OREL, OR Orlov, a government of central Russia, bounded by the governments of Smolensk, Kaluga and Tula on the N., and by Voronezh and Kursk on the S., with an area of 18,036 sq. m. The surface is an undulating plateau sloping gently towards the west; the highest hills barely exceed 900 ft., and none of the valleys is less than 450 ft. above the sea. The principal rivers are the Don, which forms part of the eastern boundary, and its tributary the Sosna; the Oka, which rises in the district of Orel and receives the navigable Zusha; and the Desna, with the Bolva, draining the marshy lowlands in the west. Geologically Orel consists principally of Lower Devonian limestones, marls and sandstones, covered with Jurassic clays, the last appearing at the surface, however, only as isolated islands, or in the valleys, being concealed for the most part under thick beds of Cretaceous chalk, marls and sands. The Carboniferous limestones and clays (of the so-called Moscow basin) show in the north-west only at a great depth. The Jurassic clays and marls are overlain at several places with a stratum of clay containing good iron-ore, while the Devonian sandstones and limestones are worked for building purposes. The whole is buried under a bed, 30 to 40 ft. thick, of boulder-clay and loess, the last covering extensive areas as well as the valleys. The soil - a mixture of "black earth" with clay - is fertile, except in the Desna region in the west, where sands and tenacious clays predominate. On the Oka, Zusha, Desna and Bolva there is a brisk traffic in corn, oil, hemp, timber, metal, glass, china, paper and building-stone. Marshes occupy large areas in the basin of the Desna, as also in several parts of that of the Oka; they are mostly covered with forests, which run up to 50 to 65% of the area in the districts of Bryansk, Trubchevsk and Karachev, while towards the east, in the basin of the Don, wood is so scarce that straw is used for fuel The climate is moderate, the average yearly temperature at Orel being 412° (14.8° in January and 67.0° in July).
The estimated population in 1906 was 2,365,700. It consists almost exclusively of Great Russians, belonging to the Orthodox Greek Church; the Nonconformists are reckoned at about 12,000, the Roman Catholics at 3000 and the Jews at I 000. The chief occupation is agriculture, which is most productive in the east and towards the centre of the government. The principal crops are rye, oats, barley, wheat, hemp, potatoes, hops, vegetables, tobacco and fruit. Of the grain not used in the distilleries a large proportion is exported to the Baltic. Hemp and hemp-seed oil are extensively exported from the west to Riga, Libau and St Petersburg. Tobacco is cultivated with profit. Cattle and horse-breeding flourishes better than in the neighbouring governments - the Orel breeds of both carriage and draught horses being held in estimation throughout Russia. Bee-keeping is widely diffused in the forest districts, as are also the timber-trade and the preparation of tar and pitch. Manufactures are rapidly increasing; they produce cast-iron rails, machinery, locomotive engines and railway wagons, glass, hemp-yarn and ropes, leather, timber, soap, tobacco and chemical produce. There are also distilleries and a great many smaller oil-works and flour-mills. Karachev and Syevsk are important centres for hemp-carding; Bolkhov and Elets are the chief centres of the tanning industry; while the districts of Elets, Dmitrov and partly Mtsensk supply flour and various foodpastes. At Bryansk there is a government cannon-foundry. The "Maltsov works" in the district of Bryansk are an industrial colony (20,000), comprising several iron, machinery, glass and rope works, where thousands of peasants find temporary or permanent employment; they have their own technical school, employ engineers of their own training, and have their own narrow-gauge railways and telegraphs, both managed by boys of the technical school. Numerous petty trades are carried on by the peasants, along with agriculture. The government is divided into twelve districts, of which the chief towns are Orel, the capital, Bolkhov, Bryansk, Dmitrovsk, Elets, Karachev, Kromy, Livny, Malo-arkhangelsk, Mtsensk, Syevsk and Trubchevsk.
In the 9th century the country was inhabited by the Slav tribes of the Syeveryanes on the Desna and the Vyatichis on the Oka, who both paid tribute to the Khazars. The Syeveryanes recognised the rule of the princes of the Rurik family from 884, and the Vyatichis from the middle of the 10th century; but the two peoples followed different historical lines, the former being absorbed into the Suzdal principality, while the latter fell under the rule of that of Chernigov. In the 11th century both had wealthy towns and villages; during the Mongol invasion of1239-1242these were all burned and pillaged, and the entire territory devastated. With the decay of the Great Horde of the Mongols the western part of the country fell under Lithuanian rule, and was the object of repeated struggles between Lithuania and Moscow. In the 6th century the Russians began to erect new forts and fortify the old towns, and the territory was rapidly colonized by immigrants from the north. In 1610 the towns of the present government of Orel (then known as the Ukrayna Ukraine, i.e. " border-region,") took an active share in the insurrection against Moscow under the false Demetrius, and suffered much from the civil war which ensued. They continued, however, to be united with the rest of Russia.
(P. A. K.; J. T. BE.)
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