- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
32

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
reindeer fall back on fishing on the coast, especially
the east side, near the Obi. In this they are somewhat
like our Fishing Lapps, though the latter are much
poorer. But the farther one goes into the tundra of
Yamal, the richer the Samoyedes become.
A prosperous Samoyede has two or three, or even
four chums (tents) with many sleeping-places (which
are generally nothing but a few reindeer-skins), ac
cording to the size of his family. As a rule they only
have one wife. Rich men, and lovers of the fair sex—
and there are not a few of them among the Samoyedes
—have two or three, or as many as four wives, who
occasionally have separate chums.
The price of a wife is from 30 to 100 reindeer, besides
skins and various other things. The bride’s father for
his part gives the trousseau, clothes, outfit of furs,
sometimes also jewels, and a showy reindeer for driving,
which is considered as her private property. If they
get tired of a wife who is lazy and will not work, they
can send her back to her father, though without being
able to claim the return of her price. The father is not
always displeased with this arrangement, as he can seil
her again and get paid afresh.
The Samoyedes are mentally well equipped, and are
not considered below the average Russian peasant in
intelligence. Their highest idea of civilization is of
course Obdorsk, and they respect a civilization that
can produce such results ; but, at the same time, with
the pride of the nomad, they esteem their own pretty
highly, with their free life on the tundra, where neither
Russian nor Syryenian is a match for them.
It struck me that these Samoyedes we met in Yamal
were on the whole of good appearance, and they were
bigger and stronger people than our Reindeer Lapps,
though they could not be called tall ; they may probably
32

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