SARATOV, a. government of south-eastern Russia, on the right bank of the lower Volga, having the governments of Penza and Sirnbirsk on the N., Samara and Astrakhan on the E. and the Don Cossacks territory and the governments of Voronezh and Tambov on the W. The area is 32,614 sq. m. The government has an irregular shape; and a narrow strip 140 m. long and 20 to 45 m. wide, extending along the Volga as far south as its Sarepta bend, separates the river from the territory of the Don Cossacks.
Saratov occupies the eastern part of the great central plateau of Russia, which slopes gently towards the south until it merges imperceptibly into the steppe region; its eastern slope, deeply cut into by ravines, falls abruptly towards the Volga. As the higher parts of the plateau range from 700 to 900 ft. above the sea, while the Volga flows at an elevation of only 20 ft. at Khvalynsk in the north, and is 48 ft. below sea-level at Sarepta, the steep ravine-cut slopes of the plateau give a hilly aspect to the banks of the river In the south, and especially in the narrow strip above mentioned, the country assumes the characteristics of elevated steppes, intersected by waterless ravines.
Every geological formation from the Carboniferous up to the Miocene is represented in Saratov; the older formations are, however, mostly concealed under the Cretaceous, whose fossiliferous marls, flint-bearing clays and iron-bearing sandstones cover extensive areas. The Jurassic deposits seldom crop out from beneath them. Eocene sands, sandstones and marls, abounding in marine fossils and in fossil wood, extend over wide tracts in the east. The boulder-clay of the Finland and Olonets ice-sheet penetrates as far south-east as the valleys of the Medvyeditsa and the Sura; and extensive layers of loess and other deposits of the Lacustrine or Post-Glacial period emerge in the south-east and elsewhere above the Glacial deposits. Iron-ore is abundant; chalk, lime and white pottery clay are extracted to a limited extent. The mineral waters at Sarepta, formerly much visited, have been superseded in public favour by those of Caucasia.
Saratov is well drained, especially in the north. The Volga separates it from the governments ofy Samara and Astrakhan for a length of 500 m.; its tributaries are but small, except the Sura, which rises in Saratov, and serves for the northward transit of timber. The tributaries of the Don are more important: the, upper Medvyeditsa and the Khoper, which both have a southward course parallel to the Volga and drain Saratov each for about 200 m., are navigated notwithstanding their shallows, ready-made boats being brought in separate pieces from the Volga. The Ilovlya, which flows in the same direction into the Don, is separated from the Volga by a strip of land only 15 m. wide; Peter the Great proposed to utilize it as a channel for connecting the Don with the Volga, but the idea has never been carried out, and the two rivers are now connected by the railway (45 m.) from Tsaritsyn to Kalach which crosses the southern extremity of Saratov. The region is rapidly drying up, and the forests diminishing. In the south, about Tsaritsyn, they have almost wholly disappeared. In the north they still occupy more than a third of the surface, the aggregate area under wood being reckoned at nearly 13% of the total. The remainder is distributed as follows: arable and, 58%; prairies and pasture lands, 19%. Such is the scarcity of timber that the peasants' houses are made of clay, the corner posts and door and window frames being largely shipped from the wooded districts of the middle Volga. The climate is severe and continental. The average yearly temperatures are 41.5° at Saratov (January, 12.4°; July, 71.5°) and 44.4° at Tsaritsyn (January, 13.2°; July, 74.6°). The average range of temperature is as much as 119°. The Volga is frozen for an average of 162 days at Saratov and 153 days at Tsaritsyn. The soil is very fertile, especially in the north, where a thick sheet of black-earth covers the plateaus; sandy clay and saline clay appear in the south. The population numbered 2,113,077 in 1882 and 2,419,884 in 1897. The density in the different districts in 1897 varied from 55 to 107 inhabitants per sq. m., and the urban population amounted to 319,918; the female population numbered 1,230,957. The estimated population in 1906 was 2,862,600. There are a few Germans, a fair number of Mordvinians, Chuvashes and Tatars, but nearly all the rest are Russians; 83% belong to the Orthodox Greek Church, 5% are Nonconformists, 6% Lutherans and 2% Roman Catholics. The government is divided into ten districts, the chief towns of which, with their populations in 1897, are Saratov (q.v.), Atkarsk (9750), Balashov (12,160), Kamyshin (16,834), Khvalynsk (1 5,45 5), Kuznetsk (21,740), Petrovsk (13,212), Serdobsk (12,721), Tsaritsyn (67,650 in 1900) and Volsk (27, 572 in 1900). Education makes some progress: in 1897, 40% of the military recruits were able to read, as against 21% in 1874. The proportion of illiterate women, however, continues very large. Of the total area, 52% belonged to the peasants in 1896, 38% to private landowners, 5% to the crown and 5% to the imperial family and the municipal authorities; the peasants, however, are constantly buying land in considerable quantities. Green crops are being cultivated more widely, both on the private estates and among the peasants. Agriculture suffers, however, very much from droughts, and the attacks of marmots, mice and insects. The principal crops are wheat, rye, oats, barley, potatoes and beetroot, with some tobacco and fruit. Oil-yielding plants are cultivated; linseed in all districts except Tsaritsyn; and mustard, both for grain and oil, extensively about Sarepta and in the Kamyshin district. Gardening is a considerable source of income around Saratov, Volsk, Atkarsk and Kamyshin, the cucumbers, melons and water-melons being specially famous. Fishing and the preparation of caviare are of some importance at Kamyshin and elsewhere. Live-stock breeding is declining. On the other hand, the export trade in poultry, especially geese, has developed greatly. The factories comprise mainly steam Hour-mills, oil-works, distilleries, oil-mills, timber-mills, tanneries, fur-dressing works and tobacco factories. Weaving, the fabrication of agricultural machinery and pottery, boot-making, &c., are carried on in the villages. The fairs of the government have lost much of their importance; that at Bekovo, however, in the district of Serdobsk, has held its ground, especially as regards cattle and animal products. The peasants are no better off than those of the other governments of south-east Russia (see Samara). Years of scarcity are common, and many peasants leave their homes in search of work on the Volga and elsewhere. An active trade is carried on in corn, hides, tallow, oils, exported; the merchants of Saratov, moreover, are intermediaries in the trade between south-east Russia and the central governments. The chief ports are Saratov, Tsaritsyn, Kamyshin and Khvalynsk. The German colony of Sarepta is a lively little town with 5650 inhabitants, which carries on an active trade in mustard, woollen cloth and manufactured wares.
The district of Saratov has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic period. The inhabitants of a later epoch have left nunierous bronze remains in their kurgans (burial-mounds), but their ethnological position is still uncertain. In the 8th and 9th centuries the semi-nomad Burtases peopled the territory and recognized the authority of the Khazar princes. Whether the Burtases were the ancestors of the Mordvinians has not yet been determined. At the time of the Mongol invasion in 1239–1242, the Tatars took possession of the territory, and one of their settlements around the khan's palace at Urek, 10 m. from Saratov, seems to have had some importance, as well as those about Tsaritsyn and Dubovka. The Crimean Tatars devastated the country in the 15th century, and after the fall of Kazan and Astrakhan the territory was annexed to Moscow. Saratov and Tsaritsyn, both protected by forts, arose in the second half of the 16th century. Dmitrievsk (now Karnyshin) and Petrovsk were founded about the end of the 17th century, and a palisades wall was erected between the Volga and the Don. Regular colonization may be said to have begun only at the end of the 18th century, when Catherine II. called back the runaway dissenters, invited German colonists and ordered her courtiers to settle here their serfs, deported from central Russia. (P. A. K.; J. T. Be)