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Lower Amur Oblast: Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Lower Amur Oblast

Form for receipt of article "Lower Amur Oblast"
Mandel original copy- 14,850 words
LOWER AMUR OBLAST (Region) of Khabarovsk Krai (Territory) 5700 of the [: ] U.S.S.R. is the sub–
Arctic, permafrost-underlain western and southern coast of the Okhotsk Sea (qv)., It
which it follows for 1,200 miles. It
lies between 51° and 64°40′ N. Lat. and 130°30′ and 147°10′ E. Long. That is, it is in
about the same latitudes as Labrador, and the Ungava Peninsula of northern and northern
Quebec east of Hudson Bay. Just as Hudson Bay and Davis Strait determine the climatic
conditions of that portion of North America, so does the Arctic-type Okhotsk Sea,
frozen solid in this area more than half the year, determine the character of the Lower
Amur Oblast, consisting of the seaward slope of the mountains a series of mountain
ranges. The average annual temperature is below freezing even at the southern
end of the Oblast. No post can be kept open the [: ] of the Oblasts year round by the icebreakers of today.
202,700 square miles in area - larger than any State in the U.S.A. except Texas
the Lower Amur Oblast is of roughly the same shape as California. It extends 900 miles
airline from extreme north to extreme south, but only averages only 150 miles in width
inland from the coast. In addition to the coastal area, the Oblast includes the Shantar
Islands in the westernmost corner of the Okhotsk Sea, a few small islands off the mouth
of the Amur (Chkalov, Baidukov, Zavialov) and the only island at any considerable dis–
tance from the Okhotsk Sea coast, Iony, lying halfway between the town of Okhotsk and
the northern tip of Sakhalin Island.
The Oblast takes its name from the fact that its southernmost portion includes
[: ]
the mouth and 200 miles of the great Amur River. The bulk of the population, [: ] Russian
[: ]
and aboriginal, lives in that area, earning its livelihood from fishing, hunting and
shipping and related enterprises in and around the port of Nikolaevsk-on-the-Amur, which
is the capital of the Oblast. Perhaps the most obvious indication of the near-Arctic
character of the area is its population, 100,000 in all by an authoritative Soviet
estimate of 1947, representing, however, a sharp increase over the figure of 70,000
in 1938 and 38,000 in 1926 . The bulk majority of the population lives south of 54° so that the bulk of the Oblast,
has a density lying north of that latitude, has a population density far below the figure average
of [: ] 0.13 per square kilometer for its territory as a whole. The northernmost of the
six counties (raions) into which the Oblast is divided, Okhotsk, [: ]
of embraces almost a third of its entire area, but has only 13 of the 94 townships.
The population of the county was 6,500 in 1933, including 3,500 in the ancient Fur-trading and fishing
port of Okhotsk itself (Founded 1647) which was, until a century and a half ago, the capital of all
Russian possessions on the North Pacific, including Alaska. It was (and is) the terminus

Lower Amur Oblast

Physical Geography. The Oblast is chiefly mountain country. The main range - Jugjur
(Dzhugdzhur), runs northeastward, parallel to the seacoast. The landward [: ] side of
the Jugjur constitutes [: ] virtually a flat plateau solidly covered with forest, from
which rare, tundra-topped eminences rise at considerable intervals. They contrast sharp–
ly with the surrounding greenery. Altitudes do not vary more than 1,000 feet in this
area. The [: ] seaward side of the Jugjur, however, are truly mountainous, steep and
deeply intersected. Altitudes here reach 6,500 feet above sea level. Along the shore
itself there is the Coast Range (Pribrezhnyi), reaching 3,300 ft. and plunging into
the sea in sheer cliffs. For a short distance, between the Okhota and Ulbei Rivers on
the north coast of the Okhotsk Sea, the mountains retreat from the shore, which here
consists of forest and swamp. East of the Ulbei the mountains again come down to the
very shore. In the northernmost portion of the Oblast there is yet a third mountain
system, consisting of the southeastern termini of the Cherski (Czerski) Range. The
southernmost portion of the Oblast consists of a lowland not exceeding 500 ft. above
sea level, with extensive marshes and coniferous trees. Isolated treeless peaks and
short mountainous ridges rise here and there from the lowland and flat watersheds.
Climate . The climate is of the monsoon type. The winter monsoon, blowing from the main–
land, carries extremely cold dry air with it., coming from the world Pole of Cold. The summer monsoon, blowing from the sea, carries
damp air, which, cooling upon contact with the coastal mountains, gives rise to clouds
and fog. The average annual temperature in the extreme south, at Nikolaevsk-on-the-Amur,
is below freezing: 27.6° F. The January temperature there is −10.5°F., and that of
July is 61.7°F. At Ust-Maiskoe, [: ] 30 miles inland from the westernmost corner of the Okhotsk
[: ] Sea , the annual average is
only 14°F., that for January is −43.6°, and that for July 65°. The latitu d e at this
point is [: ] 54°30′ N. Oimekon, in Yakutia, the world Pole of Cold, is only 60 miles from
the border of the Lower Amur Oblast. Even at the seacoast in the north (Okhotsk, 59°30′)
the average annual temperature is as low as 23°F., and that for the three winter
months is −7.6°. West of the Jugjur crest the climate is dry and continental, with
precipitation of only 5.9 inches per year. In the south, at Nikolaevsk, there are
17.6 inches per year. Higher up the coast precipitation is at 11.8 inches per year.

Lower Amur

The amplitude of temperature during the year is 108°F. on the continental side of the
Jugjur, and 70°F. on the [: ] seaward side. The cold current of the Okhotsk Sea hinders
the melting of the snow in the coastal zone [: ] and delays the onset
of the warm season for almost a month by comparison to the westward, continental portion
of the Oblast. This hinders agriculture [: ] where it is most needed. Rain falls chiefly
in the summer and fall, leading to sharp changes in river levels at that time. The snow
cover is thin, and does not protect the soil from atmospheric cold. with Therefore
permafrost is typical of the area as a whole.
Hydrography . The only important rivers are the Amur and its large tributary, the Amgun,
each of which flows in the limits of the Oblast for a distance of only 200 miles. The
rivers of the seaward side of the Jugjur are mountain streams with rapids and waterfalls, and flow in deep
[: ] gorges. Those on the inland side are calm and flow through broad, marshy valleys.
Soils and Vegetation . The soils of the Lower Amur Oblast are chiefly podzol and marshland.
The mountainsides have stony (skeletal) soils. The valleys of the Amur and Amgun have
alluvial soils of slimy sand. Throughout the Oblast, virgin forest (taiga) dominates,
consisting of larch, fir and pine. The river valleys and the bases of the mountains
are overgrown with Calamagrostis marshes. Peaks are usually barren of trees, but covered
with lichens.
Fauna . The taiga is rich in fur-bearing animals: squirrel, sable, fox, skunk, otter,
rabbit, ermine, and brown bear. Mountain [: ] sheep , roe deer, reindeer and musk deer inhabit
the mountains. Various types of salmon breed in the rivers. White whales and seal are
found in the sea.
Minerals . Placer gold is found near Kerbi on the Amgun River and on both slopes of the
Jugjur. Oil-bearing limestones have been found on the western slope of the Jugjur. Lead
and copper ores and gold have also been found.
Population . The overall population density is five to ten times as great as in the
Arctic tundra, but only one-hundredth as great as that in the farming regions of the
Amur [: ] 200 miles south of the border of the Oblast. If one exclude Nikolaevsk,
at the latitude of Goose Bay, Labrador with its 16,500 population (1933), and the area to the south thereof, the density is
only twice as high as in the Arctic tundra. Finally, if one exclude the very seacoast proper,

Lower Amur

itself , with its fisheries, the inland forests are as thinly populated as the Arctic
tundra [: ] along the coast of the Arctic Ocean itself. The indigenous peoples of the Oblast –
Nivkhi, Ulchi, Evenki, Eveny, Nanai, etc. - live chiefly along the Amur. The southern–
most county is the area of settlement of the Ulchi, and they have a degree of self–
government there.
Economy . [: ] The chief occupations in the Lower Amur Region are fishing, , lumbering,
[: ] gold-mining and fur-trapping. [: ] The fisheries, particularly, have
increased greatly in the past under the Soviet regime. There is a large fishing fleet
and a shipyard for that purpose at Nikolaevsk. In 1937 there were 17 fish-processing
enterprises and a large cold-storage plant. That year the catch came to 38,000 tons.
The fur catch at that time amounted to $750,000 worth per year. The establishment of
fur-farms, delimitation of boundaries of are trapping areas so as to use them most
effectively and other measures gave reason to expect a considerable rise in the catch
in the years to come. Lumbering is virtually a new industry, although the riches of
the Oblast in this respect are limitless. It is centered at Nikolaevsk, which has a
sawmill, and processing and [: ] wood-working enterprises. Lumber–
ing has not begun on a commercial scale in the Jugjur because the only rivers suitable
for rafting flow landward, and there are no roads or railroads whatever.
Agriculture . There is little agriculture in this area, for the climatic reasons indi–
cated above. Of the 125 "collective farms" listed in 1937, embracing 80% of the rural
households, the majority were actually fishermen's cooperatives, engaging in a little
gardening on the side. There were 9,492 acres under crop in 1937: only about one acre
for every ten persons in the population. [: ] 65% of the planted land was under potatoes, 15% under
vegetables, 15% under oats, and 5% under spring rye and spring wheat. 80% of the
acreage planted was in the southeast corner of the Oblast, right along the Amur River
and its tributaries. Grains gave eight or nine bushels to the acre, potatoes - 600 lbs.,
and vegetables 700-800 lbs. The sub-Arctic character of the country is indicated by
the fact that reindeer are the most important form of livestock. In 1936 there were
48,202 of these animals, by comparison to only 7,430 pigs, 7,093 [: ] head of
cattle and 5,607 horses. Actually, there is plenty of opportunity for the advancement
of agriculture in this [: ] area. With new varieties of frost-resistant and quickly-

Lower Amur

maturing plants, crop yields several times larger than those indicated above as average
have gotten been gotten by the more advanced collective farms. All vegetables mature in
the southern portions of the Oblast without difficulty, and grains give adequate har–
vests. There are enormous river- [: ] meadow acreages on which to expand livestock herds.
The perspective set by the Soviet authorities is to make the area self-sustaining in
agriculture.
Transport . The sea and the rivers provide the chief means of routes for transport. Connection with
Vladivostok is maintained by sea, and with Komsomolsk, Khabarovsk and Blagoveshchensk
via the Amur. Reindeer and, to a lesser degree, dogs, are used in the North for land transport. Aircraft
connect coastal points: Nikolaevsk, Aian and Okhotsk. The current (1946-50) Five-Year
Plan does not provide for the extension of the railroad northward from Komsomolsk to
Nikolaevsk. When that is done, it will greatly increase the importance of Nikolaevsk
as a port and stimulate its lumbering, gold-mining and fishing industries. One factor
which may hasten that step is the presence, near Nikolaevsk, or iron ores which may
serve to supplement those now used in the steel mill at Komsomolsk.
History . In 1647 a Cossack named Semen Shelkovnikov, who had reached the Okhotsk Sea
via the Amur River, followed the coast of that sea northward to the river Okhota (Hunting),
where he overcame the local Tungus and established a wintering station 1.8 miles from
the sea. In 1649, after his death, [: ] his Cossacks founded Kosoi Ostrozhek (outpost)
at the spot of his wintering station. [: ] After the conquest of
Kamchatka (qv), the fierce resistance of the Koriaks (qv) to the Russians passing through
their territory overland with tribute in furs compelled Peter the Great to seek a
safer route by sea past the land of the Koriaks.
History . In 1639 a Cossack named Ivan Moskvitin, dispatched [: ] up the Aldan River
by Ataman Kopylov, crossed the Jugjur, descended the Okhota (Hunting) River to its
mouth on the Okhotsk Sea, and extracted tribute in furs from the Tungus living there.
In 1643, Vasilii Poiarkov, dispatched by Voevod Golovin from Yakutsk with 127 men, as–
cended the Aldan, the Uchur and reached the headwaters of the [: ] Gonam. Leaving part of
his company to winter there, he [: ] crossed the watershed in winter southward to the
Brianta and Zeia Rivers. Skirmishing constantly with the Daurs and other aborigines,
he reached the Amur. In the summer of 1645 he reached the open sea. Following the rugged

Lower Amur

coast northward in flat-bottomed boats, and undergoing terrible hardships, he and his
party finally reached the mouth of the Ulia River, which also reaches the sea at ap–
[: ] proximately the site of present-day Okhotsk, ascended it and returned to Yakutsk
in 1646, with some 40 to 50 survivors of his original company. Finally, in 1647 another
Cossack, Semen Shelkovnikov by name, who had also reached the Okhotsk Sea via the
Amur River and followed the coast north to the Okhota River, overcame the resistance
of the natives once and for all and established a wintering station 1.8 miles from
the sea. In 1649, after his death, his Cossacks founded Kosoi Ostrozhek (outpost)
at the site of his wintering station.
After the conquest of Kamchatka (qv), the fierce resistance of the Koriaks (qv)
to the Russians passing through their territory overland with tribute in furs, com–
pelled Peter the Great to seek a safer route by sea past the land of the Koriaks.
In 1713 he ordered such a route to be found via the Okhotsk Sea. In 1714 ship's carpenters
and sailors [: ]
were dispatched overland from Yakutsk to Okhotsk, where they built a ship 60′ long by 22′ wide. In
[: ]
1716 this vessel made the first Russian crossing of the open Okhotsk Sea. It returned the following
[: ]
[: ] summer, and from that date on there were regular
communications between Okhotsk and the west-coast Kamchatka ports of Tigil and
Bolsheretsk.
- On October 1, 1726, Vitus Bering arrived at Okhotsk to prepare for the arrival
overland from Yakutsk of the men and equipment for his great first expedition. 663
pack horses set forth from Yakutsk, of which 267 died en route. The remainder arrived
at Okhotsk during the last half of October. The heavier equipment was sent by a flatter more level ,
more but roundabout route. Of 100 sledges which left on the last lap of the journey, only
40 reached Okhotsk in January, 1727. Their drivers ate the dead horses which had died , and everything
on hand made of leather. Many men died, some deserted. At that time Okhotsk numbered ex–
actly ten houses, and Bering enlarged it greatly by building log cabins for his [: ]
[: ] numerous personnel, barns for the livestock, and a shipyard. The horses all died
from lack of feed, and Bering's men had to carry building stone, clay and timbers on
their own shoulders. They also had to go back and sledge in the equipment abandoned
en route as horses died. Many died, many fled. Again there were numerous deaths and desertions . Only in April did a part of this materiel
reach Okhotsk.

Lower Amur

Prior to Bering's arrival, the local Okhotsk people had built him a "shitik", a type of
vessel native to the Arkhangelsk area. 33 feet long and 13 wide, it was built up
around a keel-block hollowed from a single log, to which the broad boards comprising
the hull were bound by means of willow switches. Moss was stuffed into the crevices.
Cordage and sails were made of reindeer-skin. The anchors were of iron-faced wood.
This ship was launched in June, 1727 and named the Fortuna . It crossed and re-crossed
the Okhotsk Sea quite successfully. After its great voyages of discovery, the expedi–
tion returned to Okhotsk on July 23, 19 1729.
The second Bering expedition, consisting of 800 men, set forth from Yakutsk to
Okhotsk, over the now well-established river-and-overland trail, in the summer of 1737.
640,00 lbs. of provisions - a year's supply - were hauled into Yakutsk by pack-horse [: ] and,
the following winter, by men whose footwear wore through and clothing tore and could not be replaced.
In Okhotsk, under Spanberg's supervision, two new ships were built, the brigantine
Archangel Michael , a single-masted vessel 60 ft. long, and the double-sloop [: ]
Nadezhda (Hope), 70 ft. long and having three masts. Likewise, the old Fortuna and
the Gavrill (Gabriel), a 60-footer, were repaired. The expedition finally put out.
When its remnants returned, years later - August 16, 1742 - Bering was dead, and
Chirikov (qv) in command.
Bering's success in using the [: ] village of Okhotsk is the more remarkable if it be con–
trasted with the failure of the official sent there [: ] in 1733 to make it a
regular port. This man, one Skorniakov-Pisarev, was rather typical of the men used
by the Tsars to develop easternmost Siberia. He had been subjected to corporal punish–
ment and deprived of all his property as punishment for some crime. His instructions
were to built a port and four ships, to populate it with 300 Cossacks as garrison, 50
Russian peasant families as ploughmen and 30 Tungus to raise cattle, to supervise
trade but give all merchants a 10-year tax exemption, to build a grog-shop and [: ]
buy furs for the government's account in exchange for liquor. He succeeded only in
the last, having vodka distilled from Heracleum dulce , while his Cossacks, competing
with him, used blueberries for the same purpose. The first attempt to settle peasants
at Okhotsk was made in 1733; the second in 1740. In both cases, the peasants turned
from the plough to hunting and trapping at the first opportunity, for there was more
to be gained at a smaller cost in labor.

Lower Amur

At Bering's suggestion, it was decided to make Okhotsk the center of an independent
administrative district distinct from distant Yakutsk. This office was opened in 1732,
and in 1782 there was established an Okhotsk Oblast centered at that town, to govern
the entire coast of the Okhotsk and Bering Seas, i.e., the present Lower Amur Oblast,
Kamchatka, Chukotka and the Koriak country: all of Siberia east of Yakutia to the
Bering Strait. Yet by that date, the port installations, shipbuilding and shipping
from Okhotsk were in a complete state of decline, while the number of naval offices
there were multiplying merrily. In 1822 the application of Speranskii's Reform (qv.
Yakutia) brought about the separation of civil from military administration at
Okhotsk, with the sole result that the town, then consisting of district of 70,000 sq.mi, then having 2,000 inhabitants,
had a salaried civilian personnel consisting of a Chief and his Council, a Secretary,
a doctor with an assistant, a judge and two civil associates, a Treasurer with four
bookkeepers, and four more! lesser bureaucrats. Finally, in 1849, Okhotsk was subordinated to Petropavlovsk,
under the Yakutsk Oblast. But when the Russians regained control of the mouth of the
Amur, and later founded Vladivostok, the coastal areas became more readily accessible
by sea than overland, and were made part of the Maritime Territory, a situation exist–
ing, for all practical purposes, to this day. On the other hand, this had the effect
of completing the decline of Okhotsk. [: ]
[: ] As early as the
1860s the population was down to 200, and by the ′90s it was 150, for part of the
people had moved to the new, and much more advantageously located port of Nikolaevsk
on the Amur. The disadvantages of Okhotsk were many. For one, it was Arctic, as ports
go: open to navigation only from July to October. Secondly, there was a depth of only
four feet at low water, and even less when the wind blew out from shore. Thirdly, tidal
currents ran six and seven knots per hour. Fourth, the roads are entirely open and
unprotected. Fifth, good water had to be brought a distance of 2.5 miles. Sixth, fog
predominates during the months when the port is open. Seventh, in conjunction with
the foregoing, the entrance to the river mouth is hardly 100 feet wide. and the fairway
shifts constantly. In 1890, therefore, Okhotsk was purely a fishing village, with
some reindeer-breeding. Trade was negligible. The annual budget of the village was $75.

Lower Amur

[: ] The decline of Okhotsk as a port was made irrevocable by the Russian acquisition
of the Amur mouth and [: ] founding of Nikolaevsk, but even prior to that it had been
found so unsuitable that its status as the port for the Russian-American Company had
been shifted to Aian, 300 miles down the coast. This came about as follows. [: ]
[: ] As early as 1787, the government had ordered
Capt.-Commander Fomin to investigate the mouth of the Ud River, in the extreme south–
western corner of the Okhotsk Sea, to determine the possibility of moving the port on
the Okhotsk Sea from Okhotsk to that location, about 400 miles to the southwest. But
the water was found to be too shallow. However, in the course of his coastal voyage,
Fomin found that the mouth of the Aldoma River, about 300 miles southwest of Okhotsk,
was most suitable for a port by the standards of that day. In 79 1794, therefore, he
proposed the laying of a post trail from Okhotsk to that location. On March 4, 1800, an
order was issued to transfer the port to the new site, and by 1803 the road, with
bridges, had been carried 75 miles south from Okhotsk. However, in 1806 it was decided
to leave the port at its old location, for the Russian-American Company found the
[: ] sea-bottom
at the Aldoma mouth to consist chiefly of huge rocks affording no purchase for the
anchors of its ships. There was no question possibility of building dock installations.
This, however, did not bring the "wanderings" of Okhotsk to an end. Until 1816 it
was located on a neck of land between the mouths of the Okhota and Kukhtuia. But by
that date the effect of river and tidal current had narrowed the neck so dangerously
as to imperil the entire settlement and its buildings. It was therefore moved three
miles to a point on the mouth of the Kukhtuia. This, however, did not solve the problems
of navigability. In 1832 the chief of the port, Balk, later an admiral, proposed to
replace it by a new port 300 miles northeastward, in Taui Bay. That suggestion was not
carried out. In 1838 it was proposed, also without suggest success , to move the port to a place
called Buliuin, four miles away. The correspondence connected with this idea gives some
conception of the bad location of Okhotsk even on land. The town was still situated
on the long, narrow neck between the two rivers. The neck constituted part of the coastal
range of mountains, and was covered with gravel to a depth of several feet. No vegeta–
tion could grow there. The government buildings, except for that of the maritime admin-

Lower Amur

istration and the treasury, were in extremely bad condition. In the midst of the group
of government buildings was a low spot which filled with water daily at high tide, form–
ing a marsh in the middle of town. The private homes were huts in a state of decay.
The Russian-American Company trading post and warehouse was at the end of the neck, the
shore of which was continually being undermined and washed away. In 1827 that those buildings
were 280 ft. from the shore. By 1839 it had been worn away to within 63 ft., and in
1844 to within 28 ft. from the Company, so that waves reached the buildings themselves
in stormy weather. On the river side the same thing was happening. By 1838 the battery
of guns between the town and the admiralty building was only 21 ft. from the river, and
that distance decreased further as time went on. Boating upriver for fresh water was
possible only at a particular stage of the tide, and not at all during storms. At such
times a well was used, but this was possible only during the summer. In the Fall it
[: ] became too salty for use, and in winter froze entirely. The tide broadens
the Kukhtuia to a mile, and then, receding, leaves the shore strewn with [: ] sea flora
and fauna which, rotting, befoul the air. and spread disease. In the absence of fresh
vegetables - which could not be grown at that location - and meat, scurvy took a toll
each Spring. From March to June two-thirds of the inhabitants usually suffered from it.
In that day of sailing ships, it was necessary to await a combination of favorable
wind with high tide to get over the bar. There were cases when ships were held in the
river mouth for three weeks and more, thereby losing a considerable portion of the
brief summer navigation season on the Okhotsk Sea. By the 1840s, ships which used to
be able to cast anchor right off the town, now had to do so some 1,200 ft. downstream,
because the bottom had filled as a result of a decreased flow of Okhota River water
into the Kukhtuia, as the Okhota had found another mouth. These circumstances caused
the loss of ships time and again. In 1838 the brig [: ] Kamchatka , outward bound with [: ]
provisions and goods for Kamchatka, was caught by high waves upon leaving the Kukhtuia
mouth, grounded upon the [: ] opposite shore and so damaged that it could make no
voyage that summer. In 1840 the brig Okhotsk , loaded with provisions for Gizhiga, was
held in the Kukhtuia mouth by contrary winds for over 40 days and had to risk the sea
when it had begun to freeze, in the late Fall. In 1842, the brig Nikolai was caught by
a gust of wind when leaving the river mouth, cast upon the shore and was lost complete-

Lower Amur

ly, with its cargo. In those days such a loss or delay was a cause of famine to the
permanent settlements of the entire area. Thus, the loss of the Kamchatka in 1841 off
Bolsheretsk on the west coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula had catastrophic consequences.
The correspondence with St. Petersburg setting forth the foregoing had the result,
in 1851, of shifting the port for the Okhotsk Sea to Aian. at 56°N. At that time Okhotsk had a
population of 748, including 528 male and 220 female. The majority of the population
consisted of military and naval forces totalling 394. The remainder was constituted of
civilian officials, clergy, merchants and their families. After the shift, the popula–
tion fell by four-fifths in 45 years. In 1895 [: ] the town consisted of bark-covered
huts. The best structure was the barracks housing 30 Cossacks.
Aian, the new Okhotsk Sea port, was first indicated [: ] as the desirable site for
that purpose by Lenzhe, the Russian-American Company agent in Okhotsk, in 1832. In 1843,
Capt.-Lieut. Zavoiko (qv), later the successful defender of Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka
against an Anglo-French squadron during the Crimean War, visited Aian to investigate its
suitability for the purpose, and found the bay and its surroundings to constitute an
entirely adequate location. In 1844 the Russian-American Company secured the Imperial
approval for the change; in 1846 it the trading post at Aian received the designation
of "port", and in another five years the shift from Okhotsk was complete. By November 1,
1851, postal communication was underway over the newly-laid [: ] route from [: ]
Yakutsk to Aian, via the Aldan and Maia Rivers, and an overland trail from Nelkan.
This involved only 120 miles overland, of the 720 mile distance in all, a great ad–
vantage over the Okhotsk trail.
Aian had first been described by Fomin in 1790, and in 1832 by Shilov. In 1854 [: ]
the new port was visited by I.A. Goncharov during his round-the-world cruise on the
frigate Pallada . He wrote that it consisted of a long warehouse, a dozen [: ]
modest homes buried in greenery (this was midsummer), a church, a battery of guns at
the water's edge, a small shipyard with the frame of a new vessel in the making, a
large tent colony, two or three native yurtas, and plenty of mud all around. There
were three vessels in the roadstead, which is a narrow fjord open only to the south,
but subject to high waves when the wind comes from that direction.

Lower Amur

Aian was superior to Okhotsk in that it gave anchorage to ships drawing six feet of
water, and that it was closed by ice only at the end of December, while melting began
at the end of April, although it was entirely ice-free only in July. Thus, it gave a
minimum of six months' navigation. The temperature ashore averages −5.5°F. in January,
54.5°F. in July, and 27.5° F. for the year, i.e., well below freezing and therefore
in permafrost territory.
The population in 1854 was about 200, and it remained at that level for almost
half a century. after which it declined. It consisted of a Russian-American Company
agent in charge of the port and several assistants to him, with their families, A Cos–
sack garrison, and Yakuts engaged in trade and common labor. (At Okhotsk, too, the
native population consisted and consists of Yakuts, who had packed the stores for the
town and for Kamchatka over the long trail from Yakutsk.) The houses Gonchar [: ] v saw
were the homes of the Company's men, the tents housed the Cossacks, and the Yakuts lived
in yurts. The Yakuts used horses as beasts of burden in the summer, and [: ]
dog-sledges in the winter. Trade was so "lively" that the normal procedure was for the
purchaser to seek out the merchant, who unlocked his storehouse, made his sale, locked
it and departed for the day. This was not true, of course, when ships were in port
or pack-caravans arrived overland.
During these years Aian was a favored spot for whalers. Heine, the German poet,
visited the port aboard an American screw-driven steamer in 1855, and reported some
400 to 500 whalers in the Okhotsk Sea. The Russians had withdrawn all officials and
forces from the port, as they would be too small to resist any Anglo-French squadron
that might appear there in the course of the Crimean War, and so the Americans were
able to behave as they pleased. Only the Russian-American Company agent remained.
As indicated above, Aian did not long enjoy its succession to Okhotsk, for the
Russians soon re- acquired the Amur mouth and founded Nikolaevsk there. As early as 1639
the Cossack Ivan Moskvitin, reaching the Okhotsk Sea, heard from the natives of the
great Amur River to the south. In 1645 Vasili Poiarkov descended that river. Two years
later Semen Shelkovnikov made the same trip. By 1671 the Russians had founded the
fortress-town of Albazin, six large villages and a monastery. However, the Manchus
were then in a position to withstand this expansion into territories they regarded as

Lower Amur

their own, however thinly populated, and in 1685 they moved an army of 15,000 men,
armed with siege guns of European manufacture, against the Russians, who numbered a
few hundred in Albazin. Russia and China, both expanding, soon came into contact with
each other along a frontier of thousands of miles extending westward to Mongolia. A
general settlement was necessary, and was arrived at by the Treaty of Nerchinsk, Aug. 27,
1689. The Russians had to withdraw from the entire Amur basin as far north as the
headwaters of its tributaries along the watershed line of the Stanovoi Range. Their
settlers also had to be withdrawn. It was this which made near-Arctic Okhotsk Russia's
chief port on the Pacific for a century. The move southward, first to Aian in Russian
territory, and then to Nikolaevsk in territory which had to be re-taken from China,
was a reflection of the decline of the Celestial Empire under the blows of the West,
and of Russia's growing strength. [: ] Russia's fears for her North Pacific
possessions in the absence of year-round communications with them was another factor
in causing her to take the risks inherent in a new effort to secure the Amur basin.
[: ] Faced with the tremendous difficulties of hauling heavy naval equipment [: ]
and huge quantities of provisions overland
to Okhotsk for [: ] the Bering Expedition across the Pacific - difficulties we have
described above - Chirikov, Bering's assistant, proposed, in 1732, that instead of
making the incredible push from [: ] Irkutsk to north to the Lena, down the Lena to
Yakutsk, up its tributaries and again by land to Okhotsk, a vastly easier route be
used. That was simply to float down the Amur and its tributaries through the farmlands of the Trans-Baikal,
and to found a port and town at the mouth of the Amur. Russia was not in a pos s i tion
to beard China in that manner at that time, but Peter did instruct Bering, once he
got to the Okhotsk Sea and launched his vesselrs, to explore Sakhalin and the mouth of
the Amur. Again, for the year 1742, the Russian archives reveal an anonymous document
urging the acquisition of the Amur country, because of the terrible difficulty of
feeding Kamchatka via Okhotsk, illustrated by the famines caused when vessels from
Okhotsk were lost in that "harbor" or at sea.
Yet again, in 1753, the Governor of Siberia, Miatlev, proposed efforts to win the
right of navigation on the Amur from China. But Russia and China were almost on the
verge of war at the time, and Russia was still not strong enough in Siberia to under–
take such a conflict, so the proposal came to naught. 30 years passed, and another

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Governor of Siberia proposed the acquisition of the Amur country, only to be rebuffed
by St. Petersburg once again. So impossible was adequate communication with Alaska via
Siberia and the North Pacific that in 1803 the then newly-organized Russian-American
Company dispatched two ships on a round-the-world voyage from St. Petersburg to Kamchatka,
and home via the western hemisphere. This expedition, under Kruzenshtern, also invest–
igated the Tatar Straits between Sakhalin and the mainland, which had been explored pre–
viously only by La Perouse in 1783 and Broughton in 1793. Although much of value was
accomplished,Kruzenshtern believed, with his predecessors, that Sakhalin was a peninsula.
The information provided by these three expeditions was all that was known of that area
until 1849.
The inadequacy of the port of Okhotsk, described above, led in 1828 not only to the correspond–
ence leading to the founding of Aian, but also to efforts to gather the fullest possible
information on the Amur country. The chief sources were a peasant named Kudriavtsev,
who fished and hunted at the Amur mouth from 1819 to 1821, despite the Treaty of Nerchinsk
prohibition against Russians in this area, and an exile named Guryi Vasilev, who escaped
from a hard labor camp three times between 1816 and 1828. On two occasions he was cap–
tured and returned by the Manchu authorities, but on the third managed to go all the way
down the Amur to its mouth, follow the Okhotsk Sea coast north to the Uda River and
appear at Russia's southernmost outpost of that day, the ancient fort of Udsk, at [: ]
54°30′ N. There he reported to the authorities of his own volition, which causes one
to believe that he, and probably Kudriavtsev as well, were intelligence agents. As the
data gathered under such circumstances by two individuals could hardly be deemed ade–
quate, the Governor-General of Siberia, Lavinskii, proposed the outfitting of a scient–
ific expedition, but St. Petersburg vetoed this idea, again out of fear of conflict with
China.
The decay of Imperial China was made evident to the world by the Opium War of
1840-42, waged by Great Britain with a small force. This opened Shanghai as a port for
trade with the West, threatening Russia's monopoly of overland commerce via Kiakhta
(a major reason for her hesitation in provoking conflict with China hitherto). Both the
revelation of China's weakness and the threat to Russian trade decided St. Petersburg upon

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a course of investigating the opening commerce with the East via the Amur, and acquiring it for that pur–
pose. In 1843 Admirals Putiatin and Kruzenshtern proposed detailed hydrographic invest–
igation of the mouth of the Amur so as to answer existing doubts about its navigability
and the possibility of locating a port there. Their view was that there was no need to
press the acquisition of the territory until its desirability was fully determined.
In 1844 the decision to survey the Amur delta was taken, but, in order to avoid rous–
ing suspicion in Peking, the work was assigned to the Russian-American Company as a
private venture, with the government meeting the expenses. In the Spring of 1846 the
company outfitted the brig Konstantin for this purpose. Its commander, Gavrilov, was
ordered to enter the Amur mouth from the Okhotsk Sea, seek out a suitable anchorage,
and from it plot the fairway in small boats, gather data from the natives on navigab–
ility higher up the river, and describe the neighboring shores of Sakhalin Island and
the [: ] mainland up to the Uda River country. There had been rumors among the Tungus
that Chinese troops and settlements of runaway Russian convicts and serfs were to be
found on the lower Amur. Gavrilov was to verify them.
The object of the expedition was kept so secret that, when the brig put out from
Aian on July 20, 1846, Gavrilov alone knew the destination for which it was bound. The
log of the voyage shows that, anchoring his vessel off the shore of Sakhalin, Gavrilov
took a sloop and two rowboats up the Amur as far as Cape Chnyrrakh, i.e., four miles
short of the spot at which Nikolaevsk was later built. He returned to Aian exactly a
month after leaving it, and reported, with charts, that [: ] there was a depth of
only 21 inches to 3 1/2 feet over the bar across the river mouth, and that the fairway
was so sinuous and [: ] interrupted by shoals that it was impossible
for a sailing vessel to enter the Amur. However, he himself recognized that due to the
brevity and inadequacy of the survey, it was not possible, on the basis of his findings,
to arrive at a final decision relative to the navigability of the river mouth. He
found neither runaway Russians nor Chinese, and saw no evidence of Chinese influences
among the natives.
There is strong reason to believe that Gavrilov found what the Russian-American
Company wanted him to find. It knew full well that a navigable river open to through
traffic almost half the year would end its monopoly on the North Pacific. This danger
was more important to the company and its financially-interested protectors in high

Lower Amur

places in St. Petersburg than the fact that such a river would open the company's own
territories to fuller development. At all events, the company's directors presented its
report on the expedition in such a manner as to make it appear that the directives had
been fully carried out and the mouth of the river investigated sufficiently so as to
establish its [: ] unfitness for the founding of a port. This resulted in an
Imperial decision to let the Amur question rest "as bearing on a useless river".
However, in 1843 the Academy of Sciences entru s sted Academician Middendorff with
the exploration of northern and eastern Siberia. His findings had the result, among
other things, of rousing a consciousness of the need, from Russia's viewpoint, to ac–
quire the Amur country. In studying the shores of the Okhotsk Sea down to the Uda
River, he ascended that stream to its source, crossed the mountains to the Bureia
River [: ] and, from its middle reaches, crossed the Zeia Valley and emerged on the
Shilka, all northern tributaries of the Amur, which he did not violate. In 1845 he
informed St. Petersburg that he had found a number of Chinese border markers on the
southern slope of the Stanovoi Range, far south of the watershed line which had been
established as the boundary by the Nerchinsk Treaty. This, Middendorff argued, should
be taken advantage of to declare the boundary markers to represent the border, and
thereby to proclaim as Russian territory the enormous area north from the markers to
the divide. This news resulted in the dispatching of a scientific expedition under
Col. Akhte to explore the entire border area. Middendorff had also become convinced
that the Giliaks (Golds) inhabiting the Amur mouth, were also completely independent
of China and, in his opinion, it would be desirable to acquire land from them and
found a trading post.
In 1847 Nikolai Nikolaevich Muravev, who was to be for this area what Cecil Rhodes
was for Britain in Africa years later, received appointment as Governor-General of
Eastern Siberia. For his acquisition and development of this territory in the short
space of 11 years which followed, he was named Count Amurskii (of the Amur), and is
now most commonly [: ] referred to as Muravev-Amurskii. He gained for Russia not only
the [: ] north shore of the Amur, but the east shore of the Ussuri, thus extending
the Empire's possessions down to the point at which he founded Vladivostok. Offshore,
he acquired the great island of Sakhalin.

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In his remarkable work of exploration, acquisition and development of new terri–
tories, Muravev was moved by the interests of a group then very young in Russia, the
industrial capitalists, and acted with the energy typical of that class in its period
of ascendancy. As it he did not threaten at that time threaten the interests of any en–
trenched influential group, except the commercial rather than industrial Russian–
American Company, already in an advanced state of decay, he was able to act with a
relatively free hand. As an expansionist acquiring new territory, he won the approval
of the landed nobility constituting the government in St. Petersburg. As an advocate
of free enterprise, he opposed serfdom - [: ] drawing upon himself the atten–
tion of Tsar Nikolai I, an extreme reactionary;, [: -] demonstratively favored the Decembrists
who had been exiled for revolutionary activities in 1825[: ;] - calling forth reports against
him to the secret police; and made use of some of the political exiles in Siberia in
his work. These liberal sides of the man won approving characterizations from the
anarchists (Prince) Kropotkin and Bakunin. But his dictatorial and bureaucratic con–
duct of affairs, and aggressive foreign policy, won the condemnation of Russian demo–
crats in European exile.
A man of great energy and vision, he surrounded himself with others of the same
mold of character. Most important of them us, in considering the sub-Arctic Lower
Amur country, was the then Lieut.-Capt. Nevelskoi, who, in 1848, was named to the
command of the transport Baikal , leaving St. Petersburg that year for a round-the–
world voyage to supply Petropavlovsk on Kamchatka. As we have pointed out, such voy–
ages were far cheaper than the 6,000-mile overland haul across Siberia - there were
no railroads as yet - and then over the Okhotsk Sea. Nevelskoi was not the type to
content himself with being an overseas trucker. His ambition led him to a desire to
participate in affairs of state, and, therefore, to investigate the Amur mouth en
route. He This followed from his conviction that La Perouse,Broughton and Kruzens h tern
could not have been right in finding that so great a river as the Amur [: ] had no
entry deep enough for the ocean-going sailing vessels of that day. He contended that
so vast a quantity of fresh water could not be lost entirely by seepage into sand,
and that it must somewhere cut through a fairway of sufficient depth. Later, acquaint–
ing himself with Gavrilov's report, he found it insufficiently precise and inadequate,

Lower Amur

and therefore clung to his conviction. His proposal to investigate the Amur mouth after
delivering his cargo at Petropavlovsk, was met by with hostility on the part of the Tsar's Ministers, who feared war
with China. Thanks, however, to energetic support on the part of Muravev, Nevelskoi
won from a special committee appointed to consider the matter the right to explore
the Okhotsk coast south from the mouth of the Uda to that of the Amur.
Nevelskoi's ship, the Baikal , put out of St. Petersburg on Aug. 21, 1848, and
arrived at Petropavlovsk on May 12 of the following year. A month later she was already
off the north tip of Sakhalin, having unloaded, [: ] taken on water and made the
Okhotsk Sea crossing. Anchoring his vessel, and transferring to rowboats, Nevelskoi
explored the northern fairway, ascended the river 30 miles to the present location of
Nikolaevsk, and then turned to the sounding of the southern outlet of the Amur. On
August 1 he reached the parallel at which the La Perouse and Broughton descriptions
ended. All the way he found a deep fairway, except over the bar, which had 13 feet
clearance. Thus, once and for all, he settled the problem of the accessibility of
the Amur to the vessels of his day. North to Aian he surveyed the coast, and, at the
entrance to the northern arm of the Amur he discovered SchaSchastie Bay, a good harbor
for small ships of shallow draft. As a result of these discoveries, he received
Imperial authorization for an Amur Expedition, granted Feb. 15, 1850. This gave him
the right to occupy a convenient location near the Amur mouth in the name of the
Russian-American Company and to launch commerce with the Gilyaks, but not to enter
the Amur mouth. Arriving on June 27th of that year, Nevelskoi, for want of a better
place, founded a wintering station in Schastie Bay. He called the place Petrovsk.
He soon became convinced that that location was not good either for trade with the
Gilyaks or for the purpose of observing possible efforts on the part of other nations
to occupy the Amur mouth. This fear, particularly with regard to Great Britain, was
one of the reasons for Russia's revived interest in the area, and was also part of the
world-wide maneuvering by both sides preparatory to the Crimean War. Dissatisfied with
the shallowness of Schastie Bay and the length of time during which it remained frozen,
he exceeded his instructions, explored the Amur for 60 miles from its mouth, and, on
August 1, 1850, raised the Russian flag and sounded a salute at the site of present-day
Nikolaevsk. He also issued a proclamation to the natives and the two whalers (pro-

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bably American) in the vicinity, declaring the island of Sakhalin and the mainland
shore opposite it to be Russian territory. This marked the beginning of the de facto
acquisition of the Amur territory to Russia.
Nevelskoi's independent action could have had disastrous effects both for himself
and for the cause of Russian expansion in the area, but Muravev took it upon himself
to forward to Tsar Nikolai I the circumstances leading Nevelskoi to that action, and
the Tsar gave official approval to the founding of Post Nikolaevsk. (Needless to say,
Nevelskoi was astute in naming the fort for the Tsar!) From that point on, the means
placed at the disposal of Nevelskoi's Amur Expedition were constantly increased, and
he directed explorations both along the river and sea coast and on Sakhalin Island.
Over a three year period he established naval outposts at De Kastri and Imperatorskaia
Gavan (today the rail-served port of Sovetskaia Gavan) on the mainland coast, and at
Aniva Bay on Sakhalin Island. [: ]
[: ] Of these, De Kastri is within the bounds of the
Lower Amur Oblast with which we are concerned here.
The Crimean War, which broke out in 1854, greatly [: ] hastened the [: ] acquisition of
the Amur. When, in 1853, it became clear that there might be hostilities between the
British and French, on the one hand, and Russia on the other, Muravev grew fearful –
rightly, as it turned out - of possible naval action against Kamchatka (qv) and
Russia's southernmost colonies at the Amur mouth. The only means of speedily reinforcing the
threatened localities with troops, provisions and war supplies was via the Amur.
Round-the-world trips were ruled out by Anglo-French naval predominance, and the
Arctic haul via the Lena, Yakutsk, the Aldan, the trail to [: ] Aian, and then by sea,
was actually a matter of at least a year from the starting point at Irkutsk. Muravev
submitted a memorandum along these lines to a special committee and secured Imperial
approval for his plans. In accordance therewith, Capt. Kazakevich and Col. Korsakov
built barges and gunboats on the [: ] Shilka River in the winter of 1853-54,
and the necessary supplies were hauled to that point by sledge. This was in Russian
territory, about 2,000 miles by water above (west) of Nikolaevsk. On May 14, 1854,
when the river was completely free of ice,
Muravev and a battalion of soldiers set forth in a large flotilla on a voyage to
re-open the [: ] waterway and territory that had been closed to Russia for 165 years.

Lower Amur

The voyage was uneventful. All but 350 of the soldiers were garrisoned at De
Castri and Nikolaevsk in the area under our examination. The other 350 left the
expedition where the Amur all but joins the Sea of Japan, made the [: ] 15-mile overland
march to De Kastri on that body of water, and sailed from there to Petropavlovsk–
on-Kamchatka, which they defended successfully during the Anglo-French naval landing.
[: ] Strangely enough, it was this landing which made Nikolaevsk a town of
importance, for the isolated position of Petropavlovsk, the insufficient means for
its defense and provisioning, and the certainty that the Anglo-French would return
in greater force, led to the decision to abandon it completely. in the autumn of 1854.
It was decided to transfer the port site, therefore, to Nikolaevsk. This, of course,
sealed the fate of Aian as well, which declined sharply, or [: ] , more exactly, never
had the opportunity time to benefit from the shifting of the Okhotsk Sea port from Okhotsk.
Early in the Spring of 1854 M ost of Petropavlovsk - its Russian-American Company
and government employees and garrison and their families with movable equipment and
supplies - arrived at De Kastri by sea. Shortly thereafter, a battalion of reinforcements
arrived [: ] after another 2,000-mile trip down the Shilka and Amur, bringing an
enlarged food supply for the entire colony. The Russian calculations proved correct.
The Anglo-French did return in larger force to take Petropavlovsk on Kamchatka. Find–
ing it abandoned, they pursued the Russians to the Amur delta country. Two cruisers
found the Russian Avrora and Dvina at De Kastri. Not desiring to seek combat on equal
terms, they left to secure reinforcements. The Russians Muravev took advantage of this to
move [: ] the Russian vessels to Nikolaevsk and to fortify the Amur mouth below that point. When
the Anglo-French returned to De Kastri in larger numbers they found that the Russian
vessels had gone, and limited themselves to an indecisive bombardment of the Russian
encampment and the landing of a small force, which was beaten back.
The floating of [: ] supplies down the Amur, once begun, was never again inter–
rupted. Each year the Chinese at their border fort at Aigun saw Russian vessels come
should have [: ??]downstream, first only with cargo, but soon thereafter with settlers as well. Russian
military posts and dumps, and then Cossack farm settlements began to appear on the
north bank. Simultaneously the Russians strengthened their hold on the seacoast, found–
ing posts at various points. Finally, in 1856 St. Petersburg organized the [: ]

Lower Amur

the entire Russian coast of the Pacific and the Arctic coast as far west as Chaun Bay,
as the Maritime Oblast, with Nikolaevsk as [: ] the seat of its governor.
Previously, on June 16, 1853, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dispatched a
Note to the Peking tribunal [: ] requesting that plenipotentiaries be send to Kiakhta
to negotiate relative to that portion of the border not defined under the Nerchinsk
agreement of 1689. Contrary to custom, that body acted with haste and in [: ]
[: ] the Fall of that very year the Chinese representatives arrived at Urga in
Mongolia. But as Muravev's objective was the acquisition of the entire north [: ]
bank of the Amur to the Ussuri and the entire country east of the Ussuri to the Sea
of Japan, he could not take the Nerchinsk agreement as his point of departure, as it
categorically renounced Russian claims to the Amur country. Tsar Nikolai approved
Muravev's report to this effect, and named him the Russian plenipotentiary, giving
him the power to negotiate with Peking in full independence. China was informed of
this in a note of Feb. 6, 1854. Later, on June 14, 1855, the Tsar came out for the
acquisition of the north bank of the Amur by Russia, giving the negotiations an
entirely new character.
Muravev stalled the negotiations in order to have time to strengthen his hold
on the Amur, and demanded that the Chinese representatives, far to the west in Mongolia,
turn about and meet him at the new military post of Mariinskoe, [: ] within the
present Lower Amur Oblast. at the point where the river is an easy day's march from
De Kastri. They met Sept. 8, 1855. Muravev demanded the entire territory Russia now
holds north of the Amur and east of the Ussuri to the Sea of Japan. The Chinese re–
ferred to the Russian Note of 1853, based on the Nerchinsk agreement. [: ] Muravev
replied that Russia's war with Britain and France, with its military operations along
the Pacific coast, had changed the situation, and that Note no longer applied. There
the negotiations ended. China believed there was a conflict of policy between St.
Petersburg, which had pursued an extremely cautious course on this matter for three–
quarters of a century, and Muravev. It strove to negotiate with the former, but was
informed that Muravev had full support in his demands. This coincided with the Taiping
Rebellion within China and with Anglo-French representations, supported by strong
fleets and landing forces, for unrestricted trade with China and permanent residencies
in Peking, China, therefore, had to yield to all the European powers. In the case of

Lower Amur

Great Britain was , disturbed by Russian success in gaining actual territory while
de facto while England got only concessions. Therefore, London abandoned its policy of physically divid–
ing China and of creating, with the aid of the Taipings, a new independent state in
the southern and central portions of the country, for fear that this policy would
drive the Peking government into the arms of Russia. However, Russia utilized China's
defeat in its war of 1856-58 with England and France, as well as the weakening effects
of the Taiping Rebellion, and clung to its demands. Understanding the hopelessness
of further resistance to the Russian demands, China decided to yield. Six-day negoti–
ations at Aigun, on the Amur, [: ] led to the conclusion of a treaty containing three
articles. It recognized the left (north) bank of the Amur from the Argun River to
the sea to be Russian territory, and the country between the Ussuri and the Sea of
Japan to be a condominium "until the determination of the boundaries between the two
states". Navigation on the Amur, Sungari and Ussuri was prohibited to all countries
except Russia and China. In the following year, Muravev pushed his border down the
Ussuri as he had planned, ending with the occupation of the excellent harbor named
for Peter the Great, at which Vladivostok was later founded. This boundary was ap–
proved in the Peking Treaty of 1860, and has remained unchanged for the 90 years
since then.
In the course of time, this push southward toward "warm" water (Vladivostok
is frozen 110 days, but [: ] is kept open the year round by icebreakers, although
shipping therefore costs more than via Dairen - Dalny - and Manchuria) deprived
the [: ] sub-Arctic Lower Amur Oblast of
its importance, but for the first quarter- [: ] century of its existence, Nikolaevsk
was Russia's most important city and port in the Far East. (Practical [: ] recognition
of the [: ] sub-Arctic character of the Lower Amur Oblast has been given by the Soviet
government as recently as during the past decade, when the first large port and rail–
road to the sea north of Vladivostok was established, not at Nikolaevsk or De Kastri
in this Oblast, but at Sovetskaia Gavan - Nevelskoi's Imperatorskaia Gavan - 170 miles
south of De Kastri, for Sovetskaia Gavan is the northernmost mainland harbor which
today's icebreakers can keep open the year round.)

Lower Amur

At the time of the Russian conquest of this territory three settlements –
Sofiisk [: ] , Mariinskoe and Nikolaevsk - were established in the confines of the present
Lower Amur Oblast. Sofiisk [: ] , the most southerly, is due west of De Kastri on the coast.
It lies on the east bank of the Amur. [: ] at the foot of Mt. Jai (Dzhai). Sofiisk was
founded [: ] with the object of laying a road from it to De Kastri, which
[: ] is open to navigation two months longer than Nikolaevsk. However, the
idea of the road was soon abandoned, [: ] and Sofiisk lost its expected importance, as
the site of the post had been poorly chosen, for it was soon learned that Mariinsk
provided a much better connection to De Kastri. From Mariinsk to the sea there is only
a 12-mile portage [: ] between Lake Kizi, a fresh-water
lagoon stretching 30 miles east of the Amur, to De Kastri. From Sofiisk, on the other
hand, the haul is 36 miles over hill country. The founding of Sofiisk was, in general,
linked to the idea of making Nikolaevsk a major commercial port. When it became clear
that Nikolaevsk could serve neither as an adequate naval base nor commercial port,
in terms of that day,
Sofiisk became an anachronism. It served only as garrison point for an infantry battalion,
which did perform the one service of stringing a telegraph line to De Kastri. With the
founding of Vladivostok, however, the battalion was moved southward. [: ]
[: ] . In 1895 it was an unincorporated village [: ] of 940, including 720 men and 220 women.
It consisted then of an empty barracks, a telegraph station, an Orthodox Church, a jail
and some dozens of log houses. It had no trade to [: ] speak of.
Mariinsk, 30 miles downriver from Sofiisk, and also on its east bank, lies in a
low valley surrounded by the mountains which border Lake Kizi. [: ] The strategic location
[: ] of this spot relative to De Kastri resulted in the
founding of Mariinsk here in 1855, with the building of a house for the governor, a
barracks, food storehouses and other warehouse structures. The location is damp and
marshy, and the surrounding territory is not particularly suited to agriculture. Ad–
joining Mariinsk is the village of Kizi, whose inhabitants are truck-gardeners for the
most part. There was a fair amount of trade in Mariinsk, for the natives themselves
had long used the portage from here to the coast.
Nikolaevsk lies on the left (north) bank of the Amur, 30 miles from its mouth,
[: ] In the 1860s, that is, within a decade of its [: ] founding,

Lower Amur

it reached a population [: ] of about 5,000. However, in 1872-3 the
Russian naval base on the Pacific, which had been moved southward from Petropavlovsk
to Nikolaevsk less than 20 years earlier, was now moved farther south to [: ] Vladi–
vostok, and in 1880 the seat of the governor of the Maritime Territory followed it.
With the moving of the naval base [: ] the population fell to 2,000 or 2,500, and [: ]
after the departure of the governor, his staff, their families and the merchants serving
them, [: ] it was no more than 1,000 to 1,500. The reason lay in the fact that for
the sailing vessels of that time Nikolaevsk was open no more than four months in the
year (even today it is considered open only 5 1/2 months).
The development of agriculture by new settlers along the southernmost curve of
the Amur between Blagoveshchensk and Khabarovsk, well south of the area under our con–
sideration, and the appearance of fisheries, some lumbering and regular river shipping
all led to a rise in the fortunes of Nikolaevsk as a port from [: ] 1890 on.
In 1895 it again had 4,417 people (3,398 men and 1,019 women), of whom a military gar–
rison constituted the largest single group (1,593) , exiles the next largest and settled Cossacks the
third. In 1896 trade in the town - chiefly through the port - came to the fairly con–
siderable sum of $1,090,000. There was a dock and a lighthouse, and the town had a
three-year school, [: ] a trade school for coopers, a hospital, two churches,
40 government-owned buildings and 328 private houses. In 1897 the population was up
to 5,684 and by 1917 it was 12,204. The 1897 population included 1,030 Chinese. By
that date [: ] various inhabitants of the town kept 1,305 head of livestock,
including 440 horses, chiefly used for haulage, 340 sledge dogs, 300 pigs and [: ] 220
cattle. There were no factories of any kind. By about 1902 there was lumbering in the
immediate vicinity of the town, gold was being recovered nearby, and the total business
done in the town and port had reached $2,204,060 in a year. There was a public hospital
with 30 beds and a private one with six, as well as a leprosarium with 21 patients.
The town had now acquired a library. In 1899 the port had handled 103 vessels, most
of them quite small. They had brought in 2,886 passengers and 60,000 tons of freight,
while only 8,000 tons had been taken out. Clearly, settlement and development were
the chief forms of activity, judging by the one-way direction of the trade.
Revolution, Civil War, Intervention.
The news of the abdication of the Tsar early in 1917 brought sharp changes in

Lower Amur

along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, and six years of warfare, accompanied by some of
the most [: ] thorough destruction witnessed anywhere in Russia. E In Okhotsk itself the
Chief of Police - the ranking officer of government - was ousted at the end of March,
1917, and a mineworker (gold-mining was now well established, on a small scale) named
Panov headed the new regime. Authorities sent out from Vladivostok nationalized the
Koltsov and Fogelman gold mines at Okhotsk. Shortly thereafter they were returned to
the former owners, but after the Bolshevik Revolution they were nationalized once and
for all. Freed from the restraints of the old regime, [: ] and lacking the clear and
firm organization of labor in the larger centers of Russia, things at Okhotsk took a
fairly anarchic turn for a while. Each [: ] miner turned to working for
his private benefit. Home brewing of rice and grain liquors became an open enterprise.
The miners with greater vision and understanding of the need for discipline strove to
maintain order by means of the punishments to which they themselves had been subjected:
robbery or assault was punished by 50 or 100 lashes or by large fines in gold. There
was, however, a rough-and-ready democracy such as had never been known. Important ques–
tions were settled by general town meetings. But when the anti-Soviet armies of Kolchak
gained control of Eastern Siberia with the aid of Allied (Japanese-French-British-U.S.)
forces on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, arms, supplies and funds, the local left gov–
ernments were displaced and their leaders executed. But at Christmas, 1919, the Com–
munists raised a workers rebellion which re-took Okhotsk temporarily. Later, the
remnants of the anti-Soviet navy took the village with their fleet, consisting of two
tramp steamers and a little gunboat, with 400 troops aboard. This situation continued
until 1922 and 1923 in spots, when Soviet forces re-took the area by sea, although
Red partisans drawn from the local miners and the natives, whom the Communists treated
as equals, had harassed the Whites in the interim.
The chief reason for the long duration of civil strife in this area was Japanese
intervention. They maintained a full battleship and squadron of destroyers at Petro–
pavlovsk, and smaller vessels of Okhotsk. [: ] Nikolaevsk, as the most important
town at the mouth of the Amur, was directly occupied by Japanese marines [: ] in September,
[: ] April, 1918. The latitude, interestingly, is the same as that of Attu, in
the Aleutians, occupied by Japan in World War II. In September, 1918, Japan sent two

Lower Amur

companies of infantry to relieve the marines. The Japanese had They made themselves particularly hated
in this part of the country by the frequent repetitions of such massacres as that at
Ivanovka by the crews of Japanese gunboats, which steamed up and down the lower Amur
using Russian villages as targets. The men in the area, particularly fishermen, [: ]
trappers, longshoremen, boatmen, laborers and peasants, [: ] therefore readily joined
a guerrilla force organized by an anarchist named Triapitsyn.
When the Japanese gunboats left before the river froze in the autumn of 1919,
they left behind a garrison of 640 men. In the early part of January, 1920, Triapitsyn
advanced on Nikolaevsk with about 3,000 men. The Japanese and their [: ] Russian
White Guard allies burned the outlying houses to prevent their being used as cover by
the attackers. This outraged the partisans, who saw their own homes going up in flames. The
first two men Triapitsyn sent forward to treat for the surrender of the town were tortured to death.
Near the town was a Russian-built fort occupied by about 50 Japanese. The Russians took
this fort, surrounded the town, and bombarded it with the guns of the fort. This lasted
for three days, when the defenders asked for a parley. On February 29, the Japanese
and the Whites surrendered. The Japanese, however, retained their arms under parole,
and outwardly it appeared as though fairly peaceful relations had been established
between them and the guerrillas. However, the remainder of the White Guards quickly
rallied round the Japanese. Suddenly, on the night of March 11, the Japanese attacked
the sleeping guerrilla forces and burned their staff building with all those in it.
They executed others and took the town. However, the partisans quickly reformed their
ranks, renewed their attacks on the Nikolaevsk and took it after three days. On this
occasion Triapitsyn's men took fierce revenge against the Japanese who had so treach–
erously attacked them. 134 survived, however, and, surrendering, were confined in the jail.
On May 22, Triapitsyn notified the Chinese Consul that a Japanese naval [: ] squadron
was approaching with landing forces, and that he would burn the town rather than let it
again fall into their hands. The Chinese Consul protested, [: ] pointing to the 4,000
Chinese residents (one-third of the population) who would be rendered homeless by such
an act of vandalism. Triapitsyn gave them a few days in which to evacuate. The Consul
then asked with regard to the 134 prisoners in the jail. Triapitsyn promised to put them
on a ship and send them back to Japan. This decision was violently opposed by Nina

Lower Amur

Lebedeva, his female Chief of Staff. She demanded execution.
On May 25th, 4,000 Chinese and 700 Russian civilians were evacuated up the river
about 18 miles, to the village of Mago. Two days later Nikolaevsk was burned. Of its
2,000 buildings, only 17 remained intact. (It is not known had many had been destroyed in the previous fighting and fires.) Lebedeva's counsel apparently had prevailed,
for the Japanese were not released from the jail, which was among the buildings burned.
This event was a stroke of good fortune for the Japanese government, for influential
forces and popular feeling was by this date opposed to the continued and expensive
stay of Japanese troops in Siberia. A great public ceremony was held in Tokyo's Diet
building on June 24th in memory of the dead. [: ] The Nikolaevsk massacre was
used to justify the previous Japanese attacks, on April 4th and 5th, 1920, upon the
garrisons of the buffer state, the Far Eastern Republic, at Vladivostok, Khabarovsk
and elsewhere. Further, on July 4th Japan announced that it would occupy such parts
of Sakhalin, including the adjoining Kamchatka and Okhotsk Sea fisheries, as it deemed
necessary, and that Vladivostok and Khabarovsk would be under its protection. The village
of Okhotsk was among those occupied.
The Far Eastern Republic, Communist-led, sent a force in pursuit of [: ]
Triapitsyn as soon as it heard of the Nikolaevsk massacre. He was captured near the
village of Kerbi, where they were taken for trial. The court was composed of 120 men,
one chosen to represent each 25 men of the population. The prisoners were found guilty
of unnecessary and senseless ferocity, and eight of them, Triapitsyn and Lebedeva in–
cluded, were executed by a firing squad. This was, incidentally, before any news of
the reaction in Japan could reach Kerbi. The Japanese made extensive use of the
Nikolaevsk massacre in their negotiations with the Russians at Dairen and Changchun,
and at the Washington Conference.
The Soviet Period
B Nikolaevsk made a remarkably rapid comeback. [: ] In 1926 the town again had a
population of 7,356, including 4,074 men and 3,282 women. There were [: ] 1,254 dwelling
houses, of which 101 were munipically owned and the rest the property of their builders.
By 1930 the town had 9,500 people, but three years later there were 16,500, the largest
population in its history, thanks to the development of its fisheries and the founding
of Komsomolsk up-river, with its tremendous requirements for a city destined to exceed

Lower Amur

127,000 within a dozen years of its birth. (It is south of the region under our consid–
eration).
By 1930 Nikolaevsk was [: ] the terminus of a regular river passenger-and-freight
line over 2,000 miles in length, and a port of call for coastal vessels. It was [: ]
exporting fish and lumber, and had two sawmills, a brickworks, a fish cannery, a power
station, a distillery and a printing plant, issuing a newspaper, the Red Lighthouse .
There were two radio stations (one had been built under the old regime, in 1910, for
communication with Petropavlovsk). There was telephone connection with three nearby
villages and telegraphic connection with the country at large. A regular air line func–
tioned to Khabarovsk. Dirt roads had been laid to a number of surrounding villages.
During the '30s additional enterprises were built: a sawmill, a box works, a barrel
works and a power station. The port was expanded, and a shipyard to build fishing [: ]
boats erected.
Early in 1939, at the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., held
in [: ] Moscow, the head of that organization for the Khabarovsk Territory, which includes
the Lower Amur Oblast, spoke of the need for an immediate "Okhotsk Sea Plan", so framed
as to discourage aggression against that area, and built around Nikolaevsk as the
center of the Okhotsk Sea. [: ] He called for Nikolaevsk to be greatly developed as a
port. It is known that the bar at the Amur mouth has been dredged to permit the passage
of vessels of 8,000 tons, if not larger, for the Wallace mission saw a [: ] light cruiser
of that tonnage being completed at the Komsomolsk shipyards in 1944. [: ] By that
date Nikolaevsk was an important airway junction, with planes flying north to Okhotsk,
Magadan and the Kolyma [: ] gold fields, [: ] east to Okha on Sakhalin and Ust-Bolsheretsk
and Petropavlovsk on Kamchatka, and south to Komsomolsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok.
A Soviet description of the Amur mouth in 1946 states that from Nikolaevsk to the sea
there are long lines of fish-packing houses, fish traps, smoking and salting sheds,
fishermen's dwellings and vegetable gardens on both banks of the river. Many of the
fishing grounds are new while others have been transformed from seasonal fishing camps
where the workers lived in mud huts into permanent fish-packing centers where the work
is mechanized. There are huge refrigerators at the mouth of the Amur, fish canneries
have been opened, the cans are made in local factories and, most recently, the manufacture

Lower Amur

of fertilizer from fish wastes has been introduced here. E
The trebling of population in the Lower Amur Oblast from 1926 to 1947, noted at
the beginning of this article (38,000 to 100,000) may be traced in large part to the
inducements offered to settlers, temporary and permanent, [: ] particularly
in order to make possible the exploitation of the incredible salmon runs up the Amur.
Persons accepting work in the fisheries of this area are placed in the same privileged
category [: ] set up for those going to the geographic Far North - an indication that
the area we are considering is virtually Arctic in terms of human habitation and working
conditions, particularly. They and their families, whom they are encouraged to bring, are provided [: ] free transportation from their point of
origin - usually in European Russia, 5,000 miles away - to their work site. This includes
their baggage. The worker [: ] and his dependents each receive a per diem expense pay–
ment while en route, in addition to a lump sum to cover the usual costs of breaking up
a home and establishing a new one. Winter underclothing and footwear are provided
without charge, while automatic inclusion into the fishermen's cooperative at the work–
site affords privileged access to consumer goods. Day and piece rates range between
30 and 60% higher than in European Russia, and, to induce continued stay, a wage raise
of 10% is made automatically every six months. The annual paid vacation time is 36 work–
ing days (i.e., six weeks), except for responsible executives and experts [: ]
[]whose working hours are determined by necessity,
who receive 48 working days paid vacation. Vacation travel fare to and from any point
in the Soviet Union (Arctic and sub-Arctic personnel usually prefer the sub-tropical
Black Sea coast) is paid once in three years, with the result that many accumulate
vacation time for three years and then go "outside" for several months. However, a spa
has been built at Annenskie Waters in the Lower Amur Oblast to accomodate 600 fisher–
men and gold miners at a time.
For those settling permanently in the Oblast there are additional inducements.
Loans are offered them to meet the costs of building a home and acquiring household
livestock (a milk cow, a sow, several sheep and goats, and an unlimited number of
fowl and rabbits may [: ] legally be owned privately), of which 60% is repayable in ten
years and 40% is an outright gift. For a five year period thereafter, they are not
required to sell any portion of their agricultural produce to the government, enabling
them to get higher prices by retailing directly.

Lower Amur

To avoid unnecessary hardship and, particularly, disappointment, matters are so
arranged that the head or some other working member of the family arrives first, builds
a house with the aid of the other members of the fishing or farming cooperative s in
which he will work, and prepares it for the arrival of the rest of the family.
To provide an anti-scorbutic diet acceptable to Russian families, vegetable gard–
ening is conducted on a considerable scale. Five miles from Aian, for example, [: ]
the Okhotsk Fisheries maintains a [: ] 567-frame hothouse growing cucumbers,
lettuce, [: ] radishes, onions, vegetable tomatoes, beets, cabbage and flowers to add
color and an atmosphere of comfort to the fishermen's homes. In 1945 [: ] fifteen lemon
trees were grown. [: ]
B To end the cultural backwardness of the region and provide education both for
the children of the Russian settlers and those of the aborigines, 190 schools were
built in the Lower Amur territory from 1928 to 1946, including 33 in which the native
Ulchi, Evenki, Nivkhi and Negidaltsy study in their native tongues. A new normal school
in Nikolaevsk trains teachers for the native schools. E
Native Peoples : [: ]
Of the half-dozen small native tribes inhabiting the Lower Amur Oblast, one, the
Ulchi, numbering about one thousand, are sufficiently concentrated to have a county of their own, with its seat at
the village of Bogorodskoe. It is the southernmost county in the Oblast, lying up-river
from Nikolaevsk. [: ] Judging by the fact that its area of about 10,000 square miles
contains 23 villages and one industrial fishery settlement, the Ulchi are probably a
minority in their [: ] own territory, but this arrangement provides for greater atten–
tion to their needs than one in which purely geographical considerations had drawn the
boundary. [: ] About 800 of these people live along a 100-mile stretch of the Amur, and
between it and the Straits of Tatary. The other 200 live just across the straits on
Sakhalin Island, which is easily reached by sledge across the ice in winter and by small
boats in summer.
[: ] The best single description of the
changes in the life of the Ulchi to come to the attention of the present writer is an
article written in 1948 by a 29-year-old member of this tribe, then a student at Lenin–
grad University. As the flavor of the article is one of its most interesting aspects,

Lower [: ] Amur

Another small tribe in the Oblast as the Negidaltsy (self-name Elkan Beienin, or
Elkanbei), who numbered 371 in 1927, and lived along both banks of the Amgun River.
Although originally a branch of the reindeer-keeping Evenki, they later became a dog–
[: ] sledging people, but began to acquire horses during the '20s of the present
century. They are divided into 11 exogamous clans. Their way of life differed little
in the economic and social sense from that of the other tribes of the Oblast, and
therefore we paraphrase here, as typical of all of them less than 20 years ago, a de–
scription written in 1931 by one of the first, if not the very first, of that people
to receive an education. [: ] Leno by name, he was a student at the Institute
of the Peoples of the North at Leningrad.
The chief occupation was [: ] fishing. Secondary
occupations were hunting wildfowl and fur-bearing animals. The most important fish [: ] is
pink [: ] salmon. The wildfowl hunted are duck and geese. The salmon run begins in April and
lasts ten days. During those ten days a good fisherman [: ] caught 50 to 60 fish,
and the average caught 30 to 40. The fish weigh three to four pounds each, so that
the total food supply laid in came to only 90 to 160 lbs., including waste matter and
that consumed by the fisherman his family and his dogs during the 10-day run! Wildfowl was hunted
at the same time. A catch of 60 ducks was the maximum for a good hunter. Some got 30 to
40, but the majority only 15 to 20.
At the close of the salmon run, the Negidaltsy left the river and returned to
their huts, usually doing nothing until July, i.e., for a period of three months. The
negligible food supply - 200 lbs. for a family for three months - which this people
was able to obtain with its primitive means is the obvious explanation for their very
small numbers and density. Chronic semi-starvation was the rule. In July the people
roused themselves, made up parties for summer fishing for pink and keta salmon, the
[: ] females of the latter weighing 7 1/2 lbs., and the males 2 1/2. The
members of the parties fished individually, but shared their catch equally. This run
lasts 15 to 20 days. Thereafter the fish was dried or salted in barrels.
Upon the end of this fishing season the people turned to hay-making, whether for
cows - as among the Yakuts - or horses, is not clear. The cows native to this general
area, brought north by the Yakuts, gave only two quarts of milk per day. Among the

Lower Amur

we shall not paraphrase it, [: ] or reorganize its contents into what
might appear more logical form, but quote directly in extenso :
"I am an Ulchi, a member of a small nationality living on the lower reaches of
the Amur in the Soviet Far East. There are about 1,000 of us in all, and only 30 years
ago my people were threatened by complete extinction....Today the Ulchi look confidently
into the future.....This, however, does not prevent us from being interested in our
past as well - those incredibly hard times which today have

Lower Amur

Yakuts, there was an average of one cow per member of the family. There is no reason
to believe the Negidaltsy to have been better off. Their hay-making season lasted over
a month, and was exhausting work, with the primitive straight sickle used. This over,
they turned to the fall run of keta salmon, which average 12 lbs. each for males, and
10 lbs. for females. This lasted 20 days, after which they were dried and salted for
winter use and for sale. The hunting season, lasting from October 20th until the follow–
ing April, followed. The chief animals encountered were wolves, squirrels and a few
sable. The furs were sold to the Okhotsk Company, a government agency.
An "exceedingly limited" number of persons were literate. There was, in 1931,
as yet neither a school nor a cooperative for the people living at the mouth of the
Amgun. The cooperative in the area was in a Russian village and the natives [: ]
dealt with it on a purely business basis, selling their pelts and fish and buying
manufactures. The area did have a village Soviet, but it paid little attention to the
natives, who were called together in general meeting only once a year. It was impossible,
therefore, to give proper attention to all the problems arising in the course of a
year, and much remained unresolved, to the detriment of the people. The writer drew
the conclusion that the first need was a greater number of literate people. There were
many signs of backwardness among the population. The worst was drunkenness. When wine
was available, some would go on an uninterrupted drunk, with disastrous effects for
themselves and their families. They would sell all the fish and wildfowl meat on hand,
for liquor, leaving nothing for their families. The wife would be the worst sufferer.
In any case she was worse off than the [: ] man, for all the heaviest work lay on her
shoulders. She [: ] cut [: ] the firewood, cooked, baked bread (evidently the purchase of
flour was part of the way of life), looked after the children, made the clothing for
all. The solution offered by the writer was to train well-educated people and to admit
and attract the Negidaltsy to participation in the Soviet, the cooperative and the
League of Communist Youth.
To be completed.

Lower Amur

The condition of the Negidaltsy, described above, was typical of that of all the
native tribes at that time. A pleasant contrast is offered by a description of the posi–
tion of the Ulchi, [: ] which held for the others as well, 17 years later, in
1948. Most striking is the fact that the report in question was written by [: ]
[: ] Ulchi graduate student of ethnography at the Dept. of the Peoples of the
North at Leningrad University. As the flavor of the article is most interesting, we
shall not paraphrase it, or reorganize its contents into what might be deemed more
logical sequence, but quote directly in extenso :
"There are about 1,000 of us [: ] in all, and only 30 years ago my people were
threatened by complete extinction...Today the Ulchi look confidently into the future...
This, however, does not prevent us from being interested in our past as well - those
incredibly hard times which today have been preserved only in Ulchi folklore. When I
graduate at the Leningrad University, I shall devote myself to collecting and studying
this folklore, as well as to research in my own language and those of kindred national–
ities. Although I'm still a student, the University is helping me to achieve this goal,
sending me this summer to my native parts (6,000 miles distant - W.M.) to record folk
songs and tales. It is important to do it now because the new folklore reflecting the
present...life of the Ulchi is rapidly overshadowing the sorrowful, plantive songs of
old. I am 29 and remember those bygone times only hazily, for the progress made by my
people...is great indeed. The village of Koima where I was born stands as before on the
banks of the broad Amur, and as always, high, wooded hills tower over it. This, probably,
is the only thing in the village that has not changed in the last 30 years.
"A visitor to our parts from more highly developed sections of the country would pro–
bably not notice anything remarkable in Koima. Along the river front stands a row of spa–
cious wooden cottages of the kind you can see in any well-to-do Russian collective farm.
For the Ulchi, however, the construction of these houses signified a veritable revolution
in their lives. You must remember that in the early twenties we still lived in miserable
hovels unfit for human habitation. We would still be living in them to this day had not
first the cooperatives and then the collective farms made our life well-to-do, had not
the state extended us credits and had the Russians not taught us how to build real dwell–
ings. [: ]

Lower Amur

"The visitor might consider still less remarkable that each of our collective farmers
has one or two cows. Yet the fact is that until the early thirties we had none at all.
Indeed we had no idea of what dairy produce was, and the appearance of the first herds
caused among the older generation, consternation almost as great as the appearance of
horses in Mexico and Peru long ago.
"The village is now surrounded by gardens and farm fields. This, too, might seem to
be quite natural. Yet the fact remains that all this is new, for the Ulchi did not en–
gage in agriculture before Soviet times. Fishing and hunting are still the chief occupa–
tion of the Ulchi, but the primitive weapons and tackle used in my own [: ]
childhood can now be found only in the museums.
"I doubt whether a tourist in search of the exotic would find much satisfaction in
walking through our village, except perhaps for the occasional dog sleds he would be
bound to meet. Apart from the houses, he would see the usual public buildings one finds
in any Russian or Ukrainian village.
"The composition of our village Soviet is, I think, quite indicative of the changes
that have taken place in the Ulchi way of life. Is it not remarkable, for instance, that
the Chairman of the Soviet as well as the majority of its members are sons of a people
who only recently were considered half savage, and that they were elected to office by
these people? One of the members of the village Soviet is a young woman named Neida
Cherul, who is also a member of the Young Communist League. Even the old Ulchi have the
greatest respect for Neida, although women in the old days were considered inferior
beings and had no voice in public affairs. Neida's mother was sold in marriage, as were
all Ulchi women at that time.
"One building that stands out in our village is that of the health center. A relative
of mine, 80-year-old Didi Cherul, is one of its regular patients. He also receives physio–
therapeutical treatment in the county hospital. But I can remember the time when Didi,
like most of his generation, suffered severely from trachoma, and I recall how much
trouble we 'enlightened' younger folk had, to persuade him to consult a Russian doctor.
Today trachoma has been stamped out, and so have other diseases which are the concomi–
tants of poverty and filth.
"Along with trachoma, high infant mortality has become a thing of the past. I shall

Lower Amur

never forget how, as a child, I watched a medicine man go through wild contortions and
beat his drums in order to cure two of my younger brothers who were ill with what I be–
lieve was measles. Both of them died. I myself would most likely have died 29 years ago,
had I had the misfortune to be born in winter. According to custom, Ulchi women had to
give birth to their children outdoors, and my mother happened to be a rather frail woman.
Nowadays, Ulchi women do not give birth at home either; they are confined at the mater–
nity ward of the village hospital.
"The second house after the hospital, as you enter the village from the Amur side,
is the cooperative store. Practically all the things it carries were unavailable and,
in most cases, even unknown to the Ulchi before the Revolution. This applies not only
to sewing machines, radio sets and European-type clothing, but also to foodstuffs like
sugar, confectionery products, cereals, macaroni and even tea. The sales of the cooperat- i
ive store, incidentally, are the best barometer of the increased buying power of the
Ulchi people. The rising well-being of the Ulchi is to be explained not only by the
general rise in the prosperity of the Soviet people all over the country, but also by
the fact that Soviet power swept away the traders who formerly used to skin the local
population, robbing the simple folk right and left, as often as not with the aid of
liquor. The Soviet government abolished the exorbitant levies imposed by the tsarist
officials. It supplies our people with modern fishing tackle and splendid hunting rifles,
buying [: ] at fair prices the fish and furs the Ulchi have to offer.
"You can still buy strong drinks in the cooperative store and, although by far not
all Ulchi are teetotalers, you don't see anyone drunk in our village. Yet there was a
time when drink was practically the only "amusement" the Ulchi knew. Now every house
has a radio crystal set-W.M. and books, and there is a club where the villager can go in the evening to
borrow a book from the library, to listen to a lecture, to see a movie or take in a per–
formance given by the local amateur talent group.
"Had a club been opened in our village 30 or even 25 years ago, probably none of the
local people would have gone to it, for the Ulchi then were ignorant and totally illit–
erate. As recently as the early thirties, when the first sound [: ] films were
shown, many Ulchi thought they were the work of evil spirits.
"Today there are no illiterate Ulchi. Even the old folks have made it their [: ] bus-

Lower Amur

iness to learn at least to read. Sixty-year-old Abiska Boyavsal, who first learned to
read at the age of 50, is considered by the collective farmers their foreign affairs
expert. All the children in the village study in the local seven-year school, which
maintains a dormitory where youngsters from nearby settlements lacking their own
schools are maintained by the state.
"My teachers were all Russians, but now half of the teaching personnel of the Koima
school are local people. Like myself, they are graduates of the special teachers' col–
lege for the Far Eastern nationalities functioning in Nikolaevsk-on-the-Amur, where the
students are given tuition free of charge and maintained by the state. Many of the gradu–
ates continue their education at the Northern Nationalities Department of the Khabarovsk
Pedagogical Institute, which I finished in 1946, or [: ] the similar department of the
Leningrad University where I study now.
"Our small nationality has already produced quite a few intellectuals. Some of
them work on the spot, and others, like [: ] economist Peter Jorka, hold leading
posts on a regional scale. Still others, like Inna Boyavsal, are officers of the
Soviet Army or studying to become specialists and researchers in various fields.
"In spite of all this, you can often hear complaints at meetings of the villagers
that we are still a backward people. Why, for instance, do we still use kerosene lamps
when our [: ] neighbors, the Nanai, have already built rural power stations and
dispelled darkness, not only figuratively but in the literal meaning of the word? Con–
structive criticism like this always produces results, and I am sure that our village,
too, will soon have electricity."
William Mandel
In pit #2 of the Bolbuks mines in the Verkhojansk Mountains
located approximately 1450 m. above sea level, the following
temperatures were observed in 1930: (See Table 46).
Let us take Skovorodino where there is a pit 28 m. deep as the
next point of observation. For several years systematic temperatures
observations were conducted there and the figures for these observa–
tions are given in Table 47.
It is seen from this table that at Akovorodino the temperature
<formula> 45 33 ﹍ 135 135 ﹍ 14860 </formula>
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