Americans about Baikal

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There is a widespread opinion, that the Americans have seen a lot of different views and delights, and that is why they are indifferent about another’s beauty. But still it does not concern the sacred sea. “Even those of us, who was tired of american ecological evangelism of the last decade, and who had thought, that exaggerations and hyperboles could not surprise them, realized, that, nevertheless, we was seeking for the superlative degree adjectives in our past in an effort to describe Baikal only in a low voice” – wrote Esquire G. Davis. This confession induces us to examine the past and the current attitude of the US people to the nature.

The USA is a country, where one can find a lot of examples of a contradictory attitude to flora and fauna, like in any other state. On the one pole there are people, who love the nature infinitely and devote themselves to its cognition and glorification, on another pole there are individuals, whose lives were and are a reproach of the nature for their savageness towards flora and fauna. An american writer Ralph Emerson created a wonderful essay “Nature” and wrote: “I do not have a hatred, but love for the nature, and it is as ardent as a baby’s one. I’m growing, all my pores are living on this warm day. Like wheat or melon. Let’s give the nature its due. I’m not going to throw the stones to my wonderful mother or to soil my beautiful home. I just want to indicate the real place of the nature concerning a man, because the whole modern education is aimed at strengthening a man in its proper place. The nature is a base. To achieve this base, to establish the deep ties with it is a goal of the whole human life.

A compatriot, a contemporary and even a follower of Emerson, Henry Toro created a philosophical prose masterpiece of his time “Walden, or life in the woods”. In this book he also described the impressions, he had during two years of isolated life in a primitive cabin on the lakeside of Walden. Toro poeticized the human life among the virgin nature aesthetically and ethically. He showed its moral advantages against the background of the objective reality of a littered city quarters. To his mind a city is an antipode of the nature, the life is useless without. “If there were no forests and meadows around, there would be a damp in the city life. We need the wild nature as a source of cheerfulness. We desire to cognize, to examine everything, but we want everything to be impenetrable, we wish land and sea to be wild and immeasurable, because they cannot be measured. It is impossible to be satiated with the nature, we need bracing performances of its inexhaustible and titanic power… We need to see the strength, surpassing the one of ours and life, blooming where a man never sets foot”.

But the views of Toro and Emerson not always were agreed with, and not always they were supported by the entire nation. There were quite a lot of alternative actions. But the sharpen attention of the Americans to the ecological problems in the USA and in the whole world is not an accidental phenomenon. In fact, the continent of North America became the first large-scale area, where money thirst and timeserver psychology demonstrated their negative influence on the environment to the highest extent. Having discovered America, the Europeans of different nationalities saw the richest fauna, unprecedented variety of animals, birds and fish. There are a lot of evidences, proving it:

“It is a wild, but rich and abundant country.”

“The rivers are swarming with fish; the sky is clouded by wildfowl.”

The geese were not frightened by a shot. They came back to see why their friend had fallen.”

“The beaver dams are situated narrowly and go as far as one can see. The beavers do not fear people at all.”

“A hunter counted a thousand of species next to the saline.”

From the historical point of view, just a little time passed, but we have only the memoires of the former wild nature abundance in the continent. First of all it had an impact on the fauna’s fate.

The most oppressive example of the reckless and fanatic large mammal extirpation in the history is an extermination of millions of bison herds. Before the European settlers’ arrival, these animals had been the sovereigns of prairies, spreading out from Canada in the north to Texas in the south, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Atlantic shore in the east. Then the quantity of the animals was no less than 60 millions. But 200 years later, only some hundreds left from the number, which is hard to imagine.

It was a real ecological catastrophe, which was as large-scale as the Siberian land had not ever experienced. Hundreds and thousands of the defenseless animals were being extirpated. Besides, quite often they did not use the whole carcass, but only the most valuable parts: liver, hump and tongue. Lots of meat and fells just left to putrefy in the mass plunder places. Gradually, the prairies was turning into a sheer cemetery, strew with the bones of the ruined animals to the skyline. Later the enterprising people came to the idea to collect the bones to make the fertilizers and the black point from them.

The destroyers of the hoofed mammal were guided not only bi the yearning for the easy prey, but also by the cool-blooded and cynical calculation from political and economical aspect. The war against the bisons was also the struggle against the Indians, standing up to the enemy. The colonizers exterminated the bisons, annihilating the prairies Indians, whose lives depended on these animals. Thus, the settlers doomed the Indians to starvation and death. The lands of the dead out and the extinct were passed into the white-skinned hands. But not only the cloven-hoofed animals became the victims of the numerous hunters. It was followed by the extermination of other animals, which were protected by the natives. Shooting of birds and beasts was stimulated by the yearning to be reputed as a terror of animals, by a hunter’s excitement, by a wish to raise the social status. Another shocking example: a certain Jacques Schwarz exterminated 140 pumas, 109 wolves, 17 american black bears, 98 deer, 111 bison, 12 wolverines, 500 beavers and other fur-bearing animals only in 1760! Alone! But how many “schwarzes” there were at those cruel times!

Then, general Sheridan, who is famous for his perfidy and inhumanity, affirmed with cynical directness: “ In order to solve the Indian problem the hunters did much more, than the whole army had been doing for 30 years.”

One can say, that the mopping up of North America from the Indians, the bisons, which fed the natives and from the forest, which was considered to be a friend of the aboriginals, was the main task of the pioneers, which they carried out with a real American enterprise.

In 1703 the Legislative Assembly of New England instituted prizes of 40 pounds for an Indian scalp and a red-skinned captive. In 1720 the prize for the scalp was raised to 100 pounds. In 1799, after the one on the Indian tribes had been recognized as a rebel one, the following prices were charged:

  • A scalp of a man from 12 years upwards – 100 pounds;

  • A male captive – 105 pounds;

  • A scalp of a woman or a child – 50 pounds;

  • A female or a child captive – 55 pounds.

The British Parliament declared, that the dogs, trained for people hunting and scalping were “means, granted by the God and the Nature”.

This cruel disposition of the American pioneers is worth talking about even because it contrasts a lot with the order, established by the Russians in Siberia. After the skirmishes among the Cossack pioneers and the aboriginals in the second middle of XVII century, the tsar authorities issued a statute “ About no executions and tortures for Siberian yasack* people from other towns without a report to the sovereign; about safeguarding from the offences, taxes and oppression; about sending the stewards for yasack collection according to the choice of the city and about the supervision over them in order not to rob the yasack people, not to sell the forbidden goods, not to drink and sell the vine.”

Yasack* - a natural tax (furs, cattle) the peoples of Povolzhie and Siberia were imposed on.

From the beginning of XVII century the statute became a norm of attitude towards the native for the most part of service class. Even the tsar Peter I himself confirmed this loyal attitude towards the aboriginals, having received the Buryats from Pribaikalia gypsy steppe in 1703 and having prohibited the Russian settlers to keep the Buryat “born” places. The same attitude to the native Americans in Alaska was demonstrated by G. Shelehov, we have already told about.

The USA, like all the other countries, has some examples of slighting and even criminal negligence towards the nature and animals. But there are some country instances as well. A telegram of the president Roosevelt to the US military secretary is only the one of the interesting facts. He sent it in 1941, when he had known, that the military command was going to make a firing ground, where a rare species of swans could be found. The telegram ran as follows: “The verdict is brought in for the swans and against the army. The army should look for another place for nesting.” One can confidently name a caporal of the famous Cook’s expedition, John Ledyard, the first American researcher of Siberia and Baikal in the context of the examined problems both the natural-scientific and the ethnographical ones. According to some data, he was given T. Jefferson’s blessing to this difficult trip to such severe places. In summer of 1789 Ledyard started his tour of Russia from St. Petersburg, passing by Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. Accompanied by his fellow travelers, he went to Tobolsk, Barnaul and Tomsk from Kazan, and in 1787 he arrived in Irkutsk. During his travelling trough Siberia, Ledyard noticed the special features of the Siberian aboriginals, who he generally called “tatars”, and demonstrated the connection between them and the native Americans. In his letter to Jefferson, send 29 June in 1787 from Barnaul, Ledyard wrote: “Without meeting you, and even then, I cannot tell you how exactly and in detail the tatars remind the native Americans. They are the same people, the most ancient and numerous ones, and if small sea had not separated them, they would have known each other. The civilization cloak fits them as it sits on our American tatars. They had been wild nomads for a long time and a lot of time will pass till they will become other people.

In Irkutsk Ledyard met the one of Linnaeus’ pupil, a Siberian botanist A. M. Karamishev, who extended and detailed his knowledge in history and ethnology of the Siberian aboriginals, while telling Ledyard about the Kalmyks and Mongols, called here “the Buryats” and about the yakut tribes. He wrote in his diary: “Karamishev says, that the yakut tatars are the true ones. As I have understood, they are the least mixed tribe in comparison with other ones. He also says, that their language is the most ancient one, and other tribes understand it. Earlier, it was the Yakuts, who owned this land, but then they were ousted by the Kalmyks (be the Buryats, to be more precise), who have raided them several times and persuade up to Lena, the Yakuts escaped down and settled in Yakutsk.” The first important thing in Ledyard’s views is that he has a priority in the theory about the genealogical origin community of the American Indians and the East Siberian peoples. The second one is that even at that time Ledyard affirmed, that the difference of skin colour is a consequence of only natural reasons and that, with the lapse of time, mixing via matrimony and customs would make the races identical in this aspect. Both these positions of Ledyard were rather positive, especially if one takes into consideration, that then America was under racial animosity and xenophobia.

In august of 1787 Ledyard saw Baikal, while visiting a small village of St. Nikolas with the church of the same name. The village was situated next to Angara’s river head, 5 kilometres from the lake. Ledyard stated, that the Russian for “Baikal” was “North Sea”. His interpretation raises doubts, because there were no Kalmyks in the region already, but the Buryat population called it “Dalainor”. Likely, Ledyard gave a chinese or even a yakut interpretation of the name of Baikal, we have already said about. The traveler considered Baikal to be the one of the most wonderful water body under the sun, he called the local landscape the most picturesque, audacious and impressive one. He wrote it several times in different places of his diary. He also noted, that Angara tears itself from the lake, “through the huge bastions of vertical rocks”, it is a majestic sight. His reflection about this Baikal flow is also interesting. “In any case, the amount of the water, flowed through this natural going out, does not correspond to the water amount, which flow into the lake. In hotter countries, such as Africa, where Lake Chad is situated, the water surplus evaporates, but it is not possible in such a cold climate. The sole understandable explication of this strangeness is the internal connection of Baikal and the Great (Arctic) ocean”.

Ledyard, as well as Pallas, mentions a Baikal fish, called a sea dog. It is known, that such fish, also named a pokotnitsa or a spurdog, belongs to a suborder of sharks and can be found in Black sea, in Barents one and next to the north-east seashore of North America. Because of the fact, that now there is no information concerning this fish in Baikal, one can suppose, that in this case the matter was the other breed of fish or even a freshwater animal, maybe it was a seal.

In Irkutsk D. Ledyard met G. Shelehov. In so called Russian America, the questions of the last were so considerable and detailed, that really alerted Shelehov: “He asked me with ardent curiosity where I had been, what places I had visited, how far businesses were situated and food could be found both from Russian and American sides, where and in what latitude North our institutions and state signs were placed”. Probably, Shelehov informed both the governor of East Siberia and St. Petersburg, where the circumstances of transmission of secret maps of two expeditions to Kamchatka to the European sovereigns by a French professor of the Science Academy of St. Petersburg, Joseph de Lisle, had not been forgotten yet.

Soon Ledyard went to Yakutsk, but his wish to go to Okhotsk and join a secret sea expedition was not for the benefit of both the Irkutsk traders, who began to open Alaska up, and the leaders of the expedition. His yearning was not supported by Russian authorities and in spring of 1788 he was banished from the country as a French spy, according to the order of the empress Katherine.

I cannot help giving one more example. Although it is connected with Baikal indirectly, it reflects the souls affinity of researchers of different nationalities, taking an unbitten track of the nature. In the beginning of December in 1883 the reception of the corpses of the Americans, untimely fallen during the expedition of “Janette” to the Extreme North. The expedition was headed by the captain George de Long. The expedition was sent in 1879 in order to examine the Arctic Ocean next to the north coast of Siberia. The expedition discovered 3 islands in East-Siberian Sea. They were named in honor of de Long. After two navigation years in the Arctic sea, ”Janette” was wrecked, de Long and his 11 fellow travelers met their death of a martyr after 140 days of wandering in the sea and in the land.

The Irkutsk community paid homage and honor to the fallen heroes. The poetry “For the death of the captain de Long and his fellows” by N. Maximovich-Vasilkovski were sounded during the mourning ceremony. These lines with all its pathos and sense can be regarded as a hymn to all the scientists, who gave their powers, health and lives to the research of the unknown lands.

You sacrificed yourself, glorifying the science

In cold deserts.

Look, all the countries raised their hands towards you

And brought the wreathes to your grave.

Your feat will show every youth

How to die, being at the service of the world.

It will be said by your names

How to forget yourself for the sake of the nearest.

De Long! You are a courageous fighter for science,

You are a knight of today.

But you did not enjoy the glory, you stood only the torture

For people’s knowledge and good.

The progeny will not forget your name.

It will be saved by science.

The progeny will glorify your feat,

In spite of you have already passed away.

All the parts of the world will say:

“Lay, hero!”, saying goodbye.

You deserve this honor,

Lost, while wandering in the barren tundra.

Those, who die like this, revive

Through the words of the touched crowd.

The bodies of the heroes are buried,

But their glory will not die,

And your laurels will not fade too.

Schultz is one of the Americans, accompanying a transmission of the dead to the motherland, said: “Our motherland aspires to pay the last respects to their remains, and our compatriots will be very pleased, after having heard about the ones paid here. To inform our authorities about it – is a pleasure as much as a duty for us. When we come back and finish our sad mission, we will have essentially pleasant recollections about Irkutsk. The hearty and cordial welcome, given us by the government, city authorities, Geographical Society and the Siberians in the whole, will not be ever forgotten”.

But in general, Siberia was (and is?) introduced one-sidedly in the perception of the Americans. N. M. Yadrintsev, visited the USA in 1893, wrote: “The Americans were interested in Siberia as in the place of exile, because of the book of Kennan. I tried to convince the well-educated Americans, I met, the t Siberia is not only a place of exile, but a place with a lot of opportunities for industry development”.

During II World War Baikal region faced another connection with America. But it also was with some tragic notes. The highway “Alaska – Siberia”, via which the Soviet pilots drove the American aircrafts during the war, laid over the north Baikal regions. More than 8000 of fighters “Kingcobra”, bombers “Boston” and other fighting machines were produced by the allies and went into a service of the Soviet Army. Unfortunately, the long and difficult highway cannot be managed by all the aircrafts. Quite a number of machines with their crews found the last refuge in the taiga of North Pribaikalia. Even now buryat and Irkutsk enthusiast seek and restore the names of the heroic flights participants.

In our opinion, the topic “The Americans and Baikal” is worth discussing now as well. The first reason to do it is the heightened interest of the US citizens in the ecology of the wonderful Siberian Lake, which developed in not only informative interest, but also in some practical programs.

The participation of the Americans in Baikal’s problems solution became possible only after breaking of the Iron Curtain during Perestroika*. In 1988 a world-famous ecologist David Brover covered almost the whole Baikal and stayed in many towns and settlements in its shore. In his country this wonderful man shot more than 10 films wrote about 40 books about the American nature, the most beautiful places of his motherland. Having read Brover’s books, written in a bright and passionate manner, quite a lot of people thought over the destiny of the nature, really loved it and started participating in environmental protection actions. The scientist and the writer had the same goal, while visiting the lake.

Cooperation of Russian and American environmental protection movements, including the protection of Baikal, is significant by its being a youth-initiated one.

The idea to join the efforts in order to protect unique natural objects appeared at the end of 80’s of XX century during the World Youth Congress in Finland. The preference was given to Lake Tahoe (USA) and to Lake Baikal (USSR), and a public organization “Tahoe-Baikal Institute” (TBI) was established. In 1991 the real activity, aimed at protection of two lakes, started. That year an international group, whose program consisted of an ecological seminar, a tourist tracks examination, theoretical lessons of dendrology ( a science, studying the contaminant influence on the forest composition and its quality), a biotechnical work, realized its activity in the Baikal shore. In the USA an identical group was busy with fence building, cleaning of grounds and tracks, and then took up examination of the American environmental protection legislation. Also the participants familiarized themselves with the computer information interchange system. Except these events, the activity of “Tahoe-Baikal” includes studying of cultural and ethnic peculiarities of the natives of two countries. The Americans are interested in the distinctive features of the Pribaikalia aboriginals, the Russians took the interest in the American Indian life.

During the first year not only the American and soviet young people join the “Tahoe-Baikal” movement. In 1991 the youth from Germany, Sweden, Mongolia, China, Argentina and other countries got involved in the group. The international character of the movement influenced not only on common interest in nature, but also on cultural ethnological events, which the organization holds a lot of years. As a rule, such events take place in the Republic of Buryatia next to Lake Baikal. Both sides demonstrate the interest in the Baikal aboriginals – the buryats and the evenks. Young people familiarize themselves with ancient religious and everyday traditions of the people, meet shamans, visit datsans and other worship and holy places.

Soon a public whistleblower-initiated idea was reinforced by political leaders. In 1991 the presidents of two countries signed the document, where they expressed the intention to do all the possible for Baikal’s future.

In order to prove the readiness to promote the broadening of the cooperation in the sphere of environmental protection and fundamental scientific researches, the USA and the Russian Federation declare about the intention to preserve the unique ecosystem of Baikal and to use its potential in the researches in limnology, geology and global climate change. In order to achieve this goal, the Presidents of both countries aspire to create conditions for the fruitful contacts among corresponding agencies, scientists and non-governmental organizations. Also the leaders are going to convene the conference of experts in the sphere of environmental protection in order to discuss the questions of the US – Russia cooperation, aimed at preservation of this unique creature of the nature for the current and the next generations.

In 1992 a joined project “Baikal region in XIX century: a sustainable development model or a persistent degradation?” The project has a status of a comprehensive program of the land-utilization policy for the Russian territory of Baikal basin. The organisations - participants of the project are:

  • “David Associates” (USA);

  • International Centre of Social and Ecological Issues of Baikal Region;

  • Russian Academy of Science;

  • Centre of Citizen Initiatives.

At the instance of the Buryat government and the administration of Irkutsk and Chita oblasts, under the direction of “David Associations” the two-year project of development of the land-utilization for 30 millions of hectares of Baikal basin, was realized. In the opinion of customers and developers, the program “deserves the great lake and the next generations”. The project’s director is George D. Davis, the coordinator is Sergey Shaphaev. Noting the most interesting and significant conclusions and offers concerning the work on the project, it is necessary to say, that many of its ideas and groundwork have already been expressed in scientific and practical collections of the Siberian scientists.

While describing the links between the Americans and the Baikal region inhabitants, the idea of realization of the genealogical affinity of the American Indians and the Siberian aboriginals is worth saying about. In July of 2004 the international scientific practical conference “Cultural links of the Ancient Siberia and America: problems, researches, hypothesis” was held in Tunkinsky region of the republic of Buryatia. The events of the conferention naturally moved to Baikal, which is a cradle of many historical interactions like this one. The famous specialists, who were present in the conferention – a professor N. Zhukovskaya and the president of Siberia and Asian shamans N. Stepanova (Russia), a graduate student A. Berstein (USA). A shaman S. Cobello (Italy), a shaman B. Zaarinbae (Mongolia) and other participants held a conversation about historical destiny of shamanism and its place in the modern world.

In Shaman cape, situated between Kultuk and Sludyanka settlements, the participants of the conferention watched the joined rite of five Mongolian and four buryat kins. It was devoted to the revival of traditional shamanic ritual at Baikal. Then the events were continued in the Promised Land of shamans, in Olkhon Island. Among the issues one could note preservation of the ancient Baikal shamanism rituals and environmental protection. One of the practical results of the conference was the decision about the development of the International tourist project “Travelling from Siberia to America along the ancient path”.

An American Lynn Coks from California, is the one of the first, who made an attempt (unfortunately, a failed one) to swim across Baikal. By that time, she had already been a world-famous swimmer with many accomplishments. Being only 15 years old, she got over the most popular marathon race – English Channel. The distance between english Dover and french Calais is 33 kilometres. Soon after this event, a longer distance of 42 kilometres between Los Angeles and Catalina Island resigned itself to her. In 1975 she became the first woman, got over Cook Strait in New Zeeland. She also had some races across Strait of Magellan, in the Cape of Good Hope. In 1987 she swam across Bering Strait from American Little Diomede Island to soviet Big Diomede Island. The distance between which is 7 kilometres.

On 26 august in 1988 Coks held the marathon race in Listvenichny gulf, from Baklany Stone to Krestovaya Deep. According to corrected data, swimming in very cold Baikal water, she coped with the distance of 117 km. 800 m. in 4 hours 18 minutes. This one of the most difficult race ravished the Siberians, having proved, that it could be made by a foreign woman as well. A writer V. Zhemchugov wrote about it: “Of course, the spectators of Lynn’s splendid win realized, that the American guest did not put the Siberians to shame, but put their noses out. The simple truth became obvious; persons with a strong body and mind live not only in Siberia and not only in Russian settlements there are the women, admired by Nekrasov – “…will stop a horse at a full tilt, will enter a burning house…”

Talking about the relation of the Americans towards the nature, it is necessary to note, that there are some negative opinions about the harmful influence of the foreign tourists on Baikal nature among the local inhabitants (a psychological de fence mechanism, again, - it is easier to claim the strangers, than to realize our own faults and neglect in ecological aspect). But the practice shows opposite results. Let’s give the precepts of American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), which are so necessary now for all Baikal people.

While being in a business trip or in holidays:

  1. Do not break the delicate balance in the Earth. Remember, that if nobody preserves it, wonderful and unique places can disappear and the next generations will not be able to enjoy them.

  2. Do not left behind anything, but your footprints. Take only the photos as the remembrance of your visit. No inscriptions on trees and rocks! No litter! Do not take along “souvenirs” from reserves and historical places.

  3. Try to get more information about geography, traditions, lifestyle and culture of the place, you visit, in order to make your trip more instructive.

  4. Respect private life and dignity of other’s. Ask for a permission before photographing people.

  5. Do not buy goods, made of the plants or animals, which are under the threat of extinction. Read the list of items, forbidden for import by US Customs Administration in the section “It is necessary to know before a trip”.

  6. Always follow the signposted rate. Do not worry animals, plants or their natural habitat.

  7. Try to know about environmental protection programs and organizations and support them.

  8. Go on foot or by ecofriendly transport, where it is possible. Incline the public transport drivers to shut the engine down after parking.

  9. Support those (hotels, health resorts, tourist agencies and providers), who strive for energy, water and air conservation, recycling, safe waste and toxic substances processing, noise level lowering, involving people in social activity and those, who educate experienced and highly educated specialists, devoted to real environmental protection principles.

Comment is superfluous, as the saying is. This approach can and should be used for the benefit of Baikal and the inhabitants of this region.

See also

Literature

  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English