Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

Of the total in 1897, 81.4% were Russians, 8.3% Turko-Tatars, 5% Mongols and 0-6% “indigenous races,” i.e. Chukchis, Koryaks, Ghilyaks, Kamchadales and others. Only 8% of the totals are classed as urban. The great bulk of the populationRussians. are Russians, whose number increased with great rapidity during the 19th century; although not exceeding 150,000 in 1709 and 500,000 a century later, they numbered nearly 6,500,000 in 1904. Between 1870 and 1890 over half a million free immigrants entered Siberia from Russia, and of these 80 % settled in the govern- ment of Tobolsk; and between 1890 and 1905 it is estimated that something like a million and a half free immigrants entered the country. These people came for the most part from the northern parts of the black earth zone of middle Russia, and to a smaller extent from the Lithuanian governments and the Ural governments of Perm and Vyatka. The Russians, issuing from the middle Urals, have travelled as a broad stream through south Siberia, sending branches to the Altai, to the Hi river in Turkestan and to Minusinsk, as well as down the chief rivers which flow to the Arctic Ocean, the banks of which are studded with villages 15 to 20 m. apart. As Lake Baikal is approached the stream of Russian immigration becomes narrower, being confined mostly to the valley of the Angara, with a string of villages up the Irkut; but it widens out again in Transbaikalia, and sends branches up the Selenga and its tributaries. It follows the course of the Amur, again in a succession of villages some 20 m. apart, and can be traced up the Usuri to Lake Khangka and Vladivostok, with a string of villages on the plains between the Zeya and the Silinji. Small Russian settlements are planted on a few bays of the North Pacific and the Sea of Okhotsk, as well as on Sakhalin.

Colonization.—Siberia has been colonized in two different ways. On the one hand, the government sent parties (1) of Cossacks to settle on the frontiers, (2) of peasants who were bound to settle at appointed places and maintain communication along the routes, (3) of stryeltsy (i.e. Moscow imperial guards) to garrison forts, (4) of yamshiks—a special organization of Old Russia entrusted with the maintenance of horses for postal communication, and finally (5) of convicts. A good deal of the Amur region was peopled in this way. Serfs in the imperial mines were liberated and organized in Cossack regiments (the Transbaikal Cossacks) ; some of these were settled on the Amur, forming the Amur and Usuri Cossacks. Other parts of the river were colonized by peasants who emigrated with govern- ment aid, and were bound to settle in villages, along the Amur, at spots designated by officials. As a rule, this kind of colonization has not produced the results that were expected. On the other hand, free colonization has been more successful and has been undertaken on a much larger scale. Soon after the first appearance (1580) of the Cossacks of Yermak in Siberia thousands of hunters, attracted by the furs, immigrated from north Russia, explored the country, traced the first footpaths and erected the first houses in the wilder- ness. Later on serfdom, religious persecutions and conscription were the chief causes which led the peasants to make their escape to Siberia and build their villages in the most inaccessible forests, on the prairies and even on Chinese territory. But the severe measures adopted by the government against such " runaways " were power- less to prevent their immigration into Siberia. While governmental colonization studded Siberia with forts, free colonization filled up the intermediate spaces. Since the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, it has been steadily increasing, the Russian peasants of a village often emigrating en bloc.[1]

Siberia was for many years a penal colony. Exile to Siberia began in the first years of its discovery, and as early as 1658 we read of the Exiles Nonconformist priest Awakum[2] following in chains the exploringExiles. party of Pashkov on the Amur. Raskolniks or Non-conformists in the second half of the 17th century, rebel stryeltsy under Peter the Great, courtiers of rank during the reigns of the empresses, Polish confederates under Catherine II., the " Decembrists " under Nicholas I., nearly 50,000 Poles after the insurrection of 1863, and later on whole generations of socialists were sent to Siberia; while the number of common-law convicts and exiles transported thither increased steadily from the end of the 1 8th century. No exact statistics of Siberian exile were kept before 1823. But it is known that in the first years of the 19th century nearly 2000 persons were transported every year to Siberia. This figure reached an average of 18,250 in 1873–1877, and from about 1880 until the discontinuance of the system in 1900 an average of 20,000 persons were annually exiled to Siberia. After liberation the hard-labour convicts are settled in villages; but nearly all are in a wretched condition, and more than one-third have disappeared without being accounted for. Nearly 20,000 men (40,000 according to other estimates) are living in Siberia the life of brodyagi (runaways or outlaws), trying to make their way through the forests to their native provinces in Russia.

Asiatic Races.—The Ural-Altaians consist principally of Turko- Tatars, Mongols, Tunguses, Finnish tribes and Samoyedes. The Samoyedes, who are confined to the province of Tobolsk, Tomsk and Yeniseisk, do not exceed 12,000 in all. The Finns consist principally of Mordvinians (18,500), Ostiaks (20,000) and Voguls (5000). Survivals of Turkish blood, once much more numerous, are scattered all over south Siberia as far as Lake Baikal. Their territories are being rapidly occupied by Russians, and their settle- ments are cut in two by the Russian stream — the Baraba Tatars and the Yakuts being to the north of it, and the others having been driven back to the hilly tracts of the Altai and Sayan Mountains. In all they number nearly a quarter of a million. The Turkish stock of the Yakuts in the basin of the Lena numbers 227,400. Most of these Turkish tribes live by pastoral pursuits and some by agriculture, and are a most laborious and honest population.

The Mongols (less than 300,000) extend into West Siberia from the high plateau—nearly 20,000 Kalmucks living in the eastern Altai. In East Siberia the Buriats occupy the Selenga and the Uda, parts of Nerchinsk, and the steppes between Irkutsk and the upper ena, as also the Baikal Mountains and the island of Orkhon; they support themselves chiefly by live-stock breeding, but some, especially in Irkutsk, are agriculturists. On the left of the Amur there are some 60,000 Chinese and Manchurians about the mouth of the Zeya, and 26,000 Koreans on the Pacific coast. The Tunguses (nearly 70,000) occupy as their hunting-grounds an immense region on the high plateau and its slopes to the Amur, but their limits are yearly becoming more and more circumscribed both by Russian gold-diggers and by Yakut settlers. In the Maritime Province, before the Boxer uprising of 1900, 26% of the population in the N. Usuri district and 36% in the S. Usuri district were Koreans and Chinese, and in the Amur province there were nearly 15,000 Manchus and Koreans. Jews number 32,650 and some 5000 gipsies wander about Siberia.

At first the indigenous populations were pitilessly deprived of their hunting and grazing grounds and compelled to resort to agriculture—a modification exceedingly hard for them, not only on account of their poverty but also because they were compelled to settle in the less favourable regions. European civilization made them familiar with all its worst sides and with none of its best. Taxed with a tribute in furs from the earliest years of the Russian conquest, they often revolted in the 17th century, but were cruelly reduced to obedience. In 1824 the settled indigenes had to pay the very heavy rate of 11 roubles (about £1) per head, and the arrears, which soon became equal to the sums levied, were rigorously exacted. On the other hand the severe measures taken by the government prevented the growth of anything like legalized slavery on Siberian soil; but the people, ruined as they were both by the intrusion of agricultural colonists and by the exactions of government officials, fell into what was practically a kind of slavery to the merchants. Even the best-intentioned government measures, such as the importation of corn, the prohibition of the sale of spirits, and so on, became new sources of oppression. The action of mission- aries, who cared only about nominal Christianizing, had no better effect.

Social Features.—In West Siberia there exist compact masses of Russians who have lost little of their primitive ethnographical features: but the case is otherwise on the outskirts. M. A. Castren characterized Obdorsk (mouth of the Ob) as a true Samoyedic town, although peopled with " Russians." The Cossacks of West Siberia have the features and customs and many of the manners of life of the Kalmucks and Kirghiz. Yakutsk is thoroughly Yakutic; marriages of Russians with Yakut wives are common, and in the middle of the 19th century the Yakut language was predominant among the Russian merchants and officials. At Irkutsk and in the valley of the Irkut the admixture of Tungus and Buriat blood is obvious, and still more in the Nerchinsk district and among the Transbaikal Cossacks settled on the Argun. They speak the Buriat language as often as Russian, and in a Buriat dress can hardly be distinguished from the Buriats. In different parts of Siberia, on the borders of the hilly tracts, intermarriage of Russians with Tatars was quite common. Of course it is now rapidly growing less, and the settlers who entered Siberia in the 19th century married Russian wives and remained thoroughly Russian. There are accordingly parts of Siberia, especially among the Raskolniks or Nonconformists, where the north Russian, the Great Russian and the Ukrainian (or southern) types have maintained themselves in their full purity, and only some differences in domestic architecture, in the disposition of their villages and in the language and character of the population remind the traveller that he is in Siberia. The special features of the language and partly also of the national character are due to the earliest settlers, who came mostly from northern Russia.

The natural rate of increase of population is very slow as a rule, and does not exceed 7 or 8 per 1000 annually. The great mortality, especially among the children, is one of the causes of this, the birth- rate being also lower than in Russia. The climate of Siberia, how- ever, cannot be called unhealthy, except in certain localities where goitre is common, as it is on the Lena, in several valleys of Nerchinsk and in the Altai Mountains. The rapid growth of the actual popula- tion is chiefly due to immigration.

Towns.—Only 8.1 % of the population live in towns (6.4% only in the governments of Tobolsk and Tomsk). There are seventeen towns with a population of 10,000 or more, namely, Tomsk (63,533

  1. See Yadrintsev, Siberia as a Colony (in Russian, 2nd ed., St Petersburg, 1892).
  2. The autobiography of the protopope Awakum is one of the most popular books with Russian Nonconformists.