1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Amur (East Siberia)

AMUR, a government of East Siberia, stretching from the Stanovoi (Yablonoi) mountains southwards to the left bank of the Amur river. It includes the basins of the Oldoi, Zeya and Bureya, left-bank tributaries of the river Amur, and has the governments of Transbaikalia on the W., Irkutsk and Yakutsk on the N., the Maritime province on the E., and Manchuria on the S.W. and S. Area, 172,848 sq. m. Immense districts are quite uninhabited. All the north-western part is occupied by a high plateau, bordered by the Great Khingan range, whose exact position in the region is not yet definitely settled. Next comes a belt of fertile plateaus bounded on the east by the Little Khingan, or Dusse-alin, a picturesque well-wooded range, which stretches in a north-easterly direction from Kirin across Manchuria, is pierced by the Amur, and continues on its left bank, separating the Bureya from the Amgun. To the east of it stretches in the same direction a strip of marshy lowlands. In the ranges which rise above the high plateau in the north-west, in the vicinity of the Stanovoi watershed, gold mines of great richness are worked. Coal of inferior quality is known to exist on the Oldoi, Zeya and Bureya. The Russians are represented by the Amur Cossacks, whose villages, e.g. Albazin, Kumara, Ekaterino-Nikolsk and Mikhailo-Semenovsk, are strung at intervals of 17 to 20 m. along the whole course of the river; by peasant immigrants, chiefly nonconformists, who are the wealthiest part of the population; and by a floating population of gold miners. Nomadic Tungus (Orochons), Manegres and Golds hunt and fish along the rivers. Steamers ply regularly along the Amur for 6½ months, from Khabarovsk to Stryetensk, on the Shilka terminus of the Trans-Siberian railway; but only light steamers with 2 to 3 ft. draught can navigate the upper Amur and Shilka. In the winter the frozen river is the usual highway. Rough roads and bridle-paths only are found in the interior. The great engineering difficulties in building a railway along the Amur induced the Russian government to obtain from China permission to build a railway through Manchuria, but the project for a railway from Khabarovsk to Stryetensk received imperial sanction in the summer of 1906. The Amur government has a continental climate, the yearly average at Blagovyeshchensk (50° N. lat.) being 30° Fahr. (January, 17°; July, 70°). It benefits from the influence of the monsoons. Cold north-west winds prevail from October to March, while in July and August torrential rains fall, resulting in a sudden and very considerable rise in the Amur and its right-bank tributaries. The only town is Blagovyeshchensk, but the centre of the administration is Khabarovsk in the Maritime province. The settled population in 1897 was 119,909, of whom 31,515 lived in towns.

The governor-generalship of Amur includes this government and the Maritime province, the total area being 888,830 sq. m., and the total population in 1897, 339,127. This region became known to the Russians in 1639. In 1649–1651 a party of Cossacks, under Khabarov, built a fort at Albazin on the Amur river, but in 1689 they withdrew in favour of the Chinese. From 1847 onwards they once more turned their attention to this region, and began to make settlements, especially after 1854, when a powerful flotilla sailed from Ust-Stryelka down to the mouth of the river. Four years later China ceded to Russia the whole left bank of the Amur, and also the right bank below the confluence of the Ussuri, and in 1860 all the territory between the Ussuri and the Eastern Sea.  (P. A. K.)