- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
182

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
side of which stood a Cossack with rifle and sword to
guard the treasure. But he had not a very terrifying
appearance, this guardian ; he was a weak and innocent
looking fellow, who told us, indeed, that he was a de
scendant of the first Cossacks that conquered the country,
and that there were not many of them left. One of
these Cossacks stands every day by the side of that
safe from morning till night. This custom was intro
duced after the robbery a few years ago.
Along one of the walls of the same room a number
of cases were stacked. They contained vodka that
had been tåken from illicit liquor-sellers ; but this
was probably only a small fraction of what ought to
have been tåken. As every one knows, the Govern
ment has a monopoly of the sale of spirits in Russia
and Siberia, and in the Turukhansk district all trade
in liquor is prohibited on account of the natives. It is
true that the Russian traders are allowed to take home
a reasonable quantity for their own use, but they may
not seil or give it to the natives. If a trader is found
in possession of more vodka than he may be supposed
to require for himself, it is tåken from him. But,
curiously enough, a good deal of liquor finds its way to
the natives for all that, as wc had several opportunities
of seeing.
There are 10 Cossacks in this town ; but there are
20 political exiles and convicts. In the whole Turu
khansk district there are 90 political exiles, and last
year alone 35 political exiles and convicts arrived,
håving been transferred to the district after serving
part of their sentences. Ten of these Cossacks do not
appear to be an overwhelming force for keeping these
people in check ; but for that matter they all looked
about equally peaceable and harmless, exiles and
Cossacks and police, as far as I could make out ; only
182

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