* These words mean literally the Guests’ Court or Yard. The Ghosti—a word which is etymologically the same as our “host” and “guest”—were originally the merchants who traded with other towns or other countries.
In the other parts of the town the air of solitude and languor is still more conspicuous. In the great square, or by the side of the promenade—if the town is fortunate enough to have one—cows or horses may be seen grazing tranquilly, without being at all conscious of the incongruity of their position. And, indeed, it would be strange if they had any such consciousness, for it does not exist in the minds either of the police or of the inhabitants. At night the streets may be lighted merely with a few oil-lamps, which do little more than render the darkness visible, so that cautious citizens returning home late often provide themselves with lanterns. As late as the sixties the learned historian, Pogodin, then a town-councillor of Moscow, opposed the lighting of the city with gas on the ground that those who chose to go out at night should carry their lamps with them. The objection was overruled, and Moscow is now fairly well lit, but the provincial towns are still far from being on the same level. Some retain their old primitive arrangements, while others enjoy the luxury of electric lighting.
The scarcity of large towns in Russia is not less remarkable than their rustic appearance. According to the last census (1897) the number of towns, officially so-called, is 1,321, but about three-fifths of them have under 5,000 inhabitants; only 104 have over 25,000, and only 19 over 100,000. These figures indicate plainly that the urban element of the population is relatively small, and it is declared by the official statisticians to be only 14 per cent., as against 72 per cent. in Great Britain, but it is now increasing rapidly. When the first edition of this work was published, in 1877, European Russia in the narrower sense of the term—excluding Finland, the Baltic Provinces, Lithuania, Poland, and the Caucasus—had only 11 towns with a population of over 50,000, and now there are 34; that is to say, the number of such towns has more than trebled. In the other portions of the country a similar increase has taken place. The towns which have become important industrial and commercial centres have naturally grown most rapidly. For example, in a period of twelve years (1885-97) the populations of Lodz, of Ekaterinoslaf, of Baku, of Yaroslavl, and of Libau, have more than doubled. In the five largest towns of the Empire—St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw, Odessa and Lodz—the aggregate population rose during the same twelve years from 2,423,000 to 3,590,000, or nearly 50 per cent. In ten other towns, with populations varying from 50,000 to 282,000, the aggregate rose from 780,000 to 1,382,000, or about 77 per cent.