- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
328

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
canes, to the towns, generally to Kharbin, where they
managed to seil it in spite of the Chinese police and
Customs ; for it was difficult to see that their sticks
contained so dangerous an article ; but of course its
being so strictly forbidden made it all the more profit
able to seil.
In the great forests among the mountains the Baron
had often come across robber bands of the dreaded
Khunkhuses ; but he had always found them pleasant
and easy to get on with. These Khunkhus bands are
mainly composed of men who in some way or other have
fallen out with society. The Baron thinks that some of
them were originally illicit gold-washers, who found
gold along the rivers in these out-of-the-way regions,
and carried on their washing in secret without paying
dues to the Chinese Government. Then by degrees it
became known, and they were driven up into the forests,
where, for want of other means of livelihood, they took
to robbery, and they were constantly being joined by
all kinds of criminals who for one reason or another
liked this free life.
They have organized a regular system of tribute.
They know pretty well how much every man makes in
their district, and consequently how much to extort
from each individual without ruining him. The in
habitants then have to pay this to the Khunkhuses as
the price of being left in peace. There are no taxes to
be paid to the State here, so the Khunkhuses think
they can take over the business with advantage. And
they do so most emphatically. The Baron thinks that
the firm of Skidalski of Vladivostok which exports
cedar from these mountains and owns some eight
sawmills here will next year have to fork out 20,000
roubles to the Khunkhuses. If it is not paid, their
managers will have their throats cut, as happened one
328

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