- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
237

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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THE VOLGA
237
especially on the east side, where the land is a
flat swamp cut by innumerable arms of the river,
the water-edge being in great part reed-grown;
the west bank, however, is a little higher, and is
dry, and there are but few arms of the river, and
littie reed. The contrast between the two banks is
thus so striking the whole way up that one can
not help believing there must be a definite cause.
On this west bank, some 10 kilometres north of
Astrakhan, the remains can still be found in the
ground of the once so mighty Khazar capital,
Itil, which for three centuries, down to 969, was
the centre of their extensive dominion (cp. p. 214).
Now in the neighbourhood is Kalmytski Bazar,
the chief town of the Mongolian Buddhist Kal
mucks, with a Buddhist temple.
It was growing dusk, and under the vault of the
sky night swept over the broad, slow-moving face
of the water; the low shores withdrew into the
wavering darkness. From far off could be heard the
crooning notes of the Volga’s wonderful song of
the Cossack robber-chief Stenka Razin, who was the
friend of the poor and down-trodden, and who,
when he found he was forgetting himself, his
people, and his fighting out of love for the fair
princess he had carried off from Persia, sacrificed
her to the waters of the Volga, and then at the head
of his men took Astrakhan (1670).
Volga, Volga, Mother Volga, take to thy bosom my lovely
friend !
With one sweep he lifts her, while a star shot o’er the sky
and thus does Stenka Razin east his princess overboard.

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