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indeed, some of the greatest Russian fortunes have been accumulated from this source. Silver, lead, platinum, copper (especially the form known as malachite), iron, coal, tin, cinnabar (the ore of quicksilver), zinc, bismuth, arsenic, sulphur, alum, sal ammoniac, nitre, natron, and naphtha are also found in greater or less abundance in some parts of Siberia. Among precious stones the topaz, hyacinth, Siberian emerald, beryl, onyx, red and green jasper, chrysolite, red garnet, lapis lazuli, bakalite, and opals exist in greater or less abundance in different parts of this region.
In the Murinsk district emeralds of extraordinary brilliancy are often picked up, as well as other precious stones, in which this district is particularly rich. The aqua marina is in like manner one of the prizes of the Nertchinsk district, famous for its copper mines, the lapis lazuli of the Kultuk Valley, and zircon of the vicinity of Lake Ilmenskoi. Cinnabar is also abundant, particularly in the vicinity of Nertchinsk, where the ore is worked by the worst class of criminals, and if gold and quartz mines are ever developed in the country, as undoubtedly they will be in time, the quicksilver will prove of great value in their working. Most of the gems are cut and polished in the country. The Russian peasant is not an inventor, but he has a genius for imitating. He has only to be told to go and do so and so, and in time it will be done. He will in this manner become a blacksmith, a wood carver, a copyist of painters, an engineer, or a lapidary, provided that he is only given time enough. He will watch the next workman to him using liis saw, chisel, or file; then he will cautiously imitate him, doing a little at a time, and nothing rashly. Next day he will show more skill, until in a few weeks he becomes a sufficiently skilful workman to be entrusted with tasks requiring great judgment and even knowledge to execute. In the Granilöi Fabrik, in Ekaterinburg, for example, the visitor is astonished to find men not above the rank of peasant, and in all likelihood convicts under serveillance, executing the most beautiful engravings on beryl, amethysts, topaz, and emeralds, or carving on jasper and porphyry vases with a skill which could not be exceeded, if equalled, in the great centres of fine art workmen in Europe. Yet such intelligent labourers are -or were, at all events, in Erman's day, fifty years ago—not paid more than 3s. 8d. per month, with rations of a few pounds of black bread. Yet they are quite content with their lot, and toil on to make fortunes for the rich mine-owners, who live in great state in fine mansions. Even the master workmen or overseers are only paid some £11
or £12 per annum, but they, like the ordinary labourers, have their perquisites, in the unrecognised pilferings which they can manage to effect among the treasures they handle. Indeed, if we are to credit the gossip of the Siberian towns, only a moiety of the gems discovered find their way into the hands of their legitimate owners; and though Government officials are not allowed to own mines, it is reported that they are not the most stoical of those who find amethysts and topaz lying about unnoticed too great temptations for ordinary virtue. The buying and selling of precious stones form a business which all classes dabble in. The visitors to a Siberian town are, soon after their arrival, waited on either with stones cut and uncut, by the recognised or by the irregular agents of the numerous lapidaries or dealers. The very children dog the new arrivals at every step with rare bargains wrapped up in bits of rag, either on their own account or as the least suspected means of entrapping the unwary traveller into purchasing at
what seems a low price stones worth next to nothing, or which may have been made by the skilful artificer of artificial gems in Paris or Vienna, and exported to Siberia. The stones are also set in the gold and silver obtained from the vicinity, though usually with less taste than is displayed in the cutting of the gems. The iron mines of Siberia have been worked for almost two centuries, and at Neviansk the best iron is manufactured into articles of domestic utility, which find their way into every part of the country; and among other uses is applied in the manufacture of the coarse but efficient rifles in use among the poorer classes of Siberians. At Tagilsk copper ore is worked and smelted ; and in the school of design, founded by one of the wealthy family of Demidofs, the iron made out of the magnetic ore in the vicinity is finely lacquered and damascened by the pupils. Malachite vases, tables, and doors are also made here, the masses of the metal found often weighing several thousand pounds. Platinum was at one time cast into coins, but this use for it has been abandoned, and in all about 4,000 lbs. are now mined annually, though the “mining" in reality consists in picking up the grains in which the metal is usually found. The fine " sable iron," so-called from being stamped with the figure of that animal, is still produced at Tchernoistotchinsk in the Urals, and is so good that its fame has even reached Birmingham and Sheffield.
Shot, shell, cutlery, and swords, and a hundred other articles, are also produced in the country, and would add still more to its wealth, did not the cost of transporting them to Europe impose an almost prohibitory tax on their competing in the markets of the world with goods which have not had to travel so far. The native nitre is utilised in making gunpowder.
The making of paper, glass, linen, cloth, carriages, carpets of goats' hair, swan-down coverlets, and other manufactures, are carried on in different places, though in no case have they attained great proportions. Mica is used in place of window glass; and on the Oka is found plumbago, said to equal that of the now almost exhausted Cumberland mines. * On the great rivers are built a vast number of boats, and other vessels suitable for their navigation ; and on Lake Baïkål (p. 13) there is an Admiralty dockyard, and at Vladivostok—“the Dominion of the East”-a naval arsenal, which is rapidly assuming great proportions, has been established. The corn brandy trade is under Government supervision, but is almost entirely in the hands of the Jews. According to law, none of the natives are allowed to obtain it, but in reality, as happens under similar circumstances in America, they only cease to get drunk when they can find no more furs to purchase the liquor. The same decree is in force in Kamtchatka, but there the natives manage to produce a more deleterious intoxication with a poisonous fungus, the “muck-a-moor," or Amanita muscaria. It is in large doses a narcotic poison, but in small quantities produces all the effects of alcohol. The authorities prohibit, as far as they can, the natives using it, but so eager are the Koriaks for it, that, as it does not grow in their country, they will readily give valuable furs in exchange for it. They are, however, economical in its use, and can reproduce the intoxication caused in one individual by one fungus in a manner so peculiar and repulsive, that it is better not to enlarge on the point of Kamtchadal convivial economy.
The fur trade is another great staple of Siberia, but is pursued often with great hardships to the natives toiling under their taskmasters, and as the hunting of wild animals prevents their settling down to civilised pursuits, its effect on the country cannot be said to be in any way good.
* Eden : “ Frozen Asia” (1879), pp. 244—249.
But Siberia is, in the minds of the world at large, associated with something more familiar than either furs or precious stones. As the writer has remarked in another place,* for a century and a half no tidings have come from the North more familiar than the news that so many people have been “sent to Siberia.” Since the days of Peter the Great it has been the doom of tens of thousands-gentle and simple, high and low, criminals the vilest, patriots the loftiest, dreamers the most imprudent. In 1874, nearly 15,000 wended their way thither, and in 1879, the number of “unfortunates” was even greater. The word conveys to the mind of Southern Europe all that is most repulsive in penal banishment. Instinctively the mind of the newspaper reader who catches the word recalls the “Exiles of Siberia.” He pictures to himself long dreary troops (p. 17) of “unfortunates” trudging through the snow, or perishing of hunger and cold and misery long before they reach the mines of the Ural, or the jasper quarries of Ekaterinburg. He hears the clanking of the chains, the moan of the exiles, and the crack of the Bashkir Tartar's whip, as he drives along the victims of the “Third Section of the Imperial Chancellery,” to lead a desolate existence and die a felon's death amid the desolation of Siberia. Even in Russia there is a dread of the name which is not altogether inspired by its penal terrors, with which the refractory subjects of the Czar are only too familiar. But, in reality, our ideas of Siberia are, like the majority of popular impressions transmitted by tradition, altogether beside the truth. With the winter's snows we should contrast the flower-covered plains of summer, the luxuriant corn-fields and purple vineyards of autumn in Southern Siberia. Mines there are, and very rich ones too, but there are also noble cities, splendid residences, and society as polished as any in Europe. Siberia, indeed, is a general place for emptying the gaols of Russia, and men are banished to Siberia who would, in other parts of Europe, merely suffer a few years' imprisonment. And of late years the traditional horrors of exile over the Urals have greatly altered for the better, though doubtless the worst class of criminals are not treated with any great leniency. The great numbers sent at different times have leavened the whole of society in Siberia. Indeed, if we take into account them and their descendants, as well as the convicts whose sentences have expired, and who have remained in the country, they form the most numerous portion of the population. No traveller can have journeyed along the post route leading from Nijnei Novgorod, over the Urals, across Siberia by way of Tjumen, Tobolsk, Tomsk, or Yeniseisk, without meeting long strings of exiles, some of whom have been on the road six, eight, or ten months, and sometimes, as in the case of those destined for the settlement in the Amoor Valley, Saghalin, and Kamtchatka, even two years, though, during the year 1879, the exiles for the maritime parts of Eastern Siberia have been despatched by sea. The worst are chained, but, except in the vicinity of the towns through which they may pass, great leniency is usually shown to the “unfortunates," as with kindly tolerance the exiles are styled by the country people. The women and children—especially when they are the families of the convicts, permitted to accompany them-are usually conveyed in wagons, or, farther north, in reindeer or dog-sledges; while political prisoners of rank, when once they are clear of the large cities, may be seen consorting with the officers of the guard, and even sharing their meals in the block-houses along the route. Sometimes in passing through a fanatical village the actual sharers in a conspiracy will be spat upon, and even stoned, by the loyally ignorant peasants; but more frequently the simple-minded people will bring them presents of food
* “ Cassell's Family Magazine,” 1879, p. 434.
and other necessaries, and ask heaven to forgive and shelter them. At each station on the road there are barracks for the accommodation of the prisoners. These barracks are usually outside the villages, and are surrounded by high stockades of pointed trunks of trees, over which it is impossible to climb, though the precaution is always taken of having the exiles well guarded by mounted Cossacks. The daily march is not toilsome, and varies according to the nature of the road or the accommodation for man and beast: it is usually about fourteen or fifteen miles. Nevertheless, on the long journeys many die by the way–indeed, I have heard it affirmed by Russians well acquainted with the system, that not over four-fifths of those sent to the far North or to Eastern Siberia ever reach their destination.
As soon as they arrive in Siberia the convicts are divided into three classes. First come those condemned for the foulest crimes known to the Russian law, such as would in England be awarded death,* or penal servitude for life, or for a long term of years. These culprits are doomed to work in the mines, and usually have a hard lot. Such exiles are called in Siberia Katorshuiki, a term no doubt derived from kútepov, the name given to a galley by the Byzantine historians, as well as by the Greeks on the Black Sea at the present day. Next come the Loslannyje na roboto, or exiles condemned for shorter periods, and for minor offences. Vagrants at large, rogues worthy of a more severe punishment than imprisonment, prisoners sentenced by the communal courts, and, in former days, serfs condemned, as refractory labourers, by the Government, on application by the proprietors of estates on which they lived, as well as minor political offenders, who are well out of harm's way, comprise the bulk of these “unfortunates.” The place they are sent to is proportioned to their turpitude, the worst offenders being dispatched farthest from the boundaries of Russia in Europe, for instance, to the shores of the Arctic Seart and the Eastern provinces, while the lighter culprits are permitted to settle down in Western Siberia, immediately to the east of the Urals. This class of convicts are usually condemned only for short terms, and are designed for colonists on the expiration of their term of forced labour. Even before that date they are often employed in the Government service, more like ordinary labourers than as legal slaves. The third and highest class of exiles are the Loslannyje na poselenye, who are condemned for mild crimes. In fact, they are considered to have expiated their offences by the time they arrive in the country, and are at once established as proper colonists, sometimes in villages already existing, at another time in new ones laid out for them.
Siberian society, constituted to a great extent of such elements as these described, is very genial, and frequently refined, but not moral. Many of the convicts are political offenders, some of the highest education and nobility of character ; but a vast number who have gained a certain amount of freedom, or, whose sentences being expired, have settled down in the country, are of quite another class. Actual criminals have no place left them for repentance; they are always under the gaol ban. But offenders of the higher class, and especially political exiles, are rarely scowled on. Russian society is the most tolerant in the world, and since political exiles bave increased, the front of their offending has ceased to be visible. They are after a year or two received into the best company, and in every way obtain the treatment their rank and education would have entitled them to at home. It is only the worst offenders who are not allowed to be accompanied by their wives and families; and as many of them are people of rank, the balls, clubs, and card-parties of Tobolsk or Tomsk are very different from what similar social gatherings recruited from the détenus of Port Arthur would have been. In Tasmania (Vol. IV., p. 117) we have seen how little room the “ lag" had left for repentance. In Siberiaunless he be an actual criminal in the strict sense of the term-he is not considered to
* Capital punishment has ceased in Russia, except for the crime of high treason. + There is also a penal settlement in the Department of Archangel, in Europe.