A wanderer's path
The first documents in which the aborigines of the region - the Evenks (Tungusy) - were mentioned did not occur until the 17th century, when the Russians came to Siberia. By the time when the Russian Cossacks arrived at Lake Baikal the Tungusy were represented by a multitude of tribes, living together closely in these regions, but as yet not as a united people.
The ataman Maksim Perfilyev was the first of the Cossacks arriving at Transbaikalia in 1638 aiming at setting up new colonies in the region. Having traveled together with 36 Cossacks on the river Lena and later on the river Vitim he stopped over at the Muia river delta at the camping site of the Tungusy. M. Perfilyev took the "best man" hostage, a Tungus by the name of Komboiko, who roamed from place to place together with his tribe of more than 70 people, and collected fur tax from them. Furthermore, he found out from Komboiko that the Tungusy lived and hunted at the river of Tsynira (Tsyne) and in other places "where they lived at the Vitim river and the delta of the Karga (Karenga) river", that there was a Daursky duke by the name of Batoga and that "Batoga had all kinds of sable furs and even silver". The Cossacks also discovered that there are silver and lead ores at the river Shilka and that "the locals ploughed their land and sowed wheat, rye, and barley".
The Cossack chief and wanderer Kurbat Afanasyevich Ivanov is regarded as the first person who discovered the road to Lake Baikal, the first explorer who left his successors "The Map of Lake Baikal and the rivers streaming into the Lake", and that Lake Baikal is filled with fish and the local taiga forest has a multitude of fur animals.
On 21 June 1643 Kurbat Ivanov departed for Lake Baikal (by-the-by the Tungusy called Lake Baikal "Lamu", which means lake) with a force of 74 people and took with him the Tungus duke Mozheul as guide (bearer). They went up the Lena river, as well as its tributary the Ilikta, after which they crossed the Primorsky mountain range at one of its passes and went down the Sarma river to reach the lake shore opposite the Olkhon island. Here they built some boats, traversed the straight of Maly More, and reached Olkhon. On the island the force split into two parts, one, with 36 people headed by Semyon Skorokhodov, took the boats along the western shore of the lake, assisted by the Tungus duke of the Kindigir tribe, Younongu by name. Kurbat Ivanov ordered them "to go up the Lamu to the delta of the Upper Angara, build a fort there and collect the fur tax (yasak) from the local Tungusy". (we use the word "fort" here and further on, though originally it should be a "stockaded town")
Semyon Skorokhodov and his team successfully reached the northern tip of Lake Baikal, discovered the delta of the Upper Angara river, founded the fort, and collected the fur tax. This happened in 1643.
At the end of 1643 Semyon Skorokhodov and half of his team was going back to the South over the frozen lake when they were suddenly attacked by the duke Arkhich Batur, Semyon was killed during the fight. The survived 12 Cossacks reached the Verkhnelensky fort in winter. Two of them were able to get to the Yeniseysky fort over frozen Lake Baikal, the Angara and the Yenisey rivers. These people were Levka Vyatchanin and Maximka Vychegzhanin. The archives from the 17th century have notes that Maximka " turned around halfway to Lake Baikal with ataman Kolesnikov's force".
Kurbat Ivanov himself went back to Verkholensk fort, where he made "The drawn map of Baikal, rivers flowing into it, and lands around the lake… also the places, where forts could be built".
The force of 100 people with ataman Vasily Kolesnikov was also sent to Lake Baikal from the town of Yeniseysk "to look for silver". In late 1643 it arrived to the lake and spent the winter at the river-head of the Angara. In summer the force went up the lake by the route of Semyon Skorokhodov to reach the Upper Angara. They founded a fort at the delta of the Lesser Angara river. The Angarakan, which is the smallest of the three channels of the Upper Angara means "The Lesser Angara" in the Evenk language. The first fort, built on the territory of modern Buryatia,was founded by the force of Vasily Kolesnikov in 1644-1646 with the name of Verkhneangarsky.
All the facts and archive notes prove that this place was Dagary settling, as it is specified as the only place in the North Baikal area where Russian people settled, and it was also situated at the site of the Anagarakan channel of the Upper Angara.
Verkhneangarsky fort used to be the outpost of the area exploration since 1643, but in 1648 Ivan Palkin founded Ust-Barguzin stockaded-town and the fur tax collection has become Barguzin priority since then. The fur tax or yasak was the obligation of every adult man and consisted of several furs of sable or other fur animals. Still, it's a fact that in 1649 the Verkhneangarsky fort was used to collect the fur tax.
At the end of the 17th century the Verkhneangarsky fort was transferred to the site of the Svetlaya river in the place where it flows into the Upper Angara. The first map by S. Remizov of 1701 shows it there. It was already mentioned that the first maps of Baikal were drawn by Kurbat Ivanov in the early forties of the 17th century, but the more detailed and exact maps were made by Semyon Uliyanovich Remizov, a prominent Russian cartographer, geographer, and explorer of Siberia.
The atlas of Remizov contains the hand-written works of many unknown explorers of Siberia, whose experience and real knowledge of the place has become their significant contribution into the development of Russian cartography. Remizov's "Drawing Book of Siberia" showed the location of Baikal, Trans-Baikalia, the rivers flowing into the lake with its Evenk, Buryat, Turk, and Russian names for the first time in the history of Russia. Many of those still have the same names, e.g. the Upper Angara, its tributaries the Svetlaya, Frolikha, Kabaniya, at the same time some of them have different names at this time, e.g. the Akuli river used to be the Osinovka, and the Kholodnaya river used to be called the Icherga according to S.Remizov.
The armed forces of Russian Cossacks went into the depth of Siberia with the main objective to naturalize the indigenous people of the area and collect the fur tax, which was the main proof of this naturalization. The vast and rich territory of Siberia colonized by the Russian Empire with a policy of threats and bribery was supposed to enrich the tsar's treasury. All the colonized lands became the property of the tsar, and the indigenous peoples became his tributaries. The trans-baikalian forts were the strong points of the tsar's power in fur tax collecting in the 17th century, were first ruled by Nerchinsk office of voevode, later the powers were given to Irkutsk office.
Our special thanks to the director of Nizhneangarsk school museum Ms. Nina K. Kiselyova for providing us with these materials.
Please, pay attention to the article "Beginning", published in "Northern Baikal Gazzette", issues Nos 42-47, 1985, provided by A. Voronin.