1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Turgai

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TURGAI, a province of Russian Central Asia, formerly a part of the Kirghiz steppe, and now included in the governor-generalship of the Steppes, bounded by the province of Uralsk and the governments of Orenburg and Tobolsk on the W. and N., by Akmolinsk on the E., and by Syr-darya and the Sea of Aral on the S. This territory, which has an area of 176,219 sq. m.—nearly as large as that of Caucasia and Transcaucasia taken together—belongs to the Aral-Caspian depression. It has, however, the Mugojar Hills on its western border and includes a part of the southern Urals; and from Akmolinsk it is separated by a range of hills which run between the two largest rivers of the Kirghiz steppe—the Turgai and the Sary-su. In the north it includes the low belt of undulating land which stretches north-east from the Mugojar Hills and separates the rivers belonging to the Aral basin from those which flow towards the Arctic Ocean, and beyond this range it embraces the upper Tobol. The remainder is steppe land, sloping gently towards the Sea of Aral.

The Mugojar Hills consist of an undulating plateau nearly 1000 ft. in altitude, built up of Permian and Cretaceous deposits and deeply trenched by rivers. They are not the independent chain which our maps represent them to be:[1] they merely continue the Urals towards the south, and are connected with the Ust-Urt plateau by a range of hills which was formerly an island of the Aral-Caspian Sea. Their northern extremity joins the undulating plateau (400 to 600 ft.), built up of sandstones and marls, which separates the tributaries of the Tobol from those of the river Ural, and falls by a range of steep crags—probably an old shore-line of the Aral basin—towards the steppes. The steppe land of Turgai is only some 300 ft. above the sea-level, and is dotted with lakes, of which the Chalkar-teniz, which receives the Turgai and its tributary the Irgiz, is the largest. The Turgai was, at a recent epoch, a large river flowing into the Sea of Aral and receiving an extensive system of tributaries, which are now lost in the sands before joining it. Re- mains of aquatic plants buried in the soil of the steppe, and shells of Mytilus and Cardium, both still found in the Sea of Aral, show that during the Glacial period this region was overflowed by the waters of the Aral-Caspian Sea.

The climate of Turgai is exceedingly dry and continental. Orsk, a town of Orenburg, on its north-western border, has a January as cold as that of the west coast of Novaya Zemlya (−4°F.), while in July it is as hot as July in Morocco (73°); the corresponding figures for Irgiz, in the centre of the province, are 7° and 77°. At Irgiz and Orsk the annual rainfall is somewhat under 10 in. and 12 in. respectively (3 in. in summer). The west winds are parched before they reach the Turgai steppes, and the north-east winds, which in winter bring cold, dry snows from Siberia, raise in summer formid- able clouds of sand. A climate so dry is of course incompatible with a vigorous forest growth. There is some timber on the southern Urals, the Mugojar Hills and the water-parting of the Tobol; else- where trees are rare. Shrubs only, such as the wild cherry (Cerasus chamaecerasus) and the dwarf almond (Amygdalus nana) grow on the hilly slopes, while the rich black-earth soil of the steppe is chiefly clothed with feather grass (Stipa pennata), the well-known ornament of the south Russian steppes. In spring the grass vegetation is luxuriant, and geese and cranes are attracted in vast numbers from the heart of the steppe by the fields of the Kirghiz. The jerboa (Dipus jaculus) and the marmot (Spermophilus rufescens) are characteristic of the fauna; another species of marmot (Arctomys bobac) and the steppe fox (Canis corsac) are common; and the saiga antelope of Central Asia is occasionally met with. Farther south the black earth disappears and with it the feather grass, its place being taken by its congener, Stipa capillata. Trees disappear, and among the bushes along the banks of the rivers willows and the pseudo-acacia or Siberian pea tree (Caragana microphyla) are most prevalent. In the middle parts of the province the clayey soil is completely clothed with wormwood (Artemisia fragrans and A. monogyna), with a few grassy plants on the banks of the rivers and lakes (Lasiagrostis splendens, Alhagi camelorum and A. kirghizorum, Obiona portulacoides, Halimodendrum argenteum); while large areas consist of shifting sands, saline clays clothed with various Salsolaceae, and the desiccated beds of old lakes. Such lakes as still exist, notwithstanding the rapid desiccation now going on, are surrounded by thickets of reeds-the retreat of wild boars. Turgai is thus the borderland between the flora of Europe and that of Central Asia.

The population was estimated in 1906 at 511,800, composed mainly of Kirghiz, though Russians have immigrated in large numbers. The province is divided into four districts, the chief towns of which are Turgai, the capital; Ak-tyubinsk in the district of Iletsk; Irgiz and Kustanaisk in the Nikolayevsk district, a prairie town which has grown with great rapidity. Agriculture is mainly carried on by the Russian settlers in the Nikolayevsk district, where the crops do not suffer so much from droughts as they do elsewhere. But the Kirghiz have also begun to cultivate the soil, and in 1900 there were in all 612,200 acres under cereals.

The principal crops are rye, wheat, oats, barley and potatoes. Livestock breeding is the leading occupation of the Kirghiz. Camels are bred and kept by the nomads both for their own personal use and for the transport of goods between Bokhara, Khiva and Russian Turkestan. Considerable quantities of cattle and various animal products are exported to Orenburg, Orsk and Troitsk, and to Ust-Uisk and Zverinogolovsk, where large fairs are held. The Kirghiz of the southern parts migrate in winter to the better sheltered parts of the province of Syr-darya, while in the summer some 30,000 kibitkas (felt tents) of nomads come from the neighbouring provinces to graze their cattle on the grassy steppes of Turgai. Salt is obtained from the lakes. There are a few oil-works, tanneries and flour-mills, and the Kirghiz are active in the making of carpets and felt goods. Education is a little more advanced than in the other steppe provinces; the system of “migratory schools” has been introduced for the Kirghiz.

See Y. Talferov, The Turgai Province (1896), in Russian.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.) 


TURGOT, ANNE ROBERT JACQUES, Baron de Laune (1727–1781), French statesman and economist, was born in Paris on the 10th of May 1727. He was the youngest son of Michel Étienne Turgot, “provost of the merchants” of Paris, and Madeleine Françoise Martineau, and came of an old Norman family. He was educated for the Church, and at the Sorbonne, to which he was admitted in 1749 (being then styled abbé de Brucourt), he delivered two remarkable Latin dissertations, On the Benefits which the Christian Religion has conferred on Mankind, and On the Historical Progress of the Human Mind. The first sign we have of his interest in economics is a letter (1749) on paper money, written to his fellow student the abbé de Cicé, refuting the abbé Terrasson’s defence of Law’s system. He was fond of verse-making, and tried to introduce into French verse the rules of Latin prosody, his translation of the fourth book of the Aeneid into classical hexameters being greeted by Voltaire as “the only prose translation in which he had found any enthusiasm.” In 1750 he decided not to take holy orders, giving as his reason, according to Dupont de Nemours, “that he could not bear to wear a mask all his life.” In 1752 he became substitut, and later conseiller in the parlement of Paris, and in 1753 maître des requêtes. In 1754 he was a member of the chambre royale which sat during an exile of the parlement; in 1755 and 1756 he accompanied Gournay, then intendant of commerce, in his tours of inspection in the provinces, and in 1760, while travelling in the east of France and Switzerland, visited Voltaire, who became one of his chief friends and supporters. In Paris he frequented the salons, especially those of Mme Graffigny—whose niece, Mlle de Ligniville (“Minette”), afterwards Mme Helvétius and his lifelong friend, he is supposed at one time to have wished to marry—Mme Geoffrin, Mme du Deffand, Mlle de Lespinasse and the duchesse d’Enville. It was during this period that he met the leaders of the “physiocratic” school, Quesnay and Gournay, and with them Dupont de Nemours, the abbé Morellet and other economists. All this time he was studying various branches of science, and languages both ancient and modern. In 1753 he translated the Questions sur la commerce from the English of Josias Tucker, and wrote his Lettre sur la tolérance, and a pamphlet, Le Conciliateur, in support of religious tolerance. Between 1755 and 1756 he composed various articles for the Encyclopédie, and between 1757 and 1760 an article on Valeurs et monnaies, probably for the Dictionnaire du commerce of the abbé Morellet. In 1759 appeared his Éloge de Gournay.

In August 1761 Turgot was appointed intendant of the généralité of Limoges, which included some of the poorest and most over-taxed parts of France; here he remained for 13 years. He was already deeply imbued with the theories of Quesnay and Gournay (see Physiocratic School), and set to work to apply them as far as possible in his province. His first plan was to continue the work, already initiated by his predecessor Tourny, of making a fresh survey of the land (cadastre), in order to arrive at a juster assessment of the taille; he also obtained a large reduction in the contribution of the province. He published his Avis sur l’assiette et la répartition de la taille (1762–1770), and as president of the Société d’agriculture de Limoges offered prizes for essays on the principles of taxation. Quesnay and Mirabeau had advocated a proportional tax (impôt de quotité), but Turgot a distributive tax (impôt de répartition). Another reform was the substitution for the corvée of a tax in money levied on the whole province, the construction of roads being handed over to contractors, by which means Turgot was able to leave his province with a good system of roads, while distributing more justly the expense of their construction. In 1769 he wrote his Mémoire sur les prêts à intérêt, on the occasion of a scandalous financial crisis at Angoulême, the peculiar interest of which is that in it the question of lending money at interest was for the first time treated scientifically, and not merely from the ecclesiastical point of view. Among other works written during Turgot’s intendancy were the Mémoire sur les mines et carrières, and the Mémoire sur la marque des fers, in which he protested against state regulation and interference and advocated free competition. At the same time he did much to encourage agriculture and local industries, among others establishing the manufacture of porcelain. During the famine of 1770–1771 he enforced on landowners “the obligation of relieving the poor” and especially the métayers dependent upon them, and organized in every province ateliers and bureaux de charité for providing work for the able-bodied and relief for the infirm, while at the same time he condemned indiscriminate charity. It may be noted that Turgot always made the curés the agents of his charities and reforms when possible. It was in 1770 that he wrote his famous Lettres sur la liberté du commerce des grains, addressed to the comptroller-general, the abbé Terray. Three of these letters have disappeared, having been sent to Louis XVI. by Turgot at a later date and never recovered, but those remaining demonstrate that free trade in corn is to the interest of landowner, farmer and consumer alike, and in too forcible terms demand the removal of all restrictions.

Turgot’s best known work, Réflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses, was written early in the period of his intendancy for the benefit of two young Chinese students. Written in 1766, it appeared in 1769–1770 in Dupont’s journal, the Ephémérides du citoyen, and was published separately in 1776. Dupont, however, made various alterations in the text, in order to bring it more into accordance with Quesnay’s doctrines, which led to a coolness between him and Turgot (see G. Schelle, in Journal des économistes, July 1888). A more correct text is that published by L. Robineau (“Turgot,” in Petite bibliothéque économique, 1889), and is followed by Professor W. J. Ashley in his translation (Economic Classics, New York, 1898), but the original MS. has never been found.

After tracing the origin of commerce, Turgot develops Quesnay’s theory that the land is the only source of wealth, and divides society into three classes, the productive or agricultural, the salaried (stipendiée) or artisan class, and the land-owning class (classe disponible). After discussing the evolution of the different systems of cultivation, the nature of exchange and barter, money, and the functions of capital, he sets forth the theory of the impôt unique, i.e. that only the produit net of the land should be taxed. In addition he demanded the complete freedom of commerce and industry.[2]

  1. See P. S. Nazarov, in “Recherches zoologiques dans les steppes des Kirghizes,” in Bull. soc. des natur. de Moscow (1886), No. 4.
  2. For the controversy as to how far Adam Smith (q.v.) was influenced by Turgot, see S. Feilbogen, Smith und Turgot (1892); also E. Cannan’s introduction to Smith’s Lectures on Justice, &c. (Clarendon Press, 1896); and H. Higgs’s review of the latter in the Economic Journal, Dec. 1896. The question may still be considered an open one. See also Neymarck, i. 332, footnote, for the French authorities. Condorcet’s statement that Turgot corresponded with Smith is disproved by a letter of Smith to the duc de la Rochefoucauld, published in the Economic Journal (March 1896), p. 165, in which he says, “But tho’ I had the happiness of his acquaintance and, I flattered myself, even of his friendship and esteem, I never had that of his correspondence,” but there is no doubt that Adam Smith met Turgot in Paris, and it is generally admitted that The Wealth of Nations owes a good deal to Turgot.