1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kovno (government)

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KOVNO (in Lithuanian Kauna), a government of north-western Russia, bounded N. by the governments of Courland and Vitebsk, S.E. by that of Vilna, and S. and S.W. by Suwalki and the province of East Prussia, a narrow strip touching the Baltic near Memel. It has an area of 15,687 sq. m. The level uniformity of its surface is broken only by two low ridges which nowhere rise above 800 ft. The geological character is varied, the Silurian, Devonian, Jurassic and Tertiary systems being all represented; the Devonian is that which occurs most frequently, and all are covered with Quaternary boulder-clays. The soil is either a sandy clay or a more fertile kind of black earth. The government is drained by the Niemen, Windau, Courland Aa and Dvina, which have navigable tributaries. In the flat depressions covered with boulder-clays there are many lakes and marshes, while forests occupy about 25½% of the surface. The climate is comparatively mild, the mean temperature at the city of Kovno being 44°F. The population was 1,156,040 in 1870, and 1,553,244 in 1897. The estimated population in 1906 was 1,683,600. It is varied, consisting of Lithuanians proper and Zhmuds (together 74%), Jews (14%), Germans (2½%), Poles (9%), with Letts and Russians; 76.6% are Roman Catholics, 13.7% Jews, 4.5% Protestants, and 5% belong to the Greek Church. Of the total 788,102 were women in 1897 and 147,878 were classed as urban. The principal occupation of the inhabitants is agriculture, 63% of the surface being under crops; both grain (wheat, rye, oats and barley) and potatoes are exported. Flax is cultivated and the linseed exported. Dairying flourishes, and horse and cattle breeding are attracting attention. Fishing is important, and the navigation on the rivers is brisk. A variety of petty domestic industries are carried on by the Jews, but only to a slight extent in the villages. As many as 18,000 to 24,000 men are compelled every year to migrate in search of work. The factories consist principally of distilleries, tobacco and steam flour-mills, and hardware manufactories. Trade, especially the transit trade, is brisk, from the situation of the government on the Prussian frontier, the custom-houses of Yerburg and Tauroggen being amongst the most important in Russia. The chief towns of the seven districts into which the government is divided, with their populations in 1897, are Kovno (q.v.), Novo-Alexandrovsk (6370), Ponevyezh (13,044), Rosieny (7455), Shavli (15,914), Telshi (6215) and Vilkemir (13,509).

The territory which now constitutes the government of Kovno was formerly known as Samogitia and formed part of Lithuania. During the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries the Livonian and Teutonic Knights continually invaded and plundered it, especially the western part, which was peopled with Zhmuds. In 1569 it was annexed, along with the rest of the principality of Lithuania, to Poland; and it suffered very much from the wars of Russia with Sweden and Poland, and from the invasion of Charles XII. in 1701. In 1795 the principality of Lithuania was annexed to Russia, and until 1872, when the government of Kovno was constituted, the territory now forming it was a part of the government of Vilna.