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Yakuts, who dwell in the government of Irkutsk, on both sides of the river Lena, up to its very efflux into the Arctic Ocean; the Bokharians in the governments of Tomsk and Tobolsk, who live chiefly by trade; and the Teleutes, who are also called White Kalmuks, because of their having dwelt a long while among that people. Besides these, there are twelve other Tatar tribes in Siberia, some dwelling in settled villages, but the greater number leading a nomade life, and subsisting by cattle-breeding and hunting. In addition to these there are tribes of Mongol race in the government of Irkutsk, who, in the seventeenth century, voluntarily transferred their allegiance from the emperor of China to the tzar of Russia, and who dwell in tents, and lead a nomade life; Tunguses, Lamuts, and Olenians, belonging to the Mandschu race--the former roving through the vast territories that extend from the river Jenissei, across the Lena, to the shores of the Pacific, the Lamuts dwelling on the shores of the sea of Okhotsk, which in their language is called Lama, and the Olenians in the government of Irkutsk, on the river Oleneka, which falls into the Arctic Ocean. Several Samoyedi tribes, also in a nomade and very barbarous state, live in the same localities as the above-mentioned races, and on friendly terms with them; and North-Eastern Siberia is inhabited by various tribes equally low in the scale of civilisation. But however imposing this long enumeration of distinct populations, the sum-total of the inhabitants of Siberia, in comparison to the extent of territory, is very small even in the present day, when Russian colonisation has added such considerable numbers to the original population. In 1834 the territorial extent and the population of Siberia was computed as follows:
The climate of a country extending between 45° 30', and 77° 40' north latitude, and 60° and 190° east longitude, cannot of course be uniform; but excessive cold is predominant. The country may, however, be divided into three regions-namely, the arctic, the cold, and the temperate. In the first of these, which embraces all the lands farther north than 67° north latitude, the winter never lasts less than eight months of the year, and is so cold that quicksilver freezes, and the sea is generally covered with ice from the beginning of September till the end of June. In the northern parts of this region, vegetation, with the exception of some few mosses, entirely ceases, while in the most southern parts dwarfy bushes begin to
Schubert ; Handbuch der Allgemoinen Staatskunde von Europa. Mr Cottrell, in his ‘Recollections of Siberia in 1840 and 1841, page 81, mentions 2,000,000 or 1,500,000 as the relative census of Western and Eastern Siberia. Mr Cottrell does not name the source whence he has derived his information, but we cannot but doubt its correctness.
make their appearance; but the earth produces no vegetables fit for the food of man. Yet even here man maintains his sway, his chief nourishment being the fish in which the rivers abound, and his only property flocks of reindeer and dogs. The cold region embraces the territories between 67° and 57° north latitude. Here the winter is of shorter duration, being generally reckoned at six months of the year; and though the cold is still very great, Réaumur's thermometer marking frequently 36°, it has not so destructive an influence on vegetation. Large forests in some localities cover the face of the country, various shrubs bear berries which are much prized by the inhabitants, and garden vegetables are cultivated with success in the more southern parts; but corn, which in Europe yields a not unprofitable harvest in 650 north latitude, cannot in Siberia be cultivated with profit farther north than 55°, and in Kamtchatka, than 51°. In the region here described, the hot sun of summer precipitates vegetation ; but the transition from heat to cold and from cold to heat is so abrupt, that the temperate seasons, spring and autumn, cannot be said to exist. In the temperate region, between 57° and 50° north latitude, the climate in a great measure resembles that of Denmark and Northern Russia, though the winter is longer and much more severe. Here corn yields an abundant harvest; but the country is too thinly populated, and agriculture, as a science, too little developed, to allow of any great production. The intensity of the cold is not, however, by any means equal in the same latitudes throughout the whole continent, the severity of the climate increasing considerably with the extension of the territories eastward. Sufficient observations have been made to establish this phenomenon as an incontestable fact; but as yet the causes of it have not been demonstrated, nor is it ascertained whether it be ascribable to a general law or to local circumstances. Eastern Siberia, where the cold in the same parallels is so much greater, and where the cold region extends so much farther south than in Western Siberia, is indeed intersected by mountains which exclude the sea-breezes, and prevent them from exercising their usual tempering influences on the air ; but this circumstance alone is not sufficient to account for the existing differences of temperature; and the other features of this division of the country—such as the immense uncultivated and snow-covered plains, barren of all vegetation, and presenting none of those variations of surface which might impede the circulation of the cold currents of air—it has in common with West Siberia; and therefore, though this may, in a certain measure, account for the great severity of the climate of Siberia compared with that of European countries in the same latitudes,* it cannot explain the increase of cold in the eastern regions of this continent.
As familiar illustrations of the different effects of cold at the various degrees which it attains in Siberia, we may quote a passage from Mr Cottrell's work, 'Recollections of Siberia,' giving the experiences of a gentleman who had resided many years in the country, and had devoted his time to meteorological observations : At 39° (of Réaumur, a not unusual degree of cold even at Irkutsk) the breath is heard to issue from the mouth with a sound like the crackling of very dry hay when crumpled in the hand, and the
* Irkutsk, the capital of East Siberia, and London, are within half a degree of latitude of each other, and the difference in their mean annual temperature is nearly 20o.
tràineau (sledge) ceases to glide smoothly over the snow. At 45° (below which the thermometer not unfrequently falls in Yakutsk), in spitting, the saliva freezes before it reaches the ground, and you see it form a round solid ball on the snow.' At Holy Cape, in the Icy Sea, in passing through a gorge of the mountains, when the thermometer stood at only 30°, he felt a current of air which burned and pricked the skin like a needle. This wind the natives call kious; and in order to inure themselves to it, they expose their faces continually, till the skin becomes hardened and insensible to its effects. What is very singular, the kious is not felt when the wind is high. Mr Hedenström threw up a feather in the air when under its influence, and instead of being carried away, it fell perpendicularly to the ground. He considers this phenomenon as a sort of parallel, at the utmost distance, to the sirocco, and that it is not, properly speaking, a current, but a body of air, charged with the ne plus ultra of cold, which, having considerably greater density than the ordinary air, communicates itself to it gradually and almost imperceptibly. To this may be added, that Professor Ermann, when travelling in Siberia, experienced, on imprudently laying hold with his ungloved hand of a metal instrument which had been exposed to the influences of the atmosphere in the open air, the same sensation and effects as if he had come in contact with a red-hot iron, the skin of his fingers becoming immediately blistered, and adhering to the metal. In travelling, it is frequently necessary to stop on the road to have the congealed breath and blood cleared out of the horses' nostrils, the excessive cold making the animals bleed violently at the nose. The earth in Siberia, even in summer, is frozen, the ground ice beginning a very few feet below the surface, and in some localities it has been found to extend to a surprising depth. The agent of the Russian American Company in Yakutsk (62° north latitude), not content with the usual means of obtaining a supply of water-namely, by drawing it from the river Lena in summer, and by melting snow in winter -undertook to have a well bored in his yard. When Ermann visited Yakutsk in April 1829, a depth of fifty English feet had been attained, and at this depth Réaumur's thermometer marked 6°. Subsequently the boring was continued to a depth of 380 feet, the ground being still frozen. In one locality, near the river Birussa, which forms the boundary between the governments of Irkutsk and Jeniseisk, and in the 55th parallel of north latitude, where attempts at gold-washing were made at one time, the soil was frozen so hard, even during the summer months, that the workmen were obliged to use pickaxes instead of spades in digging. In Western Siberia the limit of perpetual ground ice is at Berezov, in Eastern Siberia, as far south as Nertchynsk. During the heat of summer, which is as excessive as the cold of winter, the inhabitants of Siberia make holes in the earth, in which they place their provisions to keep them fresh, as we do in artificial ice-houses. The bodies of the dead buried in the soil of that country are in many localities preserved in a state as perfect as could only in other countries be attained by a costly process of embalming.
The conquest of Siberia opened up a new world to the commerce and enterprise of the Russians; but many years elapsed before all the natural riches of the country were fully known and appreciated, and before the civil organisation introduced by the Russians was so fully established as to admit of a regular and permanent commercial system. The costly furs
above alluded to for a long while formed the basis of the commerce of the country. Many of the heathen and barbarous populations were not only clad in the skins of sables, which in Europe, and among many of the more civilised Asiatic nations, were worn only by persons of high rank and great wealth, but they even made use of these skins as soles to their snow-shoes. The first tribute exacted from them consisted, therefore, exclusively of the skins of these animals, and of black and gray foxes and beavers; the officials charged with gathering the tribute, or yassak, as it is termed in the language of the country, being forbidden to accept of any other furs. However, the insatiable rapacity of the Promuischleneki, which had contributed so greatly to the subjugation of the country, soon began to exercise a baneful influence on this its richest produce. Their impatience of wealth led them to pursue the chase of the animals whose costly furs were the great object of their desires, with so much imprudence and intemperance, that even in those regions where they most abounded, and where they might have continued for ever to exist in the same abundance, their number was greatly reduced, not only by the havoc committed among them by the fur-hunters, but by the instinct of the animals, which taught them to shun localities fraught with so much danger, and le them to seek safety elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Russians, the chase having begun in the north, the animals of course fled southwards; and finding no obstacles to impede their progress, they sought refuge on the banks of the Amur, and in the Mongolian mountains, where to this day they are found in greater numbers than in the north of Siberia. Had the chase, on the contrary, begun in the south, the progress of the fugitives northward would have been arrested on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and they would not have been lost to their pursuers.
The diminution in the amount of tribute collected* was greatly felt by the Russian exchequer; for the trade in furs being almost exclusively in the hands of the government, the advantages derived from it flowed immediately into its coffers ; and at that period the gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, and quicksilver mines, the salt-springs and lakes, and the precious stones of that highly-gifted country, which now form so rich a source of revenue, were either quite unknown, or very partially worked. On the other hand, the agricultural produce of the earth was too insignificant to form a branch of commerce; for, as we have seen, by far the greater number of populations inhabiting the country, at the period of the Russian conquest, were nomade tribes, subsisting by fishing and hunting, and entirely unacquainted with the art of cultivating the soil. It is the Russians who have introduced this art in the various localities in Siberia where the rigour of the climate does not preclude it. In the beginning of the seventeenth century, already villages for the promotion of agriculture were founded, in addition to those towns and fortresses which had been erected with a view to the subjugation of the country and the collecting of tribute. The gradual increase in the number of Cossacks required to garrison these last-mentioned places,
* In 1608 the tribute paid by the Woguls, in the district of Pelym, had already decreased from twelve sables per head, as it was originally, to seven sables per head. The same was the case in the government of Tobolsk ; and it has been observed that very rarely, if ever, the number of wild animals augments anew in a neighbourhood where it has once greatly decreased.
rendered it exceedingly difficult and expensive to transport the supplies necessary for their subsistence from Russia; and the government was thus in a measure obliged to endeavour to raise in the country itself as much corn and other fruits of the earth as would suffice for the provisioning of the troops. Encouraged by the government, which gave permission to all peasants of the crown to emigrate to Siberia, agriculturists soon poured in, particularly from the northern provinces on the rivers Dwina, Wutschegda, Iug, and Sochona, the climate and soil of which are such as to render the change a most desirable one for its inhabitants; and from these descend the greater number of the present Russian inhabitants of Siberia. So little were the metallic riches of that country then known, that these first agricultural immigrants were obliged to carry with them all their implements of husbandry, even trade with these articles being interdicted by the government, who feared that if the natives should gain possession of them the peaceful instruments of industry would be transformed into warlike weapons, and used for the purpose of regaining their independence. In the sequel, however, this prohibition was discontinued, as, on nearer acquaintance, several of the native tribes were found to be in possession of iron, and of the art of smelting and working it. But though agriculture was thus early introduced it has never attained any high degree of development; and this not so much owing to the severity of the climate, as to that dread of innovation seemingly inherent in all nations or individuals holding a low place in the scale of enlightenment, which makes them so much averse to the introduction of improvements, the advantages of which they can with difficulty be made to understand. The length and severity of the winters in Siberia are, as has already been observed, compensated by a corresponding rapidity in the progress of vegetation, the intensity and power of the sun being proportionate to the shortness of the summer. But these very circumstances cause difficulties as regards the raising of grain crops, with which the Russian Siberians, in their ignorance, have not hitherto been able to cope; while, in other instances, the extreme richness of the soil stands in their way. In some parts of the country where manuring would be beneficial, the process is quite unknown; in other parts, where it acts injuriously, by causing the grain to grow to so great a height that it has not time to ripen, it is applied ; and nowhere is it customary to allow fields once brought under tillage to lie fallow. In the south-eastern part of the country, particularly in the vicinity of Nertchynsk, the soil is naturally so rich as to cause the excessive growth just mentioned; but though experiencing the detrimental consequences of it, the Siberians laugh at those who would teach them to mix up sand or clay with this mould, or to introduce any other improvements in their mode of culture. Rye, wheat, buckwheat, oats, hemp, and tobacco are principally cultivated ; but rye being the least liable to suffer from the white frosts which frequently occur in the middle of summer, affords the most profitable crop. European vegetables are likewise grown in considerable quantities in the central and southern parts of the country.
In the mild regions of Siberia cattle-breeding formed the chief means of support of the nomade tribes; but in the northern, and by far the greater part of the country, very few domestic animals were known. A disease which raged among the cattle in the district of Tiumen, from 1603 to 1605,