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Yakutia Territory: Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Yakutia Territory

Form for receipt of article "Yakutia Territory"
28,700 words
YAKUT AUTONOMOUS SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC, lies between latitudes 56° and 76° in northeastern Siberia, [] [: ]
It fronts on the Arctic Ocean for 1,500 miles, and runs inland 1,000 miles from there.
Yakutia It had a population of 400,544 by the census of 1939, of whom 78,667 were urban, and
321,877 rural. (q.v.) [: ] Its territory, constituting the valley of the Lena' Olenek, Anabar, Yana and
Indigirka [] rivers, [] is divided approximately in half by the Arctic Circle, but the
entire republic is underlain by permafrost. Yakutia
[: ] is of vast extent, embracing an area of 1,170,000 square miles, or one–
third that of the United States. The capital city, Yakutsk, with 50,000 people at 62° N. (q.v.), is 5,260 miles from
Moscow by surface transportation: railroad, road and river boat. For administrative
28,700 words purposes Yakutia is divided into 37 counties and one special region, the Aldan Okrug,
a gold-mining district of 130,580 sq. mi., constituting the southernmost portion of
[: ] the republic. The city of Aldan, center of this district, [: ] is the second largest in the
republic. It has 30,000 people and lies 440 miles south of Yakutsk, but still 402
miles north of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and lies on the one [: ] truck highway built into
[: ] Yakutia. One indication of the extreme rapid–
ity of the development of Yakutia is the fact that the populations of Yakutsk and
Aldan alone exceed, together, the urban census population of the republic in 1939.
[: ] Yet there are five other towns: Tommot in the gold district; Viluisk in the
agricultural area west of Yakutsk; Verkhoyansk and Sredne-Kolymsk north of the
Arctic Circle in the eastern half of the republic; and Olekminsk on the Lena southwest
of Yakutsk. In addition, there were, as of 1/1/1948, 29 [: ] workers' settlements, of which
a typical one, Zhatai, built around a river shipyard founded in 1942, had 5,000 people
five years later. Another, the famed Arctic port of Tiksi, reported the birth of 235
babies in 1945, indicating a population of at least 17,000 and probably nearly twice
that. Combined, the five towns other than Yakutsk and Aldan, plus the 29 workers'
settlements, could hardly have a population of less than 100,000. This would bring the total population of Yakutia up to about 500,000, 40% urban and 60% rural. Such
growth within a decade would not be out of the ordinary, for Yakutsk itself grew from
8,000 in 1914 to 23,000 in 1933 and 50,000 in 1940. by which date its population was
30% Yakut and the rest chiefly Russian. If that nationality ratio applies to [: ] our
presumed total urban population of roughly 200,000, then 60,000 of them are Yakuts,
indicating that one-fifth of that people would now not be urban. For Yakutia as a whole,
It may be estimated that the population is now three-fifths Yakut and two-fifths The reason for the great length of this article is that
the Yakuts form an overwhelming majority of all the
world's [: ] peoples native to the [: ]
zone of predominant permafrost. Their history is corres–
pondingly rich and interesting, both prior to the coming
of the Russians, during the period of Tsarist rule for
almost 300 years, and during the past generation. So are
their unique attainments [: ] among peoples native to this
area, of raising horses and cattle and hay-making toward
that end.
W.M.
q.v Lattimore's comment last paragraph, p 137
New Compass of the World. May I suggest that
you send this article to Lattimore for reading?-W.M.

Yakutia

Russian. [: ] Minor indigenous nationalities - [: Evenki ] (Tungus), [: Eveni]
([: Lamut), Dolgan, Adul (Yukagio) and [] Chukali] are only 3% i.e. 15,000 in number.
Of the 29 workers' settlements, only [: ] may be regarded as non-Arctic, in that they
are connected with the rest of the USSR the year round via the Aldan all-weather
highway. They are Verkhne-Stalinsk, founded 1942, 58°30′ N.; Vtoroi Orochen, in the
same i vicinity, founded 1932; Dzhekonda, the same; Nagornyi, 56°, 1941; Nizhne–
Stalinsk, 58°30' N., 1932; Orochen, the same; Seligdar, the same [: ] . Other gold-mining
camps in the Aldan country are Spokoinyi, founded 1942; Usmun, founded 1932; Chagda,
founded 1941 and Chulman, the same. Six of the 29 workers' settlements are more than
1,800 miles from the railroad, measuring not as the crow flies, but along the rivers,
portages and roads used in practice to reach them. 12, including these six, are more
than 1,250 miles from rail. 16, including these 12, are north of Yakutsk itself, and
therefore in the territory formerly administered by the Northern Sea Route Admini–
stration. They could not have been founded and developed without the opening of
the Arctic as a regular means of transport.
The Arctic character of the country is most clearly evident, geographically,
from the fact that all its rivers, without exception, run north to the Arctic Ocean.
They are navigable, however, less than half the year, being blocked either by ice
or flood the rest of the time. The rivers take their origin in the Yablonovoi,
Stanovoi and Kolyma mountain ranges, which extend in a solid mass northeastward from
Lake Baikal to Kamchatka. These mountains mark the southern boundary of an enormous
plateau, which slopes gradually northward to the Arctic Sea Ocean . East of the Lena
this plateau is higher than to the west, and it is intersected in all directions by
chains of mountains large and small, constituting, in their entirety, a [: ] vast
highland region. West of the Lena the country is lower, and [: ] contains
the shallow Viliui-Lena valley. It is here, between the lower Aldan and Lena rivers
on the one hand, and the Viliui and Lena on the other, that 9/10s of the Yakut people
dwell. But the other 10% constitute the bulk of the native population of a terri–
tory many times larger. There is a considerable area of Yakut settlement higher up
the Lena, near the mouth of its tributary, the [: ] Olekma. Yakuts have also long
dwellt along the Yana, between 65° and 71° N. Since the coming of the Russians 300
years ago, other groups of Yakuts havemigrated northward to the valleys of the Indi–

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girka and the Kolyma. Settlements are also to be found at the mouths of the Olenek and
Anabar, at the very shore of the Arctic Sea Ocean .
The innumerable rivers and streams, merging into the great systems mentioned
above (the Lena itself is the fourth largest in the world, and the other rivers men–
tioned are all have ramified tributaries draining extensive areas) constitute a net–
work of waterways covering the entire country. The larger of them form a natural sys–
tem of communications which has played a profound role in the country's history. In
addition to its rivers, Yakutia is extraordinarily rich in lakes, which vary from a few
acres to a thousand square [: ] kilometers in size. The ir total number of lakes is
nearly 100,000. They are particularly thickly sown in the basin of the Viliui River,
and also between the lower reaches of the Kolyma and Indigirka.
As Yakutia , north of the mountains girdling its inland frontiers , is an enormous flat slope inclining toward the Arctic sea Ocean , and
having no protection against winds from the north, but blocked from moderating modulating
central Asian or Pacific influences, it has an extremely a bitterly cold climate. Winter extends
from October to April or May, and temperatures as low as [: ] −94° F. have been recorded
at Verkhoiansk, long believed to be the world's Pole of Cold. Even in the far south
of Yakutia, at Olekminsk, the average winter temperature is −27.4° F., and at Yakutsk
it is −40°F, the temperature typical of Arctic winters everywhere. The same factors
making for continentality, however, give Yakutia a hot, although brief summer. That,
combined with the length of each summer day in these high [: ] latitudes, permits
tomatoes and even watermelons to ripen successfully in many places. Spring and fall
are very short, so that the change from winter to summer and back is quite sudden.
Except for a narrow belt of tundra on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, almost
all Yakutia's vast expanse is covered by virgin forest, raning from pigmy forms in
the north to thick, impenetrable taiga in the south. The most common tree is the
larch, with admixtures of pine and fir in the south. Of deciduous trees the birch is
rich in edible berries.
Yakutia is, however, not solely a forest kingdom, in terms of vegetation.
The valleys of the numerous rivers and streams which intersect the taiga in all
directions are covered with rich meadows. Moreover, open areas are to be found here
and there in the taiga. They, too, are meadowland, although the grasses are less

Yakutia

juicy than those of the river valleys. It is these open areas, both along the rivers
and in the forests, which have been the [: ] loci of habitation of the Yakuts
for a millenium.
While archeology has demonstrated that the forebears of the Yakuts knew how
to cultivate the soil in the more southerly lands from which they came, their efforts
to raise crops in the its Yakutia's climatic conditions by the same methods used in the temperate
zone failed, and it was not until the coming of the Russians in the 17th century that
the ploughman reappeared in Yakutia. Not only vegetables, but grains, are raised
widely throughout the country, particularly in the central area around Yakutsk.
([]q.v. History and Agriculture, below.)
The fauna of Yakutia is quite rich, although the most valuable fur-bearing
animals, the sable and beaver, which had been plentiful in the endless forests, were
virtually exterminated by avaricious and wasteful hunting in the 17th and 18th centuries
to meet the demands of the Tsars' tax-collectors and the markets of the marchants. At
present, however, there is still a sufficiency of squirrel, rabbit, chipmunk, field and
water rats, and other rodents; fox, lynx, ermine and other predatory animals; elk, musk
deer and, [: ] reindeer in the forests. The tundra has the white fox, wolf,
reindeer, lemming, etc.
The rivers and lakes of Yakutia are rich in fish. Crucian carp throng the lakes, as do
certain species of small fish. The rivers (for details q.v. Lena, Kolyma, Indigirka
and Yana) are thronged with edible varieties types reaching up to 40 lbs. in weight.
The only domesticated animals known to the Yakuts before the coming of the
Russians were the horse, cow and dog, and the reindeer in the north and the southern
mountain areas. Put differently, however, it can fairly be said that it is the Yakuts
who, of all peoples in the world, pioneered the utilization of the horse and cow in
the Arctic and sub-Arctic (speaking climatically and not merely in terms of latitude).
Morever, the cow was domesticated by the precursors of the Yakuts 4-5,000 years ago
Sheep, goats, pigs, cats and domesticated fowl - chickens, geese, ducks and pigeons –
were introduced by the Russians and, to this day, they are extremely rare among the
Yakuts.
As is to be expected, in terms of its great size and mountainous character,
Yakutia is enormously rich in mineral resources. However, this wealth was unknown,

Yakutia

with but few exceptions, until very recently, and it was made use of to an even lesser
extent. A major exception was the bog iron along the Viliui River and in other areas,
from which the Yakuts and their precursors had smelted iron from ancient times, and
the salt deposit on the Kempendiai[] River of the [: ] Viliui system. This latter re–
source, however, was used but little. Gold was discovered during the first half quarter of
the 19th century on the Vitim and Olekma Rivers, and played a major role in the further
history of the populations of those valleys. In Soviet times, major gold reefs have
been found along the Aldan, Kolyma and Viliui. Other noble and valuable metals have
also been discovered in the past 30 years: platinum, tin and silver-zinc ores (at
Endybal), precious stones, asbestos, combustible shales, barite, [: ] Iceland spar,
phosphorite, gypsum, etc. It is to develop these finds [: ] that the towns and workers'
settlements previously referred to have come into being. Of fundamental importance to
the development of industry and transport is coal as a source of power. Coal and lignite
are exploited at Kangalass, Sangar Khaia and Bulun on the Lena. Just prior to World
War II, oil was found on the Viliui and Tolba Rivers.
Historyiography
In the pre-Soviet period, only a handful of Russian intellectuals exiled to
Yakutia for opposition to Tsarism concerned themselves with the study of that nation–
ality at all. For the rest, the Yakuts were conveniently regarded - as were all the
Northern peoples - as being beyond the pale of history, lacking a history of their
own, being incapable of affecting the course of historical development and of partici–
pating in the advance of human culture. This racialism in history lent itself well
to the colonial exploitation of the Yakuts, for a people without a history was clearly
an inferior people not entitled to independence and fit only to be ruled over by others.
Such an attitude was rendered plausible by the fact that the Yakuts had no written
language, nor had they merged themselves into a national state before the coming of
the Russians.
The new policy of the past thirty years has brought with it a new interest in,
and approach to, the history of the northern peoples, and in particular of the Yakuts,
as the largest of them numerically - they number 300,000 - and the most advanced in
their own right, for they had raised brought [: horse] the horses and the cows in to the coldest

Yakutia

region on earth. For if government were to act, as it did, on the premise of the
equal abilities and rights of all peoples, in the face of a centuries-old tradition
and policy to the contrary, it was necessary to bolster that premise, arrived at on
the basis of the general experience of mankind, by specific knowledge of the ante–
cedents of each people. Moreover, in the eyes of those framing the new policy, equality
meant not the equal right of each nationality to adapt a Russian way of life - the
Tsars had attempted unsuccessfully in many instances to enforce just such a system
of Russification - but the right and of necessity of progressing against the background
of its own culture and achievements, while adopting the best which the technology,
social organization and culture of other peoples had to offer.
With these considerations to spur it, a new interest in Yakut history arose.
In recent years, two scholars in particular have distinguished themselves in this
field, S.A. Tokarev and A.P. Okladnikov, the former an historian, the latter an
archeologist. It is a remarkable commentary on the literacy - in the sense of an
ability to read and interest in reading history - of the Yakut people, and the con–
cern of the Soviet public in general with the minor nationalities inhabiting their
country, that Tokarev's book, Ocherk Istorii Yakutskogo Naroda (An Outline History
of the Yakut People), should have had a printing of 9,000 copies. Although brief –
248 pp. and popular in style, it represents an enormous and admirable work of
original research. This scholar He went through five archives in Yakutsk, Leningrad and Moscow,
and four multi-volume collections of published original documents covering a period
of 300 years. He cites 331 various sources, most of them legal records offering an
insight into the various types of relations among Yakuts and between them and the
Russians, and the evolution there of since the first coming of the Russians. Whereas
he succeeds in creating a complete and convincing picture of Yakut society from the
first quarter of the 17th century to the present day, as an historian relying upon
written records he is unable to penetrate prior to that day.
, and Okladnikov has de–
monstrated the incorrecness of some of his judgments of earlier times.
Okladnikov, by means of field research, followed the history of the Yakuts
and their precursors back from the dawn of written history, so recent in this case,
to earliest times. The expeditions he headed began their work in 1940 and have pur–
sued it until the present. They were sponsored by the Marr Institute of the History
of Material Culture of the USSR Academy of Sciences and by the Institute of Language

Yakutia

and Culture under of the Council of Ministers of the Yakut Republic, with the participation
of the Yakutsk and Irkutsk Museums. Okladnikov and his associates not only found
campsites rich in artifacts offering evidence as the to the way of life of the Yakut
and pre-Yakut peoples and the relation of their cultures to others in Asia, but made
such major discoveries as the finding of Paleolithic rock-paintings. In addition
to that, they made further use, as had Tokarev before them (his research was com–
pleted in 1937) of folk memory in such forms as legends and sagas. Okladnikov also made
careful study of Chinese written archives for signs of intercourse with these peoples.
The most important important result of Okladniko's work was to demonstrate
that men had lived in learned to live in this bitterly cold climate not 700 years
ago, to which date Tokarev had ascribed the northward migration of the forebears
of the Yakuts, but that even this population transfer probably dates back 1,100
years, while earlier men populated this land at least for seven thousand, and per–
haps for 10,000 to 15,000 years. Concrete archeological finds have enabled him to
trace the entire course of human cultural development as known elsewhere, in this
land, from the Paleolithic through the Neolithic through the Bronze and early Iron
Ages even before the coming of the Yakuts from the south. with their knowledge of agriculture.
One peculiarity of the natural surroundings in which ancient man found him–
self in this area was the fact that, during the Ice Age, [: ] only the mountain tops
in this region had glacial covering. Lacking this covering, the soil froze to a depth
which even today reaches 446 ft. at Yakutsk and 1,300 ft. at points on the Arctic
coast. This permafrost [: ] underlies all of Yakutia,
and has long determined the existence there of innumerable lakes and vast bogs, as
well as the type of vegetation, i.e., the larch, whose roots spread wide through the
thawed surface layer, rather than deep. into the soil.
Whereas these indications of extreme cold do not give reason to expect traces
of early human existence, there is extensive fossil evidence of a [: much later]
period with [] a much warmer climate and richer flora and fauna than typifies Yakutia
today. This period, during which Pithecanthropus and Sinanthroupus lived in south–
east Asia, does not, however, show any traces of human or near-human habitation any–
where in Siberia or Central Asia. Nor has any indication of the existence of Nean–

Yakutia

derthal man been found in Yakutia or within a considerable distance of its borders.
The first earliest indisputable finds of human origin in Siberia date from the late
Paleolithic period, when men had mastered the working of bone and horn even to the
level of artistic creation, but did not know how to polish stone, to make pottery
or to use the bow and arrow. Five such finds had been made in southern Siberia prior
to World War II, but none whatever on the Lena and farther or elsewhere in the North.
Okladnikov's finds in 1941 of no less than eight places where man had dwellt at this stage,
along the Lena River, were was therefore of major importance in determining at what stage
in history men of continental and southerly origin had pushed into the sub-Arctic
areas of Arctic cold and sub-Arctic flora and fauna. (For details of these finds,
see Lena River.)
Paleolithic and Neolithic precursors of the Yakuts
The most important conclusion drawn from the finding of cliff paintings [: ]
was that their style and subject matter demonstrated that unity of human culture
even at that distant period in history. for here one had people of the Mongoloid group
engaging in activities entirely similar to those of the rock-painters of western
Europe.
As for Neolithic man, dating back four or five thousand years, the most com–
pletely unexpected aspect of Okladnikov's find was the presence at a New Stone Age site near Olekminsk, at 60°30'N , Of large numbers of
bones of the common cow, under forest conditions in which its existence in a wild
state was completely out of the question. Nor is there any doubt about the age of
the bones.
However, it is agreed from the nature of the rest of the find, that these people
were primarily nomadic hunters. Also, the immediate area is particularly well sheltered.
One of the most interesting finds was the sacred cliff of Suruktaakh-Khaia,
on the Markha River, a tributary of the Lena. This cliff
which showed unmistakeable signs of having been held in veneration for at least 3,000
years without interruption - judging by the paintings and the successive successful layers of success-
ful sacrificial matter found in a cleft beneath its face, the most recent of
which included even coins of early Soviet mintage. Okladnikov declares that this is
a longer period than that during which any of the holy places of "higher religions"
anywhere in the world have been held sacred.
Another find of interest disproved a prevous theory that the precursors of
the Yakuts had somehow jumped directly from the Stone to the Iron Age. However,
Okladnikov discovered pottery vessels which had unmistakeably been used for the smelt–

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ing of copper. Later, a magnificient bronze sword, five feet in length, was found,
and several bronze spear tips, one of the almost two feet long, all unmistakeably
of local origin. However, the finding of a bronze kettle of clearly Scythian work–
manship made it clear that the early inhabitants of Yakutia did not live in isolation
from the other peoples of Asia. This is reinforced by the finding, along the
Viliui River, the great western tributary of the Lena, of another bronze vessel,
this one of Chinese workmanship of 2,500 years ago.
Okladnikov holds, however, that a point was reached at which the development
of the aboriginal peoples of Yakutia, who had penetrated to and adapted themselves
for life at the very shore of the Arctic Sea, ceased, having reached a "dead point".
The early hunters [: ] of the northern ocean continued to seek seal and walrus
with stone harpoons. The forest dwellers, continued to wander with their reindeer
and seek their quarry, dying by entire clans when it disappeared. In accordance
with natural conditions, periods of abundance and periods of starvation alternated.
In the latter case, voluntary mass suicide or the eating of the bodies of those
already dead of starvation were the only solutions known.
The Origin of the Yakuts
Meanwhile, the ancestors of the Yakuts, dwelling west of Lake Baikal, had
developed to a higher level. They raised knew not only the horse, the cow, the camel and
the sheep, but practised agriculture, and irrigated agriculture at that. This has
been demonstrated both by archeological discovery and by the persistence, in Yakut
folklore, orf words meaning grain and cultivation today in other Turkic languages,
although the Yakuts had lost the knowledge of cultivation of the soil when the Rus–
sians came.
The first historical date than can be fixed in connection with these south–
erly ancestors of the Yakuts, called by the Chinese [: ] H h uligan" (people who
can muster 5,000 cavalry troops), or, in Turkic runic inscriptions, " U u ch-kurykan",
is 552 or 553 A.D. In that year, Turkic inscriptions in Mongolia inform us, envoys
of the K k urykan came to the funeral of [: ] Bumyn-Khan, founder of the [: ] dynasty of
Orkhon khans. In 629 A.D., after a year in which heavy snows had brought death to
their cattle because they could not paw down to grass, and the [: ] Orkhon khan had
increased their taxes and impressed troops to fight the Chinese, a K k urykan delegation

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came to subject itself to and ask the protection of China. A second delegation visited the
Chinese Emperor in 647. In actuality, this subjection amounted to little more than the
[: ] the granting of flowery Chinese titles to the military
aristocracy at the head of the Kurykan tribes, and was therefore preferred to the rule
of the closely-related Orkhon Turks, who levied tribute and made their presence strongly felt.
Of the numerous indications of the Kurykan ancestry of today's Yakuts is the import–
ant detail that the Yakuts, like the steppe peoples of Central Asia, hunted on horseback,
an important advance unknown to any of the other tribes of the North. This technique could
harldly be developed by them, as it is applicable only during a brief period of the year,
in autumn, when the rivers and bogs had frozen, enough snow had fallen to prevent the
horse from slipping, but not yet so much as to cause him to flounder.
The precise reason for the northward movement of the ancestors of the Yaukuts is not
known, although both their folk epic, the Olonkho, and external evidence makes it clear
that this was a forced escape from from social catastrophe. Whereas earlier writers dated
this from the time of Ghenghis-Khan, Okladnikov finds reason to place it earlier, and
guesses that the destruction of the Uigur state, related to the Kurykans, in 840 A.D., may
well have started the migration norhtward down the Lena valley.
The migration lasted for centuries. Having arrived in the North, and presumably failed
in their efforts to raise crops, the ancestors of the Yakuts soon forgot the art of cultiva–
ting the soil. They also lost their camels and sheep, which were unable to acclimatize
themselves, and the level of their economic life declined sharply. Their old commercial
relations were broken off with the cutting of the routes through which they had maintained
contact with the most advanced peoples of the East. More important, they lost the knowledge
of writing, which evidently had been possessed only by a few scribes.
Yet, despite this decline in their material and mental culture, the pre-Yakuts re–
tained much.[] Not only [: ] did they continue to cultivate cattle, but they
advanced it far to the North, beyond the Arctic Circle and almost to the shore of the
Arctic Ocean. The significance of this achievement will be indicated if one consider so
[: ] fundamental a problem as that of watering cattle under
conditions [: ] in which sub-freezing temperatures prevail most of the

Yakutia

year. This, and related problems, were solved by housing cattle and human beings under
a single roof, with the result that everyone suffered from worms and, eventually, nearly
everyone from tuberculosis. On the other hand, under these conditions the Yakuts developed
breeds of cattle splendidly adapted to life in the Far North, and horses capable of
fabulous feats of endurance.
Thanks to their energy and the resistance of their livestock, the ancestors of the Yakuts were able
to render habitable by far larger numbers of human beings than ever before - relatively
speaking - areas which otherwise would have remained so [: ] thinly populated as the as to
be virtually uninhabited. They succeeded in mastering the [: ]
[: ] varied riches of the North far more completely than their neighbors and predecessors.
Further, they retained and enriched their most precious cultural creation, the remark–
ably beautiful and flexible Yakut language, their epic saga and native art. They were
not [: ] crushed by the catastrophe of their history which forced them northward,
and they found within themselves, as shall be seen, the strength needed for further
advancement, resulting finally in the emergence of a national consciousness and desire
for political independence long before this appeared among some of the subject peoples
of western Russia who were materially more advanced.
The Yakuts, while replacing and absorbing their predecessors in the North, also
assimilated the highest elements of their culture. The form and ornamentation of the
ancient Yakut carved dishware shows elements of the style of native Bronze Age crafts–
manship. Likewise, their traditional costumes are far removed from the floor-length
garments of the steppe-dwellers of Central Asia, but are in certain respects much not unlike the clothing of
the Evenk, Even and Yukagir (Odul) aborigines in design and ornamentation. Similarly,
the Yakut birch-bark Wigwam - uras - and the winter timbered dugout, the raising of reindeer and
many other aspects of their culture are clearly borrowed, adopted or adapted from the
tribes they found upon arrival in the North.
This merging of Kurykan culture with that of the aborigines, accompanied by the loss
of certain of the achievements of the plains and the invention of means of preserving
others, gave rise to a new mode of life, language and, ultimately, nation, the Yakuts,
or, as they call themselves, Sakha. That this new culture pattern was fully established
before the coming of the Russians was established by [: ] Okladnikov's discovery, in

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1941, or remains of ancient settlements, clearly Yakut, abandoned long before the coming
of the Russians. The way of life indicated by this find was hardly different in any
particular from that of the Yakuts of the 18th and 19th centuries.
[: ]
Yakut Way of Life.
The Yakuts' Yakut cattle-farming in its native form - that is, excluding the effects of Russian
influence and the more pronounced recent effects of mechanization and collectivization
under the Soviets - was is unlike the nomadism of their Central Asian forebears. The Yakuts
did do not wander with their herds in search of pasture. They changed their place of residence
twice a year, from summer to winter pasture and back, but at each place they maintained
permanent houses. Cattle are pastured only in summer, although grown horses do feed
themselves to some extent in winter by [: ] pawing beneath the snow to grass. However,
for cattle and colts the Yakuts lay up hay for the winter. Until very recently - and
the picture we are describing endures to this day in many respects - the winter quarters
of the cattle were, as mentioned above, under the same roof as those of the humans.
Until the revolution in agriculture under the Soviets, the milk and milk products
were the chief items in the diet of the self-sufficient or well-to-do Yakut. The poor
lived to a greater extent on fish and pine sapwood. [: ]
Fishing was the second most important branch of the Yakut economy, after cattle-raising,
and was particularly important for those poor or lacking in cattle. Fishing was engaged
in more in the lakes than rivers. A unique system had been devised of driving the fish
into [: ] nets at to one end of the usually shallow lakes by boring holes in the ice, extending long poles
through them, shouting and jumping. When engaged in by several dozen men at the same
time, extended in a chain across a lake, the this has the same effect, evidently, as
beating the bush for game animals.
Hunting was and is of third importance among the Yakuts as a means of obtaining food.
Its importance is greater in the north than in the south. Rabbits, wild reindeer, elk,
and wildfowl abound there. The northern Yakuts use the reindeer, but, as with all forest
people of the north, it forms only a [: ] secondary item in their economy. The Yakuts,
as a matter of fact, use it only as a means of communication. Moreover, they ride it,
which is not the practice of people who have not known the horse.
to 18

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[: ] Social Structure
When the Russians reached Yakutia, early in the second quarter of the 17th century,
the Yakuts had not merged themselves into a national state, but were grouped into over
70 independent tribes and clans - djon - ranging in number from 400 to 5,000 persons
each. Each clan was headed by a military chieftain - toion. By this date the toion was
no longer merely a war leader, but neither was he an absolute ruler, although certain
toions strove to, and some succeeded, in attaining such status. Rather was he the
richest man in the clan - a position attained through by virtue of his position as
military leader, for he got the largest share in raids upon neighboring clans and
tribes, and therefore was constantly inciting such ventures. His forces consisted of
his relatives, servants, slaves and the population dependent upon him. Their numbers
might vary from a few dozens to several hundreds. His wealth varied accordingly. One
toion had, according to Russian records of the 1770s, 35 saddle horses, 100 milk mares
(fermented horse milk was a favorite drink) and six stallions, and 100 head of cattle.
Others were much wealthier.
Herds of that size obviously could not be and were not tended by the toion himself.
For that purpose he maintained kept slaves, two or three in the case of lesser chief–
tains, 15 to 20 in the case of the greater. Sometimes the slaves were members of enemy
tribes taken prisoner, but usually they were members of the [: ] toion's own clan,
who had become impoverished as a result of a raid upon it by another. Another source
of slaves or semi-slaves were the orphans or children of the poor, who gave or sold
them to the toions because they could not feed them [: ] before they were old enough to
work. In return, such children paid back their childhood care by working for the toions
during their entire lifetime. Treatment [: ] of slaves varied accordingly: the captured
enemy was worst off, the bonded kinsman not so badly. But in either case, a woman was
treated worse than a man, and kept in a semi-starved state.
Toions on the one hand, and their slaves on the other, constituted, numerically,
an insignificant minority of the Yakut people at this early stage in their history.
Communal clan society had not yet split entirely into opposed classes. The majority
of the Yakuts were free citizens in their society. These, too, varied from the well–
to-do to the poverty-stricken, the latter being distinguished by a complete lack of

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livestock and dependence upon fish, and sap-wood for their diet.
The evidences of clan organization were many: exogamy in marriage, blood-feuds,
and absence of government. The toions were purely military leaders. They had no power
to judge or punish. Murderers were not brought to trial, but sought out and killed by
the relatives of the deceased. Traces of ancient matriarchy were evident in the fact
that certain clans traced their descent to a woman rather than a man. However, [: ]
[: ] emergence from the clan system had progressed,
by the time of the coming of the Russians, to the point where it was unmistakeably the
individual family which owned property, and not the clan. The toions, with their desire
to accumulate wealth, were the chief force in advancing the decay of clan society.
Trade was already a well-established phenomenon at the time of the coming of the
Russians. Its most ancient form was inter-tribal trade: the Yakut cattle-raisers ex–
changed the products of their calling for those of the Tungus hunters. This involved
entire caravans. The Yakuts sold cattle, meat and milk products, as well as iron and
products made of iron. They purchased, chiefly, furs. Trade had also already become
common within the clan, livestock, and horses in particular, being its chief object.
Quite logically, when other products, such as hay, were bought and sold, their value
was reckoned in cattle.
Of the various crafts, only iron-working had reached the stage of commodity production.
The blacksmith worked for exchange. But the making of clothing, footwear and household
implements was still conducted entirely within the family for its own use.
In a word, the Yakuts were midway between barbarism and civilization at the coming
of the Russians. This was evident, too, in the realm of ideas. On the one hand, there
was shamanism, belief in witchcraft and the rest, with its senseless and pitiful
slaughter of perfectly healthy and useful livestock to propitiate the spirits, a cus–
tom which sometimes brought a sharp reduction in the property and holdings of a poor
family, and therefore in its ability to survive. On the other hand, paralleling the
emergence of great chiefs among men, and perhaps reflecting the folk memory of the
Chinese Emperor and of Ghenghis Khan, there was the more abstract belief in great
Gods.
It is to be remembered, finally, that the Yakuts did not have their country to

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themselves. The aborigines whom they had found were not exterminated. Some were assimi–
lated, and formed part of the poorest, non-cattle-owning, portion of the Tungus. The
others continued to wander through the forests. Their relations with the Yakuts were
marked not only by trade, but by raids. The situation was very similar to that in the
American colonies: the newly-arrived population was master of the areas it had settled,
but in constant fear of raids from the mobile and forest-concealed native population.
This was particularly true in Yakutia, as the natives were nomads, and it was easier
for them to attack a Yakut community than for the Yakuts to seek out one of their
very temporary camps.
The Coming of the Russians
The first Russians entered Yakutia in 1628, when Vasilii Bugor, a Cossack chief–
of-ten at the Yeniseisk (qv.) fort ascended the Verkhniaia [: ] (Upper) Tunguska River and
its tributary, the Ilim and then, crossing the so-called Lena Portage, descended the
Kuta and the Lena. The Russian version is that he left four Cossacks there to collect
yasak (tribute in furs). The Yakut version is that the men he left took service with
a great Yakut toion, spied out the situation, returned worked for two years, asked
for the right to some land, got it - land as such had little value to the Yakuts –
and returned [: ] with a larger force, which proceeded to build erect buildings and
entrench themselves. The Yakuts, according to this legend, now perceived the danger
to themselves, and attacked the Russians, but they were unharmed by arrows and fought
back with guns (claps of thunder) from which the Yakut toion, his sons and many of
his men fell dead.
The Yakut legend corresponds to the fact that, three years after Vasilii Bugor,
a Cossack Ataman named Ivan Galkin fought his way all the way to the center of the
Yakut territory (near present-day Yakutsk) whereas Bugor had only gotten as far north
as present-day Kirensk, which, although on the Lena, is not even within the current
boundaries of Yakutia. However, both Bugor and Galkin engaged merely conducted in plunder raids,
the latter particularly engaging in plunder and atrocities, while the actual occupa–
tion of Yakutia was undertaken by Petr Beketov who descended the Lena with a troop
of Cossacks in May of 1632. Within two years he had subjected most of the country and
built the Yakutsk fort. Whereas the device of taking hostages to compel payment of

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tribute explains how a handful of Cossacks was able to collect furs from a widely–
scattered population - although there is more to be said on that subject - it does
not explain why a large people, possessing iron weapons, cavalry and adequate tactics
for its use, surrendered so readily to a foreign conqueror, particularly when that
conquering force consisted of a few dozen men. The Yakuts lost, all in all, 120 killed,
of whom 40 fell in two "battles" and 80 were burnt alive in their wooden forts by the
Cossacks. Clearly, this by no means exhausted the Yakuts' ability to resist, if the
willingness to do so were there.
In point of fact, Yakut society lacked the unity of organization and purpose ne–
cessary to successful resistance. When the Russians appeared on the scene, the
Yakut clans were engaged in endless internecine warfare, thanks to the desire of the
toions to enrich themselves thereby. The situation was not unlike that of the Russians
themselves 400 years earlier, when the Tatar-Mongols had swept through their land
and into a dominance that was to endure for two centuries, because the petty prince–
lings of early feudal Russia had weakened it by fratricidal strife. However, whereas
the Mongol horsemen had come into Russia in great numbers, here the Russians took
Yakutia - as they had taken all of Siberia west of it in the preceding half-century –
with a handful of men.
In addition to the absence of a sense of national unity, and the presence of
local conflicts, other factors were at work. Slaves could hardly be expected to, nor
did they, fight for their masters. On at least one historical occasion, a Yakut slave
informed the Russians of the intentions of his toion master, then engaged in leading
an uprising against the Russians. More important, by far, was the Russian policy of
buying off the toions. The Cossacks suppressed with utmost ferocity all attempts at
resistance, but those toions who were willing to accept Russian rule were feted and
given presents of beads and trinkets, and sometimes of such more useful commodities
as copper kettles, tin plates and the like. Later the Russians began to grant the
toions various privileges and powers, but that pertains to a period after the conquest.
In any case, the effect was now to subject the rank and file of the Yakuts to a
double yoke, that of the toions and the Russians.
The fact remains, however, that the conquest of Yakutia [: ] by the Russians was,

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objectively viewed, a forward step in the history of the Yakut people. The Russians
brought to an end the bloody inter-tribal wars and, later, introduced the cultivation
of the soil. In other words, the Russians triumphed because they represented, for
their day, a higher economic and political order than that of the Yakuts. On the other
hand, the Russian people, as distinct from its rulers, had no feeling of superiority
over those they fought to conquer, and in the course of time the Cossacks merged phys–
ically and [: ] culturally with the subjected nationality. It is a considerable [: ]
tribute to the viability of the Yakut culture and the expressiveness of its language
that, as late as the 19th century, the top Russian officialdom in Yakutsk used the
Yakut language in place of the French which was otherwise universal among the noble
and educated.
Yakutia Under the Tsars
The unbounded greed of the conquerors and the effort of each successive voevoda -
later governor - to enrich himself and his descendants forever during his term of
service in Yakutia,
called forth several rebellion s after rebellion . This started early, for
the very first Cossack groups sought to acquire not only the tribute which the Tsar
demanded year after year, but all sorts of graft, presents and ordinary plunder on
the side. As early as 1634, that is, in the third year of Russian occupation, a toion
named Mymak gathered a force of 600 to 700 men to face Ataman Galkin's 47. He sallied
forth, and, with the advantage of firearms on his side, killed 40, losing only two.
But the Yakuts pressed on and besieged the fort for two months. At the end of that
time, however, they suddenly dispersed, for the toions had falled out over whether
to continue their rebellion or make peace. Two years later there was another abortive
revolt, and [: ] in 1639 a third which showed certain new features of interest. In the first
place, Yakuts and Tungus fought side by side against the Russians, whose oppression of
both had brought to them a recognition of a common interest. Secondly, members of the
lower ranks of Yakut society played a notable, if not a leading role, for the first
time. in this action. It too, however, suffered from the dispersal of the Yakuts and
the fact that the factors tending to weaken their resistance had hardly begun to
change in the few years since the Russians first made their appearance. The Final rebellion occurred in 1642.
The Russian fur merchants trappers who had followed close on the heels of the Cossacks - in

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some cases preceding them - now began to petition the Tsar for additional protection.
In one such complaint, dated 1641, they state: "Higher up the Lena a clan of Shamagir
(Tungus) killed 44 people men , and lower down the Lena they killed, last year, 26 people
men, and this year on the Aldan they killed 15 men and destroyed the wintering camp to
its foundations, and on the Viliui in three years 64 were killed, and this year on
the Viliui they killed seven, and others robbed many merchants, and now the merchants
sit besieged in their wintering station."
Even prior to this the Tsar had become convinced that if the independent operations
of Cossack and merchant bands, fighting each other and antagonizing the population,
were to continue, the Yakut country would be impoverished without the treasury drawing
any benefit whatever therefrom. A solution was found in the establishment of an inde–
pendent Yakutsk Voevodstvo, directly subordinate to Moscow. This step had as its pur–
pose the substitution of a centralized and planned exploitation of the natives for the reigning anarchy.
And, to make sure that the Voevod would not line his own pockets at the expense of the
treasury - vain hope, as it turned out - the Tsar appointed , in 1638, two Voevods with equal
powers, Petr Golovin and Matvei Glebov. They set forth with a much more considerable
force than had ever been used in Yakutia hitherto: 395 Cossacks and musketeer infantry.
An indication of the chief factor underlying the backwardness of Siberia in the next
two-and-a-half centuries is the fact that it took this company of men three years to
reach Yakutsk, because, in the absence of roads, they travelled by river and portage
only, and the rivers were open only half the year or less. This, too, is an indication
of the reason for the use of such small groups hitherto. Beketov and the men like him
who pushed the Russian frontier to the Pacific were able to live off the land. But
expeditions like Golovin's required vast caravans of supply trains, and, incidentally,
were a terrible burden on the [: ] people en route.
Golovin soon showed himself to be a masterful colonizer in the worst sense. He in–
creased the yasak four-fold, beat the recalcitrant with the knout, fed his hostages
rotten fish and in general won himself a foul reputation in the briefest period of time.
However, he was also a shrewd and able administrator. Hitherto the yasak had been col–
lected from entire clans through the toions, something the latter approved, as they al–
ways found it possible to retain part of the furs given them to pass on to the Russians.

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Further, when a poor Yakut found himself unable to pay the yasak, his toion would pay
it for him. In return, the toion would demand services of greater value, such as a given
quantity of haying. Even if the exchange were equal in value, such as the surrender to
the toion of cattle or livestock [: ] worth the same as the sable demanded by the Russians,
the effect was to reduce the ability of the rank-and-file Yakut to earn a livelihood, and
force him into dependence upon the toion.
Golovin was dissatisfied with the idea of demanding an equal tribute from each Yakut,
because although the yasak was above the means of the poorest, it was yet tied to their
level, for any higher levy would have been unrealistic. Events proved, of course, that
even the existing level was too high, from the viewpoint of the people, for the country
was stripped of its wealth in furs, and the people were impoverished further by the [: ]
[: ] need, described above, to dispose of their means of livelihood to purchase the furs
to pay yasak. Golovin sought, while maintaining the yasak upon the poorest at all the
traffic would bear plus a little more, to extract greater tribute from the [: ] well-to-do
and the wealthy. Therefore, and in order to avoid tax evasion, he made an effort to
conduct the first property and population census in Yakutia. As a result, by 1671 one
finds in the records a spread of 7-to-1 and even more in the number of sable and other
furs demanded of one Yakut by comparison to another. In order to make this collection
effective, parties of Cossacks were sent out, as distinct from and in addition to the
collection through the toions, which also persisted. These Cossacks also engaged in
plunder on the side, sometimes visiting a single area three and four times a year,
taking property and women. An official report by a new Voevod investigating the entire
area showed that the yasak collectors had acquired 3 1/3 times as many furs as they had re–
ported.
Reference has been made above to the murder of merchants by the natives. When the
prices they paid are examined, the reason for the murders becomes clear enough. The
instance cited [: ] happens to be from government records, as the government not
only demanded tribute, but "purchased" furs in addition. Beketov, the original conqueror,
reported in 1641 to Moscow that he had acquired [: ] 1,247 rubles worth of furs for
82 rubles in cash and 29 rubles in goods - copper and lead-ware and beads . making a
profit of 1,224% on the transaction. The rapidity with which the [: ] merchants Russian fur trappers
as such penetrated the country is indicated by the records of taxes collected from them.
Even assuming that they paid tax on all

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the furs they took, which is most unlikely, they admitted having caught ten times as
many furs as the natives paid in yasak, as early as 1641-44. And, as the Yakuts had to
turn in virtually all their catch as tribute, Russian trappers evidently took secured
ten times as many furs. Moreover, as historians believe that they understated their
earnings by half, their catch was apparently 20 times as great!
The Russians did not enrich themselves solely at the expense of the country's re–
sources in furs. They engaged in direct exploitation of the people - here we speak of
"organized" exploitation as distinct from plain robbery by force - in many ways. For
example, a Yakut who had borrowed from a Cossack the use of a saddle horse, a milk-and–
brood mare and a stallion, evidently for a season, in 1679, had to repay this by [: ]
binding his wife as a servant to the Cossack for 12 years. In addition, the Russians
held slaves, some taken in the early raids, but most of them purchased either from
Yakuts or, in the course of time, from each other. However, the introduction of a money
economy and the [: ] new system of levying yasak in accordance with
property reduced the value of slaves, particularly to the toion, who now had to pay
yasak for each of his slaves. It was better that the poorest be free, so that they be
responsible for their own yasak, and that the toion need [: ] feed them only when he had
need of their services for his benefit. On the other hand, the slaves also took advantage
of the fact that the toions were now not the only rulers of the country to raise their
heads, flee and otherwise seek freedom and an improved position. The Russians' attitude
was exceedingly simple. If the escaped slave could pay yasak, they upheld his right to
freedom. If he could not, they returned him to his master, who would pay yasak, and
punished him in accordance with the customs of the day, which were universal from Eliza–
bethan England to Yakutia. In one instance, for example, the runaway was [: ] lashed
and both ears cut off before being returned to his master. The overall essence of the
matter is that slave relations began to be replaced by those of a feudal character, i.e.,
certain toions would [: ] permit slaves to purchase their freedom.
We have already mentioned the fact that the toions were solely military leaders in
Yakut society, enjoying otherwise only the prerogatives of such wealth as they could
accumulate. However, the Russians occasionally endowed them with police powers from as
early as 1642, immediately after the suppression of one of the early insurrections.

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From 1680 on, it was established Russian policy to grant the toions power as judges
and police over their clansmen - again a phenomenon typical of feudalism. In this respect,
the position of the Yakuts was distinctly different, and socially more advanced, than
that of other Siberian Arctic and sub-Arctic peoples [: ] conquered by
Tsarist Russia. [: ] All these peoples, the Yakuts included, were regarded [: ] in the
17th century not as subjects of the Tsar, but simply as conquered tribes. They were not
required to take an oath of allegiance to him, but merely to pay tribute. And other
tribes lived for centuries with no interference in their internal social structure and
way of life (qv. Chukchi, etc.). But the Yakuts had advanced beyond a primitive, class–
less society when the Russians made their appearance; a struggle for property was in
progress. The Russians, therefore, were involved almost from the outset in the disputes
over property claimed to have been stolen, or whose ownership was otherwise in question.
The Yakut archives show 139 to 215 cases a year being brought before the Russian
authorities for solution. Between 70 and 80% of all cases heard dealt with alleged
cattle-stealing. Usually the parties were members of different clans, but the number
of [: ] cases involving fellow-clansmen increased rapidly, reaching almost a fifth
as early as the 60s of the 17th century. The Yakuts brought these cases to the Russians
for resolution because at that time the toions lacked sufficient authority in their eyes.
[: ] At the outset the Russians were satisfied to handle these cases, the more so as
a sizeable fee was charged, and the Voevoda had no desire to split lose any of this income. But as
time passed many of the cases came to be handled locally by the yasak collectors, so
that the Voevoda did not have this income in any case. Secondly, the toions were now
entirely loyal to the new regime, which chose to operate through them.
The toions were by no means passive in this matter of obtaining local governmental
authority. Repeated delegations were sent to Moscow, the first of them in 1676-77. This
group petitioned that the toions be regarded not as payers of tribute, but as the local
organs of Russian power as judges and otherwise. and on Feb. 9, 1677 the Tsar issued an
Ukaz granting them the right to settle the legal problems of the Yakut population. It
is of considerable interest that the names of Yakut chieftains acting as judges that
have been preserved in the documents of the late 17th century show them to be the direct
descendants of the toions of the time of the conquest. That is, contrary to the views of

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some early historians in the field, Tokarev demonstrated that the early taking of host–
ages and mistreatment thereof, had neither the purpose nor the result of exterminating
the leading Yakut families. On the contrary, as has already been pointed out, Russian
policy was to work through the toions wherever possible. An additional privilege won
by the 1676-77 [: ] delegation was the right to send two [: ] toions to Moscow at any time
at government expense. This right was used for commercial purposes. For example, one
toion making this trip in 1679 took with him no less than 1,392 sable given him by his
clansmen for sale in Moscow, plus large numbers of other furs. There is no record of
the profit made by him on this transaction, but there is little doubt that it was most
considerable.
Emergence of Private Landownership
Prior to the coming of the Russians cattle livestock was the chief form of private property
in Yakutia - the only form, perhaps, if one exclude one's house and household goods.
The land which these cattle roamed was public property, i.e., that of the clan or tribe
as a whole. Moreover, the Yakuts engaged but little in the cutting of hay, for which,
of course, specific parcels of land were more or less necessary. However, to the degree
that they did, there is evidence that hereditary ownership by right of use had come
into being, for, after the Russians came, cases were heard in which a Yakut would claim
that complain that a toion had seized hayfields which the [: ] plaintiff's father
and grandfather had had before him.
The coming of the Russians sped this process [: ] immensely. They brought with
them a knowledge of settled cattle-raising, enabling individuals to pursue other occupa–
tions and own some cattle as well. Thus, the priests and military serving-men of Yakutsk
petitioned the Tsar in 1666 that they be granted pasture land in the vicinity of the town for
their own. Further, as it was part of the government's policy to extend agriculture to
the newly-conquered territory, and peasants were sent to Yakutsk for that purpose, they
had to have definite ownership of the land they worked. This land was taken from the
Yakuts, to whom it had been important as the best available natural meadow-land. The
Yakuts of [: ] Olekminsk complained in a petition of 1661:
"Peasant plowmen have been settled on all our meadow.....and the best places of our
hayfields and meadows have been given to peasant plowmen. And we, [: ] thy orphans,

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have to buy our own hayfiled hayfields from them, we give bulls and cows and sables....
and further, Sovereign, there are no longer any (fields) to be bought, nor what to buy
them with, and everything we had has been made ploughland....And for us, thy orphans,
there is no room to place our huts, and we, they thy orphans, must purchase a spot for them
from the plowmen at high price...."
This seizure of the Yakuts' land contributed, on the one hand, to the decline of their
economy, while on the other it sped the transition from communal to private land owner–
ship. For once the land became insufficient for all it followed that efforts would be
made, particularly by toion families, to acquire the hayfields in hereditary ownership.
The Russians acquiesed in this, issued deeds for and levied a tax upon such lands.
Resistance to Russian Rule
The toions' willing acceptance of Russian rule deprived the rank-and-file Yakuts
of the only authoritative and experienced military leadership they had had, and made
rebellion on any organized scale impossible after the defeat of the final revolt in 1642.
On the other hand, the records are full of instances of individual resistance, to arrest and tax-collectors, flight
and opposition against the excesses of Tsarist rule. There are, however, two cases of
group action. one in 1675-76 and one in 1684. The first instance of these small uprisings
was led by a toion named Baltug heading a clan with 70 or 80 grown men. In the fall of 1675 a party
of half-a-dozen members of this clan went out to trap sable with which to pay yasak.
At the hunting grounds, however, they found Russian trappers. The two groups clashed,
and there were deaths on both sides. A group of Cossacks, aided by toions of enemy
Yakut clans, were sent forth to punish Baltug's clan. They engaged in extortions and rob–
bery. Baltug resisted successfully for some time and in several clashes, but was ulti–
mately defeated, as was inevitable, due to the division among the Yakuts, and the fact
that the toions of other clans helped the Russians, hoping to benefit thereby.
The other instance of organized resistance was that of a toion named Oriukan Sekuev.
This chieftain was an old-fashioned raider who w arred incessantly upon other clans,
as the forefathers of all had done prior to the coming of the Russians. Since he would
not admit any restraint upon his activities he came into conflict with the Russians
as well. In the long run, after many depredations and bloody clashes with both natives
and Russians, he was captured, drawn and quartered.
Finally, there exists a legend to the effect that, two years prior to the Oriukan

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incident, there occurred, in 1681-82, a revolt participated in not only by a major Yakut
clan, but by some rank-and-file Cossacks and by certain exiled Old Believers. The story
goes that the Voevoda defeated this uprising, captured and executed its leaders. However,
no documentary reference to this event has ever been found. It excites interest, because
it would have been the first instance of cooperation between Russians and Yakuts against
the oppressors of both. It also calls to our attention the beginnings of the use of Yakutia
as a place of exile. Provision for its use for this purpose is found in the Code of Tsar
Alexei in 1649. In addition to religious dissidents, those sent there in the 17th century
included participants in the "copper rebellion" of 1662 and the musketeers who rebelled in
1698. However, it was not until the 19th century that exile to Yakutia became a regular
penal measure.
Despite the fact that there is no authentic instance of rebellion after 1684 for two–
and-a-quarter centuries, the Russians did not delude themselves into believing that this
was due to Yakut satisfaction with foreign rule. Nor were the early revolts [: ] examples
of purely local discontent. An old manuscript tells us that the Yakuts openly threatened
the Voevod of the 1680s, Matvei Krovkov, with rebellion, because they had been driven out
of the [: ] towns. When, under a later Voevoda, Prince Gagarin (1691-95) the misdeeds
of the administration became even worse, we are told by contemporary reports: "And if the
Great Sovereign does not give them protection against the Voevodas and the tribute col–
lectors and the interpreters and the clerks, the natives have agreed among themselves
to fall upon and strangle the Russians themselves..." But this dissatisfaction did not
crystallize into action in the absence of leadership. The toions, upon whom the Yakut
rank-and-file continued to look as their clan leaders in [: ] into the present century,
were, at the time we are discussing, actually engaged in assisting the Russians to pacify
put down an uprising of the aboriginal Lamuts. The two most influential Yakut chiefs ac–
companied a Russian expedition to the above the Arctic Circle to the Indigirka in 1693
for that purpose. By this date the ties between the toions and the Russians were so close
that the very first earliest sample of correspondence between two Yakuts which has come
down to us, dated 1690, is a complaint by a clansman that his toion refused to forward
to the Voevoda a complaint against Cossack depredations.
The one recourse left to the Yakuts under these circumstances was to flee to the

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headwaters of the Viliui, the Olekma and even the Yana, completely out of the Lena basin.
When the Cossacks had firmly established their ostrogs even there, the Yakuts began to
flee entirely beyond the bounds of present-day Yakutia into the Amur River basin, which
was surrendered to China in 1689 and not reacquired by Russia until 1858. The scale of
this flight is indicated by the fact that tax collectors' reports of 1682-83 show that
36 to 70% of the taxable population of six counties could not be found at all. On the
other hand, this flight did result in a considerable expansion of the area of Yakut settle–
ment north of the Arctic Circle and up to the shore of the Arctic Ocean, on the Indigirka
and Kolyma, and to a lesser degree, the Anabar and Olenek Rivers.
[: ]
For some reason, far fewer documents have been found covering the years 1700 to 1760
than for the periods preceding and following that. Correspondingly less is known, there–
fore, of the internal history of Yakutia during that period. The chief factor may well be
the decline in income to the Tsarist treasury and the merchants of Russia from Yakut furs.
As a result, interest in this territory was lost - Tsarist Russia never pursued the policy
of developing it in any way, except for sporadic and bureaucratic efforts to introduce
agriculture - and Tsars and merchants cast their eyes upon the lands of the Pacific coast
of Asia and later America, with their fabulous riches in the furs of land and sea mammals.
Yakutia was involved in this development as the base and rear for the Russian expeditions
and military parties, for the Chukchi (qv.) and Koriak (qv.), whose [: ] social orders had not
yet developed the conflicting interests present in among the Yakuts at the coming of the
Russians, resisted bitterly. Moreover, the they fell upon Cossack caravans returning fur-laden
overland from Kamchatka (qv.) with tribute and booty extracted from the [: ] amchadals. Whether by
land, or later, by [: ] water across the Okhotsk Sea, the scientific (Bering), military and
yasak-collecting expeditions to Kamchatka and Alaska set forth from or passed through
Yakutsk. The First Bering Expedition in 1726 set forth from Yakutsk with 663 loaded pack-horses, while
bulkier objects were rafted and, finally, carted overland on 100 sledges. As shall be
seen, this exercised a profound influence upon the economy of the Yakuts en route.
Bering's Second Expedition, even larger, involved the moving of 800 men and their supplies.
It lasted ten years, 1733 to 1743, and required 3,500 [: ] pack-horse loads of food alone per year.
It is th to this expedition, and particularly to its talented and erudite historian
Müller, who, with a number of assistants, collected, copied and even analyzed, in part,

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the vast fund of documents already then accumulated in the archives of various Siberian
cities - it is to be remembered that Yakutia had by this date been under Russian rule
for more than a century - that we owe much of our knowledge of early Yakut history.
The expedition - the greatest such undertaking by any country up to that date and, per–
haps, in view of the area it mapped, the greatest in history - did not confine itself
to the overseas [: ] discoveries for which Bering is best remembered. It included
and successfully executed the object of mapping the coast of the Arctic Ocean, a work
performed under the direction of Pronchishchev and his wife (qv), Cheliuskin (qv) and
the Laptev brothers, Khariton and Dmitrii. This vast enterprise was the brainchild of
Peter the Great, although it was carried out after his death, and gives some indication
of the scope of his imagination and his organizing ability.
Feudal Relationships Superimposed on Clan Kinship Society
We have stated earlier that the toions at the one extreme and the slaves at the
other constituted tiny minorities of the Yakut population, and that the bulk were per–
sonally free clansmen owing subjection to no one, but following the toions in time of
war and, later, paying tribute to the Russians. We have also called attention to the
beginnings of the subjection of the Yakut rank-and-file to the toions by giving the
latter certain elementary police powers. During the 18th century these limitations
upon the personal liberty of the Yakuts were vastly extended, and in a manner typical
of feudalism. In 1732 all petty crimes, such as minor cattle stealing and assault, were
given over to judgment by the toions, and 20 years later, at their request, it was
decided further that their decisions could not be appealed to the higher, Russian, courts.
Thus, a typical vassal-lord relationship was established, in which each level of society
had authortiy authority of over that below, without interference from that above if its dues
and services were rendered. Likewise, in 1727-31 there appeared the beginning of a
master-serf relationship in the economic field, connected with two decisions relative
to the payment of yasak. The first provided that it could be paid either in furs at
market prices or in money. Under The second provided that, when a poor Yakut could not
pay yasak, it was to be collected from a wealthier one, who was then free to collect
his debt by private arrangement. In practice, the following - to cite a general arrange–
in the 1760s - would then occur. The toion would pay a poor man's yasak of one sable, or

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seven rubles, on condition that the poorer Yakut paid him off in squirrel skins at 2 kopecks
each. But the market price of squirrels was such that the toion made a profit of over
50%. If the poorer Yakut could not pay off at once, the debt accumulated at usurious
rates, and he had to work - i.e., hunt squirrel - for the richer man indefinitely.
Outside factors at work in the Russian Empire as a whole time and again interfered,
or threatened to interfere, with the type of development within Yakutia indicated by the
trends described thus far. When Catherine the Great came to the throne, she was faced
with a very sharp falling-off in income from the territories conquered in the preceding
century, due to the unrestrained slaughter of fur-bearing animals and the impoverishment of the mass
of the people through seizure of land by the toions and other factors described above.
She ordered a reform of the yasak system. Its purpose - as demonstrated by its results –
was to increase the tax rate and income thereform. Another purpose was to cut the costs
of administration, and the incredible graft. Yet the first purpose could only be accomplish–
ed without calling [: ] forth intense resistance if it were made to appear in the inter–
ests of the natives. Catherine solved all these problems neatly by insisting that hence–
forth collection of yasak was to be made solely through native chieftains. Thus, she
eliminated the payment of local [: ] Russian officialdom, eliminated the graft they col–
lected, and won the firmer allegiance of the [: ] toions, while assuring herself of
greater income. [: ] The larger the number of tax-payers they native chiefs collected from, the greater the
additional payments they could extract for themselves over and above the yasak.
A second aspect of the reforms of the 1760s, instituted by what has come to be
known as the First Yasak Commission, was a prohibition of purchase and sale of land
by the Yakuts. Apparently the chief purpose of this ruling was to reinforce the feudal
system of land tenure within Russia as a whole, under which none but the nobility could
hold land. Native chieftains were not regarded as noblemen. Another aspect of this rul–
ing was to end the interminable squabbles over land which plagued the Russian admini–
stration in Yakutia. It succeeded in this only temporarily and to a very limited ex–
tent. A third object was to hinder the complete impoverishment of the Yakut rank-and–
file so as to preserve them as a source of yasak for Russia. However, as the land
census was taken by the chieftains, it goes without saying that they did not lose through
this process. The purpose of the census was to establish the return that could be ex–

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pected from each piece of land for taxable purposes.
The end result of the reforms was to increase the yasak by as much as 2 1/2 times,
in certain counties;, to end the circuit-riding of Russian tax collectors; and to repeal
the law providing for the holding of hostages against yasak, although in practice it
had not been used for many years. In essence, however, there was a much more important
result. The payment of yasak, which, in point of fact now represented a very small sum
for the toions, was came to be regarded as giving title to land, that is, as a land tax
rather than as tribute per person. As a result, in 1825, a system of division of the
Yakuts into five classes in accordance with tax payments was made, on the basis of which
land was allocated. This system endured until the Revolution of 1917, and was, as shall
be seen, the basis of a whole new struggle over land ownership.
A further merging of the interests of toions and Russian rulers came in 1767, when
a major chieftain was delegated to go to St. Petersburg as an authority on Yakut customary
law to advise in the drafting of the new code for the Empire. Needless to say, his inter–
pretations represented the desires of the propertied. More than that, he requested, un–
successfully, that the Russians create and appoint [: ] him to a new post, that of
chief of all the Yakuts. That request marks the beginning of a national, as distinct
from a clan or tribal, consciousness, among the Yakuts, particularly in the political
field. The turning down of the request, and of others, considerably more far-reaching,
made in 1789 by another leading toion, indicates that whereas the Tsars were desirous
of ruling the Yakuts through their chieftains and extending them certain privileges over
their own people, toward that end, there was no intention of treating them as equals.
Yakutia was and remained a colony to be exploited, however poorly and ineffectively.
In 1789, Aleksei Arzhakov, a Yakut chief whose named deserves to be perpetuated for this act, sub–
mitted to the Empress a full-fledged "plan regarding the Yakuts". First, it proposed,
as had Syranov 22 years earlier, that the Yakut princelings be permitted to select a
national leader, who would not only administer, subject to a Russian viceroy, but would
control the courts. Second, Arzhakov proposed the established of [: ] a Yakutia-wide
court of Yakut chieftains. Third, he requested the repeal of the regulation requiring
Yakuts to provide free river-freighting service. Fourth, he asked that the Yakuts be
freed of the responsibility of maintaining 36 postal stations, with drivers and animals,

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and that this service be performed henceforth by convicted criminals. The fifth point was
that the Russians appoint to administrative posts in Yakutia only persons acquainted with
Yakut customs and language. Sixth, he requested the founding of a school for Yakuts.
Seventh, he wanted an end to the periodic redistribution of the land in accordance with the fiction,
adapted from the Russian village mir, that it was still communal rather than private pro–
perty. He also asked specifically, that land cleared and improved for pasture remain the
property of those who had [: ] cleared it. In practice, this meant not those who did
the work, but those who hired and paid the workers. Likewise, the request for a school
( one school in all of Yakutia) was not in order to educate the people, but to educate the
children of the toions so as to enable them to maintain their position more successfully
both against the Russians above and the Yakut poor below.
Considering the date - 1789 9(the coincidence in time with the French Revolution is
remarkable) - this was a most advanced set of proposals for national independence, free–
dom from onerous burdens, freedom for the native wealthy to strive to accumulate further
wealth without restraint. To those who may wonder why the Yakuts, of all the peoples native
to Arctic Asiatic Russia, now have the status of Autonomous Republic in the Soviet scheme,
this early evidence of [: ] political national consciousness provides the answer.
Of all these requests, the Imperial government yielded to but one, the election of a
Yakut Regional Chief by the Yakut elite present in Yakutsk. This concession was temporary,
and the post was soon abolished.
Lest Arzhakov's requests, and the coincidence in time, be confused with the demands
of the American colonies that had just won their freedom, it should be pointed out that
within [: ] Yakut society, it was precisely at this time that the toions gained the feudal
right to limit the freedom of movement of members of their clans. By [: ] binding the clans–
men to their land and giving the toions the right to issue tickets of passage - actually
internal passports - the Russian administration effectively transformed the Yakuts into
serfs and the toions into lords of the manor. [: ]
[]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]

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One explanation for the contemporary ring of Arzhakov's program is to be found in
the effect upon the Yakut economy and way of life of the Bering Expeditions and the
conquest of the Pacific coast of Asia. These things [: ] made commodities,
sale of services, and the use of money a factor of importance in Yakutia, whereas pre–
viously each family had lived an independent existence, but for the payment of tribute
and a small amount of trade. itself chiefly to get furs with which to pay tribute in
kind. Industry actually made its first appearance in Yakutia as early as 1732, when
an iron works was established on the Botom River near Yakutsk to supply the Bering
Expedition. However, this enterprise closed up when that purpose had been served, and
existed only 12 years in all. [: ] After Bering had blazed the trail (in the most
literal sense) to the newly-founded port of Okhotsk, a regular pack-horse trade was
established. By the middle of the 18th century 4,000 to 5,000 pack-horses, each carrying
a load of 200 lbs. of grain and other products, made the Yakutsk-Okhotsk trip each
year. But this was a forced service on Yakut horses, and was a terrible burden upon
the people, taking them and their working cattle away from the earning of a livelihood.
This reflected itself upon the service itself. Time and again Okhotsk found itself
short of food, and on one occasion the then Governor-General of Siberia, Kinderman,
came forth with the brilliant [: ] suggestion that "to save the great losses being
caused the treasury of Her Imperial Majesty, the soldiers of northeastern Siberia be
fed crushed birch sapwood" instead of bread. On the other hand, the sufferings cuased
the Yakuts were such that the 40 to 70% population loss previously described in dis–
tricts along this route have been atrributed to flight from this transport-service
burden.
Clearly, such an arrangement could not endure indefinitely, and in 1763 the govern–
ment began to pay for the [: ] packing of freights to Okhotsk. The toions im–
mediately realized the possibilities for profit in this arrangement, and became the
trucking contractors of the day. In 30 years they forced the price upward seven-fold,
and, in addition, thereto, compelled their own clans to pay them as much, in addition,
as the government was doing. They were able to do this because this freighting was a
clan responsibility and the toions claimed that the amount paid by the Russians was
not enough to meet the exceedingly high costs of this type of transport. True as this

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was, the toions made their profits by paying their drivers in kopecks while they rendered
the government a bill in rubles. When a single large expedition - that of Billings in
1785-93 - required 12,000 pack-loads of supplies, and the government paid 20 rubles per
load, to which the clansmen added an approximately equal sum, one had an operation of the
order of half a million rubles, or not less than a quarter million dollars. Needless to
say, respectable fortunes could be - and were - built up on this basis. By the turn of
the century, 1799-1801, the toions were extracting a transport tax from their clansmen
20 to 30 times as large as the combined yasak and poll tax paid to the Russians. In a word, the
Russians exploited the Yakuts by paying them less than the cost of transportation -
perhaps only half - and the toions exploited the rank-and-file by making them pay the
difference upon pain of incurring the Russians' displeasure, and then pocketing a good
percentage by underpaying the drivers. But the essence of the matter was that money and
wage-payment not had a definite place in the Yakut economy.
"Conversion" of the Yakuts
In the early years of the conquest there were few converts to Christianity among the
Yakuts. They were regarded as outcasts by their fellows and had to live among the Russians.
Many of them were slaves taken by the Russians forcibly. But because Christians were not
subject to yasak, the Russian government itself opposed conversion, as each convert meant
that much less tribute. and at that time the tribute in furs was the chief purpose of
seizure of these lands. Siberian furs provided 30% of the treasury income [: ] in the 17th
century.
In the 18th century, as has been noted, the yasak lost its former importance, partly
because of the extermination of fur-bearing animals, and partly because established com–
merce replaced the one-sided extraction of tribute as the source of income from the
Siberian territories. Therefore, from the time of Peter the Great, a new policy, that of
Russifying, the natives, went into effect. By subjecting them to the spiritual discipline
of subjection to Russia's state church, which Peter had firmly subjected to himself, the
Tsars strove to strike at the moral roots of the will to rebel against Russian oppression.
Missionary activity spread eastward gradually, and, about 1720, the first Yakut princelings
appear listed as "newly-converted". A new bishopric was established in Irkutsk in 1731, to
which Yakutsk was subjected. The Bishop, Innocent (Innokentii Nerunovich) was most ener–

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getic, and twice, in 1735 and 1741, made the tiring overland, raft and river trip to
and from Yakutsk himself, appointing missionaries and spreading the gospel. Conversion,
however, was more on a material than spiritual basis. These were "rice Christians" of
northern Asia. At the order of the Tsar, each newly-converted Yakut was presented, free
of charge, with a copper cross, [: ] a coarse linen blouse and trousers, a hat, a cloth
cloak, gloves and shoes. [: ] . Chiefs among the Yakuts received crosses made of silver,
cloaks of better material and full boots. In addition, converts received 50 kopecks to
1 ruble 50 kopecks per person, and were freed of yasak for a five-year term. By 1763
the Yakuts had been [: ] convinced of the advantages of Christianity by this means in
such large numbers that the tax-exemption was reduced to three years, and the presents
to the cross alone. The tax-exemption, issued by the priest, was still quite an inducement,
however. There were cases in which a Yakut would have each member of his [: ] household
converted separately, and gain a three-year tax-exemption from each. (The exemptions
were transferrable.) At about this stage in the conversion of the Yakuts, considerable
turmoil was caused in the native settlements [: ] by conflicts between the heathen and
the converted. Further difficulty was caused the administration by the fact that the
converts were not subject to providing transport service, and there came to be an in–
sufficient number of people to draw on. Therefore, in 1767, part of the privileges to
new converts were withdrawn. By the end of the 18th century a good half of the Yakuts
had accepted Christianity, and by the middle of the 19th no official heathern remained.
Actually, however, the externals of Christianity were superimposed upon the previous
beliefs and customs, which were retained in their entirety and still existed to some
degree and in outlying places a decade-and-a-half ago. This was most readily evident
in the persistence of the shamans - medicine men. It was not uncommon for Russians to
resort to them, and there is even one case on record of a Russian priest having become
so convinced of their efficacy that he called upon one to drive the devils out of his
body when he lay seriously ill.
The most obvious external effect of conversion to Christianity was the adoption of
Russian given and family names, the latter coming from the Russian who sponsored the
given Yakut into the church. However, the native names remained in use among the Yakuts, but
found their way [: ] into documents of the day only with extreme rarity.

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Reform of 1822
The war of 1812 Napoleonic invasion of Russia in 1812 and the wars which followed
were a terrific strain on the treasury. They demanded another attempt to bring order
into the archaic system of provincial administration, which froze into a bureaucratic
routine int after each reform, and was so badly outdated within half a century that it
was a drain, rather than a source of income, for the treasury. [: ]
[: ] This resulted, in 1822, in the issuance of the famed
"Regulations for Natives", which changed little or nothing, but do constitute a [: ] codi–
fied system of great value to the scholar. as they were based on the system of ruling
through native chieftains, and therefore on the gathering, from the latter, of data on
the state of things in their tribes.
These "Regulations" [: ] were, in [: ] effect, a Constitution. The specific
provisions [: ] will not be stated here as, chiefly, they gave renewed legal force to
the procedures established during the preceding century-and-a-half, which we have already
discussed as they arose. The chief reason for mentioning the reform at all is that it
has won a reputation among historians as humanitarian, because it permitted the suppres–
sion and exploitation of the native peoples to be carried on by their own dominant ele–
ments, rather than by Russians. However, as we have seen, this was long-established
practice, profitable to the Russians both politically and financially. The Regulations
do give [: ] insight into certain problems on which there had been little or not docu–
mentary data previously. First, they show how differentiation in real wealth, measured
in cattle, and alleged communal ownership of land were reconciled. Land was valuable in
Yakutia by the quantity of hay it would produce, and therefore it was measured in "hay–
stacks". A "haystack" of poor land was larger than a "haystack" of large good, but that
was immaterial to the Yakut. It was the hay which counted. The Regulations provided
that, when the communal land was divided or redivided, it be allocated, not equally,
but in accordance with the amount of tax paid, the latter originally having been based
upon wealth in furs and then cattle. [: ] In short, the land, supposedly the pro–
perty of the clan, was divided in proportion to the tax bracket one fell into. [: ] . In addition, whereas
it still allegedly was not subject to purchase or sale, it could be rented. By this
means the wealthier cattle-raiser could acquire more hayland by renting from his poor
neighbor who was immediately in need of means of livelihood. The richer man was, of

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course, under no such pressure.
The "Regulations" also described in black and white the Yakut system of sharecropping.
A wealthy cattle-owner would provide a poor family with 10 to 40 head of cattle for a year.
The herdsman was required to pasture the cattle all summer, feed them hay from his own
share of land all winter, and in spring return them sound and whole, plus a that portion
(usually half) of the milk they had given, in the form of frozen butter and frozen
soured milk. In a word, the cattle-owner landowner provided the capital, for which the sharecropper
bore full responsibility and provided all the work of maintenance, for which he was per–
mitted to keep half the result of his labor and pay the owner the other half. This was
true of milk alone. The owner got any calves, as well. The toions described this as the
chief form of mutual economic relations among the Yakuts at this time, thereby demonstrat–
ing that feudal relationships now predominated. The great Russian critic, Chernyshevskii,
exiled to Yakutia in the middle of the 19th century, reported that the rank-and-file
Yakuts considered this system to be an instance of the great-heartedness of their chiefs,
until he explained to them that it was their labor that was responsible for keeping
the cattle and the calves alive, and preserving the milk and its products. while the toions
merely took what had been created, becoming the richer thereby, and able to repeat the
process on a larger scale.
Another result of the Reform of 1822 was that the new land assessment for purposes
of taxation was, thanks to the fact that the data came from the toions, such as to halve
the taxes paid by the wealthy and increase those paid by the poor.
The Steppe Duma - First Yakut "Government"
The final, and politically most impressive-looking result of the Reform was the
institution, in 1825, of the first organ even pretending to be a means of national self–
administration for the Yakuts. This was the Steppe Duma, consisting of the head of each
of the six "counties" of Yakutia plus one more each elected by each county, plus an over–
all "Head Chief Tribesman", chosen for three years. Those "elected" were chosen from and
by the native nobility. The functions of the Duma were strictly limited to census-taking,
making tax assessments (but it had no right to levy the taxes themselves), computing
the property of the clans, encouraging agriculture and petitioning the higher Russian
officialdom on behalf of the Yakuts. Clearly, it was no government. Actually, virtually
all its time and efforts were devoted to tax assessment and land problems, for these had
long since become the most burning questions of Yakut society.

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By this date, the yasak as such meant little, as a financial burden, to persons of any means (i.e., land owners) [] so people fought
to get on the tax lists, and battled against exclusion, as the payment of taxes meant
the right to a piece of land, and the higher one's tax assessment the more land one got.
Yet the differentiation into poor and wealthy had reached such a stage that in 1824 no
less than 65% of the population was unable to pay any tax due to extreme poverty. The
Russians, therefore, now began to make efforts, which continued with virtually uniform
lack of success, for three-quarters of a century, to get the toions to agree to a some–
what fairer land distribution, so as to increase the income to the treasury. The toions
managed to block this in every instance by taking advantage of the complete illiteracy
of the people, who were therefore readily misinformed and kept uninformed, and, more
important, of by utilizing the established Russian principle of ruling the people through the native
chieftains as a matter of economy and sound expediency.
This was evidenced most clearly when the Lavinskii, the Governor-General at Irkutsk,
[: ] and Miagkii, the Regional Administrator at Yakutsk, began to press insist–
ently that the Yakut Steppe Duma take some steps toward a more equitable distribution of
the land. The toion-controlled Duma met this crisis by an astute piece of double-dealing.
On the one hand, in the spring of 1827, it ordered all "townships" to call town meetings
to re-assess the yasak and re-allot land to the clansmen of the top three classes by
[: ] common agreement, to compile new lists of tax-payers and landholders and to have
two copies of the latter in the hands of the Duma by June 20th. On the other hand, the
there is every indication - although, obviously, no documentation - that the
members of the Duma used private channels to inform the township heads that excessive
conscientiousness in the execution of these orders would not be desirable. The latter
were also undoubtedly aware, without the need of such hints, that a Duma composed of
toions would hardly press too far for the fulfilment of directives of such character.
In any case, neither by June 20th, nor by the second deadline, the following January,
nor by the next summer had the new lists been received by the Duma. There the matter
would have rested but for the arrival, at Yakutsk, in the summer of 1928, of the Second
Yasak Commission of the Tsarist government (the first, it will be recalled, had been
established in the 1760s). That this body meant business is demonstrated by the fact
that its labors resulted in an increase in yasak actually extracted [: ] upon all the native peoples of
Siberia from 146,000 rubles to 525,000 rubles.

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To this Commission, Miagkii submitted data given him by the Steppe Duma that land
previously divided among 14,341 heads of families had now been redistributed among 30,808.
Entirely aside from the fact that students [: ] have found reason to doubt those
figures themselves, the point is that nothing was specified as to how much land was re–
ceived by the beneficiaries of this "reform" or what its quality was. In point of fact,
there are documents in the archives showing that, after this event, poor Yakuts declared
inability to pay taxes specifically because the land they had been assigned was too far
from their homes to use or gave little or no hay for their cattle. Finally, even when
clansmen of the 3rd and 4th classes did get some land, [: ] records show that it was not
at the expense of the 1st class - the toions - but of the second.
Ultimately, after seven years of labor, the Second Yasak Commission made a flat and
clear ruling, in 1835, requiring land reform to enable all Yakuts to pay some tax, and de–
manding a clear statement of the reasons for exclusion of any Yakut tribesmen from land
ownership. As a result, a redistribution of sorts was carried out the following year, but
it was so [: ] unsatisfactory that the records for years thereafter are full of
complaints about it, and demands for legal action to correct injustices. Fundamentally,
the difficulty arose out of the fact that the re-assessment was based on "hereditary [: ] rights"
to hayfields, and that individuals were to retain title to lands considered as "belonging"
to them, "by family relation to their forebears". This phrasing in the instructions obvious–
ly could not but leave the situation essentially unchanged.
The Russians [: ] sought another way out by ordering the Steppe Duma to
equip an expedition to seek suitable lands on the frontiers, in order to resettle Yakuts
there and relieve the density of population in the heart of Yakutia. (Whereas this central
area was just one step from being uninhabited, by the reckonings of modern demographers,
it is to be remembered that the key question was how much hay-bearing land was available
in this sub-Arctic forest country to feed the cattle upon which the Yakuts depended for
their subsistence.) This expedition to the Okhotsk seacoast, the Yana River flowing into
the Arctic, and Gizhiga, in the Koriak (q.v.) Arctic tundra just beyond the larch forest
line in the far northeast, was organized by the Head Chief Tribesman of all the Yakuts,
with his son and another toion in direct charge. Their activities, unfortunately, were not those to which
the Russians had expected them to devote their energies. They sold liquor, powder and

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lead, playing cards, tobacco and other such products,
[: ] all of which had been freighted along for just this purpose, to the aborigines, in ex–
change for furs, although this was prohibited by law. Further, investigation by the Russians showed that
the Yakut expedition seized reindeer for meat and transport and extracted "contributions"
from the nomads for the resettlement of Yakuts. In a word, the heads of the expedition [: ] had
learned well all the malpractices which the Russians had long engaged in at their expense,
and now engaged in passing these benefits of civilization on to others. The Russian police
authorities who discovered this activity taught the Yakuts another lesson by appropriating
to their own private use (as further investigation by officials higher up the ladder later
discovered) all the prohibited commodities. The head of the expedition was dismissed and
fined, and the guilty subordinate personnel sentenced to lashes, up to 20 in number.
While its expedition in the field was behaving in this manner, the Steppe Duma itself
was not to be outdone. The ascension to the throne of Tsar Nicholas I was made the occasion
of collecting funds to give him an appropriate present. The collection was very thorough.
It lasted two years, and 20,000 rubles were extracted from the people. Of this sum, however,
the Duma received 8,164.73 1/2 rubles, i.e., two-thirds of the monies gathered had stuck
to the fingers of the local officialdom. The members of the Duma themselves saw no reason
to benefit less than their subordinates. One member helped himself [: ] - all this was brought
out by subsequent investigation - to 3,426 rubles, another to 1,980, a third to 1,000,
and so forth, with the result that the chief gather accumulator of unearned income in the
Empire, the Tsar himself, was left only 180.50 rubles, and some furs. To the Tsarist
authorities, [: ] "squeeze" was a normal, if regrettable, part of the administration of
government, meaning, as the whole history of the yasak shows, the exploitation of the
people, but to squeeze out the man at the very top was an impermissible reversal of tradi–
tion and the very purpose of the process. Therefore the Yakut chiefs were removed from
office, as was the [: ] Russian Administrator for Yakutia (he was involved in the affair)
and, in 1838, the Steppe Duma was dissolved.
The foregoing incidents have been described in such detail because they demonstrate
the inability of the traditional toion ruling class to provide leadership in the interests
of the Yakut people. That is the key to the whole history of developments during the
century until 1917, when representatives of another class began to emerge as the leaders
of this people in the course of, and as a result of, the revolution throughout the Empire.

Yakutia

The political objectives of the element controlling the Duma were set forth in a peti–
tion to the Tsar prepared for presentation along with the ill-fated gift of 1830. How–
ever, in view of the negligible sum left with which to purchase it, and the scandal in
connection therewith, no deputation ever left for St. Petersburg, and the petition in
question was not even submitted. That is commentary enough, yet the contents of the
petition itself merit being set out, to complete, with the record of graft and the more
important record of defending the toion's wealth in hayfields against redistribtuion,
the history of the Steppe Duma. There were seven points: (1) the establishment of a
state-maintained school (obviously for the children of the toions), (2) to give the
local chieftains, rather than the Russian police, the right to control the freedom of
movement of individual Yakuts for distances of more than 300 miles (an additional means
of subjecting the mass of the population to the will of the toions), (3) to give the
Steppe Duma, rather than a Russian court, the powers of second Court of Appeals, (4) to
give final formulation to the legal code as amended with the participation of Yakut
(toion) representatives. (5) to perpetuate the "right" of the Yakuts to carry all gov–
ernment freight and maintain the way stations (we have seen how this was transformed
into a profitable thing by toion contractors, at the expense of their clan compatriots),
(6) to reduce the frequency of Russian tours of inspection of local government from once
in two months to once a year, and (7) to appoint Yakuts to vacancies in the city of
Yakutsk. It is clear from what has gone before that these demands, which could have been
progressive in nature had the Yakut Duma represented the people at large, would, under
existing conditions, have redounded only to the benefit of a handful and the detriment
of the rest. The Russians, having no desire to surrender power to the Yakut wealthy,
and fully aware of the fact that the Duma had compromised itself, [: ] made no move toward
meeting these demands.
Effects of Discovery of Gold
It was inevitable that the beginnings of industry in Russia would result in [: ] inves–
tigation and discovery of the natural resources of Yakutia, their utilization, and the
introduction therewith of capitalism into a land already operating under a combination
of clan-patriarchal and feudal relationships. It was also entirely logical that the
first resource to be utilized (after furs, which had been exhausted) was that which

Yakutia

offered the greatest return, for the immense costs of transportation in Yakutia, both in
terms of distance, [: ] lack of roads and rivers usable only a few months in
the year, rendered unprofitable the [: ] the exploitation of products competitive
with others available in central Russia. For these reasons, the introduction of industry
industrial-type operations into Yakutia had to await the discovery of some particularly
precious resource and one capable of finding a market under all circumstances.
Gold was discovered in southern Yakutia in the 1840s. At present (1949) prices,
$168,000,000 worth was recovered in the first 40 years of operation, an average of over
$4,000,000 per year - unheard-of wealth for an area so poor and little-populated. After
1884 the figure increased to $9,000,000 - $13,500,000 per year. Obviously, although the
mines were by no means a Yakut enterprise, the provisioning of their personnel, and the
transport services required, could not fail to form the basis of profitable businesses
for those Yakuts having the capital to engage in such enterprise business. Yakutia began
to provide hay, butter, meat and fish to the workings. In 1894 the region centered around
the city of Yakutsk shipped over $500,000 worth of commodities southward (up-river) to
the gold-fields, including 3,000 tons of meat, 50 tons of [: ] fish, etc. By 1893 there
were 26 Yakut trucking contractors in the [: ] Olekma River district adjoining the gold
fields. [: ] They employed between 20 and 40 47 teamsters
each. The teamsters were paid 85 kopecks per 40 lbs., 30 kopecks in cash and the rest in
goods. But as the cost of operations, including food for the teamster en route, averaged
72 or 73 [: ] kopecks per 40 lbs., the [: ] teamster's "profit" came to 30¢, U.S.,
per pack-horse-load, (he provided his own horse and keep). However, even this was only an
average, and, while there were profitable trips on the one hand, on the other there would
be trips accompanied by the death of horses (the traffic could be carried on only in
winter when the ground was solid) and other losses. Therefore the teamster operating on
this share-cropping basis, if such a phrase may be applied to this kind of operation,
almost inavariably fell into debt to the contractor, who saw to it that he never extracted
himself, and therefore was compelled to continue the relationship.
It was not only in the gold country that business-type operations became common. By
the end of the past century contractors in the northeast were earning considerable profits
from freights northeastward to Verkhoiansk. Further, merchant capital also made its

Yakutia

appearance, from two sources. On the one hand, there were Yakuts who would travel from <formula>53/4</formula>
outlying localities in the this land of immense distances to Yakutsk, taking their neigh–
bors' wares to sell at a price of one ruble per 40 lbs. Further, these carriers were able
to take advantage of market conditions to sell as dearly and buy as cheapy as possible,
pocketing the difference between the prices known in the village back home and those cur–
rently prevailing in Yakutsk. Here, for the first time, one witnesses a non-toion well-to–
do middle class emerging. (Again, "well-to-do", "wealthy" and "poor" are relative terms,
applied by Yakut and not American or even Russian standards. The 26 "big" freighters to
the gold mines made a total annual profit among them of $40,000, or an average of less
than $2,000 each, which explains why Yakut capital accumulations never became large
enough to develop the country. although by the 1870s there were occasional individuals with fortunes [: ]
as large as [: ] $300,000. One man, who had inherited [: ] $50,000 in cash and 1,000
[: ] head of horses and cattle, had given bribes, as his posthumous records
showed, of $900 to various Russian governors, $800 to priests, $1,380 to police chiefs, etc.
The second source of Yakut merchant wealth was trade with the [: ] aborigines of
the deep woods and the northern tundra. Although the alleged land-seeking expedition of
1828 which turned out to be a smugglers' foray penetrated an area never before reached by
Yakuts, von Middendorff found, only 16 years later, no less than 25 Yakut merchants with
80 agents on the north slope of the Stanovoi Range alone. They had 700 pack reindeer to
bring in their liquor and other wares and take out the furs they sought. These merchants
and their families spread the area of Yakut settlement to the boundaries now occupied by
the Yakut Republic, founding trading posts on the coast of the Arctic Ocean over a dis–
tance of 1,500 miles, and eastward to the headwaters of the Aldan and the Okhotsk seacoast.
(The present eastward boundary runs along the watershed line 100 or so miles west of the
Sea of Okhotsk.)
The discovery and development of the gold-fields brought about one more major innova–
tion: the beginnings of cultivated agriculture, as distinct from haying. However, this
occurred only along the [: ] Olekma River in the southernmost portion of the country,
and resulted, along with other factors, in so complete a Russification of the relatively
small Yakut population here as almost to cause them to lose interest for the purposes of
this study. They numbered, altogether, perhaps 250 families. engaged almost entirely in
farming and freighting during the winter. Their economy and way of life came to differ
virtually not at all from that of Russian peasants, summer and winter.

Yakutia

Yakutia As Land of Exile
The vast spaces of Yakutia; its endless and, to the uninitiated, trackless forests;
the lack of roads and the fact that the country was two to three years from civilization
even to persons travelling on legal papers; the climate, bitterly cold even to Russians;
and the [: ] backwardness and ignorance of the population,
by Russian standards, plus the fact that it spoke an unintelligible tongue: all these fac–
tors made Yakutia an ideal place for the Tsars to deposit, at no cost to themselves, the
criminally [: ] or politically under undesirable sections of the population. The exiles and
natives were [: ] long kept at odds by a most simple and economical device: St. Petersburg
dumped its prisoners here with no provision whatever for their upkeep, and placed that
burden upon the shoulders of the Yakuts, the majority of whom, as we have already seen,
could themselves barely subsist via hay-cropping cattle-raising, and were themselves
driven to seek additional land beyond the bounds of the Lena valley. Each Yakut clan was
required to provide each exile sent to its territory with an outfit of adequate clothing and footwear adequate
to the climate, livestock, tools and money to with which to start farming, and 40 acres of land. [: ]
(This was Tsarist penology's approach to introducing cultivation of the soil and rehabilitating priso
ners. [: ] The burden this entailed will be understood if it be realized that, at
the end of the 19th century, there were 6,192 exiles in Yakutia. [: ]
excluding political prisoners. Had the instructions of
St. Petersburg been carried out, this would have required the Yakuts to yield nearly a
quarter of a million acres of cultivable land. [: ] As they were in no position to do this,
they preferred rather to accept the lesser burden of maintaining the exiles entirely at
their own expense. As the exiles were themselves either criminals who had long since lost
the taste for human labor (Yakutia was, with Sakhalin, the Alcatraz of the Russian penal
system: only the most hardened were sent there) or intellectuals who had never learned
to use their hands, they, too, preferred huddling in a corner of a Yakut hut to freezing
at labor which to them seemed either hopeless or purposeless or both. The facts speak for
themselves: the total land placed under the plough by criminal exiles in Yakutia came to
400 acres in 1873.
To rid themselves of their unwelcome guests, the Yakuts [: ] often gave an exile
a few dozen rubles to betake himself to another village, where the same story usually re–
peated itself. Needless to say, the criminal repeaters remained criminals, and Yakutia
witnessed a sensational rise in robberies, drunkenness, rape and murder: a further lesson

Yakutia

in civilization. The only positive aspect of the matter is that a certain number of pea–
sants who had been involved in jacqueries in Russia were included among the "criminal"
exiles, and those who did not lose their love for the soil played some role in introducing
a higher form of economy. Another group was constituted of religious "heretics". The first
of these had been sent to Yakutia in the 17th century, and a larger group began to be shipped
there in 1860, from which time the general use of Yakutia as a place of exile dates.
By the 1880s they number 1,100. These people settled in communities of their own, of
which there were 10 by 1900. They suffered extreme privation at first, but later sank
roots as farmers. By 1896, they held 32,400 acres of land. They performed a considerable
service in introducing agriculture. Coming originally from the middle class in the cities
and countryside of Russia, they were adept at commercial and small-scale industrial opera–
tions. They prospered, but the very form of their prospering, as millers, tanners, black–
smiths, saddlers and shopkeepers, made them the conservative element in the community and,
at the time of the Revolution, the pillars of the very regime which had originally sent
their parents and grandparents to this wild frontier. As old settlers, they hired for a
pittance the [: ] landless Russian peasants who sought a new start in Siberia after
the emancipation of the serfs freed them from their land as well as their masters. The
religious exiles also employed the aborigines and the Yakuts, but the latter to only a
limited degree, as they were regarded as poor workmen. The spirit of free clansmen still
remained to at least a sufficient degree to render the Yakut relatively undisciplined as
hired workmen, particularly as it was complicated by the feeling that no matter how hard
a Yakut worked, the Russians had the authorities on their side, so why bother?
Political exiles first came to were sent to Yakutia in 1826, and then they numbered
only 10. Only one of these, members of the famous Decembrist group which had raised the
first effort at truly social revolution in Russian history, stayed here even as long as 7
years. Further, they lived in the towns, and therefore had no opportunity to influence the
Yakuts in any way. Forty years later a group of 96 participants in the Polish rebellion [: ]
of 1863 were sent to Yakutia. Many of them exercised an uplifting influence, occupying
themselves with cultivation of the soil and handicrafts. The first great name in Yakut
exile is that of the writer and critic, N.G. Chernyshevskii, who was sent to Viliuisk
for the years 1872-1883 - about as far from St. Peter

Yakutia

St. Petersburg as one could go, in point of traveling time. He set a precedent of concern
with the interests of the Yakuts and desire to assist them that was followed by many poli–
tical prisoners in the next two generations, and has had a beneficial effect to this day,
for several of the leading figures in the present Soviet regime served terms of exile
in Yakutia under the Tsars. This experience not only gave them a knowledge of Arctic and
sub-Arctic conditions which has been put to use in developing the Northern Sea Route and
its adjacent coasts, but also left them with a continuing interest in the welfare of the
Yakuts, with positive results described below.
The large-scale influx of political prisoners into Yakutia dated from 1878, when
the Tsarist regime, [: ] tiring of court procedure which was costly, embarrassing and long–
drawn-out, simply gave the police the right to exile political opponents of the regime
to Eastern Siberia without trial. In addition, politicals who had completed and survived
their terms of hard labor in the Kara camp, were sent to Yakutia to live out their days.
By political [: ] affiliation, the exiles of the '70s, '80s and early '90s belonged
to groups seeking the replacement of Tsarism by the terrorist acts of brave individuals.
That is, they were intellectuals lacking faith in the common man and convinced that he
must be liberated by the heroism of a select group. They favored land re- distribution through–
out Russia in one or another form. They were not Marxian socialists. As shall be seen,
these political convictions, and the intellectual background of these people, played a
role in the subsequent history of Yakutia. The political exiles of the last quarter of the 19th
century sent to Yakutia numbered 240 in all, of whom only 36 were workingmen and 12 pea–
sants. The others were students, professionals and office workers. More than half had a
high school or university education. To many individuals of this type, the living condi–
tions of the Yakuts were revolting and unbearable. They made themselves and their hosts
miserable. [: ] Mmany came down with tuberculosis, a number died. Five
committed suicide and five others became insane, including Khudiakov, the talented collector of Yakut
folklore. A number, exiled to [: ] the Kolyma River, veritably the end of the world in Russia,
gathered on March 22, 1889, to protest a worsening of the rules governing them. Six were
shot dead by soldiers themselves sent here as punishment, 20 of the exiles were wounded
by gunfire, and the rest beaten with rifle, butts. Later, 26 of the survivors were tried
by court martial. Three were hanged and 20 sentenced to long terms in a hard labor prison
at Viliuisk.

Yakutia

Exiles Introduce Medicine, Education; Give Legal Advice; Advance Agriculture
Despite the Yakuts' legitimate distaste for all Russians, resulting from two-and-a-half
centuries' experience as colonials, and despite the special hatred for exiles because they
had to be supported and the bulk of them were ordinary criminals, the politicals managed, by
dint of special effort, to win extraordinary esteem. One third of the 96 exiles of the '70s
and '80s actually did cultivate the soil, and taught the Yakuts much in this regard. Two of
them, who began by planting nine bushels of various grains in 1873, had, a decade later,
a farm so large as to provide the needs of an entire township and a further surplus of one to
two thousand bushels which they disposed of to the government. Even those exiled north of
the Arctic Circle attempted to cultivate the soil, and one of them who spent 14 years at
Verkhoiansk (q.v.), succeeded regularly in getting crops of both vegetables and grains.
Other exiles, with medical training, brought the Yakuts the first modern medical care
they had ever known, despite the fact that the authorities specifically prohibited this.
One man won such a repetition that Yakuts would come from 100 miles to seek his services, and
when his 11-year term was up, was seen off with unconcealed sorrow, as a real friend.
A third group of exiles brought Yakutia its first formal education - particularly in the out–
lying areas. This, too, was forbidden by the authorities, but engaged in nonetheless. The
well-known writer Korolenko educated the children of his place of exile during his three–
year term and then maintained correspondence with them for many years. V.M. Ionov, a teacher
of great talent, founded a large and fine school, where he taught Yakut children from a primer
he had compiled himself. Others engaged in the distribution and sale of books. One founded
a public library. Those who had legal education offered their services, particularly in
writing framing complaints and petitions for the Yakut poor in their endless efforts to se–
cure adequate meadow-land. An educated Yakut said tTo the most outstanding of these lawyers, N.A. Vitashevskii, [: ]
[: ] prior to his return
to Russia after his exile:
"Your invaluable service to the Yakuts is that you roused in us a sense of human dignity.
Previously [: ] every Yakut [: ] trembled before any [: ] ordinary Cossack who set foot in
[: ] his village. Now we of the younger generation are standing up for our rights, whether the
one who violated them be a Cossack, the Governor or a Cabinet Minister."
The standing gained by the political exiles, called officially State criminals, is best
illustrated by Korolenko's story of the Yakut who became involved in a dispute with one of

Yakutia

them over what he believed to be a misdeed by the Russians, and spat forth with immense indigna–
tion: "And you dare to call yourself a State criminal:"
Exiles as Scientific Investigators of Yakutia
[: ]
Arctic science owes the political exiles of the 19th century an enormous debt of gratitude
for their careful, workmanlike and thorough investigations of the country and its people, inso–
far as their own education, means and circumstances permitted. This dates from the work of
the ethnographer Khudiakov, who arrived in Verkhoiansk in 1867. The Polish rebels, Czechanowski
and Weglowski, in 1874-75, participated in a major expedition of natural scientists for the study of the Viliuisk
and Verkhoiansk areas. The geologist [: ] Czerskii, another exiled Pole, conducted two
large expeditions in 1885-6 and 1891-2. The second cost him his life. The designation of the Cherskii Range
(Russian spelling of his name) perpetuates his memory. 1894-6 witnessed the great Sibiriakov
Expedition, headed by the exile D.A. Klements, and consisting almost entirely of exiles, de–
spite the obstacles placed by the administration. The plan for this expedition was remarkable
in its scope. It envisaged a detailed study of the anthropological composition of the popula–
tion of Yakutia, the language and folk art of the Yakuts, their religion, material culture,
family life, economy, [: ] legal structure, etc. These studies were assigned to the vari–
ous members of the expedition in accordance with their scientific training. The exiles parti–
cipating included L.G. Levental, I.I. Mainov, [: ] E.K. Pekarskii, the famed V.G. Bogoraz
and Felix Kon (Cohn). The three two last-named lived well into the Soviet period ( Pekarskii until 1934, (Bogoraz until 1936
and Kon, a Communist of high standing, until some time during World War II) and played an
active administrative and scientific role in furthering the application of the Soviet policy toward minor nationalities.
This expedition resulted in the ultimate publication (some of these writings did not see the
light until the 1920s) of works by Vitashevskii on Yakut common law, Levental on the history
of landed property and the forms of ownership thereof, Ionov on religions and mythology,
Yastremskii and Pekarskii on language and folk art, Mainov on the aborigines and the population
of [: ] the Olkema River area, and Bogoraz on the peoples of the Kolyma country. The publication of Pekarskii's
Dictionary of the Yakut Language , [] an enormous work which has few equals in world linguistics, was completed
only in 1931. This event was given special attention by the government of the Yakut ASSR as
an occasion of considerable cultural and political importance in committing to print the cultural
heritage of the Yakut people.
Subsequent investigation has demonstrated, as was inevitable, that these works were not
perfect, and particularly suffered from the attempts of the social scientists to read to

Yakutia

their own political convictions into Yakut life and history. Vitashevskii idealized the
Yakut "commune" and, contrary to his own factual evidence, attempted to demonstrate that
it was moving in the direction of greater democracy and a lessening of internal conflict
[: ] between the owning and non-owning groups. Levental strove to prettify the history of
Tsarist rule in Yakutia, picturing the conquerors as [: ] aiding the rank-and-file Yakuts against
the toions. We have already shown that, when the latter occurred (or, more accurately, when
the Russians made steps in that direction), it was for the purpose of extracting additional
taxes and that, in a showdown, the desire to rule through the native chieftains and thereby
[: ] have assurance against revolt, won out over even the interests of the treasury. As for
the Yakut clan as depicted by Vitashevskii, we have already described at great length,
the internal disharmonies arising from the emergence and strengthening of the toions and
the impoverishment of the landless.
Finally, it was an exiled geologist, Zubrilin, who in 1888 founded the famed Yakutsk
Museum, and its directors thereafter were usually exiles.
End of 19th and Early 20th Century
In 1852 the Yakut territory, [: ] formerly subordinate to Irkutsk, was separated out
as a province (Gubernia) on a par with those comprising the rest of the Empire. At the end of the
century it was subdivided into five regions (okrugs), the central (Yakutsk vicinity), southern
(Olekminsk), western (Viliuisk) and two northern, Verkhoiansk and Kolyma. The Yakuts, who
had, as we have seen, resettled widely since the coming of the Russians, lived in all five
areas, but their number, customs and way of life differed considerably from region to region.
The most densely populated, as always, was the Yakutsk district, with 130,177 Yakuts (1897 census) , com–
prising a vast majority - 84% - of the population there. The Viliui River area, with 62,995
Yakuts, was even more predominantly peopled by this nationality, which numbered 93% of its
inhabitants. In the southern, Olekma River country, in and adjoining the gold fields, the
[: ] 13,218 Yakuts were a minority, for there were 19,758 Russians, and, [: ] as has been pointed
out, Russification had been considerable. In 1891-2 they were reclassified to occupy virtually the same legal status as Russians The far northern areas had much smaller populations,
with 11,347 Yakuts in the Verkhoiansk district and 3,330 in the Kolyma. They formed the over–
whelming majority of the population in both areas, the chief minority consisting of Arctic
aborigines, with only a few hundred Russians.

Yakutia

The 1897 census showed cattle-raising to be, still, the chief occupation of 85.7% of
the Yakut population of Yakutia. If the [: ] Olekma marketing, trucking and gold-field
wage-earning region be excluded on the one hand, and the far northern fur trading regions
on the other, which jointly had one-fifth of the Yakut people, the remaining Yakutsk and
Viliui River districts, with four-fifths of the 221,000 Yakuts, could be considered to
be exclusively cattle-raising country. The poverty of the people will be seen from the
fact that Yakutia had, all told, 220,000 to 260,000 cattle during the '90s, or about one
per head of population, and some 115,000 to 130,000 horses, chiefly, in the latter case,
concentrated in the hands of the prosperous. Milk-giving mares were virtually exclusively owned by toions. Because the poor could rarely supply their
cows with sufficient hay, the breed, although capable of enduring incredible privations
and the most extreme cold known to man in nature - Yakutia being the coldest inhabited
area on earth - was of very low productivity. The average meat yield of a cow was 280 lbs.,
and of a bull, 360 lbs. The annual average milk production per cow was less than [: ] 800
qts., or little over two quarts per day. As the diet consisted almost exclusively of milk
and products processed therefrom, the calory [: ] supply was 1,500 per person per day, or
semi-starvation at all times. Moreover, the inequality of ownership was such that a con–
siderable proportion of the population was below that level. Actually, this calory computa–
tion does correspond to local Yakut standards, for there it was held that 10 cows would
provide a minimum survival diet for a family of five. A survey of one village in 1892
showed 105 of 270 families having less than one cow per person, that is, actually starv–
ing, and another 101 having between one and two cows per person, i.e., existing in a state
somewhere between semi-starvation and minimum survival. At the other extreme there were
7 toion families whose herds came to from 9 to 32 [: ] head per member of the family.
The foregoing figures fail to provide an adequate picture of the extremes of wealth
and poverty because the [: ] toions' cows and mares, being well fed, gave more milk
and, when slaughtered, meat, while those of the poor gave less. This was determined by
the distribution of hay-lands. In a township investigated by Vitashevskii in 1894, there
was the following land distribution:
The 54 poorest households had [: ] hay-field-unit each
The 54 poorest households had [] hay-field-unit each
49 others had 2 "
79 " " 3 to 5 "
26 " " 6 to 9 "
3 " " 12 "
1 " " 16 "

Yakutia

In the township cited the ratio of extreme wealth to extreme poverty in land was 16 to
one. Another nearby showed 26 to one, and a third 28 to one. In addition, there was the
fact, indicated on the basis of our previous example, that some households had no cattle
at all, and earned a pittance by renting their land to a toion who might have dozens,
hundreds or even thousands of cattle. In the 1860s the Russians introduced their village
commune system of annual redistribution of the land, to equalize good and bad hayfields,
for in practice yield might vary in ratios as extreme as 15 to one. This redistribution,
at first glance appearing to be equalitarian in trend, actually had the opposite effect,
for again, those who controlled it and, what is more important, assessed the hay-yielding
qualities of a given piece of land, were the representatives of the toions. As with real
estate assessments in more modern countries, where the assessed valuation of a [: ] large
property-holder's downtown acre with [: ] an office, store or factory
building is invariably below the real value, while that of the small home-owner is nearer
to real value or above it, so [: ] in Yakutia the hay-yielding capacities property of a toion's field
was underestimated by his friends, the village elders, while those of a poor man's field
was overestimated. In one case a suit resulted in careful investigation which showed that
the acres assigned to the cattle-rich families actually gave 54% more hay than estimated
by the assessors, while those assigned to the poor gave 64% less. In a word, the former, first, who
were expected to get 724 wagonloads (this was the unit of measurement) actually got 1,256,
while the latter, who should have gotten 262, secured only 165. Clearly, the appearance
of mutual ownership and redistribution did not prevent polarization of wealth. This process
accelerated in the next dozen years. By 1908 local newspapers carried reports of villages
where 5 toions held two-thirds of the land, or, in another instance, where 7% of the popula–
tion held almost half the land.
In the first village we cited above, having 270 families, 23 owned no w cattle whatever.
They lived as wage laborers engaged during the haying season, or as teamsters to haul wood,
build houses, etc. Their poverty was such that they had to request payment in advance for
the season's work, whatever this might be. This resulted in the accumulation of an irredu–
cible debt to the toion employer, keeping them virtually semi-enslaved. Others lived, as
we have previously described, by share-cropping cattle, yielding half or more of the pro–
duct. The land-poor, owning a few cattle, would borrow hay or butter from the toions at a rate of
interest which reached, in one extreme case, a debt of 648 lbs. of butter to repay two-

Yakutia

and-a-half pounds borrowed 12 years earlier! The toions naturally valued greatly their
private stock of debtors. Each of them was a nice source of income, borrowing each sea–
son so as to exist to its end. Vitashevskii reported that if one man's debtor tried to
turn to another for assistance, i.e., to change masters, his former creditor and lackeys
would bury him alive, effectively discouraging others from trying this again.
Beyond these normal economic relations, there were various forms of slavery and near–
slavery. A man who had no house - had lost it by fire, let us say - would be[] taken into
that of a wealthy neighbor, in return for which he and his family would be required to
perform by far the bulk of the work of cutting and hauling wood, ice, smearing the house with clay
or, in winter, manure, for insulation, cleaning the cattle-shed, etc. Another form in–
volved an invalid, orphan or wholly impoverished individual, sometimes with family, whom
the clan would assign to a wealthy member to provide for. In point of fact, he fed them
a semi-starvation diet and worked them mercilessly. This system was a remnant of the
early slavery, officially abolished by decrees of 19 1808 and 1825 but actually conti–
nuing to exist in this concealed form. A third form, quite common in eastern Asia, was
the sale by the poor of their children so as to relieve them of a burden which would
only mean starvation for all, have them fed, and gain some small lump sum to meet an
immediate need. Girls, who eventually became concubines, were in greater demand than
boys. Mainov writes that in the 1890s, girls between two and 15 years of age fetched
$1.50 to $15.00, depending upon age, health and comeliness. There was a regular traffic
in them from the poorer Viliui River district to the more prosperous Yakutsk area, with
agents transporting five or six at a time.
Despite the long history of class differentiation and exploitation which we have
detailed, the continuation of clan organization was a powerful preventative for disaffec–
tion among the poor. The toions pictured themselves as the guardians of their poorer
relatives against the Russians and, in particular, against other clans. Whereas, in pre–
Russian times, they had engaged in inter-clan warfare, now they fought endless legal
battles of over the boundaries of clan lands. Needless to say, they were themselves the
chief beneficiaries when such a litigation reached solution. On the other hand, there
were entire townships that had won "bad" reputations because the people stood up against
the toions and even, on occasion, went so far as simply to seize lands which they felt

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had been sequestered unjustly for private use by the wealthy. This dissatisfaction was
stimulated by the Russian political exiles of all schools, who agreed at least on one
thing, the injustice of the system of land ownership and distribution existing everywhere
in the [: ] Empire. Finally, in 1899, three-quarters of a century after the last serious
Russian effort to reform land ownership in Yakutia for the benefit of the Imperial trea–
sury and to quiet dissatisfaction expressed in endless petitions for redress of griev–
ances, a new governor, V.N. Skripitsyn, promulgated his reform. Framed with the assist–
ance of a number of the exiles who had won distinction as students of Yakutia, it would
have freed the Yakuts from the semi-feudal and serf relationships we have described, and
opened the doors wide to development of farming on the basis of untrammeled private ini–
tiative. It proposed to abolish the old system of five classes of landownership based
on yasak payment, prohibit the [: ] seizure of common lands for private use, share
the land equally by head of population regardless of sex or age, thereby giving each family equal
access to hayfields needed for its subsistence, and provide for redistribution every five
years. The toions either concealed the nature of the reform from the clan meetings held
to consider it, or drove out those who favored it by force or threats, or plied the
membership with liquor and then get them to renounce it, or bribed them with money to
vote against it.
Skripitsyn was persistent. Faced with the failure to [: ] introduce his original plan,
he came up with a new and strengthened version in 1902. This required secret balloting
instead of show of hands in taking decision on land matters at clan meetings, prohibited
the existing native officialdom from voting, and provided that the new distribution be
by lottery to avoid favoritism. This time the toions knew they could not defeat the re–
form from the bottom. Instead, they went over Skripitsyn's head to the Governor-General
at Irkutsk. He vetoed the [: ] reform [: ] in 1903, exactly as had happened almost a century
earlier, in accordance with St. Petersburg's principle of ruling the natives through
their chieftains, and thereby avoiding the upsetting of a social order which had hitherto
been immune to mass upheavals.
By the beginning of the present century, however, change was long overdue. The toions
themselves were dissatisfied with the allocation of land to Russian agricultural settlers,
and disturbed by rumors of planned colonization by Russians on a larger scale. They were,

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particularly after the Skripitsyn affair, put out over Russian supervision of their
local affairs, and wanted full independence to run the rural areas as they saw fit.
At the other extreme, a Russian working class had come into being in Yakutia - printers,
carpenters, blacksmiths, leather-workers, river steamboatmen - and had brought with them
the revolutionary ideas that were reaching into the ranks of Russian labor everywhere.
Small craftsmen, storekeepers and homeowners held similar sympathies, directed against
the large trading firms, which, having made common cause with the officialdom, squeezed
the rest of the population, Russian and Yakut. The Russian peasant settlers, living chief–
ly along the Lena and other riverways and trails, suffered as had the Yakuts before them
from the requirement that they provide free transport and mail carrying service.
1905 Revolution
Organized political activity made its appearance. In 1902 an exiled student organized
a political circle among the students in Yakutsk - a school for the children of the toions
and the Russians had finally been built, and many of the young people were radically in–
clined. In general, the conditions of the exiles were worsened by stringent regulations, [: ]
and on Feb. 18, 1904, more than 50 Marxists - the land-reform exiles refused to participate -
barricaded themselves in the upper story of a large house in Yakutsk and declared that
they would not disband until the new rulings were repealed, and that they would resist
attempts to dislodge them by force of arms. After 18 days of siege, during which they
flew the red flag for the first time in the history of Yakutia, they were subjected to
rifle fire from high-powered, long-range weapons for three days. One was killed and three
wounded (the heavy timbers of the log-built house afforded good protection), but there
was nothing to do but surrender. Their trial was transformed into a protest forum and
called forth great indignation throughout Russia. As they were led away to serve sent–
ences at hard labor, Aug. 23, 1904, a public demonstration took place, also the first
such expression of political protest in the history of Yakutia. Other exiles as well
as students and laborers of the city participated. All were freed during the revolutionary
Russia-wide upheaval of 1905. Illegal newspapers began to appear, and in 1905 the first
Marxist organization was set up, becoming, the next year, the Yakutsk branch of the
Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. Of great importance is the fact that, in 1906,
proclamations began to be published not only in Russian, but in Yakut, although the per–
centage of Yakuts literate in their native tongue was negligible.

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The Tsar's Manifesto of October 17, 1905, guaranteeing constitutional liberties in
response to the overwhelming revolutionary actions throughout Russia during the preceding
year, roused a wave of organization in Yakutsk. Students, teachers, sales clerks, govern–
ment workers and small merchants all banded together in one form or of another. Sometime
later there appeared"The Union of Yakuts". Five villages along the Lena in town meetings
refused to perform transport service in the future and elected committees to represent
them. Everywhere Yakuts and Russians ceased to pay taxes of any kind. On December 17,
1905, the Union of Small Shopkeepers demanded that the City Council of Yakutsk be sub–
mitted to re-election on a democratic basis. The Council refused and stalled until on
Jan. 9, 1906, a crowd of 200 9 (the town had only 7,000 inhabitants in all) singing the
Marseillaise, crying "Down with the Monarchy!" and led by political exiles, compelled
it to surrender its powers, opening the way for the election of a new body.
The activities listed above were chiefly conducted by Russians, of whom there were
now 21,000 in Yakutia, constituting less than 10% of the population, but a majority in
the towns. In the Yakut countryside, the peasants now refused to obey the Russian offi–
cialdom, not so much resisting as ignoring them. [: ]
[: ]
[: ] On October 20,1905,
when the governor, now thoroughly frightened, [: ], invited Yakut participation in the framing
of rules on rural [: ] elective administration, the toions replied with a counter-proposal.
This would have taken all power in Yakutia out of the hands of the Russians, would have
provided for direct Yakut representation in the State Duma of Russia, and would have
recognized all the land in Yakutia, including crown, monastery and exiled-settlers farms,
to be Yakut property. They said nothing about how the land would be distributed. The administration made no reply. Thereupon, on Jan. 4, 1906, a
large gathering of Yakuts, numbering several hundred, set up the first [: ] political
organization of that nationality, the Union of Yakuts. Toions took the leadership. They
were arrested two weeks later. At that time they issued an appeal to the people to support
them, but when they were tried and sentenced in 1907, they apologized for their activities
and were pardoned. The overall picture emerging from the 1905-07 situation is that the
bulk of the Yakuts did not move into conscious activity on their own behalf, but simply
followed the toions.

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The defeat of the 1905 Revolution had one major effect in Yakutia. Exile now became a
large-scale phenomenon, and workers began to predominate among the exiles. Moreover,
this physically tougher element showed more resistance to the system of jails without
bars, i.e., distance as a barrier. Of 50 political prisoners shipped to Olekminsk in
1907-8, 45 fled, although many were recaptured. Men who later became first-rank leaders
in the Soviet government, such as Sergo Orjonikidze, who headed the industrialization
drive of the mid-30s, and Emelian Yaroslavskii, a major propagandist, were exiled to
Yakutia at this time. [: ] The former, a
feldscher by occupation, gave medical assistance to the population, and the latter headed
the Yakutsk Museum. A socialist newspaper appeared in 1907-09, and resumed publication
in 1912, continuing until the Revolution, although it was repeatedly suppressed and had
to change its name. The Bolsheviks, with their customary interest in the most downtrodden
sections of the population, strove to educate that Yakuts themselves, with the result
that, whereas in 1912 only 14% of the users of the Yakutsk library were of Yakut nation–
ality, by 1914 the figure had risen to 20%
Thanks to the rise of a new [: ] commercial class in the Yakut villages, not
itself interested in the land, a land reform of sorts was carried out prior to World War I
in two counties near Yakutsk. In the summer of 1916 a general gathering of Yakut represent–
atives demanded a reform based on equal distribution. They split evenly, 12 to 12, but
the chairman's vote carried the day in favor of reform. This was the first time that
Yakuts themselves had favored such a change. However, before anything could be done
about it, the revolutions of 1917 occurred and gave the entire problem a new direction.
Beginnings of Cultural Achievement
The dozen years prior to the revolution saw the first emergence of a Yakut intelli–
gentsia engaged in creative cultural activity. The [: ] handicap to be faced in this
regard will be understood from the fact that the Yakuts were 99.7% illiterate. Only about
1,500 of them could read and write. In their majority these were toions and their offspring.
The most important of these educated men were V.V. Nikiforov, lawyer official and writer; A.E.
Kulakovskii, poet and ethnographer, particularly a collector of folklore; A.I. Sofronov,
writer and dramatist, and G.V. Ksenofontov, likewise an ethnographer and collector of
folklore. The fact that their names are Russian reflects the adoption of Christianity by
their forebears, and is no indication of nationality.

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It is of interest that the very first creative writings of these figures constituted
a literature of social revolt. Thus, Nikiforov's play, Manchary , written in 1906-07, a
fictionalized story of a legendary Robin Hood of a century earlier, has its hero declaim
to a toion, Chocho: "What doest [: ] thou term thy labor, of what does it consist? Was it not
thee who seized the best lands of the poor and the orphaned? Was it not thee, using thy
power, who compelled them to work those lands for thy enrichment? Perhaps it is that
which thou termest thy labor? All who live around us work for thee; to carry out all thy
labors [: ] the people of the entire village and even township do not suffice." This play
had considerable popularity and was performed, albeit in a censored version, in 1907 at
the Yakut Native Club, which also witnessed the performance of other plays based on sub–
ject matter drawn from Yakut mythology.
These years just prior to World War I also saw the attempts to issue newspapers in
the Yakut language, despite the extremely limited circulation they could hope to attain.
These papers included Sakha-doiduta (The Yakut Territory) and Sakha-olokho (Yakut Life).
In 1912 a magazine, Sakha-sanata (Yakut Thought) appeared. In 1916 Nikiforov began the
publication of Yakutskie Voprosy (Yakut Problems), a Russian-language newspaper of mod–
erate liberal trend. It continued to appear until the overthrow of the Tsar [: ] in
March, 1917.,
Official contempt for the Yakut language was most vividly expressed by P.M. Solovev,
a teacher in the Yakutsk Seminary, at a gathering of the Orthodox Russian Orthodox Missi–
onary Society in 1912 to discuss the problems of transcribing religious literature that
had been translated into Yakut. His speech consisted of the following brief three sentences:
"Why bother to create an artificial script for wild tribes. Let them crawl in the dust
if they refuse to adapt themselves to the Russian spirit. It is shameful to maintain the
barbarous language of these savages. What do 100,000 tent-dwellers amount to next to
1,200,000 Russians." His statistics, of course, were no more accurate than his spirit
was Christian - it was the Yakuts who outnumbered the Russians ten to one - but [: ]
[: ] his speech offers a vivid indication, in addition to the entire history
of the previous 300 years, of the reasons for the mistrust of all Russians which rendered
so difficult the application of a contrasting policy in all fields after the revolution.
One reason for Solovev's blast may have been the fact that it was not the Yakuts who

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were adopting the Russian language, but the other way around. Mainov's materials show that
[: ] 30 to 35% of the male Russian peasants in the Yakutsk district no longer understood Russian
at all, while among women the percentage was considerably higher. In Amga district, of 86
householders who considered themselves Russians, 54 had no knowledge of that language, 19
expressed themselves in it with difficulty, and only 13 used it with greater or lesser
ease. During the 19th century even the top Tsarist officialdom in Yakutsk spoke [: ] the native language
rather than the French which was customary among the Russian nobility.
These conditions offered a wide field for the cultural activities by the native
intelligentsia, but the weakness and indecisiveness of their efforts, conditioned by their
upper-class origin and lack of faith in the rank-and-file of their countrymen, as well
as the more or less concealed opposition of the government and, finally, the difficult
fact that the average Yakut was illiterate and had to spend all his time keeping body
and soul together, limited native culture to the beginnings listed above. On the other
hand, the ready adoption of the Yakut language by Russian settlers and even officials,
for spoken usage, and the adoption into Yakut of some 3,000 Russian words to express agricultural,
commercial, mechanical, religious and, in general, abstract concepts not previously
known to the Yakuts, indicated a rapprochement among the people which awaited only a dif–
ferent governmental policy to result in harmonious coexistence.
Revolution and Civil War, 1917-22
Immediately upon learning of the overthrow of the Tsar, in March, 1917, the Bolsheviks
in Yakutsk stimulated the organization of a Council (Soviet) of Workers' and Soldiers'
Representatives. They also founded unions of [: ] longshoremen, carpenters and agricultural workers,
and associations of the Tatar and Jewish elements in the population. Although Yakutsk was
predominantly Russian in its population, persons of Yakut nationality were among those
elected to the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers' Representatives. The Bolshevik
exiles also [: ] organized the poorer elements in the Yakut population of
nearby rural areas through young people whom they had given an education in the previous
years. These young Yakuts spoke forth with political speeches, perhaps the first activity
of that type ever engaged in by any but the toions. The Bolsheviks also convened a congress
of representatives of Yakuts and Russian peasants, which approved resolutions calling for
the separation of church and state, and [: ] church and school, and for the extension of the
franchise to all persons of both sexes over 18 years of age.

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On the Right, the Russian officialdom, priesthood and merchant class on the one hand,
and the Yakut toions and merchants on the other, organized against the reforms proposed
by the Communists. Power changed hands repeatedly, and the deciding factor was usually
not local, but external - the ability of the major Red or White forces in Siberia to
detach a few companies of men to operate in Yakutia, the supply of foodstuffs and other
basic necessities (Yakutsk depended upon imported goods), etc. The town city of Yakutsk itself
went Red for the last time, and to stay on Dec. 15, 1919, via a revolt by local Bolsheviks.
However, the situation was so insecure that, as late as March, 1922, the town was completely
ringed by anti-Soviet [: ] forces at a distance of only 10 to 15 miles. However, the defenders
succeeded in capturing the attackers' chief stronghold, and a Red expeditionary force
from Irkutsk gave the Soviets a decisive preponderance of [: ] strength. The combined
Russian monarchist and Yakut toion forces split and withdrew to the Okhotsk Sea coast
and the Arctic proper, where they held out till the end of the year. The 1922 fighting
was the bloodiest episode of the Civil War in Yakutia. The would-be restorers of the old
regime executed 700 captured local pro-Red leaders, and seized considerable cattle from
the populace, sometimes as much as 80%. In Churapcha they burned the school, library and
the best hospital in the Yakutia. 2,000 telegraph poles were chopped down along the Lena.
8,000 tons of freights badly needed by the populace were [: ] seized from river
boats by the rebels. However badly this handicapped the subsequent work of reconstruction,
it resulted in the proclamation, by the Soviet regime at Moscow, on April 27, 1922, of
the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, thus recognizing the national aspirations
of that people and establishing a Yakut state for the first time in history. However,
the infant republic's period of military travail was not yet over. In Harbin, Manchuria,
an emigre general named Pepeliaev in answer to an appeal by a Russian and two Yakut merchants organized a force with Japanese arms and money (the Japan–
ese still held Vladivostok at that time). He left Vladivostok by ship [: ] and landed at
Aian on the Okhotsk seacoast on Sept. 8, 1922. From there he crossed the mountains and
moved down the Maia River toward Yakutsk, taking Amga, only 100 miles southeast of the
capital, from which there was a good wagon road.
The Soviets sent their entire ready force of 280 men toward Amga to meet Pepeliaev's
approximately 1,150, while calling for Yakut volunteers to build up a further force. Meet–
ing Pepeliaev's vanguard 12 miles out of Amga, the Reds [: ] built a "fort" by

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ringing the one Yakut log house along the road [: ] with "boulders" [: ] of frozen manure, the
only building material available. Pepeliaev threw his entire force at this bare company
of men. The Reds, without food and practically without water - for the enemy's rifles
and machine-guns made it impossible to sally forth to get snow beyond the manure
"trenches" - held out for twenty days, at the cost of more than 50% casualties. They
lost 63 dead and 96 wounded. The three week delay gave the Soviet command the chance to
organize and train a force of 600, which [: ] marched out of Yakutsk [: ] February 21,
1923, reached and took Amga in a bloody battle on March 2, while another force freed
the remnants of the besieged company.
It is of very considerable interest for the understanding of the further course of
Yakut history to read Pepeliaev's own analysis of the reasons for his defeat in a mes–
sage dispatched to Okhotsk: "The Yakut people and its intellectuals have renounced the
struggle against the Soviets, taking their side against the militia (his force - W.M.).
I erred in my calculations. A struggle against the regular Red Army is out of the ques–
tion...Let those who will accompany me, let those who so desire, give up their arms."
Pepeliaev retreated to Aian, where he and his force were captured on June 17. In
January, 1924, he and his associates were tried by court-martial in Chita. He and 26 others
were condemned to death. Thus, Yakutia was the scene of the last rebellion against
military resistance to Soviet rule, anywhere in the U.S.S.R.
The Soviet Period: Agriculture
For Yakutia, an agricultural country, the first problem facing the Soviet regime
was to eliminate inequalities in land ownership, and, in particular, the greatest toion [: ]
holdings. In 1923-24 the century-old system whereby Yakuts were divided into five yasak–
paying classes, of which the first was entitled to several times as much land as the
last, was eliminated. The lands formerly granted upon payment of tax were redistributed
on an equalitarian basis. The toions suffered considerable losses and the poorest ele–
ments gained greatly. However, this reform pertained only to the original natural meadows listed as tax-lands, and not to [: ]
those gained by the toions in previous generations through their superior ability to
clear forests and drain lakes by the employment of wage and share-cropping labor. There–
fore very considerable inequalities in ownership remained for several years longer. One
reason for this was the strong clan feeling among the Yakuts and hatred for all sugges–

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tions originating with Russians: very much the same factors which the toions had used to
block land reform completely under the Tsars. However, by this early date the feeling of
there was already a widespread feeling among
the poorest Yakuts that extreme differentiation of wealth, to the point of reducing them
to starvation, was unfair. For that reason they supported, and the government was able to
carry out, the [: ] elimination of the class system in 1923-34.
In order to strike at the roots of toion rule over intermediate government, the ad–
ministration was reformed and vastly simplified in 1926. The township level was removed
entirely, so that the villages (nasleg) Soviets, elected by the people, themselves
elected delegates to county Soviets, which elected the central Soviet of the Yakut
Republic. Counties ([] (raion) now numbered 32, of which three embraced the central Yakut- inhabited [: ]
areas, and 19 were specifically organized as Evenki, Eveni, Yukagir and [: ] Chukchi
districts, so as to make possible special efforts to improve their economies and way of
life, for in those areas the Yakuts themselves, as liquor-for-fur merchants, occupied
a dominant and repressive position. The three Yakut counties had, of course, a vastly
larger population than the 19 mountain and tundra counties combined. To assist the abor–
igines, [: ] The Yakut Central Executive Committee (equivalent in size and functions to
a Parliament) [: ] established a standing Committee for Assistance to the
Peoples of the Northern Districts.
To protect the Yakut farm-laborers - a combination of haymaker, cowboy and dairymaid -
in their day-to-day bargaining with their employers over wages and conditions, a union was
organized, which affiliated to the Russia-wide Union of Agricultural Laborers. A very
important secondary function of this organization was teaching its leaders, and later its
members, to read and write, thus enabling them to keep records of work and wages. Of
course, this was accompanied by Marxist indoctrination with the idea that all employers
of labor were the mortal enemies of the wage-worker, and that the ultimate solution of
his problem would come only when private employment was eliminated, and collective owner–
ship of land and livestock substituted. Another function of this organization was its
fraternal aspect - the establishment of funds for mutual assistance in time of need.
These measures, and the Soviet tax system, frankly discriminatory against the wealthy,
called forth the bitter opposition of the toions, leading to an attempted rebellion just
north of Yakutsk in 1927, the leader of which was executed. On the other hand, the early

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Soviet Yakut government was hesitant in its attack upon the entrenched economic status
of the toions, because the Yakut members of that government and its employees were over–
whelmingly of toion origin, as they alone possessed even minimal educational qualifica–
tions. By 1928 a sufficient number of the poor had been educated (education began to make
rapid strides as early as 1922) and had acquired experience in organization through the
peasant union to make possible a replacement of the men previously in office, and the
new administration took a much tougher line toward the wealthy. (By 1926 the Yakuts the population
were 5.8% was 22.2% literate, as against [: ] 0.7% - Russians and Yakuts combined - a decade earlier.)
In 1929 all remnants of feudalism and of toion ownership were eliminated in a very
drastic land reform - 12 years after that had occurred in Russia proper - which gave
the best lands to the poor and middle (subsistence) peasants, and allocated to the for–
mer toions the worst, requiring draining and clearing. Thus, after their reserve finances
were used for that purpose, they were about in the same position as their neighbors.
Even Pprior to this second reform, however the Soviets estimated that 7% of the rural
population were employers of labor, 9% were landless farm laborers, and the remainder
poor and [: ] subsistence farmers. After it had been completed, there were few either
employing or employed.
The next step, in 1930, was to encourage the poor and middle peasants to pool their
lands and equipment into collectives. A few of them had existed from as early as 1918,
but Russia's general lack of farm machinery and fertilizer made it difficult to demon–
strate their superiority. However, in 1930 the first ten tractors were shipped into
Yakutia to show what mechanized power could do. It was clear to every peasant that he
could not afford to buy one himself, so collectives became a logical solution. In 1931
the first government-owned Machine and Tractor Station, with 55 tractors to serve the
[: ] surrounding countryside. By July of that year a quarter of the peasants had -
some 13,300 households - had joined collective farms. Chiefly, these were farmers, for
whom the advantages of mechanized ploughing, sowing and reaping were obvious. The cattle–
raisers, for whom haying was the only work capable of mechanization at that point (these
were natural meadows, neither ploughed nor sowed) were not attracted to cooperative or–
ganization at that time.
In order to demonstrate the most advanced farming methods and make the experiments
needed to introduce new crops into this [: ] northerly clime

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and to improve yields and breeds, the government organized its own model farms. One of
these, at Markha, at 63°30′ [: ] N. on the Viliui River, northwest of Yakutsk, founded
in 1930, had 1,433 acres under grain in that year. The other was at Amga, 61° N., south–
east of Yakutsk. A third, specializing in vegetables, was founded south of Yakutsk in
1931 and, in the same year, two specializing in cattle-breeding. In addition, a small
stud-farm was set up that year.
The hopelessness poverty of the individual Yakut prior to the reform is indicated
by the following figures relative to landholding in 1917. At that time the average
holding of four-fifths of the peasants in Yakutia was 12 1/2 acres, which is little
enough in a temperate zone with its fairly high yields, but negligible for the North,
particularly if it be realized that, generally, the land was not cropped cultivated,
but merely hayed. Moreover, the 12 1/2 acre figure conceals a very wide spread, as
two-fifths of the peasants in Yakutia averaged only 8 1/2 acres. At the other extreme,
the richest 2.5% had average holdings of 125 acres.
The importance of these reforms will be realized if it be understood that only 2.2%
of the Yakuts were urban in 1926. The fact that the reforms had overwhelming support is
indicated by census data showing Yakutia to have had the fourth lowest percentage of
military in the population of the 24 republics, regions and territories into which the
U.S.S.R. was then divided. To be exact, there were 259 soldiers then stationed in this
enormous territory one-third as large as the United States, and having four times the [: ]
population of Alaska. In 1897 there had been 191
soldiers and 737 Cossacks, or a total of 928. The Soviets had disbanded the Cossacks,
and the military now constituted 0.09% of the population of Yakutia.
The expansion of agriculture since 1917 has been enormous, thanks to a combination of improved organization,
education, introduction of horse-drawn and mechanical equipment, development of hardy
varieties, etc. In 1917 there were 95,000 acres under crop. In 1927, as a result of
six years of civil war followed by two land reforms in four years, the sown acreage
had fallen to 65,000. By 1930 the incentive of private ownership over the old share- [: ]
cropping and wage-labor farming for the majority of the population had
about complete recovery and an increase to a record 102,000 acres. By 1932 the further
advantages of cooperative effort had begun to show results, and the acreage reached
177,000 227,000 under crop. By 1935 the collectives had emerged from the period of struggle
against opposition by propaganda, arson and murder on the part of the former wealthy,

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now reduced to desperation, and the sown [: ] are expanded to 227,000 acres.
By 1938 there were 427 tractors, 85 harvester combines and 111 trucks in use in Yakut
agriculture, pooled in 5 state-owned farms and 11 Machine and Tractor Stations serving
collective farms, and there were now 251,250 acres under crop. 88.2% of this was collec–
tive farm land, the remainder private, although in the more developed areas of the USSR
collectivization was almost universal by that date. World War II, depriving the USSR of
more than a third of its finest farmlands [: ] by German invasion, vastly spurred develop–
ment in outlying areas, and in 1942 the sown acreage in Yakutia reached 335,000 acres, of
which 99.9% was planted by collective farms. There were now 160 combines in Yakutia.
In 1948 the area under crop figure was well over 400,000 acres, representing a four-fold increase in
thirty years, or six-fold from the low point of 1927. There were, in 1942, when collecti–
vization had reached completion, 1,062 collective farms, indicating approximately 50
families per farm, and 315 acres of crop-land per farm, exclusive, of course, of naturally-seeded hay mea–
dows. In 1938, 9/10s of the sown acreage was planted to grains, an increasing proportion
of which was represented by oats [: ] and even wheat, in addition to the barley and rye that had
accounted for over 90% of the plantings in 1917. [: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ] By 1948 even apples were being grown, but only at experimental stations as yet.
Drought and frost, which regularly formerly killed 30% of the plantings of major crops as recently
as 20 years ago, have pretty well been defeated by irrigation in the first instance, and
development of more rapidly-maturing and hardier varieties in the second. The elimination
of this loss alone adds almost 50% to the crop. The chief plantings in Yakutia in 1938
were as follows: spring wheat, 75,000 acres; spring barley, 52,000; [: ] oats, 26,000; [: ]
winter rye, 5,000; potatoes, 6,000; vegetables, 1,000. Fodder grasses were planted on
83,000 acres. 53,750 acres had been planted to barley in 1917, so there had been no
change in area under this crop, but only 5,700 acres had gone to wheat in the [: ]
earlier year, indicating a more than 13-fold increase.
Livestock showed a different picture. As early as 1902, during their bitter fight
against Governor Skripitsyn's proposed land reform, one [: ] toion had expressed the views
of his economic group with extreme frankness: "If all those who [: ] possess not a single
head of cattle and thus far not possessing land be given it, we will have to drive our
cattle to the slaughter-house." Clearly, deprived of the meadowland holdings on which they
grazed and from which their laborers cut hay for their great herds, the toions had to

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dispose of their cattle by sale or slaughter. In their bitterness, they preferred the
latter. In 1917 horses and cattle numbered 610,000 together. [: ]
[: ]
[: ] By 1930 the figure had risen to 850,000, including 200,000
horses. Collectivization occurred at first chiefly in the grain-growing regions, and
reached the grazing and haying country only in the mid-30s. [: ] Earlier we
cited the situation regarding cattle-ownership in 1892. At the time of the revolution
in 1917, one-quarter of all Yakut households had three cows or less (including those who
had none), [: ] meaning
that they starved and ate bark during the winter, and worked as wage-laborers or share–
croppers for the toions during the summer. Another fifth of the population had either
four or five cows per family, which provided them with something under the 1,500 calory
semi-starvation diet per person we discussed earlier. In all, four-fifths of the house–
holds had ten cows or less (very few of these had ten), although ten was regarded as the minimum
for existence for a family of five. At the other extreme, one per cent had more than 30
head each, another two per cent had between 21 and 30, and another four per cent had
from 16 to 20. Since the average for the country (not the median) was two cows per per–
son or ten per family, yet 81% had less than that, it is clear how large a proportion
of the total head was held by the seven per cent who were wealthy by Yakut standards.
But the fact that so small a proportion held them meant that it was easy to slaughter
them in the face of collectivization. Thus, by 1935 the total head had declined to
455,500 cattle, or a loss of 200,000, and 169,500 horses, or a loss of 30,000. This
continued until about 1938, for, as we have seen, collectivization in Yakutia was not
complete until some time after that date, and in 1938 there were 392,000 cattle (mostly
cows) and 162,700 horses. However, improvement of the breed had doubled the milk yield
per cow by that date, so that the total milk crop was one-sixth above the 1930 figure,
when the total head of cattle was at its highest. This improvement had been brought
about not only by breeding but by environmental factors, such as replacing the cold and
dirty manger-built-into-the-house by warm and spacious collective barns. Loss of calves
was reduced greatly thereby.

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On July 8, 1939, the Soviet government passed a law issued an administrative order
giving considerable material encouragement to stock-raising and also providing economic
penalties - in the form of a schedule of compulsory sales to the government - for those
collective farms which failed to increase their [: ] herds of livestock owned in common,
in accordance with their real potentialities measured in fodder acreage. This had a most
salutoary effect. In April, 1941, the number of collective-farm-owned cattle in Yakutia
was 71.3% over the 1939 1938 figure, that of horses 131.9% higher, and that of reindeer 161.5%
higher. In 1942, [: ] [: ]
the collective farm herds of cattle were two-and-a-half times as large as in 1938, i.e.,
five years earlier; there were twice as many horses and three times as many reindeer [: ] in the collective farms.
By May, 1949, milk yield in the region of the confluence of the Aldan and Lena had risen to three and
[: ] four times as much per cow as before cross-breeding with the Kholmogory
(modified Holstein) and Simmenthaler (Swiss) had begun. Elsewhere in Yakutia there were now four new
stud [: ] farms of Kholmogory and three of Simmenthaler cattle.
Living Standards and Health
The [: ] fourfold increase in crop acreage and improvement in variety and yield of crops and the increase in total milk
harvest yield provided the basis for a sharper increase in living standards during the past quarter
century than has been witnessed anywhere else in the U.S.S.R. except for the Chukchi and
other tribal peoples of the high Arctic. The annual period of semi-starvation during the
winter - the larger part of the year - during several months of which Yakut cows used to
cease producing milk entirely, is a thing of the past. Not only have manufactured articles
of basic necessity - boots, clothing, furniture, dishware - become the rule in Yakut homes,
in place of the crude home-made products of the past (qv. Yakuts), but bicycles, sewing
machines, samovars, cream separators and, since World War II, the first few privately-owned
automobiles, have made their appearance.
Two dates, 1927 and 1933-4, mark revolutionary changes in Yakut living and health
conditions against traditional practices habits so deeply ingrained that they had to be prohibited
by force of law. In 1927 the Yakut Central Executive Committee (Soviet Parliament) forbade
the maintenance of home and barn under a single roof, compelling the building of a separate
structure. Understandably, execution of this decree took a decade, and in outlying areas, two. Likewise, the eating of raw meat was prohibited. Both measures sought to, and suc–
ceeded in, cutting down the incidence of communicable disease. The health conditions [: ]
up to that time were such, in the words of a statement of the Yakut Cabinet in 1930, as to
"threaten the normal growth of the population". In that year, 30% of the population suffered
from pulmonary tuberculosis, almost 100% had intestinal worms, and 70% had trachoma. Infant

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mortality in the first year of life was at 60%. The reasons for this may be traced back to
the primitive conditions of life and the negligible provision made under the Tsars for pub–
lic health. An encyclopedia of 1904 lists, for this vast territory one-third as large as
the United States, 13 physicians in government employ, two private practitioners, and 7
employed by the gold-mining companies. Most All of the last-named, and many of the former,
were in the southernmost area chiefly populated by Russians and not now part of Yakutia.
The government physicians were more officials, statisticians and investigators than practitioners.
In any case, it was only Russians and a few wealthy Yakuts who got any medical care at
all. There were two veterinarians in this enormous land with over half a million head of
livestock. In addition to the doctors, there were, outside the goldfields, 19 trained nurses,
of whom 10 were in the towns and 9 in the countryside, which had the vast majority of the
population. Under such conditions one usually finds a large number of midwives, but in
Yakutia even these were lacking: there were 7 in the towns, and two in the countryside.
There were 151 hospital beds in [: ] all of Yakutia, [: ] and 39 more in special
institutions for syphilitics. Finally, there was a leper colony of 86. The only free insti–
tution was a Red Cross dispensary in the town of Yakutsk. In addition to the foregoing,
priests and teachers conducted a certain amount of inoculation against smallpox.
By 1930 the number of there were 23 hospitals, all with one or more physicians, and beds had been increased to 525. Moreover, 270 of these
were in small units in township centers, within reach of the rural population, and another
135 were in the districts inhabited by the aborigines of tundra and taiga. Further, there
were 21 rural health centers under trained nurses, with five beds in each, and 23 more
without in-patient facilities. In all, then, there were four times as many beds as a generation earlier. Finally, there was one doctor travelling with the nomads
in the North, two tuberculosis dispensaries (Yakutsk and Viliuisk), a tuberculosis sana–
torium in Pokrovskoe, two leper colonies and five travelling public health squads. In all,
there were 76 doctors (five-fold rise) [: ] , 98 pharmacists equipped to
give medical aid (in 1904 there had been one hospital and one public pharmacy), 54 trained
midwives, and 90 nurses. This vast improvement was regarded by the government as still
providing entirely inadequate care, so that budgeted provision for increased appropriations
scheduled a four-fold rise in monies for this purpose from 1928 to 1933. By 1939 there were 200 doctors. In 1942 the city
of Yakutsk, formerly dependent upon a 750-mile road haul for its medicines, celebrated the
opening of its own pharmaceutical plant. By 1948 there were 700 points in Yakutia at which

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medical treatment could be obtained (hospitals, dispensaries, clinics, trained nurses and
midwives' offices, pharmacies, etc.) [: ] as against 10 in 1904 and 80 in 1930. Thus, medical
aid was now within reach of the entire population, and a system of ambulance planes and
parachute doctors, [: ] instituted well before World War II, served those in the most
isolated areas.
No quantity of doctors, nurses, [: ] and hospitals could have
brought about a fundamental change in the incredible state of disease among the Yakuts if
they were not themselves brought to accept fundamental habits of cleanliness that would limit
the epidemic spread of contagious disease. Therefore, in 1933-34, the Yakut branch of the
Soviet young people's society, the Communist League of Youth (Komsomol) conducted a "cultural
campaign" to introduce elementary practices of cleanliness, formerly simply unknown to the
population. The need for this campaign is indicated, perhaps even better than by the shock–
ing figures on illness cited previously, in Olaf Swenson's Northwest of the World , the report
of an American fur trader who sledged through Yakutia [: ] at the end of 1928:
"In this first (Yakut) house in which we stated, which was about twenty by twenty-six,
I counted twenty-two persons, not including several babies which hung from the ceiling and
which I didn't bother to count....In this district cows were kept in a barn built actually
as a part of the house, with an open door connecting the stable and the living room. When–
ever the cows felt cold or perhaps merely sociable, they simply wandered in and stood or
laid down before the fireplace. As I entered the yurta I was conscious of the warm, moist
smell of a cow stable. If the cows happened to be in the adjoining room, I could feel a
warm current of air coming through the stable door. It made me wonder whether the cows were
stabled thus for their own comfort or to furnish a heating plant for the family. In one
yurta where we had tea, an old lady, who was partially crippled, sat in a corner next to a
cow which was eating from a manger built into the living room. Whenever the old woman
wanted to get up, she leaned over, took hold of the cow's tail and pulled herself to her
feet, and the cow took it as a matter of course.... [: ] A mother would take some bread and meat,
chew it for a while and then, taking a sip of milk into her mouth to mix the whole mess to–
gether, would spew it into the large end of the horn, while the child took the small end into
its mouth and sucked."

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[: ]
So long as the Yakuts continued to dwell, as the y had, in isolated family houses or, at
most, in groups of three or four families, it would be physically exceedingly difficult to
and very expensive to
bring to them the advantages, in education, information, medical aid and material facilities
that a larger community could offer. Even in the United States the isolated farm dwelling is
the remaining stronghold of kerosene lighting, bucket instead of faucet water, [: ]
wood-stove cooking and the like. In Yakutia, poorer to [: ] begin with, saddled with a heritage
of blank ignorance and epidemic disease, handicapped by climatic conditions making communica–
tions even over local distances possible only a few months in the year, there could be little
progress so long as the individual family was isolated from its neighbors and the community.
Therefore a third major step forward - after the prohibition of combined houses-and-barns and
the "cleanliness [: ] campaign" - was that taken when the collective farms, once soundly
established, began to urge their members to move together into village communities. and to re–
house them. This process has not been ended. in the outlying areas. As recently as September, 1948, it was newsworthy
that a collective farm on the Viliui River had moved twenty of its families from smoky
yurtas into newly-built houses with windows, chimneys, floors and the rest. At that same time,
it was decided to build in Yakutsk a plant for [: ] prefabricating all the wooden parts
of homes, from floor to roof, and to begin construction early in 1949 and have it in operation
at the end of the year.
Education. [: ]
Both the economy and the living habits of the Yakuts would inevitably have remained
at a very low level had they not learned to read and write, and gained further education
beyond that. The growth in literacy of the population, Yakut and Russian together, has been
from two per cent prior to the Soviet regime, to [: ] 22.2% in 1926, 44% in 1930, 57% in 1935, 75%
in 1937, 80% in 1939, 85% in 1947, and 99.3% in November, 1948. This is ascribable to three two factors,
first, the introductions of [: ] as the language of instruction; second the introduction of compulsory schooling and,; third secondly , an unending campaign on the by
part of the authorities, the heads of all organizations and societies and by the school
youth, organized by their teachers, to convince the middle-aged and elderly that the
ability to read and write is useful and interesting, and that failure to do so is both
economically unprofitable and downright shameful, a mark of lack of civilization. Further,
it is to be remembered that the population of the USSR is exceedingly young: over almost three- four -fifths
are below 3 0 years of age, thanks to a rise in birthrate and fall in infant mortality. This

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large majority of the population either was born and brought up under the present regime and has passed [: ] its school-age years under since
the introduction of compulsory four-year schooling in the early ′30s or was so young as
to be most readily involved in classes to eliminate illiteracy. Thus, 30% of the children
of school age were already in school during the 1929-30 school year, but more than twice
that percentage - 62% - constituting a majority of those eligible, were attending the
very next school year. The campaign to end illiteracy was so effective that, among the
nomadic Arctic aborigines (reindeer and dog people; hunters and fishers) occupying the
northernmost portions of Yakutia, enrollment in [: ] classes to end illiteracy among those
[: ] above school age was almost as great as the number of children in school. In 1931
3,472 children of these tribes were in school, and 2,306 adults were "liquidating their
illiteracy". The following year the number of school children had increased to 4,671
but that of their elders seeking the prime elements of education had risen to 3,294.
The process of bringing about compulsory primary education was largely one of
building schools and providing teachers. In 1910-11 there were 131 church-operated
schools with 3,428 pupils in all of Yakutia, in which Yakut children formed less than
50%. [: ] However, as the schooling consisted chiefly of learn–
ing by rote prayers in Old Slavonic, the majority of the "graduates" remained illiterate.
as would have been inevitable in any case, for the entire course was of two year duration.
Thus, the two four-year town schools were regarded as "higher" elementary schools, but
the children of Yakuts (exclusively the wealthy) constituted only 20 to 25% of the hand–
ful attending them, the one girls' classical Gymnasium (8 years of schooling) , the one Realschule (seven years),
the one normal school and the one seminary for the priesthood. In 1913 By 1913, ten more
of the virtually useless rural schools had been built. In 1917 there were 173, with 4,660 children of officials, priests and merchants in attendance. In 1927-28 the number of schools
had risen to 185, and the term to four years, the language of instruction had been
changed to Yakut, and the curriculum to one of general education rather than prayer.
It is this which explains the rise in literacy from 2% to 22.2% during that period.
The children of the poor were given preference. Later that became unnecessary.
By 1929/30 there were 220 schools, and the next school year 383, while the number offer–
ing more than four years had doubled in a year from 6 to 12. Yet even this number, as we
have seen, could provide for only 62% of the children of school age. or 17,000 in four–
year schools, 4,000 in seven-year schools and 1,500 in high school. By that time there
were already 200 Yakuts with university education from whom to build a competent native
officialdom, professional and intellectual group. A decade earlier the number of Yakuts

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the number of Yakuts with college degrees might have been counted on the fingers of one
hand. By 1938 1939 the number of schools had been increased to 425, and 50,000 children were
in attendance, reflecting [: ] a longer period of school–
ing, and a sharply increased population resulting from Russian influx and rising survival
rate among Yakut children. School was taught in the language predominating in the given
locality, although provision was made for the nationality which might constitute a minor–
ity in the given area. Thus, in Yakutsk, Russian was the language of instruction in most
schools, with Yakut a compulsory course. beyond the fourth year. However, there were Yakut-language schools for
Yakut children, with Russian a compulsory course. beyond the fourth year. In the Far North, Evenk might be the
language of instruction in the given instance, with both Yakut and Russian as compulsory
courses for those going beyond the fourth year. In the northern areas boarding schools
were built for the children of the nomads. The hunters' collectives, having learned the
value of education, provided firewood for these schools, arranged for hot meals for the
children and concerned themselves with such matters as delivery of schoolbooks. A major
revolution in education was marked by the fact that in 1939 over 75% of the teachers were
Yakuts or other natives, i.e., a percentage corresponding to the percentage of native
peoples in the population.
In 1939 the number of schools had risen to 439, and attendance by 10% to 55,000,
reflecting chiefly the [: ] gradual extension of compulsory 7-year, rather
than four-year, schooling. (15,100 children were now in the 5th to 10th year) 2,300 more were attending normal schools and other specialized
high schools, and 200 were attending the first two colleges in Yakutsk, both in the field
of education. Dozens Hundreds more were being educated in other fields at universities outside
Yakutia. However, the level of education was as yet lower in Yakutia than in the USSR
as a whole, [: ] and statistics show that universal
compulsory education had not yet been extended to the most outlying areas. In the USSR
as a whole there were 185 school children per thousand population, but in Yakutia only
137. Furthermore, where there were 60 children in the 5th to 10th years per thousand
population for the USSR as a whole, there were yet only 38 in Yakutia. Calculation from
these figures leads to the conclusion that 79.2% of children in Yakutia were in school
in 1939. [: ] However, in the
next two years attendance jumped by 8,000 in 4-and-7 year schools, and by 1,460 (well

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over over 60%) in high schools and the two colleges. In 1942, despite the war, total attend–
ance in elementary schools rose by another thousand, and the number of schools had risen
by 76 in three years. 63,000 of the 65,000 school-age children were now in school, or 97%. [: ] During the next three years of war, funds,
materials and workers were allocated nevertheless to build another 35 schools. On the other
hand, the enrollment of tens of thousands of grown men in the armed forces brought a withdrawal of some 3,000
children from school to work and help support their families.
By 1945 there was a full high school in each of the 27 county seats.
The first two postwar years saw the construction of 26 more schools. of various levels,
[: ] so that 576 reported were functioning at the
beginning of that year. Those already in operation included 200 boarding schools for the
children of nomads, and several more itinerant schools moving with them. Attendance was
now 100% of all school-age children in Yakutia. However, many children still had to
travel long distances, despite the fact that there were no less than 1,000 total popula–
tion per school building. Moreover, the population was increasing both naturally and by
influx. Finally, as the country was moving toward universal complete elementary (7-year)
schooling, [: ] additional space was needed. [: ] At the beginning of the 1938-1939 school
year, therefore, there were 600 schools, or [: ] 24 more than two years earlier. In September,
1949, seven-year schooling became compulsory for every child in the Soviet Union, thanks
to the availability of schools and teachers. This, among other things, required raising
the qualifications of the teaching staffs, who, at the outset, themselves had only normal
school education. However, by September, 1948, more than 1,500 teachers in Yakutia (most
of them Yakuts) were college graduates. [: ]
[: ] That is to say, there were at least five [: ] times as many teachers
alone with college training as there had been Yakuts with college training in all fields
20 years earlier. Moreover, the college-trained teachers constituted about half the total
teaching staff of the Republic, as there were 2,763 teachers in 1942. In 1917 there had
been 254, less than one-tenth as many, and with incomparably lower qualifications. The
importance of education in the national life of Yakutia in its present stage of history
and in the training of men of ability is indicated by the fact that the Prime Minister
of Yakutia at last report (1947 and 1948) was a Yakut and a school teacher by profession,
Semen Z. Borisov. Photographs show him to be well below 40 years of age. Only five years
earlier there had still been no Yakut capable of holding the post, and Wendell Willkie

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had reported a Russian in that position, who had been sent out from Europe two years
earlier. On the other hand, Wallace in 1944 reported [: ] another Yakut, Vinokurov, "quite
Indian in appearance", in that position.
[: ]
(It should be explained that the difference between a Soviet Socialist Republic, such
as Russia, the Ukraine or Belorussia, and an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, such
as Yakutia, is that the former are held to be fully sovereign under the Constitution of
the U.S.S.R., while the latter enjoy only autonomy, and constitute part of one of the
former. Yakutia is part of Russia the Russian Republic within the U.S.S.R. One of a number
of factors involved is size of population. The smallest of the full Republic has a
larger population than Yakutia.)
Whereas the alphabet originally used in the Soviet schools in Yakutia was based
on the Latin, it soon appeared that this was incongruous, for Yakuts going on to learn
Russian, as is obviously necessary and sensible, would have to hurdle a new alphabet.
Therefore a new Yakut alphabet was introduced based on the Greco-Russian, with certain
additional symbols to represent sounds not [: ] existing in the Russian. Before school–
ing in Yakut could become widespread, the grammar of the language had to be worked out,
and primers, grammars, dictionaries and other textbooks written. Spelling had to be
standardized.
Instruction in Yakut-speaking areas is now in Yakut except for the last two years
of high school. This is because students graduating high school now usually go on to col–
lege sooner or later, and, as they must go outside Yakutia if they seek [: ]
training for any profession except teaching, full fluency in Russian is [: ] necessary.
Another factor is that Russians assigned to teach in Yakutia still predominate among those
qualified to teach the highest grades in high school, and the teachers themselves in many
cases do not yet have a sufficient command of Yakut. A foreign language is also compulsory
in high school. English and German, in that order, as preferred. It is reported that Yakut
students learn foreign languages with great ease because they have already had the experi–
ence of learning Russian.
For many years, Yakut education suffered a major handicap in that all its textbooks
had to be shipped by rail to Irkutsk, by road to the Lena, and down the Lena by boat. Any
number of economic and climatic factors could, and frequently, did, cause schools to fail

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to get their texts, particularly as, even upon arrival at Yakutsk, they had to be distributed
hundreds and even thousands of miles by boat up Lena tributaries, by dogsled or by reindeer.
Therefore it was a tremendous step forward when a printing industry was established at
Yakutsk capable of doing anything but color work. That was the situation in 1945. A color
printshop may have been established since then. 67,000 copies of 12 new textbooks were published
in Yakutia during the first seven months of 1948.
Education in Yakutia has been extended not only upward toward the high school and
college level (the number in college had risen to 300 by 1945) but "downward" to the kinder–
garten and day nursery level. In 1941 the Aldan goldmining region had 14 kindergartens to
serve a total population of 50,000, an extraordinarily high ratio. This may help to explain why In the northern fishing
it was possible for 700 women to be gold miners and prospectors in 1948. In the northern fishing
and hunting districts the nursery schools also operate on a boarding basis during the
season, to accomodate children whose parents go out to sea or into the forests. The leading
authority in this field in her native land is a Yakut woman, Liuba Kornilova, who was edu–
cated at the Soviet Union's leading pedagogical institution in Leningrad, and now teachers
teaches her specialty at the Yakutsk Pedagogical Institute. She states:
"Our kindergartens rival those of Moscow. The arrangements and general training meth–
ods are the same. Instructions and textbooks, charts and other printed matter for children
are translated into the Yakut and Evenki languages: our teachers are as much at home in
these languages as in Russian. Children's verses, songs and stories are published in our
language. We can read Aleksei Tolstoi and Samuel Marshak in translation."
[: ] "Our children never catch cold, never have coughs
or sore throats. Rationing is different of course - we give the children much more meats
and fats (here) in the North.
"In educating them, we have to remember that many will be trappers or hunters when
they grow up. They must develop their sight and hearing, and we must help them by means
of lessons and games. In the North children become self-reliant at an early age. A four
or five-year-old Yakut boy is a good skier, and at six he can be trusted to ski several
miles on an errand. But that is perhaps the only difference. Otherwise little Yakuts and
Evenki are brought up like any other children in the Soviet Union."
Press, Publishing, Arts, Sciences, Culture .
Literacy, education and a constant effort to encourage a broad culture has brought
with it a great desire to read. The figure on textbook publication at Yakutsk in half of
1948 given above is no indication of the scale of publishing in the Yakut language. In the

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first 26 25 years of existence of the Yakut Autonomous Republic, 1922-48, 1922-47, over 3,000 titles
were published in a total of more than 12,000,000 10,000,000 copies. These include textbooks, the
political writings of Lenin and Stalin, [: ]
[: ] the classical Russian poetry of Pushkin and Lermontov,
and the modern Mayakovsky,
and the novels of Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky and Sholokhov among Russians, and Jules Verne
and Stevenson's Treasure Island among light foreign classics. Texts on medicine and agri–
culture in Yakut translation have found particularly wide circulation. Of Yakut works,
the classic folk saga, Olonkho is the most important to find publication. Moreover, as
part of the effort - a matter of public policy - to acquaint Russians with the cultural
attainments of the minority peoples and thereby strike at the roots of feelings of
racial superiority, excerpts from the Olonkho , were published as recited by Ustin Nakhsorov,
Yakut story teller and translated by the Russian poet S. Shervinsky, were published in
1946 in the number 13 of the anthology Friendship of the Peoples , issued at Moscow in a
printing of 15,000. Of modern works, the first to be published were those written early
in this century, mentioned above, [: ] most of which had remained only in manuscript form until
after the coming of the present regime. By 1942 four writers significant writers of poetry
and prose had made their appearance: Ellei-Kulachikov, Kiunniuk-Urastyrov, Abaginskii–
Kudrin and Erilik-Yakovlev. Others won attention during and shortly after the war [: ] , particu–
larly Timofeev-Tereshkin, [: ] and Novikov. Most of these men received their early train–
ing in the field of journalism, and others will undoubtedly emerge from the same back–
ground. In 1948 there were 31 printing plants - one in almost every county seat, of which
there were then 37. These plants published 46 newspapers and three magazines, so that
there were obviously, several hundred persons gaining proficiency in the [: ] pro–
fessional use of the pen.
Emergence of a national theatrical art has developed not only performers and pro–
ducers, but native dramatists, specifically Suoron-Omollon (D. Sivtsev), S. Efremov, and
[: ] Amma Ach'chygyia (N. Mordinov) the translator into Yakut of Anna Karenina , published in 1946. There had been no professional theater under
the old regime. The first repertory company was founded in 1924, and by 1942 three more had been established.
In that year their repertoire included, in addition to native plays, such Russian classics
as Gorky's Lower Depths , A.N. Ostrovskii's The Storm, and Gogol's Inspector-General , and
Pushkin's The Miserly knight Avaricious Knight . Soviet plays in the repertory included

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Vsevolod Ivanov's famed Armored Train about the Civil War, Aleksandr Korneichuk's
Platon Krechet (from the Ukrainian), Mdivani's Alcazar (from the Georgian, about the
Franco rebellion in Spain, and the topical wartime plays The Battalion Marches West ,
also a work of Mdivani, and Vsevolozhskii's Youth of the Marshal . At that time, these
northernmost of the world's professional theater companies - with those of long-cultured Iceland and
the Soviet European Arctic - were rehearsing the first translations into Yakut of the
world classics of Shakespeare, Schiller (during a war with Germany!) and Lope de Vega.
North of the Arctic Circle, there was, in 1946, an amateur company of 30-odd members at
Tiksi, which had, by that date, done plays of Ostrovsky, Konstantin Simonov, Korneichuk
and V. Shkvarkin. However, it is probable that this group consisted primarily of Russians
and performed in that language - as did one or more of the professional theaters of
Yakutia. In 1948 there were also two professional road companies
touring the rural areas.
In 1947 the Yakut National Theater of Opera and Ballet gave its first performances
in Yakutsk. The themes of its first opera, Niurgun Bootur , and its first ballet, Meadow
Flower , were both drawn from the folk epic, Olonkho . They bring to life the legendary
titans and their struggle against the dark forces of nature and the oppressors of the
people. The music was written by the first Yakut composer, Mark Zhirkov, who, with many
of the singers and members of the orchestra, had received their education at the Moscow
Conservatory. They had been drawn from among the countries country's leading amateur per–
formers and sent to Moscow at the expense of the Yakut government when it decided to
found this company. In writing the music, Zhirkov had the assistance of his former
professor at the Moscow Conservatory, Mark Litinsky, and the USSR Committee on Arts, a
Cabinet Department, sent a leading producer to Yakutsk to assist with the staging. This
is an established practice, first begun in the Caucasus twenty years earlier, for helping
native cultures to acquire combine the best in European art forms with their own national idiom.
As newspapers and magazines provide the []"breeding-ground" for creative writers,
so do the numerous community centers - entirely a development of the past quarter-century –
provide, with their dramatic, choral and orchestral groups, the opportunity for the emer–
gence of individuals of talent in these fields, and serve to bring an appreciation of
these arts to the masses of a population to whom they were virtually completely unknown.
This effort actually began only in the 1930s, for as late as 1931 no single permanent

Yakutia

building devoted to this purpose seems to have existed in Yakutia. In that year 20 "Red
Corners" - single rooms in factories, offices, schools and workshops devoted to political
and recreational activities - were listed, and six travelling wagon-clubs, moving with the
northern nomads. In addition, for purposes of dissemination of culture, there were two
regular libraries and 43 library-huts in the villages. Apparently there was no single motion
picture theater in the entire territory. But by 1939 1935 , thanks to very considerable subsidies
from Moscow (in 1939, for example, five-sixths of the Yakut budget came from appropriations
by the Russian Republic, and only one-sixth from local sources), there were 42 permanent
"clubs" (community centers), 80 motion picture [: ] projectors,
seven full-scale libraries, and 53 library-huts. Three years later there were 20 county-wide
libraries, and 23 [: ] motion picture theaters or permanent installations, plus 58 more
itinerant projectors. There were also 15 [: ] central county-wide libraries. In
1939 there were seven times as many community centers as four years earlier, or 298 in
all - one per 1,344 of total population. This was a better ratio than for the USSR as a
whole, where there was 1 one per 1,639 of population. Needless to say, in most of cases
in rural Yakutia, these were one-room log cabins, but the point is that they were seven–
night-per-week facilities in which choral, [: ] instrumental, dance, dramatic, and painting–
and-modeling groups could be organized and practice. Likewise, in that year, there were 92
libraries of all types, , four museums and 92 movies. Here, again, the picture must be understood in Yakut
terms. The average number of books per library was 219, and, as the central [: ]
[: ] Yakutsk library had some tens of thousands, the local libraries had perhaps 50 books each.
But the point is that there were now 50 different titles covering from "how-to-do-it" hand–
books through practical medicine and agriculture, to politics, literature, poetry and drama
within reasonable distance of every literate Yakut, whereas a dozen years earlier there had
been none, and no one could have read them anyhow, except in the two or three larger towns.
Beginning at this time, the Central Library of the Yakut A.S.S.R. at Yakutsk was
placed on the list of those which, under Soviet law, must receive one copy of everything
published in the country, free of charge. This, plus an effort to fill out the gaps on its
shelves, brought its collection to a total of 550,000 volumes in 1942, whereas all the lib–
raries in yakutia combined had had only 87,700 books three years earlier. Two years later
the library was reported to have 20,000 titles in foreign languages . , and a system of inter-

Yakutia

In 1942 the library records showed 100,000 users in nine months.
At the end of 1938 1948 there were two-thirds more [: ] community centers than
a decade earlier, or over 500; five museums; more than twice as many movies - 180
in all. There were 35 libraries with extensive collections; the viliuisk library now had 50,000 books; figures on the tiny
library-huts were no longer given. The first broadcasting station had been opened in 1934,
and in 1935 there were 13 relay stations feeding broadcasts received by wire to 2,500 private outlets
Hitherto we have discussed the "literate" arts. But, quite logically, depictive
arts made [: ] progress earlier. Several painters had made
names for themselves as far back as 1935, including I.V. and P.V. Popov, Nosov,
Kolodeznikov and Romanov. Theatrical arts: stage-design, scene-painting, costume–
design, have also made their appearance.
Finally, Yakuts have begun to make their mark in the field of science. The first
permanent institution to be established - as distinct from field expeditions of greater
or lesser duration sent out from Moscow - was the [: ] Institute for Research Into
the Yakut Language and Culture, founded in 1935. Two other institutions, working in
the natural sciences, had been established by the end of 1946, at which time the Yakut
government requested of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences that it open a research center
at Yakutsk. The request was sponsored by an outstanding Russian geologist, Sergei
Smirnov, Member of the Academy, who had made major discoveries in Yakutia. The plan
of work he outlined, and which was approved - he was named director of the center –
embraced the fields of geology, geography, zoology, botany, soil science, mineralogy,
geophysics, hydrobiology, and Yakut language, literature and history. Elsewhere in
the U.S.S.R., the founding of such centers has served to to give native scientists
experience in original work under men of competence, and has led, in the course of a
dozen years or so, to the establishment of independent Academies in the given republics.
By 1947, aside from a small number of persons specifically trained for the sciences,
Yakutia had some 6,000 teachers, doctors and agriculturalists from whom persons of
scientific talent and achievement in these and related fields could be expected to
emerge.
Extractive, and Processing and Manufacturing Industries; Communications
The cultural and scientific progress we have described would be an entirely arti–
ficial phenomenon if they were not founded in, and designed to stimulate, the utilization

Yakutia

of general knowledge, technology and science by the Yakut people in the exploitation
of the natural resources with which their immense country is so richly endowed. Need–
less to say, the special difficulties placed by Arctic and sub-Arctic conditions call
for scientific study and solutions to a greater degree than the exploitation of similar
resources in temperate climes. It is no accident that Yakutia at the turn of the pre–
sent century, had a grand total of 110 persons who might be listed as industrial wage–
workers. They were employed in assisting the owners - who also worked - of the three
tiny tanneries, four steam-powered grain mills, 21 brickworks and 87 [: ]
wind and water mills which constituted the countries country's industry. That is to
say, there was an average of one wage-worker per enterprise. The three tanneries had
a total output-value of $875 per year together, the four steam-mills of $3,600, and
the 21 brickworks of $2,640. Clearly, for all practical purposes they could be deemed
not to exist at all. Except for the four steam-mills, operations were entirely by hand.
Lumbering, in this land of 370,000,000 acres of untouched forest, came to $4,500 worth
of firewood and building lumber per year.
In 1931 there were 456 workers in industry, counting only those in enterprises
employing 16 or more, if machine-powered, or 30 or more in the absence of machinery.
Most of them were in Yakutsk, which had seven enterprises exceeding this minimum:
a leather-works, a brick-works and a saw-mill, a printshop, a power plant, a machine
shop and a [: ] fish salting works. The others were in the goldfields, which had a
powerplant, a sawmill, a truck repair garage and machineshops for the maintenance of
three large dredges and other equipment. We exclude gold miners throughout. Plans for
future development at that time included completion of the prospecting of the Sangar–
Khaia (qv.), Kangalassy (qv.) and Aldan (qv.) coal fields, and the Botom iron resources,
known from ancient times. Gold-mining had expanded vastly with the discovery of the
fabulous Aldan fields in 1923. This area soon became the largest and most populated
industrial area in Yakutia and the second most important gold field in the USSR. In
1935 there were 1,000 Yakuts among the workers - a small minority. In 1932 gold was
discovered at Alakh-Yun in the Jugjur Range at the eastern border of Yakutia, and at Uchur, and
mining was undertaken almost immediately. By 1939 there were almost 50,000 miners and
auxiliary personnel in the Aldan goldfields. There were 500 miners and construction

Yakutia

workers at the Sangar-Khaia brown coal mines, then producing 45,000 tons per year,
and 10,000 tons were being dug at Kangalassy for the needs of the city of Yakutsk.
A river shipyard had been built at Peledui, launching barges and powered boats for
the Lena River (qv) service. Fishing had become a full-fledged industry, bringing
in a catch of 30,000 tons per year. Lumbering had multiplied to 30 or 35 times the
pre-Soviet level, having reached 1,200,000 cubic meters per year. Yakutia now had
[: ] seventy processing or manufacturing enterprises exceeding the 16-workers-with–
power or 30-without level. In all, industry, excluding gold-mining, was at about
100 times the 1913 level.
By 1941 Yakutia was known to have fifty billion tons of coal in 100 different
deposits; oil in commercial quantities on the Tolba River; enough salt to provide
the entire Soviet Far East, platinum, zinc, nickel, tin, silver and precious stones –
360 deposits of exploitable minerals in all, and the surface had only been scratched.
A tin refinery with a capacity larger than the total USSR output of that metal in
1939 - which was small - was under construction. By the end of 1942, coal was being
mined at seven places: along the middle Kolyma, at Sangar-Khaia, Kangalassy and
Kildem on the Lena, Chulman [: ] and Jabaraky-Khaia on the Aldan and Sogo–
Khaia where the Viliui meets the Lena. [: ] Yakut industry now
employed 56,157 persons, by comparison to 35 in 1922, in [: ] enterprises over
the minimum size to which we have been referring. [: ] The percentage of the population so
employed is comparable to that
in advanced countries of the West, and to that of the USSR as a whole, although the
productivity is as yet lower.
In 1942 lumbering was in the vicinity of 4,000,000 cubic meters - over three
times the level of three years earlier, and somewhat more than in 1928-1939 the 12
years 1928-39 combined. Yet this still represented only 1/22nd of the annual timber
growth in Yakutia! The first commercial oil wells went into production in 1943 or
1944, although there is every indication that production is still very small.
By 1947 Yakutia was the leading Soviet producer of mica, tin and rock crystal,
and also mined carborundum, in addition to gold, platinum, coal,and , salt, some lead-zinc
ore and some boghead iron. Industry was at 124 times the output level of 1913. A
glass works was founded at Yakutsk, the first in the Far North of the USSR, in addi–

Yakutia

tion to the numerous mechanized bakeries, canneries, sawmills, brickworks and [: ] a boot-and-shoe
factory. Sangar-Khaia coal mining had been modernized to the point of [: ]
conveyors carrying coal directly from the mines to the holds of ships on the
Lena. [: Yakub] [: ] coal output in 1950 was to be three times as high as in 1945. 1,000,000 cubic meters of lumber were now being shipped out of Yakutia
via Tiksi (qv) the port on the Arctic Ocean, which was visited by 45 ocean–
going vessels as early as 1945.
A major industrial revolution was in the making, for construction of an
iron-and-steel mill along the Botom River was in an advanced stage of planning.
Communications Transportation
Real settlement and development of Yakutia are still in the future, however,
and will be so long as it lacks rail connection with the rest of the USSR. The
current (1946-50) Five-Year Plan does not yet provide for making good that de–
ficiency. The much-talked-of Baikal-Amur Railroad to parallel the Trans-Siberian north of Lake Baikal was
never built, due to a steel shortage in 1938-40, a worse shortage when the Ger–
mans destroyed the plants in the Ukraine, and the needs of reconstruction in
European Russia since then. The elimination of the Japanese threat has done away
with the urgency of building that line. There is every reason to believe that
it will be [: ] five years at least, or perhaps a decade,
before there is a railroad into Yakutia at any point, and probably longer be–
fore it reaches the area of predominant Yakut population around Yakutsk. However
1950 is to see the completion of a railroad between YaKutsk and the coal fields to the north.
The highway picture is little better than that pertaining to rail transport.
[: ] By and large, traffic is possible only during the
winter months, and most of the "roads" are, to this day, pack trails. At the
turn of the century, for example, there was a monthly mail by horse and reindeer
from Yakutsk to the Verkhoiansk-Kolyma country between November 1 and April
10, but, due to the impassability of the area in the summer months, there was
only one mail from April 10 to November 1. The old Aian Trail had long fallen
into disuse. The Okhotsk and Viliui Trails carried goods by pack in summer, and
by sledge in winter. That was all.

Yakutia

Furs
Insert above "Transportations" on p. 78
12,000 persons were engaged in hunting and trapping in Yakutia in 1948. They pro–
[: ] vided one-fourth of the entire USSR catch, with the assistance of some tens of
thousands of part-time hunters. Small-bore rifles have replaced flintlocks, and modern
traps the primitive devices of 20 years ago, from which predatory beasts were able to
take fully a third of the catch. There was no incentive to the hunter when a fox skin
brought only a kilogram of tobacco or a bottle of vodka. Needless to say, these were
the products the traders were most desirous of dealing in. In recent years, the hunters
have been encouraged to band together into cooperatives. The government has set up a
network of trading-posts supplied with all the necessities of life and occupation, has
stocked the forests with new types of fur-bearing animals, and has conducted scientific
surveys of the resources, passing the practical results of these investigations on
to the trappers. Phonographs, bicycles, watches, books and radio sets have become
widespread among the Evenk, Odul and Yakut hunters.
About 1930 the chief items in the catch were polar fox in the north and squirrel
in the south. The squirrel is taken by shooting it in the eye so as not to spoil the
fur. As a result of the remarkable skill resulting from this occupation, Yakut hunters
are automatically classified as snipers when called for military service. About 20
years ago, when 900,000 to 1,200,000 squirrel were taken per season, that fur represented
57% of the catch by value. Polar fox, of which 12,000 to 19,000 were taken, accounted
for another 30%. The remainder consisted chiefly of red fox, wolverine, ermine and
sable.
Mammoth Ivory
Some 25 tons of this product are brought to market each year, indicating the
tremendous numbers of fossil animals buried in the extreme North.

Yakutia

In 1929, to make possible the exploitation of the newly-discovered Aldan
goldfields, the first year-round auto road in into Yakutia was built due north from the
Trans-Siberian railway station of Bolshoi [: ] Never (town of Rukhlovo) through
the center of the goldfield at Aldan (then called Nezametnyi) to [: ] the port
of Tommot on the Aldan River. Passing over forested mountains, the construction
of the this 450-mile road represented quite an achievement. This was the first opening of any
part of Yakutia to heavy freight movement except during the few months when the
rivers are navigable. At the same time, winter truck traffic was opened between
Aldan and [: ] Yakutsk, and between Tommot and the river port of Churan on
the Lena, 150 miles away.
By 1939, a dirt road had been built 600 miles westward from Yakutsk to Suntar
via Viliuisk, and a winter truck road 120 miles southeast from Yakutsk to Amga.
A year later a dirt road had been carried north from Yakutsk to Ust-Aldan, and
another south from Suntar to the Lena at Niuia.
In October, 1943, the Tommot-Yakutsk highway was completed, and [: ] Yakutsk has
since been linked to the Trans-Siberian by a 750-mile year-round paved highway.
Hith–
erto, it had taken 5 months to deliver bulk freights from Irkutsk via wagon, raft and
ship.
By that date, there were 1,600 miles of highway in the country, and 14,000 miles
of dirt road, chiefly impassable during the spring thaws. [: ] (Snowfall, usually very
light in most parts of Yakutia, is no obstacle to traffic.)
As everywhere in the North, and particularly in large inland areas, aviation
has proven a tremendous boon to [: ] Yakutia. A regular freight-and-passenger
service by seaplane following the Lena was opened to Yakutsk in 1929, offering, at
first, three trips per month . along its 1,650-mile route from Irkutsk. In 1935
bush [: ] service began to be introduced, and Northern Sea
Route craft began to operate along the Arctic coast to the various polar stations.
The Lend-Lease route in World War II used Oimekon and Yakutsk as major staging
fields. The Oimekon field, at the world Pole of Cold, is built of steel netting
over asphalt mixed with gravel. Its construction, by crews, including a bulldozer,
tractor and horses flown in, was a marvel of heroism, persistence and engineering
skill. The field at Yakutsk was large and firm enough

Yakutia

By 1931 the [: ] Soviets had built a 600-mile dirt wagon road on the
[: ] due north from the Trans-Siberian Railroad at
Skovorodino through the Aldan gold fields to Yakutsk. [: ]
[: ]

Yakutia

to support the four-engined DC-6 craft in which the Willkie Mission of 1942 and
the Wallace Mission of 1944 visited that city. In 1947 those two fields were still
way stations on the peacetime transcontinental line to Chukotka, and Yakutsk was
the hub of lines radiating in six directions: NNW to Zhigansk and Bulun on the
lower Lena with a westward branch to Viliuisk Sangar-Khaia and [: ] Viliuisk on the Viliui; NNE to
Verkhoyansk; NE to Oimekon; SE to Amga;SSW to Aldan; and SW via Kirensk to the
hub of all Siberian air operations at Krasnoyarsk on the Yenisei.
Operations on the Northern Sea Route to Yakutia date from before World War I,
when, from 1912 on, an annual voyage was made from Vladivostok through the Bering Strait to the
mouth of the Kolyma, in northeasternmost Yakutia. However, in every instance it
was necessary to winter in the Arctic before returning the following summer. [: ]
[: ] In 1928 , when that the Kolyma , which had resumed these voyages after the
Civil War, reached the Lena delta from the East, the first commercial merchant vessel ever
to do so. This was repeated annually thereafter, and in 1933 the Lena river
fleet was enlarged by convoying a number of reinforced craft into its mouth from
the West. From that time on the Lena has been a through artery. In recent years
Yakut imports and exports via the Northern Sea Route have come to exceed those
overland and downriver from Irkutsk. Moreover, the Anabar, Olenek, Yana, Indigirka
and Kolyma have come to life as waterways, now that and the Far North of Yakutia
(above 65° N.) has been opened to development, now that regular ocan ocean traffic
plies to the mouths of these rivers.
In the absence of railroads [: ] and of paved roads but for the one south from
Yakutsk, the rivers - primarily the Lena (qv) remain the chief medium of inland
freight transportation. In 1904 there were something under 30 steam-propelled
vessels on that river. Of these, five were in regular scheduled service between
the head of navigation and Yakutsk. From that point two followed a route to the
mouth of the river; two plied up the Viliui and one up the Aldan and Maia to a
point 120 miles from the Sea of Okhotsk. Others plied between Bodaibo and the Lena
along the Vitim.
<formula> 2,640 3,600 875 ﹍ 7,115 124 ﹍ 28460 14230 71.15 ﹍ 882,260 </formula> <formula> 3 1,50,0,000 </formula>

Yakutia

The [: ] six-year civil war in Yakutia (1918-1923) resulted in
the destruction of the bulk of the river fleet, and in 1930 there were only 18
steamers, tugs and passenger-tugs on the Lena and its tributaries. There were also
a few motor boats. At that time only 4,000 miles of riverway were in use for
transportation. For downriver rafting barges of 30-50 ton capacity were built
at the head of navigation (1,030 of them in 1930), which were borken broken up
for timber upon arrival at their destination. This was practicable because 87% of
the traffic was downriver. From 1928 to 1930 the freight tonnage carried on the
river had risen from 57,500 to 94,400 long tons, and included 90% of all goods
shipped into Yakutia at that time. That percentage has been reduced drastically
with the completion of the highway to Yakutsk and, in particular, with the expan–
sion of the Northern Sea Route so that, in 1945, forty-five ocean-going vessels
put in at Tiksi, at the mouth of the Lena. In 1939, Lena River shipping had
risen to number 130 steam-propoelled vessels, and 500 others, and freight turn–
over was above 300,000 tons per year. In 1947 the Yakut prime minister reported
that the tonnage of river vessels was eight times [: ] higher than in pre–
Soviet times, indicating [: ] that over 400,000 tons of
freight were carried.
Communications
Reference has already been made to the once-per-month in winter and once–
in-seven months schedule of mail delivery to the Far Northeast in 1904, and that
it took 5 to 6 1/2 months for an object to move from the railroad to any destina–
tion in interior or northern Yakutia. By 1931 there were 2,195 miles of telegraph
lines in Yakutia, a large portion of which had been installed in the last half–
dozen years under the old regime. Radio stations were operating at Bulun, Verkho–
yansk, Abyi and Sredne-kolymsk north of the Arctic Circle, and at Yakutsk, Viliuisk,
Tommot and Ust-Maiskoe south of it. Telephone exchanges had been established in
Yakutsk and Aldan, with 300 to 400 phones in each. In 1934 a broadcasting station
was opened at Yakutsk, and in 1935 there were 21 county stations for communications
purposes. Radio-telephone communication between Yakutsk and Moscow dates from 1938.

Yakutia

By 1947 all the 37 counties and 114 of the 137 townships 421 townships had two-way
radio communication with Yakutsk. 137 of the townships, all the 13 Machine and Tractor
Stations, and 135 of the 1,062 collective farms had telephone service. There were 206
post offices. [: ] However, the
nature of the country's transport system is indicated by the fact that, in 1943, the
postoffice department employed 3,500 reindeer, 1,200 horses and 1,000 sledge-dogs,
in addition to hundreds of river motorboats, trucks and aircraft, for its purposes.
William Mandel
Bibliography

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S.A. Tokarev, Oeherk Istorii Yakutskogo Naroda , Sotsekgiz, Moscow, 1940.

D. Bogorad, Yakutskaia ASSR , Izd. "Vedomostei Verkh. Sov. RSFSR", Moscow, 1939.

G. Kolesov and S. Potapov, Sovetskaia Yakutiia , Moscow, 1937.

XX Let Yakutskoi ASSR , Yakutskoe Gosudarstvennoe Izdatelstvo, Yakutsk, 1942.

L.S. Berg and others, Sbornik Yakutiia , Izd. Akademii Nauk SSSR. Leningrad, 1927.

A.P. Okladnikov and I.I. Barashkov, Drevniaia Pismennost Yakutov , Yakutsk. Izd., 1942.

V.L. Seroshevskii, Yakuty. Opyt etnograficheskogo issledovaniia . St. Petersburg, 1896.

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E.K. Pekarskii, Slovar yakutskogo yazyka . Leningrad, 1930.

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M.P. Alekseev, Sibir v izvestiiakh inostrannykh puteshestvennikov i pisatelei . OGIZ. 1941.

S.B. Yastremskii, Obrastsy narodnoi literatury yakutov . Leningrad, 1929.

G. Sarychev, Puteshestvie po severo-vostochnoi Sibiri . St. Petersburg, 1802.

N.C. Witsen, Norden ost Tattarie . Antwerp, 1692.

G. Ksenofontov, Urangkhai-Sakhalar . [: ] Ocheriki po drevnei istorii yakutov. Irkutsk, 1937.

E.K. Pekarskii, Iz predanii o zhizni yakutov do vstrechi ikh s russkimi . St. Petersburg,1909

I. Khudiakov, Verkhoianskii sbornik . Irkutsk, 1890.

A. Kulakovskii, Materialy dlia isucheniia verovanii iakutov , Yakutsk, 1923.

L.S. Berg, Otkrytie Kamchatki i ekspeditsii Beringa . Glavsevmorput, Leningrad, 1935.

Pavlinov, Vitashevskii and Levental, Materialy po obychnomu pravu i obshchestvennomu bytu
yakutov , Leningrad, 1929.

Yakutia

N. Shchukin, Poezdka v Yakutsk . St. Petersburg, 1844.

I. Mainov, Russkie krestiane i osedlye inorodtsy Yakutskoi oblasti , St. Petersburg, 1912.

V. Korolenko, Istoriia moego sovremmenika . Izd. " [: ] Academia", 1931.

M.K. Rastsvetaev, Ocherki po ekonomike i obshchestvennomu [: ] bitu u yakutov . Leningrad, 193

P. Teplov, Istoriia yakutskogo protesta . St. Petersburg, 1907.

P. Rozental, Romanovka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1924.

S. Potapov, Natsionalnoe iskusstvo Yakutii . Yakutsk, 1932.

V.K. Andrievich, Istoriia Sibiri , St. Petersburg, 1889.

I. Barakhov, Sovetskaia vlast i Yakutiia . Yakutsk, 1922.

Zapiski Yakutskogo [: ] kraevogo geograficheskogo obshchestva . Yakutsk, 1923.

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