MARITIME PROVINCE (Russ., Primorskaya Oblast), a province of Russia, in East Siberia. It consists of a strip of territory along the coast of the Pacific from Korea to the Arctic Ocean, including also the peninsula of Kamchatka, part of the island of Sakhalin, and several small islands along the coast. Its western boundary stretches northwards from a point S.W. of Peter the Great Bay (42° 40′ N.) by Lake Hanka or Khanka and along the Usuri, then goes due north from the mouth of the Usuri as far as 52° N., runs along the Stanovoi watershed, crosses the spurs of this plateau through barren tundras, and finally reaches the Arctic Ocean at Chaun Bay (70° N.). Area, 715,735 sq. m.
The northern part lies between the Arctic Ocean and the Seas of Bering and Okhotsk, and has the character of a barren plateau 1000 to 2000 ft. high, deeply indented by the rivers of the Anadyr basin and by long fiords, such as Kolyuchin Bay (the wintering-place of Nordenskjöld s “Vega”), the Gulf of Anadyr, and the Bays of Penzhina and Ghizhiga. To the north this plateau is bordered by a chain of mountains, several summits of which reach 8000 ft. (Makachinga peak), while the promontories by which the Asiatic continent terminates towards Bering Strait run up to 1000 to 2000 ft. Only lichens and mosses, with a few dwarf species of Siberian trees, grow in this district. The fauna, however, is far richer than might be expected. A few American birds and mammals cross the strait when it is frozen. This country, and the seas which surround it, have for the last two centuries supplied Siberian trade with its best furs. The blue fox and black sable have been nearly exterminated, and the whale has become very rare. The sea-otter is rapidly becoming extinct, as well as the sea-lion (Otaria stelleri); while the sea-cow (Rhytina stelleri) was completely extirpated in the course of forty years. The sea-bear (Otaria ursina), which at one time seemed likely to meet with the same fate, is now nearly domesticated, and multiplies rapidly. The middle part of the province is a narrow strip (40 to 60 m. wide) along the Sea of Okhotsk, including the basin of the Uda in the south. This area is occupied by rugged mountains, 4000 to 7000 ft. high, forming the eastern border of the high plateau of East Siberia. Thick forests of larch clothe the mountains half way up, as well as the deep valleys. The undulating hills of the basin of the Uda, which is a continuation to the south-west, between the Stanovoi and Bureya mountains, of the deep indentation of the Sea of Okhotsk, are covered with forests and marshes.
The southern part of the province includes two distinct regions. From the north-eastern extremity of the Bureya, or Little Khingan range, of which the group of the Shantar Islands is a continuation, a wide, deep depression runs south-west to the confluence of the Amur and the Usuri, and thence to the lowlands of the lower Sungari. This is for the most part less than 500 ft. above sea-level. The region on the right banks of the Amur and the Usuri, between these rivers and the coast, is occupied by several systems of mountains, usually represented as a single range, the Sikhota-alin. The summits reach 5150 ft. (Golaya Gora), and the average elevation of the few passes is about 2500 ft. There is, however, one depression occupied by Lake Kidzi, which may have been at one time an outflow of the Amur to the sea. The Sikhota-alin mountains are covered with impenetrable forests. The flora and fauna of this region (especially in the Usuri district) exhibit a striking combination of species of warm climates with those of subarctic regions; the wild vine clings to the larch and the cedar-pine, and the tiger meets the bear and the sable. The quantity of fish in the rivers is immense, and in August the Amur and the Usuri swarm with salmon.
The best part of the Maritime Province is at its southern extremity in the valley of the Suifeng river, which enters the Pacific in the Gulf of Peter the Great, and on the shores of the bays of the southern coast. But even there the climate is very harsh. The warm sea-current of the Kuro-Siwo does not reach the coasts of Siberia, while a cold current originating in the Sea of Okhotsk brings its icy water and chilling fogs to the coasts of Sakhalin, and flows along the Pacific shore to the eastern coast of Korea. The high mountains of the sea-coast and the monsoons of the Chinese Sea produce in the southern parts of the Maritime Province cold winters and wet summers. Accordingly, at Vladivostok (on the Gulf of Peter the Great), although it has the same latitude as Marseilles, the average yearly temperature is only 39.5° F., and the harbour is frozen for nearly three months in the year; the Amur and the Usuri are frozen in November. Towards the end of summer the moist monsoons bring heavy rains, which destroy the harvests and give rise to serious inundations of the Amur. The sea-coast farther north has a continental and arctic climate. At Nikolayevsk, temperatures as low as −41.5° F. are observed in winter, and as high as 94.6° in summer, the average yearly temperature being below zero (−0.9°). At Ayan (56° 27′ N.) the average temperature of the year is 25.5° (−0.4° in winter and 50.5° in summer), and at Okhotsk (59° 21′ N.) it is 23° (−6° in winter and 52.5° in summer).
Russian settlements occur throughout the whole of the province, but, with the exception of those on the banks of the Amur and the Usuri, and the southern ports of the sea-coast, they are mere centres of administration.
Okhotsk is one of the oldest towns of East Siberia, having been founded in 1649. Nikolayevsk, on the left bank of the Amur, was formerly the capital of the Maritime Province; but the difficulties of navigation and of communication with the interior, and the complete failure of the governmental colonization of the Amur, caused the seat of government to be transferred to Khabarovsk. Since the loss (1905) of Port Arthur to the Japanese, Vladivostok on Peter the Great Bay has again become the chief naval station of Russia on the Pacific. The trade is in the hands of the Chinese, who export stags’ horns, seaweed and mushrooms, and of the Germans, who import groceries and spirits.
The total population was 209,516 in 1897, of whom 57.7% were Russians, the others being Tunguses, Golds, Orochons, Lamuts, Chuvantses, Chukchis, Koryaks, Ghilyaks and Kamchadales. Their chief occupations are hunting and fishing; the Russians carry on agriculture and trade in furs. Active measures were taken in 1883–1897 for increasing the Russian population in the South Usuri district, the result being that over 29,000 immigrants, chiefly Little Russian peasants, settled there; while Cossacks from the Don and Orenburg came to settle among the Usuri Cossacks. Agriculture is gradually developing in the South Usuri region. Gold-mining has been started on the Amguñ, a tributary of the Amur. Coal is found near Vladivostok, as well as in Kamchatka. Roads exist only in the South Usuri district. A railway runs from Vladivostok to Nikolsk (69 m.), and thence to Khabarovsk along the right bank of the Usuri (412 m.). At Nikolsk the Manchurian railway begins. (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)