Michael Strogoff HTML version
6. Brother And Sister
HOWEVER disastrous these measures might be to private interests, they were,
under the circumstances, perfectly justifiable.
"All Russian subjects are forbidden to leave the province;" if Ivan Ogareff was still
in the province, this would at any rate prevent him, unless with the greatest
difficulty, from rejoining Feofar-Khan, and becoming a very formidable lieutenant
to the Tartar chief.
"All foreigners of Asiatic origin are ordered to leave the province in four-and-
twenty hours;" this would send off in a body all the traders from Central Asia, as
well as the bands of Bohemians, gipsies, etc., having more or less sympathy with
the Tartars. So many heads, so many spies-- undoubtedly affairs required their
It is easy to understand the effect produced by these two thunder-claps bursting
over a town like Nijni-Novgorod, so densely crowded with visitors, and with a
commerce so greatly surpassing that of all other places in Russia. The natives
whom business called beyond the Siberian frontier could not leave the province
for a time at least. The tenor of the first article of the order was express; it
admitted of no exception. All private interests must yield to the public weal. As to
the second article of the proclamation, the order of expulsion which it contained
admitted of no evasion either. It only concerned foreigners of Asiatic origin, but
these could do nothing but pack up their merchandise and go back the way they
came. As to the mountebanks, of which there were a considerable number, they
had nearly a thousand versts to go before they could reach the nearest frontier.
For them it was simply misery.
At first there rose against this unusual measure a murmur of protestation, a cry of
despair, but this was quickly suppressed by the presence of the Cossacks and
agents of police. Immediately, what might be called the exodus from the
immense plain began. The awnings in front of the stalls were folded up; the
theaters were taken to pieces; the fires were put out; the acrobats' ropes were
lowered; the old broken-winded horses of the traveling vans came back from
their sheds. Agents and soldiers with whip or stick stimulated the tardy ones, and
made nothing of pulling down the tents even before the poor Bohemians had left
Under these energetic measures the square of Nijni-Novgorod would, it was
evident, be entirely evacuated before the evening, and to the tumult of the great
fair would succeed the silence of the desert.
It must again be repeated--for it was a necessary aggravation of these severe
measures--that to all those nomads chiefly concerned in the order of expulsion
even the steppes of Siberia were forbidden, and they would be obliged to hasten
to the south of the Caspian Sea, either to Persia, Turkey, or the plains of
Turkestan. The post of the Ural, and the mountains which form, as it were, a
prolongation of the river along the Russian frontier, they were not allowed to
pass. They were therefore under the necessity of traveling six hundred miles
before they could tread a free soil.