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AMUR REGION 409

the Lena, notwithstanding the fact that the roads to them are
the shortest, and were opened upon the first occupation of the
country, in the latter part of the seventeenth century.

The southern half of the province is naturally divided into
two parts, one of which consists of a broad low plain or valley,
extending from the Sea of Okhotsk southward on both sides
of the Amur River to its junction with the Usuri, and thence
through the valley of the Usuri to Lake Kanka, and across
the low watershed to VladivostcJc and the Korean border, a
distance of eight hundred or nine hundred miles, with an
average width of about one hundred miles. This great valley
averages only a few hundred feet above the sea, and would be
admirably adapted to agriculture, were it not that the rains
come at unseasonable portions of the year; the total rainfall
averages twenty-four inches; twelve of this falls in the sum-
mer, mostly in the month of Augfust, when it interferes with
harvest. Just what adaptation of crops can be made to suit
this peculiarity of the climate is one of the most important
problems before the government of the province.

Between the Usuri River and the sea the Sikhota Alin Moun-
tains present a continuous chain rising to an elevation of about
2,500 feet, with various peaks reaching to 5,000 feet ; but their
flanks are covered with such a dense growth of forests and
underbrush, and the eastern side is so abrupt, that it has been
fotmd almost impracticable to cross them.

In the immediate vicinity of Vladivostok the climatic con-
ditions are more favorable. But even here, though in latitude
43*, or about that of Marseilles, the average annual tem-



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41 o ASIATIC RUSSIA

perature is 39'; that of January is +8.90% and that of July
68**. The monsoons from the Pacific Ocean, which sweep
up through the Usuri Valley, occasionally produce tremendous
floods, submerg^g wide areas of low land ; so that the Amur
River, broad as it is in its lower portion, often, in the latter
part of summer rises fifteen feet in the course of a few days,
and spreads out to a width of fifteen or twenty miles.

The agricultural products of the Maritime Province were,
according to the last census, spring wheat, 262,948 cwt. ; rye,
108,603 cwt.; barley, 35,234 cwt; buckwheat, 33417 cwt.;
potatoes, 152,559.2 cwt; millet, 101,518 cwt.; oats, 206,140
cwt. ; market vegetables, 44,551.1 cwt. ; while winter wheat was
represented by a solitary harvest of 20 cwt.

Of livestock there were 36,826 horses, 55,826 homed cattle,
1,725 sheep, 31,630 swine, 221 goats, 190,618 reindeer, 33,300
sledge dogs, 394 mules. There were 10,699 swarms of bees,
and 3469,508 fish were caught.

The rewards of the hunters were in Kamchatka, 1,048
sables; in Okhotsk, 53,013 squirrels, 441 foxes, 210 bears,
20 wolves, 40 otters, 59 ermines, 2,857 moose, 2,969 sheep and
goats, valued all together at 53,821 rubles. In the district of
Ud there were added to this number 9 moose, 94 bear, 19 wild
sheep, 351 sable, 153 foxes, 8 skunks, 25 otter, 200 seal. In
Usuri the total product was valued at 15,561 rubles.

The products of the shops and factories in 1896 were valued
at 1,826,500 rubles ; while the gold mines yielded 52400 ounces,
valued at $987,216. In trade the imports at Vladivostok
amounted to 243,215 tons, and the exports 63,444 tons, carried



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AMUR REGION 411

by 267 vessels. Of the imports 46 per cent were from Russia,
19 per cent from China, 11 per cent from Japan, 9 per cent
from the Northern Districts of the province, 8 per cent from
England, 2 per cent from the United States, and 3 per cent
from Germany, but this was before work had been begun upon
the Chinese Eastern railroad, which was largely built by Ameri-
can material, and greatly increased the percentage from the
United States. The exports from Vladivostok were to the
northern districts of the province, 87 per cent; to China, 11
per cent; to Japan, 2 per cent; and to European Russia less
than I per cent.

The Island of Sakhalin is now of chief interest as a penal
colony, to which are sent criminals of the worst class, con-
demned to hard labor. It is about 600 miles long, stretching
across eight degrees of latitude, and having an area of 32,000
square miles. The climate, in addition to being cold (the
average temperature being that of Archangel, though the is-
land is in the latitude of Lombardy), is also damp and foggy.

Sakhalin has a population of 33,261, of whom 20,080 are
exiles, 8,927 are at liberty, and 4,254 belong to the native tribes.
Of agricultural products, 81,637 cwt. were breadstuflFs, and
189,270 cwt. potatoes. Of livestock, there were 867 oxen, 2,984
cows, 4,597 calves, 1,837 horses, 1,138 colts, 88 sheep, 3,298
swine. The gardens yielded 49,600 cwt. of cabbages, and 7,840
cwt. of turnips.

The island contains extensive deposits of valuable coal, in
the mining of which the convicts are employed.

In the schools there are 755 pupils.



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412 ASIATIC RUSSIA

3. Manchuria

Since it is evident that, when once the Chinese Eastern rail-
road is completed, the Russians will have the practical control
of Manchuria, it is in place to notice here its character and
resources. The province contains about 400,000 square miles,
being one third larger than Texas, but its shape is so irregular
that fully 2,500 miles of its boundary adjoins Russian territory.
The condition of the country is such that the population is
distributed in a very irregfular manner. The northern province
of Tsitsikar, having 190,000 square miles, is largely mountain-
ous, and is thinly populated. It contains tmknown but prob-
ably vast mineral resources and extensive forests ; while a fer-
tile territory, now almost entirely unoccupied, extends for one
thousand miles along the south bank of the Amur and its prin-
cipal tributary, the Argun. Mr. Yugovitch, the chief engineer,
speaks enthusiastically of the undeveloped agricultural re-
sources in the valley of the middle Nonni River, and about the
headwaters of the eastern branches of the Argun; while the
valley of the Sungari River contains thinly inhabited prairies
as extensive as those of the upper Mississippi, and apparently
as favorable to cultivation.

The province of Kirin is likewise largely a mountainous
district, especially throughout its southeastern portion, but con-
tains also fertile plains along the Sungari River. Its resources
are similar to those of Tsitsikar, and its minerals, though
largely undeveloped, are probably of great value.

The most populous province is that of Lao-tung, which is
penetrated by the branch line of the railroad running from



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AMUR REGION 413

Harbin to Port Arthur. For a distance of four hundred miles,
extending from the Sungari River to Niu-chuang, the railroad
passes through a level, well-watered region, densely crowded
with population, and, as far as the eye can see, under the
highest state of cultivation. In a journey through it one
scarcely sees an acre that is not planted and freed from weeds.

The total population of Manchuria is variously estimated at
from 10,000,000 to 25,000,000; but there seems little doubt that
Lao-tung alone has a population of as much as 12,000,000, and
that the total cannot be much less than 20,000,000. These,
however, are largely Chinese. The Manchus are a fading race,
their success in arms having, as is often the case, led to their
ultimate decay ; for, ever since the establishment of the Manchu
dynasty at Peking, in 1644, they have been drawn in large
numbers to Peking, and to the garrisons stationed in all the
principal Chinese towns. Here, living a comparatively idle life,
and depending largely upon pensions from the general govern-
ment for their support, they have become enervated ; while the
quality of those left behind in Manchuria has depreciated in
character. The Chinese, on the other hand, have gradually in-
vaded Manchuria till they carry on nearly all of its business,
and swarm in all the centers of population ; and are bringing
under cultivation the vast areas of fertile land which, under
the Manchus had been left to run to waste.

In estimating the wisdom and justice of Russian policy, both
present and future, with regard to the occupation of Manchuria,
we are not at liberty to forget that she found the central and
northern parts of it practically in a state of nature. China



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414 ASIATIC RUSSIA

has done little more for the country than she had done for
the region north of the Amur, to which she formerly laid
claim. Indeed, nearly all the security to property which has
been provided in the southern part of the province has been
due to the formation of a " robber trust," which ultimately
resolved itself into an "insurance company." The Chinese
government is so weak and inefficient that robber bands have
multiplied, especially in Manchuria, until all peaceful traffic
was likely to be driven from the thoroughfares, so that there
would be no business for any one. In anticipation of this
calamity, the larger bands some time ago combined to put
down the smaller ones, and establish a sort of independent
government of their own; oflFering for a stated sum to give
protection to merchants who wished to transport their goods
from one place to another. The flags of the stronger or-
ganizations floating over a string of loaded wagons gave to
the owners a fair degree of security, and, until the occupation
by the Russians, were no imcommon sight. The " trust " did
give some protection and was a nearer approach to govern-
ment than had been made in the region by the Manchu dynasty
from Peking. The northern part of this vast coimtry has re-
mained so long unsettled largely from the fact that this abnor-
mal " insurance ccmipany " had not extended its beneficent con-
trol much beyond the headwaters of the Lao River.

Thus the first necessity of Russian interests centering in
Manchuria is to keep an open line of traffic from Central Si-
beria to the Pacific Ocean. The military advantage of this
would amply compensate Russia for all the expense of building



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AMUR REGION 415

the road, even though it were not directly a financial success.
This, however, it is likely to be. The export of coarse products
from this center of Manchuria is, even under present oMiditions,
immense. Of this the railroad will have almost a monopoly.



Even a cursory glance at the statistics in the chapters im-
mediately preceding will do much to correct the impression
that figures are necessarily dry. On the contrary, they are
often better calculated to aid the imagination in the produc-
tion of a lively pictiu'e than any verbal description could be.
On the very face, the figures here given unroll before us a
panorama of the most varied, interesting, and instructive char-
acter. The vastness of the territory, the extent of the natural
channels of internal communication, the magnitude of the un-
developed resources, and the variety of the conditions of life
all appear in the statistics relating to the boundaries and the
drainage areas of the regions involved ; while the history and
condition of the varied populations are eloquently set forth
in many incidental ways. It is instructive, for instance, to
notice the absence of swine and of alcoholic products in the
Mohammedan portions of the country, and to observe tHeir
increase northward in Turkestan and Siberia. The predomi-
nance of sheep and camels and mules in Turkestan, and their
gradual relative diminution in higher latitudes until the census
shows but five hundred camels and three mules in Tomsk, are
not devoid of picturesque as well as of economic interest.

The prominence of " sheep's intestines " as an article of ex-



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4i6 ASIATIC RUSSIA

port is correlated with a special demand created in America
at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago for a particular brand
of sausage. The statistics relative to the products of the
chase reveal at the same time the persistence of certain rather
singular commercial demands, and the great faOing-off of
many natural supplies that were formerly the very life of Si-
berian enterprise. It seems that skunk-skins are still in such
demand that they find a place in the census of more than one
province, but the more valuable fur-bearing animals are every-
where verging on the border of extinction.

The educational statistics likewise in a very accurate manner
reflect the entire social organization. Schools, both public and
private, are everywhere found, and they are by no means of in-
ferior order. But the smallness of the number of scholars en-
rolled shows at a glance that the peasant masses are still to a
great degree innocent of the knowledge which is derived from
books. Even elementary education in Siberia, as in European
Russia, is limited, for the most part, to the well-to-do and offi-
cial classes. Finally the smallness of the figures relating to
commerce and manufactures shows the relative independence
of the peasant families. For the most part they live within
themselves, every household being a workshop where provision
is made for most of its wants. Asiatic Russia has as yet scarcely
entered upon the period of commercial enterprise and minute
division of labor already long ago thoroughly established in
Western Europe and destined soon to produce widespread and
thoroughgoing changes throughout the whde vast empire.



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PART IV

Social, Economic and Political Conditions



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XXII

MEANS OF COMMUNICATION

Navigation

A MERE glance at a map indicating the distribution of
the Russian population in Asia shows that the immi-
gration originally followed the natural lines of com-
munication, and that it has since continued into those areas
where artificial roads and waterways could be easily con-
structed. As has already been noted, the natural waterways
of Asiatic Russia have the disadvantage of affording no out-
let for foreign commerce. The Siberian rivers all empty mto
seas that are ice-bound during a large part of the season, and
are entered only with great difficulty, if indeed during some
years they can be entered at all, within the short weeks when
the long summer days clothe even the northern coasts with a
rank vegetation.

The Obi River empties into the long and narrow gulf of the
same name which is through the entire year so clogged with
ice that ships have never penetrated it for commercial pur-
poses. The Yenisei River reaches the Arctic Sea under con-
ditions more favorable to navigation, and occasionally merchant

419



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420 ASIATIC RUSSIA

ships have entered it with cargoes from Europe, and returned
again laden with Siberian products ; so that in the latter part
of the nineteenth century high hopes were raised of this chan-
nel's becoming a permanent and profitable line of commercial
exchange. But the hopes were based on the success of ex-
ceptionally favorable seasons, and the English company which
was led to establish the line found it unprofitable, and definitely
abandoned it. The Lena River has, in addition to the ice-
bound sea into which it enters, a delta of enormous extent,
witii bars so shallow, and channels so shifting, that the regular
entrance of sea-going vessels is entirely out of the question.
A glance at the maps in the chapter on the climate of Siberia
will show how short is the period during which the mouths of
these rivers are free from ice ; while a brief recurrence to the
wild scenes which accompany both the freezing-up of the
lower part of these streams, and the breaking-up of the ice in
the spring and early summer, will impress one with the pre-
cariousness of any eflFort to use the Siberian streams flowing
into the Arctic Ocean as channels of foreign commerce.

Nor is the Amur River of much more service for foreign
trade. Though its mouth is a little below 52** 54' north lati-
tude, which is about that of Hamburg, the climatic conditions
are nearly the same as those of the Labrador coast in America ;
the Sea of Okhotsk being clogged with ice during a consider-
able portion of the year, and in the summer liable to typhoons
of the most dangerous and destructive character. In winter
the winds from Central Siberia pour outward over the Yablonoi
Mountains with such terrific velocity that it is difiicult for



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MEANS OF COMMUNICATION 421

either men or animals to face them; while in the summer,
those from the Pacific Ocean are drawn with equal velocity
towards the vacuum produced in Central Siberia, by the enor-
mous and rapid change in temperature which takes place in the
long days of that high latitude.

For a different reason, the great rivers of Turkestan are
limited in their usefulness to commerce by the peculiarity of
their outlets. The Syr Daria and the Amu Daria empty into
the Aral Sea, whose navigation can be effected only by boats
whose draft is too large to permit of their entrance to the
rivers themselves ; while the shallowness of the water and the
liability to storms are such that little inducement is offered to
any one who would endeavor to compete by water transporta-
tion even with the caravans that now conduct the trade along
its shores.

The Caspian Sea, however, affords a most important channel
for commerce. Being 740 miles in length, and 210 in breadth,
and having a large number of commodious harbors, it serves
to bring into easy communication with each other widely sepa-
rated regions very diverse in character, while the Volga River
opens up to its commerce a large part of European Russia.
To say nothing of this river commerce, that upon the Caspian
Sea had an enormous growth during the last quarter of the
nineteenth century. Whereas in 1876 there were only 409
vessels entering the ports of the Caspian, representing 113,000
tons, in 1898 there were 213 steamers and 539 sailing vessels,
which made altogether 20,114 port entries during the year.
The naphtha flotilla of the Caspian Sea alone numbers fifty-



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422 ASIATIC RUSSIA

seven steamers and 263 sailing vessels, which in 1898 trans-
ported 30,000,000 hundredweight of naphdia or petroleum.

But the extent of the internal navigation upon Siberian rivers
is enormous, and by reason of the interosculation of their tribu-
taries, direct commtmication is afforded, as already said, with
only short interruptions for a distance of several thousand
miles in an east-and-west line across the entire breadth of the
empire. Altogether Siberia has 27,843 miles of navigable
rivers ; all but 7,000 miles of which is open to steamers, while
the two great rivers of Central Asia are navigable for a dis-
tance of 1,981 miles.

B^^ning at Tiumen, steamers descend the Tura and Tobol
rivers to Tobolsk, a distance of 268 miles. From Tobolsk they
ascend the Irtysh River to Semipalatinsk, 1,521 miles. From
Tobolsk down stream to the Obi, and up that river to Tomsk,
on the Tom River, a little above its junction with the Obi, is
a distance of 1,180 miles. From Tomsk again as a starting-
point, one can ascend the Obi River by steamer for a distance
of about 700 miles through Barnaul to Biisk, in ttue center of
the Altai Mountains; or, again, tht river Tom to Kusnetsk, a
distance of nearly 300 miles ; or yet again, branching off from
the Obi 100 miles bdow Tomsk, one may ascend the Chulym
River by small steamers through Achinsk, to Novosdovskoe,
a distance, as the river runs, of about 600 miles, which brings
him to a point which, as already described, is separated by
only a few miles of easy portage from the Yenisei River at
Chemova, about half way between Minusinsk and Krasnoy-
arsk. Or again, turning off from the Obi River below Tomsk



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Watering Station on the Siberian Railroad East
of Lake Baikal



Sounding on the Upper Amur.



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MEANS OF COMMUNICATION 423

near Narym, he may follow up the river Ket for a distance of
425 miles, where a canal only five miles long has already
been constructed to conduct vessels of light draught into the
Kas, a navigable stream 130 miles long emptying into the
Yenisei not far below the mouth of the Angara. This canal
can be easily enlarged to accommodate ordinary river boats.

Once on the Yenisei, boats can descend without difficulty
600 miles to Turukhansk, at the mouth of the Lower Tun-
guska, and, if need be, to the mouth of the river 600 miles
farther ; or, ascending the river, steamers can reach Krasnoy-
arsk, a distance of 200 miles, and Minusinsk, 250 miles farther.
Or, turning up the Angara, steamers can readily, when the
government shall have properly improved the navigation along
various rapids, ascend to Lake Baikal, a distance of more than
1,000 miles, where water communication is open through the
length of the lake, 400 miles, and for 300 miles up the Selenga,
and for a short distance up the Bargusin and Upper Angara
rivers.

Crossing over from the Ilim, a tributary of the Angara, by
a short portage, to a tributary of the Lena, one meets navi-
gable waters at Ust-kutskoe, whence steamers regfularly ply on
the river to Yakutsk, 1440 miles, and occasionally to the mouth
of the river, 1,000 miles farther. More or less use, also, for
navigation can be made of the lower part of the Vitim, Olekma,
and Aldan rivers. Thus, with short interruptions, water com-
mtmication is available for commerce along an east-and-west
line across the plains of Siberia from the Ural Mountains to
the western border of the Yablonoi range for a distance of



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424 ASIATIC RUSSIA

more than 3,cxx) miles ; or, by the dumnek which have to be
followed, of more than 4,000 miles.

According to the last reports, there were plying on the rivers
in the basin of the Obi, 114 steamers, representing 5,000 tons;
on the Yenisei and Lena, forty-one steamers, representing 2,000
tons ; and on the Amur and its tributaries, 116 steamers, repre-
senting 4,000 tons; making altogether 250 steamers with a
tonnage of 11,314.

Still further these internal waterways of Western and Cen-
tral Siberia are separated from the navigable waters of the
Amur by a distance of only about three hundred miles, much
of which is penetrated by streams which could be rendered
navigable for moderate-sized boats a part of the year. Taking
advantage of this fact, it will be seen a little later that engi-
neers as long ago as 1857 proposed to construct a short rail-
road connecting these water systems at that point.

On reaching the headwaters of the Amur a good-sized con-
tinent is opened to steam navigation. From Stryetensk steam-
ers run regularly 2,000 miles or more to Nikolaievsk, at the
mouth of the river, and several htmdred miles up each of the
great tributaries, вАФ ^the Argun, the Zeya, the Bureya, the Sun-
gari, and the Usuri.

Post Roads

Notwithstanding the enormous network of internal lines of
water conmiunication across Siberia, the use of it suffers a
serious drawback in the zigzag course it necessitates, and in
the fact that for more than half the year it is closed to navi-



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JJ



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MEANS OF COMMUNICATION 425

gation by the ice which forms early in the autumn, and dis-
appears late in the spring. Hence it became necessary, at an
early date, to build post roads to the extremities of the conti-
nent, in order to make communication possible during the
autumn and spring, and to facilitate it in the winter and sum-
mer. A great military road, therefore, with numerous branches
was built early in the eighteenth century, while additions have
been provided as necessity required. Naturally this follows
what has been the main line of immigration leading through the
most fertile portions of the territory.

Beginning at the Ural Mountains between the fifty-fifth and
the sixtieth degree of latitude, N., a number of roads, cross-
ing the rich steppes which are watered by the branching tribu-
taries of the Tobol and Ishim rivers, ccmverge upon Omsk,
on the Irtysh River, five hundred miles to the east. Proceed-
ing in the same direction, the united streams of travel, passing
through Kainsk cross the Baraba Steppes, and reach the main
branch of the Obi River after a distance of four htmdred miles ;


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Online LibraryH[enry] Justin RoddyComplete geography → online text (page 9 of 22)