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0345 Explorations in Turkestan 1903 : vol.1
Explorations in Turkestan 1903 : vol.1 / Page 345 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000177
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CLIMATE AND HISTORY.   309

Transcaspia shows what can be done. The other school, of which Blanford is the best-known representative, holds that during the last two thousand years the climate must have changed. Wars and misgovernment have been a fearful curse, but their influence is not sufficient to account for the location of large towns in places where to-day a caravan can with difficulty find a pool of brackish water. The just rule of a European power may do much in favored localities, and it would be an immense blessing everywhere ; but it can not restore the ancient prosperity.

It is not my purpose to enter into an exhaustive discussion of these two opposing views, for that would lead into a consideration of the causes of wars and migrations, the reasons for the fall of nations, and the philosophy of history. I shall merely state a few salient facts which may be put in the form of answers to the following questions : (a) Do wars and misgovernment necessarily cause permanent depopulation ? (b) Are Eastern Persia and its neighbors able to support a much larger population than that which now occupies them ? (c) Is there any independent evidence that the climate either has or has not changed during historical times ?

(a) The influence of wars. The depopulation caused by wars is one of the best-known facts of history. The question now before us is whether, other conditions remaining unchanged, frequent wars must cause permanent and progressive depopulation. Examples from many lands might be quoted, but Persia itself furnishes an answer. The province of Astrabad is one of the few in Persia which are blessed with an abundant rainfall and great natural advantages. For centuries its inhabitants have been exposed to the terrible raids of the fierce Turkomans and have also had the disadvantage of a very unhealthful climate. Their condition as described by Vambery in the early sixties was most pitiable. Even as late as 188o, when conditions had much improved, owing to the proximity of Russia, O'Donovan (p. Igo) relates that murderous affrays were frequent even in the immediate vicinity of Astrabad. Yet in almost the same paragraph the author enlarges on the density of the population, Persian villages of from 20 to 3o houses being scattered every 500 or 600 yards. The fertility of the region is so great that the people persisted in coming into it, in spite of the fact that their numbers were frequently decimated by the Turkomans.

Azerbaijan, the northwestern province of Persia, furnishes a more striking example of the saine sort. This, according to Curzon (p. 514), " is the province which, excepting only Khorasan, has more often been violated by foreign invasion than any other part of Persia. . . . Its fertility of resources entitle it to be called the granary of Northern Iran." Tabriz, the capital (p. 518) "has fallen the first victim to invading armies, and has been successively held by Arabs, Seljuks, Ottomans, Persians, and Russians. What the rage of conquest has spared, nature has interfered to destroy. The city has been desolated by frequent and calamitous earthquakes. Twice we hear of its being leveled to the ground before, in 1392, it was sacked by Timur, whose path was strewn with ruins that vied with the convulsions of nature. Five tunes during the last two centuries has it again been laid low. A reliable historian tells us that 8o,00o persons perished in the earthquake of 1721, and we hear from another source that half that number were claimed for the death-roll by its successor in 1780." Yet in spite of wars and calamities the fertility of