Ryazan, Russia (Government) - Encyclopedia

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RYAZAN, a government of central Russia, bounded by the governments of Moscow and Tula on the W., by Vladimir on the N., and by Tambov on the E. and S., with an area of 16,250 sq. m. Ryazan is an intermediate link between the central Great Russian governments and the steppe governments of the S.E. - the wide and deep valley of the Oka being the natural boundary between the two. On the left of the Oka the surface often consists of sand, marshes and forests; while on the right the fertile black-earth prairies begin, occupying especially the districts of Ranenburg, Sapozhok and Dankov. The whole of Ryazan is a plateau about 700 ft. above the sea, but deeply cut by the river valleys and numerous ravines. Iron-ores, limestone, grindstone grits, potters' clays, and thick beds of peat are worked, besides coal. The N. belongs to the forest regions, and, notwithstanding the wholesale destruction of forests, these (chiefly coniferous) in several districts still cover one-third of the surface. In the S., where the proximity of the steppes is felt, they are much less extensive, the prevailing species being oak, birch, and other deciduous trees. Altogether forests cover about one-fifth of the total area.

The Oka is the chief river; it is navigable throughout, and receives the navigable Pronya and Pra, besides a great many smaller streams utilized for floating timber. Steamers ply on the Oka to Kasimov and Nizhniy-Novgorod. The Don belongs to Ryazan in its upper course only. On the whole, the S. districts are not well watered. Small lakes are numerous in the broad depression of the Oka and elsewhere, while extensive marshes occur in the N.E. districts; a few attempts at draining some of these beside the Oka have resulted in the reclamation of excellent pasture lands. The climate is a little warmer than at Moscow, the average temperature at the city of Ryazan being 40°; February, 3°2; July, 67°.

The estimated population in 1906 was 2,100,900, and is nearly Great Russian throughout, containing only a trifling admixture of Tatars, Poles and Jews in towns. Some Tatars immigrated into the Kasimov region in the 15th century, and are noted for their honesty of character as well as for their agricultural prosperity. The people of the Pra river are described as Meshcheryaks, but their manners and customs do not differ from those of the Russians. The chief occupation is agriculture. Out of the total area only 8% is unfit for tillage, and between 5 o and 60% is under crops; although the area under cultivation and the crops themselves are increasing, yet even here, in one of the wealthiest governments of Russia, the situation of the peasants is far from satisfactory. Live-stock breeding is rapidly falling off on account of want of pasture lands, but hay, which is abundant, especially on the rich meadow lands of the Oka, is exported. More than half of the land (52%) is owned by the village communities, 40% by private owners, 5% by the crown, and 2% by various institutions. During the last thirty years of the 19th century the nobles sold 36% (1,261,000 acres) of their lands, mainly to merchants and peasants; the latter cultivate two-thirds of the total cultivated area.

The principal crops are oats, rye and potatoes, with wheat, barley, buckwheat, flax, hemp, tobacco, hops and fruit. But the crops are insufficient for the needs of the inhabitants. Tobacco, hops, vegetables and fruit, however, are grown for export. Beekeeping is developing and manufactures increasing, the factories being chiefly cotton and flax mills, flour mills, machine works, tanneries, soap works, boot, cement, glass and match factories, distilleries, and chemical works.

The government is divided into twelve districts, the chief towns of which are Ryazan, Dankov, Egorievsk, Kasimov, Mikhailov, Pronsk, Ranenburg, Ryazhsk, Sapozhok, Skopin, Spask and Zaraisk. Small industries, such as boat-building, the preparation of pitch and tar, the making of wooden vessels and sledges, matweaving and boot-making, are carried on in the villages, especially in the N.,`which belongs, properly speaking, to the Vladimir industrial region. Domestic trades, such as lace-making (supported by two schools) and embroidering on leather, give occupation to 40,000 women. Trade, especially in corn and manufactured goods, is brisk, and has been stimulated by the opening of coal-mines, e.g. in the district of Skopin. Considerable efforts have been made by the local governing bodies to increase the number of schools. Most interesting archaeological finds have been made in the government, and have been placed in the new museum at the city of Ryazan.

The Sla y s began to colonize the region of Ryazan as early as the 9th century, penetrating thither both from the N.W. (Great Russians) and from the Dnieper (Little Russians). As early as the 10th century the principality of Murom and Ryazan is mentioned in the chronicles. During the following centuries this principality increased both in extent and in wealth, and included parts of what are now the governments of Kaluga and Moscow. Owing to the fertility of the soil, its Russian population rapidly increased, while the Finnish tribes which formerly inhabited it migrated farther E., or became merged among the Sla y s. The Mongol invasion of 1239-42 stopped all development. The principality, however, still continued to exist; its princes strongly opposed the annexation by Moscow, making alliance with the Mongols and with Lithuania, but they finally succumbed, and the principality was definitely annexed in 1517.

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