1902 Encyclopedia > Maritime Province, Russia

Maritime Province, Russia
(Russian name: Primorsky Krai)

MARITIME PROVINCE (Russian, Printorskaya Oblast), a province of the Russian empire, and part of the general-governorship of Eastern Siberia, is a strip of territory which extends along the Siberian coast of the Pacific from Corea to the Arctic Ocean, and also includes the peninsula of KAMCHATKA (q.v.), the island of Saghalien or Sakhalin, and several small islands scattered along the coast. Its western boundary stretches northwards from the Corean town of King ling (41° 45' N. lat.) by Lake Khangka and along the Usuri, keeping 1,o the eastward of the hilly tracts and prairies of northern Manchuria ; it then follows an imaginary line which runs due north from the mouth of the Usuri to the bay of Udskoy, separating the province from the lowlands and mountain wildernesses of the Amur province; it next runs along the Stanovoy watershed between the Pacific and the Arctic Ocean, leaving to the west the elevated tracts of the Siberian plateau, and finally it crosses the spurs of this plateau through barren tundras belonging to Yakutsk, reaching the Arctic Ocean at the Chaunskaya Bay (70° N. lat.). The province has a length of 2300 miles and a width varying from 40 to 420 miles ; it covers an area of 730,000 square miles, and exhibits very great varieties of climate, scenery, and population. The northern part, known as the land of the Chukchees, occupies the north-eastern peninsula of Asia between the Arctic Ocean on the one side and the Seas of Behriug and Okhotsk on the other, and has the character of a barren plateau from 1000 to 2000 feet high, deeply indented by the rivers of the Anadyr basin, and by long fiords, such as the Koluchin Bay (the wintering-place of Nordenskjold's " Vega "), the Gulf of Anadyr, and the Bays of Penzhina and Ghizhiga. To the north this plateau is bordered by a chain of mountains, the highest known within the Arctic circle, several summits of which reach a height of 8200 feet (Makachinga peak and others), while the promontories by which the Asiatic continent terminates towards Behr-hag Strait - Serdtze-kamen, Cape Vostochnyi (the most easterly point of Asia), and Cape Chukotskiy - have heights ranging from 1000 to 2000 feet. Only lichens and mosses, with a few dwarf species of Siberian trees, cover this district, in marked contrast to the rich forests of the corresponding part of Arctic America. The fauna, however, is far richer than might have been expected, owing to the migrations of animals along the plateaus of Eastern Siberia, which extend in a north-eastern direction from the very heart of Asia to Eehring Strait. The fauna is further enlarged by a few American birds and mammals, which cross the strait when it is frozen. This country, and still more the seas by which it is surrounded, have been for the last two centuries the paradise of hunters, and have supplied Siberian trade with its best furs. Entire species of animals have been exterminated within this short period; the renowned blue fox and black sable have nearly disappeared, and the whale, which was hunted a few decades ago by hundreds of American vessels, has become very rare. The sea-otter, of which the party of Steller killed seven hundred during its eight months' stay on Behring's Island, is rapidly becoming extinct, as well as the sea-lion (Otaria stelleri); whilst the sea-cow (Rhytina stelleri) was completely extirpated in the course of forty years. Thanks to the care taken by an American company which has the monopoly of hunting on Behring and Copper Islands, the sea-bear (Otaria ursina), which was likely to meet with the same fate, is nearly domesticated at present, and multiplies rapidly, yielding no less than twelve thousand skins per annum. The inhabitants of this region, the Chukchees (Tuski, or Chaouktoos), who number no more than 12,000 souls (according to some authorities only 5000), seem to have immigrated from the south ; their racial characters make them an ethnological link between the Mongols of Central Asia and the Indians of America ; they are also very nearly akin in their features and customs to the Eskimo. They are subdivided, however, into two distinct branches, with different customs and languages. Those of the interior support themselves by reindeer breeding (herds of ten thousand being not uncommon) and by hunting ; whilst those of the coast live by fishing, and are very poor. All travellers who have had dealings with Chukchees speak in the highest terms of the character of the former branch, and of the fraternal feelings shown by them in their mutual relations. The Koryaks (about 5000), who occupy the southern part of this region, are nearly akin to Chukchees. They extend their migrations also to the northern part of Kamchatka. Those of the interior are reindeer proprietors and hunters, and like the Chukchees are quite independent, own no superiors, and live in federations of families. They have firmly resisted Russian conquest; and there are tribes among them which still refuse to pay the yasak (tribute in furs) to the Russian authorities. Their national character is described by travellers as very different from that of the settled Koryaks of the coast, who live in the utmost poverty, and have acquired vicious habits from their intercourse with European and American sailors.

The middle part of the Maritime Province is a narrow strip of land (40 to 60 miles wide) along the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, including the basin of the Ud in the south. This area is occupied by wild mountains, 4000 to 7000 feet high, forming the eastern border of the high plateau of Eastern Siberia. Thick forests of larch clothe the mountains to nearly one-half of their height, as well as the deep valleys, where short streams discharge into the Pacific the water produced by the melting of accumulations of snow and ice (nakipi, naledi). The undulating hills of the basin of the Ud, which is a continuation to the southwest, between the Stanovoy and Bureya mountains, of the deep indentation of the Sea of Okhotsk, are covered with forests and marshes. Only Tunguses visit these inhospitable mountain wildernesses and the bays of the coast, living by hunting or fishing.

The southern part of the province includes two distinct regions. From the north-eastern extremity of the Bureya, or Little Khingan range, of which the group of the Shantar Islands is a continuation, a wide and deep depression runs south-westwards to the junction of the Amur and Usuri, and thence to the lowlands of the lower Sungari. It is for the most part less than 500 feet above sea-level.

The Amur, which takes a north-eastern course after reaching these lowlands, runs close to their eastern boundary, at the foot of the mountains of the sea-coast ; whilst on its left or western bank it spreads into numberless lakes and marshes, large and small, and extensively inundates the swamps at time of flood. The area on the right banks of the Amur and Usuri, between these rivers and the sea-coast, is occupied by it very little known hilly tract consisting of several intricate systems of mountains, usually represented on maps as a single range, and known under the general name of Sikhota-alin. The summits reach the height of 5150 feet (Golaya Gora peak) and the average elevation of the few passes is about The best part of the Maritime Province is at its southern extremity, in the valley of the Suifun river, which enters the Pacific in the Gulf of Peter the Great, and on the shores of the bays of the southern coast, where new settlements have appeared since this territory was annexed to Russia in 1860. But even here the climate is very harsh. The warm sea-current of the Kuro-sivo does not reach the coasts of Siberia, while a cold current, originating in the Sea of Okhotsk, brings its icy water and chilling fogs to the coasts of Saghalien, and flows along the Siberian shores to the eastern coast of Corea. The high mountains of the sea-coast and the monsoons of the Chinese Sea contribute to produce in the southern parts of the Maritime Province cold winters and wet summers. Accordingly, at Vladivostok (in the Gulf of Peter the Gm-eat), which has the same latitude as Marseilles, the average yearly temperature is only 39'5 Fahr., and the harbour is frozen for nearly three months ; the Amur and Usuri are frozen in November. Towards the end of summer the moist monsoons cause heavy rainfalls, which destroy the harvests and bring about suelm inundations that even in the two miles wide channel of the Amur the water within a few days rises more than 15 feet, and covers the lowlands to a breadth of 15 to 20 miles ; the navigation also becomes dangerous for small river steamers and barges, on account of storms front the Chinese Sea, The sea-coast farther north has a continental and arctic climate. At Nikolayevsk, temperatures as low as - 41°.5 Fahr. are observed in winter, and as high as 94'6 in summer, the average yearly temperature being below zero ( - 0.9). At Ayan (56° 27' N. lat.) time average temperature of the year is 25'5 ( - 0'4 in winter, and 50'5 in slimmer), and at Okhotsk (59° 21' N. lat.) it is ( - 6° in winter, and 52'5 in summer). Russian settlements occur at intervals throughout the whole of the province, but, with exception of those on the banks of the Amur and Usuri, and the southern ports of the sea-coast, they are mere centres of administration. Anadyrsk on the Anadyr river, Penzhinsk and Ghizhiga at the heads of bays of the same name, Ayan on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, and Udskoy Ostrog on the river Ud, all have played an important part in the conquest of Siberia by Cossacks and merchants ; but at present they arc only small blockhouses with a few buildings around them, and the seat of local authorities ; the population of none exceeds two hundred. Okhotsk, which has given its name to the sea between Kamchatka and the Siberian coast, is one of the oldest towns of Eastern Siberia, having been founded in 1649. Until the acquisition by Russia of the Manchurian sea-coast, this port, 700 miles distant from Yakutsk, poor though it is, was an object of special solicitude to the Russian Government for the maintenance of its possessions on the Pacific. It is connected by a bridle path with Yakutsk, and even in 1851-56, during the conquest of the Amur, all communication with the mouth of the Amur was by this route, It has now but 210 inhabitants. Nikolayevsk, on the left bank of the Amur, 23 miles from its mouth, was until lately the capital of the Maritime Province. Great expectations were formed regarding it when it was founded in 1851. It was provided with machine-works, foundries, and dockyards, and was proclaimed a free port. But the difficulties of navigation and of communication with time interior, and the complete failure of the governmental colonization of the Amur, made the prosperity of the new Russian port on the Pacific impossible, and the seat of government was transferred to the more central Khabarovka. At present Nikolayevsk has only 3500 inhabitants, nearly all military or officials, and a few foreign merchants trading chiefly in groceries and spirits. The port is visited every year by from twenty to twenty-five ships, importing manufactured and grocery wares t-o the value of about £100,000, and of wines and spirits estimated at £20,000. On the banks of the Amur, from Nikolayevsk to the mouth of the Usuri, is a chain of Russian settlements at distances not exceeding 25 miles. Their inhabitants, free settlers from Russia, are very badly off on account of the difficulties of agriculture in this region, and from the bail selection of sites. Many have migrated to the sea-coast, whilst those who still remain arc for the most part very poor, and almost every year require to be provided by Government with corn brought From Tramsbaikalia. Sofiysk (1000 inhabitants, of whom 700 are military) is a purely military post. Khabarovka, on a high promontory at the confluence of the Amur and Usuri, is the present capital of the Maritime Province. It has a settled population of about seven hundred, besides military and officials. A few Russian suerebants carry on an active trade in furs with natives (about £20,000 a year), in silver money brought from Russia and sold to Chinese, and in spirits and groceries. The Russian settlements on the right bank of the Usuri are very like those of the lower Amur. The peasants, who have received the name of Cossacks, and have a military organization, with the exception of a few settlements on the upper Usnri, are mostly in a wretched condition, and since 1859 have been dependent for food almost every year on Government aid. A line of posts and settlements connects the villages of the Usuri with the settlements on the shores of the Gulf of Peter the Great. This wide gulf, divided into two long bays, - those of Amur andUsuri, which are connected by an inlet called the Eastern Bosphorus, - is regarded as the principal port of Russia on the Pacific, and the town on the inlet has received the name of Vladivostok ("ruler of the East ") ; its spacious harbour, very similar to that of Sebastopol, has been called the Golden Horn. At present Vladivostok has, how--ever, merely the aspect of a middle-sized Russian village. One-half of its 8500 inhabitants are Chinese and Coreans, the other half being military and officials. All necessaries of life, including rycbread biscuits, continue to be imported by sea, and every spring, before the opening of the navigation, provisions become scarce. The. trade is in the hands of Chinese, who export stag-horns, seaweed, and mushrooms to a value of about £10,000 a year, and of Germans, who import groceries and spirits (£218,500 in 1879). The entrance to the harbour is well-fortified, and the town possesses a machine-work, storehouses, and a station of the Northern Telegraph Company. Other settlements (at the Imperial, Vladimir, and Olga harbours, Re.) are developing very slowly. Altogether the Russian population of these settlements has still a provisional character, and has to overcome great difficulties before it can become independent of the interior for its means of subsistence. The total Topulation of the Maritime Province is estimated at 20,000 Russians, (12,000 military and officials), and at about 37,000 natives ; but this is certainly under the truth. The province is made up of one territory - that of the Usuri - and six circles (okrughi): - Nikolayevsk, Sofiysk, Petropavlovsk (Kamchatka), Okhotsk, Gbizhighinsk, and lidskoy ; the territory of the Usuri is subdivided into five circles : - Usuri, Suifun, Khangka, Avvakumovo, and &wham (P. A. K.)

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