Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/787

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THE URAL COSSACKS AXD THEIR FISHERIES.

THE URAL COSSACKS AND THEIR FISHERIES.
By Dr. N. BORODINE.

FISH COMMISSIONER OF URAL DISTRICT, RUSSIA.

THE Ural Cossacks, who live on the boundary between European Russia and Asia, along the middle and lower part of the Ural River, have been known in Russia for a long time, not only as brave soldiers in war time, but also as peaceful fishermen, carrying on the fishing industry on a very large scale and in quite a peculiar manner.

More than three hundred years ago the first band of the so-called "free people"—Cossacks—appeared on the Yaik River, the original name of the Ural River.[1]

Who were this people? They were pioneers of liberty, people tired of cruel serfdom and discontented with subordinate life in Russian czardom, who tried to organize their life on a basis of absolute freedom and after their own ideas in the vast steppes of southeastern Russia.

The free colony grew rapidly, thanks to large additions of discontented people from all neighboring provinces of Russia and from foreign countries. A careful examination of an early census of the Ural Cossacks made by order of Peter the Great (1723) shows us that among the immigrants were Poles, Hungarians, numbers of peasants from different parts of Russia, many dissenters from the Russian Orthodox Church, prosecuted by government, a great number of Don Cossacks, etc. Differing in nationality as well as in language, one thing was common to all, the ardent longing for freedom and independent life. Is it not a counterpart of the earliest period of immigration to this country, when those who were persecuted in Europe sought freedom elsewhere? An old Cossack, when asked once about the origin of the Ural Cossacks by a well-known folklorist, answered, "The bee gathers from every flower its best, and what is the result?"

"Honey," replied the astonished man.

"Well," said the Cossack, "in such a manner grew our community: from everywhere came the best and brightest men and organized our society."

Do not you think that this simple and witty simile well illustrates the history of early colonization in this country as well as the origin of the small community of which I speak?


  1. The names of Yaik River and Yaik Cossacks were changed to Ural River and Ural Cossacks by imperial order in 1775 after Pugacheff's rebellion, in which the Yaik Cossacks took a very active part, the order stating that the old name should be abolished and entirely forgotten.