Paal. 1993. KAMCHATKA STORY.
An example of Russia's conquering policy and colonization history. Tartumaa
Muuseumi Toimetised, No 2. Tartu. 209 p. (In Estonian, summary in English).
History of subjugation of Siberia and the Far-East by Russia is no less than the conquest of America. As the result, hundreds of tribes and tens of nations were demolished; the poor remains of local nations are oppressed and brutally discriminated even today. Despite this fact, a detailed survey of the Russian occupation in that huge territory is still lacking.
The aim of this book is to collect and generalize the very dispersed and not well known facts concerning the Russian conquering policy, mainly on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The course of the occupation is analysed and the process of annihilation of the local nations (Chukchis, Koryaks, Itelmens and Ainus) described. These facts help to elucidate the main aspirations of the Russian imperial politics and give it thorough characterization. This information is especially important for the peoples having only lately been liberated from the previous Soviet Union, or still being oppressed by Russians, but also to nations localized geographically farther away.
Keywords: Siberia, Kamchatka, Kurili Islands, Chukchis, Koryaks, Itelmens, Yukagirs, Ainus, History, Colonization.
The conquering policy and colonization are not the favorite themes in the historiography of the Russian Empire. Some characteristic features of development however are distinguishable while discussing these problems.
In the middle of the 18th century, S.Krasheninnikov, the author of the famous "Description of the Kamchatka-land", treated in detail and with full self-evidently how the Cossacks treated the native people on Kamchatka at the time of the large uprising of the Itelmens. Then there was no need to hide factual events because colonization and civilization were interpreted as synonyms. Later, under the influence of the Enlightment ideas, the cruelty of the massacres and the brutality of ruling the newly occupied territories was passed over in silence or camouflaged by the need of self-defence. The first to present a suitable version about the conquest of Siberia to the Empire, was a German historian G.F.Müller, the head of the scientific staff of Bering's second Kamchatka expedition. According to his "History of Siberia" all the native tribes joined voluntarily under the "protection" of the Russian Eagle; conflicts occurred only occasionally and were locally limited. Usually, there was mutual understanding, friendship and peace between the conquerors and the surrendered people. If sometimes, in very extreme situations, there was a need to use weapons, it was done only to defend "the Russian honour and vital interests".
That version of history was quite acceptable till the middle of the 19th century when the facts became too evident against the artificially smooth surface of the current concept. Then, according to the spirit of the time, the cultural mission became the central idea. Violence was explained as an indispensable act or as a legitimate right of the whole mankind; "Yes, they were robbed, yes, they were destroyed, but we were not the first doing so and will not be the last. It was this way everywhere and it will remain this way forever!" The Russians were described as a nation heroically bringing culture and civilization to the natives, sometimes even when they did not at once understand all the advantages connected with it. The theory was very pleasing to the Great Power apologets, federalists, liberalists and later to the followers of Marx's and Lenin's ideology. All the naked brutality was explained in terms of the political and commonwealth needs of the Russian Empire, which were considered to be on par with universal progress, humanity and the cultural mission.
At the beginning of the
20th century rather large-scaled idealisation of the heroic past of Russian
colonies began. That carefully prepared ideological masquerade is still
prevailing and actively used. Occasionally only a glimpse of truth can
be found in some odd expressions. One of the recently published citations
of Molotov, for example, sounds: "How great it is that the Russian czars
conquered such a large territory for us, now, it is much easier to fight
Chapter I. Over the Ural mountains
Throng of Russians over
the Ural Mountains and further towards the Pacific was a continuous process
following the colonization of the East European Plain by the Slavic tribes.
It has been stated that the character of their movements, methods and goals
of conquering, and also the connections between them and the natives were
in Siberia more or less the same as in the regions of the Finno-Ugric people.
In fact, there were quite large differences which depended on social
and political conditions.
In the middle of the 16th century, the second period of the invasion of Siberia began. The power of Moscow principality started to grow quickly; capital and resources were badly needed. The claim for furs and other Siberian goods increased rapidly and from that era on moving towards east was supported and directed from Moscow.
As the distance between the expansion front and Moscow grew longer, the ability and possibility to rule all the processes directly from the center diminished. Initiative went over to the local administration. Now, it were the military heads (voyevods) who planned new campaigns and sent out troops. The central government acted only when there was lack of power in remote places or, when it was neccessary for some newly occupied territory to compile a document concerning its official inclusion into Russia.
To strengthen the local
economic and military basis the government took care of colonizing the
new areas with Russian people. Partly they were enlisted, partly deported
by force and settled there. In the 17-18th centuries an increasing number
of war-prisoners (from Poland, Lithuania, the Caucasus) and criminals were
also brought here. In the third decade of the 17th century, the number
of exiled people among Russians in Siberia was already 15%. At the beginning
of the First World War the percentage was 5.2. Afterwards, as it is well
known, the rich experience of mass resettling of people was afterwards
enthusiastically and on a large scale exploited by Bolsheviks.
Chapter II. Towards the great sea
In 1632, half a century after the crush of the Siberian Khan-state of Tatars, Russians founded fort Yakutsk on the bank of the Lena River. It developed into a very important supporting point for invaders of Eastern Siberia like Tobolsk was for Western Siberia. In 1634, there were only 200 inhabitants, eight years later the number was already about 3,000, not regarding the garrison. From Yakutsk the Russians pushed forward in three main directions; to the Bering Strait and Kamchatka in the northeast, to the Okhota Sea in the east, and to the Amur River in the south.
First they reached the shores of the Okhota Sea (1639). During the following years, the western and northern coasts were explored and subjugated. The first large campaign to the Amur River started in 1643, in 1650 the next one followed. These first campaigns are, according to the Russian historians, legitimate acts on the basis of which enormous areas in the Far-East belong to the Russian Empire.
On the lower part of the Kolyma River a camp was established in 1644. From there, in 1648, Dezhnev sailed around the Chukchy Peninsula and built a fort on the Anadyr River (Anadyrsk) in the next few years. In 1650, a route from Nizhni-Kolymsk to Anadyrsk over the Anyui Mountains was discovered by Ivanov (Motora) and Staduhhin. From Anadyrsk the subjecting of Chukchis and northern tribes of Koryaks began.
In 1657, Staduhhin's troop
met on the Inya River another group of Cossacks who came from Okhotsk.
Thus two routes were knotted; one going via the Kolyma and Anadyr Rivers,
the other via the Aldan and Okhota Rivers. Several times the Chuckhis and
Yukagirs re-established their control over the route across the Anyui Mountains.
Nevertheless, at the end of the 17th century the number of men in Anadyrsk
was greater than in the Kolyma River surroundings. In the 1680s, the military
head of Yakutsk gave an order to build a route to the Kolyma River with
post-stations supplied with horses and reindeer. They were taken from the
natives who were also obliged to guarantee the transportation of Russian
soldiers and officials.
Chapter III. Kamchatka's
turn has come
Convinced that Kamchatka and the shores of the Okhota Sea were much richer than the surrounding of the Arctic Ocean, the Russians considered them the main objects for the conquest. The Kamchatka Peninsula was attacked from the side of Anadyrsk, Okhotsk and the Kolyma River simultaneously. By the way, the Cossacks largely exploited the already suppressed tribes in their fight against the natives whom they wanted to conquer. On the northwestern and northern coasts of the Okhota Sea the Evens (Tunguses) were used for that purpose; in the Anadyrsk area and on Northern Kamchatka, the Yukagirs.
The first troops of the Cossacks reached Kamchatka in 1695-1696, but they were not able to force the natives to pay tribute (yassak). More successful, in this sense, was the campaign lead by Atlassov. It started in 1697 from Anadyrsk and included 60 Cossacks and 60 Yukagirs. The troop destroyed a number of Koryak settlements (Oklan, Kamenskoje, Talovka) and demanded yassak (tribute paid with furs). Along the Tigil River they crossed the mountains and reached the eastern coast, where Atlassov divided men into two groups and returned with one part to the eastern coast. There he was attacked by his "own" Yukagirs who wounded him and killed some Cossacks. On the Kamchatka River, the first fortress (ostrog), Verkhne-Kamchatsk was founded. Taking advantage of conflicts between tribes, the Russians succeeded in killing about one-and-a-half hundred aborigines and in taking over nearly the whole Kamchatka River valley. Then they continued the campaign against the Kurils (Ainus) southward. After slaying some tens of them, Cossacks turned back to the Itcha River and went to Anadyrsk next year. In 1700 Atlassov brought 3200 sable furs and various other furs to Moscow. He also took along a shipwrecked Japanese - Denbei. According to the far-reaching plans of Peter I, Denbei was appointed teacher of Japanese.
Atlassov's talks awoke great interest in the higher echelons. He was promoted ataman and given the right to gather a 100-men troop and to provide weapons for them. On the way back to Yakutsk he robbed a merchant ship on the Nizhnaya Tunguska River and was imprisoned upon arrival.
In 1700, the first prikashchik (commander) Kobylev was sent to Kamchatka. He took revenge on the Koryaks for killing some of Atlassov's men, annihilated the Kotcha settlement, and restored the Verkhne-Kamchatsk fortress. The yassak was now gathered also from the people living on the western coast. Kobylev started the building of the Bolsheretsk fortress here.
The next prikashchik, Zinovyev (1714), began with registration of all yassak-payers. New troops from Anadyrsk were sent to help him. He began to build the Nizhne-Kamchatsk fortress. Kolessov lead a campaign against the Kurils (Ainus) in the course of which a hundred of them were slaughtered. In Northern Kamchatka the Cossacks had little success however; the troops of Protopopov and Shelkovnikov were destroyed by the Koryaks.
In 1707, Kolessov brought as yassak furs of 3534 sables, 900 foxes, 93 sea-otters to Yakutsk. At the same time, the Itelmens revolted. They smashed a 15-men troop of Cossacks and burned the Bolsheretsk fortress. A wider uprising was avoided only with the help of additional soldiers.
In this very critical situation, Russians were not able to find any better commander for Kamchatka than Atlassov. He was set free from prison and sent, with 100 men and supplies, to the peninsula for two years. There he organized a cruel punishment for the rebellious natives, after which he himself started to behave as a sovereign. Five months later, a rebellion began among the Cossacks. The ataman was imprisoned and all his furs were taken away and distributed among his men.
A new prikashchik, Chirikov, started his career with a campaign against the Itelmens on the Bolshaya River. The natives besieged the troops for four weeks and the Russians managed to escape to the Verkhne-Kamchatks fortress only by great effort.
In 1710, one more prikashchik, Mironov, reached Kamchatka with new troops. Together with Chirikov he began to rob the natives and even soldiers. Already irritated by Atlassov, the Cossacks killed Mironov and Atlassov, and after three months of imprisonment, Chirikov as well. By the way, the Cossaks did not forget to appropriate all the yassak from the barns. To find forgiveness from the government, they went to fight to the Bolshaya River, where they massacred a lot of Itelmens and Kurils. One part of the men travelled by boats even to the Kurili Islands. On the second island, Paramushir, they met strong resistance and were forced to retreat.
Next year, a new commander, Sevastyanov, arrived. Fortunately for him, the leader of the rebellion of the Cossacks, Antsiferov, was killed in 1712 by the Itelmens on the Avacha River. Sevastyanov founded a fortress on the Olyutora River (1712), but was together with his 84 men besieged by the Koryaks and starved there for several months till a 60-men troop from Anadyrsk rescued them. The yassak brought to Yakutsk by Sevastyanov after a 7 year interval was rich; furs from 13280 sables, 3330 foxes, 259 sea-otters etc.
Numerous native revolts and campaigns against them followed. During 1707-1711 280 men in all were sent to Kamchatka.
Jenisseisky led a large-scale raid to the Avacha Itelmens. Over 120 Cossacks were in his troop, 150 subjugated Itelmens from other tribes as well. The conquerors did not take the stronghold by storm, but succeeded in burning it. All the defenders with their wives and children were murdered. After some time, the same was repeated when assaulting the Paratunka stronghold.
Campaigns of Petrov and Tatarinov started from Anadyrsk. With the help of hand-grenades, the Cossacks captured the camp of Koryaks on the side of the Olyutora River. The Yukagirs, who were forced to take part in Petrov's fights, starved badly, because all their reindeer had been taken away. When they wanted to go back home, Petrov unexpectedly demanded yassak and payment for tobacco. Driven to despair, the Yukagirs decided to avenge the Russians for the distress and humiliation. Petrov and most of his Cossacks were killed near the Talovka River. The Oklan ostrog, where Kolessov and Jenisseisky had fled, was besieged. After Koryaks joined Yukagirs, the fortress was captured and the Cossacks killed. Koryaks also encircled sergeant Surgutsky's troop in the Olyutorski fortress. Many of Russians were slain and by March, 1715, the situation in the fortress was hopeless. Then, a smallpox epidemic broke out among Koryaks and they left the fortress.
New supplements of Cossacks arrived to Anadyrsk in 1716 under Stepan and Fjodor Trifonov and new campaigns against Koryaks were undertaken.
According to the governmental
order from 1710, active search for a direct marine route to the Kamchatka
over the Okhota Sea began. In 1715, Sokolov succeeded in fulfilling the
order. During the next year Russians sailed round the Kamchatka Peninsula,
south of the Lopatka Cap and thus, a shorter and easier way to the Nizhne-Kamchatsk
was discovered. Now the conquest began in full force. Various fortune hunters
crowded ahead to get more and more furs. At fist the majority of them was
killed by the aborigines, then a more powerful campaign of Cossacks
followed, during which whole settlements were demolished till the
last soul. Men's quantity and tenacity became decisive.
Chapter IV. Time of big campaigns
The successful raids to the Chuckhy and Kamchatka Pensinsulas gave impetus to attempts for expanding the Russian Empire. For that purpose, full state power was now set in motion. The organization of the first big campaign, or to put it euphemistically, an expedition, began at the end of 1716. It stood in the history annals as the Great Kamchatkan Troop.
The main staff included 21 officers and non-commissioned officers, 200 soldiers. Four ships were built in Okhotsk. The expedition was active mostly on the northern coast of the Okhota Sea. At that time the Vorovski Itelmens rebelled. Their settlements were ruined and people killed. When commander Yeltchin was called back to Yakutsk (1718), the expedition began to fall apart quickly. Two years later, it simply broke up. All the supplies gathered in Okhotsk were demolished by a flood in 1723.
As the Kamchatka Peninsula was now more or less under the control of the Russians, they began to make new plans for widening the state. Peter I had heard enough about the Anian Strait, Yezo Islands, Kurils and Lama-Land to wish to join these territories to the Empire. Already in his letter to voyevod Traurnicht (1700) he drafted an extensive plan of exploring the new territories eastward. In 1713, Kozyrevsky was sent from Kamchatka to gather information about the Kurili Islands and Japan. Seven years later (1720-1721) a secret expedition under the leadership of Yevreinov and Luzin was organized to reconnoitre the Kurili Islands.
In 1724 Peter I signed an order for organizing a new large expedition to Kamchatka, America and the strait between the Asian and American continents. Since this huge expedition (1725-1732) in the Far-East a new era of the Russian conquest began. That campaign, the Berings' Fist Expedition, according to its chief's name, has been compared with the crossing of the Alps by Hannibal's army, and rightly so.
During the season of 1727, the "Fortuna", the first ship built in Okhotsk for the expedition, transported most of the equipment and men across the sea to Bolsheretsk, from where everything was draged on sledges over the mountains to Nizhne-Kamchatsk. For that purpose Itelmens were gathered with their dogs and sledges from a large territory. Being occupied with transport, they did not have time for storing enough food for the winter season. A lot of valuable dogs perished and during the storms, many people were killed. Additionally, the natives were forced to pay yassak (frequently several times per year) and other taxes and to supply Russians with food. The burden of transport obligation and economic ruin, as well as the greediness of yassak-collectors, were the main reasons which initiated the Itelmen uprising in 1731. At that time, Bering himself turned back to Saint-Petersburg (1730), without having passed the strait between continents or discovered America. It should also be mentioned that he was not very diligent in fulfilling this task because it contradicted the Dutch interests. Bering's tight connections with the Dutch embassy in the Russian capital are proved by historians.
Parallel to Bering's Fist Expedition, another large campaign started to the same region. Its commanders were the head-of-Cossacks Shestakov and captain Pavlutsky. The troop consisted of about 400 soldiers; additional troops were gathered among various native tribes. The expedition's task was laconic; to subdue the bellicose aborigines, to force them pay yassak, and to join the discovered territories to Russia. Pavlutsky went with one part of the troop to Anadyrsk. In Okhotsk two ships were built for Shestakov's men and two ships were received from Bering's expedition. Shestakov sailed out from Okhotsk on the "Vostochnyi Gavril" in 1729. According to their plans, they had to defeat the Koryaks in the Penzhina and Gizhiga River areas, to restore the Oklan fortress, then join Pavlutsky and go together against Chuckhis. Other ships were obliged to discover the Kurili and Shantar Islands.
The crew of Shestakov's ship destroyed some settlements on the Nayahana and Ayakan Rivers, but then they met the Chuckhis near the Egatche River (1730). Shestakov and 31 of men were killed and the whole troop broke up.
The "Vostochnyi Gavril" sailed to Kamchatka and was wrecked in a storm. The crew of the "Lev" was smashed by Koryaks in the mouth of the Yama River and the ship burned. The transport ship "Fortuna" managed to carry the equipment and food to Bosheretsk and sail to explore the Kurili Islands. The fourth ship, "Svyatoi Gavril" did not find the Shantarski Islands, turned to Kamchatka and spent the winter in Bolsheretsk. Next year it moved to Nizhne-Kamchatsk with the task of conveying supplementary forces to Pavlutsky, but the great Itelmens' uprising broke out.
It began with the destroying of the Nizhne-Kamchatsk fortress. But due to the bad weather, the "Svyatoi Gavril" had not sailed to the open sea yet, and a ship's troop of 77 men with mortars and cannons was sent to help the Cossacks. They surprised Itelmens and took back the fortress. After a battle, the chieftain of Itelmen, Harchin, was captured with the help of a traitor. As Itelmens failed to take the Verkhne-Kamchatsk fortress by storm, they dispersed into small groups. In spite of all that the war against them lasted nearly two years. The Russians took power only with the support of complementary forces. Hundreds of Itelmens were slaughtered, even after imprisonment. Their wives and children were captured and enslaved. In 1728, the list of yassak-paying aborigines consisted 2,983 men, in 1732 only 2,055 remained enlisted.
After some glorious victories over Chuckhis, Pavlutsky went in 1732, as the head of 225 Cossacks and hundreds of supplementary forces of natives, to campaign against the Koryaks in the Gizhiga River region. Numerous settlements were burnt and all native people were murdered. In some fights, Koryaks killed all their family members and then defended themselves up to the last man. When Pavlutsky turned back to Yakutsk, Chuckhis and Koryaks rebelled again.
Next year major Merlin, with additional forces, arrived in Kamchatka. Pavlutsky was also sent to help him. Taking into account the huge distance from Yakutsk to the easten part of the Empire, ruling of Eastern Siberia was concentrated now in Okhotsk. In the Penzhina Bay region a new fort was built on the bank of the Yama River for better control of Koryaks.
In 1732, the government gave Bering an order to organize a second expedition to Kamchatka. In a secret instruction, the tasks of the first expedition were repeated and it was insisted on finding the coast of America and possible routes to Japan. The christening of the aborigines was also demanded.
The storage of food began as erarly as 1735. The expedition was made up of seven groups; five of them were acting on the coasts of the Arctic Ocean. The official staff only consisted of 977 men, at least two thousand additional men were employed for transportation. The leaders started from Saint-Petersburg in 1733. Two years later, the luggage-train arrived at Yakutsk. At the same time the repair works of the old "Fortuna" and the "Svyatoi Gavril" began and the building of new ships in Okhotsk started. In 1740, Bering himself reached Bolsheretsk. Transport ships were unloaded here also. Again, all the supplies and equipment were pulled on sledges across the peninsula. For that purpose, in addition to hundreds of men, four or five thousand dogs were needed. Itelmens began to revolt on a large area and killed some Cossacks. A punishment raid was lead by lieutenant Levashov. Now the economic and military havoc of Itelmens was so thorough that they never were able to recover again.
Two ships of the expedition arrived in America in 1741. On the way back, the "Svyatoi Pavel" was wrecked near the Commander Islands and the crew spent the winter on an island, named afterwards Bering's Island. Bering and a lot of the men died there of scurvy. Next year, Chirikov made a new attempt to sail to America, but returned without success rather quickly. The activity of the expedition was stopped in 1743.
Bering's Second Expedition, as well as the first, was afterwards widely spoken about as "purely scientific". In fact, the academic staff formed only a little part of the expedition. The Russian government was quite satisfied with the expedition results. It was supposed that, "From now on nobody could dispute our rights as the first discoverers of the Kurili and Aleutian Islands, as well as the American coast between the 66th and 54th latitude, because before all other Europeans the first who stepped there were Gvozdev, Bering and Chirikov" (Slovtsov 1844: 342).
Bering's Second Expedition
initiated a new large fur-fever on the Commander and Aleutian Islands.
63 trapper companies, having at least one ship, were founded during the
period of 1743-1803. The native people were slaughtered by the trappers
with the same disregard and ruthlessness as the sea-otters.
Chapter V. The unsubmissive koryaks
After the Itelmens' uprising had been suppressed at the time of Bering's last expedition, their backbone of resistance was definitely broken. From the 1740s, only the Koryaks were able to fight seriously against the Russians. To facilitate the war with them the Cossacks began to build a set of forts. The Koryaks also suffered frequently from the attacks of Chuchsis, who were likewise actively fighting against the Russians. Pavlutsky ruled several campaigns of the Chucksi area but did not subdue them.
In 1745, the Koryak uprising was already so vast that it seriously menaced the Russians' existence. Several troops of Cossacks were killed. The Koryaks and the Itelmens were going to join their forces and attack the Nizhne-Kamchatsk fortress, but were betrayed. The Koryaks assailed Oklan (1745), Stolbovo and Olyutora forts (1746) and took all the routes under their control. Chucksis, on their turn attacked the Cossacks near Anadyrsk and took away several thousands of reindeer. When the Russians pursued the Chucksis, they turned back, broke the Cossacks' troop and killed Palvlutsky.
From Irkutsk, new officers (Kekerov, Novgorodov, Jegorov, Shatilov) and hundreds of men were sent with an enraged order; "Eradicate the Chucksis and Koryaks totally". A period of permanent combat followed. So in 1748, the Koryaks, under the leadership of chieftain (toyon) Alyk, attacked the Yama ostrog and burned Oklan ostrog. A large battle took place on the bank of the Nayahana River. Next year the Koryaks captured Voyampolski fort.
Kekerov came against the Koryaks with 236 Cossacks and a large number of subjugated Yukagirs and the nomad Koryaks. They attacked Kamenskoje and Egatchi strongholds, but were forced to turn back to Anadyrsk without having success. The Kekerov's raid, a year later to the Talovka River where he tried to subdue the toyon' Evoita Koryaks, was also without any attainment.
In 1751, a large-scale campaign, led by captain Shatilov, started against the Koryaks on the northern coast of the Okhota Sea. The Cossacks killed hundreds of Koryak warriors and imprisoned their wives and children, when they were captured alive.
At the same time, on the western coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Koryaks conquered the Tigil fort. The Ivashka and Russanov ostrogs were also smashed. Toyons Aivulan and Jarlykha, with their men, harrassed Russians and yassak-paying tribes in a large area. The Cossacks hid themselves mostly in forts, and were all busy with restoring the Tigil and Gizhiga fortresses, and building new forts on the bank of the Tumany (1751), Viliga and Tavatoma Rivers (1752).
The Siberian administration ordered to move the governing centre of Kamchatka to Anadyrsk and to make the garrison stronger. Now, there were 12 officers and over 600 soldiers. Despite the Russians prevalent power, the Koryaks defended the Tumany stronghold in 1755 and conquered the Voyampolka fort successfully. From Nizhne-Kamchatsk, soldiers were sent to build a line of readoubts across the northern part of the peninsula.
After 1756, the resistance
of the Koryaks began to weaken. By that time they had lost, due to the
Russian campaigns, and also due to the Chukchsi attacks more than half
of the population. Very few men able to fight remained alive. A large
number of children and women were imprisoned and sent as slaves to Okhotsk
to be sold. In the 60's there were so many captives that nobody wanted
to keep them even gratis.
Chapter VI. Rescuing from paganism
When the military resistance of the natives was suppressed, the mental subjecting began. The best means for this purpose was christianization. Even Bering, in his report in 1730, complained that only one priest was working on Kamchatka. In the decree of the government, it was ordered to build churches into forts and to place priests there. In 1745, an especial ecclesiastical mission was sent to Kamchatka. The mission's head, arkhimandrit Hontuntchevsky, was so inhuman and cruel that the Russians themselves called him Antichrist. The aborigines were forced to take Christianity and to refuse all their old customs at once. For even the smallest "sin", they were often publicly beaten to death. Due to the mission's brutal activity 7,304 from about 10 thousand natives were baptized during a couple of years.
School was another means
of the aborigines alienation from their natural mental world. The first
school on Kamchatka was opened in 1741, in Bolsheretsk. During the work
time of the mission, 20 schools were founded, where about 200 aborigines
children were taught. In 1779, only 4 of them still exsisted, and rather
soon they were all closed. There was no more need for occupants to have
schools in Kamchatka because the mental destruction of natives was already
Chapter VII. Triumph of civilization
Usually, on subjugated territories the Russians forced natives to change their way of life and production, made it suit the Russian pattern. In Kamchatka they restricted themselves mainly with gathering yassak at first. At the beginning of the occupation, there was also no trade between the occupants and aborigines; all that the Cossacks wanted they took free of charge. Nevertheless, due to the great difficulties of transporting the corn for the soldiers, efforts were made to grow corn on the peninsula. The attempts were begun in 1724 by the Nizhne-Kamchatsk monastery, and continued till the end of the 19th century with very miserable results.
Much more crucial, however, was the change of the natives' social life, because with the occupation of Kamchatka slavery was introduced in this region. First of all war-prisoners were enslaved, afterwards the yassak-debtors. A lot of them were taken far away from the peninsula, mostly to Yakutsk, where the Russian slave-trading centre was.
In the beginning slave-holding was spontaneous; later it became legitimate. From 1756, for example, it was allowed for the merchants to exchange goods for slaves ... "to christianize them". In fact, the development of slavery was directly connected with the spreading of Christianity. Just baptizing was the act after which the neophytes were totally subordinated to the will of the Russians.
When the people were destroyed by military force and subjected mentally, they were further ruined by new calamities, pests and hunger. The first large epidemic of smallpox raged on the Kamchatka and the Kurili Islands in 1768-1769. It killed 4,767 aborigines and 315 colonists. Among the Itelmens, only 856 adults and 477 children remained alive. Of the Koryaks, the inhabitants of Tigil and Gizhiga regions suffered more, where about half of the people died. Additionally, the summer of 1769 was very poor of fish. In the following winter, there was such a large famine that people began to eat the corpses of their dead relatives.
Regardless all the distress and misery of natives, the Russian government was afraid of resistance to such an extent that even when Catherine II, the Enlightener was ruling, it was ordered to repair all the forts and to continue building the line of readoubts from the Olyutora Cap across the peninsula to the Penzhina Bay. In 1772 a new commander, Karl Böhm, was sent to Kamchatka for that purpose. He was also ordered to spy on the routes towards the Kurili Islands and Japan, and to allure the Ainus to stay subordinated to Russia. As numerous settlements on Kamchatka were totally without people, Böhm was obliged to repopulate them with deported Yakuts and Russian peasants. At the end of Böhm's ruling-time there was a rather noteworthy event for the government: the ships of Cook's expedition under the leadership of captain Clerke visited the Petropavlovsk port.
A characteristic change in the policy of the conquerors took place at the end of the 18th century. If at the beginning of the Russian occupation the conquerors relied only on weapons and rude power, now they tended to use the authority of the native toyons. In ancient times, toyons were elected by the members of the tribes and they did not have great executive power. The administration chose toyons among people ready to collaborate, and supplied them with absolute power over the people. As a sign for their gratitude of loyalty to the throne, they were presented a red coat (caftan) and a dirk.
In the entire Far-East,
and also on Kamchatka, the staff of the Russian administration, was often
made up of officials discharged in Irkutsk or even of criminals in exile.
According to G.Stellers' (1774: 205) observation, "The person who was an
ordinary soldier in Moscow, was a sergeant in Tobolsk, in Tomsk an ensign,
a lieutenant on the Lena River, and even a major on Kamchatka". The
same tendencies were apparent among the civil officials' career.
Chapter VIII. Rise and fall of Petropavlovsk
Visits of foreign ships to Petropavlovsk made the Russians suspicious and it was decided (1799) to place a larger permanent army unit in Kamchatka. Obviously, a possible drive towards Japan and China was taken into account also. The realisation of the idea cost a huge sum, but much more was needed to pay off the natives. The soldiers brought an epidemic of "purulent fever" (typhus) to the peninsula, which killed 1,682 aborigines and about 400 Russians in the winter of 1799-1800. Again numerous settlements remained without people and the unburied corpses rotted on the ground. In consequence of the rapid increase of the number of soldiers, veneral diseases were also widely spread.
General Somov, the commander of the Kamchatka regiment, followed the great example of Bering and forced the natives to transport all the men and equipment from Petropavlovsk to Nizhne-Kamchatsk on sledges. When the troops were with great dofficullties stationed, it turned out that there was no occupation or task for them. Soldiers bought or robbed dog-teams and began to traffic or plunder the native settlements. Somov also prohibited selling more than a pound of gun-powder per capita in a year to the aborigines. As a result, they had to limit hunting, but yassak was needed in the same amount.
A very heavy obligation for the natives was the cartage-duty. They were coerced to convey orderlies, couriers, officers, officials and patrols, to keep the routes in order, and often feed and house the occupants. So, regardless how much the natives stored fish in the summer, by next spring-time they were always starving. As all the transportation took place in the winter period, the aborigines had no time for hunting either. If they tried to use summer for that, they did not have time for fishing. The monopolistic privileges given to the Russian-American Company brought about almost complete vanishing of fur-animals and restricted any kind of local enterprising. Thus, the natives became more and more dependent on the corn supplies of the state. They were forced to borrow corn for bread and sank deeper and deeper into debt. In this way the occupants got the "legitimate right" to take just what they wanted from them.
In 1812, the regiment was
liquidated because of the enormous costs and difficulties in supplying
it. It was also officially banned to sell vodka to aborigines, but the
prohibition law was never obeyed.
The number of fur-animals decreased rapidly. Sea-otters, for example, already disappeared from the Kamchatka coasts in the middle of the 18th century. In the 80s there was none even near the Kurili Islands. Consequently, after demolishing the population, the natural resources were unreasonably and inconsiderately ruined.
At the time of the Crimean
war, Petropavlovsk was attacked by the English and French squadrons (1854).
Though the assault was driven back, the government decided that to keep
Petropavlovsk as a military port was not possible any more because of great
difficulties in supplying it. An order was given (1855) for evacuation
of all the staff and equipment to Nikolayevsk on the Amur River. The huge
shattered and robbed area, with population scarcely alive, became a god-forsaken
place of the Empire.
Chapter IX. The last century
At the beginning of the Russian-Japanese war there weren't any military troops on the peninsula. Under district head Silnitsky's leadership a peoples' home guard was organized and the rifles distributed. A small Japanese descent was demolished on the western coast near Yavina village. All in all the Japanese lost about 200 soldiers and 20 small ships during the battles of 1904. At the end of July two Japanese cruisers landed in Petropavlovsk. Meeting no resistance, they started ... hunting stray cows. Moreover, the officers had a revelry party, given by the representative of the Russian Minister of Internal Affairs, Grebnitsky.
According to the Portsmouth treaty, the Japanese now had a full right to fish in Russian waters. In 1913 227 out of 264 fishing-places belonged to the Japanese and Russians had only 37. Fishing was very careless; during the spawning-time the rivermouths were totally closed by nets, not regaring what would happen to the population feeding on the fish, or to the fish resources in the future.
In 1917, at the beginning of communists coup, on Kamchatka there were only two bolsheviks. Help was sent from the mainland towns of Nikolayevsk, Okhotsk, and others, but the first Soviets were liquidated in 1918 by the Czech troops and the Japanese descent. At the beginning of 1923, the Bolsheviks were already so numerous, 10 party members and 20 applicants, that they fully represented the will of the whole population and now they succeeded in establishing their power.
Before collectivization the reindeer-Koryaks made up a relatively homogeneous tribe. The settled Koryaks formed more or less separate tribes speaking different dialects. After Word War II, the little artels and collective farms were joined and people of several tribes were now together in the frame of one single enterprise. Thus a rather quick genetic and cultural assimilation started. Almost all peculiar features of the way of life between tribes and nations were lost.
The schools had a very decisive role here, too. In 1953, among the 192 teachers of the Olyutora and Karaga districts, there was not more than 5 Koryaks. On the basis of the decree of the Koryak National District Soviet from 1956, only Russian language was used in schools, even in the first form. The aborigine children learned and lived mostly in boarding-schools. In 1969, among 405 teachers in national district schools, only 38 were natives. Children were separated from their parents in their childhood for many years and taught in schools where everything was done according to the all-union standardized programs. This way the youth became alienated from their traditional life and were unable to accept the tuition. The Itelemens already lost their national identity before this century. Now, only single persons are able to speak the Itelmen language.
The dynamics of population
can most objectively illustrate the results of the Russian conquest and
colonization (cf. Table on p. 159). Rapid decrease of the Itelmen and Koryak
populations can be followed during the first century of occupation due
to killing and epidemics. The Ainus of Kamchatka were totally slain already
in 1830. At the same time, the Russian population increased permanently,
and especially quickly after World War II. It seems that now the Great-Russian
old worry has definitely dissolved. It is said that the abundance of the
natives "in some parts of Siberia influences the Russian population, and
could weaken its racial and cultural features, so that it apparently becomes
necessary to defend this higher race from weakening and assimilation by
permanent renewal and strengthening of colonization" (Yadrintsev