion than conspicuous talent. He will obstinately refuse to believe anything to their discredit; but, perhaps, incredulity is not a bad fault with a .Russian sovereign, considering the groundless scandals which are floated in St. Petersburg, often for the mere purpose of putting the inventor of them into the defamed man's place. If the Emperor is once convinced of a moral delinquency on the part of a courtier or public servant, hn hardly ever restores him to favour. The names of several noted military men miaht be cited in proof of this fact. It is hardly necessary to observe that Livadia is provided with. its chapel, priest, and choir, by whom a, service is conducted every day, and duly attended by the Court, for the Emperor is in virtue of his coronation—consecration a3 it is called in Russia—a deacon ia the Russo-Greek Church. Couriers with. despatches are liable to arrive at all times of the day and night; and the chapel ia the only place where they are not conveyed at once to the Emperor, who has been known to remark that, if his countrygoes on increasing, he cannot conceive how one man will have time or strength to conduct the government. Possibly this obvious difficulty affords the best guarantee of Russia's ultimate adoption of a. Constitution, or disruption into small States, which, taken separately, will never be strong enough to be a formidable menace to Europe.
THE EMPEROR OF RUSSIA., Otago Daily Times, Issue 5236, 28 November 1878
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