- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
284

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
in Russia ; indeed, they were even looked upon as
rivals, which it was undesirable to encourage, but
which were rather to be exploited for what they were.
In addition to this there were many other factors. Per
haps the most important was that Siberia was used as
a convict colony, a place to which turbulent and
unpleasant elements, which it was undesirable to keep
in Russia, might be exiled. Siberia thus got a bad
nåme and became a dreaded land, to which people were
disinclined to resort of their own free will. The great
distances in these immense expanses were also of course
a great hindrance, before the railway was made. Emi
grants suffered incredibly during the long journey on
the difficult Siberian roads, and an active administration
from Petersburg, which might promote the development
of the country, was almost impossible. Then there was
serfdom, which until the reign of Alexander 11. (1861)
contributed to make emigration difficult, as Russian
peasants were not allowed to leave their native soil.
It is remarkable that while Russia had these vast
territories lying more or less idle, she sent every year great
numbers of emigrants across the ocean to America. In
the ten years 1891-1900 at least half a million Russians
went to the United States alone, and in the following
seven years, 1900-1906, 485,850 Russians crossed the
Atlantic from German ports alone.
But in the most recent years, especially since the
war with Japan in 1904-1905, a complete change has
tåken place in the Russian view of Siberia and its
development ; the eyes of the authorities have been
opened to past neglect and to the enormous importance
of the country’s future. A great step towards better
times for Siberia was the decision of the Government
that in future it should not be used for the transportation
of criminals ; and in recent years, especially since the
284

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