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-- A Child's Geography of the World （58）
Most thermometers have numbers down to forty degrees (40°) below zero.There the numbers stop, for when the mercury gets down to that point is freezes up.But there are few places in the World is not at the North Pole;the coldest place in the World,where the thermometer does go below 40° and freezes up,is in the country called Siberia.
Siberia is a huge country north of China. In the north of Siberia, the sun never rises all winter long. It is night,as it is in Norway and Sweden.But there is on Gulf Stream to warm the land,so it gets much colder than 40° below zero,and they have to use a different kind of thermometer to measure how cold it is. In one place it goes to 90° below zero,which is the coldest place i,t,w.W.People can't grow fur on their skins to keep themselves warm as animals can,so when they go outside they must cover themselves from top to toe with animal skins or they would freeze to death in a few moments. But all of Siberia is not like this.There is a top, a middle,and a bottom part. Few people live in the northern part,however. It is so cold that no trees grow there and the ground is frozen solid many feet down. In the summer it gets very warm,and the thermometer sometimes goes just as high above zero as it goes below in the winter;that is,to 90°.The ground then thaws out on top and moss and a few other things grow for a short while,though the ground underneath still stays frozen.Siberia is larger than the United States. It belongs to Russia,but there are people from other countries living there too.
The middle part of Siberia is not nearly so cold,and there is great forest have grown,and in the forests live wild animals such as foxes,wolves,sable,and ermine,which have beautiful thick coats of fur to keep themselves warm.Trappers hunt these animals just for their furs,to be made into coats to keep people warm.One small animal,called the ermine,has a snow-white coat and a tail with a black tip.The ermine hate dirt or anything that will soil his white fur,so he keeps himself spotless. It is for this reason that the official robes of judges and kings are made of the fur of the ermine,as a sign that they two must be pure and clean in heart and mind.The skins of many such animals are sewn together to make a single cape or coat,which then looks white with little black tails spotted regularly over it.
The longest railway in the World is built through the bottom part of Siberia. It is so long it takes two weeks to go from one end of it to the other.One end of it on the Pacific Ocean is called Vladivostok and the other end in Russia is Moscow. It is called the Trans-Siberian Railway,which means the Across Siberia Railway.
Most of the people in Siberia live along this railway,and yet one may travel for hundreds of miles without seeing a town or even a house.Often the towns are far from the railroad so that there is a long drive from the station to the town.The engines that draw the trains are fired by wood instead of coal,and along the railroad, there are piles of wood at which the train stops to get fuel,as a car would stop to get gasoline.The chief Siberian cities end in "sk". They are Omsk,Tomsk,and Irkutsk.
A stranger once asked a man on the street how far it was to the railway station.The man replied,"If you keep on going the way you are headed it is twenty-five thousand miles,but if you turn round, it's two blocks."
How far do you suppose it is to Siberia from our country?-how many miles away would say?-eight thousand miles?As a matter of fact,it is only about fifty miles for the short way is across to Alaska.Between Siberia and Alaska is a narrow strip of water called Bering Strait,and when this is frozen over,one could walk across from Asia to America.On the map, there is also a long string of islands that look like stepping-stones,but one would have to be a giant to walk across that way.Some say that the Indians and Eskimos in Alaska and the United States ma have come across Bering Strait from Asia long, long ago and that they look something like the Chinese because they once came from that country.
Before World War I,when Russia had a czar,people who hated the czar or were supposed to hate the czar,or who had said anything against the czar,or even thought anything against the czar.were made prisoners,torn away from their families and friends,and sent to far-off Siberia to work in the mines.Many of them perished before reaching there.Most of them never returned.
After World War I,there was a revolution.The people rose up and threw out the Czar's government.The new government was taken over by a group of Russians called Communists.These Communists killed the czar and his family and most of the well-to-do people of Russia.The Communists made many changes.They stated schools.They killed all farmers who owned large farms and gave their land to many poor people to farm.They started factories and airlines.They made large dams across the rivers so they could use waterpower to send electric current to the factories.