- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
212

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
varied scene stood the village and church on the top of
the bank, darkly outlined against the evening sky. The
noise and shouting increased as we came nearer. It was
easy to guess that vodka had been flowing freely, and
Russians and natives seemed about equally drunk.
As we landed, we were immediately surrounded by
reeling Yenisei-Ostiaks, half-drunk and whole-drunk, but
all quite placid and in extraordinarily good humour. Here
and there drunken people lay on the ground, bellowing
and rattling in their throats like dying animals. They
were mostly elderly women that I found lying among
the nets hung up to dry and the boats of the village,
which were drawn up on land. Others sat in an
almost insensible state, leaning against the side of a
boat. Some of them cautiously got on their feet and
staggered a few steps, but soon fell down again and lay
prostrate. If there happened to be anyone near them,
they stood still and looked at him, without doing any
thing. I saw young girls stop and talk to these old
people, as if there was nothing the matter with them
and it was all quite natural.
When once the native has had a drop, he will seil
anything he possesses to get more liquor. He is then
like a morphinomaniac ; in fact, for a bottle of vodka
he will seil again the goods he has just got on credit
from the trader. This is the weakness of which many
unscrupulous people avail themselves, in this part of
the world as elsewhere, to fleece the natives ; and for
this devilish drink they can often coax them out of their
treasures, especially, of course, the valuable furs they
collect in the winter.
It was altogether a sad sight, and we left it and went
up the river-bank to the village to call on a trader,
whom Vostrotin knew, and who had sent a message
asking us to visit him. The houses were the same snug,
212

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