I might go on to tell you of many other tribes; but I must be content just to mention a few.
There is a tribe who live in the eastern part of Siberia, called the Yakuts, and instead of deer, and dogs, they keep horses, and oxen, and strange to say, they ride upon the oxen; and eat the horses. A horse’s head is counted by them a most dainty dish. The cows live in one room, and the family live in the next, with the calves, which are tied to posts by the fire, and enjoy the full blaze. You may suppose that the calves need the warmth of the fire, when I tell you that the windows of the house are made of ice, but that the cold is so great, that the ice does not melt.
There is a large tribe called the Buraets. They dwell in tents. They are Buddhists. At one time the Russians allowed missionaries to go to them. There was an old man named Andang, who used to attend the services very regularly. His wife accompanied him. One Sunday the preacher spoke much of heaven and its glories. The old woman, on returning to her tent, said to her husband, “Old man, I am going home to-night.” Her husband did not understand her meaning: then she said, “I love Jesus Christ, and I think I shall be with him to-night.” She lay down in her tent that night, but rose no more. In the morning, the old man found her stiff and cold. He saddled his horse, and set off to tell the missionary. “O sir,” said he, with tears, “my wife is gone home.” When the missionary heard the account of her death, he felt cheered by the hope that the old woman, though born a heathen, had died a Christian, and had left her tent to dwell in a glorious mansion above; for how was it that she felt no fear of death, and how was it that she felt heaven was her home? Was it not because Jesus loved her, and because she loved Jesus?
Siberia is the land to which the emperor sends many of his people, when they displease him. In passing through Siberia, you would often see wagons full of women, children, and old men, followed by a troop of young men, and guarded by a band of soldiers on horseback. You might know them to be the banished Russians. What is to become of them? Some are to work in the mines, and some are to work in the factories. Some are to have a less heavy punishment; they are to be set free, in the midst of Siberia, to support themselves in any way they can. Gentlemen and ladies have a small sum of money allowed them by the emperor, and they live in the towns.
These people are called in Siberia, “the unfortunates.” Some of them have not deserved to be banished; but some have been guilty of crimes.
There are a few cities in Siberia, but only a few, and they have been built by the Russians.
The three chief cities are,—
Tobolsk, on the west, on the
Irkutsk, in the midst, on the lake Baikal.
Yarkutsk, on the east, on the river Lena.