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trees; a great quantity of berry-bearing and other bushes increase the variety of plants, and hops and other climbers winding round the trees remind one of the virgin forests of America. In this vast region, with its boundless forest wealth, habitable spots are chiefly found on the banks of the different rivers.
To the south of this forest tract, we find a cultivated belt of land, very spacious in the west and much resembling a steppe. It extends as far as the mountains which stretch along the south of Siberia. The steppes of Western Siberia have the appearance of plains, covered with luxurious vegetation and birch groves. The soil is rich and fertile, and tends to promote the development of agriculture and settled life. In these steppes, there are large water basins like Lake Chany, surrounded by smaller lakes.
The Siberian mountains extend along the southern border of Siberia and then occupy its whole eastern part. They are remarkable for their beautiful views. Many picturesque spots in the Altai Mountains and Semiretchensk might be compared with those of Switzerland, and the Irtish flowing through the mountains resembles the Rhine.
Siberia extends from the Arctic Circle right away to the steppes of Central Asia, and therefore presents many varieties of climate. There are the perpetual frost of the lifeless tundra deserts, the tropical heat of Central Asia, the genial climate of the favored spots at the foot of the Altai Mountains, the balmy air in the oases of the Chui Valley and Lake Issik-Kul and the striking southern vegetation of the banks of Amur. Owing to those climatic variations, we meet with the most startling changes in natural features, and an amazing variety of flora and fauna.
Siberia possesses four great river basins, which are equal to those of the largest American rivers. Three of them-Obi, Yenisei and Lena, with their numerous tributaries-greatly facilitate the trade of the interior, and the fourth river, the Amur, facilitates intercourse between Central Siberia and the Pacific.
The population of Siberia consists of very various elements. After the bloody and rapid conquest of Siberia, it became for some time an El Dorado for hunters and gold diggers. Like the Spaniards in America, these were attracted by the thirst for gain, and they treated the natives with the most barbarous cruelty and plundered in the most irrational manner the natural treas ures of the country. Some time later these rough and ready
QUALITY CONTROL MARK
THE GREAT SIBERIAN RAILWAY.
pioneers were succeeded by exiles. These were but few in number at first, but latterly there were as many as 18,000 to 20,000 yearly. The introduction of this element was of sinister import for Siberia. It was forced to accept criminals, who had been driven forth from their own country and who, hardened in their wickedness, could not but have a contaminating influence on the people they came among. Fortunately for Siberia, at the same time with this artificial colonization, a natural colonization was advancing, for men who had been unfortunate in their native land were attracted by the free life of Siberia and made their way thither in small but steady numbers. From these men, who had proved themselves enterprising and of great physical and mental vigor, the present population of Siberia has been evolved. It embodies all the best characteristics of the daring adventurers and conquistadores who first subdued it; of the exiles and emigrants, who went there in such numbers, and of the Cossacks and peasantry, whom the Government induced to settle there by the offer of large subsidies, hoping thereby to promote the development of agriculture. The unaided struggle with stern Nature called all their hardier qualities into play. The result is a vigorous, enterprising type, not unlike that which we meet with in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The Russian population of Siberia moved farther and farther eastward from the Ural Mountains through the southern part of Siberia; at present it occupies a broad, unbroken belt of land, which narrows down toward Lake Baikal. Small branches are, found on the banks of the chief rivers, the Obi, the Yenisei, the Lena and the Usuri, and extend from the basin of the last to the shores of the Bay of Peter the Great. Besides this, little Russian communities are scattered about in different places.
The indigenous Mongol, Finnish and Tartar tribes of Siberia, which occupy immense tracts, are much smaller in number than the Russian population, whom they surround on all sides. Immediately beyond the Ural and north of the region entirely occupied by Russians, there lives the tribe of Voguls. Further north and northeast we find Siberian Tartars, Ostyaks, Samoyedes, Tunguses, Yakuts, Yukahirs, Koryaks, Tchuktchis, Kamchadales and Guiliaks. With the exception of the Tartars, who are partly settled, these are all nomadic tribes, and are engaged in hunting, fishing and cattle raising. In the extreme north, rein
deer breeding is carried on. South of the region occupied by Russians, there are settled Siberian Tartars, Kirghizes, Altayans, Kalmuks, Soyots and Buriats, who live only by cattle breeding and agriculture. Some of these elements of the Siberian population such as Tchuktchis, Guiliaks, Kamchadales, who are not amenable to the influences of civilization, are very scant in number, and will most likely die out altogether; others, such as Kirghizes and Buriats, on the contrary, are important ethnographical unities, and give promise of increased vitality.
The mineral wealth of Siberia, particularly in its eastern part, is fabulous; its extent is far from being finally determined, but it is certain that its treasures are almost inexhaustible. The area of its auriferous regions is much larger than that of the celebrated gold mines of California, Australia and Africa taken together. Beginning from the Alatau Mountains, of which both slopes are very rich in gold, this auriferous region extends eastward along the northern slope of the Saiansk Mountains in an almost continuous broad strip. Then it continues across both slopes of the Stanovoi and Yablonoi Mountains right away to the extreme east of Siberia. The extensive gold deposits of the Yenisei, Olekma, Vitim, and many other river systems, constitute, as it were, an immense addition to the chief gold area. Up to the present, gold has almost exclusively been obtained from sand. Mining of gold ores is carried on in the Yenisei, Altai and Transbaikal district, but only to a very small extent, owing to the difficulty of working and the lack of mechanical appliances.
In many parts there are lodes of copper, silver and lead. Those found on the branches of the Saiansk and Alatau Mountains, in the district of Nertchinsk and the Kirgiz steppe are particularly remarkable. The quantity of metal contained in the ores varies greatly. Silver, lead and copper mining reached a high point of development last century, but within the past twenty-five years this industry has begun to fall off, chiefly owing to the rise in the price of labor.
Iron and coal exist in great quantities throughout the whole extent of Siberia, from the borders of the Government of Orenburg to the mouth of the Lena, to Kamtchatka, the Island of Sagalien and the frontier of Korea. At the present time, coal is worked only in the Kuznetsk basin, on the Island of Sagalien and in the Kirgiz steppes. It is also proposed to exploit the
coal beds recently discovered in the southern part of the Primorsk province. These have been surveyed and found to be very rich, and to contain some quantity of anthracite. Contiguous veins of coal and iron were found in some places, foundries were formed, but these have been in anything but a flourishing condition until quite lately, owing to the small demand for their output and their remoteness from the markets.
In Western Siberia, common salt is extracted from the selfdepositing lakes, which occur in considerable numbers in the southern portion of the steppe region lying between the fortyseventh and fifty-fifth degrees of north latitude and the sixtythird and seventy-third degrees of east longitude (from Paris), which was once the bottom of a sea basin. In the northern portion of this salt basin, which embraces the Barabinsk and Kouloundinsk steppes, the salt lakes always contain a greater or less amount of other salts besides common salt. There are many lakes which contain rich layers of glauber salt only. In Eastern Siberia there are very rich beds of rock salt, but the best salt springs and layers are found in thinly inhabited districts, so that transport to the markets is very expensive, owing to the want of proper means of communication.
Besides all this mineral wealth, tin, mercury and sulphur are found in the Transbaikal territory; naphtha on the Sagalien Island and many kinds of precious stones, such as lapis-lazuli, topaz, beryl, aqua-marina, etc., in the Transbaikal territory.
In the basin of the Yenisei, large deposits of graphite are found. From experiments made in America, this seems to excel the Ceylon variety in purity.
Siberia has long been famous for its fur-bearing animals and the teeming wealth of its rivers and lakes. After agriculture and cattle breeding, fishing and hunting are the chief pursuits of the inhabitants. The shooting and trapping of squirrels is at present the main object of the chase. In the northern part of Eastern Siberia, where the slaughter of fur-bearing animals has not been quite so wholesale as in Western Siberia, more valuable fur-bearing animals, such as the marten, ermine, sable, fox and arctic fox, are caught. Beavers, which formerly existed in Kamtchatka, are now very rare, but the fur industries in the waters washing the Russian shores of the Pacific are much more important at present. Among the most important is the seal in
dustry, which is specially developed on the Commandorskie and Pribyloff Islands, the former belonging to Russia, the latter to America. From 1871 to 1891, 730,539 seal skins came into the market from Russian territory alone. Besides seals, the northern and eastern waters of Russia are very rich in sea calves, whales, sea lions and other marine animals.
The supply of fish in Siberia, and particularly in the rivers falling into the Pacific and Northern Oceans, is almost inexhaustible. The Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan abound in fish. The more valuable species of fish, kinds such as sturgeon and salmon, are so plentiful that while making their periodical progress from the seas to the rivers, they force each other on to the bank, whenever the stream happens to be shallow. Capital is so scarce, means of communication so scant, and the natives know so little of fish curing, that only so much fish has been consumed hitherto as was required locally, the remainder being sent to Japan by Japanese traders.
Notwithstanding the immense wealth of Siberia, manufacturing industry and trade have not been able to develop themselves to a corresponding extent, owing to the thinness of the population and the absence of cheap and suitable means of communication. Consequently, though there have been repeated attempts on the part of the Government and private individuals to establish industry on a large scale in Siberia, manufactories and works have been started there only with the greatest difficulty, and only such have succeeded as served to meet the modest wants of a small local population or produced an article of such value that it could bear the cost of carriage to a great distance.
Such was the general condition of the country at the time when the construction of the great Siberian Railway heralded the dawn of a new era.
Though the line will not be finished till 1902, some instances have already come to light which prove what a great civilizing effect it will have in future. Among others, we may note the rapid increase in the population. As we have already mentioned, the Russian Government long ago took various measures to attract pure Russian elements to Siberia. At present, the Russian Government deems it very necessary to consolidate Russian. national feeling there in view of a possible invasion of the region by the yellow race in the near future. The Government has,