H[enry] Justin Roddy.

Complete geography online

. (page 2 of 22)
Online LibraryH[enry] Justin RoddyComplete geography → online text (page 2 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sicm on an average fifty-four and four tenths per cent of all
the exiles sent to Siberia went, not under sentences of courts,
but "were banished by administrative process." In reading
these statistics the casual reader most likely fails to notice
that about ninety-nine per cent of those reported as banished

Digitized by VjOOQIC


"by orders from the Minister of the Interior," arc simply
these derelicts and petty criminals whom the mirs, in the exer-
cise of their sovereign power, have turned over to the general
government to be deported. Moreover, when a criminal has
served out his term of exile or imprisonment, it is left to the
discretion of the mir to which he belongs to say whether he
shall be received back again. If the mir refuses to receive
him, the central government is compelled to return him to
Siberia. Thus it appears that the arbitrary power in Russia
does not lie altc^ether in the centralization of the govern-
ment, but largely in its retention in the commune of the demo-
cratic elements characteristic of the early tribal organization
of the human race.

Closely allied with the organization of the mir, or village
commune, is that of the Russian family, in which almost un-
limited authority is given to the father, resulting, also, in a
general respect for the opinions of the aged ; so that the word
*' elder " has more than a mere nominal significance. In the
meetings of the village commune, the elders have always ex-
ercised a predominant influence, though it is said that since
the abolition of serfdom a more independent spirit is coming to
be manifest among the younger members. But among the
strongest influences tending to maintain both the int^rity of
the mir and the patriarchal character of the family, is that of
the conservative principles of the Raskolniks, or old believers,
whose history we have briefly detailed. Everywhere these
have sturdily resisted the tendencies to change the constitution
and practices of the ancient family life and communal organiza-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


tion. So far indeed have they carried this, that they have
frequently found themselves in direct opposition to the govern-
ment when it endeavored to take a census, to make a record
of births and marriages, to levy a capitation tax, or to enforce
a conscription.

The organization of the mir and the constitution of the
Russian family have had great influence in the colonization of
Siberia. The Siberian free colonists have not been to any
great degree unorganized individual settlers, but they have
gone in compact bodies, canying the organization of the mir
with them. Ordinarily their most trusted elders have been
sent forward to select a desirable location, and to report upon
it to the mir. Whereupon, if the report is acceptable, the
entire village, with all their movable property and accumulated
wealth, abandon their constricted quarters in the older settled
portion of the country, and move as a body to the new fields
that have been chosen. Here in virgin soil and with un-
limited amount of land, free from many of the embarrassments
arising from the encroachments of neighboring mirs and the
constantly diminishing portion of land to be divided among
their own increasing numbers, they set out upon a new career
of prosperity in communal life.

The Siberian Home

The mir, or village commune, really the most characteristic
thing in Russian society, has to a great extent been voluntarily
transferred to Siberia; and indeed, wherever Russian agri-
cultural colonists have settled in Asia; so that the Siberian

Digitized by VjOOQIC


villages are scarcely more than repetitions of the Russian.
In both cases the agricultural population is collected into com-
pact villages, rather than^ as in America, scattered about
promiscuously upon separate and isolated farms; while in
Siberia, as in Russia, the houses of the peasants are almost
universally constructed of hewn logs, and are left unpainted.
But almost always tliere are paiiited ornamental casings about
the doors and windows. In both cases, also, the houses are
usually arranged along both sides of an unpaved street at some
distance apart, and surrounded with gardens. Nor are the
streets usually shaded with trees, but are left exposed alike
to the scorching summer's sun and the howling winter's storm.
Tlie Siberian woman, however, even more than the woman in
milder climates, is fond of house plants, and their g^een leaves
and brilliant flowers adorn every window-sill, lending attrac-
tion to the outside as well as to the inside of the humble

The inside furnishing of the house is in keeping with the
exterior. Usually there are three rooms, often, however, but
one. In the principal room the prominent feature is a brick
stove with an oven, which serves for heating the house, baking
the bread, and taking the weekly hot steam bath, and furnishes
upon the top a warm sleeping place during the long winter
nights. A table, a bed, a bench running half way around
the room, a cupboard, and several shelves complete the fur-
niture of the single room. In case there is more than one
room additicmal beds and benches and cupboards will be fotmd

Digitized by VjOOQIC


to meet the wants of the larger and more fastidious family
and of its occasional visitors.

Altc^ether the house of the Russian peasant is well adapted
for its purposes. It is cool in summer, and, when the cracks
between the logs are well plastered and the whole thoroughly
banked up with earth, is easily kept warm throughout the
longest winter night by the generous fire in the brick stove.
But, as it is made of wood, and, in the richest agricultural
districts, thatched with straw, fires are frequent; it is esti-
mated that in Russia ten per cent of the houses are burnt
every year. Even in the cities the houses are principally made
of logs, and are very combustible. In 1879 three fourths of
the city of Irkutsk was burned to the ground, including most
of the churches, three thousand five hundred of the buildings
burned being wooden structures.

A favorite mode by which emigrants transport themselves
down the Amur River is by means of the construction of a
huge raft of logs which will safely carry the family and all
their housdiold goods, together with a number of domestic
animals, and which, upon reaching their destination in the
treeless portion of the prairies bordering the lower part of the
stream, will furnish sufficient timber to construct a comfortable
house without unnecessary delay.

Methods of Farming

The effect upon agricultural industries of the opportunity
of securing unlimited land by emigration to Siberia is quite

Digitized by VjOOQIC


similar to that which the opening of the Great West has had
in the United States. In the older portions of the empire the
denser agricultural population has thought it more advanta-
geous to find relief in emigrating to virgin fields than in in-
troducing scientific and expensive modes of increasing the
production of fields whose fertility has been exhausted by
primitive modes of cultivation. This process is also beginning
to go on in Siberia, where the older settled portions are in
many places already showing signs of exhaustion, and where,
owing to the superabundance of land, the cultivation has been
even less thorough than in European Russia.

Especially is the wastefulness, of this process seen in the
destruction of the forests which have been invaded in a
promiscuous manner, not only to obtain logs for houses,
but to obtain wood both for household purposes and for the
numerous steamboats which are plying in increasing nimibers
upon all the rivers; and, now that the railroad is completed,
for the locomotives. After the careless manner so characteris-
tic of his protot)rpe in America, the Siberian lumberman leaves
the brush and other refuse of the trees to dry wherever it
falls, and to become tinder ready to flash into flame in re-
sponse to the sparks from the campers' fire, or from the
ignited match of the careless smoker; so that in this manner
incalculable damage is done to the forest preserves in the
vicinity of all the new settlements; while, owing to the ex-
treme dryness of the climate, the fires often extend to g^eat
distances. In Turkestan, which is almost treeless, forestry

Digitized by VjOOQIC


laws are effective, and the systematic cultivation of trees is
a prominent part of the industries fostered by the government
But in Siberia, as in the United States, the present necessity
of such laws, and the needs of future generations are not
keenly enough felt to secure the attention which they deserve.

The Mines

The colonization of Siberia has been delayed by the difficulty
of transportation, and the consequent remoteness of markets.
At first almost the only product which it was profitable to
export was the furs obtained by the hunters; so that the
market for the agricultural products of the eariy colonists was
limited to supplying the necessities of the hunters and traders
who passed backwards and forwards between Russia and the
distant portions of the newly explored domain, and of tlie
military guards which were stationed for their protection and
for the preservation of Russian authority. Early in the eigh-
teenth century, however, the mining interests of the Altai
Mountains began to assume importance and were actively
promoted by private capital. The mines of this region jrielded
considerable quantities of gold, silver, lead, copper, and iron,
which not only furnished a ready means of exchange with the
mother country for the manufactured articles of necessity and
luxury there produced, but gave rise to a considerable amount
of internal commerce, since many of these necessities could
now be produced in dose proximity to the agricultural dis-
tricts. A glance at the map will show the effect of this de-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


velopment of new industries in the rapid settlement of the upper
valleys of the Obi and the Irtysh, in the vicinity of Barnaul,
Biisk, and Semipalatinsk. The manufacture of iron on the
tributaries of the Yenisei near Minusinsk also evidently had
an appreciable effect in stimulating the agricultural interests
in their vicinity by furnishing a most needed article of ex-
change near at hand. The same is also true of the iron indus-
tries early developed at Petrovsk on the Khilok River, two
hundred miles east of Lake Baikal.

But in recent times the greatest stimulus to Russian agri-
culture has been the development of gold mines which has
created a ready market for agricultural products in many of
the distant provinces. These mines are specially productive
in the Altai Mountains, and throughout the long and complex
ranges which border the Sayan Moimtains both east and west
of the Yenisei, and extend all the way to Irkutsk. Of equal
importance are the mines east of Yeniseisk, near the mouth
of the Angara River, and, following down the Lena River,
those in the middle and the lower portion of the Vitim, but
especially of the Olekma River. The mines in Transbaikalia
in the vicinity of Nerchinsk have been worked by convict labor
for the government for two hundred years, thus furnishing a
market for the abundant agricultural products of that region.
In more recent times the extensive placer mines on the Upper
Zeya River have afforded a market for the fertile agricultural
district in the vicinity of Blagovestchensk and contributed
largely to the rapid growth of that flourishing city.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Steam Transpoitation

Finally, the introduction of steam navigation, and the
building of the Trans-Siberian railroad have greatly en-
larged the opportunity for the exchange of agricultural
products in Siberia. The first steamer built in Siberia was
launched upon the Obi in 1843, ^^^ ^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^^^1 ^^3
that one appeared on the Yenisei. Now, however, steamers
are nimierous on all the great Siberian rivers and their navi-
gable tributari^. Whereas in 1846 there were but two river
steamers in all Siberia, in 1898, there were two hundred and
seventy-one, and the number has since been considerably in-
creased. The amount of commerce passing to and fro between
the Obi River and Russia increased with great rapidity dur-
ing the last decade of the nineteenth century, as shown by the
amount which passed over the railroads from Perm to Tiumen,
which is the principal entrance from Europe to the Obi Valley.
In the year 1866 this traffic amounted to only fifty thousand
tons ; but in 1890 it amounted to one hundred and thirty-three
thousand, and in 1895 to two hundred and sixty-six thousand

In the valley of the Yenisei the river steamers do little but
meet the wants of strictly internal commerce, since the transit
trade from there to Europe is small on account of the great
distance. Even as late as 1888 there were but four steamers
on the river with a traffic of only about two thousand tons,
but in 1890 there were six steamers, and the traffic had in-
creased to four thousand tons, while in 1898 the completion
of the railroad had given such stimulus to traffic that there

Digitized by VjOOQIC


were thirty-five steamers with a proportionate increase of

The first steamer to navigate the Amur River was built by
Muravieflf on the Shilka in 1854 for the purpose of conduct-
ing his military expedition for the relief of the garrisons on
the Pacific. Until 1870 none but government steamers navi-
gated the Amur, at which date there were twelve. Private
companies have since been organized, which in 1885 ^^^ forty-
four steamers, but at the close of the century there were one
hundred and sixteen, while upon the initiation of the Chinese
Eastern railroad through Manchuria, twenty-five steamers
were put upon the Sungari River to carry material to Harbin
for its construction. Numerous steamers, also, are running
up the Zeya, the Bureya, and the Usuri River. All this rapid
development of steam navigation upon the Siberian rivers has
created a rapidly increasing demand for agricultural products ;
while the demand was increased still further by the enormous
number of laborers introduced for the construction of the
Trans-Siberian railroad.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the closing years of the
nineteenth century were marked by an enormous increase in
the emigration to Siberia. At so slow a rate did this emigra-
tion proceed during the first century of Russian occupation,
that in 1709 the Russian colonists amounted to no mote than
one hundred and fifty thousand; while a century later they
were estimated to be only five hundred thousand. But, ac-
cording to the Census of 1897, there were then no less than
five million Russian colonists in Siberia, and immigration was

Digitized by VjOOQIC


increasing at such a rapid rate that in 1900 the governor of
Western Siberia estimated the number at that time to be con-
siderably more than six million.


The effect upon immigration of the improved means of trans-
portation introduced during the last quarter of the nineteenth
century is clearly seen in the few statistics we have, imperfect
though they are. According to the estimates of Leroy-Beau-
lieu, gathered from official statements, between 1887 and 1895
ninety-four thousand families, or four hundred and sixty-seven
thousand persons, immigrated to Siberia, being an average of
fifty-two thousand persons a year. But the number was much
larger during the latter portion of the period than during the
earlier. In 1894 sixty-three thousand immigrants crossed the
Urals, while three thousand four hundred and ninety-five en-
tered the valley of the Amur and the Usuri by way of Vladi-
vostok, sailing from Odessa. In 1897-98, however, the immi-
gration increased to about two hundred thousand annually, a
rate which has even been surpassed in subsequent years.

Previous to the opening of the railroad and during the use
of steam for the navigation of rivers, the immigrants were in
the habit of crossing the Urals from Perm to Tinmen, and
thence going on steamers by way of the Tobolsk, the Irtysh,
and the Obi River to Tomsk. In 1893, the year in which the
railroad reached Omsk, out of sixty-three thousand inuni-
grants, thirty-six thousand five hundred went by the water
route, twenty thousand by wagons ; while only six thousand five

Digitized by VjOOQIC


hundred made use of the raihx>ad. In 1894, thirty-eight thou-
sand of the colonists settled in the government of Tomsk,
going principally to Barnaul, Biisk, and Kusnetsk; seventeen
thousand went overland to the Amur; three thousand eight
hundred went into the steppe region of Akmolinsk and Semi-
palatinsk ; and only two thousand one hundred into the prov-
inces of Yeniseisk and Irkutsk ; while two thousand one hun-
dred stopped in Tobolsk, and three thousand eight hundred
and ninety-five went from Odessa by the sea route to Vladi-
vostok and the Usuri Valley. Upon the further completion of
the railroad towards Irkutsk, there was a great increase o{
immigration into the valley of the Yenisei, colonists to the num-
ber of nineteen thousand settling in the vicinity of Minusinsk
and Kansk in the year 1896. In the year 1897-98 the immigra-
tion increased, as just remarked, to more than two hundred
thousand a year, which, added to the natural increase of popu-
lation, made a total of about three hundred thousand annually.
Those going to the Amur, if they went all the way by wagons,
as they usually did, would be three years in making the journey.
Often, however, they stopped upon the way, like ordinary
nomads, to raise a crop of grain in the summer, and suffer
their livestock to increase, or to work on the railroad, and thus
get money to pursue their journey. Arriving at the head-
waters of the Amur in the spring, they would descend it on
rafts after the manner already described.

Everywhere along the line of immigration one is struck with
the attention to the wants of the immigrant paid by the govern-
ment. At Chdiabinsk and Kansk and Stryetensk large num-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


bers of houses are built for their temporary accommodation,
together with hospitals and kitchens, the hospitals being sup-
plied with voluntary nurses. A limited amount of provision is
also made for the comfort of those who may arrive in winter
and be compelled to remain a longer time on account of the
inclemency of the weather. Since the railroad is opened, the
immigrants largely take advantage of this easier and more rapid
means of travel. Fourth-class cars, such as are used for the
transportation of the soldiers, are furnished at nominal cost,
a few rubles paying for the entire transportation from Chelia-
binsk to Stryetensk. These are indeed mere box-cars, but they
are covered, and furnish space for the storing of housdiold
goods. Taking their bedding with them, the pilgrims find in
these a means of travel which is far frcmi uncomfortable. At
every railroad station there is alwa3rs a bountiful supply of
hot water provided free of cost from which the immigrants can
replenish their kettles and teapots, and at their leisure provide
themselves with tea and soup.

In addition to these facilities offered for the inducement of
immigration, the government makes a grant of forty acres of
land to each male colonist, and advances at once and without
interest thirty rubles to each family that needs it, and adds
to this amount one hundred rubles more if it is deserved.
While it is expected that this sum will be repaid in ten years,
the cdlection is not pressed, if conditions have proved un-
favorable to prosperity.

Notwithstanding the supervision of the government, there
is always a considerable percentage of the colonists who be-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


come dissatisfied and return to Russia. Through unforeseen
circumstances the resources of some are consumed before they
reach their destination, and they must be helped forward or
backward. Many become homesick, especially among the
women, and their importunities to return are very likely to
prevail; while others complain of the weather, especially in
the summer, and many are disappointed that they cannot live
in the new country without work. At first the dissatisfaction
is increased by the cool reception given them by the colonists
who have preceded them, and whose liberties are to be cur-
tailed by an increase of population, which means less common
land for their cattle to range upon, a limitation of their op-
portunities to plunder the forests, and a general diminution of
their original freedom. In 1894 four thousand five hundred
colonists are said to have returned to Russia.

The tenure by which the land is held in Siberia varies much
according to the newness of the country. Many of the first
settlers have been content with what would be called in the
western part of the United States mere "squatter's rights."
As in the United States the entire domain is regarded as the
property of the government, which alone can grant permanent
titles. But so kmg as there was an unrestricted amount of
land open to settlement and no survey had been made, the
settlers were naturally content to cultivate as much as they
needed wherever it was convenient, and, since it was all nearly
of equal value and they did not make many permanent im-
provements upon it, a title was of little consequence. Indeed,
it would in some respects be better not to have a title, since

Digitized by VjOOQIC


then they could remove from womout fields to virgin schI,
and secure at any time a title to the choicest pieces which were
left uncultivated.

But as the settlements have increased, the condition of things
has more and more approximated to that in Russia. Whereas
at first the commune did not need to apportion out the land
to each family, because there was a superabundance for all,
as time went on they have been compelled to limit the indi-
vidual members to special lots, as is done in the mother coun-
try. For the most part, however, the ccMnmunal system is
adopted and the land titles are held in the name of the com-
mune. But even yet the forests are so abundant and the pas-
ture grounds so large that the restrictions of use relate for the
most part to the meadows and the lands which are more de-
sirable for cultivation.

Digitized by VjOOQIC



ANOTHER important element in the colonization of Si-
beria (though by no means relatively so prominent
as is ordinarily supposed) consists of the exiles, who
for one reason or another have been banished to the country.
The process began almost immediately upon the first occupa-
tion by Yermak. As early as 1593 the murderers of the Tsar-
evitch Dmitri, together with the bell which summoned them for
the occasion, were banished to Siberia. But until the close of
the seventeenth century scarcely any exiles were sent there,
except such as had been guilty of insurrection, or of crimes
directly aimed at the royal family. Up to this time, and indeed
until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the statistics are
too defective to permit even an approximate estimate of the
number who were exiled. Toward the close of the seventeenth
century, however, a large number of revolutionists who had to
be subdued in Southern Russia were deported to Siberia ; while,
soon after, a formidable revolt of the Strielitz, or old National
Guard founded by Ivan the Terrible, gave Peter the Great
occasion to break the power of this formidable organization,
which he did with an iron hand, executing many, and send-


Digitized by VjOOQIC













Digitized by VjOOQIC

Digitized by VjOOQIC


ing a still larger number of the less prominent ones into exile
in Siberia.

These insurrections of the Strielitz and the Cossacks in the
south of Russia also partook largely of a religious character,
being sympathized with and shared in by the Raskdniks, or
Old Believers, who, as already said, were scandalized by the
revolution which Peter was making, not only in the ritual
of the church, but in the manners and customs and even dress,
of the people. From that time onwards, no inconsiderable
portion of the enforced exiles to Siberia and to the recesses

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryH[enry] Justin RoddyComplete geography → online text (page 2 of 22)