1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Volhynia

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Volhynia, a government of south-western Russia, bounded by the Polish governments of Lublin and Siedlce on the W., Grodno and Minsk on the N., Kiev on the E. and Podolia and Galicia (Austria) on the S., with an area of 27,690 sq. m. A broad, flat spur of the Carpathians—the Avratynsk plateau—which enters from the west and stretches out eastward towards the Dnieper occupies its southern portion, reaching a maximum elevation of 1200 ft.; another branch of the Carpathians in the west of the government ranges between 700 and 900 ft. at its highest points. Both are deeply grooved in places, and the crags give a hilly aspect to the districts in which they occur. The remainder of the government, which is quite flat, with an imperceptible slope towards the marshes of Pinsk, is known as the Polyesie (see Minsk).

The population in 1906 was estimated at 3,547,500. Some three-fourths of the population are Little Russians; the other elements are White and Great Russians, Poles (5.2%), Jews (13.2%) and Germans (5.7%). The government is divided into twelve districts, the chief towns of which are Zhitomir, the capital, Dubno, Kovel, Kremenets, Lutsk, Novograd Volhynskiy, Ostrog, Ovruch, Vladimir Volhynskiy, Rovno, Staro-Konstantinov and Zaslavl. The conditions of peasant ownership differ from those which prevail in other parts of Russia, and of the total area the peasants hold approximately one-half; 42% of the total is in the hands of private owners, a considerable number of Germans having settled and bought land in the government.

Forests cover nearly 50% of the area in the north (that is, in the Polyesie) and 15% elsewhere. Agriculture is well developed in the south, and in 1900 there were 4,222,400 acres (24%) under cereal crops alone. In the Polyesie the principal occupations are connected with the export of timber and firewood, the preparation of pitch, tar, potash and wooden wares, and boat-building. Lignite and coal, some graphite and kaolin, are mined, as also amber, which is often found in big lumps. Manufacturing industries are not very highly developed. The factories are confined to sugar works, distilleries, woollen mills, and candle, tobacco, glass, cloth and agricultural machinery works. Domestic industry in the villages is chiefly limited to the making of wooden goods, including parquetry. The exports of grain and limber, chiefly to Germany and Great Britain, and of wool and cattle, are considerable.

Volhynia has been inhabited by Slavs from a remote antiquity. In Nestor’s Annals its people are mentioned under the name of Dulebs, and later in the 12th century they were known as Velhynians and Buzhans (dwellers on the Bug). From the 9th century the towns of Volhynia-Vladimir, Ovruch, Lutsk and Dubno were ruled by descendants of the Scandinavian or Varangian chief Rurik, and the land of Volhynia remained independent until the 14th century, when it fell under Lithuania. In 1569 it was annexed to Poland, and so remained until 1795, when it was taken possession of by Russia.