- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
97

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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NOSONOVSKI PESOK AND THE SAMOYEDES
97
is true that many of the Samoyedes of the tundra have
until now held their own fairly well, and rich people are
still to be found among them who own their two or three
thousand reindeer. But their whole life presupposes
the culture which they themselves have developed
and in which they have been trained. European
civilization cannot give them much that is of use.
On the other hand, it gives them new habits and new
needs which are difficult to satisfy with their manner
of life, and therefore many of those who have much
intercourse with the Russians are sinking into deeper
and deeper poverty. If, then, a bad year comes, it is
easy to see that their condition may become critical.
Middendorff tells us of years when famine carried away
more than half a tribe, because their fishing and wild
reindeer hunting had entirely failed. In other years
there may be disease among the tame reindeer, so that
a great part of them is lost ; Samoyedes, formerly rich,
may suddenly be impoverished in this way, it is not
easy for them to recover themselves, and the trader
with his tempting spirits and other things does not
make it any easier. This decline of the nomads is all
the more to be regretted, as they alone with their
culture are able to turn to account the immense wastes
of the tundra ; the white race will never learn to do so.
On the above statements Kai Donner offers some
observations of great interest. His experience is that
the most distant natives, isolated in the north of the
tundras, do not decrease in number except through
the ravages of epidemics. Farther south it is quite
another matter ; there they are rapidly dying out ;
in certain districts the infant mortality amounts to
50 per cent. of the births. The cause of this is not
want of care or illness brought on after birth, but, in
Donner’s opinion, the great debilitation of the parents ;

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