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(Prior to the French Invasion.)
Moscow, or Moskwa, formerly the capital of the Russian empire, is a very ancient city, and once the glory of this vast empire, and still considerable enough to figure among the capitals of Europe. It is situated in 55. 45. Ñ. lat. and about 1414 miles north-east of London ; upon the river Moskwa, which runs through it, from whence it takes its name.
Its extent and population have been much exaggerated. Before the seat of the empire was removed to Petersburgh, these were very considerable; but since that event, it has been rapidly on the decline, not for that reason only, but the frequent and destructive fires which have happened, the principal of which, in 1752, reduced the greatest half of it to ashes. In 1771, it was visited by a destructive' pestilence.
Independent of the numbers which abandoned the city, in the short space of a few months, that dreadful scourge carried off at least 600,000 inhabitants, at that time supposed to be one-fourth of the whole population,
The rising towers and spires of Moscow, (says Dr. Clarke) greet our eyes six wersts before we enter the city. The
country around it is flat and open; and the town, spreading over an immense district, equals, by its majestic appearance, that of Rome, when beheld at an equal distance. As we approach nearer the city, it wears an appearance of great magnificence, and these stupendous works of human industry, which mankind, by whom they were produced, behold at length with astonishment, always doubting whether in reality, they were the work of their hands.
The ancient magnificence of this city would be incredible, were it not attested by the most unquestionable authors; but we are to make great allowances for the uncultivated state of the adjacent provinces, which might have made it
appear with a greater lustre in a traveller's eyes. Neither Voltaire nor Busching gives us any satisfactory account of this capital; and little credit is to be . given to the authors who divide it into regular quarters, and each quarter inhabited by a different order or profession. Busching speaks of it as the largest city in Europe ; but that can be only meant as to the ground it stands on, computed to be 16 miles in circumference. It is generally agreed that Moscow contains 1600 churches and convents, and forty-three palaces or squares. Busching makes the merchants' exchange to contain about 6000 fine shops, which display a vast parade of commerce, especially to and from China. No city displays a greater contrast than Moscow, of magnificence and meanness in building. The houses of the inhabitants in general are miserable timber. booths ; but their palaces, churches, convents, and other public edifices, are spacious and lofty. The Krimlin, or grand imperial palace, is mentioned as one of the most superb structures in the world : it stands in the interior circle of the city, and contains the old imperial palace, pleasure-house, and stables, a victualling-house, the palace which formerly belonged to the patriarch, nine cathedrals, five convents, four parish-churches, the arsenal, with the public colleges, and other offices. All the churches in the Krimlin have beautiful spires,
most of them gilt, or covered with silver ; the ar. chitecture is in the Gothic taste ; but the insides of the churches are richly ornamented; and the pictures of the saints are decorated with gold, silver, and precious stones. Mention is made of the cathedral, which has no fewer than nine towers, covered with copper double gilt, and contains a sil. ver branch with forty-eight lights, said to weigh 2800 pounds. A volume would scarcely suffice to recount the other particulars of the magnificence of this city. Its sumptuous monuments of the Great Dukes and Czars, the magazine, the patriarchal palace, the exchequer, and chancery, are noble structures. The public is not unacquainted with the barbarous anecdote, that the Czar, John Basilides, ordered the architect of the church of Jerusalem to be deprived of his eye-sight, that he might never contrive its equal. The story is improbable, and might take its rise from the arbitrary disposition of that prince. We shall have occasion hereafter to mention the great bell of Moscow, where the inhabitants are so distractedly fond of bells, that they are always tinkling in every quarter. The jewels and ornaments of an image of the Virgin Mary, in the Krimlin church, and its other furniture, can be only equalled by what is seen at the famous Holy House of Loretto, in Italy. Mr. Voltaire says, that Peter, who was attentive to every thing, did not neglect Moscow at the time he was building Petersburgh ; for he caused it to be paved, adorned with noble offices, and enriched it with manufactures. The foundling hospital at Moscow is an excellent institution, and appears to be under very judicious regulations. It was found. ed by the late Empress Catharine II. and is supported by voluntary contributions, legacies, and other charitable endowments. It is an immense
pile of building, of a quadrangular shape, and contains 3000 foundlings; when the establishment is completed, it is intended to contain 8000. They are taken great care of; and at the age of fourteen have the liberty of choosing any particular branch of trade; and for this purpose there are different species of manufactures established in the hospi. tal. When they have gone through a certain apprenticeship, or about the age of twenty, they are allowed the liberty of setting up for themselves ; a sum of money is bestowed upon each foundling for that purpose, and they are permitted to carry on trade in any part of the Russian empire. This is a very considerable privilege in Russia, where the peasants are slaves, and cannot leave their vil. lages without the permission of their masters.Nothing can be said with certainty as to the population of Moscow. When Lord Carlisle was the English ambassador there, in the reign of Charles II. this city was twelve miles in compass, and the number of houses were computed at 40,000. Voltaire says, that when he wrote, Moscow was twenty miles in circumference, and that its inhabitants amounted to 500,000. Mr. Coxe confirms the account of the circumference of this city, but thinks the account of its population much exaggerated ; according to an account which was given to him by an English gentleman, which he received from the lieutenant of the police, and which he says may be relied on, Moscow contains within the ramparts 250,000, and in the adjacent villages 50,000.
We have already hinted at the passion the Russians have for bell-ringing; and we are told that the great bell at Moscow, the largest in the world, weighs, according to Mr. Coxe, « 432,000 lbs. and which exceeds in bigness every bell in the known world. Its size is so enormous, that I could scarce
ly have given credit to the account of its magnitude, if I had not examined it myself, and ascertained its dimensions with great exactness. Its height is nineteen feet, its circumference at the bottom twenty-one yards eleven inches, its greatest thickness twenty-three inches.” It was cast in the reign of the Empress Anne ; but the beam on which it hung being burnt, it fell, and a large piece is broken out of it; so that it lately lay in a man. ner useless.
Mr. Bruce in his late memoirs mentions a bell at Moscow founded in Czar Boris's time, 19 feet high, 23 in diameter, and 2 in thickness, that weighed 536,000 lbs.
There is nothing more extraordinary in Russia than the quick transition of the seasons. They have no spring, and summer and winter are sometimes of one day. In England we can form' no idea of a Russian winter. It destroyed the greater part of the veteran army of Charles XII. of Sweden, in 1709, during his desperate expedition into that country; so dreadfully severe did the hardy sons of Sweden feel it, though considerably more to the southward than Moscow is, that 2,000 of them actually dropped down dead on a march, from the effects of the cold alone.
The squares of Moscow are spacious, and in various parts, are extensive gardens; the houses are mostly of only one story, and not contiguous, but separated by interstices from each other, as that the air and sun diffuse their influence in every part of them, which prevents noxious vapours from stagnating ; advantages in which other large cities are too often deficient. Hence arises the amazing extent of Moscow in proportion' to its population, occupying more ground than either Paris or London.
The church of St. Basil, is near the Kremlin. It is a complete specimen of the Tartar taste in build.