- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
88

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
and, finally, there may be here and there some Yakuts,
besides the Russians.
On this stretch of country alone there was more
than enough to occupy the philologist and anthro
pologist. Since the eminent Finnish philologist,
Alexander Castrén, travelled here before the middle
of last century, and the great Siberian authority,
Middendorff, visited the region about the same time,
these peoples and their languages have been little
investigated.
Although the Samoyedes are not so very numerous,
they nevertheless have an immensely wide distribution
over the Siberian-European tundra and over the
northern forest regions, from Khåtanga Bay on the
east side of the Taimyr peninsula on the east, as far
as the shore of the White Sea on the west, a range of
about 1800 miles. On the south, too, they must
formerly have been widely diffused, and a small isolated
tribe of Samoyedes, called Kamassintses or Kamassins,
is still found on the rivers Kan and Mana, tributaries
of the Yenisei, on the north side of the Sayan Mountains.
They speak a Samoyede language.
As to where these widely spread Samoyedes originally
came from, we know, to be candid, very little. Many
hypotheses on the subject may be as probable as that of
the learned monk, who gave Castrén a manuscript in
which he had clearly proved that the Samoyedes were
descended from the Israelites, because they knew the
Ten Commandments. But the general supposition is
that they were a people, divided into several tribes, who
originally inhabited the Altai and Sayan Mountains.
The Chinese historians mention in the seventh century
a people called Dubo, living in the Altai, on the plateaux
to the east of Lake Kossogol. They were neither a
pastoral nor an agricultural people, but fishers and
88

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