- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
172

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
172
an extremely interesting people, who deserve closer
investigation than has hitherto been bestowed on them.
Especially as they seem to be rapidly dying out, their
total numbers being probably between 700 and 900,
in any case not 1000.
In his interesting book " Aus Sibirien," which I have
with me on board, Dr. Radloff maintains that the
Yenisei-Ostiak people, or Yeniseians as he calls them,
must formerly have been widely diffused to the south,
and must have lived in the Altai and on the northern
slopes of the Altai and Sayan Mountains. He finds, for
instance, that in the district in which the River Tom
rises, three-fourths of the river names are Yenisei-
Ostiak, the only explanation of which can be that a
people speaking their language or one closely akin to
it formerly inhabited the region.
Radloff thinks that they were the same people as
are mentioned by Chinese historians as dwelling in these
districts in the seventh century, and are called by them
Bila or Gelochi. In fact, he thinks the Kirghizes, whom
the Chinese until the ninth century called Hakas,*
were also originally a kindred tribe, with a kindred
language ; and all these peoples are described by the
Chinese as originally blue-eyed and fair-haired.
It was not until later that the Kirghizes adopted a
Turco-Tatar language, and now they are included
among Tatars. Through intermarriage with surround
ing tribes these people may afterwards have become
more or less dark-complexioned and black-haired.
Some years ago the Finnish philologist, G. J.
Ramstedt, on the basis of Castrén’s notes on the Yenisei-
Ostiaks’ language, suggested what seemed to be weighty
* Other Chinese names for this people were Kan-kuen or Kien-
kuen, and Ki-ko, and later (in the thirteenth century) Ki-li-ki-sse
(i.e. Kirghiz).

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