Nizhegorod - Encyclopedia

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NIZHEGOROD, a government of Central Russia, bounded by the governments of Vladimir on the W., Kostroma and Vyatka on the N. and N.E., Kazan and Simbirsk on the E., and Penza and Tambov on the S., with an area of 19,792 sq. m., two-thirds being on the right and the rest on the left bank of the Volga. The smaller portion, with the exception of the better-drained lands close to the river, is a low, flat, marshy region, covered with thick forests and sandy hills, and thinly peopled. The space between the Oka and the Volga, in the west, is also flat and forest-grown. The best part of the government is that to the east of the Oka; it is hilly, trenched by deep ravines and better drained, and has patches of fertile black earth in the south. The government is drained by the Volga with its tributaries, the Kerzhenets and the Vetluga on the left, and the Sura (with the Pyana) and the Oka on the right. These and their numerous tributaries offer great facilities both for navigation and for the transportation of timber. Numerous small lakes dot the government, especially in the north, and close upon two-fifths of its entire surface is still covered with forests, which occupy nearly the whole of the Zavolyi (to the north of the Volga), and extend without a break for 50 and 80 m. to the west and south-west respectively. The climate is severe, especially in the Zavolyi, where the average yearly temperature is 5.6° Fahr. lower than at Nizhniy. Besides the Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic deposits ("variegated marls"), Jurassic deposits are found in patches, chiefly in the south-east, as also in the south-west and north. They are overlain with Cretaceous black clays and sandstones. Thick strata of Tertiary sands, containing petrified wood, are found in the Ardatov district, and over the whole lie Glacial deposits, sandy gravels and clays.

Black earth, known as the "black earth of the plateau," prevails on the high plains between the river valleys in the south-east; the "valley black earth," even more fertile than the former, covers the gently-sloping portions of the territory, also in the south-east. More or less sandy clays are met with elsewhere, and there are large patches of sand. Iron ores (brown and spherosideritic), alabaster, limestone, sand (used for glass), salt and phosphorites are the chief useful minerals. There are also extensive deposits of peat.

The population increased from 1,376,000 in 1880 to 1,602,292 in 1897; of these 841,245 were women, and 140,347 lived in towns. The estimated pop. in 1906 was 1,823,600. They consist of Russians, to the extent of 88%; Mordvinians, to the number of 5 3 ,Ioo; Cheremisses, 6700; with Tatars and Chuvashes. Of the total number in 18 97 1 ,5 2 5,735 were Orthodox and Old Believers, 75,848 Raskolniks (Nonconformists), 51,2 3 6 Mussulmans and 3388 Jews. Both the birth-rate (53 in 1000) and the death-rate (42 in 1000) are high. A little over 53% of the area is available for agriculture, and of this 59% is owned by noblemen and 16% only by the peasantry, the remainder being owned by merchants and others. Of the cultivable land owned by the peasantry 55% is under crops, but of similar land owned by noblemen only 30% is cultivated. The principal crops are wheat, rye, oats, barley, pease and potatoes. In some years the yield is quite insufficient for the population, and every year over Ioo,000 persons quit their villages in quest of temporary work in neighbouring governments. The zemstvo or district council of NizhniyNovgorod supports an agricultural school, an experimental farm and an agency for the purchase of improved seeds and machinery. The live-stock industry is inferior, as many as 41% of the peasant families having no horses, and 24% no cows. The domestic trades, such as the making of cutlery, felts, woollens, leather goods, wooden wares (sledges, spoons, boxes, window-frames, &c.), gloves, wirework, hardware, mats and sacks, are widely practised; 70% of the male working population among the peasants earn their livelihood in this way, as well as by shipping. This last is an industry of considerable magnitude, goods being shipped and unshipped to the annual value of over £5,000,000. Many of the villages and towns have each its own speciality, those in the district of Semenov being famous for wooden spoons, in Gorbatov for cutlery and locks, in Balakhna for spindles, in Makaryev for fancy boxes, in Arzamas, Knyaginin and Sergach for furs and leather goods. The Mordvinians and Cheremisses keep bees. Fruit and vegetables are cultivated along the Oka and the Volga. The factories are steadily developing, iron and machinery works, flour-mills, potteries, tanneries, shipbuilding yards, sawmills and distilleries are the more important. Education, owing to the efforts of the zemstvo, is in a better condition than in many other governments of Russia. (P. A. K.; J. T. BE.)

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