Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/10

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
6
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

and no barriers and as a consequence no separate states over all of this great region.

The size of the Russian empire is therefore tremendous. European Russia is in itself larger than the other nineteen states of the continent taken together, and when we include Asiatic Russia, western Europe shrinks into insignificance. The Russian empire comprises one sixth of the total land area of the world; it is four times the size of the continent of Europe, forty-two times the size of France, nearly three times the size of the United States without Alaska, and seventy times the size of the British Isles. An English sailor knowing little about geography, and not yet caught by the propaganda of the English press in favor of things Russian once declared the "Rooshan" was everywhere. "I met him in the Baltic, then I sailed around the whole of Europe and found him on the Black Sea, and after six months around the Cape to India and China, I met him again on the Pacific." There are one hundred and seventy-five million Russians, and yet Russia is the most thinly populated of the great nations. "When you get to my country," said a young Russian nobleman from Bessarabia to me as we neared Libau on the steamer, "You will see how Russia is big, very big!"

Despite its immense extent, however, the land under the scepter of the Tsar constitutes a geographic unit. Even geologically it possesses a degree of uniformity found nowhere else over so large an area. From the Arctic to the Black Sea and from Poland to the Urals, and even farther Siberia, the strata are horizontal. The last of European land to emerge from the glacial drift, it has not been lifted, broken or forced out of place by the great upheavals which caused the diversified surface of western Europe.

Even as to its boundaries or frontiers, it is exceptionally clearly defined and the political state conforms on nearly all sides to the natural or physical. I say nearly, because towards Austria the Carpathians constitute a natural boundary which the Russian state has not yet reached, and which Petersburg confidently hopes to attain through the present war. Then too there are no geographic limits at two important points. Reference to the map shows that there is no physical boundary on the middle west where Russia merges into the German plain. Although nature forgot to form a natural frontier in this region, the ethnic factor entered in and the presence of the Teuton, for the time being at least, staked out a frontier against the Slav. But as usually happens when the ethnic frontier is unsupported by an adequate geographic boundary, confusion and friction arose. Even in times of peace the mothers of East Prussia are wont to silence their children with the ominous warning "Hush, the Rus is coming!" In Poland the absence of a natural boundary is dramatically reflected in political history, not only in the sad tragedy of the destruction of that kingdom in the eigh-