1902 Encyclopedia > Volhynia, Russia


VOLHYNIA, a government of south-western Russia, bounded by the Polish provinces of Lublin and Siedlce on the W., Grodno and Minsk on the N., Eictf on the E., and Podolia and Galicia (Austria) on the S., has an area of 27,731 square miles. A broad and flat spur of the Carpathians - the Avratynsk plateau - which enters from the west and spreads eastward towards the Dnieper, occupies its southern portion, reaching a maximum elevation of 1200 feet ; another branch of the Carpathians in the west of the government ranges between 700 and 900 feet at its highest points. Both are deeply grooved in some places, and the crags give a hilly aspect to the districts where 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 Mixsii). It is covered by-impassable marshes (sometimes as much as 400 square miles in extent), sparsely interspersed with forests and traversed by languid streams, with low, almost inaccessible banks, here and there diversified by sandy dunes. The drainage of the Polyesie is, however, being vigorously carried on, and large tracts of meadow land have already been reclaimed by extensive operations recently undertaken by Government. Among the marshes are many small lakes. Volhynia is copiously watered by a number of comparatively unimportant rivers which rise in the Avratynsk Hills and flow northwards towards the Dnieper ; the Pripet with the Turia, the Styr, the Goryii, the Slutch, and other smaller tributaries of the Dnieper are navigable by small boats, and considerable quantities of timber and firewood are floated. By the western Bug, which separates Volhynia from Poland, timber is floated and corn and various goods shipped to Prussia.

The geological formation of Volhynia is very simple. The Avratynsk Hills, consisting of granite and various crystalline rocks, are covered with the Chalk, above which in turn are Tertiary sandstones, sands, and clays containing lignite. The whole is covered by Glacial deposits and Lacustrine clays, reaching a great thickness in the north. Kaolin, pottery clay, and iron ore are the chief mineral products ; amber also is occasionally found in the Tertiary sands. The climate of Volhynia, notwithstanding the influence of its marshes, is much milder than that of central Russia within the Caine latitudes. The vegetation on the southern slopes of the Avratynsk Hills begins to show something of a West-European character ; oaks, maples, and limes prevail, while on the northern slope there are immense forests of Scotch fir. The forests cover more than one-third of the entire area, and it is reckoned that 2,500,000 acres yield timber for building purposes.

The population of Volhynia in 1881 was 2,096,475, of whom nearly four-fifths were Little Russians (from 70 to 91 per cent. in various districts); there were 30,000 White Russians and some 10,000 Great Russians. Next in importance to the Russians Collie the Jews, who numbered about 12 per cent. of the population. The Poles arc variously estimated at from 120,000 to 170,000, but are certainly under 7 per cent. of the total population. The Germans number about 30,000. Agriculture cannot be said to flourish except on the Avratynsk plateau and its slopes, but is still the chief occupation, and more than one-third of the area is under crops. The fertile soil of the south produces a surplusage of corn, which is either used in distilleries or exported ; the average crops from 1883 to 1885 were 1,606,000 quarters of rye, 550,000 of wheat, 1,145,000 of oats, 394,000 of barley, and 1,032,000 of potatoes. Ilay is exported, but cattle-breeding has been almost stationary since 1850. in 1883 there were 506,500 horses, (155,050 cattle, and 571,500 sheep. Wool is exported. Beet is largely grown for sugar (38,000 acres, producing 4,800,000 ewts., having been under this crop in 1885). The culture of tobacco is rapidly extending (7000 tobacco plantations yielding about 8000 ewts. of tobacco in 1885). In the Polyesie the principal occupations are connected with the export of timber and firewood, the preparation of pitch, tar, potash, and various wooden wares, and boat-building. The will boar, bear, fox, and hare are limited.

The manufactures in 1884 yielded 18,684,000 roubles, as against only 2,856,000 in 1860. The goods principally produced are sugar, spirits, woollen cloth, paper, china, and metal wares. Wool, corn, hides, and tallow are partly manufactured within the government, and partly exported to Riga and Poland. Volhynia is traversed by a railway from Kieft' via Berditeheff to Brest-Litovsk, with branches to Lublin and to Lemberg. Tho traffic by this line is considerable, and the Radziviloff customhouse, ou the Austrian frontier, is one of the most important in Russia.

Volhynia is divided into twelve districts, the chief towns of which are ZIIITOMIIL (q.v.), which had 54,830 inhabitants in 1884, Dubin) (7255), Novel (13,980), liremenets (10,560), Lutsk (13,770), Novgrad Volhynskiy (13,590), Ostrog (16,520), Ovrutch (6480), Radziviloff (7350), Rovno (7300), Stare-lionstantinoff (17,980), and Zastavl (10,120).

Volhynia has been inhabited by Slavonians 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, Ovrutch, Lutsk, and Dubno - were ruled by descendants of Rurik, and the land of Volhynia remained independent until the 14th century, when it fell under Lithuania. In 1659 it was annexed to Poland, and so remained until 1795, when it was taken possession of by Russia.

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