- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
126

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
was a fresh discussion of the position, and our prince
again energetically maintained the great unfairness of
so heavy a tax being imposed on him and his people,
who had such great difficulty in meeting it.
One might suppose that the natives thought it a fine
thing to be a chief or stårost, but we had the impression
that it was rather a bother to them, which they would
have gladly declined if they dared. In any case it
seemed that our friend here would have preferred to
resign the honour. It is true that a chief or stårost
has to be chosen by his tribe, but as far as I could
make out the election takes place in this way : a
Russian policeman comes to the tribe, finds out the
man who speaks the best Russian, and then tells the
others that he is the one they are to elect ; and so it is
done. The stårost gets no pay for his work, but a great
deal of trouble in collecting the tax, and besides that
the long journey, now to Dudinka, but formerly all the
way to Obdorsk. It used to take him two months there
and two months back, simply for one hour’s stay, he
told us.
Here, at any rate, these natives had no shamåns,
and it was not easy to make out whether they had them
elsewhere. They would not say where they kept their
idols, but only laughed when we asked about them.
Christians they are no doubt in a way, and they carry
with them their little ikons, which hang on the tent
pole like other household gods. And they are baptized
too, many of them in any case, at Dudinka or Obdorsk,
when opportunity occurs.
The island was perfectly flat inland, with clumps of
osiers, grass, and moss, and small pools here and there.
It seemed, however, to be rather drier than Nosdnovski
Ostrov, where I had landed a few days before.
At the trading-station on the other side there were
126

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