- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
358

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
frontier, from the Amiir down towards Lake Khånka.
This was a still harder task ; these Cossack families,
with women and children, were of course exposed to
all kinds of hardships and sufferings on the long voyage
by raft down the Amiir and then up the Ussuri, and their
cattle suffered want and were often lost. No other means
of transit except by the rivers existed in summer in that
roadless country. When at last they arrived in a more
or less exhausted state, they were assigned land by the
authorities, without its håving been ascertained whether
it was suitable for agriculture; the main thing was to
get them spread along the frontier at proper distances
so that they might attend to the mail and posting
services and furnish an armed defence for the country,
or at any rate look as if they did so.
In such conditions it was not an easy matter to
make new hornes, open up new country and find means
of livelihood. It was a hard life and they suffered
much want. Then, in the following year, the Ussuri
overflowed its banks and laid the whole country under
water ; this came quite unexpectedly upon the settlers,
who of course did not know the habits of the river,
and their courage was broken. It did not make matters
any better when a whole army of soldiers under punish
ment received orders to settle with the Cossacks along
the Ussuri.
The consequence of all this was pure misery, and
the Cossacks declined both materially and morally.
They were anything but capable of resistance in case
of a Chinese revolt, as in the year 1868. In bad years
they had no reserve to fall back upon and there was
famine. This led to a number of them håving to seek
aid from the more prosperous Chinese, the Manses
referred to later, borrowing money at usurious rates
and becoming more or less dependent on them. Little
358

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