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Title:Recollections of Siberia in the Years 1840 and 1941 (excerpt): an electronic transcription
Author:Cottrell, Charles Herbert
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Print Source:Recollections of Siberia in the Years 1840 and 1941
by Charles Herbert Cottrell
J.W. Parker: London, 1842.

The copy transcribed is from the University of Illinois Libraries.



About a hundred versts before reaching Omsk, we passed through the town of Tumen, a flourishing place with a large carpet and paper manufactory, and a considerable trade in tallow and timber; it has, also, some large tanneries, and being in the direct road to Irbit from the east, the transit of goods gives plenty of employment to the carriers. At this place the road branches off to Tobolsk, the former seat of government, a town now about the size of Irkutsk, but not likely to rise as that is rapidly doing. It is no longer a place of passage between Russia and East Siberia, and has nothing to support it, but the fair of Irbit which takes place in February and March, and which is almost as frequented as that of Nijni. Tobolsk is situated on the Tobole and Irtysch at the point where they fall into the Yenissei or Ob', and is the residence of the


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Archbishop of all Siberia. Numbers of the political exiles live here and in the neighbourhood. The first schools in Siberia were established here in Peter the Great's time by the Swedish prisoners who were liberated at the peace of Nystadt. In point of society it is quite on a par with any town in Siberia, and from having been so long the capital has more artisans and tradespeople established in it, than either Omsk or Tomsk. It had a very large caravanserai which was burned down a few years ago, with a great many of the best shops. Many Tatars are settled there who convey goods to and from Bokhara.

The town is situated, like Nijni Novogorod, on an eminence, from which the view is very fine, but the cold is excessive, more so than in any civilized town, perhaps, in the world. The thermometer falls sometimes to 40°. Notwithstanding this the district about it is, perhaps, the most cultivated and productive in Siberia. Fish is a great article of subsistence to the inhabitants, and the conveyance of salt from the great magazines, of which we have already taken notice, is a great source of profit to them. There is a paper manufactory here also; and the best leather, that which we know by the name of Russian leather, is tanned at Tobolsk. The heat in summer is as excessive, as the cold in winter, or vegetation could not, of course, be so rapid as it is, cucumbers and melons growing in the open air. The Ob' is not frozen till November, and the ground thaws completely in summer. Berezof is the most south-westerly point, where it never thaws, but more eastward the limit of perpetual ground ice is more to the southward. It is, how-


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ever, clear that the fact of the under stratum being al ways frozen does. not interfere with the growth of trees, as the largest forests are found on ground that never thaws above a foot deep. At Nertchynsk the frozen stratum is not more than six feet thick, and is becoming every year less. In 1821, a dead body was found at Berezof, accidentally disinterred, which had been buried ninety-two years, and showed no signs of decomposition, or of having undergone any change since it was put into the ground.

We got into the government of Tobolsk the second day after leaving Omsk, from whence we had begun at once to turn our backs upon the Steppes. The weather was clear, and the sun shone brightly, and the difference in the appearance of the country and scenery was surprising. Undulating valleys and mountains, winding rivers and fine forests, were everywhere visible, all the way to Ekaterinburg. As might be expected, Tobolsk is, in consequence, the most populous government in Siberia, containing about one-half of the whole number of the inhabitants in the western division. We were now approaching the confines of Russia proper, and were struck with the idea of never having seen a beggar in Siberia, or an Aurora Borealis. The latter are more general in summer than in winter, but we never saw one in Russia, though so common in Sweden and other northern countries. Siberia we believe to be the only country where the former are not numerous enough both in winter and summer.

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