Across the Ussuri Kray
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In Russia's Far East sits the wild Ussuri Kray, a region known for its remote highlands and rugged mountain passes where tigers and bears roam the cliffs, and salmon and lenok navigate the rivers. In this collection of travel writing by famed Russian explorer and naturalist Vladimir K. Arsenyev (1872-1930), readers are shuttled back to the turn of the 20th century when the Russian Empire was reeling from its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and vulnerable to its Far Eastern neighbors. What began as an expedition to survey the region's infrastructure for the Russian military turned into an adventure through a territory rich in ethnic and ecological diversity. Encountering the disappearing indigenous cultures of the Nanai and Udege, engaging the help of Korean farmers and Chinese hunters, and witnessing the beginning of indomitable Russian settlement, Arsenyev documents the lives and customs of the region's inhabitants and their surroundings. Originally written as "a popular scientific description of the Kray," this unabridged edition includes photographs largely unseen for nearly a century and is annotated by Jonathan C. Slaght, a biologist working in the same forests Arsenyev explored. Across the Ussuri Kray is a classic of northeast Asian cultural and natural history.


Foreword: The Unknown Arsenyev / Ivan Yegorchev
Preface to the 1921 Edition
Translator's Acknowledgements
Translator's Introduction
Part I: The 1902 Expedition
1. The Glass Valley
2. Meeting Dersu
3. The Boar Hunt
4. The Incident at a Korean Village
5. The Lower Reaches of the Lefu
6. The Blizzard at Lake Khanka
7. Parting Ways with Dersu
Part II: The 1906 Expedition
8. The 1906 Expedition—Preparations and Equipment
9. At the Departure Site
10. Up the Ussuri
11. From Chzhumtayza to the Village Zagornaya
12. The Route across the Mountains to the Village of Koksharovka
13. The Fudzin River Valley
14. Through the Taiga
15. The Great Forest
16. Across the Sikhote-Alin to the Sea
17. The Villages of Fudin and Permskoye
18. Saint Olga Bay
19. Trip to the Sydagou River
20. Adventure on the Arzamasovka River
21. Saint Vladimir Bay
22. The Tadusha River
23. Dersu Uzala
24. Amba
25. The Li-Fudzin
26. The Path along the Noto River
27. An Accursed Place
28. Return to the Sea
29. Up the Tyutikhe River
30. The Red Deer Rut
31. The Bear Hunt
32. From the Mutukhe River to Seokhobe
33. An Encounter with the Khunkhuz
34. Fire in the Forest
35. The Winter Expedition
36. To the Iman
37. A Dangerous River Voyage
38. Plight
39. From Vagunbe to Parovoza
40. The Final Trip
Appendix I: Historical and Current Names of Landmarks and Settlements
Appendix II: Biographical Information
Bibliography
Index of Plants and Animals
Index

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Date de parution 19 septembre 2016
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In Russia's Far East sits the wild Ussuri Kray, a region known for its remote highlands and rugged mountain passes where tigers and bears roam the cliffs, and salmon and lenok navigate the rivers. In this collection of travel writing by famed Russian explorer and naturalist Vladimir K. Arsenyev (1872-1930), readers are shuttled back to the turn of the 20th century when the Russian Empire was reeling from its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and vulnerable to its Far Eastern neighbors. What began as an expedition to survey the region's infrastructure for the Russian military turned into an adventure through a territory rich in ethnic and ecological diversity. Encountering the disappearing indigenous cultures of the Nanai and Udege, engaging the help of Korean farmers and Chinese hunters, and witnessing the beginning of indomitable Russian settlement, Arsenyev documents the lives and customs of the region's inhabitants and their surroundings. Originally written as "a popular scientific description of the Kray," this unabridged edition includes photographs largely unseen for nearly a century and is annotated by Jonathan C. Slaght, a biologist working in the same forests Arsenyev explored. Across the Ussuri Kray is a classic of northeast Asian cultural and natural history.


Foreword: The Unknown Arsenyev / Ivan Yegorchev
Preface to the 1921 Edition
Translator's Acknowledgements
Translator's Introduction
Part I: The 1902 Expedition
1. The Glass Valley
2. Meeting Dersu
3. The Boar Hunt
4. The Incident at a Korean Village
5. The Lower Reaches of the Lefu
6. The Blizzard at Lake Khanka
7. Parting Ways with Dersu
Part II: The 1906 Expedition
8. The 1906 Expedition—Preparations and Equipment
9. At the Departure Site
10. Up the Ussuri
11. From Chzhumtayza to the Village Zagornaya
12. The Route across the Mountains to the Village of Koksharovka
13. The Fudzin River Valley
14. Through the Taiga
15. The Great Forest
16. Across the Sikhote-Alin to the Sea
17. The Villages of Fudin and Permskoye
18. Saint Olga Bay
19. Trip to the Sydagou River
20. Adventure on the Arzamasovka River
21. Saint Vladimir Bay
22. The Tadusha River
23. Dersu Uzala
24. Amba
25. The Li-Fudzin
26. The Path along the Noto River
27. An Accursed Place
28. Return to the Sea
29. Up the Tyutikhe River
30. The Red Deer Rut
31. The Bear Hunt
32. From the Mutukhe River to Seokhobe
33. An Encounter with the Khunkhuz
34. Fire in the Forest
35. The Winter Expedition
36. To the Iman
37. A Dangerous River Voyage
38. Plight
39. From Vagunbe to Parovoza
40. The Final Trip
Appendix I: Historical and Current Names of Landmarks and Settlements
Appendix II: Biographical Information
Bibliography
Index of Plants and Animals
Index

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ACROSS THE USSURI KRAY

ACROSS THE USSURI KRAY
TRAVELS IN THE SIKHOTE-ALIN MOUNTAINS
VLADIMIR K. ARSENYEV
Translated with annotations by JONATHAN C. SLAGHT
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press Office of Scholarly Publishing Herman B Wells Library 350 1320 East 10th Street Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
iupress.indiana.edu
2016 by Jonathan C. Slaght All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-02205-9 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-253-02215-8 (paperback) ISBN 978-0-253-02219-6 (ebook)
1 2 3 4 5 21 20 19 18 17 16
For Hendrik Arseniev Slaght
CONTENTS
Foreword: The Unknown Arsenyev / Ivan Yegorchev
Preface to the 1921 Edition
Translator s Acknowledgments
Translator s Introduction
PART I: THE 1902 EXPEDITION
1 The Glass Valley
2 Meeting Dersu
3 The Boar Hunt
4 The Incident at a Korean Village
5 The Lower Reaches of the Lefu
6 The Blizzard at Lake Khanka
7 Parting Ways with Dersu
PART II: THE 1906 EXPEDITION
8 Expedition Preparations and Equipment
9 At the Departure Site
10 Up the Ussuri
11 From Chzhumtayza to the Village of Zagornaya
12 The Route across the Mountains to the Village of Koksharovka
13 The Fudzin River Valley
14 Through the Taiga
15 The Great Forest
16 Across the Sikhote-Alin to the Sea
17 The Villages of Fudin and Permskoye
18 Saint Olga Bay
19 Trip to the Sydagou River
20 Adventure on the Arzamasovka River
21 Saint Vladimir Bay
22 The Tadusha River
23 Dersu Uzala
24 Amba
25 The Li-Fudzin
26 The Path along the Noto River
27 An Accursed Place
28 Return to the Sea
29 Up the Tyutikhe River
30 The Red Deer Rut
31 The Bear Hunt
32 From the Mutukhe River to Seokhobe
33 An Encounter with the Khunkhuz
34 Fire in the Forest
35 The Winter Expedition
36 To the Iman
37 A Dangerous River Voyage
38 Plight
39 From Vagunbe to Parovoza
40 The Final Trip
Appendix 1: Historical and Current Names of Landmarks and Settlements
Appendix 2: Biographical Information of Characters
Bibliography
Index
FOREWORD
The Unknown Arsenyev
Vladimir Arsenyev (1872-1930) is a well-known figure among Russians as a scientist, explorer, and writer. He was an officer in the Russian Imperial Army and advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel by 1913. In his thirty years in the Russian Far East, Arsenyev took part in a dozen major (and innumerable minor) expeditions to study the forested corners of the Ussuri Kray. He is probably best known outside of Russia for Akira Kurosawa s adaptation of Dersu Uzala , based on Arsenyev s book of the same name, which won an Academy Award in 1975 for Best Foreign Language Film.
Arsenyev s first offering of popular literature was Across the Ussuri Kray (Dersu Uzala): Travels in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains , published in Vladivostok in 1921 and the subject of translation here. Two years later he published Dersu Uzala: Recollections of a 1907 Expedition to the Ussuri Kray . In 1926, the text of these two books was significantly edited by Soviet censors, combined, and published as In the Wilds of the Ussuri Kray . To give an example of the extent of these redactions, the first edition of Across the Ussuri Kray had forty chapters, but Soviet censorship reduced this to only twenty-eight. Similarly, Dersu Uzala was reduced from thirty chapters to twenty-four. These abridged versions, reprinted again and again, are what generations of Russian readers have been exposed to.
It was only in 2007 that Russian audiences were given access to the original versions, when the Primorye branch of the Russian Geographical Society, called the Society for Study of the Far East, teamed up with Rubezh Publishers in Vladivostok to publish the original, unedited, and uncensored texts as part of a six-volume collection of Arsenyev s writings. It is specifically the 1921 version of Across the Ussuri Kray , free from Soviet edits and censorship, that forms the basis of translation here. For the first time, English-language audiences can read Arsenyev unabridged and in the way that he intended.
Out of all Arsenyev s works, Across the Ussuri Kray was selected for translation first because it provides readers with an excellent introduction to the world of the Ussuri taiga and allows one to experience this wilderness as Arsenyev did. Readers are given a sense of what it s like to be a wanderer there, lost in a boundless expanse of forest but moving resolutely toward a clear goal.
It is important to note that although Arsenyev wrote this book based on his field journals, it should not be considered a strict documentation of fact. This is something that many Russian readers, even specialists, have not properly understood. For example, in this text Arsenyev first meets Dersu Uzala in 1902, but according to his field notes their true first encounter was in 1906. There are other examples of departure from fact within the text, usually dates or sequences of events modified to structure the narrative. But the details of his expeditions themselves and the things he saw in those places-these are all true and supported by his journals.
Arsenyev made the most of his military expeditions by gathering vast amounts of information tangential to his charge. He went out of his way to document and collect local flora and fauna, as well as considerable ethnographical and archeological material now housed in museums all across Russia. But even more important was Arsenyev s ability to transform the scribbles of his field journals into compelling literature. He used his talents as a writer to show others how he viewed the Ussuri Kray and to create a vivid image of the woodsman Dersu Uzala, a local tracker of the Gold tribe. It s easy to forget that Arsenyev also authored multiple scientific texts on a range of topics, including Chinese in the Ussuri Kray (1914), Ethnographical Challenges in Eastern Siberia (1916), and The Pacific Walrus (1927).
Arsenyev was appointed director of the Khabarovsk Museum in 1910, a position he held until 1919. In addition to his time at the museum, he toured Moscow and Saint Petersburg giving lectures on the Far East and received medals from the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. In 1919 he was awarded lifetime honorary membership to both the National Geographic Society (United States) and the Royal Geographic Society (United Kingdom).
Arsenyev had eclectic interests: military intelligence and the collection of statistical information, the study of flora and fauna, geology, cartography, ethnography, archeology, toponymy, and population demographics. Readers might be surprised to learn that Arsenyev s only formal education came from a military infantry school in Saint Petersburg-everything else he learned on his own, either from books or from interactions with scientists. Thus, the term self-made man is a perfect description of Arsenyev.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in 1917, Arsenyev chose to accept the Soviet regime rather than flee the country as some of his colleagues did. He garnered considerable success under the Soviets: he became a well-known author, began lecturing at the Far Eastern University, had his books translated into German, and prepared a ten-volume collection of his essays for publication in Moscow. Arsenyev traveled to the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Commander Islands in the 1920s, explored the Amur River basin, helped formulate five-year economic development plans for the region, and continued to study the indigenous tribes of the Kray.
However, it is clear that his relationship with the new regime was overshadowed by political suspicions. In 1926, Vladimir Arsenyev was forced to write a letter to the secret police in the city of Khabarovsk denying an enemy propaganda charge that had been made against him. By the late 1920s he was increasingly criticized in the local press for practicing what was deemed non-Marxist science.
Arsenyev came down with a cold during his final trip, in 1930, to the lower reaches of the Amur River, where he was overseeing four simultaneous expeditions to identify future potential railroad routes. He died of a heart attack on his way home to Vladivostok on September 4th, 1930. He was fifty-eight years old.
It is sad to say, but Arsenyev s sudden death probably saved him considerable anguish. Had he survived a few more years he would almost certainly have fallen victim to the purges that ravaged the Soviet Union in the 1930s. His widow, Margarita Arsenyeva, was arrested in Vladivostok in March 1934 and charged with conspiracy against the Soviet government. She was released in January 1936, only to be arrested again in June 1937. She was subsequently sentenced to death and executed on August 21st, 1938. Natasha, Vladimir Arsenyev s eighteen-year-old daughter from his second marriage (to Margarita), was left alone, and her fate also proved tragic. She spent three years in prison for operating a brothel in an apartment, followed by a ten-year term in a work camp for anti-Soviet statements. She was released in 1951, but found herself in prison again three years later. It was thanks to Natasha that the Society for Study of the Far East became a repository for her father s books and manuscripts-she donated them in 1938.
Margarita Arsenyeva was rehabilitated in 1958, and Natasha was rehabilitated in 1960. Natasha moved first to Khabarovsk and then to Blagoveshchensk, where she died in 1970. Arsenyev s first wife (whom he divorced in 1919) and son did not escape these difficult years either. The whole family was inexplicably expelled from the Soviet Far East in 1939. They moved to the Ural Mountains, later to the Altay region, and Vladimir Arsenyev Jr. served in the Second World War. In 1957, they were told there had been a clerical error and were allowed to return to the Far East. Vladimir Arsenyev s descendants now live in the city of Nakhodka, some 80 kilometers southeast of Vladivostok along the Sea of Japan coast.
In September 1945, on the fifteen-year anniversary of his death, a street in Vladivostok and the provincial natural history museum were named in his honor. A six-volume set of his works-albeit abridged and censored-was published in Vladivostok between 1947 and 1949. In subsequent years, Arsenyev s books have been reprinted in Russian and translated into many languages. His name is remembered and his deeds are recognized. With this translation, a fuller picture of the man is made available, and I am very pleased that English-language readers can finally become acquainted with the real Arsenyev.
Ivan Yegorchev, Society for the Study of the Far East
PREFACE TO THE 1921 EDITION
Here, I offer readers a popular account of an expedition I led to the Sikhote-Alin Mountains in 1906. It is both a field journal and a geographical description of the routes I followed.
In this book, the reader will find descriptions of the wilderness and inhabitants of this area, much of it now lost to history. The Ussuri Kray has changed dramatically in the past fifteen years. The primeval, virgin forests across many of these lands have been burned and replaced by woods of larch, birch, and aspen. Where before a tiger roared now a locomotive whistles, and where there was once a sparse scattering of Chinese trappers there are now large Russian settlements. The indigenous peoples have retreated north, and wildlife populations in the forest have been greatly diminished. The Kray began to lose its uniqueness and undergo the transformation inevitable with the advent of civilization.
These changes have primarily impacted the southern part of the Kray and the lower tributaries of the Ussuri River. The mountainous areas of the Sikhote-Alin from 44 latitude and northward remain the same forest wilderness as in the days of Budishchev and Venyukov (1857-1869).
First and foremost, I consider it my duty to express thanks to those who contributed to my research of the Ussuri Kray in one way or another.
Above all I thank P. F. Unterberger, who at the time was the Priamur general-governor. This statesman was a true patron-three of my expeditions to the Sikhote-Alin were funded by moneys allocated from the military and largely due to the extraordinary amount of credit at his disposal.
I found many well-wishers and friends among naval officers like S. Z. Balk, A. N. Pell, and P. G. Tigerstedt. In 1906 they arranged food drops for me along the coast, and in addition to finding the crates I had packed myself, I also discovered they had left me boxes filled with red wine, canned food, biscuits, cakes, and so on. P. G. Tigerstedt, who commanded a fleet of destroyers, was tremendously helpful on numerous occasions. Once, in 1907, I lay on the coast by the mouth of the Kulumbe [now Peshchernaya] River, sick and unable to move from starvation. Tigerstedt became concerned about my lengthy absence and sent a team out in search. They found me at the last minute. S. Z. Balk has already passed, A. N. Pell lives in Vladivostok, and P. G. Tigerstedt serves in the Baltic Sea. I owe them all a debt that I may never be able to appropriately repay in kind.
Any worthy outcomes that may have resulted from these expeditions I owe to my companions-N. A. Desulava, G. G. Granatman, A. I. Merzlyakov, and P. P. Bordakov. 1
Most of my successes can be attributed to the exemplary devotion and dedicated services provided to me by the Siberian riflemen and Ussuri Cossacks who traveled with me. I never had to encourage them to put forth effort; on the contrary I had to rein them in for fear they would injure themselves. Despite the deprivations they faced, these humble, hard workers patiently bore the difficulties of camp life, and I never heard a single complaint. Many of these men died defending their homeland in the First World War, and those that survive remain in my correspondence to this day.
Ship captains, teachers, doctors, and many private citizens provided me with countless services, words of advice, and helpful deeds during my expeditions that repeatedly encouraged and facilitated my progress. I offer these people a friendly hello and thank you for their kindness and hospitality.
As I do not command a firm enough grasp of the Chinese language to read its script, I turned to an Asian studies specialist, P. V. Shkurkin, for help. He has lived in the Ussuri Kray for twenty-six years and has a deep understanding of the local Manza population. I asked him to transcribe Chinese names of various landmarks recorded by military surveyors, other explorers, and myself over our cumulative years of travel in the region. P. V. Shkurkin, with characteristic enthusiasm, completed this enormous task quickly. I thank him for his contribution.
Every time I reminisce on the past I see a figure before me: Dersu Uzala of the Upper Ussuri Gold, now deceased. My heart strains with anguish every time I recall him and our nomadic life together.
If we were to look at an ethnographic map of the Ussuri Kray and locate the Gold, we would see that these natives were distributed along a narrow strip of the Ussuri River valley to the mouth of the Daubikhe [now Arsenyevka] River. Some Gold used to live along the Ulakhe [now the upper Ussuri] River and its tributaries, and it is these latter ones we are interested in here. Note I said they used to live there-this is because they are all gone now; they have been extirpated. There were only three of them left in 1901-these were Kapka Belday, Oko Belday, and Dersu Uzala. 2 The former two were killed in spring of that year by the Khunkhuz on the Noto River, and Dersu died in 1908, in the Khekhtsira Mountains, some 36 kilometers from Khabarovsk.
It would be incorrect to categorize these people as a different ethnicity or distinguish them from other Gold. In anthropological terms, they did not differ from their kin, the fishermen who settled the Ussuri River, but these Gold were distinctive in their passion for hunting. Living in places with few fish and abundant game, they devoted themselves to the hunt. In their pursuit of sable, in hunting for precious antlers in velvet, and in searching for the potent and medicinal ginseng, these Gold penetrated far to the north and regularly reached the farthest corners of the Sikhote-Alin. 3 They were excellent hunters and astonishing trackers. As I traveled with Dersu and got to know him, I was repeatedly amazed by the extent to which his senses were developed. The Gold could read tracks like a book and deftly reconstruct how some event transpired.
It is impossible for me to list all the services this man provided me and my companions. He boldly rushed to the aid of others and risked his life to do so on multiple occasions. Many owe him their lives, including me. Once during a thunderstorm and subsequent flood in the village of Anuchino in 1895, Dersu saved the lives of many soldiers, several officers and their families, a priest, and a postal employee.
In light of the prominent role Dersu played in my travels, I first describe an expedition in 1902 along the Tsimukhe and Lefu Rivers, which was where I first met him, and then move on to the 1906 expedition.
I had completed my first three expeditions by 1910. I focused the next three years on processing the materials I had collected, and was kindly assisted by L. S. Berg, I. V. Polibin, S. A. Buturlin, and Y. S. Edelstein, all renowned experts.
I had manuscripts for three books ready by 1917: these were (1) Across the Ussuri Kray , (2) Dersu Uzala , and (3) In the Sikhote-Alin Mountains . I passed drafts among friends and acquaintances, many of whom were educators. Their feedback confirmed my feeling that publishing a popular scientific description of the Kray such as this, from which young people could glean scores of interesting pieces of information, would be a useful endeavor.
But then came the Russian Revolution and the subsequent collapse of the printing industry in Russia. This forced postponement of publication of these books until a more opportune time.
I was assisted toward this end by Mr. Z. Ivado, who afforded me preferential use of the modern printing capabilities at his Echo publishing house, which in turn reduced the overall cost of this first edition meant for the general public and students. I must also mention my friend N. A. Speshnev, whose mediation skills on my behalf helped my first book, Across the Ussuri Kray , to see the light of day.
The Author
1 . The divisive impact of the Russian Civil War and subsequent Soviet purges is starkly illustrated by the names of friends and collaborators Arsenyev lists in this preface. Of the eleven people mentioned here for whom fates were uncovered, four died outside Russia (Unterberger, Desulava, Shkurkin, Tigerstedt), three died in Soviet prison camps (Edelstein, Pell, Speshnev), one committed suicide (Chersky), and one was purged from the military (Merzlyakov). Only two people (L. S. Berg, P. P. Bordakov) appeared to transition from Imperial to Soviet Russia unscathed. See appendix 2 for more details on these individuals.
2 . Derchu Ochzhal [VKA]. Apparently, Derchu Ochzhal is a more accurate transliteration of the Gold s name, but Arsenyev must have thought Dersu Uzala was easier for his audience to digest.
3 . Antlers in velvet are young deer antlers that are highly prized by the Chinese as medicine [VKA]. Ginseng is a plant that the Chinese credit with miraculous properties, including restoring youth to an aging body and curing all ailments. More detail is provided later in the text [VKA].
TRANSLATOR S ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Thanks to reviewers Irina Goodrich and Amir Khisamutdinov, who provided invaluable advice, comments, and critique of this translation and its annotations. Dr. Khisamutdinov also contributed significantly to the biographical notes section. Rada Surmach and Violetta Avello provided insight on Chinese transliterations. Carol Kennedy carefully edited the text. Janice Frisch, Nancy Lightfoot, Robert Sloan, and Raina Polivka of Indiana University Press provided technical assistance and advice during the revision process.
I consulted with numerous experts to better understand Arsenyev s observations. These people, and their areas of expertise, were Viktor Bogatov (mollusks), Vladimir Burkanov (sea lions), Oleg Burkovsky (rodents), Galina Dekoluk (trees), Dale Miquelle (tigers), Yelena Pimenova (plants), Anatoly Semenchenko (salmonids), Ivan Ser dkin (bears), Sergey Surmach (birds), and Sergey Zolotukhin (salmon). The quality of my annotations was vastly improved by their respective professional insights. Special thanks to Ivan Yegorchev for sharing his knowledge of Arsenyev and providing a foreword to this translation. A final expression of sincere gratitude to my wife, Karen, who shared the burden of this task in the form of countless evenings devoted to this work rather than to her company.
TRANSLATOR S INTRODUCTION
In trying to recall when I first learned of Vladimir K. Arsenyev, I admit a hazy memory. Since 1995-when I was nineteen years old-I have been traveling to the region formerly called the Ussuri Kray (now Primorye, or Primorsky Kray), where Arsenyev is a constant like the Sikhote-Alin Mountains and familiar like the tiger on the Vladivostok city crest.
The first time I was drawn to read Arsenyev s books was more than a decade ago. I was with colleagues at the Amginsky waterfalls in Primorye, 100 kilometers north of the coastal village of Terney, where I was living at the time. The falls were accessible via a half-day s drive along a logging road cut through the forest only a few years prior. It was summer and we hiked to the falls not by the narrow foot path that leads up the Amgu River to the lower falls, but rather downriver, off trail and bushwhacking, sweaty and muddy, past a series of low cascades. Then suddenly we were on the lip, peering down over the edge of the Black Shaman-the largest and most majestic of the Amginsky waterfalls-to the canyon pool some 30 meters below. We hiked down and around it, then sat by the pool s edge, panting but otherwise in silence, with necks craned toward the arresting beauty before us and cooled by the fine mist it cast off. Arsenyev was here, said one of my companions introspectively, but shouting over the waterfall s din so the rest of us could hear. It was a phrase I had heard for years, wherever I went: Arsenyev was here. But before that moment the weight of those words had never really sunk in, and I began to realize what an incredible person Arsenyev must have been. The difficulty of his expeditions and the sheer grit it took to carry them out was staggering. It was even more remarkable that he had had the fortitude, day in and day out, to commit his observations to paper so the rest of us would know the splendor of this place he called the Ussuri Kray. I sat there in the shade of the gorge reflecting on this. I had just walked a handful of kilometers off trail and was now exhausted, covered with scratches from branches and thorns, and frankly proud of myself for the achievement. In contrast, by the time Arsenyev reached these falls he had already been on the trail for about three months and had walked hundreds of kilometers.
Although I speak and read Russian with modest fluency, I do not read books in Russian for pleasure. Such tasks are always done with dictionary in hand and are not particularly relaxing. Therefore, when I finally got around to tracking Arsenyev down, I looked first to translation. I found and consumed Malcolm Burr s (1939) effort called Dersu the Trapper , then looked for what other Arsenyev translations in English I could find. I encountered two more: Dersu Uzala , translated by Victor Shneerson in 1950, and With Dersu the Hunter: Adventures in the Taiga , an obscure 1965 adaptation by Anne Terry White. All three told the same story. To my shock and surprise, nothing else had been translated in English. How could this be, when Arsenyev has a rich list of publications and a dedicated following in Russia to this day?
Things started to make a little more sense after I found a reprint of Arsenyev s original Across the Ussuri Kray (1921), which was an account of his 1902 and 1906 expeditions, and Dersu Uzala (1923), which described his 1907 expedition. Anyone who has read any of the existing English translations knows that these versions describe all three expeditions. In fact, Burr s translation was based on a heavily edited 1926 Soviet amalgamation of the original 1921 Across the Ussuri Kray and 1923 Dersu Uzala called In the Wilds of the Ussuri Kray , while Shneerson s is of a similarly redacted 1944 consolidation confusingly named Dersu Uzala . White s adaptation is simply a shortened version of Shneerson s translation. This means that English-language audiences know only a portion of the story Arsenyev was trying to tell. Here, in English for the first time, is the unabridged and original version of Across the Ussuri Kray , printed by Echo Publishers in Vladivostok in 1921, at the height of the Russian Civil War. Even readers who think they know Arsenyev and Dersu will find copious new material here, including many additional descriptions of the Russian, Chinese, Korean, and indigenous inhabitants of the Kray at that unique place and time. The text is enriched by Arsenyev s own photographs from these expeditions, many of which have not been published since the 1920s.
With my work on this translation now complete, I feel very close to Arsenyev and the places he described in Across the Ussuri Kray . The road between Vladivostok and Terney, some 650 kilometers long and one I drive several times a year, intersects and follows some of the same paths that Arsenyev walked in 1906. As I drive, I wait impatiently for glimpses of Arsenyev in the land. Just before the town of Kavalerovo my eyes ignore the flutter of plastic bags that cling to trees on Venyukov Pass, blown there from the nearby dump, because immediately after this stands the obelisk commemorating the passages of the explorers Venyukov, Przhevalsky, and Arsenyev. As I continue on through the city of Dalnegorsk along the Rudnaya (then Tyutikhe) River toward the Sea of Japan coast, I see Arsenyev and his compatriots there as well. I trace his path with my eyes and mind, and wonder which views of that valley had him spellbound in 1906 and wonder what he would think of the hilltop mining that has forever scarred the scenery there. Following the coast north into Terney County I pass the Dukhovo Lakes, a perfect place of ocean, cliffs, and wetlands where Arsenyev spent a chilly autumn night and where I have wandered the rocky shore looking for some of the same bird species he saw there. Next is Plastun Bay, where Arsenyev bushwhacked off trail for fear of encountering Chinese bandits who had already shot at one of his companions. Then to Terney, which in 1906 was Sankhobe: a bustling village of hundreds of Chinese and native Tazy and Udege.
The cultural, social, and historical backdrops to Arsenyev s expeditions through the Ussuri Kray are fascinating and are something that would likely pass unnoticed by a casual reader. At the time of these expeditions, Primorye is at its peak of four dominant cultures-some ebbing (indigenous Udege and Nanai), some stable (Korean and Chinese), and some rising (Russian)-groups all trying to make sense of each other and uncertain as to what the future might bring. Within a few short decades almost all the natives, Chinese, and Koreans would be gone. Referring to the Chinese population of Primorye in his 1994 book, The Russian Far East: A History , historian John J. Stephan pointed out that an ethnic group associated for over a thousand years with the region . . . made up less than one percent of its inhabitants by 1939. Via researched annotations, I have made an effort in this translation to provide appropriate context to certain people, places, and events that Arsenyev mentions in passing, so that these happenings can be placed in their broader historical context. When one of Arsenyev s original footnotes is retained, it is denoted by [VKA].
The majority of the place names (e.g., settlements, rivers, mountains) used by Arsenyev in this text, mostly Chinese but also indigenous names, are now obsolete but have been left intact to preserve the historical record. Arsenyev provided footnotes to many of these original names and explained their meaning when known. Some are mundane (e.g., large, rocky river ), and some are more descriptive (e.g., the valley where a cow got stuck in the mud ). Instead of including all these footnotes (especially given my own, sometimes copious, ones), for this translation I generated a table of place names that interested readers can refer to ( appendix 1 ). This includes the original (Chinese or indigenous) name, original meaning (when known), and current Russian name and meaning.
Similarly, most of the scientific names for plants and animals used by Arsenyev in his original text, following designations by A. I. Chersky (curator at the Museum of the Society for the Study of the Far East in Vladivostok), are now considered archaic. Instead of repeating these now-meaningless names, I removed them and listed all species by their currently accepted English and scientific names in the index. All bird names (common and scientific) follow Brazil (2009), mammals follow Nowak (1999) or Ohdachi et al. (2009), fish follow Vrishch (2012), amphibians follow Uetz and Etzolt (1996), and plants follow Vrishch (2011). Saltwater mollusks follow Vrishch (2007), freshwater mollusks follow Bogatov (2012), and fungi follow Brodo et al. (2001) or Hogan (2011).
Russian proper nouns and names were transliterated using the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN)/Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (PCGN) Romanization systems. For the sake of simplicity and clarity, any Chinese proper nouns or words written in Russian by Arsenyev were transliterated into English here using the BGN/PCGN system as well. For example, Khuntami instead of Hongtami (Pinyin Romanization system) or Hungt ami (Wade-Giles Romanization system).
Jonathan Slaght Minneapolis, August 2015
ACROSS THE USSURI KRAY
1902 Expedition. The route taken by Arsenyev and his companions in 1902 (solid black line), showing rivers and human settlements. Villages denoted with (R) are Russian villages, (C) are Chinese villages, and (K) are Korean villages. Total distance traveled on this expedition: 270 km.
PART I
The 1902 Expedition
1
THE GLASS VALLEY
Maytun Bay. The Village of Shkotovo. The Beytsa River. An Encounter with a Leopard. Dadyanshan. Red Deer .
During one of my assignments with a hunting team in 1902, I made my way up the Tsimukhe River, which flows into Ussuri Bay near the village of Shkotovo. 1 My team consisted of six Siberian riflemen and four pack horses. The goal of this expedition was to militarily survey the area around Shkotovo and to learn what I could about the mountain passes of the Dadyanshan range, which is the source of four rivers: the Tsimukhe, Maykhe, Daubikhe, and Lefu. After which, I was to examine all trails in the area of Lake Khanka, and those near the Ussuri Railway. 2
The mountain ridge in question rises near the village of Iman in the north, then runs south parallel to the Ussuri River from the north-northeast to the south-southwest, so that the Sungacha River and Lake Khanka lie to its west, and the Daubikhe River lies to its east. Then, the ridge splits into two branches: one going southwest to form the Bogataya Griva [ thick mane ; a ridge that extends along the entire Murav v-Amursky peninsula], and the other running south, where it merges with the high range that is the watershed between the Daubikhe and Suchan Rivers.
The upper portion of Ussuri Bay is called Maytun Bay, which once cut somewhat further inland than it does now. This is evident from first glance, as there are coastal cliffs a good 5 kilometers inland. The mouth of the Tangouza River used to be where Sanpouza and Elpouza Lakes are now, and the mouth of the Maykhe River used to be a little further inland than that, where the railroad now crosses it. The whole area is now 22 square kilometers of wetland and filled with sediment from the Maykhe and Tangouza Rivers. There are still some small lakes among the wetlands; these represent areas where the ancient bay had been at its deepest. The slow process by which the sea cedes area to dry land continues in the present day, with the same fate befalling Maytun Bay, which is now quite shallow. Its western shores are composed of the igneous rock porphyry and the eastern side is made of Tertiary sediments: granite and syenite from the Maykhe River valley, and basalts from a little further east. 3
We were starting out from Shkotovo, a village founded in 1864 on the right bank of the Tsimukhe River s mouth. Shkotovo was burned by the Khunkhuz in 1868, but was later rebuilt. 4 Przhevalsky was there in 1870 and described a village of six houses with thirty-four residents. 5 I considered Shkotovo to now be a relatively large village. 6
We spent two days in Shkotovo exploring the area and outfitting for our trip. The Tsimukhe River, which is about 30 kilometers long, flows from east to west and has only one tributary on its right bank, the Beytsa River. The valley through which this river flows is called Steklyannaya [ glass ] Valley by the locals, a name owing to a Chinese hunting cabin there that once had a small pane of glass for a window. It should be noted that there once were no glass factories in an area as remote as the Ussuri Kray; consequently this material was highly prized. Glass was even used as a unit of barter in the depths of these mountains and hills: an empty bottle could be exchanged for flour, salt, millet, and even furs. Old-timers said that during feuds, enemies tried to get into each other s homes and destroy their glassware. No wonder then, that a piece of glass in the window of a Chinese fanza was considered a luxury. 7 It clearly impressed the first Russian settlers, who gave the name Steklyannaya not just to that one fanza and the nearby river, but to the entire surrounding area.
A dirt road leads through the Tsimukhe valley from Shkotovo to the village of Novorossyskoye, after which it devolves into a trail. From this trail it is possible to get to Suchan and to the village of Novonezhino along the Kangouzu River. The road often switches from one side of the river to the other, which is why when water levels were high, all communications with that area are cut off.
We left Shkotovo early and made it that same day to the Steklyannaya valley, which we began to ascend. The Beytsa River flows in almost a straight line from the west-southwest, and only near its mouth does it turn to the west. The width of the Steklyannaya valley varies from about 100 meters at its narrowest to more than a kilometer at its widest. Like most valleys in the Ussuri Kray, it is surprisingly flat. It is fringed by steep-sloped mountains covered with gnarled oaks. The valley edges are quite steep, which suggests that at one time there was significant denudation here: the valley used to be much deeper and filled with river sediment over time.
The quality of the vegetation improved as we went deeper into the mountains. The open oak forest was replaced by dense mixed forest with a high proportion of Korean pine. A small path, cut by Chinese hunters and ginseng hunters, led us on. Two days later we reached the place where the glass fanza had been; but now only its ruins remained. The trail deteriorated with each passing day; it was evident that it had not been used for some time. It was overgrown with grass, frequently blocked by wind-fallen trees, and we soon lost it altogether. We followed game trails instead when we could, but mostly we cut our own trail. On the third day, closer to evening, we reached the Dadyanshan Ridge. Here it runs north-south with an average elevation of 700 meters. Leaving the team below, I ascended one of the nearby peaks with Junior Officer Olentyev to see how much farther it was until we reached the pass. I could see all the mountains quite well from up there, and saw that the divide was still 2 or 3 kilometers away. 8 It was clear that we would not make it by nightfall, and even if we did we would risk spending the night without water, as at that time of year mountain rivers were practically dry. So I decided to make camp where we left the horses and ascend the pass the following morning.
Typically, instead of hiking until dark, I prefer to make camp with enough daylight left to set up tents and prepare firewood for the night. While the riflemen were making camp, I took advantage of my free time by exploring our nearby surroundings. My regular right-hand man for expeditions such as these was Junior Officer Polikarp Olentyev, a wonderful man and an excellent hunter. At that time he was about twenty-six years old, of medium height and well built. To give readers a sense of his appearance, he had brown hair, prominent facial features, and a small moustache. Olentyev was an optimist. He never lost his cheery attitude, even when we got into tough situations, and always tried to convince me that all is for the best in this best of all worlds. Having done what was needed at camp, the two of us grabbed our guns and went to look around.
The sun had only just dropped below the horizon, and as its rays gilded the mountain tops, shadows of twilight appeared in the valleys. Treetops with yellowing leaves contrasted sharply with the pale sky, and everything-the birds, the insects, the dry grass, and even the air-sensed autumn s approach.
After crossing a low ridge, we dropped into a neighboring valley of dense forest and crossed a wide, dry river bed. Here we split up: I followed the pebble shoals to the left, and Olentyev went to the right. Not more than two minutes later I suddenly heard a shot ring out from his direction. I turned and at that moment saw something flexible and spotted flash through the air. I rushed over to Olentyev. He quickly reloaded his rifle, but one cartridge jammed in the magazine case and the bolt would not shut.
What did you shoot? I asked him.
I think it was a tiger, he said. The beast was in a tree; I aimed well and think I hit him.
Olentyev finally removed the jammed cartridge, reloaded his gun, and we cautiously moved toward the spot where we had last seen the animal. There was blood on the dry grass-this showed that it had indeed been injured. Olentyev stopped short and listened. Ahead of us and a little to the right, I heard what sounded like snoring, but it was impossible to see through the thick fern understory, and a large log lay on the ground to block our path. Olentyev was about to climb over it when the wounded animal charged. At point blank, Olentyev fired hastily without even aiming his rifle, and got lucky. The bullet struck the animal in the head, and it collapsed on the log in front of us and hung there, so that its head and front limbs were on one side, and the rear of its body was on the other. The dying animal made a few convulsive movements and chewed at the ground; in doing so its center of gravity shifted, and its body slid slowly forward to fall heavily at the hunter s feet.
I knew instantly that this was a Manchurian panther, called a leopard by the locals, and this incredible specimen was one of the larger ones. 9 It was 1.4 meters long from snout to tail. The leopard s pelt was rusty yellow on its sides and back, and white on its belly. It was covered with black spots, which were arranged in rows similar to the stripes on a tiger. These spots were solid and small on the sides, paws, and head, whereas they were large and circular on its neck, back, and tail.
Leopards are found only in the southern parts of the Ussuri Kray, mainly in the Suyfunsky, Posyetsky, and Barabashevsky regions. 10 Their primary prey are sika deer, roe deer, and ring-necked pheasant. This is an extraordinarily sly and cautious animal. When fleeing humans, a leopard will climb a tree and choose a branch on the opposite side of the tree from whence it came, so that it is parallel to the hunter s line of sight. The animal will then stretch along this branch, putting its head between its front paws, and freeze in that position. The leopard understands quite well that from that angle, with its body pressed against the branch, it is far less noticeable than if its body were perpendicular to the hunter.
It took us more than an hour to skin the dead animal, and it was well after dark by the time we set off on the return journey. We walked for some time before finally seeing the fires of our camp. Then, among the trees, we could make out the silhouettes of people moving about and becoming obscured by the campfires. The dogs met us with friendly barks as we approached, and the riflemen surrounded the leopard, gave it a good look over, and loudly voiced their opinions. Such discussions carried on until late in the night.
The next day we continued our journey. The valley narrowed, and the going became harder. We were bushwhacking and cared only about moving in as straight a line as possible.
A guide must always look far ahead and must have a well-developed sense of orientation. He must follow the most efficient route while avoiding steep slopes. He must remember that people can follow horse trails but the opposite is not always true. A guide cannot lead circuitous paths that will sap the strength of the horses and men, but at the same time must avoid talus patches and areas choked by wind-fallen trees. As the detachment commander, this duty fell on my shoulders. I am unsure how well I fulfilled this task-my sense is passably.
By midday we came to the ridge, and its ascent was steep and difficult. The horses climbed with all their strength, but the strain caused their legs to tremble, and they would stumble with nostrils flared and fitful, heavy breaths. We walked in a switchback pattern in order to ease our ascent, pausing often and checking the horses pack straps. We finally made it to the top, where we rested for a full half hour. The ridge was forested and lush there; we had to move carefully and stop frequently to check our position. Otherwise, it would have been easy to get lost, especially in foggy conditions. An inexperienced traveler might decide to simply follow the ridgeline he can see ahead of him, but this would probably get him lost. These tall mountains are very often no more than side spurs of the main ridge, and following them can easily lead someone off course. I had fallen victim to similar circumstances in the past. In order to not repeat this mistake I ordered the men to stop and, selecting a tall pine, climbed limberly to its crown.
From there I could see the whole Dadyanshan as though it were in the palm of my hand. It ran to the north with a slight bend to the east. The ridge itself was somewhat vague and indistinct where we were, but farther to the east, which was likely the upper reaches of the Daubikhe and the Ulakhe Rivers, the ridge was tall and majestic. The western slope seemed more abrupt and steep, whereas the eastern slope was gentler. The Maykhe and Tsimukhe Rivers could be seen far to the left, and the rugged Suchan River basin was off to the right. On this side, the terrain was so convoluted that it was hard for me to figure out which streams went where, and which basins they belonged to. There was some kind of domed mountain about 5 kilometers ahead, and I decided that we would recheck our position again once we reached it.
The forest at the top of the Dadyanshan Ridge was full of large trees and clear of debris, so we were able to move through it relatively quickly. In one place we flushed two red deer, a male and a female. They ran off a short distance then stopped short, with their heads turned in our direction. One of the Cossacks wanted to shoot, but I stopped him. 11 We already had enough food and the horses were already weighed down, so it would be impossible to haul a deer carcass as well. I admired the animals for a few minutes. Eventually the male couldn t take it anymore and, raising his head until his antlers almost touched his back, he let out a short bellow, then disappeared down the hill in a series of powerful leaps.
The red deer of the Priamursky Kray are called izyubr , or elk. 12 This slim and attractive animal is 1.9 meters long, stands at a height of 1.4 meters, and weighs up to 197 kilograms. The red deer s coat is light brown in the summer and greyish brown with a whitish-yellowish rump in winter. Males have a long, strong neck adorned with a mane, and their heads have large, long, and flexible ears. Their forking antlers have two straight tines in the front and several upper branches.
Their antlers fall off in winter and are regrown in spring, each year adding a new point. Therefore, it is possible to estimate a red deer s age by counting these points, if you include an additional first year when they do not grow antlers. However, there is a limit to point growth: an average adult male has no more than seven. After this age the antlers accrue weight, size, and thickness. Young spring antlers, which are filled with blood and not yet hardened, are referred to as being in velvet.
Red deer inhabit the southern part of the Ussuri Kray. They are found throughout the Ussuri River basin up to the coniferous forest belt of the Sikhote-Alin, and are found as far north as Cape Olimpiada along the Sea of Japan coast.
During the summer, red deer live on the shaded slopes of forested mountains. In winter they are found on sun-exposed slopes, valleys, and forest plains with alternating clearings and groves. Their favorite summer food is bush clover, and in winter they prefer young shoots of aspen, poplar, and stunted birch.
At midday we took a long break. By my calculation, we should now be near the domed mountain I had seen earlier.
During expeditions, it is important to comply not only with the needs of the crew, but also with the needs of the pack animals. Indeed, they carry tremendous weight, so with any break we took-long or short-we strove to also relieve the animals of the cargo on their backs.
As soon as the horses were unsaddled they were released. The grass was still green underneath the fallen leaves, and this gave them an opportunity to graze.
1 . Hunting teams were Russian military units used as training platforms for elite soldiers. In peacetime they were tasked with a variety of specialized assignments that required knowledge of wildlife and the outdoors, from capturing feral horses to protracted reconnaissance expeditions like the one described here (Lugansky 1997).
2 . Russia and Japan both had eyes for expansion into Manchuria at the turn of the twentieth century, with Russia slowly gaining influence and Japan slowly losing it. Surveys such as this one led by Arsenyev were conducted to take stock of resources and local roads infrastructure in the off chance of war with Japan (which Russia thought unlikely). These competing expansionist interests would ultimately come to a head a few years later in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), a humiliating defeat for the Russians and one of the triggers that led to the Russian Revolution and fall of the Romanov Dynasty more than a decade later. See Jukes (2002) for a concise but compelling account of this conflict.
3 . The information here comes from D. N. Mushketov s (1910) book Geological Description of the Area around the Suchansky Railroad [VKA].
4 . Khunkhuz were Chinese bandits that raided Russian settlements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The term in Chinese ( hong huzi ) means red beard, the etymology of which may derive from Russians who attacked Chinese and natives in the Amur region in the seventeenth century. In an odd twist, the Russians appear to have adopted the term for Chinese bandits who were opposed to Russian colonization (Stephan 1994).
5 . Przhevalsky s description of Shkotovo is from his 1869 book Travels through the Ussuri Kray [VKA].
6 . In 1902 there were eighty-eight families living there [VKA].
7 . A fanza was a type of hut commonly constructed by Chinese and Korean peasants and hunters in the region (Przhevalsky 1870). Arsenyev provides a fuller description in chapter 10, and a detailed description of a fanza can be found in Arsenyev (1914). Most fanza windows were latticed and covered by a thin paper [VKA].
8 . Arsenyev originally listed all distances in versts, an antiquated Russian unit of measurement. As one verst is approximately equal to one kilometer (1.0 verst = 1.0668 km), versts have been replaced with more familiar kilometers throughout this text.
9 . As of writing, the Amur leopard ( Felis pardus orientalis ) is likely the most endangered cat population in the world. The most recent range-wide survey (in 2014) found approximately sixty individuals in the wild. See plate 2.
10 . It is still true that these areas of southwest Primorye (Suyfun is now called Razdolnoye) contain the last Amur leopard population, although historically Amur leopards never had a very broad distribution in Russia. Arsenyev (1914) stated that leopards were found mostly near the coast and that their northern distribution stretched from Lake Khanka, past Ussurysk and Anuchino, to Saint Olga Post. Leopards have now been extirpated from the region where Olentyev s hunt was described, although there are plans for reintroductions in Lazovsky Nature Reserve (in the southern Sikhote-Alin Mountains; Hebblewhite et al. 2011), which is well within historical range. In 1906, a leopard skin could fetch 35 to 50 rubles ($475-$680 in 2012 dollars; Arsenyev 1914).
11 . Cossacks are a group of semi-autonomous, predominantly Slavic military collectives, with their origins in Ukraine and southwestern Russia, who were a driving force in Russian expansion into Siberia and the Russian Far East. Given their reputation for military discipline and ferocity, they were used extensively by the government to further its expansionist agenda into Siberia and beyond (Lincoln 1994). The Ussuri Cossack kazachestvo (or collective), established in 1889, operated semi-autonomously from, but in association with, the Russian military. Its members were awarded lucrative incentives by the Russian government to serve in and settle the Ussuri Kray, with the idea that they would develop the region agriculturally. In fact, this plan was almost a complete failure, and led to conflicts with the other Russian groups enticed to the region for settlement (Stephan 1994; A. Khisamutdinov, pers. comm.).
12 . The Priamursky Kray, which is the region administered under the Priamur governor-generalship, was officially created in 1884 when the East Siberian governor-generalship was subdivided between the Priamur governor-generalship and the Irkutsk governor-generalship. Administratively, the Priamursky Kray included three oblasts (districts)-the Zabaykalskaya, the Amurskaya, and the Primorskaya. Geographically, the Priamursky Kray largely included lands acquired from China in the Treaty of Aigun (1858) and the Convention of Peking (1860; Matsuzato 2012). The Yuzhno-Ussuri Kray (Southern Ussuri Region) was the name for lands acquired by the Convention of Peking, which are lands south of the Amur River mouth and east of the Ussuri River (in what is now largely the province Primorye; A. Khisamutdinov, pers. comm.)
2
MEETING DERSU
A Camp in the Woods. The Nighttime Guest. A Sleepless Night. Dawn .
After a break, the detachment set off again. We were in a section of forest with many wind-fallen trees, and this slowed our pace considerably. We reached a peak of some kind by about four o clock. Leaving the men and horses behind, I ascended it alone to get my bearings.
It s best to climb trees for yourself. This is not the kind of task that a rifleman can be charged with, as you need to assess the lay of the land with your own eyes. No matter how sensibly or accurately a rifleman can explain what he sees, it s hard to navigate based on another s description.
What I saw from up there immediately dispelled any doubts. We were at that moment on a domed mountain, the very one we had been looking for. A high ridge stretched to the west of our position, the north face of which was defined by steep cliffs. On the other side of the watershed the valleys sloped to the northwest. This was likely the source of the Lefu River.
I scaled down the tree and rejoined the detachment. The sun was already low on the horizon, and we had to hurry to find water, which was needed by both the men and the horses. The descent from the domed mountain was initially mild but then became steep. The horses went down almost squatting on their hind legs with packs thrust awkwardly forward. If the saddles didn t have flank cinches they would have slid onto their heads. We had to descend using long switchbacks, which, given all the wind-fallen trees, was far from easy.
After the pass we dropped into a ravine of extremely rough terrain. Its deep gullies were littered with roots, trickling water, and moss-covered rocks-all of which created an atmosphere that vividly reminded me of a scene from Walpurgis Night. 1 It was difficult to imagine a place more wild or inhospitable than this.
Mountains or forests sometimes have an attractive or friendly quality-you can almost see yourself staying there indefinitely. But sometimes it s the opposite: the mountains seem sullen and savage. It s a strange thing! This feeling isn t individual or subjective; it s always the same for everyone in the group. This is something I have verified many times and am always spot on, and this case was no different. There was something depressing about this place, something eerie and unpleasant, and everyone could feel it.
It doesn t matter, said the riflemen; we ll make it through the night somehow. It s not like we have to live here for a year. We ll find a cheerier place tomorrow.
I did not want to spend the night in that place but there was no other option. Twilight was approaching and we had to hurry. I could hear a stream at the bottom of the gorge, and we made our way to it. I selected a relatively flat spot and gave the order to make camp.
All at once, the majestic silence of the forest resounded with the sounds of axes and human voices. The riflemen hauled firewood, unsaddled the horses, and prepared dinner.
The poor horses. With only stones and wind-fallen trees, they were sure to go hungry. But tomorrow, if we could make it to some farming fanzas, we would feed them properly.
Twilight always comes early in the forest. There were still some patches of pale sky visible to the west through the dense foliage, but the shadows of night had already enveloped the ground below. As the campfire raged, it brightly illuminated the nearby bushes and tree trunks. A northern pika, awakened by us and calling among the talus rock, suddenly spooked and dove into its burrow and did not reappear.
Activity around camp finally subsided. After tea everyone did their own chores: some cleaned rifles, others adjusted saddles or mended clothes. There is always plenty of such work. When they had finished what they were doing, the riflemen started getting ready for bed. They squeezed in very close to one another and, covering themselves with coats, slept like the dead. The horses, unable to find food in the forest, returned to camp and lowered their heads in rest. Only Olentyev and I were still awake. I jotted down notes about our route in my journal as he fixed his shoes. At about ten o clock I closed my notebook and, wrapping myself in my coat, lay down close to the fire. We were at the base of an old spruce, its branches swaying from the heat and the rising smoke. This motion caused the view of the sky above to oscillate between obscurity and a vast, star-studded darkness. The trunks of surrounding trees stood like a long colonnade fading into the depths of the forest, where they blended seamlessly into the darkness of the night.
Suddenly, the horses raised their heads and pricked up their ears, but then calmed and returned to slumber. At first we didn t pay any particular attention and continued with our conversation. A few minutes passed, then I asked Olentyev something and, not receiving a reply, turned in his direction. I saw him standing upright and alert, shading the fire s light with his hand and looking intently in one direction.
What s going on? I asked him.
Something s coming down the mountain, he replied with a whisper. We both stood there listening, but everything around us was quiet, the kind of quiet that comes only on a cold, autumn night. Suddenly, we heard the loosening of small rocks up above.
It s probably a bear, said Olentyev, beginning to load his rifle.
No need shoot! My is people! we heard a voice say from the darkness, and after a few minutes a man walked up to our fire.
He was dressed in a coat of tanned deerskin and pants of the same material. He had a kind of bandana on his head, unty on his feet, a large pack on his back, and carried an old, long rifle and a wooden shooting stick to steady his aim. 2
Hello, captain! said the visitor, addressing me. 3 He then laid his rifle against a tree, took off his pack, wiped his sweaty face with the sleeve of his shirt, and sat by the fire. Now I could get a better look at him. He looked to be about forty-five years old, not particularly tall but stocky, and appeared to possess significant physical strength. He was barrel-chested with strong, muscular arms and slightly bowed legs. His bronzed face had features typical for the natives of the area: prominent cheekbones, a small nose, eyelids with epicanthic folds, and a wide mouth with strong teeth. 4 A light brown mustache framed his upper lip, and a thin auburn goatee graced his chin. But most remarkable were his eyes-they were not so much brown as they were dark grey, and had a calm and somewhat na ve appearance. I could see decisiveness, integrity, and kindness in them.
The stranger did not regard us with as much interest as we did him. He pulled a tobacco pouch out of his pocket, stuffed its contents into his pipe, and quietly began to smoke. Without asking who he was or where he came from, I invited him to eat, as is customary here in the forest.
Thank you, captain, he said. My terribly want eat, my no eat today.
As he ate, I continued to stare at him. A large knife hung from his belt; he was clearly a hunter. His hands were calloused and scarred. He had a few similar but deeper scars on his face: one on his forehead and another on his cheek close to his ear. When the stranger removed his bandana I saw a head of thick, disheveled auburn hair, which dangled in long strands.
Our guest was a quiet one. Finally Olentyev couldn t take it anymore and bluntly asked the newcomer:
And who might you be?
My Gold, was the curt reply. 5
Another question: You re what, a hunter?
Yes, he responded, my always go hunting, no other work. No understand catch fish, only one understand: hunting.
Olentyev continued to press him: And where do you live?
My no house. My always live hills. Lay fire, do tent, sleep. Always go hunting, how live house?
He then told me that earlier that day he had been hunting red deer and had superficially wounded a doe. As he followed her trail he came across ours, which he followed to the ravine. After it got dark he saw our fire and walked straight toward it.
My walk carefully, he said, Think, what sort people go far in hills? I look-there captain, there Cossacks. My then go straight.
What is your name? I asked the stranger.
Dersu Uzala, he answered. 6
This man intrigued me. There was something special about him, something unique. He spoke simply, quietly, and carried himself humbly but without being ingratiating. We began talking. He spoke at length about his life, and the more he spoke the more I liked him. Before me was a primitive hunter, someone who had spent his entire life in the forest; the ways of the city and of civilization were foreign to him. He said that he made his living by shooting game then trading the spoils of his hunt for tobacco, lead, and gunpowder. He had inherited his rifle from his father. He told me that he was fifty-three years old and never had a home. He always lived under the open sky, and only in winter would he build a temporary birch-bark yurt. His earliest childhood memories were of a river, a hut, a fire, his father, mother, and little sister.
He finished his story saying, All die long ago, and fell into thought. He was quiet for a moment then continued. I also once had wife, son, little girl. Smallpox finish all people. Now my only one left.
His face clouded as those memories flooded back. I tried to console him, but Death had robbed him of his family, the only true comfort in old age, so what solace could I bring to this forlorn man? He didn t respond to my words, and only hung his head lower. I wanted to somehow convey my sympathy, to do something for him, but I didn t know exactly what. I finally came up with something and suggested we exchange his old rifle for a new one. He refused, saying that his rifle had sentimental value as it came from his father. Also, he was accustomed to it, and it shot well. He then reached over toward the tree, brought his rifle to him, and absently rubbed the stock with his hand.
When I looked up, the stars had rotated in the sky and it was well after midnight. The hours of conversation flew by as we sat by the fire. Dersu did most of the talking while I listened, and I did so with pleasure. He told me about his hunts, and about how once he was captured by the Khunkhuz but escaped. He told me about his encounters with tigers, and how it s forbidden to shoot them because they are gods who protect ginseng from man. He spoke of evil spirits, of floods, and of many other things.
Once, a tiger attacked and severely wounded him. It took his wife several days to find Dersu by following his tracks, and when she finally located him he was incapacitated from blood loss. During the time it took to recover, she did all the hunting.
Then I began to ask him about our present location. He confirmed that this was the source of the Lefu River and that the next day we d encounter the first trapper fanza.
One of the riflemen woke, looked at us with surprise, muttered something to himself, then went back to sleep.
All was dark both on the earth and in the sky, only in the direction from which the new stars rose was there the slightest hint of dawn. The ground was covered in dew-a sure sign that the day would bring good weather. There was a solemn silence all around us, as though nature itself was resting as well.
An hour later there was reddening in the east. I looked at my watch; it was six o clock in the morning, and time to wake the next watchman. I shook a rifleman by the shoulder and he came over, sat down, and stretched. The fire s bright light caught him in the eyes and he winced. Then, seeing Dersu, he grinned and said, There s some kind of guy here out of nowhere! and started to put on his boots.
The sky transitioned from black to dark blue, and then to gray and hazy. The shadows of night retreated to the underbrush and to the ravines, and would not emerge from there until the sun once again dipped below the horizon. Soon our camp was alive again with people talking and horses rousing. A northern pika was calling from somewhere, and then from deeper down the ravine another answered. I heard the drum of some small woodpecker, then the ratcheting call of his larger cousin, the black woodpecker. The forest was coming to life. Each minute it became brighter and brighter, then suddenly the brilliant rays of the sun spilled over the mountaintop and illuminated the entire forest. Now our camp took on an entirely different appearance. In place of the bright fire there was a pile of ash, the flame itself was scarcely visible, and the ground was littered with empty food tins. Where there had once been a tent there was now nothing but bare poles and trampled grass.
1 . Made famous by Goethe s Faust , Walpurgis Night straddles April 30th-May 1st. It is traditionally a gathering of witches and sorcerers in a dark, foreboding forest to celebrate impending spring (Raedisch 2011).
2 . Unty are suede boots usually made of moose or red deer leather [VKA]. See plate 4 for a photograph of Dersu Uzala.
3 . East Siberian natives address all public officials as captain [VKA].
4 . Epicanthic folds are the skin folds of upper eyelids common among peoples of East Asian origin.
5 . Gold is another name for Nanai, one of the indigenous groups of the southern Russian Far East. Their ancestors were the Jurchens (or Jurchids), a civilization largely dismantled by the Mongols under Genghis Khan and later his son, Ogedei Khan, in the thirteenth century (Weatherford 2004, Odzyal 2014).
6 . According to Arsenyev s own field notes, he did not actually meet Dersu until August 3rd, 1906-this encounter in 1902 was fictionalized. It appears that Arsenyev combined traits and experiences of several different guides into one Dersu Uzala -his way of honoring, describing, and preserving the spirit and worldview of a Gold hunter in the Ussuri Kray at the turn of the twentieth century (Kuzmichev 2007).
3
THE BOAR HUNT
Studying Tracks. Caring for an Unknown Traveler. The Hunting Fanza. Tudinza Mountain and the Upper Reaches of the Lefu River. Wild Boar. Dersu s Animism. Dreams .
The riflemen started to load up the horses after we had tea, and Dersu got his things together as well. He put on his backpack and picked up his shooting stick and rifle. After a few minutes our detachment set off, and Dersu went with us.
The ravine we walked down was long and winding. Other gorges, full of noisily rushing water, converged with ours. The gully widened and eventually turned into a valley. We found that some of the trees had blaze marks on them from long ago, and these led us along a trail. The Gold always walked ahead of us and was constantly looking at the ground.
What is it? I asked him.
Dersu stopped and told me that we were on a footpath, not a horse trail, that it followed a sable trap line, and that one person (probably Chinese) had walked along it a few days prior.
We were flabbergasted by the Gold s words. Seeing our disbelief, he cried out,
How your no understand? Look yourself!
After which he provided us with such evidence that all of my doubts immediately disappeared. Everything was so clear and so simple that I was surprised I had not noticed it myself. First, there wasn t a single horse track anywhere on the trail. Second, branches had not been cleared on its fringes-our horses moved along the path with difficulty and their packs were constantly brushing up against the foliage. The turns were so sharp that the horses could not make them; instead they had to take detours. The trail followed logs across rivers, not through the water as would be expected of a horse trail. There were many wind-fallen trees that had not been cleared from the trail, and while people moved freely past them, the horses had to go around. This was all clear evidence that we were not on a trail designed for pack horses.
Long time one people go, Dersu said, as if to himself. People stop go, then rain go. He then began to figure out the last time it had rained.
We walked along that trail for about two hours. Little by little the coniferous trees were being replaced by a mixed forest: we were passing poplar, maple, aspen, birch, and linden with increasing frequency. I wanted to take another break, but Dersu advised that I hold out a little bit longer.
Our soon find fanza here, he said, pointing to a tree where bark had been peeled away.
I understood immediately. It meant that nearby there must be a reason for why the bark had been removed. We continued walking and, ten minutes later, found a lean-to on the bank of a creek, constructed by hunters or those looking for ginseng. 1 Looking around, our new acquaintance confirmed that a Chinese man had passed this way several days ago and had spent the night in this lean-to. He pointed out the evidence: the cold ash from the camp fire was pocked by rain, there was a bed of grass large enough for only one person, and there was an old, abandoned bit of daba . 2
I finally realized that Dersu was not a simple man. This was a tracker before me, and I couldn t help but think of the heroes of James Fenimore Cooper and Thomas Mayne Reid. 3
We had to feed the horses, and I decided to take advantage of this break by lying in the shade of a pine and was soon asleep. Two hours later Olentyev woke me. Looking around I saw that Dersu had chopped wood, gathered birch bark, and stacked it all within the lean-to.
I thought maybe he was going to burn it down, and began trying to dissuade him. But instead of answering, he asked me for a pinch of salt and a handful of rice. Intrigued, I ordered that he be given what he asked for. The Gold carefully wrapped some matches in birch bark, used more bark to wrap the salt and rice into separate packets, and then hung these items inside the lean-to. He then straightened some of the bark shingles covering the structure, and started gathering his things.
You re expecting to come back this way? I asked the Gold. He shook his head. So I asked him who he had left the rice, salt, and matches for.
Some other people go, Dersu answered, find lean-to. Find dry wood, find matches, find eat-won t die!
I remember how taken I was by this. I thought about it . . . the Gold was caring for a stranger, someone he would never see, and someone who would never know where the chopped wood and the wrapped food came from. I recalled that the riflemen, when striking camp, always burned any remaining birch bark in the campfire. They did not do so out of spite but because they found it amusing, and I never thought to stop them. This savage was far more humane than me. And what exactly is cultural evolution? Do we perhaps confuse two terms-material culture and spiritual culture? Caring for an unknown traveler! When did city folk stop thinking about the needs of strangers? Surely at one time we must have.
Olentyev approached. The horses are ready, sir. We should head out.
I snapped out of my thoughts.
Yes, we ought to go . . . move out! I commanded the riflemen, then led the way down the trail.
By evening we had reached the confluence of two streams, which marked the beginning of the Lefu River. At this point the river is about 6 to 8 meters wide, and flows 120 to 140 meters a minute. The depth varies between about 30 and 60 centimeters.
After dinner I turned in early and immediately fell asleep.
By the time I woke the next day everyone else was already up. I gave the order to saddle the horses, and while the riflemen loaded the packs, I had time to get some food, then started out ahead with the Gold.
The valley curved slightly to the west from our campsite; the left slopes of the valley were steep and the right slopes were gentle. With each passing kilometer the trail became better and wider. At one point we passed a felled tree that had been hand-chopped. Dersu went up to it and said,
Cut in spring; two people worked: one people tall, his ax dull; other people small, his axe sharp.
Nothing was a mystery to this amazing man. He knew everything that had happened there as though he were psychic. From that moment on I decided to be more observant myself, and would try to understand events based on sign. Soon I saw another chopped tree trunk. There were wood splinters all over the place, saturated in resin. I took this to mean that someone had chopped the wood finely for kindling. Well, what next? I could not deduce anything else.
Fanza close by, said the Gold, as though he were reading my mind.
Indeed, we soon started noticing trees with bark peeled off (I already knew what that meant), and about 200 meters after that, right on the river bank, we came upon a small clearing with a hunting cabin. It was a small building with mud walls and covered in bark. It appeared to be unoccupied; I decided this because the door was propped shut from the outside with a stake. There was a small garden near the fanza, which had been rooted up by wild boar, and to the left there was a small wooden shrine that, as custom dictated, faced south.
The interior furnishings of the fanza were crude: an iron pot stood on a low stove, which had exhaust pipes that warmed the kang . 4 There were two or three hand-carved tubs, a wooden water bucket, an iron kitchen knife, a metal spoon, a brush for cleaning the pot, two dusty bottles, some discarded rags, one or two benches, an oil lamp, and several animal skins scattered upon the floor.
Three trails went up the Lefu River from here; the one we had just come down from, a second leading east into the mountains, and the third going west. This latter was well traveled and suitable for our horses, and so we continued on along it. People let their horses reins hang free, and the animals moved at their own pace, intelligently choosing their paths and taking care not to snag their packs on tree branches. They walked cautiously through swampy areas and along talus slopes, testing the soil first with each step before putting their full weight on it. This skill is what sets local horses apart-they know how to travel safely in the forest with heavy loads.
The Lefu River curved gradually to the northeast from the hunting fanza. After about 6 kilometers we came upon some farming fanzas on the right bank of the river, situated at the base of a tall mountain that the Chinese call Tudinza. 5
The unexpected appearance of a military detachment alarmed the Chinese there. I asked Dersu to tell them not to fear us, and to continue with their work.
I wanted to see how the Chinese lived in the forest, and what activities they engaged in.
We saw mammal skins stretched out and tanning, a pile of red deer antlers in an ambar , antlers in velvet hung to dry, and sacks filled with bear gall bladders. 6 There were also deer fetuses, furs of Eurasian lynx, sable (and other mustelids), and Eurasian red squirrel, and materials for building and maintaining traps. 7 All strong evidence that these Chinese were not so much involved in farming as they were in hunting and trapping. There were, however, a few small parcels of cultivated land near the fanzas planted with wheat, millet, and corn. They complained to us about a sounder of wild boar that had recently come to the valley from the hills and raided their fields. They had been forced to prematurely harvest some of their crops as a result. The boar had eventually moved on to some oak stands, where they foraged for acorns.
The sun was still high in the sky, so I decided to climb Tudinza Mountain in order to get a view of our surroundings. Dersu went with me and we traveled lightly, taking only our rifles.
Tudinza Mountain is a large formation that falls steeply into the Lefu River valley and, on the north side, is rutted by deep valleys. The yellowing tree leaves had already begun to litter the forest floor, and with the absence of foliage, the forest was penetrated by light. Only the oaks were still dressed in their faded, half-desiccated coats.
The mountain was steep; we had to stop to rest a few times before continuing our crawl up.
The soil all around us was rooted up. Dersu often stopped to analyze tracks, based upon which he then estimated the animals age and sex. He saw evidence of a limping boar and found a spot where two of them fought and one chased the other away. I could see it all clearly as he described it. I found it strange that I had not really noticed tracks in the past, and even when I did they didn t tell me much more than the direction the beast had been going.
An hour later we reached the talus-covered peak.
We sat there and began to look around.
The mountain range separating the Lefu and Daubikhe River watersheds towered high in the east, and another mountain range stretched east-west, serving as the boundary between the Lefu and Maykhe River drainages. To the southeast, where these two ridges converged, rose the domed shape of Dadyanshan Mountain.
From the peak of Tudinza Mountain we could see the entire upper reaches of the Lefu River basin, which consist of three streams of equal size. Two of them merged higher up and flowed east-northeast, and the third, along which we had walked, ran south-north. The sources of each of these streams consisted of several mountain brooks joining in one place.
The mountains of the upper Lefu drainage were flat uplands with extremely steep slopes covered with dense, mixed forest largely dominated by coniferous trees.
We could see that the Lefu River made a small bend near the farming fanzas due to a spur that jutted out from the south side of the mountain. The river then continues toward the south, flowing around Tudinza Mountain, then turns again to the northwest, a direction it maintains until its mouth at Lake Khanka. 8 The Lefu River takes on a tributary right at Tudinza Mountain, the Otradnaya River, which has a horse trail along it leading over to the Maykhe River drainage.
Look captain, Dersu said to me, pointing across to the slope on the far side of the valley. What is it?
I looked where he was pointing and saw some kind of a large, dark spot that spread across the slope. I thought that perhaps it was the shadow of an overhead cloud, and told Dersu so. He laughed and pointed up: not a cloud in sight, only the boundless blue of a clear sky. After a few minutes, the spot s shape had changed and it had shifted somewhat down the side of the slope.
What IS that? I asked the Gold in turn.
You not understand, he answered, Must go look.
We started to drop back down into the valley. I soon noticed that the spot was also descending in our direction. After about ten minutes the Gold stopped, sat on a rock, and motioned to me that I do the same.
Our must wait here, he said, Must sit quiet. No break twigs, no talk.
So we waited, and soon the spot came back into view, having grown considerably. Now I could see that is was made up of many parts-these were living things that were constantly shuffling about.
Wild boar! I exclaimed.
They were indeed wild boar, a sounder with more than a hundred animals. Some strayed from the group but always meandered back. As the sounder approached we could discriminate each individual animal.
One people terribly big, said Dersu quietly. I did not understand what person he was talking about, so I looked at him with confusion.
The back of an enormous male protruded like a mound at the center of the sounder. He was simply massive, probably weighing around 250 kilograms. The sounder came closer with every minute: we could now hear the hundreds of feet shuffling among dry leaves and breaking twigs. There were boars grunting, piglets squealing, and males issuing their harsh calls.
Big people no come close. said Dersu. Again I did not understand.
The largest of the boar was at the center of the sounder with a mass of animals swirling around him, some wandering quite far, so that even when these wayward boars were almost upon us the big male was still out of rifle range. We sat motionless. Suddenly one of the closer boars raised his snout in the air. We could see that he was eating something. Even now I can vividly recall his large head, alert ears, fierce eyes, searching face with flared nostrils, and white tusks. The animal froze in that position, stopped chewing, and stared at us with vicious, questioning eyes. Finally recognizing the danger, he released a sharp cry, and in an instant the entire sounder erupted in grunts and bolted off. At that moment a shot rang out, and one of boars crashed to the ground. The rifle in Dersu s hands smoked.
The sounds of breaking branches persisted for a few more seconds in the forest, and then all was still.
The wild boars of the Ussuri Kray are similar to the wild boars of Japan. They can weigh up to 295 kilograms, and grow up to 2 meters in length and a meter tall. 9 Their overall coloration is dark brown, with black backs and legs. Piglets are always laterally striped. Wild boars are somewhat oval and laterally compressed, and supported by four strong legs. Their necks are short and strong, they have wedge-shaped heads, and their faces end in a fairly solid yet flexible snout, which the boars use to dig up earth. Wild boars are ungulates. 10 In addition to their other teeth, males are armed with sharp tusks. These increase in size as the animal ages, curve back, and can reach 20 centimeters in length. Boar enjoy rubbing against the trunks of spruce, pine, and fir, and as a result the animal s tough, bristly coat is often smeared with conifer resin. In autumn, when it s cold, boars often lie in the mud. Because of this, water can freeze to their hair bristles and ice clumps can grow so thick as to inhibit movement.
The distribution of wild boar in the Ussuri Kray is closely tied to the distribution of pine, walnut, hazel, and oak. The northern border of boar distribution is from the lower reaches of the Khungari River, through the middle reaches of the Anyuy River, the upper reaches of the Khor River, and the source of the Bikin River. From there, boar distribution crosses the Sikhote-Alin north to Cape Uspeniya. Isolated encounters with boar are sometimes recorded in the Koppi, Khadi, and Tumnin River drainages. These are remarkably mobile and powerful animals. Their vision is excellent, their hearing is exemplary, and they have a superb sense of smell. 11 If wounded, a boar becomes extremely dangerous. In such situations, a boar will turn and lie in his own tracks facing his aggressor. Once the hunter is in sight, the boar will charge with such swiftness that his pursuer will often not have time to raise the rifle to his shoulder and shoot.
The boar killed by the Gold turned out to be a two-year-old animal.
I asked the old man why he didn t shoot the big male.
His old people, he said, referring to the boar with large tusks. His meat eat badly, smell some.
It surprised me that Dersu was referring to boar as people. I asked him about it.
They people all the same, he confirmed, only different shirt. Deceit understand, anger understand, understand everything! All same people.
It was now clear to me. This primitive man had an animistic conception of nature; therefore he anthropomorphized everything around him.
We stayed on the mountain for some time, and the day quietly came to a close. The edges of the clouds huddling in the west gleamed as if made of molten metal. The sun s rays broke through them and dispersed fanlike across the sky.
Dersu quickly skinned the boar, hoisted it upon his shoulders, and we headed back. An hour later we were at camp.
It was cramped and smoky in the Chinese fanza, so I decided to lie out under the open sky with Dersu.
My think, he said, looking up at the sky, night will be warm, rain tomorrow night.
It took me a while to get to sleep. I had visions all night of the flared nostrils of a boar s snout. I didn t see anything else, just the nostrils, as though they were small dots that suddenly became larger in size. Then it was no longer a boar s head but a mountain, and the nostrils were caves, and it was as though those caves were themselves filled with boars and the same strange, gaping snouts.
The human brain is a strange thing. From all the experiences one has in a day, from the thousands of different things that catch the eye, sometimes it s the most unimportant and random things that are remembered the most! I ve been to places where nothing notable happened, and yet I retain memories of those experiences better than of places where something exciting transpired. For some reason I remember a specific tree, even though it was no different than any other, or an anthill, a yellowing leaf, a patch of moss, and so on. I suspect that I could sketch all these things with fine detail.
1 . See plate 7 for an example of a ginseng hunter s lean-to.
2 . Daba is a durable blue material used by the Chinese to make clothing [VKA].
3 . James Fenimore Cooper is probably most famous for his novel The Last of the Mohicans . Although Thomas Mayne Reid is less well known in the United States than Cooper, many of Reid s books were translated into Russian and found an audience hungry for his tales of the American West.
4 . A kang is fire-warmed bed-stove. A fuller description is found in chapter 4.
5 . See plate 5 for an example of a farming fanza.
6 . An ambar is a storehouse; those constructed in East Asia (by Chinese, Koreans, indigenous groups) were often elevated on a single stilt (or multiple stilts) to reduce provision spoilage or loss (i.e., to flood or rodent; Przhevalsky 1870). Bear gall bladders were used by the Chinese to treat trachoma [VKA]. See plate 6 for an example of an ambar.
7 . Deer fetuses were used in Chinese medicine to ease pulled muscles [VKA].
8 . Arsenyev in error wrote to the northeast here, but in fact the Lefu River flows northwest into Lake Khanka.
9 . The Ussuri subspecies of wild boar is considered the largest, with records up to 320 kilograms (Heptner, Nasimovich, and Bannikov 1961).
10 . A hoofed mammal.
11 . While true that wild boars have highly acute senses of hearing and smell, they are generally thought to have a far less developed sense of vision (Gunduz et al. 2007, Zonderland et al. 2008).
4
THE INCIDENT AT A KOREAN VILLAGE
Dersu Predicts the Weather. The Shootout. The Indifference of the Koreans. The Village of Kazakevichevo. Trip to the River Terraces. Dersu Settles in for the Night. The Trail to the Village of Lyalichi. Spending the Night near Lyalichi .
That morning I woke later than the others. The first thing I noticed was the absence of sun-the sky was overcast. Dersu saw that the riflemen were packing their things as though to prepare for rain, and said:
No need to hurry. Good go our day, then evening will rain.
I asked him why he thought so.
Look for self, answered the Gold, You see little birds go here and there, play, eat. If rain soon, him then sit quiet, sleep.
Indeed, I recalled that there is always quiet and gloom in the forest before it rains. But now it was the opposite: the forest was full of life. The sounds of woodpeckers, jays, and nutcrackers resonated from all sides, and I could hear the cheerful whistles of nuthatches.
After asking our Chinese hosts about the road ahead, we set off on our way.
The Lefu River valley immediately widens from 1 to 3 kilometers after Tudinza Mountain, and we then began to encounter human habitations with greater frequency.
At about two o clock we reached Nikolayevka, a village of thirty-six houses. We rested there briefly, and then I asked Olentyev to buy some oats and feed our horses while I went on ahead with Dersu. I wanted to reach the next village of Kazakevichevo, which was inhabited by Koreans, as soon as possible in order to arrange a night s lodging there for my companions. 1
Twilight always comes early in autumn when it is overcast, and around five o clock it started to rain. We moved faster and soon reached a fork in the road. One trail crossed the river and the other seemed to head into the mountains. We chose the latter. As we walked, other paths converged with ours, and some split off in different directions. It was well after dark by the time we reached the Korean village. 2
Right about this time the riflemen must have reached the fork in the road, and, unsure about which route to take, they fired two shots in the air. Worried that they might get lost, I responded in kind. Suddenly I heard shouting from the closest fanza, and immediately after that someone fired a rifle from its window. Then more shots from a second fanza, then from a third, and after a few minutes the entire village had erupted in gunfire. I had no idea what was going on: rain, shouting, shooting . . . why was there all this commotion? Suddenly there was a light coming from one of the windows: a Korean had a kerosene torch in one hand and a rifle in the other. He ran out and was shouting something; we rushed over to meet him. The red, flickering flame from his torch danced across the puddles in the road and showed a face contorted by fear. When he saw us the Korean threw his torch on the ground, shot in Dersu s direction, and ran off. Kerosene splashed on the ground, caught fire, and burned with a smoky flame.
Are you hit? I asked Dersu.
No, he replied, and went to pick up the torch. They were firing at him, and he stood there as tall as he could, waving his arms and shouting something in Korean.
Olentyev could hear all the shooting, and was convinced that we were under attack from the Khunkhuz. Leaving two people behind with the pack horses, he and the others rushed to our rescue. Finally the firing from the closest fanza ceased. Dersu tried to negotiate with the Koreans, but no matter what we said they would not open their doors for anything. The Koreans swore at us and threatened to start shooting again.
With no other option, we set up camp. We started a few campfires along the river bank and with their light started to set up our tents. There was an abandoned fanza nearby with a large pile of firewood stacked next to it that the Koreans had collected for winter. In the village, the shooting continued for some time. In fact, the fanzas on the far side of the village continued firing their rifles all night. Who were they shooting at? I don t think even the Koreans knew. They shot, swore, and laughed.
We took the next day off. I ordered the team to see to the saddles, to dry anything that was wet, and to clean our rifles. The rain had stopped; a fresh northwestern wind had dispersed the clouds, and the sun came out.
I got dressed and went to have a look around the village. 3
I would have thought that, following the previous night s excitement, the Koreans would have come to our camp to see who it was they had been shooting at. Nothing of the sort. Two men emerged from the nearby fanza. They were dressed in white jackets with wide sleeves, white cotton pants, and wore braided rope shoes on their feet. They didn t even look at us as they passed. An old man sat in front of another fanza, knitting. As I approached him, he lifted his head and looked at me with eyes devoid of curiosity or surprise. A woman was coming toward us down the road; she was dressed in a white skirt and a white blouse that left her breasts exposed. 4 She balanced a clay pitcher on her head and walked evenly, at a smooth pace, with eyes lowered to the ground. When she reached us she did not veer from her path and walked by without looking up. Everywhere we went we were met with the same amazing indifference that is characteristic of the Koreans. No wonder they call Korea the Land of the Morning Calm. This serenity, however, can look quite similar to dullness. This was a place full not of life but of mechanical movements. 5
Koreans live in farming communities. Their fanzas are located at the center of a property, surrounded by fields and gardens, with neighbors scattered some distance from one another. This is why even a small Korean village nearly always occupies several square kilometers.
On my way back to camp I stopped in at one of the fanzas. It had thin walls coated with mud both inside and out. It had three doors with paper-covered lattice windows, and a four-sided, thatched roof braided with dry grass.
Korean fanzas are all the same. They have a clay kang inside that takes up more than half the space. Flues under the kang warm the floor and distribute heat throughout the house. These flues are then connected to a large, hollowed-out tree, which serves as a chimney to move the smoke outside. People restrict themselves to the side of the fanza that has the kang; the other side has a bare-earth floor and is occupied by chickens, horses, and cattle. The residential half of the structure is partitioned into separate rooms by planks and lined with clean mats. The women and children occupy one side, and the men and guests occupy the other.
At the fanza I saw that same woman who passed us earlier with the pitcher on her head. She sat on her haunches and poured water into a pot using a wooden ladle. She did so slowly, raising the ladle high and pouring the water in a strange way-back across her right arm. She looked at me with indifference and quietly continued with her work. A man about fifty years old sat on the kang and smoked a pipe. He neither moved nor replied when I said hello. I sat there for a moment, then went back outside and walked in the direction of my companions.
After lunch I went to explore our surroundings. I got to the other side of the river and ascended the bank. I was on an ancient river terrace about 20 meters high. 6 The lower layers consisted of sandstone, while the upper layers were comprised of porous lava. Large cavities in the lava testified that the eruption had been very rich in gas. Many of those spaces had been filled in with black and gray-blue minerals of some kind.
I had an excellent view of the Lefu River valley from the terrace. The right bank, where Kazakevichevo stood, was lowlands, and four tributaries join the Lefu River there: the Malaya [ lesser ] Lefu and Pichinzu Rivers from the left, and the Ivanovka and Lubyanka Rivers from the right. The large village of Ivanovskoye, with about two hundred homes, was located between the mouths of the latter two rivers. 7 After that point the Lefu River valley becomes somewhat indistinct, with gentle, only slightly-elevated hills covered with open oak and birch forest.
I walked around for about two hours, then returned to the escarpment as the day was transitioning to evening. Light pink clouds crept slowly across the sky. The distant mountains, illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun, seemed purple. The bare trees were monotonous and gray. As before, complete and utter calm reigned in the village, with white smoke wisping from fanza chimneys and dissipating quickly in the cool evening air. I could see white flashes of passing Koreans on the road below, and lower, right at the river, there were some fires burning. This was camp.
It was already dusk when I got back. The river water looked black, and the lights from the fire and from the night sky reflected on its smooth surface. The riflemen sat by the fire-one said something, another laughed.
Supper time! yelled the cook, and all laughter and joking immediately ceased.
After tea I sat by the fire and wrote my observations from the day in my journal.
Dersu fiddled with his backpack and poked at the fire.
Little cold, he said, shrugging.
Go sleep in the fanza, I suggested.
Don t want to, he replied. My always sleep like this.
He then stuck some willow stakes into the soil behind him and strung a tarpaulin between them, and sat on a roe deer skin that he laid on the ground underneath. Throwing his deerskin coat around his shoulders, he lit his pipe. A few minutes later I could hear soft snoring. He was asleep. His head rested on his chest, his arms were slack, and his extinguished pipe had fallen from his mouth and lay in his lap. And he s done this his whole life, I thought. The difficulties and hardships this man endures to survive! But then I had another thought: if this hunter could understand that our vaunted European culture was based on people exploiting each other, he would probably not trade his freedom for it. Dersu, in his own way, was happy.
Off to the side I could hear the muffled din of the river. At the far end of the village a dog was barking, and a child was crying in one of the fanzas. I wrapped myself in my coat, lay with my back to the fire, and quietly went to sleep.
It was barely light the next morning and we were already on our feet. Our horses had not found food among the Korean croplands, and had wandered into the mountains instead. While we looked for them, the cook made tea and porridge. I had already finished my work by the time the riflemen returned with the horses. At eight o clock in the morning we were on our way.
There were two roads that followed the Lefu River valley from Kazakevichevo. The first was a circuitous route to the village Ivanovskoye, and the other, which was poorly traveled and swampy in places, followed the Lefu River s left bank. We chose the latter. The further we went, the more the valley transitioned to grassland habitat.
By all indications we were out of the mountains. They disappeared into the distance, and had been replaced by wide, flat ridges that were covered in shrubs. Oak and linden, their dry crowns suitable for firewood, grew here as solitary trees and in groves. There were willow, alder, and cherry growing along the river itself. Then our trail started to turn to the left, back toward the mountains, and took us about 4 kilometers away from the river.
We almost made it to the village of Lyalichi that day, stopping only 6 kilometers shy along the bank of a small and meandering stream. 8
That evening I sat with Dersu by the fire to discuss our planned route down the Lefu River. I really wanted to see Lake Khanka, which N. M. Przhevalsky had extolled. The Gold said that ahead of us was a vast, roadless wetland, and recommended that we float down the river by boat and leave the horses and some of the team to wait for us in Lyalichi. His advice was sensible and I followed it, only altering where the regiment would wait in our absence.
1 . Kazakevichevo was founded in 1872.
2 . Koreans began emigrating north out of the Korean peninsula and into the Ussuri Kray in 1863, during a period of severe drought. By 1910, there were more than fifty thousand Koreans living in more than a hundred settlements throughout the region (Gelb 1995).
3 . See plate 8 for an example of a Korean village.
4 . Korean women of the commoner or low-born classes would sometimes wear a shortly cropped top that exposed their breasts to signify that they had given birth to a son (Hee-sook 2004). See plate 9.
5 . Although this specific comment is directed at Koreans, it is worth noting that at the turn of the twentieth century, Russians in the Far East felt they were surrounded by Asian enemies-the Yellow Peril. In fact, a common view was that war over Primorye was inevitable (Arsenyev 1914, Saveliyev and Pestushko 2001). The mistrustful atmosphere of us and them resulted in Asians (particularly the Chinese) being dehumanized and viewed as a uniform, over-abundant mass of one face and mind-a multitude (Dyatlov 2012). This disassociating view of the Chinese-that they are overabundant, monotypic, and predatory-is a recurring theme in Across the Ussuri Kray .
6 . A river terrace is land in a valley parallel to and above a waterway. This is where the entire valley floor once was, before water eroded the riverbed downward (Parker 2003).
7 . Ivanovskoye was founded around 1883.
8 . Lyalichi was founded in 1885 (VKA).
5
THE LOWER REACHES OF THE LEFU
A Sea of Grass. Autumn Bird Migration. Dersu s Shot. The Village of Khalkidon. Living Water and Living Fire. The Marsh s Feathered Residents. The Earth s Shadow. Feeling Poorly in the Morning. A Change in the Weather .
The next morning I decided that Olentyev and one of the riflemen, named Marchenko, would go with me, and I would send the others to the village of Chernigovka with orders to wait there for our return. With the help of a village elder in Lyalichi we quickly found a punt that was in quite decent condition, and we exchanged twelve rubles and two bottles of vodka for it. 1 We spent the remainder of the day outfitting our boat. Dersu fashioned a paddle, used stakes to create oarlocks, put in seats, and skinned some poles. I admired the speed and quality of his work. He never fussed about; everything he did was well thought out, consistent, and completed in a timely fashion. It was evident that life had taught him to be energetic and effective, and to not needlessly waste time. In one of the huts we happened upon some sukhari -and frankly that was all we needed. 2 Everything else-tea, sugar, salt, grains, and canned goods-we still had in good supply. That same evening, on the Gold s advice, we transferred everything to the boat and spent the night on the riverbank.
It was windy and cold that night. We couldn t really get the fire roaring due to an insufficient firewood supply, and as a result everyone suffered from the cold and got little sleep.
No matter which way I wrapped myself in my coat the cold wind found a way in-first at my shoulder, then my side, and then my back. The firewood we had was of poor quality; it crackled and sent sparks every which way. Dersu s blanket ended up with a burn hole. As I dozed I could hear him scolding the log, calling it bad people.
He always burn that way . . . yells all the time. He said, mimicking the sounds of the crackling wood. Must chase him away.
After that I heard the splash and hiss of what was obviously the burning log being thrown into the river by the old man. I managed to stay warm enough to fall asleep.
Later that night I woke to see Dersu sitting at the fire, where he was adjusting the flame as the wind was blowing it in all directions. I noticed that the Gold had covered me with his own blanket-this was how I had managed to stay warm. I also saw that the riflemen were huddled asleep under Dersu s tarpaulin. I suggested to Dersu that we switch places, but he declined.
No need, captain. He said. You sleep; my will watch fire. His is terribly naughty, and pointed to the firewood.
The more I scrutinized this man the more I liked him. I discovered new qualities in him every day. I used to think that wild people such as he were selfish, and only Europeans possessed qualities such as compassion, philanthropy, and empathy for others. Had I been mistaken? I fell asleep thinking about this, and slept until morning.
Dersu woke us once it was completely light out. He had made tea and warmed up some meat. After breakfast I sent the team to Chernigovka with the horses, and the rest of us slid the boat into the water and we set off on our way.
We floated with the current quite effectively and used the poles to push ourselves along. After about 5 kilometers we reached a railroad bridge and stopped there for a break. Dersu told us that as a boy, he used to go this place with his father to hunt roe deer. He had heard about the railroad from the Chinese, but had not yet seen it himself.
After a short rest we continued on. The mountains disappeared entirely after the railroad bridge, so I got out of the boat and climbed the closest hill in order to get one last look around. A beautiful panorama unfolded before my eyes. Mountains crowded behind me to the east, and low hills covered with deciduous woodland were to the south. To the north, as far as the eye could see, there was an endless, infinite landscape of grasslands. As hard as I tried I could not see the end of these lowlands: they went up to and somewhere beyond the horizon. Every once in a while the wind would rise up and the grass would move in waves, just like the sea. There were a few stunted birch and some other kinds of trees that grew in groves or as isolated individuals. I could follow the course of the Lefu River for some distance from the hill on which I stood, as the abundant alders and willows that undoubtedly grew on its banks betrayed its presence. At first the river continued in its flow to the northeast, but then, before reaching some hills about 8 kilometers off, it turned mostly to the north (with a slight lean to the east). It was surrounded on all sides by an immeasurable number of channels, creeks, and lakes. These lowlands appeared empty and devoid of life. The sun reflected brightly off shallow pools all over the place; this was evidence that during the rainy season the Lefu River valley flooded quite readily.
Through all of this space the Lefu River takes on only two tributaries, the Sandugan River and the Khunukheza River. The latter flows in from an area as low-lying and marshy as the Lefu River valley itself.
By midday we had reached another small hill situated on the river s left bank. 3 It was about 120 to 140 meters in elevation, and covered by scattered oak, birch, linden, maple, walnut, and acacia trees. We found a trail there that likely led to the village of Voznesenskoye, which was about 12 kilometers off to the west.
We went about as far that afternoon as we had that morning, and decided to stop and set up camp rather early.
Tired of sitting in the boat that long, everyone wanted to get out and stretch their numb legs. I really wanted to explore, so when Olentyev and Marchenko elected to set up camp, Dersu and I went hunting. We had barely taken our first steps when the lush grasses enveloped us on all sides. The blades were so tall and so thick that it almost seemed possible to drown among them. There was grass under foot, in front, behind, and flanking me on both sides. The monotony was broken only from above, by the blue sky. It was as though we were walking along the bottom of a sea of grass. 4 This feeling was heightened when, standing on a hummock, I could see the waves of steppe around me. I plunged back among the grasses with trepidation and caution, and continued on. It was just as easy to get lost in a place like this as it is in the forest. Several times we strayed from our path and immediately tried to correct our mistakes. I would find any rise that I could, climb up, and try to see what was ahead. Dersu grabbed reed grass and wormwood with his hands and bent them to the ground to gain a better view. I looked forward and all around, but all I could see was never-ending waves of this sea of grass.
For the most part, the plant species I was encountering were common reeds (up to 3 meters tall), reed grass (up to a meter and a half tall), common wormwood (up to 2 meters tall), and others. Of the trees that grew along channel banks, I saw common osier, aspen, Japanese white birch, and Manchurian alder, among others.
Most of the residents of this wetland steppe were avian, and the only way to understand what the lower Lefu River is like during migration is to witness it personally. Thousands upon thousands of birds flying south in flocks of all sizes. Some birds bucked the trend and flew north, and others crisscrossed the main flow in every direction. Swirling flocks undulated up and down, and all of them-near and far-were highlighted against the backdrop of the sky. This was especially true low to the horizon, where the tangled mess of birds looked almost like a spider s web. I watched, spellbound.
The eagles were higher up than all the others. They flattened their powerful wings and wheeled in wide circles. What was distance to birds such as these? Some circled so high that they were almost imperceptible. Lower, but still very high above the earth, were the large Anser geese. These cautious birds flew in tight formations, beat their wings heavily, and filled the air with their honking cries. Nearby were the brent geese and the swans. Ducks noisily and hurriedly flew by even lower, close to the ground. There were flocks of thickset mallards, easy to identify from the whistling sound their wings make in flight. Just above the water s surface there were thousands of teal and other small ducks. I could make out Eastern buzzards and Eurasian kestrels here and there; these birds of prey alternated between soaring and hanging in one spot with fluttering wings to intently watch the ground below for prey. Now and then they would break off to circle and hover somewhere else, and suddenly tuck their wings and plummet down but, barely touching the grass, would quickly rise back into the sky again.
There were snow-white flashes against the azure-blue sky-these were graceful, agile gulls and elegant, buoyant terns. Curlews flew effortlessly and calmly, making amazingly beautiful pivots in the sky. Mergansers, on the wing, looked around for a place to stop. Gray plovers held to the marshy lowlands, flying along ponds of standing water, perhaps using them as landmarks. And this entire mass of birds was moving south. A magnificent scene!
Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, two roe deer flushed. They were perhaps sixty paces away, barely visible among the lush grasses, and I could make out only their heads, with wide-spaced ears, and the white spots on their rumps. They ran off about fifty paces more, then stopped. I fired and missed. The echo from my shot carried far down the river, and thousands of birds rose in alarm, flying in all directions. The startled roe deer continued their escape with large bounds. Dersu took aim, and the moment one of the deer heads emerged from the grass, he pulled the trigger. When the smoke cleared, the animal was gone. The Gold reloaded his rifle and unhurriedly walked ahead. I followed silently. Dersu looked around a bit, then backtracked, then walked off to one side and came back again. He was looking for something.
What are you looking for? I asked him.
Roe deer. He answered.
I think it got away.
No, he said with conviction. My hit him in the head. I began to help him look, but was not quite certain that I believed the Gold. It seemed to me that he was mistaken. But about ten minutes later, we found the deer, and it had indeed been shot in the head. Dersu hoisted the carcass onto his shoulders and slowly started to head back. We reached camp at dusk.
The sunset was still trying to fend off the impending darkness but, unable to hold it back any longer, faded, then the sun dropped below the horizon. Stars flashed immediately in the sky, as though delighted the sun had finally granted them release. There was a tree grove of some kind by the river channel, but in the darkness it became difficult to tell tree species apart; they all looked the same. The light of our camp fires shone through it. The evening was quiet and cool. We could hear that a flock of ducks had landed on the water not too far away; based on their whistled flight I knew they were teal.
After dinner Dersu and Olentyev started skinning the roe deer, and I tended to my own affairs. I lay down after finishing what I needed to write in my journal, but it took me a while to get to sleep. Whenever I d close my eyes I d see a pulsing tangle of waves on the sea of grass and the immeasurable flocks of geese and ducks. Closer to morning I finally nodded off.
The next day we got up rather early, hastily drank tea, packed everything into our boat, and continued down the Lefu.
The further we went, the more the river began to wind. The krivuns (as the locals call such meanderings) sometimes took us almost in a full circle before suddenly correcting themselves, but then curved yet again in a different direction. There was nowhere that the river flowed straight, even for a little bit.
There are two small tributaries that flow into the lower reaches of the Lefu River on its right side 5 : the Monastyrka [ monastery ] and Chernigovka Rivers. The Lefu here is a complex network of channels that come and go in all directions. A mountain spur nudges against the Lefu River about 8 kilometers past the Monastyrka River mouth and culminates at an unnamed peak 290 meters tall. The village of Khalkidon rests at its base, the last settlement in these parts. All lands further north, all the way to Lake Khanka, are devoid of human habitation.
Our supplies were coming to an end and needed to be replenished. We tied the boat to shore and walked into town. A wide street ran down the middle, and the houses were set far apart from one another. Almost all the villagers had lived there for some time and had plots one hundred desyatinas in size. 6 I walked up to the first hut we came upon. The yard outside and home inside were similar in their disarray. Trash, items strewn about, a leaning fence, a door broken at the hinges, and a wash basin blackened by time and dirt all testified that the residents of this house were not particularly fond of order. As we entered the yard a woman emerged from the house with a child in her arms. She stepped aside rather anxiously, and responded timidly to my hello.
The windows drew my attention. They were double-framed with four panes of glass, and the space between the frames was a quarter-ways filled with some kind of grayish-yellow substance. My first thought was that this was sawdust, so I asked the woman why they had sprinkled it in there.
Sawdust? she answered. Those are mosquitoes.
I went closer. Indeed, they were desiccated mosquitoes. There was at least a half kilogram of them. 7
Our only hope is the double-paned windows, she continued; they fly between the panes and die there. Inside we have to light smudge fires and sleep under mosquito netting. 8
You should just burn all the marsh grass around here, the rifleman Marchenko suggested.
We ve burned it but it doesn t help. The mosquitoes come out of the water. What s fire to them? And in summer the grasses are damp and don t burn anyway.
Olentyev then approached with news that he had found and purchased bread. After walking through the whole village we returned to the boat. Meanwhile, Dersu had been roasting roe deer meat on the fire and had prepared tea. Village children ran up to us on the bank, stood at a distance, and watched us curiously.
A half hour later we were on our way. Looking back I could see the youngsters still gathered on the bank and following us with their eyes. Then there was a bend in the river, and the village passed out of sight.
It was difficult to follow the main flow of the Lefu in this labyrinth of channels. The river width varied from 15 to 80 meters, with wide offshoots that petered down to long, thin, and deep channels that connected to small lakes and marshes or into small rivers that rejoined the Lefu further downstream. The closer we got to Lake Khanka, the slower the current became. The poles that the riflemen used to propel the boat forward were frequently getting stuck in the river mud, sometimes so firmly that they would lose their grip on them. The Lefu River s depth varied widely here. Sometimes our boat was scraping bottom in the shallows, and other times the water was so deep that nearly the entire length of our long poles was submerged.
The soil that formed the river bank was reasonably firm, but if you moved away from there even a bit you d fall into the marsh. There were long lakes hidden among the grasses. Some of these were lined with willow and alder, which indicated that at one time the river flowed a different course and had shifted several times.
By evening we had almost made it to the Chernigovka River, and decided to camp along a narrow isthmus between it and a smaller channel.
The bird migration today had been particularly active. Olentyev shot a few ducks, which made for an excellent dinner. All the birds stopped flying once it got dark, and we were immediately surrounded by silence. One might think that the grassland was entirely without life, but in fact there wasn t a single lake, creek, or channel that didn t host a resting flock of swans, geese, mergansers, ducks, or other waterbirds.
Marchenko and Olentyev went to sleep early that night, and Dersu and I sat up late talking as usual. The tea kettle, neglected on the fire, reminded us of its presence by a persistent hiss. Dersu moved it back from the flames a bit, but the kettle continued to boil. Dersu moved it back even further, but this caused the kettle to sing in a shrill voice.
Look how his yells! said Dersu. Bad people! He jumped up and poured the hot water onto the ground.
What do you mean, people ? I asked him in amazement.
Water, he said simply. Him can yell, can cry, can also play.
This primitive man then spent a long time describing his worldview. He saw life in water, saw its quiet flow, and heard its roar during floods.
Look, said Dersu, pointing toward the fire, his also people.
I looked at the fire. The wood sparkled and crackled. The fire leapt with alternating long and short tongues; it became brighter then dimmed. I could see castles and grottos forming among the coals-these decayed then began forming again. Dersu went silent, and I spent a long time just sitting and looking at the living fire.
A fish splashed noisily in the river; I was startled and looked over at Dersu. He was upright but dozing. The grassland was quiet as before. The position of the stars in the sky told me that it was midnight. Adding a few more logs to the fire, I woke the Gold and we both began packing our things up for the night.
By chance, we all woke very early the next day.
The avian kingdom rose noisily into the air at the crack of dawn, and continued to make their way south. First it was the geese that passed, then the swans, followed by the ducks and finally all the rest. They initially flew low to the ground, but as it became lighter they rose higher and higher.
By sunrise we managed to float about 8 kilometers from our campsite, and came to Chaydinza Mountain, which was covered in elm and aspen trees. A small river called the Syaokheza ran along its base. At this point the Lefu River valley is more than 40 kilometers wide. On the left side is an enormous stretch of expansive wetland. The Lefu River divides itself into multiple branches tens of kilometers long, which in turn branch off themselves. These channels cover a vast area along both sides of the main channel and form a labyrinth. It would be very easy to become disoriented by abandoning the main channel hoping to take a shortcut. In addition to the aforementioned Syaokheza River, there were two tributaries to the Lefu River here: the Lyuganka River on its right side, and the Sauztu River on its left side. There are no other tributaries between here and Lake Khanka.
We floated along the main channel, only diverging when we absolutely had to, and when we did we returned to the river as quickly as possible. The channels were overgrown with vines and reeds, which completely obscured our boat. We floated quietly, often coming close to birds; well within shooting distance. Occasionally we would deliberately pause and spend some time observing them.
The first bird I noticed was a white heron with black legs and a yellowish-green bill. 9 It walked demurely along the river bank, jerking its head as it walked, with eyes attentively focused on the river bottom. Noticing the boat, the bird took a few laborious leaps then lifted heavily into the air. It flew off a short distance then landed along a neighboring channel. The next bird we saw was a Eurasian bittern. The combination of grayish-yellow plumage, a dirty-yellow bill, yellow eyes, and similarly yellow legs made for a surprisingly unattractive creature. This gloomy bird hunched over and walked along the sand, constantly harassing an active and fussy Eurasian oystercatcher. The shorebird would fly off a bit, and as soon as it landed, the bittern would immediately walk toward it. When it got close, the bittern would rush at the oystercatcher and try to hit with its sharp bill. When it noticed the boat, the bittern melted back into the grasses, stretched out its neck and, with its head pointed up, froze in place. Marchenko took a shot at the bird as we floated by but missed; he came so close that the bullet grazed the reeds immediately adjacent to the bittern. It never moved a muscle. Dersu laughed.
His is terribly clever people. Always fools others like that, he said.
Indeed, we couldn t even make out the bittern anymore: its plumage and upraised bill were lost among the surrounding grasses.
A little further on, we saw something new: a solitary common kingfisher sitting on a willow branch that hung out low over the water. It seemed to us that this tiny little bird with a large head and big bill was sleeping, but it suddenly dropped to the water, dove under the surface, then came back up with a small fish. The kingfisher swallowed its prey then returned to the branch and fell back asleep. When it heard the sound of our approaching boat, it flew off with a trill down the river. The electric blue of its plumage flashed in the sun. It landed on a bush, then flew off a little further, then disappeared for good around a river bend.
We twice saw common coots-black diving birds with big feet that walk freely along the pads of aquatic plants. They appear helpless on the wing, however; it is evident that the sky is not their natural environment. When they fly their legs dangle strangely, giving the impression that they only just left the nest and still hadn t figured out how to fly properly.
We saw grebes here and there in the pools of standing water; these birds had protruding ear tufts and a collar of colorful feathers. 10 They did not fly off; instead they quickly hid among the grasses or dove under the water.
The weather was good to us. It was one of those warm autumn days common to the southern Ussuri Kray in October. There wasn t a cloud in the sky, and a light breeze came in from the west. Such weather is often misleading, and is frequently followed by a cold northwestern wind. The longer such good weather holds, the more sudden the change.
At about eleven o clock we took a long break by the Lyuganka River. After lunch the men lay about resting, and I decided to wander along the river bank. There was nothing but grasses and wetlands wherever I looked. 11 I could scarcely make out the fog-covered mountains far to the west, and there were some dark patches of small shrubs growing like oases among the treeless plain.
Making my way toward one of them, I flushed a big short-eared owl- the night bird of open spaces -which spends its days hidden among the grasses. It shuffled away from me, frightened, then flew off a little ways, then sank back into the marsh.
When I reached the shrubs I sat down for a break and suddenly heard some faint rustling. I looked around, startled. But my alarm was unfounded: they were reed warblers. They fluttered among the reeds with ever-twitching tails. Next I saw two winter wrens. These handsome little birds with their rusty and spotted plumage were constantly hidden in the underbrush, then popped out for just a moment before disappearing again into the dry grass. There was a single reed bunting with them, which was constantly climbing the reed stalks and cocking its head questioningly at me. I saw many other songbird species there that I could not identify.
An hour later I returned to the others. Marchenko had warmed some tea and was waiting for me to get back. After I quenched my thirst we got in the boat and continued on. Wanting to add to my journal, I asked Dersu what animal tracks he had seen in the Lefu River valley since leaving the mountains and entering the marsh. He answered that he had seen evidence of roe deer, raccoon dogs, badgers, wolves, foxes, hares, weasels, otters, muskrats, mice, and shrews.
In the second half of the day we traveled another 12 kilometers or so, then set camp on one of the Lefu s many islands.
That day we had the opportunity to observe the earth s shadow to the east. The sunset shimmered with exceptionally bright colors. At first it was pale, then it turned an emerald green. It was on this green background that two yellow beams of light rose from behind the horizon like pillars, and they remained there for a few minutes. The green light of dusk turned orange, then red. Then the purple-red horizon darkened, almost as though from smoke. At the same time that the sun set, the earth s shadow developed in the east. One end was on the northern horizon, and the other was on the southern horizon. The outer fringe of this shadow was purple, and the lower the sun went, the higher this shadow rose. Soon, the purple band merged with the red sunset of the west, and then night fell.
I watched all this with delight, but then heard Dersu grumble:
No understand!
I figured that this remark was directed at me, so I asked him what he meant.
It bad, he said, pointing to the sky. My think, will be big wind.
That evening we sat by the fire for a long time. We had gotten up early that morning and were tired from the day, so as soon as we had eaten dinner we lay down to sleep. The predawn hours were difficult the next morning. Everybody felt languid and weak, and our movements were sluggish. Since all felt the same way, I was worried that we were sick with fever or were somehow poisoned, but Dersu reassured me that this always happens when the weather changes. Reluctantly, we gathered our things and unenthusiastically floated on. The weather was warm and the wind was light. The reeds stood motionless, as though asleep. The distant mountains, which had previously been visible, were now completely obscured by haze. Thin, elongated clouds stretched across the pale sky, and there were rings around the sun. I noticed that there wasn t as much activity around us as there had been before. The geese and ducks had disappeared, as had the smaller birds. Only the eagles soared in the sky. They were apparently immune to the atmospheric changes that caused widespread apathy and drowsiness among the rest of the earth s creatures.
Don t worry, said Dersu. My think, the sun half finish, then the wind find us.
I asked him why the birds had stopped flying, and he responded with a long lecture about migration. According to him, birds love to fly against the wind. In a dead calm and in warm weather they sit firm in the marsh. If the wind blows from behind they feel cold because the cool air gets under their feathers. In such cases the birds hide in the grass. Only an unexpected snowstorm could force them to fly on in spite of the wind and cold.
The closer we got to Lake Khanka, the marshier the steppe became. The trees along the river bank disappeared and were replaced by the occasional slender shrub. The slowing flow of the river affected the vegetation. Lilies, water lilies, buttercup, and water chestnuts appeared, among other plant species. Sometimes the grasses were so thick that the boat could not pass through them, and we were forced to take lengthy detours. We got lost in one place and ended up in a dead end. Olentyev tried to get out of the boat, but had scarcely stepped onto the bank when he fell through up to his knees and got stuck in the mud. We turned back, entered a lake of some kind, and then happened back upon our channel by chance. The labyrinth of overgrown grasses was behind us, and we could be happy that we got off so easily. Orienteering was becoming harder and harder by the day.
Whereas before we could trace the river s path by the trees growing along its bank, now there weren t even shrubs. As a consequence, it was impossible to say whether the river went to the left or to the right even just a few meters ahead.
Dersu s prediction came true. At noon the wind started to blow from the south. It gradually intensified, then changed direction to the west. The geese and ducks once again took to the wing and flew low over the ground.
We reached a spot with considerable driftwood, brought there by a flood sometime in the past. Such bounties cannot be taken for granted on the Lefu; there s always the risk of spending a night without firewood. It took the riflemen a few minutes to unpack the boat, and Dersu started a fire and set up the tent.
Only a short distance remained to Lake Khanka. I knew that the river turns to the northeast and empties into the eastern corner of Lebyazhy [ swan ] Bay, so named for the multitude of swans that can reliably be found there during migration. 12 This bay ranges between 6 and 8 kilometers long, and is one kilometer wide. 13 It is very shallow and joins Lake Khanka via a narrow channel. Therefore, although we were only 2.5 to 3 kilometers away from the lake as the crow flies, in order to reach it by boat we actually had to float another 15 kilometers or so. We decided that Dersu and I would simply go there on foot the next day and return by nightfall. Olentyev and Marchenko would stay at camp and await our return.
Everyone had a lot of free time that evening. We sat by the fire, drank tea, and talked among ourselves. The dry wood burned with a bright flame. The reeds swayed and rustled; this noise made the wind seem stronger than it really was. The sky was hazy, and only a few large stars could be seen. We could hear the sounds of the surf coming from the direction of the lake. By morning, the sky was covered by the uniform grayness of stratus clouds, and the wind was now blowing from the northwest. The weather had gotten a little worse, but not enough to call off our trip.
1 . A punt is a flat-bottomed boat, usually propelled by a pole. In 1906, Russian currency was pegged to the gold standard, where one ruble equaled 0.774 grams of gold, and one gram of gold was worth $0.73. Adjusting for inflation, one ruble in 1906 equated to $13.50 in purchasing power in 2012 (Officer and Williamson 2014). Therefore, Arsenyev paid $178.00 (and two bottles of vodka) for this boat.
2 . Sukhari are cut and specially dried bread, a staple on Russian expeditions even today due to their long shelf life. Similar to an unsalted crouton.
3 . This small hill is named Kovalvikova Hill on contemporary maps.
4 . See plate 10 for an example.
5 . Throughout this and other Russians texts, descriptions of tributaries often include which side of a river (left or right) they flow into, assuming an observer is facing downstream.

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