Olonets - Encyclopedia

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OLONETS, a government of north-western Russia, extending from Lake Ladoga almost to the White Sea, bounded W. by Finland, N. and E. by Archangel and Vologda, and S. by Novgorod and St Petersburg. The area is 57,422 sq. m., of which 6794 sq. m. are lakes. Its north-western portion belongs orographically and geologically to the Finland region; it is thickly dotted with hills reaching 1000 ft. in altitude, and diversified by numberless smaller ridges and hollows running from northwest to south-east. The rest of the government is a flat plateau sloping towards the marshy lowlands of the south. The geological structure is very varied. Granites, syenites and diorites, covered with Laurentian metamorphic slates, occur extensively in the north-west. Near Lake Onega they are overlain with Devonian sandstones and limestones, yielding marble and sandstone for building; to the south of that lake Carboniferous limestones and clays make their appearance. The whole is sheeted with boulder-clay, the bottom moraine of the great ice-sheet of the Glacial period. The entire region bears traces of glaciation, either in the shape of scratchings and elongated grooves on the rocks, or of eskers (cisar, selgas) running parallel to the glacial striations. Numberless lakes occupy the depressions, while a great many more have left evidences of their existence in the extensive marshes. Lake Onega covers 3764 sq. m., and reaches a depth of 400 ft. Lakes Zeg, Vyg, Lacha, Loksha, Tulos and Vodl cover from 140 to 480 sq. m. each, and their crustacean fauna indicates a former connexion with the Arctic Ocean. The south-eastern part of Lake Ladoga falls also within the government of Olonets. The rivers drain to the Baltic and White Sea basins. To the former system belong Lakes Ladoga and Onega, which are connected by the Svir and receive numerous streams; of these the Vytegra, which communicates with the Mariinsk canal-system, and the Oyat, an affluent of Lake Ladoga, are important for navigation. Large quantities of timber, fire-wood, stone, metal and flour are annually shipped on waters belonging to this government. The Onega river, which has its source in the south-east of the government and flows into the White Sea, is of minor importance. Sixty-three per cent of the area of Olonets is occupied by forests; those of the crown, maintained for shipbuilding purposes, extend to more than 800,000 acres. The climate is harsh and moist, the average yearly temperature at Petrozavodsk (61 0 8' N.) being 33.6° F. (12.0° in January, 57.4° in July); but the thermometer rarely falls below-30° F.

The population, which numbered 321,250 in 1881, reached 367,902 in 1897, and 401,100 (estimate) in 1906. They are principally Great Russians and Finns. The people belong mostly to the Orthodox Greek Church, or are Nonconformists. Rye and oats are the principal crops, and some flax, barley and turnips are grown, but the total cultivated area does not exceed 21% of the whole government. The chief source of wealth is timber, next to which come fishing and hunting. Mushrooms and berries are exported to St Petersburg. There are quarries and iron-mines, saw-mills, tanneries, iron-works, distilleries and flour-mills. More than one-fifth of the entire male population leave their homes every year in 'search of temporary employment. Olonets is divided into seven districts, of which the chief towns are Petrozavodsk, Kargopol, Lodeinoye Pole, Olonets, Povyenets, Pudozh and Vytegra. It includes the Olonets mining district, a territory belonging to the crown, which covers 432 sq. m. and extends into the Serdobol district of Finland; the ironworks were begun by Peter the Great in 1701-1714. Olonets was colonized by Novgorod in the 11th century, and though it suffered much from Swedish invasion its towns soon became wealthy trading centres. Ivan III. annexed it to the principality of Moscow in the second half of the 16th century.

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