Letter from T.H. Barker to his wife Mary, 3 December 1903

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Title: Letter from T.H. Barker to his wife Mary, 3 December 1903
Parent item: Collection of letters from T.H. Barker to his wife Mary (sort key: 11)
Storage location: C.F. Barker folder 3
Author: Thomas Henry Barker
Format and extent:
License: Public Domain Mark This work is free of known copyright restrictions.
Related people: Thomas Henry Barker Mary Ellen Barker (née Moulsdale)
Related places: Tomsk Irkutak Taiga Hankow Pekin Boma Leopoldville

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Page 1.
Tomsk, 3rd December, 1903.


I wrote you last from Irkutak[sic] on Monday, posting then 3 letters which I hope will have reached you when you get this. The Russe Bank undertook to post them. Tales get about of letters being intercepted, but as mine are favourable to Russia I do not suppose mine will share that fate.

I travelled here in good company, several English and German people being in the train, but I was charmed with a very nice Belgian who has been for 2 years constructing the Hankow Pekin line from the Hankow end, of which there are now 400 kilometres finished, and the extension is going on at the rate of 20 miles per month. He had lived entirely amongst Chinese, in the province of Honan, and gives them a most excellent character in every way. There they do not kill their girls, but have families of a dozen. He likes the Chinese best as Buddists or Confucians and deprecates the efforts to convert them. Before being in China he had been engaged for 6 years in constructing the Congo Line from Boma or Maladi to Leopoldville. He spoke only French, and I had therefore 2 days practice in that language. He stuck to me as I to him, and we had all our meals together, and sat all day in the restaurant saloon, which has easy chairs and couches and every comfort. We were 2½ hours late in reaching Taiga, the junction for Tomsk, and 60 miles away. We got there at 5 a.m., and I had to wait for an hour in the Buffet, but it was very warm. At 5.30, or so, we left for Tomsk, and I was joined in my carriage by a Russian Gurist or lawyer, who has suffered exile for 20 years for political discontent. His name is Mde Karaonloff,

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of mixed Tartar, Polish and German ancestry. He was condemned when 22 by a military Tribunal, and served 4 years with hard labour in the Castle of Schlanelberg on Lake Ladoga. He was afterwards sent by rail and steamer to Tuimen, and then marched into Eastern Siberia. Later he was allowed to live in Krasnvizard, where his wife died 3 years ago. He has an only son who is here at the great Technological School or College, who is studying science. It is a School of magnificent size and equipment, built by Nicholas II the present Emperor. The son has been at this Hotel 2 or 3 times, and is a fine young fellow, just 21. He has sandy hair. His Father is tall and dark, rather like Washington Williams, both in appearance and disposition. He speaks French, and was most kind to me, inviting me to ride from the station here, about 2 or 3 miles in his sleigh, mine being full of baggage. We return together to Taiga to-morrow night, and meanwhile he has promised to bring M. Doulgourosiky here, one of the relations of Princess Doulgourosiky, widow of Alexander II who is also an exile here, and practicing law. This place is most captivating. It is large with 80,000 inhabitants, but with wide streets and standing on much ground. It is full of beautiful buildings, and houses, the latter of wood; the former of brick or stuccoed. The ground is picturesque, hill, dale and plain and many striking views are obtainable. The West end is the finest. There are situated, the University the great Schools, and the Cathedral of the Trinity. There are about 10,000 students here, male and female, in the Schools and University. The latter is the only one in Siberia. It is a public holiday to-day, and the Emperor's birthday to-morrow,

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otherwise I should have been able to leave to-night. Public places are practically all closed; also shops and banks.

The morning was given up to religion services. The Trinity was a blaze of splendour, with its magnificent gilded, and painted screens and chanaliers. The Cathedral is square in shape, with a great central dome and four cupolas. Outside the Church is snow-white, with grey blue domes and cupolas. Around the square are fine buildings red and white, with roofs of a beautiful green. The ground is, of course, covered with snow. Inside the Church is magnificent with carving, gilding, paint and pictures, no plain wall; the style the richest Byzantine. It was crowded with people of all classes; all standing. The Chair was noble, I have never heard such chanting before. The priests were in cloth of gold and silver, and the Chief Priest wore a black hat of this shape        He was a beautiful man, with long golden hair moustache and long fair imperial. His brown were straigh, his nose straight and in his magnificent dress he looked noble. He was supported by others in beautiful robes, but without caps, and they chanted in a trio most melodiously. I should have said that the Chief Priest wore under his robe of cloth of silver and gold, a tunic of warm peach coloured silk or satin, embroided deeply with gold at the hem, and over which came his stole of gold and silver, with a chased silver crucifix, and in his hand a large crucifix of the same metals. At the end of the service he stood on the steps of the Holy of Holies, which was all glorious within, with gold, silver, silken draperies and lights. In front of him, a yard or two away, stood a desk covered with silk or velvet, on which lay a gold backed Bible, with a Holy Family in paint or

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