London Times, 5 September 1865, p. 7: RUSSIA. (From our Berlin correspondent.) Berlin, Sept. 2. (Excerpts)
The St. Petersburg Gazette de la Bourse states that a short time ago, on the Russians beginning operations in Turkistan, Khokand called the Khan of Khiva to her help. The Khan, however, warmly sympathizing with his breathren in distress, regretted his inability to protect them against the mighty Giaour. But five years ago, he said, the Russians had a squadron on the river Amur, which, were it employed again, would be a powerful instrument of war, and altogether too dangerous for him to run the risk of assisting his friends in the present urgency. In addition to this evidence of a native witness, the paper quotes the names of some English travellers, who, it appears, agree that Turkistan, consisting of a number of habitable valleys in the midst of a desert, can be occupied only from the river side, and that the Amur, being above 2,000 miles long, and navigable for the greater part of a course which touches nearly every one of the more important States, is the chief artery of the region, both for military and commercial purposes. It is but a few months ago that the like opinions were strongly advocated in the Moscow Gazette by General Fadeyeff, who, warning his Government against paying exclusive attention to the Syr, advised them to shift the field of operations to the Amur, and form a special squadron on this, the principal river of the country. A glance at the map and the region whence that river proceeds would leave little doubt as to his reasons for recommending such a step, even had they not been frankly acknowledged by him. In his opinion, whichever European nation contrives to be the first in the field and float a couple of gunboats on the Amur would have dominion over Turkistan without difficulty, overawing the natives, and rendering the progress of a foreign adversary, should one appear, a very slow and dangerous thing. The English, he says, have the advantage over the Russians in this respect, the river being navigable up to the frontiers of Afganistan, but becoming shallow and branching out into an infinite number of swampy or sanded-up channels some distance before disemboguing into Lake Aral. The justice of the latter remark seems to be recognized by the Russian Government; for, although Admiral Boutakoff, who explored the mouth of the river in 1858, reported his having found a channel four feet in depth, nothing has been heard of Russian vessels on the Amur, the activity of the Aral squadron remaining confined to the Syr as formerly. The above-mentioned paper, however, hopes that, somehow or other, measures will be speedily taken to unfurl the Russian flag on the Amur again, and extend [?] Russian power and influence over the ancient home of the Turks. Meanwhile the country is being searched for coal, the steamers having been hitherto obliged to use the low and stunted brushwood growing on the banks; and there seems to be some prospect of finding the precious article in the newly-acquired district of Tashkent.
On the 25th of August the Russian monitors Veshun (Wizard) [Veshchun], Koldun (Sorcerer), Bronenosetz (Coat-of-mail man) [Bronenosets], Jedinrog (Unicorn) [Edinorog], Streletz (Sharpshooter) [Strelets], Perun (Jupiter Tonans), Lava, Typhoon [Tifon], and Ouragan [Uragan], escorted by two frigates and some smaller craft, returned to Cronstadt from Stockholm, where they had sailed with a squadron under the command of the Grand Duke Grand Admiral. On setting out the monitors were 11 in number, but the Smertch (Waterspout) [Smerch] foundered and sank in the Finnish Archipelago, and the Levya [?] struck and had to be taken to some neighbouring port for repairs. This and the fact of the other monitors returning at noon, when they had been ordered to accompany the Grand Ducal squadron in its progress to Copenhagen and Kiel, gave occasion to disquieting rumours respecting the seagoing qualities of the new iron-clad fleet. To allay these apprehensions the Cronstadt Journal inserts an official communiqué on the voyage, and the trials the ships were subjected to and gallantly stood in the Finnish Gulf. They fell in, we are told, with a heavy gale, but floated much more buoyantly on the waves than could have been expected from their size and shape. On getting near the isles, where they had to thread their course amid the intricate channels of the Swedish coast, they proved the most easily governable of all ships ever built. They cannot, however, make above 60 miles in 24 hours; and as it would have taken them 22 days to proceed from Stockholm to Copenhagen and Kiel, and return thence to Russia across the Baltic, the Grand Admiral having sufficiently convinced himself of their excellence, he preferred not exposing them to the dangers of the season and the additional difficulties which they might have had in procuring an adequate supply of coals. All this refers, I suppose, to those ships only that survived the trip, for there is no allusion made in the article to the two others.
Provided by Stephen McLaughlin