1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Orenburg (government)

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ORENBURG, a government of south-eastern Russia, bounded N. by the governments of Ufa and Perm, E. by Tobolsk, S.E. by Turgai, and W. by Uralsk and Samara, with an area of 73,794 sq. m. Situated at the southern extremity of the Urals and extending to the north-east on their eastern slope, Orenburg consists of a hilly tract bordered on both sides by steppes. The central ridge occasionally reaches an elevation of 5000 ft.; there are several parallel ridges, which, however, nowhere exceed 2600 ft., and gradually sink towards the south. A great variety of geological formations are represented within the government, which is rich in minerals. Diorites and granites enter it from the north and crop out at many places from underneath the Silurian and Devonian deposits. The Carboniferous limestones and sandstones, as well as softer Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits, have a wide extension in the south and east. Coal has been found on the Miyas (in N.) and near Iletsk (in S.). The extremely rich layers of rock salt at Iletsk yield about 24,000 tons every year. Very fertile “black earth” covers wide areas around the Urals. The government is traversed from north to south by the Ural river, which also forms its southern boundary; the chief tributaries are the Sakmara and the Ilek. The upper courses of the Byelaya and Samara, tributaries of the Kama and the Volga, also lie within the government, as well as affluents of the Tobol on the eastern slope of the Ural range. Numerous salt lakes occur in the district of Chelyabinsk; but several parts of the flat lands occasionally suffer from want of water. Sixteen per cent of the surface is under wood. The cHmate is continental and dry, the average temperature at Orenburg being 37·4° Fahr. (4·5° in January, 69·8° in July). Frosts of –33° and heats of 98° are not uncommon.

The estimated population in 1906 was 1,836,500, mainly Great Russians, with Bashkirs and Meshcheryaks (25%). Gold is extracted chiefly from alluvial deposits, about 116,500 oz. every year; also some silver. Nearly one-fifth of all the copper ore extracted in Russia comes from Orenburg (about 16,000 tons annually); and every year 16,000 to 20,000 tons of cast iron and 11,500 tons of iron are obtained. Agriculture is carried on on a large scale, the principal crops being wheat, rye, oats, barley and potatoes. Horses, cattle and sheep are kept in large numbers and camels are bred. Kitchen-gardening gives occupation to nearly 11,000 persons. Various kinds of animal produce are largely exported, and by knitting “Orenburg shawls” of goats wool the women earn £10,000 every year. The growth of the industries is slow, but trade, especially with the Kirghiz, is prosperous. The chief towns of the five districts into which the government is divided are Orenburg, Orsk, Chelyabinsk, Troitsk and Verkhne-Uralsk.

The government of Orenburg was formerly inhabited by the Kirghiz in the south, and by the Bashkirs in the north. The latter were brought under the rule of Russia in 1557, and a few years later the fort of Ufa was erected in order to protect them against the raids of the Kirghiz. The frequent risings of the Bashkirs, and the continuous attacks of the Kirghiz, led the Russian government in the 18th century to erect a line of forts and blockhouses on the Ural and Sakmara rivers, and these were afterwards extended south-westwards towards the Caspian, and eastwards towards Omsk. The central point of these military lines was the fort of Orenburg, originally founded in 1735 at the confluence (now Orsk) of the Or with the Ural, and removed in 1740–1743 120 m. lower down the Ural river to its present site. In 1773 it was besieged by Pugachev, the leader of the revolt of the peasantry.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)