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The governments of Tobolsk and Irkutsk, embracing the whole country east of the Ural mountains, are usually called Siberia. It covers a greater extent of territory ihan the whole of Europe, while the population hardly exceeds 1,000,000.
Mountains and Lake.] The principal mountains are the Altay chain on the southern boundary, the Ural mountains in the west, and the Caucasian mountains between the Caspian and the Black
The principal lake is lake Baikal the government of Irkutsk. It is 360 miles long, from 20 to 50 broad, and after receiving the waters of the Selinga and several other rivers which rise in the Chinese territory, discharges itself through the Lower Angara into the river Enicei or Jenisey.
Rivers.] The three largest rivers are the Oby, the Enicei or Yenisey and the Lena, all of which discharge themselves into the Arctic ocean, after having traversed the whole breadth of Siberia, from south to north. The principal tributary of the Ohy is the Irtish, which joins it near lat. 61°N. after baving received the Issim and the Tobol. The Kovima is a large river, which falls into the Frozen oceap near lon. 163° E.
The other considerable rivers are, 1. The Kuban, which rises on the north side of the Caucasian mountains, and discharges it. self through many mouths partly into the sea of Azoph and partly into the Black sea. 2. The Kur, which rises on the south side of the Caucasian mountains, and discharges itself into the Caspian after forming for some distance the boundary between Russia and Persia. 3. The Volga. 4. The Qural or Ural, which rises in the Ural mountains in about 54° N. lat. and falls into the Caspian east of the Volga.
Face of the Country. The feature which is most strikingly characteristic of this region is the steppes or vast level plains, which cover the principal portion of its surface. In their extent and the dead uniformity of their aspect, they resemble the deserts of Arabia and Africa, bůt differ entirely as to the nature of the soil which is marshy, covered with long rank“grass and aquatic shrubs, and filled with innumerable saline lakes. The steppe of Issim, in the S. W. part of Siberia, extends across the heads of the Tobol, the Issim and the Irtish, along the foot of the Altay mountains. Connected with this, and reaching from the Irtish to the Yenisey, is another vast steppe of a very dreary aspect. It is almost entirely covered with marshes, and tenanted only by a few wretched natives, who reside in houses half sunk in the ground, and employ themselves in hunting Still more dreary is the vast northern steppe, which extends between the Lower Oby and the Lower Yenisey. Its marshy plains consist of mud, almost constantly frozen. The countries from the Yenişey to the Lena and from the Lena to the Kovyma are also considered as steppes although the level is interrupted by some inequalities in the surface. The governments of Astrachan and Orenburg, on the west of the Ural mountains, consist also principally of vast plains or steppes, abounding with salt lakes, from which large quantities of salt are manufactured.
Climate and Soil.] The northern part of Siberia lies in the frigid zone, the southern frontier is skirted by lofty mountains, while the intermediate district lies sloping towards the north. As might be expected, therefore, the cold is intense ; eternal winter banishes all vegetation from the northern half of the country, except a few dwarfish oaks, and plants of the most hardy character; and the southern half is also a barren and inhospitable region, except a few favored districts, lying at the foot of the mountains. An extensive tract around lake Baikal for example, and for some distance to the west, has a luxuriant soil, favorable to the growth of oats, barley and rye, but it is principally devoted to pasturage. The countries on the head waters of the Tobol and of the Issim are very fertile and form the granary of the goveroments of Tobolsk, Perm and Orenburg. The environs of several of the large towns are also favorable to pasturage, and to the inferior species of grain
Minerals.) Siberia is very rich in minerals. The Ural mountains contain extensive mines of iron and copper with some of gold, for the working of which considerable establishments have been formed. Katharinenburg, in the government of Perm in European Russia, forms the centre of all the toundries and forges in these mountains. The great scene of mining operations in the Altay chain is the Schlangenberg or Serpent mountain, situated about 60 miles from the Irtish and 100 from the Oby. It may be considered as an enormous mineral mass; wherever its covering of slate rock is taken off, all the substances beneath are found to yield gold, silver, copper and plumbago. Zinc, arsenic and sulphur are also abundant. . Between 1749 and 1771 it produced 12,348 pounds of gold, and more than 324,000 pounds of silver. It still yields annually 36,000,000 pounds of mineral of every description; and the veins already discovered will supply the same quantity for 20 years. The mines of Nertschink, on the south side of the Altay chain, yield lead mixed with silver.
Animals.) This bleak country, almost deserted by man, is corered with the elk, the martin, the sable, the beaver and the erinine, animals protected from the cold with a covering of rich and beautisul for, which is eagerly sought after for purposes of comfort and luxury, and hence these frozen regions have become the seat of an extensive fur trade. The rein-deer is also found in most parts of Siberia, and supplies its wild inhabitants with food, milk and clothing, and conveys them with rapidity in sledges over the snow. The most formidable tenant of this part of the world is the bear, and many ingenious methods are used to destroy him. Sometimes they lay a rope in his path, with a heavy block at one end and a noose at the other, contrived in such a way that the bear becomes entangled, and then is either exhausted in dragging so great a weight, or attacking the block with fury, he throws it down some precipice, where it seldom fails to drag him after it to destruction.
Curiosity.] One of the most remarkable curiosities is the remains of huge animals, none of which are now found alive in Si
beria. The bones of the elephant and rhinoceros occur in vast quantities, not only in the southern regions but in the isles of the Frozen ocean. Several entire carcasses have also been found of the mammoth, that extraordinary animal, no longer found alive in any part of the world, but which
surpasses in bulk every other species of land animal.
Chief Towns.) Astrachan, the largest town, is situated on an island in the Volga, 52 miles from its mouth. It is a place of great trade, and has extensive manufactories. Immense quantities of sturgeon and other fish are also caught in the vicinity. The population, consisting of Russians, Armenians, Greeks, Tar. tars, Persians, Jews, Hindoos, English, French, &c. is variously estimated from 30 to 70,000.
Tiflis, the capital of Georgia, is on the Kur, in lat. 41° 43' N. lon. 45° E. It carries on considerable trade with Persia, and has 18,000 inhabitants, half of whom are Armenians.
Baku, in the province of Shirvan, is on a promontory which juts out into the Caspian, and its harbor is one of the best in that sea. The country around Baku yields large quantities of naphtha, which is collected in wells by the natives and used as a substitute for lamp, oil. The earth seems here to be deeply impregnated with inflammable matter, and the city was formerly much resorted to by the Guebres or fire worshippers of Persia, who built various temples of stone, in one of which a blue lambent flame issued from a large hollow cane near the altar, and this the devotees of that sect believed would last till the end of the world.
Orenburg, on the river Ural, 250 miles N. E. of Astrachan, is the great throughfare from Siberia to European Russia and a place of considerable trade. The country around is inhabited by numerous Tartar tribes. Population 21,000.
Tobolsk, situated at the junction of the Tobol and the Irtish, is a place of considerable trade. Here is the general magazine for the furs paid by the various tribes of Siberia as a tribute to the Russian government. The population is 16,000.
Irkutsk, situated at the junction of the Irkut and the Angara, in lon. 103° 30' E. lat. 52° 16' N. is a place of great commercial importance, being the residence of many merchants engaged in the trade between Russia and China, which is carried on at Kiachta. It contains about 20,000 inhabitants.
Kiachta, the centre of all the trade carried on between the Russian and Chinese empires, is situated on the southern frontier of Siberia, 330 miles S. of Irkutsk, and within a stone-cast of the Chinese city of Maimatshin. The great fair is held in December, when merchants flock hither from every part of the Russian empire. They bring cloths, furs, Russia and morocco leather, and receive in exchange nankeens, silk stuffs, tea, rhubarb, &c. The town contains 150 houses.
Okhotsk, the centre of the trade with Kamtschat and Russian America, is situated on a long narrow peninsula included between the river Okhota and the sea of Olshotsk. It contains 9,000 inhabitants.
Tomsk, on the Oby, at the junction of the Tom, has considerable trade and 11,000 inhabitants. Barnaul, a mining town, and the centre of all the forges and foundries in the Altaian mountaios, is situated near the junction of the Barnaul and the Oby, 100 miles S. E. of Kolhyvane. Yeniseisk, on the Yenisey, has 8,000 inhabitants, and a famous fair which is frequented by merchants from every part of Siberia. Yakutsk, on the Lena, has 3,000 inhabitants and a flourishing fur trade.
Population. The number of inhabitants is estimated at about 2,700,000. The mass of the population in Siberia consists of the native tribes, who are subject to the Russian government, but on whom the yoke presses very lightly, they being merely obliged to pay a certain tribute annually. These tribes are numerous and wholly dissimilar to each other. The tracts in the south and east are occupied by the Mongols, and by the Burats, a pation of the same race. They exhibit the same features and follow the same pursuits with the rest of their nation who inhabit the vast regions of Central Asia. These tribes inhabit the banks of the Selenga, of the lake Baikal, and of the Upper Yenisey.
The southern parts of the government of Tobolsk are filled by various tribes of Tartars who subsist principally by pasturage, particularly by the rearing of horses. I'he northern districts are possessed by hunting tribes, peculiar to itself, not found in any other part of Asia. The principal are the Tungouses upon the Yenisey, the Ostiaks upon the Oby, the Yakoutes upon the Lena, the Samoieds upon the whole northern coast eastward to the Lena, the Tchoutchis at the N. E. extremity of Asia. The European inhabitants of Siberia consist almost exclusively of the troops occupying a series of fortified posts, scattered at wide intervals over this vast dominion, and the descendants of those unhappy persons who were doomed, by the government, to exile in these dreary regions.
Religion.) The religion generally diffused throughout this territory consists of that widely extended system of Boodh, or of the Lamas, which has its central seat in Tibet, but is generally professed over all the east and centre of Asia. It is here called Shamanism. On the Upper Selinga, to the south of lake Baikal, is the residence of the Bandida Lama, the pope or head of the religion in this part of Asia. Christianity has hitherto made very little progress among the natives of Asiatic Russia ; though considerable efforts have recently been made, and with some success, both by the Russian government and the British missionary gocieties.
Commerce.) The commerce of Siberia consists chiefly of two branches. The first is formed by the exportation of its metals and furs; the second is a mere transit trade, consisting in the overland intercourse of Russia with the Chinese empire. The former is in a great measure in the hands of the government, who have monopolized the most valuable mines, and to whom the tribute of all the wandering tribes is paid in furs.
Inland Navigation.] Notwithstanding the course of the great rivers is from south to north, the merchants carry on a navigable intercourse from west to east, with very few interruptions, across the whole of Siberia. Soon after crossing the Ural mountains they descend the Tobol to Tobolsk; ther descend the Irtish to its junction with the Oby, and then by ascending that river and one of its tributaries, they come almost to Yeniseisk. After à short land carriage they embark on the Yenisey, and by the Tungouska and Angara are conveyed to Irkutsk. A short land carriage then places them upon the Lena, which they descend, till a little below Yakutsk they find a tributary which conveys them to the foot of the Stanovoy mountains ; after the laborious passage of which, they find a small river, which transports them to Okhotsk, on the shore of the sea of the same name. The merchants trading to China follow the same route, as far as Irkutsk ; thence they cross the lake of Baikal, and ascend the Selenga to Kiachta, the theatre of this commerce.
Kamtschatka.] Kamtschatka is a large peninsula forming part of the government of Irkutsk, and lying between the Pacific ocean on the east and the sea of Okhotsk on the west. It is traversed through its whole length from N. to S. by a chain of lofty mountains. The number of inhabitants by the last cepsus was only 2,843. They live almost exclusively by fishing and hunting. Instead of rein-deer they use dogs to draw their sledges over the snow and ice.
Islands.) The Aleutian islands are about 40 in number, and extend in the form of a bow from the peninsula of Kamtschatka to that of Alaska in North America. The inhabitants are few in number and subsist principally by fishing and hunting. The Kurile islands extend in a S. W. direction from the southern point of Kamtschatka to the isle of Jesso, which belongs to Japan. Several of the islands at the southern extremity of the group are subject to the Japanese. The population of the whole is said tot to exceed 1,400.
Situation and Extent.] Arabia is bounded N. by the pachalics of Bagdad and Damascus in Asiatic Turkey ; E. by the Persian gulf; S. by the Indian ocean ; and W. by the Red sea. It extends from 12° to 34° N. lat. and from 33° to 59° E. lon. The area, according to Arrowsmith's chart, is 1,030,000 square miles.