Homogeneousness of the Country--Its Vast Plains were Destined to Political Unity--Uneven Population--How, for a Length of Time, it was Distributed after an Utterly Artificial Manner--Relative Importance of the Various Regions--Vital and Accessory Parts--Russia a Country Born of Colonization--Her Double Task and Consequent Contradictions.
THE physical diversity of the various regions of the country must not blind us to their homogeneousness. Russia is so naturally one, that, short of an island or a peninsula, no country in the world is more clearly stamped for the dwelling-place of a nation. Through all their differences, all their physical and economical oppositions, the two great zones of North and South belong together like two halves that complete each other and cannot be separated. In the first place they have in common the soil, the plain, which admit of no barrier, no possible boundary; in the second place, the climate is common to both; the winter, which for weeks and weeks gathers them under one mantle of snow. In January you can sleigh it from Arkhangelsk or Petersburgh to Astrakhan. The absence of snow would be for the South as dire a calamity, and nearly as rare as for the North. As in the southern steppes, so in the forests that skirt the polar circle, the rivers are ice-bound for months. The Sea of Azof freezes just like the White Sea, and the northern half of the Caspian just as the Gulf of Finland. The Black Sea is the only one of Russian seas the ports of which are not all closed by ice in exceptionally severe winters1; but the limans, or broad estuaries of the great rivers, do freeze up almost regularly. As a rule, the navigation on the Black Sea is not in____________________