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have done anything to merit even remorse. Of course, there is in the country a large amount of the worst criminal element. All the Siberian unfortunates have not been Nihilists or political offenders. Hence the gaol taint attaches to many villages, and even to the large cities. But with such people the traveller does not come much in contact, and the severe police regulations secure him against any serious annoyance from their attentions. Civil and military officials are the principal people, and among them life seems one continual round of pleasure, especially in South Siberia, where the summer and autumn climate is excellent, though, as elsewhere throughout the country, the winter cold is severe, but dry and healtby. To those who have lived in the country in any other capacity than that of convicts, the name which to Europe is redolent of all unsavoury memories recalls only sweet reminiscences. The families of officials will often, even in St. Petersburg and Moscow, talk longingly of the pleasant days of “Sibir,” and the “good society” of, say Irkutsk, is as refined as that of any European city of the same size. “The interior of the houses," writes M. Wahl, “ is more comfortable, Parisian fashions more brilliantly represented, and the champagne sparkles there in greater profusion .and better quality than in many a fashionable saloon of the most important European cities. While in Europe people think twice before they start on a visit of a few miles' distance, a ball in Siberia sometimes brings together people from distances of eighty to one hundred and more miles across rivers, hills, precipices, and over roads and bridges, which would terrify a European brought up in the luxuries of a refined civilisation.” The Russian Government have offered special inducements for opening up Siberia to settlement, but at the same time have not, until recently, shown much inclination to lessen its isolation from the rest of the world. The peculiar nature of the population would naturally account for this hesitation at making escape from it any easier than it is. And the causes which .conduce to the remoteness of Siberia from the world at large is the fact that though it is permeated from south to north by great rivers which form water-ways throughout the entire country, it has no good seaports, for the Yenisei, Obi, and Lena, with the smaller rivers, flow into the Arctic Ocean. The Obi is, indeed, the largest river of the Old World, being 3,000 miles long, and draining an area of about 1,300,000 square miles, a country only inferior in size to the Valleys of the Amazon and La Plata in South America. The Yenisei is not much smaller, running as it does from the confines of China over a course of 2,800 miles, while not to enumerate smaller drainers of half of Asia, the Lena flows for 2,500 miles, and drains an area of 800,000 square miles. All of these rivers are important water-ways into the country, and are the seat of plenteous fisheries, either at their mouths during the summer, or throughout their entire courses.
Of the Yenisei country Mr. Seebohm gives a most attractive account.* He describes in graphic terms the roads covered with thousands of pack-horses carrying goods between one town and another; the immense rivers flowing through half a continent, but as yet not a quarter utilised—the highways for “country vessels” in the summer, and great sledge-roads when frozen over during the winter. In the valley of the Yenisei dried fish can be bought for “almost nothing;" grouse are 7d. a brace;
Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XLVIII. (1878), p. 6; Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XXII., p. 101.
excellent beef, 2;d. a pound; and a little further south, at Krasnoiarsk, a ton of wheat can be bought for the same price we give for a hundredweight. So extremely cheap are corn and hay on the great steppes between Tomsk and Tjumen, that the hire of horses is only a halfpenny per horse per English mile. At Yeniseisk, a town in the midst of an immense forest, a ship’s mast of hard larch, sixty feet long, three feet in diameter at the base, and eighteen inches at the apex, can be bought for a sovereign, and hundreds can be delivered in a week.
Captain Wiggins and Professor Nordenskjöld are hardly less enthusiastic, though as a
field for commerce Captain Wiggins is understood to give the preference to the Obi. The latter distinguished explorer tells us that near the mouth of the Yenisei, though still far north of the Arctic circle, they were astonished at the luxuriance of the meadows overflowed by the summer floods. The fertility of the soil and the immeasurable extent and richness in grass of the pastures, drew forth from one of the walrus hunters who accompanied Dr. Nordenskjöld a cry of envy. This man was the owner of a little patch of ground among the fells in Northern Norway ; but when he saw the meadows that no creature pastured, and no scythe mowed, he expressed a longing for the splendid land “our Lord had given the Russians.” Daily and hourly “we heard the same cry repeated, and in even louder tones, when some weeks after we came to the grand old forest between Yeniseisk and Turukhansk, or to the nearly uninhabited plains on the other side of the Krasnoiarsk, covered with deep tcherno-sem (black earth), equal without doubt in fertility to the best parts of Scania [Southern Sweden], and in extent surpassing the whole Scandinavian peninsula. This judgment, formed on the spot by a genuine though illiterate agriculturist, is not without interest in forming an idea of the future importance of Siberia.” *
Since it has been proved that during the latter end of summer and the beginning of autumn the ice, during most seasons, is driven sufficiently off the coast by the force of the floods of their rivers to allow vessels to reach their mouths, the Russian Government have made some efforts to utilise the discoveries made by Nordenskjöld and Wiggins.
As the result of their explorations in 1875, it has been found that by the expenditure of a few thousands the Angora, a tributary of the Yenisei, the navigation of which is at present difficult, on account of the cataracts or rapids, might be made navigable to Lake Baikal (p. 13), and to connect the Obi with the Yenisei, and the Yenisei with the Lena. Thus, a territory calculated by Von Baer to exceed that drained by the combined river tributaries of the Danube, Don, Dneiper, Dneister, Nile, Po, Ebro, Rhone, and all the rivers which flow into the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmora, and the Mediterranean. “ Part of the territory in question,” Professor Nordenskjöld remarks, “no doubt lies to the north of the Arctic circle ; but here, too, there are to be found the most extensive and the finest forests on the globe. South of the forest region proper level stone-frec
* “The Arctic Voyages of A. E. Nordenskjöld," by Alex. Leslie (1879), pp. 209, 300.
plains, covered with the most fertile soil, stretch away for hundreds of leagues, which only wait for the plough of the cultivator to yield the most abundant harvests; and further south the Yenisei and its tributaries flow through regions where the grape ripens in the open air. As I write this I have before me a bunch of splendid Siberian grapes. The trade by this route is not yet fully organised; the charts are imperfect, and a class of vessels which can prudently undertake the voyage has not yet been provided. Hence the failure of the ill-found vessels, which, without proper ice-masters or instructions, attempted during 1879 to reach the Yenisei-only one of them succeeding. But in previous years many vessels have gone thither and done a profitable trade. The Siberian merchants have even built five ships on the rivers, two of which reached England last year, and three are at present on their way. An idea of the profitable character of the traffic which might be carried on may be gathered from the fact that Captain Wiggins on one of his voyages took out five tons of salt bought at 15s. per ton, and that he sold this for nearly £15 per ton. On the return voyage he ballasted his ship with fine black-lead. Wheat can be bought for 25s. a ton on the Yenisei, which in England would command £15 or £16
But until the trade of the rivers is properly organised, and warehouses for storing the cargo to be shipped are built at their mouths, the new sea route which may by-and-by revolutionise the trade of Siberia ought not to be judged too harshly, or allowed to raise over sanguine expectations. Meantime, Professor Nordenskjöld, by his voyage, considers that he has established the practicability of the route even to the Lena, and during the summer of 1879 a Russian expedition descended the Obi from Tobolsk, in order to buoy the mouth of the river, and establish custom-house regulations in view of the expected increase in the trade of the country.
There is, doubtless, a great future for Siberia. The mighty rivers permeating the country on to the very confines of Mongolia will, when the new Arctic route is thoroughly opened up, form great highways down which the wool, beef, timber, wheat, wine, and ores of Siberia, as well as the fossil ivory found on its shores, will find their way to Europe. Nor bas the discipline of the penal settlements of the country which, after very exhaustive inquiries on the subject, I can affirm to be in modern times, as a rule, firm without harshness, been without good effect, for in no part of his dominions is the Czar more adored ; and it is noted that the most turbulent characters often become, after a few years of “Sibir," docile citizens and industrious farmers.* By-and-by a railway will penetrate the country, and with a cheaper mode of transit for its goods than sledges or pack-horses, Siberia will be properly appreciated in the world. Even at present it is a far richer country than Canada, and with a climate very much the same. In its isolation from the world it is not worse situated than were the Western United States before railways penetrated them, and the lakes utilised as a water-way to the coast; while its capabilities and varied products are very much greater, and its internal natural communications far superior to any part of North America, if we except the Mississippi Valley.
Erman: “Travels in Siberia" (1848); Atkinson: “Oriental and Western Siberia" (1858); Hill: “ Travels in Siberia” (1854); Cottrell : “Recollections of Siberia” (1842); Middendorff : “Siberische Reise" (1860); Radde: “Reisen im Süden von Ost-Siberien” (1863); Baron R (osen] : “Russian Conspirators in Siberia” (1872); “ Finsch : “ Reise nach West-Siberien im Jahre, 1876" (1879), &c. &c.
IN à former work
a summary was given of the manners and institutions of the Chinese. In the sketch which follows we propose outlining the general geography of their country, and supplying some account of its natural resources and industries so far as these have not been already described in the account referred to. A country containing by the best estimates and the best are only estimates—3,924,627 square miles, † possesses many climates and varied features. But in general terms it may be said that China is a great sloping basin “surrounded by lofty mountains on the north-west and south-west, with the
on the south and south-east." Within this area there is hilly and level country. There are mountains with peaks 6,000 feet above the level of the sea; but in the northern and midland provinces the snow rarely lies long or falls to a great extent, while in the south it is almost unknown. The physical features of the country are equally varied. In parts of it there are fine champaign tracts like France and Belgium, swampy districts like Holland, and mountainous regions like Switzerland. These various districts, embracing country from the hot low flats by the seashore to the high cool uplands of Mongolia, produce everything that can be desired for the sustenance, comfort, and luxury of man: hence the disinclination of the Chinese to have any dealings, more than they can help, with "the outer barbarian,” whose goods they do not require, though theirs are coveted by him. The country has mineral resources surpassing those of Europe and Australia, and not far short, if they were properly developed, of those of some of the Western States of America in some varieties of inetals. The coal-fields of North China alone have been estimated to occupy an area of 83,000 square miles, which is nearly seven times that of those of Great Britain, and more than two-thirds that of the United States. Iron-stone and iron ore of various kinds are found in every province in such abundance that the Chinese seldom work any but the finest black magnetic. Copper, lead, tin, silver, and gold are so plentiful that scarcely a district of the empire is without them, while the water communications, either natural or artificial, are so well distributed that any portion of the empire can be reached cheaply, if not quickly, even without the railways, of which the Government so obstinately oppose the building. I
Nor are the people occupying this great region unworthy of the land which has for ages been indisputably theirs. As diplomatists, we have the authority of Sir Frederick Bruce for saying that they ‘are equal to any in Europe; as we have more than once experienced, they can hold their own with our most expert statesmen ; and, as recent events have proved, Russian art is, when matched against Mongol patience, of but little account.
* “Races of Mankind," Vol. IV., pp. 158_215.