1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kursk (government)

KURSK, a government of middle Russia, bounded N. by the government of Orel, E. by that of Voronezh, S. by Kharkov and W. by Chernigov. Area, 17,932 sq. m. It belongs to the central plateau of middle Russia, of which it mostly occupies the southern slope, the highest parts being in Orel and Kaluga, to the north of Kursk. Its surface is 700 to 1100 ft. high, deeply trenched by ravines, and consequently assumes a hilly aspect when viewed from the river valleys. Cretaceous and Eocene rocks prevail, and chalk, iron-stone, potters’ clay and phosphates are among the economic minerals. No fewer than four hundred streams are counted within its borders, but none of them is of any service as waterways. A layer of fertile loess covers the whole surface, and Kursk belongs almost entirely to the black-earth region. The flora is distinct from that of the governments to the north, not only on account of the black-earth flora which enters into its composition, but also of the plants of south-western Russia which belong to it, a characteristic which is accentuated in the southern portion of the government. The climate is milder than that of middle Russia generally, and winds from the south-east and the south-west prevail in winter. The average temperatures are—for the year 42° F., for January 14° F. and for July 67° F. The very interesting magnetic phenomenon, known as the Byelgorod anomaly, covering an oval area 20 m. long and 12 m. wide, has been studied near the town of this name. The population, 1,893,597 in 1862, was 2,391,091 in 1897, of whom 1,208,488 were women and 199,676 lived in towns. The estimated pop. in 1906 was 2,797,000. It is thoroughly Russian (76% Great Russians and 24% Little Russians), and 94% are peasants who own over 59% of the land, and live mostly in large villages. Owing to the rapid increase of the peasantry and the small size of the allotments given at the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, emigration, chiefly to Siberia, is on the increase, while 80,000 to 100,000 men leave home every summer to work in the neighbouring governments. Three-quarters of the available land is under crops, chiefly rye, other crops being wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, millet, potatoes, sugar-beets, hemp, flax, sunflowers and fruits. Grain is exported in considerable quantities. Bees are commonly kept, as also are large numbers of livestock. Factories (steam flour-mills, sugar-factories, distilleries, wool-washing, tobacco factories) give occupation to about 23,000 workers. Domestic and petty trades are on the increase in the villages, and new ones are being introduced, the chief products being boots, ikons (sacred images) and shrines, toys, caps, vehicles, baskets, and pottery. About 17 m. from the chief town is held the Korennaya fair, formerly the greatest in South Russia, and still with an annual trade valued at £900,000. The Kursk district contains more than sixty old town sites; and barrows or burial mounds (kurgans) are extremely abundant. Notwithstanding the active efforts of the local councils (zemstvos), less than 10% of the population read and write. The government is crossed from north to south and from west to south by two main lines of railway. The trade in grain, hemp, hemp-seed oil, sheepskins, hides, tallow, felt goods, wax, honey and leather goods is very brisk. There are fifteen districts, the chief towns of which, with their populations in 1897, are Kursk (q.v.) Byelgorod (21,850), Dmitriev (7315), Fatezh (4959), Graivoron (7669), Korocha (14,405), Lgov (5376), Novyi Oskol (2762), Oboyañ (11872), Putivl (8965), Rylsk (11,415), Staryi Oskol (16,662), Shchigry (3329), Suja (12,856) and Tim (7380). There are more than twenty villages which have from 5000 to 12,000 inhabitants each.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)