- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
432

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
country becomes flatter and flatter, and at Arshinsk
we are already beginning to approach the steppes,
but it is not entirely flat until we reach the neighbour
hood of the Obi. At the point where the railway crosses
this river stands the town of Novo-Nikolåyevsk. This
is a remarkable town. Fifteen years ago or more,
before the railway came, there were a few huts by the
river ; now there is a city of 85,000 inhabitants.
From here the country is perfectly level for a distance
of about 870 miles, as far as Chelyåbinsk near the Ural
Mountains. It is steppe country that extends to the
south and is merged in the Kirghiz Steppes proper ;
but here it is rather what goes by the nåme of the
" White Birch Steppe." It is an incredibly uniform
country, surpassing anything I have hitherto seen.
Flat as the sea, but without its waves, prairie—prairie
without end; then some low scrub, a few small, white
stemmed birches here and there ; now and then a
haystack, then occasional ploughed fields, but scarcely
a house to be seen from the railway for league after
league. In many places the ground is marshy, and
stagnant water with stiff grass and reeds may extend
for miles on both sides of the line. There is no
drainage along the line here with canals and ditches,
as on the plain of the Amiir. Other parts are drier,
with good, fertile land and black soil, but in places the
water and the soil are strongly saline. For long
stretches it is striking how little cultivation is to be
seen; but Wourtzel assures me that things are quite
different a little way from the railway on both sides,
where, he tells me, there are many villages.
Thursday, October 23. Farther west the country
became somewhat more populated and we saw more
cultivation. But here winter had completely set in.
The fields were covered with snow, and at Petropavlovsk
432

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