1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Simbirsk (government)

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SIMBIRSK, a government of E. Russia, on the right bank of the middle Volga, with the government of Kazan on the N., Samara on the E., Saratov on the S., and Penza and Nizhniy-Novgorod on the W. It has an area of 18,095 sq. m. and occupies the E. of the great central plateau of middle Russia. Its higher parts range from 750 to 1000 ft. above the sea, and form the Zhegulev range of hills, which compels the Volga to make its great bend at Samara. In the W. a broad depression, traversed by numerous rivers and streams, extends along the left bank of the Sura. The Volga flows for 300 m. along the E. boundary, separating Simbirsk from Samara. The shallow Sviyaga rises in the Samarskaya Luka Hills and flows parallel to the Volga, at a distance of 2 to 20 m. but in the opposite direction. The Sura, also flowing N., drains the W. of Simbirsk; it is navigable for more than 270 m. A few lakes and marshes exist in the W. The climate is severe, and the extremes are great. At the city of Simbirsk the average temperature is 38.7°, but the thermometer sometimes reaches 115° F., and frosts of −47° F. are not uncommon; the average rain and snowfall is only 17.6 in. In respect to the geology, all systems, beginning with the Carboniferous, are represented in the government. The exact age of the “Variegated Marls,” the subject of animated polemics among Russian geologists, remains problematic, but the inquiries of Professor Pavlov have definitely settled the geological age of the Jurassic formations. Triassic deposits appear in the N.; Carboniferous and Cretaceous predominate in the E. of the province, where they are covered in many places by Tertiary deposits; Chalk and Eocene deposits crop up chiefly in the W. and the Chalk in the S. Post-Pliocene deposits, containing bones of the mammoth and other extinct mammals, overlie the older formations. Sulphur, asphalt, salt, ochre, and iron-ore are extracted, as well as various building stones.

The estimated pop. in 1906 was 1,783,000. Nearly all the inhabitants either belong to the Russian Orthodox Church or are Nonconformists, there being only 145,000 Mussulmans. The greater number (about two-thirds) are Great Russians, the remainder being Mordvinians (12%), Chuvashes (8%), and Tatars (8%), with about 1000 Jews. The Mordvinians are settled chiefly in the N.W., in Ardatov and Alatyr, and on the Volga in Sengilei; the Chuvashes make about one-third of the population of the districts of Buinsk and Kurmysh, contiguous to Kazan; the Tatars constitute about 35% in Buinsk and 18% in Sengilei. The villages in Simbirsk are large, many of them having 3000 to 5000 inhabitants. The government is divided into eight districts, the chief towns of which are Simbirsk, Alatyr, Ardatov, Buinsk, Karsun, Kurmysh, Sengilei and Syzran.

School gardens and school farms have been widely introduced, while bee-keeping is taught in over 50 schools. Owing to the efforts of the zemstvos (local councils), sanitation is well looked after. Agriculture is the principal occupation. Out of the total area the peasant village communities hold 40%, private owners 20%, the imperial domains 5%, and the towns and the crown 0.6%. The area under forests amounts to 30% of the whole and over 50% is under cultivation. The peasants are rapidly buying land in considerable quantities. Most of their allotments (more than 76%) are cultivated, and besides what they own they rent over 500,000 acres from private owners. The principal crops are wheat, rye, oats, barley and potatoes. Good breeds of horses are kept, and considerable numbers are exported. Fishing (sturgeon) is carried on in the Volga and the Sura, timber trade in the N. and shipbuilding on the Sura. Domestic trades give employment to over 15,000 persons; carts, sledges, wheels and all sorts of wooden wares are made in the villages, as also felt goods, boots, gloves, caps, handkerchiefs, ropes and fishing-nets, all extensively exported. The factories employ less than 20,000 persons. They comprise mainly cloth mills, flour-mills and distilleries, with tanneries, glass, oil and starch works. There are 82 fairs, the most important of which are held at Simbirsk, Syzran and Karsun. There is a considerable export trade in grain, mostly rye, and in flour.

The first Russian settlers made their appearance in the Simbirsk region in the 14th century, but did not go E. of the Sura. Not till two centuries later did they cross, that river and the district begin to be peopled by refugees from Moscow. The Zhegulev Mountains in the S. still continuing to be a place of refuge for the criminal and the persecuted, the town of Simbirsk was founded in 1648, with a string of small forts extending to the Sura. The region thus protected was soon settled, and, as the Russian villages advanced farther S., Syzran was founded, and a second line of small forts to the Sura was erected. The aboriginal Mordvinians rapidly lost their ethnographical individuality, especially since the middle of the 19th century.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)