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OJornell Itttneraita Slibtarg 






CLASS OF 1876 


Cornell University Library 
DK 755.F84 

The real Siberia :toaether with an accou 

3 1924 023 035 912 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis bool< is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 







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Author of " Round tht World on a Wheel," etc. 


First Edition April 1502. 

Reprinted June and Sepiemher 1902, Jamtary^ March, May, 

July, August, October and November 1903, January, 

February, March 10 and 25, ^/nV ««(/ June 1904. 













This volume lays claim to give nothing more than 
personal impressions of a journey made across Siberia 
and through Manchuria in the autumn of 1901. 

I went to Siberia on a mission of curiosity, with 
the average Britisher's prejudice against things 
Russian, and with my eyes wide open to see things 
I might criticise and even condemn. 

If, however, I found little to bless in the great 
land beyond the Urals, I also found very little to 
curse. Through generations there has grown up in 
the public mind the idea that Siberia is a land of 
snow and exiles. There is much that is thrilling in 
stories of innocent prisoners, weary and starving, being 
driven through blinding storms with the whips of 
brute oflBcials to urge them on. Yet the public, I am 
afraid, rather like that sort of thing, and a succession 
of writers have ministered to their appetite for sensa- 
tion. So only one phase of Siberian life — a slight 
and a passing phase — has been depicted. 

Nurtured largely on such books, I went to Siberia 
half expecting to feed on horrors, and with the 
intention of Avriting one more volume to show how 
cruel the Russian is. Of course I saw much to 
condemn. But I saw something else. I saw that the 
popular idea about Siberia is altogether wrong. I saw 
a land capable of immense agricultural possibilities, 
great stretches of prairie waiting for the plough, huge 


forests, magnificent waterways and big towns, with 
fine stores, with great hotels, with electric light 
gleaming everywhere ; in a word, instead of a gaunt, 
lone land, inhabited only by convicts, I saw a country 
that reminded me from the first day to the last of 
Canada, and the best parts of western America. i 

I look upon Siberia as the ultimate great food- 
producing region of the earth. The building of the 
mighty Trans-Siberian Railway has attracted the 
attention of traders. Americans and Germans are 
already in the country opening up commerce. 
Britishers, however, lag behind. 

The title of this book is "The Real Siberia," 
because I endeavour to show that the Siberia of 
convicts and prisons is passing away, and the Siberia 
of the reaping machine, the gold drill, the timber 
yard, the booming, flourishing new town, is awakening 
into life. 

Some of my conclusions may be wrong. But I 
looked about and kept my ears open. I am too small 
a man to pose either as a friend or enemy to Russia. 
I am simply a man who went out to see, and I have 
written about what I saw. Whatever be the faults of 
this book, it is, at least, an honest record. 


The Atjthoks' Club, 

Whitehall Coukt, London, 8.W. 
April 1902. 


The Staut prom Moscow. taof 

Off to Siberia— Not by the Siberian Express— My Travelling Com- 
panions—The English Governess in Eusaia- Her Sphere of 
Influence- Prince Hilkoff— His Anglo-American Education— 
St. Petersburg and Moscow— J?7i RnuCe ..... 1 

Over thb Ural Mountains. 
Our First Meal— Russian Refreshment Rooms— Waiting for a Wash 
—The Emigrants— Their Habits and Customs— A Woeful Pic- 
ture—The Volga — Tartars and Cossacks — A Russian Village — 
Why the Railway avoids the Towns— Ufa— The Urals . . 12 


Through a Great Lone Land. 

Chelyabinsk — An Anglophil Baroness — The Ante-room to Siberia — ^A 

Region with a Past — Siberia's [New Leaf — Termak— Freebooter 

and Empire-Maker — The Trans-Siberian Line — Some Figures 

and Facts 23 

In a Siberian Town. 
Omsk — The Heart of Siberia — A genuine Droshld — Nitohevo /—" My 
little Dove"— The Policeman's Rattle— The Irtish River— Omsk 
Gaieties — Omsk Celebrities — The finest Pasture Land in the 
World — American Manufacturers to the Front — John Bull lags 
Behind — "The Best Danish" from Omsk— .V Khirghiz Camp— 
The Red Indians of the Steppes — Omsk en Jilt . . , . "'2 

Siberia as an Abricultur.\l Codntrt. 
The Real Siberia — Siberian Settlers and Settlements— Shortcomings 
of the Russian Farmer — His Lack of Energy — Siberian Horses- 
Tartar Sheep — Big Game — How Siberia is Administered — 
Feasant Lifs 44 


A Caravanserai for Orgies. r 

'CccAffls/"— The Importance of Sealing-Wax— Tomsk— Why the 
EaUway gives Tomsk a Wide Berth— A Eollicking City— Mil- 
lionaires and Ex-Convicts — The Goldfields — A Granary for 
Siberia— The Hermit of Tomsk — Was he the Czar? — An 
Exiled Prince 



Vagrant Notes by the Way. 

From Tomsk to Irkutsk— An Unromantic Route— I am Shadowed— 

My Revenge- Russian Tea-A Land of Pines— The Railway 

Workmen— Good-Conduct Convicts— The Trans-Siberian Time 

Table 69 

The Paris op Siberia. 
Irkutsk— The Paris of Siberia— The Tea Trade -The Irkutsk Labora- 
tory and its Ingots— The Heathen Chinee— "Ways that are 
Dark"— A Mushroom City— A Felt Want— Fashion and Wealth 81 

In Irkutsk Prison. 
Mr. George Kennan and the Siberian Prisons— My Resolve to see for 
Myself— I visit the Prison at Irkutsk — The Governor— Governor 
and Prisoners — The Kitchen — Criminal Types — The Prison 
for Women — The Siberian Exiles — Verestchagin — A Story 
with a Moral 92 

Sunday in Siberia. 
In the Cathedral— Orthodoxy and Dissent — A famous Monastery — 
The Apostle of Siberia — St. Innokente 105 

Trade and Some Trifles. 
The Russian and his Knife and Fork— Irkutsk Industries — Em- 
ployers and Employed — Officialdom — Russian Dislike of Hurry 
— Siberian Waterways — Our one Import 1 1.18 

Across the Great Lake Baikal. 
Bussian Bags and Baggage — The River Angara — Its beautiful 


Scenery — Lake Baikal — A Steamer made in Newcastle — A 
FoUow-Britisher— The Wonderful ' ' Baikal "— Tlie Yabloni Moun- 
tains—Our only Tunnel— The 13uriat Mongols— A Sootch-liko 
Laml-Cliita 128 

Thb Oampobnia op Sieema. 
The Siberian Gold Mines — Tlie Nertohinsk Silver Mines— Convict 
Labour — The River Shilka — Streitinsk— A Eefractory Bedstead . 142 


Down the Shilka and Amur Eivehs. 

I leave the Railway — The Town of Streitinsk — Russian Reckoning — 

' ' The Best Hotel " — A Siberian Night's Entertainment — Off to 

Blagovestohensk — The Admiral Tschchachoff— Saloon Studies — 

How to Stop a Snorer — A Thousand Miles of Pretty Scenery . 154 


The Black Chime of Blagovestohensk. 

A Collision— We u'rivo at Blogovestohensk — The New York of 

Siberia — Twenty Years ago a Cossack Outpost — ^A Military 

Stronghold of the Future— The Crime of 1900— How the 

Chinese were "Expelled" 167 


Some Companions and Some Tales. 

A Fi-anoo-Eussian Eejoioing — To Khabarorak on the De Witte — 

Agriculture in the Amur Region — The Siberian Pig — The 

Fur Trade — My American Companion — His Tall Tales— 

Khabarovsk ISl 


The Land's End op Siberia. 

Siberian Russians and Russians Proper — "Only Ohinomon" — In 

Sight of the Pacific — Vladivostok Station — Wanted 1 A 

British Consul — The Wrong Sort of Consul — Y hidivostok 

Harbour— Russia's Achievements in the East .... 194 

In Sear-oh of Adventure — My Russian Kit — My Fellow-Travallers — 
Some Ugly Iiioidents 208 



A Manchurian "Boom" Town. 
A Considerate CoBsack— Cheerfulness under Difficulties— Cossack 
Characteristics— Harbin— Its Cafe Chantamt— The Mancliurian 
Railway — The Sungari River 220 



A Comfortless Journey — A Magic Scene — "Shookeeng" — I am 
Arrested and asked to Dine — Speeding the Parting Guest — 
Hingan Town — Into Mongolia 232 

In a Cosner or Mongolia. 
Mindenken — The Making of the Railway — Tluree Miles of Line a 
Day — A Day among the Mountains — Hilar — A Walled City — 
Back in Siberia 244 

A Cold Drive to a Great Prison. 
Alexandrovski — A Moonlight Sledge Ride — The Governor of the 
Prison — A Scotch Prisoner — The Prisoners' Work and Wages — 
Their Shop — Their Theatre — Their Library — Married Convicts , 256 


The Homeward Journey and Some Opinions. 

The Bi- Weekly Express — A Train de luxe — A Marvel of Cheapness — 

The Companionable Russian — My Prejudices Dispelled — Russia 

as I Found It — The Real Russia and the Real Siberia — "Russia's 

Destiny"? ... 270 


I\lB. Foster Fbaseb . . .... 


Ths Boad to Sibebia 


The Popdlar Idea abodt Travel in Siberia 

The BbaIi Wat to Traverse Siberia , 

The Great Bridqb across the Yolqa . 

The Boute over the Ural Mountains ■ 

Whenever the Train halted there was an 
Opportunity for a Promenade . 

Third Olass Passengers 

OusK Station 

Cadets at Omsk 

The Ohuroh of St. Nicholas, Omsk 

The Oeremonv of Blessing the Waters 

Khibqis on the Steppes ...... 

A Khirqis Bride 

Village Oronies 

Dinner Time on a Farm 

The Conductor 

Thebb is a Samovar at every Station , . 

The Club-house at Tomsk 

The Theatre at Tomsk 

, Frontispiece 

To face p. 


f» II 


11 II 












II 1* 




11 II 






If II 




i» II 




II 11 


11 II 


11 II 


>i It 



Thbough tee Taiga 

A 'WAYsroE Station 

These is a husb Wateb-Toweb at evbet Station 

A Ttfioal Slbebiah Station 

Thb Citt op Iekhtsk 

Aftebnoon Soene in Ixeutse 

The Hotel Dekko at Ieeutse .... 
The Chief or Ibeutsk Fbison .... 
A Geoup of Conviots whh Heads Half Shaven 

In Ibeutsk Fbison 

A Gboup of CoHTic?ra . . ^ . . , 
Five Wouen who had Udbdebed theib Husbands 
On the Boas to the MoNAarESY . , . , 
The Monasibby of St. Innokente .... 


The Gbeat Enolish-Bdili Iob-Bbeaker "Baikal " 
Kdnnino a Tbain on Boabd the "Baikal" 

Lake Baikal in Suuueb 

The "Anqaba" in Wikteb 

The "Anqaba" on Lake Baikal .... 
My Lady Acquaintances Buy Feuit 

A Couple of Bubiats 

The "Baikal" in the Ice .... . 
The "Baikal" Beeakino the Ice , 


Babtsbinq on tee Biteb Side .... 
On the Biteb Fbont at Stbsitinse 


To face p. 
















































































Down thb Amur River To face p. 164 

On thb Banks of the Amur „ ,, 154 

Thu Out o» Tomsk ,, ,> 160 

Down thb Amur u n 166 

A Prison Babqb on thb Eitbb .... „ ,, 166 

Thb " Grand Hotel " at Blasovestohensk . . „ „ 171 

The Btvbr Front at Blaqovbstohensk . . „ „ 171 

A Feasant's Housb » i> 181 

A ViLlAaB SOKNB .1 II 181 

Mt Fbllow Passengbrs on thb "Db Witte" , „ „ 188 

OoasAos Oamp on the Manohubian Side or the 

Amur „ „ 188 

Three Eobbans ,, „ 194 

From the Carmaqb Window in Eastern Siberia ,, ,, 194 

On the Ussubi Linb „ „ 196 

A Waysidb Station ,, ,, 196 

OvERiooKiNQ Vladivostok ,, „ 207 

The Main Street in yLASiTOSTos , . , ,, „ 207 

How I WENT ACROSS MANOHUBIA .... „ ,, 209 

A Station in Manchuria „ ., 209 

Oarrtimo the Head or a Ohinese Bobber . . ,, ,, 224 

A Deoafitatbd Chinaman , . . . . ,, „ 234 

The Ohutese Eseoutiokbr ,, ,, 224 

DiiAooiKG Deoafitatbd Chinese to Burial . . „ „ 224 

Cossacks and a Chinssb Cart ... „ „ 227 

A Cossack Guard Station and 'Watch Tower . „ „ 227 

Cossacks Guasdinq the Line „ >■ 238 

Examinino Permissions to Trayil in MAKOHuroA „ „ 238 


The Author as he Travelled over the Hinoan 

Mountains To face p. 246 

The Post m Manohueia ,< ■> 246 

Some Mongols » » 251 

A Meal on a Cobneb of the Gobi Desebt . . ,, ,, 2S1 

The Goveenob of Alexandrovski and the Chief 

Wabdeb ,, „ 260 

Bbingino in the Pbisonkbs' Dinneb . . . ,, ,1 260 


PoLiTiOALs Staeting Up-Countbt , . , . „ „ 269 

A Sleeping Boom . ,, ,, 275 

Peisonebs at Wobk , . „ „ 275 

A Siberian Boad in Winteb ■ . . . . „ „ 279 




THE bell in the big stuccoed and whitewashed 
Moscow station gave a clang. Thereupon 
brawny and black-whiskered men took off their caps, 
put their arms about each other's necks, and gave a 
brother's kiss upon the lips. 

There was uproar. The train for Siberia was 
staiting. A bunch of officers, Avoll-set young Russians, 
in neat white Unen jackets with gold straps on the 
shoulders, crowded a window and laughed good-bjes 
to friends. 

From the windows of the next car were the uncouth 
faces of peasants, their hair tangled and matted, their 
red shirts open at the throat. They were stohd and 
brutal They were the moudjiks emigrating to the 
mysterious, evil-omened Siberia. On the platform 
stood their wives — dumpy, unattractive women, in 
short skirts, and with gaudy handkerchiefs about 
their heads. They did not understand the language of 
farewell. With eyes tear-red and with quivering lips 
they looked upon the hulking hairy men with the 
sleepy animal faces. But they said nothing. 

Three mechanics, drink laden, came reeling along, 



bumping everyone with their kits. Their eyes were 
glazed, and they grinned slobberingly and lurched like 
coal barges beating up against a gale. 

The bell clanged twice. Everybody must get 
aboard now. Once more the brother's kiss. From 
the car window the young fellows got long and ardent 
hand grips. They were in the blush of life, and off to 
Siberia with laughter in their hearts. 

Standing a little back was an ordinary soldier, a 
fair- haired lad, slim and beardless. He was at 
attention, his heels clapped, his arms taut by his side. 
He was more than head and shoulders taller than the 
wizened little woman, her tanned old face all seared 
with care, who was clutching at him, and kissing him 
on the tunic and dulling its whiteness with mother's 
tears. And she was praying a mother's prayer. 

Clang, clang, clang ! Three times, and all aboard 

There was a shrill whistle. The cars creaked and 
moved. Everybody, in the train and on the platform, 
made the sign of the cross. The perilous unknown 
was ahead of them. 

Some husky shouts of farewell were thrown from 
the windows, and there was some dimness of eyes. 
Even a scampering foreigner felt the solemnity of the 
occasion. But in a few seconds we were in the sun- 
shine of a blazing afternoon, and the train was 
lumbering on its way to Siberia. It was Thursday 
afternoon, August 22nd, 1901. 

This was not the famous Siberian Express about 
which so much has been written and which starts 
twice a week from Moscow, " the fairest jewel in the 
crown of the Czars," for the far-off city of Irkutsk in 


Central Siberia, a continent away indeed, 3,371 miles, 
and which is reached in exactly eight days. The 
Russians are an enthusiastic and credulous people, and 
m all the world they think there is nothing so mag- 
nificent as this Siberian Express. They come in their 
hundreds to the Moscow station every Tuesday and 
Saturday night, the grandees in their furs and their 
pearls, the red-shir ted, matted-haired moudjiks, and 
the shaven-chinned, American felt-hatted commercial 
men who have the spice of the West in their veins, 
and they all stand and gaze at the people Siberia- 
bound as most of us will look at the first traveller to 
Mars. Siberia is a long way off. Has anybody ever 
returned from Siberia ? Hearts grow big and words 
choke. Tears stain many cheeks. Yet laughter and 
merriment rings over sorrow. 

Remembering this is slothful Russia and not slap- 
dash, bang-about America, it is a luxurious train, is 
the Siberian Express, with its electric lights, restau- 
rant, hbrary, observation car, bath rooms, ladies' 
boudoir, piano, and all that is considered " up-to-date " 
in travelling. Europe is now looking towards Siberia 
as half a century ago it looked towards Western 
America — it is the wheatfield of the world ; it has the 
finest grazing to be found in the two hemispheras ; 
no horses are like the Siberian horses ; its butter is 
shouldering "best Danish" from the market; great 
areas yield coal and iron ; its hills ooze gold. There 
is a Siberian " boom." 

The rich speculators, engineers, Government officials, 
Germans searching for trade, to build a bridge or to 
open a store, all travel by this train. It is invariably 
crowded. You have to sleep four in a coup4, two on 


tlie seats and two on the improTised bunks above. To 
be sure of a place you must book weeks ahead. 

I had no desire to travel like this. I am a vagabond 
fond of taking things slowly. So what did it matter if 
I took eight or eighteen or twenty-eight days to reach 
Irkutsk ? I had no mining concession. It was the 
last thing in my mind to open a store. Mine was but 
a mission of curiosity. I wanted to see Russia ; I 
wanted to see the poor, crushed, depraved Russian 
peasants ; above all I wanted to see Siberia. So I did 
what no wise foreigner had ever been known to do 
before. I travelled by the ordinary daily train that 
jogs along slowly, stopping at the wayside stations, 
picking up moudjiks, putting moudjiks down. It 
took very much longer, but there was a charm about 
that. Besides, it was much cheaper and it required 
only a very small bribe pressed into the hand of the 
black-whiskered, astrakan-capped conductor to get a 
carriage to myself. I spoke four words of Russian, 
and I carried all my belongings in a couple of bags. 

Off to Siberia! 

There is something uncanny in the phrase. The 
very word Siberia is one to make the blood run 
chilL It smeUs of fetters in the snow. You hear the 
thud of the knout on the shoulders of sickened men. 
For generations, to whisper Siberia in the ear of a 
Russian has been to make the cheek blanch. No one 
ever went there but in chains. The haggard men 
that ever came back told tales that made listeners 
breathe hard. 

We have aU supped of Siberian horrors. We 
shudder, cry out for their ending, but have a grue- 
Bome satisfaction in reading about them. 


Yet Siberia, the land of criminals and exiles, is 
pushed into the dusk when we think of Siberia with its 
millions of miles of corn-growing land, minerals waiting 
to be won, great tracks of country to be populated. 

Siberia is the Canada of the eastern world. 

For a fortnight before mounting this train I bustled 
about St. Petersburg and Moscow seeing Government 
officials, seeking advice and information and assist- 
ance. And after each interview I had with Ministers 
of the Czar my mind reverted to a lady I saw on the 
frontier when at Wirballen I entered Russia from 
Germany. I recognised her as a fellow-country- 
woman : tall, angular, wearing spectacles, a woman ol 
uncertain age. There was only one thing on earth 
she could be — a governess. Governess was writ large 
all over her. I could read her story plain enough. 
There was poor pay and hard work at home, and 
now, after years of struggle, she was going to Russia 
to be English governess to some wealthy man's 
children. I am afraid I have the ordinary man's 
ungenerosity towards the tribe of governesses, and 1 
thought as I looked upon her plainness that she was 
a weedy specimen of English womankind. 

At St. Petersburg I met officials. Everyone spoke 
English. It was not mere courtesy that led them to 
speak appreciatively of things English. That kind of 
talk is easily to be seen through. But their liking 
was honest and deep-seated. They measured things 
by English standards. 

More than once I remarked, "It seems strange 
that you, a Russian, should take such an interest in 
English life and methods." The answer was in- 
variably the same : " I daresay it does ; but you must 


remember that my nursery governess was an English- 

That impressed me. It was not long before I 
learned that the kindly regard for English folk you 
find among the upper classes of Kussia is to be traced 
direct to the influence exercised in the nursery by 
spare-figured English governesses. 

And in my heart I have apologised to the lady I 
saw at Wirballen. 

A man I had two talks with was Prince Hilkoff, 
Minister of Ways of Communication, the chief of the 
railway administration, also of the post roads, rivers, 
and canals. When I was first received I found in the 
ante-room, awaiting audience, uniformed officials with 
rows of orders upon their breasts — a gorgeous, eye- 
aching display of picturesque garb. I half anticipated 
to find his Excellency in dazzling dress; but I was 
greeted by an elderly gentleman in a navy blue lounge 
suit, and with the easiest of manners. There was 
nothing Kussian or official about him. He looked 
American, with his long, strong, bronzed face and 
little tuft of beard that the Americans call a goatee. 
He spoke English like an American. 

" Yes," he said, " I studied engineering at Birken- 
head and afterwards in America. It was when I was 
a deal younger than I am now. It was at the time 
of the liberation of the serfs, and my family and I 
didn't see that disputed point exactly in the same light. 
So I packed up and went abroad to shift for myself 
It was a little rough, but I guess I got over that. I 
came back to Russia just when Russia was beginning 
to be interested in railways. I got a small position — 
oh ! a very small position in the administration." 

i -M'tji 




" And since then ? " I urged. 

" Oil, since then," he replied, " I've just worked. 
I'm just a working man, you know — a sort of black- 
smith. But I never worry. What is the good of 
worrjdng ? When my work is done, I like to shut it 
right away. Then I play tennis with my children, or 
I hunt or fish. That's a great thing I like about 
English business men. When their work is finished 
it is really finished, and they get out of doors for 
exercise. Now, an American can't play golf without 
thinking about business. The Americans are a fine 
go-ahead people, the most go-ahead in the world, 
but if they would just think there was something 
else besides business, why I guess they'd get some 
real value out of life." 

He was very proud of this gi-eat Trans-Siberian lino, 
was Prince Hilkoft! 

Now the train had stirred to speed, and with a 
thump-clang, thump-clang thundered over the metals. 
Everyone Avas at the window, with body half hang- 
ing out to catch the last gleam of sunlight on the 
cupolas of the gilt and bedizened Greek churches 
in wonderful Moscow, the great city of the plain, 
ancient capital of Muscovy, now blend of garish Tartar 
and drab European. 

St. Petersburg is too modern, too cosmopolitan to 
please eyes fond of the picturesque. The buildings 
are usually imitations of something else, and the 
mai'ble, not infrequently, is painted plaster. There is 
a T-square arrangement of thoroughfares which is 
useful, but not pretty. There are the palaces to be 
seen. But palaces are the same the world over — the 
same endless galleries, with the same giant vases and 


gilt bedsteads and slippery floors. Palaces must be 
uncomfortable to live in. You cannot put your feet on 
the cbairs, and you would probably be decapitated if 
you dropped cigar ash on the floor. 

Moscow is far better. Here you get the clash of 
east and west. It is a city with distinction and 
individuality. It is crowded with churches, and the 
bells, beaten with wooden hammers, boom the day 
long. The style of the churches is Byzantine, with 
spiral flowers in flaming reds and greens and yellows. 
There is the Kremlin, amazingly attractive and 
strange, with old-time grotesqueness. 

As I strolled round the Kremlin, I seemed to slip 
back to the fantastic architecture in story book 
pictures, when I believed fairy tales. Had a fair lady 
appeared with a candle-snuffer hat twice as high as 
herself and tilted back, and trailing yards of muslin, 
I would have accepted it all as perfectly natural. 

But dovetailing into and wrapping about the 
Tartar city is the strictly modern. There are horse 
tramcars in the town, and in the suburbs are whizzing 
electric cars that shriek as they tear along. There 
are charming gardens where, beneath the trees and 
in the candlelight, you may have dinner. You lounge 
and dawdle and puff your cigarette and imagine you 
are in the Champs £lysees. You understand the 
slow tread of civilisation, however, when the orchestra 
plays " There will be a hot time in the old town to- 
night " — a belated air, but reminiscent of home. 

You get the English papers in Moscow about a 
week late. Should there be anything interesting 
about Russia, which, of course, you particularly want 
to read, you wUl find the column smeared out with 


the toughest of blacking. I have friends who confess 
to making periodic attempts to wash that blacking. 
They are never successful. The cartoon in Punch 
is frequently obliterated by a black smudge. A lady 
I know received a London illustrated paper. A half- 
page picture was blotted. Her innate feminine 
curiosity was aroused. She did her best to obliterate 
the obliteration. She failed. She was happily ac- 
quainted with an Englishman in diplomatic service 
who received his newspapers uncensored. She 
hastened to look at his paper. Her inquisitiveness 
was thereupon instantly appeased. The picture was 
an advertisement of the Czar receiving, with open 
hands and undoubted satisfaction, a box of much 
boomed pills manufactured in the neighbourhood of 
St. Helens, Lancashire ! 

All through that first hot afternoon the train went 
grudgingly along, as though it were loath to move 
Siberia-wards. It was made up of corridor carriages, 
first class painted blue, second class yellow, third 
class green. 

There must be fifty little towns within fifty miles 
of Moscow. The train stopped at every one of them, 
sometimes for only five minutes, more often for twenty, 
and once for an hour and a half 

Everybody tumbled out on the platform, a motley 
throng. The men wore the conventional pancake- 
topped and peaked caps, and without exception top- 
boots, very soft about the ankle, so the leather clung 
in creases. The difference in the garb between the 
better class and poorer class Russian is in the matter 
of shirt. The better class Russian favours a shirt of 
soft tone, a puce, a grey, and now and then a white, 


and he tucks it away like a decorous European. The 
poorer Russian has a shirt of such glaring redness 
that, be it as dirty as it might, its flaming hue is 
never lost. He wears it hanging outside his trousers 
as though it were an embryo kilt. 

As evening closes in and the train trundles over a 
prairie I see the meagre harvest has been garnered. 
There are no hedges, hardly a tree. It is possible to 
see all round, as though to the edge of the world, and 
that is not more than two miles away. The roads 
are ribbony tracks across the waste. Far off are 
awkward V-shaped carts, each making a huge wake of 
dust. A greyness hangs over the earth. Like the 
white sails of a ship looming out of a sea haze, a white 
object pierces the gloom. Nearer you see it is the 
cupola of the village church, always a massive, im- 
posing building, whitewashed. The village is like 
a hem of rubbish thrown about. 

There is the sadness of the sea on a plain that has 
no break in the horizon. As night closes a cold wind 

The railway line stretches endlessly behind; it 
stretches endlessly in front. The train is like a fly 
trailing across a hemisphere. 

Every verst there is a rude cabin made of logs, 
painted yellow. In each cabin is a peasant, and some- 
times a wife and daughter. As the train comes along 
a little green flag must be shown to prove the line is 
clear. Each cabin is within sight of the next, a verst 
ahead, and the one behind. And these little green 
flags stretch from Moscow to the Pacific coast. It is 
usually the mother or the daughter who shows the flag. 
They are stunt women in scant clothing and bare feet. 


Only occasionally is the little banner unfurled. 
Generally it is wrapped round the stick and tied, and 
is held out just for form's sake. They are old and 
worn, many of the banners, and, like some umbrellas, 
look well while folded, but would show a tattered face 
if unfurled. When darloiess comes it is a green lamp 
that is displayed. 

The train creaks and groans and growls. On the 
engine front are three great lights, as if it would 
search a path through the wilderness. So we crawl 
into the night on our way to Siberia. 




That first night, with a single blinking candle for 
illumination, I lay on an improvised bed I made 
mj'self, listening to the regular jog-thud, jog-thud, of 
the carriages over the metals. Twice the conductor — 
a stout, black-bearded, mayoral gentleman in military 
kind of frockcoat, with a white and purple tassel on 
the shoulder — came with a couple of supernumeraries, 
thinner men, to open and shut the doors for him, and 
inspected my ticket. There must be an odour of 
large tips about the foreigner. Anyway, he received 
my ticket with a bow, examined it carefully as though 
it were the first thing of its kind he had ever seen, and 
then handed it back to me with another bow. 

I was glad when the weary dawn arrived. I was 
gladder still when the train pulled up at a station, and 
I joined in the dash and the scramble towards the 
buffet, where scalding tea was to be had and mince- 
meat stuffed dumplings, satisfying, and most indi- 
gestible, to be bought for a trifle. 

How the Russian eats ! He has no fixed mealtime, 
but takes food when he is hungry, which is often. He 
has about six square meals a day. He has at least a 
dozen lunches, a little bit of salt fish or some caviare, 
a piece of bread and cheese, an onion and some red 
cabbage, a sardine and a slice of tomato, all washed 
down with many nips of fiery vodki. He never 
passes a station without a glass of tea — marvellous 


tea, with a thin slice of lemon floating in it. I got a 
fondness for Russian tea, and foreswore bemillced 
decoctions for ever. 

Russians have a sufficient dash of the East in them 
to be careless about time. Whether they arrive at 
their destination to-morrow or next week is a matter 
of indifference. But the inner man must be attended 
to. So at every station there is a buffet, sometimes 
small, sometimes large, but always good, clean, and 
painted white. There are one, two, or three long 
tables, with clean cloths, with serviettes covering 
slices of white and Russian rye bread ; plants are on 
the table, and are circled by rows of wine bottles, with 
the price written on the label. On a side table are 
hot dishes, half fowls, beef steaks, meat pies, basins of 
soup. There are plenty of waiters dressed as are 
Avaiters in PiccadUly hotels. Everything is bright and 
neat. And this is at wayside stations with not a 
house withm sight ; with, indeed, nothing but heaving 
dreary prairie around. It is the same all along the 
lina There is a difference in the size of the buffets, 
but never in excellence. I am enthusiastic about 
these Russian refreshment-rooms. And if ever the 
Muscovite thanks the Great White Czar for anything 
he should thank him for the food on the railways. 
Foreigners grumble about the slowness of the Russian 
trains. They are not particularly slow. The time is 
spent at the railway stations while the passengers eat. 
And while Russians have appetites in proportion to 
the size of their country those waits are not likely to 
be shortened. 

Dragging the train on which I travelled were two 
engines, black and greasy, and with huge fuimel- 


shaped chimneys. They consumed an enormous 
quantity of wood. But there was no scarcity, for at 
every station there are stacks of wood sawn into 
convenient chunks. 

At one end of the train was the post-waggon, with 
two brass horns ornamenting its outer panels, and a 
green painted letter-box, bearing a picture of a sealed 
letter hanging outside. In other lands the mail is 
sent by the fastest trains. In Kussia it is sent by the 
approximately slow. 

All the other cars were for passengers — one car 
painted blue for first-class passengers, two painted 
yellow for second-class, and seven painted green for 
third-class passengers. 

So the majority were third-class, a higgledy-pig- 
gledy community of decent-looking artisans and their 
wives and hordes of children wandering East to settle, 
and a fair sprinkling of harum-scarum young fellows, 
always smoking cigarettes and diving into every buffet 
and shouting for pevo (beer), and making mock 
attempts to pitch one another out of the window. 

Themass, however, of my fellow travellers were the 
moudjiks, shaggy men with big sheep-skin hats that 
gave them a ferocious air, wearing rough-spun cloaks 
and often with sacking tied around their feet instead 
of boots. The women were fat and plain, though 
the colours of their dresses were often startling in 
brilliancy Gaudy orange was popular. 

The lavatory accommodation, even in a first-class 
car, was limited, and as it was for the joint use of both 
sexes it was a cause of frequent embarrassmei^ts. 

Ablutions had to be performed singly, and for 
two hours each morning there was a little crowd of 


unwashed and semi-dressed men and women standing 
about the corridor, all smoking cigarettes, women as 
well as men, and each eyeing their neighbour with 
side glances of distrust lest there was some under- 
hand move to get possession of the lavatory first. 

Among the provoking things of life is the way 
Russian hotels and lavatories on Russian trains 
supply you with water to cleanse yourself. There is 
no tap to turn on the water, but there is a button, 
which, on pressing with your hand, releases a trickle. 
The moment you cease pressing the button the 
supply is cut off. When you are actually pressing 
the water trails along your elbow and soaks your shirt 
sleeves, or douses your clothes and boots. The only 
refuge is selfishness. 

So I plugged the basin outlet with a cork and 
held the button up with a lead pencil till the basin 
Avas fuU. Then I washed. Thus the water supply 
soon gave out, and I picked up several expletives in 
Russian from my fellows. And after all, perhaps, 
they didn't mind. Before the end of my journey I 
came to have a liking for the Russians. But in the 
course of my vagabond life I have been in over thirty 
different countries and I've never met a people who 
get along so well on a minimum amount of water for 
washing purposes as do the Russians. 

All the third-class cars were grimy. The woodwork 
was painted drab inside, but there was not a vestige of 

I spent hours among these emigrants and found 
them interesting. They were horribly dirty, and as 
they liked to have the windows closed, despite the 
temperature, the cars reeked with odour. They 


carried all their worldly possessions with them, some 
foul sleeping rugs and some bundles of more foul 
clothing, which was spread out on the hard seats to 
make them a httle less hard. Bread, tea, and melons 
was the chief food. There were great chunks of sour 
black bread, and at every halt kettles were seized, and 
a rush made to the platform, where the local peasant 
women had steaming samovars, and sold a kettleful of 
boiling water for a half-penny and a water melon as 
big as your head for a penny. 

Besides bread-eating, and scattering half of it on 
the floor, and munching melons and making a mesa 
with the rind, and splashing the water about when 
tea-making, there was the constant smoking of cigar- 
ettes. A peasant might not be able to afford a himk 
of bread, but he had a supply of cigarettes. They 
are tiny, unsatisfying things, half cardboard tube, 
provide three modest puffs, and are then to be thrown 
away. You could smoke a hundred a day and 
deserve no lecture on being a slave to tobacco. 

The emigrants were happy — there was no doubt 
about that. Though the faces of the men were heavy 
and animal, guile was not strong about them. The 
cars rang with their coarse laughter. 

Late one night I visited them. At the end of each 
car was a candle flickering feebly. The place was aU 
gaunt shadow. The men lay back loungingly, like 
weary labourers caught with sleep in the midst of toU. 
On the seat beside the man, huddled up, with her face 
hid in her arms, was the wife. Lying on the floor 
with a bundle of rags as pillow, were the children. I 
had to step over a grey-whiskered old man, who was 
curled up in the gangway— a feeble, tottering creature 




to emigrate. Close to the door was an old woman, 
her face hanging forward and hidden, and her long, 
bare, skinny arms drooping over her knees. It was aU 
very pathetic in that dim, uncertain candle flare. 
There was no sound but the snore of deep-sleeping 
men and the slow rumble of the moving train. 

I stood looking upon the woeful picture and think- 
ing. Then a child cried, and its mother turned testily 
and slapped it. 

The second day out from Moscow it became dull 
and cold, and a bleak wind scoured the plain. There 
was little but a sandy wilderness. The gale sounded 
round the crawling train with eerie moan. It picked 
up the sand and engulfed us in a brown gritty cloud. 
Everything in the carriage became thick with dust. 
It was to be tasted in the mouth and felt achingly in 
the eyes. To gaze from the vrindows was to look 
into a scudding fog that curved thick from the earth 
and thinned skywards. The train lumbered creak- 


Suddenly there was a lull. Either we were running 
out of the sandstorm or it had spent itself. The rain 
came in great drops, pat, pat, pat, for a long time. 
Then swish came the deluge, and the carriages rattled 
with the tattoo of the downpour. When it had passed 
the air was sweet to breathe. The sun shone clear 
over the refreshed land. I set about with an old towel 
to thrash some of the grime from my belongings. 

We traversed the Volga in the early afternoon. 
We went at a crawl over the great square network of 
a bridge perched high on stone pillars, whilst all 
devout Russians on the train stood by the windows 
ardently crossing themselves. It is a wide muddy 


river, flowing sluggishly, and draining a stretch of 
country twice as large as Great Britain. 

There were two steamers surging a way up, and 
great islands of rafts were floating down on the tide. 
When the train halted it was easy to hear the quaint, 
rhythmic oar-beating songs of the Volga boatmen. 
They had brought their rafts from the north, beyond 
Nijni Novgorod, the city of the great Fair, and it 
would be months yet before they reached their 
journey's end, down in the wild country of Astrakan, 
on the Caspian Sea. 

Towards sundown we grunted into the bustling 
toAvn of Samara, and here we had an hour and a-half 
to wait. The platform was all excitement and uproar. 
Samara is on the Volga, and a flock of folk from the 
north and south had come by the waterway to catch 
the Siberian train. 

There were officials to take up posts in the far 
interior. There were a lot of slothful Tartars, sallow- 
skinned, slit-eyed, wisp-bearded, who had slouched 
their way from Mongolia and were now slouching 
back. There were fine-set Cossacks, carrying them- 
selves proudly, their white sheep-skin hats perched 
jauntily, a double row of silver cartridge cases across 
their plum-coloured coats, that faU from the waist like 
a quilted petticoat, and each wore long riding boots of 
the softest red morocco. Above aU were more peasants, 
unkempt and ragged, bent beneath bundles, driven 
hither and thither like sheep, mostly apathetic, crowd- 
ing into the already overcrowded waggons, and 
camping on any spare patch of floor. 

Again we went snorting across the steppes. Now 
and then we ran through clumps of darkened pine. 



Forest fires have been raging during the summer, and 
hundreds of villages were laid waste. The refugees 
had hastened to the railway line, expecting there they 
would receive assistance. For twelve miles at one 
place there was a string of camps. 

It was evening as we passed, and the glow of the 
camp fires on the lanky peasants, as they stood and 
shouted while the train puffed by, made a striking 

Next morning, as we rolled towards the Urals, the 
country became undulating and passing pretty. 
There was plenty of woodland and herbage, and many 
a time it was easy to imagine a stretch of English 
scenery on a large scale. 

Now and then we scudded by a village. You can't 
imagine how ugly a village may be till you have seen 
one in Russia. They are all the same. The houses 
are of unpaintod wood, all one storey, and usually 
built awry. They are in disrepair. There is always 
a yard, but it is ankle-deep in muck, and the pigs 
have free entrance to the house. The fencing is half 
broken away. There is usually one street, a hundred 
yards wide, but it is kept in no order. It is axle-deep 
in dust in summer, and in winter it is axle-deep in 

One thing I noticed the first day out of Moscow, 
and I kept noticing it right across Siberia till Vladi- 
vostock on the Pacific coast was reached — how seldom 
any of the stations are near towns. You constantly 
see a town seven or eight miles off, but not once in 
six times does the line run near. If you ask a 
Russian the reason he will laugh. Then he will tell 
you. When the line was planned the engineers made 


millions of roubles by blackmailing the towns on the 
route ! " You give us so much money and the line 
will run quite close to you ; don't, and we wUl take 
the line as far away as we can." The Kussian official, 
it is said, grows rich not on his salary, but on bribery. 
Many an official does not deny it. It is as well under- 
stood as that he must wear uniform. If you start 
preaching morality among public men he answers: 
" You foreigners do the same, but you are not so open 
about it as we are." 

There is very little cutting or bank building to 
make the line level. Where the country undulates 
the hne undulates also. For miles it is a series of 
billowy mounds. 

The train was heavy, and where there was any 
incline the two engines grunted like broken-winded 
horses as at a snail's pace of about three miles an 
hour it reached the top. Then, to change the simile, 
it was like a cyclist who spied a long declining sweep 
before him. Steam was shut off, and with a burr and 
a roar the train " coasted " at a dashing, reckless forty 
miles an hour. When it reached the dip the engines 
started grinding and panting, trying to keep up speed 
to help on the next rise. The endeavour was only 
partially successful. We were soon down to a panting 
crawl again. 

For an hour and a half we halted at Ufa, the most 
prettily situated town since leaving Moscow. It is 
buUt on the side of a nicely wooded hill, and neat 
villas look down from the heights. It was Sunday 
evening, August 25th, and, as the passing of the 
Siberian train is one of the excitements, the station 
was crowded with townsfolk. If you will look at a 


map, Ufa, just to the west of the Urals, looks a long 
way from civilisation. Yet the better class folk 
sauntering about this Sunday evening were very little 
differently dressed from what you may see in any 
provincial EngUsh town any Sunday evening. 

But, oh ! the number of officials. You never turn 
without elbowing an official. Half the population of 
Russia seems made up of officials engaged in govern- 
ing the other half. Everybody in lower rank salutes 
everybody in higher rank, and the salute must be 
returned. Equals ignore one another. I would 
hesitate to make a wild guess how many times a 
Russian gendarme raises his hand to the salute in the 
course of a day. It must run into the far hundreds, 
and get very wearisome. If a superior speaks to him 
he keeps his hand at the salute aU the time. 

As soon as we left Ufa we started climbing into the 
Ural Mountains. Every Russian I had met broke 
into adjectives when informed I proposed to cross 
the Urals. They were beautiful, lovely, picturesque, 
magnificent, grand ! The Russian, however, is no 
authority on scenery. He, of course, judges by con- 
trast, and naturally when you have spent years on a 
desert you regard a hillock with some trees as 
charming. The scenery in the Urals is beautiful 
because you have travelled daj-s on a featureless plain. 
The hills are humped and broken, and the train 
curves over their shoulders among masses of trees 
with leaves splashed with the rich tints of autumn. 
Also there were places where for miles the Hne 
hugged grey roclcs. It was a peaceful Sunday evening 
with a crimson and saffron sunset as we curved 


It was all welcome to the eye, and reminded me 
of parts of Derbyshire. I stood out on the gangway 
smoking my pipe, and tried to realise I was thousands 
of miles from England. 

But what a part these Urals have played in the 
story of mankind ! For thousands of miles they run 
north and south, a wall dividing Europe and Asia. 
You have only to look into faces of men who come 
from a race born east of the Urals and then into the 
faces of men born west of them to understand how 
divided is the human family. 

In the far-off times the Tartar hordes swept from 
their heights carrying slaughter into Europe. Right 
through Central Europe you get a glimpse of a 
Mongol eye, you are brought into contact with a 
trait of Eastern character, and you see the heritage of 
the Khans. 

We had Tartars on this train, but they were slither- 
heeled and fawning, and tramped the corridors want- 
ing to sell sponges and slippers and gew-gaws. And 
the race they conquered centuries ago had now turned 
the tide, and had driven this iron wedge of a railroad 
due east to the waters of the Pacific. The Tartar 
cringes to the Russian. 

We were on the Urals' top at midnight. Asia did 
not greet us kindly. A fierce hurricane struck the 
invading train. I lay awake for hours listening to the 
Yalkyrie shrieks of the storm and the bullet pelts of 
the driven rain against the carriages. In the tearful 
morning, with black clouds trailing the earth, we 
rumbled down to Chelyabinsk Beyond lay Siberia ! 



I SAW Chelyabinsk under difficulties. We were all 
turned out o'i the train — which \Yas an excellent thing 
to do, for the cars were in need of a wash and brush 
up — and there was a wait of five hours before another 
train was got ready in which we could proceed to 
Central Siberia. 

It was raining in torrents. Everybody had an 
enormous excess of baggage, and as there is no left- 
luggage office at Chelyabinsk everything was carried 
or dragged or thrown into the buffet — all except the 
belongings of the emigrants, who camped on the 
platform, sitting on bundles and spreading their evil- 
odoured sheepskin coats to act as waterproofs. 

I have joined in a scramble for food at an English 
railway station, but that was the decorum of a court 
reception compared with the fight at Chelyabinsk. 
Though there was so long to wait, we were all in 
as much hurry as if the train started within ten 

I would have fared badly had I not made the 
acquaintance of a pleasant, stout and elderly baroness, 
who was on her way to visit her married son Hving at 
Eltaterinburg, on the eastern slopes of the Urals. I 
had seen her for half a day standing in the corridor 
smoking cigarettes. The car corridor has no extra 
width, and when I tried to pass the lady we jammed. 
It was awkward, and I grunted. 


"Ah, you are an Englishman," she exclaimed. 
Then vdth a wrench we tore ourselves asunder; I 
raised my hat and she bowed, and we exchanged cards. 

We became capital friends. I presented her with 
some English novels I had in my bag, and she 
presented me with a tin teapot. It is usual for every- 
one to make their own tea on Russian trains. She 
also gave me tea and sugar. Thereupon I proceeded 
to make the floor of my carriage in a mess with 
crunched sugar, and my papers became disreputably 
marked with tea stains. Amateur housekeeping in a 
railway carriage has its drawbacks. 

My thanks were as profuse as I could make them, 
and I asked the baroness how I could reheve my 
obligations. " Give me a box of your EngHsh wax 
matches," she said; and I gave her the only box I 
had. An hour later she sent me fifty of her cigarettes. 

She told me she loved the EngHsh. She wore an 
English cloth cap and carried a stick, and was much 
like an English country gentlewoman. 

When she found the buffet crowded at Chelyabinsk 
she took it as a personal insult, called the manager, 
and spoke to him vigorously. So we got a special 
table, and though we had been informed there wasn't 
another chair in the place two must have been 
speedily manufactured, for they were forthcoming 
instantly. I saw her to her train for Ekaterinburg, 
and we parted with expressions of mutual esteem. 

Then I explored Chelyabinsk. 

Conceive a field in which a cattle show has been 
held for a week, and it has been raining all the week. 
That will give you some idea of Chelyabinsk. The 
buildings were sheds, and the roadways mire. 


And yet it is a place that has been muttered in 
tears for centuries. All conYicts and exiles for Siberia 
were marched over the Urals to Chelyabinsk. It was 
the dividiug station, one gang going to the arid north, 
and another gang going to the mines in the far east ; 
others condemned to labour on the waterways — all 
expelled from Russia, with the piled-up horrors of 
Siberia before them. 

Siberia, however, is to be no longer the dumping 
ground for criminals. Siberia indeed intends to 
become respectable this century. It is crying out in 
protest, as Australia cried out to England years ago. 
The Czar and his Imperial Council have the matter in 
consideration, and before my hair grows grey the 
terrors of Siberia will be topics limited only to the 
pages of novels. 

All State-aided immigrants coming to Siberia enter 
this land by the gate of Chelyabinsk. Their papers 
have to be examined, and they themselves have to be 
drafted into groups to be taken off, in charge of an 
ofSQcial, to the land allotted to them. All this occupies 
time. And time is no value in Siberia. So the wait 
is for a week, ten days, two weeks, even six weeks. 
Spring is when the great incursion takes place. I 
was told that early that year (1901) as many as a 
dozen trains a day came over the Urals laden with 
emigrants, and that in May there were as many as 
10,000 peasants living ia the sheds erected for them 
and feeding at the State kitchens till they could be 
sent to the interior. 

Comparatively speaking, the emigrants in the 
autumn are few. I talked to one group. There was 
an old man and an old woman, a youngish woman. 


and three children, the eldest not more than four 
years. They were sitting in the drenching rain, the 
elders munching black bread and onions, and the two 
children that could toddle dancing in a muddy 
puddle as happy as could be. I asked the old man if 
he hadn't got too far on in life to come to Siberia to 
face its fierce winters. He said he and his wife were 
going to live with their son, who had come to Siberia 
in the spring with a little money. The Government 
had given him land. Now he had a home ready, and 
he had sent for his wife and children and his mother 
and father. 

Again it was a fight, like an excursion crowd, 
climbing into the train bound for the interior of 
Siberia. There were more folks than there was room 
for. I believe I was the only first-class passenger, but 
the wily second-class passengers, who understood the 
art of travelling, made no haste, allowed all the 
second-class places to be filled up, and then insisted, 
as they are entitled to do under Russian railway regula- 
tions, on travelling first. They stormed my particular 
stronghold, but as foreigners are supposed to ooze 
roubles, a six-foot-four conductor cleared them out 
and locked me in. 

We were all in our places a full hour before the 
train started. I kicked my toes to keep myself warm. 
It was a bedraggled leaden day, and my window 
looked upon the goods yard, where stood rows of 
waggons. It was like a delay on a branch line in a 
colliery district. 

At last came the clang of the bell, twice: "Get 
ready," three times : " Off you go," and the engine, 
with three preparatory shrieks, lumbered off with us 





across two thousand miles of land so flat that there 
wasn't a rise the whole distance that would serve as a 
tee-ing ground at golf. 

The country was featureless. Here and there were 
clumps of silver-limbed larch which broke the mo- 
notony. But we ran for hours at a time with Uttle 
else taller than grass blades between us and the 

If you have been on a steamer in a dead calm, and 
seen nothing but a plain to the edge of the world, and 
heard nothing but the thump-thump of the engines, 
you will understand exactly how traversing Western 
Siberia impresses one : nothing but sun-scorched grass 
and deep grunting of the engine surging through the 
wilderness. There is one stretch of line without a 
yard of curve for eighty miles. 

The line is raised about a foot above the level of 
the land, and there is no fence to protect it. I could 
see from the digging on either side, to obtain this 
slight bank, that the soil was black and rich. What 
the British corn-grower will say when Siberia is 
populated and given up to the production of cheap 
wheat he himself best knows. 

It is a wonderful grazing country. Of that there 
is no doubt. I saw herds of horses and cows. One 
young Siberian, whipping up cattle, challenged our 
train to a race. That he won, amid the plaudits of us 
all, does not prove so much the swiftness of his horses 
as the slowness of our train. Fifteen miles an hour 
was its top speed. 

Very seldom was a house to be seen except the 
guard huts stationed every verst. All the men in 
charge were good-conduct convicts. The stations 


were at long intervals, perhaps every twenty miles. 
There was, of course, the station building, neat and 
yellow painted. There was the inevitable water 
tower. In the background were one or two official- 
looking, yellow-hued, one-storey houses. That was 

No, not alL For, as it is the proper thing for every- 
body to carry their own tea and sugar, there was on 
every platform a great cauldron of a samovar, where 
rich and poor alike could help themselves to hot 
water. Also, on one side was a long covered stall, 
where the local peasantry — where they came from 
I've no idea — sold cooked fowls, hot or cold, as you 
liked, for a shilling, very hot dumplings, with hashed 
meat and seasoning inside, for twopence-halfpenny, 
huge loaves of new made bread, bottles of beer, pats 
of excellent butter, pails of milk, apples and grapes, 
and fifty other things. Passengers loaded themselves 
with provender at the stall, and ate picnic fashion in 
the carriages until the next station was reached. 
There it all began over again. 

Wasn't a journey through this great lone land 
dreary ? Of course it was. The eye began to ache 
with the monotony of the horizon line, and peasants 
ceased to be picturesque because every group at every 
station was exactly like the other groups. 

Yet, as the days passed and we went rolling on and 
on across a sea of prairie, with nothing before but 
two threads of steel stretching over the edge of the 
world, and nothing behind but two threads of steel 
stretching back to eternity, a glimmer of conscious- 
ness how big Siberia is, and what this thread of railway 
means to Russia, crept into the mind. 


I got tired reading my novels. So I went and sat 
in the gangway and under the spell of the wide waste — 
so that the train, while crunching and grunting along, 
always seemed to be in the very middle of it — my 
thoughts strayed vagrant through all I had read about 
this mysterious land of Siberia. And there sprung 
up the name of Yermak. Yermak was a kind of 
Alfred the Great, with a difference. In the beginning 
he, like many other empire-founders, was a freebooter. 
He was a pirate on the Volga. He seized boats and 
their contents, and cut the throats of the crews. It 
was, therefore, but natural he and his companions 
were chased by the troops of Ivan the Terrible to the 
Urals. Yermak, however, was befriended by a great 
merchant, who knew there were wonderful sables to 
be got on the far side of the hills. It was on New 
Year's Day, 1581, that Yermak and his Cossacks set 
off. For years they fought and raided and traded. 
All his men were lulled in time, and Yermak himself 
was drowned in the Irtish while trying to escape an 
old Tartar enemy. But he had captured Siberia for 
Russia. Ivan, who had despatched soldiers to hang 
him, sent, before the end came, the Imperial pardon, 
the title of prince, and a robe that had rested on his 
own shoulders. There was a dash and daring in 
Yermak's character that appeals to the imagination. 
He is the national hero, and his banner hangs in the 
cathedral of Tomsk. 

So, as we rolled across the prairie in corridor cars 
and caught sight, now and then, of the old foot road — 
nothing but a rutted track, hardly ever used since the 
coming of the train — I let my fancy play on the times 
of long ago, when adventurous traders came here after 


the precious sable, fought with the tribes, died in the 
snow, ate one another from brute hunger, and then 1 
thought how many a weary procession of convicts had 
trudged across the steppes, taking two years to accom- 
plish a journey the Siberian express wiU now do in a 
fortnight. I confess the railway, a twin thread of steel 
spreading over the continent, began to fascinate me as 
nothing had done for a long time. 

Here is a land, one and a-half times as large as 
Europe — forty times, indeed, as big as the United 
Kingdom — that has lain dormant through the ages, 
but is at last being tickled into life, as it were, by the 
railway, as a giant might be aroused from slumber by 
a wisp. Until ten years ago, when the building of the 
line began, there were more people in London alone 
than in all Siberia. Even now there are only ten 
millions of inhabitants, one person to every two square 
miles, and out of every hundred persons ninety-three 
are men. Half the people to-day are convicts or the 
descendants of convicts. 

Looked at from the rear window of the tail car, 
the railway does not signify much. And yet never 
since the Great Wall of China was built has there 
been such a thing accomplished by the hand of man. 
It is 5,449 miles long, and cost 85 millions of pounds. 

The first sod of the line was turned in 1891 by the 
present Czar when Grand Duke Nicholas. In nine 
years 3,375 miles were laid, including thirty miles of 
bridges, several of enormous height and length. The 
Great Canadian Pacific line, under far more favourable 
circumstances, took ten years to build 2,290 miles. 
By dividing the work into sections the Trans-Siberian 
line, year in and year out, was buUt at the rate of 




about a mile a day. Tlie mind begins to be confused 
when it tries to grasp what this means. 

Then the traffic. The main object Russia had in 
making the line was military, so that in time of war 
she might have a quick way of throwing her hundreds 
of thousands of troops into China or into her great 
port of Vladivostock on the Pacific. Immigration, 
commerce, and the development of Siberia came as 
an after-thought. In 1895, when the line was opened 
only as far as Central Siberia, the number of 
passengers was just over two hundred thousand. In 
1900 there were a million and a half passengers — 
seven times as many. 

But the soUtude of this great lone land laid hold 
on one. It is an ocean of parched grass land, silent, 
awesome. And yet surely some day it will flourish, 
and be bountiful to the earth ! 




It was on the night of Wednesday, August 28th — 
after I had watched the sun set like a huge crimson 
balloon behind the line to the far rear of us — that the 
conductor came and informed me we would be at 
Omsk within the hour. 

I intended to halt there for a day. So I threw 
my belongings together — not forgetting to tie my 
clattering metal teapot, the gift of the baroness, to 
the handle of my kit-bag — and then looked out the 
window. We were going at a dead crawl. But far 
ahead I could see the moon-like glow of many electric 
lights. We rumbled across a huge girder bridge, 700 
yards long, spanning the Irtish — the mast gleams 
of many boats at anchor, and the red and green 
lights of a steamer churning the water to a quay 
side, showing far below — and we ran into a big, 
brilliantly lighted station, crowded with people 
and with the grey and red of military uniform 

Before the train came to a standstill a hungry 
pack of blue-bloused, white-aproned porters mounted 
the train and literally fought with one another for 
the privilege of carrying passengers' baggage, and 
receiving the consequent tip. My two bags were 
enough for two ordinary porters. But my gentle- 
man wouldn't hear of another porter helping, 


and barked savagely at anyone -who offered assist- 

There were other folk getting on at Omsk ; plenty 
of people going east, and throngs who had come to 
meet or see friends off. There was a well-lit 
dining-room, and conventional waiters were scurry- 
ing with hot plates, soups, and tea, and there was the 
pop of bottles everywhere. 

And this in the heart of Siberia, I thought ! I 
couldn't get myself to realise it. Apart from details 
I might have been landing at a civilised place Hke 
York. I approached the stationmaster and asked 
him in my fumbUng Russian to recommend me to 
the best hotel in Omsk. He gave a snap of his 
fingers and instantly there appeared an hotel porter 
in dark blue coat edged with gold lace, and the name 
of an hotel on his cap in gold letters. He spoke 
German, which is the commercial language of Russia. 
In two minutes my baggage had been piled on a 
droshki, and with a whoop from the driver to his 
horse we set off. 

I have before referred to the curious fact that 
hardly ever is a station close to a town. Omsk does 
not depart from the rule, and therefore Omsk station , 
is three miles from Omsk itself There was no regular 
roadway, but a stretch of ground some three hundred 
yards wide, bumpy and dusty, and with great pools 
of slush. 

The droshki I was in was a real droshki The 
thing they call a droshki in Petersburg is a sort of 
abortive Victoria. The genuine article has a humped- 
up seat with no back, so that every bump you are 
jolted in a way to make your bones rattle, and you 


are in constant imminent peril of being pitched into 
the adjoining pool. 

At one violent lurch off went a bag of mine into 
the mud. I tried to be indignant, but the driver, 
as he went back, only laughed and exclaimed, 
" Nitchevo ! " — a word which takes the Russian happily 
through life, and means "What does it matter; 
nothing matters ; why worry ? " 

It was midnight, and pitch dark. The horse, 
though a sorry animal, could go well — ^perhaps 
because its stable was at Omsk ; and we jolted on, 
far ahead of anyone else. We were tearing across a 
bleak and muddy plain. I addressed my driver, a 
hulking fellow, as " My little dove ! " which is the 
proper thing to call your coachman in Russia when 
you want to please him, though he was as much like 
a dove as I am like a man-o'-war. He was delighted, 
and whacked the horse again. 

Omsk looked as though it had gone to bed. It 
was like a big village, with the streets very wide and 
uneven, and most of the houses one-storey and ram- 
shackle. There were tipsy wooden posts at the 
corners, and on their summits were flickering little 
back-kitchen kind of oil lamps. Not a soul was to 
be seen. 

Suddenly there was a clatter — clatter — clatter — 
clatter of a wooden rattle. I had not heard that 
sound since I was in Western China. Siberia is next- 
door neighbour to China. I knew what it was. It 
was the poHceman on his rounds. In England we 
make our constables wear rubber-soled boots at night 
so they may move about stealthily and surprise 
thieves. In Siberia the police keep the rattles going, 


so the thieves have full •warning when the guardian 
of the peace is approaching ! 

You can't convince a Siberian any more than you 
can a Chinese that the thing is stupid. " Ours is the 
best plan," says the Siberian, "for it gives householders 
confidence that the police are about." 

So I reached the hotel, a big barn of a place, bare 
and cold. But I got quite a passable bedroom — though 
the springs of the bed were like those in a lodging- 
house sofa — and after a wash I sought the restaurant. 
It was a big room, well lighted with giant lamps. 
On the centre table were two imitation palms. On 
the little side table were vases with Httle bonnet-shop 
flowers — an attempt to make the room cheerful. 
Then I sat down to a tired Britisher's supper of steak, 
chipped potatoes, and bottled beer. And I was in the 
wilderness of Siberia ! 

A few years ago Omsk was no more than a village, 
though the seat of Government of the steppe terri- 
tories was there, with one or two big whitewashed 
official buildings. The rest, however, was a cluster of 
huts. It was a post station where horses were 
changed by travellers, aad where gangs of chained 
criminals were divided and sent to various regions. 
But no manacled prisoners have been marched 
through its streets for four years now. There is a 
prison, but it is retained for local wrong-doers. Now 
and then a train, iron-built and all the windows 
heavUy barred, grunts through Omsk station with the 
faces of brute murderers and political prisoners 
peering out. But that is seldom. 

The town is not unlike a West American settle- 
ment. It is in a raw unfinished slate. Huge hand- 


some buildings are in course of erection, but round 
about are rude log shanties. The finest structures 
are the churches and the breweries. 

The Irtish Kiver is alongside. I went aboard a 
passenger steamer which plies between Semipalatin, 
not far from the Chinese frontier, and Obdorsk, within 
the range of the Arctic Circle. There were excellent 
cabins, a long dining room, and a comfortably 
furnished sitting room. Such fine waterways are the 
Obi and the Irtish, the latter a tributary of the other, 
that every summer one or more steamers from 
London, which have come round by the North Cape 
and skirted the foot of Novaia Zemlia, drop their 
anchors at Omsk, bringing Enghsh wares and taking 
back wheat and skins. 

The main street is broad. There are several large 
stores. The church of St. Nicholas is an imposing 
bulb-towered edifice of bedizened Byzantian archi- 

It was a holy day when I was at Omsk — they 
have about 200 holy days a year in the Russian 
Empire, when no work can be done — and I went to 
see the church just as the congregation was dispersing. 
The ladies were more or less fashionably dressed 
in bright summer costumes and beflowered hats, and 
had gay parasols. Summer dresses and parasols 
in Siberia — there was something incongruous in the 
idea ! 

" That," I was told, as I stood watching, " is one of 
" the evidences of civilisation coming to Omsk. Four 
years ago the women — ^like that old lady — never 
appeared in the streets in other than a plain dark- 
coloured dress and a black shawl tied about the 




head. But since the coming of the railway there has 
been a great influx of men wanting to start business 
and they have been followed by their wives and 

The old wooden theatre that did duty three years 
back is already sneered at, and the erection of a fine 
opera house is in progress. 

" Yes," said the local resident showing me round, 
"theatrical companies come out to Omsk They're 
not good, but they are willing to do anything. I have 
seen ' Hamlet ' one night, and the next night the same 
company has given us the opera ' Faust.' " 

There are 50,000 people in Omsk, and of these 
twelve or fifteen thousand are soldiers. Quite half 
the old population — the people who were here before 
the railway — are the descendants of convicts. A 
number of exiles, indeed, still live in Omsk. They 
are not generally known, except to the police. They 
are at liberty to engage in business as they please. 
The only restriction is that they must not leave 
Omsk. The town, I found, was rather proud that 
two celebrated Russian writers, Petropavlovski and 
Dostoyevski — the latter wrote " Memoirs from a Dead 
House," which even in translation makes your flesh 
creep — were exiled in Omsk, and the houses in which 
they lived are shown to the visitor. Dostoyevski was 
twice severely flogged, once for complaining of soup 
given him, and once for saving a fellow convict from 
drowning. The second thrashing was so severe that 
he was taken to the hospital as dead. When he 
reappeared, however, he was called Pokoinik (the 
deceased), and Pokoinik was his name until death 
really overtook him. 


Omsk, you should bear in mind, is the very centre i 
of 2,000 square miles of the finest pasture land in the 
world. I met two Americans in the town pushing the 
sale of American agricultural implements. One, the 
representative of the Deering Manufacturing Company, 
said to me, " Sir, I have been all over the United 
States, and this is my third summer visit to do 
business in Omsk. I tell you Siberia is going to be 
another America." He also told me that three years 
ago he sold only 40 reaping machines. That year, 
1901, he sold 1,500, and next year he proposed to 
bring out 4,000. Deering's were doing a good trade 
because they are first in the field. The Government 
were buying their machines, and then selling them 
again to the emigrants, getting repayment by instal- 
ments. Altogether there are eight American agri- 
cultural implement manufacturers' representatives in 

" Any English ? " I inquired. 

" Not one," he laughed back, and I saw the glow of 
Yankee satisfaction at getting what he afterwards 
called " the bulge on John Bull." 

Besides Americans selling agricultural wares, 
chiefly mowers and reapers, there are fourteen firms 
in Omsk engaged in the newly-developed Siberian 
butter trade with England. The largest firm belongs 
to a Russian Jew ; the other thirteen belong to 
Danes. It was a Dane in St. Petersburg who four 
years back accidentally saw Siberian butter. He was 
struck with its excellence. Three years ago 4,000 
buckets, each containing about 36 lb., were shipped 
by way of Riga and Revel to England, and sold in the 
English market, I've a suspicion, as " the best Danish." 


Last summer (1901) 30,000 buckets a week -wero 
exported from Siberia to England 

I got into a talk Avith a Dane engaged in butter- 

" Yes," said he, " the way the butter business has 
sprung up is amazing. But what has been done is 
but a tiny scrap to what will be done in the future. 
You've seen the cows, what miserable looking things 
they are. But the pasturage is so good that there is 
seven per cent, of butter fat in the milk. There are 
only two steam dairies in all Siberia ; all the other 
butter is made in primitive fashion by hand. The 
conditions are such that it is not so clean-flavoured as 
it should be. But it is splendid butter all the same. 
The output at present, with a thin population and 
defective methods, is small, and the competition 
among the rival firms to get it is American in its 
keenness. I travel six or seven hundred versts every 
week on either side of the railway Hne, buying butter 
from the peasants. It is brought in native carts all 
that way to the railway. But the peasant doesn't 
understand business. I'll make a contract for so 
much butter to be delivered to me in Omsk at a 
certain price — about eleven roubles (22s.) the pood 
(36 lb.) has been the price this summer ; but when 
in Omsk the man may meet one of my competitors, 
and he has no hesitation, if offered a few kopeks 
(pence) more a pood, in selling it to my rival. When 
I remonstrate he simply said the other man offered 
more. He doesn't understand the morality of a 

"And about the morality of the other butter 
buyer ? " I questioned. 


" Well," the Dane answered, " competition is right 
up to the knife. This week five train loads of nothing 
but butter have left Omsk for Riga. You've seen the 
trains may-be, painted white, with all the latest 
refrigerating appliances fitted up. The Russian 
Government is delighted at what is taking place. 
The authorities will do anything for us. They have 
just issued a pamphlet in Russian showing how the 
Siberian peasants can start profitable dairying with 
the necessary machinery for an outlay of 500 roubles 
(£50). The Russian peasant, however, is slow. But 
the Jews have come into the business, and many are 
already making fortunes by dairying. My firm 
started a big dairy about 400 versts south from here. 
The peasants would not believe a machine could 
separate the butter from the milk. They said the 
devil was in the machine. There's been a drought 
down there. Everybody believed it was because the 
Almighty was angry that they should allow these 
devil machines in the country. So they wrecked the 
place and smashed every separator we had. But it 
will be all right in a year or two, as soon as they get 
more civilised. They are beginning to see the 
advantage of machinery. The winter food for the 
cows has had to be cut by hand. Now these people 
are beginning to see that if the grass is cut by 
machines they can get far more hay, and keep four or 
five times as many cows, and then the separators 
make better mUk ; so some of them are on their 
way to becoming rich." 

In the afternoon I drove out to the plain beyond 
Omsk and visited a Kirghiz camp. The Kirghiz 
are the Red Indians of the West Siberian steppes. 


The Russians have conquered them, and pushed 
them upon the least fertile tracts of land to make 
room for immigrants. The race is decreasing in 
number, and will one of these days disappear from 
the face of the earth altogether. 

They are not unlike the " Red Man of the Wild 
West " in feature, but are listless and drowsy. There 
is a strong strain of the Tartar in them, shown by the 
slit of the eye. They are nomads, driving flocks of 
sheep before them. Indeed, the sheep is their 
standard of value. A woman is only worth four 
sheep, but a cow is worth eight sheep, a horse is 
worth four cows, and they wiU give three horses for a 

I found them very agreeable, smiling folk. Their 
tents looked like huge cocoanut shells cut in half. 
They were framework covered with coarse felt. The 
men were clad in sheep-skins, but the women had 
bright-hued cotton wraps, red and yellow print. 
They showed hospitality by offering me fermented 
mare's milk, which I lied about by saying it was 
delightful, though I was near to sickness with the vUe 
stuff. It took a fortnight to get the taste out of my 

We squatted on mats and smiled and nodded. 
When I suggested taking their photographs, which 
they understood, they were delighted. But there was 
a delay, for even feminine vanity extends to the 
Kirghiz, and we had to wait tiU the young women 
decked themselves in their gorgeous native costumes. 
One put on a huge red hat trimmed with foxskin. 
I was with the Kirghiz only some half-an-hour. As, 
however, I bade them farewell native fashion, by 


holding both hands in mine and shaking them, I 
could not help but feel sorry for these children of the 
Siberian plain, who have lost their heritage and are 
soon to be extinct. The touch of civilisation means 
death to them. 

So back in a whirl of dust to Omsk, where, at the 
hotel, was as good a little dinner as any traveller need 

In the evening there was a f^te in the public 
gardens, and to that I went with two Americans. 
Probably seven or eight thousand people gathered in 
the grounds, chiefly young fellows and young women. 
Apart from the military, there was hardly any 
difference in the dress from what you see in an English 
or American town. There was the usual laughter and 
flirting going on. 

On a raised platform a band crashed waltzes, and 
everybody who could get on the platform danced. 
You may have witnessed the dancing at Belle Vue, 
Manchester, on an August Bank holiday. There you 
see a great mass of perspiring lads and lasses swinging 
each other by the hour. The Omsk scene was hke 
that, but on a smaller scale. There was also an open- 
air theatre. It was impossible to get anywhere for 
the crush. But from the distance it looked rather a 
mournful performance — probably a Russian version 
of " East Lynne." I thought I recognised the death 
of little Willie. 

Then, to wind up, there was a grand explosion of 
fireworks, whizzing rockets releasing blue and red 
stars, gorgeous designs, and the mob crying " 0-o-oh ! " 
for all the world like Londoners at the Crystal Palace. 
The final piece showed the name of the Czar in 


coloured lights, with a crown above. Every- 
body cheered and hallooed, and the men waved their 

And this was in far Siberia, 2,805 versts east of 
Moscow 1 



It was while at Omsk that I awoke to the fact that 
my previous idea about Siberia was marvellously 
wrong. It was, of course, the popular idea, which is 
more dramatic than the actual condition. Siberia, 
to that useful but ill-informed individual, " the man 
in the street," is a horrible stretch of frigid desert, 
dotted with gaunt prison houses, and the tracks over 
the steppes are marked with the bones of exiles who 
have died beneath the weight of chains, starvation, 
and the inhospitable treatment ot savage Russian 

Britishers and Americans love to sup on horrors. 
An Armenian atrocity, the life of Captain Dreyfus on 
Devil's Island, the slow death of men chained to 
barrows in Siberian mines, all that is gruesome and 
cruel, thrills! It is the convict life of Siberia — so 
contrary to all that we enlightened ones of the West 
think right — that we have had depicted luridly ia 
books of travel, magazine articles, and in melodrama. 

It is not so much because travellers have written 
about what they have never seen, as the insatiable 
thirst of the public for sensation that has been 
ministered to. Prison horrors are more attractive 
than methods of cattle rearing, and so the tendency 
has been for writers to pick out the worst feature in 
Siberia, the convict system, weave together all the 
dreadful stories they can find, dweU on the horrible 

"''to ' 



"^ ^%ii.'!iri:'« *• "', .%t / 





life in the snow, until the public, reading about 
nothing but convicts and snow in Siberia, imagine 
that Siberia has nothing to show but convicts and 

I had not, however, been long in Siberia before I 
realised that the desire on the part of writers to give 
the pubUc something dramatic to read about had led 
them to exaggerate one feature of Siberian life and to 
practically neglect the real Siberia, full of interest but 
lacking sensation. So let me try to wipe from the 
public mind the fallacy that Siberia is a Gehenna- 
like region. 

Away north, where the land borders the Arctic, 
there is no vegetation but moss and lichen. Beneath 
that, southwards, comes the great forest zone, a belt 
of dense woods two thousand miles wide, running 
east and west across Asia. But further south still is 
the agricultural region, through which I travelled 
and which the Russian authorities seem ardently 
anxious to develop. And it is in this region, between 
the Urals and Lake Baikal, that there are thousands 
of mUes of country as flat as a billiard table, and 
thousands of miles of pleasantly undulating wooded 
land — not, I admit, a place to go to in search of 
picturesque scenery, but about as fair as I have seen, 
and ripe for agricultural projects. 

There is hardly any spring in Siberia, the change 
from the long winter to the blazing summer being 
little more than the matter of a fortnight. 

To talk of a Siberian winter is, I know, to make 
one shudder. Yet in aU the towns I visited people 
said, " Why do you come here in the summer, when 
our roads are so dusty ? It is in winter we have 


a good time. It is cold, 30 degrees of frost, but you 
don't feel it much, for it is so dry and the air so still. 
The sky is cloudless for a month at a time. Then 
the sledging — ah, it is when the sledging is in full 
swing you should see a Siberian town ! " 

What impressed me as soon as I crossed the Urals 
was that the human race — ^beyond a few migratory 
tribes — should not have flourished more in this land. 
Yet, now, since the opening of the railway, the 
Russian Government is almost going on its knees to 
induce European Russians, who on the southern 
sandy steppes find it so hard to make both ends 
meet, to emigrate to Siberia. 

European Russia is thinly enough populated in 
all truth. But the parts good enough for cultivation 
are under peasant proprietorship, and a father's land 
is divided among the sons, so each generation has a 
smaller and smaller piece of ground to nurture. The 
more venturesome have their eyes on Siberia, where 
they hope a less starvation Ufe is to be got. As I said 
in a former chapter, there has been a steady flood of 
emigrants to this side the Urals. On some of the 
trains are fourth-class carriages, about as bare as a 
guard's van on an EngUsh goods train, and as much 
lacking in luxury. But the absence of cushions and 
lavatory accommodation does not, I fancy, trouble the 
new-comers. Most of them have a stolid content. 
They pay about a shilling fare per hundred miles. 
In cases of need the Government will make an 
advance of £10 without interest. 

A Russian who desires to emigrate here must get 
permission from the authorities. The permission is 
necessary, for land has to be allotted, and arrange- 


ments made for State officials to conduct the parties. 
For the first three years no immigrant is called upon 
to pay taxes. In Western Siberia a grant of some 
32 English square miles is made to every man, and in 
some cases there is an additional grant of six miles ot 
forest. In Central Siberia the extent of the grant 
is determined by the quality of the land. 

As the settlers are practically State tenants, sale 
and mortgage of land is forbidden. If an immigrant 
has a little money, and wants to purchase a particular 
strip, he can, however, do so on paltry terms. Near 
the large towns the cost for a square verst (a verst is 
about two-thirds of a mile) ranges from 10s. to 12s., 
whilst in other places good land can be bought for 6s. 
a verst. The buyer must deposit half the sum in the 
local treasury. This ensures the delivery of the land 
for three years' use or profit. Full proprietorship is 
obtained by the buyer spending, on plant and working, 
a sum not less than twice the cost of allotment. 
From 1893 to last year 18,900,000 acres of State land 
in Western Siberia were transformed into immigra- 
tion plots. 

May is the month when the tide of immigration 
sets in. As Russian official red tape is quite as slow 
unwinding as elsewhere there are often huge crowds 
of emigrants at stations, thousands even, waiting for 
days till they can be conducted to their plots. 
Naturally enough there is misery among the ignorant 
immigrants who get dumped in a particular district, 
knowing little about the climate or the soil. So the 
Government have appointed Commissions of Inquiry, 
though neither the immigrant nor those already 
settled have any voice. Further, there has been 


organised among Russian philanthropists a rehef com- 
mittee which has representatives at thirty stations 
where immigrants chiefly stop, and these men give 
advice to the discouraged and sick. 

I confess to being amazed by the inducements 
held out so that Siberia may be speedily peopled. 
Not only at every station is the big steaming samovar, 
so that hot water may be obtained for the constant 
occupation of tea drinking, but at every station also 
is a big chest of medical appliances, and there is 
always an official who must know how to render first 
aid to the injured. Food for chUdren, sick persons, 
and indigent may be got free. Other immigrants 
buy their food at cost price. Then on arriving at 
their destination the immigrants receive seed from 
the Government for next to nothing. Tools are to be 
bought on easy terms. 

Nowhere in the United States — and Siberia is 
frequently alluded to as the new America — have I 
seen such an expanse of magnificent agricultural 
land waiting for man and his plough. And yet there 
is small prospect for some generations, at least, that 
Siberia, through Eussian farmers, wiU give of its 
teeming abimdance to the rest of the world. 

The fact is, the Russian is one of the worst farmers 
on the face of the earth. It is probably the strong 
strain of the Tartar in him that makes him indolent. 
He is certainly no born agriculturist. Catherine the 
Second recognised this a hundred years ago when she 
invited German colonists to settle in Southern Russia, 
hoping their example would have effect on the 
Russians themselves. Five years ago I went through 
this colonised region. Compared with Siberia it was 



a wilderness. The German villages, however, were 
neat and clean. There was frugality among the 
people. The farms might yield little, but they 
were cared for, properly tilled, and all fenced. The 
Kussian villages, however, were masses of filth and 
misery. The houses were dirty, and turned one's 
stomach; all the farm buildings were in a state of 
decrepitude, and if a fence broke it remained broken. 
The land was neglected and gave a wretched return. 
There was sloth everywhere. 

It always struck me that the moudjik cared for 
nothing but animal satisfaction, enough food for the 
day and enough kopecks so that he might get drunk 
with vodki on the Sunday. 

The Russian Government, with all its faults, and 
undoubtedly they are many, is acting benevolently to 
the Siberian settlers, buying American agricultural 
machinery, and re-selling on easy instalment terms. 
Yet everywhere I remarked how the immigrant lacks 
energy. First of all, he won't live on a farm three, five, 
or ten miles from anybody else. He insists on living in 
a village or town, though his farm may be thirty miles 
away. He tiUs a stretch of ground, and sows wheat, 
but he never thinks of reaping till it is dead ripe ; then 
he cuts with a hand sickle, and half the foodstuff rots 
in the rains. When he has used up one piece of 
ground he moves to another. He doesn't understand 
manuring. He doesn't look forward to the next year, 
or the year after. As a rule, he has no desire to get 
lich. 'That impetus, which has done so much to spur 
the American, is non-existent. To get through hfe 
with as little trouble as he can seems his only 


The farmers, are, of course, all of the old serf class. 
They have behind them an ancestry little removed 
from slaves, with nothing to mark them from beasts 
of burden but their speech. From such a people a 
bright and intelligent yeomanry is, of course, not 
to be expected. Every crowd of moudjiks I came 
across had the same sluggish, bullish, coarse expression. 

The Government, as I have explained, is trying to 
educate the settlers into the advantages of modern 
appliances. But when all that is done Siberia will 
give but the scrapings of its wealth, for no Govern- 
ment and no machinery can alter the character of a 
race. And the great block to development for 
generations will be that the Russians have not the 
real qualities of agriculturists. 

Every day as I travelled through this land and 
looked at its possibilities I found myself muttering, 
" Oh for a hundred families of my own North-country 
yeomen to settle here to show what can be done, and 
in half a generation go home with fortunes made." 

Siberia is a good country for horses. They are 
sturdy workers, and as hardy as you can find. In 
Central Siberia there are eighty-five horses to every 
hundred of population. In the United States the 
proportion is twenty-two to the hundred, and in 
France seven to the hundred. The Siberian proportion, 
indeed, is only excelled by the Argentine Republic, 
where the rate is 112 horses to every hundred inhabi- 
tants. In the region of the Trans-Siberian Railway 
from Cheylabinsk to Irkutsk it is estimated there is 
something like three million horses. The average 
peasant horse is worth from 24s. to 30s. The horses 
used for the post, and which have enormous powers of 


speed and endurance, cost from £2 10s. to £3. The 
finest horses, which would fetch about £60 in England, 
are to be got from £5 to £7. 

Under the impetus of the butter industry it is 
likely enough the rearing of cattle will somewhat 
improve. At present beasts are small and lean, and 
bullocks are chiefly used for draught. 

The vast tracks of natural pasture are ideal for 
sheep grazing. The fat-tailed Tartar sheep is the best. 
At present these sheep are reared for the fat on their 
tail. This fat grows all through the summer, and a 
yearling will give twenty pounds of tallow. In the 
winter months the tail gradually disappears. It is one 
of the provisions of nature. When no food is to be got 
because of the snow the animal gets sustenance by the 
gradual disappearance of the fat tail. When it is 
housed and fed in the winter months the tail remains. 
This fat- tailed Tartar sheep is not, however, very good 
for wool. An inferior sheep is bred for this. 

In a purely agricultural region comparison of 
heads of animals with numbers of population is 
interesting. The proportion of horned cattle varies 
from fifty per hundred inhabitants in West Siberia 
to seventy per hundred in East Siberia. As to sheep 
there are eighty-five to the hundred in the West, but 
in the East there are 135 sheep to every hundred of 
inhabitants. In the towns I have inquired the price 
of meat. Fairly good beef and mutton can be got for 
2d. and 3d. a pound, and a good plump chicken can 
bo brought for 8d. 

It was the fine skins that the nomads brought over 
the Urals that first attracted Russian trade in Siberia. 
The most valuable is the sable. The tribes hunt for 


sable in winter. Mounted on snow-shoes they go 
into the forest and follow the trails. Sometimes a 
sable gets into a hole, and then the hunter must wait, 
maybe for days, before it will come out. But it is 
worth waiting for; the skin will bring him from 
60s. to £9 — a considerable sum to a nomad. The 
skin of the blue fox is also much prized. Some 
authorities say the blue fox is the same as the white 
Arctic fox — only the summers are so short in the 
Polar regions that the fox does not think it worth 
while altering his fur, whilst in the south he does not 
put on his white fur because the summers are long. 
Only the piece by the paws is worn by rich Russians, 
and the rest is exported. A cloak of these paws is 
worth £1,000. A black fox skin is worth £50, and a 
silver fox skin will fetch £25. 

The whole country is fuU of bear, reindeer, wolf, 
elk, beaver, hare, and antelope. Ardent sportsmen, 
seeking for some fresh country to try their guns, 
might do worse than go to Siberia for a couple of 
months in early autumn. Besides animals, they will 
find plenty of game — geese, ducks, grouse. If the 
sportsmen get among the Kirghiz tribe they may see 
good hawking. These people have big, well-trained 
hawks that will strike foxes and even wolves. 

AU this — though possibly dull to the man who 
would like a series of thrilling convict stories — wUl, I 
hope, do one thing. It wiU indicate that Siberia is 
not the harsh frozen prison too generally imagined. 

Now a word or two respecting the government of 
Siberia. It is divided into four oblasts, or provinces. 
At the head of each is a Governor-General, who 
represents the Czar, and has supreme control over 


both civil and military affairs. There are various 
councils who advise the Governor-General, and each 
province is divided into districts with administrative 
institutions. Each town has a municipaUty, elected 
by householders. Each village is a small commune 
with an elected mayor and magistrates. The com- 
mune keeps a sharp look-out upon the doings of its 
members, for the community is made to suffer when 
the news of wrong-doing reaches the higher authori- 
ties. The chief person in all the village is the pisar, 
or mayor's secretary. He is the one person who 
must be able to read and write, for the members of 
the peasant Parliament are very likely devoid of these 
qualifications. Therefore the pisar is a sort of 
village Pooh-Bah. His salary is generally in kind. 

Vile and stenching as are most of the villages, it 
is impossible to help admiring the substantial and 
clever way in which the houses are built of logs 
roughly hewn with an axe, dove-tailed at the corners, 
and with a layer of moss between each beam to avoid 
draughts. During six winter months the double 
windows are closely shut and puttied up, and in 
summer very little air can get into the house because 
the windows won't open. 

There is no bedroom as we understand it. At 
night cushions are spread on the floor, and the whole 
family sleep in their clothes. In the morning they 
give their faces a rub with water, but use no soap. I 
don't recommend the peasant way of washing one's 
face. He fills his mouth with water, and gently 
squirts it from between his lips to his hands. 

Naturally enough the pleasures of these agri- 
culturists, far from what is considered civilisation, 


are few. Getting drunk is regarded as a very 
excellent thing, and often very vile is the liquor. In 
each village, however, is generally a young fellow who 
can play the accordion ; and so in the evening there is 
often dancing. The women are not very attractive. 
They are stodgy and expressionless. Their one 
touch of vanity is to have a gaudy shawl tied about 
the head. 

I went much among these peasants trying to get a 
glimpse of their lives. Though often the smeU of the 
houses made me feel ill, I received nothing but 
courtesy. They are simple-minded people, very 
religious and very superstitious. And although 
there may not be a house in the village more dignified 
than we would use as a cowshed, there is always a big 
white church, with towers of oriental, bulbous shape, 
painted blue or gilded. In the right hand comer of 
every room of every hut is a sacred picture called an 
icon. The peasant never finishes a crust of black 
bread without standing before the icon and crossing 
himself. He may be on the way to the vodki shop, 
but when passing the church he takes off his hat and 
makes the sign of the cross. When he is drunk he is 
not quarrelsome. He is worse — for he becomes very 
affectionate, and wants to kiss you ! 

He won't start on a journey on Monday, and if he 
sets out on a Tuesday or any other day, and the first 
person he happens to meet is a priest, he will turn 
back When there is lightning which frightens him 
he recalls the names of his bald-headed friends, and 
so stops it ! 

Only two steps above the savage is the peasant as 
I saw him in Siberia. He is uncouth, and his 


passions are primitive. Ho liulks about with his red 
shirt outside his trousers, and never does to-day what 
he can put ofif till to-morrow. But he has come to a 
fine country. Siberia is no longer an evil-omened 
word. It is capable of much more than freezing 
exiles to death. And it is with the object of making 
that fact plain I have written this chapter. 




From Omsk to Tomsk is some six hundred miles, 
and the post train by which I journeyed took just 
under two days. The mail arrives at Omsk at half- 
past eleven at night, allows two hours for carousal in 
the buffet, and then at half-past one snorts on its 
eastward way. 

I was assured, by all the saints to whom the 
Russians do reverence, there wasn't a spare carriage 
in the entire train. But bribery is the one thing 
that opens doors in Russia, and when I whispered to 
the conductor that I would provide him with the 
means of having many cups of tea — the Muscovite 
save-your-face style of intimating you are prepared 
to offer an insult in hard cash — he muttered " Cechas," 
and I knew all would be well. Also, I knew just as 
well as he did that he had one or two coupes un- 
occupied, but with locked doors, and that he would 
swear there was a sick lady inside, or two Jews, or a 
family of children with the small-pox, vmtil tea-money 
was suggested. 

"Cechas!" the conductor had said. Literally 
" cechas " means " within the hour " ; idiomatically 
it means " at the earliest moment " ; actually, as 
everybody who has travelled in Russia knows, it 
means now, to-morrow, next week, possibly not at all. 
If waiters at Russian hotels ever babble in their sleep 
they cry, " Cechas ! cechas ! " The last words of a 


Kussian railway porter, when he must leave the pale 
ghmpses of the moon and hie him to subhme or 
sulphurous realms, will be " Cechas ! " It is a word 
that rings in your ears from the instant you set 
foot in the Empire of the Great White Czar till you 
leave it. 

So I sat on the corner of my leather bag and 
smoked an English briar charged with English tobacco, 
and watched the bustling scene; looked in at the 
buffet, where everyone seemed to be feverishly 
guzzhng ; occasionally I walked to the far end of the 
platform, and gazed at the clear star-sprinkled sky, 
and recalled it was just about time for afternoon tea 
in far-away sunny England — though I couldn't teU it 
was sunny, but hoped it was so for the love of home. 

I explored the first corridor section of the cars, 
hoping to find a compartment. I was growled at — 
probably sworn at, for my acquaintance with Slavonic 
anathema is happily that of a child — by drowsy 
Russians, or I found the doors locked. Then I went 
on the chase for my conductor, and finally ran him 
down in the third-class refreshment room, where he 
was drinlang Samara ale, with a trade mark on the 
label of a red pyramid, which showed that the brewers 
at Samara, on the banks of the Volga, have some 
acquaintance with the mainstay of Burton, on the 
banks of the Trent. I remonstrated in halting Russian, 
and asked about that carriage. 

" Cechas, cechas ! " said he. 

" Cechas be something," said I. He was probably 
wanting me to increase the insult. But I wasn't 

Then I produced a Uttle weapon I was carrying in 


my pocket. No, it was not a revolver. It was simply 
an open letter from Prince Hilkoff, the chief of the 
railway, informing all ofl&cials on the line that I was 
a journalist travelling through Siberia with the special 
permission of the Czar, and that I was to be given 
assistance and shown courtesy. 

There is nothing that impresses a Russian so much 
as a big name and a big seal. I've an idea the more 
sealing wax used the more important is the document 

" Gechas!" exclaimed my big, slothful, bribe-seeking 
conductor, and he cechased into the train, gave me a 
compartment, insisted on helping to put my baggage 
straight, and saluted me as though I were a decorated 
field-marshal, instead of a meek-eyed young man in 
a slouch hat, smoking a common briar-wood pipe, 
bought at the Stores for tenpence. 

So I was comfortable — for a time. In the com- 
partment on one side of me was a gentleman who 
snored. I saw him in the morning. He was very 
corpulent, but with weedy legs, no neck, and a face 
that was porcine. His snore was three-parts grunt. 
Every now and then it would seem something stuck 
somewhere. There was a momentary pause. Then 
came a gruff blast that, without exaggeration, shook 
the train. I could sleep through the rowdyism of the 
four card-playing, vodki-drinldng young officers on 
the other side of me, but the snore of that fat Russian 
as we crawled eastwards through Siberia irritated. 
It was necessary to plug my ears and wrap my head 
in a rug before endeavouring to snatch sleep. 

Morning brought drenching rain, and anything 
that might have been pleasing was soaked out of the 



landscape. The rain fell in torrents. The clouds 
trailed their skirts across the land. When they lifted 
we were beyond the plain, and in a gentle undulating 
region, with frequent lakes, some of them miles in 

The stations at which we made such long halts 
were now drab painted, and with green roofs. There 
was generally a bedraggled gang of peasant women, 
waiting to sell milk and cooked fowls and eggs and 

It was a very chilly two days that I do not recall 
distinctly. When I was hungry I dived into the little 
buffets, and ate uninquiringly of the strange dishes 
provided. Then I dived back to my carriage, wrapped 
myself in coat and rug, and read and dozed the two 
days away. There was nothing exciting. The only 
thing to record was that on the second morning we 
were running through a forest of pine and larch. 

If you look at a recent map of Siberia you may 
see the railway line marked in red. If the hne runs 
through Tomsk it is inaccurate. If, however, a tiny 
little eighth-of-an-inch long branch hne points north- 
wards to Tomsk it is correct. 

Tomsk, the capital of Siberia, is eighty-two versts 
from the junction station of Taiga, which means " in 
the woods.'' 

And why doesn't tlie Great Trans-Siberian Railway 
run through the capital ? It is an old story I was 
always hearing with regard to this line. It was laid 
in corruption. 

" How much will you give us if we bring the line 
past Tomsk ? " asked the surveyors and engineers who 
mapped the route. 


" Nothing! " replied Tomsk. "We are the capital of 
Siberia, and you can't avoid coming here." 

" Oh, can't we ? " replied the route-finders. " If you 
don't produce so many thousand roubles there will 
be insurmountable engineering difficulties that will 
prevent us coming within a long way of Tomsk." 

These engineering difficulties were discovered, and 
so the Trans-Siberian Railway sweeps along fifty 
miles to the south of Tomsk. And Tomsk, to put 
it baldly, is very sick. Its population is progressrag, 
but as a snail progresses to a hare. Irkutsk, further 
east, is already ahead of it by ten thousand. So the 
glory of the capital is on the wane. 

Of course, the Tomsk people became indignant — 
for Tomsk was a flourishing place, the very hub oi 
Siberian trade long before railways were thought of 
A branch line has been constructed from Taiga. 
Taiga, therefore, which was little more than a signal- 
ling hut in the forest, has these last six years become 
a busy junction. I counted eleven tracks side by 
side in the goods yard. There were rows of red- 
painted freight vans waiting to go this way or 
that, and a huge engine-shed, with gangs of grimy 
mechanics attending the engines. 

The first-class fare from Taiga to Tomsk is three 
roubles (about 6s.), 2 roubles 95 kopecks as a matter 
of fact, but there is a tax of 5 kopecks towards paying 
for " the war in China." Everything must have a 
Government stamp in Russia. You can't buy a 
theatre ticket without pajdng a tax. Still, three 
roubles is not so much for a fifty-mile journey first- 
class, especially as it takes four hours to cover the 


The clouds lifted in the moist eventide, making 
a divine sunset, as we ran through nicely wooded 
country that might have been a bit of homeland, if 
only there had been hedges and farmsteads. 

Most of the passengers got off at what seemed a 
tiny wayside station. 

" How far are we from Tomsk ? " I asked. 

" Tomsk Station ? " 

" Yes, Tomsk Station," I replied. 

" About half-an-hour." 

When we got to Tomsk it seemed as though I 
was the only passenger. I marvelled, but the next 
day discovered. Still the old story. Dispute between 
the railway builders and the town folk. The Hne 
might quite easily run to the centre of the town. It 
doesn't. After it gets within two miles of the place — 
the wayside station at which everybody got off save 
myself — the line makes a great half-moon bend round 
one side of the town, never getting nearer than the 
two miles, and pulls up two miles on the other side 
of Tomsk. That is one of the ways they do things 
in Siberia. 

I had a jolting, bone-cracking, droshki ride through 
a vile sea of mud until the city was reached — another 
unpaved, miry, over-grown village, but with electric 
light everywhere. 

The largest hotel is the " Europe." I went there. 
It had only been opened a fortnight, and it reeked 
with paint. The paint on the floor of my room came 
off hke the tar on a freshly asphalted sidewalk. 
Everything was blue, red, and gold. At one end of 
the dining haU was a huge, up-to-date barrel organ, 
for all the world like the organs that accompany 


roundabouts at English fairs, only bigger. Tbere 
were the harsh brass and rattling drums, clanging 
cymbals, and in front ■was a toy figure of a man with 
right arm jerking up and down, beating time wrong. 
At present this organ is the sensation of Tomsk. It 
makes such a row that one's appetite disappears. 

But Tomsk is a rollicking wealthy city, and its 
evenings are given to dissipation. Between eleven at 
night and four in the morning that accursed organ 
roared airs, while high revelry held sway. 

I hunted up the one Britisher in Tomsk, a Scot, 
representing the American Trading Company, and we 
roamed the place together. I shall never complain 
again of dirty streets in England or America — after 
Tomsk. Two days' rain had made them canals of mud. 
We drove about — the filth was up to the axle-tree. 
Where there was any slope it was bumpy and hillocky, 
and it was necessary to hold on tight or be pitched 
ignominiously out of the droshki. One finished a 
droshki ride sore all over. 

The town is on low land, but within a mile is a 
pleasant rise until a high bank is reached overlooking 
the River Tom, scouring north till it joins the Obi — 
a most picturesque situation, the very place for villas. 
The wealthy of Tomsk, however, have small appre- 
ciation of the beautiful, and prefer the fetid town. It 
is here that the main road from the Far East to 
Moscow fords the river. 

There is a gigantic ferry that took across in one 
load fourteen carts and horses and forty or fifty 
people. The boat was curious. At one end were 
three horses trotting round and round, turning a 
cogged shaft, which turned a pair of paddles, and 


these carried the ferry from side to side, while a man 
steered with a fish tail of an oar. 

Last year the population of Tomsk was over 
52,000, with 9,000 houses, 33 churches, and 25 schools. 
It is the educational centre of Siberia — indeed, it 
takes third place in the Russian Empire. In 1888 the 
Government contributed a million roubles to found a 
university, and the rich residents contributed another 
million. The University buildings are handsome, 
and about a thousand students are in attendance. 
The professors are mostly Germans, or of German 
extraction. Close by a technical college is being 
erected, where it is proposed to teach everything that 
will aid in the development of Siberia. A department 
has already been started for special instruction in 
geographical and scientific research. The public 
Hbrary given to the town by Count Strogoneff would 
do credit to an English town twice the size of Tomsk. 

For three-quarters of a century now Tomsk has 
been close to valuable gold-fields. There is gold 
everywhere. It can be got out of the sand on the 
banks of the river Tom. The richest workings, how- 
ever, are two or three days' journey away. 

Siberian gold exploitation is not very popular just 
now in England. The reason is not the scarcity of 
gold, but the restrictions put by Russia upon it being 
worked by foreigners. I believe the Government — 
which is much in need of money — would make things 
easier, so that foreign capital might come in, if a 
percentage of the gold were given in return. But 
there is a strong anti-foreign party in Russia constantly 
crying out against the country getting into the financial 
grip of outsiders. I heard, however, of two young 


fellows, a Scot and an American representing Glasgow 
and New York syndicates, who had for the last couple 
of years been putting down between thirty and forty 
thousand pounds' worth of quartz-crushing machinery. 

The town is half full of millionaires and ex-convicts. 
Most of the millionaires are themselves convict 
descended — uncouth, illiterate men, unable to write 
their own name, and absolutely ignorant of the outer 
world. They know no place but Tomsk, and they 
think there is no place Uke it. London and Paris are 
but vague names to them. If you begin talking to 
them about these cities they grunt, and regard you as 
a liar. 

Tomsk is a sort of granary for Siberia. There is a 
great market place, and here is- brought tea from 
China — only 400 miles away — furs from the north, 
bullock and horse skins from aU the country around. 

It is a quaint sight to see all the carts gathered in 
the market place, dirty, wheezy, hooded things, in the 
care of shaggy men in clattering top-boots, violent- 
hued shirts, and great sheepskin hats, haggling, 
quarrelling and bartering. Their hair is towsled and 
unkempt. The men, indeed, do hair-cutting for 
each other. They smooth it out straight over the fore- 
head, as well as at the back of the neck. They clap 
on the head an earthenware bowl, that fits fairly 
tight, and then with shears clip away every bit of 
protruding hair. 

At the street corners are vermin-covered deformi- 
ties, willing to give you blessings in return for 
kopecks, or curses if you give nothing at aU. Cring- 
ing, black-hooded women, carrying, like a plate, a 
velvet-hooded board on which is a cross, meet you 




everywhere — in the streets, in the shops, and even on 
the trains — inviting alms. They are Hcensed beggars 
on behalf of the local churches. 

Churches are everywhere. The Cathedral is a 
giant place with white-washed walls and big blue 
bulbous domes. The inside is a blaze of gilded icons. 
The door leading to the " Holy of Hohes " is of gold. 
The Russian Greek Church is fond of gilt bedizen- 
ment. The priests wear the most gorgeous vest- 
ments, and the moudjik gives his last kopeck to save 
his soul. 

Some of the churches, however, struck me as 
pretty. They were low, with long shelving roofs, 
painted green, and very long tapering spires, also 
painted green. 

On the shoulder of the hiU adjoining the town 
is the Alexis Monastery, and in the grounds were 
walking long black-robed, long black-haired, and long 
black-whiskered priests — all rather dirty and greasy. 

I went to see the small and crumbling old hut — 
protected by a special roof — where lived the old man, 
Theodore Kuzmilch, the bond-servant of God. Tomsk 
people, however, call the place " Alexandero House." 
The one dimly lighted room is made into a sort of 
chapel. There are sacred pictures on the wall, and 
lights ever burning before them. 

KuzmUch, it is said, had been exiled from Russia 
for vagrancy, and coming to Tomsk a merchant gave 
him this hut, and here he lived for eleven years as 
a hermit on bread and water, and never went out 
except to church or to do some kindly act. He died 
in 1864. There is a picture of him in the hut, a 
gaunt, hollow-cheeked, eagle-eyed old man with long 


white hair. Close by, however, is a painting of Czar 
Alexander I. when he first came to the throne, and, 
also a picture of Alexander in middle life. 

It is believed in Tomsk that this hermit, who now 
lies buried in the monastery grounds, was no Theo- 
dore Kuzmilch, but Alexander I. himself. Alexander 
abdicated the throne of Eussia because all his plana 
for the good of his people had failed. He was tired 
and weary of his position. So while on a journey 
to the Crimea for the benefit of his health it was 
given out that he died at Taganrog. Public opinion 
declared that, with the consent of his successor, 
Nicholas I., another corpse was taken to St. Peters- 
burg and buried in state. Alexander disappeared. 
Nothing was heard of him till he turned up as a 
wanderer in Tomsk. He was recognised but by one 
person, a merchant. The secret was well kept, and 
it was not till long after his death that it leaked out 
that old Theodore was the Czar. Such, at any rate, is 
the' story told in Tomsk. 

Like all cities to which wealth cpmes easily, 
Tomsk is licentious, extravagant, and life is not 
counted of much value. 

I saw a dirty old man slithering in the mud. 
" The richest man in Tomsk, a rouble millionaire four 
times over," I was told. 

A couple of ladies, fashionably dressed, splashed by 
in a carriage drawn by a pair of horses. " One is the 
daughter of a convict, and the other is engaged to be 
married to a convict's son." 

Another man trailed past. " That man is a 
prince; he belongs to an older family than the 
reigning house of Romanoff. He is nephew of the 


Governor of Moscow. He's a bad lot, and was the 
head of a gang of swindlers. He got hold of a rich 
Englishman anxious to settle in Moscow. In the 
Governor's absence he took the Englishman to the 
Governor's house, pretending it was his own, and sold 
it for 30,000 roubles. It was the Englishman who 
was sold. That is why the prince is exiled to Tomsk. 
He's a solicitor here." 

Some dark-eyed, keen-featured women went past. 
" Jews ! " said my companion. " Jews are the curse of 
Siberia, as they are of Russia. The Russians and 
Siberians are not good business men. The Jews are. 
The Government is hard on them, but the Jew here 
gets baptised a Christian, and so he can cheat, 
outwit, grow enormously rich. But he is a Jew at 
heart all the same. If you were a Russian and had 
business to do in Russia you would understand why 
the Jew is hated." 

A group of intelligent young fellows strolled by 
Students — many of them ardent young men who 
read all the Western literature they can get hold of. 
In 1900 a lot of them had a procession through the 
streets, singing student songs out of sympathy with 
the Moscow and Petersburg students, who were 
rioting for reform. Next day two hundred of them 
were taken by the authorities out of the town. These 
lads of twenty had been exiled ! 

The Russian Government, I will say, is much 
traduced. But it does often show a childish fear. 
Fancy exiling those boys ! Fancy exiling Glasgow 
students because they had a procession in the streets ] 

There being plenty of money in Tomsk, pleasure 
is the one pursuit. Not to be immoral is to be 


suspected of revolutionary ideas. Laxity of conduct is 
the best sign of good fellowship. Nowhere, I confess, 
did I see signs of refinement. The houses are glorified 
huts with red paint and plush. To squander money 
in drunken carousal, and to load his womenkind with 
pearls and sables, is the ambition of the average 
Tomsk man. There is a flavour of the Californian 
gold-digging days about Tomsk, but with the romance 
left out. 

On the whole, I was not favourably impressed 
with the capital of Siberia. It is a caravanserai for 



From Tomsk, the present capital of Siberia, to 
Irkutsk, the future capital, and already called the 
Paris of Siberia, took three and a half days. 

Had I been on the search for adventure I could 
not have sought, the wide world through, a more 
unromantic route. We had long bidden good-bye to 
the prairies, and now ran through a region of forest 
and heaving countryside, with many rivers to cross, 
and sighted at last, like a grey-purple cloud humped 
on the horizon, the gaunt, snow-creviced mountains 
that wall China. 

I have heard this railway journey across Siberia 
dubbed uninteresting. Maybe it is; but, being of 
simple tastes, I ceased to find it so. 

The weather was as it should be. There was a 
nip of frost in the early mornings, so that breath 
puffed hoary. The middle of the day was sunshiny, 
the sky as blue as Irish eyes, and never a woof of 
cloud to be seen. There was the fragrance of pine in 
the air. Then the fall of evening was so stiU, so 
impressive ; the west ribbed with fire and topped with 
palest green, the dome of heaven deep azure, and 
the east, coming up like a shroud, recalling other days 
in far Western America. 

When I got back from Tomsk to Taiga the 
junction on the main line, I had a wait of four hours 
before the post train from Moscow went on. 

The stretch of platform in front of the grey- walled, 


green-roofed station buildings was full of emigrants. 
They had their bundles thrown into heaps, and they 
squatted on the ground and used the bundles as back- 
rests. Maybe my eyes were getting used to the sight 
of hulking men in red shirts and heavy, long-legged 
boots and rough sheepskin caps, but these did not 
look quite so brutal as those I saw at Moscow. They 
lay about, and slept in ungraceful attitudes. Their 
wives, with the patience of cows on their plain faces, 
sat in groups talking quietly and chewing sunflower 
seeds and spitting out the shells, or fetching hot 
water from the ever-bubbling public samovar to make 
tea. In and about them moved a wiry, kindly-faced 
man, selling cheap copies of the Scriptures. 

The children, and there were hundreds of them, 
were bare-footed, ragged-breeked little savages, 
supremely happy. 

Half-a-dozen boys made themselves into an 
imaginary train by hitching with one hand to each 
other's shirt-tail, the other hand playing the part ol 
imaginary wheel, and so went shou-shouing up and 
down the platform. 

There were two lads I particularly noticed. At 
every station where we halted they jumped out and 
filled their pockets with stones. The intervals between 
the stations were occupied with pelting the telegraph 
poles from the carriage window. The animal called 
Boy is the same in all climes. 

There were many Tartars, ungainly-limbed, sallow- 
clieeked, beady-eyed Mongols, in astrakhan hats and 
padded, quUted frock-coats and short trousers and 
flip-flapping slippers. They sat on their beds, and 
looked at each other slothfuUy and blinkingly. 

^■' -m^h^ 




Then there were the ordinary middle-class 
Russians, who might have been stodgy Teutons for 
all the distinction there was in costume. 

Colour was given by the men in uniform, the white 
jackets and the blue trousers and gold decorations 
and clanging spurs. Every man in Government 
employ, be he soldier or ticket-collector, wears 
uniform, and half the men above the peasant class 
seemed to be officials of some kind. 

It was at Taiga I became conscious of the fact 
I was being watched. I felt the knowledge of the 
fact creep in somewhere at the back of my neck. I 
turned hurriedly and caught the departing side-glance 
of a short, inquisitive-eyed and tufty-bearded gentle- 
man. I knew he was watching me. Maybe he 
belonged to that mysterious body, the Russian Secret 
Police. Maybe he thought I was a Soho-Nihilist — 
though I hope there was nothing suggestive of Soho 
in my attire, save my old knockabout slouch hat. 

I took a stroll to the far end of the platform. He 
followed and pretended not to be looking when I 
turned, but when I again passed him I could feel his 
gaze, like a Rontgen-ray, go into the side of my 

When the Moscow-Irkutsk post train arrived I 
hunted out a carriage and prepared to make myself 
comfortable for four nights. Suddenly the door was 
jerked open, and as suddenly jerked shut again. It 
was my little spy. I heard whispering in the next 
compartment, and when I went into the corridor 
my spy — I got to regard him as my own particular 
property after three days — and the conductor came 
and stared. 


Whenever I left my carriage he left his. I 
I couldn't go into the buffet and have a cup of soup 
■without my spy sitting opposite me. If I wandered 
for ten minutes into the woods to take a photograph, 
or climbed a bank to get a snapshot of the train, he 
was near. 

Truly, as a spy, he played the game badly. It 
was aU too patent. If I could have really acted 
suspiciously I would have done so, just to fool him to 
I the top of his bent. All I could thiuk of was to look 
at embankments, simulating wisdom, as though 
calculating how much dynamite it would need to 
blow them into the air, or walk along the line and 
inspect the rails, as though I had some deep design 
in mind. But I maintained an air of sublime ignor- 
ance that he was on the earth. 

It was the evening before we reached Irkutsk, and 
the train was halting for half-an-hour, when, all at 
once, there was a row next door. I sprang into the 
corridor to see. 

There were the railway officials ignominiously 
throwing my spy and his belongings out. The in- 
quisitive little fellow had never seen a foreigner 
before, and he was travelling first-class with a second- 
class ticket. He was very petulant at this indignity 
of ejection. He fretted and fumed. But " out you 
go and get into a back carriage," was the attitude of 
the officials. As he picked up his bedding and kettle 
he looked at me. I could not resist the temptation 
to give him two broad, slow British winks and then 
laugh. It was the only revenge I had. 

A railway journey such as this I was embarked 
upon was much like a voyage aboard ship. The 


passengers struck up acquaintance, and a kind of 
family feeling prevailed. Like the rest, I jumped 
from the train in the fresh of the early morning — 
and how crisp and blood-tingling is the welcome of 
the yoimg day in Siberia — and ran with my little 
kettle to the big bubbling samovar that somebody 
had got ready, and joined the good-natured struggle 
for hot water. 

It was the same each morning. Most of us were 
sleepy-eyed and uncombed. There were peasant 
women with baskets, in which were great slabs of that 
morning's bread, brown and spongy and a little sour, 
which I fancied. For a penny I got a hunk. The first- 
class and second-class folk, being more "swagger" 
than the third-class and fourth-class people — the first 
and second men wear their shirts tucked in their 
trousers, and the third and fourth wear theirs outside 
— often bought fransoozki Jcleb, which, you understand, 
means French bread. But for this twopence must be 
paid. From another old peasant woman I got a pat 
of butter, cool and delicious, for twopence, and for 
fourpence I secured a plate of blackberries. 

Then back to my carriage, where I have tea and 
sugar — my packet of tea burst one night and got 
mixed up with pyjamas, cigars, and shaving tackle — 
and I squat on the floor and make the most deUcious 
tea in the world. 

There is something constitutionally wrong with a 
man who doesn't like Russian tea — rather weak, with 
a little lump of sugar and a little slice of lemon, and 
no milk, and drunk from a tumbler. I — who for 
several days had no spoon, and not knowing the 
Russian for " spoon " found a paper-knife an excellent 


substitute — could wi-ite an epic on Kussian tea- 

Then with the window wide open, while the train 
rolls slowly through the forest, the engine bellowing 
with long hollow echoes like a steamer crawling its 
way up the Mersey in a fog, I drink glasses of tea, 
many of them, until I must be " wisibly swellin'," and 
munch my new bread and new butter, and eat my 
berries with the dew still upon them. Then a pipe, 
and a long look upon the never-ending regiments of 
trees, tall, slim, silver-barked. 

For fifty yards or so each side the line was a clearing, 
and the trunks of the slain stuck up like black 
knuckles in miles, miles, miles of gorgeous under- 
groAvth. It was as though there was a carpet of Virginia 
creeper as blood-red as the wine of Capri, but with a 
clear yellow dash now and then, like Moselle, to bring 
out the brilliance, and with the drab velvety dust of 
the line between. 

Later on we were among pines, nothing but pines, 
the ground sprinkled with sunlight, but the distances 
dark as caverns. Here, in the clearing, a fresh crop 
of firs was springing up, with young limbs as green as 
a shallow sea. I thought of the millions and milHons 
of Christmas trees they would make. 

The fact of being in Siberia often slipped away 
from my mind. When you go from London to 
Bournemouth the run through the New Forest does 
not make you think of Siberia. Yet we kept going 
all day, all night, several days and nights, through 
just such a country. It was the continuity of it, the 
seeming endlessness of it, that brought one with a 
jerk to realise something of its length. 



~^ /ag« 




Though this Trans-Siberian track is a wonder of 
the world, all built within ten years, the idea of some 
such a way has filtered through the minds of men for 
a generation or more. It is interesting that it was an 
English engineer, with the unkind name of Dull, who, 
away back in the fifties, thought of a horse railway 
from Nijni- Novgorod to some port on the Pacific. As 
there were some four million horses in Siberia, the 
idea was not a bad one. The Russian Government 
approved of the plan, and invited estimates of cost. 
But not a single estimate was sent in, and so Dull's 
scheme passed to the limbo of might-have-been. 
Then with the growth of railways in Europe came 
other Siberian plans, to throw a railway over the Ural 
mountains to the mining regions. After years of 
rejection and re-consideration such a line was made. 
Then other lines were made, chiefly to get into touch 
with the trading centres in Siberia on the banks of 
the rivers. And no country in the world has such 
navigable rivers as Siberia. Look at a fair-sized map, 
and you will see there is a cobweb of them — the Obi, 
the Yenisei, the Lena, the Amur, with a hundred 
tributaries. But like a vision — as we sometimes think 
it will be possible some day to go to America by 
airship — kept floating before the brains of engineers 
the idea of one continuous line from Moscow to the 
Pacific. Then one morning came the order from the 
Czar of All the Russias, " Let it be done." 

And it was done. And I was now riding over it 
in as comfortable a carriage as I want anywhere. 

The train was certainly slow, so slow and easy that 
it was possible to shave even when at its topmost 
express speed of fifteen miles an hour. 


The cuttings were few and the banks few. The 
route of least resistance was followed, and if there 
were any hump of ground in the way the line went 
round it rather than through. The result was that 
the track, for the most part, was just a foot of earth 
shovelled up from either side. The sleepers or ties 
were thrown on this, and the rails clamped. 

There could not be much speed on a way like this. 
Now and then the coaches side-rolled in an uncom- 
fortable manner, showing there had been unevenness 
in the metal-lajdng. But this was occasionally. As 
a rule the train was steady, and it was possible to 
sleep the night through without a single awakening. 

Already it has been discovered ohat the track has 
not been sufficiently ballasted, and that the rails are 
altogether too light for the traffic, which is becoming 
heavy. So, now, for long stretches, the line is 
being freshly ballasted and relaid. I saw thousands 
of workmen, broad built, but not tall, with dark, 
heavily bearded countenances, men of sturdiness. 
They are all rough-clad. They are hundreds of miles 
from any town. They are confined to this little open 
streak, shcing like a knife through the pines. 

They stood aside, and rubbing with hairy arms 
the sweat from their brow, gave a good-natured nod 
to anybody with head pushed out of the window. 
They had temporary huts, and yet hardly huts, for they 
were often nothing more than a slanting roof made of 
sleepers, beneath which they could crawl and sleep. 

I often looked out in the dawn and saw them 
taking their first meal of tea and brown bread. I 
never saw them take anything else at any other meal. 
They lived on tea and brown bread, and didn't 


look weaklings. Once, or, at the outside, twice a 
week they had beef at a meal. Their wages were 
lOd. a day. 

It was always a striking scene as darkness came, 
and when the engine fires threw long shafts of Hght 
up to the sky and among the black foliage, to pass a 
camp of these men by the forest side, their kettles 
boiling over a heap of crackling twigs, and they 
themselves lounging on the ground, dead-tired men, 
and the fire-light playing on their dark Slavonic 

All along the line, for thousands of miles, are 
good-conduct convicts, who spend their lives in little 
huts, always a verst apart, and signal with green flags 
that the road is clear. Many of them looked far 
above the railway labourers in intelligence. But on 
the faces of them all was an abiding sadness born of 
the loneliness of the life they lead, with never the 
shadow of hope for the future. 

At night it is a green lamp that is used. Many 
an hour towards midnight I stood on the gangway 
between the carriages and ticked off the green lights 
as we spun along. Away down the black avenue 
would appear a tiny green speck. As the carriages 
rumbled over the metals it would get bigger. Just 
distinguishable in the darkness was the figure of a 
man holding the lamp high up. He and his light 
would be lost the instant it was passed. But when all 
the train had gone by he turned and showed the hght 
the other way. I instinctively turned and looked 
ahead again. And yonder in the distance was 
another tiny green speck. 
,'; Just in itself there is nothing much in such 


a simple signal. It is, however, when you think 
there are thousands of these men, and that a signal 
started to-day at Moscow runs for eleven days until 
it is broken on the banks of Lake Baikal, beyond 
Irkutsk, that the twinkling green lights get a peculiar 

There is one thing to be said for the Trans- 
Siberian Railway — that hardly ever does a train 
arrive behind time. Indeed, I have known the train 
run into a station twenty minutes before time, 
and as a rule it is five minutes in advance. 

At first you find the time-table a Chinese problem. 
It took me a whole morning to grasp it. First you 
find your watch doesn't tally with the obvious time of 
day, and when you look at the station clock that 
clock is unmistakably hours behind. You see the 
train is down to arrive at a particular place at 
a particular time, say half-past seven; but you 
know it is actually mid-day. There is confusion, 
which is due to the line running continuously 
towards the sun. 

To keep things in order, however, the railway 
authorities ignore the sun, and keep Petersburg time. 
So in Eastern Siberia, when the sun is setting, the 
station clock will indicate lunch time. Therefore, 
first of all, the time-table shows Petersburg time. 
But as every station is about ten miles from the 
town it is supposed to serve, intending passengers 
cannot be expected to make a special trip to find 
railway time. Accordingly, on the time-table is 
printed in red the local time as well You personally 
want local sun time, and, when you have mastered 
the time-table so far, you set your watch in the 


morning by the red figures. But when you glance 
at your watch towards evening you find something 
wrong, that your watch is quite ten minutes behind 
local time. You marvel, think your watch has got 
out of repair, and what a nuisance this is in a country 
like Siberia. Suddenly, however, you condemn your- 
self as a dunderheaded idiot for not understanding 
before that local time is continuously changing. 

It is endless worry trying to keep pace. I didn't 
try. Each morning I just put my watch ten minutes 
ahead of the local time, and was content with its 
being correct, there or thereabouts, for the rest of 
the day. 

As the clanging of the station bell gave plenty of 
warning when the train proposed to go on, the halts 
were not to be ignored. It was possible to have a 
pleasant walk. Half the train-load turned out, and, 
while elders just sauntered about, the younger ones 
pushed among the undergrowth or dived into the 
forest, and came back with berries or tangles of bright 
red creeper. There was a young fellow and his wife 
travelling in the same corridor car as myself They 
were very young, and he was going east to make his 
fortune. Always when the train stopped they set ofi 
hand-in-hand to the woods, and came running back, 
panting, at the last clang of the bell. But the girl 
had a bunch of pretty wild flowers. Their carriage 
must have been a perfect bower. 

A fine bridge spans the Yenisei River near 
Krasnayarsk, a town beyond the great forest and 
lying in a plain encircled with hiUs — really a pretty 
place. A cathedral of sweUing proportions gives 
dignity to it. It cost £70,000, and was presented by 


a fortunate gold-finder. The same gold-finder gave 
Krasnayarsk beautiful public gardens, considered the 
finest in Siberia, though that does not mean much. 
There is also a museum presented by a rich merchant. 
Indeed, in all the great towns of Siberia the men 
who have amassed wealth — many of them sons of 
convicts, absolutely ignorant of the outer world, 
often leading a vicious life — vie with one another in 
beautifying their native place. The favourite thing 
is to build a church. 




The great lumbering train, travel-smeared with eight 
days' run from Cheylabinsk, made a last wayside 

That the greatest city ot Siberia was at hand was 
shown in the altered appearance of the passengers as 
they sprang from the cars and hastened to the buffet 
for tea, coffee, and fresh rolls. Men who had worn 
the same flannel shirt for a week came forth in white 
front and collar and bright tie. Razors had been 
busy, for many a ten days' scrub of whisker was 
gone. Women whom I had seen with light shawl 
thrown over head and shoulders fluttered in the glory 
of tailor-made jackets and radiant hats. 

The only folk who still wore the same clothes, 
the bright shirts and patched baggy trousers and 
cumbrous big boots, and who hadn't shaved or 
washed or combed, were the peasants. 

At the wayside station were other passengers 
waiting. They were boys and girls from ten to 
sixteen, the lads in grey, with a black belt round the 
waist and a peaked cap, and on their backs cow- 
hide bags containing school-books — smart lads 
going into Irkutsk to the Gymnasium. The girls 
were dressed exactly the same as you find school- 
girls of the same age in Leeds or Manchester or 
Edinburgh. They carried their school-bags neatly 
strapped and behaved demurely, as young misses 


should, though their brothers were noisy youngsters, 
crowding into the same carriage and yelling and 
behaving exactly as their Anglichani cousins fiye 
thousand miles away behave when they go from their 
suburb to school in the big town. 

It was a raw, grey morning, that Thursday, Sep- 
tember 5th, as the train crawled upon the wooden 
bridge spanning the dead blue Irkut river, broad, 
sullen, and strong, sweeping to the mighty Yenisei, 
and emptying thousands of miles away within the 
Arctic circle. Over the low-hanging fog peered the 
dome of a cathedral, and great buildings loomed. 
There was the whistling and shrieking of engines. 
As we waited on the bridge for the signal to go on 
I thought of the stop on Grosvenor Bridge, over the 
Thames, before the south country trains rumble into 
Victoria Station. 

Slowly we went on. There was a road crossing, 
with a mass of carts and people waiting till the train 
had passed. The axles creaked through a goods yard. 
Then, before we quite realised it, we were in Irkutsk 
Station. Porters boarded the train like banditti, and 
fought with one another to carry baggage. The 
corridors were blocked, and people got angry, and 
there was swearing and indignation, and — well, the 
scene was not at all peculiarly Siberian, It might 
have been any European station. 

When my belongings were packed on a droshki, 
away I was carried, humpity-bumpity, over the vile, 
uneven road. I felt I and the droshki were playing 
a game of cup and baU. I was caught every time. 

There was a tributary of the Irkut to be crossed, 
the Angara, by a jolting, uneven bridge of boats. 


We banged across it. And so we were in Irkutsk, 
four thousand miles east of Moscow, further east, 
indeed, than Mandalay : a thriving, josthng, gay city 
— " the Paris of Siberia " you call it when you want 
to please. 

It is not a description I would apply myself. 
Irkutsk is more hke a restless, bustling Western 
American town near the region of gold diggings. 
There is one street two miles long, and all the others 
are at right angles. 

It is a white and green town. Most of the build- 
ings are stucco-faced, whitewashed, with sheet-iron 
roofs painted green. The effect is one of cleanness 
and coolness. 

The weather during my stay of nearly a week was 
exquisite. All day long the sky was of Italian blue- 
ness. There was not a cloud anywhere. The middle 
of the day was torrid, and to walk along the sunny 
side of the street was to do so blinkingly. 

The nights were nipped with frost. In warmest 
summer the earth, six feet beneath the surface, is 
frozen. The altitude of the place is some thirteen 
hundred feet. The air is dry, and I was told there isn't 
a single case of consumption among the sixty-five 
thousand inhabitants. 

In the old days all the caravans of Chinese tea, 
after a long, slow march across the bleak Gobi desert, 
came to Irkutsk. The caravans now are but shadows 
of what they -were. Prosaic steamships and more 
prosaic railways have done much to send tea another 
way. Still, there are thousands of tons brought into 
Irkutsk, caked like black brick, for there are old- 
fashioned Russians who declare that tea loses its 


flavour if it gets within breath of sea air. They must 
have tea that has crossed the Gobi on camel back, and 
been hauled into Irkutsk on sledges in winter. They 
are willing to pay for it. Modern business methods 
have, however, travelled to the Far East. I remember, 
a year or two back, when at Hankow, on the Yang-tze 
river, the centre of the Chinese tea trade, a Kussian 
merchant laughingly telling me he sent aU his tea by 
sea, round by Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, the 
Suez Canal, and the Bosphorus, to Odessa; that it 
was sold at Moscow as " overland tea," and that not a 
single tea drinker was the wiser. Still, in Irkutsk 
there are men who have become millionaires in roubles 
six times over out of the tea trade. 

There are more men, however, who have become 
millionaires out of gold. Irkutsk is in the middle of 
the gold district, stretching far down the banks of the 
Lena, far into the mountains of Trans-Baikal, and also 
among the fastnesses bordering MongoHa, only a 
htmdred miles away. The law is being modified, but 
till recently all the gold from mines in East Siberia 
had to pass through the Government Laboratory at 
Irkutsk. Only about hajf of it did. Even then six 
hundred million roubles worth of gold passed through 
in the last thirty years — that is 1,173,456 pounds 
avoirdupois of gold. 

There are stacks of yellow ingots at the Irkutsk 
Laboratory that would make the mouths of Bank of 
England directors water. Two old men guard it at 
night. A force of Cossacks formerly guarded the gold* 
But one evening they marched off with, the lot. 
Thereupon the mind of the Kussian authorities went 
to work. Their reasoning was thus : " It is dangerous 


to have a bouy of stalwart fellows on guard, for they 
might up and away with the gold any hour. It would 
be much better to have two old men who couldn't 
carry a bar between them." The possibility of these 
two being hit on the head some night with a mallet 
was lost sight of. 

The other half of the gold has been squandered in 
riotous living. If you are a miner, and have stolen 
gold, you must dispose of it somehow. In side streets 
are greasy, blue-bloused Chinamen, ostensibly dealers 
in tea. Though never a cake of tea enters their stores, 
they grow rich. Their enemies say they buy the 
stolen gold. 

How to get gold out of Russian territory without 
discovery requires cuteness. But the ways of the 
Chinaman have become poetically proverbial. Even 
Chinamen die. And a dead Chinaman must sleep his 
long sleep in his native land. So his good brother 
Chinamen in Irkutsk embalm him, and put him in a 
box, and burn candles over him, and send him away 
to rest with his fathers. 

Peeping through a keyhole at an embalming 
operation not long ago, the Irkutsk police saw gold 
dust blown through a tube up the nostrils into the 
empty skull. So they discovered why the Chinese 
were so anxious to give the soul of their dead brother 
peace by burial at home. His head was to serve as 
carrier of gold till he reached the Flowery Land, and 
then the dust was to be extracted. 

The Irkutsk people and Siberians generally have, 
I found, " a guid conceit " of themselves. They say 
they are Russians with all the latest improvements. 

I talked through an interpreter with a good many 


of them that week, from his Excellency the Governor- 
General and mine-owners worth a million sterling to 
the hall porter at my hotel and the droshld driver 
who took me about. They each and all had a gleam 
of satisfaction in the eye when they asked, "Don't you 
think Irliutsk is one of the finest cities you have ever 
seen ? " 

It is getting ahead in public buildings. The Greek 
Cathedral is an imposing building of heavy-domed 
architecture. There is a resplendent Opera House 
that cost £32,000. There is a museum of all things 
Siberian from the days of the mammoth to the latest 
device in gold-washing, in charge of an intelligent 
young Eussian. There is a school of art, a public 
library, and, besides the g3n3Qnasium for the better class 
boys and a high school for the better class girls, there 
are thirty-two other schools, and all sorts of philan- 
thropic institutions, including an orphan home. 

The town is under the control of a municipality, 
elected every four years. It consists of sixty members, 
and the mayor is chosen from their number. The 
rates imposed are slight. Still I have seen some 
shrugging of the shoulders as to what becomes of all 
the money. 

There are houses which for outward appearance 
rival some in Park Lane. The restaurant where I 
lunched and dined each day was Parisian, save that 
there was one of those huge hurdy-gurdy organs 
playing archaic music-hall tunes. Fancy " A Bicycle 
Made for Two " being played in Eastern Siberia ! 

The shops are fine. You can buy anything in 
them — even English patent medicines. There are 
drapery stores that seem like a bit of Regent Street. 





The hairdresser's shop near my hotel was as well fitted 
up as any such estabhshment on the Boulevard des 
ItaHens. The electric light blazed everywhere. 

And yet with all these there is a rawness about 
Irkutsk that made me exclaim a hundred times, " It 
is just like a mushroom city in Western America." 

The roads were no better than tracks, either all 
dust or all mire. The pavement was a side walk of 
boards, some of which were missing. A grand new 
building had as neighbour a rough wooden shanty. 
AU the sanitary arrangements were insanitary. 
Everything costs about three times as much as it 
does in London. 

There is a small fortune awaiting the man who 
wUl build a good hotel. There are several hotels, but, 
while they are all dear, they are all dirty. I have 
met several Europeans here — Europeans as distinct 
from Russians — and after mutual agreement that the 
popular idea in England and America about Siberia is 
all wrong, the conversation has invariably turned to 
the domestic habits of the Russian people — which are 
not cleanly — then to the filthy state of the Irkutsk 
hotels, and finally — not a polite topic perhaps — to the 
size, behaviour, and intelligence of the Siberian bug. 

There was a long-shanked American gold-digger — 
who wore a frock-coat, flannel shirt, brown felt hat, 
while cigars stuck out of one waistcoat pocket and 
the business end of a tooth-brush stuck out of the 
other — who betwixt oaths and the ejection of tobacco 
juice declared he has no pity, but with his six-shooter 
plugs them through the heart at sight. Then a 
mild Britisher described how the previous night, as 
an inspection of the walls of his room was not satis- 


factory, he pulled his bed into the middle of the room 
and encircled it with insect powder. He saw the 
enemy approach, but that barrier was not to be got 
over. Then they held a consultation, crawled to the 
wall, crawled up it, crawled along the ceiling till just 
above the bed, and then dropped ! You see, even the 
stories in Siberia get a Transatlantic flavour. 

Between five and seven in the evening — when the 
heat of the day is softening, and the chill of night has 
not set in — all Irkutsk, fashionable Irkutsk, aU who 
are somebody or who think so. Government officials, 
officers, their wives and daughters, the wives and 
daughters of the millionaires, Tom, Dick, and Harry, 
Betsy, Jane, and Mary, are to be seen on the main 
boulevard called the Bolshoiskaia. 

Cyclists go whizzing past; a man comes tearing 
by in a light-built American gig with his body bent, 
his arms outstretched, just showing the paces of his 
horse; a neat carriage drawn by three black, long-maned 
horses, the two outside animals running sideways — 
quite the "swagger" thing in Russia — rolls along. 
The two gorgeously-clad ladies, its occupants, receive 
the sweeping bows of the young officers. Several 
ladies and gentlemen taking horse exercise advance 
at a trot, and it is noticed the ladies are sitting astride 
the saddle. I cannot say it struck me as a " horrid 
exhibition." The dress was of dark blue with a sort 
of short petticoat. Indeed, to my pagan mind, it 
appeared rather becoming. 

If of the towns I know I sought one that Irkutsk 
is really suggestive of, I would select San Francisco. 
Physically they are unlike. But the social atmo- 
sphere is the same. There is the same free-and-easy, 


happy-go-lucky, easy-come, easy-go, devil-may-care 
style of living. 

All the business is one of dealing, importing 
European goods, re-selling to far-away towns in 
Siberia, working mines, buying skins, and exporting 
to Europe. The smash-ahead commercial people 
here are Russians from the Baltic provinces, reaUy 
Germans. They are all energy. The Eussian him- 
self — with that ineradicable strain of the Tartar in 
him — is more dilatory. The impulsive Britisher or 
American, hustling about, is to him something of a 
madman — clever, but stiU mad. 

Money-making in Irkutsk has been so easy for 
several generations that the new whirl that has come 
into the town with the Trans-Siberian Railway has 
startled even the millionaires. They are sturdy old 
men, most of them, with character written deep on 
their strong faces. For all the new-fangled Western 
ideas that have swept into the town they have a Httle 
contempt. Several of the wealthiest still keep to 
their rude peasant clothes. 

But Irkutsk is beginning to put on airs, and even 
a grimy millionaire in red shirt and dirty top-boots 
wiU not be tolerated in the fashionable restaurants. 
A police order was issued recently that anyone not 
wearing a white shirt and collar could be refused 
admittance. Also there are notices stuck up request- 
ing the guests not to get drunk, but to remember 
they belong to a civilised country! 

Some of these millionaires — one named Khaminofif, 
who came to Irkutsk half a century ago as a carter, 
died recently, and left eleven million roubles made 
out of tea, skins, and gold — have travelled in Europe. 


They have seen London, Paris, and Vienna. " Ah ! " 
said one of them to me, " I was glad to get home. 
After all, there is no place like Siberia ! " 

The intellectual people of the town are the 
political exiles. They have suffered for their opinions 
by being banished to Siberia. But for the fact, how- 
ever, that they cannot return to Russia, they lead 
exactly the same life as any other resident. Most 
of them are clerks in offices, and some hold exceed- 
ingly good appointments. Five years ago an English 
girl, who went out to Irkutsk as governess to a wealthy 
family, married a political exile. She submitted to 
the conditions of her husband's life. She can now 
never leave the country. 

Apart from the political exiles, the town is 
besmirched with the criminal class, the really 
degraded. You have to see the men in prison to 
understand even a little of the brute nature of many 
of these people. 

There are great prisons around Irkutsk. To thesp 
for generations men have been sent from Russia to 
expiate murder and unmentionable horrors. At the 
end of their imprisonment they have been released. 
But the Russian authorities have not taken them 
back to Russia. They left them free to do as they 
liked — preferring they should stay in Siberia. The 
men made for the big towns, chiefly Irkutsk, because 
it is the gold centre. Accordingly a great part of the 
population consists of such men and the children of 
such men. No wonder, therefore, there is, on an 
average, one murder a week in the town. There are 
drunken quarrels, and then a hit over the head with 
a spade. Life is held cheap, and murders are 



^ -If 




committed in order to steal a few sMlIings. Robberies 
with violence are common. Burglary is prevalent. 
Yet there are hardly any police in the town. Every- 
body is supposed to look out for himself It is 
dangerous to leave the main street after dark without 
a revolver. The timid householder opens his window 
and fires a shot before going to bed, just to inform 
prowlers there are firearms in the house. 

You can drive along the Bolshoiskaia at eleven 
o'clock at night and not see a soul. But if you go 
into the big restaurants you find them crowded, and 
they remain so until three and four in the morning. 

There is a noted restaurant that I visited. The 
place was full of men and women, eating and drink- 
ing and smoking. There was a platform, where a 
troupe of girls from Warsaw sang lewd songs, and 
then came and drank champagne with the audience. 
It was a replica of a San Francisco sink. 

And yet all this was four thousand miles east of 
Moscow. When I got to my room I looked at my 
map, put my finger on Irkutsk, and tried to realise I 
was in Siberia. Facts somehow did not seem to fit 
in with a life's conception of the land. 



Well I remember as a boy being thrilled — more than 
any Red Indian story ever thriUed — by Mr. George 
Kennan's lurid descriptions of prison life in Siberia. 
These descriptions thrilled others besides a school- 
boy. The world shivered at the enormities per- 
petrated in the snow- driven land beyond the 

" Only Russia could be so cruel ; a civilised country 
would shrink from such barbarities," said the horror- 

And since those days there simmered in my mind 
a curious craving to see this gaunt land of Siberia, 
and let my own eyes gaze on the starved wretches 
sent to living death. 

In St. Petersburg, in Moscow, all along the Trans- 
Siberian line, I came across Britishers who had no 
love for the Russian, who sneered at his dilaloriness, 
swore at his bribe-seeking proclivities, showed disgust 
at his personal habits. Yet, when I mentioned 
Mr. Kennan's brilliant and startling story of his 
wanderings, I was always met with an " Ach ! " and a 
shrug of the shoulders. 

Well, in spite of hearing this — and occasionally 
something stronger — from every Britisher in the 
country, I kept an open mind. If opportunity came, 
I would have a look at a prison myself. 

So during a talk with his Excellency the Governor-, 


General of the Irkutsk province, I asked if he had 
any objection to my seeing the Irkutsk prison ? 

" Not at all, but I think the Alexandrovski prison, 
seventy versts from here, would be better." 

I had thought of Alexandrovski, the largest prison 
in the country, but considered seeing that was out of 
the question. I accepted the Governor-General's 
suggestion, and said I would go there on my return 
journey through Siberia. Very well ! Could I now 
go to the local gaol ? Certainly ! When ? Any 
time ! To-morrow ? Yes ! After breakfast ? Any 
time convenient to yourself! 

So the next morning, accompanied by an inter- 
preter, I drove out to the Irkutsk prison. 

It was not the gloomy, sullen-stoned, slit-windowed, 
iron -barred structure such as are our prisons at home. 
The front showed a two-storied, whitewashed building. 
The sides and backs were walled with pine-tree logs, 
tightly set together, and aU sharply pointed at the 
top. Sentry-boxes were stationed at every thirty 
yards, and Kussian soldiers in white blouses and 
white caps paraded up and down, carbine on shoulder. 

I was met by the Governor, a short, kindly-looking 
man, who kept his hands in his pockets except when 
lighting another cigarette, and by the Inspector of 
Prisons, a tall, fair-whiskered man in white and gold 

After the preliminary introductions the inner 
wooden door, not iron-studded, was thrown open, and 
then there was a rather slim, ramshackle iron gate 
to go through. We were now in the exercise yard — a 
nice open space, planted with smallish pines and 
with plenty of seats about. 


A crowd of several hundred men, coarse-featured, 
and mostly bearded, all in loose white linen clothes, 
were scurrjdng to their dormitories on the shouted 
order of the Governor. A jangling sound struck my 
ear. I noticed many of the men wore chains fastened 
about the legs. 

The convicts gave a backward glance at their 

" Where are they going ? " I inquired. 

"Back to their cells. They have four hours' 
recreation a day, two hours in the morning and two 
in the afternoon. I thought you would like to see 
them in their cells." 

" Do you restrict them in talking ? " 

" Oh, no, they just do as they like, except that 
they must not sing. We have 700 men here, and 
some very good singers. These are in the chapel 
choir, and have a dormitory to themselves and practise 

We took a promenade of the entire building, with 
two armed attendants in our wake. The corridors 
were whitewashed, with sanded floors. The doors 
were of heavy wood with iron gratings. 

The keys were turned and the bolts pulled. So 
we passed into a low-roofed but well-lighted 
room, with fifty or sixty men standing in a rough 

"Good-morning, men," said the Governor, and 
they replied, " Good-morning, sir." 

The prisoners had the brutal features always seen 
in the criminal classes, the heavy jaw, the low 
forehead, the cunning eye. Most were thieves, but 
also there were accused men among them awaiting 


trial ; and the mixture of both condemned and un- 
tried struck me as unfair to the latter. 

I picked out men, and through my interpreter 
asked for what they were in prison. They answered 
readily. One young man said he was serving six 
months for stealing a coat — which wasn't true, for he 
had bought it from an unknown man. Thereat the 
other prisoners laughed. 

" What do they do here ? " I asked. 

'' What they like, except that they must keep 
their cells clean.'' 

And clean they were. There was a place to wash 
in ; one or two reHgious books were on the table ; on 
the wall was a cheap oleograph of the Czar, and in 
a corner was an icon or sacred picture. 

What attracted me was the informal relationship 
between Governor and prisoners. The men talked 
without any restraint, made requests, and even jests. 

We visited cell after cell, with the same kind of 
occupants, and each always neat and clean. 

Noticing how insecurely guarded the whole place 
was, I asked if ever there was any insurrection ? 

" In my predecessor's time," said the Governor, 
" there was, because the food was bad. But I can't 
say the men were dissatisfied. Indeed, the prison is 
always filled up in our harsh and long winter with 
men charged with petty thefts. They want to get into 
prison to secure food and shelter." 

Next I was shown hardened criminals — men in 
solitary confinement. They were brought out of their 
cells into the better light of the corridor so that I 
might photograph them. 

There was one deep-chested, hirsute man, with 


clouded brow, who stood like a log with his chains 
hanging about him. 

The next was a wiry little fellow, with short, 
pointed beard and very bright, beady eyes. He was 
the most notorious housebreaker in Siberia. He 
laughed and joked, and admitted with a certain pride 
his expertness. " I know it is wrong to housebreak," 
he said merrily, when I questioned him ; " but, then, for 
working one gets so little money, and if people are 
not able to take care of their property they deserve 
to lose it." 

We went to another yard, all noise. Here iron- 
work and carpentry — chiefly the making of bedsteads 
and doors and windows — were in fuU swing. Except 
that the men were all clad in a kind of white overall, 
very badly fitting — all prison clothes are made for men 
six feet high, and those who are not that length must 
accommodate themselves as best they can, and ludi- 
crous do the short fellows look — there was nothing 
to distinguish it from an ordinary workyard. Here 
the men were of a more intelligent type, and looked 
contented and industrious, though I dare say they 
were not so energetic when the Governor turned his 

These men receive a small wage, which is placed 
to their account, and draw it on leaving the gaol — 
that is, if they have not spent it, for one of the odd 
things I came across was a prison shop where men 
who would like some delicacy beyond prison fare can 
get French bread, cheese, sausages, sardines, and other 
things, but neither drink nor tobacco. No money 
passes, but any money the prisoner has, or earns, or 
has sent to him by friends, is kept in an account book, 




and the men can feast to their hearts' content till 
funds are exhausted. 

After that we went tg the kitchen. Dinner was in 
preparation, borch, a thick vegetable soup, with about 
a quarter of a pound of meat floating in each plate — 
the ordinary Russian fare. A bowl of it was brought 
to me, with a wooden spoon, and I found it as good as 
I have had at Russian railway stations. Each prisoner 
gets some such dish as this every midday. Also he 
gets three pounds of bread, and tea to drink, morning 
and evening. 

Next we visited the part of the prison where were 
the worst criminals sent from European Russia. 
They were on their way to work in the mines, and to 
spend their years in Saghalien, the prison island in 
the Far East, and which is the Russian Botany Bay. 

Most of them were murderers. They looked it. 
One could have no pity for them. They were 
desperadoes. They all wore long grey felt cloaks, 
nearly touching the ground. They were all chained, 
and walked with a jangle-jangle at every step. But 
the most distinctive thing about them was that the 
right side of the head, half of it, was clean shaven. 
They came into the yard so I rtiight photograph 
them. It required but quick action and they could 
have slain the six of us — the Governor, inspector, 
myself and interpreter, and two warders — and made 
good their escape. 

" Do these men ever escape ? " I was fain to ask. 

" Yes, sometimes. But our police system is such 
that they are nearly always captured. 

" In the summer time a man can wander the 
country ; but when winter comes he must make for a 


town. Then, unless lie has murdered some travellhig 
peasant in order to get his passport, he is sure to be 
re-arrested. The usual practice of convicts, when the 
police lay hold of them because they have no passport, 
is to be a mystery, refusing to give their names, to 
say where they come from, or indeed anything. These 
are hard cases to deal with, because while they can be 
suspected, as they have no passport, it is impossible to 
fully punish them because we have no evidence they 
are reaUy escaped convicts. They make for a town a 
long way from their prison, so that recognition is nigh 

We then left the main prison in order to visit that 
for women. We walked through a village of shanties 
to what looked the best house in the place. The 
Governor turned the handle of the gate, he went into 
the yard — a higgledy-piggledy place littered with old 
bricks and the rubbish of some house that had been 
demolished — and I saw some rather slatternly women 
sitting about, and some children playing with a 

" I'll send for the matron," said the Governor. 

"Is this the prison?" I asked in some amaze- 

" Yes, this is the only prison we have in Irkutsk 
for women." 

It was just a large-sized ordinary house abutting 
on the street, but not a single soldier to see. I 
couldn't help laughing. 

The matron was a large-boned, commanding 
woman, most suitable for the post, and was a little 
flustered at this unexpected visit. 

Wi&out ado we walked into a big lower room. 


There was not a pleasant atmosphere. It was a 
scorching hot day, and there were no windows open. 

There were three long, slightly sloping shelves 
running along either wall. These did duty as beds. 
There were women sprawling about, half of them with 

The scene reminded me of a visit I once made to 
a cheap lodging-house for women in the East-End of 
London. The place was far behind the men's prison 
for cleanliness. The smell was indeed sickening. 
There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary old clothing 
lying about. The women, who were sitting in groups 
Avhen we disturbed them, were unkempt, and most 
of the children would have been benefited by a wash. 
There were forty women and' about twenty children. 

" What are these women here for ? " I asked. 

" Everything from petty theft to murder." 

" Show me some of your murderesses ? " 

The matron called on five or six women to stand 
on one side. There was nothing to distinguish them 
from the ordinary slothful peasant women. One, 
however, was taUer and better looking. Her features 
were clear cut, and her hair dark. There was a 
sinister, angry gleam in her eyes, as though she 
resented our presence. 

" That," said the matron, " is our recent comer. 
She is a Jewess, and she is here because she poisoned 
her husband." 

The thing, however, that would not get out of my 
mind was the absurdity of the place as a prison, so 
far as we understand prisons. 

" Eeally," I demanded, " do you mean to say these 
women don't go away ? " - 


" Well," I was told, " one went away in the spring. 
The usual roll call was made in the evening, and she 
did not answer. We were surprised at her going, but 
we were more surprised three days later when she 
came back. She explained that she wanted to see 
her lover, and as men are not allowed on Sunday, 
which is the visitors' day, she just went off, and after 
seeing him came back again." 

I returned to Irkutsk town with thoughts about a 
Siberian prison very different from those I had when 
I first set foot in Eussia. It was the first prison I 
had come across. There was no hesitation about my 
visiting it, and I have set down all exactly as it 
impressed me. 

The gruesome romance that has blossomed around 
the Russian exile system is, I am inclined to think, 
the outcome of the underground methods of police. 
Banishment has a tinge of the theatrical in it, and the 
procession that years ago set out for Moscow — soldiers 
first, then dangerous criminals in chains, then women, 
then other prisoners, then the pitiable spectacle of 
wives and children following their husbands or fathers 
into exUe, the sympathy shown by the sightseers in 
the streets, who gave the exiles money and forced 
clothing and food upon them — made a picture so 
dramatic that no wonder the hearts of the sympa- 
thetic were touched. 

A two years' march to Saghalien — despite the fact 
that there was no marching in winter, and that in 
summer the distance was twenty miles a day, two days' 
walking and one day's rest — had something awful 
in it, especially as these exiles were dead to the world, 
and news of them hardly ever re-crossed the Urals. 


There are things in Russia which no man with 
Western training can admire. The government is 
autocratic. But it is not despotic. And I say that 
because, just as I resisted looking at things through 
rosy glasses, I also endeavoured to regard them with 
unprejudiced eye. 

Before I left St. Petersburg it was my fortune 
to have a chat with a very distinguished Russian. 
What he said to me was this : '' You British people 
don't understand us. You think because we have 
no representative institutions we must be averse to 
change. My dear sir, Russia has made tremendous 
strides this last half-century, and she would not 
have made them had there been popular govern- 
ment. When you talk of popular government you 
don't understand what that would mean in Russia. 
Do you know that only three per cent, of the popula- 
tion can read or write. The government is trying to 
change this, but it is hard when dealing with a people 
who for centuries have been serfs. I tell you that, for 
a country such as ours, which has been behind other 
lands so long, autocracy is the only thing that could 
have lifted it to its present place among the nations." 

Now a word or two about the present prison 
so far as Siberia is concerned. Since the coming of 
the railway, with the consequent flood of respectable 
immigrants, there has been, as I have already 
r-^marked, a growing feeling against Asiatic Russia 
being any longer the dumping-ground of aU wrong- 
doers. Though the long expected ukase putting 
an end to the exile system has not yet been issued 
by the Emperor, the banishment from Europe to the 
further side of the Urals is dwindling out of sight 


Still, as the system is not abolished, I give what 
I have learnt from independent authorities, and in 
no case from Kussians. 

The exiles may be divided into three groups: 
first, the political offenders, in a minority, and 
banished for strong insurrectionary or religious 
opinions; secondly, criminals, mostly forgers and 
thieves, who are sent to the big prisons in the 
interior; thirdly, murderers, who are sent to Sag- 
halien, where, even when the sentence is finished, 
they must spend the remainder of their lives. 

The political prisoners are given the best part 
of the country to live in, namely, in the west. Other 
prisoners are exiled nearer to the icy regions accord- 
ing to the gravity of their offence. The political 
prisoners may practise handicrafts, and, by special 
permission, medicine. A " political " is not identified 
with the criminal any more than a debtor is identi- 
fied with a felon in England. Such offenders do not 
travel with other prisoners in a gang. A " political '' 
may be on a train going into exile. But no one 
knows it besides himself and the member of the 
police travelling in the same carriage. " Politicals " 
get about £1 10s. a month from the Government, 
but this varies according to the district to which 
they are sent. Wives who accompany their husbands 
are allowed 36 lb. of bread a month, but must 
submit to the regulations of the 6tape. If all goes 
well with a " political " he gets permission to settle 
in some Siberian town with his family, but any 
allowance from the Government then ceases. He is 
just the same as any other resident, save that he 
can never leave Siberia. If he wishes to farm, the 


Government will give him a plot of land and money 
to work it. But this money must be paid back by 

Of the criminals, there are those dead to the 
outer world, who lose everything — wife, children, 
property, all — and those who retain wife and pro- 
perty, and can return to their town when the sentence 
is completed. If these second-grade convicts behave 
well they are allowed to live near a prison and work 
for their living, on condition that they give so much 
work daily to the Government. 

The chains worn are five pounds weight for the 
legs and two for the wrists. A convict with a life 
sentence wears chains for eight years. If the punish- 
ment is twenty years' imprisonment, chains are worn 
for four years. The use of the knout is absolutely 
abolished. A " plet " is, however, used, and is worse. 
It weighs eight pounds, with a lash of solid leather, 
tapering from the handle to three circular thongs 
the size of a finger. Capital punishment does not 
exist in Kussia, but a flogging with the " plet " is 
equivalent to a death sentence. The skilful flogger 
will kill a man with six blows. 

Women are never now set to work in the mines 
as the men are. They are never flogged. Indeed, 
what I saw in Irkutsk applies generally to female 
prisoners in Siberia. 

England is not loved by the Russians, and there 
is not much affection in England for Russia. The 
Russian believes the Englishman is the cruellest 
creature on the earth ; the Englishman is quite 
certain the Russian is. 

And in this connection I recall a story I heard in 


St. Petersburg, and told by Verstchagin, the famous 
Russian painter of the horrors of war. A couple 
of years ago he showed those wonderful pictures of 
his in London. Englishmen took exception to his 
picture depicting how, in the Indian mutiny, rebels 
were shot at the cannon's mouth, because, said they, 
this was likely to give an entirely false idea of how 
Englishmen treated black men. Then they would 
turn to his picture of Russian soldiers stringing up 
Poles to trees in the snow during the Polish insurrec- 
tions. " Ah," they said, " those inhuman Russians do 
that to men fighting for their country. That proves 
you have only to scratch a Russian to find the savage 
Tartar underneath." Later on Verstchagin showed 
his pictures at St. Petersburg. The Russians did 
not like the representation of hanging stray Poles 
on handy boughs. It gave an absolutely wrong idea. 
"But ah, that picture of British killing Sepoys by 
strapping them before a cannon — that just shows 
what inhuman brutes the English are to all races 
they want to master!" 



You find paradox in Irkutsk as elsewhere. 

Being the wildest, the most wicked city in East 
Siberia, it is also the most saintly, devout, Sabbatarian 
place within the realms of the Great White Czar. 

Sunday is as strictly observed there as it is north 
of the Tweed. In all other towns there is trade on 
the Sunday. The Government, however, is the 
Lord's Day Observance Society in Irkutsk, and inflicts 
fine and imprisonment if you sell a pennyworth of 
anything. There are two cathedrals, one new and one 
old, also 25 Greek churches, two synagogues for the 
Jews, and other places for other people. 

There is religious liberty in Siberia — Christians, 
Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists, Sunnites, and pagans 
live in peace — except that perversion from the State 
Greek Church is forbidden and punishable if done. 

The tinsel Byzantine decorations of many churches 
you see in European Russia make the eye ache with 
their gilt gaudiness. But in Siberia the churches 
have mostly a quiet quaintness, a simplicity that is 
effective, nothing more than Doric walls whitewashed, 
a long, slightly sloping roof, green painted, and a 
needle of a spire, green painted also. 

At sundown on the Saturday night — the air soft, 
fragrant, and full of pellucid blueness — all Irkutsk 
seemed to clang with beUs calling the faithful to 
prayers. It was a mellow, vibrant sound, for the bells, 
many toned, were struck with wooden hammers. 


With a friend I drove to the cathedral — a distance 
from the town, as everything is in Siberia. It, how- 
ever, has not the Slavonic demure prettiness of the 
other churches. It is new. It is a huge domed 
structure, a sort of miniature St. Peter's, stucco-faced 
and drab-coloured. It stands on a sandy waste and 
has a cramped appearance. 

A long, covered colonnade with steps leads up to 
the church, and on them squat wrinkle-faced, sore- 
eyed, and twisted-Umbed old men stretching palsied 
arms for charity. 

At the top of the steps as we push open the glass 
door, the thick aroma of incense fills the nostrils. 
Dusk has fallen, and a weird gloom, broken by a 
hundred taper lights, pervades the church. The cup 
of the dome is blue, sprinkled with golden stars. 
There are no pews or seats. A purple carpet 
covers the floor, and on it are kneeling men and 

In front is a great screen of gold, and the candle 
lights catch cornices and make them glow like shafts 
from the sun. Possibly all this massed gold would 
be ostentatious in the light of day. But now, in the 
softness of the evening, ostentation fades away. 
Everywhere are pictures of saints, and before them 
stand heavy candelabra with a hundred sockets. It is 
for the devout to bring their tapers, fix them, and do 

But something better than incense fiUs the air. 
It is the sound of men's voices. There is no organ ; 
there are no stringed instruments. There is a choir 
of men, and their throats have deep richness. With 
the majesty of a Gregorian chant, they sing their 


Slavonic adoration, but tinged with pity, like the low 
melody of wind on the plains. 

A door in the middle of the screen swings open. 
There are priests, long-haired and long- whiskered, in 
heavy canonical robes, silver-twined. One, a tall man, 
sallow-faced, lustre-eyed, his black beard that of a 
young man, his hair falling over his shoulders, comes 
forward swaying a censer. He stands on the step, 
and in a voice of sweetness and strength cries, 
" Gospodi pomilui " — " Lord, have mercy ! " 

His face is like that of Christ — not an unusual 
type among Kussian priests. 

" Gospodi pomilui," responded the worshippers, 
kneehng and touching the ground with their 

Beyond the screen, within the Holy of Holies, 
where lights flicker on a cross, is an older priest, 
elevating his hands and praying. 

Upon his prayer like a wave breaks the billow of 
sound from the choristers. And the people who have 
come to pray cry, " Lord, have mercy ! Lord, have 
mercy ! Lord, have mercy ! " many times. 

The light is dim. The tapers blink before the 
gold-encompassed saints. The cathedral is full of 
music and incense. 

There are worshippers continually coming. They 
carry tapers, some only one, some many, and as they 
bow before the altar they make the sign of the cross. 
Far more than half those present are women. 

Here comes a lady, dark-featured, well-dressed, 
with fashionable cape upon her shoulders, and on her 
head a bonnet that might have come from Kegent 
Street. She goes to the picture of a saint, makes 


obeisance, and then she lights a taper from another 
taper. To make it grip she puts the end of her taper 
in the flame for a second, and presses it tight in the 
gilt socket. Then she goes to the picture, kisses the 
foot of the saint, and, kneeling, crosses herself, and 
prays with her forehead on the ground. She moves to 
another picture. 

There is a peasant, heavily bearded, his sunburnt 
face rugged and furrowed. He wears a red shirt, 
velvet trousers, and big boots. He has no taper, but 
he stands taut, like a soldier, and he crosses himself 
and bows and cries, " Lord, have mercy." 

The big voice of the singers soars over all, repeating 
the liturgy in Slavonic. 

A gentleman in frock-coat, begloved, and carrying 
a cane, comes forward, takes his candle, bows, and 
goes away. 

A couple of slim boys, in the dull grey uniform of 
the Gymnasium, hurry along. They stand, heel- 
clapped, and with dexterous wrist make the cross 
signs. They light their tapers. But the tapers won't 
stick upright in their sockets. They are well-behaved 
little fellows, but as the tapers will persist in toppling 
over, the boyish sense of humour asserts itself and 
they grin. At last they are fixed, and the lads stand 
watching the candles with a half-amused glance, 
wondering if there are to be any more tricks. No ; 
they hold. Then the boys swing round, make their 
bows, and hasten away. 

Here comes tottering an old lady — a very old 
woman, short and bent, and with a black shawl round 
her head. From the rim of black shawl peers a worn 
face, the upper lip fallen in, the eyes sunken and dull, 


and yet with that beautiful resignation, shining 
through the countenance, you often see on the faces of 
old women whose thoughts are not of this world. 

There is a picture of the Madonna and Child — the 
young Mother with eyes all love looking upon her 
new-born Son. Many, many tapers are before this 
icon, which glows with a special radiance. 

To this the old woman comes with clasped and 
knotted Ixands. Her face is upturned, and the full 
gleam of the tapers falls upon it. There is a yearning 
in the sunken eyes. The dried, yellow lips quiver. 
The bones of the old woman ache, for she groans as 
she kneels. She lowers her face to the ground, and 
there she stays long, a dark, crouching figure of 
adoration before the picture. 

When she looks up there are no tears ; only, I 
Ihink, there is a brighter light in the eyes than before. 

She rises. With faltering steps she goes to the 
picture and reverently kisses the feet of the Child. 
Then she kisses the arm that holds Him. 

The old woman finds peace and comfort to her 
soul. Maybe she sees the lifting of the curtain. It 
is not for one of another faith to say aught in 
disparagement. It is a pathetic sight. So I nudge 
my companion and we come away. 

Night is closing in — night with a blue sky ghtter- 
ing with stars — and we walk back to town. On the 
way is a real old-fashioned Siberian church, white and 
green — three churches, it seems, with individual towers, 
but the first and second making a staircased passage 
way to the main building. We go in. 

The service in the cathedral has much in it akin to 
the ceremony of Rome. But here it is wholly Slavonic. 


Imagine this picture. A lo-w, curved ceiling, like 
a cellar way, so you can touch the roof with your 
hand, painted with clouds and angels looking over 
them. The way is blocked with worshippers. Over 
their heads, through an atmosphere hazy and choking 
with incense, is a square apartment, stunted and 
cramped, but with the walls covered with gilt icons, 
and hundreds of candles making the place shimmer 
with fire. Everybody is praying and crossing — 
moudjiks, ladies, soldiers, students, peasant women. 

A procession of priests, preceded by the swinging 
incense burner and flanked by bearers of big candles, 
marches from the Holy of Holies. The priests are in 
stiff robes of gold and silver and purple, and their 
black hair tumbles about the collars. 

A choir of treble-tongued boys is singing shrill. 

A grey-haired priest carries before him a silver- 
backed volume — the Bible. He lays it on a small 
lectern in the middle of the congregation. There is 
a fresh burst of devotional song as the choir moves in 
front of all the gold, but like shadows, as the place is 
misty with incense. The elder of the priests kisses 
the volume and moves away. Then the congrega- 
tion, in the bedizened strangest of low- roofed chapels, 
press forward and put their lips to the edges of the 
book. The Saturday evening service is over. It is 
quite dark when we come out. There is a lamp gleam 
in some huts not far away, and in the still night 
comes the barking of a dog far off. 

AH over Siberia priests of the Orthodox Greek 
Church are to be met — in the towns, on the prairie, 
in the trains. They wear long gowns, sometimes 
brown, but generally black, and they all have big, 


black, soft felt hats. Though there are to be seen 
faces intellectual and refined — facial likeness to the 
accepted idea of Christ is striven after — the majority 
look slothful, and every one without exception that I 
came across was greasy and dirty. Grease and the 
dirt are hidden away under the gorgeous vestments 
of high Church ceremonial, but they are repellently 
apparent when a priest sits opposite while you are 
having tea in a buffet. 

There are two orders of these clergy, the white and 
the black, or the parochial and the monastic. If he 
marries, the priest must remain a simple priest. But 
if celibate, he may rise to "be a bishop. 

The best paid of the clergy in Siberia gets about 
£120 a year, whilst the poorer clergy often have to beg 
for their bread. They have much to do. There is 
always a service between four and five in the morning. 
There are two other services in the day. There must 
be service on the birth of a child and at the death of 
any one in the parish. All new buildings, school- 
houses, and bridges and boats must be blessed; 
children beginning a school term are blessed, and in 
time of pestilence or peril there must be a continuous 
prayer. All priests must fast 226 days in the year, 
and monastic priests are never to eat meat. A priest 
cannot indulge in theatre-going, drinking, card- 
playing, or dancing. 

Churches are kept in repair by parochial com- 
mittees. These personally visit and determine what 
tithe shall be paid by each house. All the vestments 
are provided at parish expense, and are often jewelled 
and very costly. 

The method of administering communion is 


peculiar. Priests receive the bread and wine separ- 
ately ; tlie laity receive them mixed, and given with a 
spoon, whilst to the children only wine is given 

I have mentioned rehgious liberty in Siberia. 
This does not exist in Russia proper. From there, 
sects objectionable to the Orthodox Church are driven 
beyond the Urals. But once in Siberia they can do 
much as they Hke. It is the same in politics. 
Politics are tabooed in Russia, but in Siberia more 
freedom is exercised. 

Strange faiths appeal to the untutored mind. So 
among the Siberian peasantry flourish fantastic 
beliefs. There are many of them, and a narration of 
some of their tenets would raise a smile. 

The principal body of dissenters really worth 
mentioning caU themselves Raskolniks, or Old Be- 
lievers. There are quite a hundred thousand of these 
in Siberia. They are the descendants of people who 
were exiled from Russia in the 18th century. Their 
chief peculiarity is their strict temperance and horror 
of innovation. They take neither tea nor coffee. 
They never smoke nor will allow anyone to smoke in 
or near their dwellings. The women have a disease 
called equarter brought on immediately by. the smell 
of tobacco. They give short, frequent cries whilst 
suffering. The Raskolniks won't look at potatoes, and 
they won't eat or drink from any dish or cup used by 

Yet, despite their oddities, the Raskolniks are 
much esteemed. They are always sober, and always 
industrious — two qualities that cannot be applied to 
Russians generally. , 

Sunday morning ! 




There is a special aroma about Sunday morning 
no other morning has. It isn't the cessation of labour 
in the grimy cities. I have breathed it in the far 
hills of Western China, and on the 'alkali blistered 
plains at the back of Nevada. 

And this Sunday morning, September 8th, when 
I push open my window and stand on the balcony and 
hear the chiming bells in Irkutsk city, why, I might 
be in England. It is beautiful, genial, and the air is 
like crystal. 

We are going to a famous monastery. We bargain 
with a droshki driver, who declares it is seven versts 
(five miles) away, but we find it is not more than four 
versts. The horse is fresh and away we rattle 
humpity-bumpity over the track of a road, raising 
clouds of dust. 

A pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Innokente is a 
favourite Sunday outing with Irkutsk folk, and 
owners of private droshkies are hieing, like ourselves, 
along the wide road, which, if followed for a sufficient 
number of thousands of miles, would land us back in 

There is the racing, frothy Angara river to be crossed 
by a ferry. A hundred yards more up the river an 
anchor has been dropped. The ferry boat — which 
will carry a dozen horses and droshkies — is attached 
by a stout rope, and the force of the current playing 
on the rudder drives the boat from side to side of the 
stream, as broad as the Thames at Westminster. 

The monastery stands on a heave of land beneath 
the shelter of a hiU.. It is long and gaunt, and shows 
pink in the warmth of the sun. 

There are many pedestrians out, doing the pil- 


grimage on foot, and tlie peasants in their bright 
garbs — no half tones nor dirty greens, but honest red 
and green and yellow — look freshly picturesque. 
There is the Irkutsk young married man pushing the 
perambulator, while the wife is in the adjoining 
meadow picking flowers. Here and there are stalls 
where the dusty walker may buy bright pink kvass, 
an innocuous cool beverage made from crushed fruit. 

Every now and then I have a chuckle. Maybe it 
is the loveliness of the day. More likely it is the 
reiterating thought : " This Siberia ! It's not like 
Siberia at all. If I tell folk at home what it is really 
like they won't believe." 

We run through a village with the quaintest, 
tiniest little log huts imaginable. There is a fine old 
fellow sitting outside the door reading a newspaper. 
I jump from the droshki to take a snapshot. He 
understands, and is delighted, but apologises that he 
is so deaf " Never mind," I tell him in English, 
tapping the camera, " that won't interfere with making 
a good picture." He smiles, and raises his hat as 
though he knows. 

The doorway to the monastery is packed with 
beggars, such a gatherii^ of lame and blind with 
open sockets staring at you, and limbs festering with 
disease, I never saw. 

There is an open space about the church, and in 
the cool of the trees Siberians are sitting. About the 
door is a jostling ebb and flow of humanity We — • 
that is the Britisher I had rubbed up against yester- 
day and myself — gently elbow our way in. 

What an uproar ! There is none of the " dim 
religious light" that was so impressive last evening. 


It is cruel glaring daylight, and as the eye skips from 
the golden icons to the gilt screen and from the 
screen to the Tgilt candelabra, all aflame with tapers, 
and then to the ornate vestments of the priests, the 
description " tawdry " slips from the tongue. 

The church is packed to suffocation. Everybody 
is standing and every woman seems to have brought 
at least one child, which is crying. And a fretful 
Siberian child has good lungs, and it kicks. 

To the right of the doorway is a sallow priest 
wearing a purple skull-cap and doing a thriving 
trade in the sale of candles. On the left is a podgy, 
man with a pair of scales having bickerings with 
the women folk, who are buying priest-blessed bread 
and trying to stuff their youngsters into quietness 
with it. From the noise, they must be accusing 
the man of giving short weight. 

The day is stuffy, and the congregation perspire 
freely, and the fumes of incense irritate the throat. 

I don't know whether the chattering of the 
women or the crying of the youngsters or the sing- 
ing of the choir — a poor choir compared with Irkutsk 
cathedral — has first place in the sound. To be 
devout in such a throng is impossible. Nobody 
is devout, though there is kneeling and loud 

In the middle of the church, on a slightly raised 
throne, sits the bishop in gorgeous apparel, grey silk 
decorated with gold, and on his head a bulbous 
crown of gilt. The priests up by the altar walk to 
and fro chanting. He bows low with them, and the 
grease from the candles he is holding trickles on the 
carpet. He sweeps the candles to the right, to the 


left, behind, and the congregation bow the head to 
receive the blessing. 

To the right centre is a bier canopied with 
crimson silk and festooned with artificial flowers, 
and flanked with giant candles all aflame. Here lies 
the apostle of Siberia, St. Innokente. He was a 
missionary who went out to China in the opening of 
the 18th century. The Celestials, however, dechned 
the privilege. He founded this monastery not far 
from Irkutsk and died. And his body is as fresh as 
the hour the breath left it ! That is what the priests 
say. So it is a very holy shrine. 

The crush roimd the bier is tremendous. There 
is an old priest standing by the coffin, and he regu- 
lates the pressure of the worshippers who desire to 
give the homage of a kiss. There is a stream of 
people up the steps, old and young, and they lower 
their heads in reverence. There is a mother with 
her child, and she bends the head of the child so it 
may kiss also. 

In time I get near enough to see, half expecting 
to find a corpse. 

No ! there is something in the shape of a human 
figure, but it is all shrouded. An ebony cross inlet 
with silver lies on the breast, and it is this that is 

Still the crowd presses forward. Still the children 
cry and the women talk. Still the fumes of incense 
rise. And more unbearable becomes the atmosphere. 

" Let us leave," I pant. 

How sweet is the open air, and how delicious to 
sit under the trees ! 

The dormitories of the monks run round the 


church. A monk is standing in a doorway, and 
we go up and introduce ourselves. He is courteous. 
He shows us the bare cells, and tells us there are 
eighty priests Uving there. He also shows us the 
bakery, and the workshops, for every priest in this 
monastery follows a handicraft. We take a walk 
under the trees, and he asks what nation we belong 
to. When we tell him we are Angleski, he inquires 
if the people in England are Christians ? We say 
some of them are. 

He tells us the story of St. Innokente and what 
a holy man he was. Then incautiously we remark 
that if the body is fresh it should be uncovered for 
the people to see. He tells us of the doubting of 
Thomas ! 

We drive back to Irkutsk, and the sultry after- 
noon is drowsed away in easy chairs. The ringing 
of the Sabbath bells never ends. In the evening we 
join the rest of Irkutsk in making the promenade 
up and down the Bolshoiskaia, the big street. Every- 
body is in their Sunday best. 

But with sundown the Sabbath ends. The re- 
staurants fill up ; gaiety and mirth bursts forth, and 
Irkutsk is its wicked self once more. 




The Eussian, as you find him in Siberia, has many 
good qualities. Above all he is hospitable. This 
prompts him when giving you a glass of wine to spUl 
it on the table-cloth. That indicates his liberality. 
To be careful and watch the pouring so that it comes 
within an eighth of an inch from the rim of the 
glass would mean stinginess, and such a thought is 

But a commission needs to be sent the length and 
breadth of the Russian Empire to teach the people, 
officials as well as ordinary folk, what are the table 
manners of Western nations. 

Said a man to me in a restaurant, " I knew at a 
glance you could not be a Russian, because you were 
using your knife and fork in a civilised way." 

You know how a player of a kettledrum holds the 
sticks — that in the right hand in a sort of grip, and 
that in the left with the palm turned up and by the 
two first fingers. A Russian holds his knife and fork 
in the same way. He gets a piece of meat on the end 
of the fork, and with it sticking up in the air bites 
whilst stoking vegetables into his mouth with his 
knife. There are no mustard spoons, so he dives his 
knife into the mustard pot. Personally, I was regarded 
as an extraordinary being because I declined to use a 
serviette that evidently six other people had used. 

It takes time for a Britisher to conform to the meal 


hours of the Eussian. There are no bacon and egga 
for breakfast. Indeed, there is no breakfast at all. 
You have a glass of tea, or two glasses of tea, -with 
slices of lemon in it, and that serves till two, three, or 
five o'clock, when you have dinner. 

Before dinner it is usual to have a sekuslci. In 
case you should have no appetite, there is a side table 
laden with twenty dainties. You have a glass of 
vodki, and toss it down your throat at one swallow. 
If you are an old hand you have two, four, or six 
vodkies, which put you into the best of good humour, 
but unfit you for anything but gossip for the rest of 
the afternoon. 

Then you pick up a fork lying about — never 
washed or wiped from one day's end to the other — 
stick it into a sardine, or a slice of onion, or a little bit 
of cheese, or some caviare, and you eat. You have just 
enough of these to provoke an appetite, and when it is 
provoked you sit down to dinner. In the afternoon or 
evening you will drink many glasses of tea, which is, 
I admit, an enjoyable occupation. Between ten o'clock 
and midnight you have supper, really another dinner, 
and about three o'clock in the morning you think of 
going to bed. 

To do things in the proper way and be correct and 
Western is, of course, the ambition of Irkutsk. So 
there is quite a social code. The old millionaires, who 
for forty years found Irkutsk society — such as it was 
before the coming of the railway — quite satisfied with 
a red shirt and a pair of greased top boots, are now 
'' out of it." A millionaire only becomes a gentleman 
when he tucks in his shirt and wears his trousers 
outside and not inside his boots. It is etiquette to 


put on a black coat between the hours of ten in the 
morning and noon. No matter how sultry the 
OTening is, if you go for the usual promenade and 
not wear a black overcoat you proclaim you are 
unacquainted with the ways of good society. 

As to wealth, there is but one standard in Irkutsk. 
A man is known by his furs, and his wife by her furs 
and pearls. Macaulay writes somewhere about Russian 
grandees coming to court dropping pearls and vermin. 
I would be sorry to say things are exactly like that. 
But certainly the Russian is as sparing with water as 
though it were holy oil from Jerusalem. 

When railway travelling a Siberian lady decks 
herself in all her finery, light-coloured gowns and 
feathered hats, and loads of jewellery. The English- 
woman who travels in a plain tailor-made garment and 
a straw hat is thought something of a barbarian. 

And yet it would be unfair if I attempted to 
convey the idea that Irkutsk is nothing but a wealthy, 
flauntingly dressed, criminal, and licentious city. 
There are the many schools, the philanthropic institu- 
tions, the museum, to prove Irkutsk has another side. 

Though there is no manufacturing in the town save 
seven breweries, there is a thriving industry in house 
building, and there is a fortune for someone who 
starts a saw-mill. Most of the houses are of wood, 
and every bit of it is sawn and prepared by hand. 

In Irkutsk and throughout Siberia generally are 
artels or associations of workmen. They make a 
contract to finish a certain amount of work in a given 
time for a given sum, and they share the proceeds 
equally. I constantly came across wandering artels, 
especially builders. These will get a peasant's cottage 


ready for occupation in four or five days. Indeed, 
labour throughout Siberia is generally done by these 
working communities, with no master between them 
and the persons who want a thing done. For instance, 
in many of the villages, as the Siberian can't under- 
stand agriculture, the peasants find it difiicult to get 
sufficient sustenance out of their land. So a foreman 
is elected, a common workshop is built with common 
funds, and weaving, working in bone and leather, and 
other industries are carried on, and at intervals the 
foreman drives away to the nearest town, and sells 
the produce. 

The relations between employers and employed 
are all settled by strict law. Wages must be in cash ; 
there must be no Sunday labour in factories, and no 
arbitrary dismissal except for given offences. The 
hours for women and children are limited. Fines 
imposed are to be in accordance with the standard 
sanctioned by the Labour Inspection Department, 
and they must all be paid into a fund for sickness or 
accident. Most country factories, and all factories in 
towns employing a certain number of hands, must 
provide a school, library, hospital, and bathroom for 
free use. Strikes, as we understand them, are rigor- 
ously prohibited. But when a dispute arises between 
an employer and his workpeople a magistrate acts as 
umpire, and his decision is final. 

In Irkutsk, in Tomsk, and in Omsk, I endeavoured 
to get into touch with the commercial classes, and 
find out their ideas about the future of Siberia. 

All the best men I came across were Russians 
from the Baltic Provinces, and therefore more German 
than Russian. The keenness of competition is already 


beginning to be felt, but it will be these men wbo will 
amass gigantic fortunes within the next quarter of a 
century. They admit the ordinary Kussian will have 
to alter a good deal before he is a successful business 

The Kussian lacks energy. If a thing is to be 
done he cannot see what difference it makes if it is 
done to-morrow, or next week, or next month. He 
is improvident and extravagant. So he finds his 
property mortgaged to the Jews, and the foreigners, 
or Russians of foreign extraction, making most of the 

On all sides I heard grumblings about the cor- 
ruption of officials. There must be honest officials, 
but commercial men declare the officials are con- 
tinually blocking the way, not only with dilatory 
red-tapeism, but by hindering everybody who will not 
give enough in bribes. Indeed, I was told that the 
bribing here, there, and everywhere, which cannot be 
avoided, is often such that very little margin of profit 
remains. The foreigners get disgusted with the oiling 
of palms that must be gone through at every turn. 
Here, indeed, a very pressing reform is needed, and 
the best reform should be the better remuneration 
of these officials. They are wretchedly paid. 

The number of officials met with is simply amazing 
to the man from Western Europe. One is staggered 
at the thought of what must be the cost of this army 
of government emploj'^es, notwithstanding their poor 
pay. Every man in government service wears 
uniform, and as it takes at least four Russians to do 
in a post office what a girl of eighteen will do at 
home, some ghmmering of an idea may be obtained 


of their number. In a small town through which 
pass four passenger trains a day, and, say, eight 
goods trains, you wiU find two, or maybe three, great 
buildings. They belong to the Railway Adminis- 
tration, and eighty or a hundred men will be employed. 
You wonder what on earth they can find to do. 

Now and then I got into conversation with 
oflicials, and dropped more than a broad hint that 
they wasted time, and suggested that if they intend 
to do much with so wonderful and rich a land 
as Siberia they must wake up. Never once did I 
find them resent my attitude. They got along very 
well, they said, and they didn't see why they should 
race and tear about like Englishmen and Americans. 
There the Eastern nature peeped out. Hurry they 
don't understand. 

One travelled Russian was quite candid. " It is 
no good," he said ; " a Russian can't do a thing 
quickly. If he tries he only makes a mess." 

Till the foreigner came along, the possibilities of 
Siberia only dimly entered the Russian's mind. It 
has, however, been drilled into him, and just now he 
is a little feverish. He doesn't know how to develop 
it himself, and he is somewhat dog-in-the-mangerish 
about the outsider. 

The government, on the other hand, is spilling 
money freely — spilhng it in the sense of getting no 
return — hoping to make Western Siberia a mighty 
grain-producing land. 

I suppose no country on the globe has such 
waterways as Siberia. Three rivers, the Obi, the 
Yenisei, and the Lena, can be navigable from their 
estuaries for thousands of miles. About a hundred 


steamers, chiefly belonging to Mr. SibiriakofF, known 
as "the gold baron," because of his wealth, ply on 
the Lena. 

Trade, however, on the Lena has its drawbacks, 
because it is more or less frozen for nine months in 
the year. The Obi is more favourably situated, as it 
flows into the Arctic Ocean further south, and passes 
through a comparatively populous district. There 
are 150 steamers on it belonging to various com- 
panies ; it and its tributaries have regular navigation 
for 10,000 miles. There is the Angara river here at 
Irkutsk, carrying with a rush the waters of Lake 
Baikal down to the Yenisei river and to the Arctic. 
Vessels can get through to Baikal now. But it is not 
easy, though it could be made so by a little engineer- 
ing. Then you would get a waterway for 4,000 miles. 
I feel hke apologising for giving this school-geography- 
book information were I not aware of the misconcep- 
tion there is at home about Siberia. 

The Trans-Siberian Railway is in contact with all 
these rivers at many navigable points, and where it 
is not, branch lines are hurriedly being constructed. 
Therefore everything is to hand to make Siberia 
prosperous, so far as the government can provide. 
But, alas, there is one thing requisite and not to be 
found — energy ! 

Of course, there is at present a volume o£ trade. 
It could not be avoided. But it is a mere scratch- 
ing in the region of possibilities. I have already 
described the Omsk butter trade, one ot the most 
remarkable of suddenly-sprung-up industries. But 
it was a Dane who saw what might be done with 
Siberian butter. The government, as I have said are 


buying quantities ot American machinery for the 
agricultural districts, but what is required is a body 
of expert foreign farmers to go about giving sound 
practical instruction in wheat raising. Before many 
years, if that were done, and the flood of immigration 
continues, Siberian wheat would be beating the wheat 
of the United States and Canada out of the world's 
market. The government is fostering the beet sugar 
trade. It is in full swing, and I was told that in 
1900 ten times as much beet sugar was produced 
as in any previous year. 

One or two efforts in the way of large timber 
exportation have failed chiefly owing to mismanage- 
ment, added to the fact that the wood was carried 
in a green condition. There is a two-thousand- 
mile belt of forest running right across Siberia. 
Timber should therefore become one of the chief 
items of Kussian export. Interior China is almost 
bereft of forest vegetation, and at present gets 
immense quantities of seasoned timber from Cali- 
fornia. Here, then, is a market at Siberia's very door. 

An interesting sight in Irkutsk is the piled-up 
cases of Chinese tea, all tightly and well wrapped in 
cowhide, ready to be sent to corners of the empire. 
But, as I explained in a former chapter, although 
Irkutsk is the distributing centre of tea, and through 
tea and-gold gained its commercial eminence, tea now 
plays a comparatively small part in the trade of the 
city, because for years most of the tea for Russian 
consumption is sent direct from Chinese ports to 
Odessa. Again, with the proposed line from Irkutsk 
across the Gobi desert to Pekin — a line not so much 
in the air only as we Britishers would like — tea will 


be sent to tlie great cities of Russia, and there will be 
no need of the services of Irkutsk as a distributing 
agency. However, at present all tea brought to 
Russia by overland route comes to Irkutsk and it is 
estimated that some forty to sixty million pounds' 
weight reach there every year. Indeed, in the busy 
season — in winter, when the transit is quick and 
cheap because of sledges — as many as six thousand 
boxes of tea are often delivered daily. 

There is coal to any abundance all over Western 
and Central Siberia. That I saw did not strike me 
as good. It is nevertheless used by the engines over 
long sections of the Siberian railway. Until, however, 
some finer seam is struck, Siberia has at present little 
chance of a successful market for her coal. As to 
using it herself, that is not at all likely when there is 
so much wood to be had simply for the fetching. 

Now, I went to Siberia on a mission of curios- 
ity, and with no other enthusiasm than that of 
the man fond of travelling and seeing new lands. 
But he would be blind indeed who could pass through 
this country and not appreciate what could be done 
with it if^ — well, if England had it. 

But here I have a regret. Siberia is open to 
British trade. And yet between Chelyabinsk and" 
Vladivostock Britain takes the place of a very 
bad third. Germany comes first and America 
second. I saw German and American wares con- 
stantly. The only article of British manufacture that 
stood ahead was sauce. I saw advertisements of 
British agricultural machinery, but I never saw a 
machine. I met dozens of Germans engaged in 
commerce. I only met two Britishers so engaged. 


One of these represented an American firm, and the 
other a French firm. Whenever I noticed a ware- 
house for machinery or agricultural implements I 
went in. Generally American, but sometimes Ger- 
man. When I asked if there was any English they 
said no, but produced, thinking I would like to read 
them, elaborately illustrated catalogues from en- 
gineering firms. Usually they were in the English 
language. They were only waste-paper. But in 
every hotel, in every restaurant, I saw the familiar 
bottles of familiar English sauces. That my country 
should purvey to Siberia little else than sauce — I felfc 
like smashing the bottles 1 




What travellers Siberians are ! On the morning I 
left Irkutsk for Trans-Baikalia I found the station 
crowded with people, as though a plague had stricken 
the city, and everybody was making mad haste to 
escape. In such a sparse population as Siberia has, 
jou might imagine that often the trains would be 
comparatively empty. On the contrary, they are 
always full, packed with officials, wives, children, 
merchants, and chiefly the peasant class. 

I had thought that when Irkutsk was reached the 
flight eastwards would cease. Not a bit. And the 
trains going west, back to Europe, were just as full. 

" Where are these peasants making for ? " I asked, 
seeing so many one day in a train bound for Moscow. 
" Those are the immigrant wasters going back to 
their old sordid life in Southern Russia. They came 
hero two, three, or more years ago on free tickets, 
and got land from the government. But they have 
grown homesick ; they declare they can't live in 
Siberia, and so they are returning. That is one of the 
colonisation problems ; so many poor folks come out 
here who know nothing about the agricultural con- 
ditions, and so there is hardship and misery." 

As in all unsettled lands, there is a great mass of 
the discontented in Siberia, people who believe that 
a fortune is to be made in every other place than 
where they happen to be. And as the travelling is 


ridiculously cheap — about a shilling a hundred miles 
third-class — there is a constant human surge up and 
down the Trans-Siberian line. 

The uproar and confusion of departure is deafening 
and bewildering. There is usually only one platform, 
and sometimes two or three trains standing parallel. 
If your train happens to be the second or third you 
must clamber through the carriages of the first and 
drop into a sort of passage between two trains, where, 
although there will be no starting for another hour, 
people are rushing with gesticulatory madness, hunting 
up lost relatives, or searching for missing pieces of 

Every Kussian is an old woman in the matter of 
baggage. A kit bag, or a bag of any sort, in which they 
can carry all their belongings, they have not. On an 
average everyone has eleven pieces of baggage. First 
there is a bulging bundle, that can only be tugged 
and punched and squeezed through the doorways. 
That consists of a couple of piUows, some rugs, and 
some sheets. Then there is a sort of satchel, with a 
lot of trappings about it, and a swollen neck suggestive 
of goitre. There will be three wooden boxes of various 
sizes, also paper bundles and hand-bags, always a kettle, 
a badly wrapped up loaf of bread, and, if the struggle 
is very great, you may find a man rubbing a cooked 
fowl across your shoulder. 

Everybody takes everything into the carriage with 
him, and by necessity everybody is a nuisance to 
everybody else. Then the squabbling ! At times 
you are certain there will be a free fight. 

It is the endeavour of everybody to travel in a 
better class than they have paid for. The third-class 


load up the second-class carriages, the second-class 
passengers take possession of the first-class carriages, 
and when a legitimate first-class passenger comes 
along there are terrible rows, and life threatenings in 
the clearing of everybody out. 

Military officers are entitled to travel in a class 
higher than they pay for. But now and then a high- 
handed warrior spark will have a third-class ticket 
and travel first. There was a Cossack officer who 
mounted the train at Irkutsk for the little station of 
Baranchiki on Lake Baikal side. When the usual 
rumpus commenced, and the officials came along to 
straighten matters, he was requested to travel second. 
No, he wouldn't ! Why ? It was his pleasure ! But 
why not obey the regulations ? Kegulations ! Phew ! 
It was his pleasure to break them ! Would he make 
room ? No, it was his pleasure to travel first. And 
travel first he did. 

At last away we roUed, once more eastward bent. 
For forty miles, until Lake Baikal was reached, the 
line hugged the bank of the river Angara, blue, clear, 
and rapid, acting as an escape for the mighty inland 
lake, and dropping 400 feet between Baikal and " the 
Paris of Siberia." 

Plains and forests were left behind. The river was 
bordered by a beautiful mountainous country, rather 
like the Hudson as you see the hills from the cars 
on a journey between New York and Albany. The 
weather was exquisite, so genial, so bracing, that I 
broke into snatches of song. 

In early afternoon we rumbled into the lake-side 
station of Baranchiki. In the rich glow of late 
summer there was the great inland sea to admire. 




But there was no time just then to admire scenery. 
It ■would not have required much strength of 
imagination to think I was at Folkestone. Porters 
seized the baggage, and, losing pieces of it, scampered 
along the pier, where lay a steamer belching black 
smoke. A string of grimy men were pitching coal 
from a truck down to the engines, and another steamer 
laden with horses was snorting its way seawards. 

The pestering thought that the chief thing of 
British manufacture I had found in Siberia was sauce, 
vanished as I saw the big steamer was the Angara, 
built by Armstrong, Whitworth and Co., Newcastle. 
Here, at least, England was holding her own ! 

I looked for the great Baikal that is supposed 
to scorn ice packs and does carry three trains across 
the lake. But she was not to be seen, though there 
was the special jetty which gripped her when trains 
were run on board, and a hundred yards away was a 
black monster of a floating dock, where she can be 
housed when repairs are necessary. 

It is certainly an advantage being a stranger in 
Kussia. Foreigner spells "good tips" to servants, 
and so the cabin steward on the Angara gave 
me a good cabin, saw my luggage safe, and handed 
me the key. 

Lunch ? Certainly ! There was a nice little 
buffet on board, and a hobbling old waiter, who had 
all the habits of his tribe, though he was four 
thousand miles east of the nearest European city, 
brought me cutlets and peas and bottled ale. 

I saw somebody glance sideways at me through 
the window, somebody with a ruddy, clean-shaven 
face and a little cloth cap. So I went out. 


" By the cut of your jib you're a Britisher," I said. 

"Yes, Isaac Handy, of Sunderland. Glad to see 

Here was an honest-tongued north-countr3niian 
who had come here with others to put the Baikal 
together after she had been sent out in pieces from 
Newcastle. Also he superintended the building of 
the Angara on which we now stood ; he was giving 
an eye to the building of the floating dock, also 
keeping watch on the steamer Ftoroy, specially 
built for the rapids on the Angara river. It was his 
duty to be about and be useful if anything went 
amiss with the engines which the Russians could not 
understand. He was one of the modest army of 
Britishers one drops across in odd comers of the 

We went on the main deck and chatted with the 
captain, who had been in the Baltic trade, and spoke 
English welL 

It was a delicious afternoon, and the forty-six 
miles across Lake Baikal were like a holiday cruise. 
There were two ladies aboard — of whom more anon — 
most industriously snapshotting their feUow pas- 
sengers. Other folks had out maps and binoculars, 
and down on the lower deck huddled the peasantry 
among their bundles, a little afraid, some of them, 
for they had never seen so much water before. 

The Angara was striking from Baranchiki to 
Misovaya, in Trans-Baikalia, where another train 
would meet us. Some day the railway Hue wUl be 
carried round the southern end of the lake, some two 
hundred miles, but the track will have practically 
to be blasted out of the face of the sohd rock. The 


line is necessary, for the icebreakers of Armstrong, 
Whitworth and Co. cannot always break the Baikal 
ice in mid- winter. 

There was no suggestion of winter, however, that 
balmy September afternoon as I took my ease 
lounging about the deck of the Angara, admiring 
the picturesque lake scenery and the entourment 
of high black mountains. 

A wonderful stretch of water is this Lake Baikal. 
It is probably the deepest fresh-water sea in the 
world. It has been plumbed to a depth of 4,500 feet. 
It is 420 miles long, and has a breadth of from ten to 
sixty miles. There is plenty of good fish, and about 
2,000 seals are killed annually. The timber on the 
hillsides is cedar, and in the sheltered valleys grow 
apples and cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and 

As the vessel slowly churned her way across, Mr. 
Handy told me about the lake. He pointed out a 
huge boulder lying in the mouth of the Angara 
which the natives regard with awe, because they 
believe that were it removed all the water would run 
out of the Baikal. Certainly the water tears into 
the river at a terrific speed. This is not to be won- 
dered at, as the Baikal is nearly 1,600 feet above 
sea level. 

Presently there came steaming down the lake 
a huge four-funneUed vessel, white painted, by no 
means pretty, and rather like a barn that had slipped 
afloat. That was the Baikal, one of the most 
wonderful vessels in the world, coming back from 
Misovaya, and carrying two goods trains fully laden. 
If necessary she could carry three trains and eight 


hundred passengers, but at present the Baikal 
is used for merchandise and the Angara for 

The Baikal passed sufficiently near for me to 
appreciate her great size, and as the fore gates were 
open I caught a gUmpse of red-painted goods 
waggons. The ship is of over 4,000 tons, close on 300 
feet long, and has nearly 60 feet beam. She has three 
triple expansion engines of 1,260 horse-power, two 
amidships and one in the bow. This power is 
required in the ice-breaking. She will break through 
ice 36 inches thick, and her bow is made with a 
curve, so that when the ice is thicker she can be 
backed and then go full steam at the ice, partly 
climb on it with her impetus, and then crush it with 
her weight. This means that the Baikal some- 
times takes a week to cross the lake. 

The Baikal is sometimes frozen from December 
tiU April. But although the ice puts a hindrance in 
the way of ships, the lake is busier than in the 
summer. I have before mentioned that winter is the 
great time for cheap transit in Siberia, because sledge 
travelling is easy and quick. So a road is made 
across the lake ; the track is marked by pine trees 
stuck in the ice ; a man holds a contract for keeping 
the way in repair for the post, and if there is a nasty 
crack he must board it until it heals by freezing; 
and all day long there is a constant procession of 
sledges coming from Trans-Baikalia, Mongoha, and 
Manchuria, and making for Irkutsk. 

When the sun in ruddy haze had dropped behind 
the mountains, a clumsy breeze came scudding across 
the waters. So we went below to drink tea. Mr. 




Handy brought out a collection of photographs, his 
own work, and while we talked about the super- 
stitions of the people in this little-kno\yn corner of 
Asia, I was turning over snapshot views of Lambton 
Castle and Redcar and keels on the Humber. 

Up on deck again we found billows of cloud 
tumbling from the mountains, racing over the dark 
waters of the lake, shrouding the world, so that we 
steamed through smoking mist, till a wailing wind 
crept down from the north-west and drove back the 
clouds, and fiUed the rigging of the ship with 
Valkyrie cries. Then in the darkness I heard tales of 
the furious storms that often ribbon the lake into 
tattered foam. 

They say hereabouts that it is only on the Baikal in 
the autumn that a man learns to pray from his heart. 

Twinkling red and green lights appeared on the 
right, and soon we were splashing alongside a httle 
jetty flooded with electric light and a long train 

So I found myself in Trans-Baikalia, the far 
eastern part of Siberia. But the train didn't go on 
for four hours. However, I sought my carriage and 
made my bed, and smoked my pipe, and read my 
novel tiU drowsiness came. 

And when I awoke it was broad daylight, and 
at a long, heavy, plodding pace, the train was rolling 
through a stretch of wild Scotland. That is what it 
looked like. There were the bleak hiUs and the 
clouds clinging to them, the sullen crags, and the 
fierce rivulets ; then great hollows with sedge-bordered 
lochs. Mist floated to mist, and hills waved to hills, 
and a cold gauntness was on the land. 


I rubbed up acquaintance with my neigbbour, a 
stout Teutonic-looking Russian from Nicolaievsk, at 
the mouth of the Amur. He spoke English about 
as weU as I spoke Russian, but also stuttered. It 
took him twenty minutes to wish me good morning. 

A mutual desire to snapshot some of the Baikal 
tribesmen brought the two ladies whom I had noticed 
on the boat and myself together. One was a Russian 
lady who spoke French, and the other was a French 
lady who spoke EngHsh and Russian. They were 
Moscow residents, and were taking a little round trip 
across Siberia, then intending to visit Japan, China, 
India, Egypt, Turkey, and get back to Russia at 
Odessa by Christmas. They were proud of their 
adventurous voyage, and enjoyed the curiosity of the 
other passengers as to what they were doing. 

The Russian doesn't understand the occupation of 
"sight-seeing." He can understand being sent to 
Siberia, or going to Siberia to earn money, but to visit 
it just to look at it suggests to him you must be a 
bit of a fool. At last, on the second evening, the 
ladies told me all the train knew why they had come 
to Siberia. Neither was in the first flush of youth, 
and as there were ninety-three men to every seven 
women in Siberia their object was to find husbands ! 
They were intensely amused. 

The distance from Misovaya to Streitinsk is 605 
miles, and it took the train three days to cover the 
distance. The line had just been opened, and as the 
metals were just spiked to the sleepers, and the 
sleepers just laid on a hght bank of soil, speed was out 
of the question. 

Everything indicated haste, There were no plat- 


forms at tHe station-houses, and the station-houses 
were all in course of erection. Whenever possible, the 
line kept to the bank of a river, and where there was 
no river, but only mountains, it took great horse-shoe 
curves to avoid cuttings and tunnels. 

We climbed right over the Yabloni Mountains, one 
engine snorting in front and another pufiSng and 
pushing behind, until we got to an altitude of 3,412 
feet. Then, with long sweeps, we swung down to the 
edge of the Ingoda river. After that, for 300 mQes, 
the line never left the side of the Ingoda or Shilka 

Once — only once from Moscow to Streitinsk — we 
ran through a bit of a tunnel, not a hundred yards 
long. For half a minute the train was plunged in 
darkness. There was shrieking of women and bawling 
of children, and when we got into daylight the men 
looked scared. Tunnels were things they knew 
nothing about. When some of them saw I was 
laughing at their fright, reassurance gradually came 

For hours we would roll between mountains, skirt- 
ing the edges of great swampy basins. At long 
intervals I would see a rugged patch on a plain far off, 
and knew it was a vUlage. 

We saw clusters of tents exactly like Red Indian 
tents. They belonged to the aborigines, Buriat 
Mongols, who are vanishing before the Muscovites as 
the Redskins are vanishing before the Saxons. 

When the train halted I had a good opportunity of 
seeing these people. They are first cousins to the 
Chinese, but all I met struck me as being broader, 
more sturdily built than the Chinese. Their faces are 


round rather than long, but their cheekbones are 
prominent. The eye is a ■warm, good-natured brown. 
Their skins are not the Chinese sickly sallow, but a 
ruddy bronze. They are good-looking men, but had 
I met them in Nevada it would never have struck 
me they were not Red Indians. 

The women folk, however, would have put me 
right. "Without being accused of lack of gallantry, 
one may say that the Indian squaw is one of the last 
ladies on earth for whom it would be possible to 
rouse admiration — coarse, fat to unwieldiness, and 
with as much expression as a potato. 

But these Buriat women were often handsome 
with the kind of good looks you sometimes see among 
Spanish Jewesses, only much darker. The features 
were well cut, the nose refined, and the eyes black and 
brilliant. Their hair was really black. As they 
walked about in their gay, red print frocks — and no 
other colour would suit them so well — they had a 
long, easy swing of the limbs that showed good 
physique. The elder women get wrinkle-faced and 
rather uncertain in their gait. Yet distinction remains 
with them. 

About both men and women there was a shyness 
which was blushingly apparent when I wanted to take 
their photographs. They didn't quite understand the 
camera. But when it was explained they were pleased, 
and laughed, and hung back, and after many per- 
suasions from the onlooking crowd — what a medley 
we sometimes were, Russians, Chinese, English, 
French, German, in all sorts of costumes — they would 
stand forward with the awkward delight of a yokel 
who is getting his five shillings from the squire's lady 




for showing the best cabbages at the village flower 

I found the Russians had a kindly admiration for 
the Buriats, extolling them for their simplicity and 
honesty. These Buriats, though they live in tents, are 
not really nomads, but keep to one particular district. 
Although the children of Mongols, once the terror of 
the world, there is nothing of the warrior about them, 
except their splendid horsemanship. High banked 
and uncomfortable do their saddles look, but they 
manage their horses, which are light brown with black 
manes and very swift, with wonderful agility. They 
know well how their ancestors once swept Europe, and 
they have a firm belief that some day a leader will 
arise and regaLu their lost kingdom. 

To me there is something very pathetic in this 
confidence among races once powerful, but now 
subjected, that the day will come when they will 
re-inherit their own. Perhaps it is well they 
should have this little glow of patriotism in their 

To-day the Buriats are pastoral. They live chiefly 
on milk, millet, and sheep killed on feast days. 
Their wealth consists in immense herds of cattle; 
some of them even possess forty or fifty thousand 
head. Though sons and daughters marry, the new 
wives and new husbands must come and live in the 
family camp. 

In religion they are Buddhists, but have only 
been so for three centuries. They are fond of making 
pilgrimages to Urga, where there is a "living 
Buddha." So great is this devotion that a Buriat 
will frequently surrender the whole of his property 


to some shrine on condition that he receives just 
enough to hve upon. 

So, among this wild, Scotch-like land we took our 
slow way, the shriek of the engine making long, 
eerie echoes among the hills. 

Then we got to Chita, a big place that got its 
name from a band of Italians who came here gold- 
hunting long ago. Just as usual, the station was 
two miles from the town, though the line, in 
American style, runs through what is practically the 
main street. First the train stopped at Chita station 
in the late afternoon, and gave us half an hour to go 
into the buffet and swallow dinner. 

I saw the town ahead, and asked the usual 
question, " Why isn't the station in the town ? " A 
shrug of the shoulders was the reply. 

The train puffed along, and stopped in the very 
centre of Chita. Here was a shed with " Chita 
Town " painted on it, and twenty yards behind was a 
big station in course of erection. 

"But why wasn't this made the station when the 
line was put down eighteen months ago ? " Another 
shrug of the shoulders. 

The train halted for an hour at Chita, and as this 
was in the evening, at the time the Russian has his 
promenade, all the town came down to peer at the 

It was a bright and merry sight, just as un- 
Asiatic as you can imagine. There were plenty of 
slouching, unwashed Chinese coolies and moujiks in 
rough sheepskin coats and hats. But they were 
alien to the town, and kept well away from the 
other folk. 


The other folk were well-dressed Russians, mostly 
wearing the conventional peaked cap, but still there 
were plenty of hard felts to be seen — even one silk 
hat and a frock coat — and tan shoes and tan gloves. 

Some of the women retained the old Siberian 
habit of just a shawl thrown over the head, but most 
had feathered hats and light jackets. 

Groups of young fellows stood about smoking 
cigarettes, and casting glances at the young ladies 
who walked up and down, arm-in-arm, three in a 
row. There wasn't much taste or good fitting in the 
ladies' garments. It was apparent all this finery was 
a thing of less than a year. But everybody was 
happy, and the air was full of light chatter. 

Again and again I marvelled at the way Russia 
was throwing its cities far east, bringing to the 
people all the trappings of civilisation. I had to 
look long and continuously at the map to understand 
I was to the north of Mongolia, and almost as far 
east as Pekin. 



Just as Siberia, west of Lake Baikal, has everything 
to make it a grain-growing region, east of Baikal, as 
far as I could gather, it has everything to make it 
another California, or another Klondyke, or another 
South Africa, or whatever you call a stretch of 
country full of mineral wealth. 

Most of the mines belong to the Czar, and there 
is much secrecy about their output. But every 
American or English miner I came across, and who 
had seen how the Siberian gold is worked, smiled 
broadly at the primitive methods. Maybe he would 
produce an ounce-weight nugget that had been lost 
in the washing, and then suddenly grow serious, 
and say, "I've been to California and Klondyke 
and South Africa, but — well, may I have some claims 
when proper machinery can be set to work ! " 

All the men I talked to agreed that the Russian 
is something of a "fuddler" in mining. He lacks 
scientific training. If he sees the gold he can get 
it, but he doesn't know a gold district when he is 
in it. 

About £5,000,000 worth of gold has been officially 
sent out of Siberia into Russia every year, but this 
is probably not half the produce, for gold-stealing is 
rampant. In Western Siberia there are over eleven 
thousand gold miners employed, and in Eastern 
Siberia only some thirty thousand, though the pro- 




duction is nine or ten times as great. In Eastern 
Siberia the men are well paid, getting 3s. 4d. a day, 
■which is a high "wage for Siberia. The Western 
miners, in the neighbourhood of Senipalatinsk, for 
instance, only get fivepence a day. 

The men work hard from three in the morning 
till seven at night, recognising neither Sunday nor 
feast day except that of the patron saint of the mine. 

This continuous work is insisted on by the 
government because the men have far more money 
than they ever earn — obtained, of course, by selling 
stolen gold to some slit-eyed Chinese, who ostensibly 
purveys tea — and their free days are given up to 
riotous debauchery, sometimes ending in bloodshed. 
Money is thrown about in the usual mining camp 
fashion. The recklessness among the miners is now 
being stopped by a government official holding as 
deposit the amount earned by the men, and only 
handing it over to them when they go home foi 
the winter. 

The Russian mine-owners are all enormously 
wealthy. They make for Irkutsk in the winter, and 
the man who has the wildest orgies and squanders 
the most money is regarded as the best fellow. 

The government, anxious to develop the gold- 
mining industry — for Eussia is in need of money — 
has temporarily remitted all duty on gold-mining 
machinery sent into the country. 

All over Siberia, therefore, is the intruding 
Kayoshnik, gold-hunter — English, French, or Ameri- 
can engineers sent out usually by a syndicate to 
inspect places where gold is said to exist. 

A Siberian prospecting party consists of a leader, 


an overseer, eight workmen, ten horses, eighteen 
saddle bags, provisions and tools, ' the outlay being 
about £500. When a likely valley is found, the gold- 
hunter seeks in the river-bed for pyrites, iron, slate, 
clay, or quartz coated with crystals. If the verdict 
on these is favourable trees are felled and a hut 

The thickness ot the earth covering the gold 
varies from two to twenty feet, and in regard to this 
I should point out that owing to the almost con- 
tinuously frozen state of the soil and the dense 
forests, the gold deposits are protected against the 
denuding action of the water. If the tests yield 
I oz. of gold to IJ tons of earth, the result is good. 
If there is less than an eighth of an ounce it is poor. 
Sometimes as much as half a pound weight of gold 
is found in a ton and a half of earth. 

If it is found worth while to mine, two posts are 
stuck up, one at each end of the ground, and the 
place is registered by the Commissioner of Police, 
or under an authority from the Director of Mines. 
A government surveyor next inspects the ground 
and prepares a map. After that the finder can 
borrow money on the security of his mine at the 
rate of from 20 to 30 per cent. 

A claim is usually about three miles long. The 
breadth is determined by the distance between the 
two mountains in which the gold seam lies, but it is 
generally from 500 to 1,000 feet. No one is per- 
mitted to hold claims of more than three consecutive 
miles, but if you want to hold more the claims can 
be entered in the names of your wife, partner, or' 
friends. When a mine is once registered it must be 




worked. If the finder has not the means, he may sell 
his claim or transfer it. But if it is not worked it is 
forfeited to the Crown. 

All gold pays a tax to the government of from 
5 to 10 per cent, on the yield, according to the 
district. On land belonging to the Czar, or on what 
are known as State lands, there is an additional 
royalty of some eight or ten shillings an acre. 

What for many years hindered mining was that 
aU gold won had to be sent to the government 
smelting-houses, either in Irkutsk or Tomsk. The 
gold having been smelted and assayed, was despatched 
to the St. Petersburg mint. The miner had to wait 
till it arrived there before receiving bills on which he 
could locally draw coin or gold ingots. This was an 
evil system. It tempted the merchant to circumvent 
the government and also, when short of money and 
unable to wait, obliged him to have his government 
acknowledgments discounted locally at a very high 
interest. All this, however, has recently been 
abolished. The gold is assayed on the spot, and 
after pajdng the tax, either in coin or in metal, the 
miner can proceed to seU. 

The system known as place-mining is the usual 
method adopted. But that is giving way to heavy 
machinery now there is the Trans-Siberian Railway. 
Quite recently a whole trainload of American mining 
machinery for one firm was run through from Riga 
to Irkutsk in twenty-one days. 

We halted for a while at Nertchinsk, amid 
charming scenery, which has led at least one traveller 
to dub it "the Switzerland of Siberia." It is here 
there are silver mines, though not, as far as I could 



gather, very profitable ones. They are mines that 
have been worked since the opening of the seven- 
teenth century. There have been some ninety mines, 
but at present nothing like that number are working. 
It seems that owing to the superior attractions of 
gold mining, voluntary labour is extremely difficult 
to get. 

This explains the employment of convict labour. 
Indeed, the Nertchinsk mines are the only mines 
where there is convict labour. There are two convict 
villages, Gorni-Zeruntui reserved for criminals, and 
Akatui reserved for political offenders. 

In the silver-mining district, two hundred miles 
long by about a hundred miles wide, there are seven 
prisons, and in the dozen government mines between 
three and four thousand convicts are engaged 
There are women prisoners, and though they have 
to work, none of them are sent underground. 

Those who are regarded as the worst of political 
offenders — men, for instance, who want to argue for 
poHtical freedom with bombshells — and condemned 
to penal servitude, are kept at AkatuL I did not go 
there, for it lies 140 miles from Nertchinsk. Still, 
the opportunity was offered me. Those, however, 
who have visited it, told me it is the dreariest of all 
Siberian prisons. Sentries are everywhere, and no 
man has ever escaped. The rules are severe. The 
place is 3,000 feet above sea level, and its winter lasts 
long — from August until May — whilst the short 
summer is intensely hot, the thermometer registering 
95 degrees in the shade, though at a depth of two 
feet the soil is frozen. 

I made particular inquiries, but could hear nothing 


about any cruelties practised in the convict mines of 
Nertchinsk, such as keeping exiles in mines day and 
night, working them in a dying condition or in 
chains, or of making them sleep chained to wheel- 

Though they are expiating their Anarchist 
opinions by a punishment that must be fearful, it 
cannot be said they are otherwise than humanely 
treated. For instance, if a man gets recognition for 
good conduct, he becomes a " free command." That 
is, though he must wear the convict dress, he is only 
under police supervision, and is at liberty to make 
what money he can by any art or trade. A "free 
command" may marry, and if he has any private 
money he can receive it. Also his friends are at 
liberty to visit him. 

Mining cannot be followed aU the year round, and 
so the prisoners work at other trades. The difficulty, 
so I was informed in various quarters, is not over- 
much work, but how to find enough for all the exiles, 
who often hang about listlessly the whole day. The 
summer hours are from six to noon, and from two to 
seven ; the winter hours from seven to four ; there is 
no work on Sundays or saints' days, and eight 
months' labour is reckoned a year's work. There are 
plenty of books in the prison. Any books are allowed 
so long as they are not socialistic. 

Eound about Akatui are local committees, which 
specially look after prisoners' children, the wives, and 
the sick. There is a discharged prisoners' aid fund, 
which does much the same work as the Samaritan 
Prison Society in England. At Gorni-Zeruntui is 
a large orphanage built by private subscriptions 


collected by Madame Narishkine, a lady-in-waiting to 
the Dowager Empress. Most of the children are not 
orphans at all, but the ofifspring of incompetent or 
incarcerated parents. 

So through this district of convict mines and 
prisons, and picturesque mountain land, the train 
went rolling on at about eight miles an hour. On 
the hUls were clumps of spruce and ash and white 
birch. Next came stretches of round-shouldered, 
treeless hills, such as you see from the railway 
carriage between Leeds and CarUsle. Then, when the 
line climg all day long to the northern bank of the 
Ingoda, there was swelling upland exceedingly pretty. 

I was now travelling in the first breath of autumn. 
Old Siberians told me that as long as they could 
remember there had never been such a spell of fine 
weather. So I was fortunate. AU the trees were 
beginning to be tinged with the rich hues of the 
fading year, and on the banks were masses of brUUant 
wild flowers, flaunting red, and pale puce, and strong 
yellow, and gentle blue. 

Each evening I spent a delicious hour standing on 
the gangway. The rattle-rattle, clang-clang of the 
cars over the metals I didn't hear. I only saw the 
day dying in exquisite sunset, and the rippled 
reflections in the rivers. Then sumptuous dusk fell 
on the land. When the train stopped the silence was 
like a palL 

A light moved mysteriously along the Hne. The 
murmur of the trees was heard, and away China- 
wards a shooting star streaked across the blackness. 
The awe of night hung heavUy. Far off there was 
the sound of a horn. The engine roared loudly, and 


the roar went reverberating from hill to hill, so you 
were not conscious when it actually ceased. There 
was a creaking of the brakes, and once more we were 
on the move. 

When we reached the river Shilka, born in the 
hills of Mongolia, there were often clearings to be 
seen with little homesteads on the water-side. Now 
and then was a village, and youths were sitting on 
tree-trunks fishing. The boats were just " dug-outs," 
long, narrow, and easily capsisable, and propelled with 
a paddle. We passed rafts on which little huts were 
built, and there were women-folk making the midday 

Always were there the lone section huts on the 
line, and inifailingly the man and woman with the 
green-flag signal. The bare-footed children — and 
generally plenty of them — ran out and shouted 

Gradually the Shilka widened until it was a broad, 
noble stream. We overtook a light draught steamer 
with a stern paddle. That indicated we were near 
Streitinsk, and practically the end of the great Trans- 
Siberian Eailway. From there onward there would 
be 1,428 miles to journey by boat on the Shilka and 
Amur till Khabarovsk was reached. Then the rail- 
way would be met again, and 253 more miles in the 
cars would land me at Vladivostok, " the gate of the 

The Russians kept telling me that very soon the 
whole line by the river-side would be completed. 
That I doubt. Indeed, I doubt whether Russia ever 
intended to lay the line along this route. Glance 
at a map, and you will see it would have to make a 


great journey half round Manchuria, which is divided 
by the Amur from admitted Russian territory. But 
Russia is in Manchuria ostensibly to keep the peace. 
I believe Russia wiU evacuate it about the same time 
England proposes to evacuate Egypt. 

To the east of Chita I saw a Httle line branch 
south. That line strikes straight across Manchuria 
to Nikolsk, sixty miles north of Vladivostok. 

The Manchurian Une will enormously save the 
distance between Irkutsk and Vladivostok, and do 
away with the dread which haunts all travellers on 
the Shilka and Amur of the water running low, and 
the boat being left stuck on a mud bank for a month. 
We Britishers think it is a high-handed proceeding 
for Russia to plant this line across Manchuria, Chinese 
territory, with hardly as much as " by your leave." 
But there it is. 

Of course, it was only to be expected that 
Streitinsk station should be on the opposite side of 
the river to Streitinsk itself 

It was pitch dark when the big funnel-chimneyed 
engine gave its last snort, and the porters began to 
drag our luggage out. There was noisy vituperative 
haggling before getting a wheezy dray to carry one's 
belongings. The carts kept smashing into one 
another on the crooked, jolting httle path down to 
the water edge. 

On the other side of the river blinked odd lamps 
along the town front for nearly two miles. But we 
had to stand in the slush tiU the ferry came. Then 
all the carts tried to get on at once, and boxes 
tumbled into the water, and the police fought back 
the drivers, and the passengers fought each other. 




Only about a third of us did get the ferry, which 
swung from an anchor in mid-stream. Horses got 
restless and backed, and were sworn at, and altogether 
the fifteen minutes' journey across the Shilka was not 
without its perils. 

The baggage belonging to my two Kussian and 
French acquaintances, together with my own, was 
lost. So we had to roam among the carts trying to 
find it. It was decided the Eussian lady should jump 
into the droshki, hasten off to the good hotel in 
Streitinsk, and secure rooms before others got there, 
while the other two of us ferreted for the lost property. 

I found it, but the driver was a fool — at least I 
thought him so at the time for not understanding my 
Eussian. He cried " Nitchevo ! " and with a clatter 
disappeared into the darkness. He wasn't such a fool 
after all, for he made for the hotel — the only decent, 
clean, respectable hotel in the town. 

Streitinsk that night looked like a few old barns 
stuck anyhow on a humpy wilderness of dust. It 
was a melancholy-stricken hole. 

I asked my French lady if it didn't remind her of 
the Grand Boulevard in her beloved Paris ? She 

The hotel was a big darksome place. There was a 
Slavonic concert in one of the rooms — quite a barn, 
but tricked out in blue and gold and red, and beneath 
swinging, smelling oil lamps sat the dite of Streitinsk, 
the military and the merchants, and their wives and 

"We didn't intend to, but we disturbed that concert. 

The bedrooms, little boxes of places with large 
cracks in the walls, the doors without handles or keys. 


and having to be fastened with a padlock run through 
staples, abutted on a gallery in the concert-room. 
The landlord, a thin man with short grey hair on end, 
didn't seem to care a rap for the concert. Here were 
three distinguished people who had come to his hotel, 
and they were his consideration! We told him we 
would wait. 

Wait ! He wouldn't think of it. Up the creaky 
wooden steps did his men struggle with owe baggage, 
and the two ladies had as many boxes as ladies 
usually have. These were dumped in the gallery. 
Would we inspect the rooms ? They were poor places, 
but we selected two. The baggage was distributed 
anyhow. It had to be sorted. 

I found my room was bigger and better than that 
of the ladies. Would they care to change? They 
were dehghted. 

Then the baggage had to be re-transferred. Next 
it was necessary an extra iron bedstead should be 
carried into the ladies' room. The sheer cussedness 
of things insisted that the bed should shed its stays all 
up the stairs, and then double and tumble to pieces 
when the gallery was reached. 

The three of us sat down and laughed till the tears 
came. There was nothing else to do. Had the 
audience risen and slain us they would have been 
justified. They, however, looked on, but with the eyes 
of those accustomed to little things hke that. They 
didn't object in the least. 

But all was fairly well in the end. The ladies 
decided to take their evening meal in privacy in their 
room. I hunted out the restaurant, and had my 
supper among a crowd of Russian officers who had 


come along from Streitinsk barracks to tlie concert. 
They ■were nice, rather noisy fellows. We became 
quite merry, and toasted eternal friendship between 
England and Russia. 

But the recollection of that iron bedstead shedding 
bits of itself, and finally collapsing in the concert-room, 
■will make me laugh on my death-bed. 




So it was at Streitinsk, exactly 4,055 miles east of 
Moscow, that I bade good-bye to the twin thread 
of steel, winding over hill and plain, called the Great 
Trans-Siberian Railway. 

All along I had inquired whether at Streitinsk 
I would find a steamer to carry me down to the 
Amur that fringes Manchuria. Ignorance was every- 
where. There were steamers, but whether they ran 
once a day or once a month — a shrug of the 
shoulders ! 

Job's comforters pointed out there had been 
comparatively little rain for weeks, and the Shilka 
would be nothing more than a sandy gully. 

When I got into Trans-Baikalia I was certain 
there must be a post connection, and imagined the 
railway oflScials could tell me. 

No! They knew nothing. Also they were in- 

Fancy the station-master at King's Cross not 
knowing how long was the journey from London to 
Edinburgh ! Yet at Irkutsk the chief of the railway 
could not say to a day how long it took the train 
to reach Streitinsk. Maybe three days; possibly 
four ; he didn't think it could be more than five. 

"Letters for Vladivostok, China, and Japan are 
going by my train ; how are they taken on from 
Streitinsk ? " I inquired. 






"By water, I suppose, but don't know; I have 
never been there." 

It was not till I reached Streitinsk itself that 
I learnt a post-boat went down stream once every 
five days. As luck would have it, a boat had gone 
the day before. So I had four days to wait in this 
dreary, bedraggled little town that stands like an 
ugly grey wart on a beautiful hillside. 

Let me try to describe Streitinsk. 

Along the banks of the Shilka stretch a higgledy- 
piggledy lot of shanties all unpainted, all with httle 
dirty windows, and all with a yard that is more than 
ankle deep in cattle filth. There is usually a rude 
fence, but broken. The cows, poor thin brutes, and 
the pigs, ridge-backed, flabby, and bristled, wander 

On the roadway, which happened, because the 
weather is fine, to be a six-inch layer of dust instead 
of a foot-deep mass of slush, which it would become 
if it rained, come scampering a herd of Siberian 
ponies. You get to one side and shut your eyes 
while they skelter by. You hear strange yells. 
Slightly raising your eyeUds you see, as in a fog, 
tawny jowled Tartars with huge sheepskin hats 
about their ears, the wool inside, and with great 
sheepskin coats, the wool also inside, riding sorry 
nags and whipping up the straggling ponies with 
long biting thongs. 

At one spot, behind the string of shanties, is a 
square. There are big, blue-painted signboards with 
names on them, and now and then a board on which 
is painted, badly, a fur coat, or a plough, or a kettle, 
or a cabbage, or a lump of meat, and inside you know 


you will find clothing or agricultural implements or 

The place seems deserted. But every now and 
then your attention is caught by a lady hurrying 
along in all the finery of Europe. Round the corner 
spins a Cossack officer, in a white linen jacket, but 
distinguishable by the yellow band round his cap, and 
the broad yellow stripe down' his trousers, actually 
riding a bicycle ! 

Over the place, indeed, hangs a filthy Eastern 
slothfulness, rent every now and then with evidence 
of Western ideas. The shops, so dingy from outside, 
surprise you when once inside. They are big, full of 
commodities, generally have plenty of attendants, and 
not infrequently many purchasers, chiefly, judging by 
their dress, from the far interior. These shops in so 
wretched a place amaze you tiU you remember that 
Streitinsk, like all other towns in Russia with 
railways and water communication, is the centre of 
trade for many hundreds of miles round. 

A smile comes to your lips as you notice how the 
reckoning is done — with one of those little appliances 
of coloured beads on wires, with which the infant 
mind at home is beguiled into the first principles of 
arithmetic, by learning that two blue and two yellow 
beads count four. The Russian cannot count without 
the instrument. Mental arithmetic is beyond him. 

You buy something for sixty kopecks, and present 
a rouble in payment. He must clatter his beads 
backwards and forwards before discovering that the 
change is forty kopecks ! 

Siberia is truly the land of distances. 

I met a man on the train who told me he had 


found much advantage since the railway ran near his 
home. He Hved fifty miles from the nearest station. 

With always immense distances to cover, the 
Siberian has not yet realised the advantages of any- 
thing being near. I have aheady given one reason why 
the stations on the Trans-Siberian Kailway are so far 
from the towns — the insufficiency of the bribes to the 
engineers to place them nearer — ^but another reason 
is that the Siberian doesn't appreciate the use of a 
station being only two miles off and not ten. To go 
ten miles takes longer time than to go two. But what 
is time ? Nothing ! The Eastern trait in his nature 
makes biTn heedless of time. The Britisher who 
wants something done now and not next week he 
regards as a foolish person, who gives himself a lot of 

The post office at Streitinsk might be in the main 
square, approximately in the middle of the town. 
It isn't. It is two miles away up the river bank. 

Each day in Streitinsk I had a walk through the 
place. I confess its sordidness weighed heavily. One 
was indeed right out of the world. There were no 
newspapers. No news ever came there. 

I did not possess sufficient courage to fight against 
the inertia of the place. There was just the petty 
community, the trading, the tea-drinldng, the eating, 
the sleeping all the year round — and nothing more. 
Every Russian town is the same. So when you see 
how each place must be a world to itself the surprise 
after all is not that the Russians have so little energy, 
but, indeed, that they have any. 

A striking change, however, came over Streitinsk 
at night — at least, over my corner of it, " the best 


hotel" In the daytime it was just a barn with some 
gewgaws on the walls and imitation plants on the 
table to make a dining-room. So dilatory was every- 
body that if I could get a modest ' lunch of two 
courses in two hours I was fortunate. 

But about ten o'clock, when you would conceive 
such a drowsy, out-of-the-world place should be all 
abed, ", the best hotel in Streitinsk" burst into 
rolhcking uproar. The officers from barracks, the 
official engineers — those who have gilt buttons and 
green braid — the river officials, the post office and 
telegraph officials, officials of this, that, and the other, 
all in the uniform of their posts, tramped into the 
hotel, ordered meals, drank many glasses of vodki and 
many bottles of beer, and grew uproariously merry 
before the food was ready. There was a wheezy 
piano, and in front of it a brass-fingered instrument, 
which on the turning of a handle ripped tunes out of 
the old piano. Then came card-playing and more 
eating, and continued hand-turning by a boy. And 
this in a shed of an hotel with no handles on the 
doors, where your clothes-hook was a nail, and the gaps 
in the woodwork so open that you could easily see your 
neighbour going to bed. It was always four in the 
morning before quiet came. 

I went to the boat office to book a berth on the 
post-packet. It was closed. The next day I went. 
It was open, but nobody inside. I waited one hour. 
At last in came a heavily whiskered man. Could I 
engage a place on the post-boat ? He didn't know 
because he had not anything to do with it. But the 
manager would come in an hour or two if I would 
wait. I didn't wait, but went back in two hours. 


Yes, there would be a boat the day after to-morrow, 
but he hadn't the tickets with him, and if I came to- 
morrow he would have them. On the morrow I went 
still again. Well, the boat was not in yet, but if it 
did come in, and aU was well, it would leave on the 
following day. So I paid my thirty roubles (about 
£3), and secured a place to Blagovestchensk. 

Having made up my mind there would be no 
boat, I was agreeably surprised to find on Monday 
morning, September 16th, the Admiral Tschcfiachoff 
had come in and would go out again in four hours. 
It was a long, shallow-draught, paddle steamer. 

Every place was taken, and first and second 
passengers, chiefly officials, jostled one another in 
the passages. Third-class passengers, who had to be 
content with the deck, were left on the wharf till a 
signal was given — a crowd of coarse beings in all 
kinds of nondescript garb, Russians, Tartars, Chinese, 
bundles of clothes, with wizened and grim old 
features peering out : a tatterdemalion throng ! 

Presently came the post-bags, great leather sacks 
of whole cowhides fastened with heavy steel chains 
and locked. Half a dozen coolies staggered under 
each sack and pitched it into a hole on the main 
deck. All the bags having been put in, the hold 
was supposed to be fastened with a cord, and the 
cord sealed to a tablet. There were the marks of 
old sealing-wax on the tablet, but no sealing-wax 
was used during this voyage. But Nitchevo — " What 
did it matter ? " as the Russians say. 

When the siren shrieked for the deck passengers 
to come aboard, there was a scamper. Everybody 
was carrying bedding, bundles of clothing, chunks of 


bread, a jangling kettle, and often a big flapping- 
tailed dried fish which would slap the face of the 
next person. 

The whole pack tried to get down the narrow 
gangway at once. The purser insisted on seeing 
tickets, but these were often stored away in the 
middle of a bundle for safety sake. It was a quaint 

Now and then an excited Chinaman would 
declare his friend had gone ahead with both tickets, 
try to force a passage and then be hauled back 
by the pigtail. 

When we were at last off, I noticed we had in 
our wake a barge, a low-built thing with a sort of 
iron barred cage running the entire deck. It was a 
convict ship, in which prisoners for the dreary island 
of Saghahen on the east coast were taken down the 
Amur. There were no prisoners on board, but the 
merchant company owning the Admiral Tschchachoff 
had a contract to haul the barge. So, occupied or 
unoccupied, up and down the Amur and Shilka was 
it continually tugged. 

We first-class passengers were a nice crowd. 
There was a general and his wife, who would not eat 
in the saloon, but "messed" in their own cabin. 
The wife was a stout, fussy little dame who knew 
her position and put on airs, greatly to the amuse- 
ment of my French and Russian lady acquaintances. 

We each paid two and a half roubles a day for 
our food, which consisted of tea and bread and butter 
in the morning, a greasy meal at midday, tea and 
stale buns in the afternoon, and at seven a hot dish: 
of sorts and more tea. 


All the saloon passengers, save our general and 
his wife, fed together. The table was covered with 
oilcloth, rather ragged. At the midday meal there 
was brought a huge platter, on which was generally 
a hash of meat and onions, undercooked peas and 
macaroni, and oU-smeared potatoes. Everybody 
helped him or herself with his or her own knife and 
fork. There were no salt-spoons, but a knife, greasy 
with meat fat, carried quite a lot of salt if stuck in 
the salt-cellar. If you wanted a second helping, you 
dived into the big plate with your knife and fork 
and fished out what you fancied. 

There Avas none of the inconvenience of your 
serviette ring going astray, such as you usually have 
on English boats. There were no rings, but just 
sufficient serviettes to go round, and these were 
thrown in a bundle on the middle of the table. If 
you had made a mess by cleaning your fork at mid- 
day, you let somebody else have that serviette in the 
evening. And the somebody else didn't mind. 

The oilcloth got rather sticky at times because 
there were never any plates to put your bread and 
butter on, and only one knife for the whole company 
to butter their bread. When your neighbour talked 
to you he did so with his forearms spreading along 
the table, and his knife and fork pointing to the sky- 
light. When you required bread it was not expected 
at all of you to take the first piece. You took up 
four or five pieces and helped yourself to the one 
you liked, and threw the rest back anyhow for the 
next person to mauL Then between the meals and 
the bringing of tea — you have tea with every meal 
in Siberia— everybody brought out a little wooden 



toothpick and picked and sucked their teeth for ten 
minutes. I've an idea some fastidious Britishers 
would think this rather disgusting. 

But the crowd was very select and very official. 
That must not he forgotten. The most distinguished 
man at tahle was the colonel of a Tartar regiment — a 
drah-faced man with black, cropped whiskers and 
spectacles of black glass (for his eyes were weak) — who 
was on his way to Manchuria to civilise the heathen 
Chinese. He ate with his fingers and salivated after 
the manner of a Mexican cow-puncher. 

Next to him was a lady proceeding to join her 
husband, a military man at Vladivostok. She smoked 
cigarettes incessantly, especially between the courses 
at meal-time. She threw the httle cardboard cigarette 
stems about indiscriminately. 

There was a fur merchant and his wife. He was 
a big man with rugged eyebrows, and a beard iron- 
streaked. He was most agreeable. The one word of 
English he knew was "porter," and after two days' 
acquaintance he said I was not like the other 
Britishers he had met, because I didn't get angry 
because there was no "porter" on board the ship. 
He put spoonfuls of strawberry jam into his tea, and 
insisted that I should join him. He had a great 
admiration for Britishers. 

In the evenings, when it was dark and rain spat, 1 
wore a mackintosh on deck. The pockets were so 
made that I can slip my hand behind a lapel and get 
at my trouser pocket without unbuttoning the front 
of the mackintosh. He was enthusiastic about this 
contrivance. He watched me bring out bunches of 
keys, and a penknife and kopecks, and had all the 


delight of a child seeing an ingenious trick. He 
tapped his beard, and said Britishers were clevei 
people. His wife was a kindly old body, so kind that 
I had not the courage to raise objection when she 
handed me a piece of butter with her fingers. 

Lastly, there was my stable-companion, the man 
with whom I shared a cabin, an inspector of schools. 
Most of his time was spent lying on his back smoking 
cigarettes and drinking Crimean wine. At night-time 
he snored with the snort of a tugboat. I can't sleep 
with a snorer. So when he snored I whistled " Annie 
Laurie," as shrill as I could. "Whistling is the one 
thing that stops a snorer without any show of 
offensiTeness. So whenever my gentleman snored I 
began with the air describing the picturesqueness of 
Maxwelton's braes, which made him twist and half 
wake, and gave me an opportunity to doze before he 
started again. 

I have used the phrase " stable-companion." I've 
known cleaner stables than our cabin. You can get 
used to many things in time, but when the first 
night I felt things dropping on my neck and crawling 
on my cheek, and making excursions along my arm, 
I struck a light and found the place swarming with 

My companion laughed and exclaimed, 

" Nitchevo be hanged ! " I muttered, and I packed 
up my belongings, walked the deck for several hours, 
and then caught furtive snatches of sleep on four 
chairs I arranged in the dining saloon. 

The second- and third-class passengers had no 
dining saloon. They just "pigged it," and after my 


account of how the 6lite on board fed you may get a 
little idea of what that " pigging it " was like. 

There was a stove for common use under one of 
the hatches, and a great cauldron of water always on 
the boiL There were no regular meal hours, except 
that there was no eating, as far as I could see, 
between midnight and four in the morning. The 
second-class passengers had cabins, but the third- 
class folk slept on deck with overturned kettles and 
chunks of bread and bits of dried fish strewn round. 

So away went the Admiral Tschchachoff down 
the Shilka river till it joined the Argun river, and 
thenceforth the stream was the Amur, Russia on the 
left bank and Manchuria on the right. Scant villages 
were on the Russian bank, a few huts, and a church. 

The vessel swung round with her nose up-stream, 
the anchor was thrown overboard, and there were halts 
of an hour while a gang of cooKes scurried on shore 
and brought together logs of timber for fueUing 
purposes. The native women came with bread for 
sale, and tousle-headed moujiks sat and blinked 
and laughed at the boat. 

The rivers wound through a thousand mUes of 
pretty scenery, neither grand nor majestic, but just 
pretty. The hiUs billowed. They were all wooded, 
and as autumn had set in, the larch and the birch 
were only green in sheltered hollows. On the crests 
they were a mass of burnished gold, with here and 
there a splash of deep crimson, as though the sun 
had given them a hurried kiss in passing. Some- 
times, when there was depth, the water swirled 
beneath scarped and grey rock, with mosses and 
flowers in the crevices. 


The sun always set in a purple haze, making the 
river a sheet of claret. Then a biting chillness sent 
one downstairs to hunt out a heavy coat. Night 
Was born with a rich blueness, and the pale crescent 
of a moon came up from behind the China hills, but 
sank in an hour. 

We overtook great rafts of tied timber, a hundred 
yards along, floating on the stream, and kept in mid- 
channel by three giant oars at each end. Often there 
was a hut erected, and in front of it could be seen a 
woman cooking the evening meal. 

The Shilka and Amur are shallow rivers, studded 
with islands and sand-banks. In places the stream 
is half a mile wide, and yet the navigable channel 
often not a hundred yards. 

So always in the prow were standing two men, 
one port and one starboard, pitching poles into the 
water and shouting the depth : " Five feet ; six feet ; 
seven feet ; four feet and a half; five feet," the day 
and night through. 

All along were posts, white on the Russian side 
red on the Chinese, and the vessel zig-zagged from 
one to the other, for that way lay the channel At 
night the indications were white and red lamps. 
Eerie were these little oil lamps, fringing for hundreds 
of miles the low countries of Russia and China, and 
pencilling the stream with their rays. 

We would go for half a day and never see a hut. 
But occasionally we would notice, clinging to the 
shore, a slim, paddle-propelled "dug-out" boat — 
such as our prehistoric ancestors used, and which 
we put in museums when we find them in swamps — 
and in it would be the lamplighter. Each man 


attends to about six lamps. What lonely lives these 
men must lead ! 

But the Amur is notorious for its fogs. Stalking 
up the river came white wraiths. With imagination 
sufficient you could think them lost souls wandering 
in the dusk. Soon they became embodied into a 
thick clammy cloud. Then the Admiral Tschchachoff 
sought the bank, the anchor was let loose, and there 
we stayed, a little bundle of humanity hid on a river 
in the far mysterious East, till morning broke, when 
the sun swallowed the mist and we moved Pacific- 





For hundreds of miles the broad, shallow, but swift 
Amur river curved and swept eastwards among the 
hills — the left bank Russian, the right bank Chinese. 
Then it made long stretches to the south. Never the 
site of a hut was there on the Chinese side, but at 
long intervals a ragged grey patch on the Russian 
slopes told of a village. 

To the eye it was an exceeding fair land. Yet, as 
I have pointed out, the Siberian is no agriculturist, 
and the lethargy of the Tartar makes him mentally 
rheumatic. He won't work to-day because it is a 
saint's day; he can't work to-morrow because it is 
Sunday ; then comes Monday, and everybody knows 
it is unlucky to commence anything on a Monday. 
So the crops fail. 

The winter months stretch from September to 
May, when the land lies frozen. There is no spring. 
In three days, or a week at the outside, winter dis- 
appears and blazing summer comes. All nature 
strives to make up for lost time. Everything grows 
with a rapidity that is amazing. 

Then, the Siberian has no eye for opportunity. 
He sows his corn when it is too late, and he does not 
think of reaping till the wheat is full ripe and half 
rotten in the August rains. 

Twice a day the Httle steamer Admiral Tsohcha- 
chof— called after a former Minister of Marine who 


never rose to popularity, chiefly, I fancy, owing to the 
unpronounceability of his name — -would drop anchor 
near one of these villages to take on passengers. At 
every place were slither-limbed, pale-faced Chinamen, 
who had no money and wanted a cheap passage. 
Some of these Celestials were in their native attire, 
blue-bloused, baggy-breeched, with greasy little skull- 
caps and their scanty pigtails elongated with pieces 
of black cord. Some, however, had met, civilisation 
half-way. There was one skinny fellow with parch- 
ment face who had on a Russian cap much too large 
for him, so he held his head far back and squinted 
down his nose to look under the brim. Also he wore 
a huge pair of Russian top-boots, far too large for 
him. So in walking he made a clatter like a small 
son, aged three, who has a liking for his father's shoes. 
There was a long-shanked Chinaman, whose nether 
garments were truly Chinese. But for jacket he wore 
a red and black striped " blazer," and for hat an old 
English straw with a dirty yellow and blue band. 

Their tales were voluble, and their countenances 
melancholy, and so they got their free passage and 
grinned triumphantly. 

The captain of the Admiral Tschchachoff was a 
smart young man, quite the sailor, blue-eyed, with 
flaxen, torpedo beard, and clad in the conventional 
navy blue, with gold braid. 

Along with him was a pilot, a hulking Muscovite, 
who wore an enormous fur coat and a great fur cap 
through all the heat of the day. 

It didn't take long to work up admiration for the 
Amur pilots. The river is full of traps, and the 
channel must be sought even in broad sheets of water. 


Now and then there was a jar and a quivering as the 
vessel touched and scoured the river bed. The 
captain said that often he had to land all his 
passengers to lighten the ship so that he could force 
it to go bumping over the rocks for five or six versts. 

If there was no fog the steamer journeyed through 
the night. We had starlight, but the deep shadows 
of the enclosing hills seemed to bulge out banks 
where there were no banks. But always there were 
the twinlding little oil lamps for guidance — blinking 
white on Russian soil, dim ruby on the Chinese — and 
by steering from light to Hght there was a fair 
certainty of being in the channel. 

Yet I should not use the word " always." On the 
second night we were in the Amur there was missing 
a red lamp on the China side. The consequence was 
that going full steam from white light to white light 
our ship just at " the witching hour " climbed with a 
crash on a bank of shingle. Then was excitement. 

The engines were reversed and the steamer 
dragged herself off. But she was tugging the convict 
barge I have already mentioned, and this barge, with 
considerable way on, came tilting her nose right into 
the stern of the steamer. 

There was a crunch of broken wood and ripped 
iron plates. 

In the darkness no one could see what had 
happened. The convict ship, however, swimg off. 
The captain of the steamer gave orders for the helm 
to be put over on the starboard side, and the engines 
to go fuU steam. The engines did go fuU steam. 
But alas ! the rudder had gone, and this was not 
known till the steamer, as a sort of revenge, went 


furiously into the convict ship, which she did not 
injure, though she smashed in her own bow. 

We had a really lively quarter of an hour. 

It was pitch dark, and the lamps on the ship 
accentuated the darkness. Everything was at sixes 
and sevens, and everybody shouted orders and cursed 
the captain, and the women wailed and were certain 
drowning was their lot. The two boats, however, 
got alongside the Russian bank, and there we hung 
till morning light came. 

Meanwhile a horse had been got from somewhere, 
and a man was sent off a thirty-mile ride to a 
telegraph station, to wire up the river to check a 
tugboat we had passed, and bring it back to take us 
in tow. This caused a delay of thirty-six hours. 

Personally, I didn't regret it. We were struck in 
a pretty curve, with the distance lost in a purple 
haze and the river widening out like a bit of scenery 
in the "Lake District." Two hundred yards away 
was China, and the thick trees were a mass of saffron 
and ruddy tints. On our side stretched a plain 
dotted with leafless birch, the bare boughs stretching 
like grey antlers, and a couple of miles off reared 
bluff crags. 

The morning gave me opportunity, for which 
there was no provision on board ship, to have a 
bathe. I took a walk some mUes up stream through 
long and tufted grass, and there had the luxury of 
a swim. 

The day was warm. There was no sound of bird 
or of animal. Even the river flowed with a strange 
stillness. The silence played curiously on the nerves. 
I sat for an hour, a sort of amateur Robinson Crusoe, 




fairly certain that no other man had ever before been 
there, musing on the scene. 

There was a rustle among the trees, coming 
nearer and nearer. A graceful antelope sprang out 
not twenty yards from me. For nearly a minute we 
looked at each other, neither moving. Then it 
tripped down to the brink and swam the river. 

In the afternoon I took a tramp inland — rough 
going, for the ground was broken, reedy, and swampy 
— and had a stiff climb among the pines tiU I got on 
the hilltop. As far as eye could reach was a land 
of wooded hills all splashed with autumnal hues. 
The river stretched far away like a streak of silver. 

At night, as dusk was falling, fires were lit on the 
bank, and here the peasant passengers cooked their 
meals, making picturesque figures in the glow of 
the flames. Then many of them sang. They were 
untutored folk, but instinctively they seemed to 
take up different parts, and with winning, soothing 
cadence they sang their Slavonic songs far into the 
hushful night. 

In the morning the tugboat had arrived. We 
were tethered to it, and side by side we went our 
way without further mishap. 

The Amur became deeper and broader until 
indeed it was a magnificent river. We passed other 
boats going up-stream, stern-wheelers, two-deckers, 
with long, thin chimney-stacks — exactly the kind of 
boats to be seen on the American rivers. The hills 
fell away to undulating pasture land. 

At one place there was a heave, and the hillside 
presented a sandy face. High up could easily be 
traced a black streak of antediluvian vegetation 


'twixt sand and sand. The Russians called this " the 
smoking mountain." There had been spontaneous 
combustion in the vegetation, and in places smoke 
was oozing. Without attention being called to the 
real cause, you might imagine the smoke was from 
smouldering fires left by wandering peasants. 

On the afternoon of Saturday, September 21st, 
we reached Blagovestchensk, the principal town 
between Irkutsk and the waters of the Pacific. 

Half a dozen steamers lay moored to floating 
wharfs, a large one flying the mail flag, leaving in a 
couple of hours for Khabarovsk, a three days' journey 
further down the river. Through passengers having to 
make a hurried transit, I bade bon voyage to my 
acquaintances, the Russian and French ladies, who 
were getting a little tired of Siberia and eager for 
the prettiness of lauded Japan. They went on. I 
decided to stay in Blagovestchensk five days, till the 
next post boat went down-stream. 

Therefore I piled my belongings on a droshki and 
told the hairy-faced driver to take me to the " Grand 
Hotel," with much misgiving about the kind of place 
it would turn out to be. And as I have grumbled 
about other hotels I will give this its- due. It was 
excellent. Its front was tawdry, blue and white 
stucco, much like the French hotels you find over- 
looking Swiss lakes, but it was clean, well furnished, 
electric hghted, and its manager, a Frenchman, could 
appreciate a Britisher's desire for water and plenty 
of it. 

Blagovestchensk was the briskest Siberian town 
I had yet come across. It was proud of its position, 
and as it is the fashion to compare this new land 


with older lands, it has dubbed itself "The New 
York of Siberia." It wasn't that. But again and 
again I was struck with its likeness to an American 

It is laid out on the T-square plan, every street 
running at right angles. The houses are of wood, 
mostly single-storeyed, and yet in the middle of these 
stand great three-storeyed public buildings, which you 
would cross the street to look at if you saw them in 
Moscow or Petersburg. The roads are in quite a 
transatlantic neglected state, but fringed with wooden 
side walks, and the main streets are festooned 
with wires for electric hghting, telegraph, and tele- 
phone. The shops are "stores," selling everything 
from cigarettes to reaping machines. AU these stores 
are in the hands of Germans or Russians from the 

The droshki is old-fashioned in Blagovestchensk — 
all right for slow-moving, slumbroiis old Russia, but 
behindhand for a bustling Siberian city. A light 
American rig, three parts spring, with a horse that 
can " move," is the proper thing. 

The youths are keen cyclists, and whizz along 
on German and American machines. Just outside 
the town are athletic grounds, with a weU banked-up 
cycle track. 

On the river front is a promenade with a double 
row of trees and seats beneath them, where you can 
rest and watch the setting of the sun over the 
sho'jlder of China. 

It is what the Americans call " quite a town." 

Till twenty years ago it was little more than a 
Cossack outpost. Now it has a population of nearly 


forty thousand. There is a public library with ten 
thousand volumes, a little museum, not much to 
speak of, however, two newspapers, one daily and the 
other weekly, four banks, two large ironworks, seven 
tanneries, two soap factories, three breweries, three 
steam flour mills, three saw mills, and two rope yards. 
Also there is a medical and charitable society, which 
maintains a hospital for the poor, two dispensary 
rooms, and a home for the aged, cripples, and 
orphans. A fine brick-built club-house has a hall 
adapted for theatricals. 

Blagovestchensk is rather too far out of the general 
world for touring dramatic companies to call though 
last winter a touring operatic company settled in the 
town, and three nights a week performed, more or less 
successfully, all the well-known operas. There is an 
amateur theatrical society and an amateur orchestral 

It is a great military centre, and young officers 
in Blagovestchensk, being like young officers any- 
where else, make the town anything but the dead- 
and-alive place you might imagine if you know no 
more about it than a spot on the map of Eastern Siberia. 

Educationally there is what is caUed a " classical 
gymnasium," really a secondary school — but Siberians, 
like Western Americans, who call barber shops " ton- 
sorial parlors," are fond of high-sounding names ; a 
gymnasium for girls, three public schools for boys 
and one for girls, a number of church parish schools — 
even in Siberia the church schools and board schools 
are often in conflict — and a special school where 
" grown-ups " neglected in their youth have the 
opportunity of receiving instruction. 


There is a good deal to be seen. In the first place 
the people struck me as moving with a sharper, more 
decided step than was discernible in towns further 

With the exception of the peasant class the 
clothing worn is European in style, barring, of course, 
the officials, who are as numerous here as elsewhere, 
and march about with full appreciation of their 
dignity in all the glory of many-coloured braids. 

The manual labour of the town is chiefly done by 
Chinese coolies. When John Chinaman has some 
spare kopecks it is his delight to get into a droshki, 
loll back, and have a Russian under his orders to 
drive him about. Indeed, that Saturday evening, 
when I went out to stroll I saw crowds of droshkis 
sweep by, all laden with grinning Chinamen, their 
pig-tails flapping about them and in some danger of 
being caught by the wheel-spokes. 

Rich gold-mining is in the hills within a hundred 
mUes of Blagovestchensk, and there are plenty of 
miners in the tovm — Koreans, as a rule, but of a 
distinctly better type than the coolies. They are men 
who have taken to the miners' dress : loose shirts, open 
at the throat, thick belts, and big slouching Cali- 
fornian hats, and, judging from the way they 
swaggered along, fuU of the Korean equivalent for 
picturesque though unprintable Californian oaths. 

Like all gold centres, the cost of living in Blago- 
vestchensk is expensive — quite three times as much 
as in London. I am a man of few wants, but my 
hotel bin was over £2 a day. A cup of coffee cost a 

On the Sunday morning, when all the church bells 


were clanging and good Blagovestchensk folk were 
hastening, armed with prayer-books, to worship, I 
took a solitary walk along the Amur side. 

On the way I passed through the camp where are 
stationed some 3,000 soldiers. It was well situated 
near a wood. The officers' quarters were of timber, 
painted white, and there were scraggy gardens in 
front. There were great long sheds for the troops, 
but most of the men were under canvas. Their tents 
were pitched on quite a different plan to that adopted 
by British troops. There was first built up a square 
of sods, not unlike a sportsman's shelter you see on 
the moors at home, with an entrance on one side. 
On the top of this was fixed the tent, which was really 
a sort of square canvas lid which would throw the 
rain beyond the bank In each were six beds, and 
there was plenty of room to stand up. At every 
point was a soldier on guard, bugles were continuously 
sounding, officers and their orderUes were galloping 

" Foreigner " was, of course, stamped all over me, 
and, although I received many curious glances, I 
strolled where I pleased, with never a word of 

These Russian white-bloused Tommies were just 
as " larky " as their red-jacketed friends at Aldershot. 
In one or two places men were out on parade, but 
most of them were spending their Sunday as they 
pleased. From some of the tents came the bleat of 
accordions, and young feUows were laughing and 
singing. Then I came across a group having 
wrestling matches ; next some young feUows were 
testing their jumping powers ; then groups squatted 


in the shade of the trees smoking and gossiping. I 
must say they were all sturdy, well-set, and healthy 
men, clean and neat, and quite happy. 

Still, hardly a tithe of the barracks was occupied. 
There were rows of buildings with not a soul to be 
seen ; also plenty of sheltering for horses, but no 
horses. After traversing a mile of rough country 
road, I came to another camp, barracks, and officers' 
houses, but all forsaken and neglected. The windows 
were smashed, the doors were broken away from their 
hinges, rank grass grew around. For an hour I 
sauntered here, and never saw a soldier. It was 
as though I had come upon a city of the dead. Yet a 
few days would put all these buildings into habitable 
condition. In a straggling way the camp covers some 
three miles, and there is accommodation for quite a 
hundred thousand troops. Kussia has an eye on 
future possibilities in this great military provision. 

I had sauntered out to this spot with a particular 
object. It was a beautiful, fresh Sunday morning, 
and I sat down on the banks of the Amur, with the 
river racing at my feet, and a couple of stones'-throw 
away the reed-fringed boundary of Manchuria. The 
place had an eerie attraction, for here in July of 1900 
was perpetrated one of the greatest crimes. 

In the spring of that year there was in Blagovest- 
chensk a Chinese population of from eight to nine 
thousand people. Seven of the largest stores of the 
town belonged to Chinese merchants : there were 
smaller dealers, and a great crowd of labourers. 
When the siege of the Pekin Legations began, 
Blagovestchensk, like the rest of the world, imagined 
all the Europeans in Pekin had been massacred. 


They themselves were far from help, and on the 
other side of the river drums began to beat and 
banners waved, and then bullets came dropping into 
the Blagovestchensk streets. The only Russian 
troops in the town were some sixty Cossack soldiers 
— not a large force if the place were attacked. The 
Chinese in Blagovestchensk, however, remained in 
their homes, absolutely quiet. 

Fear, however, was in the heart of the governor. 
He issued an order that all Chinese must pass over 
to Manchurian territory before twenty-four hours. 

" Yes," replied the Chinese, " we will go ; but how 
are we to get across the river if we have no boats ? " 

The twenty-four hours passed. 

" Why have you not gone across the river ? " 
demanded the governor. 

" We have no boats. Give us boats and we will 
go," urged the Chinese. 

The only answer was that the Cossacks, with 
fixed bayonets, surrounded a hundred Chinamen. 

" Now march ! " said they, and they marched, 
weeping, pleading, round the back of the town, along 
the dusty country road, tOl they came to the very 
spot where I sat solitary, smoking my pipe on this 
Sunday morning. 

"Get across the river!" was the order. 

The Cossacks made a half-circle round the 
Chinese, who were like a flock of distraught sheep. 

" Across the river you get ! " and the bayonet 
points pressed the Chinese into the water, up to 
their waists, further stiU up to their necks, and then 
further stUL 

When they were all drowned, back marched the 


Cossacks to the town for another batch of Chinamen. 
These, too, were driven to the same place, where the 
same fate awaited them. Backwards and forwards 
came and went the Cossacks. 

At the end of two days there was not a single 
Chinaman in Blagovestchensk. The authorities 
admit that 4,500 were drowned. Probably there 
were more. 

For days there floated down the Amur, past the 
full stretch of the town, a sorry, silent procession of 
the dead. Now and then, like a tangle of weeds, 
bodies massed against the wharves and between 
moored vessels and the shore. Men were employed 
with long poles to push the corpses into the stream 

Then the Chinese on the Manchurian side began 
to pester Blagovestchensk with rifles. A few 
windows were broken, but not a single person was 
injured, though I beheve official accounts state forty 
were killed. Presently troops began to arrive from 
Russia and Western Siberia. There was instantly 
an expedition into Manchuria, whereupon the 
Chinese scattered hke the wind. But their towns 
and villages and farmsteads and crops for fifty miles 
round, including the great Chinese city of Aigun, 
were laid waste by fire. 

The drowning of these poor defenceless Chinamen 
has fixed a brand on Blagovestchensk never to be 
forgotten. The people don't like to talk about it. 
They know it was a barbarous act, and they are 
ashamed. Those, however, who spoke to us freely 
and openly, were stirred with indignation. The 
man who gave the fiendish order was still governor 


of tlie town, and no one can understand why the 
Czar, one of the most humane of men, has not 
banished the ofifender, to show reprobation of an 
act which has placed indehble stain on a young and 
flourishing city.* 

Well, there was no trace of the crime that Sunday 
morning, as I — ^a wandering Britisher — sat and 
listened to the distant ringing of the church bells 
and thought of the death cries that had gone up 
from this spot. The river was Hke burnished steel, 
and flocks of birds made the trees musical. 

Then I heard the clatter of hoofs and young 
laughter. Along the country road, through a veil 
of dust, came half a dozen droshkies. In the first sat 
a bride, radiant as the sunshine, half reclining in the 
arms of her husband. In the other droshkis were 
friends, the gayest of village throngs, off to the town 
for the marriage feast. 

It was well they had no remembrance just then 
for the place that will be pointed at with a shudder 
when they and their joys have passed out of all 

Then I re-fiUed my pipe and strolled back to 

• I have since learnt that the offending governor, General 
Ghitchegoff, has heen degraded and moved to a minor post near 





At Blagovestchensk I stayed five days, and made the 
acquaintance of many Russians. They were hospi- 
tality itself. Everything was done to make the 
visitor have what is called " a good time." 

But I could not fail noticing an absence of those 
cosy comforts which go so much towards making an 
English home pleasant. There was httle taste shown 
anywhere. If a man was wealthy he let it be known 
by gold and blue ornamentations and by his wife 
wearing a gown of blue plush. 

A boat from down river brought to the town two 
French officers among its passengers. They were on 
their way from Pekin to Paris — a couple of typical 
Gauls, young, with pointed black beards, quite a la 
Frangais. They wore uniforms, and uniformed 
French officers had never been in Blagovestchensk 
before. The town is fall of military, and therefore 
the appearance of these gentlemen in baggy red 
pantaloons created as much sensation as though the 
entire French army had honoured the town with a 

On the day I left the Russian officers gave the 
two French officers a luncheon. 

A boat had also come down river from Streitinsk, 
and at the hotel table I spied a bright-eyed, alert 
little fellow. He spied me also. 

" Hello," he cried, " guess you're a Britisher, 


I'm an American from San Francisco. I'm in 
the commission line, and been working hard for 
nine years and never gave way. Had to take a 
holiday ; so thought I'd just run over to Eu-rope and 
through Siberia and home. No, I didn't go to London 
or Paris ; went straight to Hamburg, then two days in 
Berlin, two in Petersburg, and half a day in Moscow. 
Wonderful country Siberia ! Only know one word of 
Russian ; but I've done business — yes, enough to pay 
cost of my trip. Now, what's your hne ? " 

We fraternised. America and Great Britain had 
a bond in common, for just then Russia and France 
were in each other's arms. Russian hospitality ran 
riot in honour of those two young French officers. It 
fiUed them with vodki, caviare, salted roes, onions, 
and tomatoes — just to raise an appetite. Then they 
fed. There were fifteen courses. 

The American and I had a dispute whether 
there were twenty- three or only eighteen separate 
toasts. Russian officers sprang to their feet, were 
voluble in bad French, every wine-glass was overspilt 
with champagne, " Vive la France ! " was yelled, and 
a regimental band stationed outside struck up the 
" Marseillaise." 

Somebody produced a tricolour flag, and the 
shouting was glorious. 

They started eating again. Once again up bounced 
a big and burly Russian, with orders all over him, 
holding a glass of champagne and trickling it down his 
tunic as he splashed a speech of convivial French and 
Russian, all mixed. More yells of " Vive la France ! " 
more banging of the " Marseillaise," more waving of 
the tricolour, more champagne — a great deal more. 


" Say," remarked the American to me, " I'd give 
ten dollars to have the Stars and Stripes waving here 
just now. How do you feel ? " 

" Well, I think I'd prefer the Union Jack." 

" Now, if I could only speak Russian I'd go out 
and buy that band, and make it play ' Yankee 
Doodle." How do you feel ? " 

" Well, were I man of wealth I think I'd choose 
' God save the King ' or perhaps ' Rule Britannia.' I 
feel very Rule Britannia-ish listening to all that talk 
about Russia and France licking the world." 

" Here's to old England ! " said the American, 
raising his glass. 

" And here's to the bald-headed eagle ! " said I, 
raising mine. 

After more speeches and more champagne, and 
more vivas, and more band playing, and then more 
champagne again, our warriors got sentimental. 
They put their arms round one another's necks and 
kissed each other. 

That made me lausfh and my new friend swear. 
He swore what he would do if any drunken Russian 
attempted to kiss him. 

Then the Russians took the Frenchmen's hats 
and donned them, and put the Russian caps on 
French heads, which was rather ridiculous, for the 
caps were big and the French heads small. But two 
French caps would not go round a company of fifty 
officers. The next move was to swap epaulettes. 
Still there were many unsatisfied. " Leave us a 
button, anjrway!" was next the cry, and instantly 
those Frenchmen were attacked with knives, and 
buttons were hacked from them. 


The Frenchmen were as lambs. They looked 
with glassy eyes at their entertainers, and we came 
away, for we shuddered at their ultimate sartorial 

On the steamer De Witte, called after the Russian 
Minister of Finance, I journeyed down the Amur 
from Blagovestchensk to Khabarovsk. 

Besides the usual crowd of officers and ordinary 
Russians, there was my American friend, another 
American, an engineer looking for openings for 
American machinery, a German engaged in starting 
stores for a Hamburg firm, a young Austrian sent 
out by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce to report 
on trade possibilities, two Frenchmen and their wives, 
and myself, the solitary Britisher. 

Broad and majestic swept the Amur southwards. 
At first great plains stretched on either side, whUe 
tufts of distant trees on the right marked where 
were a few huddled huts constituting a Manchurian 

At dusk, that first evening out of Blagovestchensk, 
Thursday, September 26th, we halted for an hour at 
Aigun, or rather aU that remains of Aigun. Fifteen 
months ago it was a thriving Chinese city, the largest 
in Manchuria. But at the Boxer rising it poured its 
soldiers along the bank to the big Russian town. 
Terrible was the Russian revenge. The Chinese fled 
to the interior; the few that remained were put to 
the sword, and the city was reduced to a mass of 
ashes and gaunt charred walls. 

A few Cossack soldiers were moving about the 
banks with lamps, but others were standing on the 
shore front with fixed bayonets to drive back 


any of us who might show an exploring inquisitive- 

Later on we came to mountains. The frosty 
nights that were now setting in had nipped the 
leaves from the trees. So no longer were the hills 
garmented in gorgeous hues. They were stern and 
solemn. The river Hingan joined the main stream, 
and then the pace between the jaws of lofty rocks 
was that of a torrent. 

Beautifully blue was the Amur. At one place 
there was no indication we were on a river. For 
a day we seemed to be sailing over a gigantic still- 
faced inland sea, dotted with a thousand isles. 

All down the Russian side we were constantly 
passing settlements of Cossacks, the semi-barbarous, 
fearless bandits of the Don regions, that Russia has 
turned into capital soldiers. 

Since the beginning of the seventeenth century, 
when the Cossacks were first sent over the Urals, 
these men have set their mark on this territory. Yet 
after the first thirst for empire extension Russia left 
the Amur region alone, and it is only comparatively 
recently that the spirit has broken forth again. As 
Russia has advanced, China has retired. Every fresh 
treaty has widened the frontiers of Russia. I am a 
yoiuig man, and yet it has been within my lifetime 
that the Muscovites have set about the colonisation 
of the Amur region. It was in 1869 that a body of 
two hundred Russians first squatted on the banks of 
the river intent on farming. 

Excellent and picturesque as the country looks, 
the Amur region is not likely to ever do much in 
agriculture. The winter lasts eight months, and it 


has the disadvantage of being snowless, so that there 
is no sledging except on the frozen rivers. Indeed, 
the snowfall east of Baikal is trifling. Quite two- 
thirds of the Amur proviace is forest, mostly dwarf 
trees. On the remaining third it is calculated there 
is room for quite six hundred thousand settlers, but 
on the whole track there is, as yet, not a tithe of that 

A steady flow of immigration, however, is going 
on. But a great body of the newcomers get tired 
and go back to their old homes before they have 
given the land a chance. Quite a number of our 
deck passengers were folk who had come here in the 
spring, grown homesick, and were journeying to 
Vladivostock, where they expected to find a cheap 
ship that would take them back to Odessa and 
Southern Russia. 

I had a talk with a Russian administrator of the 
river district, and he bemoaned the way agri- 
culture was pursued by peasants who have already 
settled. Their husbandry was wasteful. They would 
grow five or six crops on the same patch of land, 
never manure it, and when it was exhausted abandon 
it and move elsewhere. I pointed to the consider- 
able importation of agricultural machinery as a good 
sign. In reply, I was pessimistically told it was 
nothing of the kind; that, indeed, machinery only 
tended to the more wasteful exploitation of the 

White Manchurian wheat is grown in the Amur 
province because it is more suitable to the Chinese 
than Russian red wheat. The horses are poor, kept in 
droves in the summer, and in the winter fed with hay 


soaked in salt water. The cows are small and lean, 
have udders covered with hair, and the nipples are 
quite undeveloped, so that the milk obtained is 
infinitesimal. This is the result of the settlers 
having crossed the cows first sent out to them from 
Russia with the Manchurian cows, which are never 

The proportion of pigs to the population is at 
least three to one. If the pig doesn't exactly pay 
the rent in Siberia, he provides practically the only 
flesh food the people have. But he is a disreputable 
rascal — compared with the fat, wallowing, clear- 
skinned, panting old porker at home — as thin as a 
rail, mouse-coloured, all bristles, and goes grubbing 
for his food in the most offensive quarters. 

Away in the interior are little settlements of 
gold diggers, winning quantities of the metal, leading 
riotous Hves and making for the town when the 
winter sets in and digging becomes impossible. 

The thing, however, out of which the inhabitants 
— immigrant Russians and the Mongolian tribes, with 
squat noses and high cheek-bones and slender wrists 
and ankles — scratch an existence is hunting 
Several of the big Moscow fur firms have travellers 
continuously going about this district, buying the 
skins of sable, fox, squirrel, wolf, and indeed aU fur- 
providing animals. With the money so earned the 
folks of the Amur are able to purchase a little wheat 
and tea, and so with the aid of the hardy swine 
they exist — a life which the Western European 
cannot understand. 

We were quite a friendly party on the steamer 
carrying us to Khabarovsk. There 


and card-playing and general steamboat agreeable- 

There was an iron-haired, smart-set old Russian 
officer, who was Ml of good stories of the expeditions 
in which he had taken part for the conquest of the 
Amur when he was a young man. He chuckled 
with glee narrating how the needy officers got the 
best of the poor natives by using labels of champagne 
bottles, or the pictures off boxes of chocolates, as 
" AU the same as ten-rouble notes." 

The weather was delicious, the sky wonderfully 
blue, the air genial in the middle of the day, but 
at night with a bite of frost in it. Then the moon, 
seeming larger than we sight it in old England, 
hung like a great silver lantern in the high south, 
and the steamer followed its quivering reflection 
down river as though it were the appointed traU. 

Remarked my San Francisco acquaintance one 
day: — " Say, I guess you're laying it down pretty thick 
in the newspaper articles you're writing about 
adventures in Siberia ? " 

" No," I answered, " I can't say I am. I'm telling 
the approximate truth — just one's impressions in 
going through Siberia." 

"Why, h — l! If an American newspaper man 
didn't send home some good stories about fights 
with Cossacks and shooting bears, and being arrested 
as a spy, and about nearly dying in the snow, he'd 
be thought nothing of. See here ! " 

He showed me a great sheepskin-lined coat, un- 
wrapped a bashlik to wrap about the head, produced 
great wool feet coverings and general Arctic gear. 

" That's my Siberian outfit ! " said ha « I'll have 





to dirty them a bit just to make tliem look real, for 
I've never worn them. Why, if I went back to San 
Francisco and told them how I just wore my 
ordinary summer clothes, and that the cars in Siberia 
were as good as those of the Southern Pacific, and 
that these boats are just first-rate, where you can 
get champagne and aU the delicacies, do you think 
they'd believe me ? No ; they would put me down 
as a gor-darned liar. They think I'm in the country 
where snow and ice are made, and they'll want me 
to tell 'em things. And I'll tell 'em! Oh, h— 1, 
but I've got some good stories. You see, there's 
that ride my mate and I and you had on the prairie 
when we had to eat our candles for food ! You 
know the driver was so cold that we had to hit him 
to prevent him closing his eyelids, which would 
freeze together! Then there's the raft journey; 
how we were sweeping down the great Amur river 
when the Chinese opened fire on us from the Man- 
churian side, and how we had to get ander the raft 
with just our mouths above the water and so fioat 
down till we got out of reach ! Here's my revolver ! 
The time I used that was when I was arrested 
because the Russians thought I wanted to steal a bit 
of their Siberia, and I kept oif sixteen Cossacks 
when they wanted to put me in chains." 

" And your friends will Uke that sort of talk ? " I 

"Like it! Why, it's the only thing they'll 
believe. You know, they thought I was going to 
certain death in coming to Siberia. When I get 
back to 'Frisco I'll not go up to my house. I'll 
register at the Palace Hotel. The clerks'U ring up 


the newspapers and say, ' has just come back from 

Siberia.' Then the newspaper men will come along. 
H — 1 ! do you think they'd put a line down if I told 
them I'd never seen a bit of snow, never saw a 
prisoner, that it's a wonderful country for cattle- 
rearing and wheat-growing, that it's just like stretches 
of our own country ? No ; a man who has been to 
Siberia is a great traveller in America, and if he 
don't play the part he's pretty slow or else he's a liar. 
And you're just telling exactly what Siberia is like — 
and you a newspaper man ! " 

" Yes, as well as I can." 

" Well, you're a wonder. You may be aU right 
for England, but American newspapers don't pay 
men for that. They want a good story." 

Now, none of us on the steamer developed much 
admiration for our captain. He was the greatest 
sluggard that ever sat on deck, for he was usually 
in a chair smoking cigarettes — when he was not in 
his cabin sleeping. When he slept the boat was 
hitched to the bank, and Chinese coolies were 
leisurely trotting on board with logs of wood for 

We went ashore, walked among the long withered 
grass, startled wild fowl, came back, found the wood 
all on board, and the captain still asleep. 

Some of us were anxious to get on, but when we 

mildly remonstrated he gave us a " Nitchevo ! " 

what did it matter when or how we arrived at 
Khabarovsk, he would be there within the broad- 
margined time allowed for the delivery of the mails. 

He evidently planned to land us a couple of hours 
before he reached the limit of his post time. But as 


luck would have it, just when we were within thirty 
miles of our destination, and had packed our bags 
and were ready to go ashore, clouds of smoke came 
rolling up the river. The adjoining forests were on 
fire, billowing the heavens with dun smoke. 

So, in late afternoon, we tied up to the Man- 
churian side, and stayed there till eight next morning, 
when the wind veered, and we could go on. We 
arrived nearly a day late, and all of us, Russians and 
foreigners alike, much disposed to lynch the captain. 
He drew up a long protocol stating that the delay 
was due to no fault of his, so he might escape 
the fine for late delivery of the mails. He wanted 
us to sign it. We said we would see him hanged 

Khabarovsk is magnificently situated. Loolc at 
the map, and you will see how it is just where the 
Ussuri river joins the Amur, which stretches off to 
the north and tumbles into the Pacific. The town, 
divided by deep ravines, is connected with long rows 
of stairs, whilst on each ridge runs a main street 
with the branch streets tumbling down the mounds, 
so that the place almost looks like three towns 
tacked together. 

Its importance, however, is purely administrative. 
There are huge public buildings of red brick, and 
overlooking the river are barracks. The Russian 
population is but a handful, and every Russian man 
is an official of some sort, and uniformed. 

Most of the stores are kept by Chinamen, and five 
out of six people I met in the broad, wind-swept 
streets were Chinamen — not fine, broad-faced men, as 
I have seen in the interior of China itself, but crowds 


of weak, withered-faced, slouching men, who slunk on 
one side when a Russian came along. 

Also there were many Koreans, slim, gentle- 
looking, sallow- skinned, slit-eyed, with scraggy tufts 
of thin hair on the chins for beard, but all having 
a certain picturesqueness in their white bunched-up 
garb, and singular hats, black, and in shape not 
unlike those you see worn by countrymen in out-of- 
the-way corners of Wales. There are hardly any 
women in Khabarovsk ; indeed, the official census of 
last year put down the proportion as eleven men 
to every woman. 

High over the river is the residence of the 
governor-general, a first-rate museum, chiefly filled 
with loot as the result of the Chinese disturbances — 
robes and cannon, carts and coffins, and also a Ubrary 
with some forty thousand books. Public gardens, 
with nothing in the way of flowers, but pleasant 
paths, nicely shaded, adorn the slope overlooking the 

There was the broad, steel-breasted river below, 
with slim Chinese dug-outs floating on the current. 
A little to the left clustered half a dozen white- 
painted steamers, lying silent. Ahead and to the 
right curved the Amur, down which I had journeyed 
a thousand miles, and in the far distance the purple 
hills of Manchuria. 

On the topmost height of Khabarovsk, standing on 
a granite pedestal and surrounded by cannon, is the 
bronze statue of Count Muravieff, the man who won 
Eastern Siberia for Russia. He completed the work 
begun centuries back by Yermak, the Volga pirate. 
The march of empire had been eastwards for Russia. 


It was Muravieff who saw the dream of the Mus- 
covite turned into a reality. He founded Vladi- 
vostok and gave Russia a port on the Pacific. His 
statue now overlooks the great region of the Amur, 
and Russians as they pass take off their hats. 


THE land's end OF SIBERIA. 

It was necessary to rise early at Khabarovsk — "when 
a chill grey dawn was crawling from the Pacific and 
lifting the mist from the Manchurian hills — in order 
to catch the train from Vladivostok. 

This was the last section of the great trans- Asian 
line, and exactly thirty-two hours was taken to cover 
the 483 miles. 

Of course the railway station was three miles from 
the town, and the roadway was just a network ot 
tracks among a tangle of undergrowth, aU decaying 
and colourless beneath the first breathing of winter. 
I had to grip tight the little droshki or the violent 
thuds against tree stumps and the sudden lurches 
into holes would have pitched me out a dozen times. 
The two horses were sturdy, energetic little brutes — 
one running in the shaft and the other running at 
the side, Hke the hitching of an extra tram horse to 
help the car up the hiU : the approved method of 
driving a pair in Siberia — and rattled along in good 

The station itself was all bustle and noise. The 
entrance haU was packed with Chinamen shouting 
gutturally and bumping about with loads, while meek, 
white-robed, and quaint-featured Koreans squatted on 
their heels in corners. Russians, chiefly officials in 
their greys and blues, gilt epaulettes, white-peaked 
caps, and top boots of pliable leather, took possession 
of the buffet with their bundles. 






Here was constant tea-drinking and the dipping of 
long rolls into the tea and eating them in a soppy 
state. These rolls are sprinkled with little seeds that 
make the food look as though it was fly-blown. 
Indeed, as every mirror and candlestick and picture 
in Siberia is speckled by industrious flies, I have an 
idea that the seed is sprinkled on the cakes to 
deceive the eater who cannot tell by eyesight whether 
the spots are seeds or fly-marks. 

Half an hour before the train started there was the 
clang of the bell, the doors were thrown open, and a 
pell-mell rush to the platform and carriages took place. 
The scene was one that had a close comparison to 
that you see in India. Instead, however, of British 
officers walking up and down with the confident stride 
of superiority while the Hindus and Mohammedans 
gave way acknowledging inferiority, there were 
Eussian officers clean and smart promenadiag the 
platform while the slithering, cowering Chinese and 
the cringing, frightened Koreans made room for 

I strolled about watching the scene. There was 
little that was arrogant in the demeanour of the 
Kussians, save the consciousness of importance that 
every man shows more or less when in uniform. But 
marked was the dominance of character displayed by 
the Russians and the recognition of it by the Chinese 
and the Koreans. 

The Eussian has a strong streak of the East in his 
nature. But this is covered and hidden by ready 
adaptation of Western civilisation. The Eussian, as you 
see him in Petersburg or in Moscow in direct contact 
with other civilisations, often gives indications of his 


Tartar origin. These traits, thougli they remain, fail, 
however, to strike you when you see the Russian in 
the far east of his empire, the master of a hundred 
races. There he is the white, civilised Westerner, 
whose stride is that of a conqueror. The Mongolians, 
who once scourged the world, now bustle and make 
an avenue to let pass a young lieutenant with eight 
brass buttons on his coat, gold epaulettes on his 
shoulders, and a black scabbarded sword at his side. 

In earlier chapters I rather dwelt upon the free 
and easy, almost democratic life of the Siberians, 
largely due to the fact that the genuine Siberian was 
never a serf as the Russian was. He, therefore, shows 
hardly any servility in his disposition, and is free to 
talk about his government as no man dare speak in 
Petersburg. I noticed this as soon as I crossed the 
Urals, and was impressed with the fact by the time I 
got to Irkutsk. 

But at Irkutsk there ended the great stretch ot 
Siberia that had been inhabited by Russian settlers 
and political exiles. Eastwards beyond Lake Baikal 
reared a mountainous territory, undeveloped, un- 
favourable to settlers, with scanty, decaying Buriat 
tribes in the valleys, and occasional gangs of convicts 
or adventurers working for gold and silver in the 
hills. AU through the trans-Baikal and Amur 
provinces, however, with the thinnest of population, 
consisting of immigrants from Russia, who had not 
come imder the influence of the Siberian freedom, 
this democratic aspect was missing. Troops of 
Cossack soldiers on the banks of the Shilka and 
Amur rivers were the directors of policy, and bayonets 
the arguments. 



^ ; A. 


x".- 1 




\j s 'ffittHHS 





1 M^S 









At Khabarovsk and down to Vladivostok I found 
myself in another stratum. Not one in ten of the 
Eussians had come here through Siberia. The great 
majority had travelled round from Odessa by sea. 
They were Russians proper, and all the severe, rigid, 
official discipHne was in evidence. Everything was 
in accordance with regulation. 

For instance, I went out on the gangway between 
the railway coaches to admire the scenery. " That is 
against the rules; you must not stand there; it is 
strictly forbidden," said the conductor. 

Later on he came to my compartment, where the 
back of one of the seats was raised to allow the lower 
seat to be broader to make a bed. 

" You must please let me alter that seat to its 
usual state for daytime," he said. 

" But I want it to remain as it is," I replied, 
" because I may desire to lie dowp and sleep." 

" But the regulations ! " he urged. 

" Never mind the regulations," I answered, " that 
is going to remain." He brought a superior, who, 
however, only shrugged his shoulders, and let the 
foreigner have his way. 

All the officers on the train by paying third-class 
fare were able to travel second-class, which is almost 
as good as the first. There was not room for all, 
however, and many were obliged to actually travel 
third. But the third-class coaches were already 
heaving hives of Chinese and Chinamen's multifarious 
bundles. From one of these carriages the Chinamen 
and their belongings were ignominiously ejected. 
They went like cattle. An ordinary goods van, with- 
out seats or windows, and with sliding panels for doors, 


was in the rear of the train, and into this as many- 
Chinamen as possible scrambled, filling it till there 
seemed to be only standing room. Still other 
Chinamen attempted to struggle in, but were driven 

"Are you going to put on another waggon for 
them ? " I inquired. 

" Oh, no, they are only Chinamen, and they will 
have to wait till to-morrow's train." 

The night was bitterly, bitingly cold. We first- 
class passengers were comfortable enough with our 
double windows and hot-air pipes. But those shivering 
Chinamen ! I heard a hubbub at a wayside station 
in the darkness of the night and jumped out. There 
were a few flickering lamplights piercing the blackness. 

" What's the matter?" I asked an official. 

" Ob, those Chinamen in the waggon want to have 
the doors closed because they say it is cold." 

" Poor devils ! and so it, is," I said. " Why can't 
they have the place closed up, and so keep themselves 
a little warm ? " 

" Well, it is against the regulations for them to be 
shut up so that the conductor can't see what they are 

On the train was a first-class restaurant car. At 
one end was a buffet where aU sorts of snacks were on 
sale, and a white-bloused, white-capped chef presided. 
There were, however, no regulation hours for meals. 
You had what you liked, when you liked. In the 
morning, when I had my coffee, there was a telegraph 
official, yeUow braided, sitting next me drinking vodka, 
and opposite was an engineer, green braided, noisily 
slitherii^g soup into his mouth ; and a little up the 


table was a military officer, gold and red braided, 
drinking tea and eating cakes. 

The country we ran through in that two days' 
journey was first over a stretch of country wooded 
with thin-limbed trees, but mountainous in the hazy 
distance. At places the ground was ripped with 
torrents. There were stretches of dreary, drab-coloured 
grass a yard high. 

Compared with the railway journey between 
Moscow and Streitinsk, this Ussuri section of the 
trans-Siberian line was badly laid. It was jolt and 
jerk and bump all day and all night long. I felt 
at times that if only the engine managed to get off 
the metals the running might have been easier. 

Long sweeps of the line were under repair, 
fresh metals being put down and better ballasting 
provided. All the work was done by soldiers, well- 
built young fellows, with their shirts open at the 
throat, their braces hanging loose, and a little 
yellow-banded cap stuck on the back of their 

On the second day we ran through a wild 
country, with huge, roimd-shouldered hills and 
shadowy dells reminiscent of wildest Scotland if, 
instead of heather hues, you can conceive sides 
bunched with rich variegated undergrowth. 

Somebody shouted something. 

On the right, far off, like the gleam of a sword 
blade, was the glitter of the Pacific Ocean. I had 
travelled far since I saw the sea before. And then 
the sunset! I have a weakness for sunsets, and 
this one was wonderful ; a mass of gold and blood, 
like a great cauldron into which other worlds were 


thrown, banking up the heavens behind a mass of 

The train reached the edge of the sea and 
hastened along, between cleft rocks, shrieking its 
progress, and the echoes came back from the hills. 
A few Chinese junks were stranded on the shore. 
We began to run by a suburb of shanties. Then we 
stopped beneath a hill. 

What place was this ? Well, this was the original 
Vladivostok station, and you had to drive by droshki 
a few versts over the hill to the town. This was in 
strict accordance with the planting of Siberian 

The train grunted on up an incline and round 
an elbow of rock. Dusk was closing in. I stood at 
the window. There was the Pacific, smooth and 
now as dull as a sheet of lead. By the line tramped 
soldiers who had ceased work for the day. There 
was a little log-built, drab-painted hut. Before it 
stood a man holding a green flag. I am sure it was 
his brother I saw at the first signal-hut out of 
"Moscow nearly two months before. He was wearing 
a beard like him, and his peaked cap was pulled well 
over his eyes. His red shirt was hanging just 
outside his trousers just in the old way. And the 
green flag was wrapped round the little stick in 
umbrella folds, just as it was a verst east of Moscow. 

Those signalmen and those green flags I had 
seen all the way, save on the Shilka and Amur 
rivers, and there the signals were red and white 

The back yards of rows of houses crept into 
view just as they do when you are introduced to an 


English town by rail. Then came the crossing of a 
broad street, and the iron barriers were checking a 
surge of traffic — carts and carriages, uniformed 
Eussians, white-smocked Koreans, blue-shirted 

We were in Vladivostok station, the end of the 
great trans-Siberian railway line, and it was the 
only station from Petersburg to the Pacific that was 
right in the town. As I jumped from the carriage, 
my eye was attracted by a big board on which, in 
massive letters, was inscribed : " Vladivostok to St. 
Petersburg, 9,877 versts." It was five o'clock in the 
evening of Wednesday, October 2nd, but nine o'clock 
in the morning by Greenwich time. 

Most of us take to towns as we do to persons — 
at the first blush or not at all. I felt attracted to 
Vladivostok before I had been in it ten minutes. 

About the station was vigorous, energetic life. A 
porter seized my baggage, and instead of slouching 
ran so that I might secure a carriage. He was the 
first Russian I had ever seen in a hurry. 

The drivers were alive, and swung up their 
horses with a crack. Most of these men were fair- 
whiskered and light-eyed, picturesquely clad in cloaks 
of blue velvet and with red shirt sleeves sticking 
through the armholes. On their heads were curly 
astrakhan hats. 

The carriage rattled over the stones of a strongly 
paved street. On the right was the harbour, a fine 
fifty-acre kind of lake, hill locked. In strong array 
were anchored in line eight Russian men-o'-war 
ships, all painted white, and apparently ready for 
business. Little launches puffed and snorted. 


On the quay side were two passenger steamers, 
one in that morning from Japan. The singing of the 
Chinese gangs as they trotted along under the weight 
of bales was heard aboTe the clatter of wildly driven 
droshkies — and all the carriages in Vladivostok tear 
along as though there was a chariot race, so that, as 
there is no rule of the road, you are on the brink of a 
newspaper paragraph whenever you go out — while 
little bunches of sailors went rolling by rather drunken, 
and with their arms round each other's necks. 

On the other side of the street reared huge white 
painted balustraded and ostentatious stores, as big as 
the shops in Kegent Street, but not so continuous. 

Building was everywhere, a big hotel here, a 
colossal magasin there, a block of offices somewhere 
else, everything telling of a new town in the throes 
of development — a broad asphalted pavement at one 
place, planks broken and uneven in another. 

On the slope of a hill I saw the stars and stripes 
of America waving over a house. I looked about for 
the Union Jack but could not see it. 

When I had settled in my hotel, run on the 
American plan — so much a day for room and board, 
and you pay whether you have it or not — I went out 
to visit the English Consul. There wasn't one. So I 
called upon the American representative, Mr. Theodore 
Greener, whose position is that of Commercial Agent 
for the United States. I found him in a neat office, 
with walls decorated with stars and stripes, the book- 
cases full of reports on trade, and all odd corners 
filled with catalogues of American firms who want to 
open up a business connection with Eastern Siberia. 

"And there isn't a British Consul or British 


representative here?" I moaned with patriotism in 
the dust. 

"No. There are commercial representatives of 
France and Germany and America, Holland and 
Japan, but no British representative. One or two of 
the Britishers here have been worrying your Foreign 
Office this last year or two, but they don't take much 
notice. Guess you Britishers don't want trade. We 
Americans and the Germans have the most of it. 
Still this would be a chance for England. America 
and Kussia have a tariff war on now, and there is a 
40 per cent, duty on American goods." 

"And that had crippled American imports?" I 

" Yes, quite considerable. But the war will soon 
be over." 

" Do many commercial men come here opening 
up business ? " 

" Oh, yes, but not many Britishers ; they're chiefly 
Americans. My commercial reports are published by 
the State Department, and every mail brings me a 
letter from firms all over the States asking if I'd 
distribute a few of their circulars. Of course I would. 
I tell them to send plenty right along. That's what 
I'm here for. Quite a few American business men — 
maybe paying a visit to Japan — run up here just to 
see if there are any dollars about. Well, I take them 
about, introduce them to men who are likely to do 
import trade, and explain to them Russian methods. 
Vladivostok looks out of the world on a map, but it 
is going to be a great place for trade in a year or two." 

All my investigations during a stay of over a 
week in Vladivostok were, I confess, not particularly 


appetising to my nationality. There is one English 
firm working a coal mine, some little distance out of 
the town, and making it pay ; the same firm send a 
steamer once a year up to Kamschatka, and barter 
rice and cheap guns for skins; also, they hope to 
have the concession to illuminate Vladivostok with 
electricity and run electric cars. But apart from this 
firm little is done by English folk. 

The impression left on my mind, after inquiring 
into the foreign import trade aU through Siberia, is 
that Germany comes first, America makes a good 
second, while Great Britain is a very bad third, with 
France and Austria on her heels. 

Yladivostok certainly needs a British Commercial 
Agent. A university man is not necessary, but a 
man who understands trade, who is not above finding 
out the price of candles in local stores, who will keep 
his eyes on things in demand, and knows how cheaply 
they can be made in England, would be invaluable. 

One day I lunched with the representative of the 
Vienna Chamber of Commerce, who was travelling 
through Siberia looking where there were openings 
for Austrian wares. He was spending five weeks in 
Vladivostok alone. He was acquainted with the 
manufactures of his own country. He bought samples 
of Russian goods, sent them off to Vienna, reported 
the general price and gave a list of Russian firms 
who would be likely to buy Austrian articles. 

Another day I met a Britisher from Shanghai 
who was half despondent and half blasphemous about 
British trade not holding its own. 

Personally I know the majority of British Consuls 
in the East are capable men. But he was furious 


against the whole tribe. He gave me what he called 
an instance of how the British Consul is "too big 
for his job." He went into a consulate recently and 
asked : 

" Could you, please, give me a list of all the 
merchants in this town who are in such-and-such 
a line?" 

" Who are you ? " asked the Consul. 

" Well, I'm travelling to push this particular line 
in the East." 

" Look here," said the Consul, " you musn't think 
I'm here as a sort of directory to help men who have 
got something to sell." 

" Then what are you here for ? " asked the 

" Your manner is rather rude," said the Consul. 

" Please tell me what you are here for, if it is not 
to help the British firms who want to develop trade, 
and I will apologise," said the traveller. 

"You quite misunderstand a Consul's duties," 
replied Great Britain's representative. 

" Now," continued this -wrathful Englishman to 
me, " I went straight to the German Consulate and 
asked as politely as I could if he had a list of firms 
who dealt in so-and-so. Of course he had; he told 
me all about the local prices and who would be Hkely 
to do business with me. And all this very kindly to 

a Britisher, not a Dutchman, whereas that " then 

came a purple- worded description of the Consul. 

The first idea I got of Vladivostok remained 
during my stay. It is a busy and lively town. It 
hugs the side of billowy hills and at the same time 
clings to the harbour side. This harbour is made by 


nature, not large but deep, absolutely shut off from 
the Pacific and guarded by a row of fortress teeth. 
Once or twice I went roaming with my camera, but 
everywhere on the hills around I was checked with a 
notice to keep off forbidden ground. All the hills 
overlooldng the channel way from the ocean to the 
harbour — where all the navies of the world could be 
smuggled away and nobody find them by searching 
the coast line — seem burrowed with forts. Every 
day one or more of the eight warships in harboar 
went out and did target practice. I climbed a mound 
behind the town, about as high as Arthur's Seat at 
Edinburgh, and obtained a fine view of the town and 
harbour. The Kussians are very proud of the way 
they have guarded Vladivostok against attack. Yet 
friendship to other navies is always outstretched. A 
couple of Italian men-of-war ships came in during 
my visit, and there was firing of salutes, dinner 
parties and junketings, whilst the Russian and Italian 
sailors fraternised and drove about in droshkies, 
generally five in a droshki that can really carry two : 
and the Russian sailor was affectionate to his visitor, 
put his arm round his neck, and kissed him. 

Only two foreign battleships are allowed in 
Vladivostok harbour at once. This is a regula- 
tion the British squadron on the Chinese station is 
responsible for. A few years ago, when one of the 
many fogs was hanging over the harbour, some ten 
British warships came in quietly, dropped anchor in 
position facing the town, and made all the Russians 
gasp the next morning when the fog lifted, They 
did more than gasp ; they were furious. Hence the 



(Tl-if ,\ew Post Office is on the <ight ) 


You cannot exhaust the sights of Vladivostok in 
an afternoon as you can most Siberian towns. There 
is much to be seen. Most attractive to me were the 
street scenes, the officials, military and naval, the 
business men really moving and not dawdling the 
day away, which most Russians do, to the tantalisa- 
tion of all brisk Westerners ; the gangs of Chinese 
labourers, who work from sundown to sundown, and 
are always happy; the perky little Japanese, aping 
European costume, whilst their womenkind keep to 
their winsome Nipponese garb, and go clattering 
about on wooden shoes; and the Koreans, all in 
white and with features so soft that you mistake 
them for women : a polyglot crowd indeed, all helping 
to make the town prosperous. 

No man can come through Siberia to such a place 
as Vladivostok and give a thought to what Russia 
has done in the generation without being amazed. 
We may criticise Russian manners and growl at 
Russian diplomacy, and wonder how people can live 
under an autocratic government 1 But Russia has 
laid hold on the East. 

I went a walk one evening in the public gardens. 
There was a statue fronting the Pacific to General 
Nevelskof, who laboured long and successfully for 
Russian dominion. On the plinth are inscribed his 
own words : " When a Russian flag is once hoisted it 
must never be lowered ! " 




It was at Vladivostok, after I had traversed the 
entire length of the trans-Asian Railway, that a 
particular idea began to ferment in my mind. 

Crossing the mountains east of Baikal many of 
my companions had been oflficers, with green facings 
upon their uniforms. The green braid indicated they 
belonged to that part of the Russian army which 
guards the frontiers of the Czar's dominions. And 
one night while I was asleep, they disappeared at a 
station in the hills, called Katiska Rasiez. They had 
gone to Manchuria, which, for the peace of the 
world, has come under " temporary occupation " by 
Russian forces. 

At Vladivostok I heard much about what Russia 
was doing in Manchuria, how 150,000 Cossack troops 
were in possession, carrying dread punishment to any 
bands of Chinese that resented the invasion, and 
how, under the name of the Eastern Chinese Railway, 
ostensibly Chinese, with a Chinese chairman of the 
board of directors, and the money largely provided 
by the Russo-Chinese Bank — though every penny 
comes out of the Russian exchequer, and nobody has 
a voice in the route, or the building, or the control, 
but Russians — the Muscovites were rapidly laying a 
line across Manchuria to Port Arthur and Vladi- 
vostok, with a junction at Harbin, so that, in case of 
war, military legions could be hastened to Pekin. 


IRussi, ai Workmen saluting a Gni-k Orthodox PrlvA ) 


I heard stories of how the Russian cities were 
springing up in a way that outstripped the mushrocni 
growth of " boom towns " in Western America, how 
money was being made, and, above all, how night and 
day hundreds of thousands of men were working on 
the railway, and laying it at the phenomenal speed of 
three miles a day. 

It is the policy of Russia to keep everything dark 
about what she is doing with her " temporary occupa- 
tion " of Manchuria. She publishes nothing about 
the number of troops or how they are engaged, 
nothing about the Russian settlements, nothing about 
the railway. A strict watch is maintained that no 
prying foreigners should see what is being done. An 
English colonel, after serving in Pekin, proposed to 
return to England by way of Manchuria and 
Siberia. He got into Manchuria, but at Mukden was 
arrested in the politest manner, detained for a fort- 
night, and then, because it would be so dangerous for 
him to travel through a country so unsettled, he was, 
again very poUtely, though to his own chagrin, con- 
ducted to the frontier, and invited to return to his 
native land some other way. A brilliant war corre- 
spondent made a dash for it, got as far as Harbin, and 
was then turned back. I heard of other correspondents 
who had applied to the authorities for permission to 
cross Manchuria, and in every case were refused. 

My journey across Siberia, from Moscow to 
Vladivostok, had lacked incident. And as a love 
of adventure first suggested a trip to Siberia, and 
as I had been disappointed in this, the thought of a 
plunge into the forbidden land of Manchuria laid 
hold on me. 


I knew that if I sought official permission I 
would be refused. I decided not to ask but just 
start off and take chances. 

At the last moment, just as an indication where 
I had gone, should anything untoward happen to 
me, I confided my intention to one or two English- 
men and Americans in Vladivostok. They smiled. 

" Well, goodbye," they said, " and good luck ; 
but you will be back here under arrest within a 

On Thursday morning, October 10th, I went to 
the Vladivostok station, ostensibly to return to 
Khabarovsk and thence make my way up the 
waters of the Amur and the Shilka to Streitinsk, 
where I would strike the Siberian line. But I was 
equipped for another route. 

I was dressed like a Russian. I wore a curly 
woollen Astrakhan hat, a great sheepskin coat, no 
cloth but the skin outside and the inside soft and 
warm — comfortable, though heavy, and giving off a 
stench like a tanyard — and I donned a pair of long- 
legged Eussian boots. Further, I had a hamper 
packed with tinned provisions, meats, fish, jams, 
tea and sugar, for whUe I expected to get hot water 
and bread on the way, I had my doubts about any- 
thing else. 

In the Khabarovsk train I travelled about eighty 
versts to the military town of Nokolsk, which 
bristled with soldiers. 

It was with just a tinge of regret and foreboding 
I then saw my train slowly puff away northwards, 
leaving me to my own devices. 

It was a dull, chill afternoon, with the wind 


sighing drearily over the sandy wastes and making 
the air brown and thick with dust. 

There would be no difficulty, 1 knew, about 
getting as far as Grodikoff, a Cossack town founded 
last year on the branch line that turns off to Man- 
churia and Port Arthur. So I bought my ticket, 
and rejoiced in the information I would not get 
there till dark. 

We trundled through low-ljdng land, all dun 
and dismal, for though there was no snow, winter 
had stricken the land and it lay dead and bare. 
The sky was low and grey, suggesting a snowstorm, 
and the gale whistled about the crawling train as a 
storm sings in the rigging of a ship. 

There were not many passengers. My few 
companions were officials — military men or engineers, 
or men having to do with the telegraphs. 

I got into conversation with a chubby young 
Cossack officer who was proceeding to Mukden for 
two years' service, and did not seem to enjoy the 
prospect. In the dusk I pulled out my pipe-case 
intending to smoke. 

" Ah ! " he said, " I've got one of those," and he 
whipped out a loaded revolver from his hip pocket. 
He laughed when I showed him only a pipe. 

" But what revolver are you carrying ? " he asked, 
" a Colt or a Smith-Wesson ? " 

I told him I was a sufficiently experienced 
traveller not to carry a revolver at all. Thereupon 
he gave a not very appetising account of the things 
likely to happen to a man foolish enough to go into 
Manchuria without a revolver — about train thieves 
and marauding bands of Chinese. Ho knew, of 


course, I was a Britisher, but never once did he 
inquire if I had permission to cross Manchuria. 

Kain was falling pitifully through pitch darkness 
when we reached Grodikoff. I saw nothing of the 

The station was just a barn place, with two 
wheezy oil lamps blinking in the wind. I got hold 
of two jaundiced Chinamen to carry my baggage 
and dump it down at an outhouse that served as a 
restaurant. Here a Tartar provided a supper of 
shashliJc — ^bits of skewered mutton cooked over the 
ashes of a wood fire — a tender and juicy dish. 

At ten o'clock came a scramble to the train, for 
we heard the snort of an engine that came along 
with goods waggon and open platforms and one 
third-class carriage. 

This train would go on to Pogranitsa, the frontier 
station over the Manchurian border and twelve miles 
away. There were no tickets to be bought. It was 
just a train for the military, and if a civilian travelled 
by it he was supposed to have received military 

Those Russians who were not warriors made for 
the goods waggons, into which the ordinary soldiers 
climbed. The officers climbed into the third-class 

I knew that if I went into the goods waggons 
suspicion would be aroused. So I just joined the 
officers and made friends at once. They offered their 
cigarettes and tea, and were laughingly indulgent 
over my execrable Russian. Instead of resenting my 
presence, they were delighted, and two of them 
insisted on using their baggage as seats, so that I 


might have one of the benches to Ue on if I desired 

However, I was in no mood for sleep. I had still 
to pass the frontier, and it was possible I might there 
be checked. 

It took the train two hours covering the twelve 
uiiles between Grodikoff and Pogranitsa, over badly 
laid metals, dipping and rolling not unlike a ship in a 
troubled sea, and now and then giving a lurch with a 
thud as though she had been hit by a monstrous wave. 

It was midnight, and rain was falling, when a few 
jerking lights and the groaning of the train to a 
standstill proclaimed we were at Pogranitsa and in 

So far so good. We all tumbled out upon a 
soaked bank, slippery with slush. There were folks 
already waiting for the goods train that would be 
going on to Harbin and Port Arthur, including women 
and children, and all rather like bundles of clothes 
squatting in the darkness. 

It was bitterly cold. Some of the soldiers got 
wood, however, and soon there were fires blazing. 

The anxiety about being stopped soon passed from 
my mind. The only thing I was anxious about was 
for the coming of the train that would let us get out 
of the cold and wet. 

It appeared a waiting of many hours, though it 
was just half-past one when, like a glaring -eyed 
dragon, a train appeared from I don't know where. 

There was one third-class carriage again, and the 
women and children got into that. There were three 
covered vans with sliding doors, a great deal less 
comfortable than any goods car in England. But 


they afforded shelter, and there was a wild fight in 
the darkness to get inside, because they were high 
perched, and there were no steps, and it required an 
acrobat to twist to mount. 

Cumbered as I was with baggage, I was among 
the vanquished. But there was plenty of room on 
the platforms used for carrying rails and sleepers, 
although it was not cheerful being obliged to spend 
a night there. Anyway, I found myself among some 
rails and rolls of telegraph wire. 

Rain had ceased ; but as the boards were damp I 
spread my mackintosh on the floor, put my felt-lined 
goloshes over my boots, charged my pipe, wrapped 
myself in my sheepskins, and, with a coil of telegraph 
wire as a pillow, settled down to be comfortable. 

At the other end of the platform I noticed a 
heaving mass. Presently two men emerged, and 
crawling to me, asked if there would be much trouble 
with the ofiScials, because neither of them had passes 
to enter Manchuria. 

I was obliged to laugh at finding others travelling 
under much the same condition as myself, save that 
they were Russians and I was a foreigner. 

Indeed, to my amusement, later on, although at 
times there must have been a hundred and fifty 
passengers, including Chinese coolies and moudjiks, 
not half a dozen in the whole crowd had formal 

These goods trains were moving up and down 
the line irregularly, working to no time-table, really 
carrying no passengers, for no fares were demanded, 
yet free to anybody who cared to take rough luck, 
and who were not particular to a week or ten days. 


It was a means of progress that suited me 
admirably. If successful in getting through the 
country, I would be able to form a very good idea 
about that " temporary occupation " of which we have 
heard so much. 

One of my companions was an elderly, grizzle- 
bearded man, a better class trader, who wanted to 
see if he could open a store at Harbin, or Hingan, or 
at Hilar, the three towns in close touch with the 
railway. The other was an excitable little Jew from 
Moscow, travelling with cheap jewellery, and the 
possessor of a revolver, which he was always taking 
out and unloading and loading, and carrying first in 
this pocket and then in that, and once dropping it, so 
that, high-handedly, I threatened that if he didn't 
put the thing away and keep it away I would pitch 
it as far as my arm would throw. 

In the midst of our talk a braided official with a 
lantern came along, and chmbed upon the platform. 
I was huddled and apparently asleep when he flashed 
the light on me and wanted to see my permit. 

I blinked and yawned " Nitchevo," at the same 
time sticking a couple of roubles into his hand, and 
then burying myself in my wraps drowsily. 

That was the end of it. He went away, and I 
supposed generally gathered roubles from everybody 
without a pass. 

So at last I was fairly embarked on my adventure. 
As the train slowly jerked its uneven way through 
the black night, and I lay looking at the stars, I was 
happier than I had been for a long time. The train 
surged among scant plantations, nothing but thin 
bare poles. 


Now and then, however, blazed a log fire, and 
tired workers were lying round or squatting and 
drinking tea and chatting. 

Maybe for a couple of hours I slept, but woke in 
the raw dawn shivering with the cold. Heavy rime 
lay on everything. 

The train had come to a standstill at a siding. 
There were tents about, and Cossacks with sheepskin 
hats hanging shaggily over their eyes, giving them a 
sinister look, were moving up and down, heavily 
cloaked and with guns slung across their shoulders. 

A Cossack was boiling his kettle over a log fire, 
and I followed the example of half a dozen other 
travellers by getting out my kettle, jumping from the 
train — how one's limbs ache after a night's exposure 
— and boiling water for the ever-good Eussian tea. I 
asked a soldier if he could sell me some bread. No ; 
he had none. But an officer standing by said he 
could let me have some. He sawed me off about two 
pounds from a ten-pound loaf. I asked him what 
I should pay, but he laughed at the question. 

Then, hunting out a tin of sardines and asking 
him to join me in eating them, I sat on a log and 
had a frugal but hearty breakfast, just as the young 
day was peeping over the land. 

All day we jogged along fitfully, never travelling 
faster than five or six miles an hour, and halting 
often and long. The track was hke a couple of lines 
drawn by a palsied hand. There was little or no 
banking up. As far as possible the ordinary earth 
surface was used. The metals, however, were heavy, 
of the same weight as those general in England, and 
much stronger than anywhere on the trans-Siberian 


stretch. There was evidence that this line had been 
thrown down with haste. It was nothing more than 
a makeshift line. 

What, however, was not a makeshift line was the 
permanent way in course of construction, either on 
one side or the other. 

Here were thousands of Chinamen at work. 
Proper levellings were being made, banks buUt up, 
cuttings delved, everything indicating that the ncAv 
line will be for heavy traffic. 

The Chinamen swarmed the banks like ants, 
though with a less show of industry. They were all 
going about their work in a slow, leisurely way. So 
the joke of the Russians was to shout, " Hello, 
tortoises ! " whenever a daT^dling group was passed. 

The Chinese used silly little shovels with big, 
thick shafts, and aU the earth, whether to bank up or 
to clear a cutting, was carried in baskets certainly not 
holding more than six pounds' weight of soil. 

Along the way were sleepers and piles of rails, 
telegraph poles, coils of telegraph wire, and a hundred 
things necessary in railway building, but all lying 
about apparently in utmost confusion. Heavy engines 
were snorting over the new line in places — all American, 
buUt by Baldwin of Philadelphia — and in one place, 
where the bank had slipped under the weight, and on 
its side, among a mass of wrecked trucks, was one of 
these fine machines. 

Though very cold the day was bright, and, as 
there was plenty to see, the ride was by no means un- 
enjoyable. All along the route were Cossack guards. 

In places the railway workers were not Chinese 
but Manchus, and in other places groups of gentle- 


featured, white-garbed Koreans were labouring with 
Kussian overseers. 

We began to climb great sweeps of upland covered 
with rusthng, bleached grass until our altitude was 
1,915 feet. There was Uttle to indicate that we had 
gone up a mountain. The descent on the other side, 
however, was sharp and quick. In about four years' 
time a tunnel, being made by a firm of Hungarian 
contractors, will be completed, and then there wiU not 
be the long curves to the top nor the sudden zigzags 
to the bottom. They were real zigzags. A Baldwin 
engine was fastened to the back of the train, and held 
the trucks in check while the leading engine slid 
down the mountain side until she ran into a cul-de- 
sac, and there stopped. Then the engine that had 
been in the rear went first on the other track. So 
the train zigzagged down the mountain. From its 
height the view was impressive. The valley below 
lay in black shadow. But the eye could range over 
the knuckles of neighbouring hills, flushed with sun- 
shine, to mountains in the far distance that reared 
like masses of purple haze. 

We halted at decrepit, dirty villages, half Manchu, 
half Eussian, with everything opposite to the pictur- 
esque about them, many of the houses sloping from 
top to ground, all roof as it were. Any cooking was 
done outside. At each station was flying a Chinese 
flag of yeUow, showing the contorted, spiteful dragon. 
But one corner of the yellow was cut away, and there 
was inserted the red, blue, and white of Russia. 

That afternoon we pulled up near three shanties 
on a woodside, and a gang of Chinese — all squabbling 
and making noises like dogs growling over bones — 


fought with one another to get on a platform, where 
a boiler, made by a New York firm, was chained. 
There was a scuffle. One Chinese was pushed back- 
wards and fell. His head hit the metals and cracked 
like a nut. He gave a wriggle and died. The 
Russians who saw the accident were affected. The 
Chinese laughed. He lay for an hour in the sun 
until I undid his sleeping rug and spread it over his 

He was soon forgotten. A Chinese threw some hot 
water over a growling dog and made it howl. At this 
there were shrieks of mirth. The engine puffed and 
groaned and jerked the waggons into progress. The 
last I saw of this spot was two Chinamen pitching 
mud at the same dog to keep it from sniffing at the 
body of the dead. 




Iron rails do not make the best bedding, and a coil of 
telegraph wire is not to be recommended as a pillow. 
Further, sleeping in the open on the top of a railway 
truck is more uncomfortable than adventurous. 

So, when rain threatened on the second afternoon 
out of Vladivostok, I made ardent friendship with a 
Cossack officer. He discovered that in the goods van 
in which he was travelling with brother soldiers room 
might be found for a wandering Britisher. 

It was a dingy place, half filled with boxes of iron 
bolts and bags of American flour, but almost luxurious 
compared with an open platform. Everybody was 
unshaven and rather grimy. 

We were eight in that van, cramped and huddled. 
Yet from the pleasantries that prevailed you might 
have thought we were on a picnic instead of going 
through a disturbed country and open to attack at 
any hour. Provisions were shared in common — 
bread, tea, turned meats, cigarettes. There was 
sparsity of knives, forks, plates, and cups. But no 
time was wasted in having these articles washed. A 
wipe with a bit of newspaper was all they got. 

The whole country-side swarmed with pheasants. 
A Chinese boy coming along with a bunch swung at 
either end of a pole, somebody bought ten for a 
rouble (two shiUings), and soon the soldiers had them 
plucked, cleansed, and in a stewpot. 


For five hours we were at a standstill. The sky 
was low and sullen, and as soon as night set in down 
went the thermometer. For exercise I took a few 
sharp turns the length of the train, and felt sorry for 
the poor moujiks and Chinese closely crouching on 
the platforms to get the warmth of one another's 

The Cossack soldiers do not mind the cold. They 
had large felt cloaks swathing them, and big bundles 
of hay to lie upon. Much of their time was spent in 
singing — and who that has heard a Slav song, croon- 
ing, pathetic, weird, sung by a Cossack at night in the 
middle of a plain silent as death, can forget it? 
From the chinks in the doorways of the covered vans 
came rapier thrusts of light and the low mumble of 
talk. When the night was at its blackest rain fell, 
and the drops rattled on the vans like shot. 

Once more we went on, jerking and jolting, and 
often we lurched and banged as though we had rim 
into a wall 

Suddenly there was a shaking and a clatter. We 
were almost knocked to pieces. Then quietness. 

Our van had jumped the rails. I was the only one 
who seemed surprised. Everyone else took it as a 
matter of course, turned over, and went to sleep again. 
There was a good deal of shouting and lamp-flashing, 
but in an hour the van was back in its place. Once 
more we went on. 

Just at dawn, as we were running past a siding, the 
points did not work. This time it was the engine 
that jumped the rails. Again, nobody minded. We 
might be stopped a couple of hours or a couple of 


Bub Nitchevo — most blessed of Kussian words in 
the hour of possible vexation ! 

Indeed, there was a general evidence of gladness. 
So long as the train was moving there was no 
opportunity of a fire, and hot water and tea. A 
breakdown, however, meant great fires, with people 
roaming round for wood and water, and consequent 
tea drinking by the gallon. This break turned 
everybody out : Russian officials, officers, soldiers, en- 
gineers, telegraph workers, traders, moudjiks, Chinese, 
Manchus, Koreans, and one British journalist. 

It was like a camp. There was the roasting of 
fowls, boiling of rice, frying of fish. 

A way back from the line was a Cossack post, a 
long, low-roofed, white-washed house, Hke a Scotch 
clay biggin', with a rude stockade, and the hardy Httle 
ponies tethered at long wooden troughs in the open. 
On one side was a high scaffold-like tower, and on the 
top was a Cossack on duty, letting his eye roam over 
the country on the watch for the coming of the 
Hung-hos, marauding bands of Manchus, who raid 
native vUlages and Russian settlements indiscrim- 

Along the whole stretch of the railway across 
Manchuria are Cossack posts, planted, as it were, in 
the midst of a wilderness. 

They are not Hyde Park-looking warriors, these 
Cossacks. They are semi-savages, black-eyed, fierce- 
browed, the finest horsemen in the world, caring little 
for your life, little for their own, absolutely fearless, of 
the dashing, reckless, break-neck sort of bravery, ever 
impetuous. For a charge there are no troops that 
could equal them. But Russian officers told me that 


for modern operations they are not much good, that 
they have not the patience to seek the shelter of 
sand banks, nor make strategic moves, nor remain 
quiet for hours in the hollow of a hill ready for a 
particular mancBuvre at a particular moment. 

The Cossack soldier, in return for the land the 
government gives him, provides his own horse and 
equipment. A Cossack, therefore, with all the in- 
dependence of his wild race, thinks himself more than 
the equal of a Russian officer. There is no servility 
about him. It is difficult to make him obey orders. 
When there is fighting he must get amongst it at once 
with his bare sword. 

From Russia's point of view these Cossacks are the 
best possible guards to place along the Manchurian 

First and foremost, the object of that hne is to 
carry troops to the shores of the Pacific, and the 
phenomenal haste with which the building of it was 
being pushed on was — as I gathered from many 
Russian sources — a fear that Japan intended to 
precipitate a conflict for the possession of Korea. 
From this very line between Grodikoff and Harbin, 
a branch is made to the Korean frontier. Its purpose 
is obvious. 

Russia wants no mishaps to the Manchurian 
railway in time of war. So it runs through a more 
or less desolate region, north-west, over the Hingan 
mountains, across a corner of the Mongolian desert, 
until it joins the Siberian line at Katiska Rasiez, 
near Chita, in trans-Baikalia. 

All the towns on the route are new and Russian. 
Where there are Chinese towns they are contiguous 


to the Russian towns, which are also military 
centres. For twenty miles on each side the line the 
Chinese and Manchus have been driven back. I 
heard gruesome stories of what has taken place 
when there has been any show of resistance — the 
men slaughtered, the women violated, and then their 
throats cut. 

There were some hundreds of thousands of 
Chinese coolies engaged on the railway, and near 
Harbin, and Hingan, and Hilar were also Chinese 
settlements. But I did not see any Chinese women. 
They had all been sent away for fear of the 

Naturally I saw much of the Cossacks. Their 
attire, the sheepskin hats struggling over their eyes, 
made them forbidding. But it did not take long to 
find a good deal of bluff animal kindness about 
them. They were rough and rude; they knew 
nothing of town life; their tastes were simple and 
very primitive. They made fires for us, lent us their 
pans, and gave us bread, and none of us dared insult 
them by offering money in payment. 

A couple of Cossack patrols came along, swung 
themselves from the saddles, and throwing their 
carbines aside, lay on the ground by the fire, and 
were served with cups of hot tea by their own mates. 

It was a damp, moansome day. The Cossacks 
on the train got a piece of canvas sheeting, and 
rigged themselves a tent on their open truck. 

But in the dark the wind came shrieking and 
snapped the cords. We heard the engine snort and 
shriek. It was a sign all was well again. So we 
curled up and went to sleep, while all night the 






train cumbrously jogged on. We were running 
through scant forest. 

There were no leaves, and the trees were skeleton, 
save when there was a brush of fir. 

We stopped and we jerked, and then stopped 
again. It was dreary. The mists hung round the 
trees and blanketed the landscape from view. It 
was impossible to wander more than fifty yards 
away, for that would have provoked fate to send the 
train on without you. 

First we stopped seventeen hours ; then we 
crawled for two hours ; next we stopped for five 
hours. That makes twenty-four hours, and tells 
how we spent Sunday, October 13th. We probably 
travelled ten miles. 

On the Sunday we pulled up at a struggling 
hamlet of new houses. 

" What is the name of this place ? " I asked. 

" It has not got a name yet," I got as a reply. 

Besides Russians there were many Chinamen 
about. The policeman, porcine and pompous, with 
a wUlow-plate kind of design on his chest and back, 
and carrying a red-painted stick, was a Chinaman. 
He looked important. But standing near were grey- 
cloaked Cossacks with fixed bayonets. 

Next we ran through a plain of sodden wilder- 
ness. It began to snow, followed by sleet and snow 

Thus we reached the town of Harbin; not to be 
found on most maps except under the name of 
Hulan. It is a great jimction. It came into 
prominence in 1900 because the Boxers destroyed 
the line here, and besieged the town for several 


weeks. The station itself is a paltry place, but there 
are eight tracks of rails. Huge stacks of stores for 
troops are guarded by soldiers. 

Seven years ago there was not a single Russian 
in Harbin. Now there are nearly nine thousand. 
Old Harbin, or Hulan, where the Chinese live, is a 
distance away, and there are some ten thousand 
Celestials, a weak and puhng lot of men. 

But New Harbin, where the Russians are, is for all 
the world like a "boom" American town. It has 
sprung into existence in a few years. Big stores and 
hotels are being pushed up, and everywhere building 
is to be seen. Fortunes are made by men who have 
got patches of land centrally situated. 

Theoretically this is Chinese territory, and there- 
fore goods coming in from the sea at Dalny — Talienwan 
on our English maps — pay no duty. 

But you do not -buy them cheaper at Harbin 
because of that. Indeed, everything costs about 
double what it does at Vladivostok. Two hundred 
per cent, is the profit a trader must make, or he thinks 
he is doing bad business. 

Harbin is now the principal town in Manchuria. 
It is a magnet to aU the adventurers in Russia. 
There are two or three murders every week. Respect- 
able folks who go out at night do so in bands, the 
men armed, and with a Cossack guard. 

Russian officers, and the army of engineers engaged 
on the railway — they are all excellently paid to 
stimulate them to hurry the line to completion — 
make for Harbin when they get a few days' leave. A 
Russian's idea of good-fellowship, when in his cups, 
is to squander, to pour champagne on the floor, just 






to show he doesn't mind expense, to Ught his cigarette 
with a three-rouble note, and generally splash money 

There is a caf6 chantant at Harbin, which has the 
laxity of ca// chantants in other parts of the world. 
The night before I was at Harbin, an engineer arrived, 
his pockets bulging with roubles, and he showed his 
idea of money by making all the girls sit in a row 
while he poured champagne on hundred-rouble notes, 
and then stuck these notes (£10) on the foreheads 
of each of the eight girls. That is the Harbin idea of 
having a good time. 

Now, though Harbin is in the " temporary occu- 
pation " of Eussia, the Chinese have the administration 
of the country round. Chinese robbers, the Hung- 
hos for instance, are tried by Chinese authority, and 
the beheading that takes place is by Chinese law, and 
not by Kussians. All these robbers when caught are 
executed. They are made maudlin drunk on samshu, 
and are then puUed to their knees by a tug at the 
queue, and a swish of a sword takes off the head. 
These heads are stuck on poles, and planted on 
the wayside as a warning to evil-doers. I saAv 

Harbin and the country round provided the 
strongest possible evidence that, whatever diplomatic 
language may be used, Russia is in possession of 
Manchuria^ and intends to stay. It is a very largo 
plum drawn out of the Chinese pie 

Roughly, Manchuria has a population of some 
seventeen millions, comprises about one- tenth of! 
China's entire area, is six times as large as England 
and Wales, and possesses a climate resembling that 


of Canada ; its mountains are said to ooze gold, and 
its harbour. Port Arthur, is splendid, free from ice all 
the year round. 

Though the railway does not run through a fertile 
reg>\)n, the land is full of possibilities. And there is 
this thing to be said in favour of the Russian occu- 
pation: before the Russians came it was little more 
than a sterile waste ; now money is being poured into 
the country, and another ten years will probably 
reveal wonders. 

It is not, of course, so wealthy as the great western 
Chinese province of Sztcheum, contiguous to our 
Indian territory, and which the French are doing 
their best to slice off for themselves by running a 
railway to it from Tonquin, by way of Yunnan, but 
gold mines have already been worked, though only in 
a primitive way. Petroleum, copper, and tin have 
been found. Coal beds lie close to iron beds, and that 
means much. AH that is wanted is machinery and 

Remember it is only five years since (1897) that a 
party of Cossack military surveyors, accompanied by 
Russian engineers, made a journey across Manchuria 
to spy the land for a railway. There were a couple of 
chains of mountains to be crossed, and on the plains 
the soil was unstable. The report of these surveyors 
was unfevourable. But pohtical reasons pressed the 
importance. In 1898 the Czar said, "Let the line be 

And there it is, 1,200 miles long, from Nikolsk to 
Katiska Rasiez, and 890 miles of it through Chinese 
territory. It is the seal to Russia's power in the 
Far East. 


Nominally China conceded the right to build this 
railway to an anonymous company. Everybody, 
except people who frequent Downing Street, knows 
the line belongs to the Eussian government. Share- 
holders must be either Russians or Chinese. But 
bonds can only be issued with the consent of Mr. De 
Witte, the Russian Minister of Finance. The president 
of the Eastern Chinese Company, as it is called, is a 
Chinaman. Mr. De Witte, however, appointed the 
vice-president, all the engineers and officials, and gives 
sanction to any improvements or modifications. 
Colloquially the Chinese president is in Mr. De 
Witte's pocket. 

I spent part of my afternoon at Harbin shopping, 
buying another sheepskin, a big German sausage as 
hard as wood, and half a dozen tins of Singapore 
pineapples, exported by some patriotic Britisher, for 
they were of the " Jubilee Brand," had a picture of 
Queen Victoria, decorations of Royal Standards and 
Union Jacks, and displayed views of soldiers and 

But nobody seemed to know when a train was to 
go northwards to Hingan and Hilar. 

It would be easy enough to get down to Mukden 
and Port Arthur, and it took me an hour to make it 
clear I did not want to go either to Mukden or Port 
Arthur. Then I was informed that three miles away, 
on the other side of the river Sungari, it was possible 
I might find some goods waggons going north to-day, 
to-morrow, or next week. That was what I wanted. 

It took me hours, however, to extract the simple 
fact that there was a bridge over the Sungari, and 
trains on the other side. 


The station-master provided a trolley, and I piled 
my belongings on it. This was pushed along by four 
Kussian workmen. Then I borrowed a couple of 
Cossack soldiers to act as guard, and I set off to 

The sleety tempest of the day had waned, and the 
late afternoon, with a watery simlight playing over 
the coxmtry, was not without beauty. The railway 
bank was strong and well built ; it had a double 
track, and led to a great eight-span iron bridge over 
the Sungari. This bridge had only been finished four 
days, and no train had yet passed over it. It was 
protected by Cossacks, but a word by my guard 
opened a way. So I walked over. 

The Sungari here is about twice the width of the 
Thames at London Bridge, and as I was high perched 
I could see the waters of this mighty stream for far, 
flowing northwards until they join the mighty stream 
of the Amur. On one bank was the native town, a 
long, bedraggled street with the Chinese slithering in 
the mire. On the river were hundreds of pug-nosed, 
hump-backed Chinese junks with long venetian-blind 
kind of sails, dropping down stream, the men singing 
as they dipped the large oars, while in and out among 
them dodged noisy and perky little Russian govern- 
ment steam launches. The clouds broke, and a flush 
of crimson spread along the distant hills. 

It was dark evening when I reached the station, a 
white-washed hut with a dirty oil lamp by the door. 
The station-master was friendly. As far as he knew 
a train would be going on some time in the night. 
So with a lantern we went exploring and foimd an 
empty goods car. That was excellent. 


Then, wrapping myself in my sheepskins and 
making a rough pilloAv, I lay down in a corner 
with a candle stuck in a bottle as light, smoked my 
pipe, fell asleep, and when I awoke in the darkness I 
was delighted to feel the jolting motion of making 



For a whole day, Tuesday, October 15th, the goods 
train in -which I journeyed trundled the Sungari 
plain, called the eastern Gobi desert. 

The eye ranged across a sea of dun-coloured, rank 
grass. A bleak wind whistled mournfully. 

The only excitement was when the train got off 
the line, which it did thrice in the day. Then as my 
waggon was cold and my Umbs ached, I was able to 
get out and run to stimulate warmth. I never saw a 
■village, though there were plenty of Cossack guard 

My quarters in the van were wretched, but they 
were better than those of the other passengers — may- 
be twenty, excluding Chinese coolies — for they were 
in open trucks, and looked blue with cold. A big, 
black-bearded Russian, and the Httle Jew I met near 
the frontier, came and asked permission to travel with 
me. As far as I had any authority they were 
welcome enough, and they showed their gratitude by 
boUing water for me whenever I showed a disposition 
towards tea-drinking. I would not Uke to hazard a 
guess how much tea I did drink. It had the merit of 
providing warmth. 

There was a closed waggon under the guard of 
eight Cossacks. Two young fellows jumped out at 
one of our many halts, and we got into conversation 
round a wood fire. They were Russians, but one of 


tliem spoke English like a Britisher. He had lived 
for some years at Shanghai. He and his companion 
■were in the employ of the Russo-Chinese Bank, and 
were taking along something approaching a million 
roubles to open a branch of the bank at Hilar, in 

The line was too unsteady for night travelling, 
and so the train pulled up at dusk, and remained 
stationary till morning. 

I was out in the open before daylight to watch 
the break of day, just a leaden streak, then a gleam 
of silYcr, then a crimson flush, and then the sun, 
like a great pear, cUmbing over the edge of the 
world. Fires had been blazing all night, with 
Cossacks lying around, or sitting chatting, or making 
ready the eternal tea. 

Once more we went on, and by nine o'clock we 
were at the station of Tsitsikar, a flourishing Chinese 
city, but twenty-five versts from the railway. So 
I saw nothing of it. We had a long wait, for what 
nobody knew, except that when my Russian banking 
friend and I went into a little inn where we might 
get some soup, we found the engine driver very 
drunk, and stiU drinking. In the afternoon he was 
j willing to take the train on, and though the driving 
was reckless and we were banged till we were sore, 
the fates were kind and we did not leave the metals. 

What I saw that evening will long remain in 

We were beyond sleet and rain, and sundown 
came over the land majestically. Far off was 
a prairie fire, and the last rays of the sun, 
catching the volumed smoke, illuminated it like a 


purple mantle, while the dreary, drab grass was 
burnished into old gold. The ground was marshy 
with a hundred lakes dotted with islands, and broken 
by peninsulas, and millions of wild fowl cluttered 
over the water and screeched at our coming. So 
night fell. 

Suddenly, straight ahead, as though the palace 
of a genii had been lit up, there blazed a hundred 
lights. Electric lamps ! 

Yes, electric lamps, so that the Russians might 
see for [the building of their great iron bridge over 
the Nuni river, which is really the parent of the 
Sungari. The train came to a standstill under the 
glare of those lamps alongside other tracks laden 
with waggons and cars. Russian oflficials were moving 
about with lanterns, and growing hoarse yelling 
orders to hordes of Chinese coolies. 

The electric light gives a blue, pale, eerie look 
to the human countenance in the streets of an 
English town ; but here, away in middle Manchuria, 
the light pouring down on heavily clad and top- 
booted Russians, and wild-featured, sheepskin-hatted 
Cossacks, and the lean, shining-faced Chinese all 
screaming, and with glint of the electric light flashing 
to you from their sHt eyes — well, it was a curious 
scene ! 

Great wooden sheds reared at intervals across the 
river. These were built about the foundations, 
already laid, and the clang of iron smote the ear. 
For there are two thousand Russians and five 
thousand Chinese working night and day, seven days 
and seven nights in the week, pressing on with the 
building of that bridge. 


When I looked upon that spectacle of iron shafts 
being reared, heard the snort of steam cranes swing- 
ing girders into place, and beheld how everybody 
seemed animated with an almost demoniac haste, I 
understood what the Russians can do when they are 
reaUy determined. 

Alongside this rearing structure was a creaking 
temporary wooden bridge laid with metals. No 
engine dare attempt to cross it, but it can bear two 
or three waggons at a time. The waggons of our train 
were uncoupled. Some fifty or sixty Chinese sur- 
rounded them and started to push and sing. 

The singing was a low, melodious monotone, 
such as I have heard from the Yang-tze boatmen in 
Western China. One man had the solO; and the rest 
was a rich chorus. When the waggons yielded to the 
pushing and ran easily, the singing became more 
catchy, sprightly, and the chorus was a series of 
short gleeful barks at every step taken. 

I stood on an open platform while we went across 
the huge, clanging bridgework on the left, with great 
electric eyes looking down on us, and half lighting the 
sallow faces of the Chinese, and on the right the black 
waters of the slothful Nuni. 

A village of workshops and huts, called Falardi, is 
on the north side of the river, and here the Russians 
live, and have a rough and ready restaurant, where I 
was able to get my first honest meal for a week. 

Sometime in the night we went on again, but after 
an hour we stopped ; then a few more versts on, and 
then stopped again, and then at a place called Bukarto 
we pulled up for what seemed the better part of the 
day. In thirty hours we had travelled eight mUes. 


Some of the time I had as companion a fine 
stalwart Russian officer of the frontier guard. The 
only word of EngUsh he knew was " Shocking ! " 
That one word he made do good service. The line 
was " shockeeng ! " the condition of our waggon was 
' ' shockeeng ! " the delay was " shockeeng ! " I gathered 
that he learnt the word by the fact that English 
characters in Russian novels most frequently use it ! 

Bukarto consisted of not more than a dozen log- 
houses, spread over about ten acres of shingled hill- 
side. Near at hand were low hills with black knuckles 
of rock protruding. A gusty wind swept up from the 
Gobi, and made eyes ache with sand. A caravan of 
dromedaries, maybe sixty of them, came out of the 
wilderness with slouching foot-pats, and disappeared 
away into the wilderness again. 

Round an elbow of hill was a Cossack encamp- 
ment, and as I was told the line was being re -metalled 
some dozen miles on, and the train might be delayed 
two, three, or four days, possibly a week, I went roam- 
ing the camp. 

There was none of the smartness generally asso- 
ciated with military camps. The huts were of 
wheezy boards. There was no furniture except rude 
tables and rude stools. The beds were sheepskins 
thrown on the floor. All the cooking was done over 
log fires, out of doors, and the food chiefly consisted 
of black bread and tea. 

The Cossacks, rough and dark-featured, lounged 
round or squatted on the ground cleaning their rifles. 

Strolling back a Cossack came to me and said 
something gruffly. I told him I didn't understand 
what he was talking about, and went oa He followed 


me to tJie train. I jumped into the waggon. Two 
other Cossacks came along, and the three chmbed in 
beside me. 

They wanted me to do something, but I couldn't 
make out a word they were saying. The first soldier 
showed a disposition to throw my property out of the 

Then the Britisher in me got uppermost, and I 
snatched my bag out of his grasp and told him to 
clear out. After a while he and his friends went. 

But in a quarter of an hour they came back, 
accompanied by an oflScer. We exchanged respectful 
salutations, and speaking in German he said I was not 
a Russian, and he wanted to know to what country I 

I told him I was a Britisher, and a journalist. 

Then he must ask me to accompany him to see the 
colonel of the guard ! 

I confess I had some misgiving. Here I was, 
checked at last, without any authority to go through 
Manchuria, and liable to uncomfortable treatment. 
I had come so far without any trouble, and I felt 
chagrined. I was practically under arrest, for as I 
walked along with the officer the three Cossacks fell 
in behind with fixed bayonets. 

We marched to a bare-looking building, and I was 
left in custody of the soldiers while the officer went 
inside. I sat on a log with these grim Cossacks close 
by, ready to bring me down if I attempted to escape. 
So I put the best face on it I could, ht my pipe, and 

In ten minutes the officer invited me to enter the 
building, which I did. 


It was a bare kind of room witli accoutrementa 
hanging on tlie walls, an oleograph of the Czar, and 
some official papers. The colonel of the guard, a 
well-set, iron-haired man, rose as I entered, and we 
exchanged bows. He was very poHte, and said he was 
sorry to trouble me, but as I was a foreigner he must 
know what I was doing in Manchuria. 

I explained I had been across Siberia to Vladi- 
vostok, and was now on my way home. 

But why, he asked, did I not return the ordinary 
route by the Amur a^d Shilka rivers ? 

Because, I said, the ice had stopped the steamers. 

Ah, of course ; but was I a military man ? 

I laughed and let him understand I hardly knew 
one end of a gun from the other; I was just a 
journalist travelling, and writing about what I saw. 

So, then, I probably had papers explaining who I 

Of course ; and I produced my passport, and alsoi 
my letters from St. Petersburg, recommending ma 
to the courtesy of the Kussian officials in Siberia. I 
knew there wasn't a word in them about Manchuria, 
and I stood patiently awaiting my fate. 

Very slowly he went through those papers ; then 
he carefully folded them and handed them back to 
me with a bow. 

Ves, he said, they were all right, and he was sorry 
to have put me to inconvenience. Would I join him 
at dinner ? 

I accepted, though my inclination was to laugh. 
To be arrested as a spy and the arrest to lead to 
an invitation to dinner had something decidedly 
humorous about it. 



Over the dinner it came out that the train was 
likely to be delayed at least four days owing to the 
relaying of the line. I grumbled mildly. 

"But," said my host, "the line is all right at 
Hingan, twenty versts on. I'll give you tarantass and 
horses, and you can get on there in a couple of hours, 
and I will telegraph to the station-master you are 

I was infinitely obliged. 

So the very Cossacks who had worried me and 
followed me with fixed bayonets were sent as porters 
to bring my baggage from the train. 

And just as dusk was falUng two tarantasses, un- 
comfortable-looking carts, each drawn by three horses, 
pulled up ; my goods and chattels were thrown into 
one ; I climbed into the other, settled down among 
the hay, pulled my skins about me, received wishes 
for a good voyage from the officers, and so, with the 
bells on the harness jangling merrily, set off over the 

It was a long and cold drive. I lay at the bottom 
of the tarantass, with furs piled about me, and was 
cosy. There was no road — just a track, and all round 
were low black hills. Here and there were tufts of 
drifted snow. Twice we crossed streams, and the 
wheels crunched ice. Much of the way was through 
swampy woods. The earth was frozen hard. 

A heavy, sombre stiUness was on the world, broken 
only by the tinkling bells and the clatter of the cart. 

Now and then we met Manchus journeying in 
their quaint vehicles — long, and covered with 
matting, so that they looked like casks, and all lined 
with skins, making them warm, and the driver., slit- 


eyed, with high cheek-bones, sitting well inside so 
that he could hardly be seen. 

In time we got back to the railway, and the road 
track ran alongside it. Beneath the trees fires blazed 
luridly. Gangs of cooUes were cooking the evening 
meal. We struck a defile in the hills, and wound 
about them following the trail of a stream. 

Hingan town was a long, straggling, distorted 
place, the houses new and built higgledy-piggledy, as 
hke a Western American " boom " town as can be 

It was not till I reached here that I discovered 
the drivers of my two carts were a couple of 
lymphatic Tartars, whose knowledge of Russian was 
as limited as my own. They did not know the way 
to the station. 

So I jumped out at a drinking saloon and found 
myself among a number of Pole overseers in charge 
of the four thousand coolies working on the two miles 
of line under repair. They said the station was some 
versts on, up a hillside. 

Off we set, slowly cUmbing zigzag a lean, dark 
mountain, with a few trees blasted and dead by the 
way. We stopped to give the horses breath, and then 
the only sound was the bark of dogs down in the 
town below. A thin sprinkling of snow was on the 
ground, and the air was biting with frost. 

We reached the top, and there was a canvas 
camp, with again many fires lighting up the gloom, 
and with Chinamen flitting everywhere like 
shadows. It took half an hour winding among 
tree stumps before the station was reached — a barn 
of a building. 


I was so cold I had hardly strength to push open 
the door. I found myself in a big room packed 
with piles of baggage and folks squatting on the 
floor. Russians don't like fresh air, and the place 
was fetid with the odour of unwashed bodies. It 
was a mixed crowd — soldiers, traders, moujiks, 
women and children, some curled up asleep, but 
most sprawling in awkward attitudes. I got a man 
to pull my sheepskin coat from me, and sighting a 
samovar in the corner, I drank tea till I thawed. 

It was not a savoury spot to spend a night in. 
The nostrils, however, soon got accHmatised, and the 
place was warm, which was the principal thing. 

Presently in came the station-master, a thin slip 
of a man, extremely nervous, and anxious to do 
anything. He gave me his office to sleep in, and 
helped in arranging skins on the floor as a make- 
shift bed. 

Inquiries about a train in the direction of Hilar 
brought out that there would not be one till six the 
next evening, I shrugged my shoulders, and was 
resigned to wait till then. 

"But," said the station-master, "an engine and 
some trucks are going along to Mindenken, some 
sixty versts from here, and you can go by it, and it 
will start any time to suit you." 

I was in luck's way again. 

Five o'clock in the morning, I suggested. Yes, 
five o'clock in the morning for certain, and as there 
was a fourth-class carriage about, he would have it 
put on for me. 

I woke myself at half-past four in the morning, 
and went out to see if the train was about. 


Not a sign. It was pitch dark, save for a few 
blinking stars. It was so cold that hoar lay on the 
boards half an inch thick. 

On the other side of the hne some Chinese were 
making tea. I went to their fire to warm myself. 
They offered me a cup, and delightful it was, though 
muddy. Then I went back to the station, and 
entered the room where the crowd of poor folks 

Everybody was asleep, and the lamp flickered on 
upturned faces, unshaven soldiers, rough and thick- 
lipped peasants, plain women with the sadness of 
long patience on their faces, tiny mites of children 
dead tired, sleeping open-mouthed across the 
mothers' knees, and the little chubby fists hanging 
carelessly. They all, poor souls, were coming to this 
land of Manchuria from Siberia to labour and to 
earn their bread. I shut the door gently, not 
wanting to break the sleep that shutters care. 

It was eight o'clock, a bright morning, but with 
cold that cut like a wolf's tooth, when the engine 

There was a grey-painted fourth-class carriage, 
bare and dirty, with a broken window, but still a 
carriage. There was shunting to get some trucks 
to go along. 

The news spread that this was a train bound 
Siberia-wards. Then the trucks were besieged by an 
army of men who sprang from beneath the trees 
where they had been sleeping, men clad in wooUen 
garments, with velvet breeches, huge felt leggings, 
sheepskin hats, but with the hair inside, making 
them look as though they had stewpots on their 


heads, great bundles swung behind them, and most of 
their beards a mass of icicles. They were labourers 
from Little Kussia, in the south, with their work 
now over, returning home as best they could, and 
snatching the opportunity of a lift. With their 
padded clothes and great bundles, they were 
hampered in their acrobatic efforts to clamber into 
those three trucks. However, they all got on, 
though they were wedged as tight as sardines. 

Away dashed the train with its light load. The 
soil was stony, and so the ballast was good. 

The country, however, was a featureless plain, 
but with the shoulders of hills heaving in the 
distance. I was nearing the terminus of the line, 
so far finished on the Manchurian side of the Hingan 

There were stations by the way. One had been 
opened two days before and consisted of a single 
goods waggon. 

With a shriek and a long whistle the train 
stopped opposite a few huts. This was Mindenken, 
the last spot to which trains that day ran. 

So I had my belongings thrown on the bank, 
and set about finding means to take me over the 
mountains into Mongolia. 




You will not find on a map the cluster of wooden_ 
huts called Mindenken, where the Manchurian rail- 
way, on Saturday, October 19th, 1901, came to a 
sudden stop. But you may easily find the Hingan 
mountains, breaking north-east between Mongolia and 
Manchuria, and if you draw a line from Hilar, spelt 
sometime ChaUar, in the land of the Mongols, to 
Sitsikar, spelt sometimes Tsitsihar, in the land of the 
Manchus, you may suppose Mindenken to lie within 
the eastern shadow of the Hingan range. 

I have said that on that Saturday the railway 
stopped suddenly at Mindenken. On the Sunday it 
would stop farther west, and on Monday further west 
stiU; whilst all the time, on the other side of the 
hills, the line was creeping south. So within a fort- 
night after I had passed that way the two sections 
would have joined, and the dream of travellers to 
make a journey from Paris to Pekin by rail be 

For never since man has been able to wield a 
spade has any work been pushed on with such 
rapidity as this eastern Chinese railway. 

I took a walk several miles up the line to where 
the building was in progress. Towards a great cleft 
in the mountain a track was staked over the barren 
plain. Three thousand Chinese coolies were doing 
nothing else but shovel the adjoining earth into 


baskets, swing two baskets at the end of a pole across 
their shoulders, carry it to between the stakes, and 
build a bank some two or three feet above the level. 
They worked slowly and carried paltry amounts of 
earth, and dawdled on their way back for another 

Yet what a lot of blue ants they were, surging to 
and fro and gradually, at the shout of the Russian 
overseer, moving further along the plain. 

On the new bank marched men, levelling the 
earth where it humped. Stacked near by were piles 
of sleepers. Coolies seized these and flung them 
across the track, not always straight, and at distances 
sometimes a foot, sometimes three feet apart. 

Not many yards behind where the rails were being 
laid came a trolley. On this were other rails. A 
dozen men on one side, a dozen men on the other, 
caught two rails, ran forward with them, thumped 
on the sleepers, and then — with a Russian foreman 
holding a stick to measure the exact distance they 
should be kept apart — there came the clang of 
hammers and the driving of clamps. That finished, 
there was possibly a levering up of a sleeper, and the 
shovelling under of earth to get something approxi- 
mate to evenness. Then the trolley rumbled forward 
a few yards, and other two rails were seized and 

Behind all was a long goods train, filled with 
railway building material, crawling in the wake of the 
workmen and feeding them with sleepers, and rails, 
and bolts. 

I walked over the section built on the Friday. 
It was humpy ; the two rails were like the first effort 


of a child to draw parallel lines ; in some places the 
rail was holding the sleeper end from the ground 
instead of resting on it. 

But here was the great fact : the railway was 
being built, trains could run over it, and troops be 
carried. And the laying of that line was at the extra- 
ordinary rate of three English miles a day ! 

That day, a distance of 40 miles (60 versts) 
separated the two sections of the line working towards 
one another. This I was to cover in a tarantass. 

For the convenience of engineers and officers, and 
British journalists, there was a post station, rather 
like a cowhouse, exceedingly dirty, and when I looked 
at the roof, not more than six inches above my 
head, I shuddered at finding it simply heaving with 

The peasant Kussians have a superstition about 
these creatures. They won't kill them. Indeed, 
when they build a new house they fill a hat full 
of bugs from the old residence and turn them loose 
in the new one, for a house without bugs is an 
unlucky house. The things kept falling on the floor 
and the table, and on my person. 

I had a bowl of cabbage soup, but, while eating it, 
it was necessary to hold my hat over the dish like a 
lid to avoid accidents. 

With much patience, I got three horses and the 
tarantass. A few kopecks led to a double quantity 
of hay being thrown in the bottom of the tarantass 
so I might be more comfortable. The horses — one 
in the middle with a big wooden arch, painted green, 
red, and yellow over it, and with jangling bells, and 
one on either side — were sturdy animals. The driver 




was a lean Tartar who had taken to Russian dress. 
With him on the front of the car sat a sharp-faced 
Russian soldier, whom it was thought necessary to 
send with me in case a few Boxers threatened 

There was no road as we Britishers understand 
a road, only a well-marked track into the mountains. 

There was a low wind blowing, so that at times 
we were enveloped in dust. The day, however, 
although bitterly cold, was fine, with the bluest of 

And what a joy it was to escape from the evil- 
smelling, jolting tram, and sit at one's ease behind 
three horses that were racing like the wind I The 
intoxication of motion settled on me, and the ride 
was delightful. 

There was nothing impressive about the moun- 
tains. They were old mountains, rounded with age, 
the valleys all filled in and as level as plains. We 
took great sweeps up a mountain side, but once over 
the ridge, there stretched another filled-up valley, 
with here and there the head of a rock sticking forth 
as though refusing to be buried. 

Twice we passed halting caravans in charge of 
Mongols, who looked at us drowsily as the sweating 
horses scampered by. 

The country was desolation : long, rank grass with 
patches of swamp on the hillsides, ragged sheets ot 
black marking the range of summer fires. Not a 
tree was anywhere. It was a barren region. And 
yet when the horses stood panting after a long climb 
there was satisfaction in looking at this corner of the 
world, so far from the bustling, active West, and 


watching the heave of the hills till they faded in a 
purple haze. 

In the middle of a plain we came upon a newly 
built hut, half a dozen low-roofed felt tents, and 
a fenced yard with horses and tarantasses about. 
This was Yackshi Kosatshi, where horses were to be 

The postmaster was a pock-marked, red- whiskered, 
surly rascal, who gruffly told me he had no horses. 

I pointed him out thirty. 

Well, those had just come in and were dead 
tired, and he couldn't let them go out under four 
hours ! 

Next I pointed out that twenty of the horses had 
not been out all day, judging from their appearance. 

Oh, well, he expected some officials along. 

Of course he was lying. He was simply wanting 
to be bribed into doing his duty as a special favour. 
I gave him two roubles and told him I would expect 
three of his best horses to be ready in half an hour. 
Then I crawled into one of the tents where some 
moujiks were eating, made myself tea, and ate a 
hunk of bread. Coming out I found the horses 

I've never seen horses in my life that could go 
hke those three. 

The driver was a wiry old man, with tiny, 
twinkling eyes, and a huge flowing beard. And the 
pride he took in the pace of his horses ! Standing 
up, he swung the loose end of the reins round his 
head and gave a yell. The horses bolted. There was 
no fear of collision with anything except a mountain. 
With practically no weight for three horses to draw 


the animals tore along, their heads in the air. I 
gripped the side of that tarantass, enjoying it 
immensely, but with a little wonder at the back 
of my head what exactly would happen if something 
gave way. Kussians love their horses to go fast, and 
frequently the old fellow would turn round and grin 
and ask me if the ride was good. 

A steep hill with the uneven track hugging its 
side, reduced the horses to a walk. I got out and 
walked also. 

The day was just beginning to soften to grey when 
I stood on the top of the Hingan Mountains, 
Manchuria behind and Mongolia in front. There was 
a pile of stones close by, accumulated through the 
ages. Every traveller, Mongol, Manchu, Chinese, 
Eussian, or wandering Britisher, is expected to 
contribute to the pile. I roamed till I found a loose 
stone, threw it on the heap, had one last look at 
Manchuria, and, climbing into the tarantass, was 
carried at a breakneck speed down upon a corner of 
the great Gobi desert. It was all a wild waste, with 
the wind sobbing fitfuUy. 

There was something, however, that attracted my 
attention. It was a rude wooden cross. Some way- 
farer had fallen, and here had been buried, and friends 
had raised this rough emblem of his faith. 

Mad hallooing on the part of my driver, and 
spurring on of the horses, that should have been 
spent, but were not, symbolised our arrival at Bolshei 
Yackshi. It was a lanky Eussian village, crouching 
in the shelter of a hiU as though it would escape the 
sweeping sandstorm that roared along from the Gobi. 
The hotises were of logs, but, with the exception of 


a little passage for the doorway and a little aperture 
for the window, every house was like a pile of earth, 
for sods had been planted over to help in resisting the 
winter cold. 

We drove some versts beyond, out to the plain 
again, bumped over a railway crossing, saw workmen's 
tents, and pulled up at a wooden house, which was the 
station. The dust had given me the face of a collier 
fresh from the pit. 

The first thing I did was to hunt up the station- 
master, a youngish, anaemic man, shivering from the 
cold, and asked about a train to the frontier. 

" Next morning, at daybreak," said he sourly, and 
he pointed out the cars a long way off, and told me I 
would find a fourth-class carriage. So off I trudged. 

The fourth-class carriage was under the charge of 
a poor, cringing wisp of a man, who had the place 
heated with a stove to an absolutely unbearable 
temperature. But he was willing to do anything to 
oblige. So the windows were soon open, and he 
tramped off to get a. paU of water from somewhere. 
Then, with him holding a lantern and my converting 
the carriage step into a dressing table, I stood out on 
the desert and had my first wash for two days. 

Next, in Saturday cleanliness, I went away back to 
the station to hunt for food, because the successful 
progress of a journalist, like that of an army, largely 
depends on the stomach. In a dirty hovel of a place 
I got a man to sell me a tin of sardines for 4s. Bread 
was cheaper, and I got a two-pound chunk for ten- 
pence. When I returned with my provisions the train 
attendant had boiling water, and soon tea was ready. 
That carriage was full of the odours of blistered paint. 

— ^ 

.-fy^M^sir:^ ^■.--■-^■f*- 



Therefore I preferred to sit on the railway bank, 
while my wisp of a man rummaged round and 
gathered chips from sleepers to keep a fire going. 

The next morning, Sunday, October 20th, no 
engine put in its appearance. 

" When would it ? " I inquired. 

" Ge chas ! At nine o'clock ; at midday ; cer- 
tainly in two hours ; without doubt at five o'clock ! " 

It was a raw, drear Sunday. 

I was the only person waiting for a lift, and it was 
lonely. The man was, of course, a sort of companion, 
but he had a smirking Uriah Heep way of raising 
his shoulders and rubbing his hands that was 

I walked up and down for an hour or two for 
exercise, and he sat watching me as though I were 
some animal that amused him, yet which he wanted 
to please. 

In the afternoon some Mongols came along on 
camels and driving a herd of sheep. They camped 
for the night and killed a sheep. I bought part of it. 
It was something to do, for while the man made a 
fire, I cut up the meat for soup, and when the blaze 
had gone out and nothing remained but glowing 
embers, I threaded bits of the mutton on a wooden 
skewer and cooked them over the glowing wood. 

That is what is called shashlik. I don't know 
what it would be like in an English dining-room, but 
eaten on the Gobi Desert, though it did taste of the 
skewer, and there were ashes on it, it was one of the 
daintiest and most luscious dishes imaginable. 

No signs of any incoming train that night ! No 
signs either in the morning ! At noon however 


there was a puff of smoke on the horizon, and in about 
two hours in crawled a train. 

What had been the delay ? There had been three 
trucks off the Hne ! But in two hours, when the 
engine-driver had fed, he would take back our train. 

Two hours, four hours, six hours went, and the 
engine, which had gone on with material for railway 
building some twelve versts further, did not return. 
Why ? The same three trucks had gone off the line 
a second time ! 

So another day went. 

The wind never ceased blowing from the desert, 
bringing with it a haze of sand which gave the sun a 
dull, bronzed hue. Night came in an angry mood, 
and the gale hissed and spat around my dreary habi- 
tation. Far in the night, however, there was a bump 
and a jerk. It was impossible to sleep, but I didn't 
mind, for the train was going on at last. 

What a morning ! 

The sky dark and lowering, the train staggering 
over a world widowed of all beauty ! There was snow 
and sleet and rain. 

In a hurricane of the elements we reached Hilar, 
a great Mongol city. When I jumped from the train 
and felt the full blast of the cold, it was as though I 
had been shot with a thousand needles. There were 
new-built Russian houses about, but no evidence of 
the Mongol city. 

Rubbing up acquaintance with a Russian, I learnt 
the city was two miles away, and we set out to see it 
together. On the way we came to a Chinese temple 
with low, fluted roof, curled up at the corners in the 
customary Chinese temple style. 


We had hardly stepped over the threshold ■when a 
Russian soldier dashed at us with fixed bayonet, and 
threatened nasty consequences if we didn't get out. 
It is unwise to argue with a man holding a fixed 
bayonet, and accordingly we went out. 

My Russian companion was indignant. We sought 
the colonel, who in turn was wroth with the over- 
zealous warrior, and himself offered to show us the 
temple. In the courtyard were a number of quaint 
old Chinese cannon, mounted on wooden wheels and 
studded with iron nails, captured by the Russians 
during last year's disturbances. Soldiers were loading 
into a cart a quantity of flint-locks. The temple 
itself was in disorder. The Russian troops had run 
riot. The chief god, a big, brown-featured monster, 
had been battered with sticks, and one eye had 
disappeared. His nose was a pulp, and altogether he 
had a very dissipated air. Another god was pock- 
marked with revolver shots. 

About half a mile off was Hilar itself, a walled 
city, entered by a double gate surmounted by a 
picturesque turret. It was like going into a place 
that had been stricken with some fell disease. The 
city consisted of one long street with Chinese houses 
on either side, but many of them were in ruin, and 
there wasn't a Chinaman to be seen. 

The town was in possession of Russian troops, and 
the Russian flag fluttered in a dozen places. 1 
asked the colonel if there had been any fighting 

"No," he said, "all the Chinese fled on the 
approach of the Russians." 

The principal building was now used as an 


Orthodox Greek Church, and three bells from the 
pagan temple were utilised in calling Christians to 
worship. Buildings had been demolished in the 
centre of the town, the space cleared, and in the 
centre stood a cross. 

" That," explained the colonel, " is the site for our 
new church." 

The train halted for nine hours at Hilar, till 
another train from the opposite direction came in. 
It brought a crowd of officers and their wives and 
children, all on their way to Manchuria. On we went 

The Hne improved, and without a mishap we 
trundled a whole day through a featureless plain. 

There were no villages, although there were 
stations at intervals, and many little settlements of 
Cossacks to guard the line. We began to pick up 
officers on their way home for a holiday. Then late 
on the Wednesday night we reached the frontier. 

Here the Eastern Chinese railway ended, and my 
free trip came to an end also. There was a branch 
line of the Siberian railway running third-class 
carriages to the main line. The price was some ten 
sbilhngs for over a day's ride. We sped through a 
snow-smothered country to Katiska Easiez. 

I was back in Siberia, at a spot I had passed two 
montk^ before. From there I returned to Irkutsk, 
crossing Lake Baikal in a storm, the ship's side a mass 
of ice and the thermometer registering 44 degrees of 
frost, Fahrenheit. It was Sunday evening, October 

I drove through the snow-slashed streets of " the 
Paris of Siberia," just a little sorry my adventure of i 


crossing the forbidden land of Manchuria was 

But the delight it was to remove one's clothes, 
have a bath, and sleep in a bed — for the first time in 
seventeen days — is not to be described in words. 




Back in Irkutsk I availed myself of the offer the 
governor-general of the province had made two 
months before, to visit the largest prison in Siberia, 
that of Alexandrovski. 

The convict town lies just fifty miles to the north- 
west of Irkutsk, over halls and through a wild and 
wooded region. The journey was to be made by 
tarantass. As it was the closing days of October, and 
aU Siberia lay beneath a cloak of snow, sledges were 
scudding through the broad streets of Irkutsk, every- 
body was wrapped in furs, and it was likely to be a 
cold trip. As companions I had the secretary of the 
inspector of prisons and a young German, who spoke 
Russian well, and who was delighted to have the; 
opportunity, by acting in the capacity of interpreter, ' 
to see the inside of a famous prison. 

It had been arranged that we were to start in the 
early afternoon, and reach Alexandrovski in time to 
have an evening meal with the governor. 

But you must always allow a margin of a few 
hours in Russia. So I was not surprised at it being 
close on five o'clock and the daylight waning when I 
heard a great jangle of bells in the streets heralding 
the arrival of two tarantasses. 

They were like great country carts, roughly built, ' 
with the back covered with a hood lined with skin. ' 
Everything had been done to secure comfort. The 


bottom of the cart was filled with hay, and over this 
had been thrown sheepskins. There were piUows 
under the hood, sheepskins to throw over us, and a 
big leather apron that buttoned three parts up the 

I donned a pair of clumsy, knee-reaching felt boots 
over my ordinary boots, and besides an ordinary top- 
coat, suitable for winter wear in England, I put on 
my sheepskin shuba, and on the top of that a mighty 
enveloping fursldn travelling coat lent me by the 
prison inspector. Thus, with a warm Astrakan hat, I 
felt I might brave a visit to the North Pole, though I 
was as ungainly as a walrus. 

My companions were clad much the same, but 
they carried revolvers, and threw them on their 
pillows ready for use ; and at the last moment a 
friend pushed his revolver into my hand, and insisted 
on my taking it. There had been fourteen murders 
in the outskirts of Irkutsk the previous week. 
Desperadoes were about, and it was unwise to go 

It was just dark when we set off, the German and 
I, in the big tarantass, and the official following in a 
smaller tarantass. The six horses were fresh, and 
with much bell-ringing away we clattered into the 
country. The road was little other than a track, 
roughed up in the rains and now frozen hard, and 
with not sufficient snow to deaden the jolting. We 
jolted till I was certain my bones were splintered. 

The night was beautiful. The moon, a great arc 
of light streaming upon a world of snow, gave a 
brightness almost as of day. We climbed into the 
hills that had a whiteness only broken by tufts of 


gaunt fir trees. There were long stretches of slow- 
going, then stretches at a rattling pace, then 
crawling again. There was no wind. 

Around us was a great moon-swept silence but 
for the bells that sang crisply in the icy air. After 
fifteen miles we reached a posthouse, and were glad 
to throw off our heavy coverings and move our chilled 
limbs while the wife of the postmaster made tea. 

Here we decided to have sledges. 

Travelling by sledge on a moonlight night, 
through stiU woods, and with not a sound but the 
hoof pats of the horses and the merry ring of the bells, 
is a delicious experience. The driver forsook the road 
and took short cuts by copse sides, going gaUy, with 
now and then a pelt of snow kicked by a horse 
striking us in the face. The bank was often steep, and 
our sledge swerved over like a yawl hit by a sudden 
gale, and the driver slipped to the ground and pushed 
back to prevent an upset. It was exciting and 

The cold ? Oh, it had become cold when midnight 
was past. It was the first time in my hfe I had any 
conception of what real cold was like. I make no 
guesses at how many degrees of frost there were. But 
my cheeks felt as though they were being pared with 
a knife. The German and I lay at the bottom of the 
sledge and puUed sheepskins over us, though we were 
already swathed in furs. Yet the cold struck us, and 
seemed to freeze the marrow in our bones. We 
huddled, too numb even to speak. 

When we finished the second stage of twenty miles 
we could hardly walk. We could not get rid of our 
wraps without aid. It was a full half-hour before any 


sensation came into my hands and I could lift a glass 
of tea to my lips. Then we went on by sledge again. 

I remember the night was bright, and that I 
rebuked myself for not sitting up and musing poetic- 
ally. Ugh ! but all poetry was frozen. 

It was four o'clock in the morning when we arrived 
at Alexandrovski, having, with two halts of an hour 
each, taken eleven hours to come from Irkutsk. 

There was a great forbidding building. But all was 
quiet except that on the corners of the wall tramped 
soldiers with rifles. 

Lights shone in a house. This was a club for the 
prison officials. The attendants, all good-conduct 
convicts, helped us to remove our burdensome clothes, 
showed us our bedrooms clean and warm, pulled off 
our boots, and brought slippers, and in a quarter of an 
hour had a meal of cutlets and coffee on the dining- 
room table. 

Whilst at breakfast, five hours later, I was called 
upon by the governor of the prison, the governor of 
the " ^tape " or distributing station, the chief medical 
officer, and other officers. 

Had it not been for his uniform, epaulettes, top 
boots, and mihtary cap, I might have taken the 
governor for the conductor of a German orchestra — a 
smallish, well-set, grey man, with long, iron-streaked 
hair thrown straight back, and features that reminded 
me of the portraits of Liszt before he became a very 
old man. 

We set out in a group, tramping the snow to see 
the village, the governor on the way telling me that 
all the men I saw about, except those in uniform, 
were convicts whose conduct had been good enough 


to warrant their being allowed out ot prison to act as 
workmen or servants. Now and then, he said, a man 
escaped. But Siberia is a difficult place to get out of, 
because CYerybody may be called upon by the police 
to show their passports. The only way a man has 
any chance of freedom is to waylay a peasant and 
murder him to get possession of his passport. Convicts 
do not try to escape in the winter. The climate is too 
terrible for them to live in the woods while making a 
long cut across country, sometimes a thousand or 
twelve hundred miles, to some spot where they are 
not Ukely to be recognised. Unless they have got a 
passport arrest is certaia. In that case they remain 
dumb. They will neither give their names, nor say 
where they have come from. There is no direct 
evidence that they are escaped prisoners, and, although 
all efforts are made to identify them, and often success- 
fully, quite a large number gain their liberty after a 
few months, because it is impossible to keep a man in 
prison on suspicion of being a runaway, however well 
founded the suspicion may be. 

The governor said he had very little trouble with 
escapees. With a smile, he assured me that the men 
were much better cared for and fed in a prison than 
they would be out of it. The usual plan for convicts 
is to serve so many years in prison and then be obliged 
for so many years to live in a particular district of 
Siberia before they are at full liberty to return to 
Russia. Very few of them do so, for by the time they 
have fuU liberty they have probably a good situation, 
or are settled in business. In the case of deserving 
men, the governor himself tries to get them situations, 
for he recognises the evil of turning men loose with in- 





structions to shift for themselves. All the hotel porters 
and many of the workmen in Irkutsk are ex-convicts. 

The Russian prison authorities have recognised, as I 
pointed out in the chapter describing a visit to Irkutsk 
prison, that the present system is a bad one. The 
convicts, excepting the political exiles, are in many 
cases of the usual degraded class, who do not return 
to Russia when they have the chance, but hang round 
the towns, a danger to the community. The evil 
reputation of Irkutsk is entirely due to the fact that 
half of the population are Hberated cut-throats, or 
their children. The respectable Siberians object to 
their country being the dumping ground of the 
villainous riff-raff of aU Russia, and so gradually the 
practice of sending convicts to Siberia is being stopped. 

Right opposite the club-house is a fine brick 
Greek church, entirely built by the convicts. All the 
carvings, decorations, even the sacred pictures, are 
convict work The centre of the church is open, but 
the back part is heavily barred, and so is the gallery. 
It is here that the prisoners are marched to their 

Then we walked down the street to the soldier- 
guarded entrance of the prison, where 1,260 men, 
from aU parts of Russia, even the utmost corners of 
Turkestan, were undergoing penal servitude for all 
the worst crimes against society. 

There is no need for me becoming wearisome by 
giving a detailed account of what I saw. 

The great thing that got wedged into my mind 
was, how different everything was from the popular 
idea in England of what a Siberian prison is sure to be. 

Alexandrovski gaol is a great square building, 


severely plain. The passages are high, colour-washed, 
and with sand on the floors. The prisoners were all 
in long, grey, and ill-fitting coats. The dormitories 
had about fifty men in each. These men jumped to 
their feet, and in a chorus returned our "good 
morning." They were mostly heavy-jowled, brutish 
men, who eyed us with sullen gaze. 

The governor, whose manners were not official 
but friendly, picked out a man here and there, asked 
him what was his crime, gave a grieved "tut-tut" 
when it was horrible, now and then patted a young 
fellow on the shoulder, and when a prisoner showed a 
stick he had been carving he admired it as a father 
would admire the work of his boy. 

I saw no restraint or check. Several of the men 
came up and said they were shoemakers, or tailors, or 
carpenters, and asked that they might be given work 
— for a reason I wUl presently explain. 

These men in the large dormitories do nothing 
but lounge and talk the day away. They get brown 
bread and tea for breakfast, soup and chunks of meat 
in it for dinner and more bread, and in the evening 
bread and tea again — the usual food of the artisan 
Russian, but much better in quality, as I know from 
experience. The sanitary arrangements were the best 
I have seen, and I raised a smile by wishing that at 
my hotel ia Irkutsk they were but a tithe as good. 

In one great hall all the Mohammedan prisoners 
were together — thick-lipped, slothful-eyed men. In 
another were all Jews, and on one side was the ark 
so they might worship. I walked along between a 
double row of them casting casual glances to right 
and left, when suddenly a little bead-eyed prisoner, in 


a coat much too big for him and trailing the gromid, 
stepped up to me and said, " Are you from England, 
sir ? " 

I was startled to be addressed in perfect English 
in a far-off Siberian prison. So I replied, " Hello ! 
where do you come from ? " 

" I belong to Glasgow," he answered, " and my 
father is manager of the Hotel in Edinburgh." 

" Well, you've got a long way from home, haven't 
you ? " I added. 

" Yes, sir, I have," he replied. I couldn't weU ask 
him what was his offence, but I said, " How long are 
you in residence here ? " 

He smiled back, " Oh, I'm here for ten years, and 
another six years to serve." I afterwards asked the 
governor about him, and learnt that he was a forger 
from Kiga. 

Then to the workshops. There was one large 
room where a band of men were making boots for 
their fellow prisoners, and another where rough and 
ready tailoring was in progress. The largest work- 
shop was that devoted to carpentry. Tables and 
chairs and wardrobes were to be seen in course of 
manufacture. Also there was iron-work, largely the 
making of cheap bedsteads. 

There was another big and well-lighted room 
devoted to men who had a faculty in a particular 
direction. I spent half an hour here. There was 
one old man bookbinding, another was engaged in 
the designing of patent locks ; one man was mend- 
ing watches ; the man next him was making a con- 
certina, whilst still another was busy with crewel work. 

The idea that I was in a prison— one of the dread 


Siberian prisons, in truth — slipped from my mind. 
Instead of convicts, the workers looked like a body 
of well-contented artisans. There was no hindrance 
to conversation, and many of the men were smoking 
cigarettes. This led to explanations. 

There is not enough work to be found for all the 
men, and idleness palls on even the hardened 
convict. They are anxious to work. The governor, 
who knew all about the prison system in England, 
held that men should not be given hard labour just 
for the sake of the hard labour. 

"I never set a man to do anything," he said, 
"that is not useful; that he himself cannot 
appreciate. Picking oakum demoralises a man, 
but teach him bookbinding and you are making a 
useful man, who appreciates his usefulness, and who 
will have something better than robbery to turn to 
when he has finished his term." 

Everyone engaged in work at Alexandrovski 
receives a wage; very small, but still a wage. This 
is entered up to him, and it can accumulate till he 
leaves; or he can spend it while he is in prison. 
This led to a visit to the prison shop, very much like 
any other shop, with a counter and all sorts of 
things stacked round. Here a prisoner could buy 
niceties up to the amount of the balance standing in 
his name — ^white bread, cheese, sausages, sardines, 
cigarettes, etc. 

My exclamation was that the prisoners were a 
great deal too well treated. 

" No, no," repUed the governor, " if we are doing 
anything to make the lives of these poor fellows a 
little brighter, we are doing right." 


Then he button-holed me with both hands, and 
turning his kindly grey eyes up to my face, he said, 
" I know you are a journalist, and that you will be 
■writing about your visit. AU I ask is that you tell 
the truth. I am sickened and grieved at times when 
I read what is said in English and American papers 
about our prisons. A prison is a prison, and we 
have to be very, very severe with certain types of 
prisoners. But that we prison officials are vindictive 
and cruel, well — well, all I ask is that you will tell 
what you have seen." 

I was struck by the sincerity and kindness of 
the old man, and I remarked, half in jest, " It is a 
wonder you don't have a theatre." 

" We have," was his immediate reply. " This is 
the only prison where there is such a thing, but I 
believe in amusing my men. Would you like to 
see it?" 

So we climbed to a big upper room, and there 
was the stage and scenery and drop curtain complete. 
This was luxury indeed. 

" I cannot give you a special performance," said 
the governor, " but we are very proud of our singing 
here. Would you like to hear it ? " 

We sat down and smoked cigarettes whUe a 
messenger was sent to hunt up half a dozen singers. 
They came in their prison garb, six inteUigent- 
loo^g men, and they sang three part-songs as finely 
and with as much verve and expression as many a 
renowned choir. 

Then to the library. AU the men are allowed 
several hours of liberty each day, and those who can 
read — not a large proportion — make for the library. 


As we walked along the corridor I noticed a number 
of pictures upon the walls. They all portrayed the 
evil consequences of drink. There were some thirty 
men in the reading-room, and had it not been for 
the prison garb, I might have been visiting a small 
public library at home. There were heavy books, 
novels, and, strangest of all, newspapers. 

The talk turned to the wives of prisoners. The 
governor told me that the authorities quite appre- 
ciated the evil straits to which a woman might be 
put through being stranded and alone while her 
husband was sent for a long term of years to Siberia. 
When a man is banished from Kussia to Siberia his 
wife may claim divorce by right. But should she 
prefer to follow her husband the government will pay 
the passage for herself and children to the town 
where the prison is situated. After that the woman 
must shift for herself, though the government make 
a meagre contribution of about three-farthings a day 
towards the maintenance of each child. As far as 
is possible, the prison finds work for the women in 
the shape of washing and sewing. A married convict 
who behaves himself is allowed to work outside the 
prison, to Hve, indeed, with his own family, provided 
he reports himself every day, and pays a certain 
proportion of his wages to the authorities. 

Sledges were waiting for us, and away the horses 
scampered up a hill, where we visited the school for 
the children of convicts, clean, neat, and in charge 
of a gentle-natured matron. The little girls, who 
were sewing, made us dainty curtseys as we entered 
the schoolroom. 

It happened to be the hour when the boys had 


finislied schooling, but we found them in adjoining 
workshops, all busy learning trades. Though there 
was a pathetic side to it, a smile crept to the lips on 
seeing a chubby little chap, aged seven, mending a 
big boot, and doing it awkwardly and with flushed 
cheek — for the high prison authorities and a couple 
of foreigners were looking on. 

Next a quick ride to another part of the town to 
the " etape," guarded by a wooden wall of fir trees 
standing close and on end, and all sharpened on the 
top. Every twenty yards there marched hither and 
thither through the snow a soldier with musket 
across his shoulder. 

This was a distributing station, to which batches 
of convicts are sent from all parts of the Russian 
Empire to await decision where they shall spend the 
years of their punishment. Just as we entered a 
batch of forty men, muffled in heavy grey coats, were 
starting out in the custody of exactly the same 
number of soldiers, to walk seventy miles to a small 
prison up country. 

I was not favourably impressed with the " etape." 
The rooms were overcrowded, and the stench almost 
choked me. The men looked dirty and ill-cared for. 
They had no work ; they were just huddled together, 
waiting often six or eight months before they were 
sent off. 

In the yard I caught sight of six young fellows in 
ordinary civilian clothes, and with certainly nothing 
of the criminal about them. 

Afterwards, on entering one of the rooms, the 
brightest and cleanest in the "etape," these young 
men stood up and greeted us. Meeting them waa 


the one thing, during my visit to Alexandrovski, that 
filled me with sorrow. They were boys, the youngest 
seventeen, the eldest twenty-two, bright and intelli- 
gent. They were political exiles! They had taken 
part in some boyish socialistic demonstration against 
the government. For this they had already been in 
prison for a year, and were on their way to the dreary 
frozen province of Yakutsk, under banishment for ten 

There is much the traveller is forced to admire 
about Russia. It isa pleasure to find things so much 
better than sensational writers describe. But for a 
mighty government to wreak vengeance on boys 
inclined to socialism is so mean and paltry, so very 
stupid ! 

The lads, however, didn't seem to mind. With 
money supplied by their friends they have had what 
food they liked ; they had plenty of books and news- 
papers. One of them had a little writing table, and 
on it were photographs of his mother and father. 

It was now afternoon, and the governor invited 
me to dinner with his family and the chief prison 

It was a bleak, snowy afternoon. But the Russians 
are fuU of hospitality, and at the table the talk 
drifted to more pleasant things than convict life. 
After dinner the governor got out his violin, the 
doctor produced his 'ceUo, and with the governor's 
daughter at the piano we had an hour of Mozart's 

It was a little strange : in far Siberia, in a pleasant 
drawing-room, a young lady at the piano, and the 
governor of the biggest prison in Siberia — who ought 




I suppose, to have been a brutal- visaged man devising 
cruelties — throwing back his long hair, while his grey 
eyes sparkled in the ecstacy of musical enjoyment, 
and then just across the road the dark walls of the 
prison, with hooded soldiers standing on guard. 

It was night again when I bade good-bye to 
Alexandrovski and climbed my sledge, and from 
beneath bundles of furs waved an adieu to my friends 
of a day, and started back on a fifty-mile ride through 
a snow-slashed land to the city of Irkutsk. 




I CAME back to the Western world, from Irkutsk to 
Moscow, by the famous bi-weekly express. 

When my face had been set eastwards, Siberia 
was in the first flush of summer. But now, from the 
Hingan mountains, bordering Manchuria, till I crossed 
the frontier into Germany, a stretch of seven thousand 
miles, I saw nothing but a wilderness of white — the 
woods bare and the trees frosted, the plains like a 
silent snowy sea. 

The cruel wind came in a whisper from the north- 
west, sweeping a crystal spray into drifts. The villages, 
ugly and gaunt, lay as though dead. Now and then 
along the trackside were seen sledges, rough boards 
on a couple of runners, and the Siberians crouched in 
a bundle of sheepskins, shivering with cold. 

The wayside stations were dismal and desolate. 
There would be the clang of a bell ; then the red- 
capped station-master would run out, heavily furred, 
and with one shoulder raised to ward off the icicle- 
teeth of the north ; there would be a double clang ; 
then the bell would ring three times and on the train 
would go again, on and on, a trailing speck across the 
white prairie. The country was at last like the 
Siberia of the novelists. 

But the travelling ! You good folks who get into 
the Scotch express at King's Cross, and have a fine 
dining-car and talk about how very luxurious travelling 


has become in these days, must journey between 
Irkutsk and Moscow to know what really can be done 
in railway comfort. 

It was not a big train. There was the heavy 
engine, there was one first-class car, there were two 
second-class cars, a restaurant car, and another car for 
cooking, carrying baggage, and so oa The train was 
luxuriously fitted, and first-class passengers (there not 
being many) had each a coupe to themselves, double- 
windowed to keep out the cold, hot-air pipes in plenty, 
and a thermometer on the wall so that they might see 
the temperature ; a writing table, a chair, a movable 
electric lamp with green shade, two electric bells, one 
to the car attendant, and the other in communication 
with the restaurant. 

Each night the attendant would make up a com- 
fortable bed, soft and clean, and the regulation is that 
the linen be changed three times in the eight days. 
A touch of the bell in the early morning, and a boy 
brought a cup of tea. Ten minutes later there was a 
rap at the door, and the attendant entering, put down 
your boots he had polished, and told you the bath 
was ready ! 

As the rails are wide, the coaches heavy, and the 
speed something under thirty miles an hour, there 
was none of that side-jerking which is so inconvenient 
on an English line. The train ran smoothly, with 
only a low dull thud, to remind you that you were 
travelling. So steady was the going that I shaved 
every morning without a disaster. 

Keturning to my coupe, I found the bed removed, 
the place swept and aired, and the attendant spraying 
the corridor with perfume. 


In the middle of the car was a lounge, and at the 
tail of the end coach a little room, almost glass 
encased, to serve as observation car. 

The restaurant was a cosy place, with movable 
tables and chairs, a piano at one end, and a library at 
the other. Outside were some forty degrees Fahren- 
heit of frost, but the heat of the carriages was kept at 
about sixty-five degrees, which was warm, but suited 
the Russians. 

I am afraid I ministered to the general beUef on 
the Continent that all Britishers are mad. Whenever 
the train stopped at a station for ten or fifteen 
minutes I jumped out, just in a light lounge suit and 
cloth cap, and started a little trot up and down for 
exercise. The Russians, who never put their noses 
outside the door, regarded me through the windows 
with open amusement. One told me I was known as 
" the mad Englishman," for, they argued, a man must 
be mad who forsakes a nice warm carriage to run up 
and down in the snow while an icy wind drags tears 
from his eyes. 

How the railway administration makes that 
Siberian express pay is a wonder. The first-class fare 
for the entire journey is just over £8, while second- 
class passengers, who have all the advantages of the 
first, save that their coupes are not so finely decorated, 
only pay about £5. 

Russia is determined to get all the quick traffic 
between Western Europe and the Far East. Now, if 
you go by boat from London to Shanghai it will 
occupy thirty- six days, and the cost will be from £68 
to £95. If you travel express all the way by the 
Moscow- Vladivostok route you can get from London 


to Shanghai in sixteen days. Travelling first class 
the cost -will be £33 10s., second class £21, and if you 
don't mind the rough of third class you can be taken 
the whole 8,000 miles for just £13 10s. 

You go riding over the trans-Siberian line for 
one day, two days, a week, and still those twin threads 
of steel stretch further and further. The thing 
begins to fascinate, and you stand for hours on the 
rear car and watch the rails spin under your feet — 
miles, miles, thousands of miles ! 

It is not the gaunt, lonesome waste of Siberia that 
frightens you. What grips you and plays upon your 
imagination is that men should have thus half- 
girded the world with a band of steel. 

The Russian is an easy and agreeable traveller 
He puts up no barrier of chilly reserve between him- 
self and his fellows. 

On board that train was like on board ship. In 
a day everybody was friendly with everybody else. 
Russian military officers played cards all day long 
with German commercial travellers; a long-limbed, 
fair-whiskered naval officer, on his way home after 
four months' starving adventure in the far north 
map-making, became the devoted slave of the stout 
Moscow Jewess, who wore diamonds that made one's 
eyes ache, and who was constantly tinkling with one 
finger on the piano the refrain in Chopin's " Funeral 
March " ; three rugged, good-natured American gold 
miners, returning from the MongoUan mountains, 
lay on their backs reading novels, except when they 
turned over on their sides to spit ; and a couple of 
Boers from the Transvaal, who had been gold pros- 
pecting in Southern Siberia, became the best of 


friends with myself. We avoided any reference to 
the war. 

Twice there was an impromptu kind of concert on 
board. Dreary, grey, snow-driven Siberia was all 
around, but in that car, warm and light, with wine 
bottles about, the air filled with smoke, and the 
pianos jangling music-hall airs, we were the merriest 

So day by day we rolled to the west, leaving 
Siberia behind, chmbing the Ural mountains and 
descending them into Europe. We left Irkutsk on 
Friday evening, November 1st, at midnight, and on 
Saturday evening, November 9th, 1901, we roared 
into the great station at five minutes past seven, 
exactly seven days, twenty-three hours, and fifty-five 
minutes on the way — arriving to the minute by the 
time-table — if allowance is made for the difference in 
time between the two cities. 

Moscow was brilliant with lights. It was all 
wrapped in beautiful white, and hke silent meteors 
there dashed thousands ot sledges up and down and 
along its broad streets. To appreciate a Russian city, 
you must see it in frosted winter glory. And Moscow, 
one of the most striking of cities — quaint. Eastern, 
Byzantine — was aglow with happiness and mirth. 

So I ended my mission of curiosity. 

I went to Russia with, at least, some of the average 
Britisher's prejudices against the country. I came 
away with none at all. There were things, of course, 
which no Britisher can put up with, such as the 
unflinching iron of autocratic government, that crushes 
and kills all freedom in political thought. Whenever 
I got an English newspaper, with great black splotches 




by which the censor had obliterated criticisms of 
Russia, I always felt like mounting a table in the hotel 
dining-room and delivering an impassioned address 
upon the hberty of the press. Smearing out criticisms 
and sending boys to the hungry region of Yakutsk, 
because they have boyish ideas of socialism, strike the 
Britisher as puerile. 

Russia, however, is an empire of contradictions. If 
you try to study her along a parallel of Western 
thought, you bungle and stumble, and are wroth. 
The actions of a country, like the actions of a man, 
should be judged from its own standpoint, and not 
from the standpoint of another. Heaven forfend that 
I, a scampering journalist, should play the dogmatist 
But even a helter-skelter sightseer, if he keeps his eyes 
very wide open, and stretches his ears to their fuU 
length, may see and hear some things that give him a 
ghmmering of vision of what is beneath the surface of 
a nation's characteristics. 

The fact of the matter is, as it struck me, Russia is 
half Eastern, and the Eastern man doesn't understand 
rule by reason. He only respects governments by 
force. And honestly, knowing something of the 
crookedness of the Eastern character, how absolute is 
the lack among Russians of what I might call the 
arrogance of race — which is revealed in the very walk 
of a Saxon — how the Russian wants to be Western 
and yet stamped across him there is the Hkeness of his 
Tartar mother, and his nature restrains him, I hesitate 
to think that an autocratic rule is not the best for 
Russia. Many pressing reforms are undoubtedly 
needed ; but they are reforms in detail and not in 


It was my fortune to come into contact with all 
classes in Russia, from personal advisers to the 
Emperor to moujiks undergoing imprisonment for 
petty theft. Although corruption is rampant through- 
out the public service, I am convinced you would not 
stop it by establishing another form of government. 
You would simply raise a different brood of vultures. 
The towns have municipal representative control. 
But, in a general sense, from the mayor to the lowest 
scavenger, everyone has his price. 

I saw evidence of what is called " Liberal Russia," 
people who are strongly imbued with Western ideas, 
and are in a kind of passive revolt agaLost the Russian 
mode of government. The word Nihilist is an obsolete 
term, so I may call them Revolutionaries. Most of 
them were charming people — cultured, widely read, 
and fuU of kindness. 

I liked them without admiring them. They argued 
like emotional women: they were all love and 
compassion for the human race, frenzied antipathy for 
all restraint ; but they spoke of freedom in a way that 
left the impression on my mind they did not under- 
stand what the word implied. 

Whenever I tried to get the conversation into a 
fixed rut in what way Russians could be given a voice 
in the government of their country, away they soared 
into the air with generalities about the rights of man- 
kind. They were delightful folks, but impracticable. 

Now, as to Siberia, generally, I have made it clear 
it is not a land waxing great in beautiful landscape. 
There was much that interested me and had an 
individual fascination, but from the time I left Moscow 
till I reached Vladivostok, and from Vladivostok 


across Manchuria back to Moscow again, I never saw 
a bit of country which in beauty could not be easily 
rivalled during an afternoon's bicycle ride in Surrey. 

Dismissing, however, the picturesque, and regard- 
ing Russia and the wide stretch of Siberia from a 
useful standpoint, I do not believe there is another 
region in the world so full of agricultural possibilities. 
People who talk enthusiastically about the wheat- 
growing possibilities of the United States should 
restrain their breath for when they come back to 
speak of Siberia. It will be the ultimate feeding 
ground of the world. But the Russian as a farmer 
is contemptible. Here is a land that only wants to 
be tilled; yet the Russian peasant is lazy, and 
prefers to buy flour from Portland, Oregon, than 
grow it himself I saw the ship-loads of American 
flour being landed at Vladivostok. 

And here again I must refer to the one Uttle sore 
I felt all the time I was in Siberia — the way the 
Germans and Americans are pushing forward and 
supplying everything in the way of foreign goods 
which the Siberians want, cloth stuffs, general mer- 
chandise, railway locomotives, and agricultural 
implements, while Britain has done nothing save 
build a few ships. I must have met a hundred 
German commercial travellers in Siberia; I never 
met a single English commercial traveller. I talked 
trade whenever opportunity presented, and the off- 
hand manner in which England was always dismissed 
as being, commercially, quite out of the running, 
stung my patriotism deeper than was pleasant. 

In previous chapters I have endeavoured to 
describe Siberia as I saw it There was much in the 


country that Western folk might criticise, much that 
raised more than a smile. 

But if I were asked to express in one word what 
were my impressions, I would write "favourable." 
Whatever might be the evils of the convict system, 
Eussia is removing them. The convicts are well 
cared for, and as for the pohtical exiles, apart from 
the hardship of exile, they are left much to their 
own devices. I have been told by returned exiles 
that the pleasantest part of their life was when 
they were Hving in a httle republic of their own, 
far from the outer world. 

I am loth to destroy a delusion. But the popular 
idea that it is hard for the foreigner to enter Russia, 
that his steps are always dogged by the secret police, 
that ears are at every keyhole, that every letter is 
read by the censor, who is sniffing for a plot, that it 
is necessary to keep one's tongue still if you don't 
want to suddenly disappear, and your friends never 
hear of you again — all this, and its like, is just a 
bundle of rubbish. 

There are certain things that Russia doesn't want 
you to know, and they do their best not to let you 
know. It is, of course, necessary to have a passport ; 
but with the exception of handing it to the hotel- 
keeper on the evening you arrive, and receiving it 
back on the morning you leave, there is no more 
trouble travelHng in Russia than in any other land. 
Indeed, the foreigner is welcomed, and is given 
privileges the Russian himself often finds it hard to 

One word in conclusion. 

Russia is no longer a second-rate power. She is 


in the front rank. Whatever be her methods, she 
dominates the politics of the Far East, and has her 
share in directing the pohtics of the world. Her 
march is east and south, inevitable and unchecked. 

It was Bismarck who described Russia as a 
colossus on clay feet. But those feet have hardened 
since the words were spoken. They have clattered to 
the Pacific; they have clattered across Manchuria; 
they are in Mongolia ; they are about Persia and 
about China. Not yet — " Never ! " cries the Britisher 
— but they hope some day to clatter through 
Afghanistan to India. 

India is what the statesman in St. Petersburg, look- 
ing over his coffee and straight into your eyes, calls 
" Russia's destiny." And when your eyes throw back 
a defiance, he ofi'ers you a cigarette, smiles, and says 
" We will see — in the future ! " 






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