- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
92

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
92
through Russia, adopted the Slav speech and settled
at the mouth of the Danube as Slavs.
When we find in the Altai small Samoyede-speaking
tribes, or remains of earlier tribes, and are unable to
suppose that they have immigrated recently to the places
where we now find them, this seems to show in any case
that at a remote period the Samoyede language was far
more widely diffused to the south than it now is ; and
that Samoyede was spoken by various tribes all the way
from the Altai to the tundra on the north, being per
haps specially diffused along the two great water-ways,
the Obi and Irtish with their tributaries, and possibly the
Yenisei and its tributaries. But that does not prove
that the migration of the Samoyede-speaking peoples
proceeded from the Altai towards the north-west and
north ; they are more likely to have spread in part in
the opposite direction : from the great forests and
rivers—where the conditions were favourable to fishers
and hunters—south-eastward towards the Altai on
the one side, and on the other northward to the
tundra.*
Whether the various Samoyede-speaking tribes
originally belonged to the same race is quite another
* Mr. Kai Donner, who has read the above, informs me that in
his view the Samoyedes, at the time they spoke a common language,
must have lived considerably farther west than their present haunts
would lead us to suppose. The home of the primitive Finno-Ugrian
people lay on the western side of the Ural Mountains, and this makes
it seem probable that the original home of the Samoyedes was in the
Ural districts, and that they afterwards migrated from there in various
directions. Only in the most recent times have they reached the
Arctic Ocean—one indication of this being the fact that they have
no word of their own for sea. According to this, then, their original
home lay farther west than is assumed above ; but it appears to me
that the great rivers, like the Obi, with their rich fisheries, must have
offered specially favourable conditions for the maintenance of a people
like this, as well as for their extension.

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