1902 Encyclopedia > Saratoff, Russia


SARATOFF, a government of south-eastern Russia, on the right bank of the lower Volga, having Penza and Simbirsk on the north, Samara and Astrakhan on the east, and the Don Cossacks, Voronezh, and Tamboff on the west. The area is 32,624 square miles, and the popula-tion (1882) 2,113,077. The government has an irregular shape; and a narrow strip, 140 miles long and from 20 to 45 miles wide, extending along the Volga as far south as its Sarepta bend, separates from the river the territory of the Don Cossacks. Saratoff occupies the eastern part of the great central plateau of Russia, which gently slopes towards the south so as imperceptibly to merge into the steppe region; its eastern slope, deeply cut into by ravines, abruptly falls towards the Volga. As the higher parts of the plateau range from 700 to 900 feet above the sea, while the Volga flows at an elevation of only 20 feet at Khvalynsk in the north, and is 48 feet beneath sea-level at Sarepta, the steep ravine-cut slopes of the plateau give a hilly aspect to the banks of the river. In the south, and especially in the narrow strip above mentioned, the country assumes the characteristics of true elevated steppes, intersected with waterless ravines.

Every geological formation from the Carboniferous up to the Miocene is represented in Saratoff; the older ones are, however, mostly concealed under the Cretaceous, whose fossiliferous marls, flint-bearing clays, and iron-bearing sandstones cover broad areas. The Jurassic deposits sel-dom make their appearance from beneath them. Eocene sands, sandstones, and marls, rich in marine fossils and in fossil wood, extend over large tracts in the east. The boulder-clay of the Finland and Olonetz ice-sheet penetrates in Saratoff as far south-east as the valleys of the Medvye-ditsa and the Sura; while extensive layers of loess and other deposits of the Lacustrine or Post-Glacial period appear in the south-east and elsewhere above the Glacial deposits. Iron-ore is abundant; chalk, lime, and white pottery clay are extracted to a limited degree. The mineral waters at Sarepta, formerly much visited, have been super-seded in public favour by those of Caucasus.

Saratoff is well watered, especially in the north. The Volga, from 1 to 7 miles in width, separates it from Samara and Astrakhan for a length of 500 miles; its tributaries are but small, except the Sura, which rises in Saratoff and serves for the northward transit of timber. The tributaries of the Don are more important; the upper Medvyeditsa and the Khoper, which both have a south-ward course parallel to the Volga and water Saratoff each for about 200 miles, are navigated notwithstanding their shallows, ready-made boats being brought in separate pieces from the Volga for that purpose. The Ilovla, which flows in the same direction into the Don, is separated from the Volga only by a strip of land 15 miles wide; Peter I. proposed to utilize it as a channel for connecting the Don with the Volga, but the idea was never carried out, and the two rivers are now connected by the railway (52 miles) from Tsaritsyn to Kalatch which crosses the southern ex-tremity of Saratoff.

Lakes and marshes occur only in a few river-valleys. The region is rapidly drying up, and the forests diminish-ing. In the south, about Tsaritsyn, where the hills were densely covered with them a few centuries ago, they have almost wholly disappeared. In the north they still cover more than a third of the surface, the aggregate area under wood being reckoned at 2,661,000 acres. The remainder is distributed as follows :—arable land, 11,509,000 acres ; prairies and pasture lands, 3,799,000; uncultivable, 2,049,800. Such is the scarcity of timber that the peasants' houses are made of clay, the corner posts and door and window frames being largely shipped from the wooded districts of the middle Volga. The climate is severe and quite continental. The average yearly tempera-tures are 41°-5 at Saratoff (January, 12°-4; July, 71°'5) and 44°-4 at Tsaritsyn (January, 13°-2 ; July, 74°'6). The average range of temperature is as much as 11£° The Volga is frozen for an average of 162 days at Saratoff and 153 days at Tsaritsyn. The soil is very fertile, especially in the north, where a thick sheet of black-earth covers the plateaus ; sandy clay and salt clay appear in the south.

The population is very various, emigrants from all parts of Russia being mixed with Finnish and Tartar stems and with German colonists. The Great Russians constitute 75 per cent, of the population, Little Russians 7 percent., Germans 7, Mordvinians 6, and Tartars 3'5 per cent. The Tchuvashes may number about 11,000, Mescheriaks about 3000, and Poles about 5000. All are unequally distributed, Little Russians being more numerous in the districts of Atkarsk, Balashoff, Tsaritsyn, and Kamyshin (18 to 13 per cent.), the Mordvinians in Kuznetsk and Petrovsk (16 per cent.), and the Germans in Kamyshin (40 per cent.). The immigration of the Germans took place in 1763-1765, and their wealthy colonies have the aspect of minor West-European towns (see SAMARA).

Only 285,140 of the population reside in ten towns, the remainder (1,827,937) being distributed over 5602 villages, of which some have from 5000 to 12,000 inhabitants, and no less than 150 reckon more than 2000. The annual mortality is 42 per 1000 (1882), but this high figure is more than compensated for by the births, which in the same year were 51 per 1000. The chief occupation is agriculture. More than one half of the arable land (6,210,000 acres) was under crops in 1881. In 1884 the returns were rye, 3,374,000 quarters (1,608,300 in 1883) ; wheat, 850,700 ; barley, 103,400 ; oats, 1,657,700 (2,432,700 in 1883) ; and various, 764,400. Drought, and sometimes also noxious insects, cause great fluctuations in the harvest; but nevertheless almost every season leaves a considerable balance of corn for export. Oil-yielding plants .are also cultivated ; linseed in all districts except Tsaritsyn ; mustard, both for grain and oil, extensively about Sarepta and in the Kamyshin district ; and sunflower (140,000 quarters) in the northern districts. Gardening is a considerable source of income around Saratoff, Volsk, Atkarsk, and Kamyshin. The nwlokan dis-senters have great plantations of water-melons, melons, pumpkins, &c. The peasants of Saratoff are no better off than those of the other governments of south-east Russia (see SAMARA). Years of scarcity are common, and invariably mean ruin for the peasants. Cattle-breeding, formerly a large source of income, is rapidly falling off. Between 1877 and 1882 there was a decrease of 271,000 head, and murrain swept away large numbers of cattle in 1883.

Manufactures are developing but slowly, the chief of them, those dealing with animal produce, being checked by the falling off in cattle-breeding. The 6500 industrial manufacturing establishments of Saratoff employed an aggregate of only 17,500 workmen, with an annual production of but 20,973,500 roubles (£2,097,350) in 1882. The most considerable were—cottons, £17,200 ; woollen cloth, £64,480 ; tanneries, £85,S30 ; tallow, soap, wax-candles, flour, £1,217,800 ; oils, £125,360 ; distilleries, £255,780 ; iron, £15,390 ; and machinery, £37,195. Various petty trades are rapidly develop-ing among the peasantry. Shipbuilding is carried on in the Volga villages ; wooden vessels and implements are made in the north, and pottery in several villages; and quite recently the fabrication of lead-pencils has been added at Bnturlinovka. Very many peasants have still every year to leave their homes in search of work on the Volga and elsewhere. An active trade is carried on by the mer-chants of the chief towns,—corn, hides, tallow, oils, being exported; the merchants of Saratoff, moreover, are intermediaries in the trade of south-east Russia with the central provinces. The chief ports are Saratoff, Tsaritsyn, Kamyshin, and Khvatynsk.

Saratoff is divided into 10 districts, the chief towns of which and their populations in 1882were as follows:—Saratoff (112,430 inhabit-ants); Atkarsk (7610); Balashoff (10,090); Kamyshin (14,460); Khvatynsk (17,650); Kuznetsk (17,930); Petrovsk (15,020); Ser-dobsk (10,360); Tsaritsyn (31,220); and Volsk or Voljsk (34,930). The German colony of Sarepta, although without municipal insti-tutions, is a lively little town with 5650 inhabitants, which carries on an active trade in mustard, woollen cloth, and various manufac-tured wares. Dubovka (13,450 inhabitants) derives its importance from its traffic with the Don ; the villages Samoitovkain the district of Balashoff and Koioyar in Volsk have each more than 11,000 inhabitants ; Bafanda and Arkadak are important grain-markets. The district of Saratoff has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic Period; its inhabitants of a later epoch have left numerous bronze remains in the Jcurgans, but the question of their ethnological ^position is still unsettled. In the 8tb and 9th centuries the half-nomad Burtases peopled the territory and recognized the authority of the Khazar princes. Whether the Burtases were the ancestors of the Mordvinians—as some ethnologists are inclined to admit— has not yet been determined. At the time of the Mongolian inva- sion, the Tartars took possession of the territory, and one of their settlements around the khan's palace at Urek, 10 miles from Sara- toff, seems to have had some importance, as well as those about Tsaritsyn and Dubovka. The incursions of the Crimean Tartars devastated the country about the 15th century, and after the fall of Kazan and Astrakhan the territory was annexed to Moscow. Sara- toff and Tsaritsyn, both protected by forts, arose in the second half of the 16th century; but the forests and deep ravines of the terri- tory continued for two centuries more to give shelter to numerous bands of squatters, Raskolniks, and runaway serfs, who did not recognize the authority of Moscow; they sometimes robbed the caravans of boats on the Volga and were ready to support the insur- rections both of Razin and of the impostors of the 18th century. Dmitrievsk (now Kamyshin) and Petrovsk were founded about the end of the 17th century, and a palisaded wall was erected between the Volga and the Don, while other lines of military posts were kept in the north and west. A special "voisko" of Volga Cossacks was founded in 1731, but as they also joined the rebellions they were soon transferred to the Terek. Regular colonization may be said to have begun only at the end of the 18th century, when Catherine II. called back the runaway dissenters, invited German colonists, and ordered her courtiers to settle here their serfs, deported from central Russia. In this way the population of the lieutenancy, which extended also along the left bank of the Volga, reached 640,000 in 1777. It exceeded one million in 1817. In 1851 the territory on the left bank of the Volga was transferred to the new Samara government. (P. A. K.)

SARATOFF, capital of the above government, situated on the right bank of the Volga, 532 miles by rail to the south-east of Moscow, has become one of the most import-ant cities of eastern Russia, and ranks among the very few Russian cities which have more than 100,000 inhabitants. It is picturesquely situated on the side of hills which come close down to the Volga. One of these, the Sokolova Hill (560 feet) is liable to frequent landslips, which are a con-tinual source of danger to the houses of poorer inhabitants at its base. The terrace on which Saratoff is built being intersected by two ravines, the city is divided into three parts; the outer two may be considered as suburbs. A large village, Pokrovskaya, with about 20,000 inhabitants, situated on the opposite bank of the Volga, though in the government of Samara, is in reality a suburb of Saratoff. Apart from this suburb, Saratoff had in 1882 a population of 112,430 (49,660 in 1830, and 69,660 in 1859). It is better built than many towns of central Russia. Its old cathedral (1697) is a very plain structure, but the new one, completed in 1825, is fine, and has a striking cam-panile. The theatre and the railway station are also fine buildings. The streets are wide and regular, and there are several broad squares. A new fine-art gallery was erected in 1884 by the Russian painter Bogoluboff, who has be-queathed to the city his collection of modern pictures and of various objects of art. A school of drawing and the public library are in the same building, which has received the name of "Radistchefi's Museum" (in memory of Radistcheff, the author prosecuted by Catherine II.).

Agriculture and gardening are still the support of a section of the population, who rent land in the neighbourhood of the city. The culture of the sunflower deserves special mention. The local manufacturing establishments do not keep pace with the rapidly increasing trade, and their aggregate production cannot be esti-mated at more than £450,000. The distilleries are first in importance ; next come the manufactures of liqueurs (£160,000), flour-mills (about £40,000), oil-works (£56,000), and tobacco-factories (about £40,000). The city has not only a trade in corn, oil, hides, tallow, woollen cloth, wool, fruits, and various raw produce exported from Samara, but also a trade in salt from Crimea and Astrakhan, which is in the hands of the Samara merchants, and in iron from the Urals and wooden wares from tho upper Yolga governments. Saratoff also supplies south-eastern Russia with manufactured articles and grocery wares imported from central Russia. The traffic of the port was estimated at about 5,700,000 roubles in 1882. The shallowness of the Volga opposite the town, and the immense shoals along its right bank are, however, a great drawback. Vast sand-banks, which formerly lay above the city, have gradually shifted their position, and it is supposed that in a few years Saratoff will be situated on a shoal about 1 mile wide. In 1882 and 1883 steamers were compelled to discharge cargoes 50 miles below Saratoff or at the Pokrovskaya suburb on the left bank,—so that a branch railway for conveying the cargoes of the steamers has now been constructed south of the city.

The town of Saratoff was founded at the end of the 16th century, on the left bank of the Volga, some seven miles above the present site, to which it was removed about 1605. The place it now occupies (Sarytau, or Yellow Mountain) has been inhabited from a remote antiquity. Although founded for the maintenance of order in the Volga region, Saratoff, which was not fortified, was several times pillaged in the 17th and 18th centuries. Razin took it, and his followers kept it until 1671; the insurgent Cossacks of the Don under Bulavin and Nekrasoff pillaged it in 1708 and Pugatcheff in 1774. After being placed under Kazan and later under Astrakhan, it became the chief town of the Saratoff government in 1797.

The above article was written by: P. A. Kropotkine.

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