ASIATIC RUSSIA 468. A region of great size but few the World War, Russia ruled a vast region in Asia. It included all of Siberia and the provinces of Central Asia lying between the Caspian Sea and the Chinese provinces, and extended south ward to the great mountains. This moun tain wall, extending from Asia Minor eastward through the high plateau of Tibet to China, has always made it very hard to cross Asia from north to south.
What kind of country is Asiatic Russia? First we must remember that it joins Euro pean Russia. The parts in Asia are very much like the parts in Europe that they touch, except that they are colder in win ter, hotter in summer, and drier, because they are farther from the Atlantic Ocean. You remember that European Russia has several belts as we go from north to south. These belts extend into Asiatic Russia—in the north the tundra, home of the reindeer; then the forest, home of the fur gatherer; then the treeless plain, home of the wheat grower; and lastly, the great, dry plain of the Caspian Sea, home of the Cossacks and other wandering herdsmen.
469. The the north of Asiatic Russia is the tundra, reaching from the Ural Mountains to the Bering Strait near Alaska, (See Fig. 456.) The Arctic Ocean north of Siberia is so full of ice that ships cannot sail there even in summer, but the tundra is bright with flowers and green with grass when the sun shines night and day. A few tribes wander about this dis tant land. Like the people of Lapland, they live on the flesh and milk of their reindeer. In summer, the reindeer carries the people on his back. In winter, he draws them on sledges.
470. The forest region.—As we go southward, the small bushes of the tundra become larger and lar ger, until finally they are small trees, and then gradually larger trees— a great forest belt. (See Fig. 456.) Like the tundra, it reaches the whole length of Europe and Asia, from Nor way to the Bering Sea. The Siberian part of this forest is not much used. The few people who live in it are hunters who gather here the furs that go to the markets of Berlin, London, and New York. This
forest, the largest in the world, is so far from cities and people that no one has yet been able to get its lumber to market.
471. Fanning Siberia, as in Russia, a level farming belt lies south of the forest region. The Siberian farm belt is long, very long, extending from the Urals to the Altai Mountains. For thou sands of years this plain was the home of roving herdsmen. About 1900, the Rus sians built a railroad across it. On this road you can ride for two or three days and nights, and see only a flat, level coun try with rich black soil, good for wheat. At Lake Baikal the railroad enters the mountains, and ends at Vladivostok on the Pacific, twice as far from Petrograd as San Francisco is from Washington.
After this railroad was built, Russian farmers began to settle and make farms in Siberia. You will remember that the Americans have done the same thing in Dakota and Canada. We now know that Siberia is a fine wheat and rye country, much like Dakota (Sec. 75) and West Canada (Sec. 78). Many American reap ing machines have helped the Russian settlers to gather their crops of grain. These Russian farmers also keep cows, and have made butter to ship to England.
Russia in Asia is a country with room for many, many more people. It has but a fourth as many people as the Russia in Europe.
472. The great is a very big continent. It is over five times as large as the United States. It does not seem far on the map (Fig. 40) from the town of Orenburg on the Ural River in southeastern Russia, to Tashkend at the foot of the high mountains near the western boundary of the Chinese territory. But really those two towns are farther from each other than is Boston from Chicago. For thousands of years, caravans of camels have passed back and forth on that route, carrying Chinese merchants with silk, tea, and fine metal work to sell at the yearly fairs in the Russian cities. It takes the camels a full month to make the journey between these two cities.