Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/791

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771
THE URAL COSSACKS AND THEIR FISHERIES.

one absolute power. From its early existence until 1723 the community was entirely independent in its interior home affairs. It was a purely democratic republic, with an elected chief, or ataman, representing the executive power. All governmental affairs were transacted in a communal "circle" or general meeting of the members of the entire community. In 1723 the Russian Government first laid its hand on the independence of the community, and since that time the election of the chief must be approved by the Government in order that the appointment may be legal. In 1775 the communal "circle" was abolished and the community entirely lost the right of electing its ataman, who since that time has been appointed by imperial order. The only thing still remaining is the economic organization, where the independence is very characteristic.

To return to the fisheries and their importance in the life of the Ural Cossacks. I should mention that the Ural River is the

PSM V43 D791 Preparing for fall fishing on the ural river.jpg
Fig. 4.—Fall Fishing on the Ural River. Carting Boudaras.

only large river that is entirely given over to the fishing industry, all sorts of commercial navigation being absolutely forbidden from Uralsk to the Caspian Sea (three hundred and thirty miles); and more than that, in some places of the river, where sturgeons collect for their winter sojourn, no one is permitted to run a boat, to make any noise, build a fire on the shore, etc. By the laws of the community summer fishing is almost entirely prohibited, for the purpose of protecting the spawning, also for the reason that fish caught in summer will not bring a good price.