1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Astrakhan (government)

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ASTRAKHAN, a government of S.E. Russia, on the lower Volga, bounded N. by the governments of Samara and Saratov, W. by Saratov and the government of the Don Cossacks, S. by Stavropol and Terek, and E. by the Caspian Sea and the government of the Urals. Area, 91,327 sq. m., of which 6730 sq. m. belong to the delta of the Volga and its brackish lagoons, and 62,290 sq. m. are covered by the Kalmuck and Kirghiz Steppes. The surface is a low-lying plain, except that in the west the Ergeni Hills (500-575 ft.) form the water-parting between the Volga basin and that of the Don. The climate is very hot and dry, the average temperature for the year being 50° Fahr., for January 21°, and for July 78°, rainfall 7.3 in., but often there is no rain at all in the summer. Pop. (1897) 1,005,460, of whom 132,383 were urban. The Kalmucks (138,580 in 1897) and Kirghiz (260,000) are semi-nomads. In addition to them the population includes nearly 44,000 Tatars, 4270 Armenians, with Poles and Jews. Fishing off the mouth of the Volga gives occupation to 50,000 persons; the fish, chiefly herrings and sturgeon, together with the caviare prepared from the latter, are sold for the most part at Nizhniy-Novgorod. Over 300,000 tons of salt are extracted annually from the lakes, principally those of Baskunchak and Elton. Cattle-breeding is an important industry. Market-gardening (mustard, water-melons, fruit) is on the increase; but pure agriculture is relatively not much developed. The government is divided into five districts, the chief towns of which are Astrakhan, Enotayevsk (pop. 2810 in 1897), Krasnyi-yar (4680), Chernyi-yar (5140), and Tsarev (8900). The Kalmucks and Kirghiz have their own local administrations, and so have the Astrakhan Cossacks (25,600).